Fulfill your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared.
Psalm 119 has the distinction of being an acrostic poem. It has 22 sections, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and every verse in each section begins with the same letter. In today’s section, each verse begins with the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet (he)—and there’s a bonus feature: all of the initial words in these verses are commands in Hebrew. So the psalmist is boldly making demands of God.
In short bursts, the psalmist demands that God “teach him,” “give him understanding,” “direct him in the path,” “turn his heart” toward God’s commands, and so on. Though direct and strong, the psalmist makes these demands not in arrogance but out of a desire to honor and please God, trusting in God’s promises.
The psalmist demands God’s help because he knows his own weakness and tendency to turn away from God. Orient me toward your statutes, he pleads, and not toward my own gain: “Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life.” This prayer reflects the writer’s desire to live God’s way and to follow God faithfully.
We do well to imitate the psalmist’s prayer. May we, too, long for God and seek his help in turning from things that can distract us from him so that we can glorify and serve God in the world.
Give me understanding, Lord, and help me follow your Word and obey it with all of my heart. Amen.
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