I hope this last week of July finds all of you at peace with these long, hot, dog days of the summer. I'm always so impatient for the weather to change, and then so nostalgic once it has; these are the best afternoons of the year for swimming, if nothing else.
This week's passage, Psalm 119:129-136, bears reading in the King James Version (copied at the bottom). For sheer poetry nothing beats those four-hundred-year-old phrases -- there's no love song like a Shakespearean love song. And Psalm 119 is a love song, although to a rather unexpected lover: God's law!
It's so natural for us to think of any law, any rules, as restrictions. And when we think of God's law, often our thoughts go the page after page of bronze-age legal tradition preserved in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, like Leviticus 19:27 which prohibits mohawks and goatees. But for the faithful of God neither these laws nor even the Ten Commandments truly encompassed the Law of God.
No, God's Law is something far greater; it is all the knowledge, all the teaching that we as individuals, as communities, and as a species have received at the hands of the Creator about how we should act. It includes not just the things we already know, but all those things we yearn to learn:
"Open my eyes, so that I may behold
wondrous things out of your law.
I live as an alien in the land;
do not hide your commandments from me." (Psalm 119, 18-19)
This is the song of a people in love with learning, in love with discovering new ways to do what is right, who pray for and value God's guidance above all else. This is a people that have tasted the bitterness of slavery, violence and oppression, and whose hearts yearn for the sweetness of freedom and peace. In those eyes God's Law is a lovely thing, steadfast and eternal, revealed anew every day.
God's grace be with you all,
129 Thy testimonies are wonderful:
therefore doth my soul keep them.
130 The entrance of thy words giveth light;
it giveth understanding unto the simple.
131 I opened my mouth, and panted:
for I longed for thy commandments.
132 Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me,
as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name.
133 Order my steps in thy word:
and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.
134 Deliver me from the oppression of man:
so will I keep thy precepts.
135 Make thy face to shine upon thy servant;
and teach me thy statutes.
136 Rivers of waters run down mine eyes,
because they keep not thy law.