Your Rules from of Old | Psalm 119:52

When I think of your rules from of old,
I take comfort, O LORD.

Psalm 119:52 ESV

In general, our roots are shallow. How many know the names of their great-great-grandparents? How many walk about with a knowledge of family history and the weight of a family legacy? In the modern West, we tend to live as historical orphans, as though our immediate family crept into existence as randomly as the Big Bang. Yet our failure to remember the past does not erase it away. We are each sequels to sequels to sequels to sequels to sequels… And there are likely to be many sequels that follow us. There is no comfort in viewing ourselves as islands floating alone on the sea of time, for then all of the world is both around us and upon us.

The psalmist points us toward a better comfort: thinking upon God’s rules from of old, considering the workings of the LORD in ages long past. How is such thinking a comfort to us? It reminds us that we and our circumstances are not as unique as we might tend to believe. After all, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). This means that the path we walk has been walked before. We are not responsible for blazing a whole new trail each generation, only for keeping to the path that has already been cleared.

As Christians, we are not limited to reflecting upon our flesh-and-blood lineage. Instead, we who are in Christ “are the sons of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7). Reading of God’s work in the Scriptures is reading God’s work in our family history. That is why Calvin counsels:

For when we read that God revealed himself to Abraham, and helped Abraham in his necessity, let this be our conclusion, ‘Very well, what God did to his servant Abraham, is to assure us, that he will do the same for us, therefore we must now run to God for refuge and succor.’ This is how all the testimonies of all his wonderful works, which God has given in the Holy Scriptures, ought to serve as aids and helps to each one of us.[1]

All the testimonies of Scripture should so encourage us. If the LORD remembered His covenant with Abraham even when Abraham’s descendants seemed to forget, how much more will He remember His covenant with us sealed by the blood of His Son? If He was faithful to give Israel the Promised Land, how much more surely will He give us life everlasting through His Son?

The lives and examples of the brothers and sisters who have lived before, especially as recounted in Scripture, should indeed comfort us. The road before us is hard, but it is well-traveled by those who now stand as a great “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1). Let us take comfort and run our race with endurance.


[1] John Calvin, Sermons on Psalm 119, 143.

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