Using a bow compass in geometry, one sharp end of the compass sticks in the paper and forms the centerpoint. The other arm, pencil attached, draws an arc at a set radius around the center point. When two separate sets of arcs are thus drawn from two different centerpoints, the intersection of those two arcs is thus marked as an “x”, a point of conflict.
An intersection is a point of conflict from which some change or purpose must take place. “You can’t serve two masters. You will love the one and hate the other” (Matthew 6:24). At some point there will be a clash of trajectories, a point of conflict, a crisis–a crux, crucible, cross and crucifixion.
Tau (“mark” “cross” vv.169-176) is a crowning octrain for the whole of Psalm 119. The psalmist portrays a crisis point, a “crux” where he recognizes that through all the confusion and contradictions of life in this world, through all the persecutions and temptations, his only hope for resolution of the inner conflict he feels inside is to align himself with the Centerpoint that is God Himself.
He doesn’t seek a negotiation between himself and God, and this is important. He knows that only God is righteous. Only God’s Word is the right way. Therefore, he crucifies his own centerpoint, putting it up on the cross of Christ. He merges his heart and mind with God’s (Luke 9:23-27).
“Re-align me to your path, O Lord, or I will be destroyed.”
He knew that there was nothing else worth living for, nothing else that would keep him or save him. He had found truth in the Person and law of God and he craved it like a dying man craves life. Do I?
Robert Southey once remarked, “It is with words as with sunbeams; the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn.”
That affected me when I was a young person. Emanating from the centerpoint of perfection and holiness, God’s word pierces like a laser through our steely hardness and burns like holy fire (Luke 24:30-32). God’s words were condensed in the person of Jesus Christ, the Word-made-flesh (John 1:1-5, 10-14). We may not like it when His ways are in conflict with our pride or want of pleasure, but we know in our hearts that His way is the right way. We are at a point of truth then: which way will I choose?
We surely can’t carry on as before. Adam found there was no place to hide from God (Hebrews 4:13). He had to face Almighty God with his sin and receive the perfect judgment that he knew he deserved. And yet as Adam submitted to this new trajectory, although he knew the pain of exile, he also knew the comfort of God’s promise of redemption and blessing (Hebrews 4:14-15).
Moses also tried to live in the crosshairs of conflict. He fled in shame and fear, hiding in the desert outpost of Midian for 40 years after his moral failure. Doesn’t it feel as though we are in a desert outpost when we are separated from God by our running? The heart is dry, even though we are physically safe. Moses found a wife and made a family and was succeeding in a career in Midian. But he was living a life “off” of his true destiny. His centerpoint had a different radial arc than God’s purpose for him.
God called Moses to account in an unquenchable fire. Two different centerpoints met at their intersecting arcs, and Moses and this world would never be the same again. Having operated out of a separate center, Moses submitted to his destiny, the purpose for which he had been made, and merged his center with God’s.
This is what the psalmist in Tau, and in all of Psalm 119, prays: that he would be re-aligned to be one with the Person and the message of God. Why? Because God is righteous and all His words and ways are right.
When we feel conflict inside, might that not be God’s calling us to account? Perhaps we are undecided about a course of action. We hear two or more “voices” calling out to us from different centerpoints. Those voices radiate outward to a point of decision. Whose voice will I choose to hear?
It is so very helpful to understand a foundational premise in all of Psalm 119: Thy way, O Lord, is right. This very principle is why Psalm 119 has been such a stabilizing force and a comfort to so many.
Our next question is this: What is “thy” way? Psalm 119 points to the whole of scripture and the Person of Jesus Christ, our exemplar. What does scripture say? What is the supreme example of Christ in this I am facing? We are called to take up and read and find out. Find out the character of God and His Son Jesus Christ, and the nature of the comfort and leadership of the Holy Spirit. Ask a Bible-believing, Bible-obedient Christian for help. Set yourself in an environment where you can see His Way being attempted by those who set their hope in Him. Finally, ask God who does not chastise the seeking soul (James 1:5) and will never turn away a contrite and willing heart (Psalm 51:17).
We don’t have to live a counterfeit life. We don’t have to continue in confusion of soul. Whether it is a more localized decision about your career or relationships, or a much larger decision about your life’s destiny and the answers to the cosmic questions of life, you can be sure that God has not left us ignorant. We can know the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16; John 15:15).
The psalmist in Tau recognizes that even here, he is unable to choose wisely if God did not intervene on his behalf to help him choose rightly. He knew all too well, as we also know, that we humans don’t always want this alignment. We feel every fiber of injustice, discomfort, pain, suffering, inconvenience, loss, embarrassment, temptation and pride of flesh. We are made to long for reprieve of these highly uncomfortable feelings; we desire comfort and respite. We will gain pleasure and relief however we can and as soon as we can, if we were left to ourselves. And in doing so, we will continue to live in conflict, anxiety and depression because we are living separate from God.
But God is faithful to mark out the intersection between our ways and His. He will bring us to a point of crisis whereby we are made to see that we are “bent” and in constantly conflict with Himself.
By the very nature of an intersection, two points will at once be made known; not only will we see our own failed trajectory, we will see His correct one. He is faithful to show us the point from which we have wandered and fallen prey to the enemy of our souls. His Word shines like a beacon, not only to mark out for us our sin, but to mark out for us the way back (John 16:13-15, 27-30, 33; Romans 5:10, 1 John 4:10, Psalm 119:9-11).
God has given us the assurance through Christ that whatever crisis we are in, small daily constraints or huge life-changing decisions, we can choose Him just there and be set free from the paralysis of entrapment. Our crucible, our moment of crisis, becomes our salvation when we yield to our own self-crucifixion in identification with Christ’s. We can be, as the photo below shows, “hid in Christ” and finally at peace.
The psalmist ends 176 verses of praise for God’s Word with the most love-saturated commitment to God and his word. It is desperate, it is appreciative and thankful, and it is a laser beam that burns hot with the fire of holy zeal. Can I pray like this?
Lord God, I recognize that I operate from a different center point than You. I am far off and feel the cooling that this distance creates. I feel the conflict that every crisis brings in my heart, revealing my mortal position against your enduring perfection. The contrast is great. As much as I suffer, I don’t want your righteousness. I fear loss of control and yet I have already lost control. I can’t handle this life on my own. But you are all love. You have opened my eyes to see where I stand. You don’t desire my destruction; you long for my re-alignment. Therefore I am bold before you and ask you, as did the psalmist, to work your correction in my heart. Give me the strength and honor to confess my errant way and to seek reconciliation with you and your way of truth. Give me the power to overcome temptation, and to stand firm in your righteousness even though it means death to my self-centeredness. You surround me with a cloud of witnesses both past and present, brothers and sisters praying the same prayer alongside my own. Thank you for the light of your Word in Christ Jesus, redeeming me so that I can find truth and even comfort and peace both now and forevermore. May the music of my soul praise You forever and bring glory and honor to Your Name! So let it be.
“I am not OK” by Todd Stryd, CCEF.org (blog post)
Beth (Psalm 119:9-16)
Psalm 51 “Create in me a clean heart, O God…”
“Men Who Met God – Moses and the Burning Bush – He Met God in a Crisis of Encounter by A.W. Tozer”, published by Sermon Library on YouTube, April 14, 2017. (audio sermon)
“Luke Hahn’s Testimony: God Had to Strip Me of Everything” by I’ll Be Honest on YouTube, April 4, 2018. (video) When you have made a decision for Christ, but are not sure you understood it or are not living in it (“false professions”). 16-20 minutes.
‘It Will Cost You Everything” published by I’ll Be Honest (preacher Steve Lawson, Christ Fellowship Baptist Church, Mobile, AL), December 1, 2009. 11 minutes. The cost and the promise of making Christ Lord in life. cfbcmobile.org
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