Reliable instruction for life not only directs one’s steps on right paths and busies one’s hands with labors that matter.
It also sets the heart to singing.
Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning. (Psalms 119:54 ESV)
If we have sung our loudest and our best in the mosh pit, it becomes difficult to imagine instruction’s restraint generating music that is worth the listening. When release and self-realization have been the consistent theme of our favorite melodies, we struggle to comprehend that ‘statutes’ and ‘songs’ should occur in the same sentence.
The biblical witness does not steal the magic from the romantic side of our musical palate. Rather, it enriches our archive by extending it into the range of discipline and constancy.
Yahweh’s statutes, as the psalmist celebrates them in his unlikely sentence, take certain distracting and destructive options off the table so one can concentrate. When that predictability in life and our stewardship of it that the psalmist knows as ‘righteousness’ has become the pattern of our days, we can focus.
In such concentration, in the focused life of one who has embraced Yahweh’s teaching about what is true and how things work, there is joy. There is song, for so much of the noise has been calmed.
‘In the house of my sojourning’ is patient of more than one construal. Some take it as a kind of open-boundaried locative, thus the NRSV’s ‘wherever I make my home’.
There is something to this, not only because the words allow it but also because it accords with the somewhat vexed nature of Psalm 119 at this point in its almost epic poetic celebration of Yahweh’s reliable instruction.
The wandering life, whether chosen or (as here) forced upon us, takes us on paths where the more common sounds are groaning, the more frequent movements are the wringing of our hands. The biblical poet finds, even in the vagaries of such nomadism, a consistent, reliable counsel regarding who Yahweh has been and remains and how we can confidently live as he travels with us.
So, Yahweh’s statutes become the wayfarer’s songs.
The feet may remain in motion, the eyes may scan the horizon, the heart may race.
Even so, lips sing.