Sunday, April 12, 2015

Surrounded

by Sarah Van Diest

In recent days I’ve been walking through Psalm 119. There are 22 sections (one for each letter in the Hebrew alphabet) of 8 verses each in this longest chapter in the Bible. These 8 verse sections are individual poems, though they work in concert to create the chapter. This section in particular struck me today:

Heth.
57 The Lord is my portion;
I have promised to keep Your words.
58 I sought Your favor with all my heart;
Be gracious to me according to Your word.
59 I considered my ways
And turned my feet to Your testimonies.
60 I hastened and did not delay
To keep Your commandments.
61 The cords of the wicked have encircled me,
But I have not forgotten Your law.
62 At midnight I shall rise to give thanks to You
Because of Your righteous ordinances.
63 I am a companion of all those who fear You,
And of those who keep Your precepts.
64 The earth is full of Your lovingkindness, O Lord;
Teach me Your statutes.

I don’t know much about Hebrew poetry, as I’ve never really studied it, but what I know about poetry in general is that things don’t happen/aren’t written by accident. Almost dead-center in this 8 verse poem is a singular statement unlike all of the statements surrounding it: “The cords of the wicked have encircled me.” The other lines are all about God’s goodness and his faithfulness to God. This is the only place where a contrasting idea is found. (I wonder if the Hebrew holds secrets as to the rhythm and meter which are lost in the English. Hmm.)

And the symbolism I see that looks like poetic genius is this: though this line talks about him being encircled by the wicked, as the literal placement of this line is considered, it is the wicked who are encircled by the righteous. The 8 lines above it and the 7 lines below it are all antipodal ideas to this lone thought; fully surrounding it.

Reality is two things at once, though it isn’t. (Ha! Talk to Schrodinger’s cat about that one!) Though the poet speaks in figurative terms, for it is not literal that he is encircled by cords (I don’t think), he feels that his enemy has trapped him in and surrounded him. But the poem shows that the opposite truth is the greater reality, and even delivers to the reader or hearer of the poem the way to possess the victory over the wicked: by walking in righteousness and following the Lord’s commands.

I don’t know if this was the intended meaning the author hoped to convey or not. It’s just what I see. The truth of it sits well in my soul that though we may feel overwhelmed by the forces that seek to undo us, in our acts of faith and obedience driven by His lovingkindness toward us, we will prevail. The smallness of our enemy will become apparent to us as we walk in the magnitude (and as we remember the faithfulness) of our Father’s ways. These 8 verses put evil in perspective. It’s there and is in the middle of things, but isn’t the largest or greatest or surrounding truth on our existence as we walk with the Lord.

And I would bet that most of us know this. We understand in the grand scheme of things that God is big, that His plan is the winning plan, and that all will be as it should be in the end. But it’s the now that gets us. It’s the today, and what’s going to happen tomorrow?, and the when will this pain end? that trip us up and turn our eyes away from our Father’s gaze on us.

But that’s the whole point of this Psalm! That’s exactly what this poem of 8 Hebrew verses is showing us. When we feel overwhelmed and overcome and overwrought by the tormentor of this age, all our servant’s heart needs to do is to look up, turn around, and see with the eyes of faith that He is all around us. Though, like the Psalmist cries out in verse 82, “When will You comfort me?” we don’t know how long our trial will last. All we can do, and all we are called to do, is to remember Him and to follow faithfully in His ways. 

And He will be faithful.

Walk in His ways today and remember His faithfulness to you.

Sarah has worked in Christian publishing since 2005 as both and editor and an agent. 

Currently, she works with her husband, David, in their agency, the Van Diest Literary Agency. Writing is a growing passion for her as she hopes to bring hope to hurting hearts.

9 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Jennifer. You are always such an encourager.

      Blessings,
      Sarah

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  2. Thank you for this encouraging reminder, Sarah. It's such a comfort! When we can't see what He's up to, we can be confident that He will remain faithful; that He is surrounding us with His presence and goodness.

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    Replies
    1. Amen! And boy howdy do we need His faithfulness!

      Blessings and thanks,
      Sarah

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  3. Very beautiful interpretation of this Psalm.

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    1. Thank you, Barbara. I've grown fond of Psalm 119 in recent days. It's a good place to camp for a while.

      Blessings,
      Sarah

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  4. Enjoyed your post today. I think we can learn so much from the contrasts in the Psalms. What a great point to expand on.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Ginger.

      I want to learn more. Thank you for the encouraging words!
      Blessings,
      Sarah

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