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The Scriptorium

The Keeping Life

Serious business, that. Psalm 119.57-64

Psalm 119.57-64

Pray Psalm 119.57-60.
You are
my portion, O LORD;
I have said that I would keep Your words.
I entreated Your favor with my whole heart;
Be merciful to me according to Your word.
I thought about my ways,
And turned my feet to Your testimonies.
I made haste, and did not delay
To keep Your commandments.

Sing Psalm 119.57-60.
(Leoni: The God of Abraham Praise)
I vow to keep Your Word; You are my portion, Lord.
Let favor fill my heart; have mercy by Your Word!
When I think on my way, I turn my feet to You,
to Your path I shall not delay, Your Word to do.

Read Psalm 119.57-64; meditate on verse 57.

1. Because God was his portion, what did the psalmist resolve?

2. What did that mean for his daily life?

This excellent stanza of Psalm 119 unpacks the meaning of what the psalmist vowed in verse 57: “I have said that I would keep Your words.” That’s serious business, making a vow like that. But we should all make and renew it day by day, making sure we fully understand what it means for us to live such a “keeping” life.

Let’s quickly review the different components of such a life:
1. Resolve and renew your commitment day by day (v. 57)
2. Devote your heart to the Lord and seek His face and Presence (“favor”) for mercy and grace (v. 58)
3. Get your mind in gear and keep it there (v. 59)
4. Be always about the business of bringing your life into line with God’s Word (vv. 59, 60)
5. In the face of the world’s wickedness, cling to God’s Word, to not forget it (v. 61)
6. Give God thanks for His Word always, even in the middle of the night (v. 62)
7. Find like-minded companions (v. 63)
8. Listen to the voice of creation and call on the Lord to teach you more (v. 64)

This is “the keeping life” – clinging to the Word of the Lord, hidden in your heart, saturating your mind, and directing all your steps for obedience, blessing, love for God and neighbors, and happiness. As we keep in this calling, the Spirit of God will continue writing God’s Law on our heart (Ezek. 36.26, 27), teaching us all things (Jn. 14.26), pointing us to and shaping us into the image of Jesus (Jn. 15.26; 2 Cor. 3.12-18), bringing forth spiritual fruit and gifts (Gal. 5.22, 23; 1 Cor. 12.7-11), and empowering us as witnesses for Jesus and agents of His grace (Acts 1.8; 2 Cor. 4.15).

And as this happens, and increases, then we will know that we are kept by God, and He is our portion.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
The Keeping Life – keeping God’s Law as our commanding purpose – leads ultimately to giving it all away. Not our faith, not our determination, but our love for the Lord God, our Portion – our hold on life. It is all God’s. It all belongs to Him. And He allows us the privilege of giving this Good News away by first keeping Him close.

Hannah, in her keeping of the Law, gave her very heart away. Her baby son, a gift from God. And as she gave, she prayed and said:
“My heart rejoices in the LORD; my strength is exalted in the LORD.
I smile at my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation.
No one is holy like the LORD, for there is none besides You,
nor is there any rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly; let no arrogance come from your mouth.
For the LORD is the God of knowledge; and by Him actions are weighed” (1 Sam. 2.1-3).

She kept God’s Law. She kept her promise. She gave her son back to the LORD.

Jesus told His followers much the same thing: “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 10.39). “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 16.24, 25). Finding, keeping, losing, giving.

But then Jesus tells us to keep something close. And that is the Law. “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt. 19.17). And, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jn. 14.15).

And John wrote, “By this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 Jn. 2.3).

True keeping involves great generosity of spirit. But we can only know how to properly give anything away, as we keep what we must, and that is the Law. And our Lord will help us keep what is dear. “For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Tim. 1.12). He will help us sort out all the keeping and giving so that those in our Personal Mission Field are the beneficiaries of all our effort.

The Keeping Life is the most generous!


For reflection
1. What do we mean by “the keeping life”?

2. Why must the keeping life begin in our soul – our heart and mind?

3. Why do we need like-minded companions to keep the keeping life?

God being our portion, ought to animate and encourage us to observe his law. We have already noticed in several other passages, that God is denominated the heritage of the faithful, because he alone is sufficient for their full and entire happiness. And seeing he has chosen us for his peculiar possession, it is only reasonable on our part, that we should rest satisfied with him alone; and if we do this, our hearts will also be disposed to keep his law and, renouncing all the lusts of the flesh, our supreme delight, and firm resolution, will be to continue in the same. John Calvin (1509-1564), Commentary on Psalm 119.57

Pray Psalm 119.61-64.
Pray through each of the activities or disciplines mentioned in this stanza that make up what we must do in keeping the Law of God. Ask God to strengthen you in each one, then commit the work of this day to Him.

Sing Psalm 119.61-64.
The God of Abraham Praise)
Though wicked ways constrain and bind my hands in sin,
yet I recall Your Word and turn to You again.
By night I thank You, Lord; my voice to You I raise;
for all Your righteous, holy Word I give You praise.

All those  who fear You, Lord, go with me on my way,
all those who keep Your holy Word from day to day.
Around us all the earth declares Your mercy, Lord.
That I might know Your glorious worth, teach me Your Word.

T. M. and Susie Moore

What is the Law of God and how should we learn and obey it? Two books can help. The Law of God arranges the statutes and precepts of God’s Law under their appropriate number of the Ten Commandments. This book is an excellent tool for meditating on God’s Law and thinking about its application in our time. The Ground for Christian Ethics, on the other hand, explains why the Law matters and how we are to use it. You can order free copies of each of these
here and here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by
clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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