Daleth (d) Stanza (25-32)
Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) memorably wrote in the hymn, “None Other Lamb, None Other Name,” these words:
My faith burns low, my hope burns low;
Only my heart’s desire cries out in me.
These lines capture the Psalmist’s emotions in this stanza. He is dealing with what is going on inside him. There is repetition in this stanza which gives it its coherence. The word “cleaves” in verses 25 and 31 is the same Hebrew word. “My soul” is repeated in verses 25 and 28 in lament and petition, setting the stage of the stanza. The repetition of “way” in verses 26, 27, 29, 30, and 32 give this stanza its rebar.
My Soul is Stuck to the Dirt (25-27)
25 My soul cleaves to the dust;
Revive me according to Your word.
26 I have told of my ways, and You have answered me;
Teach me Your statutes.
27 Make me understand the way of Your precepts,
So I will meditate on Your wonders.
This first lament is so vivid. The Psalmist cries out that his soul is glued to the dirt! The NET Bible translates this line, “I collapse in the dirt.” The picture is one who had sunk to the ground and is now stuck under the crushing weight of trouble. As the soul is now glued to the dust, it cannot raise itself up. Whether this is the result of external or internal trials, the Psalmist cannot get any lower. So, he cries out, “Revive me according to Your Word!” Charles Bridges paraphrases like this, “Breathe into me Thine own life, that I may rise from the dust and cleave to Thee.” He then says, “This cry for quickening grace is the exercise of faith” (57).
In verses 26-27, the Psalmist exercises his memory, thinking on God’s answered prayers. Laying prostrate in the dust is the posture for learning.
When the believer is down and almost out, he needs to look back to God’s past answered prayers and faithfulness, he needs to see the learning opportunity, and cry out so that his soul can at least behold God’s wonders, although stuck the ground.
I am dissolved in tears (28-29)
28 My soul weeps because of grief;
Strengthen me according to Your word.
29 Remove the false way from me,
And graciously grant me Your law.
This is the second lament and it is like the first. The glued soul is now the dissolving soul. The ESV says, “My soul melts away from sorrow.” The exile knows loneliness and fear, and the sorrow that ensues. He feels the weight of it, but he also feels it melting his very soul, sapping away his strength and his vitality. Indeed, “My faith burns low, my hope burns low.” The only thing to do is cry out, “Strengthen me according to Thy Word!” God’s child, in exile, needs spiritual strength, his faith needs to be reinforced, his soul needs to be revived.
He begs, in his second petition, “remove the false way from me.” The false way could be the way of the Babylonians, which would have been antithetical to God’s way. The Psalmist feels the pressure of the opposing worldview. He pleads for God, by His grace, to grant him His law. To receive God’s Torah, God’s instruction, is indeed an act of grace. Contrasted with the false way, the way which leads away from God, the Psalmist pleads for the gracious teaching of God’s law which would lead him in God’s way and to God.
I stick to Your Word (30-32)
30 I have chosen the faithful way;
I have placed Your ordinances before me.
31 I cling to Your testimonies;
O Lord, do not put me to shame!
32 I shall run the way of Your commandments,
For You will enlarge my heart.
God has answered once again! He has revived, He has strengthened His child. The evidence of answered prayer is the determination of the Psalmist here. He has determined in his own heart that the false way will not allure him, he will remain on the faithful way, the way of loyalty to God and His Word. Think of Daniel here. How many times was he tempted to the false way, either false worship or compromise of his own convictions, and yet God strengthened Daniel to be faithful and to stick to the Word.
The Psalmist, whose soul was stuck to the dirt, is now making the conscious commitment to keep the Word front and center in his own heart and mind. He says, “I stick to your Word!” (31a). The grace-empowered determination to say, ‘I am clinging to the Word, it is my life and I won’t let go,” is God’s answer for revival and strength.
The Psalmist is aware how much is at stake, “O Yahweh, do not put me to shame!” Throughout this Psalm we encounter again and again the Psalmist’s determination and then his immediate reliance on God’s grace. “Leave me not to myself, lest I become a shame to myself, and an offense to Thy Church” (Bridges, 75).
The final verse is triumphant confidence. The soul that starts out stuck to the dirt is now ready to run. God, in reviving grace, has given him his second wind. He knows he will run in the way of God’s commandments because God is going to enlarge his heart, that is energize his affections, deepen his love and loyalty. God loves to answer prayer in this way, He loves it when His children, though stuck to the dirt and dissolved in tears, look to Him with confidence and say, “Father, I am going to energetically purse You and a life of holiness and obedience because You are going to empower my heart for this pursuit!”
When the Psalmist was stuck, when he was melting, he remembered how God had heard him in the past, and then pled for life and strength in the present and committed to grace-empowered obedience for the future. Child of God, when you are glued to the ground, look up. When your soul is dissolving in tears, polish God’s monuments of faithfulness to you along your way. Cry out! Plead for life and strength. Voice your confidence in God’s grace to do for you what you cannot do for yourself. Cry out, as Christina Rossetti said,
Lord, thou art Life, though I be dead; love’s fire thou art, however cold I be:
nor heav’n have I, nor place to lay my head, nor home, but thee.