Today’s psalm reading comes from Psalm 119 (verses 145 to 176, to be precise). Now, perhaps a pastor isn’t supposed to say this, but I’ve got what I can only describe as a “love/hate” relationship with this psalm. On the one hand, I’m touched by the poet’s delight in and commitment to God’s Word and God’s Law; and in my better moments, at least, I aspire to have a heart that is characterized by a similar delight and commitment. On the other hand, 176 verses sometimes seems like a large span over which to say essentially the same thing; and so it sometimes becomes difficult to keep the kind of focus that would nurture the heart attitude that I desire.
Having said all that, today’s reading from Psalm 119 contains one verse that is particularly dear to me. Verse 165 says:
Great peace have those who love your law,
and nothing can make them stumble.
These words are special to me for two reasons. First, they are the lyrics to the only duet that I remember singing with my father before he died in 1999. Dad had a deep, rich, baritone voice that was developed through study at the Peabody Conservatory and years of doing musical theater. My own voice teachers suggested that the vocal ability I used to have probably came from being around my father and picking up from him the good habits that allowed me to sing correctly. But for all the singing that we did “around” each other, I can only remember one song that we learned and performed together: a duet based on this text. And as a result, just reading the words brings back good memories and provides a kind of “great peace” that is a valuable personal treasure.
That very line of thinking, however, points to the second reason these words are special to me: they remind me that God’s Law, too, has brought me great peace over the years. I can’t claim to have followed that Law perfectly — and even in my following, there have been times of challenge and stress — but on the whole, I have discovered what many of God’s people down through the years have learned: God’s Law isn’t given to restrict our freedom; but to lead us into the deeper, truer, and more peace-filled freedom that comes from living the way that we were created to live.
So in the office this morning, I’m singing a song remembered: a song of the father who taught me so much, and a song of the Father who continues to be my guide.
May you, too, experience His “great peace” today.