Intimidation of the Bible
O Lord, listen to my cry; give me the discerning mind You promised (Psalm 119:169).
The Bible can intimidate me sometimes. Certain statements bring on the guilt. Here are just a few of them: “You are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48); “You must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy” (1 Peter 1:15). Psalm 119 elicits enough guilt to last a lifetime: “I have devoted myself to Your commandments” (Psalm 119:45); “I rise at midnight to thank You for Your just regulations” (Psalm 119:62); “I have more insight than my teachers, for I am always thinking of Your laws” (Psalm 119:99); “I have done what is just and right” (Psalm 119:121).
Yet, when read closely, Psalm 119 holds much help and encouragement for us. The poem expresses the longings and musings of a fellow struggler who constantly implores God for help. “Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect Your decrees!” (Psalm 119:5). That’s a plaintive cry I can relate to.“I have tried hard to find You—don’t let me wander from Your commands” (Psalm 119:10). Yes! That’s my prayer. “You made me; You created me. Now give me the sense to follow Your commands” (Psalm 119:73). This guy speaks for me!
The “impossible” statements—the ones that seem to make absolute declarations of fidelity to God and righteousness— comprise an ideal. They put words to the goal we’re to pursue. We hunger for a perfect God. Anything less would be—well—ungodly. Our uneasy awareness of God’s holy standard informs us of our need for a Savior. We grow acutely aware of the fact that we can’t do it!
And so, this longest of psalms with its “impossible” aspirations to spiritual greatness concludes so very humanly: “I have wandered away like a lost sheep; come and find me, for I have not forgotten Your commands” (Psalm 119:176).
What’s causing guilt in your life, and why? What would the psalmist do with such guilt?