Psalm 119

This Psalm is one of the alphabetical or acrostic psalms. It has twenty-two parts, with each part corresponding to the letters in the Hebrew alphabet.

It is a blessing to walk in the way of the Lord, to keep His commandments, to observe His statutes, to seek Him wholeheartedly.  “Oh, that my ways were directed to keep Your statutes!” the Psalmist exclaims.  He expresses a deep desire to seek only the ways of the Lord, forsake his flesh, and be able to look at God’s law in holiness (v. 5-6). 

What is the best way to live a lifetime of uprightness and purity before God?  To start when you are young!  To begin immediately, right now, where you are at!  By doing so you set the direction of your lifetime – this is called self-discipline.  The Psalmist’s desire was to know God’s Word first in heart, so that he would not sin against the Lord (v. 11).  A key here is verse 12, where the he asks God Himself to teach him.  He is the one who brings the fullness of understanding in His Word, and by His Holy Spirit we can experience a true fellowship with Him.  He can teach us directly!  But we must be willing to ask and to open our lives up to the application of His truth.

The Psalmist asks the Lord to open his eyes, to show him things in His Word—“wondrous things” (v. 18).  “I am a stranger in the earth,” the writer says.  God’s people are not of this world. Hebrews 11:13-16 explains that they are longing for a better country, a more secure land, a land of abundant life where the presence of God dwells in fullness.  The Word of God serves as a crack in the wall, a knot in the wood of a door, through which we can catch glimpses of His glory and of a Promised Land beyond.  It is a guiding light toward eternity, shaping our lives in preparation for that future.  And yet its affects on the present are clearly seen.  God’s judgment, His rebuke, reproach, and conviction are all felt as a result of His truth, His revelation here on earth (v. 20-21).  For these reasons, God’s people can and should delight in His testimony.

God’s Word brings life.  Walking according to His truth leads to life, removes the burden of sin and despair, and reveals purpose.  As we continue to grow in relationship with the Lord and in His Word, He will enlarge our capacity, our resources, and our ability to walk in His will.

Focus.  That’s what the Psalmist is calling for.  He asks the Lord to keep his eyes from those things that are not worthy of seeing, and to show him His will.  He describes being devoted to fearing the Lord and longing for His precepts—this is wholeheartedness.  “Revive me in Your righteousness.”  Make me alive!  Instill in me all that You would have—all that is right and true!  Keep me from my own selfish desires, from my ego, from my pride and the things that keep me from You.  Guide me in Your Word on the path of righteousness, that I may know You fully.

Those who know the truth of God have nothing to fear, nothing to be ashamed of.  It is their saving grace, the revelation of His love to them.  In freedom and liberty they walk—free from sin and guilt and shame.  They walk as adopted sons and daughters of the Almighty God.  His commandments are their delight.  It is by His revelation that we can truly worship Him, for in seeing Him we have reason to worship and adore Him (v. 48).

The Word of God is hope and comfort to the afflicted, the hurting, and the needy.  From it comes life, determination, and perseverance.  It is dynamic, in part because it reminds the studious and the seeker of the faithfulness of the Lord.  But it is also dynamic in that it becomes a foundation on which we can base today’s decisions and discover solutions to today’s problems.  In addition to all that, it is dynamic because it can teach us to shape our future according to God’s truth, so that we may live our lives always in His will.  It also gives us glimpses of eternity.  In short, the Word of God reveals a general characteristic about God: He is unchanging yet dynamic.  “He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  It is we who change by the power of His presence in our lives, by the understanding of His Word and the application of His truth.

In this portion, the Psalmist describes his desire to experience the mercy of the Lord.  Although he had gone his own way at one time, when he looked at them and considered them, he immediately turned to the way of the Lord—presumably realizing the folly of his own path (v. 59-60).  Because he has chosen the Lord’s way, he considers himself a friend to all who fear the Lord and walk in His way (v. 63).  And once again, he expresses his desire to learn from the Lord directly (v. 64).

“Teach me, Lord,” is the Psalmist’s request.  In this passage, he describes an affliction (perhaps a challenge by David’s enemies).  Prior to this affliction (or challenge) that he faced, he strayed from the way of the Lord.  Sometimes it is harder to follow the Lord when life is easy than it is when life is harder.  Challenge requires us to depend on Him, and although we should do so in and out of season, this is often not the case.  Sometimes challenge comes to set us straight, to discipline us, to provide the opportunity and means for us to walk in the way of the Lord.  Looking back, the Psalmist explains, “It is good for me to be afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.”  He discovered the value of challenge in that it allowed him to learn and apply the Lord’s truth in his life.  In the end, he considers it of greater worth than anything else—and indeed, what could be more valuable?

It is the nature of God to be faithful even when we are not.  Because of this, He disciplines those He loves when they go astray, to grow them when they need it.  He is patient and loving, but in His faithfulness He will challenge us to move forward and continue in His way (v. 75).  The Psalmist desired to be walk in righteousness so that he would not be ashamed before the Lord—he desired a character that was set on the Lord, regardless of what others thought (v. 80).

What is the extent of your commitment to God?  The Psalmist had it difficult.  He faced enemies, trials, persecution, lies, fear, despair, even death!  Yet he demonstrates a willingness to wait on the salvation of God—though he desired it greatly, he also made sure that he did not stray from God’s way or forsake His Word.  Rather, he remained faithful in waiting on and seeking the Lord.

God’s Word is forever, and His faithfulness is eternal.  All creation exists in submission to the Lord—how can we do any less?  God’s Word is also perfect, and it perfects those who live in submission to it.

God’s Word gives a new perspective, a new outlook on life.  With it comes wisdom, a wisdom that is not of men.  God has given it to us, and when we walk in it, He provides supernatural understanding through it.  Where in the natural we may not understand or know what to do, His testimony can overcome.  It guides our feet, keeps us from doing what is wrong, keeps us from straying from Him.  When we submit ourselves to God’s Word, we learn to “hate every false way” (v. 104).  Perhaps this, more than anything, is what is missing in many Christians’ lives today.  In an era of tolerance, it becomes natural to overlook sin, to excuse it—in our own lives as well as the lives of others.  But the more we make ourselves subject to the Word of God, the more we look into it (“as into a mirror” as James 1:23-25 says), the more we learn to hate sin and deception.  We ought to despise those things that the Lord despises.  This concept, when applied, will revolutionize one’s perspective and thought pattern.  It is easy to allow our minds to dwell on things we enjoy, things that are pleasing. 

So then, if we make a conscious choice to find contentment and fulfillment in the Word of God and to hate those things that do not please Him, how likely is it that our mind will dwell on sinful and selfish things?  Not likely at all—the two are incompatible.  So then if our mind is filled with the things of God, having “the mind of Christ,” our thoughts and intents will also be pure.  Any sinful or selfish or flesh thought that tries to enter is subject then to the authority of Christ—but we must allow that authority to be applied.  This is part of the transformation of the mind—moving from naturally thinking in terms of the flesh to naturally meditating on the things of God.  It is a process of testing every thought, and in time and with self-discipline and the help of the Holy Spirit.  Our mind will no longer be a deterrent keeping us from the throne of God, but will become an essential tool to patterning our lives after Christ—His creativity, His way of thinking, His emotion, His supernatural understanding of the Father’s will.

Here, too, we see the Psalmist making a conscious decision to follow the principles of God’s Word.  It is a light to the path—in one sense it serves as a means to understand God’s will and way for our lives.  Just as a flashlight in a dark house is essential to keep from stubbing one’s toe or bumping into a wall or knocking something over, so the Word of God is essential to keep us from stumbling in life, and from straying off of the Lord’s path—His best for our lives.  The Psalmist also sees God’s testimony as a personal heritage—what a thought!  Indeed, He has passed it to us, a gift entrusted to us by the Lord Himself.  This is a very personal way of looking at God’s Word.  A heritage is a symbol of one’s work, a lifetime of dedication to family.  And it is a representation of God’s dedication to His family, His people throughout history.  And He has given it to us!

The Psalmist desires nothing that the world offers.  His desire is for the Lord alone.  He hates the “double-minded”—those who know right but do wrong, the liars, hypocrites, deceitful, proud.  Because their way is not the Lord’s way, he has no desire for what they have, for it will all pass away anyway.  But he loves the law of the Lord and abides by it (v. 113).  He tells the wicked to leave him, understanding the proverb that “bad company corrupts good character,” and their influence could potentially lead him astray.  He understood that it was necessary to tweak his input, to make sure what was entering his life and his heart was that which is right, pure, and true (v. 115).  In addition, the Psalmist sees the consequences of sinful behavior and activity, which in the end is judgment, death, and meaningless existence apart from the Lord.  For this reason, he fears and loves the Lord his God (v. 120).

The writer appeals to the faithfulness and mercy of the Lord.  His eyes have searched for the salvation of the Lord all his life, and sought understanding in the Word of the Lord.  Again, the concept of the Lord Himself bringing understanding to the mind and teaching His people directly is a key principle to living for God.  Without His help, we cannot truly maximize the truth of His Word in our lives; we cannot apply it to the fullest.  It is only by His Spirit that we can know who He is and see His power in our lives—and He is faithful to bring that understanding and wisdom when we ask Him.  James 1:5-6 says that if anyone lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him—but he must believe and not doubt.  This is also seen in this section of the Psalm, when the writer demonstrates his trust in the Lord.  “It is time for You to act, O Lord, for they have regarded Your law as void” (v. 126).  He believed that the Lord would come through on his behalf, and on behalf of the covenant his enemies were ignoring.  And notice his reaction—his enemies disregard for the law only serves to solidify his commitment to the Lord: “Therefore, I love your commandments more than gold, yes, than fine gold!  Therefore all Your precepts concerning all things I consider to be right; I hate every false way” (v. 127-128).  In the midst of persecution, trial, and adversity, if we truly believe in God’s Word, we will find ourselves drawn ever more into His presence, leaning on His Word, trusting His faithfulness, and depending solely on Him for provision.

Love the Word of the Lord.  This is the recurring theme throughout this Psalm, and especially in this passage.  It gives light and understanding (v. 130).  The writer longed desperately for the Word of God in his life (v. 131).  How many of us can say that?  Are we desperate to know Him, to understand His way for us?  Or are we content to have a surface understanding and never dig any deeper?  Are we merely content with living our own way while saying we are living His way?  These are the kind of questions that this statement should prompt us to ask.  Because obviously the writer felt this way—he had an incredible longing for the testimonies of the Lord, as one thirsts for water, for life.

He also pleads for the Lord’s mercy (v. 132).  None of us deserve it.  None of us are worthy of it.  Yet it says that it is the Lord’s custom, His character to show mercy to those who love His name.  When we come to Him and demonstrate our love for Him, He is incredibly faithful to show His mercy to us, to not give us what we deserve, but what we need.

“Direct my steps by Your word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me” (v. 133).  In other words, let me be consumed and ruled by nothing else but the Word of the Lord.  Let no created thing have authority in my life—only the Lord.  And anything that does try to come in and take control, let it fail; let it be defeated by the power of Your presence, Your principles, Your Word.  In addition, the writer says, make it possible for me to live according to Your Word without the oppression of men.  Provide the freedom I need to know You more.  Incredibly, there are millions before this generation who did not have this luxury, yet we in America live in it.  That is an incredible blessing—will we be found faithful with it?  We should, for even a thousand years ago persecution against the people of God existed, and they depended daily on God and His word to get them through.  We also, must exercise this gift we’ve been given, or it will be taken from us and given to those who are faithful with it.  May it not take persecution and oppression to get us to see the value of the Word of God; may we be faithful now.

Finally, the writer weeps because most don’t keep the law of the Lord (v. 136).  He looked around him and saw the lawlessness of the people of God, and it broke his heart.  May we also be filled with a compassion and desire to see others experience the fullness of the presence of God through His Word and the Holy Spirit.  May we be people who desire to see those around us living according to the Word of the Lord.

God’s Word is: righteous (v. 138, 144), upright (v. 137), just (v. 137), faithful (v.138), pure (v. 140), everlasting (v. 142, 144), truth (v. 142), and the delight and life of those who live according to it (v. 143, 144).  The law is a glimpse of understanding the character of God, and our lives should mirror its character and, ultimately, His character.  Though we may be small, despised, oppressed, and troubled, the Lord is faithful, and His Word is always true and always something we can fall back on.  It fills us with life, understanding, and a zeal and consuming desire to know God (v. 139).

The writer’s heart yearned for the help of the Lord.  In his distress he cried out, and according to the Word of the Lord, he believed that God would come through, despite whatever circumstances surrounded him.  This is a clear demonstration that the understanding of the Word of God builds faith.  The writer is not consumed with fear, doubt, depression, or anger; rather, he is intent on hope and seeing the salvation of the Lord.  It is his life, his revival.  He knows that the law of the Lord is truth, and that it has been established forever as a testimony to God’s people.  It is his source of strength and faith and hope.

Security and salvation comes to those who seek the Lord.  His Word is truth, a strong foundation.  He is love, and His mercy is toward those who love Him with their whole hearts.  “Consider my affliction and deliver me,” the Psalmist writes (v. 153).  He asks the Lord to bring Him a personal revival in his life, according to three things: His Word, His judgments, and His lovingkindness.  Why these three things?  What is the reason for their mentioning?  They are clearly mentioned here, but even in Qoph (v. 148-149) they are mentioned.  What is key about God’s Word, judgments (or justice), and His lovingkindness.

First, His Word.  The previous section (Qoph) demonstrated that the Word of God builds faith.  From reading and hearing comes understanding by the Holy Spirit.  We have been given two great gifts, and by these the Lord desires to build the faith of His people.  He has demonstrated His faithfulness in the past—He has revealed Himself as Father, as the only one worthy of all our trust.  We must have the Word living and active inside of us if we are to experience the life, the personal revival that God desires for us.

Second, His judgments, His justice.  Through the judgment of the Lord, His people can find security and hope.  He is not driven by a whim; He does not make decisions on impulse; He does not show favoritism.  He is a solid foundation, and His judgments are pure and holy.  So then, His people understand two things: the wicked will perish under the judgment of the Lord, and His people will be refined by the shaking.  He loves His people too much to leave them the way they started—He finishes what He starts, and He desires to bring each person to their fullest potential.  What greater hope can we experience in this life?

Third and finally, His lovingkindness.  God has demonstrated His love over and over to His people, and there is nothing that compares to His ultimate sacrifice—that is, sending His perfect Son to redeem an imperfect people.  Though His judgments command attention by their visibility and poignancy, and His Word is a testimony and revelation of Himself, there is something about His love that is the greatest of them all.  For it is from His love that His justice and the revelation of Himself has flowed.  Unless we look closely, we are in danger of overlooking His love, which is more abundant than we will ever know.  When we learn to see His love and live in it, that is the point at which personal revival is at its fullest.  This is life—to be vessels of the love of God!

The three things—the Word, the judgments, and the lovingkindness of God—produce these three things: faith, hope and love.  Does this sound familiar?
Try I Corinthians 13:10-13.  That which was in part is made whole; personal revival is at hand.  For the fullness of life is not found in any formula, but through supernaturally experiencing of the Word, discipline, and love of God.  Through these, we find that what once was a burden is now a gift.  We tend to think of faith, hope and love as New Testament concepts, but in reality God desired the same for Old Testament Israel.  Yet, now we understand the means by which God wants to see these fruits produced in each of our lives—so that we can experience the fullness of personal revival, of new life.

Again, despite circumstances, the writer stands on the foundation of God’s Word.  He finds it wholly satisfying and fulfilling to do the Lord’s will, and to walk according to His precepts.  “Seven times a day I praise you, because of your righteous judgments,” he says in verse 164.  Seven is a symbol of completion in Jewish culture—that is, the Psalmist praises God completely and continuously for His power and perfection and love.  There is peace and security in the law of the Lord—what reason have we to not praise the Lord for all He has given?!

Praise continues to be a prominent theme in the end of Psalm 119.  Three specific things he gives praise for:

1. God’s righteous judgments (v. 164)
2. Supernatural understanding about the Word given by God (v. 169-171)
3. God’s salvation, help and life (v. 175)

All of these concern the revelation of God to mankind, and all point to Him.  By these God keeps the paths of His people straight, and guides them and directs them (v. 176).  Truly, there is nothing that compares with God’s commandments.  In addition, there is nothing that compares to life dedicated to living according to the will of the Lord.  There is no higher calling than to know Him and make Him known—and He has given us His Word to remember and live by.

—Mark Knoles

Maxim of the Moment

Success in marriage isn’t finding the right person: it’s being the right person.