A stranger needs a map in order to find his or her way around. Earlier this year, my wife and I took a long walk high above the beautiful, serene green waters of Lake Brienz in Switzerland. Although we were following marked footpaths, there came a point, after several hours on our feet in the extremely warm temperatures, when we weren’t exactly sure where we were. It was at that point that we bumped into a friendly fellow-traveller. He was sitting on a bench, with a commanding view of the pure waters and towering peaks beneath and above him. Although he knew only a little English, and we spoke no German, he did have a map which he readily shared with us. Looking at it gave us some sense of where we were and how far we still had to go.
This section in Psalm 19 could prompt at least three prayers; three prayers that spring from a deep longing for God’s Word (20):
- Ask God for help to obey (17; see James 1:21-25): ‘’Do good to your servant’’ can read ‘’make full provision for’’. There is an important Biblical principle that God initiates and we respond. If we are going to obey Him we will need God’s prior work in our lives. He fully provides for our all need.
- Ask God for eyes to see (18, 19; see 1 Corinthians 2:12-14): In the ‘’full provision’’ sought, one thing is specified. It is the ability to understand God’s Word. As stated earlier, a stranger, or foreigner, needs a map to find their way around (Hebrews 11:9, 13; 1 Peter 2:11). We need to be given eyes to understand the ‘Map’ of Scripture. ‘Map-reading’ doesn’t come naturally. ‘’I’m a stranger in these parts; give me clear directions. My soul is starved and hungry, ravenous! –insatiable for your nourishing commands.’’ The Message. When I was first starting to read the Bible my mum gave me some notes from ‘Scripture Union’ to help explain what I was reading. It was then that I was introduced to the ‘Scripture Union Prayer’, which is Psalm 119: 18. Still today I usually use this prayer before I read the Bible. Someone said that ‘’…without divine aid there is no comprehension (18), without obedience no blessing (21, 22).’’
- Ask God for wisdom to understand (23, 24; see James 1:5-8): In the face of hostility in this ‘strange land’ (23) where we live as aliens, our strength is in the Word of God. Our wisdom is located there too. I thank God for the ministry of counselling, but I sometimes wonder if there would be such a need for it in the church as there appears to be if people really knew their Bibles and were able to apply God’s Word to their lives. All the counsel we need is rooted in a Biblical perspective. Anything out of line with Scripture is not going to help us ultimately (24). Alec Motyer writes: ‘’Our passions do not make the life of holiness easy (9); neither…do our circumstances. The earth is an alien place (19); society contains those who desert the word (21), personal – even official – opposition is encountered.’’ He goes on to say that the ‘’…longing for divine provision (17-20)’’ is ‘’matched by avoidance of divine displeasure through committed obedience…at whatever cost (even the disapproval of influential people), the Lord’s word dominates mind, emotion and the practical advice that directs life.’’ ‘New Bible Commentary’, p.567.
Prayer: ‘’Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things from out of your law.’’