This teaching by Pastor Barry was recorded at our family service on Sunday 20th November 2016. This is the 14th session in our verse-by-verse study of Psalm 119.
“In this section the Psalmist seems to draw still nearer to God in prayer, and to state his case and to invoke the divine help with more of boldness and expectation. It is a pleading passage, and the key word of it is, “Consider.” With much boldness he pleads his intimate union with the Lord’s cause as a reason why he should be aided. The special aid that he seeks is personal quickening, for which he cries to the Lord again and again”. CHS
At first glance it would seem this section is a return to the despondency and pain the Psalmist had previously wrestled with; and it is entirely possible this is the case for we are all capable, however much we have grown in grace, to have a spiritual relapse and once again look to the flesh-life for comfort, only to find our old troubles gleefully anticipating our arrival! Sin is never far from us and just like Simon Peter, the moment we take our eyes off Jesus we begin to sink.
However, there is a difference in this section to his previous lamenting. Here there is hope; there is the anticipation and expectation that, though his praying has reminded of his troubles again, the present affliction will produce “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor 4:17).
This section then is more about deliverance and salvation than about our present light affliction.
Verse 153 Consider mine affliction, and deliver me: for I do not forget thy law.
Interestingly his opening prayer here is ‘Consider my affliction’. The reality was that by drawing near to God he had been made to consider his condition and thus is prompted to pray for it!
If we stop and think this through, we don’t have to ask God to consider our affliction, for He knows all things! It is, in fact, He who has stirred the heart of the Psalmist to pray at all; but our Heavenly Father want’s prayer to become a habit. How does He do this? By bringing to our attention the urgency of our own state. We might not yet be intercessors, bringing others continually before the throne in prayer, but we are quick to cry our when we are in need!
This is an important step; for once we have made that journey from our predicament, to our knees to His throne, we will never forget the way and will be inclined to make the trip again.
The letter Resh means head, or that which comes first, and the first step we must take is to be honest enough to consider the mess we have made of our own lives. We will not cry out to be delivered until we acknowledge our bondage to the ‘weak and beggarly elements’ of this world (Gal 4:9).
Verse 154 Plead my cause, and deliver me: quicken me according to thy word.
As we noted in the previous section, the Psalmist’s prayer (as should be ours) is to be made really alive. Why should a child of God settle for anything less?
As the Psalmist highlights here, there is a progression, firstly God must be on our side, secondly, He must deliver us (from the world, the flesh and the devil), and then we will know life in abundance.
We know that God is on our side, for He has demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8), we are right now in the process of being delivered from the present evil age, that is the work of sanctification. Ultimately we will be made truly alive when this corruption puts on incorruption, and this mortal puts on immortality! (1 Cor 15:54).
This verse therefore encapsulates the gospel: we were sinners, we were redeemed, we will be renewed.
Verse 155 Salvation is far from the wicked: for they seek not thy statutes.
In contrast to the confidence he had that His God would save him, the Psalmist pauses to consider what it would have been like if he had carried on his own path and rejected God’s grace. The destiny of the wicked (aka any who are not following after God) is a chilling prospect.
“Every step they have taken in the path of evil has removed them further from the kingdom of grace: they go from one degree of hardness to another till their hearts become as stone. When they fall into trouble it will be irremediable. Yet they talk big, as if they either needed no salvation or could save themselves whenever their fancy turned that way” CHS.
Verse 156 Great are thy tender mercies, O LORD: quicken me according to thy judgments.
He knew all too well just how close his path had been to that of the wicked. Thus his joy in the Salvation he had been freely given was that much sweeter.
“Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little”. (Luke 7:47).
Verse 157 Many are my persecutors and mine enemies; yet do I not decline from thy testimonies.
This will always be the case until we are removed from this world, either through death if the Lord tarries, or through the Rapture.
Notice here though, that even though he had many persecutors, he did not let it pull his heart from God’s testimonies.
Some of us are apt to throw the towel in when trouble comes, yet it is the very word we retract from that will strengthen us in those times of need.
Verse 158 I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved; because they kept not thy word.
Previously he had spoken of the consuming zeal “because mine enemies have forgotten thy words” (v139). However now, as his confidence of his own position and standing before God had increased the zeal seems to have given way to compassion for those who have rejected God.
No one can begin to know the true horror of Hell and be indifferent to the fact that many will go there.
We likewise should be grieved, for they have not only rejected God’s precious word, but this has been to their own detriment.
Verse 159 Consider how I love thy precepts: quicken me, O LORD, according to thy lovingkindness.
Again we have a contrast from the preceding verse, and he once again calls for God to consider his own devotion, yet pleads for more life that he might know more love.
“He saith not, consider how I perform thy precepts; but how I love them. The comfort of a Christian militant, in this body of sin, is rather in the sincerity and fervency of his affections than in the absolute perfection of his actions. He fails many times in his obedience to God’s precepts, in regard of his action; but love in his affection still remains; so that both before the temptation to sin, and after it, there is a grief in his soul, that he should find in himself any corrupt will or desire, contrary to the holy will of the Lord his God; and this proves an invincible love in him to the precepts of God” -William Cowper.
Verse 160 Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.
Many critic’s hammers have been worn out on the anvil of God’s Word. As we have already noted in our comments on v.89, God’s Word is just that, it is God’s. It is not an elaborate contrivance of man, for it is beyond the scope of anything man could accomplish for it spans all time. It tells the end from the beginning with such clarity that only the hardest of critics, once confronted with the facts, could ever conclude this is merely a religious book. The Bible says of itself that it is living and powerful (Heb 4:12), but here it is affirmed that it is also true from the very first page in Genesis 1:1 to the final verse in Revelation 22:21.
God did create the Heavens and the Earth, we are not the product of time and chance, nothing exploding and becoming everything. There was a beginning and there was a Beginner! Man is not the pinnacle of the evolutionary process; He is God’s masterpiece, fearfully and wonderfully made.
Some great minds have concocted theories and stories of how life evolved and in so doing they have had to twist and bend even their own laws of science to make their ideas fit the observable facts. Professing to be wise they have become fools (Rom 1:22). Things only ever reproduce after their own kind, just as God’s Word says.
Jesus said in John 17:17 “Thy Word is Truth”. There is no lie or deceit to be found in God’s Word.
The Bible has been shown to be true in regard to the history recorded in its pages; archaeology has repeatedly confirmed its historicity and accuracy.
The Bible has been shown to be true with regard to the detailed prophecies that make up one-third of its contents; speaking with incredible accuracy of events that would take place hundreds and even thousands of years after the prophecies were given.
However, the Bible not only speaks with clarity about where we have come from and where we are going, it also speaks with authority about right now. It speaks the truth about your life and mine, it speaks about the problem of sin and presents to us God’s perfect plan of salvation through His only Son, Jesus Christ. All this is true, and countless multitudes have come to know this truth for themselves, not as an abstract notion, but as a living hope based on a personal relationship with the Author Himself>
God Word is true because He is true; Jesus is the Way the Truth and the Life. As believers we can be confident in God’s Word, it has never and will never be proven wrong, it is true from the beginning.
“The Lord has nothing to regret or to retract, nothing to amend or to reverse. All God’s judgments, decrees, commands, and purposes are righteous, and as righteous things are lasting things, every one of them will outlive the stars. “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” God’s justice endureth for ever. This is a cheering thought, but there is a much sweeter one, which of old was the song of the priests in the temple; let it be ours, “His mercy endureth for ever.” CHS
As we move into the penultimate section of this great Psalm, our Psalmist is finally coming to the place where nothing will move him (see Acts 20:24). He has battled his own flesh-life, wrestled with the proud who have laid snares for him and forged lies about him, had to contend with the wicked who had waited to destroy him, yet now his bold statement is “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” (Psalm 118:6).
His mind has been sharpened and he is thinking clearly now. One of the principle effects of the word of God is it helps us to see and think clearly. Sin just fogies the mind, but God’s word causes to see things from a heavenly perspective.
Verse 161 Princes have persecuted me without a cause: but my heart standeth in awe of thy word.
The highest class and most respected of men may persecute me, but I will not be moved, for I have found a treasure that will not only uphold me, but keep me standing. Notice that it is not his soul that is now standing, but his heart! It is a good thing when the heart is inclined to His Word. Back in v112 he stated that it had been his choice to now put God and His word first, yet the Psalmist never loses sight that this is God’s Word, and where we find obedience we find an abundance of grace!
Verse 162 I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil.
In Matthew 13 Jesus spoke of a man who sold all that he had to purchase a field in order to obtain its treasure.
It is a time for rejoicing when we find God’s Word for ourselves, not just to be told of its value from parents or pastors, but to actually discover its beauty, its mysteries and its life-changing power for ourselves.
It is the greatest treasure that can be found in this life, but note that is must be found by each soul for themselves. Just as each one must look upon the cross for their own Salvation, so it is with God’s Word. Someone can read, be taught and even comprehend doctrine and spiritual truths from the Word, but that does not mean the Wold is alive to them. A Christian can sit in church year after year and never be truly moved by every Yod and tittle.
The idea of spoil is very apt, for it would be after a great battle that the victorious soldiers would scour the battlefield for something of value. Sadly many stumble over God’s Word without realising what it is. They walk on by seeing it only as a religious book that speaks about God and his laws, with stories, songs, poetry, letters, and history.
Yet the Bible says of itself that it is living and powerful! The French Emperor Napoleon said: “The Bible is no mere book, but it is a Living Creature with a power that conquers all that oppose it”
Chuck Missler – to whom I am indebted for his solid expositional Bible teaching over many years – has constantly stated that the Bible is an “integrated message system which provably has its origin from outside our time domain”. Millions are spent on the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, yet we have in our midst a message from an intelligence far greater than our own, that proves we are not alone. Great spoil indeed!
Verse 163 I hate and abhor lying: but thy law do I love.
The Psalmist has already said how he hates vain thoughts (v113), now he voices he abhorrence of any form of deception. He had once been the victim of lies, both from those who sought to destroy him and from within. Now he sees this deception for what it is when compared to the brilliance and perfection of God’s law. God’s Word is true, that which comes from Satan is falsehood and deception for he is a liar from the beginning and the father of lies (John 8:44).
God’s Word has given him, and will give us, the power to discern between the truth and the lies, even when it is our own heart that would lead us astray, we can join with the Psalmist and state that we will incline – literally force – our hearts to perform His statutes.
Verse 164 Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy righteous judgments.
God’s Word is so precious he cannot now go long without it!
Seven in scripture always denotes ‘complete’. This is our complete sacrifice of praise, it is a complete offering to a worthy God. It is also the completion of our journey!
As we noted at the start of this study, we should be mindful of God’s righteous judgments and meditate in His word at breakfast or when we awake, remind ourselves mid-morning, again at lunchtime, in the afternoon, then as you sit to eat your evening meal, then in the evening, and finally when you go to bed.
This is the ‘secret’ to walking in the way, walking by faith.
This now comes down to obedience. Will we or won’t we? He will quicken us, He will strengthen us, He will uphold us – all according to His word, but we have to ‘choose this day whom we will serve’! (Josh 24:15).
Verse 165 Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.
What a contrast to the opening sections of this Psalm. What a transformation, a complete renewing of the mind. No longer is his soul breaking (v20), or finding himself cleaving to the dust (v25), or his soul melting (v28). No longer is he fearing being put to shame (v31, 39). No longer are the proud constantly playing on his mind.
“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength” (Isa 26:3-4).
“But none of these things move me…” (Acts 20:24)
Verse 166 LORD, I have hoped for thy salvation, and done thy commandments.
I’m sure we have all seen the excitement and joy on a child’s face when they receive a present they had hoped to get. The Psalmist had hoped for Salvation, now it is his, never to be taken away. This most prized of all blessings is uniquely reserved for God’s chosen. This joy is inexpressible, but imagine for a moment that day when you look back at your life from the security of heaven and realise that God had recorded all the times when you walked in obedience, you will be able to say with the Psalmist “I have done Thy commandments”. Not through your own strength or fortitude, but entirely through His grace. Salvation is a work of grace and so is sanctification.
“All David’s hope was fixed upon God, he looked to him alone for salvation; and then he endeavoured most earnestly to fulfil the commands of his law. Those who place least reliance upon good works are very frequently those who have the most of them; that same divine teaching which delivers us from confidence in our own doings leads us to abound in every good work to the glory of God. ” CHS
Verse 167 My soul hath kept thy testimonies; and I love them exceedingly.
His heart had been so overwhelmed by God’s word that the natural progression was for his soul to be in complete obedience. This is now a love whose flame will not be extinguished. It is not just a superficial love but an all-consuming passion. Nothing would now come between the Psalmist and God’s testimonies.
Verse 168 I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies: for all my ways are before thee.
At the beginning of the Psalm we read: “Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently” (v4)
Then the Psalmist stated: “I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways” (v15)
By verse 27 the prayer was: “Make me to understand the way of thy precepts: so shall I talk of thy wondrous works” (v27).
Then, as the Psalmist continued to grow in grace we read:
“Behold, I have longed after thy precepts” (v40)
“I seek thy precepts” (v45)
“I will keep thy precepts with my whole heart” (v69).
“I will meditate in thy precepts” (v78).
…until finally now, at the end of his journey, the Psalmist can claim “I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies”. It is no longer just his intention to keep them when he is able and strong enough, keeping God’s precepts is now a reality; it is part of his actual experience, and it is a delight for him to do so. This is entirely a work of grace, but it is a work of grace in a willing heart.
God sees everything we do anyway, so let us make sure our ways are pleasing and honouring to Him!
The Hebrew word yn[ shamar, that is here rendered “kept,” signifies to keep carefully, diligently, studiously, exactly. It signifies to keep as men keep prisoners, and to keep as a watchman keeps the city or the garrison; yea, to keep as a man would keep his very life. But now mark what was the reason that David kept the precepts and the testimonies of the Lord so carefully, so sincerely, so diligently, so studiously, and so exactly. Why, the reason you have in the latter part of the verse, “for all my ways are before thee.” Thomas Brooks
May God bless you as you study His Word.