Thursday, July 14, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:54

54 Your statutes have been my songs
In the house of my pilgrimage.

If there is a verse in the Bible that summarizes my life’s calling, I don’t know of a better one.

From the time I was about 13 to 16, I played trombone in the church choir. I didn’t have any relationship with the Lord, but I loved music, and I went to church, so it fit. And I now know that God spoke to me during that period - though I didn’t know it at the time.

I remember exactly where I was standing in the church. We had just played some music from one of the psalms - and if I had to describe the style, I would say it mostly resembled a Gregorian Chant. And I remember these words coming into my mind:

Someone should take these words and make new songs out of them. Modern songs with music that people today would enjoy.

And that was it. It seemed like just a fleeting thought that came and went.

Fast-forward 10 years, at age 26 I had a radical, life-changing encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ. At that time I understood by revelation two key truths: 1) that Jesus is alive; He loves me, has forgiven me, has a plan for my life and wants to have a relationship with me, and 2) that the Bible is in fact the Word of God and the primary (though not the only) way that God speaks to us today.

Several months later, as I began to better understand the value of the Bible in my life, I began to pray, “Lord, please help me to fall in love with your Word.

And, as often happens, the Lord answered me, not with a warm and fuzzy feeling toward the Bible - but He pointed me in a direction, and that direction was Psalm 119: the longest chapter in the Bible, dedicated to expressing how wonderful God’s Word is.

Written as an acrostic poem/song, I somehow understood that God wrote Psalm 119 in such a way that it was meant to be memorized - even by small children. In other words, it’s the ABC song of the Bible. And with that, I purposed in my heart to memorize it.

So I began doing what I call “brute-force” memorization. Reciting a verse at a time, writing the verse over and over, etc. I even made an app on the computer that would check me if I typed it out incorrectly. This went on for a couple of months, and I got about 40 verses in.

Then, as they say, I began to stagger under the load. I’d try to remember verse 41, and I’d lose verse 1. I was starting to lose words - “was it precepts, or statutes, or testimonies?”

But then came another memorable moment. I was sitting in my car outside of a Target, and I was mulling over the verses in my mind. And, the best way I can describe it is, it just bubbled up out of me.

I began singing: “Blessed are…. the undefiled in the way… who walk in the law of the Lord…

I thought to myself, “Wow… that sounds good!” So I rushed home, grabbed my guitar, and in a few minutes I had hashed out a rough version of the first stanza of Psalm 119.

And over the course of the following two years, little by little, I wrote a verse here and a verse there - until I had set the entirety of Psalm 119 to music. And in the process, memorized the entire Psalm (with a fraction of the perceived effort it takes to do brute-force memorization), and most importantly grew in my love for the Word of God.

And so I say, like the psalmist, and I hope you can too, while listening to these songs I’ve written:

Your statutes have been my songs
In the house of my pilgrimage.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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