Put false ways far from me
and graciously teach me your law!
Psalm 119:29 ESV
As we now move into the second half of stanza daleth, the fourth eight-verse section of Psalm 119, the psalmist moves away from his cause of lament and toward resolutions of faithfulness. This verse is a twofold petition to God for deliverance from sin and for knowledge of His law.
Put false ways far from me. This first petition could be read in at least two ways, both depending on how we view false ways. Either the false ways could be the psalmist’s own sinful deceptions, or they could the dead-end roads that sin walks us down. As with most biblical poetry, I do not see any reason why both cannot be true, since they are certainly not contradictions upon one another. In the first sense, the psalmist would be crying out for God’s rescue from his own deceptive heart, a heart that feels the need to construct lies and falsehoods in order to get by. Such craftiness, however, only imitates the Serpent. It is a form of prideful self-reliance, a declaration that God cannot be trusted to provide and protect, which then “justifies” doing what one has to do just to get by. In the second sense, the psalmist would be praying for deliverance from sin’s general deception. After all, behind every sin is a lie. We sin because, for a moment at least, we believe that it will make us happy or safe or… It is the ultimate example of immediate gratification that always ends in death and destruction. In both senses, the cry is the same: put false ways far from me! Whether from the deception of our own hearts or the seductive allure of sin, we require God’s intervention. We simply cannot conquer this deadly infection within our affections. God must save, or we must perish. No other options exist.
Yet after crying out for deliverance, the psalmist goes beyond the plea for sin removal; he prays, graciously teach me your law! He knows that it is not enough simply to cease sinning; instead, we are all designed to obey the instructions of our Creator and Father. Thus, his cry to be taught God’s law is not a plea for an academic study; rather, it is a knowledge that flows into steadfast obedience. This is the point, I believe, where much Bible reading and study fails. We often open the Word to know more yet without actively searching for how we might better obey its laws. Furthermore, we should note that our salvation in Christ does not nullify this point. We, of course, rejoice that Christ fulfilled the law on our behalf so that we are no longer under the law; however, now that we are free from the burden of the law, we are able to see the law as the gracious act of God that it is. With the eternal penalties for breaking the law being absorbed in Christ, we now behold God’s law in love as the path of life, given to us by our loving Father, who does not wish for any of us to perish.
Like the psalmist, may we cast our sins upon our forgiving God and plead for grace to submit to His good and perfect law.