An amazing book indeed
The Bible is such an amazing book. This morning in Heart Soul Mind Bible study we enjoyed a terrific discussion of Psalm 119. We learned a lot of fun facts about this piece of scripture: it’s 176 verses long, divided into 22 sections, and, within each section, every line begins with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Starting at the beginning, the psalm works its way through the whole alphabet in that way. It’s quite a remarkable composition. One commentator says of this ancient song, “The same thing is said in 167 different ways, in a progression that moves through the alphabet without ever moving from its single subject.” That single subject is delight in the teachings of God, and the psalmist refers to that teaching using eight different words.
Psalm 119 begins, “Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.” It’s not so much a demand for compliance as it is an invitation to delight in the promise of life lived according to what God desires for us and for the world.
One of the voices in our discussion of the psalms this winter and spring in Bible study is that of Martin Luther, who lectured on the psalter when he got his first teaching job. In his comments on this psalm, Luther wrote, “For the devil has a way of deceiving the unwise with individual spiritual exercises and of causing them to be most neglectful in community affairs, and then, believing themselves to be serving God well because of their own private affairs, they care nothing that they neglect the community affairs.” The temptation, indeed, for any of us, is to think God only cares about what I do with my life, but Luther reminds us this is not so.
Delighting in God’s teachings, embracing the joy they bring for the world, means we are never truly happy as long as God’s teachings are violated or ignored anywhere in our global community. This is why God’s people strive for peace and justice in all the earth. This is why it’s so important for us to read and hear stories like those presented in Bryan Stevenson’s book Just Mercy, which we will consider tonight at All St. Paul Reads. (The book tells the story of the author’s struggle against our deeply broken criminal justice system.) Justice denied anywhere is a concern of God’s people everywhere. This is how God’s word leads us beyond personal devotion or even group study and into the world. The Bible is an amazing book indeed.
–Ryan Bailey, director of faith formation