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pathinwoodsDuring our weekly “Lunch with the Psalms” group yesterday the first topic was the length of psalm 119, part of which was the selection of the day in the Scripture readings. The text contained eight sequential verses. Today, however, there are eight more verses from different sections but they seem to work as a unified whole. See what you think.

Save me from the choice of self-deception. Let all your words become for me a living grace that I might hear your inner word, your deep instruction. Lord, your words and ways are firmly stretched across the heavens. As you yourself instructed, I’ll turn my feet away from every evil on this path through life, and gain your understanding of what is real or mere illusion.

The entire psalm is quite extraordinary, with 22 stanzas each containing 8 verses (176 verses in all – the longest psalm). Each of the stanzas begins with one of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet (in sequence), which gives its name to the stanza. Scholars think that the psalm was intended as a manual of pious thoughts, especially for the instruction of the young, and that the structure used as a memory aid in retaining the language.

I am awed by what could have been a stilted attempt to fit the thoughts to the structure but which became a work of art, offering the opportunity for deep reflection  and transformation at every turn. As I read again the selection for this morning, I see the unlimited possibility for spiritual growth offered by the cry of the psalmist in the very first line. If that is our motivation, the rest can become our practice, taking us to the ultimate realization of truth.