This study is the final study on our journey through Psalm 119, recorded on 27th October as part of out family service.
If you live in the Portsmouth area, we invite you to come and join us.
ת Tau: Verses 169-176
Drawing the line
“The Psalmist is approaching the end of the psalm, and his petitions gather force and fervency; he seems to break into the inner circle of divine fellowship, and to come even to the feet of the great God whose help he is imploring this nearness creates the most lowly mew of himself, and leads him to close the psalm upon his face in deepest self-humiliation, begging to be sought out like a lost sheep”. CHS
The name of this letter means boundary, and for the Psalmist, this is as Jacob’s Mizpah (Gen 31:41-52), a line has been drawn that should be crossed no more. As we have journeyed through this Psalm the Psalmist has prayed to be quickened – made alive to God, but dead to sin; and now that the LORD has answered his prayers he has no intention of going back.
“How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom 6:2)
“Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 6:11).
Boundary stones in Israel represented a witness or testimony between two parties indicating the limit of your own estate; to pass over the boundary would mean moving from a place of safety to territory that was not yours and therefore afforded no protection (see Prov 22:28 / Deut 19:14). Whenever we step outside God’s boundaries for our lives we do just that!
God has marked our territory, just as he allotted the bounds of the tribes of Israel. As recorded in the book of Joshua, each tribe were to possess their God-given allocation. Interestingly, the tribe of Dan were not content with their portion, it was not enough and they wanted more (Josh 19:47); so they took a portion of land right at the northern tip of Israel. Ironically what they took was actually smaller than the area the Lord had granted them. However, most significantly, on account of their proximity with the adjacent nations, Dan became the first tribe to fall into idolatry. The lesson is simple; rejecting God’s boundaries for your life and coveting more will not bring you happiness and fulfilment, but compromise and defeat.
As we move into this final octave it serves as more of a post-script where the Psalmist restates for the record his conclusion at the end of his journey and also lays out his manifesto for the rest of his days.
Verse 169 Let my cry come near before thee, O LORD: give me understanding according to thy word.
The cry the Psalmist is referring to is that which he has poured out through the entirety of this Psalm. To paraphrase the first part of the verse, it could be rendered: ‘Let the cries of this Psalm come before you LORD; all that I have, I now placed before You; I have poured out my soul like water’ (see Job 3:24). Yet even at the end of this great journey and constant petition, one of the many valuable lessons he has learned, is that we constantly need to come back to the LORD and seek understanding, according to His word! His Word has given instruction, but we must rely on it for understanding too. Instruction without understanding will lead to legalism and bondage, but instruction with understanding will yield liberty!
We should observe here that although we might be at the end of this journey, we have not yet arrived at our destination!
We need to keep in the Word if it is to light our way home. The path is dark and the proud have digged pits (v85), the wicked have laid snares (110).
We need to refrain our feet from every evil way (v101), and continually consider His testimonies (v95); now we have come this far, we must not forget His precepts (v93) or depart from His judgments (v102).
“Then enemy is watching every step you take, to find his opportunity in every choice you make.
And it’s no game; when someone lives without His grace, and who’s to blame, when it blows up in their face?
It’s a minefield – you’d better follow Him through!
God knows the way – you’d better stick like glue.
It’s a minefield – better stay on His heels, ’cause the enemy kills and the enemy steals. So keep your head down and keep your eyes peeled, ’cause life is… Life is a minefield.
Better leave the navigation to the one who knows the way
He will bring illumination, He will light your path each day”
From the song ‘Minefield’ by Petra, words and music by Bob Hartman.
Verse 170 Let my supplication come before thee: deliver me according to thy word.
This Psalm is a cry from the heart and a supplication from the mind. The whole of his being was united in his desire and petition to walk with his God and be delivered from the shackles that had once held him.
”Deliver me according to thy word. Rid me of mine adversaries, clear me of my slanderers, preserve me from my tempters, and bring me up out of all my afflictions, even as thy word has led me to expect thou wilt do”. CHS
We need constant deliverance for we have a foe who will not rest. Especially now that we have dared throw off the shackles, the enemy will be most displeased that we have escaped his grasp. Just as we see in Revelation 12, where the Man Child (a picture of Jesus and by implication the Church) is caught up to the throne, Satan then turns his attention to try and destroy Israel. So having lost the prize he thought he had won, Satan will continue to roar in a vain attempt to cause us to be shaken and forget our victory and security.
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9).
If you have been delivered, just as with this Psalmist, continually pray that you might keep on being delivered – according to His never failing and always-faithful Word!
Verse 171 My lips shall utter praise, when thou hast taught me thy statutes.
The actual Hebrew here is
תַּבַּעְנָה שְׂפָתַי תְּהִלָּה כִּי תְלַמְּדֵנִי חֻקֶּֽיךָ
Which more literally, and accordant with the context should be rendered. ‘My lips shall pour forth (tabbânah) praise; for (kee) thou hast taught me thy statues.’
In other words, “When You have taught me Thy statutes I will utter Your praise, and that time is now!”
Verse 172 My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness.
No longer was it enough to meditate on God’s word, it now has to be on his very lips. He wants to speak it forth to any who will hear, and if none will listen he will speak anyway, for he has discovered the source of righteousness itself.
“One duty of thankfulness promised by David is, to speak of God’s words for the edification of others. Every Christian man, as he is a priest to offer sacrifice unto God, so is he a prophet to teach his brethren; for unto us all stands that commandment, “Edify one another in their most holy faith.” But, alas, ye shall see many Christians now, who at their tables, and in their companies, can speak freely upon any subject; only for spiritual matters, which concern the soul, there they are dumb, and cannot say with David, “My tongue shall speak of thy word.” William Cowper.
Verse 173 Let thine hand help me; for I have chosen thy precepts.
In 2 Kings there is the account of the woman whose child died, so she went to see Elisha. Elisha told Gehazi to go and lay his staff on the child’s face, but the woman refused. She would not leave unless Elisha went with her personally.
It is just the same here. The Psalmist will not settle for anyone else except God. It is God’s hand or no ones! We will not be satisfied with anything less than God’s help because there is none other that can save (Acts 4:12).
Just as with Joshua, the Psalmist had decided whom he was to serve. It was the precepts of YHVH alone that he had chosen, not some vague counsel from a foreign deity.
Note also that it was a choice. In the opening octave, we read that “Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently”, yet even though we are commanded, it remains a choice for each individual.
However, when we consider His precepts we quickly conclude that there really is no other choice we would want to make; for it is His precepts that stir us to talk of His wondrous works (v27); it is His precepts we have longed after (v40); they cause us to walk at liberty (v45); they prevent us from being consumed (v87); they quicken us (v93); they make us wiser than the ancients (v100). Furthermore, His precepts give us understanding (v104) and keep us from straying off the right path (v110); and ultimately, they are right! It is God’s way, His thoughts revealed to us; and His ways are so far above our own ways and His thoughts above our thoughts (see Isaiah 55:8-9).
Verse 174 I have longed for thy salvation, O LORD; and thy law is my delight.
This is our summary & conclusion. The Psalmist began by seeking God and he longed to be saved from the world the flesh and the Devil. To be saved, not just from the penalty of sin, but from the present power of sin.
This verse gives us the wonderful discovery that the Psalmist had made as he had traversed the path of life, and that discovery is God’s word! Before he knew about it, he read it and knew its contents, but he did not really know it, nor did he know its power!
But now he has discovered first-hand what this precious book really is. It is the life-changing Word of God Himself, spoken into the hearts and minds of all who would receive. It has the power to defeat the greatest onslaught of Satan, it has the gentleness to encourage and strengthen the broken-hearted. It has the majesty to inspire and lift the heart and mind above the realm of this world. It brings conviction and judgment on the ungodly, but tenderness and gentle wooing for the penitent heart. It provides a light in the midst of the spiritual darkness of this world and it illuminates the path ahead of us.
“There is a light burning in the darkness. A book of Hope, a morning light. Breaking over the mountains, to where the eagle flies. It gives us wings to touch the sky, it is the wisdom of the wise.
A book of wonder, a book of life. A book of promise faithful and true. A book of miracles for all who will believe. A book of wisdom to all who will receive.
More precious than rubies, more precious than gold. Mighty is the wisdom of the Lord!
The Counsel of the Holy. The written Word of God. Wisdom cries for all to read. Counsel of the Holy, the greatest book of all, is the path of victory”
Lyrics from the song ‘Counsel of the Holy’ – Petra
What a companion I have been granted for my journey.
Verse 175 Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me.
“Fill it full of life, preserve it from wandering into the ways of death, give it to enjoy the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, let it live to the fulness of life, to the utmost possibilities of its new created being. And it shall praise thee. It shall praise thee for life, for new life, for eternal life, for thou art the Lord and Giver of life. The more it shall live, the more it shall praise, and when it shall live in perfection it shall praise thee in perfection”. CHS
The Word has done in the life of the Psalmist that which it says of itself it will do, namely to divide between that which is flesh, soul, and spirit (Heb 4:12). It is his soul that needed quickening; not his flesh which would one day be transformed in the moment, in the twinkling of an eye (1 Cor 15:52). Nor was it his spirit that needed life, for he had already received by faith the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). It was his soul, his innermost being, the hidden man of the heart (1 Peter 3:4) that needed quickening. For if our soul lives we are alive, and if alive, then were are living to praise Him!
The judgments that back in v120 he was afraid of are now seen as companions to aid him. The righteous man does not need to fear His judgments, but the transgressor has good reason to tremble at them.
Verse 176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.
I have – past tense – gone astray.
“This is the finale, the conclusion of the whole matter: I have gone astray like a lost sheep — often, wilfully, wantonly, and even hopelessly, but for thine interposing grace. In times gone by, before I was afflicted, and before thou hadst fully taught me thy statutes, I went astray. “I went astray” from the practical precepts, from the instructive doctrines, and from the heavenly experiences which thou hadst set before me”. CHS
“His argument is a forcible one, — for l do not forget thy commandments. I know the right, I approve and admire the right, what is more, I love the light, and long for it. I cannot be satisfied to continue in sin, I must be restored to the ways Of righteousness. I have a home sickness after my God, I pine after the ways of peace; I do not and I cannot forget thy commandments, nor cease to know that I am always happiest and safest when I scrupulously obey them, and find all my joy in doing so. Now, if the grace of God enables us to maintain in our hearts the loving memory of God’s commandments it will surely yet restore us to practical holiness” CHS
I do not think that there could possibly be a more appropriate conclusion of such a Psalm as this, so full of the varied experience and the ever changing frames and feelings even of a child of God, in the sunshine and the cloud, in the calm and in the storm, than this ever clinging sense of his propensity to wander, and the expression of his utter inability to find his way back without the Lord’s guiding hand to restore him; and at the same time with it all, his fixed and abiding determination never to forget the Lord’s commandments. What an insight into our poor wayward hearts does this verse give us — not merely liable to wander, but ever wandering, ever losing our way, ever stumbling on the dark mountains, even while cleaving to God’s commandments! But at the same time what a prayer does it put into our mouths, “Seek thy servant,” — “I am thine, save me.” Yes, blessed be God! there is One mighty to save. “Kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” –Barton Bouchier.