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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, September 1, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Psalm 119:33–40

Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes,
   and I will observe it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
   and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments,
   for I delight in it.
Turn my heart to your decrees,
   and not to selfish gain.
Turn my eyes from looking at vanities;
   give me life in your ways.
Confirm to your servant your promise,
   which is for those who fear you.
Turn away the disgrace that I dread,
   for your ordinances are good.
See, I have longed for your precepts;
   in your righteousness give me life. (NRSV)

No one said following God’s statues, precepts, commandments—whatever you want to call them—was going to be easy. In fact, the psalmist spends much of these 176 verses asking God for help in following them. But he also spends a fair amount of that time saying things like verse 35: “Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.”

How is it that rules can give someone joy? Generally speaking, I’m a pretty indecisive person. I tend to spend way too much time analyzing pros and cons of decisions or researching for hours before deciding which blender to buy. So I can relate to the psalmist’s joy in having a set of rules to govern decisions. It reminds me of the “what would Jesus do” movement that was so popular when I was in high school and college. Yes, it was a little gimmicky, but it was also a helpful way to check my thinking and guide my decisions. I don’t know that I would say I “delighted” in it, but I did find comfort and reassurance in using that question to guide my decision making—and it was certainly easier to remember than all ten commandments.

Fortunately, Jesus gave us two basic answers to the WWJD question: (1) love the Lord your God and (2) love your neighbor as yourself. Now it’s true that neither of those is particularly helpful when deciding which blender to buy, but they are helpful in deciding things like where to prioritize my charitable giving, how to respond to the Black Lives Matter movement, and who to vote for.

Loving God, give me the strength to continue following your commandments, especially when it’s difficult and unpopular. Increase my understanding of your ways, that I may find joy in living into them. Amen.

Written by Nicole Spirgen, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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