My soul clings to the dust;
give me life according to your word!
Psalm 119:25 ESV
As we enter into Psalm 119’s fourth stanza, in which each verse begins with the fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet daleth, we find the psalmist in a different place than in gimel. In that previous stanza, the psalmist began by pleading for God to “Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word” (v. 17). The cries for life from God, therefore, are similar; however, the psalmist’s desperation seems to have grown.
My soul clings to the dust. Here is a statement of profound lowliness. Whatever the psalmist is facing, whatever trial is set before him, it has driven his soul so far into the ground that dust is all he has to cling to. Indeed, the circumstances of his trial is unimportant because the Psalms were purposely inspired to be universal. They are vague on the details so that we can read our own into them as we pray to God the words of the psalmist. Of course, being metaphorically ground into the dust is an occasion for lament, for it reminds of sin’s curse upon the world and upon us. What God spoke to Adam so long ago continues to echo in our present-day suffering, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). The psalmist’s lowliness is soberingly accurate; he clings to dust because he is dust. Trials are merely a reminder from the LORD.
Give me life according to your word. Again, we can hear echoes of Genesis in the psalmist’s prayer. As we read in Genesis 2:7, “then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” It was God’s breath that gave life to dust and caused Adam to live. The psalmist is now looking to God’s Word for the same effect. This should not surprise us since Paul taught us that “All Scripture is breathed out by God… (2 Timothy 3:16). As a Christian, I hope that you often reflect upon the beauty of the Bible as God’s spoken Word to humanity, but do you ever think of it as God’s life-giving breath being breathed back into you? Saturating ourselves in Scripture enlivens our hearts and souls in the same way that God’s breath gave life to Adam in Eden.
But we should also consider the embodied Word of God who gives us life. Although the curse of sin grinds us back into the dust from whence we came, God’s own Son came that we may “have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Indeed, Christ lamented that the religious leaders of His day studied the written Word but failed to see the embodied Word standing before them: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40). Life is according to God’s Word because through the Scriptures are able to know and love Jesus, who is “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).