My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!
Have you ever felt something of a love/hate relationship to the Bible? At times our hearts are alive to the word of God, while at other times our hearts feel dull and almost dead. We find a similar feeling in a surprising place: Psalm 119. I say “surprising” because Psalm 119, as we learned Sunday, is a poem of love for the word of God. Help for someone who feels this way comes in the stanza devoted to the Hebrew letter daleth (Psalm 119:25–32).
The psalmist cries out in anguish that his “soul melts away for sorrow” (Psalm 119:28). His struggle, however, is not simply sorrow. The psalmist confesses that his soul “clings to the dust” (Psalm 119:25). “Dust” here is not a generic way of saying that he is struggling. It is a pointed reminder of the brokenness that comes from our sinful condition. This word for dust appears as part of God’s curse upon the human race: “till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). The psalmist, like us, finds himself struggling with the effects that flow from his own fallen, sinful state.
But the fall is not the final word. We can find hope to delight in God again, even in a fallen world. This stanza opens with the psalmist “clinging to the dust,” but it ends with the psalmist running in the way of God’s commandments because God has enlarged his heart (Psalm 119:32).
So how can we move from clinging to dust to running the race of faith?
The answer lies in the life-giving power of God’s word. The opening verse (verse 25) consists of both a confession and a prayer: “my soul clings to the dust” (confession), “give me life according to your word” (prayer).
First, overhearing the psalmist pray for God to give life to dust takes us back to Genesis 2:7. “Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”
Second, God’s breath of life shows up again in 2 Timothy 3:16 in connection with the word of God because “all Scripture is breathed-out by God.”
These connections help us see that now God breathes his breath of life into a book, not directly into us. We breathe in that breath of life when we read the Bible.
May God move us from clinging to dust to delighting in His Word! May His breath fill up our lungs to run the race of faith!
- Bro. Dave