For the past few months I have deeply embedded myself within the pages of Psalm 119. I love what I’m reading. For too many years I have zipped through it, typically striving to get the Bible read in a year, thereby really flying over some pieces so quickly that I never truly survey what is there. Psalm 119 is one of those places, kind of like Indiana or Kansas or Utah, something squeezed between what are percevied as more important spots. And of the 176 verses sewn into the fabric of the entire psalm, and among the very many that leap out to me with enthusiasm, is Psalm 119:123. I’ve been chewing on that one verse for a few days.
The verse finds the writer—presumably King David—declaring to God: My eyes long for your salvation/and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise. I’ve been intrigued. As a believer in Jesus Christ is it not true that I have already achieved salvation? Why is it then that I have to speak about this longing?
One answer might be that I am longing for the return of our Lord Jesus. All believers in Jesus Christ acknowledge that there will be a day when the Lord will return in power and glory, and at that time things as we know them will give way the New Normal I can’t wait for that day! And for someone of my particular theological bent, such hope is amplified by my expectation of the rapture of the Church. First Thessalonians 4:13 and following highlights this great hope—a calling away by the Lord, of His bride the Church, some time prior to the glorious return that is revealed in the enticing passage that begins with Revelation 19:11.
That could be it. Indeed, one might make the case that that is sufficient. And yet . . . I’m just not satisfied. It feels like there is something more. And that is what had been bothering for a few days as I sought to understand what it is I as a believer am to long for. Finally, by God’s mercy, I caught a glimpse of it.
It began a couple of mornings ago, early, about 5 AM. I’m sitting in my chair by a roaring fire, drinking my coffee and staring sleepily at Psalm 119:123.
“Father,” I prayed, “would you help me to have understanding about this? Would you show me what it is you mean for me to see here?” That offered, I went on about my day.
That afternoon I had the most remarkable conversation with a dear lady from Bethel Church. She had this sparkle in her eye that looked very similar to the light reflecting off of the face of Jesus. She couldn’t contain herself as she unfolded for me one “God story” after another. To call it one of the most delightful conversations I had had in a while would be an understatement. Her devotion to Jesus was infectious. And suddenly, I think I began to “see the Lord’s salvation.”
As if that were not enough, I made my way home late in the evening, following what had been an equally remarkable elder board meeting (Bethel Church does have the finest elder board in the whole world!). The authenticity, the care, the humility, deep interest in the Bethel family, as well as the elders’ utter openness to whatever it is God might unfold in the months ahead absolutely boggled my mind. Reflecting on what I saw as I looked from one face to the next, listened to their hearts, felt their incredibily deep support and intentional encouragement, and heard them pray, I realized that I had been gazing upon the Lord’s salvation.
But then there is my arrival home, at which place I found in my kitchen three of the most beautiful women that have ever walked planet earth (four if you count Dixie our black lab!). My bride and my two daughters were laughing and playing and eating and scheming and generally having a precious time together, and when I walked into the door they gathered around and hugged me and welcomed me and fed me. And then they shared about things they had been dreaming about together: one daughter, with a smile laced with deep concern, telling me about how she wanted to use some of her savings to help Haitians struggling with cholera, and the other daughter, with a gleam in her eye, passing along to me something she had been working on for some weeks.
“What is it?” I asked with curiosity.
“My life mission statement,” she said. And then with some gentle prodding she shared it with me. And as I fought to hold back my tears I realized that in this little kitchen within our humble abode, tucked neatly away behind some massive trees in Oakport Township, just outside Moorhead, Minnesota, I was seeing clearly, vividly, and gloriously the Lord’s salvation, and, as the second part of verse 123 offers, the fulfillment of His righteous promise.
And then it hit me. To understand Psalm 119:123, I simply have to pay attention to what is right around me, like an eager cat whose gaze is glued to some mysterious goldfish swimming ever-so-freely around an aquarium—God’s glory, manifested in broken but redeemed lives, in all of its vast array.