The “good old days”.
They always sound rather ideal, don’t they? Or at the very least, better than now?
Times were simpler. People were better. Life was easier. And we didn’t know how good we had it.
At least, that’s how our over-romanticized memories go.
A small scratch on the surface of any “golden age” reveals that the gold coloring is merely an overlay. What lies underneath looks all too familiar. In any time period, we find greed and lust, selfishness and hoarding, exploitation and lying, jealousy and promiscuity. The human condition has not changed - we have the same struggles as our relatives did thousands of years ago. The only difference is that now we have more technology…which we use to hide, or in some cases magnify, our sinfulness.
Read through this section of Psalm 119. There are particular pitfalls that the author wants to avoid. Find them, and see if they resonate with you also.
Teach me, Lord, the meaning of Your statutes, and I will always keep them.
Help me understand Your instruction, and I will obey it and follow it with all my heart.
Help me stay on the path of Your commands, for I take pleasure in it.
Turn my heart to Your decrees and not to material gain.
Turn my eyes from looking at what is worthless; give me life in Your ways.
Confirm what You said to Your servant, for it produces reverence for You.
Turn away the disgrace I dread; indeed, Your judgments are good.
How I long for Your precepts! Give me life through Your righteousness.
The dangers which the psalmist wanted to avoid are found in the center of this section. He asked God to Turn my heart to Your decrees and not to material gain and Turn my eyes from looking at what is worthless. The psalmist didn’t think material gain and worthless sights were just minor distractions, either. He viewed them as being complete opposites of both the vision and goal that the Lord had for his life.
Even 1000 years later, Jesus said to those who would listen:
No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money.
He then told them, “Watch out and be on guard against all greed because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.”
When we see these same sin struggles in the world around us, it does us no good to lament about how previous times were better. We’re simply fooling ourselves if we think down that path. A thousand years for before Jesus came, the psalmist had the best response – asking God to turn my heart to Your decrees and turn my eyes from looking at what is worthless.
That can be our prayer, too. Focusing on God’s ways, as He has revealed them in the Scriptures, will bring about the quality and depth of life we desire…which is much better than trying to console ourselves with over-romanticized memories of years past.