This teaching by Pastor Barry was recorded at our family service on Sunday 16th October 2016. This is the 10th session in our verse-by-verse study of Psalm 119.
The first four verses of this Psalm outline God’s perfect standard for any who would truly follow Him, with a whole heart. The next four verses recall the hope we have that one day we will be conformed, transformed and renewed outwardly as well as inwardly. We will awake in the likeness of Christ (Psalm 17:15), and all the troubles, trials and temptations of this life will be past (1 Cor 15:53). But until that time we are to “walk by faith, not by sight”(2 Cor 5:7). We are to “walk in the Spirit, and not gratify the desires of the sinful nature”(Gal 5:16). We are to “walk worthy of the calling wherein we are called” (Eph 4:1).
But how? How are we to do this when we are continually wrestling against the world, the flesh and the devil?
The remainder of this Psalm is your guidebook to walking a life of victory! That may sound quite a claim, but this Psalm is the voice of experience. It has walked this path before and has been given to us by the Holy Spirit to be a companion on our journey, an instructor with Godly counsel.
In this study we continue on, looking at verses 73 – 88:
JOD: Verses 73-80
We have now come to the tenth portion, which in each stanza begins with Jod, but it certainly does not treat of jots and titles and other trifles. Its subject would seem to be personal experience and its attractive influence upon others. The prophet is in deep sorrow, but looks to be delivered and made a blessing. Endeavouring to teach, the Psalmist first seeks to be taught (verse 73), persuades Himself that he will be well received (74), and rehearses the testimony which he intends to bear (75). He prays for more experience (76, 77), for the baffling of the proud (78), for the gathering together of the godly to him (79), and for himself again that he may be fully equipped for his witness bearing and may be sustained in it (80). This is the anxious yet hopeful cry of one who is heavily afflicted by cruel adversaries, and therefore makes his appeal to God as his only friend. CHS
In the previous section there seemed to be the dawning of the realisation that the journey thus far has been a preparation for ministry. That is, that the Lord would use all the struggles and trials we go through, not just for our own growth and sanctification, but also for that of others.
In this new section there is a stepping out into the public arena, presenting ourselves as it were before the household of God, for whom we are to be an encouragement, but also before our spiritual adversaries to whom we are nothing but an irritation and annoyance. When once our heads rise about the parapet, they will become a target for the proud! Thus here we have a prayer for continued training in the way, to be granted both understanding and boldness, yet also a plea that the Lord Himself would silence our detractors.
Verse 73 Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments.
Moses prayed that God would not let him move from Sinai unless He went with him. He would not lead the people unless God led him (see Exodus 33:12-15). God has made us, fashioned us, knit us together, called us and has a purpose for each of us, but we must never presume to step out in ministry unless he leads us. As Oswald Chambers once said, ‘the need doesn’t necessarily constitute the call’! Wise advice indeed!
Here the psalmist prays that because God has been involved in every little detail of his life to date, He must also be for all that is to come. We need to learn His commandments if we are to teach them to others, but we need first to be granted spiritual understanding in order to learn. We need to know the difference between the letter that kills and the Spirit that gives life! (2 Cor 3:6).
“…he is represented both as making and moulding us. In both giving existence and arranging existence he manifested love and wisdom… I can learn other things with the mind I have, but thy law is so pure, so perfect, spiritual and sublime, that I need to have my mind enlarged before I can become proficient in it” CHS
“This is partly a petition for divine grace and partly an assertion that the example of piety and resignation in trouble is attractive enough to draw men’s hearts on towards God” – Neale and Littledale.
Verse 74 They that fear thee will be glad when they see me; because I have hoped in thy word.
I have hoped in Thy word, but I want to understand it, as just prayed, if I am to be a faithful ambassador. The word of God is too precious to be miss-represented to the world around me. My life is like an open book that others will read (2 Cor 3:2), and the fact that I’ve hoped in God’s word will very quickly become apparent. The world may think it strange that I do not run after then into their iniquity (see 1 Peter 4:4), but Godly souls are always encouraged to see a fellow believer bearing the torch of God’s Word in the darkness of this world.
But oh dear believer consider this: now that others have seen you and been encouraged in their own faith, you bear a great responsibility. The moment a performer steps out onto the stage they open themselves up to scrutiny that was not there before. Actions and deeds are now weighed and assessed. Words carry a far greater weight than before. No longer can impulsive natures or flippant comments be unchecked. You now have the power to shipwreck the faith or others! (1 Tim 1:19). The words you use, the company you keep, your attitude to the trials you go through will all be a matter of public record, and both the Godly and proud will judge God’s precious Word – in which you have hoped – by your life.
When a man of God obtains grace for himself he becomes a blessing to others, especially if that grace has made him a man of sound understanding and holy knowledge.
They who “fear God” are naturally “glad when they see” and converse with one like themselves; but more especially so, when it is one whose faith and patience have carried him through troubles, and rendered him victorious over temptations; one who hath “hoped in God’s word,” and hath not been disappointed. George Horne
Verse 75 I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.
This is the third time the Psalmist has mentioned being afflicted. Was it one specific event or a continued and prolonged assault on his life over a period of time? Either way it had left an indelible mark on him.
To whatever depths he had plunged, he has come to realise that underneath are the everlasting Arms (Deut 33:27). His God would never leave him or forsake him.
“This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lam 3:21-23).
God’s mercy has become a great theme in this Psalm, and the Psalmist’s knowledge of his need for it will continue to intensify in the following verses.
This verse now becomes the springboard for the rest of the octave. The plea is simply this: I have gone through things I would rather not have had to go through, yet things You have either arranged or allowed, and You have proven Yourself just in my life, in your dealings with me – you have dealt in just the right way – so because You are faithful, because I can trust You to the end I now implore You:
- Comfort me!
- Revive me!
- Vindicate me!
- Use me!
- Establish, strengthen and settle me
This I ask because Your Word to me is faithful and true, it is my delight, my anchor, my foundation and the bedrock of life itself.
Verse 76 Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant.
I first implore a steadying action to stop the slide toward the flesh and ultimately toward spiritual death. I need Your kindness as would be shown to a poor defenceless and helpless creature in distress – for that is what I am! I could be and should be written off, but I ask for kindness instead of wrath, compassion instead of judgment, and my one basis for such an audacious request is what You have said to me already, the promises You have made, that I don’t deserve and could never earn.
If God had known me as I am now, would He have made the promises He did toward me? Yet God can see tomorrow as today, and it was while we were yet sinners that Christ died for the ungodly (Rom 5:8).
Mercy has become a great theme of the recent sections. The more we grow in grace the more we solicit God’s mercy, only to find as with Daniel’s prayer, it has already been despatched!
Verse 77 Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live: for thy law is my delight.
Now that the slide toward sin has been arrested, my prayer is that You would quicken me. Make me alive and breath life back into me, as if into a young Gazelle’s fawn that needs to be treated with all tenderness or else this thin thread of life I am hanging onto would be extinguished.
We have a new reason to live once we have discovered His law. Other ‘delights’ lose their appeal in the light of His glory and grace.
How truly we live when tender mercy comes to us. Then we do not merely exist, but live; we are lively, full of life, vivacious, and vigorous. We know not what life is till we know God. CHS
“..though he cannot serve the Lord perfectly, yet he serves him willingly” Thomas Watson
Verse 78 Let the proud be ashamed; for they dealt perversely with me without a cause: but I will meditate in thy precepts.
Having been comforted and assured of God’s mercy, having been quickened in the way, the cry is now to be vindicated. It is a cry not only to see the proud exposed for their disregard and antagonism to the truth, but also a silent plea to be shown to be right in the choices and decision the Psalmist has made.
Those who are Christ’s have (or should have) given all ‘for the sake of the call’, and we are told that we will receive back “an hundredfold now in this time… and in the world to come eternal life” (Mark 10:30). One of the things we want to receive back now is vindication! We know that in the light of eternity all will be known, but if the proud are humbled now, it will be a double blessing, for it will be a great encouragement to us and a great witness to those whom we have declared God’s truth to.
Shame is for the proud, for it is a shameful thing to be proud. Shame is not for the holy, for there is nothing in holiness to be ashamed of.
Notice that it is a continual meditating on God’s precepts, despite what the proud have done or will continue to do. We cannot give up our meditation on our Lord or His word or we will soon slide back and find ourselves ashamed.
“David’s enemies fought against him with the weapons of the flesh, wickedness and falsehood: he withstands them by the armour of the Spirit; not meeting wickedness with wickedness, and falsehood with falsehood. For if we fight against Satan with Satan’s weapons he will soon overcome us; but if we put upon us the complete armour of God to resist him, he shall flee from us”. –William Cowper.
Verse 79 Let those that fear thee turn unto me, and those that have known thy testimonies.
The Psalmist now comes to the point the last section has been building to, and asks God to use him to be a blessing to others. We will never feel worthy or deserving of this great privilege, for it is only by grace that we stand, and only by grace we can used of God to affect another’s walking in the way. But how we praise God for all those He has used to help us in our journey!
Consider again the responsibility we have to others if they are to look at us. Could they look at you? Are you a faithful ambassador?
Verse 80 Let my heart be sound in thy statutes; that I be not ashamed.
If we are to be a beacon for others, we must ourselves be sound! We dare not do this in our own strength.
Fire before us. You’re the brightest You will lead us through the storms. My lighthouse, Shining in the darkness. I will follow You My lighthouse, my lighthouse I will trust the promise.
You will carry me safe to shore… (Rend Collective)
“This is even more important than to be held in esteem by good men. This is the root of the matter. If the heart be sound in obedience to God, all is well, or will be well. If right at heart we are right in the main.” CHS
His heart has been leading him in this section, now he pleads that his heart be good, for he knows it is naturally wicked.
CAPH: Verses 81-88
The Darkest Hour
“This portion of the gigantic psalm sees the Psalmist in extremis. His enemies have brought him to the lowest condition of anguish and depression; yet he is faithful to the law and trustful in his God. This octave is the midnight of the psalm, and very dark and black it is. Stars, however, shine out, and the last verse gives promise of the dawn. The strain will after this become more cheerful; but meanwhile it should minister comfort to us to see so eminent a servant of God so hardly used by the ungodly” CHS
Whenever we step out in faith, in obedience to God’s calling, we should expect persecution, either from without or within.
The proud are to be found in the world around us but also in our own hearts. We must never presume that the wicked fallen nature within us will now remain quiet if we are seeking to server and follow Jesus with our whole hearts
Verse 81 My soul fainteth for thy salvation: but I hope in thy word.
All was going so well! What can be the cause of this melancholy? Have you been here? Where your soul is at the point of giving up, and all you want is for this life and struggle to be over? We mustn’t lose hope, and that hope must be in the Word.
The word here rendered “fainteth” is the same that in Psalms 73:26 is translated “faileth”: “My flesh and my heart faileth”. The idea is, that his strength gave way; he had such an intense desire for salvation that he became weak and powerless. Any strong emotion may thus prostrate us; and the love of God, the desire of his favour, the longing for heaven, may be so intense as to produce this result. — Albert Barnes.
But this begs the question, how much do we want heaven?
Verse 82 Mine eyes fail for thy word, saying, When wilt thou comfort me?
He has gone from being comforted to feeling no comfort at all. We must never under estimate the pull of the flesh life, or the influence of the world. Satan loves to rob us of comfort; as with Job, his intent is that we might curse God and die! This is all the more painful when we were expecting blessing and suddenly find ourselves with turmoil. Yet even in the storm (in fact, especially in the storm) He is there, and He will never leave us or forsake us. We should always remember that underneath the everlasting arms!
Verse 83 For I am become like a bottle in the smoke; yet do I not forget thy statutes.
The Psalmist is referring to a bottle made of animal skin, which when exposed to heat and smoke would just dry out and crack, making it of little use and worthless.
The world the flesh and the devil will try to convince us that we are now worthless in helping others – how can we, when we ourselves are in such a state? Yet it is often when at our lowest ebb that we learn the best lessons. Job spoke great truths in the depths of his afflictions that have comforted and encourages multitudes through the ages.
The Psalmist has already spoken of the benefit of afflictions in v67 & v71. I wonder how he viewed these current afflictions? Hindsight is no comfort in the midst of trials.
Verse 84 How many are the days of thy servant? when wilt thou execute judgment on them that persecute me?
He is not asking God to tell him how long he has left, but rather pleading with God to act swiftly in his defence for he knows his days are running out.
I cannot hope to live long in such a condition, thou must come speedily to my rescue, or I shall die. Shall all my short life be consumed in such destroying sorrows? The brevity of life is a good argument against the length of an affliction. CHS
We might at times be tempted to exact our own revenge on those who persecute us, but the Psalmist here knows that “vengeance is mine; I will repay’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). If the Psalmist is indeed David, he had more experience than most in being unfairly treated. His brothers persecuted him, then his king almost hounded him to death, then Shimei, Absolom, Ahithophel, not to mention the surrounding nations. Yet even with the likes of Saul, David knew that judgment must come from the Sword of the Lord, not the sword of David.
We too must leave the matter with the Lord. He is a just Judge and will ‘render to each one according to his deeds’ (Rom 2:6).
We must remember that God is not in a hurry. He has time and eternity in His hand. He will see that justice is done.
Verse 85 The proud have digged pits for me, which are not after thy law.
As if it were not enough that he were persecuted, the proud had actually gone out of their way to try to cause him to stumble.
We should remember though that we can also be proud. Are you aware to the pits you have been digging in your own life? Do you realise that anything that is not of God, not after His law in your life could end up being a pit you will later have to navigate?
“The word ‘which’ here refers not to the pits, but to the proud. They who have done this are people who do not regard thy commands; people who are open and public offenders” Albert Barns
Verse 86 All thy commandments are faithful: they persecute me wrongfully; help thou me.
“He had done no injury to anyone, nor acted otherwise than according to truth and justice; therefore he confidently appeals to his God, and cries, “Help thou me.” This is a golden prayer, as precious as it is short. The words are few, but the meaning is full.” CHS
It seems the Psalmist now stops to think about the statement he has just made in the previous verse and adds that God’s commandments are faithful, even though obedience to them had been the cause of the persecution he now suffered.
Paul told Timothy “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim 3:12).
Jesus said: ”Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).
Persecution, by definition, is always wrong. Yet persecution of Christians carries with it a high degree of irrationality! It is never a Christian bomb they are looking for at an airport. Christian ‘fundamentalists’ simply stick to the fundamentals of scripture, which state that God is the Creator of all and has made of one blood all nations that dwell on the earth (Acts 17:26). The world cries out for acceptance and tolerance, yet Christians are the epitome of this. Evolution gives racism and intolerance its wings (if you pardon the analogy!). Jesus spoke of love and forgiveness. Jesus said there are two ways, either heaven or hell, and you get to choose. The World tells us we all have to go the same way whether we want to or not!
Yet, in truth, our persecution has more to do with a call to accountability, a reminder to the proud and unbelieving that there will be a day when Jesus will judge the secrets of men’s hearts according to His righteous law (Rom 2:16). It has more to do with silencing the message than silencing the messenger.
This then is the lowest point of the Psalm. The Psalmist has had two great struggles thus far:
- The proud
- The flesh
The battle of the flesh has been the struggle between his way and God’s way. This was most intense in stanzas 1 (ALEPH), 2 (BET), 4 (DALETH) & 5 (HE).
But regarding the proud, he began in verse 21 by saying God had rebuked the proud. Then in verse 51 he declared the proud had him greatly in derision. The intensity then builds as in three consecutive stanzas (TETH, YOD, CAPH), he states that (v69) the proud have forged lie, (v78) the proud have dealt perversely with him without a cause, (v85), and here, where they have gone so far as digging pits, (v86) persecuting him wrongfully, (v87) and have tried to consume him that his light would be put out.
However, from this point there is a turning, and the proud are only mentioned once more (v122) in the remainder of the Psalm.
Verse 87 They had almost consumed me upon earth; but I forsook not thy precepts.
Almost! That is the key. There is one watching over us who will never let go of us, so we must never let go of the comfort that is to be found in His precepts.
Verse 88 Quicken me after thy lovingkindness; so shall I keep the testimony of thy mouth.
Once again a cry for life!
They had almost consumed me upon earth. His foes had almost destroyed him so as to make him altogether fail. If they could they would have eaten him, or burned him alive; anything so that they could have made a full end of the good man. Evidently he had fallen under their power to a large extent, and they had so used that power that he was well nigh consumed. He was almost gone from off the earth; but almost is not altogether, and so he escaped by the skin of his teeth.
May God bless you as you study His Word.