Defiled

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Smut stains and erosion, Major Archibald Douglas Monteath Masusoleum, Glasgow Necropolis, Scotland

Alef. — v.1-8

I love word origins, or “etymologies”.  They paint a more vivid picture in our minds of the word’s meaning. It’s easy to take words for granted without contemplating the full depth of their meaning.  I think I’ve got the full picture, but I often don’t.  It’s not sinking in.

When I was courting my (now) husband, my mother told us that we should be very careful about how we use the word “love”. She knew that love is not just romantic feelings, but also includes work, sacrifice, and duty. We have now been married 37 years and understand! Words have meaning.

Take the word “defile” in Alef “Blessed are the undefiled…” (Ps. 119:1). In Psalm 119:1, the original Hebrew word is תָּמִיםor, tamim, which means “complete, sound”. The Latin word, from which our English word comes, begins with de- which means “down from” or “away from”.  The Latin word root file means “order” (from the idea of “single file”); therefore, to be defiled is to be “away from order”.  But it also comes from a secondary meaning construction, “be-foul“, which means “to make stink” or to sully or ruin in a noxious manner.  To be un-defiled means to no longer stink.

In other words, Psalm 119:1 says, “Blessed are those who remain unsullied or unspoiled from the world; who have their foundations well laid and are stable in all their ways, not lacking what is necessary” (my paraphrase).

In, or out?  On a casual reading of this psalm, I may think myself safe. I’ve been a Christian all my life and though I’ve made some huge mistakes and have failed God in big ways, I look at ‘me’ now and can think I’m not that bad.  I’m not a murderer, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t abuse substances, don’t hate people–I’m really a nice person. “I’m in!”.  Good for me!

But looking more closely, I am stopped in my tracks.  I know in my heart that I am not ordered, not stable in everything. I am not sufficient for the tasks ahead of me.  The laws of God look at the heart, not just the final act  (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28, 31-32, 38-39, 43-44).  I get resentful. I (ahem!) have raised my voice at times. I have wanted what I didn’t have.  I have “painted” the picture of my life as better or worse than it really is based on my mood.

Verses 2-4 continues the high bar of excellence required.  I don’t keep the law of God diligently (“to love, or take delight in”). I don’t look for God in all the moments of my life.  I do enact wrong thoughts into wrong behaviors!

I am not just slow about obeying God’s Word; I even resist it! Obedience means death to my self-centeredness, and I rebel against that death.  “Self” is a very determined survivor!  I’m not “in”– I’m guilty.

But what does it mean to be “blessed”?  It means to be “consecrated”–set apart for a pure, sacred purpose, or made holy (con = ‘with’; sacre = ‘sacred, holy, set apart for higher use’). To be blessed means to receive God’s abundance of material provision for need; to experience God’s presence; and to take part in God’s holy character with Him.  Sadly, I’ve defaulted on the terms. I can’t claim that blessing.

The psalmist’s cry is mine.  The psalmist continues, though.  And this is very important!

“Oh, that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!” 

The Psalmist is like me!!  Oh, what a relief to my soul this passage is!

He is not setting himself up as holier than the rest of us. No, he sets God’s commands up high, but not himself.  He doesn’t lie about the requirements.  He is honest about them.

When I don’t want to obey something, it is easy to try to deface it down to my level.  “Oh, that’s not really what God is saying…” Who does that sound like? (Genesis 3).

No, the Psalmist is honest.  “Here’s what God requires.  Here is what gains our Holy God’s blessing and approval.  Here’s what draws me close to God’s breast in favor and friendship and love.  And this I see is ahead of me. It is not where I am now! Who can help me?

The Psalmist wants to be in that blessed place. In the New Testament, Paul said the same thing (Romans 7:24 Amplified Bible):

Wretched and miserable man that I am! Who will [rescue me and] set me free from this body of death [this corrupt, moral existence]?”

Isn’t it the same way with you and me?  We want to be pure, but we are not.  We want to set God high above all the distractions of this world, but we do not. We want to be unstained but we are stained and scarred and dirty with sin.  Every day.

In verses 6-7, the psalmist exclaims what is ahead for the one who is helped in this way.

 I will not be ashamed.  Impurity makes us feel bad about ourselves.  We can then think badly of others to cover this up.  We are embarrassed and withdraw and hide.  Or we cover our shame with false claims (pride).  But if someone outside of us will only come and “direct our steps” to obey, the shame would dissipate.  I would give awe and honor to the right things! I would feel godly confidence; I would walk with sure and steady steps into the arms of Christ who loves me!

I will praise you in all genuineness.  How ungenuine my praise can be, and when genuine, how fleeting!!  In conversation, we who are believers can repeat hollowed phrases that are expected of a Christian.  We can easily speak truth without fully realizing it in our own hearts.

But who of us doesn’t want to truly understand and feel the value and gratefulness of the truth of God and His Word?  The psalmist says that if someone would only come and help me in obedience, my praise would be full of meaning, understanding and above all true thankfulness and joy!

That’s what it means to have “learned thy righteous judgement“; to have comprehended what is at stake and to know where I stand with God.

The turn of the tide:  choice.  So the psalmist does something that turns the tide.  He makes a choice.  Though he knows he will need help to follow through, he makes a crucial turn of his will:

I will keep thy statutes;…”

How about you and me?  It is one thing to assess these truths with our intellect and say, “Yes, that is true.”  It is another thing to make an active choice for change.

As you read Alef, you may also identify with the psalmist. You may also be drawn in your heart by his prayer: “I will keep the law of God; I will set out to do so with focus and intention.”  Will you actually say it and mean it with all your heart?  I am saying it right along with you!

Here’s the best partThe psalmist ends with a cry to the one who can help!  Yes, it is the Lord God Himself who is the answer to the psalmist’s cry for help: “O do not give up on me so that I fail and miss your salvation!”

God does not change our humanity; he transforms it.

I’ve done with making claims I can’t keep! God must help me.

And He has promised to do just that!  God has not only paid the price for our sin, our risen Savior has further promised:

 “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever–the Spirit of truth….the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will REMIND you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:15-26).

Advocate.  Another word: ad = “toward”; vocare = “to call”.  It means “one who helps; to speak up for; to call upward.” When I am arrested, I have the right to an attorney who will represent my best interests.  Jesus has already stepped in and paid the price for the guilt of our sin.  We are no longer condemned.  Praise His Name!

The apostle Paul also answered his own New Testament cry with the assurance of God’s power to save (v. 25):

“Thanks be to God [for my deliverance] through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

It is Holy Creator God who is our Judge, it is God the Only Son who is our Savior and Redeemer, and it is God the Holy Spirit, Comforter and Advocate who walks beside us and guides us safely through as we walk out our gratitude and joy in our salvation in obedience.

The Promise of the prayer.  The Psalmist was an Old Testament believer.  The Promised Deliverer had not yet come at the time this psalm was written.  We live in a time when that Savior has already come.  Salvation is granted!

Further, “God is with us”.  Christ is “with us” in the Person of the Holy Spirit.

What does the Holy Spirit do for believers?  He comforts us in our sorrows. He encourages us to remember the Provision of God in Christ Jesus for salvation and the Promises of God that sustain us.  He teaches us so that we comprehend the spiritual things of God’s Word.  He reminds us of the Word of God. He keeps us from falling (Jude 24-25).

We must place ourselves in the hearing of it (Romans 10:14-15) and submit to the reading of God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15), but the Spirit helps us so that our leaky sieve of a brain can retain enough of it that we can walk in it for the day and trial at hand (John 14:26).

The psalmist’s prayers were answered.

  Father, thank you for Jesus Christ, whom you promised so long ago to free us from the bondage of recurring sin.  I don’t have to be imprisoned by my sin or by the sin done to me.  I can be free because you paid the price to conquer death and sin and all evil and to raise victorious.  You lead us in Your way through the cross of self-sacrifice into Resurrection victory over sin and self. You not only go ahead of us in this, but you walk with us through the power and ever-presence of the Holy Spirit of Father God.  Praise you Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for your amazing love!  Keep me now as I determine in my will again to follow you in all purity of mind, heart, soul and body.  Steady me when I grow weak and doubt.  Correct me in mercy when I fail.  Encourage me in your strength, and remind me of truth when I succeed so that I don’t grow prideful. I praise you to the four winds of the earth in all I do and think and say. In Your power, I will do it.  In the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, so let it be. 

© 2018 by http://www.readpsalm119.com; last revised Feb 2, 2019.

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FURTHER RESOURCES:

“The Coming of the Comforter” by John McArthur, Grace to You ministry.  Article.

Salvation Draws Near” by Ligonier Ministries. Brief devotional.

“And Can It Be?” lyrics by Charles Wesley, beautifully arranged and sung by Glad, 1988 (a capella group), audio on YouTube, Gospel Nation Station.

“And Can It Be?” by Charles Wesley, (1707-1788)

1

And can it be that I should gain

An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?

Died He for me, who caused His pain?

For me, who Him to death pursued?

Amazing love! how can it be

That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Amazing love! how can it be

That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

2

’Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies!

Who can explore His strange design?

In vain the firstborn seraph tries                     (angel; 1 Peter 1:12)

To sound the depths of love Divine!

’Tis mercy all! let earth adore,

Let angel minds inquire no more.

’Tis mercy all! let earth adore,

Let angel minds inquire no more.

3

He left His Father’s throne above,

So free, so infinite His grace;

Emptied Himself of all but love,

And bled for Adam’s helpless race:

’Tis mercy all, immense and free;

For, O my God, it found out me.

’Tis mercy all, immense and free;

For, O my God, it found out me.

4

Long my imprisoned spirit lay

Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;

Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,

I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;

My chains fell off, my heart was free,

I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

My chains fell off, my heart was free,

I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

5

No condemnation now I dread;                               (Romans 8)

Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!

Alive in Him, my living Head,

And clothed in righteousness Divine,

Bold I approach the eternal throne,                          (Hebrews 4:14-16)

And claim the crown, through Christ my own.      (2 Tim. 4:8)

Bold I approach the eternal throne,

And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

3 thoughts on “Defiled

  1. Postscript:
    To “befoul” something implies that the original state was pure. I have a brand new white blouse, but a fall down a muddy hiking trail “befouled” my fresh white shirt with blood and mud and ground in grass. It is stained and no bleach will get it all out. To “reconcile”, which is what Christ has done for us, is to RE (“again; back”) CONCILIARE (“to bring together”), or more fully: “to bring back together that which was pulled apart, separated”.

    Dear friend, and I mean that, you were and are not designed for pollution and stain. That is not who you were made to be. Not who I was made to be. Christ has paved the way across the chasm of separation due to our sin that gapes open between you and me and God the Loving Sovereign Father. In a metaphorical mystery that is not just wordplay but literally true, the blood of Christ has washed away your blood stains of guilt. You are clean. And the Holy Spirit is here to keep us clean, but only if we accept this gift of the Savior’s for salvation. We must begin at the right gate, and that is at the cross of Jesus.

    If you do not yet know or understand this gift that is offered to you for cleansing and the healing of your soul, read the book of the Gospel of John (or the Gospel of Mark) with prayer in your heart to understand. God sees you and hears your heart as you read with an open mind and heart. If you ask Him, He will come in and open your understanding. Find a Bible-believing friend or acquaintance or church and ask someone to pray with you and help you begin your journey with Christ and the Holy Spirit.

    I would love to hear from you, but if not then God go with you in peace and joy. — Tamara.

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