Today is the first Sunday of the new year. Thus, before we return to our normal walk through the Psalms (we're up to Psalm 21), I thought I might focus today's reflection on the theme of renewal.
Psalm 119, the longest of the Psalms with 176 verses, celebrates the truth and power of God's revelation. In many and various ways, the psalm writer says, "I long to obey your commandments" (119:40). Verse 40 includes a short prayer: "Renew my life with your goodness." The Hebrew word translated here as goodness " is tzedaqah, which is often rendered as "righteousness." The whole prayer might be translated literally, "Make me live in your righteousness."
So, how does God's righteousness renew us? For the psalmist, the answer to this question lies in the power of the law when activated through our obedience. God has revealed in his Word the very best way to live. As it says elsewhere in Psalm 119, God's Word is "a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path" (119:105). Thus, if we walk according to the righteousness of God's revelation, we will experience a fuller, richer life. In this sense, our life will be renewed through God's righteousness.
From a New Testament perspective, God's own righteousness is revealed through Jesus Christ. In fact, according to 2 Corinthians 5:21, "For our sake [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (NRSV). When we put our trust in Christ as our Savior, our relationship with God is made right. Along with this righteousness comes new life in God's love and grace. Thus, a few verses earlier in 2 Corinthians, we read, "[A]nyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" (5:17).
As we begin a new year, we would do well to join the writer of Psalm 119 in asking God to renew us through his righteousness. May we pay attention to God's Word so that we might walk in the ways of life. And may we live each day in a right relationship with God through Christ, receiving God's mercies, which are new every morning, and sharing them with others, our family and friends, our colleagues and competitors.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what ways have you already experienced God's newness through Christ? In what facets of your life would you like to experience the renewing power of God in 2011?
PRAYER: Gracious God, as I begin a new year, I acknowledge that life is found in you. Thank you for the life you have given me, not just biological life, but also abundant life, eternal life, life in all of its fullness through Christ.
O Lord, with the psalmist, I ask you to renew my life by your righteousness. By your Word and Spirit, guide me in life-giving paths. May the righteousness I have been given in Christ be that which centers my life. In this new year, may I grow in my relationship with you, so that I may know you more truly, serve you more completely, and love you more fully.
All praise be to you, O God, because you are making all things new . . . even me. Amen.