December 14, 2021

Seeking Wisdom

I live as an alien in the land; do not hide your commandments from me.
Psalm 119:19
I don't like this translation at all. There's no indication anywhere else in this very lengthy psalm that this might've been written by a foreigner living in Israel, or by an Israelite living in exile. Indeed the psalm was probably written decades after the return from Babylonian exile. So having it written by an alien in the land makes no sense when there are other possibilities. While אָרֶץ often means land, here it makes much more sense for it to mean earth—especially since there's no definite article. So I would translate it this way:

I'm but a sojourner on earth—you mustn't hide your instructions from me.

This way, it sounds like a prayer for divine wisdom from someone who knows they have a limited time to make right decisions or make a righteous impact. The psalmist doesn't have that long to get it right. And so as I meditate on this verse this morning, I'm thinking about how important priorities are in the context of mortality. Our lives are short, but we waste so much of them on trivial pursuits. We are obsessed with power, influence, material wealth, and fleeting entertainments, when the only eternal values are those derived from God's instruction manual. Reïncarnation isn't a possibility according to either the Christian or the Jewish belief system, and so we have to believe that we need to get it right the first time—because it's the only time. If the psalmist makes this plea sound a bit urgent, that's probably because it is. I, too, should care deeply about discovering the path God's wisdom during my sojourn on this planet.
Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.
 Ephesians 5:15-16
Prayer after thinking about today's devotion:
O come, thou Wisdom from on high, 
and order all things far and nigh; 
to us the path of knowledge show, 
and teach us in her ways to go.
After your own thanksgivings & petitions, close with the Lord's Prayer.

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