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The book of Psalms is the heart of the Bible. Psalm 119 is the heart of the fifth book of Psalms. We hear in this psalm the beating of the heart of the faithful remnant of Israel. This psalm points to the Word and prophetically it points to the time when the remnant will return to the LORD and to His Word.
The hallmark of the psalm is that through the Spirit’s ministry the law is written in the hearts of the remnant (2 Corinthians 3:8; cf. Psalms 40:8; Ezekiel 36:27). This is by virtue of the blood of the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-Nahum :). The law is mentioned in almost every verse, using names other than ‘law’ as well. Only in Psalms 119:84; Psalms 119:121Psalms 119:122; Psalms 119:132 there are no reference to the law.
Synonyms are also used for the term ‘law’. The Jews speak of eight different synonyms for ‘law’, which shows the richness of the law and of the Word of God as a whole. This allows the psalmist to elaborate on the multifaceted nature of the Word, and it helps us to see and appreciate more of the multicolored nature of the Word of God. Five of these eight synonyms are already used in the description of God’s Word in Psalm 19 (Psalms 19:8-2 Kings :).
The eight words used by the psalmist are:
1. Law (Torah, 25 times) = teaching, instruction – the law as the teaching of the will of the LORD, Yahweh: “He who keeps the law (teaching) is a discerning son” (Proverbs 28:7). Furthermore, the law also means:
- ‘the whole of the Old Testament’,
- ‘the five books of Moses’
- ‘the requirements of the old covenant necessary to receive life’ (see, for example, the letter to the Romans and the letter to the Galatians).
2. Word (Dabar, 24 times) = orderly exposition in speech – the form or means by which Yahweh communicates His will. It is every word that goes out through the mouth of God.
3. Promise (Imrah, 19 times) = proverb, saying, pronouncement – expression of the will of Yahweh in what He says.
4. Commandment (Mitzvah, 22 times) – precept that demands obedience; imposed duty or responsibility. It emphasizes God’s right to determine the basis of our relationship with Him
5. Statute, institution (Chukkim, 21 times) = engraving, chiseling – the permanent testimony of the will of Yahweh, as if engraved in stone and therefore indelible. It represents the binding and continuing power of God’s law.
6. Precepts (Piqqudim, 21 times) = to commission – meticulous regulations that closely examine our lives and accurately define or describe them.
7. Judgment (Mishpat, 22 times) = law, court, administer justice – the will of Yahweh as Judge in legal matters. They are also the rules God has given to govern relationships between people.
8. Testimony (Edut, 23 times) – testifies to the relationship (covenant) with Yahweh and the responsibility attached to it; the word is derived from repeat, testify or say something emphatically; the law is also called ‘the testimony’ (Exodus 25:16; Exodus 25:21). These are practical principles that govern behavior. The Word of God gives ‘testimony’ of righteousness and against our sinfulness.
The number ‘eight’ also fits well with the whole of Psalm 119, in which each letter of the Hebrew alphabet appears eight times at the beginning of a verse. The number ‘eight’ in Hebrew is shmoneh, which is derived from shaman meaning to make fat, abundant. Seven in enough, eight is ‘more than enough’. Seven is a complete whole, eight is a new beginning. ‘Eight’ in this psalm points to the new covenant, through which the law is written in the hearts of the born-again believing remnant (Hebrews 8:8-2 Samuel :).
This psalm is an acrostic, that is, each verse begins with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet, as is the case with Psalms 9, 10, 34, 37, 111, 112, 145. The difference is that these psalms show a singular acrostic – and are not always complete either, for a letter is sometimes missing – while in Psalm 119 we have an eightfold acrostic.
Psalm 119 has twenty-two stanzas of eight verses each. Each verse begins with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Each of the eight verses of the verse begins with the letter of the verse. For example, each verse of the first stanza begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the letter aleph; each verse of the second stanza begins with the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the letter beth; and so on.
An acrostic functions as a mnemonic device; it is a tool for remembering a text. Psalm 119 has both an acrostic and a rhythm for remembering the text, in the head and in the heart (cf. Psalms 119:11).
Each letter of the Hebrew alephbeth – to us: alphabet – is a pictogram with a meaning. Each letter also has a name with a backstory. [Those interested should we refer to, for example, Gesenius, Lexicon of Hebrew.] Both aspects are woven into the message of the Word of God. The message and the letters as bearers of the message are closely intertwined. The word alephbeth is a composite of the first and second letters of the Hebrew alphabet – aleph and beth – which represent the word ‘father’. This underscores the importance of the concept of ‘father’ in the Bible.
The Lord Jesus is called “the Alpha and the Omega” (Revelation 1:8; Revelation 1:11Revelation 21:6; Revelation 22:13), the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. In Hebrew, these are the aleph and the tav. It speaks of the Lord Jesus as the Word, the speaking from God to men (Hebrews 1:1).
This psalm is the longest of all the psalms and of all the chapters in the Bible. It is a song of praise about the Word of God. A section of God’s Word that uses all the letters of human language to present us with a subject shows us the value of the subject of that section. This is the Word of God which has an inexhaustible value. By using all the letters of the alphabet, it is presented to us in a complete way.
This does not mean that we know the inexhaustible value of the Word of God if we have understood the psalm correctly. Using a variant of what Spurgeon once said, after years of studying the Word, we want to put it this way: A long life is just enough to stand on the beach with our feet in the water of the endless ocean of the Word, which, as we go further and further into the water, becomes more and more endless.
This psalm is about the Word of God as the only means of getting to know God Himself better through it. The psalmist values the Word because it comes from Him. With the exception of Psalms 119:1; Psalms 119:2Psalms 119:3; Psalms 119:9, he speaks in all verses to the “LORD”, the God of the covenant with His people. He speaks to Him of “Your precepts”, “Your ordinances”, “Your statutes”, and so on. The psalmist is not glorifying the Book, but the God Who reveals Himself in and through this Book and with Whom he has a personal relationship.
The psalm shows the richness of God’s Word. It is impossible to describe its richness in a single sentence or a few phrases. Even the alphabet is not long enough. The psalmist goes through the alphabet eight times without repeating a single thing. Each time we see a new aspect of the richness of God’s Word. As mentioned, the number eight indicates a new beginning. The Word of God works a new beginning.
Being busy with God’s Word is an activity that gives true happiness, true blessing. The first word of the psalm is “blessed” (Psalms 119:1). It truly blesses one in the sense that it gives one a peaceful heart and a joyful spirit. We hear something similar from the mouth of the Lord Jesus in the ‘beatitudes’ in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-2 Kings :). The true servant of God will not be satisfied with a cursory reading of God’s Word. His desire is that it governs his whole life.
A division of the psalm, which describes the Word of God as written in the heart (Jeremiah 31:33), is the following:
1. 1st-7th stanza – the letters aleph-zain: focused on yourself;
2. 8th-14th stanza – the letters cheth-nun: focused on your fellow man;
3. 15th-21st stanza – the letters samech-shin/shin: focused on God;
4. 22nd stanza – the letter tav: summary.
/aleph/ The Beginning
The aleph is the first letter. We can say that this letter speaks of God as the origin of all things. This letter was originally depicted as (the head of) a bull or an ox, the largest sacrificial animal for the burnt offering (Leviticus 1:1-Deuteronomy :). The burnt offering speaks of Christ’s offering to glorify God as the basis of God’s speaking to man.
A bull also speaks of strength, power and of service. This too applies to Christ, Who did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). His life of service and His death are immediately revealed by this first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which also represents the numerical value one.
In this aleph stanza about the Word of God, it becomes clear that the center of the Word is the Person of God Himself (Psalms 119:2). The Word is about Him. The Word is about Him who revealed Himself in Jesus: “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10).
A division of this stanza is:
Psalms 119:1-Leviticus : the teaching: third person plural.
Psalms 119:4 the Teacher: second person singular.
Psalms 119:5-Ruth : the student, the remnant: first person singular.
This division makes it clear that the general truth of Psalms 119:1-Numbers : must be applied personally in Psalms 119:5-Ruth :.
Psalms 119:1, and in fact the entire stanza of eight verses is an introduction to the whole of Psalm 119. The psalm begins by saying “blessed”. The book of Psalms begins with a “blessed” to the righteous and his way (Psalms 1:1). The ‘way’ means not only that a believer has found the way, but that, like an Enoch, he walks and lives in that way. In Psalm 1, that way is characterized by three negative things in which the righteous does not walk. Here in Psalm 119, we find a positive “blessed” for the upright in their way. Their way is characterized by going in the law of the LORD. This is emphasized in Psalms 119:2 with another positive “blessed”.
‘Blessed’ is not a wish or a command, but a fact. It is the naming of a fact, a spiritual law, passed on to us as teaching. Its first condition is ‘blameless, literally ‘perfect’. The way of the blameless is not a learned, superficial behavior, but a way with a perfect heart.
Teaching is not a subject, like theology, for example, but literally “a way” to walk, a path of life. It is a walk in the law of the LORD (Psalms 119:1). Such a walk is possible for the believing remnant through the new covenant, whereby the law is written in their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:26; Ezekiel 36:27).
There is only one way through the world for the God-fearing Jew and that is the way of the law. It is not wealth and possessions that lead to happiness, but going the way of obedience to the law. Those who go that way with a sincere heart are in the right relationship with God. The result is blessing (Luke 11:28).
Then another “blessed” is added. That is for “those who observe His testimonies” (Psalms 119:2). God’s law here is called “His testimonies” because the law contains the testimonies of Who He is and what He wants. This connects the remnant directly to Himself. His testimonies are observed by those “who seek Him with all [their] heart”. ‘Observe’ is literally ‘keep’. It implies first ‘accepting’ and then ‘obeying’. This speaks of a living relationship with Him, which is evident from the fact that all the heart goes out to Him (cf. Psalms 119:10; Psalms 119:34Psalms 119:58; Psalms 119:69Psalms 119:145; Jeremiah 29:13).
When the things just mentioned are present, “they also do no unrighteousness” (Psalms 119:3). To commit unrighteousness means to continue to commit wickedness, falsehood. This is completely foreign to Who God is (cf. Zephaniah 3:5) and therefore also to those who are born of God (cf. 1 John 3:9). In the heart that goes out to Him are the highways (Psalms 84:5). Such a person will “walk in His ways”, that is, in the ways of God.
Then the psalmist – and in him the remnant – turns to the LORD and says emphatically to Him, “You have ordained Your precepts, that we should keep [them] diligently” (Psalms 119:4). Keeping God’s precepts is not optional; it is not a matter of politeness, but of obedience. It is also more than formal obedience. It is about its quality: it is obedience of a devoted heart which can only be there if there is a renewed heart.
Obedience here is the result of teaching about the law as the basis of a truly happy life. The remnant learns the will of the LORD and is eager to live by it. The law is written in their heart. Therefore, it is a joy to their heart to be obedient to what the LORD asks.
In Psalms 119:1-Numbers : we have received spiritual teaching. In the next four verses we read about the wisdom of transforming this teaching into the practice of life. The psalmist expects, to put it with the apostle Paul, that the LORD will not only work the will, but also work the work in his life (cf. Philippians 2:12-1 Chronicles :).
As it comes down to practice now, we get a glimpse into the heart and state of mind of the psalmist. He feels himself falling short. A sigh, which is a prayer, comes over his lips: “Oh that my ways may be established to keep Your statutes!” (Psalms 119:5). He sees that his ways are not established when it comes to observing the statutes of the LORD. It is not just about inwardly acknowledging what God has commanded, but that in the practice of life it is acted upon. We recognize here the sigh: “I do believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
He knows that he shall not be ashamed as long as he would “keep look upon all Your commandments” (Psalms 119:6). If he constantly keeps his eye on “all Your commandments”, that is, the whole will of God (cf. Colossians 4:12), he will be preserved from wrong expectations or wrong actions and thus from shame (cf. 1 Peter 2:6). To look upon all the commandments without exception means to look upon the LORD. Through the Word our eye is turned to Him.
The psalmist resolves that he will give thanks to the LORD “with uprightness of heart” when he has learned all His “righteous judgments” (Psalms 119:7). He is ready to learn God’s judgments, which he calls righteous. He also realizes that those judgments make his heart upright, that is without twists and turns. He can and will give thanks to God in a way that is pleasing to Him, not with mere lip language, but from a heart that is upright.
The psalmist now learns a new lesson. He learns that the judgment of the LORD is righteous. He learns to see himself in the light of God. That alone enables him to praise the LORD with an upright heart, a heart cleansed by self-judgment.
We can apply this to ourselves. One day we will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Then we will learn His righteous judgment on all our life. As a result, we will be able to give thanks to Him and worship Him in eternity with a perfectly upright heart.
When the remnant is taught by God, they resolve to keep God’s statutes (Psalms 119:8). In dealing with Him and with His Word, they have come to love the LORD (cf. John 14:15). At the same time, there is the prayer to God not to “forsake” him “utterly” – this expression means: in no way (cf. Psalms 119:43). This is not a prayer that the New Testament believer prays, just as he does not pray that God will not take His Holy Spirit away from him, which David did pray (Psalms 51:13).
/beth/ Dwelling With the LORD
The second letter, beth, means “house. Associated with this is the idea that God has household members. These house members are those who are characterized by seeking, clinging to, longing for the LORD with all their heart (Psalms 119:10), with blessing the LORD as a result (Psalms 119:12).
This beth stanza begins with the question how a young man can keep his way pure (Psalms 119:9). The question is posed to the LORD and comes from the awareness of a young man who longs to walk with the LORD (Psalms 119:7-Ruth :) in a world that is full of impurity, or uncleanness. The psalmist is teaching here. The young man is the student who listens. He represents the faithful remnant (cf. Proverbs 1:4). He wants to teach them the fear of the LORD, knowledge and thoughtfulness (cf. Psalms 34:12).
The young man is in great danger of being sucked along by the lure of sin. Those who do not know this question do not realize this and will certainly not keep their path pure.
The psalmist himself gives the answer to Him to Whom He has asked the question. He says to Him: “By keeping [it] according to Your word”, which is the Word of God in its most comprehensive sense. ‘Keep’ means that the Word of God is not just a dogma that we need to know, but that it permeates every fiber of our being, governs every aspect of our lives, filling all our heart, all our mind, and all our feelings.
Then he will experience the effect of the Word of God in his heart, namely its cleansing effect (cf. Ephesians 5:25; Ephesians 5:26). It is also emphatically “Your” word. This includes the acknowledgment that we receive the teaching of the Word not from a man, but from God Himself (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:13).
All of the Word has a cleansing effect. Obedience to the Word in all its aspects and its application to all areas of life preserve from uncleanness. The Word that commands is also the Word that enables one to do what it commands.
The psalmist, and with him the remnant, can say to the LORD: “With all my heart I have sought You” (Psalms 119:10; cf. Psalms 119:2). Contemplating and feeding on the Word of God had the effect that the psalmist sought the LORD with all his heart. The effect of the Word in our lives is that our hearts are strengthened to be dedicated to the Lord with resolute heart and with all our heart.
Seeking the LORD to know Him and His will is an attitude to life. The psalmist’s heart goes out undivided to Him, to His Person. There is no other object to which his heart goes out. It is not possible to enter into a marriage part-time and with a divided heart. Likewise, it is not possible to seek the LORD with a divided heart.
He does not boast of this. Just because all his heart goes out to the LORD – meaning that he takes time to be busy with the Word – he sees that he is dependent on Him not to wander from His commandments. Therefore, he asks Him not to let him wander from His commandments, but to be led by them in his way. Here we see that Word and prayer go together. One cannot do without the other.
In the aleph stanza, we saw in Psalms 119:5 the psalmist’s acknowledgment that he is weak and longs to stand firm. We find the same thing here in this beth stanza. Here we have the acknowledgment that his heart is capable of wandering and his desire that the LORD will keep him from doing so.
The Word is a telescope through which we see Who God is; the Word is also a mirror in which we see who we are. The Word teaches us that we possess this treasure in an earthen vessel, which portrays our weakness, “surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:7). Practically, it means that we consciously take enough time each day for the Word through which our hearts are cleansed (Psalms 119:9) and strengthened (Psalms 119:10) to be devoted to Him.
Once more the psalmist tells the LORD that his heart goes out to Him. For he has treasured His word in his heart (Psalms 119:11). Now that the psalmist has come to know the working of the Word, he resolves to treasure the Word in the depths of his inner being, namely in his heart.
This goes much further and deeper than knowing the Word with the mind. It is useful to study and memorize the Word. However, it must not stop there. The Word must be ruminated on, as it were; it must descend deeper into the inner self, into the heart, and be kept there like a precious treasure that you love.
The purpose of treasuring the Word is, he tells the LORD “so that I may not sin against You”. As long as the believer lives on earth, the possibility of sinning remains open. God gives His Word, so there is no excuse to sin. Those who treasures God’s Word in their hearts are able to answer the fiery arrows of the enemy with “it is written” (cf. Matthew 4:1-1 Kings :).
The psalmist is aware that man was created for the glory of God and that therefore any sin in his life is sinning against God. The word “sin” means “to miss the mark”, that is, to miss the purpose the Creator has for our lives, which is that we glorify God (Romans 3:23).
If the Word of God is in the heart, to govern life from there, it refrains the righteous from sin. If sin is present in the heart, the opposite happens, sin refrains the righteous from the Word of God.
A person, including a believer, sins most quickly and easily with words (James 3:1-Exodus :). With a word salted with the spoilage repelling words of God (Colossians 4:6), we can give each the right answer and speak words of grace without missing the mark. Thanks to the Word of God that is in the believer, he can also be himself a spoilage repelling salt in this world (Matthew 5:13).
When God’s Word is in the heart, when it is abundantly present there, the God-fearing, instead of sinning, will bless the LORD (Psalms 119:12; Colossians 3:16). To do this, he turns directly to Him and says: “Blessed are You, O LORD” (cf. 1 Peter 1:3). Even for the writers of this commentary, it is not possible to ponder the Word and make comments without our hearts becoming full of praise for our blessed Lord.
Such expressions are especially pleasing to Him. From that attitude of praise, the question to the LORD sounds: “Teach me Your statutes.” The psalmist longs to learn God’s statutes in such a way that His will is engraved on his heart, so that he will not depart from them.
The love of the psalmist and of the remnant for God’s Word is evident in the ordinances he told with his lips (Psalms 119:13). What he heard he did not keep to himself, but passed on to others in a public testimony. What the heart is full of, the mouth overflows with (cf. Psalms 116:10).
The Word of God for him does not consist merely of words, truths he has learned by heart. The Word of God for him is “all the ordinances of Your mouth”. Each ordinance has touched his heart because God’s mouth has spoken it. The voice of the Beloved resounds in his heart and his lips speak of it.
This verse begins with “my lips” and ends with “Your mouth”. The psalmist speaks only what he has heard from God. Thus the Lord Jesus can testify: “The things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world” (John 8:26) and: “The things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me” (John 12:50). Peter says something similar to this to us in his first letter (1 Peter 4:11).
The joy he has over the Word of God is greater than “all riches” (Psalms 119:14) [according to Dutch Translation]. He says to the LORD that the joy that all the riches of the world could give does not outweigh for him going “in the way of Your testimonies”. Joy in riches is by definition temporary and limited and never gives full satisfaction to the heart (cf. Psalms 4:8). Whoever goes in the way of the testimonies of God, whoever allows himself to be led by them in his life’s journey, experiences its imperishable value.
The believer who has an eye for this is meditating on God’s “precepts” (Psalms 119:15; cf. Psalms 1:2). Meditating on the Word of God, examining it, gives deep satisfaction. As a result, the believer gains an eye for God’s ways. Meditating on God’s Word is never just intellectual activity, but opens one’s eyes to the practice of life. It brings to doing what the Word says.
Being engaged with God’s Word in this way gives joy in God’s “statutes”, which are the inscribed, indelible words of God (Psalms 119:16; cf. Jeremiah 15:16). It gives stability to the life of faith, for nothing in it is uncertain. Those who rejoice in God’s decrees can say with boldness: “I shall not forget Your word.” After all, it is chiseled into the heart.
/gimel/ Walking as a Stranger
The acronym for gimel is derived from ‘foot in motion’. It is an indication of the believer’s walk in life, living as a stranger in the earth (Psalms 119:19), in the midst of hostile persons (Psalms 119:21-Isaiah :).
The word gimel is also related to the word gamal, which means camel, the animal that is the preferred means of transportation for the pilgrim’s journey through the wilderness. It also means to transport goods or good things. ‘To do good’ is also a meaning (Psalms 119:17). The Word of God is the counselor (Psalms 119:24) for the believer in his walk in the wilderness of this world. The believer’s walk in the world is illustrated in the life of Abraham (Hebrews 11:8).
The psalmist is not asking the LORD to help him to deal bountifully, but whether the LORD will deal bountifully with him (Psalms 119:17). He does not expect goodness from himself, but from the LORD. Thus, one who lacks wisdom on his way through the world can ask it of the LORD. In His goodness He will give, generously and without reproach (James 1:5). It is not a question of someone who wants to benefit from the goodness of God and then continue his own way. The psalmist asks as a “servant” of the LORD, acknowledging Him as his Lord and Master.
The psalmist calls himself a servant of the LORD. This title is also used in the book of Isaiah for the faithful remnant, following the perfect Servant of the LORD, the Lord Jesus. The Hebrew word ebed is translated here and in Isaiah as “servant”.
The psalmist appeals to the goodness of the LORD because it is the only way he will be able to live. This is about living in fellowship with God in a hostile world. The phrase “Enoch walked with God” (Genesis 5:24), is translated in Hebrews 11 as “Enoch was pleasing to God” (Hebrews 11:5). The verb “walk” has a form that means “to walk for pleasure” and is a synonym for having fellowship with God.
This is the life the psalmist desires, in the midst of a world corrupt and full of violence: living in fellowship with God, as Enoch did just before the flood. That is the subject of this gimel stanza. To walk in this way may also be our desire (cf. Philippians 2:15-Nehemiah :).
It does not mean that the psalmist only wants to get pleasant things from God. He motivates his demand for life: it is, that he may then “keep Your word”. This is true life. Man will not live by bread alone, but by all the word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
In order to keep God’s Word, the eyes must be opened to it (Psalms 119:18; cf. 2 Corinthians 3:14). It is something that must come from God (cf. Luke 24:45; Ephesians 1:18). The psalmist longs to behold “wonderful things from Your law”. The Word of God is full of wonderful things that are not noticeable to us at first glance. All who love the Bible long to see more and more of those wonderful things.
In this respect, believers resemble the blind man in the Gospel according to Mark, whose eyes the Lord has opened, but who at first still sees people walking around like trees, that is, as impressive figures (Mark 8:24). The Lord must continue to work with him so that he can see sharply. So it is also here with the psalmist. To know the wonderful things and depths of the Word of God, God must open our eyes (Ephesians 1:18).
“The wonderful things from Your law” begin with the wonderful things of creation in all its variety. When sin has entered into creation, the wonderful thing of the sacrifice for sin is shown. This is followed by countless wonderful things, first only for individual people, then also for a whole people, God’s people. The creation alone is an unparalleled wonderful thing. And so it continues throughout the history of God’s people. It is all recorded in the Old Testament.
The believer’s way in the earth is that of “a stranger” (Psalms 119:19; cf. 1 Peter 2:11; Hebrews 11:13). To know what this means, the believer must first come to understand who he is and what he is doing on earth. We were first as sinners strangers to the covenants of promise (Ephesians 2:12). Now that we belong to the Lord Jesus, we no longer belong to the world and are strangers there. “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20).
In order to know his way on earth to his homeland, heaven, the believer needs signposts. He finds these in the commandments of Word of God. To discover those commandments, those signposts, he is dependent on God. He does not ask God to show them to him, but to not hide them from him. Sometimes it looks like that to him. He then has no sense of direction, he does not know which way to go.
The pilgrim turns to the LORD and says to Him: “My soul is crushed with longing after Your ordinances at all times” (Psalms 119:20). He has an intense desire for what the LORD has determined, what He has recorded in His Word for the lives of His own. This desire he has not just occasionally, but “at all times”. He constantly longs to know the will of God for his life and for the way he must go.
The mind of longing for the Word gives a right view of the man of the world. Opposite that mind are “the arrogant, the cursed” (Psalms 119:21), the people who act from themselves and with an eye to themselves. They often seem to be successful and to be able to exalt themselves in pride against God with impunity.
The righteous knows that the LORD is rebuking them. He pronounces that to the LORD. The curse comes upon the arrogant because, he says to the LORD, they “wander from Your commandments”. They know God’s commandments, but they wander from them. They deliberately choose their own way. This acting against their better judgment, that is, against the express will of God, is arrogance. It is the sin of Satan (Ezekiel 28:17; cf. Isaiah 14:13-2 Chronicles :).
This is also the greatest enemy of a believer who wants to walk the way with the Lord. Arrogance is the most serious aberration from the way with the Lord. This is why the Lord tells us to learn from Him, for He is “gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:28-Joel :). Great knowledge of the Bible is not without danger, for it can lead to pride (1 Corinthians 8:1). Only fellowship with the Lord Jesus and sitting and learning at His feet can keep us from this.
The curse comes upon the arrogant in accordance with the covenant of the LORD with Israel. An Israelite who violates the covenant comes under the curse (cf. Deuteronomy 28:15; Deuteronomy 28:45). The end of the cursed is “the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).
The righteous is showered with “reproach and contempt” because he does observe God’s testimonies (Psalms 119:22; cf. 2 Timothy 3:12). Unlike the antichrist and his followers, the psalmist – and the remnant – do want to observe God’s testimonies. After all, the testimonies, for example the two tablets of the law, are a source of joy to him (Psalms 119:24).
He has observed God’s “testimonies” and on that basis asks that God turns away the reproach and contempt loaded on him. Those who heed God’s Word must count on the world’s scorn. But he may go to God with that and ask for the defamation to be turned away. God’s assessment of his life is the only thing that matters to him.
He even faces the opposition of “princes” (Psalms 119:23). He has been indicted by the accursed arrogant, and instead of acquitting the righteous, the high-ranking lords vindicate the accusers. He is not troubled by it, however, for, he tells the LORD, when they speak thus, “Your servant meditates on Your statutes”.
As in the first verse of this stanza (Psalms 119:17), here, facing the “princes” he calls himself “Your servant”, a servant of the LORD. Servant of the LORD is an honorary title of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, it is also a privilege for the psalmist, and for us, to be called servant of the Lord. Princes may be of nobility, but to be a servant of the Lord is far preferable to the nobility of a prince.
The psalmist’s life is a life of service to the LORD. That is what has brought him this opposition. His protection from their false charges and condemnation lies in meditating God’s statutes. That keeps him standing in the midst of all the enmity. We see the fulfillment of this verse in the life of the Lord Jesus, Who during His whole life and especially in the ‘trial’ against Him “has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself” (Hebrews 12:3).
For the psalmist, and for the believing remnant, and especially for the Lord Jesus, God’s testimonies are their personal, “my”, “delight” (Psalms 119:24). “[They are] my counselors”, the psalmist says to the LORD. This is a wonderful personification of God’s Word. Everything God says in His Word is good counsel for those who is willing to listen to it.
This applies to the believer as a servant and as a stranger, and to situations where defamation, contempt and opposition are experienced. Then the believer knows what to do, what way to take, and how to respond to anything that comes his way or is done to him.
This stanza begins and ends with the psalmist as a servant of the LORD. Serving is the hallmark of the walk, gimel, of this righteous in the midst of a world that is corrupt (the antichrist) and full of violence (the king of the north) (cf. Genesis 6:11).
/daleth/ The Door and Way of Life
The letter or the word daleth has two meanings: ‘door’ and ‘humble’, ‘poor’, ‘oppressed’. These two thoughts come together in the Sermon on the Mount of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 5-7, where He says: “Enter through the narrow gate; … For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-2 Chronicles :).
The way to life can only be walked by one who has first entered through the narrow gate. Only one who is humble and poor can enter through that narrow gate. Thus he, the psalmist, comes through the gate onto the way of life. We find five verses in this daleth stanza with the expression “the way.
A door is also the boundary between two areas, for example, between outside and inside. Thus, the Word as a door, through which we can enter only in humility, brings us to the way of life, which is the Lord Jesus, in a field of living in fellowship with the Father (John 10:9; John 14:6).
The psalmist is downcast (Psalms 119:25). His “soul cleaves to the dust”, for he is near death (cf. Psalms 104:29). He experiences how void and mortal he is. We find here “dust” (Psalms 119:25) and “weep” (Psalms 119:28), which speaks of grief and sorrow. The gate or door takes us from the road of death to the road to and of life. That road ends in salvation, but along the way the righteous encounter trouble and sorrow (cf. Mark 10:30). On that way the LORD is with him. Thus the LORD does not keep Daniel from the lions’ den, but He keeps him in the lions’ den; the LORD does not keep Daniel’s three friends from the furnace of blazing fire, but He keeps them in that same the furnace of blazing fire.
If on our path of life there is a stone that hinders us, the Lord does not take away the stone, but will send His angels to carry us, lest we not strike our foot against a stone (Psalms 91:11-2 Kings :; cf. Matthew 4:6). That is, the Lord does not take away the difficulties, but helps us to overcome them.
The psalmist sees only one way to revive and that is for the LORD to revive him “according to Your word”. He knows that God’s Word has life in it and is powerful to deliver him from the power of death and give him life. This is about deliverance from physical death. The blessing of the new covenant indicates that the remnant will live and thus inherit the kingdom. This characterizes the faithful. He does not seek an easier path of faith, but turns to the LORD to live life as He desires.
Many times in the past the psalmist has experienced the faithfulness of the LORD. This gives him confidence to continue to trust Him in the future. He has told his ways to the LORD, which may include a confession of going his own ways, “my ways” (Psalms 119:26).
When making a confession, it is important to tell the Lord everything about our life’s journey and not to hide anything. To confess means to see and name everything, as the Lord sees and names it. In Hebrew, to confess means to ‘enumerate’, that is, to tell all things one by one. In Greek, confess means ‘to say the same thing’ that is, to say the same thing about this subject as God.
Based on what the psalmist said to God, God answered his prayer of the previous verse and made him alive. The believer learns here the important truth that he must be taught God’s statutes if he is to be glorified with Christ. This will enable him to keep to the ways of God and he will not fall into the error of going his own ways again.
He immediately follows this up by asking God to make him “understand the way of Your precepts” (Psalms 119:27). In Psalms 119:26, the psalmist has acknowledged that he is ignorant and therefore in need of instruction. But education is not enough. Therefore, the psalmist now asks if the LORD will give him understanding, enabling him to apply the teaching he has received to his life and also to pass it on to others (cf. 2 Timothy 3:14).
He wants to go the way of God’s precepts because in that way he experiences fellowship with God. That is a way of wonders. Those who live in fellowship with God see more and more the wonders of His guidance and preservation. These wonders are worth meditating on because they show Who God is and what He is capable of. They can be small wonders as well as great ones.
There are also circumstances in which the soul “weeps because of grief” (Psalms 119:28). This happens, for example, when he looks at himself a lot. That always depresses a believer (cf. 1 Kings 19:13-2 Chronicles :; Psalms 73:13-Nehemiah :). ‘To weep because of grief’ is literally ‘to melt away’. By the weight of his sorrow, the psalmist melts away, he becomes liquid, as it were, he turns to tears.
Then it is dark in life and the wonders seem so far away. The cause of the tears of sorrow can be very different. It can be illness or disappointment or deceit or slander or injustice, but also sins. Then, with a single word from His Word, God is able to raise up again the life that has been depressed by sorrow. It can be a word of comfort or a word of exhortation, depending on the occasion of the sorrow. The psalmist realizes that he can only be helped by a Person. We know that God comforts by pointing to Christ (cf. Romans 7:24; Hebrews 12:2-Leviticus :).
What the psalmist does not want is to go “the false way”, that is, the way of sinners (Psalms 119:29; Psalms 1:1). When we see this verse in context with the previous verse and the verse after it, it concerns the lie about one’s own spiritual situation. How easy it is for a believer to appear outwardly as ‘spiritually minded’ while inside, in his heart, things are not right. To the outside world, a person can have the appearance of a spiritual brother or sister, but inside, things are morally not right, there may even be corruption.
The false way, the way of lies, is the way of unfaithfulness to the LORD and His covenant. He cannot avoid that way in his own strength. Therefore, he asks the LORD: “Remove the false way from me.” Instead, he asks: “Graciously grant me Your law.” The law, given in grace as a guide for life, places before the false way the sign: dead end. The way of the lie ends in death.
The law will be given under the new covenant in the hearts of the believing Israelites, or written (Jeremiah 31:33). What grace! In our hearts are not written the stone tablets of the law, but Christ is written on the flesh tablets of our hearts (2 Corinthians 3:3). What infinite grace!
Opposed to the false way (Psalms 119:29) is “the faithful way” or “the way of faithfulness” (Psalms 119:30). It is the way of faithfulness to the LORD and His covenant. The psalmist has “chosen” that way. God wants us to go that way, but does not force us to go that way. He faces us as responsible people with a choice. It has been that way since paradise.
We choose the right way when we place God’s ordinances before us. This is about sincerity, about uprightness, about truth in our innermost being (Psalms 51:6). Because Eve had not set God’s ordinances before her eyes, she chose the false way, the way of unfaithfulness to God. And David walked the false way for quite some time when, despite his sin with Uriah and Bathsheba, he carried on with his life as if nothing had happened.
The psalmist has said in the first verse of this stanza that his soul cleaves to the dust (Psalms 119:25). By the exercises of his soul in the following verses, he has now come to the point where he can say to the LORD: “I cling to Your testimonies” (Psalms 119:31). By this he clings to the LORD Himself, so that he cannot be torn away from it. It is a renewed commitment, see Psalms 119:32, to remain close to the Lord with resolute heart (Acts 11:23). In Psalms 119:25 he cleaves to the dust; now – the same verb – he clings to the LORD.
The word “clinging” is first used in the Bible for the firm connection between Adam and Eve, where it is translated “joined” (Genesis 2:24). Similarly, the psalmist has a firm connection to the testimonies of the LORD. The psalmist also senses how fragile this clinging or joining still is. Therefore, he appeals to the LORD not to put him to shame in this (cf. Romans 9:33).
The word “for” in Psalms 119:32 is better translated “because”. The meaning is that the LORD has enlarged the heart of the psalmist. He shall run in the way of the commandments of the LORD with a relieved heart and renewed confidence and renewed intentions (Psalms 119:32).
There are no more inner hindrances. He has put away the false way (Psalms 119:29) and chosen the faithful way (Psalms 119:30). Now the Lord can work in his heart. His heart is enlarged to the commandments, so he knows which way to walk. “To run” in Hebrew is “to hasten”. While at first he clings to the dust and cannot be moved forward (Psalms 119:25) and is in the process of melting away (Psalms 119:28), now he is able to walk with renewed strength (Isaiah 40:31) in the narrow way of the LORD with steady step.
The pictograph of the letter he is a window, which speaks of seeing and understanding a revelation or remark. He as a word means ‘see’ in Hebrew. Later it is hinné (Psalms 119:40). Through a window the light comes in, making you see something. Through a revelation the light comes in, making you understand.
“There [the Word] was the true Light which, coming into the world [the incarnation of the Word, enlightens every man” (John 1:9). Man is enlightened by John the baptist’s remark “Behold, the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). In Hebrew, “behold” would be “he” or “hinné”. The revelation is that concerning the Person of Christ, the Lamb of God.
In Psalms 119:33-Nahum : we hear the psalmist’s request for understanding the way of the LORD through teaching. Psalms 119:37 speaks of the psalmist’s eyes. His eyes are to be focused on a Person, not distracted by the deceitfulness of riches. Through the teaching of the Word of God he is to gain understanding to walk joyfully in the way of the LORD.
Each verse of this stanza is a prayer and indicates the relationship between the Word and prayer. Its tone is humility and dependence. The Word is the Word of God. Then, too, He alone can give the explanation of what He says. The righteous realizes this and therefore prays for it. He realizes that the LORD must open the window of his heart and that the light of His revelation and Person must shine into it. He is totally dependent on the LORD and His Word.
The Word of God is not just learning material, a subject, like theology, or a series of doctrines and principles. The Word of God is the Word that connects us to God. Therefore, if we desire to understand the Word, we can only approach that Word prayerfully, so that God will open the window of our hearts (cf. Luke 24:45). The psalmist understood this. He begins his prayer with “teach me” (Psalms 119:33). “Teach” in Hebrew is moré. Abraham also began his sojourn in the promised land at the oak of Moré, which is ‘teacher’ (Genesis 12:6).
He does not subject the Word to his own logical thinking, but he throws himself down at the feet of the LORD to receive from Him His words (cf. Deuteronomy 33:3; Luke 10:39). Thus we will have to read the Word of God prayerfully if we want to be taught and formed into the image of Christ. Only then will we obtain wisdom and spiritual insight.
The statutes of the LORD remain of unchanging value to the believer as long as he lives. Learning to know them never ceases. As long as a believer lives, he will never be able to say that he can stop learning because he should know everything. To remain faithful to the end of life in observing the statutes, the desire is needed to be taught and instructed by the LORD. This is what the righteous prays for.
The problem of many people, but also of many believers who want to be biblically faithful, is that they are often so convinced of their own rightness that they can no longer be corrected by others and therefore neither by the Lord. How necessary it is that we take to heart the lesson of the letter he: that we are prepared in humility to open the window of our hearts and learn from others. Let us take an example from the Jews at Beréa in Acts 17 (Acts 17:11).
Understanding – see the meaning of the letter he – is necessary to keep God’s law (Psalms 119:34). Without understanding, the righteous do not understand what God requires of them. They gain that understanding if they are willing to obey it with all their heart. It is not a matter of a good intellect, but of a renewed, willing heart (cf. John 7:17).
The LORD has changed and shaped the psalmist’s heart, making it his desire to walk the path of God’s commandments. This makes him realize that to put God’s commandments into practice he needs His help and guidance. In the words of Paul, God must not only work the willing, but also the working in him (Philippians 2:13).
This is what the psalmist is asking for when he asks the LORD: “Make me walk in the path of Your commandments” (Psalms 119:35). Freely translated, he asks: ‘Let me live like this, let me walk the path of life with God.’ The Lord does not ask of us cadaveric discipline but faith obedience. He gives us instructions that we want to follow with joy out of love.
The psalmist longs to walk that path, “for in it”, he says, “I delight”. The taste of the Word is sweet, it gives joy to our hearts. Then we joyfully go the way the Lord wants us to go. When we do something with pleasure, we like to do it.
There is a special tendency, that is, “inclination” or “direction of the heart” in life, from which even the believer cannot escape, even if he follows the path of God’s commandments. That tendency is “[dishonest] gain”, being out to gain as much as possible, for example by robbing others (Psalms 119:36). “[Dishonest] gain” means “unfair advantage”. This can be in a material sense such as wealth, but it can also be in an immaterial sense such as fame, name, popularity.
As a believer, you often sense that the lust for wealth is not good – think of Lot’s wife. The lust for honor and prestige is also a great danger, even for us. Think of Ananias and Sapphira. In the school of God we may learn to keep the inclinations of our hearts and the workings of our flesh in death (Colossians 3:5).
The wrong inclination is given no room when we ask the LORD with the psalmist: “Incline my heart to Your testimonies.” If his and our hearts are set on dealing with the LORD, he and we will not be open to the pursuit of worldly prosperity.
The deception of riches is like weeds choking the seed of the Word (Matthew 13:22). The weeds in Israel have deep roots, from half a meter to a meter, with roots growing between the rocks, making it almost impossible to remove them. These weeds, thanks to these roots, also grow at lightning speed. It does show how stifling the effect of wealth can be to the seed of the Word and how difficult it is to get free from that stifling effect. Let us therefore pray the psalmist’s prayer with him.
After speaking of his heart in the previous verse, the God-fearing man speaks of his eyes in Psalms 119:37. He asks God to turn away his eyes, so that they may not be “looking at vanity”. “Vanity” is what has no value for the moment or for the future. This is quite an actual prayer for the times in which we live, with tidal waves of visual material via television and the Internet that are completely useless and often downright sinful, yet which people watch for many hours (cf. Isaiah 55:2).
Sometimes it’s about unclean pictures that you come across unintentionally and unsought, like advertising. Here the saying applies: the second look is sinful. That is, the first time you see it, it happened to you, but the second look is a conscious choice. Of that, the psalmist asks if the LORD will turn away his eyes from that. In that regard, Job has given us an example by making a covenant with his eyes not to follow (lustfully) an attractive girl with them (Job 31:1). David is a great warning sign to each of us (2 Samuel 11:1-Deuteronomy :)!
“Vanity”, empty, meaningless is that which is spiritually no food, it is stones and not bread. Paul calls all the privileges of this life rubbish compared to the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, his Lord (Philippians 3:8). The conscience question to us is what our priorities in this life are. The danger of temptation is great. Even one of the apostle Paul’s associates, named Demas, left the apostle for the love of the present age (2 Timothy 4:10). Demas too is a warning sign for each of us. Let us also pray this prayer with the psalmist.
To look at what is vanity is to look at something that, like a stealth killer, stifles the life of faith. This is evident from the second line of this verse. The God-fearing wants to enjoy the true life, which is life in fellowship with God. That life is lived by going in God’s ways. “Your ways”, which are God’s ways, are ways of life. When we go them, we are truly living.
The righteous knows that there is life through the ways of the LORD. Following that, he asks for a confirmation or fulfillment of the promise of life (Psalms 119:38). This is to the glory of the LORD (Ezekiel 36:26-Daniel :). He asks that question as “Your servant” (cf. Psalms 119:17; Psalms 119:23). To that he adds “as that which produces reverence for You”. He is not only one who serves the LORD but also one who fears Him, who lives in awe and reverence of Him. The LORD will not reject such a person.
What he does not want is the reproach of people who smear him for not receiving the promise of the LORD (Psalms 119:38), despite the fact that he remains faithful to the LORD (Psalms 119:39). He “dreads” that reproach and asks the LORD to turn it away from him by keeping him in faithfulness to His Word and fulfilling His promises. He also wants to be faithful because God’s “ordinances are good”. He also wants to be faithful because his unfaithfulness would be defamation to the Name of the LORD (cf. Romans 2:24).
He expresses his longing for the LORD’s precepts (Psalms 119:40). This verse begins with “behold”. The letter he means ‘see’, here it is hinné. Often we think only the promises of the LORD are important, but the psalmist longs for the precepts, the commandments of the LORD. In them is life.
The psalmist longs to revive, not as a reward for his desire, but “through Your righteousness”. Life by God’s righteousness means life for all eternity. Life that God gives by virtue of righteousness is life where the holy requirement of God’s justice has been met. That justice was fulfilled met by the Lord Jesus on the cross.
God’s righteousness means that God always acts in accordance with His standard, which in this case is His covenant. The psalmist asks if the LORD will act in accordance with His covenant and His promise. In His promise, He wants to give a window so that light can come from above – a window, a light opening from above (Genesis 6:16) – to chase away the darkness.
/waw/ Heaven and Earth Connected
The pictogram of the letter waw is a human being, a nail, a tent pole or a (connecting) hook (cf. Exodus 26:32; Exodus 26:37Exodus 27:10). The letter’s function in Hebrew is to connect words; it means ‘and’. Each verse in this waw stanza begins with the conjunction ‘and’, a word that connects two parts of a sentence. We see an illustration of this in Jacob’s ladder connecting heaven and earth (Genesis 28:12-1 Chronicles :).
The waw is the sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet and has the numerical value six. This is the number of man, who was created by God on the sixth day to be the connection between heaven and earth. Because the first man, Adam, failed, his place is taken by the second Man, Christ, Who established the connection between heaven and earth, between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5).
In this waw stanza we see the Word of God as the link between heaven and earth, between the Eternal and the puny. The Word is like the connecting hook in the relationship between God and people.
First, in Psalms 119:41-John : we find the psalmist’s prayer, a prayer for help based on his trust in the Word. Then in Psalms 119:44-Galatians : we find the psalmist’s attitude of devotion and intentions toward the Word.
The faithful continually need the awareness of the LORD’s “lovingkindness” and “salvation” (Psalms 119:41). First, the faithful has received new life based on the LORD’s lovingkindness, and then he continues to need the LORD’s lovingkindness in his life. For us, too, it is “grace upon grace” (John 1:16). We received grace when we came to repentance, and we also receive necessary grace throughout our stay on earth.
The LORD, in accordance with His covenant – lovingkindness, chesed – has promised that He will give His own by virtue of His covenant the salvation, that is, the blessing of the realm of peace. He does not need to be reminded of this, but believers may remember this and say it to Him. His lovingkindness is shown in the salvation of the faithful from the dangers that surround them to then introduce them to the blessings of the new covenant.
There will always be those who hate the believer (Psalms 119:42). These are the unfaithful Israelites, the followers of the antichrist, who have rejected the covenant and are reproaching the faithful remnant. The remnant is being reproached because it seems that the LORD is not helping them. When He fulfills His promise, the remnant can thereby answer those who taunt them.
By himself, the psalmist, and the remnant, and we, cannot speak truth. A believer can speak “the word of truth” only if God puts it in his mouth (Psalms 119:43; cf. Matthew 10:19-Proverbs :). Also, the believer has to wait for God’s “ordinances”. This speaks of the expectation he has that God will make His ordinances known to him.
With that, the psalmist can answer those who reproach him. We too must always be ready to give an account to anyone who asks us to give an account of the hope that is in us (1 Peter 1:3). To that end, the psalmist asks if the LORD will not take the word of truth utterly out of his mouth. This happens to us when we depart from His way by being unwilling to confess our sins or when we deliberately choose a different way than the one the Lord has shown us.
When the LORD delivers him from people who hate him (Psalms 119:42), he will continually keep His law, and will do so “forever and ever” (Psalms 119:44). He will then be able to confess the faithfulness of the LORD. This resolve of the heart is worth following for us. It is a decision based on the experienced love and faithfulness of the LORD, the full revelation of which we see in the work of Christ. In return, we can only offer total obedience.
When God’s law is always kept, the believer “walks in liberty” (Psalms 119:45). Self-will and sin lead to bondage and hindrance in the prayer life and understanding of God’s Word (Psalms 66:18; James 4:3; 1 Peter 3:7). Seeking the precepts of God frees a person from any bondage that prevents him from doing God’s will and going God’s way. The Lord Jesus always walked in liberty. He never did anything but seek God’s precepts in order to accomplish them. He has lived on earth in true liberty. He makes slaves to sin truly free (John 8:36).
An unbeliever is not free, for he is bound by sin. He cannot do the will of God, nor can he walk in the way of God. A believer, who has been set free by the Son of God, is able to do that which he now longs to do, which is the will of God. The Lord Jesus is his new life, and that new life wants to do in him only what God wants, just as the Lord Jesus always did only what God wants.
If a person walks in liberty, he may even have to appear before kings. He will “speak of Your testimonies” before them without being ashamed (Psalms 119:46). There is no fear of man, but a desire to testify of Who God is even in the higher circles. Paul did so (Acts 25:23-Jeremiah :; Acts 26:1-Exodus :Acts 26:27-Joel :; cf. Romans 1:16). We see the same thing with the friends of Daniel (Daniel 3:17-Psalms :) and John the baptist (Matthew 14:4).
Where there is love for the commandments of God, there is delight in them (Psalms 119:47). This theme runs like a golden thread throughout the psalm (Psalms 119:16; Psalms 119:70Psalms 119:97; Psalms 119:113Psalms 119:119; Psalms 119:127Psalms 119:140; Psalms 119:159Psalms 119:163). We experience this delight when we read and examine God’s Word. It is a characteristic that someone has life from God when he has love for ‘the love letter’ of God, the Bible. Someone who says he loves God but does not read His Word with love is a liar. When there is love for the commandments of God, these commandments do not press on the conscience like a burden, but are a joy to the heart.
The lifting up of the hands to the commandments of the LORD is an attitude of praise and prayer (Psalms 119:48; Psalms 28:2; Psalms 63:4Psalms 141:2; Psalms 134:2; cf. 1 Timothy 2:8). In this attitude, the righteous will meditate on the LORD’s statutes that he may understand them and live them out to His glory. This attitude comes from the love that the God-fearing has in his heart for those statutes. This is evidenced by the fact that he meditates on the statutes of the LORD. In meditating, the faithful one is not focused on himself, but on Him from Whom the statutes are. He is concerned with getting to know the LORD better.
The letter zain is the seventh letter and is shaped like a scepter or a sword. The Word is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). It is the sixth letter, waw, with a crown on it. The zain stanza begins with “remember” by the LORD (Psalms 119:49) and ends with “remember” by the psalmist (Psalms 119:55). When the LORD remembers His Word, it means that He is going to fulfill the Word concerning His promise of the future, when Christ will reign. Then He will be crowned with many diadems (Revelation 19:12) and no longer with a crown of thorns.
The hope that we will be glorified with Christ gives us strength to suffer with Him in the world (Romans 8:17). That is the theme of this verse. We have a living hope (1 Peter 1:3). The joy presented to us in it helps us to run the race of suffering with perseverance (Hebrews 12:1-Leviticus :).
It is impossible for the LORD to forget the word He spoke to His servant. The fact that the servant asks Him to remember means that he is in affliction and it seems that the LORD has forgotten what He has said (Psalms 119:49). He has made him hope in His Word. Surely that hope will not be in vain.
The Hebrew word for remember, zakar, is an active remembrance, that is, it is an action. We see the meaning of the Hebrew words and names, for example, in Luke 1 with Zechariah, which is “the LORD remembers”, with Elizabeth, which is “
When God remembers His Word, it means that He saves His own in accordance with His faithfulness to His covenant (Hebrews 6:17-Job :). For the psalmist, the Word is personal to him; the LORD has spoken to him through that Word.
In the next verse he gives the answer himself (Psalms 119:50). His comfort in his affliction is that the LORD has “revived” him by His word. That is, he has appropriated God’s promise. Believers know that God’s word revives. Do we dare to appropriate what God has said?
The word implies that Christ will be glorified and crowned and will sit on His own throne. Then the psalmist will experience the blessing: he may sit with Christ on His throne (Revelation 3:21). He has experienced the vivifying power of God’s Word. People can speak words to comfort. Sometimes they are meaningless words, usually they are well-intentioned, but often they do not provide real relief. With the words of God, it is different. The words of God are living words; they have life in themselves.
The righteous must reckon with the biting, hurtful derision of the arrogant wicked (Psalms 119:51; cf. Psalms 119:21). This is a powerful weapon of unbelief. We see these expressed, among other things, in objectionable cartoons. It should not surprise us. Rejection is normal. The Lord Jesus also experienced this, and particularly at His condemnation to die on the cross. Just as He did not deviate from God’s Word, neither does the suffering remnant (cf. Hebrews 12:2).
The believer comforts himself when he thinks of the judgments of the LORD from ancient times (Psalms 119:52). He then sees that the LORD has intervened at times when the wicked have particularly cornered His people. For example, we see how the LORD intervened for Moses and Aaron against the wicked band of Korah (Numbers 16:1-Leviticus :; Numbers 16:28-Habakkuk :).
We forget quickly and easily, as the cupbearer forgot Joseph (Genesis 40:14; Genesis 40:23). That is why the Lord gave us His meal of remembrance to remember Him and His sufferings. When He instituted the Supper, He said: “Do this in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:23-Ezekiel :).
The God-fearing is fiercely indignant when he sees the law of the LORD being forsaken and trampled on by wicked people (Psalms 119:53). He feels this is an affront to the LORD and shares His feelings in it (cf. Romans 15:3). Forsaking the law of the LORD is equivalent to forsaking Him. This will be done entirely by the antichrist, who will openly forsake the law.
We become accustomed, sometimes without realizing it ourselves, to sinful situations. Are we still fiercely indignant by sinful practices such as abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, or have we become accustomed to them? Are we also still moved by the fate of people in the world, who are on their way to being lost forever because they live without God and without hope?
The faithful remnant hates forsaking the law. In contrast, the statutes of the LORD are his songs (Psalms 119:54). This is what the remnant will do during the great tribulation, when they wander the earth as strangers (cf. Hebrews 11:13). They have been driven out and fled from their land to the mountains (Matthew 24:16). In their hearts they have carried God’s statutes. These have been their songs.
Singing means that the Word was comforting to the psalmist, that it sounded like music to his ears in the midst of bigoted, hostile people who surrounded him. We can also sing of God’s Word when we are in need. It is a characteristic of redeemed sinners that they sing. Of angels we do not read anywhere in God’s Word that they sing. Also when we are with the Lord, we will sing. If we are engaged with the Lord and His Word on earth, a song of praise will rise up in our hearts in the practice of every day, no matter what situation we are in. Then we will sing a song like “Amazing grace”.
On the night of the great tribulation, they are determined by the law about which they have sung to God’s Name (Psalms 119:55). Thus a night of affliction becomes a night of praise and thus a testimony to the glory of the Name of God (cf. Acts 16:25). People of the world advise to go count sheep when you can’t sleep. The psalmist says it is better to go and talk to the Shepherd. With God’s Name, God’s law is inseparable. Whoever thinks of His Name, thinks of His Word, in which so much is written about that Name.
In Psalms 119:56, the God-fearing says why he was able to sing in the foreign land (Psalms 119:54) and think about God’s Name at night (Psalms 119:55): it is because he observed God’s precepts. His thinking is not pondering, but doing. The way of obedience brings to a song praising the Name of God.
The eighth letter, cheth, originally means “wall”, “enclosure”, “boundary. Thus, the LORD surrounds the righteous with pleasure as with a shield (Psalms 5:12). Our shield is faith (Ephesians 6:16), that is, full trust in God and His Word.
The corresponding number eight speaks of going beyond the limit of seven. Seven is a completed whole – seven days make a week full, make a week a whole – after which comes something new. We can apply this, for example, to new life, to the resurrection, to the new covenant. The new life, as opposed to the old life, is able to be devoted to the Word, because our new life is Christ.
In each of the eight verses of this cheth stanza we find a synonym for the Word. It underscores the fact that the new life of the new covenant is characterized by love of and devotion to the Word (Psalms 119:57-1 Peter :; cf. 2 Corinthians 3:6-Job :; Hebrews 8:6-1 Chronicles :), even though there are enemies all around (Psalms 119:61).
The psalmist can joyfully say that the LORD is his portion (Psalms 119:57; Psalms 16:5; Psalms 73:26Psalms 142:5; cf. Numbers 18:20). He has chosen the LORD. What He possesses cannot be estimated. The psalmist does not say that his portion consists of great riches and blessings, no, he says that the LORD Himself is his portion (cf. Genesis 15:1). The psalmist is so impressed by this that he has promised that he will keep God’s words. When we see what we have been given, namely, that God Himself is our portion, it will prompt us to the utmost obedience.
With all his heart, the God-fearing “sought” God’s “favor with all” his “heart” (Psalms 119:58). This “sought”, this effort, has made him realize that there is nothing he can do to please the LORD. The only ground on which the LORD accepts a man into His favor is His grace. Therefore, he asks that the LORD will be gracious to him, for this is in accordance with His word.
Literally it says: “With all my heart I am sick [that is, sick with desire] before Your face.” He has confessed in Psalms 119:57 that the LORD is his portion, but now he says that he longs with his whole heart for the presence of the LORD. That, according to the meaning of the letter cheth, is the securely fenced area for which the psalmist so longs, namely, the living, daily fellowship with the LORD.
The psalmist indicates the basis of his request, namely grace on the basis of God’s word, His promise. For us, grace is no longer a promise, for grace and truth is realized through Jesus Christ (John 1:17), through which we receive grace upon grace of His fullness (John 1:16).
In Psalms 119:58, the psalmist asked if the LORD would be gracious to him. Now he learns the conditions, how the LORD can be gracious to him: by considering his ways (Psalms 119:59). He may consider God’s ways, but it is also necessary for him to consider his own ways. To consider one’s own ways means that a person examines himself in God’s presence and in the light of His Word. When a person reads the Word of God, it acts as a mirror through which he comes to know himself and his ways in the light of God (James 1:23-Jeremiah :).
God’s ways are always straight; those of the righteous may well be crooked. It seems here that the righteous, in reflecting on his ways, has come to the conclusion that something has not been right. Indeed, he says that he has “turned” his “feet” to God’s testimonies.
“Turned” is literally ‘converted’, ‘turned around’. Here we see the cleansing process that takes place when a believer considers the Word. Some believers linger on considering and do not get to the point to ‘turn’. James speaks of such persons as hearers, but not doers of the Word (James 1:23-Jeremiah :).
After considering his ways in the light of the Word of God, the God-fearing makes a deliberate decision to keep the Word of God (Psalms 119:60). He resolves to obey the Word immediately in full awareness and confidence, without hesitation and without wavering.
There is new zeal to do God’s will without delay. ‘Did not delay’ means not wanting to lose a second. The psalmist not only wants to be a hearer of the Word, he wants to be a doer of the Word. He shows in what way he wants to be a doer. He doesn’t want to be a hesitant doer, a doer who has to sleep on it first, no, he wants to be someone who immediately does what God makes clear to him. The word “hasten”, means ‘immediately’, a word that is characteristic of the Gospel according to Mark where the Lord Jesus is painted as the perfect Servant of the LORD, Who ‘immediately’ does what the Father tells Him.
The saying ‘Haste makes waste’ does not apply when it comes to doing the will of God. The believer cannot be too quick to obey without delay when something becomes clear to him from God’s Word (cf. Matthew 4:19-Song of Solomon :; Luke 19:5-Joshua :). There is often much reasoning first about the usefulness of something. When it comes to the commandments of God’s Word, such reasoning is out of the question.
Those who go their way with the Lord again must also count on new opposition (Psalms 119:61). The enemy becomes active when there is (renewed) dedication to the Lord. The purpose of his opposition is to make the believer unfaithful again to the law of the LORD, to the Word of God.
The deceitfulness of wealth, the lusts of the world, such as fame, entertainment, sex, can take away our joy in the Lord. Unconfessed sins and disobedience grieve the Spirit and take away the peace of the Lord. These things cause a breach in the fence of our fellowship with the Lord. Therefore, the Lord reminds us to hold on to what we have, lest anyone take away our crowns (Revelation 3:11).
The righteous can say that he has not forgotten God’s law, which prevents the enemy from putting a breach in the fence and making him unfaithful again. After all, he has made the decision with resolute heart to remain close to the LORD always (Acts 11:23).
His gratitude is so great that he rises up at midnight, when it is dark, to give thanks to the LORD for His “righteous ordinances” (Psalms 119:62). These ordinances are like a light in the night. He is not ruled by darkness, by ghostly images, but by God’s Word. That, in addition to light, gives rest and peace and works a song of praise.
The psalmist’s subconscious is full of gratitude to the LORD. While some people wake up at midnight and lie down to doze off, the psalmist wakes up and continues what he went to bed with, which is to give thanks to the LORD.
He also knows that he is not alone (Psalms 119:63). He has companions, or rather he himself is “a companion” of all those who fear the LORD, as evidenced by their keeping His precepts. He belongs to those who fear the LORD, to that company he feels at home. With them he has fellowship. They can encourage each other mutually (Malachi 3:16). Those who love God and His Word also love fellow believers, regardless of race, nationality, or social status (1 John 5:1-Leviticus :).
Many believers, including young believers, go wrong in the choice of their friends or even enter into an unequal yoke with an unbeliever. Such a wrong choice may be made because of disappointment in believers. Sometimes that choice is justified with the excuse of be of help to the other person spiritually. The result is predictable: the unbeliever is not helped, but the believer falls. Paul warns: “Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals”” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
The psalmist seeks his company in the midst of those who love the Word. We too as believers have a calling, namely, to be a fellowship marked by Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Corinthians 1:9).
When the LORD blesses, he also makes us a blessing to others (Genesis 12:2). That is how the blessing flows over. This is the experience of the psalmist. The circle of his interest is widening (Psalms 119:64). He sees that the earth is full of God’s lovingkindness, although evil is still present. The blessings of the new covenant flow through the fullness of Israel to the nations (Romans 11:12). This is what happens when God rules. He does so through His statutes. The psalmist wants to know these and asks the LORD to teach him.
/teth/ The Good After the Suffering
The ninth letter, teth, is originally a ‘womb’, a vessel containing something good, pointing to the coming of good after suffering, for example, of the contractions. We find in this verse the suffering of tribulation – some connect this letter with the serpent – as a womb that produces something good (cf. Hebrews 12:11).
This stanza begins in Psalms 119:65 with the word “good” and ends with it in Psalms 119:72 as better=good. The letter teth first appears in the Bible in Genesis 1 where it says that God saw that the light was good (Genesis 1:4). Five of the eight verses of this stanza begin with the word good.
That God has dealt well, or was good, to each of His servants, every servant of the Lord will be able to testify (Psalms 119:65). That goodness is “according to Your word” and in answer to the psalmist’s prayer in Psalms 119:17. His action in goodness is, as He makes Himself known in His Word. If we have experienced that goodness, it is also good to say so to God, as the psalmist does here. We may say with the poet of a song: ‘Count your blessings, name them one by one.’
His dealings in goodness in this verse are evident not so much in His direct blessings, but rather in the afflictions. This may sound strange to some believers, but the Word of God is clear: “We exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that …” (Romans 5:2-Leviticus :). God in His goodness uses tribulations to keep us on the right path or to bring us back to it (cf. Psalms 23:4; 2 Corinthians 12:7-1 Samuel :). Therefore, persecution is one of the blessings of one who leaves everything to follow the Lord (Mark 10:29-Amos :).
It is not difficult to accept prosperity and health as good. Anybody can do that, whether they are believers or non-believers. It is something else to accept adversity, tribulation and suffering as good. That is why the psalmist, as well as the believing remnant, and also we, need education. The lesson is to experience and realize that God is always good and does good, in whatever circumstance we find ourselves. We may well ask the question, which is at once a certainty: “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).
When we have experienced the goodness of God, it awakens the desire to learn to discern well and to have the right knowledge for that purpose (Psalms 119:66). This teaching we may ask of God. There is in the righteous the right condition of heart to ask this, for he believes and trusts in the commandments of the LORD. This is the condition of having the right benefit from teaching. There must be no doubt about God’s commandments. We must not submit them to us, but we must submit to them. Then we will not look to other sources for learning discernment and knowledge.
As a result of his spiritual growth, the believer will become mature in the faith. Spiritually mature believers are those “who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). Therefore, the psalmist expresses the desire: “Teach me.” Are we eager to learn and willing to sit at the Lord’s feet?
When the believer questions God’s goodness, he goes astray (Psalms 119:67). Then God brings affliction into his life, setbacks and difficulties that make him return to God. This discipline is God’s education to teach us Who He is, that He is good, and that we can always trust Him, even and especially in difficult times. Abraham also showed that he had learned the lesson (Genesis 22:1-Psalms :). In the midst of the most painful trial, he continues to trust in the goodness and omnipotence of God. The righteous is kept from going astray when he keeps God’s Word.
God is good through and through and always, and He alone is good (Psalms 119:68; Luke 18:19). Therefore, everything He does is also good, even if He brings affliction and suffering into the life of the believer. Job had, and we too have, difficulty discerning this. Only after his test can Job testify that his knowledge of God was flawed and insufficient: “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-Joshua :). The believer longs to know and trust the goodness of God better. Therefore, he asks that God teach him His statutes.
The righteous lives in a world full of lies about Who God is (Psalms 119:69). The people who propagate these lies are here called “arrogant”. An example of this lie is the popular book by conservative Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, entitled When Evil Afflicts Good People. In it, he believes he must choose between the goodness of God and the power of God. The arrogant smear the righteous with that kind of mendacious reasoning, with this deformation and damage to the image of God.
However, that is no reason for the righteous to deviate from God’s precepts and abandon the path of obedience. On the contrary, he observes those precepts with all his heart. He refuses to believe these lies. He does not recognize in them the voice of the good Shepherd and flees from them (John 10:5), clinging all the more to the Word of God.
The heart of the arrogant is in great contrast to this. For that “heart is covered with fat”, it is insensitive because they hang on to sin with all their heart (Psalms 119:70). This is evident from the fact that they try to smear their lies on the righteous without any sense of shame. A fat heart implies that it is no longer amenable to the Word of God (cf. Isaiah 6:10). The righteous has joy in his heart because he delights in the law of the LORD. This keeps him insensitive to the lies with which the arrogant besmirch him.
He acknowledges the benefit of the affliction in which he has been for a time (Psalms 119:71). He now understands that the affliction was necessary for him to become aware that God is always good and that He can always be trusted, not only in prosperity, but also and especially in adversity.
The affliction has been temporary, for it has ceased once, but it is good for him to have been in it, so he says. A believer does not simply arrive to the point where he can say that. He can say in faith that “all things …work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28), but trusting the LORD in great adversity is another thing. In this case, the righteous learned the LORD’s statutes through them and came to appreciate them.
This also leads him to appreciate “the law from Your mouth” (Psalms 119:72). He says of it that it is “better” to him “than thousands of gold and silver [pieces]”. What comes from the mouth of God comes from His heart. That is what makes His Word so valuable. “From Your mouth” means that the teaching of the Word for the psalmist comes directly and very personally from the mouth of God. It is a speaking from mouth to mouth, that is, from very close by. It speaks of fellowship.
Gold or silver have lost their appeal to those who have learned to value God’s Word. Gold and silver, for all their value in the eyes of men, have only temporary value, while the value of God’s Word remains for all eternity.
Many people, unfortunately sometimes even believers, are full of material things in their hearts. As a result, they think and talk a lot about material things. The psalmist’s heart is full of the Word of God and therefore he thinks and talks a lot about the Word. This testifies that his heart is full of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, his Lord, so that all the privileges of the world are regarded by him not only as worthless but also as harmful (Philippians 3:7-Ruth :).
/jod/ Made by God’s Hands
The tenth letter, jod, with the numerical value ten, originally had the shape of a hand. The name of the letter is related to jad, the Hebrew word for hand. We know this word in the (Yiddish) Dutch verb ‘jatten’ which means ‘to steal – by hand’. The word jad also stands for the (pointer) stick used to read a Hebrew scroll. The letter jod has to do with: work, power (right hand), responsibility (the number ten: ten commandments, ten fingers, ten wise and foolish virgins and so on).
The letter jod is the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet. About it the Lord Jesus says, “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke [Lit one iota (Heb yodh) or one projection of a letter (serif)] shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18). The iota is the Greek counterpart of the Hebrew jod.
The righteous acknowledges that he is made by the hands of God (Psalms 119:73; Psalms 139:13-Nehemiah :), just as God’s hands also made the universe (Isaiah 45:12). In doing so, he acknowledges that he is totally dependent on his Creator (cf. 1 Peter 4:19). God made everything for the purpose of serving Him.
The psalmist’s question is whether the LORD, Who has made and fashioned him, will complete His work on him. “Made” refers to his forming, “fashioned” means put in the place where he is now. He then looks to the future and asks for understanding to meet God’s purpose with his life.
He has learned the lesson: He accepts the trouble and affliction from the hand of the LORD knowing that He wants to use it to form him. The suffering is like plowing the hard ground to make it ready for the seed of the Word (cf. Isaiah 28:23-Joel :).
He is also dependent on his Creator for understanding God’s commandments, because his mind has been darkened by sin. God can give him this understanding and that is what he asks for. He says to God, as it were: ‘I have come into being through Your work; now will You complete Your work in me. I have now understood that affliction is necessary for this purpose’ (Psalms 119:75; cf. John 15:2). God’s commandments are the manual for his life, for the completion of God’s work in him.
Not everyone rejoices over the psalmist, but those who fear God do (Psalms 119:74). They see the righteous and are glad because they see in his life that he, like them, has waited for God’s Word and that he, like them, has experienced that that waiting has not been in vain. Such a life is contagious. It makes others glad and gives them courage (cf. Malachi 3:16; Philippians 1:14). We see it in the encounter between Elizabeth and Mary (Luke 1:39-Romans :).
The judgments of the LORD are righteous, both for the wicked and for the psalmist (Psalms 119:75). For the wicked, they mean ruin. The psalmist knows that God’s judgments are always righteous, in accordance with His Word and His covenant. At the same time, these judgments are also part of God’s faithfulness, namely, to purify the psalmist and restore Israel. Through the tribulation, God works that the righteous place all hope of salvation in Him and condemn all unfaithfulness in themselves (cf. Romans 8:28).
Those who are afflicted are in need of comfort (Psalms 119:76). Therefore, the psalmist asks God to comfort him through His lovingkindness. The word “comfort” in Hebrew means ‘to sigh deeply of relief’. Experiencing that lovingkindness – that is, the blessing and love of God on the basis of His covenant, which includes salvation – causes the psalmist to be relieved. Thereby he appeals to the word that God has spoken to him, the promise He made to him, His servant. He personally appropriates the covenant, which has become a promise by virtue of the blood of the new covenant.
The psalmist clearly does not yet feel fully recovered from the affliction. This can be seen in his request to the LORD to let His compassion come to him (Psalms 119:77). He needs it. Everyone who is in miserable circumstances needs it. If he receives compassion, he will live, that is revive because he has new strength, because he has new life by virtue of the covenant. This is evident from the fact that the law of the LORD is his delight, his source of joy. For an unbeliever, the law is not a source of joy, because it condemns him.
Then the psalmist asks if the LORD will stretch out His hand against the arrogant wicked (Psalms 119:78) and over the God-fearing (Psalms 119:79) and over the psalmist himself (Psalms 119:80). The arrogant have afflicted the righteous with lies (Psalms 119:78; cf. Psalms 69:7; John 15:25). They have been able to do so under the permission of God, Who has His intention in doing so. It does not mean that the arrogant have listened to God. On the contrary, they do not take God into account at all, but follow their own agenda.
The righteous knows this and therefore asks God that He will make them ashamed. He can ask that question because he meditates on God’s precepts. As a result, he knows how God thinks about these oppressors. The arrogant with their big, lying mouths will be judged by God. As a result, the righteous also knows how to respond to these oppressors with their lies (1 Peter 2:23). Their enmity cannot keep him from persevering in his trust in the LORD.
The psalmist needs fellowship with those who fear God and know His testimonies (Psalms 119:79). He feels alone and now asks the LORD if those who fear Him will turn back to him. He wants to share with them his experiences. This is a remarkable desire of believers in all ages. Those who know God’s testimonies want to share them with those who also know them. We may take an example from the psalmist and pray that God will bring such people our way.
In the New Testament we learn that the love between the Father and the Son is also in us. Love cannot be practiced by anyone alone. A believer always needs fellowship with other believers. The love of God is only perfected in us when we as believers love one another (1 John 4:12).
The psalmist prays that the LORD will let his heart be blameless in God’s statutes (Psalms 119:80), for he is surrounded by arrogant, hostile liars. He recognizes the deceitfulness of his heart and knows that only the LORD knows it (Jeremiah 17:9-2 Samuel :; 1 Kings 8:39; Psalms 139:1; Psalms 139:23).
A blameless heart – literally, a perfect heart, that is, undivided – is essential in dealing with God. God looks for truth in the innermost being. If that is present, the believer will not be ashamed because he does not give sin a chance to enter his life. Then he will not be shamed in this life nor later, before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:9-2 Samuel :).
/kaph/ Covered by God’s Hand
The eleventh letter, kaph, depicts a covering. The meaning of the letter’s name is ‘an opened hand(palm)’, a hand in connection with action, for instance, laying on of hands, protection. When the LORD says to Moses “and cover you with My hand until I have passed by” (Exodus 33:21-Song of Solomon :), that is His ‘opened hand’.
The first time we find the word kaph in the Bible, defines the meaning of the word: “Stretch out your hand [jad] and grasp [it] [that is the serpent] by its tail”—so he stretched out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand [kaph]” (Exodus 4:4). The danger of the serpent was averted by the opened hand covering the danger.
The kaph stanza shows us the psalmist in sorrow and affliction. He is in distress and in great danger. In accordance with the covenant and promise of the LORD, he seeks refuge behind the protective hand of the LORD. There he is safe, as Moses was in the cleft of the rock, and as Zion is with the LORD: “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms [of My hands]; Your walls are continually before Me” (Isaiah 49:16). The whole stanza speaks of the danger that surrounds the psalmist and how he deals with it.
The righteous looks forward with intense longing to the salvation of the LORD, to His rescue from distress and that he may be led into peace (Psalms 119:81). He languishes for it so intensely that his soul – that is, his person, soul and body – has succumbed to it.
But he has waited for what the LORD has said. He held on to that and it held on to him. He has not sought his salvation, his rescue, from himself or from anyone else. The psalmist is in danger of succumbing to the distress, prophetic the persecution under the antichrist. He longs earnestly for deliverance from this danger. In danger, he clings to His Word in confidence of God’s promise (cf. Philippians 4:6-Judges :).
His soul has succumbed, yes, especially his eyes have failed, and this is because of the longing for the promises of the LORD (Psalms 119:82). He has asked Him: “When will You comfort me?” He needs comfort, that is what he looks forward to. The God-fearing has no doubt that the LORD will comfort him. He also desires to know when He will do it. By doing so, he is indicating that he desires the fulfillment to take place as soon as possible.
He is completely at the end of his strength, he is exhausted (Psalms 119:83). He compares himself to a wineskin hanging in the smoke. The smoke takes away the flexibility of the wineskin and turns it black. It symbolizes prolonged oppression that scorches and suffocates, preventing him from breathing. It can be compared to the patience that disappears when a child just keeps whining. Thus we see with Samson: “It came about when she pressed him daily with her words and urged him, that his soul was annoyed to death” [that is because of Delilah’s nagging] (Judges 16:16; cf. Luke 18:4-Deuteronomy :)
The word “comfort” in the previous verse, in Hebrew has the meaning of taking a deep breath, in this case relief because redemption has come. The cause of his great distress is that he feeds on the statutes of the LORD. Those statutes he has not forgotten. That is why he is persecuted by the wicked.
How long will he be able to live on, whereby he counts in days (Psalms 119:84)? When it comes to the suffering of the believing remnant the Bible usually speaks in days (Matthew 24:22). When it comes to the domination of the enemy the Bible usually counts in times or years, for example, a time, which is one year, times, which is two years, and half a time, which is half a year, together three and a half years.
Life is short, but the days can be long for one who is oppressed when he is pursued from day to day by persecutors (cf. Revelation 11:7; Revelation 13:7). He again calls himself “Your servant”, indicating that he is in need because of serving the LORD. He asks Him when He will bring judgment on his persecutors so that he will be delivered from the threat of death. He does not take the law into his own hands, but leaves the vengeance to God (cf. Romans 12:19; 2 Thessalonians 1:6; Revelation 6:10; Psalms 94:1-Exodus :).
He knows that his persecutors, whom he calls “arrogant”, “have dug pits” to catch him in them and then kill him (Psalms 119:85). The imagery makes it clear that the psalmist feels like a prey animal in the midst of hunters who are trying to capture this animal through traps. They have made several traps, so much are they out for his death. Traps are an unrecognized danger. If you recognize the danger, you are vigilant, but if you do not recognize the danger, it is extra dangerous.
They dug pits, even though God has forbidden it. Nowhere is there an explicit commandment ‘you shall not dig pits’, but it does say that a person should love his neighbor as himself. Digging pits to catch someone in them and then kill them is clearly against that. But these people have no ears for God’s teaching through the law.
The persecuted faithful confesses that all the commandments of the LORD, that is, without even one exception, are trustworthy (Psalms 119:86). His enemies assail him with lies and slander, traps, which almost destroy him. He calls on the LORD’s help to deliver him. Through the covenant faithfulness of the LORD, he is brought to safety by the protective, opened hand, kaph, of the LORD. The Lord Jesus was persecuted with falsehood because He testified to the trustworthiness of God’s commandments. This will be experienced by every believer who testifies to it.
The persecution is fierce. It goes to the edge of a ravine (Psalms 119:87). Almost the persecutors have destroyed the righteous on earth. If the days of persecution (Psalms 119:84) were not shortened – to twelve hundred and sixty days – all the remnant would have been killed (Matthew 24:22; cf. Luke 18:8).
However, this threat of death did not cause them to forsake the LORD’s precepts. They stuck to it, which means they stuck to life. They held fast to the covenant and remained alive in accordance with it.
The persecuted remnant asks God to revive them, appealing to God’s lovingkindness (Psalms 119:88). If God does, they will heed the testimony of God’s mouth. The remnant sees their life in connection with life on earth. It may be that God hears their prayer and He allows them to live on earth.
Even if they are killed, their prayer will be answered. For they will be made alive in the resurrection. Then they will perfectly keep the testimony of God’s mouth, for it will be written in their hearts. Thus, to say it New Testament words, they are more than victors through Him Who loved them (Romans 8:37).
/lamed/ Teaching of the Shepherd
The letter lamed is a picture of a (shepherd’s) staff. For the shepherd, it is a stick with a curved end; for an ox shepherd, it is a stick with a sharp end, a goad (cf. Acts 26:14). They are both used to direct the animals. Lamed is related to lamad, which means ‘to instruct’, ‘to teach’.
The lamed is the only letter that exceeds the upper limit of the other letters. This speaks of teaching from above. The shepherd teaches his sheep with the help of his staff. Our Shepherd is the heavenly Shepherd. The teaching of our heavenly Shepherd gives new life (Psalms 119:93; cf. 1 Peter 1:23; James 1:18; John 3:3; John 3:5; Ezekiel 36:26-Daniel :). It also gives steadfastness. The first three verses of this stanza (Psalms 119:89- :) are a thanksgiving and speak three times of standing firm. This also applies to us (1 Corinthians 15:58).
The Word of God is not a passing word. It is eternal (Psalms 119:89). For the Word is “settled in heaven”, that is, it is set there. It is heavenly in character. Never will man and the devil succeed in attacking it, for the Word is firmly established in heaven. Attempts to do so have been and are often made, but they have never succeeded and will never succeed. Every promise will be fulfilled to the letter (Luke 21:33).
The devil has tried to cast doubt on the Word at the Fall (Genesis 3:1) and at the temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-1 Kings :). Man has also tried by take away from the Word of God – like the Sadducees – or adding to it – like the Pharisees. In our day, we see the attempts to take away something from the Word in modern theology and the doctrine of evolution – the modern-day Sadducees – or add something to the Word in the teachings of men – the modern-day Pharisees.
God’s faithfulness also never ends, but “continues throughout generations” (Psalms 119:90; cf. Psalms 90:1-Exodus :). At issue here is the faithfulness of God toward creation. He proves that faithfulness to each generation as long as the earth, which was established by Him, stands. This is a great encouragement to each new generation. This is what each generation may pass on to the next.
The faithfulness of God is visible in the unshakability of the earth, which was established by the Lord Jesus. The same faithfulness is visible with the Word of God. Heaven and earth will pass away, but the Word will always be fulfilled (Matthew 5:18; Matthew 24:35). Our firmness is in the Lord Jesus, our Rock, for He is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
The believer can see this by the heavens and the earth, which were created by God (Psalms 119:91). They were created according to His will (Revelation 4:11), and according to His ordinances they remain where He placed them to this day. And they are there as His servants, serving Him in the purpose for which He has made them in the place where He has placed them. This holds encouragement for us as members of the body of Christ, His church. We may serve Him and one another, for that is what He made us for with the talents He has given us.
In the midst of all the misery, the law of the LORD has been the delight of the tried believer (Psalms 119:92). This is illustrated by the Lord in the parable of the sower. Tribulation and persecution reveal that a person’s heart can be shallow soil, in which the seed has not been able to take root (Matthew 13:20-Ecclesiastes :). It is someone who does not rejoice in the Word and cannot withstand the affliction of tribulation and persecution.
Because the law has been the delight of the righteous, he has not perished, but has stood firm in the affliction. The law, the Torah, here has the meaning of ‘teaching from the Word of God’. Since Christ is the center of Scripture, of teaching (John 5:39), He is actually the source of joy. The righteous who can be joyful while in affliction experiences the truth of the word: “The joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
The righteous will “never forget” (Psalms 119:93) the precepts of the LORD, which are eternally established in heaven, as he said at the beginning of this stanza (Psalms 119:89). The reason is that he owes his life to this. The LORD made him alive by His precepts (1 Peter 1:23). The words of Christ, the eternal Son of God, “are spirit and are life” (John 6:63; John 6:68). The believer will never forget the origin of his new life. They are words that have given him life and at the same time keep him constantly alive.
The righteous knows that he is the property of the LORD (Psalms 119:94). Therefore, He asks for salvation. He says to Him: “I am Yours.” Such an intimate statement is unique in Psalms. We encounter it especially in a situation of the greatest distress. This distress appears to have been caused by wicked, namely the antichrist and his followers (Psalms 119:95; cf. Revelation 13:7).
David also testifies to his intimacy with the LORD when he says: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalms 23:4). It is precisely in the difficult moments that David experiences the most intimate moments.
The psalmist reminds the LORD, as it were, that in doing so He has also taken care of him. We are responsible to take good care of what belongs to us. We see that with God. Therefore, the righteous appeals to Him to deliver him. As an additional reason, he says that he has sought God’s precepts. This shows that he is truly God’s property and not just a natural descendant of Abraham.
In affliction, the Word remains the psalmist’s delight (Psalms 119:92). By the same Word his heart was revived, he was born from above (John 3:3) and received new life (Psalms 119:93). He has become the property of the LORD and therefore His servant (Psalms 119:94). This is the basis of his cry for help whether the LORD will deliver him in his great need.
He asks for God’s intervention because wicked have lurched upon him to put him to death (Psalms 119:95). The reason for their murderousness is that he diligently considers the testimonies of the LORD and shows it in his life. That is why the wicked persecute the righteous. This started with Cain beating Abel to death. It reached its absolute nadir in the mass of the Jewish people who cried out for the death of the Lord Jesus, a cry that was heeded by Pilate. In the near future it will be repeated in the persecution of the faithful remnant of Israel (Revelation 12:17).
Everything made on earth has an expiration date (Psalms 119:96). It can be so perfect, but it will come to an end (2 Peter 3:10; 2 Peter 3:12). The psalmist has seen that end. His spiritual eyes have been opened to this reality. He has also seen that only the commandment of God is “exceedingly broad”, that it never comes to an end. The Word of God abides forever, as does he who does the will of God (1 Peter 1:25; 1 John 2:17).
/mem/ Desire for the Word
The letter mem has both the pictograph and the meaning of water (waves). Since water is essential to life, water as a picture of the Word of God in the Bible is always associated with purity and life (Ephesians 5:26; cf. Revelation 22:17). The desire for God is also the desire for the Word of God. That is why we read of a “thirst for God” (Psalms 42:1-Exodus :). This stanza about the water as a picture of the Word is therefore again a song of praise about the psalmist’s love for the Word.
Whoever loves the LORD also loves His law (Psalms 119:97). Someone who says he loves God but never reads His Word is a liar (cf. John 14:23). What the righteous says here is not a hypocritical lip confession. “O how I love Thy law”, is the exclamation of one who with all his heart pays attention to the teaching of God’s Word.
Nor is he merely engaged with God’s Word now and then, but it is “all the day” his meditation (cf. Psalms 1:3). Just as a sheep eats the grass and ruminates on it the rest of the day, so Mary hears what has been said to her and keeps and meditates on it in her heart (Luke 2:19). This is how we should read the Word and meditate on the Word the rest of the day. In this the Lord Jesus Himself is the perfect example.
He who loves God’s Word so intensely and thinks about it all day long is wiser than his enemies (Psalms 119:98). The world has rejected Christ, and because of this, every one who wants to follow the Lord knows that the price of following the Lord is rejection by the world. A believer must be mindful that he has enemies in the world.
The Word of God makes the simplest believer, one who by the standards of the world is not among the learned, a wise one (cf. 2 Timothy 3:15). He rises in wisdom far above the most intelligent people who are enemies of God. The world submits the Word of God to its wisdom and thinking, thereby rejecting the Word as the source of wisdom (Jeremiah 8:9). The believer submits his wisdom and thinking to the Word of God and receives wisdom that comes from above (cf. James 1:5; James 3:13-Esther :; 1 Corinthians 2:14). The wisdom of the world perishes, but those who possess wisdom based on the commandments of God have an eternal source of wisdom with them. What the righteous say is perfectly true of the Righteous.
Psalms 119:98- : all begin in Hebrew with “more. The psalmist is wiser (more wise), has more insight and understands more than his enemies, his teachers and the aged. From this it is clear that this is not about intelligence or life experience, but about the guidance of God through His Word. The Word of God gives us the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which is the secret of the psalmist’s wisdom, understanding and insight.
One who is wise through God’s commandments can say without a hint of pride: “I have more insight than all my teachers” (Psalms 119:99). His mind has been enlightened by God’s Word and God’s Spirit because he has made God’s testimonies his meditation. These are not teachers who are God-given, but teachers who possess worldly wisdom. By meditating on the Word, the psalmist receives wisdom that comes from above (James 3:13-Esther :). He can speak with understanding about the things of life with which others struggle. Like the two previous verses, this applies perfectly to the Lord Jesus.
The righteous, even when young, can also say without a hint of pride that he has “understands more than the aged” (Psalms 119:100). The aged here are not the recognized elders of God’s people, but older persons in general with life experience. That life experience, however, yields only human wisdom and not the wisdom that comes from above.
The righteous does not say this because he himself is suddenly so wise and understanding, but because he allows himself to be led by the LORD, by His Word. It is not about merely hearing or knowing the Word, but about keeping and obeying it, being led by that Word. A fool is one who is not led by the LORD and His Word, like the antichrist and his followers (Psalms 14:1; Psalms 53:2).
He has not only meditated on God’s Word, but has also observed it, that is, he has lived by it. As a result, his understanding all things of this life becomes like a light that shows every thing in its true nature and in its proper relation to every other thing. The Lord Jesus, as a Boy of twelve, has more understanding than the teachers and elders who will emerge as His enemies (Luke 2:46-2 Corinthians :).
Love for the Word of God, meditating on it, makes one wise, gives insight and gives understanding (Psalms 119:97- :). Psalms 119:101- : are about the psalmist’s walk in life under the guidance of the Word. Keeping the Word means guidance in life, avoiding every evil way.
We see this with the righteous, who has restrained his feet “from every evil way” (Psalms 119:101; cf. Psalms 1:1). By doing so, he demonstrates his adherence to God’s Word. There are countless bad way and there is only one good way, which is the way that God’s Word shows. All evil ways lead to death; the one good way leads to life.
That he abides by God’s Word is not his own achievement. He does not deviate from God’s ordinances because God Himself has taught him (Psalms 119:102). There is no teacher like Him (Job 36:22). He gives the perfect teaching that is exactly tailored to the student. The general effect of this sound teaching in the Word is that it has a preserving and sanctifying effect and works a desire for a life of holiness to God’s glory (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-Esther :).
Teaching from God’s Word is sweet to his taste (Psalms 119:103). It is pleasant to take. Its sweetness exceeds the sweetness of honey (cf. Psalms 19:11; Revelation 10:9). He who has tasted the sweetness of it has tasted that the Lord is kind (1 Peter 2:3; Psalms 34:9). Therefore he wants to have more of it.
The precepts of the LORD are truth and give understanding in the way of truth (Psalms 119:104). The believer who obeys these precepts gains understanding into the will of God. As a result, he will hate “every false way”, for in that way the precepts of the LORD are not allowed. The evil way of Psalms 119:101 is here called “false way”, for it goes against the way of truth, the way of the Word of God. The false way of sin is a path of error that leads to death. The righteous knows this because he listens to the precepts.
/nun/ From Suffering to Glory
The letter nun has the pictogram of ‘a growing seed’ or of ‘a fish’, which speaks of ‘continuation’ or ‘swimming against the current’. The letter has two forms, a normal form and a closing letter. The normal form is a curved line, while the closing letter is a long, upright line. Together these forms speak of the continuation from suffering to glorification (Luke 24:26; Philippians 2:5-1 Kings :). We too may walk this way, for we shall be glorified with Christ, at least, if we also suffer with Him (Romans 8:17).
The numerical value of the nun is fifty, which speaks of perfect restoration, for example, the year of jubilee is the fiftieth year, and Pentecost is the fiftieth day after the Lord’s resurrection.
The word nun is related to the Hebrew word for lamp that spreads light. This light is needed to move forward. Thus, this nun stanza begins with “a lamp to my feet” (Psalms 119:105). The light of God’s Word in this nun stanza makes it clear that the psalmist’s way to glory must always go by the way of suffering. That is the way on which is pruned to bear more fruit to God’s glory (John 15:2). Similarly, the way to God in the sanctuary is only possible through the light of the lampstand. Thus we need the light of the Word to enter the sanctuary by the new and living Way (Hebrews 10:19).
The Word of God does not spread darkness, but light (Proverbs 6:23). It is a lamp that shines before the feet of the believer, allowing him to know where to take the next footstep in a world that is completely dark. An illustration of this is the pillar of fire at night during Israel’s wilderness journey on the way to the promised land. This darkness can become the cause of the psalmist getting lost or falling down in his walk in the world that is spiritually a wilderness.
Because the Word of God gives light, the righteous has the determination to keep God’s “righteous ordinances” (Psalms 119:106). He realizes that at a weak moment, because of the persistent afflictions (Psalms 119:107- :), he might be tempted to give in to the pressure and let go of the Word. Therefore, he solemnly declares by swearing an oath that he will put his will into action. This conviction is expressed by a person only if he knows and accepts the value of God’s Word as a guide for his life.
Having the determination to obey God’s Word can bring such affliction that a person despairs of his life. However, the psalmist received a word, a promise from the LORD that he would remain alive, and so he can still live peacefully (Psalms 119:107; cf. 1 Corinthians 10:13; Romans 8:35-Malachi :).
The believer lives in a world that is out to silence him. His life bears witness to Who God is, and this God the wicked want to get rid off. The believer therefore turns to God and asks Him to make him a living witness who does not yield to the pressure to remain silent.
The believer is an offeror and a disciple (Psalms 119:108). He learns that even and especially in difficult situations he will nevertheless come to God as an offeror or priest with “the freewill offerings” of his mouth, which are the spontaneous offerings of praise and thanks (Hosea 14:3; cf. 1 Peter 2:5; Hebrews 13:15). In accordance with the LORD’s teaching in Psalm 50, he wishes God to accept them (Psalms 50:23). He wants to offer those sacrifices in a manner pleasing to Him.
The issue is not only in what manner the sacrifices of thanksgiving are offered, but in what circumstances. The psalmist is in great distress. In great distress, a person is more likely to go to the LORD for help than to give thanks to Him. But the LORD wants to teach the psalmist by His ordinances to praise Him in difficult circumstances (cf. Acts 16:19-Lamentations :). Therefore, the psalmist asks the LORD to teach him His ordinances. We, Christians, know that the Father seeks worshipers and that He also tells us how to do so (John 4:23-Jeremiah :).
The life of the righteous is in constant danger (Psalms 119:109). The wicked want to silence him. They do not want the believer to honor God nor do they want to be reminded of God by his life. The righteous will not let them intimidate him that he forgets God’s Word. That very Word is his protection against the danger that he would stop praising the LORD.
That the life of the righteous is in danger, is, according to Psalms 119:7, not imaginary. For the wicked have laid a snare for him (Psalms 119:110). That snare is that he stops praising the LORD when he is in danger (cf. 2 Chronicles 20:15; 2 Chronicles 20:19-Ecclesiastes :). However, it did not tempt him to then just go astray from the LORD’s precepts. Rather, those precepts kept him in the way of the LORD, so that he would not fall into the snare of the enemy. Thus, the enemy’s attempts to ensnare him did not separate him from the LORD, but drove him into His arms.
In fact, the psalmist has inherited the testimonies of the LORD forever (Psalms 119:111). He knows its value and will never renounce it (cf. 1 Kings 21:1-Leviticus :). That is, regardless of the circumstances, even in times of danger, the Word remains his portion and he will continue to praise the LORD with joy in his heart.
This is an inheritance that is the property of the LORD, but assigned by Him to an Israelite. The Israelite may not sell the inheritance, except in extreme need, but then the right to buy it back remains for him or his redeemer. This inalienable hereditary possession is here the Word of God.
He who values and preserves the inheritance will incline his heart to take full advantage of it (Psalms 119:112). He will want to know all that the inheritance entails. Along with this comes his intention to give everything he discovers in it a place in his life throughout the rest of his life, “forever, [even] to the end” (cf. Acts 11:23).
The letter samech has the pictogram of a complete circle and has the numerical value sixty. This gives the letter the meaning ‘circled’, ‘protected’. In ancient Hebrew, the letter samech has the pictogram of a ‘thorn’. A flock is protected by a thorn bush all around, hence the meaning of the letter: protection, circled, support. The idea is that the believer is completely surrounded by the Word and protected by the LORD. In connection with the numerical value, we see this portrayed in the sixty bodyguards surrounding King Solomon (Song of Solomon 3:7).
The sincere “hate those who are double-minded” (Psalms 119:113). These are people with divided hearts or double-hearted people (cf. James 1:8). They are, so to speak, people of a semicircle rather than a whole circle, samech. A semicircle is not sufficient protection. Half-hearted people cannot count on the LORD’s protection. For that, a person must be completely devoted, depicted in a whole circle.
The difference between with a whole heart and with half a heart (or double-minded) is the difference between love and hate. People who are double-minded cannot make a choice (cf. Joshua 24:15). Such people say they love God, but in reality they despise Him. This is evident in their attitude toward the teaching of God’s Word. The upright one, on the other hand, loves the law of the LORD with all his heart. He longs for the teaching from God’s Word. His hatred of the half-minded, therefore, stems from this teaching. It is the hatred of God Himself (Psalms 139:21-Song of Solomon :).
The God-fearing is persecuted because of his dedication to the LORD. This leads him to a new experience, and that is that the LORD is his “hiding place” and his “shield” (Psalms 119:114). These two words in Hebrew both begin with the letter samech. Together they mean “complete protection”. We see in Psalm 121 that the LORD keeps us during the day (the sun) and during the night (the moon), that is, continually and completely (Psalms 121:6).
Waiting for the word of the LORD brings safety and protection to the psalmist. At the same time, God’s Word is also a hiding place and a shield from all the hateful words that are shot at him like fiery arrows, for hope and trust in it will stop the fiery arrows (Ephesians 6:16).
The God-fearing lives in the midst of evildoers (Psalms 119:115). Instead of speaking to the LORD, he speaks to them once in a while. Now that he is safe, safe because the LORD is his hiding place, safe because he has put on the whole armor of God, he can resist the evildoers and drive them away. The promise applies to us as well: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
He commands them to go away from him, for he wants nothing to do with them (cf. Psalms 6:8). If he allows them to exercise their influence in his life, it will be at the expense of observing the commandments of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:33). He does not want that. No believer should want that. Therefore, he will show evildoers the door (2 John 1:10; Titus 3:10; cf. Romans 16:17) and resist a false gospel (Galatians 2:4-Deuteronomy :).
The forceful action of the previous verse is possible only if at the same time an appeal is made to the word of God that He supports those who trust in Him (Psalms 119:116). The psalmist’s resolve is firm. But he knows the strength of the opponents and he also knows his own weakness. Therefore, he resorts to the word of the LORD to sustain him. Then he will survive in the time of need. He asks for God’s support because he does not want to be ashamed in his hope.
The support he asks for is in view of those who persecute him, for from them he wants to be saved (Psalms 119:117). When the LORD supports him, he is focused on Him and secure. Then he continually has regard for or delights in the statutes of the LORD. He keeps them and rejoices in them. These then determine the content of his life and not those who are after him.
He leaves the judgment of his persecutors to the LORD (Psalms 119:118). He knows what the LORD is going to do, that is to reject all those who wander from His statutes. They deceive others with their language of lies. This double description of their wickedness – “their deceitfulness is useless [literally: falsehood]” – underscores the mendacity of their language. This is prophetically about people who follow the antichrist in his lying deceptions.
All these wicked people are removed of the earth by the LORD like dross (Psalms 119:119). The dross is removed to purify, to refine the silver. The wicked are purged away to make Israel pure (cf. Proverbs 25:4; Malachi 4:1; Luke 3:9; Luke 3:17). By this, the righteous refers to the melting process in which a smelter removes the dross that floats on the molten precious metal (cf. Isaiah 1:25-Ezekiel :; Ezekiel 22:19-Song of Solomon :; Malachi 3:2-Leviticus :; 1 Peter 1:7). He knows that God will deal justly with the wicked. It is an additional motive for him to love God’s testimonies.
Judgment on the wicked (Psalms 119:119) is for the God-fearing, besides being a motive for loving the testimonies of the LORD, also a reason for fearing Him (Psalms 119:120). He is therefore in great awe of Him (cf. Revelation 1:17; Isaiah 6:5). That his “flesh trembles” is literally “bristles up”, which means in our language that he gets goosebumps. In himself he is no better than the wicked and is impressed by the judgments of God on them. That is also the big difference with the wicked, because they show no fear of Him Who is so much to be feared.
/ain/ View on the Source
The letter ain has the pictogram and meaning of ‘eye’ or ‘source’. ‘Eye’ has not only the meaning of ‘being able to see’, but especially the meaning of ‘having insight’, ‘understanding’. In Hebrew, the terms ‘good eye’ and ‘evil eye’ are associated with generosity and stinginess respectively (Matthew 6:22-Jeremiah :). God has a good eye, because He is generous. He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16).
That the eye is the lamp of the body means that our understanding of spiritual things is partly dependent on our mind. Stinginess, for example, will cloud our spiritual understanding. This insight is also necessary to be a good servant of the LORD (Psalms 119:122; Psalms 119:124Psalms 119:125).
The word ain also means ‘source’, which speaks of life. The first time we find a source in the Bible is Beer[=source]-lahai-roi, which means ‘the Living One Who sees me’. In that place the LORD finds Hagar (Genesis 16:7-2 Chronicles :).
The righteous can say to the LORD that he has “done justice and righteousness” (Psalms 119:121). Justice and righteousness are the foundation of God’s throne (Psalms 97:2). This means that the psalmist is holding fast to the covenant of the LORD. That covenant means that the LORD will never give him up.
What he says does not mean that he is without sin, but that he has served the LORD according to his uprightness. The wrong he has done, he has confessed, so that there is nothing between him and the LORD. On this basis, he asks the LORD not to leave him to his oppressors – that is, the antichrist and his followers (cf. Zechariah 11:15-Esther :). For his preservation from his oppressors he does not count on his own strength, but on the LORD.
In Psalms 119:122 he goes one step further. He asks the LORD to be surety of his welfare (cf. Isaiah 38:14) and not allow the arrogant to oppress him and thus destroy his welfare. In doing so, he again presents himself to Him as “Your servant”. A surety is not only a protector, but also and especially a substitute, one who takes on the cause of another and makes it his own.
The word ‘surety’ also occurs in Genesis 43 where Judah stands surety for Benjamin (Genesis 43:9; cf. Philemon 1:18). The Lord Jesus is in a perfect sense a surety for His own because He took their sins upon Himself on the cross. And also now that He is in heaven, He is the surety for His own (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:22; Hebrews 7:25).
The eyes of the righteous have failed with longing for the salvation of the LORD (Psalms 119:123), that is, for His salvation and peace (cf. Psalms 69:3). He has a ground for this and that is the righteous word of the LORD. That righteous word means that the LORD will act on the basis of the covenant. It means that He will judge evil and reward good. He will do both when He comes to earth in Christ for the second time.
The psalmist, as a servant of the LORD, asks Him to do with him according to His lovingkindness or covenant faithfulness (Psalms 119:124). That lovingkindness includes protection from his persecutors, but also teaching the statutes or ways of the LORD. Things and events never stand alone. They are always connected in some way to God’s Word. In it we can learn how God views things and events, giving us His view of them.
This is followed by his next question to the LORD, in which he asks for understanding (Psalms 119:125). Emphatically, he asks this question as His servant. A servant – mentioned for the third time in this verse, after Psalms 119:122; Psalms 119:124 – asks for and carries out the will of his lord. If the LORD gives him understanding, opens his mind, he will know His testimonies with spiritual understanding. Here we see that receiving understanding depends on our willingness to serve Him. When Samson lost his hair (=dedication), he lost his eyes (=understanding) (Judges 16:19-Ecclesiastes :).
Through the understanding received, it is clear to the righteous that “it is time for the LORD to act” (Psalms 119:126). It is important to know the times (cf. 1 Chronicles 12:32) and not to act before the time (2 Kings 5:26). The question to the LORD to act is not a question of impatience, but the question to act now because His law has been broken. The law has been broken countless times, but in the end times it will be broken in the most egregious way, leaving no longer any delay of judgment. Then the measure of iniquity will be full (cf. Genesis 15:16) and the LORD will act in judgment.
This will happen when the nadir of idolatry is reached, namely when a man comes in his own name (John 5:43) who will take the place of God, namely the antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:4). This is man’s response to the love of God. God in His love sent His Son to take man’s place in judgment. To this man responds by taking the place of God in pride (cf. Genesis 3:5).
Because God’s Word gives understanding into the time of the LORD’s actions, the God-fearing loves the commandments of the LORD (Psalms 119:127; Psalms 119:72). His love for those commandments far exceeds the love for gold, yes, fine gold. Gold may be worth much, but its possession is fragile and temporary, for it may be gone in a moment, and its enjoyment ceases with death.
Psalms 119:128 begins with “therefore”, meaning that this verse is the conclusion of the stanza. The psalmist’s conclusion is that all God’s precept are truth (John 17:17). That his appreciation of God’s Word far exceeds his appreciation of gold is evident in his obedience to it. He has held all God’s precepts to be right in everything. They are the truth. In contrast, he “hates every false way”. The absolute measure of the difference between right and wrong is the Word.
Love of God’s Word automatically means hating the lie and every false way, that is, every way on which the lie reigns supreme. The two cannot possibly go together (cf. Matthew 6:24). The contrast of Psalm 1 between the righteous and the wicked is here the contrast between the psalmist who loves God’s Word and those who walk the path of lies and hate the Word of God.
/pe/ The Opened Mouth
The letter pe has the pictogram and meaning of the (opened) mouth. This letter follows the letter ain, the eye. The letter ain speaks of understanding. That must first be present before the mouth can be opened – of which the letter pe speaks – to speak the truth. The mouth must also be opened to feed on the Word of God (Psalms 119:131).
If you know God’s Word to some extent, you will be impressed again and again and again by the wonders of God’s testimonies (Psalms 119:129). When you study God’s creation, you come to marvel at its perfection. It towers above the creations of man. The Word of God also brings us to wonder: it is truth, its opening spreads light (Psalms 119:130), it begets life, it is full of wisdom, perfect, and it towers over all the books ever written by men.
When the LORD opens His mouth and utters His testimonies, His words will work admiration in the hearts of believers. This cannot be otherwise, for one of the names of the Author is “Wonderful” (Isaiah 9:6). He is also the God Who works wonders (Psalms 72:18). It strengthens the soul’s desire to heed the testimonies of such a God.
Life is complicated and there are many questions. What a precious gift the Word is then. When the Word is opened – figuratively, or also literally, as a scroll is rolled open – its light shines out on all the situations in which the righteous can be (Psalms 119:130). It also illuminates man’s mind and heart. He sees himself in the light of God, and he also sees the Light in the light of the Word.
Then “the simple” get “understanding”. The “simple” are believers who lack understanding and turn to God’s Word for understanding the circumstances. The Word is hidden from religious, but not born-again wise and intelligent people, such as modern theologians, while the Father reveals it to simple children (cf. Matthew 11:25).
The letter pe means, as mentioned, ‘opened mouth’. In Psalms 119:130 we find the opened Word and in Psalms 119:131 we find a mouth opened of wonder (Psalms 119:129). The result is that the light of the Word illuminates and gives understanding to the psalmist.
The psalmist is such a simple one. He has intense hunger for the Word of God (Psalms 119:131). This underscores the significance of the letter pe. He does not merely open his mouth, but opens it wide like young birds do when the mother comes with food. He also panted, for he longed to take in the commandments. So great is his desire for them (cf. Psalms 42:2-Leviticus :; 1 Peter 2:2). Panting can also be translated as ‘yearning’. He yearns for God’s commandments.
The psalmist has not yet taken the Word to himself. He does strongly desire that Word (Psalms 119:131), but he understands that understanding the Word is only possible through prayer. In Psalms 119:132- : he prays. He prays for grace “after Your manner” to understand the Word (Psalms 119:132); he prays for a walk in accordance with the Word (Psalms 119:133- :); he prays especially for the presence of the LORD (Psalms 119:135) to teach him.
The righteous has read about it in God’s Word that it is after God’s manner when God is asked to turn to the prayer and this is done by those who love His Name. God’s right has been fulfilled through His Son on the cross for all who believe in Him.
There are two sides to the life of the lover of God’s Name. One side is that his footsteps are established in God’s Word (Psalms 119:133). He asks that this may be so, that he will live according to the will of God revealed in His Word. On the other hand, he realizes that he is living in the midst of a world full of iniquity, which can easily cling to him. Therefore, he asks that God keep him from this and that “not … any iniquity” has dominion over him. If God turns to him, the latter will also happen.
There is pressure from people on him to make him bow to iniquity. He feels his weakness and asks God to redeem him from that oppression (Psalms 119:134). Because of that oppression, he feels an impediment to obeying God’s precepts. When God delivers him from that, he is free to observe His precepts.
There is by and by the desire for God’s Word also desire for the light of God’s face upon him (Psalms 119:135), that is, that God would be gracious to him (Numbers 6:25). We know that we have become pleasing to God in Christ because He looks upon us in Christ. Therefore, God can be gracious to us.
In expressing his desire for the light of God’s face, he asks for the light of God’s presence, for His presence in his life as God’s servant. The light of God’s presence is the only good light in which God can teach His statutes.
While he is in God’s light, he feels more than anywhere else that God’s law is not kept (Psalms 119:136) by his oppressors, of whom he spoke in Psalms 119:134, that is, the antichrist and his followers. By despising the gift of the law, the Lawgiver Himself is despised. When he is in God’s presence, he is particularly sensitive to this. It causes a stream of water to flow from his eyes, so deeply saddened is he over the contempt of the law. As a result, the people perish (cf. Lamentations 3:48; Romans 9:1-Deuteronomy :). We also see this sorrow in Christ (Luke 19:41-Acts :).
/tsade/ The Righteous
The letter tsade has the pictogram which can be interpreted as ‘a suffering servant’ and is related to the word tsadik which means righteous. The letter has two forms: the regular letter that speaks of a suffering servant and the closing letter that speaks of a glorified servant. This closing letter is long and straight, and has the shape of a palm tree (cf. Psalms 92:13).
The letter tsade undoubtedly refers to Christ, the Righteous (1 Peter 3:18). When the Son of David will appear as the Righteous Branch or Sprout, He will do justice and righteousness as King. His Name will be: “The LORD our righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:5-Joshua :).
This tsade stanza is about the significance of the glories of the Word to the psalmist personally, how the Word of God brings him into the nearness of God. The stanza begins with the declaration and praise that the LORD is righteous, both in His Person and in His actions (Psalms 119:137). The stanza ends with the declaration and praise that the Word of the LORD is righteous (Psalms 119:144).
The psalmist expresses the deep conviction to the LORD: “righteous are You” (Psalms 119:137; cf. Revelation 16:5; Revelation 16:7). The LORD is righteous when He declares the one righteous who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26). He is also righteous when He reveals His wrath (Lamentations 1:18; Romans 1:18). Righteous means that He acts according to His standard, which is His covenant and His promise.
Because the LORD is just, all His judgments are “upright” (cf. Revelation 15:3-Numbers :). His judgments and His Person are in perfect accord with each other (Deuteronomy 32:4). This observation is of great importance. One who sees and considers this will rejoice in it (Psalms 19:9).
The evidence of the observation of Psalms 119:137 is given in Psalms 119:138. The LORD has commanded His testimonies “in righteousness” as well as in “exceeding faithfulness”. Everything He says and does proves that He is righteousness and exceeding in faithfulness. There is no injustice present with Him. Therefore, He cannot be unfaithful either (2 Timothy 2:13).
The psalmist is consumed by zeal for the Word of the LORD (Psalms 119:139). In Psalm 69 we read that he was consumed with zeal for the house of the LORD (Psalms 69:9). In John 2, the Holy Spirit quotes this verse from Psalm 69 and applies it to the Lord Jesus because He is its fulfillment (John 2:14-Esther :).
This consuming zeal is necessary because the apostate members of God’s people, who are His opponents, have forgotten God’s words. The zeal of the righteous comes from his love for God’s words. The opponents of the faithful do not heed what He has said, but go against it with great vigor. This consumes the righteous who is driven by love for God’s words.
The God-fearing has not forgotten God’s Word, but on the contrary values it highly. He says to God that His “word is very pure”, it is without any defect (Psalms 119:140; Psalms 18:30). Countless attacks have been made on it to invalidate or eradicate it. All these attacks have demonstrated its purity all the more. The enemy has achieved the opposite of his intentions. The servant of God has not forgotten or rejected the very pure Word of God, but rather loves it. For him, the Word is not only pure, but has a purifying effect in his life (John 15:3).
An important characteristic of a servant of the LORD is that he loves His Word (Psalms 119:97). An important characteristic of one who loves the Lord Jesus is that he keeps His Word (John 14:21; John 14:23).
In Psalms 119:141, we hear the faithful remnant speaking in the psalmist. They acknowledge that they are “small and despised” compared to the mass of their apostate, hostile peers. While their opponents have forgotten God’s Word (Psalms 119:139), they can say that they have not forgotten the precepts of the LORD. On the contrary, because they are small and despised, they are fully dependent on them. In this they find their strength to stand firm against the enmity of the ungodly multitude.
At the very moment when the psalmist is reviled and oppressed – and that includes the believing remnant – he holds fast to the powerful precepts of the LORD. He needs that more than ever, to thereby know His will in such a difficult situation.
In Psalms 119:140 the psalmist – and in him the remnant – calls himself “Your servant”. In Psalms 119:141 we see the believer as a servant who suffers in imitation of the suffering Servant of the LORD, that is, the Lord Jesus. We are talking here about the suffering of the Servant because of righteousness (cf. 1 Peter 4:13) and not about His atoning sufferings. In the latter suffering He is unique and cannot be imitated by anyone.
The righteousness of God “is an everlasting righteousness” (Psalms 119:142). Righteousness is the righteous action of God, an action that is in accordance with His Word, His covenant, His promise. Its foundation is the blood of the new covenant (Matthew 26:28; Luke 22:20), which is the blood of the eternal covenant (Hebrews 13:20).
Therefore, it does not have only a temporary effect, but righteousness is absolute and eternal. Directly related to this is the observation that the law of the LORD is “truth”, perfectly true and reliable, without a hint of falsehood.
The faithful one is afflicted by “trouble and anguish” (Psalms 119:143). This verse is parallel to Psalms 119:141. There is a difference, however. In Psalms 119:141 the emphasis is on the smallness and vulnerability of the psalmist’s person, whereas here in Psalms 119:143 it is on the magnitude of the trouble. In both cases the Word gives adequate support.
Trouble and anguish point to the time of the great tribulation in which all the faithful, that is the faithful remnant, will find themselves at the end of the age. In that time of great trouble, they have a “delight” that will help them through that time. That delight are the commandments of the LORD. During the great tribulation, man will run everything out of control, but the LORD never runs out of control. He will cause His own to arrive safely in the harbor of their desire (Psalms 107:30).
The tribulation may last a long time, but it will come to an end, for He has set a limit for the great tribulation (Matthew 24:21-Song of Solomon :). It is different with the righteous testimonies of the LORD, for they are “forever” (Psalms 119:144). The righteous asks for an understanding of those testimonies, for in them is the true life. This life is life with God and applies to both now and in the future, for His testimonies are forever.
God’s testimonies are complete; there will not be added new testimonies. What we need as Christians are not new testimonies or revelations, but a deeper understanding of the God-given revelation in His Word. Without an understanding of this Scripture revelation from God, man, the believer, cannot live the true life, for in the Scriptures man, the believer, learns Who God is and who he himself is. This is not about receiving life (John 6:53), but about the practical enjoyment of it (John 6:56).
/koph/ Calling Out in Distress
The ancient Hebrew pictogram of the letter koph is the horizon with sunrise; in Aramaic it is an eye of a needle (connect). The letter koph in this stanza has to do with the concepts of calling, drawing near, and being sanctified (cf. Leviticus 20:26). All three verbs begin with the letter koph. The purpose is to make a connection between heaven and earth. The believer is connected to heaven and is therefore sanctified, set apart in this world.
The righteous has cried out to the LORD with all his heart (Psalms 119:145; cf. Joel 2:32). This means that he has a pure heart, otherwise he cannot cry out to the LORD with all his heart. He calls on Him because he lives in a God-hating world and is in need. It is not that God is unaware of his distress, but He allows the distress to form him spiritually and bring him closer to Himself (Romans 5:3-Deuteronomy :). The righteous cries out for an answer. To this he attaches the promise to observe the statutes of the LORD.
Psalms 119:145- : all begin with “cry” and Psalms 119:150- : with “near”. In Psalms 119:146 the psalmist repeats his cry for deliverance, but more specifically “save me”. This is not about salvation from the penalty of sin, but salvation from the present affliction. It points to the seriousness of the affliction. Again, he attaches to his salvation the promise to keep God’s testimonies after his salvation.
In Psalms 119:147 he goes on to speak of his cry for help and says of this that he cried out before the morning began to dawn. Even before the dawn of day he called out to God for help. He did so because he waited for in God’s words (Psalms 136:6). Even during the night he opened his eyes to meditate on God’s Word (Psalms 119:148).
The Jews divide the night into three night watches. The last night watch ends with the sunrise, the time of prayer. Before the last night watch ends, the psalmist has already risen to meditate on God’s Word, to have his ‘quiet time’. These verses show how important it is to take set times for prayer and meditating on the Word and begin the day with them.
The psalmist asks the LORD to hear his voice and to do so “according to Your lovingkindness” (Psalms 119:149). He is claiming the right to be heard because he is appealing to God’s lovingkindness, that is, God’s faithfulness to His covenant. What he is asking for is to revive him. He acknowledges that God has the full right to his life. He wants to live as is right before God, to enjoy life according to God’s ordinances. According to the covenant, he will remain alive despite the enemies of the next verse.
He feels threatened in his life by those who “follow after wickedness” (Psalms 119:150). They “draw near” to keep him from prayer and the Word (Psalms 119:147; Psalms 119:148). They behave this way because they are far from God’s law. They do not heed the authority of God in any respect.
The threatened righteous, seeing the wicked drawing near, says to the LORD that He is “near” (Psalms 119:151). When He is near (cf. Philippians 4:5), the wicked can come as close as they want, but the LORD will protect him. The evildoers are far from God’s law, but the righteous speaks it with conviction that God’s commandments are truth.
This is not a spontaneous confession in the face of imminent danger, but he knows “of old” from God’s testimonies (Psalms 119:152). God’s testimonies means the testimony of God’s Word about Who He is and about who we should be. From of old here means from before. He does not look back with the wisdom of the present; he looks to the future with the wisdom from above. He also knows that God has “founded them forever”, namely, on the immovable foundation of the blood of the eternal covenant of Christ. God is eternal, therefore His testimonies also stand forever on a firm, unshakable foundation.
/resh/ The Main Point
The letter resh has the pictogram of a bowed head and is related to the word ‘see’ (Psalms 119:153; Psalms 119:158Psalms 119:159) and the word ‘head’ (the sum or the beginning, Psalms 119:160). In this resh stanza, a court case, as it were, is held (Psalms 119:154) and we hear
1. the psalmist’s prayer in his affliction (Psalms 119:153),
2. with his request to live (Psalms 119:154),
3. the description of his enemies (Psalms 119:155- :),
4. with another request to live (Psalms 119:159),
5. and as a final conclusion his confidence that the words and covenant of the LORD are truth (Psalms 119:160).
As a reason for looking upon his affliction or tribulation and being rescued from it, the psalmist argues that he has not forgotten God’s law (Psalms 119:153). The psalmist is in need of a comforter, someone who would stand by him in his trial, someone who would show compassion in his affliction. The Lord Jesus says: “And I looked for sympathy, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none” (Psalms 69:21).
The psalmist shows by his question that he is counting on God to regard his affliction and rescue him. He derives this certainty from the promise of the LORD in His covenant. There he got to know Him as a caring God, Who looks after His own in mercy, even when they are in affliction.
The righteous is being sued, there are serious charges, all of which are false (Psalms 119:154). He can boldly ask God to take his trial and stand up for him. Then he will be redeemed and go free (cf. Hebrews 7:25). He will get his life back, which is consistent with God’s promise that He gives life on earth to those who turn to Him. He does this on the basis of His covenant.
“Salvation is far from the wicked” (Psalms 119:155). The cause of this is not with God, but with themselves. For they do not seek God’s statutes. This is a great contrast with the psalmist and the faithful remnant, who do. Those who ignore God’s Word will never enter the realm of peace. ‘Not seeking’ means having no desire for it. They do not want to engage in God’s Word. The wicked here are the Israelites who have rejected the covenant of the LORD and have become followers of the antichrist. They are the persecutors of the believing remnant.
The righteous, on the other hand, sees that the mercies of the LORD are great (Psalms 119:156). He has experienced this in his life (Lamentations 3:22-Isaiah :). Now that he is in affliction, he appeals to it again. He wants to live to the glory of God. Therefore, he asks that God revives him according to His ordinances. He knows that life with God is firmly tied to what God’s Word says. Without the Word there is no life. The Word is life (Deuteronomy 32:47).
The pressure on the righteous is great (Psalms 119:157). He is not persecuted and opposed by only a few, but his “persecutors and adversaries” are “many”. It is terrible to be persecuted and opposed. When that also happens en masse, it is a very great trial. In the end times, the mass of the Israelites will accept and follow the antichrist (John 5:43). Therefore, two-thirds of the people will also be exterminated by Assyria (Zechariah 13:8).
Despite the fact that the apostate crowd is against him, the righteous says that he does not turn aside from God’s testimonies. He remains with the Lord with a resolute heart (cf. Acts 11:23). He experiences: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all” (Psalms 34:19).
The psalmist has his eyes open to what is happening around him. He also beholds “the treacherous” (Psalms 119:158). They act treacherously – also means: deceitfully, apostate – toward the covenant of the LORD. That causes loathe in him. That loathe comes to him not because of the treacherous acting against him, but because they do not keep God’s Word. Being treacherous is abominable, and all the more so when the word of God is known, but one does not keep it.
We can think of treacherousness in a marriage. In Jeremiah 2, treacherousness in marriage is compared to unfaithfulness to the covenant with the LORD (Jeremiah 2:2). The word “love” in Jeremiah 2:2 is the word for faithfulness to the covenant. Marriage is also seen as a covenant (Malachi 2:14). Dealing treacherously in the marriage covenant was and is – even today – probably the most heinous form of treacherousness in the sphere of human relationships.
The psalmist wants to live because life is promised in the covenant if he loves God’s precepts (Psalms 119:159). He chooses life (Deuteronomy 30:17). His desire for life comes from love for God’s precepts. This states that life is promised to those who love God’s Word. He appeals to God’s lovingkindness for this purpose.
The last verse of this stanza is about the sum of the Word and that it is everlasting (Psalms 119:160). The God-fearing declares that the sum of God’s Word is “truth”. The Hebrew word “sum” also means “head”. It means that the whole and the main point of the Word is truth or trustworthy (cf. 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Timothy 3:11 Timothy 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:11; Titus 3:8). It is about the whole of God’s Word. The Word, the covenant, with all the righteous ordinances it contains, has no end, it “is everlasting”.
The letter sin or shin has the pictogram and meaning of ‘teeth’ and is associated with the concept of ‘eating’, ‘fire’, ‘tribulation’. The negative meaning is tribulation and judgment, the positive is eating and finding a spoil (Psalms 119:162). Psalms 119:161 and Psalms 119:163 speak of the great tribulation, in which the remnant will be persecuted by “princes”, which are the false leaders (Psalms 119:161) and the false shepherds (Zechariah 11:15-Esther :) of Israel. In the midst of these severe tribulations, in this stanza the psalmist and the remnant remain faithful to the LORD and rejoice in the salvation and the Word of the LORD.
The psalmist has not been afraid of princes, the followers of the antichrist, who have spread lies about the LORD and His Word. He has, however, been fearful of God’s Word in the sense that he has been “in awe” of it (Psalms 119:161). This has kept him from denying God’s Name before government officials who have persecuted him for no reason, but rather testifying of Him faithfully before them. Examples are Daniel before Nebuchadnezzar, Paul before King Agrippa and above all the Lord Jesus before Pilate.
The joy at God’s word or promise, His pledge, can be compared to finding great spoil (Psalms 119:162). That it is spoil means that it is what has been conquered in a victory over an enemy (cf. Isaiah 9:2). It is not a chance find, but the result of struggle. To find such great spoil requires effort.
Likewise, the knowledge of God through His Word is the result of prayerfully studying and meditating on the Word. That takes effort and time. At the same time, the Word is a weapon, the sword of the Spirit, which is necessary in a time of spiritual struggle, in a time of tribulation and distress.
Falsehood is reprehensible and abominable and worth hating (Psalms 119:163). The law, God’s Word, is absolutely true and worth loving. These feelings of hatred and abhorrence for falsehood and love for God’s Word are worked through the reading of God’s Word. Through the Word of God we gain the proper awareness of falsehood and truth.
Falsehood here is denying that the LORD is the true God. Elijah asked who is the true God: the LORD or Baal. The confession of the remnant is what the name Elijah means: the LORD is my God. In the end times, the question is who is the true God: the LORD or man. Man wants to be like God (Genesis 3:4-Joshua :) and erects the image of a man to be worshiped (Daniel 3:1-Deuteronomy :). Man takes the place of God (Acts 12:21-Isaiah :; Revelation 13:11-2 Kings :). We see this taking full shape in the antichrist. He will tempt men with miracles of falsehood according to the working of Satan himself to worship him (2 Thessalonians 2:3-Numbers :; 2 Thessalonians 2:9).
For us, falsehood is also living a hypocritical life. It appears spiritually healthy and rich on the outside, but on the inside it is dirty and hardened. We see an example and warning in the life of David in his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of her husband Uriah.
The psalmist praises God seven times a day, that is continuously, all day long, because of God’s righteous ordinances (Psalms 119:164). The Word of God also works feelings of gratitude. It is good to consider how far that goes. It is not just giving thanks “in everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:18), but it goes further: “Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father” (Ephesians 5:20).
Everything in God’s Word is also meant to bring us to give thanks to God. How much reason we get for giving thanks when we discover in God’s Word Who the Lord Jesus is to God and to us and what He has done and still does.
Loving the Word of God results in “great peace” (Psalms 119:165) and that in a world that is full of discontent and temptation. That peace is the peace of God. Whoever knows this peace will find that the Lord keeps his heart and his thoughts (Philippians 4:7; cf. Isaiah 26:3). He recognizes every stumbling block and is carried by the Lord through His grace and His angels, so that he does not strike his foot against a stone (Matthew 4:6). With that great peace, the Lord Jesus made His way on earth without stumbling.
When the righteous are in trouble, in accordance with the covenant, they may hope for the salvation of the LORD, while doing His commandments (Psalms 119:166). This hope of salvation is not an uncertainty, but means that they are certain that what has been promised is coming (Hebrews 11:1). In addition and above, our hope is in Him Who will come to fulfill what is promised (Hebrews 10:37). This certainty does not make one frivolous, but obedient to the commandments of God.
The love of God and His Word are expressed in the keeping of God’s testimonies and loving them exceedingly (Psalms 119:167; cf. John 14:21; John 14:23). Psalms 119:166- : are both about keeping God’s testimonies and form the conclusion of this stanza. We too have been given the task of keeping or guarding what has been entrusted to us by the Holy Spirit Who dwells in us (2 Timothy 1:14).
Just as faith without works is dead (James 2:17), loving the Lord Jesus without keeping His commandments is also a lie. The psalmist speaks of “my soul”. By this he is saying that his whole being, his whole inner being is involved. Love for God’s testimonies is not shown by mere verbal declaration. That love is evidenced by the full absorption of it in the heart, from which it is manifested in practice.
When the “precepts and testimonies” of God are kept, attached to that is the realization that all the ways of the God-fearing are open to God (Psalms 119:168; cf. Hebrews 4:12-1 Chronicles :). Because the psalmist knows that God oversees all his ways, he wants to be guided by His precepts and testimonies. For God the ways that His own go know no secrets. That is why it is so necessary to consult His Word, for in it He shows the way in which each of His own must go. He also makes clear to us what is in our hearts, all the hidden corners of which are then revealed (Psalms 139:23-Jeremiah :).
/taw/ The Sign of the Cross
The letter taw is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The original pictogram of this letter is a ‘cross’ and has the meaning of ‘sign’, ‘covenant’. We find these aspects in the blood of Christ. In Exodus 12 we read about this in the picture of the blood on the houses of the Israelites: “The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you” (Exodus 12:13). The blood that is put on the doorposts and lintels of these houses is in the form of the cross. Compare the sign or cross on the foreheads of the remnant in Ezekiel 9 (Ezekiel 9:4).
The Lord Jesus calls Himself “the Alpha and the Omega”, the first and last letter of the Greek alphabet (Revelation 1:8; Revelation 1:11Revelation 21:6; Revelation 22:13). In Hebrew, that would be ‘the Aleph and the Taw’. The aleph speaks of an ox or bull, the animal of choice for the burnt offering. The taw speaks of the cross, or the altar on which the burnt offering is brought. Thus, the Lord Jesus is simultaneously the sacrificial animal, the altar, and the Priest Who brings the sacrifice.
The psalmist understands that his problem is not only caused by outside enemies, but that he has a problem inside of himself. He himself has sinned, he has gone astray like a lost sheep (Psalms 119:176). What he needs is the Shepherd Who laid down His life on the cross for the sake of His sheep. The Shepherd had to descend and seek him in his lost condition (Luke 15:4-Judges :). A lost sheep cannot save himself. Man who is aware of this realizes that his help must come from outside (cf. Romans 7:24). He also realizes that his salvation comes not from something, but from Someone.
This is the last stanza singing of the value of the Word in all its aspects relevant to our lives. The tonal strength of addressing God seems to be at its highest here. The psalmist calls out to God (Psalms 119:169). He has done so more often in this psalm, but here he presents his calling as a person for whom he asks God if that person may “come before” Him. He is a calling for understanding according to His Word. He would like to gain understanding in all things, not from human thought, but from God’s revealed will in His Word.
He who longs for understanding in God’s Word is also a special object of the enemy’s attacks (Psalms 119:170). Therefore, in addition to being a someone who cries, he comes as a supplicant. He asks God that his supplication may come to “before” Him. The God-fearing begs for deliverance from dangers in accordance with God’s word or promise. After all, God has promised that He will neither abandon nor forsake His own. The enemy will do everything to render our prayer life powerless (cf. 1 Peter 3:7).
Psalms 119:169 and Psalms 119:170 form the two themes of Psalm 119. We see in Psalms 119:169 a prayer requesting understanding and in Psalms 119:170 a prayer for deliverance based on the promises of God’s covenant. These prayers form the basis of his praise (Psalms 119:171), his teaching through the songs (Psalms 119:172; cf. Colossians 3:16), his struggle (Psalms 119:173), and his desires (Psalms 119:174).
After presenting himself to God as some who cries and as a supplicant, he comes to God as someone who praises God (Psalms 119:171). In God’s presence, not only cries for help come from his lips, but also songs of praise (cf. Philippians 4:6). His lips even overflow with it. This is the result of teaching by God in His precepts.
His song of praise consists of singing the words of God (Psalms 119:172). What the heart is full of, the mouth overflows with. The ‘instrument’ for this is his tongue. In many contemporary ‘songs of praise’ there are statements that are not based on the Word of God, but are contrary to it. Our songs of praise, too, must be in accordance with the Word of God (Ephesians 5:19). Then He will gladly listen to them. The theme of the song here is the righteousness of God’s commandments.
Psalms 119:171 and Psalms 119:172 run parallel. As a result, we see a doubling of praise. The praise is doubly emphasized. The praise indicates that the psalmist is utterly convinced that the LORD, by virtue of His covenant, will hear his prayer. In Psalms 119:171 he utters praise to the LORD as a holy priest; in Psalms 119:172 he speaks to fellow believers as a royal priest (1 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 2:9; cf. Psalms 66:16).
There is also an awareness in the righteous that he is dependent on the LORD (Psalms 119:173). Therefore, he asks Him that His hand come to his aid. He has chosen God’s precepts to keep them and be engaged in them. This choice every faithful one must make. The LORD’s help is connected to His Word. He cannot help anyone who does not bow before His Word. We have been given the privilege of always approaching the throne of grace with boldness, that we may receive mercy and find grace for timely help (Hebrews 4:16).
The God-fearing longs for the salvation of the LORD (Psalms 119:174). By this he means the period of the blessings of the new covenant under the government of the Lord Jesus. About this he has read in God’s Word, which for him is his “delight”. In relation to us, we are saved once for all by faith (Ephesians 2:8). However, in the present time we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). In the near future we will receive salvation of our bodies (Romans 8:23-Lamentations :; Romans 13:11; Philippians 3:20-Ecclesiastes :).
The psalmist asks the LORD to let his soul live (Psalms 119:175). This is not to enjoy life, but to praise the LORD (Psalms 6:5). He realizes that he cannot do that without the LORD’s help. This help, he knows, lies in God’s ordinances. The Word of God gives substance to praise the LORD.
The last verse is a confession of sin with a desire for restoration of the relationship broken by sin (Psalms 119:176). The psalmist acknowledges that he has “gone astray like a lost sheep”. He also acknowledges that he is being sought out by the good Shepherd, Who has laid down His life for His sheep, for he cannot find his way back himself. Yet he knows Who he is addressing. He also knows that he is God’s “servant”. He may have gone astray, but he has not forgotten God’s commandments.
Just as the New Testament ends with the invitation to sinners to repent, so the psalmist ends here with the need for the people of Israel to be restored by the Good Shepherd.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 119". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/