A Psalm of Life

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) was “one of theFireside Poets,” who wrote lyrical poems about history, mythology, and legend that were popular and widely translated in the 19th Century, making him the most famous American of his day.” (Quote source here.) He was also a professor at Harvard, and a fascinating short biography titled, The many lives of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,” can be read at this link.

The quote in the image above (for those who might not be able to view the image) states, “If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. To phrase it in today’s vernacular since in his time (19th Century) “man” meant all human beings, we could extract that one word to include everyone in today’s language–“we should find in each life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”

How often do we think about our enemies in that manner? More often then not, we don’t. But think about the hostility going on around the world today and in our own daily lives, and what it would be like if we could disarm big chunks of it, or even just a small chunk would be a start. For example, being kind instead of mean–that’s a good start.

One of the poems that Longfellow is famous for is titled, A Psalm of Life.” This poem “carries a message of hope and encouragement. It encourages people to live their lives to the fullest, using the short time we have here on Earth as a gift. The poem is a message to future generations to find work and action that gives them purpose and passion.” (Quote source here.) Here is that poem:

A Psalm of Life

What the Heart of the Young Man
Said to the Psalmist

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
“Life is but an empty dream!”
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
“Dust thou art, to dust returnest,”

Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Finds us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,–act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing
Learn to labor and to wait.
(Quote source here.)

In a reflection on this poem published on February 19, 2013, titled, A Psalm of Life: My Reflection,” by Don Meyer, Ph.D., (retired) President of the University of Valley Forge (formerly Valley Forge Christian College), he writes the following regarding stanza seven in the poem (click here to read his entire reflection from the beginning):

My favorite stanza is number 7. It is perhaps the most quoted from this entire poem: “Lives of great men all remind us; We can make our lives sublime. And, departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time.” Around us are countless examples of men and women who refuse to let life beat them down. Through the most horrific circumstances, they refuse to surrender their resolve. 

Malala Yonsufazai is someone like that. On October 9, 2012 this little 15-year-old Pakistani girl on her way home from school was shot by two Pakistani Taliban men once in the head and once in the neck as she got off her school bus.

In 2008, the Taliban decided to prohibit girls in her area to acquire an education. With her father’s permission, she began a blog under a different name. But when her father nominated her for a peace prize in 2009, Malala’s identity was revealed. The Taliban went on a rampage destroying hundreds of schools with the leader denouncing education for girls. In spite of that, Malala’s never wavered in her belief that girls had a right to an education.

In spite of early ominous reports, it appears she will make a full recovery [reminder–this article was published in 2013]. Who can hear that story without being inspired? Millions around the world see her footprints on the sands of time. [Malala’s website is available here: “Malala’s Story.”]

Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., Winston Churchill, Billy Graham, Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa and so many more have made footprints for us. Longfellow also knew the responsibility we have to leave footprints of our own. He calls for a kind of bifocal vision—before and behind—if we are to live life with meaning. 

With boldness he ends his poem: “Let us, then be up and doing, With a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait.” We must not sit on the sidelines. We must not slumber. We must not stop.

We must be up! We must be doing! We must have heart! We must achieve! We must pursue! We must be up and doing in the workplace! We must be up and doing in our homes!  We must be up and doing in our communities! With a heart for any fate, we must be up and doing! 

We must!

Think about it. (Quote source here.)

The Apostle Paul stated something similar in Philippians 3:13-14 when he stated:

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

In an article published on May 6, 2021, titled, Philippians 3:13-14: Forgetting What Is Behind,” by Mary Fairchild, Christian minister, writer, and editor, she writes:

In Philippians 3:13-14, the Apostle Paul is laser-focused on the race, the goal, and the finish line of his journey of faith. Like an Olympian runner, he does not turn back to dwell on his failures. Forgetting what is behind, Paul looks forward resolutely toward the final victory lap when he will see the face of Jesus Christ

Now, remember, Paul is Saul, the man who persecuted the church violently. He played a part in the stoning of Stephen, and he could have let guilt and shame cripple him for that. But Paul forgot what was in the past. He didn’t let it haunt him or trip him up in the present.

Neither did Paul dwell on his sufferings, beatings, shipwrecks, and imprisonment. He forgot the disappointments and challenges of rebellious church members, false teachers, and persecutions. Instead, he trained his eyes on a vision of his Master welcoming him home to heaven saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into your reward!” (Matthew 25:21). (Quote source and complete article here. Citation: Fairchild, Mary. “Philippians 3:13-14: Forgetting What Is Behind.” Learn Religions, May. 6, 2021, learnreligions.com/forget-the-past-and-press-on-philippians-313-14-701886.)

Inspiring, isn’t it? In one of the parables taught by Jesus found in Luke 18:1-8, which is often referred to as The Parable of the Persistent Widow,” he opens that parable by telling his disciples “that they should always pray and not give up” (you can read this parable at this link, and read the meaning of this parable at this link). And later after Jesus had risen from the dead, he gave them what is known as The Great Commission,” found in Matthew 28:16-20, and he ended it with these words to remind them (and us, which will be the last words of this post) of his continual presence in our lives: And surely…

I am with you always . . .

To the very end . . .

Of the age . . . .

YouTube Video: “Help Is On The Way” by TobyMac:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Psalm 119

As noted in my last blog post published on August 13, 2021 on this blog, I’ve been reading through a devotional titled, Praying Through the Most Beloved Psalms in 30 Days,” by Dolores Smyth, a nationally published faith and parenting writer, and contributor on Crosswalk.com. I thought I would share today’s reading (for the 12th day of any month) and short prayer from the devotional which is on Psalm 119 that includes a short prayer available at this link. Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in Book of Psalms and it is also the longest chapter in the Bible. It contains 176 verses. Her complete 30-day devotional is available at this link.

Psalm 119 “is divided into 22 sets of eight-verse strophes, or sections. Before each section, a word and sometimes a symbol appear. These words are the English names of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The symbols represent the Hebrew letters. So what is their meaning?” You can find their meaning along with the source of this quote at this link.

Before I quote Psalm 119 below, here is what we can learn from this psalm from GotQuestions.org:

Containing 176 verses, Psalm 119 is the longest single chapter in the Bible. The author of Psalm 119 is unknown, but most scholars agree that it was written by David, Ezra, or Daniel. Each of these proposed authors suffered serious difficulties in his life, and the author of Psalm 119 reflects that in descriptions of plots, slanders, and taunts against him (verses 23, 42, 51, 150 ), persecutions (verses 61, 86, 95, 110, 121, 134, 157, 161), and afflictions (verses 67, 71, 143, 153). The persecution and affliction of the man (and woman) of God is a major theme of Psalm 119.

Another prominent theme in Psalm 119 is the profound truth that the Word of God is all-sufficient. Psalm 119 is an expansion of Psalm 19:7–9: “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.” There are eight different terms referring to the Word of God throughout the psalm: law, testimonies, precepts, statues, commandments, judgments, word, and ordinances. In almost every verse, the Word of God is mentioned. Psalm 119 affirms not only the character of the Scriptures, but it affirms that God’s Word reflects the very character of God Himself. Notice these attributes of God ascribed to Scripture in Psalm 119:

1. Righteousness (verses 7, 62, 75, 106, 123, 138, 144, 160, 164, 172)
2. Trustworthiness (verse 42)
3. Truthfulness (verses 43, 142, 151, 160)
4. Faithfulness (verse 86)
5. Unchangeableness (verse 89)
6. Eternality (verses 90,152)
7. Light (verse 105)
8. Purity (verse 140)

The format of Psalm 119 is an alphabetic acrostic, meaning that the first letters of each line in Hebrew follow through the alphabet, 8 lines per letter, thus 8 lines x 22 letters in Hebrew = 176 lines. One message of this psalm is that we are to live a lifestyle that demonstrates obedience to the Lord, who is a God of order (hence the acrostic structure), not of chaos.

The psalm opens with two beatitudes. “Blessed” are those whose ways are blameless, who live according to God’s law, who keep His statutes and seek Him with all their heart. The author of the psalm is a man who has known great trouble in his life, but also one who has come through it with a deep and passionate understanding of God’s unfailing love and compassion (Psalm 119:75–77). Throughout his affliction, the author clings to the truths he learns from the Scriptures, which are eternal and “stand firm in the heavens” (Psalm 119:89–91). His love for the Word of God and his dedication to remember it and live by it is a theme that is repeated over and over (verses 11, 15–16, 24, 34, 44, 47, 55, 60, etc.).

These are the lessons for us in this great psalm. The Word of God is sufficient to make us wise, train us in righteousness, and equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:15–17). The Scriptures are a reflection of God’s nature, and from them we learn that we trust His character and His plan and purposes for mankind, even when those plans include affliction and persecution. Blessed indeed are we if our delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law we meditate day and night (Psalm 1:2). (Quote source here.)

Here is Psalm 119 (NKJV) taken from Biblegateway.com:

PSALM 119

א ALEPH

Blessed are the undefiled in the way,
Who walk in the law of the Lord!
Blessed are those who keep His testimonies,
Who seek Him with the whole heart!
They also do no iniquity;
They walk in His ways.
You have commanded us
To keep Your precepts diligently.
Oh, that my ways were directed
To keep Your statutes!
Then I would not be ashamed,
When I look into all Your commandments.
I will praise You with uprightness of heart,
When I learn Your righteous judgments.
I will keep Your statutes;
Oh, do not forsake me utterly!

ב BETH

How can a young man cleanse his way?
By taking heed according to Your word.
10 With my whole heart I have sought You;
Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!
11 Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You.
12 Blessed are You, O Lord!
Teach me Your statutes.
13 With my lips I have declared
All the judgments of Your mouth.
14 I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
As much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on Your precepts,
And contemplate Your ways.
16 I will delight myself in Your statutes;
I will not forget Your word.

ג GIMEL

17 Deal bountifully with Your servant,
That I may live and keep Your word.
18 Open my eyes, that I may see
Wondrous things from Your law.
19 am a stranger in the earth;
Do not hide Your commandments from me.
20 My soul breaks with longing
For Your judgments at all times.
21 You rebuke the proud—the cursed,
Who stray from Your commandments.
22 Remove from me reproach and contempt,
For I have kept Your testimonies.
23 Princes also sit and speak against me,
But Your servant meditates on Your statutes.
24 Your testimonies also are my delight
And my counselors.

ד DALETH

25 My soul clings to the dust;
Revive me according to Your word.
26 I have declared my ways, and You answered me;
Teach me Your statutes.
27 Make me understand the way of Your precepts;
So shall I meditate on Your wonderful works.
28 My soul melts from heaviness;
Strengthen me according to Your word.
29 Remove from me the way of lying,
And grant me Your law graciously.
30 I have chosen the way of truth;
Your judgments I have laid before me.
31 I cling to Your testimonies;
Lord, do not put me to shame!
32 I will run the course of Your commandments,
For You shall enlarge my heart.

ה HE

33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes,
And I shall keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law;
Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
35 Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
For I delight in it.
36 [f]Incline my heart to Your testimonies,
And not to covetousness.
37 Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things,
And revive me in Your way
38 Establish Your word to Your servant,
Who is devoted to fearing You.
39 Turn away my reproach which I dread,
For Your judgments are good.
40 Behold, I long for Your precepts;
Revive me in Your righteousness.

ו WAW

41 Let Your mercies come also to me, O Lord
Your salvation according to Your word.
42 So shall I have an answer for him who reproaches me,
For I trust in Your word.
43 And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth,
For I have hoped in Your ordinances.
44 So shall I keep Your law continually,
Forever and ever.
45 And I will walk at liberty,
For I seek Your precepts.
46 I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings,
And will not be ashamed.
47 And I will delight myself in Your commandments,
Which I love.
48 My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments,
Which I love,
And I will meditate on Your statutes.

ז ZAYIN

49 Remember the word to Your servant,
Upon which You have caused me to hope.
50 This is my comfort in my affliction,
For Your word has given me life.
51 The proud have me in great derision,
Yet I do not turn aside from Your law.
52 I remembered Your judgments of old, O Lord,
And have comforted myself.
53 Indignation has taken hold of me
Because of the wicked, who forsake Your law.
54 Your statutes have been my songs
In the house of my pilgrimage.
55 I remember Your name in the night, O Lord,
And I keep Your law.
56 This has become mine,
Because I kept Your precepts.

ח HETH

57 You are my portion, O Lord;
I have said that I would keep Your words.
58 I entreated Your favor with my whole heart;
Be merciful to me according to Your word.
59 I thought about my ways,
And turned my feet to Your testimonies.
60 I made haste, and did not delay
To keep Your commandments.
61 The cords of the wicked have bound me,
But I have not forgotten Your law.
62 At midnight I will rise to give thanks to You,
Because of Your righteous judgments.
63 am a companion of all who fear You,
And of those who keep Your precepts.
64 The earth, O Lord, is full of Your mercy;
Teach me Your statutes.

ט TETH

65 You have dealt well with Your servant,
Lord, according to Your word.
66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge,
For I believe Your commandments.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
But now I keep Your word.
68 You are good, and do good;
Teach me Your statutes.
69 The proud have forged a lie against me,
But I will keep Your precepts with my whole heart.
70 Their heart is as fat as grease,
But I delight in Your law.
71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted,
That I may learn Your statutes.
72 The law of Your mouth is better to me
Than thousands of coins of gold and silver.

י YOD

73 Your hands have made me and fashioned me;
Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.
74 Those who fear You will be glad when they see me,
Because I have hoped in Your word.
75 I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right,
And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.
76 Let, I pray, Your merciful kindness be for my comfort,
According to Your word to Your servant.
77 Let Your tender mercies come to me, that I may live;
For Your law is my delight.
78 Let the proud be ashamed,
For they treated me wrongfully with falsehood;
But I will meditate on Your precepts.
79 Let those who fear You turn to me,
Those who know Your testimonies.
80 Let my heart be blameless regarding Your statutes,
That I may not be ashamed.

כ KAPH

81 My soul faints for Your salvation,
But I hope in Your word.
82 My eyes fail from searching Your word,
Saying, “When will You comfort me?”
83 For I have become like a wineskin in smoke,
Yet I do not forget Your statutes.
84 How many are the days of Your servant?
When will You execute judgment on those who persecute me?
85 The proud have dug pits for me,
Which is not according to Your law.
86 All Your commandments are faithful;
They persecute me wrongfully;
Help me!
87 They almost made an end of me on earth,
But I did not forsake Your precepts.
88 Revive me according to Your lovingkindness,
So that I may keep the testimony of Your mouth.

ל LAMED

89 Forever, O Lord,
Your word is settled in heaven.
90 Your faithfulness endures to all generations;
You established the earth, and it abides.
91 They continue this day according to Your ordinances,
For all are Your servants.
92 Unless Your law had been my delight,
I would then have perished in my affliction.
93 I will never forget Your precepts,
For by them You have given me life.
94 am Yours, save me;
For I have sought Your precepts.
95 The wicked wait for me to destroy me,
But I will consider Your testimonies.
96 I have seen the consummation of all perfection,
But Your commandment is exceedingly broad.

מ MEM

97 Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
98 You, through Your commandments,
Make me wiser than my enemies;

For they are ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
For Your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the ancients,
Because I keep Your precepts.
101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way,
That I may keep Your word.
102 I have not departed from Your judgments,
For You Yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are Your words to my taste,
Sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through Your precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way.

נ NUN

105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.
106 I have sworn and confirmed
That I will keep Your righteous judgments.
107 I am afflicted very much;
Revive me, O Lord, according to Your word.
108 Accept, I pray, the freewill offerings
Of my mouth, O Lord,

And teach me Your judgments.
109 My life is continually in my hand,
Yet I do not forget Your law.

110 The wicked have laid a snare for me,
Yet I have not strayed from Your precepts.
111 Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever,
For they are the rejoicing of my heart.
112 I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes
Forever, to the very end.

ס SAMEK

113 I hate the double-minded,
But I love Your law.
114 You are my hiding place and my shield;
I hope in Your word.
115 Depart from me, you evildoers,
For I will keep the commandments of my God!
116 Uphold me according to Your word, that I may live;
And do not let me be ashamed of my hope.
117 [u]Hold me up, and I shall be safe,
And I shall observe Your statutes continually.
118 You reject all those who stray from Your statutes,
For their deceit is falsehood.
119 You put away all the wicked of the earth like dross;
Therefore I love Your testimonies.
120 My flesh trembles for fear of You,
And I am afraid of Your judgments.

ע AYIN

121 I have done justice and righteousness;
Do not leave me to my oppressors.
122 Be surety for Your servant for good;
Do not let the proud oppress me.
123 My eyes fail from seeking Your salvation
And Your righteous word.
124 Deal with Your servant according to Your mercy,
And teach me Your statutes.
125 am Your servant;
Give me understanding,
That I may know Your testimonies.
126 It is time for You to act, O Lord,
For they have regarded Your law as void.
127 Therefore I love Your commandments
More than gold, yes, than fine gold!
128 Therefore all Your precepts concerning all things
I consider to be right;
I hate every false way.

פ PE

129 Your testimonies are wonderful;
Therefore my soul keeps them.
130 The entrance of Your words gives light;
It gives understanding to the simple.
131 I opened my mouth and panted,
For I longed for Your commandments.
132 Look upon me and be merciful to me,
As Your custom is toward those who love Your name.
133 Direct my steps by Your word,
And let no iniquity have dominion over me.
134 Redeem me from the oppression of man,
That I may keep Your precepts.
135 Make Your face shine upon Your servant,
And teach me Your statutes.
136 Rivers of water run down from my eyes,
Because men do not keep Your law.

צ TSADDE

137 Righteous are You, O Lord,
And upright are Your judgments.
138 Your testimonies, which You have commanded,
Are righteous and very faithful.
139 My zeal has consumed me,
Because my enemies have forgotten Your words.

140 Your word is very pure;
Therefore Your servant loves it.
141 am small and despised,
Yet I do not forget Your precepts.
142 Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness,
And Your law is truth.
143 Trouble and anguish have overtaken me,
Yet Your commandments are my delights.
144 The righteousness of Your testimonies is everlasting;
Give me understanding, and I shall live.

ק QOPH

145 I cry out with my whole heart;
Hear me, O Lord!
I will keep Your statutes.
146 I cry out to You;
Save me, and I will keep Your testimonies.
147 I rise before the dawning of the morning,
And cry for help;
I hope in Your word.
148 My eyes are awake through the night watches,
That I may meditate on Your word.
149 Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness;
Lord, revive me according to Your justice.
150 They draw near who follow after wickedness;
They are far from Your law.
151 You are near, O Lord,
And all Your commandments are truth.
152 Concerning Your testimonies,
I have known of old that You have founded them forever.

ר RESH

153 Consider my affliction and deliver me,
For I do not forget Your law.
154 Plead my cause and redeem me;
Revive me according to Your word.
155 Salvation is far from the wicked,
For they do not seek Your statutes.
156 Great are Your tender mercies, O Lord;
Revive me according to Your judgments.
157 Many are my persecutors and my enemies,
Yet I do not turn from Your testimonies.
158 I see the treacherous, and am disgusted,
Because they do not keep Your word.
159 Consider how I love Your precepts;
Revive me, O Lord, according to Your lovingkindness.
160 The entirety of Your word is truth,
And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.

ש SHIN

161 Princes persecute me without a cause,
But my heart stands in awe of Your word.
162 I rejoice at Your word
As one who finds great treasure.
163 I hate and abhor lying,
But I love Your law.
164 Seven times a day I praise You,
Because of Your righteous judgments.
165 Great peace have those who love Your law,
And nothing causes them to stumble.
166 Lord, I hope for Your salvation,
And I do Your commandments.
167 My soul keeps Your testimonies,
And I love them exceedingly.
168 I keep Your precepts and Your testimonies,
For all my ways are before You.

ת TAU

169 Let my cry come before You, O Lord;
Give me understanding according to Your word.
170 Let my supplication comes before You;
Deliver me according to Your word.
171 My lips shall utter praise,
For You teach me Your statutes.
172 My tongue shall speak of Your word,
For all Your commandments are righteousness.
173 Let Your hand become my help,
For I have chosen Your precepts.
174 I long for Your salvation, O Lord,
And Your law is my delight.
175 Let my soul live, and it shall praise You;
And let Your judgments help me.
176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep;
Seek Your servant,
For I do not forget Your commandments.

I’ll end this post with the words from Psalm 119:105Your word is a lamp…

To my feet . . .

And a light . . .

To my path . . . .

YouTube Video: “Thy Word” sung by Amy Grant:

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