Laid Low

Thursday, January 30, 2014, 9:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus placed the song “His Tender Mercies” in my mind. Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 119:25-32 (NIV).

I am laid low in the dust;
preserve my life according to your word.
I gave an account of my ways and you answered me;
teach me your decrees.
Cause me to understand the way of your precepts,
that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds.
My soul is weary with sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word.
Keep me from deceitful ways;
be gracious to me and teach me your law.
I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I have set my heart on your laws.
I hold fast to your statutes, Lord;
do not let me be put to shame.
I run in the path of your commands,
for you have broadened my understanding.

In the Dust

I looked up the term “laid low” in the dictionary, because I wanted to understand what that meant. It means “put out of action (by illness); affected by an impairment of normal physical or mental function; stricken; ill; sick” ( Literally the passage reads that the psalmist’s soul clings to the dust. The NIV translates this as “laid low.”

A soul of a person is considered to be the essence of who they are – their consciousness, thoughts, feelings, emotions and will (See Encarta). Dust can be translated as “very small dry particles” of sand, of dirt (like on furniture in a house), or of the human body, which is “thought to be reduced to dust by decay after death;” or else “dust” could be rendered as “earth” (Encarta). To cling means: “to hold on to something; or to adhere to something” (Encarta). So, the psalmist could have been sick, depressed, sorrowful, or he could have been lamenting over even the smallest amount (small particles) of sin in his life that were still holding on, or the fact that he still had the propensity to sin, and he longed for the day when that would no longer be the case. Dust and ashes were often used in Bible times in relation to (and are symbols of) grieving, mourning, sorrow and/or repentance over sin.

An Account (of his ways)

I learned a long time ago that in interpreting scripture that we must look at the context. The psalmist began this psalm with a declaration of blessing on those who walk in the ways of the Lord and who keep his commands; as well as on those who seek God with their whole hearts and who follow his ways. Then, he expressed his own heart’s desire to be steadfast in obeying (keeping) God’s commands. He then made a commitment to praise the Lord with an upright heart, to learn of his righteousness, and to do what was written in his word.

Following this he spoke to the issue of moral purity, and he declared his walk with the Lord to be of one who seeks God with his whole heart, who hides the word of God in his heart - not just in his mind – in order to keep him from sinning; who proclaims God’s truths with his mouth, and who rejoices in, meditates and delights in his word. As well, he called upon God to help him in his commitment to not stray from following after the ways of the Lord.

Then, just prior to the section of the psalm which was in my reading for today, the psalmist asked for the Lord’s blessing (goodness) on his life while he lived, since he was the Lord’s servant, and so he could continue to obey God’s word. He longed (thirsted) for the word of the Lord at all times. He recognized that, in God’s calling upon his life to be holy (separated unto God and to his service), that meant he was a stranger (an outsider; unaccustomed to; and a visitor) on earth, and thus he did not belong to this sinful world; he did not fit in. Thus the arrogant ones, who willfully chose to not follow the Lord’s ways and word, showed him much scorn and contempt, and they told lies about him for the purpose of bringing him harm and disrepute. Yet, he determined in his spirit to keep God’s word and to make God’s word his counselor, calling upon God often for help, strength, comfort and guidance.

This is the accounting of the Psalmist’s ways, and this is what preceded his proclamation that he was laid low in the dust. In other words, he loved the Lord with all his heart, he delighted in his word, and he chose the path of God’s righteousness for his own life. Yet, he recognized, as well, his own human frailty, so he continually prayed for help, wisdom, discernment and strength to remain steadfast in all of his commitments and to not give way to sin, or to the fear of what humans might do to him, or say about him.

Weary with Sorrow

The context of this psalm would suggest that his sorrow was based upon three main things: 1) His own battle with even the slightest temptation to sin, 2) his own human struggle to remain steadfast in his commitments to God, and 3) his personal trials and tribulations due to much opposition and persecution from outside sources, which were beyond his control, including the outward shame associated with their vicious lies against him. His persecutors were taunting and mocking him unmercifully. In v. 70 we read: “Their hearts were callous and unfeeling.” The arrogant were wronging him, but he was trusting in the Lord.

The psalmist appeared to have been suffering an affliction of some kind, whether it was sickness, sorrow, or grief, and this came after a time in which he had strayed from the Lord. Perhaps this is related to his sin with Bathsheba and the death of their firstborn, but now he had repented of his sin and his commitment was very much to obey the Lord and to walk in his ways. Yet, perhaps, his enemies used this as an occasion to taunt, mock and persecute him, so he called upon the Lord for mercy in his time of need and distress. Whatever the cause or the occasion, the psalmist was suffering greatly, he acknowledged his own human weakness, and he called upon God Almighty to be his strength, comfort, and counsel. He recognized his own human limitations and that without God he could not combat his own discouragement or fear and temptations, as well as he could not walk in the ways of the Lord apart from God’s grace, help, counsel, guidance and strength within him.

Our Merciful God

Life, as we all know, has its ups and downs. Some days are better than others. Things don’t always go the way we would hope or desire. We get sick. We get hurt. We sin. We fall down. We fail. We make mistakes. We have communication and relationship difficulties. We make bad judgments sometimes, and we pay the natural consequences. We experience loss, rejection, misunderstandings, heartache, etc., and sometimes we shed many tears.

In all these trials and difficulties of life, or even in just some of the minor inconveniences of change, aging, or slight misfortune, for those of us who are in Christ Jesus, by his grace, through faith, we can be assured that God is with us, he is watching over us, he will help us, comfort us, lead and guide us, and we will forever be kept in his love and care.

We just need to trust the Lord, believe that he cares about us; know that he will never leave us, that he is our friend, and that he will supply all we need to get through these difficult times. We must, as did the psalmist, be honest concerning our own human frailty, and recognize that without God we cannot resist temptation to sin, walk in his ways, and/or have the strength to persevere under severe trial, distress and great suffering. We must yield to the power and control of the Holy Spirit within us and allow our Lord Jesus to work his will and his ways in and out through our lives for his purposes and for his glory.

In the power, working and strength of the Spirit within us, by God’s grace, through faith, we must resist temptation to sin, walk – our daily lifestyle - in his righteousness, obey his word, speak his truth, sing his praise, and honor his name. And, we must never give way to fear or to the taunts and slander of our enemies, but we must rest in the Lord and in his love, and depend upon his strength, power, comfort, and guidance to see us through.

His Tender Mercies / An Original Work / January 26, 2014

Fear not! I’m with you.
Be not dismayed!
God watches o’er you.
Trust Him today.
He’ll lead and guide you;
Give you His aid.
He’ll love and keep you
With Him always.

Walk in His footsteps.
He’ll lead the way.
Trust in His love;
Believe that He cares.
He will not leave you.
Faithful He’ll be.
His tender mercies
Now you will see.

Fellowship with Him
Throughout the day.
Tell Him your heartaches.
He’ll heal always.
Rest in His comfort.
He is your friend.
Your faith He’ll strengthen,
True to the end.