PSALM 119:121-176 – COMMENTS ON KEY VERSES IN THIS SECTION
Vv. 121-128 – “Therefore I esteem right all Your precepts concerning everything.” (V. 128) It is a dangerous world (“this present evil age” – Gal. 1:3) filled with arrogant oppressors (v. 121-122), lawbreakers of God’s commandments (v. 126) and false ways (128). God’s Word/path is the only safe way and the narrow road that leads to life. To think we can navigate safely without knowing and obeying His Word is foolishness. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Prov. 14:12)
Vv. 129-136 – “The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple. (V. 130) “Make Your face shine upon Your servant and teach me Your statutes.” (V. 135) God’s Word gives us light in a dark world (John 3:19-21) and can make us bearers of light as we trust and obey the Lord and share it with others. “Do all things without grumbling and faultfinding and complaining [against God] and questioning and doubting [among yourselves],15 That you may show yourselves to be blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish (faultless, unrebukable) in the midst of a crooked and wicked generation [spiritually perverted and perverse], among whom you are seen as bright lights (stars or beacons shining out clearly) in the [dark] world,16 Holding out [to it] and offering [to all men] the Word of Life.” (Phil. 2:14-16) “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (John 8:12)
Vv. 137-144 – “Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law is truth.” (V. 142) The word righteous or righteousness is used five times in these eight verses. It essentially means to do what is just or to do what is right both in relationship with God (know and obey His Word) and with people (treat people right according to God’s Word). In the Ten Commandments the first four tell us how to relate to God and the last six tell us how to relate to people. Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments by telling us how to relate to God and people: 29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; 30 AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ 31 The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31) Yet as simple as this is to understand we see how the Pharisees bragged about their knowledge of God’s Word yet treated their neighbors, both unlearned Jewish people and especially Gentiles, with contempt and outright hatred. And we see this continue throughout the history of the church with abuse by those in authority, even murder in the name of God. So God’s righteousness must translate into how we are rightly treating those in our midst, our neighbors including our worst enemy. “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:35-36) “We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:19-21)
VV. 145-152 – Here we see David fervently praying for the will of God according to His Word. “I cried with all my heart; answer me, O LORD! I will observe Your statutes. I cried to You; save me and I shall keep Your testimonies. I rise before dawn and cry for help; I wait for (hope in) Your words.” The more we know God’s Word the more we know His will and the more confidence we can have in Him hearing and answering our prayers. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15) “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:9-10) Yet, even knowing God’s Word and will there are many times we want our will not His will and thus we must follow the example of our Lord in Gethsemane and pray, “Yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matt. 26:39) So submission to God’s will needs to preceed knowing God’s will. One more point on knowing God’s will: we must have the full counsel of God’s Word (the OT and NT) and not use just one verse to determine God’s will. “For I never shrank or kept back or fell short from declaring to you the whole purpose and plan and counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27)
Vv. 153-160 – “Look upon my affliction and rescue me, for I do not forget Your law.” “Plead my cause and redeem me; Revive me according to Your word.” “Many are my persecutors and my adversaries, yet I do not turn aside from Your testimonies.” (vv. 153,154, 157) Satan and godless man will persecute and falsely accuse God’s people as they did our Lord (John 15:18) and Peter and John tell us not to be surprised at this. (1 Peter 4:12; 1 John 3:13) Scripture tells us to remember several important truths in the midst of unjust treatment: 1) that God will use all that He allows us to suffer for our ultimate good: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while (this life) you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6-7); 2) that God is for us and is our defender and advocate: “ What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[l] 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:31-39); 3) and He is with us now as we suffer injustice: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” (Psalm 23:4-5)
Vv. 161-168 – “Those who love Your law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble.” (v. 165) This verse may summarize the entire psalm. David not only prayed and sought to obey God’s law (Word) but more than that he loved to obey the Lord. We love God’s mercy and grace and of course His unconditional love, but the more we know Him the more we will love His commandments for we know that He only commands that which is for our very best. The Amplified translation of Romans 12:2 says the same: “Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].” As we mature in our relationship with God, bringing Him pleasure becomes our greatest pleasure. “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.” (2 Cor. 5:9)
Vv. 169-176 – “Let my lips utter praise for You teach me Your statutes. Let my tongue sing of Your word, for all Your commandments are righteousness.” (v.171-172) If verse 165 summarizes the benefit we experience for knowing and obeying God’s Word then these verses summarize the purpose of knowing and obeying God’s Word – living a life of praise and joyful worship of our great God and Savior. He not only created us to praise Him (Isa. 43:6-7, 21) but to do so with joy:
Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful singing.
3 Know that the LORD Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
5 For the LORD is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100:1-5)
We see the same call to joyful praise and worship of God in the NT: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eph. 5:18-20) As we learn and obey God’s Word and come to know God as He really is, joyful obedience and joyful songs of worship will be the result.
The last verse of this great psalm is a sober warning to all of us who have tried to walk with God in loving obedience for years. “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commandments.” (v. 176) If David wrote this psalm over his lifetime as Spurgeon and others think he did, maybe this was the prayer after sinning with Bathsheba that God used to inspire Nathan to confront the king and bring him back to the fold. Yes, he paid dearly the rest of his life as God said he would but David had the joy and peace of serving and praising his God until he died. (See 2 Sam. 22 – David’s psalm of praise near the end of his life.) And what a great prayer it is. When we sin and Satan tries to convince us that we are worthless in God’s sight, let us pray like David that God Who sought us in the first place when we were lost sinners headed to eternal destruction, will seek us again even as He promises us He will in His Word: “‘For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.” (Ezek. 34:11-12)
Jesus sought me when a stranger, Wand’ring from the fold of God,
He, to rescue me from danger, Interposed his precious blood,
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it; Seal it for Thy courts above.
Come Thy Fount of Every Blessing – written by the 18th century pastor and hymnist Robert Robinson. Robert Robinson penned the words at age 22 in the year 1757.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1. What is your main take away from the message and how can you apply it to your life?
2. The first two sections (121-136) tell us how to love in a dark and dangerous world. Who and what are we to avoid and what are we to become and share with those in the darkness?
3. Vv. 137-144 – “Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness and Your law is truth.” (V. 142) What does God’s righteousness mean and how do we apply it in our lives?
4. VV. 145-152 – Here we see David fervently praying for the will of God according to His Word. What is the key to praying fervently and with confidence that God will answer?
5. Vv. 153-160 – “Look upon my affliction and rescue me, for I do not forget Your law.” “Plead my cause and redeem me; Revive me according to Your word.” “Many are my persecutors and my adversaries, Yet I do not turn aside from Your testimonies.” (vv. 153,154, 157) What three promises of God must we remember when we are persecuted and falsely accused by Satan and godless people?
6. Vv. 161-168 – “Those who love Your law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble.” (v. 165) Why is this true and is it true for you?
7. Read Psalm 100 and Ephesians 5:18-20 and share your desire to live a life of joyful worship and obedience to God. How did verse 176 help David do this even after his great sin?