The Hebrew word for ‘temporary dweller’ is that used for a foreigner – someone whose culture, language and lifestyle are at odds with where they now live.
When we used to go on holiday abroad, we took guidebooks that didn’t just tell us where the nice places were, but gave us information about the language, the customs and the culture of where we were going. It helped us to fit in – not look so much like tourists. But for us, as followers of Jesus in such an alien world, it’s not a matter of fitting in. It’s a matter of standing out – of living in this world without compromising our God-given principles.
This is why God’s commandments – His instructions, His pattern for living – are so vital. The Kingdom we belong to is ‘not of this world’, and it’s the values of God’s Kingdom that should determine how we live. Unless God’s ways are embedded in our hearts and minds, we are all too likely to go astray.
Why does the psalmist say, ‘Do not hide Your commandments from me’? Would God ever do such a thing? What I think is in his mind is this: “God, Your commands are my lifeline. If I lose sight of them in this alien world, I’m lost. Whatever happens, God, I must have them clearly before me”. Perhaps he’s also thinking of the previous verse: ‘Open my eyes so I may behold wonders from Your Torah’. Unless God opens the eyes of his heart, he may miss what he most needs to know. It will be hidden from him. And if that happens, he’ll go astray.
Like our travel-guides, God’s Word gives us vital information for a safe and fruitful journey as we walk with Him. But, unlike our travel-guides, it doesn’t tell us how to fit in. It tells us how to stand out. The world we live in is deeply at odds with the Kingdom of God. As ‘temporary dwellers’ here, we need God’s guide, the laws of our true home, constantly before us. Then we’ll know where we are, and where we can get all the help and encouragement we need. We’ll feel, and be, safe.
Prayer: Father, thank You for Your pattern for living revealed in the Scriptures. I acknowledge that without Your Word, I would often go astray. Today I ask that, by Your Spirit, You will enable me to know Your will in every situation that I face, trusting that, as I obey Your ways, I will be safe. Amen./em>
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