Opening the Door to Psalm 119, Part 5

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‘Gimel.’

Two forlorn characters shambled down the road leading away from the city. They were still disheveled from the events of the weekend. It had started as a party, but had ended in a lynching—and they were lucky, they figured, to have escaped. As they walked, they talked through the problem. And as they talked, a stranger came up and began to walk with them.

“What’s this you are discussing?” the stranger asked.

And they told him. They told how their hope had died with the man they thought was the long-promised ruler who would free them from their nation’s political bondage. That man had been lynched by a mob and now these two were confused. Their culture’s holy writ had disappointed them.

With that, the stranger began to explain to them what the Scriptures were really saying concerning the Man in whom they had hoped. The message flowing through every verse—he explained— was about Him. As the stranger opened their minds to this realization, their hearts began to burn within them with the truth they were hearing—the surprising story-within-a-story contained within their Law.

Suddenly they recognized the stranger. It was Him—Jesus—the one they had seen cut down, strung up, and tortured to death! He—more alive than ever— was speaking about Himself, the fulfillment of every hope, the message behind every word of Scripture, the life of that hope, not the death of it! (Luke 24:13-32, paraphrased)

But we’re here to look at ‘Gimel’ the third stanza of Psalm 119 aren’t we? Our first impression as we see numerous references to the personal pronoun I, me, and my, is that the message is personally relevant to someone. Then we notice each verse makes reference to the Word (also called law, commands, statutes and decrees) as if it is a key to something incredibly important for life. And a third layer shows us it is not merely a what but actually a who impacting human life—the creator and owner of the Word, unnamed here.

“Do good to your servant, and I will live; I will obey your word. / Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. / I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me. / My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times. / You rebuke the arrogant, who are cursed and who stray from your commands. / Remove from me scorn and contempt, for I keep your statutes. / Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servant will meditate on your decrees. / Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors” (Psalm 119:17-24).

This is where the event recorded in Luke comes in. How would Jesus have explained this passage, actually “opened the Scriptures”, as Luke puts it, so that His listeners’ hearts were burning? Where is He Himself mentioned? In these eight prayer-like verses we see the fingerprint of life-giving work that characterizes not only Himself, but each person of the triune God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Do good …” the psalmist begins, “and I will live.” Goodness, true goodness, is a characteristic of God the Father working on behalf of the world He created. “And it was good,” is the repeated refrain we hear in the Genesis account of creation. Later, the Apostle James explains, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” Goodness epitomizes the Father. The very core of Scripture is the Father’s purpose to bring goodness to people like you and me. The goodness of the Word is God the Father Himself.

This passage is also about the Holy Spirit of God. While the first verse references God the Father through goodness, the last verse references God the Spirit through the word “counselors.” In Jesus’ final hours with His disciples He revealed to them the plan that His physical presence with His followers would henceforward be replaced by His spiritual presence through the Holy Spirit. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16). The counseling aspect of the Word is God the Spirit Himself.

And finally, this passage is about Jesus. “Wonderful things in your law” is a veiled reference to the Messiah whom the prophet Isaiah explained would be called “Wonderful” (Isaiah 9:6). The plan of God to enter into His own creation as a human being to rescue a self-destructing world is nothing less than wonderful. The wonder of the Word is God the Son, Jesus Himself.

And so ‘Gimel’, meaning three or third-letter, gives us the message that God’s Word is really His threefold self, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit communicating with us so we may live. Really live. Try reading the passage again, replacing the phrases like “your word” with “You, Father”, “You, Jesus”, and “You, Holy Spirit.” Then let Him set your heart on fire.

(Photo Credit: By Dwight Sipler – After the rain, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54734606)

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PROSPECTUS FOR THE PRAYING PERSON, PART 8: John 14: 8-26; Intimate Mentoring

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 Vs. 26: “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

 Remember the three spirits of Christmas from Charles Dickens‘ story, A Christmas Carol?  While Dickens portrayed them as visible creatures who visited the miserly character Ebenezer Scrooge, they were intended to portray the essence of Christmas. They personified the very reason Christmas exists, and the purpose of their visit was to transform the hard-hearted Scrooge.  I don’t know if Dickens realized the beautiful analogy his story portrays, but that’s the power of Truth: it finds its way into everything noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.

Jesus’ promise to people who choose to follow him, who make prayer the breath they breathe, is for intimate mentoring.  This concluding promise in the prospectus for praying people (John 14:8-26) is so relevant for me, and I’m guessing for you too.  It points to the need for mentoring; it provides input for things as yet unknown, and things known but sometimes in need of reminding.

This need for reminding is an interesting thing.  It’s so human to know something, and yet to forget.  Even if that something is of incredible value, we forget.  While our essence is spirit, our crust is material, and the material things around us we see and touch and taste easily distract us.

Jesus knows this about us, so He promises His very essence to be our mentor.  His mentoring presence is so close to our spirits, he touches the real us.  He gets beyond externals.  Our Scrooge-like or even Mother Theresa-like exteriors do not distract him.  He is so deep within us He is able to impress Truth on our spirits in the most intimate and loving way.  This essence of God, the Holy Spirit, is called the Counselor, one who comes alongside, teaching and reminding, transforming and making ready for eternity.

Mark Twain observed, “If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything”.

I think what he meant was that truth is consistent, whereas lies are situational.  Without the Spirit of God, the Counselor, living within us, mentoring us, we do not have truth in our core being; living a ‘good’ life becomes a matter of remembering situational ethics.  However with the Holy Spirit as guide and mentor, our spirit is saturated with the essence of Truth, and we are moved from within to live the life of love Jesus commissions and empowers us to live.

Intimate Mentor, Instructor, Reminding One; Thank you for meeting my deepest need for integrity.  Speak Your Truth to my spirit over and over again until it exudes from me, inside out.  Sent by the Father, in the name of the Son, dear Counselor, remind me today of the Law of Love I want my life to reflect.  I’m listening for Your deep and quiet voice  to speak.