Private Devotion and Public Association: A Meditation on Psalm 119:57-64

“Thou art my portion, O LORD: I have said that I would keep thy words” (Psalm 119:57).

This stanza has two clear sections: private devotion (vv. 57-60) and public association (vv. 61-64).  In the first section, the psalmist declares that God alone is His portion; therefore, he pledges to keep His words, he entreats His favor, and he returns to His testimonies with thought and haste.  Having thoroughly repented, he announces in the second section that he will not capitulate to the dark bands of wicked men, but will freely associate with those who fear and obey God, declaring that the earth is full of God’s loyal love.  In both the opening and closing lines, obedience is predicated on a radical God-only-ness: “On earth, I own nothing but You and find nothing but Your love everywhere; therefore, teach me Your rules!  I pledge to obey!”

From this analysis, the implications are clear: If you do not have God as Your portion and His love as Your vision, you will not have the resolve to obey–to pray, repent, and persevere in a wicked and dark culture.  Half-hearted love to God will lead to half-footed obedience.  Instead of looking to God alone for favor, you will pray as a duty, but bank on worldly means for deliverance.  Instead of thinking carefully of your ways, you will thoughtlessly disobey or delay, not realizing how far you have fallen.  Worse, you will tend to forget His law and blend in with the crowd, dropping out of church attendance and genuine Christian fellowship–and all because you want something more than God as your portion in life.

Listen to the Messiah speak in Psalm 16:

“Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.
O my soul, thou hast said unto the LORD, Thou are my Lord; my goodness extended not to thee:
But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight.
Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god:
Their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips.
The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot.
The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage” (Psalm 16:1-6).

Do you see the connection between private devotion and public worship?  If we say to the Lord Jesus, “You are my Lord, and You are my treasure,” then we will view the saints in the earth as excellent and delightful, but the idolaters we will not even mention by name, nor join in with their idolatries.

It is troubling to see how many professedly Christian people come to church sporadically; and even then, it is to “attend church,” as if it were a program and not a family.  Why is that?  According to the logic of the Psalms, divided interests reveal a divided heart.  If God were their sole possession, they would readily pray, repent, and persevere with all the saints; but since other things claim their heart–yard work, recreation leagues, overtime, or even family–public worship is not attended, and God’s people are not befriended.

It is amazing how few really pray or consider thoughtfully their ways!  What will the half-hearted do when the bands of the wicked encircle tighter, and public worship is outlawed?  Having neglected Him now, will they rise then at midnight to give thanks unto God for His righteous judgments (v. 62)?  Will they dare unite with those who fear God and keep His precepts (v. 63)?  Instead of seeing the world as full of God’s loyal love (v. 64), will they not see evil on every side and withdraw in self-protection?  “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).  Now is the opportunity to renounce your idols and seek Christ as your only portion in life (cf. Philippians 3:8).  If not, what will you do?

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