Reality, testimonies and eternity

Psalm 119

The hidden courtroom in Surrey County Hall, in the County Council’s Kingston headquarters, where Downton Abbey has been filmed.
Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) Licence. Copyright Surrey News.

Psalm 119 is a great acrostic poem, the longest psalm and also the longest chapter in the Bible. The 22 stanzas each consist of 8 lines, each line starting with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet, each stanza having a different start letter. It is an epic love song for God’s law.

Qoph

145 With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord!
    I will keep your statutes.
146 I call to you; save me,
    that I may observe your testimonies.
147 I rise before dawn and cry for help;
    I hope in your words.
148 My eyes are awake before the watches of the night,
    that I may meditate on your promise.
149 Hear my voice according to your steadfast love;
    O Lord, according to your justice give me life.
150 They draw near who persecute me with evil purpose;
    they are far from your law.
151 But you are near, O Lord,
    and all your commandments are true.
152 Long have I known from your testimonies
    that you have founded them for ever.

Resh

153 Look on my affliction and deliver me,
    for I do not forget your law.
154 Plead my cause and redeem me;
    give me life according to your promise!
155 Salvation is far from the wicked,
    for they do not seek your statutes.
156 Great is your mercy, O Lord;
    give me life according to your rules.
157 Many are my persecutors and my adversaries,
    but I do not swerve from your testimonies.
158 I look at the faithless with disgust,
    because they do not keep your commands.
159 Consider how I love your precepts!
    Give me life according to your steadfast love.
160 The sum of your word is truth,
    and every one of your righteous rules endures for ever.

Sin and Shin

161 Princes persecute me without cause,
    but my heart stands in awe of your words.
162 I rejoice at your word
    like one who finds great spoil.
163 I hate and abhor falsehood,
    but I love your law.
164 Seven times a day I praise you
    for your righteous rules.
165 Great peace have those who love your law;
    nothing can make them stumble.
166 I hope for your salvation, O Lord,
    and I do your commandments.
167 My soul keeps your testimonies;
    I love them exceedingly.
168 I keep your precepts and testimonies,
    for all my ways are before you.

Taw

169 Let my cry come before you, O Lord;
    give me understanding according to your word!
170 Let my plea come before you;
    deliver me according to your word.
171 My lips will pour forth praise,
    for you teach me your statutes.
172 My tongue will sing of your word,
    for all your commandments are right.
173 Let your hand be ready to help me,
    for I have chosen your precepts.
174 I long for your salvation, O Lord,
    and your law is my delight.
175 Let my soul live and praise you,
    and let your rules help me.
176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant,
    for I do not forget your commandments.

Psalm 119:145-176 ESVUK

Here we are, at the end of the mammoth series on Psalm 119. In it, we have coverer 7 of the 8 names for God’s word found in the psalm and 7 of the 8 attributes of God which also relate to his word. God’s words in the psalm are not confined to words found in scripture, many of them are, but not all, and the importance of God’s word, written or otherwise being made real in believers’ lives. So here is the last name for God’s word and the last attribute. But first a word about the Holy Spirit.

Making it real

The Holy Spirit inspired the people to write scripture. Not just the direct words and pictures dictated to the prophets, but also the poets, lyricists and philosophers who wrote the psalms and wisdom books and the historians who compiled the histories.

The Holy Spirit makes scripture real to us. There are stories of God sending people out and God telling people to stay. Which do we do? That’s what the Holy Spirit does, makes the word speak to us at the right time, so we move when the Spirit says move and stay when she says stay. We can do research into what the Bible meant to the people at the time, and it is a very good thing to do, but it is the Holy Spirit that makes it real.

Testimony

167 My soul keeps your testimonies;
    I love them exceedingly.
168 I keep your precepts and testimonies,
    for all my ways are before you.

My added emphasis

Testimonies, eda in Hebrew, is a feminine form and is always plural in the Bible, the masculine form, ed, means witness and the feminine points to what the witness has seen. The testimonies of God are what God has seen, it is God’s take on what has happened or is happening. God can be trusted, what God says through scripture and the Holy Spirit is what the psalmist talked about keeping.

Eternity

152 Long have I known from your testimonies
    that you have founded them for ever.

In books 10 and 11 of the Confessions, Augustine takes up the mystery of time and eternity. He deals at length with a question that is often posed by children, but that is not childish at all: What was God doing before he made the world? This is what he said: It makes sense to ask what God was doing before he made the world if, and only if, both God and the world are separate items within the same temporal continuum. But they are not. God’s years, unlike ours, do not come and go. They are succeeded by no yesterday, and they give way to no tomorrow.

The scientific idea is different. According to Einstein when the universe came into being at the big bang what came into being was space-time. With no time in existence, there is no ‘before the big bang’ because there is no time in which the before can exist. So if we say, like Augustine, that God and what God created are not within the same temporal continuum, then we are not denying the scientific answer of 1500 years later.

Despite no need to exist in time, God acts within time. The Law was given to Moses at a particular time, and God himself became human in Jesus at a particular time. How else are we to understand that God loves his creation and wants to relate to us?

God exists beyond time and something of this timeless quality belongs to God’s testimonies, they are eternal because they are beyond time.


< Psalm 119:121-144 | Psalm 119:145-176 | Psalm 120 >

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