Last night I climbed into bed early and picked up my Bible to read. I checked my Bible-in-a-year plan to see what was next on my schedule and found that Psalms 119 was next on the list. My first reaction was, “I just read that. In fact, I blogged about it.” It’s a very long Psalm. “Can’t I just skip it?” I asked God. But I knew the answer was “no.” I was, after all, reading a different translation and had said I would read the entire Bible in this translation, which is the New Living Translation.
As I finished the first stanza of the Psalm, I laughed to myself, a laugh of understanding that God knows more than I do. There was something new here for me today after all.
1 Joyful are people of integrity,
who follow the instructions of the Lord.
2 Joyful are those who obey his laws
and search for him with all their hearts.
3 They do not compromise with evil,
and they walk only in his paths.
4 You have charged us
to keep your commandments carefully.
5 Oh, that my actions would consistently
reflect your decrees!
6 Then I will not be ashamed
when I compare my life with your commands.
7 As I learn your righteous regulations,
I will thank you by living as I should!
8 I will obey your decrees.
Please don’t give up on me! Psalms 119:1-8 (NLT)
It was that last line that I needed to read. I needed to know that I can cry out to God and say “Please don’t give up on me!” I may not be perfect and sometimes fail to “consistently reflect His decrees,” but if the desire is in my heart and I ask Him to help me, He will be faithful and will not give up.
By comparison, that last line in the New American Standard version is translated, “I shall keep Your statutes; Do not forsake me utterly!” The New International Version translates it, “I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me.” Finally, the King James Version renders it, “I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly.” They all mean the same thing, but somehow “Please do not give up on me” made me feel so much closer to God.
In Hebrews 4:12, Paul writes, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” This applies to the Psalms. Even though most of them were written by David in response to a particular circumstance in his life, they are just as applicable to the lives of believers today. The whole of Psalms 119 is about the psalmist desiring to keep God’s decrees, and as Christians today we desire to do God’s will and keep His decrees. But the reality of our human frailty also comes through this Psalm. In spite of our desire to do so, we fail in our ability to keep each and every command. Just look at the very last verse of Psalms 119:
I have wandered away like a lost sheep;
come and find me,
for I have not forgotten your commands. Psalms 119:176.
The Good News is that Jesus did come and find me and you. He knows that we have not forgotten His commands and so He came to save us.
The 20th century missionary Eli Stanley Jones said:
Grace binds you with far stronger cords than the cords of duty or obligation can bind you. Grace is free, but when once you take it you are bound forever to the Giver, and bound to catch the spirit of the Giver. Like produces like, Grace makes you gracious, the Giver makes you give.
It is because Jesus, the Giver of Life and Grace, came to find me that I desire all the more to keep His commands and seek His strength and power to do so. Have you wandered away like a lost sheep? Don’t despair! Say to our God, “Please don’t give up on me!” Ask our Lord and Savior Jesus to come and find you. He’s just waiting for you to call on Him for help and peace.