I doubt I will ever read Psalm 119 from beginning to end in one sitting. It’s the longest one, 176 verses in all. Each section begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet in succession, rather like our singsong game of “A, B, C, D…” where we learned to expand and fill in with words like “A my name is Alice, my husband’s name is Al, we come from Alaska and we sell Artichokes.” (Next person) “B my name is Bertha…” (Goodness! It’s been a long time since I thought of that! What a wonder that my mental rolodex flipped it out without hesitation!)
The Scriptural path through Psalm 119 is more serious business than our childhood game, of course. Commentary states that “[E]ach segment might be read as a separate voice from different individuals praying out of their various perspectives. It could also be understood as one individual experiencing all the various perspectives that one knows along the path of life.” This explanation rings true for my reflection this morning in reading the verses that are quoted in today’s lectionary. I thought of how much simpler it is (although not always so easy!) as I get older to recognize the hand of God in my experiences, difficult though they may be, and to accept things as growth points rather than failures. Here’s the gift that verses 65 to 68 gave me, with a postscript of verses 72 & 73 to bring the lesson to conclusion.
I know this path of yours as grace, your every act a teaching. And so I come to understand. In each hard word I learn discernment and know your mind. Before these deep afflictions it was I who turned aside and went astray, but now I’ve learned to follow hard your word and ways. So good are you, you bring forth good, instruct me in the pattern of this deeper wisdom…That I might learn to hear your inner word, your deep instruction; and listen to the voice that speaks like silver and like gold to me, as richest treasure. (Ancient Songs Sung Anew)