Psalm 119: 25-40 Man’s Insufficiency/Eternal Truths versus Vanity

God’s Word – Man’s Insufficiency and Need for God, Eternal Truths versus Vanity


All the verses in this section are prayers of David focused on God’s Word; a great example for our prayer life.

25. “My soul cleaves to the dust; Revive me according to Your word.”  David confesses his insufficiency and need for God to revive him. We see Paul do the same in his letters to the Corinthians: 8 “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” (1 Cor. 1:8-9) 9 “But he (Jesus) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10) Although man’s insufficiency is true in all respects (try to make your heart beat when God decides to stop it) David and Paul are referring mainly to “spiritual insufficiency”; meaning their desire to serve and glorify God but their desperate need for God’s power to do it. Many a strong, self-sufficient man has gone to his grave thinking he was totally self-sufficient, until he met His Maker and Judge. It was said to the atheistic Russian astronaut who proudly declared that he saw no God in outer space: unplug your life-line to the space ship and you will then see God!

26. “I have told of (confessed) my ways, and You have answered me; Teach me Your statutes.”

27. Make me understand the way of Your precepts, So I will meditate on Your wonders.” This seems to imply confession of sin and David knew that un-confessed sin would hinder his spiritual understanding of God’s Word. (Psalm 66:18-20) Many Scriptures make it clear that obedience to God’s Word is what enables us to understand His truths. “So Jesus said to those Jews who had believed in Him, If you abide in My word [hold fast to My teachings and live in accordance with them], you are truly My disciples. And (then) you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32; also see John 14:21; 23; James 1:21-25; Colossians 1:9-10)

28. “My soul weeps because of grief; strengthen me according to Your word.” Who knows sorrows more than our Lord Jesus, Who was “a man of sorrows acquainted with grief”? (Isa. 53:3) David had his deep sorrows as Saul hunted him down like an animal and he lived in caves to survive. “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” (Job 5:7) But David knew the reviving power of God’s Word and shows us how to pray and where to look in our sorrows and grief. What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. “I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from? (Certainly not from the hills, nature/creation as the tree-huggers say. Look up higher to the One who made the hills.) 2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)

29. “Remove the false way from me, and graciously grant me Your law.

30. I have chosen the faithful way; I have placed Your ordinances before me.” David seems to be speaking of false motives here, or self-deceit. Although we get a “new heart” (Ezek. 36:26) when we are born again, the flesh is still a part of our being (Rom. 7:14-25) and the flesh breeds self-deception. “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. 3 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:2-3) Thus we must not only pray as David prayed but do as David did and ask for God’s truth and keep His Word ever before us. His confession and prayer in Psalm 19 verses 12 and 14 is helpful here: “Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. 14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

31. “I cling to Your testimonies; O LORD, do not put me to shame!” If we don’t cling to God’s Word, we may very well be put to shame for apart from Jesus we can do no good (John 15:5) and lots of bad as the great saint Paul did when he walked in the flesh. (Rom. 7:14-25)

32. “I shall run the way of Your commandments, For You will enlarge my heart.” From cleaving to the dust (v. 25) to running to serve God with great zeal, we see how praying and receiving God’s powerful Word can bring revival to our souls. We see in these verses and many times throughout this great psalm, both David’s resolve (I shall or I will) and David’s heart work and heart change (e.g., vv. 2, 7, 11, and 32). God’s work is not just a “head” work; it must be a “heart” work if we, like David, are to run the way of His commandments with zeal for His glory.  “My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to my ways.” (Prov. 23:26)

33. “Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes, And I shall observe (obey) it to the end.” If David did write this psalm at various times throughout his life as Spurgeon believes, it seems he never outgrew his desire to be taught by God and obey Him to the end of his life. What humility on one hand and what wisdom on the other. If we are humble enough to admit we need help, why not go to the very best teacher. It also seems that David is saying he not only wants to know God’s commandments but even the “ways of God”, i.e., not just a good path to follow but why the Lord would have us walk this path. It was said of Moses, “He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel.” (Psalm 103:7) Although it is true that His ways are past understanding in the ultimate sense, He seems to reveal more of Himself (His personality if you will) to those who seek to know Him more intimately. (John 14:21, 23)

34. “Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law And keep it with all my heart.

35. Make me walk (not drag me along) in the path of Your commandments, For I delight in it.” David again models for us his need for both God’s revelation of truth and empowerment for obedience. But note his desire and willingness to know and obey God’s will: “keep it with all my heart”; and his “delight” in walking in God’s commandments. It is true we cannot know or obey God’s will without His revealing it to us through His Word and by the Holy Spirit, but it is also true that God wants and requires our willingness and wants our loving obedience, not just our obedience. (See Revelation 19:8 and Philippians 2:12-13)

36. “Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to dishonest gain.

37. Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity (worthless things), and revive me in Your ways.” We are either being conformed to the world or transformed by God’s Word depending on what we look at and think about; there is no neutral ground. (See Romans 12:2) In his book, When I don’t Desire God, John Piper says he does not wake up every morning excited about reading God’s Word yet he knows from experience that it is good and wise to read God’s Word. So he prays for God’s grace to inspire him to want to read the Scriptures; (“incline my heart” not just my will). I have been praying this verse (36) regularly for over five years now and feel more inclined to read God’s Word and even more excited about it. Verse 37 certainly goes with this because if we are doing verse 36 we are less inclined to look at vain things like too much TV and Internet. John Bunyan’s description of Vanity Fair in Pilgrim’s Progress helps us see the danger and spiritual stupidity of hanging around such a place: [“Then I saw in my dream, that, when they were got out of the wilderness, they presently saw a town before them, and the name of that town is Vanity; and at the town there is a fair kept, called Vanity Fair. It is kept all the year long. Therefore at this fair are all such merchandise sold as houses, lands, trades, places, honors, preferments, titles, countries, kingdoms, lusts, pleasures, and delights of all sorts, as whores, bawds, wives, husbands, children, masters, servants, lives, blood, bodies, souls, silver, gold, pearls, precious stones, and what not. And, moreover, at this fair there are at all times to be seen juggling, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves, and rogues, and that of every kind. Here are to be seen, too, and that for nothing, thefts, murders, adulteries, false swearers, and that of a blood-red color.” John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress, Chapter 6] This sounds very much like what can be seen on the evening news, sit coms, movies and the Internet.

38. “ Establish Your word to Your servant, as that which produces reverence for You.

39. “Turn away my reproach which I dread, for Your ordinances are good.” I thought of the sad story of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes who lost his reverence and fear of the Lord and thus dove headlong into Vanity Fair. Fortunately for us he made a public confession of his sins and lovingly warned us not to do what he did. 14 “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Eccl. 1:14) “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Eccl. 12:13-14) Let’s heed Paul’s exhortation and follow his example: “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:58)

40. “Behold, I long for Your precepts; Revive me through Your righteousness.” If we don’t “long for God’s precepts” like David, let us pray like David, “revive me through Your righteousness” and God will give us a hunger for His Word that will help us grow in righteousness, more and more like our Lord Jesus. Christ is in us and working in us and that is our hope of glory, our hope of becoming more like Him. (See Col. 1:27)



1. What is your main take away from the message and how can you apply it to your life?

2. What can we learn from David’s prayer life through this great psalm? What particular prayer (verse) resonates with you?

3. We see in both David and Paul a confession of “spiritual insufficiency” and heartfelt prayers for God’s empowering grace to know and do His will. At what level do you 1) “feel” your spiritual insufficiency and 2) earnestly pray for God’s grace to know and do His will?

4. 36 “Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to dishonest gain.37 Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity (worthless things), and revive me in Your ways.” We are either being conformed to the world or transformed by God’s Word depending on what we look at and think about; there is no neutral ground. (See Romans 12:2) Do you agree and why or why not? How does Bunyan’s description of Vanity Fair bring this truth home? How about the lesson from Solomon, the man who had it all and yet agreed with the Rolling Stones: I Can’t Get No Satisfaction!

5. Christ is in us and working in us and that is our hope of glory, our hope of becoming more like Him. (See Col. 1:27) Share how this truth encourages you.


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