Hope for the Helpless Bible Reader

In reading through Psalm 119, it struck me how many of the verses of this song are cries of helplessness and longing, not the triumphant shouts of arrival. For example, from the very beginning, the Psalmist admits,

If only my ways were committed to keeping Your statutes! (119:5)

Then again,

Open my eyes so that I may contemplate wonderful things from Your instruction (119:18).

Particularly in the He section (verses 33-40), there are repeated pleas for help:

Help me understand Your instruction,
and I will obey it
and follow it with all my heart.
Help me stay on the path of Your commands,
for I take pleasure in it.
Turn my heart to Your decrees
and not to material gain.
Turn my eyes
from looking at what is worthless;
give me life in Your ways (119:34-37, emphasis added).

In so many words, the Psalmist says, “I don’t automatically get everything when I read the Bible; God, help me!” Here’s a guy who wrote 176 alphabetized verses about the Bible, and that guy admits that Bible study is hard. He admits to being helpless, distracted, dense, sinful, greedy, and just feeling dead at times. Three thousand years later, things aren’t that much different.

And yet, this utter helplessness does not lead to despair. Astoundingly, it leads to hope! Even though the Psalmist knows how much of a knuckleheaded sinner he can be (and we know the same of ourselves), there is still hope for joyful time in God’s word because God loves to help us.

Here, enshrined within the Inspired Text itself, is an admission that loving God’s word doesn’t come naturally. In fact, it can only come supernaturally–which is why we pray for it!


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