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(Sunday between February 18 and February 24)
Psalm 119:33-40

The psalm reading last week was also from Psalm 119, vv. 1-8. For a general introduction to the psalm see Epiphany 6.

Verses 33-40 form the fifth stanza of the psalm. Each verse within the stanza begins with the Hebrew letter ‘he’, similar in pronunciation to the English ‘h’. Again several synonyms for the torah or law occur in the verses: statutes, law, commandments, decrees, ways, promise, ordinances, and precepts.

There is something of a theme of the psalmist desiring to be instructed in the ways of the Lord. They seek to be taught, given understanding, to be led, and have things confirmed. They also desire to be turned in heart and in sight, we might say in motive and in what we give attention to. Above all the psalmist knows that in such a desire life is to be found (v. 40). This is the desire of the one who hears and seeks to understand the law which is elaborated in some aspects in Leviticus 19. Obedience in these terms is neither a hindrance nor a burden in life. It is the very source of the life we seek.

Suggestions for the use of the psalm in worship

Verses 33-35 can be used as the concluding words to the prayer of confession either said by the whole congregation or on their behalf.

Verses 36-37 could then form the beginning of the declaration of forgiveness:

Turn our hearts to your decrees,
and not to selfish gain.
Turn our eyes from looking at vanities;
give us life in your ways,
as we hear the words of Christ:
‘Your sins are forgiven.’
Thanks be to God.
The final verse for this reading could also introduce the final blessing:
See, we have longed for your precepts;
in your righteousness give us life.
And now may the blessing of God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be upon you now and forever.
Old Testament reading: Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18

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