The Law of the Lord (30-10-20)
Bible Reading: Psalm 119. 49 - 56
Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope.
My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. The arrogant mock me unmercifully, but I do not turn from your law. I remember, Lord, your ancient laws, and I find comfort in them. Indignation grips me because of the wicked, who have forsaken your law. Your decrees are the theme of my song wherever I lodge. In the night, Lord, I remember your name, that I may keep your law. This has been my practice: I obey your precepts.
The clocks have gone back and the dark nights are upon us. The Covid-19 cases are on the rise and many communities are facing tougher restrictions again. At the beginning of lockdown, the days were getting longer, everything was coming into bud and we were blessed with what felt like wall to wall sunshine for many weeks. Now, after seven months of restrictions, the future doesn’t look quite so rosy. The prospect of stricter local lockdowns is being met with a somewhat mixed reception ranging from relief and acceptance to anger and blatant disregard. Certainly the onset of colder, wetter weather will make getting out for a daily walk and maintaining legal social contact out of doors more difficult. This will be particularly hard for the housebound and those living alone.
Last Sunday was Bible Sunday and in the sermon we heard about Ezra, the priest, reading the law to the people who had just finished rebuilding the damaged walls of Jerusalem. Some scholars think that this same Ezra was the author of Psalm 119. With 176 verses, this psalm is the longest in the Bible and tends to be split into smaller sections when it is used as part of daily worship. However, there is a clear thread running through it. The author keeps thanking and praising God for the law. This is quite a challenge in the midst of Covid restrictions even if they are in place for the common good.
I’m generally an advocate of rules and boundaries. I understand the need, and I like to plan ahead and know where I stand… as long as it suits me! However, it’s easy to take a dim view of rules and regulations, when they interrupt or upset my plans. And if I am honest, when I am with close family, especially the grandchildren, I find abiding by the personal restrictions and social distancing very hard indeed.
Throughout Psalm 119, the writer praises God for the law, for the security and hope it brings. He honestly voices his indignation and suffering, but also acknowledges that God’s law brings comfort; God’s promises preserve his life. This long psalm of praise helps me to appreciate an aspect of God I seldom explore. Contrary to what we expect, the law here is God’s gift for our protection, well-being and freedom, and that gives me renewed cause to give God thanks and praise for his loving care.
God of all, when I rail against restrictions, remind me I am held firmly in Your strong arms. When I cry out to you in the pain of loneliness and sadness, show me Your light in grey days. When I do not know where to turn, thank you that You are waiting for me. Keep me praising You, keep me loving others, keep me kind to myself.
In the redeeming name of Jesus Christ,
Written by Revd Claire Maxim. CEO, The Arthur Rank Centre, Stoneleigh, supporters of the rural church.