There was a time when I found Psalm 119 to be the most boring of psalms as it droned on and on about the law in such obtuse ways that I lost all interest in reading it. I’m not sure when that changed. But somewhere along the line I began to sympathize with its author (or authors) because I saw in it a very genuine struggle with what it means to live in harmony with God.
The psalmist loves God’s law but does not understand it. He has studied it all his life and does not know it. It helps him through every day but troubles still overwhelm him. Enemies of God’s law prosper and oppress while those who follow it suffer. He knows more than all his teachers and knows nothing at all. He is afflicted and prays for healing yet proclaims his afflictions as the gateway to understanding. His lips are filled with praise, adoration, supplication, complaint, desire for revenge, thanksgiving for intimacy of life with God and confession that he has wandered away from God to become a lost sheep.
It portrays a life filled with contradictions that could tear it apart, but it is held together by the over arching and underlying presence of a God who lives in an intimate relationship with the psalmist, and whose ways provide unlimited trustworthy mid-course corrections amidst the confusion of daily living.
Skeptics no doubt would label it as a life held together by delusions and childish fantasy. Such lives have a very hard time dealing with reality in any form, but the psalmist seems to have a firm grasp on his own character and the conditions that surround him. I see him as one for whom the ultimate reality, the “ground of being”, has thrust through ordinary character and conditions to open a pathway toward a different way of being, one that is able to live in harmony with itself and the conditions that surround it because it is in harmony with ultimate reality. In that sense it sounds almost Buddhist, and that may not be all bad. The ‘almost Buddhist’ ends with the recognition that the psalmist is very aware of the presence of injustice and understands that to live in harmony with God is to seek justice not only for himself but for the whole of his community because justice is God’s way.
In short, I have come to treasure Psalm 119 as an adventure in faith and life. Reading and meditating on it has become a joy.