Psalm 119 is the longest psalm. Each of the twenty-two eight-verse stanzas corresponds to a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The entirety of Psalm 119 sings God’s praises, particularly the joy found in following God’s instructions. Happiness is found in faithfulness to the covenant. Faithfulness uplifts the heart.
Faithfulness to the covenant sets up a cycle of love and spiritual prosperity. The psalmist argues that we should obey the commandments because of the good things God has done for us. Through our fidelity to the commandments, future spiritual fruit will be harvested, not just for the individual but for the community. Scripture consistently supports the message that what we are given by God is not for us alone.
While this week’s passage from Deuteronomy contains a not-so-subtle threat to those who disobey God’s commandments, this passage from Psalms offers a different perspective. Where yesterday’s reading was more “stick,” today’s reading is more “carrot.”
According to the psalmist, following the commandments isn’t an obligation full of dread; faithfulness to the commandments is a source of joy. Love in practice always generates more love. Gratitude in practice generates more gratitude. The joy comes not only in the rewards it delivers but also in the concrete doing itself. With our hearts full of gratitude, the commandments become a blessing in themselves.
As a creative practice, consider writing your own Alphabetic Acrostic of Blessings, using each letter of the alphabet to start each stanza or verse.
Source of Joy, may my prayer join with the psalmist to seek you with my whole heart. May I find my true joy in faithfulness to you, for you love me without end. And may that joy overflow into my life so that it touches the lives of others. Amen.
This week we continue to explore the importance of Christian morality. We do not earn God’s grace by our actions; rather, our obedience is a response to God’s grace. In Deuteronomy, we read that the choice of life will bring prosperity and is the proper response from a heart of gratitude. The psalmist echoes this sentiment, for blessed are those who follow the Lord not just with words but also with actions. The Corinthians have not understood this so they continue to act like those in the world around them, living by the flesh instead of by the Spirit. Jesus pushes us even further. God sees not only what we do on the outside but who we are on the inside. A true life of obedience begins on the inside and flows outward.
Read Deuteronomy 30:15-20. When have you experienced the choice God sets before us of life or death, prosperity or adversity, blessings or curses? How have you discerned how to obey God?
Read Psalm 119:1-8. How does following God’s commandments bring you joy?
Read 1 Corinthians 3:1-9. Consider the forms of love Paul and Saint Valentine display in their letters. What types of love help you serve God, who gives growth?
Read Matthew 5:21-37. When have you experienced legalistic interpretations of scripture? How do you get to the heart of scripture?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.