SEARCH FOR YOUR SERVANT
Rev. Charles Hoffacker
What is by far the longest psalm in the Psalter ends with this verse:
"I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost;
search for your servant,
for I do not forget your commandments."
The 22 sections of Psalm 119 each contain 8 verses. God’s law is the topic throughout, identified throughout by a variety of synonyms, including commandments, decrees, promise, statutes, and word. At first, this psalm can seem dull, but praying it repeatedly opens up its inexhaustible depths.
The Daily Office Lectionary in the Book of Common Prayer assigns three consecutive sections of Psalm 119 to nearly every Wednesday in the year.
In the final verse, the Psalmist appears as a lost sheep, a creature in need, whom God must search for and find. Here there is a radical and appropriate abandonment of all self-righteousness. At the same time, confidence in God rises up. The Psalmist does not forget the divine commandments and the utterly reliable promises they contain.
So this massive psalm ends with a final assertion of our need and God’s provision. Here is the appropriate place from which to offer all our worship.
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The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington