A Walk through Psalms: Reminders from God
As our family prepares to begin the high school years and Challenge I this fall, I have been creating quite a few checklists and filling out reminders for myself. There is something about embarking upon high school that makes me break into a sweat just a bit. Okay, maybe a lot. I know in my head that this is simply the next phase of learning that we do together as a family, but swirling around it all are things like transcripts, grades, and the pressure to make these years really count. It is during times like these that I know I need to be reminded that God is in charge and that He’s still got this. Yes, even high school.
The more I spend time in the Psalms this summer, the more they feel like a running list of God’s reminders of His provision. What I appreciate most about them is that they are poetic, succinct, and packed with wisdom dispensed in beautiful words and crisp phrases. As I make lists of school supplies and “to-dos” for the year, the Psalms in tandem read like a “don’t forget this” list from God.
This month I have been hanging out in Psalm 119. If I were stranded on a desert island and had only one Psalm that I could bring with me, I think this would be the one. Not only is it the longest Psalm in the entire collection, but it is the longest chapter in the Hebrew Bible with 176 verses or lines of poetry. I have to admit, I had not previously spent much time studying this passage; maybe the sheer volume felt daunting. However, a book that I read over the summer with my son inspired me to take a closer look at this Psalm.
The desire to dive deeper into Psalm 119 grew as the biography of William Wilberforce unfolded. If, upon hearing the name William Wilberforce, you find yourself asking, “William who?” then you are in good company; he was unfamiliar to me as well. In a quick snapshot of his incredible story, Wilberforce was called by God to lead England in abolishing slavery by organizing what he called a “Reformation of Manners” during the 1800s.
To me, the idea of the “Reformation of Manners” initially sounded as though everyone were taking etiquette lessons, but truly it involved working to change many of the social problems of the era such as alcoholism, human trafficking, public hangings, and other gruesome customs. The movement encouraged doing good because it was the only just, right, and Christian thing to do. The life of Wilberforce epitomizes both complete reliance on God in the face of these weighty issues and the necessity of dedication to prayer. Wilberforce not only read Scripture and spent time in prayer each day, but he also memorized many Scripture passages. In fact, one of the daily rituals that shaped his character was the memorization of Psalm 119.
Eric Metaxas, author of the book Seven Men which features an account of Wilberforce’s life, relates that, “Wilberforce would also sometimes walk the two and a half miles from Parliament to his home, and the second half of the walk took him through a portion of Hyde Park. Wilberforce had it timed so that if he began reciting Psalm 119 when he entered the park, he would be finished by the time he got home. It took him twenty minutes to recite the whole thing.”
We memorize ample material in Classical Conversations—huge swaths of information, speeches, timelines, facts, and details. So the idea of memorizing and reciting Psalm 119 did not seem too big of a stretch. However, when I actually began to explore the passage and experience both its length and its richness for myself, I began to appreciate how combing through this Psalm daily would absolutely shape my heart and mind. As it was for William Wilberforce, it quickly became my true heart compass, a daily treasure to remind my heart and soul of God’s goodness.
Here are a few gems from Psalm 119 that spoke to my heart:
Psalm 119 Gems:
“I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.”
“Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”
“Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees; that I will keep them to the end.”
“You are my portion, O Lord.”
“You are my refuge and shield; I have put my hope in your word.”
Like William Wilberforce, my desire is for Scriptures like Psalm 119 to infuse my spirit and shape me. I want God’s wisdom and the reminders of His faithfulness and provision to take such solid root in my heart and life that I do not need a checklist to recall them to mind; I want them to become such a part of who I am that I am able to be still and simply know.
Good Questions to Journal About:
-What “gems” speak to your heart in this Psalm?
-What do you need to be reminded about from this Psalm?
-How can you keep “God’s Reminders” of His provision in your heart for the school season ahead?