Reflecting on Psalm 119

Yesterday evening, I was reading ahead in the lectionary, and the responsive reading came from Psalm 119:23-24, 26-27, 29-30.

This is the section of the acrostic in which the verses all start with dalet.  If you are familiar at all with Biblical Hebrew, you could look at the English translation and guess the word that repeats at the beginning of several verses.  It is derech, which the NAB and NRSV translate consistently as “way” in this text.

“I told of my ways …. Make me understand the way of your precepts … Put false ways far from me …. I have chosen the way of faithfulness.”  I think there is a helpful progression to see here from a devotional standpoint.  Getting to the way of faithfulness requires acknowledging one’s own way, asking for understanding and abandoning false ways.

Yet beyond this, the Psalm made me reflect back on my own religious experiences.  I have been a part of two very different religious communities that have had different dominant metaphors related to that of “the way.”  And I’m not entirely sure as to why, so I’m just thinking out loud.

For quite a number of years, I was a Southern Baptist, and I recall the idea of the “walk” being more prominent than in the Catholic community where I now make my spiritual home (e.g. “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” and “In the Garden” were important hymns).  In my current community, I think that the concept of “journey” is much more prominent.

I am not making any value judgments here.  I appreciate very deeply my experience in a Baptist community (though I do like to prod my Protestant friends, as they do me).  I think both of these metaphors are valuable.  And, I know my memory is also faulty.  Maybe these distinctions are all in my head.   Perhaps the distinctions are more perceived than real, i.e. you walk on a journey.

Yet if I had to try to pinpoint the uptake from this, I think with the concept of the walk my former community was more interested in where a believer was at the present moment.  In my current community, people seem more interested in the journey, i.e. where am I today in relation to where I was yesterday and where I want to be tomorrow or a year from now.

Of course, I think both of these perspectives are necessary.  I just find it interesting that certain aspects of metaphors related to the idea of “the way” have seemed more prominent in the two different communities.

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2 Replies to “Reflecting on Psalm 119”

  1. Walk, journey, moving forward, stepping up, increasing – just some of the terms used in my church community.

    1. True. I think we use a lot of those. It’s just that some seem more prominent than others. For example, I don’t here the “Christian soldier” metaphor as much in my current community, though it is there. But, obviously things like water, bread, wine and sacrifice are more prominent (though we take some of those very literally).

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