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,