Over the last few months, I have been coming to terms with my new body, a pregnant body. Seeing myself in this new way has caused me to do a lot of self-reflection and learn to love myself in a new way. It’s not just the physical changes, but seeing the blessings on the other side of these physical changes while on occasion mourning my pre-pregnancy body—knowing I can never have “that life” back. But why would I want it? All the changes are bringing me to a life that is good and better than before—much like life after repentance and obedience to God. Yet, so many of us struggle with these things.
Why are obedience and repentance so hard? There are a multitude of reasons. Perhaps pride. Or the fear of being exposed—for we often live in fear. Maybe we oppose authority and love independence. In our sinful nature, we might prefer law over love, transaction over intimacy, controlled relationships over Kingdom relationships. We’d even like to be God, or we don’t fully trust God’s goodness, kindness, and steadfast love toward us.
I’ve seen some of these things in my own heart on occasion. It’s a painful reality which can often cause us to be ashamed and hide, but it can also send us to the foot of the Cross, broken, rejoicing that our King came, humble and lowly, to close the gap of what kept us from Him.
Most modern Christians find Psalm 119 rather difficult to engage. After all, at 176 verses, it is extraordinarily long. Moreover, mainline Christian theology might seem at odds with the central theme of Psalm 119. Christians today do not typically share the psalm’s unflagging insistence on (and celebration of) strict adherence to the “law” or Torah. Ancient readers, however, would have found this psalm utterly compelling, because it makes the boldest of claims about how to live a happy life and have a healthy heart.
Psalm 119 has its repentant moments, in which the Psalmist acknowledges his sins. He admits that he is not always blameless. Psalm 119, then, reminds us that God’s blessing is upon those who seek him with their whole heart. And, when we seek God with our whole heart, then indeed we are blameless!
God has told you what he expects of you. And what is more, he has also given you the power to do it. He has given you his Spirit. That is why Augustine prayed, “O Lord, command what you will, and give what you command.” Tell us what you want us to do, and give us the power to do it! On our behalf, the Psalmist acknowledges that one of his greatest needs is to be steadfast in keeping God’s statutes. And as he sets forth on the path of life, he promises:
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.
Psalm 119 shows us the way of life. It shows us how we may walk before and with God—how we may talk to God in the most intense and personal way. Psalm 119 also shows us how to listen to God, as we meditate on his word and delight in his statutes.
God gives us laws to follow—not to tie us down, but as an act of love, knowing we can’t live lives free from sin, but that striving to live lives in obedience to God is what God desires for us. We can only live in fellowship through reconciliation, by acknowledging our disobedience towards God and each other.
As we journey towards Lent, let us not only gain wisdom and understanding through obedience, but may we become humbled to be repentant in seeking new life in Christ, and new life as we come to understand ourselves in a new light. May we see the many blessings and joys that come with obedience as we journey towards the cross in our reflection and confession.