DALETH - Dust to Delight
(25) My soul clings to the (dust of the) earth. Revive me according to your word. (26) I recounted my ways, and you answered me. Teach me your decrees. (27) Let me understand the way of your precepts, and so I will meditate on your wonders. (28) My soul weeps with grief. Establish me according to your word. (29) Cause to depart from me deceitful ways. Be gracious to me through your law. (30) I have chosen the way of steadfastness. I have set my heart on your judgments. (31) I cling to your statutes, Yahweh. Do not let me be ashamed. (32) I run in the way of your commands, for you have enlarged my heart.
Again, the repetition of three key words, all beginning with the Hebrew letter daleth and all occurring at the beginning of their respective verses, provides the clues we need to determine the emphasis and structure of the stanza. “Cling,” occurs twice (vss. 25 & 31), “way(s)” appears five times (vss. 26, 27, 29, 30, & 32), and “word” is found twice (vss. 25 & 28). The two uses of “cling” suggest an outline for this stanza. At the outset, the psalmist pictures himself as “clinging to the dust,” a vivid picture of spiritual dejection due either to an awareness of personal frailty or the result of sinful failure. By the end of the stanza, he is clinging instead to God’s Word, a dramatic change from his initial distress.
The five uses of “way(s)” indicate a similar transformation. “My ways” (vs. 26) are juxtaposed against “the way of your precepts” (vs. 27). “Deceitful ways” (vs. 29) are similarly contrasted with “the way of steadfastness” (vs. 30). In the last verse, the psalmist declares that he runs in “the way of your (God’s) commands” (vs. 32). The implication is clear. As the psalmist turns from his own sinful ways to God’s righteous ways, he is lifted from the dust of despair to the delights of obedience.
One final repetition confirms that the process of spiritual transformation lies at the heart of the stanza. Two verses end with the phrase “according to your word” (vss. 25 & 28). In the first, the psalmist seeks revival in view of his despondency (“my soul clings to the dust”). In the second, he asks God to establish him in the midst of grief, possibly over his own sinfulness. At the beginning of this segment, the psalmist’s face is buried in the dust and his heart is in desperate need of revival. By its end, he is energized, following after God with an enlarged, joy-filled heart. God’s Word has clearly been at work in his life.
I. Where we begin: cleaving to dust (25)
II. How we are transformed (26-31)
III. Where we end up: pursuing God's way (32)
God transforms our hearts as we yield ourselves to the powerful working of his Word.
The process of spiritual transformation accomplished through God’s Word begins when we acknowledge our desperate need described by the psalmist as “my soul clings to the dust.” Jesus began his Sermon on the Mount with a similar statement, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Mt. 5:3), indicating that only those who recognize and acknowledge their spiritual poverty are in a position to experience spiritual renewal.
One of Jesus’ most convicting parables embodies the same truth (Lk. 18:9-14). It presents the contrast between two ways of approaching God in prayer. The first petitioner is a self-righteous Pharisee whose prayer consists of a rehearsal of his personal merits. In essence, he says, “You ought to hear and answer my prayer, God, because I have been so good.” The other, a repentant tax collector, can only murmur, “Have mercy on me, a sinner” (Lk. 18:13). Jesus closes the parable with this application: “I tell you that this man (tax collector), rather than the other (Pharisee), went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk. 18:14). When we come to God in prayer, we do well to remember the couplet found in that great old hymn, Rock of Ages: “Nothing in my hands I bring; simply to thy cross I cling.”