Yod. v. 73-80
The picture window framed my across-the-street neighbor’s house, its yellow porch lights gleaming in the indigo evening. My heart was burdened for this neighbor, a good unbelieving friend with whom I enjoyed sharing the ups and downs of first-time parenting. I needed intimate, tangible contact with this Lord for her sake.
I knelt down by my little blue tulip chair in front of that window all alone in my little home. I didn’t know if I would see an apparition or what else. I expected death. The children were asleep and my husband was working night shift. And I prayed.
“Lord, I am aware that those who see you, experience you, fall down as dead men. I am at the point where I need to see you, to know you more than just by mental faith. I need to know, again, the reality of my faith for [my friend’s] sake. I will wait for you to come to me, even if I die.” .
I prayed deeply. My prayers were for the soul of my neighbor, but there was something more. The need for close contact was intense. It wasn’t for lack of faith; in fact, my faith was never more strong. I didn’t need to see God to prove His existence, I believed. I just needed HIM.
In prayer, the Lord did come to me. My entire world was enveloped in a bodily intensity of light-ness and all was utter praise and glory at His presence. All I could do was to praise Him in words I was aware were not earthly, and enjoy the brilliance of His presence. All was saturated in His love and high Sovereignty.
It wasn’t an ocular vision, it was a spiritual elevation. I knew in those moments in a tangible way that I was with the Lord and He was with me; His Love was felt through every fiber of my being. I knew when the Lord lovingly withdrew His presence and all returned to my little living room and the window looking out onto the night, that I had been favored with a touch of the Creator’s hand. I had received the power of His Prsence.
I better understood the story of the women’s zeal after they had seen the Lord at the empty tomb. I knew the dumbstruck awe of the disciples in the upper room after Christ’s resurrection. And I even understood more of the wonder of Pentecost when the Spirit came rushing in and flames of fire rested on the heads of the disciples and they praised the Lord in languages higher than their own cultural knowledge extended. None of these experiences were demanded of the disciples; it was God’s gift to them, and this was God’s gift to me.
This is not strange or uncommon in the Christian life. Tested by scripture, it holds precedent–Paul enjoyed this elevation in prayer more than once.
I didn’t expect for this experience to be repeated. God is real. He answers prayer. He is who He says He is and will do all that He has promised in my life and in the life of those for whom I was praying. It was effective for the needs at the time, and still is effective in my life today. This one moment was, in a word, enough.
I have had other experiences of the Master’s touch since then, for my Lord is never stingy with Himself when I need Him; but no experience is ever the same and doesn’t need to be. Each experience fits the need and the will of God to bestow.
I have had a son in war and have felt the need for God’s touch for both of us.
I have been told that one son may not make it through the night due to a post-operative complication and (of all places) met God in the hospital restroom.
God has worked miracles of soul and physical life preservation. God has reinforced my faith with His touch in daily moments when I could go no further, when I was scared of the future (death to self), and when I was released to step out in faith to see and experience the wonders of that faith.
The writer of Psalm 119 asks for this same presence of God. He asks for contact with God. It is fitting that the Phoenician letter ‘yod‘ is a symbol that meant “hand”. The Hebrew letter implies “touch”. Touch means “close contact”.
There is a kind of structure in Yod that is helpful for me as I come to fresh need for tangible contact.
The Premise and Purpose of God’s Touch. The first thing our writer does is establish his prayer on the basis of God’s Sovereignty. In verse 73, he acknowledges that it is God’s hands that have created him, and not only created but shaped him uniquely for the mission of life.
Of all the longings for touch in this world (the touch of a loved one, the touch of assurance from a teacher, the touch of belonging), our greatest need is to come into real contact with our Risen Lord. Why else would Christ have presented himself bodily to the disciples and 500 other believers instead of just going back to the Father after the resurrection? His manifested presence was not just to “prove” His resurrection, but to offer comfort and assurance for His children.
The purpose of God’s touch is for mission; to enact and enliven our faith to go and tell the good news of Christ. These same disciples would be sacrificing their very lives (not just their deaths) in the Lord’s service. They needed close contact!! God gave it.
Why do I need God’s touch? Am I founding my need on the premise of His Sovereignty? Am I willing to sacrifice myself in His Name to fulfill His Mission?
Whose “touch”? Contact can mean many things. The idea of touch is that one can feel with the senses the truth of another’s presence.
The writer acknowledges the work of God’s hands in creation, but also:
- that God gives understanding,
- that God afflicts (this is a negative touch, but see TET or the previous post),
- that God comforts, and
- that God forgives.
All these things are God’s ways of impressing the truth of His presence in our lives. When I am told I am forgiven, I need to FEEL forgiven! I need comfort when I am grieved. I feel the lashes of affliction in sickness, sin, depression, humiliation. I don’t ask for affliction, but it is still God’s way of telling me He is really with me.
The writer also longs for the touch of fellow believers, those who have known (witnessed) God’s presence in their lives (“thy testimonies”, v. 74, 79). The writer is keenly aware that God has placed us in the context of community and he longs for God’s presence to be manifested in “community touch”. Don’t I feel this when I walk into a church and hope that there will be some kind of tangible welcome that will make me feel I belong in God’s kingdom? I want my presence to make them glad (v. 73) and for them to move toward me in welcome. This is the writer’s prayer. It is mine, too.
The writer doesn’t neglect his oppressors. He has been oppressed without cause, and he desires that his enemies, whom he identifies as those who are faithless, will be ashamed. Don’t we all? He doesn’t identify the enemy as an enemy of the cross, though, and this is significant. Even fellow believers can come across at times as proud and arrogant and faithless. Even I can come across in this way!!
He doesn’t ask for self-vengenance or destruction on the faithles, he asks that they experience the humbling of shame. Shame carried is a wrong to be corrected by Christ’s grace; but shame has its purpose in us to humble us and bring us to Christ for forgiveness and en-courage-ment. How gracious is the writer to long for the enemies’ salvation and sanctification!! Can I pray this kind of prayer?
What does he request of God? An analysis of Yod is instructive:
* understanding to “learn” (do) God’s commandments
* there is an expectation that his hope in the law will be fulfilled (confirmed)
* merciful kindness in comfort during affliction, according to God’s promises in the Word
* “tender mercies” (forgiveness and care) of the Lord for life and not death, according to God’s promises
* the prayer of sanctification for his enemies; rewarding his own faith
* to draw those faithful to the Word to himself in favor, welcome, help and fellowship
* his heart to be sound (stable) in practical doctrine so that he is not disqualified as he testifies to the goodness of God; to honor God
What did the writer take on as his own responsibility?Again, a list helps us quickly identify the mutuality of his request. Topping the list is the foundation stone:
* To acknowledge God as Sovereign Creator (v. 73)
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding…”, Proverbs 9:10)
* To “learn” thy commandments (v.73) means “to do” them.
* To hope in thy word (v.74)
* To agree with the Lord’s Wisdom (“I know thy judgments are right) (v.75)
* To agree with God’s faithfulness in affliction (v. 75)…see Tet.
* To be God’s cheerful and willing servant (v. 76)
* To delight in God’s law (v. 77)
* To meditate on God’s law (reflect, consider, dwell upon) (v.78)
* To have a “sound” heart rooted in God’s statutes (v. 80)
Extending a hand to others. Finally, as I long for the touch of God in my life and for His people, am I willing to BE the touch of God in the lives of others? How can I be an extension of God’s hand of love today?
Heavenly Father, I confess that with so many concerns on my mind, even the concerns that concern You, I am distracted from being quiet in my body, mind and heart– from intimately knowing that you are God. My thoughts are ever toward you, but underlying is an ongoing current of earthly presses. Oh, what peace I often give up and what needless pain and fear I take on my own shoulders, all because I don’t carry my burdens to You in prayer. In your mercy, gentle me down from the pride of life, and carry me to the foot of your throne in worship. I don’t need out-of-ordinary experiences–You are ever near. Yet I do need to feel your hand upon my life anew. I need the vigor of Your commands to mobilize me to action as Your willing servant. There are many right now whom You have given me that also need Your touch so desperately. I ask that you favor us today with Your forgiveness and strength to obey all that You have commissioned us to do in Your Name. As I look upon this list of responsibilities, that You in Christ modeled for me, help me be faithful in them for the fulfilling of your mission to all nations. Thank You, Lord, for Your manifest Presence in Christ for my sake, and for Your assurances along life’s way. Your Word is True, Hallelujah! Praise be to the Name of the Lord Our God! May you be forever praised, Amen.
© copyright Feb 1, 2019 by http://www.readpsalm119.com.
“Behold, a hand touched me, which set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands.” (Daniel 10:10)
“The Touch of the Lord“, John Piper at desiringgod.org, March 9, 1994. [brief blog post]
“Alan Jackson – What a Friend We Have In Jesus (Live)” — uploaded by GaitherVEVO, August 14, 2017 [YouTube; 2:07 min.].
What a Friend We Have in Jesus (hymnary.org)
What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear,
What a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer.
Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer!
Can we find a friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy laden, ‘cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge–take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee; Thou wilt find a solace there.
–Written by Joseph Medlicott Scriven (1855).
PDF Sheet music downloadable at hymnary.org.