I have been a serial plant killer for years. I forget to water plants and wonder why they turned that weird lifeless shade of yellow. Feed them? Why? They are plants, not people. The whole thing has always been foreign to me. That is until my love for salsa drove me to the place of making my own with store bought veggies. I quickly realized the best ones were freshest. Thus my first salsa garden was born.
That was a few years ago and now, in our new house, my husband and I built what I affectionately call Salsa Garden 2.0. But the reality is, I have started, slowly, expanding my horizons to include strawberries and green peppers along with the onions, tomatoes and jalapenos. The more I tend the garden, the more I enjoy it. But it is certainly a long process. A tending process, as the word translated “guarding” in the ESV in Psalm 119:9 suggests. It is the same original Hebrew word used in Genesis 2:15 referring to how the Lord put the man in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it. It’s a gardening word.
The physical process of gardening so mimics the tending of our own lives by the Word that the second stanza of Psalm 119 has always endeared my brown-thumb-turned-green heart. This passage illustrates for us such a practical way to tend the garden of our life by His Word. It is a process, like gardening, that is not one and done. But rather a continual, daily doing that brings about a stunning harvest.
The process begins with whole-hearted seeking of the Lord. Distractions divide our affections and pull us in many directions that keep our hearts anxious and our minds overwhelmed. When we make the choice to whole heartedly seek the Lord, we put aside the distractions and be still before Him, allowing Him to calm and steady our minds. Though the day’s events pull at us, we can make the daily choice to whole-heartedly seek Him for at least a few minutes. I do this in the morning before my teenagers take over the quietness of the house and my man has gone off to work.
Then, in the tending there is a planting, as seed in the garden. Verse 11 of Psalm 119 says “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” The psalmist plants His Word in his heart. It is a deliberate choice. Just as a tomato plant will never grow from the place I failed to push the seed into the ground, so will we never gain victory over areas of sin without pushing the seed of the Word into our heart. This is hard work sometimes. To think His thoughts, we must make the choice to memorize His Word, actual verses that we go over and work to memorize. Not just meditating, though that is good. But real victory over areas of sin do not come until we have done the hard work of pressing that seed deep into the soil of our heart. I carry my memory cards with me and practice them at stoplights, on walks and when I am folding laundry. Mindless times are perfect times to plant eternal seed.
Next there is a declaring with his lips the words of God’s mouth, according to verse 13 and meditating on His word, according to verse15. This is a watering of that seed we planted. If we will keep saying His word and letting our own hearts be watered by that truth, then we will see the seed begin to sprout in our own lives. We water the seed when we choose to mediate and say His word over and over to ourselves. When we respond to others out of the truth we are planting there, and our words are gentle, forgiving and kind then we are beginning to see small sprouts of the seed press through the dirt in our heart.
Finally as we tend our way by His word, verse 14 tells us we take delight in it as much as in all riches. We begin to see the value of the eternal word and it is our delight. I am infatuated with my garden, I easily delight in it and therefore tend to it. So are we to do likewise as we tend our way by the word, delighting in it and enjoying the word. In verse 16 we see the psalmist’s delight as he won’t forget or neglect the word. The word translated “delight” here is a word meaning to smear over, to blur the eyes. Oh, I love this picture! Smearing His Word over our eyes! The more we tend our way by the word, the blurrier the world becomes as we see from His perspective. We see people as image bearers, we see sin as horrid, we see ourselves as needy and we press further into our Savior and His life-giving word.
So how can you and I tend to our way? How can we begin this process of cultivating truth in our lives? Seek Him wholeheartedly, memorize the word, speak and meditate on the word and smear it on our eyes that we begin to see life through the filter of Truth. May He bear much fruit from gardens tended by His word!
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