Monday, December 17, 2007

Let No Sin Rule Over Me


Seventeenth Letter of the Hebrew AlephBeth

Your statutes are wonderful;
therefore I obey them.
The unfolding of your words gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.
I open my mouth and pant,
longing for your commands.

It strikes me as odd, the manner in which this poet gushes over the Torah. I don't know of anybody who gushes over our Constitution in a similar way. Both documents are revered, but there is something divine about the Torah that draws out something beyond. This poet remarks astutely that the Torah gives light in a dark land, a place where other laws are suspect to bribery and tend to favor the wealthy or powerful. But for the simple, the hardworking laborer, the honest and plain citizen, there is a law which one can come under which will give wisdom and understanding. No one I know says that about our imperfect American law system. So what is it about God's Instructions to His People that elicits this kind of marvel, gratitude, and hunger?

Turn to me and have mercy on me,
as you always do to those who love your name.
Direct my footsteps according to your word;
let no sin rule over me.
Redeem me from human oppression,
that I may obey your precepts. would seem that what elicits this poet's response to God's Way is the condition of his soul. I doubt that the one who penned this song had serious sin issues...but it does seem that he had deep understanding of his own self, that he was seriously honest about what factors influenced his decisions and attitudes and beliefs. Maybe this author is so focused on this Law because by it he can find a freedom from something that other laws can't provide. Maybe because this author wants The Author of the Law to pay attention to him, to notice his plight, to regard his life, to bring mercy in response to his faithful and honest love.

The poet knows that letting God's Wisdom direct his steps will break the fetters of sin that shackle hands and heart; he also knows that the sins of others can hinder the coming of the wisdom. Note his prayer, the double effect he is seeking: God direct my steps; God remove the oppressors so I can choose to step in the paths you direct. What's his motivation for redemption from human oppression? So he can go the Way of God, so he can Love his Lord, so he can Follow His Instructions. There is something inherently good about getting out from under the rule of sin - both my own and the oppressive or lingering effects of others - and it is a result of God's ongoing direction of my daily steps throughout the week.

Make your face shine on your servant
and teach me your decrees.
Streams of tears flow from my eyes,
for your law is not obeyed.

Deep at the core of this poem is this desire: that God would smile at his chosen one; that God would notice me and be glad because of me. Why would God shine his face upon me? Because I am willing to let him teach me His Way, and I work hard at keeping his commands, letting him constantly help me. This writer so much wants God to be pleased with him that his human heart breaks when he finds himself unwilling or unable to do what God asked of him.

What a contrast to my heart, which tries to downplay my disobedience, or ignore the transgression. And what about my reaction to the sins of others? Does their disobedience elicit disgust and disdain for me, or tears? Does the downward trend of our culture make me angry, despondent, or indifferent? Or are there tears for the neighbors and fellow citizens who are oppressed and burdened under the rule of their sin and the sins of others?

When I let no sin rule over me, through me God is able to let no sin rule over you; and together God is able to let no sin rule over another.

God, please smile at me; draw out tears from my heart, through me bring redemption and wisdom.

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