Prone to Wander (Meditation on Psalm 119:67-68)

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.  

The psalmist knew the importance of prioritizing time spent in God’s word as a way to keep him from wandering. At first glance on the word “astray” in verse 67, it might appear as though he had strayed from God in an act of willful rebellion. However, the Hebrew word translated astray here (shagag) means “ to commit an error, to sin inadvertently.”  In other words, the psalmist was unaware that he was straying. But God, in His immeasurable grace, allowed a humbling of some kind to awaken him to his wandering and his need to return to his Creator. Though it’s not explicitly stated in this verse, it’s likely that as he drew near to God in his trouble, he meditated on the very testimonies he praised the virtues of throughout this psalm. In doing so, the psalmist would have seen his fallen state (Psalm 14:3) in contrast to his Holy God (Psalm 29). He would have surely recalled God’s faithfulness, mercy, and steadfast love for His people throughout the generations (Psalm 136) despite their adulterous hearts (Psalm 78:37). And in repentance and gratitude he would have determined to obey (keep) His commandments (Psalm 19:7-11). He proclaimed God’s goodness, as both Who He Is and what He does, and desired to glean from the knowledge of his infinitely good God as a result ((Psalm 25:8-9). 

Like the psalmist, we are prone to wander, especially when we are not actively pursuing God through His word. Our gaze too easily shifts from the eternal joys we are promised in Christ to the fleeting pleasures of the world or the circumstances we cannot imagine God could bring good from. In our wandering we become more interested in building our kingdoms than in living as sojourning citizens of the kingdom of Heaven. We forget that when we sin, we are sinning first against our Holy God. We might give in to the lie of self-reliance or the bondage of thinking we must work to maintain our right standing with God. But when we make God’s word our dwelling place, our minds are renewed and we are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:2). By abiding in His testimonies we discover the truth that sets us free (John 8:31-32), that we are no longer enslaved to our sin (Romans 6:6) and we no longer have to live for ourselves (2 Corinthians 5:15). The goodness of God becomes our focus (Titus 3:4-7), and we desire to do good to others because of the grace God has lavished upon us (Philippians 2:4-8). 

Do you approach time spent in God’s word as an obligation done out of duty or a joy that you delight in? Ask God to give you eyes to see the infinite value of time spent in His word and the desire to do so. Then rejoice in His goodness as He transforms your tendency to wander into resolve to walk in His ways. 

Ellen Melnick