INTRODUCTION PSALM 119
This is a beautiful psalm! It was written by a master craftsman whose identity is unknown. Perhaps it was David or Ezra, but we don’t know. Written in 22 sections, each containing eight verses, it is carefully crafted with a symmetrical structure. The Hebrew alphabet contains 22 letters, and each of the eight verses in each stanza begins with the same letter. It does not remain dry and mechanical, however, but gushes forth with a torrent of spiritual insight and passion. I invite you to walk through it with me.
It describes a way of living that is disciplined, blameless and blessed. It does not offer superficial, glib answers to life’s issues, but commends thorough and radical transformation. One man has pioneered a wonderful way of living, shaping his life by the eternal Word of God. Every verse includes one of the names of the Word; it is a hymn of praise to the Word, and beyond that to the God who speaks.
The way the psalmist commends is a disciplined way, or literally a trodden road. He recognises that we have many engrained ways in our lives that are not easily changed. It insists on thorough, radical transformation, but offers the powerful, living Word of God as the agent of deep lasting change. Will you let it loose in your life? Many have gone before us! William Wilberforce recorded in his diary in 1812, in the middle of a political crisis, how he walked from Hyde Park Corner reciting the 119th Psalm with great comfort[i]. Matthew Henry, referring to his father Philip, wrote: “Once, pressing the study of the scriptures, he advised us to take a verse of this psalm every morning to meditate upon, and so go over the psalm twice in the year; and that saith he, will bring you to be in love with all the rest of the scriptures. He often said: ‘All grace grows as love to the Word of God grows’”[ii]. I followed his advice and have come to love this Psalm. Will you walk it with me?
I have used the NIV unless otherwise stated. Direct quotes from Psalm 119 are in bold type, while those from the rest of scripture are in italics. The meanings of Hebrew words are generally from Strong’s Concordance. I have quoted liberally from Spurgeon’s Treasury of David, to which I owe a great debt. Most of all, my thanks are to the Holy Spirit, who will teach you all things, as Jesus promised (John 14:25). To Him goes the credit for anything of worth, and all the errors are solely mine! Let us walk this psalm together, verse-by-verse. May God bless you in the travelling! Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.
I passed you by.
Your alphabetic symmetry
Had left me cold and dry.
Your single-noted melody
Had no allure for me.
I passed you by.
So dull and blind.
Lavish seams of hidden treasures
Just waiting to be mined!
Unimagined lasting pleasures
For my delight designed!
So dull and blind.
A second glance.
These very words that catch my eye
The Spirit does enhance,
Opening doors to ecstasy,
Beautiful words entrance!
A second glance.
I hold you fast.
Once tasted, now I slake my thirst,
Search and explore in haste.
Amongst my passions you are first.
I’ve found you, so, at last,
I hold you fast.
I love you now,
My precious friend, my intimate,
Taking my hand, you show
Such sweet delights, so intricate,
Drawn to my God, I bow!
I love You now.
When the psalmist talks about meditating “day and night” does this seem impossible? Does this seem a bit mystical? If Transcendental Meditation is dangerous, is all meditation forbidden? Would it surprise you that we are all experts at meditating? For example, like me you’re probably brilliant at worrying, which is meditating on negative thoughts and fears! Maybe you like fantasising, which is reviewing the past or imagining the future to try to extract emotional fulfilment and pleasure. Maybe you’re good at gnawing over problems like crossword clues, viewing them from different angles until you crack them. On the other hand, you may spend time chewing over the wrongs that have been done you, which is normally called resentment and bitterness. Oh yes, I’m sure you’ll soon get into biblical meditation, because it’s not whether we meditate, but on what we meditate, that is the crucial issue. So what is Biblical Meditation?
It has been called the digestive faculty of the soul. Campbell McAlpine defines it as “the devotional practice of pondering the words of a verse or verses of scripture, with a receptive heart, allowing the Holy Spirit to take the written word and apply it as the living word to the inner being”[i].
Andrew Murray describes it as “holding the word of God in the mind until it has affected every area of one’s life and character”[ii].
Bill Gothard says it is like “slowly turning a many-faceted diamond in the light to feast upon its beauty from every possible angle”[iii].
This is its great value. It enables the internalisation of spiritual truth; it effects character transformation; it is indispensable to the Christian. Picture yourself with Jesus and his disciples going through the cornfields in Luke 6:1. One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. Use this picture as a description of meditation. Take a verse of scripture and rub it through the fingers of your mind until the Holy Spirit lights up a particular word or phrase or idea. Then feast on it all day long!
Are there any pitfalls in meditation? Yes, I think there are. First, concentrating exclusively on one verse or phrase can be misleading! Anything taken out of context can be misunderstood. It is always important to look at the wider message of scripture, so I have encouraged the practice of meditating on different verses of scripture side by side. I would also encourage you to keep reading the whole of the Bible as well as daily meditating on a particular verse. There is also a possible hazard of developing a secret inner world without outward transformation of behaviour. This psalm certainly does not encourage this. First, one of the Hebrew words for meditation means literally to mutter. It is good to speak the verses out loud to yourself as well as internally in your mind. This psalm also insists on action, not just meditating. Beware of hearing without doing! One other tricky situation I sometimes encounter while meditating is when God seems to clearly speak to me through the English words of a verse, but when I study the verse more closely I find this “truth” is not present in the original, or is not borne out by the context! Clearly we need to hold these thoughts somewhat lightly, but I would rather have life, than total doctrinal correctness and deadness with it! At least we are in good company, for I think Charles Spurgeon once preached a famous and anointed sermon on one English word from scripture, which also was not even present in the original text! So there may be hazards, but great blessing is promised so don’t be deterred.
[i] The Practice of Biblical Meditation
[ii] Quoted in Getting the Best out of the Bible by Selwyn Hughes
[iii] Quoted in Getting the Best out of the Bible by Selwyn Hughes
DIFFERENT WORDS FOR THE WORD OF GOD
Almost every verse of Psalm 119 mentions one of the different Hebrew words for the Word of God. A very simple approach is just to view these as synonyms and ignore the differences! However, the Bible is a complicated book, and includes many different mediums for communicating the revealed will of God: there is history and story, song and poetry, allegory and parable, and doctrine and closely reasoned argument. It is right, therefore, that this psalm should reflect these nuances in its hymn of praise, so it is worthwhile to think more closely of them. That task is made more complicated by some translations not being consistent in which words they ascribe to them, so it’s best to look at the different Hebrew words and where they appear.
THE DIFFERENT HEBREW WORDS
- TORA translated as “law”, appearing in verses 1, 18, 29, 34, 44, 51, 53, 55, 61, 70, 72, 77, 85, 92, 97, 109, 113, 126, 136, 142, 150, 153, 163, 165, 174.
- EDA translated as “testimonies” (“statutes” in NIV) in verses 2, 22, 24, 46, 59, 79, 95, 119, 125, 138, 146, 152, 167, 168.
- EDUT translated as “testimonies” in verses 14, 31, 36, 88, 99, 111, 129, 144, 157.
- PIQQUWD translated as “precepts” in verses 4, 15, 27, 40, 45, 56, 63, 69, 78, 87, 93, 94, 100, 104, 110, 128, 134, 141, 159, 168, 173.
- HOQ translated as “statutes” in verses 5, 8, 12, 23, 26, 33, 48, 54, 64, 68, 71, 80, 83, 112, 117, 118, 124, 135, 145, 155, 171.
- HUQQA translated as “statutes” in verse 16.
- MISWA translated as “commandments” in verses 6, 10, 19, 21, 32, 35, 47, 48, 60, 66, 73, 86, 96, 98, 115, 127, 131, 143, 151, 166, 172, 176.
- MISHPAT translated as “judgments” (“rules” in ESV and “laws” in NIV) in verses 7, 13, 20, 30, 39, 43, 52, 62, 75, 84, 91, 102, 106, 108, 120, 121, 132, 137, 149, 156, 160, 164, 175.
- DABAR translated as “word” in verses 9, 16, 17, 25, 28, 42, 43, 49, 57, 65, 74, 81, 89, 101, 105, 107, 114, 130, 139, 147, 160, 161, 169.
- IMRA translated as “word” in verses 11, 38, 41, 50, 58, 67, 76, 82, 103, 116, 123, 133, 140, 148, 154, 158, 162, 170, 172.
You can see that there are 8 basic words used, as EDUT and EDA are similar as are HOQ and HUQQA. Using this framework you find 4 verses which do not include any of these words (verses 3, 37, 122 and 90) but there are 5 verses which include 2 words (verses 16, 43, 160, 168, 172) to make up for it!
Some commentators include the Hebrew word DEREK as a synonym for the Word of God, appearing in verses 3 and 37, but this word appears in many other verses of the psalm in its plain meaning as a “trodden path”, not exclusively referring to the Word of God.
Each of these words is subtly different as described by Matthew Henry and John Jebb.
- GOD’S LAW, because they are enacted by Him as our Sovereign.
- GOD’S WAY, because they are the rule both of His providence and of our obedience.
- GOD’S TESTIMONIES, because they are solemnly declared to the world, and attested beyond contradiction.
- GOD’S COMMANDMENTS, because given with authority, and (as the word signifies) lodged with us as a trust.
- GOD’S PRECEPTS, because prescribed to us and not left indifferent.
- GOD’S WORD, or saying, because it is the declaration of His mind, and Christ the essential, eternal Word is all in all in it.
- GOD’S JUDGMENTS, because framed in infinite wisdom, and because by them we must both judge and be judged.
- GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS, because it is all holy, just and good, and the rule and standard of righteousness.
- GOD’S STATUTES, because they are fixed and determined, and of perpetual obligation.
- GOD’S TRUTH OR FAITHFULNESS, because the principles upon which divine law is built are eternal truths.[i]
- LAW is derived from a word meaning to direct, to guide, to aim, to shoot forwards. It signifies a rule of conduct.
- WAY simply means a plain rule of conduct.
- TESTIMONIES are derived from a word meaning to bear witness or testify. They are God’s revealed law, the witnesses and confirmation of His promises made to His people, and earnests of His future salvation.
- COMMANDMENTS is derived from a word signifying to command or ordain, such as to Adam about the tree, or to Noah about constructing the ark.
- PRECEPTS from a word which means to place in trust, something entrusted to man, consequently to do with the conscience.
- WORD of God in its most divine sense including God’s revealed commandments in general, a revealed promise of certain blessings, as a thing committed to him and a s a rule of conduct.
- JUDGMENTS from a word signifying to govern, to judge or determine, so meaning judicial ordinances and legal sanctions.
- STATUTES from a word meaning to engrave or inscribe, so it implies a definite, prescribed written law. In this psalm it has an internal meaning, the moral law engraven on the fleshy tables of the heart. It is the inmost apprehension of his will, not so obvious as the law and the testimonies, and more direct spiritual communication than his precepts.[ii]
Not only do different parts of the Bible need to be appreciated and interpreted in different ways, but also the different types of the Word of God have different effects on us, as is spelt out in Psalm 19.
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. Psalms 19:7-9 (ESV)
The basic message is that we need the whole Bible to be true disciples, but it is wonderful that Psalm 119 sits in the centre of the book as an aid to loving the whole!
THE GLORIOUS GOSPEL OF THE BLESSED GOD 1Timothy 1:11
All great enterprises need a beginning! In the original Hebrew these eight verses all begin with the letter Aleph meaning ox. To cut new furrows through hard resisting soil needs the strength of the ox. (Proverbs 14:4)
The first reason for starting is a promise of blessedness. Psalm 1 throws out a similar promise…to the man who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on it day and night… in all that he does he prospers. That is kind of inclusive! Blessedness includes happiness but is much more comprehensive than just feeling and emotion. The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, and adds no trouble to it (Proverbs 10:22). The second reason is the demanding nature of the standards God sets for us. He expects diligent keeping of his commandments. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect, said Jesus (Matthew 5:48). Therefore go and make disciples of all nations(Matthew 28:19). Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Awakening to a high call shakes us out of laziness and apathy and motivates to change. The third reason is fear of shame. We all live to minimise shame, in some way or another, but what of our shame before God? This hints beyond our present life to that great and terrible day when our secrets are laid bare (Psalm 1:5). We must take steps to avoid being shamed then.
Throughout these verses are wonderful heart-stirrings: to seek God, to walk in His ways, to praise Him and to cry out for help! Lord, forsake me not utterly!
Blessed…. how sweet a word to start with. Jesus’ first word in His great sermon was blessed(Matthew 5:3). The same word begins the book of Psalms: Blessed… it’s God’s first desire for you and it’s what you long for. Who is blessed?Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord. The word translated blameless could be entire or complete, and the word way is a trodden road. The blessing of God is not promised only to those who reach the destination, but to those who are travelling the right road! No shortcuts are allowed. Consistent steady progress is our goal. As I meditate on these words I picture a great hall with lofty pillars. I am walking in it. These great pillars, the realities I base my life upon, are the Words of God. Sadly, the physical things around me often hold my attention. I trust the things my hands can touch and my eyes can see. But they are passing away; they are pillars of straw. O to live in this hall where His Word dominates every thought and decision!
1. Say this verse over and over, committing it to memory, asking the Holy Spirit to make it come alive to you.
2. Consider the “trodden roads” of your life. What habits would you like to develop?
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 1, 80 (tamim blameless), Psalm 1:1, Genesis 49:25,26, Matthew 5:3-11, Luke 11:28, John 13:17, James 1:25.
Not only once blessed, but twice blessed! God repeats Himself. Blessed are they who keep his statutes… keep involves guarding, maintaining and obeying. This is what I need: to keep hold of your word, to retain it, think on it and speak it out. Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. It only took till the second verse to reach the heart. O that our hearts could be touched and changed! And they will be, as we devote ourselves to these precious words. Seek literally means to tread or frequent. It suggests regular searching. There is no blessing promised to the divided heart or the half-hearted: it’s all a matter of priority. Where will we invest our best efforts today?
1. Say the words of this verse over and over, memorising them. Turn words or phrases that strike you into prayers to God. Take this verse with you today. Return to it often.
2. Let this word probe your heart. How wholehearted are you?
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 2,10,45,94,155 (darash seek), Psalm 105:4, Deuteronomy 4:29, 1 Kings 2:3, 2 Chronicles 31:21, Jeremiah 29:13, Ezekiel 36:27, Mark 12:30.
They do nothing wrong…. I love this! It seems that the Lord is saying: “blessed are the people who do these things…oh, and by the way, they won’t do any wrong!” Our lives can be so full of God that there simply isn’t any room for sin. This mirrors those awesome heavenly events described in Rev 12:7-9…war in heaven…Satan and his angels defeated… and there was no longer any place for them in heaven…they were thrown down. Heaven is so full of righteousness that there is no room for evil. They walk in his ways…this is a beautiful path. I want to travel this path today.
1. Repeat these words over to yourself. Let the glory of the promise fill your heart with hope!
2. Meditate over these three verses and compare with Psalm 1:1-2.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 1,3,45 (halak walk), Psalm 1:1-3, 1 John 3:9, Revelation 12:7-9.
You have laid down precepts…This could almost be translated: “you have commanded commandments!” Suddenly a voice bursts into our lives. It is the command of God. Most of us live assuming God’s commands are a good idea, which we make some attempt to keep. How much higher are the requirements of God! The first few days of our first visit to Switzerland were very misty. Our friends assured us of the magnificent view from their house across Lac Leman to the Alps beyond. My wife and I strained to penetrate the mist and imagined we could trace out the outlines of the mountains. But when the mist cleared, we really saw the mountains. They were not horizontally across the lake as we had supposed but vertically above it! God’s expectation for our lives is higher than most of us have even dreamed. You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed. Fully obeyed means literally to be hedged about, guarded, or attended to, exceedingly! God’s requirement is clear. He expects his commands to be kept completely, meticulously, with great care. Let God’s high calling impress itself upon you as you muse on these words.
1. Lay up his words in your heart (Job 22:22). Do the same for this verse today.
2. Fully obeyed, diligently, exceedingly, “wonderful much”: ponder these phrases.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 4,8,43,51,96,107,138,140,167 (meod fully), Psalm 112:1, Deuteronomy 5:33, 11:22, 28:1-14, Joshua 1:7, Matthew 28:20, 1 John 5:3.
Oh ... No wonder that is the first response of our hearts to such a revelation. I’m undone, Lord. I’ve seen lofty mountain peaks and I can’t see how I can reach them. Help! Above all, I’m aware of my inconsistency. Even if I do excellently for a few days, how quickly I lapse. Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! I see the beauty of this consistent, immovable, steadfast path of discipleship. 1 Corinthians 15 is a marvellous chapter describing the power of the resurrection and Paul spends 57 verses building up to his tremendous climax: Therefore, he concludes, you need all the power of Christ’s resurrection to accomplish this, Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord.
1. Ponder this verse and pray this verse. Every verse of this psalm from now on is addressed to God. You may not feel this verse is the cry of your heart, but it is truth. As you pray it out in faith, a miracle starts and your heart begins to change!
2. Meditate on this verse and 1 Corinthians 15:58.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 5,73,90,133 (kun steadfast), Psalm 37:23, 57:7, 2 Thessalonians 3:5.
Then I would not be put to shame… Shame is a powerful thing. It already directs a lot of our behaviour. I do, or don’t do, many things so I won’t be put to shame! We have so much resource at our fingertips, so much opportunity to make a difference. How will we face the all-consuming eyes of the Lord on that last day? Let me not be put to shame on that day, Lord; the wasted hours and days and years; the futile pursuits and goals; the laziness that kept me from pursuing you. …When I consider all your commands. Consider is a visual word: to scan or look intently. Our eyes are fixed on all sorts of things; our passions and energy focussed on much that is futile. How hard it is to wrest them from these things, which look so real, so concrete, so important and so titillating, and fix them on the word of God. That is what learning to meditate is: looking, looking and looking again at these words till you get inside them, understand them, love them and obey them from the heart.
1. Often when thinking about a verse, one phrase or word comes alive to you. Take the phrase when I consider and see where it leads you.
2. Meditate on this verse and verse 15.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 6,15,18 (nabat consider), Psalms 31:1,17, 33:13, Luke 9:26.
Now to praise! I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws. All true praise springs from the heart and is fuelled by the Word, just as true worshippers worship Him in Spirit and truth. Just as we sought Him in verse 2, now we praise Him. It’s all about Him. His Word is only a means of getting to Him. Come, Lord Jesus. Leap out of the pages of your book. Show yourself to me through this Psalm. Show me your beauty even as I see the beauty of your Word. I praise you, Lord, and I set my heart to praise you more and more.
1. Take the phrase I will praise you. Ponder it and make it your heart’s determination.
2. Think about all their heart in verse 2 and upright heart in verse 7.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:7,62 (yada praise), Psalm 7:17, Luke 10:21, Hebrews 13:15.
I will obey your decrees… We come to the point of decision. Note how every blessing calls forth an “I will”: Blessed (verse 1)… Blessed (verse 2)… I will (verse 7)… I will (verse 8). Unless our wills are turned, we will not run the race. Unless our wills are settled on this, we won’t finish the course. Put bluntly, if we don’t want to do something, we won’t do it. God has motivated us with his promise of blessing, the high calling of diligently keeping His commandments, and the fear of shame. Now it’s decision time. I imagine the long branch of a tree. The psalmist crawls along the branch. He comes to a point where his weight has exceeded the strength of the branch. He hears the cracking as the branch begins to snap. But he’s gone too far to turn back! Even as you say I will obey yourdecrees, you’ve gone beyond what you can do. You can’t keep them – unless God is there to catch you!
I can promise, but I can’t fulfil. Help! Do not utterly forsake me. Utterly is the same word translated fully in verse 4. Those who recognise the excessive commands of God will call on the excessive mercy of God! You finish the first stanza utterly leaning on God. That’s not bad for a beginning!
Thank you Lord, for what I’ve learnt in this first stanza. Thank you for the treasures in store!
1. All who heard them laid them up in their hearts… (Luke 1:66 RSV). Do the same with this verse.
2. Meditate on verses 4,5 and 8. Obey means literally “to hedge about, guard or attend to”.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 8,53,87 (azab forsake), Psalms 38:21, 51:11, 1 Corinthians 9:27, Philippians 3:11.
FOR SIN SHALL NOT BE YOUR MASTER Romans 6:14
You cannot be a Christian for long before sin rears its ugly head. Progress in God cannot be made until sin is defeated and overthrown. Although some sins do disappear automatically because “there is no room for them”, others must be fought hand to hand and driven out inch by inch. Simply put, Psalm 119:1-3 says “fill your life with God and there’ll be no room for sin”. Psalm 1:1-2 says “cut sin out of your life and then you can fill it with God’s delightful word”. The verses before us contain vital pointers in that fight.
When I became a Christian, sexual impurity was my mortal enemy, and God gave me specific scriptures to fight it and gain the upper hand. (Job 31:1-12, Proverbs 6:20-29, 1 John 3:1-3) One that particularly bored into my heart and consumed me was Job 31.12: it would burn to the root all my increase (RSV). The awful thought of no growth, no progress was utterly unacceptable.
This is also the first mention of riches (another crucial issue in discipleship) and the wonderful dawning of delight. We do the things we delight in doing! The ultimate counter to sin is to delight so much in righteousness that it is very much our first choice.
Note also how the first three verses of this stanza are a response to the first three verses of the first stanza. To have the promise is not enough: we must lay hold of it, fulfil the conditions and make it our own.
The Hebrew letter that starts each of these verses is Beth, which means house. A good context to fight sin is to recognise the honoured guest who now resides in our bodies. Flee from sexual immorality…Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?(1 Corinthians 6:18,19)
There is a cry of desperation in this verse echoed by Paul in Romans 7:24: who will rescue me from this body of death? You may have tried many recipes and sought much counsel, or you may have battled privately in your heart with different life issues. The psalmist experienced similar battles. He had seen a promised blessing on those whose ways are blamelessand who do nothing wrong. He then faced up to where he was. How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. Pure has a sense of translucency and innocence. Way is a trodden road, as we saw in verse 1. Many of our sinful ways are regrettably “well trodden”. Our thoughts can often pass along the same ruts. We need new “well trodden” paths of meditating on God’s Word, until thinking scripture becomes more natural than our own wayward dreaming. He is concerned, not just about external correctness, but about his way, the attitudes and motivations of his whole life. And he has found a solution! Living is more correctly translated “obeying”. It is the same Hebrew word shamar, which is translated, “obey” in verses 4, 5 and 8.
1. Hold on to this word and guard it today. One of the purposes of meditation is to find the expression and emotion contained in the written word. Let his urgency and desperation get a grip on you today.
2. Meditate on this verse and verse 1.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm119:4,5,8,9,17,34,44,55,57,60,63,67,88,101,106,134, 136, 146, 158,167,168 (shamar obey, living), Psalm 19:7-14, 2 Timothy 1:14, 2:22.
I seek you with all my heart… Here is a vital key to victory over sin. The focus must not be sin but Christ! The more we dwell on sin the more it entangles us. God does not offer us victory over sin apart from Christ. We need Him! And we need to be wholehearted about it, determined, utterly longing for more of Him. Even as you do this, you will probably be aware of the weakness of your heart. Even with good resolves and beginnings, how easy it is for all of us to drift, and lose the ground we’ve gained. Hence another cry of desperation: do not let me stray from your commands. O that my ways may be steadfast…!
1. Mull over these words. Use them and expand them to pour out your heart and your longings to God.
2. Meditate on verse 2 and this verse.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 10, 21,118 (shaga stray), Psalm 78:37, Luke 8:15.
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Ah! We return to the key. Note the heart is the problem and the remedy must be applied there. How can we get the Word into the heart? Hidden has a sense of hoarding! Meditation hoards up the Word; it is the digestive process of the soul; it takes the word and chews it, breaking it into digestible pieces, depending on the Holy Spirit to slip it from your memory and mind into the heart. Specific sins need to be countered with specific scriptures. Ask God for this. Going skiing recently I was afraid of physical injury (if you saw my skiing you’d realise this was not entirely irrational!) Psalm 16:8-9 was my meditation and my song as I hurtled down the piste:…my body also will rest secure! Sin has the meaning of missing the mark. To sin against Him, is to miss Him. Utterly unacceptable!
1. I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread (Job 23:12). Do the same for this verse.
2. Consider verse 3 and this verse.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm119:2,10,11,32,34,36,58,69,70,80,111,112,145,161 (leb heart), Psalms 37:31, 40:8, Job 22:22, Proverbs 2:1,10, 3:1, Isaiah 51:7, Colossians 3:16, 2 Peter 1:4.
Praise be to you, O Lord… it’s wonderful to have a promise of blessing, it’s far more wonderful to have a blessed God! The KJV translates this phrase: Blessed art thou, O Lord. It is not just recommending an activity towards God, but a wonderful contemplation of who God is. Love for God’s word is not the end of the Christian life: it’s a means to an end…God himself. As these words grip and motivate you, worship this magnificent God, happy and overflowing in His joys! The Father delighting in His Son, the Spirit glorifying the Son, and the Son honouring the Father and the Spirit! (Matthew 3:17, John 8:49, 14:26, 16:14) Worship is entering into the mutual appreciation society of the Triune God. As we do that, we become so aware of our ignorance and foolishness. He is so far beyond us! Hence another heart-cry: teach me your decrees.
1. Ponder these words and let them take you into the presence of this Happy God!
2. A disciple is one who wants to be taught. Meditate on teach me and pray it deep into your heart. Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 12,26,64,66,68,108,124,135 (lamad teach), Psalm 143:10, 150:2, John 14:26, 1Timothy 1:11, 6:15, 1 John 2:27.
With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. Meditation is mainly an internal process, in our minds, absorbing truth into our hearts. The word must also be spoken out. One of the Hebrew words translated “meditate” means to “mutter”. What God wants is the word of Christ dwelling richly in every part of our lives: our dreams, thoughts, conversation and behaviour. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly… teach… admonish… sing” (Colossians 3:16). These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts…Talk about them…(Deuteronomy 6:6). Our praying is much more lively when spoken out loud. Tell a Christian friend one of the insights you’ve gained so far.
- Say this verse out loud over and over, asking the Holy Spirit to teach you.
- As you meditate on these words, give your lips to God. Ask God to speak through you to others today.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 13,26 (sapar recount), Psalm 96:3, 118:17, Deuteronomy 6:6,7 Matthew 10:27, 12:34, Acts 4:20, Colossians 3:16.
I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. If sin rears its ugly head early in the Christian life, love of money won’t be far behind. Here the psalmist gives you a target to aim for. It is as if he is saying: “let’s look at something in my life which I already highly prize and delight in. Here it is! Money! So my love for God’s word must be at least as great as that”. I will express that delight by the trouble and time I give to searching out the treasures of God’s word. Can you honestly say this verse before God? If so, thank Him for the grace that is already loosing you from the tyranny of the love of money. If not, ask Him to make it true for you.
1. Mutter this verse over and over to God, savouring each word, each phrase, and speak it out in adoration and commitment to God.
2. Meditate on this verse and 1 Timothy 6:9,10.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 14,162 (sus rejoice), Psalm 19:9,10, Matthew 6:24, 13:22.
I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. Meditate here means to ponder or talk aloud to yourself. Consider is the same word from verse 6, meaning to look at intently. Most of the verses of this psalm are Hebrew parallelisms: that is the expression of truth in two complementary statements, each enhancing and enlightening the other. So, here there is a clue about meditation. It is fixing your eyes on something, focussing, concentrating on something, and excluding distractions and lesser views from your gaze. Look at each word and each phrase, slowly. I encourage you to devote yourself to this practice. The KJV translates this verse I will meditate… Commit yourself to this practice. Set aside devoted time each day for this… meditating on each verse of this psalm. Then take out the treasures you’ve looked at as often as you can through the day. Go to sleep with your eyes fixed on His Word. Wake up and fill your thoughts with truth.
1. Meditate on this verse slowly, repeatedly through the day.
2. Consider this verse alongside verse 6.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:23,27,48,78,148 (siah meditate), Psalm 77:6, Joshua 1:8, James 1:25.
I delight in your decrees: I will not neglect your word. Delight here means to look upon with pleasure or to fondle. Neglect means forgetting or merely mislaying. Delight is one of the great keys of the Christian life. You’re bound to delight in something. We sin because we delight in sinning. We stop sinning when we find a greater delight in righteousness. We can train ourselves for delight (the KJV translates this verse I will delight… I will not forget…) Psalm 1 shows a delight in God’s word after cutting other things out. What unworthy delights are there which you need to cut out of your life, to make room for delighting in God’s word? We remember what we delight in. I will not forget… Set yourself a memorisation target. Perhaps you could memorise the first eight verses of this psalm (for a start). Then you have a store of food to chew over any time of day or night.
1. Luke 2:19 records: But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.Will you do the same with this verse today?
2. Meditate on verse 8 and this verse.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 16,47,70 (shaa delight), Psalm 40:8, Deuteronomy 4:9, Romans 7:22.
FOR OUR STRUGGLE IS NOT AGAINST FLESH AND BLOOD, BUT AGAINST RULERSEphesians 6:12
Any progress in the Christian life will always be opposed, first from within (the flesh resisting the Spirit), and second from without (the Devil and his forces). Sometimes these forces must be directly opposed (1Peter 5:9, Matthew 4:10). But we must not be distracted from our prime responsibility, which is to pursue God and all He has for us. Our first calling is to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might(Ephesians 6:10). It is the quality of the soldier and his weapons that are addressed in these verses, not the strategy for war. So arm yourself for the fight. Don’t let anything distract you. Resolve to press on and obtain the prize! Powerful enemies stand against us, rulers plot our downfall and who are we? Our identity is now addressed. First he was a young man (verse 9), now he is a servant and a sojourner. Our need is great!
Do good to your servant and I will live. I will obey your law. Goodis better rendered bountifully. The NRSV translates it: Deal bountifully with your servant, so that I may live and observe your word. What a beautiful thing to pray a prayer like this, to a God like ours. I am only a servant, but a master has responsibility for his servant. Your honour is at stake here, Master. You came to give me abundant life Lord, so that I will obey your law. The law says: “keep the law and you will live”. This is the gospel of grace: “live and keep the law”[i].
1. Revel in the wonder of these words! This is your own personal prayer to your Heavenly Father. Think about it and pray it often.
2. Consider verses 4,5,8,9 and 17… obey.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 17,23,38,49,65,76,84,91,122,124,125, 135,140,176 (ebed servant), Psalm 13:6, Ephesians 2:4,5, 3 John 1:2.
Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. One literal translation of this verse is: “Open my eyes that I may see… wonders out of your law!” As he prays his eyes are opened and he sees the wonders and exclaims in amazement! Make this your prayer every time you read the Word or meditate on it. Many wonders of the Bible are plain to see, but our eyes are veiled. The word wonderful means “that which is distinguished”. As you read or meditate, stay alert for the things that stand out to you, which God distinguishes for you. Welcome to wonderland!
1. Ponder over verses 6,15 and 18 all involving our eyes.
2. Meditate on Genesis 21:19 and this verse.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 18,37,82,123,136,148 (ayin eyes), Psalm 86:10, 146:8, Genesis 21:19, Numbers 22:31, 1 Samuel 1:12, 3:2, 4:15, John 9:39, Acts 26:18, 2 Corinthians 3:13-18, 4:4-6, Ephesians 1:17,18, Revelation 3:18.
I am a stranger on the earth; do not hide your commandments from me. Strangerhas the meaning of sojourner: someone who is on the earth for a short time. The first obstacle to enjoying the Bible is our blindness. The second is the veiling of scripture: some things are hard to understand. How helpless we are! Our eyes are blind, the truth is hidden and we are on unfamiliar ground, for we are merely passing through this world.
1. Meditate on verses 9, 17 and 19, considering your identity.
2. Ponder the second half of the verse and Proverbs 25:2.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 64,87,90,119 (eres earth), Psalm 39:12, Genesis 47:9, 1 Chronicles 29:15, Proverbs 25:2, Luke 9:45, 18:34, 2 Peter 3:16.
My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times. The word consumed means “crushed, broken or dissolved “. Here is a man who is desperate to get the Word into him. How desperate are you? How determined are you to keep pondering on the truth, time and time again until light breaks forth? God does not find our desires too great but too small! One of the most tragic words in the English language is velleity, meaning a mere inclination, a weak desire, not strong enough to lead to action. Don’t settle for velleity but for strong passions, which bring change.
1.My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you…(Proverbs 2:1). Do this for this verse today.
2. Longing… What do you long for?
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 20,25,28,81,109,129,167,175 (nephesh
soul), Psalms 42:1, 63:1, 84:2, Song of Songs 5:8, Matthew 5:6.
You rebuke the arrogant who are cursed and who stray from your commands.
In verse 10 the psalmist prayed: do not let me stray from your commands. Now he describes those who do. Lord, I thought wandering was due to carelessness, and was inevitable and excusable. But your Word lays bare the roots. Pride lies behind my backsliding. I’m pursuing your blessing not your curse. I’m coming as a servant and a stranger. I need you. Don’t let me wander.
1. Think about verse 10 and verse 21.
2. Think on verses1, 2 and 21.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 21 and 78, (what happens to the arrogant) Psalm 138:6, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5.
Remove from me scorn and contempt, for I keep your statutes. Remove is, more literally, roll away. Scorn could be rebuke or reproach. Suddenly the battle intensifies. These proud, wandering people oppose me and their wounds hurt! These are not to be ignored or underestimated. These wounds can knock us seriously off course. So “roll them away, Lord”. I keep your statutes. Lord, I’m determined to have your blessing. I’m hanging on to your word.
1. Have I been knocked off course by scorn and contempt? Ponder these words.
2. Think on v.2 and v.22.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:22,39 (herpa scorn), Psalms 22:7, 42:10, 79:4, 123:4, Hebrews 13:13, 1 Peter 3:16.
Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servant will meditate on your decrees. Usually it is people who revile and oppress us, but behind them are terrible spiritual forces plotting our downfall. But they won’t succeed! Our Lord has them in derision (Psalm 2:4)! Keep meditating on His Word. What a powerful act of spiritual warfare this is! Remain focussed on His word. Don’t be distracted.
1. Compare this verse with Ephesians 6.12 and meditate on them.
2. Think on verses 15 and 23.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 23,161 (sar princes), Psalms 2:1-4, 27:2,3, Ephesians 6:10-12.
Your statutes are my delight, they are my counsellors. I hope you’re already feeling the benefit of your meditations. Can you say with relish: your statutes are my delight? This delight is a slightly different word from that found in verse 16, and means enjoyment or pleasure. It is an essential ingredient of godliness. If that isn’t true for you yet, don’t panic! It will come. Press on and God will give it to you. You have the wonderful Counsellor as your constant companion. Any time of day or night He can breathe His wisdom into your soul. And He usually does it through His written word. God’s words are a “multitude of counsellors”! One of our great needs is to put truth alongside truth. One of the Greek words in the New Testament translated understanding means “a sending together”. We need to meditate on a specific verse word by word, savouring each part. We then need to compare that verse with other verses to gain understanding.
1. Luke 2:51 records: But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.Do the same with this verse.
2. Where do you need counsel at present? Ask God to speak to you through His Word specifically. Ponder this verse.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:24, 77, 92, 143, 174 (shaashuim delight), Psalm 1:2, 2 Timothy 3:15.
[i] Charles Spurgeon in The Treasury of David
WHO WILL RESCUE ME FROM THIS BODY OF DEATH?Romans 7:24
The second stanza of the psalm (verses 9-16) looked at our battle against specific sins. This stanza deals with the power of sin itself: that power at work in me to drag me down and corrupt me. It opens with words loaded with despair and shame. It is an example of the law of the wilderness: everything reverts to disorder and decay if not guarded and cultivated. It describes that great tendency of our souls to become degraded and lifeless. Romans 7 could be a commentary on these verses, but Romans 7 swiftly finds its way to: Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord… because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death (Romans 7:25 and 8:2). This stanza also ends in wonderful liberty. They start with our feet stuck fast in the miry pit and end with them running in the way of His commandments!
The “trodden road” of verse 1 is mentioned 5 times in this stanza: my ways(verse 26), the teaching of your precepts(verse 27), deceitful ways (verse 29), the way of truth(verse 30), the path of your commands(verse 32). How hard to get engrained habits out of our lives, and to get good ones in! But God can do it.
Some of the keys to this transformation are contained in these verses: revival praying, honesty before God, meditating on His wondrous works, dealing with sorrow and lying, decisive choices, holding fast to His word and an enlarged heart. All these are described here. What jewels to be admired, what treasure to be quarried! Happy meditating!
I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word. The RSV expresses this more powerfully: My soul cleaves to the dust. The Hebrew word translated laid low means to cling or adhere, and is the same word used in verse 31 as hold fast. It describes the great power of the flesh to drag us earthwards, and so the cry for help. Preserve my life is also translated revive me (RSV), or just “give me life”! This is one answer to every spiritual malaise: more life!
1. Ponder the first half of this verse. Ask the Spirit to show you areas of your life where you are stuck fast or addicted. Pray: revive me!
2. Try a longer meditation. Follow this phrasepreserve my life or revive me through the whole psalm (see verses below).
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:17,25,37,40,50,77,88,93,107,116, 144,149,154,156,159,175 (haya preserve my life), Psalms 19:7, 44:25, 71:20, 103:14, Genesis 3:24, Colossians 3:1 and 2.
I recounted my ways and you answered me; teach me your decrees. God hates hypocrisy, but he can’t resist honesty! Recountedmeans literally: “to score with a mark as a record or tally”. These words could also be translated: “I told it like it is and you responded to me”. Oh, how God loves to draw near to honest hearts! This is beautifully repeated in the life of Jesus. He is teaching the people and they say: here he is, speaking publicly (John 7:26). The meaning is not just “public speaking” but honestly, openly, declaring his heart. The same Greek word is found in Hebrews 4:16: let us approach the throne of grace…with confidence (that is openly, telling it like it is!)… so that you may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. What are you waiting for?
1. Repeat over and over this magnificent promise. As you do, trust God that you can also experience it!
2. Write down “your ways” before the Lord. Let Him “respond to you”.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 26, 42, 145, 172(ana answered) Psalm 19:1, 1 Kings 8:36.
Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders. You need understanding before you can meditate, and meditation brings understanding! This “victorious circle” explains why it is difficult to get into spiritual disciplines, but once you’re in them things get better and better! I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given… said Jesus (Luke 19:26). The Hebrew word that is translated understand, has to do with mentally separating things or distinguishing between things. The word that is translated wonders also has to do with separation, something separated by its greatness!
1. Meditate on verses 18 and 27. What wonders can you think of described in the Bible? What wonders have you personally experienced? Ponder over them.
2. Think about verses 26 and 27.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:34,73,95,100,104,125,130,144,169 (bin understand), Psalms 46:8,9, 71:17, 105:2,5, 145:5, Acts 2:11, Revelation 15:3.
My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. The word translated weary means drips, weeps, melts or pours out, and sorrow is depression or heaviness. Strengthen means more literally: rouse up, establish or confirm. How helpful it is to identify what affects our souls: what builds us up and fills us with joy, and what drags us down and contracts our souls. What affects you: the weather, the season, the football results, the books you read or the imaginations of your hearts? How easy to become overburdened! But there is a great remedy; another magnificent prayer that God’s word will have its powerful effect on us; strengthen me!
1. Meditate on verses 20, 25 and 28. How is it with your soul? Don’t be afraid to tell it like it is!
2. Ponder the phrase strengthen me: take it deep into your heart. Pray it over and over to God. Take it with you today as a recurrent prayer and meditation, whatever you are doing.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 38, 62, 106 (qum strengthen), Psalm 29:11, 113:7, Ephesians 3:16, Philippians 4:13.
Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through your law. A literal translation of the first half of this verse would be: “turn aside from me the way of falsehood”. Be gracious involves “bending in kindness to an inferior”. Ways are the trodden paths of verse 1. How quickly lying becomes a “trodden path”! When you’ve walked it long enough, it becomes automatic. How subtly lying infiltrates our lives! Deep-rooted problems need radical answers: cut it out wherever it appears and replace it with the Word of truth.
1. Ponder deceitful ways and allow God to search your life.
2. Meditate on this verse and Ephesians 4:25.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:102,115 (cuwr keep), Psalm 37:27, 1 John 1:8, Revelation 22:15.
I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws. Truth here is firmness, security or fidelity. The second phrase is also translated: I set your ordinances before me (RSV). Note the decisive choice for truth. Truth is not just the absence of falsehood: it is the positive force we need in our lives to displace lying. Spurgeon comments on verses 29 and 30: “no sooner do we meet with the word ‘graciously’ than we hear the footfall of truth: ‘I have chosen the way of truth’”[i].
1. Deceitful ways in verse 29 and the way of truth in this verse.
2. Think about verses 29 and 30 alongside John 1:17: grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:173(bahar chosen), Psalm 84:10, Deuteronomy 30:19, Luke 10:42.
I hold fast to your statutes, o Lord; do not let me be put to shame. Hold fastis the laid lowof verse 25. As we saw in verse 25, the word translatedthere aslaid lowhas its root in the idea of cleaving.The same word appears in the account of Eleazar the son of Dodai, one of David’s mighty warriors: He stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword. The Lord brought a great victory that day (2 Samuel 23:9 and 10). He used his sword so much it cleaved to his hand. Meditate: keep poring over the Word of God! May your cleaving to God’s Word be stronger than your cleaving to the world!
1. Verses 25 and this verse.
2. Verses 6 and this verse.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 6, 46, 78, 80, 116(bosh shame), Psalm 25:2, Deuteronomy 10:20, Ruth 1:14,2:8,21,23, 1 John 2:28.
I run in the path of your commands for you have set my heart free. Set my heart freemeans literally to enlarge, broaden, make room or make open. I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart (KJV). Sense the vigour and eagerness! What a contrast to the lethargy and reluctance of verse 25! All because of an enlarged heart! God did it for the psalmist; he can do it for you.
1. Jesus said: He who has ears, let him hear(Matthew 11:15). Really hear the words of this verse.
2. Meditate on verses 25 and 32.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 1,3,5,14,26,27,29,30,32,33,37,59, 168 (derek path, “trodden road”), Psalm 18:36, 147:15, Song of Solomon 1:4, 1 Corinthians 9:24, Galatians 5:7, Hebrews 12:1.
[i] Quoted in The Treasury of David
APART FROM ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING John 15:5
The knowledge of awesome enemies, both within and without, should cast us wholly on God. We desperately need his help in every part of our lives, as you will see spelt out in these verses. We also need to remember our dependence on God when we are running well. The Word of God is blessing you, you feel your heart enlarging towards God and His purposes, and new passion and desire are springing up within you! Maybe things are going well. At just such moments we need the reality of these verses. We cast off deceitful ways, but with them we must rid ourselves of pride that clings so closely. Two great partners in the Christian life are deep dependence on God and radical, decisive action. We need both. The first alone could encourage gross laziness; the second alone is sheer presumption.
Teach me, o Lord, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. The Hebrew word for teach is a specific word used as in shooting an arrow or pointing out with the finger. Keepmeans to guard, as of a tender plant. The end is literally the heel or the target. Ask God to speak to you specifically today. Be thorough in your obedience: keep what He shows you “to the heel”. Notice how often “teach me” appears in this psalm. Repetition is good, vain repetition is what is condemned. Spurgeon put it so aptly: “A sense of great slowness to learn, leads us to seek a great teacher”[i].
1. Verse 4 and this verse.
2. Verse 102 and this verse.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 2,22,33,34,56,69,100,115,129,145 (nasar keep), Psalm 25:8,12, Deuteronomy 5:22, Matthew 24:13, John 6:45, 8:6-8, 13:18.
Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Note the progression described here. Teaching by the Holy Spirit brings an understanding of God’s will, which leads to obedience. But that alone is not enough! We must aim for wholehearted obedience. The heart is crucial to true obedience!
1. Slowly ponder each word of this verse. Digest it.
2. Meditate on verse 27 and this verse.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 2,6,10,13,14,20,34,58,63, 69,86,91,96,97,99,101, 104,118,119,128,133,151,160,168,172 ( whole), Psalm 32:9, Proverbs 2: 5,6, John 7:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 1 John 5:10.
Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Direct medoes not just mean “point out the way”. If you’re lost, how much more helpful is a guide than a set of directions! The word is “tread, walk”: that is “make me walk” or “lead me”. It is not enough, Lord, for you to point out the way to me, because I can’t walk it without you. You’ve given me understanding, now take my hand and lead me. The word pathis a different word from our “trodden road”, suggesting perhaps a smaller, more difficult way. What is my motivation? Yes, here it is again: delight!
1. Take each word of this verse, praying it over. Memorise it. Feed on it through the day.
2. Verse 105 and this verse.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 35,105 (netiba path), Psalm 23:3, Deuteronomy 32:12, Proverbs 4:11, Philippians 2:13.
Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.How we need Him! Our hearts are the key, but how can we change our desires and motivations? Our hearts need a “natural bent” to His statutes. So many things in the world attract our hearts. We need a greater passion for the beautiful Word of God. Pray this prayer with fervour.
1. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. (Proverbs 2:10) Believe this promise as you meditate.
2. Verse 14 and this verse.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 36,51,112,157 (nata turn), Psalms 51:10, 141:4, 1 Samuel 8:3, 1 Kings 8:58, Ezekiel 11: 19,20, Mark 7:21,22.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. Our feet, minds and hearts have all been presented to God: now it is the eyes. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light (Matthew 6:22). This phrase turn my eyes away could be translated: “make my eyes to pass”. Your eyes will see many things today, which could entice your heart. May God cause your eyes to pass over them, not to linger. See how deep is our dependence! It is not only a matter of choosing, of using our wills and staying focussed, but we also need Him to turn our eyes.
1. Ponder these words, asking God to bring you into a deep sense of dependence on Him.
2. Verse 25 and this verse.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 37 and 39 (abar turn), Psalm 71:20, 131:1,2, Genesis 3:6, 1 John 2:16.
Fulfil your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared. Even when we have received and believed His Word, we are still utterly dependent on Him to fulfil it and establish it. It is by faith and patience we inherit the promises and that involves a deep dependence on God to bring it to pass. In the waiting, the fear of God, and the awe of His power and ways, will grow.
1. Ponder the words of this verse and stand in awe.
2. Verses 17, 23 and this verse.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:28, 38, 62, 106 (qum fulfil), Psalm 111:10, Hebrews 6:12.
Take away the disgrace I dread, for your laws are good. When my children were young, I played a game with them. On the way to their bedroom they had to pass a cupboard, in which, I claimed, lived a crocodile! So they always ran quickly past that cupboard and “the crocodile in the cupboard” lurked in their dreams for sometime. What “crocodiles in the cupboard” lurk deep, or not so deep, in your subconscious, spoiling your walk and taking the edge off your joy? Here is the antidote. God is a good God and His Word is to do us good, not harm.
1. Two different types of fear: verses 38 and 39.
2. Verses 22 and 39: scorn and disgrace are the same Hebrew word.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 39, 65, 68, 71, 72, 122 (tob good), Psalm 69:20, Joshua 5:9, Mark 14:5, Romans 7:12.
How I long for your precepts! Preserve my life in your righteousness. A deep dependence brings deep longings for God’s Word, which is the answer to our deepest needs. This verse begins literally: behold, look! He is saying: “Look at me, I long for your precepts!” Could your desires and longings endure long scrutiny? They certainly will if you continue in this psalm. Don’t give up!
1. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (Philippians 4:8). Do this, for this verse.
2. Meditate on verses 25, 37 and 40: revive me!
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 174(taab long), Psalm 31:1, John 5:21, Philippians 3:13.
[i] The Treasury of David
HOW GREAT IS THE LOVE THE FATHER HAS LAVISHED ON US 1 John 3:1
The purpose of this book is to inspire you to love the Word of God. Now we have reached the point of declaring our love for the Word. What does it mean to love the Bible? It involves a deep affection and longing for it certainly, but what is described here? First there is a trust in the Word, then hope in it, delight (of course!) and honour and respect. But it all begins with a personal visitation of the love of God. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us(1 John 4:10). Loving God and His Word must begin with God’s love piercing my defences and reaching the depths of my being. We cannot be satisfied with the theory only; we must have the practice. We need the Word and the Spirit: not just theoretical knowledge of God’s love, but living experiences of it.
Fascinatingly, every verse of this stanza begins with “and”. They are all interlinked with each other, and with the last verse of the previous stanza. It is always good to see verses in their context, so how much more with a passage like this where all the verses have been deliberately linked together. This is why I like memorising chunks of the Bible so that I can meditate on whole groups of verses at a time. Why not try it for this stanza.
May your unfailing love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise.What a tragedy to live day after day under the steadfast love of God, oblivious of the mercies that are new every morning, not knowing deep down that He loves me. This is an intense, personal prayer. Make it your prayer until you experience it for yourself, and then pray it for your whole life, because this love is a vast ocean whose depths are never plumbed! It comes to us by the Spirit (Romans 5:5) and by the Word.
1. Dwell on each word and phrase: make it your own.
2. Meditate on this verse and Romans 5:5.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 64,76, 88, 124, 149, 159 (hesed mercies), Psalms 17:7, 21:7, 36:10, 85:10, 86:15, Genesis 21:1, Ephesians 3:17-19.
Then I will answer the one who taunts me, for I trust in your word. Trust here means to run for refuge, to be confident or sure; taunt means to pull off, expose or upbraid. The love of God unlocks our lives like nothing else does. It gives us an unshakeable defence against the taunts and reproaches of our enemies. Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). Your faith grows as you hear the word of God, not just with your ear, but also with your heart.
1. Take each word and phrase: say it slowly, placing emphasis on different words.
2. Meditate on this verse and Romans 10:17.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 66, Psalms 21:7, 42:10, 125:1,2, Acts 27:25, 1 Peter 2:23.
Do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope in your laws.The Hebrew gives the flavour of the word of truth “utterly” taken out of my mouth. It is a strong word implying vehemence or completeness. We met it before in verses 4 and 8. Don’t be afraid to tell it like it is! Some days speaking anything out loud, or praying at all, seems beyond us. We can bring our bad days and our desperation to God!
1. Mull over this verse phrase by phrase. Memorise it and return to it often.
2. Meditate on verses 42 and 43 together.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 49, 74, 81, 114, 147 (yahal hope), Psalm 51:15, Romans 15:4.
I will always obey your law for ever and ever. Always has the sense of continually, and also regularly, daily. What an incredible statement of utter and total surrender this is! Only one thing can bring this response from a man: the love of God! May your unfailing love come to me, O LORD! I would strongly recommend memorising this entire psalm, but some verses of the Bible should be in the memory, and frequently on the tongue, of every Christian. Verse 41 is one such verse!
1. My son, do not forget my teaching,but keep my commands in your heart (Proverbs 3:1). Do this for this verse today.
2. Verses 8 and 44.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 44,109,117 (tamid always), Psalm 71:14, 1 Thessalonians 5:15.
I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. Freedommeans a large place. Sought is to tread or frequent: it implies regular seeking, day after day. Isn’t this a magnificent promise? If you continue to seek out His precepts, you will walk in a spacious place, room enough for your enlarged heart to dance, sing, worship and obey!
1. Use your imagination as you meditate. Let the Holy Spirit show you “large places”.
2. Meditate on verses 2, 10 and 45.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 44, 96 (rahab liberty), Psalm 4:1, 18:19, 36, James 1:25.
I will speak of your statutes before kings, and will not be put to shame. We read earlier: Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servant will meditate on your decrees.The Lord’s servant is immovable when threatened by rulers, but now he also speaks. Love unlocks the tongue; love breaks the hold of the fear of man.
1. Ponder these words. Repeat them over and over.
2. Meditate on verses 23 and 46.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 23, 46 (dabar speak, slander), Psalm 127:5, Mark 13:9, 2 Timothy 1:8.
For I delight in your commands because I love them. Delight is to look upon, to fondle or to amuse. When we truly love, there is a delight in just looking and pondering. Just as we love God and so love to be with Him, without using it as an opportunity to obtain something from Him, so when we love the Word, there is a proper delight in appreciating the Word itself. The Word must be heard and applied, but don’t rush that process. Meditating is also delighting in the Word!
1. Take these words and “fondle” them in your mind.
2. Verse 16 and 47.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 47, 48, 97, 113, 119, 127, 132, 140, 159, 163,165,167 (ahab love), Psalm 112:1, Job 23:12, Romans 7:22.
I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and I meditate on your decrees. Lovein this verse and 47 means to have affection for (both sensually and otherwise). It is a strong word! Note how the love of God has come to me, has caused me to speak out my affection, and now is causing my hands to rise to express my delight. God’s love demands a response from the whole of my body and soul! As you meditate, your love for God’s word begins to grow. As your love grows, so you meditate. Another “victorious circle” to enjoy!
1. Jesus said: Listen to me, everyone, and understand this (Luke 7:14). As you meditate on this verse, get understanding.
2. Meditate on verses 15, 23 and 48.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 48,109 (kap hand), Psalm 28:2, 63:4, 1 Timothy 2:8.
REMEMBER THE WORDS I SPOKE TO YOU John 15:20
We need magnificent experiences of the love of God, and we need to treasure up His Word, hold on to it and not let it go. In other words, we need to remember it. “Remembering” in the Bible probably involves action more than just memory, but it certainly includes memory! The word translated “remember” appears only three times in this psalm, and all three are in this stanza. However, we are also encouraged again and again not to forget His Word. It is relatively easy to remember something, but it is a lot more difficult not to forget it again! In 1989, God told me to memorise John’s gospel. 13 years later I finished the task, and now I’ve got the difficult task of retaining it, not forgetting it again! What benefits have flowed into my life through this are beyond my comprehension. Give yourself to memorising scripture. Be methodical and disciplined. Set yourself realistic targets. What about Psalm 1 to start with, and that should whet your appetite for Psalm 119! A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. Memorising 176 verses is not so hard one by one!
This stanza finds the psalmist suffering, opposed by his enemies, yet refusing to let go of God’s word and finding joy in it!
Remember your word to your servant for you have given me hope. Remember thy word to thy servant, in which thou hast made me hope (RSV). Hope means to wait, to be patient. What an unbeatable formula for prayer! True prayer always starts with God. The word or promise is God’s (your word, literally “the word”); the promise has been given to His servant (your servant, making my welfare His responsibility); He is faithful (you have given me hope). What promises has God given to you? “Show Him His handwriting”, as Thomas Manton said[i].
1. Meditate and pray this verse.
2. Verses 38 and 49.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:43, 74, 81, 114,147 (yahal hope), Psalm 74:2, 105:5, Nehemiah 13:31, Romans 15:4,13.
My comfort in my suffering is this: your promise preserves my life. If we start with God, His character and His promises, then we can bring our complaint to Him with confidence. Note the My… my… my… of this verse, as against the your… your… you…of verse 49. The great truth of this verse is this: the Word of God, not our circumstances, is our comfort.
1. Dwell on each word of this verse. Emphasise the my!
2. Consider this verse alongside verse 40.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 52, 76, 82 (nehama comfort), Psalm 94:19, 132:1, Judges 2:18,19, Romans 5:3, 15:4.
The arrogant mock me without restraint but I do not turn from your law.
Here is the suffering, which the psalmist was experiencing: the bad-mouthing of the arrogant (arrogantmeans “to boil up, act presumptuously or rebelliously”). We have already met these arrogant in verse 21 and we will meet them again! Without restraintis the fully andutterly of verses 4 and 8. No wonder we need to be wholehearted in our obedience because our enemies are wholehearted in their antagonism. We do not live in a neutral world: we are at war! However, as William Plumer remarked: “it does not hurt the Christian to have the dogs bark at him”[ii]!
1. Verses 21 and 51.
2. Verses 36 and 51.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 21,69,78,85,122 (zed arrogant), Psalm 1:1, Nehemiah 4:1-4, Luke 23:35.
I remember your ancient laws, O LORD, and I find comfort in them.Laws are literally “judgments”, bringing a contrast between the judgments of the arrogant and now of God Himself. Note also, the beautiful contrast: if we ask God to remember His Word (verse 49), surely we must remember His! First the psalmist found comfort from the fact that the Word of God gave him life. Now he finds comfort in the Word itself. Suffering tends to lock us into what we are experiencing now: it narrows our perspective. I find it so helpful to ponder these words and then think of all the saints who have taken these same words and found comfort, before I was ever born!
1. Bind them around your neck,write them on the tablet of your heart(Proverbs 3:2). Do this for this verse today.
2. Verses 49 and 52.
Other relevant scriptures; Psalm 119: 49,52,55 (zakar remember), Psalm 77:5,11,12, Deuteronomy 32:7, 2 Peter 2: 4-9.
Indignation grips me because of the wicked who have forsaken your law. Indignation is a burning wind mentioned as part of God’s terrible judgement in Psalm 11:6. God is a passionate God! As we become more like Him, strong feelings will arise in us: compassion, of course, as we consider the fate of the godless, but also righteous anger. But remember: our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12).
1. Ponder these words, asking God for His passion.
2. Verses 8 and 53.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 8, 87 (azab forsake), Psalm 11:6, Nahum 1:6, John 2:14-17.
Your decrees are the theme of my song wherever I lodge. This is another way of handling scripture: put it to song! I hope the Word of God is so blessing you that you are singing for joy. You probably already enjoy singing songs that are based on scripture, but you can make up melodies of your own to sing these verses to God.
1. This verse and Colossians 3:16.
2. This verse and Ephesians 5:18 and 19.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 19, Psalm 95:2, 96:1 and 2, Job 35:10, Song of Songs 2:12.
In the night I remember your name, o Lord, and I will keep your law.The glorious promise of Psalm 1 is to the man who meditates day and night. One third of your life is a long time, and that’s how long you spend sleeping! I find nighttime a great time for meditating. I go to sleep running over a verse or verses in my mind. If I wake in the night, I return to it, and when I wake in the morning I try to quickly focus on it again. Rarely, I awake and am aware that I’ve been excited by a verse all through my sleep. Note the connection between the night (I remember your name) and the day (I keep your law).
1. Whenever you choose to meditate, try this verse tonight, as well as through the day.
2. Remember: verses 49, 52 and 55.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 55,132 (shem name), Psalm 1:2, 63:6, 134:1, John 15:10.
This has been my practice: I obey your precepts. This is a difficult verse to translate. This I had, because I kept thy precepts (KJV). “This has been my reward that I obey your precepts” is Michael Wilcock’s suggestion[iii]. There seems another “victorious circle” here: I will keep…I obey… I have promised to obey. There seems to me a sense of wonder in these words. Obedience is not something I “work up”, but something He “works in”! It’s all of grace. But don’t be misled, it is not automatic. God has given us “means of grace”: there are things that we do, that are vehicles of God’s grace to us. The Word of God is a major means of grace to us. Keep meditating!
1. Jesus said: Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?(Mark 8:18). See, hear and remember this verse.
2. This verse and Philippians 2:12 and 13.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 32, 56, 74, 100, 139, 159, 171 ( because), Psalm 18:21, Song of Songs 6:12, Mark 4:26, 27.
[i] Psalm 119 Volume 1 by Thomas Manton
[ii] Quoted in The Treasury of David
[iii] The Message of Psalms 79-150 by Michael Wilcock
MY BELOVED IS MINE AND I AM HIS Song of Songs 2:16
There are many beautiful verses in this Psalm. Hopefully you’ve come to love some of them already! But the ones I love best are the verses that show me my God! Love for the Word is not the final goal: it is a means to loving God. My lover is like a gazelle or a young stag. Look! There he stands behind our wall, gazing through the windows, peering through the lattice (Song of Songs 2:9). The scriptures are like windows or a lattice. You can look at the window, but best of all is to see the One gazing in through the lattice. And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself (Luke 24:27). Jesus expounds the scriptures to show Himself to his disciples. Jesus is looking out of the Bible, longing for you to see Him! The Holy Spirit is alongside you as your personal teacher. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit…will teach you all things (John 14:26).He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you(John 16:14). We start this stanza with a wonderful revelation of who God is, and finish it finding Him everywhere! In the middle, he prays earnestly, obeys rapidly, refuses to be deflected and still makes time for praise and Christian fellowship. David Dickson suggests this stanza contains eight characteristics of a healthy Christian[i]. Can you find them? Enjoy your portion as you meditate on this stanza.
You are my portion, O LORD; I have promised to obey your words. More literally this reads: “My portion, O Lord!” It’s a cry of wonder and delight, a most bold and wonderful address to the Creator of the Universe! Note how it is tied up with determination and commitment to keep the law. Verses 55 (keep) and 57 (obey) are the same word as that in verse 4, literally to hedge about and guard. Verse 56 (obey) is the same as verse 2, literally “to keep, as of a tender plant”.
1. Dwell on these words; take Jesus as your portion today.
2. Verses 56 and 57 together.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:12,68,114,137,151,156 (God’s character), Psalm 16:5, 142:5, Deuteronomy 32:9, Lamentations 3:24, Ephesians 1:13,14.
I have sought your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise. Note how possessing God does not lead to lethargy, but causes us to long for more, as John Piper put it: “It might seem that those who eat most would be least hungry. But that’s not how it works with an inexhaustible fountain and an infinite feast and a glorious Lord. When you begin to drink at the River of Life and eat the Bread of Heaven and know that you have found the end of all your longings, you only get hungrier for God.[ii]” Enter into the passion of this verse today.
1. Stay with this verse: ponder it, pray it, and yearn for intimacy with your Portion.
2. Verses 29, 32 and 58.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:135,169,170 (paneh face), Psalm 27:8, Malachi 1:9, Hebrews 10:22.
I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes. Considered means to plait or weave: it suggests great care and attention to detail. Note the total connection between thought and action. Beware of theory without practice! This verse suggests healthy self-examination leading to changed lifestyle.
1. This verse and Luke 15:17 and 18.
2. Verses 59 and 79.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:101,105 (regel feet), Psalms 19:7, 77:5, 2 Corinthians 13:5.
Passionate seeking after God, leads to passionate obedience for God. I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands. Hasten means to hurry, eager with excitement!Delayed obedience is disobedience. Beware of practising spiritual disciplines without practical reformation of character and lifestyle. Adam Clarke suggests the word delay could be translated “stand what-what-whating”[iii], or we might say: “shilly-shallying”. Note the positive hastenand negative not delay, very emphatic language. I think this could be because God thinks this is quite important! Then surely this is a normal response to a God who has given Himself to me without reservation, my wonderful portion!
1. This verse is too challenging to dilute with other verses. Just stay with it, and God give you grace!
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 32, Psalm 70:1, 147:15, Genesis 19:16, Song of Songs 1:4, Matthew 4:22.
Never imagine you can cocoon yourself from troubles and difficulties. Jesus said: In this world you will have trouble (John 16:33). So here come our enemies again! Though the wicked bind me with ropes, I will not forget your law. This can be translated: The cords of the wicked entangle me (RSV), or the bands of the wicked have robbed me (KJV). Neither sounds very nice, but the psalmist refuses to be deflected!
1. My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight(Proverbs 3:21). Don’t let this verse out of your sight today.
2. Verses 16 and 61.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:16,61,83, 93, 109, 139, 141, 153, 176 (shakah forget), Psalms 3:1, 17:11, 18:4,5, Romans 12:20,21.
At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws. Sometimes we need to lie on our beds meditating: other times we need to get up and praise Him! There are many components to the Christian life and we need all of them. We certainly can’t do without praise. It opens the door to further revelation (Psalm 119:108). It is the only response to this God who is our Portion.
1. This verse and Mark 1:35.
2. Verses 55 and 62.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 55,62 (layla night), Psalm 63:5, Luke 18:7, 23:46, Acts 16:25.
Christianity is not just “God and me”, but I relate to God within the context of Christian community. The church is God’s instrument for our discipleship, and God’s means of reaching a lost world. It is also the apple of His eye! Church is not optional, nor something we do. It is part of our identity. I am a friend of all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts. Note the inclusiveness of fellowship with other Christians: not just the ones I like, but all!
1. Ponder this verse: “consider your ways” in the light of it.
2. Think about verses 63 and 115.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 63,120 (yare fear), Psalms 15:4, 16:3, 26:5, 87:4-6, 101:6, 113:1, Proverbs 13:20, 1 John 3:14.
The earth is filled with your love, O LORD; teach me your decrees. Is nature red in tooth and claw? Yes. But when the Lord is my Portion everything looks different. Look around you at the marvels and beauty of creation, and you too can exclaim with joy:the earth is filled with your love! No matter how satisfied we are in God, or how full we are of God, there’s always room for more, and we can never graduate from being disciples. Our prayer will still be: teach me.
1. Jesus said: But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop (Luke 8:15). Persevere! Enjoy this verse today.
2. Psalm 19:1 and this verse.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 41,64,76,88,124,149,159 (hesed love), Psalms 8:1,9, 24:1, 33:5, 48:10, 57:10, Habakkuk 3:3, Matthew 6:25-30.
[i] Quoted in The treasury of David
[ii] John Piper Hunger for God
[iii] Quoted in The Treasury of David
WHY DO YOU CALL ME GOOD? NO ONE IS GOOD – EXCEPT GOD ALONE.Mark 10:18
Another explosion of revelation bursts upon us! Praise be to you, O LORD (verse 13); You are my portion, O LORD (verse 57); You are good (verse 68). The bridegroom looks in through the lattice and reveals Himself to our eyes! Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them (Isaiah 30:20). We need to be taught, but most of all we need to know our teacher. The psalmist is wrestling with afflictions and enemies. He first found comfort in his affliction (verse 50); then he finds purpose in his affliction (verse 67); then he recognizes God’s goodness in his affliction (verse 71). Trouble is bound to come. Everything in your life may be shouting that God is not good, that He doesn’t care. Verse 68 is literally surrounded by affliction (verse 67) and enemies (verse 69)! But as John Piper says: “when things are going ‘bad’ that doesn’t mean God has stopped doing good. It means that he is shifting things around to get them in place for more good, if you will go on loving him”.
Do good to your servant according to your word, O LORD. Some translations put this in the past tense: Thou hast dealt well… (RSV and KJV). You can certainly pray this with thanksgiving! According to your word is a recurrent phrase throughout this psalm, which can have several different meanings. It may be according to a specific word from God, as with Mary (Luke 1:38). It may be according to the general teaching of scripture (Do good to your servant may then include “bad” things which God will transform into greater good!). It may include the power of God’s word itself to do us good. Jesus said: The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life (John 6:63). The word itself has power to bring about in us what it promises. Hence the need to meditate!
1. Let the words of this verse penetrate your heart.
2. Meditate on verses 17 and 65.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 9,25,28,41,58,65,76,107,116,154,169,170 (according to your word), Psalm 13:6, Luke 1:38.
Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands. Judgment means taste or perception, while believe means build up, foster, render firm, or trust. Note the repetition of teach me. He only prayed this two verses ago, and he’s going to pray it again in two verses time! Don’t be afraid to keep praying it for yourself. Believe in your commands includes faith in the God who gave the commands, and His power in us to bring about the obedience of faith(Romans 1:5).
1. Ponder these words asking God to answer this prayer. Where do you need good judgment today?
2. This verse and Hebrews 5:14.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 7,12,26,64,66,68,71,73,99,108,124,135,171 (lamad teach), Psalm 72:1,2, Philippians 1:9.
No one wants to have a hard life, but the truth is we wander and grow lazy without discipline. This is the psalmist’s testimony: Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. Spurgeon commented: “often our trials act as a thorn hedge to keep us in good pasture, but our prosperity is a gap through which we go astray”[i]. We have a good God who wants the best for us, not just our ease and comfort. Can you give the same personal testimony? Let God convince you of this truth, not just from your experience, but as you let this word impact your life today.
1. Ponder this verse before God.
2. Verses 50 and 67.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 67,71,75,107 (ana affliction), Psalms 88:7, 90:15, Leviticus 5:18, Deuteronomy 32:15, Job 5:17, Hosea 6:1, Jeremiah 31:18,19, 1 Thessalonians 3:3, Hebrews 12:10,11.
You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees. Beautiful! We can all think of times when God has been good to us, and should certainly thank Him for them. But if you know that the God who is sovereign over all your life is also a good God, then all of life becomes a song of praise. As John Piper puts it so powerfully: “God is like a highway patrolman pursuing you down the interstate with lights flashing and siren blaring to get you to stop: not to give you a ticket but to give you a message so good it couldn’t wait till you got home”[ii].
1. Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live (Proverbs 4:4). Lay hold of this verse today, and consider the goodness of God.
2. This verse and verse 12.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 39,65,66,68,71,72,122 (tob good), Psalm 52:9, 86:5, 106:1, 107:1, Jeremiah 32:40,41, Nahum 1:7, Romans 8:28.
Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies, I keep your precepts with all my heart. The confession: You are good, which the psalmist made in verse 68, was not said superficially from a life of ease and privilege; it was forged out of the furnace of trials and difficulties. Whatever you may face in your life, it is still true. Note the superficiality of the attack upon him: smeared me with lies. The key issue remains the heart. We must not let these attacks reach our spirits. It’s what we come out of our traumas believing that counts.
1. Ponder this verse. Have the enemy’s lies stopped you believing God’s goodness?
2. Verses 51 and 69.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 21,51,69,78,85,122 (zed arrogant), Psalm 109:2,3, Matthew 5:11, 26:59-61, Acts 24:5,13.
Their hearts are callous and unfeeling, but I delight in your law. Both the words callous and unfeeling mean fat or stupid. What a comparison between hearts! The psalmist’s heart keeps the precepts and delights in the law. The arrogant man’s heart is just fat, unable to respond to the Word, unable to experience true delight, just smearing others with lies.
How is it with your heart?
1. Verses 69 and 70.
2. Verses 47 and 70.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 16,47,70 (shaa delight), Psalm 17:10, 53:1, Isaiah 6:10, Acts 28:27.
It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. What sweet acceptance of God’s will the psalmist has now found! It comes from this understanding, that my best is not what feels best at the time: it’s what does me the most good in the long term. It comes from having right priorities: to be taught by God is worth the world! Set your heart on being taught today.
1. Ponder the first few words of this verse.
2. Verses 50,67 and 71.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 7,71,73 (lamad learned), Psalm 94:12, 2 Chronicles 33:12,13, 1 Corinthians 11:32, 1 Thessalonians 1:6, Hebrews 12:10,11.
The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold. Once you’ve started delighting in His Word, you too can scorn all this world has to offer. You will certainly delight in something! The deceitfulness of wealth and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful(Mark 4:19).To counter that, we need good, obedient hearts that delight in the Word. Meditation seeks to make the Word my own: it changes the written Word to the spoken Word, the law from your mouth. Note the comparison with thousands of pieces of silver and gold. There are 176 “pieces” in this psalm, all better than gold!
1. Jesus said: For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen (Luke 8:17,18). Believe this promise today, as you “listen carefully” to this verse.
2. Verses 14 and 71.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 14,71,127,162 (wealth), Psalm 19:10, Matthew 13:44-46.
[ii]John Piper The Pleasures of God
LOOK AT US!Acts 3:4
This psalm is about our relationship with God. It focuses on our souls: their delights and difficulties, desires and distresses. It gives us wonderful views of our God. But our lives are not lived in isolation. Who we are, as much as what we do, impacts others. The psalmist now finds others turning to him, as he grows in godliness. In this stanza, he is still suffering and still being attacked by his enemies, and still seeking magnificent experiences of the love of God to sustain him. As he does this, he begins to draw others to His God. May that be your experience too! Keep meditating, and may God make you very fruitful. Each of the verses begins with the Hebrew letter yodh. Jesus uses the same word in Matthew 5:18: I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. This could be a fitting commentary on the whole psalm.
Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commandments. Formedprobably means set in place, the same word being used in Psalm 8:3: the moon and the stars which you have set in place. When we speak, only a small part of our communication is the meaning of our words: most is non-verbal. The tone of voice, the way we say things is very important. We have the author of the book alongside us. We need Him to bring the written word to life! I sense the awe and wonder in these words: your hands made me and formed me! What do you sense as you meditate? Queen Elizabeth 1 prayed: “Oh, look upon the wounds of thine hands, and forget not the work of thine hands”.[i]
1. Dwell on these words. Try putting the emphasis on different words. Try different tones of voice. Let God speak this to you.
2. Verses 34 and 73.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 73,173 (yad hand), Psalms 8:3, 138:8, 139:13-16, 2 Timothy 2:7, 1 Peter 4:19.
May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word. What an immense privilege this is: others rejoice when they look at my life! I can influence others for good, not because of what I have done but because of what He has done in me. I have put my hope in your word, but that is no credit to me. The Word is God’s means of grace to me so that all the glory goes to Him!
1. Pray this prayer slowly, meditatively before God.
2. Verse 37 and 74.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:74,79 (yare fear), Psalm 66:16, Acts 3:4.
I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me.What gracious submission to God’s will! He found comfort in his affliction (verse 50), recognised the beneficial effects of affliction (verses 67 and 71) and now acknowledges that God is just and faithful, as well as good, in the midst of affliction. The entrance to these liberating truths is revelation: I know Paul starts Romans 8:28 with the same words: we know!
1. Ponder these words slowly, memorising them, making them your meditation through the day.
2. Verses 75 and 125.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:75,79,125,152 (yada know), Psalm 25:10, 140:12, Job 36:15, Colossians 1:9.
Here it comes again! Another wave of God’s passionate love, coming to me! May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant. The KJV translates this: Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort…We seek comfort in many places and many disappoint us, but hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us(Romans 5:5).The love ofGod comes to our hearts by the Spirit and the Word. Matthew Henry comments on this verse: “Our Master has passed his word to all his servants that he will be kind to them, and they may plead it with him”.[ii]
1. Verses 41 and 76.
2. Verses 52 and 76.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:76,108 (pray), Psalm 59:17, 86:5, 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, Jude 1:21.
And again! Don’t stop praying these prayers and meditating on them. Personal experiences of the love of God are vital for every Christian. Don’t be discouraged if nothing happens at first. Your heart may seem dry and cold, but God will always find a way through your defences. Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight. The word compassion derives from the womb. It’s a deep expression for God’s love. John Stephens suggests a more emphatic translation of this verse: “thy tender mercies shall come…”[iii]
1. “A steady contemplation is a great advantage”, said Thomas Manton[iv]. Try it for this verse.
2. Verses 76 and 77.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm119: 77,156 (rahamim compassion), Psalm 51:1, 79:8, Hebrews 8: 12.
May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause; but I will meditate on your precepts. A quick backward glance at his enemies and on with the main business of the day: meditation! How determined, how immovable he is! Lord, give me this same utter commitment to your word. But when it’s become his delight, maybe it’s not so surprising!
1. Verses 15 and 78.
2. Verses 69 and 78.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm119: 29,78,86,104,118,128,163 (shequer without cause), Psalm 6:10, 25:3, 35:4,7,19,26, 69:4, 83:16-18, Deuteronomy 6:6, John 18:38, 19:4,6.
May those who fear you turn to me, those who understand your statutes.If we desire to bless others, we must get ourselves blessed. We need to be committed to deep, personal character change. As miracles happen in our hearts, others will see (verse 74) and turn (verse 79). The Hebrew word for turn appears only twice in this psalm. It is no accident that verse 59 precedes verse 79.
1. Verses 59 and 79.
2. Verses 74 and 79.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:59,79 (shub turn), Psalm 66:16, Daniel 12:3, Luke 1:17, Acts 26:18, 1 Timothy 1:16.
May my heart be blameless toward your decrees, that I may not be put to shame. How easily we get taken up with the external! Tangible, visible results seem real, while the internal affairs of our lives seem so flimsy. How much better to be active, than quietly meditating! Does it seem like that to you? Don’t be deflected. I will meditate was his determination in verse 78, and now he turns to his heart. Blameless is the same word found in verse 1:Blessed are they whose way is blameless. He’s reminding himself of the promise of blessedness, and so is following hard after God.
1. Jesus said:Let these sayings sink down into your ears (Luke 9:44). Do as Jesus commanded for this verse today.
2. Verses 1,2 and 80.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:6,31,46,78,80,116 (bosh shame), Psalm 25:2, 32:2, John 1:47, 2 Corinthians 1:12.
[ii] Matthew Henry Commentary
[iii] Quoted in The Treasury of David
[iv] Psalm 119 by T Manton
WE ARE HARD PRESSED ON EVERY SIDE, BUT NOT CRUSHED; PERPLEXED, BUT NOT ABANDONED; STRUCK DOWN, BUT NOT DESTROYED2 Corinthians 4:18
Our lives go through different seasons and this is the psalmist’s nadir. In verses 25-32 he touches the same chord. I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word. I recounted my ways and you answered me… Relief then seemed quick but now he experiences a deep long slough. In the Song of Songs the bride has a similar experience: All night long on my bed I looked for the one my heart loves; I looked for him but did not find him. I will search for the one my heart loves. So I looked for him but did not find him. The watchmen found me…Scarcely had I passed them when I found the one my heart loves(3:1-4).She finds a quick answer!Then again: I looked for him but did not find him. I called him but he did not answer. The watchmen found me as they made their rounds in the city. They beat me, they bruised me…(5:6-7). This time she has a much longer journey back into the presence of her lover. In this stanza, he bares his heart with strong expressions of distress and complaint. He has almost come to the end, but what a sweet word “almost” is! Through it all, he refuses to let go of God’s Word. May God give you the same endurance, whatever circumstances you face. The Hebrew letter starting each line of this stanza is caph, which means a hollowed hand. Jerome Ambrose likens it to “a man holds out his hand, as a beggar, supplicating mercy of God”.[i]
My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word. He starts with the heart of the problem: his soul is languishing! When all is well within, he can scorn his enemies: my soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods… they who seek my life will be destroyed (Psalm 63:5,9).Now he is in great distress and although there is no quick response from his Father this time, he still “tells it like it is” as he did in verse 26, and hopes in God’s Word.
- Verses 25 and 81.
- Verses 28 and 81.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:41,81(teshua salvation), Psalm 6:2, 42:1, 43:2, 62:5, Hebrews 12:3.
My eyes fail, looking for your promise; I say, “When will you comfort me?” If the soul languishes, the eyes will surely fail. Vision cannot be maintained if the heart is sick. The happy experiences of verse 50 and 52 (My comfort in my suffering is this…I find comfort in them)have led to verse 76 and his cry for help (may your unfailing love be my comfort) but no help has come! Oh, the anguish of unanswered prayer!
- Verses 76 and 82.
- Verses 82 and 123.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:18,37,82,123,136,148 (ayin eyes), Psalm 90:13, Matthew 17:17.
Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget your decrees. What a graphic description this is! Dried up, inflexible, cracking, smelling more of judgment than grace and no sign of new wine anywhere! Do you feel like this sometimes… or all the time? Tell it like it is, but don’t give up. Don’t forget his Word. Keep meditating!
- Ponder these words and pray your own prayers.
- Verses 61 and 83.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:16,61,83,93,109,139,141,153,176 (shakah forget), Psalm 22:15, Genesis 19:28, Luke 5:37.
How long must your servant wait? When will you punish my persecutors? Surely timing must be one of the severest trials in life! Note the recurrent refrain: When…How long…When…The answer is found in knowing the Eternal I AM, but that is still a few verses away! The NIV excludes one of the names for God’s Word, but don’t be misled. The Psalmist has not let go of God’s word! When wilt thou execute judgment on them that persecute me? (KJV)The word “judgment” is included.
- Verses 82 and 84.
- Mull over this verse and God’s timing in your life.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:84,86,150,157,161 (radap persecute), Psalms 6:3, 13:1,2, 62:3, 69:13, 74:9,10, Revelation 6:10.
The arrogant dug pitfalls for me, contrary to your law. We have a clever, implacable Enemy. There seem to be so many hidden snares and traps into which we often fall. How remarkable that the psalmist remembers God’s Word because he realizes his enemies aren’t keeping it! Don’t be discouraged if you slip and fall. The mark of the righteous man is not that he doesn’t fall, but that he gets up and starts running again. For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again (Proverbs 24:16).
1. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them (Proverbs 4:5). Meditate on verse 85 today..
2. Verses 78 and 85.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 51,69,78,85,122 (what the arrogant do to me), Psalms 7:15, 9:15, 10:2, 35:8, 57:6, Exodus 21:33, Proverbs 26:27, Ecclesiastes 10:8, Jeremiah 18:20,22.
All your commands are trustworthy; help me, for men persecute me without cause. “It’s not fair” was my son’s anguished refrain through much of his childhood. So many people’s response to sickness is: “What did I do to deserve this?” We all have a sense of justice, of what is right. It is hard to bear punishment when we deserve it, but when we don’t it’s too much! So the psalmist struggles with this trouble that has come to him, when he has been diligent in keeping God’s Word. But he still has hold of God’s Word! “If we stick to the precepts we will be rescued by the promises”, said Charles Spurgeon[ii].
- Taste each word of this verse slowly. What’s not fair for you at the moment?
- Verses 84 and 86.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 86,173,175 (azar help), Psalms 35:7, 70:5, Matthew 14:30, 1 Peter 4:14-16.
They almost wiped me from the earth, but I have not forsaken your precepts. Almost, but not quite! I was almost lost, swept away with the crowd and the love of this world. Paul was almost damned in his anger and violence. Asaph’s foot had almost slipped. We are indeed all brands plucked from the burning (Amos 4:11)! The same Hebrew word appears in verses 81,82 and 87 translated respectively: faints, failand wiped. Note the downward spiral affecting first the soul, then the eyes and finally life itself. Are you hanging on to the Word?
- Take just the one word almost. Be thankful!
- Psalm 73:2 and verse 87.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 81,82,87,123 (kala fail, faint, wiped), Psalm 105:12, Philippians 2:27.
This verse and the next are the middle verses of this psalm. (That means you’re halfway through the psalm: well done!) This verse finds the psalmist coming out of the deepest storm and the next finds him anchored in the safest haven! Preserve my life according to your love, and I will obey the statutes of your mouth.He returns to his well-used cry: “Give me life” or “Revive me”! There is no vain repetition in this psalm. This time there is a subtle difference, not according to your wordbut according to your love. It is not only the just, faithful God to whom he appeals, but also his loving friend. The prayers of verses 41, 76 and 77 are having their effect! Charles Spurgeon’s comment on this verse is: “None keeps the word of the Lord’s mouth unless the word of the Lord’s mouth quickens them”.[iii]
- Jesus said: If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples…(John 8:31 RSV) “Continue” in this verse all day.
- Verses 25 and 88.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:17,25,37,40,50,77,88,93,107, 116,144, 149, 154, 156, 159,175 (haya preserve my life), Psalm 25:10, Luke 22:42.
NOW TO THE KING ETERNAL, IMMORTAL, INVISIBLE, THE ONLY GOD, BE HONOUR AND GLORY FOR EVER AND EVER. AMEN.1 Timothy 1:17.
How quickly our vision becomes narrow. Particularly when difficulties press in upon us, how easy to become introspective. Especially at such times we need to see the bigger picture, where our eyes are turned from ourselves to the grandeur and glory of God. That is what this stanza is all about. The psalmist was almost wiped off the earth, his foot almost slipped! Then he escaped the tyranny of the present into the liberty of an eternal perspective, and this great vision came through His Word. The previous stanza found him hemmed in, but this ends in the boundless commands of God. Difficulties are still remembered and lessons are learnt from them, his enemies have not disappeared, but he sees them in their right place. Let’s get meditating!
Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.This verse is proclaiming the faithfulness of God, for the Word is only eternal because it issues from the mouth of the eternal God! I like the way the RSV translates this verse: For ever. O LORD, thy word is firmly fixed in the heavens. I find the first four words like a telescope, drawing me out of myself, my pettiness, my momentary afflictions, and enabling me to enter into the vastness of God. How do you find it?
1. Savour these words slowly and worship.
2. This verse and Isaiah 57:15.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 44,52,89,93,98,111,112,142,152,160 (olam eternal), Psalm 33:11, 90:2, 93:5, Matthew 5:18, Mark 13:31.
Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures.I write this with the Alps towering above me. The solidity of the earth is indeed in stark contrast to the transience of our lives, but they cannot be relied on to last forever. His Word is so reliable that you can rest all your weight upon it, and your children and your grandchildren. What a faithful God we have!
1. Contemplate the faithfulness of God through these words.
2. Consider through all generations and pray for your descendants.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 30,75,86,90,138 (emuna faithfulness), Psalms 33:9, 89:1,2, 100:5, 117:2, Job 26:7, 38:6, Ecclesiastes 1:4, Jeremiah 31:35,36, Colossians 1:17, Hebrews 1:3, 1 Peter 1:23-25.
Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you. Eternal, Faithful and Sovereign: this is the God we love, pursue and serve. One saint had a vision of Jesus with a small nut in His Hand. What was the nut? It was “all things that were made”! God’s Word is not just to instruct you or inform you: it is to give you new views of God, and they do not leave us with a God who is our size, but a land that stretches afar(Isaiah 33:17).
1. Take the second half of this verse and chew it over. Do you believe it?
2. Contemplate the way eternity impinges on this day.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 90,91 (amad endure), Psalms 46:7, 47:7, 104:27, 148:6, Job 33:31,32, Matthew 8: 8,9.
If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.Transcendent views of God come through the Word enlightened by the Spirit, and delight in the Word is absolutely crucial to our Christian walk. This is not a higher devotional practice, which will spice up your life a bit. Without delighting in the Word, you will not make it through the trials and difficulties that will surely come. So keep meditating: don’t give up!
1. Meditate on this verse, giving thanks for what God is doing in you, and resolving to press on.
2. Verses 92 and 143.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 92,95,176 (abad perished), Psalm 66:10-12, 1 Thessalonians 1:6, James 1:2.
I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life. This is a statement of fact, because we do remember what we delight in. It is also a statement of resolve and determination not to let go of God’s Word, because of its great benefits. Negatively, I haven’t perished: positively, I have life. Lord, give me life!
1. Verses 16 and 93.
2. Verses 25 and 93.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 25,50,93,107,116 (life given by the word), Psalm 22:29, 1 Peter 1:23.
Save me, for I am yours; I have sought out your precepts. Savemeans to be open, wide or free, that is to be safe. Is there anyone who has ever lived who has not prayed save me at some crisis or difficulty? But to have the prayer answered by God: that is another thing! Pray the whole of the verse, with total surrender to Him, and diligent seeking of Him in His Word. Richard Greenham powerfully spells out how thoroughly we belong to God. “Thine by creation, I was made by thee; thine by adoption, I was assigned over to thee; thine by donation, I was given to thee; thine by marriage, I was espoused to thee; thine by redemption, I was purchased by thee; thine by stipulation, I have vowed myself unto thee”.[i]
1. Verses 45 and 94.
2. Verses 94 and 155.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 94,117,146 (yasha save), Psalm 34:4, 85:9, Matthew 16:25, John 8:31,32.
The wicked are waiting to destroy me, but I will ponder your statutes. Ponderis translated understand everywhere else in the psalm (see verse 27). The story is told of Smith Wigglesworth that he woke one night to see Satan standing at the bottom of his bed, at which he muttered: “oh, it’s only you” and rolled over and went back to sleep! Whether I have remembered the story correctly, I’m not sure, but it certainly captures the spirit of this verse. The psalmist is so focussed on God and His Word, he refuses to be distracted by minor matters such as people trying to destroy him!
1. Verses 92 and 95.
2. Verses 87 and 95.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 53,61,95,110,119,155 (rasha wicked), Psalms 10:8,9, 62:9, 74:3, Luke 11:54.
To all perfection I see a limit; but your commands are boundless. Two Hebrew words are translated boundless: the meod fullyof verse 4, and rahab, the freedomof verse 45. So the prayer of verse 94 save me is answered and he finds himself out in the wide, open spaces again. God’s commands are not thorny hedges to keep us from enjoying life’s rich pastures, but gateways into the amazing adventure of obeying God! Go and make disciples of all nations, said Jesus (Matthew 28:19). How much broader can you get?
1. Jesus said to the Jews: You are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word (John 8:37). Find room for this verse today.
2. Verses 89 and 96. Let God expand your horizons!
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 37,74,96,153,158,159 (raa see), Psalms 18:19, 104:25, Philippians 3:12.
[i] Quoted in The Treasury of David
ASKING GOD TO FILL YOU WITH THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIS WILL THROUGH ALL SPIRITUAL WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDINGColossians 1:9
Paul’s priority for the Colossians was wisdom and understanding, and he points clearly to the source of that wisdom: Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge(Colossians 2:2,3).But how do you quarry this rich mine? Paul reveals one answer to that too! Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly (Colossians 3:16).So we come to some of the great promises God gives to those who meditate on the Word. There is passion: love and hate! There is renewed determination to let nothing hinder the psalmist’s meditation. There is increased realization that God’s Word is doing him good. I hope this is your experience too!
Oh, how I love your law. I meditate on it all day long.Imagine a swordsman is given a new sword. He picks it up, and it feels strange: too heavy perhaps. As he perseveres, his muscles strengthen, and he starts to get the feel of it. Is it like that with this verse? Does it seem hypocritical to say this in the first person singular? Take it in your hands today and get the feel of it. I hope enough love is stirring in your heart to make it true for you. Meditatemeans reflection: this word is only found in verses 97 and 99.
1. Take these words; ask God to make it true for you. Meditate all day long.
2. Verses 97 and 99.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 97,99 (siha meditate), Psalm 63:6, 2 John 1:1,2.
Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me.Spurgeon commented: “Those that meditate most, thrive the most”[i]. We must break down the artificial compartments of our lives if we are to get wisdom. God’s Word cannot be confined to our “devotional times”. God has given Himself to us for every part of our day. He is always available. We surrendered ourselves to God without reserve: I am yours… (verse 94). We must learn to reflect on the Word day and night.
1. Verses 97 and 98.
2. Verse 98 and Proverbs 4:5.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 98,99,100, Psalm 19:7, Colossians 3:16.
I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes.There is a balance here. Teachers are crucial to our Christian walk. They are gifts to the body of Christ, essential to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up(Ephesians 4:12).Elders who teach are worthy of double honour (1 Timothy 5:17).Then there are scriptures like 1 John 2:27: As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. What is the answer? We need to be taught by the Holy Spirit, whether through our own personal devotions or through God-appointed teachers. This verse holds out another wonderful promise to us personally. So keep meditating!
1. Verses 98 and 99.
2. Verses 97 and 99.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:98,99,100, Psalm 49:2, Colossians 2:2.
I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts.This doesn’t mean we become arrogant or unteachable! There is a steady progression through these verses. Just as Paul grew in humility (1 Corinthians 15:9, Ephesians 3:8, 1 Timothy 1:15), so the psalmist grows in wisdom and understanding: wiser than my enemies…more insight than all my teachers…more understanding than the elders. This comes through constant retention of the Word, meditating on it and doing it. The beginning of wisdom is this: get wisdom (Proverbs 4:7 RSV). You get started by getting started! Then keep increasing in understanding. Keep meditating, and do whatever He tells you!
1. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life(Proverbs 4:13) Hold on to this verse today.
2. Verses 97,98,99,100.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 27,34,73,95,100,104,125,130,144,169 (bin understanding), Psalm 111:10, Job 12:12, 32:6-10, Matthew 7:24, 13:23, John 7:17, 2 Timothy 3:15.
I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. Pathis a different word from verse 32, where it meant a well-trodden road. The word here emphasises the danger of wandering, and describes a way of life marred by habitual sins. We are back to the theme of Psalm 1. Christian growth does not happen by chance. We must cut things out of our lives and thinking, to make room for the Word. When things are going well, we need to remain diligent. Keptis a strong word meaning literally “imprisoned”. Keep disciplining yourself! Of course, none of the credit goes to us. We are at best unprofitable servants, because all growth comes from God (1 Corinthians 3:7), and there remains a delightful mystery about growth (Mark 4:26-29)!
1. Verses 9 and 101. Where do you need self-discipline?
2. Verses 15 and 101.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 9,15,101,104,128 (orah path), Psalm 17:4, 121:3, Proverbs 1:15, Titus 2:11,12.
I have not departed from your laws for you yourself have taught me. Note the “I have”of verse 101, and the “I have not”of this verse.How crucial it is to give God the credit for our progress, and to recognise the effect His teaching has on our lives. Can you discern how, through your meditating and God’s teaching, your behaviour is changing? Give thanks to God! It is no credit to a drowning man to cling to the lifebelt thrown to him. It is no credit to us to give ourselves to God’s Word. The wonder is that He has given us His Word, and that He himself comes alongside us to teach us. Taught means literally shoot an arrow, point out or flow as water.
1. Verse 33 and 102.
2. Ponder this verse and give God glory.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 33,102 (yara teach), Psalms 18:21, 136:11, Isaiah 30:20-22, Ephesians 4:20-22.
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.Are you savouring the sweetness of God’s Word? I hope so. Sometimes the sweetest fruits are hidden inside thick, inedible skins. We need to give time to meditate on each verse, chewing it over and over, until we experience the sweetness. Then keep enjoying it. Although I meditate on new verses every day, in practice they don’t all come alive, but the ones that do, can taste sweet for weeks or years! Perhaps this verse suggests that verses are sweet to meditation, but still sweeter when spoken out. Why not try it?
1. Psalm 19: 10 and this verse.
2. Jeremiah 15:16 and this verse.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 13,43,72,88,103,108,131 (peh mouth), Psalm 63:5, Proverbs 3:17, Song of Songs 2:3, Ezekiel 3:1-3.
I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.Does hate seem a strong word? Jesus used it: If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:26). However you interpret this verse, the language is deliberately strong and shocking. The more our love for God’s Word grows, the more we will hate things that keep us from His Word. Wrong has the sense of sham or untrue, rather than bad morally. We need to hate everything that keeps us from God’s Word. The good is sometimes the enemy of the best.
1. Jesus said: Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word(John 8:43 RSV).Sometimes it’s hard to keep meditating, because the Word cuts deep. Ask Him for more grace. Meditate on this verse today.
2. Verses 101 and 104.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 104,113,128,163 (sane hate), Psalms 97:10, 101:3, 139:21, Proverbs 8:13, Romans 12:9, 2 Corinthians 7:1.
AND WE HAVE THE WORD OF THE PROPHETS MADE MORE CERTAIN, AND YOU WILL DO WELL TO PAY ATTENTION TO IT, AS A LIGHT SHINING IN A DARK PLACE2 Peter 1:19
The Christian life is a journey. The blessing promised in the first two verses of this psalm, is to those who are moving! They are committed to God’s trodden road, and they are walking. The warning of Psalm 1 is that if we walk in the wrong path, we soon find ourselves standing and then sitting, trapped in unbelief. By contrast, the man who delights in the Word and meditates on it day and night is journeying in the wide, open spaces of God’s commands. Although meditation seems passive, as the fire burns it produces fruit and keeps us moving. The last stanza was like an oasis of rest in the psalm. Every verse was praise: there was no petition. It is good to take stock regularly, but now we’re on the move again. The path stretches before us and it is dark and uncertain. How will we find our way? There are enemies lurking by the roadside, and there are snares set to trap us. How will we keep to the way? How will we enjoy this journey? Let’s see!
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.The image seems to be of a smaller light, which shows us the next step, and a stronger light, which illuminates the immediate path. Path is the beaten track of verse 35, deriving from a word meaning to tramp. The vital truth revealed is that guidance comes to the person who is walking, not the one who is sitting still, waiting for a flash of lightning from heaven. There is plenty of God’s general will revealed to us in scripture. Occupy yourself with that, and keep open to the specific step-by-step, day-by-day, guidance promised through the Word and the Spirit.
1. Verses 35 and 105.
2. Verses 105 and 130.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 105,130 (or light), Psalm 19:8, Job 18:5-10, John 12:46,47, Ephesians 5:13,14.
I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws. Taken an oath literally means “to seven oneself”, that is to swear (as if by declaring seven times). It is good to strengthen our resolves to keep His Word. We prayed strengthen mein verse 25, and now we confirm, strengthen our resolve to keeps God’s word. Part of our worship is to promise loyalty and obedience to our Sovereign.
1. Say this verse over “seven times”! Speak out your commitment to God.
2. Verse 106 and 164.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 106 (shaba “to seven oneself”), 164 (sheba seven times), Psalm 15:4, 61:5,8, 76:11, Matthew 5:33-37, Hebrews 6:13-18.
I have suffered much; preserve my life, O LORD, according to your word.I am not suggesting it’s easy to keep walking. This is a dangerous path we travel. There is no promise of an easy ride. On the contrary, we will have trouble! But we have a wonderful companion on the road. Turn to Him! Tell it like it is! Take His Word and let it give you life, so that you can keep pressing onwards.
1. Verses 67,71,75 and this verse.
2. Pour out your heart to God: tell Him your ways, as in this verse.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 67,71,75,107 (ana suffered), Psalm 34:19, 129:1,2, Job 2:13, 2 Corinthians 1:8, 11:23-28.
Accept, O LORD, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws.We need to tell it like it is: honest about our own distresses and honest about His faithfulness! How we need to mix praise with all our life! When a verse refuses to give up its treasures, try praise. Often, I find, as I praise and fix my eyes on Him, revelation comes. Acceptmeans be pleased with. You can give pleasure to God with your praise today!
1. My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words(Proverbs 4:20). Listen closely as you meditate on this verse.
2. Verse 103 and 108.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm119:1,12,31,33,41,52,55,57,64,65,75,89,107,108,126, 137,145,149,151,156,159,166,169,174 (yhwh LORD), Psalm 54:6, 110:3, Leviticus 23:38, Hosea 14:2, Philemon 1:14, Hebrews 13:15.
Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law.The psalmist had a very clear sense of the fragility of his life. How we all need that! We imagine in our pride that we will go on forever, but if God removes His hand at any moment we are swept away. But whatever happens to me, I won’t forget Your Word, Lord! How is your memorisation going?
1. Dwell on this verse. Let the truth impact you deeply.
2. Verse 61 and 109.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:16,61,83,93,109,139,141,153,176 (shakah forget), Psalm 88:3,15, 91:12, James 4:13-16.
The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts.Many of the snares of the enemy are beside the path. We can avoid these by diligently keeping to the path. But some snares are in the path itself, and the most devilish is pride. Aren’t I doing well! I’ve been meditating regularly for nearly four months! Yes, you are doing well, but not that well! Keep things in perspective: how many years were you careless and undisciplined? Who stirred you up to obedience, who enabled you to keep going and who opened your blind eyes? Keep giving God all the glory, and keep applying yourself wholeheartedly to this fruitful path.
1. Verses 95 and 110.
2. Verses 110 and 176.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 110,176 (taa strayed), Psalms 10:8,9, 64:5, 91:3, 124:7, 140:5, Luke 20:19-25.
Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. Heritageis the land promised to Israel (Exodus 32:13). Michael Wilcock observes that for the psalmist: “God’s word is for him ‘a whole promised land of joy’”.[i] What are four months against the backdrop of our lives? It takes longer than a few months to develop good lifelong habits. We need to commit to the long-term. We need good, well-trodden roads in our lives. What motivates us? Joy, sheer joy! The Word of God is the lasting joy. Have you tasted? Are you hooked?
1. Ponder these words. Turn them into prayer.
2. Verses 47 and 111.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 2,10,11,32,34,36,58,69,70,80,111, 112,145,161 (leb heart), Psalm 16:16, Jeremiah 15:16, Colossians 1:12.
My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end.The RSV translates it this way: I incline my heart to perform thy statutes for ever, to the end. In verse 36, the psalmist prayed incline my heart… and now he says I incline my heart… (RSV) We need that deep sense of dependence on God for we need God to turn our hearts. Then we must also take responsibility, and turn our own hearts. All the glory goes to Him! We are committed to the long-term, to the very end.
1. Jesus said: I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death (John 8:51).Treasure this verse today.
2. Verse 36 and 112.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 65,73,84,112,121,124,126,166 (asa keep), Psalm 44:18, Philippians 2:13.
[i] The Message of Psalms 73-150
BE AFRAID OF THE ONE WHO CAN DESTROY BOTH SOUL AND BODY IN HELL Matthew 10:28
Some of the Bible is terrifying! This stanza introduces the fear of God. Note the ruthless tone of many of these verses: hatred of compromise, banishing of enemies, rejection of those who stray and the utter disregard God has for all the wicked. No wonder therefore the psalmist finishes awed and trembling before a Holy God. Awed and trembling, but still alive! How can this be? Another revelation of who God is provides the key: He is our hiding-place and shield. What a fantastic combination, and how we need them both. In the centre of the stanza are two beautiful prayers: sustain me and uphold me. Like two central pillars, they support this stanza, and the Hebrew letter samech, which starts each verse of this stanza, means a prop or pillar. On one side is my ruthless dealing with sin: on the other God’s ruthless dealings with the wicked. May God answer these prayers, giving you life in your meditating and delivering you from every distraction!
I hate double-minded men, but I love your law. Double-mindedis a word used to describe branches that shoot up in different directions from a tree. It is not only double-minded men who should be hated. Divided thoughts, compromise and half-heartedness are our deadly enemies. Vacillating between opinions and failing to choose decisively for the good are dangerous traits. Get ruthless with yourself and your own failings. We are dealing with a Holy God, but within the circle of His Holiness, He is still the God of love.
1. This verse and James 1:8.
2. Verses 113 and 163.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:104,113,128,163 (sane hate), Psalm 31:6, 1 Kings 18:21, Matthew 6:24.
You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.Before the anger of God, our first need for a hiding-place is from that anger. God is Himself that hiding-place! The wonderful mystery of the gospel of grace: Jesus takes the punishment that should have fallen on us. In the storm of God’s wrath, Jesus is the quiet center, the place of safety! Then what of all the enemies in this life? We are hidden (the enemy can’t find us!); we are shielded (even the stray arrow won’t hit us!). How complete is our salvation.
1. This verse and Colossians 3:3.
2. Verses 74 and 114.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 43,49,74,81,114,147 (yahal hope), Psalms 3:3, 32:7, 115:9-11, Genesis 15:1, Ephesians 6:16.
Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God! Thomas Manton said: “depart from them that depart from God”. Jesus is the friend of sinners, and we are called to follow Him. How does this tally with this verse? There are friendships, which are dangerous and need ruthless action, but our calling is to be light in the world, not pull away from it. Evildoersdo not necessarily mean people. The word is literally that which spoils by breaking, or to make good for nothing. I would concentrate on your own failings, not those of others. Be ruthless!
1. This verse and John 2:16.
2. Verses 102 and 115.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 29,102,115 (cuwr away from me), Psalms 6:8, 68:11,12, Matthew 16:23.
Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.Sustain means to prop, lean upon, or take hold of. How are we sustained through all these things? According to your promise. Why are we sustained? That we may have life! Also that the hope we placed in God (verse 114) will not lead to disappointment in us, or those who watch us.
1. This verse and Romans 5:5.
2. Verses 114 and 116.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 116,117 (samak sustain), Psalms 41:3, 55:22, 68:19, 1 Peter 2:6.
Uphold me, and I will be delivered; I will always have regard for your decrees. Upholdmeans to support or establish. Regardmeans to gaze at, consider or inspect. Note again the desire for perseverance: always. May these two prayers become central pillars in your life: sustain meanduphold me, as you relate to this awesome God.
1. This verse and Jude 1:24.
2. Verses 94 and 117.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:116,117 (saad uphold), Psalms 4:8, 37:17, 41:12, 54:4, Romans 14:4, 1 Corinthians 1:8.
You reject all who stray from your decrees, for their deceitfulness is in vain. Rejectmeans to weigh or condemn. There is a terrible day coming when all who reject the mercy of God will be rejected. Those terrifying words will reverberate throughout the universe: Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”(Matthew7: 23).Let us commit ourselves to hold on to God’s Word. Don’t let me wander, Lord! Let’s also commit ourselves to rescue some of those straying around us. We were once straying with them, but God had mercy on us.
1. This verse and Matthew 7:23. Pray for those who you know are straying.
2. Verses 29 and 118.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 29,78,86,104,118,128,163 (shequer vain), Psalm 78: 36,37,57, Ephesians 5:6.
All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross; therefore I love your statutes.Absolutely awesome! Our God is a consuming fire(Hebrews 12:29), and we are His friends! In this entire world, which is passing away, we have found a treasure that endures. No wonder we love this Word. But this came to us as a free gift. Weowe our friends and colleagues a warning at least, an offer of that same grace we have received.
1. This verse and Hebrews 12:29.
2. Verses 53 and 119.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 53,61,95,110,119,155 (rasha wicked), Psalms 1:4, 2:4, Hebrews 10:31.
My flesh trembles in fear of you; I stand in awe of your laws. Tremblesmeans literally for the hair to stand on end with terror.There is a gamut of emotions in Christian experience, which do not appear to sit comfortably together, but they do. God has several different emotions simultaneously: hatred and anger against us in our rebellion and sin, deep compassion for us in our suffering, and tender mercy towards us. Just look at the cross and the extraordinary passions of God glimpsed at there: Yet it was the LORD’S will to crush him and cause him to suffer(Isaiah 53:10).This literally means it was the Lord’s pleasure to crush him. So our relationship with God is one of love and delight, great joy and trembling fear!
1. Jesus said: Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word(John 8:43 RSV).It’s hard to keep looking at verses like this! Meditate on this verse and Matthew 10:28.
2. Verses 63 and 120.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 63,74,79,120 (pahad fear), Psalm 2:11, 114:7, 128:1,2, Mark 5:33.
NEVER WILL I LEAVE YOU; NEVER WILL I FORSAKE YOU Hebrews 13:5
Coming face to face with God’s holiness and anger is devastating. Seeing the fate of the wicked is terrifying. The most natural result of this is to run into His arms for reassurances of His love. Let us remember that the God who numbers the hairs on our heads is still the consuming fire. Stand in awe of Him! In this stanza the psalmist, still trembling for fear of Him, seeks reassurances of His care: do not leave me. He keeps looking for your righteous promise, for the Holy One is the faithful God. He asks to be dealt with according to your love. He seeks to be taught again, so that he can grow in understanding, and he calls for this Righteous God to act. He finishes with a deeper love for God’s Word and a deeper hatred of evil. Three times he takes the name servant. Although the great Master is far higher than the servant, yet there is still obligation in the relationship, and so he pleads it.
I have done what is righteous and just; do not leave me to my oppressors.At first sight this seems like a return to legalism: I’ve been good, so you owe me, God! I detect a different spirit. Is this the wonder of verse 56? Could this verse be paraphrased in this way? I deserve to be swept away with the wicked, because that is what I was, but what miracle is this? I have done what is righteous and justbecause your grace has changed me. So if you have done all this within me, do not leave me to my oppressors, don’t leave me to the wicked who continue to harass me.
1. Take the words of this verse. Let the Holy Spirit breathe the right expression and tone of voice into the written words.
2. Verses 56 and 121.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 7,62,75,106,121,123,138,142,144, 160,164, 172 (sedeq just), Psalms 37:33, 18:20-24, Acts 25:11, 2 Corinthians 1:12, 1 John 3:21.
Ensure your servant’s well-being; let not the arrogant oppress me. Ensureis translated be surety in the RSV. The word has a literal meaning of being braided together or intermixed, with a special sense of being security for someone else. The spirit of verse 121 is not self-righteousness! He is so aware of his weakness that he is begging the good God to get so mixed up with him, that no oppressor can get between them. An astonishing prayer for someone who has just been trembling in fear at His Holiness! Hebrews 7:22 brings an equally astonishing answer to this prayer.
1. Think carefully about the words of this verse. Pray for protection.
2. Verses 121 and 122.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 121,122 (ashaq oppress), Psalm 106:35, Proverbs 11:15, 22:26, Philemon 1:18, Hebrews 7:22.
My eyes fail, looking for your salvation, looking for your righteous promise.There is certainly a repetition of verse 82 here, but nothing is vain repetition in this psalm! I detect an increased hunger, an increased determination to keep seeking God in his Word. That is exactly what the fear of God produces in our lives.
1. Ponder this verse. Let longing for God’s Word grip you more strongly.
2. Verses 82 and 123.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 123,155,166,174 (yeshua salvation), Psalms 69:3, 130:6, Luke 2:25.
Deal with your servant according to your love and teach me your decrees.This guy is unstoppable! He will not stop praying this prayer: teach me. He has discipleship in his genes: have you?
1. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart(Proverbs 4:21). Keep this verse in your heart today.
2. Verses 65 and 124.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 124,149,159 (hesed according to your love), Psalm 51:1, 69:16, 2 Timothy 1:16-18.
I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes. Discernmentis the understanding of verse 27: to distinguish or separate. Understand is the know of verse 75: to ascertain by seeing. It describes a deeper insight into spiritual truth. Are you like me? You come across a spiritual truth and get stirred up about it for a while. Then you come across another truth and forget about the first! Not so the psalmist: how tenacious he is! Wisdom, insight and understanding were the priorities in verses 97-104, and he found the gateway to these in meditating on the Word. But he doesn’t let it go. Emulate this man in his determination. Keep meditating!
1. Verses 73 and 125.
2. Verses 122, 124 and 125.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 75,79,125,152 (yada know), Psalm 116:16, Romans 6:22.
It is time for you to act, O LORD; your law is being broken. Timeis now, brokenis violated or frustrated. It is a bold prayer to bring the God of Judgment into our present circumstances. Come and take the field, Lord: scatter your enemies! The word actis simply do or make, but note its presence in verses 121 and 124 (not obvious in the NIV!). I have done…deal with…act.It is good to pray this verse for our society, but please note it starts in us!
1. Verses 121, 124 and 126.
2. Pray this verse in every context of your life.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 65,73,84,112,121,124,126,166,124, 149,159 (asa act), Psalms 9:19, 58:11, 102:13, Jeremiah 18:23, Malachi 3:17, 2 Corinthians 6:2.
Because I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold,How he has grown in his love for the Word! Goldis that mentioned in verse 72, and means gold coloured. Pure goldis the real article. Does it also suggest a love that is going deeper and deeper into the commands? Becauseis probably better as “therefore”.
1. Verses 14,72 and 127.
2. This verse and Ephesians 3:8.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 104,127,128,129 (therefore), Psalm 19:10, 1 Timothy 6:17.
And because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path.There are three “all’s” in this verse! Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right, and I hate every false way (KJV).How completely he loves! But if you love like this, you will also hate! You cannot have one without the other.
1. Verses 113 and 128.
2. Verses 104 and 128.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:104,113,128,163 (sane hate), Psalm 19:8, Hebrews 1:9.
THE LIGHT OF THE GOSPEL OF THE GLORY OF CHRIST, WHO IS THE IMAGE OF GOD2 Corinthians 4:4.
The fear of God has unlocked new expressions of intimacy and passion. The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them (Psalm 25:14). Jesus only reveals himself to those He can trust. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men (John 2:24). This stanza is a cascading waterfall of treasures: wonder, revelation, longing and the face of God turned to him and then shining upon him. The result is a great gushing of compassion, as he weeps over those who do not obey the truth. I am left stunned by the richness of his experience of God. How little I know you, Lord! As he deals with sin and the opposition of men, his radical obedience to the Word continues. Maybe there’s a clue there! Keep meditating!
Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them.Sadly familiarity often breeds contempt. We must retain a sense of amazement at God and His Word. Are you still praying verse 18: Open my eyes that I may see…wonders… !Is He answering? We need to move on from seeing wonders out of the law, to appreciating that the Bible is wonderful! God is not just a God who does wonders, but He is wonderful.
1. Contemplate this verse. Is obedience dependent on wonder?
2. Verse 18 and 129.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 18,27,129 (pele wonderful), Psalm 139:6, Job 23:12, Matthew 13:54.
The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.The word unfoldingmeans opening. We are foolish and in the dark, as we grope towards the truth. But we have been given the Word. Let light break upon you, and understanding with it: wonders out of your law! Grasp hold of these promises: gives light…gives understanding.It’s true! It’s God’s promise to you!
1. Verses 18 and 130.
2. Verses 19 and 130.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 100,105, Psalm 19:7, 82:5, 1 Corinthians 3:18, 2 Timothy 3:15-17.
I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands.This is strong language! The word pantis used to describe the workman longing for his day’s work to be finished (Job 7:2), a woman in labour (Isaiah 42:14) and the sexual desire of the wild ass (Jeremiah 2:24). Here the psalmist is using the strongest language to describe his longing for the commands of God (not even the promises, the commands!). Lord, I’m still in verse 130, a simple man in the dark. It’s going to take a miracle to get me into verse 131, but aren’t you the God of wonders?
1. Where do you start with a verse like this? Open your mouth! Start saying it to yourself, before the Lord. Tell it like it is! Consider what you do long for. Repent your lack of passion.
2. Verses 20 and 131.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 147,148, Psalm 42:1, 81:10, 1 Peter 2:2.
Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name.What a wonderful prayer, another of those verses that should be in the memory of every Christian! We can trust God to be faithful; He sticks by everything He has said. He loves to be gracious to us!
1. Verse 58 and 132.
2. Verse 132 and Isaiah 30:18.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 29,58,132 (hanan mercy), Psalm 25:16, 135:1,3,13, Isaiah 63:7.
Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me. Footstepsliterally mean “strokes”, often used as “times” as when Israel marched round Jericho seven times. It suggests specific steps of obedience. Directis the steadfastof verse 5, meaning to be erect or to set up. It certainly shows a desire to be established and consistent in his obedience to the Word. Adam Clarke said: “make them firm; let me not walk with a halting or unsteady step”[i]. For that to happen, sin cannot be allowed to control my life. Which sin particularly crouches at your door?
1. Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck(Proverbs 6:21). Bind this verse to your heart today.
2. Verse 11 and 133.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 5,73,90,133 (kun direct), Psalms 17:5, 19:13, Romans 6:12-14.
Redeem me from the oppression of men, that I may obey your precepts. Redeemmeans to sever, ransom, release or preserve. Are you experiencing the oppression of men? Are people bullying you or pressurizing you? Are they trying to frighten you into keeping quiet about the great things God has done for you? The psalmist found an answer! Note a recurring theme throughout the psalm. Verse 133 says that ordering my life by God’s word will break the domination of sin: verse 134 says that getting rid of man’s oppression will enable me to keep the word. It is another victorious circle. I hope you’re in the circle now, and enjoying it!
1. Concentrate on just one phrase such as that I may obey.
2. Concentrate on one phrase such as from the oppression of men.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 4,63,69,100,134,168 (obey your precepts), Psalm 56:1,2, Isaiah 51:12,13, Matthew 6:13, Luke 1:74,75.
Make your face shine upon your servant and teach me your decrees.“Let your face light up when you see me”, would be a paraphrase of these words. This is the glorious gospel, not because I have kept the rules or been good, but because He is gracious. He looks on His bride and says: How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! (Song of Songs 1:15).Hasn’t His blood washed away every stain? Aren’t you now without blemish?
1. Meditate on this verse. Experience it personally.
2. Verses 132 and 135.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 12,26,64,68,124,135 (teach me your decrees), Psalms 4:6, 17:15, 31:16, 67:1, 80:3,7,19, Numbers 6:25,26, Revelation 22:4,5.
Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed.What compassion is now unleashed! Don’t you admire the psalmist as well as the psalm? How well he uses his eyes! Would you like to be like him?
1. Verses 53 and 136.
2. Verses 18 and 136.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 136,158 (your law is not obeyed), Psalm 42:3, 43:2,5, 126:5,6, 137:1, Job 16:20, Luke 19:41, Romans 9:2,3.
[i] Quoted in The Treasury of David
BUT NOW A RIGHTEOUSNESS FROM GOD, APART FROM LAW, HAS BEEN MADE KNOWN, TO WHICH THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS TESTIFY. Romans 3:21
Our battle with sin will not cease till we die, and throughout the psalm are the longings to be free from sin. How can a young man keep his way pure?(verse 9)I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (verse 11)I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word. (verse 25)Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me. (verse 133)Our need is more than just to be free from sin. Even if that could be achieved, we would still be left naked and ashamed. God has provided more for us than that. Even as God clothed Adam and Eve as they fled Paradise, so He has clothed us as we return to Paradise. God is righteous, and offers us a free gift of righteousness, which is eternal life. We are small and despised, but it is still for us! It comes to us through righteous, reliable words. It comes to us in spite of our enemies and troubles, and it results in life. Happy meditating!
Righteous are you, O LORD, and your laws are right.Another red-letter verse reveals the character of God. Everything in the Christian life flows from knowing Him. This psalm glorifies the Word of God, but when God takes centre-stage, even the Word takes the background. If God is just, fair and true, of course His Word will be!
1. Consider this verse and worship.
2. Verses 68 and 137.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 7,40,62,75,106,121,123,137,138,142,144,160, 164,172 (saddiq righteous), Psalms 7:9,11, 11:7, 92:15, 99:4, 145:17, Romans 3:5,6, Revelation 15:3,4.
The statutes you have laid down are righteous; they are fully trustworthy. Laid downmeans charged or commanded, as in verse 4. Fullyis the “vehemently, wholly” of verse 4 also. Trustworthymeans firmness or security. Note the progressive thought of these two verses. God is righteous; His Word is righteous; He commands His words to us; they are utterly reliable.
1. Marvel at His righteousness and faithfulness as you meditate on this verse.
2. Verses 4 and 138.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 4,138 (sawa laid down), Psalm 19:7-9, 85:11, Romans 7:12.
My zeal wears me out, for my enemies ignore your words. Enemiesmeans a narrow or tight place, also translated troublein verse 143.Zealmeans jealousy or envy, clearly in this context speaking of his jealousy for God’s glory. Wears me outmeans consumed or cut off. Ignore is forget, the same word used in verse 141. What a powerful mix of emotions are described in his reactions to godless people about him!
1. Verses 136 and 139.
2. Verses 53 and 139.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 139,143,157 (sar enemies), Psalm 69:9, John 2:17.
Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them. Testedhas to do with the refining of metal, and thoroughlyis the fully of verse 138. So God’s Word is utterly firm and secure, and it has been utterly field-tested by multitudes through every generation and circumstance of life! Maybe we ought to field-test them for ourselves and so come to love them too! What particular promises have you tested?
1. Verses 128 and 140.
2. Verses 52 and 140.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 47,48,97,113,119,127,132,140,159, 163,165,167 (ahab love), Psalms 12:6, 46:1, 1 Peter 1:7,2:2.
Though I am lowly and despised, I do not forget your precepts. Lowlymeans little. Alongside revelations of who God is, are revelations of who we are. The psalmist’s favourite identity is servant (see verse 140), but here is another. Is this a problem of low self-esteem? It’s the truth, which is always a good starting point! We are small, when compared to the vastness of eternity and the universe, let alone to the High and Lofty One! Our contemporaries often despise us. These are simple facts! But we have found something wonderful: the Word, which is firm, well tried and eternal, and it is in us, producing an eternal fruit of righteousness. That is what I call an identity!
1. My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you(Proverbs 7:1). Store up this verse today.
2. Verses 139 and 141.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 9,19,63,83,94,125,141,176 (our identity), Psalm 22:6, 40:17, Isaiah 53:3, James 2:5.
Your righteousness is everlasting and your law is true.Men of every generation and culture have longed for eternal life, and it’s come to us as a free gift! Let the truth of this get deep into you. God is never going to take it from you. It doesn’t depend on your works or obedience; it depends on Jesus’ work and obedience. Having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:14).In other words, He smeared out the charges against us, sent them away to a Roman cross just outside Jerusalem in 30AD and nailed them to it. They aren’t ever coming back!
1. Ponder this verse slowly.
2. Verses 89 and 142.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 43,142,151,160 (emet true), Psalm 36:6, 85:13, John17:17, Ephesians 4:21.
Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands are my delight.The two different, Hebrew words, translated trouble and distress, both mean a narrow place. This is the tension of the Christian life: with enlarged hearts we run in the way of His commandments, but in our lives we find ourselves shut in by our circumstances. What can we do? Delight in commands that are sure, well tried and sweeter than honey!
1. Meditate on this verse. Take it with you today.
2. Verses 139 and 143.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119:143, 162 (masa come upon me), Psalm 88:3-9, 116:3, Mark 14:33,34.
Your statutes are forever right; give me understanding that I may live. Rightis the righteous that characterises this stanza, as in verse 142. Surely the repetition is for emphasis. He just has to say it again: it’s so amazing! It reminds me of Paul in Colossians 1:15-20. He proclaims the glory of who Jesus is, but one phrase really staggers him. It is suddenly repeated in Colossians 2:9. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. How can this be so? He can’t get his mind round it, so repeats it with wonder. In the same way, the eternal righteousness of God is reaffirmed, leading to the cry for understanding. What is the end result? Eternal life!
1. Verses 142 and 144.
2. Dwell on this verse. Memorise it. Meditate on it.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 44,52,89,93,98,111,112,142,144,152,160 (olam forever), Psalm 45:4, 48:10, Romans 5:17,21.
AND PRAY IN THE SPIRIT ON ALL OCCASIONS WITH ALL KINDS OF PRAYERS AND REQUESTSEphesians 6:18.
Almost every verse of this psalm is prayer, and I hope you’ve discovered that meditation and prayer go hand-in-hand. Just as we are to meditate day and night, so prayer is to be mingled with everything we do. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).We also need set times of prayer, where we follow Jesus’ instructions: But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen (Matthew 6:6).But do you find it easy? One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us…” What would you ask Jesus to teach you: to work miracles? “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).The disciples looked at Jesus’ life and saw prayer was the key. Note that they didn’t want information about how to pray; they wanted to be taught to actually do it! I like to start praying in the morning with scripture. I take a stanza of this psalm and start to speak it out slowly, then praying it, letting specific phrases or ideas fuel my prayers. Sometimes my heart is too stubborn to respond, but usually the Spirit takes the Word, and helps me in my weakness, and transports me to the wide, open places! As you meditate on this stanza, and pray it, I trust your prayer life will be transformed too.
I call with all my heart; answer me, O LORD, and I will obey your decrees. You can’t pretend to have swum in a swimming pool, if all you did was dabble your toe in the water. Prayer must be wholehearted, and it expects to obtain an answer! Prayer is not a psychological exercise to make you feel better. Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you (Matthew 7:7).Prayer is not asking God to do, what we won’t do! The wholehearted request goes with a commitment to do His will: I will obey your decrees.
- Immerse yourself in this verse today. Pray it often.
- This verse and Matthew 7:7.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 26,42,145,172 (ana hear), Psalm 61:1, Jeremiah 29:12,13, Hebrews 5:7.
I call out to you; save me and I will keep your statutes. The NIV rather disguises the subtle difference in these two verses. Verse 145 says: I’m praying and I will keep your word. Verse 146 says: I’m praying so that I can keep your word. It’s another victorious circle! The main point of this verse is we pray to God. Rather obvious, you might think, but is it? How many prayers are to sound good in our own ears, or to impress others, or even to manipulate others. This is why the acid proof of our praying is when we are alone with God. So pray to Him, with all your heart, and you’re allowed to make a noise when you do it: call out does mean to call out, not to whisper or mumble!
- Immerse yourself in this verse today. Pray it often.
- This verse and Acts 12:5.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 145,146 (qara call), Psalms 22:5, 50:15, 81:7, Matthew 8:25, 14:30.
I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. Dawn means literally breeze, and can represent dusk or dawn. Cry is a different word to the cry of verses 145 and 146, but again means to call out loud. Hope means to wait patiently. So, we need to pray wholeheartedly and to God. We also need to pray with urgency and persistence, at all times of the day, and we need to patiently wait for the answers that will surely come.
- Meditate on this verse today. Pray it. Obey the promptings of the Spirit to pray.
- This verse and Luke 18:7.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 145,146,147 (call), Psalms 18:6, 20:2,3, Luke 18: 1-8, Hebrews 6:17-19.
My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises. Both verses 147 and 148 contain a word that means to anticipate or precede. So, verse 147 describes the psalmist praying before dusk or dawn; verse 148, meditating before the night watches. The watches were at 6pm, 10pm and 2am. God will not allow us to keep our lives in neat compartments. He wants all of us, anytime! As I lose impetus in my praying, I go back to the Word to get fresh fuel. Mix prayer with meditation!
- Guard my teachings as the apple of your eye (Proverbs 7:2). Guard this verse day and night.
- This verse and Luke 6:12.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 147,148 (qadam precede), Psalm 63:6, 139:17,18, Luke 11:5-10.
Hear my voice in accordance with your love; preserve my life, O LORD, according to your laws. Voice is from another Hebrew word meaning to call out. There are all sorts of prayers and they are all good: cries of delight, groans of distress, strong pleas for mercy and gentle sighs of love. Praying is a lively business: it deserves our best energies. Find your own favourite prayers and keep praying them. The psalmist did. Here is his favourite again: give me life!
- Take this verse today. Meditate and pray it over and over.
- This verse and Ephesians 6:18.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 88,124,149,159 (according to your love), Psalms 51:1, 69:16, Matthew 7:7-10.
Those who devise wicked schemes are near, but they are far from your law. Isn’t it wonderful to find this verse here, amongst all these strong cries? Isn’t the Bible so down to earth? When we pray, other things will usually draw near to distract and discourage us. Don’t be discouraged when horrible thoughts come into your mind in the middle of your devotions. The accuser will do anything to stop you praying. We need to press through these things. Test them by the Word. If they are far from your law, whether they come from the flesh or the Devil, send them packing and keep praying.
- Meditate on this verse today.
- This verse and Romans 8:26.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 150,169 (qarab bring near), Psalm 22:11, Matthew 26:46.
Yet you are near, O LORD, and all your commands are true. That is what prayer is all about: intimacy! Another magnificent revelation of who God is! He is Immanuel; God with us; the God who is near! But verse 150 is next to verse 151. The place of deepest intimacy is the place of strongest opposition. The biggest giants lived at Hebron! So when opposition intensifies, be encouraged. The Lord is at hand. See the desire of God’s heart: If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him (John 14:23).Isn’t that worth some sleepless nights and some discipline?
- Treasure this verse. Let the reality break in upon you.
- This verse and John14:23.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 150,151 (near – different Hebrew words, but similar meanings), Psalms 34:18, 65:4, 71:12, 73:28, Deuteronomy 4:7, Matthew 1:23, Hebrews 10:22.
Long ago I learned from your statutes that you established them to last forever. Have you changed your mind on matters where God hasn’t changed His? All this is built on a solid foundation, the unchanging Word of God. This verse is like the solid bedrock on which this stanza is built. So it is with our praying and our whole lives. See, also, how he returns to the theme of the previous stanzas. Eternity is on his mind. Let a vision of the Eternal One expand our concerns beyond our small horizons. Let us pray the great eternal purposes of God. Come, Lord Jesus.
- Dwell on this verse, and revel in your security.
- This verse and Matthew 7:24.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 52,89,90,142,144 (the Word enduring forever), Psalms 89:34-37, 111:7-9, Ecclesiastes 3:14, Matthew 7:24-27.
I HAVE COME THAT THEY MAY HAVE LIFE, AND HAVE IT TO THE FULL John 10:10
The key to the Christian life is life. We need more life! This will carry us through a multitude of difficulties. When you ski slowly, every rut and ridge is magnified into a major obstacle; as you pick up speed, you hardly notice them. The more of God’s life we have in us, the more momentum we have to slip over difficulties and not become entangled in them. “More life” is the favourite cry of the psalmist, and in this stanza he cries it three times! We are meant to become more passionate as we mature as Christians. The more we understand, the greater our desperate need appears: so our prayers become more persistent, more determined.
In this stanza, I detect whispers of Calvary. Where else do mercy and judgment meet (verse 156)? If we ask God to look upon my suffering and deliver me, should we not heed that great prophetic cry: Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look around and see. Is any suffering like my suffering that was inflicted on me, that the LORD brought on me in the day of his fierce anger (Lamentations 1:12)?
Look upon my suffering and deliver me, for I have not forgotten your law. Remember the prayers of the last stanza: I call with all my heart…I call out…cry for help…hear my voice? Still he cries out to be rescued, but now there is a deeper cry for intimacy. Don’t just answer my prayer – although that is marvellous enough – but feel what I am feeling. When Jesus met the rich young ruler it says: Jesus looked at him and loved him (Mark 10:21). Again, he argues his case on the grounds of remembering God’s word. How are you doing with memorization of scripture?
- Ponder this verse.
- This verse and Lamentations 1:12.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 50,92,153 (oni affliction), Psalms 9:13, 25:18, 31:7, 144:11, Genesis 29:32, Matthew 27: 41-43.
Defend my cause and redeem me; preserve my life according to your promise. The language here is legal: cause is a “contest” (personal or legal), and defend is “to wrangle or hold a controversy”. This is our advocate pleading our cause in the courtroom. Redeem is a technical word and means: “to be the next of kin” and because of this relationship to buy back their property or even marry their widow. Here is the first of the three cries for life, but note the subtle differences between them. Doesn’t this verse again remind you of the cross?
- This verse and Titus 2:14.
- This verse and 1 John 2:1.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 154,156,159 (haya preserve my life), Psalm 43:1, Ruth 3:9, Zechariah 3:1-5, Galatians 4:5.
Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek out your decrees. Three different words are used here for deliverance: deliver (verse 153) is to “pull off or strip”; redeem (verse 154) is to “buy back”; salvation is “deliverance”. Note the richness of salvation! But all this is far from those who don’t seek it out.
- Verses 94 and 155.
- Verses 150 and 155.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 134,153,154,155 (different words for deliverance), Psalm 18:27, Ephesians 2:17,18, Luke 16:23.
Your compassion is great, O LORD; preserve my life according to your laws. Another revelation of God’s character: He is the God of mercy! Great means “abundant”; compassion is probably better translated “mercies”; laws is actually “judgments, sentences or verdicts”. It’s the language of the courtroom still. You only see the abundance of God’s mercy when you place it against the backdrop of God’s judgments, and we need mercies to stand before His laws!
- Verses 77 and 156.
- This verse and 2 Corinthians 1:3.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 156,157,162,165 (rab great), Psalms 23:6, 51:1, 86:5,13,15, Romans 3:23-26.
Many are the foes who persecute me, but I have not turned from your statutes. How sweet that abundant mercies precede abundant enemies, but don’t think you can have the first without the last! You might have hoped that you had left these enemies behind a few stanzas ago, but they will never be shaken off until we enter our eternal joy and rest. Two different enemies are described here: foes means literally “tight or narrow places”; persecute, in Hebrew, is a noun meaning “those who run after us”. So we are hemmed in and pursued. Sounds great, doesn’t it! Where are you feeling squeezed? However, we are also pursued by goodness and mercy (Psalm 23:6), and overtaken by all the blessings of Deuteronomy 28 if we will obey the voice of the Lord. I’ll settle for that!
- Verses 156 and 157.
- This verse and Acts 4:27.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 51,110,157 (nata not turned from), Psalms 3:1, 22:12, 23:5, 118:10-12, Matthew 24:9.
I look on the faithless with loathing, for they do not obey your word. He began this stanza: Look upon my suffering. Now he is looking at the godless. The faithless are those who “cover things up” or “act deceitfully”. Notice the violent emotion generated by his keeping God’s Word, but beware of self-righteousness.
- Verses 153 and 158.
- Verses 158 and 159.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 53,113,115,139 (his reactions to the godless), Psalms 25:19, 95:10, 139:21, Mark 3:5.
See how I love your precepts; preserve my life, O LORD, according to your love. Note the progression of verses 153, 158 and 159: Look upon my suffering…I look on the faithless…See how I love. Note also the progression of verses 154,156 and 159: preserve my life according to your promise…according to your laws…according to your love. This is a beautiful verse: life is at its center, flowing from the oceans of God’s love towards me and from me to His Word.
- In the Song of Songs 6:11,12, the bride speaks: I went down to the grove of nut trees to look at the new growth in the valley, to see if the vines had budded or the pomegranates were in bloom. Before I realized it, my desire set me among the royal chariots of my people. Take the first half of this verse and invite the Lord – not a critical Judge, but your Lover – to inspect your heart. Can you see any buds? What has God worked in your heart through these last few months? Give Him thanks.
- Take the second half of this verse and explore God’s love for you.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 97,159 (love for God’s Word), Psalms 66:18, 139:16,24, John 21:15-17.
All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal. Back to the bedrock of the Word! How beautifully this forms the foundation of this stanza, just as verses 144 and 152 did in the previous stanzas. There is only one all in the Hebrew, but there is something wonderfully emphatic about it. The first half is translated quite differently by different translations: The sum of thy word is truth (RSV)andThy word is true from the beginning (KJV).The Word of God is our foundation wherever we look, and amid all our cries for life.
- Verses 144 and 160.
- 2. Verses 152 and 160.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 86,138,144,152 (God’s Word, faithful and eternal), Psalm 111:7,8, John 19:24,28,36,37, Acts 2:23.
IF YOU LOVE ME, YOU WILL OBEY WHAT I COMMANDJohn 14:15
Many things are important but one thing is vital – love. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love (Galatians 5:6). If I…have not love, I am nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2).So, as we draw near the end of the psalm, love becomes the dominant theme. What a many-faceted jewel love is! This stanza is breathtaking in the breadth of emotion expressed. Fear, joy, hate, praise and peace all come tumbling out of these verses! Are all these different moods for different seasons? No, they are all included in Biblical love. Love is patient…Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth (1 Corinthians 13:4,6).This kind of love is a fruit of the Spirit, and the seed from which this fruit springs is the Word of God.
Rulers persecute me without cause, but my heart trembles at your word. His enemies are back! Without cause, a different word from that used before, means gratis: devoid of cost, reason or advantage. Some things in life do seem so pointless, so random. Philip Doddridge wrote: “I settle it as an established point with me, that the more diligently and faithfully I serve Christ, the greater reproach and the more injury I must expect”.[i] Trembles means to be startled or to fear. He can ignore his enemies because he has learnt to fear the Word.
- Verses 23 and 161.
- 2. This verse and Isaiah 66:2.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 84,86,150,157,161 (radap persecute), Psalm 27:1, John15:25.
I rejoice in your promise like one who finds great spoil. Finds is the same word translated come upon me in verse 143. As in the previous stanza, great is repeated in verse 165. Is this your experience now? Do you realize that the Word is the real treasure? What jewels have you memorized?
- Verses 14 and 162.
- 2. This verse and Matthew 13:44.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 156,157,161,162 (rab great), Psalm 35:9, Matthew 13:52.
I hate and abhor falsehood but I love your law. Hate and abhor are two different Hebrew words both meaning to hate or loathe. The language therefore is very emphatic. To fiercely love inevitably means to fiercely hate. If we love something, we will make more and more room for it in our lives, and other things will be neglected or ignored. The love here described is a real love, not feigned, a love grounded in truth.
- Verses 113 and 163.
- Verses 128 and 163.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 104,113,128,163 (sane hate), Psalms 5:6, 101:7, Proverbs 6:16-19, Romans 12:9.
Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws. Seven times can probably be interpreted “many times”, but it makes an interesting study to follow the phrase through the Bible. We praise God primarily for who He is, but it is quite legitimate to praise Him for His Word. Why not praise Him for the special verses that have gripped your imagination.
- Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. (Proverbs 7:3). How can you remember to meditate and praise all through the day?
- Verses 97 and 164.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 164,175 (halal praise), Psalms 34:1, 84:4, 97:8, Leviticus 4:6,17, 5:11, 14:7,16,51, 25:18,21,24,28, Joshua 6:15, Revelation 7:15.
Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. Peace here is the Hebrew word shalom, which includes safety and welfare. The ground of love in verse 163 was honesty and truth; the fruit of love is peace. Some of these verses are imprinted in my memory now, not just because of what I have learnt through them, but because of what I’ve experienced through them. On the day I was meditating on this verse, I was personally and angrily opposed, but was able to answer graciously because this verse had worked peace in me. Is anything threatening to cause you to stumble?
- Verses 163 and 165.
- This verse and Philippians 4:7.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 163,165,167 (ahab love), Psalm 37:11, 122:6-8, John 14:27, 2 Thessalonians 3:16, 1 Peter 2:6-8, 1 John 2:10.
I wait for your salvation, O LORD, and I follow your commands. Wait means to watch with hope and patience. Peace allows us to rest securely in God’s timing. Waiting is not a passive activity: sitting around until God turns up! While we wait, we get on with what God has already commanded us.
- Verses 112 and 166.
- 2. Verses 123 and 166.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 123,155,166,174 (yeshua salvation), Psalm 130:5-7, Genesis 49:18, 1 John 2:3-4.
I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly. Obedience comes from the heart and its wellspring is love. Giving is not Biblical unless it is hilarious (2 Corinthians 9:7). The words of Psalm 40:7,8 are prophetically applied to Jesus: Here I am, I have come—it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart. But love is an empty word unless it results in obedience. It is a victorious circle!
- Verses 163,165 and 167.
- This verse and John 14:15.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 129,167 (soul keeps), Psalm 19:11, Hebrews 10:7, 2 John 1:6.
I obey your precepts and your statutes, for all my ways are known to you. We need to progressively seize hold of more and more truth. Not satisfied with keeping the statutes, he realises he must add the precepts. Is your appetite increasing for God’s Word. You have nearly finished this psalm, but all the Bible awaits you! There is yet much land to be possessed. The motivation is that God sees all my “trodden roads”, my habits and my secret paths. Everything must be dealt with, and for that all scripture is needed.
- This verse and Psalm 1:6.
- Verses 4 and 168.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 167,168 (shamar obey), Psalms 44:20,21, 139:3, Job 31:4, Daniel 5:23, Titus 1:9, Hebrews 4:13.
[i] Quoted in The Treasury of David
SO, IF YOU THINK YOU ARE STANDING FIRM, BE CAREFUL THAT YOU DON’T FALL! 1 Corinthians 10:12
How do you think this psalm should end: with shouts of victory? It almost seems like an anticlimax: I have strayed like a lost sheep…after all this discipline and devotion, is this the reward? The great message of this last stanza is that finishing is hazardous. Jesus said: he who stands firm to the end will be saved (Matthew 10:22).Complacency and overconfidence are not signs of maturity. We can certainly be sure of our salvation, but it is a confidence based on a deep dependence on God. Paul could say: I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day (2 Timothy 1:12); he also said: No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (1 Corinthians 9:27).So this stanza begins with two cries for help, followed by two cries of praise; then two cries for help and a deep longing for more, and finishes with a confession of his weakness.
I hope you have finished this psalm with a deepened love for God’s Word and that this will be a springboard to an exploration of all the treasures hidden in the Bible. Remember the words of Martin Boos: “The most read their Bible like cows that stand in the long grass, and trample under their feet the finest flowers and herbs”.[i] I hope you now understand what he meant, and that it will never be true of you! Happy meditating!
May my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word. Cry is a shrill sound or shout. Some commentators suggest the word is onomatopoeic, like an Arabic word sounding like the twang of a bowstring. Raising your voice isn’t to get God’s attention, but it is a reflection of your urgency and desire. Note his priority in prayer: first understanding, then deliverance (verse 170). Jesus said: Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32).
- Verses 104 and 169.
- Verses 125 and 169.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 27,34,73,95,100,104,125,130,144, 169 (bin understanding), Psalm 18:6, 1 Chronicles 22:12, 2 Chronicles 1:10-12, James 1:5.
May my supplication come before you; deliver me according to your promise. Supplication is a softer word meaning graciousness or entreaty. Deliver means to snatch away. How often, in distress, our first cry is: Get me out of here! First cry for understanding, then for deliverance. Where do you need these at the moment? Both of these will come through the words that you have been meditating on, the words that are in your heart.
- Verses 169 and 170.
- Verses 146 and 170.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 43,170 (nasal deliver), Psalm 60:5, Genesis 32:11, 1 Timothy 2:1.
May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees. This may not be a request but a statement: My lips shall utter praise…(KJV). Overflow means to gush forth. How many times has the psalmist prayed: “teach me”, and now he has his answer! Thank God for some of the truths you’ve learnt while meditating on this psalm, but most of all praise your wonderful teacher.
- Verses 12 and 171.
- Verses 108 and 171.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 13,171 (sapa lips), Psalm 71:23, Luke 11:1,2.
May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous. Again, this may be a statement not a request: My tongue shall speak of thy word…(KJV). The root meaning of sing is to pay attention, but can mean speak, sing or shout. Note how the praise of verses 171 and 172 springs from the Word.
- Verses 171 and 172.
- Verses 54 and 172.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 121,123,138,142,144,172 (sedeq righteous), Psalm 56:4, 149:6, James 3:5-10.
May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts. The ground for his prayer is a decisive choice. You want the mighty hand of your Father cupped around your life, don’t you? You need His help in a hundred ways? So make a decisive choice to lay hold of the Word every day, for the rest of your life.
- Verses 30 and 173.
- This verse and John 10:29.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 173,175 (azar help), Psalm 31:5,15, 98:1, 108:6, Isaiah 50:2, 59:1, Matthew 14:31.
I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight. It is the richness of Christian experience that we both long for more, and delight in what we have, at the same time! Here we are, at the end of the psalm, and he is still panting after God and His Word.
- Verses 166 and 174.
- Verses 40 and 174.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 40,81,166,174(desire, longing), Psalm 63:1,5, Romans 8:23-25, Philippians 1:23.
Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me. Sustain is the help of verse 173. What a beautiful picture this is! In verse 1, we saw this picture of the psalmist walking in the law of the Lord. Now consider His laws and promises surround us, just as the Father would cup his hands around us! Note the ground for his plea…not that he would serve God, but that he would praise God. The chief end of man is to worship God and enjoy Him forever. The content of his prayer is repeated again and again through this psalm: give me life!
- Verses 1 and 175.
- Verses 173 and 175.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 164,175 (halal praise), Psalms 9:13,14, 30:9, Luke 1:68.
I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands. Here is the final identity the psalmist claims: a lost sheep! Strayed means to vacillate, reel or stray. Lost means to wander away or lose oneself. If we have sought Him, then surely we can ask Him to seek us. Actually, all our seeking has only been a response to His wooing and seeking. He is Alpha and Omega. His plea remains, as so often in this psalm, I have not forgotten your commands. As you finish this psalm, don’t forget what you have learnt. Memorise scripture, don’t let it go, there is still much land to be possessed! Keep pressing on!
- Stay with this verse today: explore every phrase.
- This verse and Luke 19:10.
Other relevant scriptures: Psalm 119: 110,176(taa strayed), Psalm 14:3, 23:1-6, Matthew 18:12,13, 1 Peter 2:25.