We have been going through Psalm 119 for many weeks now, months actually, taking a stanza at a time from this longest chapter in the Bible. The psalmist has written about God’s Word, using the words law, testimonies, way, statutes, commandments, precepts, ordinances, and sayings to depict different aspects of God’s Word. Now, in the last stanza of the psalm, he closes with a humble prayer. It is a prayer we can use as a model for our own.
The psalmist asks to be given understanding according to Your Word (119:169). He knows God’s Word and the promises it contains and he wants to understand how God is honoring those promises. So he prays in accordance with God’s will revealed in His Word and asks God to listen to his prayer and move in his life. He says, deliver me according to Your word (119:170). He expresses his desire to be taught and to sing praise for God’s righteous commandments. His heart is ready to burst out in praise simply because of the righteousness of God’s Word (119:171-172)!
169 Let my cry come before You, O Lord;
Give me understanding according to Your word.
170 Let my supplication come before You;
Deliver me according to Your word.
171 Let my lips utter praise,
For You teach me Your statutes.
172 Let my tongue sing of Your word,
For all Your commandments are righteousness.
173 Let Your hand be ready to help me,
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 that it may praise You,
And let Your ordinances help me.
176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant,
For I do not forget Your commandments.
In verses 173 and 175, the psalmist confesses his need for God’s help. The word “help” is the Hebrew “’azar” whose primary root meaning is “to surround” or “to gird”. Used as a noun, the word ‘azar is translated “girdle”. The psalmist’s prayer is for God’s hand (119:173) and God’s Word (ordinances, 119:175) to encircle and enclose him in a protective way. His grounds for asking are that he has chosen to obey God’s precepts (119:173), He longs for God’s salvation, and he proclaims, Your law is my delight (119:174). He confesses his sin (119:176) and pleads for God’s help on the basis of his relationship to God’s Word: he has chosen it (119:173), he delights in it (119:174), and he does not forget it (119:176).
The closing of the prayer is a poignant plea for God’s salvation (119:174). The psalmist's desire is that his soul might live and praise Him (119:175). Let my soul live that it may praise You. A soul that lives and praises God is the purpose of his prayer and His purpose for living.
What is your purpose for living? As a believer it should be no mystery. To know our purpose is not a problem or a puzzle. As believers, our purpose in living is the same as the psalmist’s. We live to praise God. And we have the ability to praise Him every living moment of our lives. We offer Him praise as we take time every day to read His Word, listen, and pray. We offer Him praise as we ask for His guidance in interacting with our families, raising our children and caring for aging parents. We praise Him at work as we cheerfully carry out every task and treat our co-workers with love and respect. We praise Him in our neighborhoods as we demonstrate in tangible ways our concern for others as we listen attentively when they share their burdens, promise to pray, and then REALLY do pray....and also drop by or call to find out how they are doing. We can do practical things such as share avocados from our tree or flowers from the garden, bake cookies, offer to babysit or help pull weeds. Every single thing we do in the course of a day can be done to the praise of God. All we need to do is step out and let Him lead.
During the last years of her life, my mom was confined to a wheelchair. She couldn’t go out unless my husband or I took her. And we loved taking her because she was a shining light to everyone she met. She began every day by singing “This is the day the Lord has made….let us rejoice and be glad in it.” And every day she did exactly that. My mom NEVER complained. She read her Bible every day. She smiled a LOT. She was always interested in how other people were doing. She prayed for everyone she knew. People who lived in her apartment building stopped by often just because she brightened up their day. Her great-grandchildren considered a treat to visit her. They sang Sunday School songs together. You know, we all go through times of suffering and struggle, but that doesn’t mean we can’t praise God right where He has placed us. We have God's Word available to sustain us, and when we praise Him, it makes a big difference in us. It makes a difference in the world around us.
The psalmist closes by throwing himself upon the mercy of God. He humbly admits his failures. He is nothing but a stupid, miserable lost sheep. Yes, sheep are stupid. They get lost and are totally helpless without a shepherd. The psalmist knows that without God’s help he can do nothing, so he begs for God to come and find him. He knows the depth of his need for God and His Word. The Word of God has been the focus and theme of his psalm. And that needs to be the focal point of our lives as well. It is in God’s Word that we learn about Him, about the great gift and sacrifice of His Son, and about our Helper, the Holy Spirit.
So you see, our ability to rejoice begins as we as we spend precious time in the Bible, meditating and asking God to speak to us and teach us through His Word. Then, as we fall on our knees before Him, confess our need, and ask Him to come and find us and lift us out of our selfishness and sin, we will have the power to live lives of rejoicing in the Lord, fulfilling the purpose for which we were made. It’s not a question of whether or not God is calling you or even what He is calling you to do. It is a question of your willingness to linger in His Word, to listen, to learn, and then obey.
Are you willing to heed what the psalmist has been telling us through the 176 verses of this Psalm? Then make this prayer yours and make it a part of your life, and, as the apostle Paul encourages, let us rejoice in the Lord always, and again I will say, REJOICE (Philippians 4:4).
With love and joy in the Lord,
Acts chapter 5 is one of my favorites in the whole Bible because it gives an amazing picture of the power and pluckiness of Jesus’ apostles. Momentous miracles of healing were taking place as needy people were brought to the apostles. But this upset the religious leaders so much that they had Peter and John arrested and thrown into prison. Then another miracle occurred. In the middle of the night, an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, brought them out, and commanded them to “go stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life [the gospel]” (Acts 5:20). Peter and John obeyed the angel, but the religious leaders again had them arrested and took them before the high council. The council accused them of filling Jerusalem with their doctrine and gave them a harsh reminder that they had been commanded not to teach about Jesus. Peter’s response to the charges was, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
I thought of this incident as I read the penultimate stanza of Psalm 119. Like the apostles, the psalmist was being persecuted, and like the apostles, he continued to stand on the Word of God. He was in awe of God’s Word and was reverently determined to obey it in spite of those who fought against it and harassed him. Take a look at what the psalmist wrote.
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.
Those who persecuted the psalmist were not just “nobodies”. He calls them “princes”. They were men who demanded earthly respect, and surely they had high opinions of themselves. But the psalmist was not in awe of them or the threatening and hateful words they hurled against him. He was in awe of [God’s] word (119:161). He hated the lies the persecutors spread against him (119:163), but his main emphasis in these eight verses is not on the persecutors but on God’s Word. Notice what he says about it.
I rejoice at Your word (119:162_
I love your law (119:163)
I praise You……seven times a day, because of your righteous judgments (119:164)
I hope for Your salvation (119:166)
I do your commandments (119:166)
I love them [Your commandments] exceedingly (119:167)
I keep Your precepts and your testimonies (119:168)
Don’t you love the psalmist’s positive hopefulness? And the apostles in Acts chapter 5 reflected that same positive hopefulness in God and His Word. I wonder how I might change the world if I had that same attitude of heart and mind? How might you? What difference would it make in our own lives if we loved God’s Word as much as the psalmist and the apostles did? The answer is right here in Psalm 119:165: Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble. If we love God’s Word enough to rejoice in it, praise God multiple times a day because of it, obey it, and find our hope in it, we are promised great peace.
Does your heart ever long for great peace?
You’ve probably heard the Hebrew word for peace, “shalom”. It is a word often used as a greeting, and it is the word used here. Shalom is derived from a root word denoting wholeness, completeness, perfection. Shalom is a blessing, a manifestation of divine grace that bestows well‑being, tranquility of spirit, contentment with life, prosperity, consummate security, and amity with God. That does not mean life will be perfect. The Bible teaches us that problems, persecutions, and trials will come. But what it does mean is that when those things do come, we will have a peace about us that empowers us to deal with them triumphantly. God’s peace will be with us because of God’s presence with us! He will go before us and make the rough places smooth so we do not stumble. As the Amplified Bible puts it, God will go before us and level the mountains….shatter the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron (Isaiah 45:2).
Let us commit our lives to shalom by embracing God’s Word. Let us read it faithfully, rejoice in it, obey it, and praise God for it as its precepts and promises give us peace throughout the day. I believe that as we humbly and wholeheartedly commit to these simple acts, we will come to love God’s Word in the way the psalmist and the apostles did. We will have shalom, and by God’s grace we will spread it out to the world around us.
Have you ever felt so alone, so anxious, so weak, so needy, so fearful of the future, or so down in the dumps that you knew you were absolutely helpless to lift yourself up out of your despair, grief, anxiety, or pain? I’ve been there. And two times I will never forget. There was the morning my husband went out for a run and never came home - the doctors called it sudden cardiac death. Then a few months later, the call from my doctor, “I’m sorry, Suzie, you have breast cancer”.
I think most of us have gone through tough times, and it seems the psalmist was experiencing particularly hard times when he wrote this portion of Psalm 119. He says he is afflicted (the Hebrew word conveys depression or misery), and he asks God to deliver him (119:153). He feels unable to help himself and asks God to plead his cause and redeem him (119:154). He is being persecuted by wicked enemies who shun God’s words (statutes) and (testimonies) (119:155-157), and people he had trusted betrayed him (119:158). Three times in this passage, the psalmist cries out to God, “revive me”. It seems he is at the end of his rope. But along with his troubles, these verses also reveal where the psalmist found hope. And his hope is our hope too.
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.
As you read his words, did you see what gave the psalmist hope? What kept his hope alive in the midst of affliction, persecution, helplessness, treacherous enemies, and betrayal? The first thing that stood out to me was his remembrance of and reliance upon God’s Word: I do not forget your law (119:153), revive me according to Your word (119:154), and revive me according to Your judgments (119:156). He knew that God could lift him up from the depths of despair and revive him. He had found that hope in God’s Word. Help, hope, and revival come as we remember God’s Word, immerse ourselves in it, and believe it.
By filling himself with God’s Word, the psalmist had learned of His lovingkindness (119:159) and His tender mercies (119:156). Do you remember what we learned previously about God’s lovingkindness? His lovingkindness is a gentle, unchanging, loyal love. It is a grace that overlooks sins, imperfections, and unworthiness. So the psalmist knew he could count on God to pass over his own sins and shortcomings as he humbly cried out for mercy. From God’s Word, he had learned that God’s mercies are great (or many) and tender (caring, compassionate, warm, generous, and giving).
Yes, God’s mercies are great and they come to us through His Word and His lovingkindness. When we are in need of blessed assurance and are desperate for relief, rescue, redemption, and revival, we can know from God’s Word that He is there and generously ready to pour forth His lovingkindness and tender mercies. We can turn to Him and we can trust Him. The psalmist assures us that the entirety of (God’s) word is truth. And every one of (His) judgments endures forever (119:160). He has heard God’s word, read it, taken it to heart, trusted it, relied upon it, and has never been disappointed. He knows he can always rely upon God’s word because every single word of it endures forever. So he remembers it (119:153), clings to it (119:157), loves it (119:159), and trusts what it says. He is confident that in His mercy, God will revive Him. Do you have that confidence because you, like the psalmist, have immersed yourself in God’s Word? God’s Word is our hope when we despair (Psalm 119:114), it is our light in the darkness (Psalm 119:105), our strength when we are weak (Psalm 119:28), and in it we find redemption for our souls (Ephesians 1:7, see also Psalm 107). So read your Bible, study it, and store it away in your mind and in your heart. Then you will always have hope -- like the psalmist.
I have been involved in Disciplers since 1987, as a discussion leader, teacher, writer, and now as director. I am profoundly committed to the stewardship of this ministry which God has entrusted to me for a time. God’s word is the chief joy of my life. I cherish my personal time in the word, and I am filled with gratitude to be able to share His word with you, my fellow disciples in Christ.