Distraction. I must admit, most days it is so much easier to give in to the distractions than it is to focus on tasks in front of me, even if that task is Bible study or prayer time. I remember feeling this way long before chronic fatigue/illness became my normal. But now, the brain fog! While there are days when I am legitimately too fatigued or ill to force concentration, there are many more days that self-discipline is of greater value. The two stanzas we’re studying of Psalm 119 today reveal a similar struggle with distraction. Let’s dig in together.
Mem and Nun (Psalm 110:97-112)
As we’ve seen throughout the Psalm, the central theme of these two stanzas is the determination to seek God and obey His commands above all else – in other words, to avoid distractions. I’ve identified three types of distraction found in these verses: that from seemingly good sources, from adverse circumstances, and from inherently evil sources.
The first distraction comes from seemingly good sources of instruction (vv. 99-100). My first reaction to these verses was alarm for the Psalmist’s arrogance – who is wiser than their teachers and elders? (When I don’t understand scripture I quickly turn to various commentaries or study Bible notes for explanation). Upon further investigation, I learned that the intention of the Psalmist was to point out that not all teachers and elders are wise or rooted in the Word of God. This description brings to mind all the ways I learn from others during the day – from news, entertainment, co-workers, friends, etc. – which leads me to ask, what sort of influence am I letting into my life?
The second source of distraction I found in these verses is from affliction (v. 107). As anyone who suffers from some form of chronic ailment can attest, it is so hard to focus on others when you yourself are in the middle of pain or illness. I find myself frequently apologizing to my husband because he seems to be so much more thoughtful than I. For me, that’s the deception lying discreetly behind adverse circumstances: it is so easy to be consumed with our own situation.
The third distraction I found was also the most referenced in these verses – the attacks of the enemy. While not all situations in life are directly demonic, it must be remembered that we live in a sinful and fallen world. Satan is not omniscient nor divine, like God, so we must be careful how we attribute adversity in this world (Anderson, Neil T., Timothy M. Warner, The Essential Guide to Spiritual Warfare). However, Satan has twisted so much thought and spread so many lies that evil (v. 101) and wickedness (v. 110) are often disguised in sheep’s wool (Matthew 7:15). False ways of life (v. 104) abound, so much so that one could say that life is “constantly [hanging] in the balance (v. 109).” But that is exactly the lie that Satan wants us to believe.
The Word of God is our victory. Not only is there power in the words of the Bible, but it is also alive and active (Hebrews 4:12). Many who have read and re-read scripture will say that they learn something new each time. This is no accident. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, believing that that atoning work He did on the cross covers our sins, the Holy Spirit is free to work in us according to God’s glory (Romans 10:8-11, Ephesians 1:11-15), which often means teaching us new things each time we read scripture. In this we have victory over the lies the enemy wants to sow into our midst. But it takes determination and dedication, much as the Psalmist testifies to in each stanza.
“How sweet your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey.” -Psalm 119:103, NLT
I have learned many things through chronic fatigue and illness, but the most prominent is how sweet the Lord is to my taste. While distractions abound, I am frequently reminded that nothing is as satisfying to me as time with the Lord or in His word. And that is my prayer for each of us, that we would be driven not by the distractions that surround us, but by a thirst that can only be quenched in the Lord (John 4:13-14). Remember, in Jesus we have the ultimate victory. As it is written in 1 John 5:
“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (v. 20)”
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. (v. 13).”
Let’s allow the word of God to wash over us as our treasure and our delight (Psalm 119:111).