Lines Help Us Stay on Track
For years, I wasn’t that interested in the Psalms, a reflection of my “I don’t write poetry or read it” sort of outlook. I credit our pastor with changing my view. I now consider the Psalms a must-read in Scripture.
I have a number of favorite entries, such as Psalms 103, 27 and 127. I love the opening of 127: “Except the Lord build the house, those who build labor in vain; except the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (v. 1, MEV).
The truth of laboring in vain can be seen by our nation’s current grappling with high crime rates, runaway inflation, and lawlessness in the streets. We are seeing the consequences of 60 years of fading away from the Judeo-Christian values that once undergirded our society.
The trouble is, when we throw away the foundations on which our nation was built, we will crumble. Efforts to stem the tide are, as Psalm 127:1 says, laboring and staying awake in vain.
I often pray through a Psalm in my daily quiet time.
A recent session reminded me of why I like Psalm 16 so much. Especially verses 5-6: “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup; you support my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places” (MEV, emphasis added).
For years, I lived as if there were no lines. Although I was raised in church, in my mid-teens I started doing things that I knew were wrong. To resolve the conflict that presented to my conscience, I gradually faded away from church and eventually stopped going.
The exceptions were trips back home to see my parents, when I often visited the church where I grew up, or a major holiday, for tradition’s sake.
The outcome of such action parallels the words of Hosea 8:7: “For they sow the wind, and they will reap the whirlwind.”
Now, the prophet was speaking to Israel and warning them of the dreaded consequences of disobeying God. Nonetheless, I had sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind.
Wandering off Track
An interesting thing happened when I went off track, I didn’t intend to degenerate into a party-loving, self-centered, sharp-tongued critic who created hurt feelings, conflict and other damage wherever I went. Yet, that’s what happened.
Likewise, in the 1960s our nation thought it was trading away old-fashioned, irrelevant, macho-laden values for enlightened, progressive, thoughtful attitudes. The problem is when society starts discarding moral values, nobody knows where to stop.
Lately, some have blamed the pandemic and how separating people from social contact and other positive influences sent millions off the deep end.
There may be some truth to that observation, but I think it goes much further and deeper than the past two and a half years.
I hate to sound like some Ten Commandments-spouting legalist. When it comes to moral law, it is easy to go off the deep end and worship “keeping the rules” instead of following the God who wrote them.
Still, if there is one thing our nation desperately needs, it’s moral boundaries and guidelines, regardless of religion—or no religion. When we take the outlook there is no right or wrong, we see violence and chaos, and have no idea how to halt it.
We need to embrace the wisdom of Psalm 16:6. When we see the lines God has drawn, we will appreciate that they are pleasant.