Psalm 119:81-88 Deep Sorrow Calls for Deep Prayers – Help Thou me; Quicken (Revive) me O Lord (KJV)
In this section we see the contrast between the temporal pain caused by the arrogant (earth dwellers- unbelievers) who dig pits (including lies that tempt us with sinful pleasures) and the passionate desire and thus prayer of David who wants God’s deliverance and more so God’s power (revive me O Lord) to trust and obey God (I did not forsake Your precepts) even in the pain. Paul contrasts earthly sufferings with eternal/spiritual gain this way: “[But what of that?] For I consider that the sufferings of this present time (this present life) are not worth being compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us and for us and conferred on us!” (Romans 8:18) And as he speaks of the severe trials he is experiencing he says, “For all [these] things are [taking place] for your sake, so that the more grace (divine favor and spiritual blessing) extends to more and more people and multiplies through the many, the more thanksgiving may increase [and redound] to the glory of God. Therefore we do not become discouraged (utterly spiritless, exhausted, and wearied out through fear). Though our outer man is [progressively] decaying and wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day after day. For our light, momentary affliction (this slight distress of the passing hour) is ever more and more abundantly preparing and producing and achieving for us an everlasting weight of glory [beyond all measure, excessively surpassing all comparisons and all calculations, a vast and transcendent glory and blessedness never to cease!], Since we consider and look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are visible are temporal (brief and fleeting), but the things that are invisible are deathless and everlasting.” (2 Cor. 4:15-18) Developing an eternal and spiritual perspective through a love for and obedience to God and His Word is the essence of the Christian life and hope. Let’s look once again at David who modeled this for us. (See Hebrews 13:7)
“My soul languishes (faints) for Your salvation (deliverance); I wait for (hope in) Your word.” (V. 81) To understand the depth of David’s pain consider the word languish or fainting. In the physical, fainting is the extreme picture of exhaustion and incapability. David is so worn out spiritually that all he can do is cry out in desperation to God; but note that for which he prays seen in Vv. 81, 83, 87, and 88… to keep God’s Word. I thought of C. S. Lewis’ words in The Screwtape Letters as the demons discuss humans who obey the “Enemy” (God) even in painful trials: “Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.” Did not our Lord, as a Man, do this: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46) Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) He trusted and obeyed God even though He felt God-forsaken.
“My eyes fail with longing for Your word, While I say, “When will You comfort me?” (V. 82) Like David, in deep trials sometimes we cannot “see” our good and faithful God at work in our circumstances and thus must pray for revelation knowledge that comes from meditating on His Word. David may also be saying, I am standing by faith on the promises of Your Word which promises deliverance for Your people in Your time. And then he prays for God to comfort him versus comfort from his friend or from the world (medicating our pain). “As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he shows us his mercy.” (Psalm 123:2) [“Comfort is necessary because a great part of our temptations lies in troubles, as well as allurements. Sense of pain may discompose us as well as pleasure entice us. The world is a persecuting as well as a tempting world. The flesh troubleth as well as enticeth. The Devil is a disquieting as well as an ensnaring Devil. But yet comfort, though necessary, is not so necessary as holiness: therefore, though comfort is not to be despised, yet sincere love to God is to be preferred, and, though it be not dispensed so certainly, so constantly, and in so high a degree, in this world, we must be contented. The Spirit's comforting work is oftener interrupted than the work of holiness; yet so much as is necessary to enable us to serve God in this world, we shall assuredly receive.” Thomas Manton. http://www.ewordtoday.com/comments/spurgeon/psalm119explanatory2.htm]
“Though I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget Your statutes.” (V. 83) A wineskin in smoke is a picture of uselessness or worthlessness. David was so worn out that he felt useless to God. Have you ever felt that way? I have. After my first wife’s suicide (and then my father’s sudden death three months later) the following year on Christmas Day, Sunday 1983, I felt like the biggest failure in the world and was so exhausted physically and spiritually that I could not even enjoy and bless my children. I got alone with God and cried out like David did here and God miraculously revived me and empowered me to serve my children and family with great joy. It is still one of the most amazing transformations I have experienced from the Lord. David’s simple but powerful prayer in V.86b was all I could pray: “Help Thou me.” (KJV). When we pray this prayer with passion to do God’s will, He can and often does empower us beyond human understanding.
“How many are the days of Your servant? When will You execute judgment on those who persecute me?” (V. 84) Though we don’t know when the Lord will take us home or when and how he will execute judgment on His enemies (our greater concern should be for God’s causes not ours), we do know this: “And as your days, so shall your strength be.” (Deut. 33:25) “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matt. 6:34) God will give us the strength we need to do His will day by day. If we add tomorrow’s worries (many of which never happen) He doesn’t promise us the strength to bear it. In a fallen world we all have to toil in our work but the unsaved have anxious toil because they are spiritual orphans. We have a good and powerful Father Who promises to give us all we need. And we also know that our good and just God will execute justice for us and against those who wrongly persecute us in His way and in His time: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Gen. 18:25) When we are in pain and confusion in this fallen world we must always go from what we know about the Lord (His promised daily strength and His ultimate justice) rather than start with what we don’t know (how long He will allow our enemies to sin against us).
”The arrogant have dug pits for me, Men who are not in accord with Your law.” (V. 85) [“The special reason why he desires to be freed from the company of the wicked is, because they always tempt the pious by relating the pleasures of the world, which are nothing but fables, filthy, fleeting pleasures, more fallacious than real - nothing like the grand and solid pleasure that always flows from a pious observance of the law of the Lord.” Robert Bellarmine. http://www.ewordtoday.com/comments/spurgeon/psalm119explanatory2.htm]. Think of the innumerable lies and “pits” on TV, the internet, movies, and ungodly news reports; “men who are not in accord with God’s law.” “ [Aroused] by faith Moses, when he had grown to maturity and become great, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, because he preferred to share the oppression [suffer the hardships] and bear the shame of the people of God rather than to have the fleeting enjoyment of a sinful life. He considered the contempt and abuse and shame [borne for] the Christ (the Messiah Who was to come) to be greater wealth than all the treasures of Egypt, for he looked forward and away to the reward (recompense).” (Heb. 11:24-26) Moses, like David, did not give up pleasures, he exchanged sinful fleeting pleasure (fleeting and with consequences) for spiritual pleasures (through loving obedience to God) that blessed him (and will bless us) even in this life, but far more so in eternity.
“All Your commandments are faithful; They have persecuted me with a lie; help me!” (V. 86) “Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar.” (Romans 3:4) God’s Word and commandments are faithful and true but we live in a world that hates God’s truth and hates those who live it and speak it. “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” (John 3:19-20) So as we are persecuted for God’s truth we pray what David prayed: “Help me (God).” Or as the King James says, “Help Thou me.” Help me Lord remain faithful to You and Your truth by living it and sharing it even when it costs me.
“They almost destroyed me on earth, But as for me, I did not forsake Your precepts.” (V. 87) They did destroy our Lord but He rose again on the third day. They beheaded Paul, but “absent from the body means present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8) and then comes the eternal glorified body like our Lord’s forever and ever. And as I quoted Paul earlier, these temporal losses mean eternal gain if done for Jesus. David did not forsake God’s precepts even though it cost him dearly in this life. Jim Elliot, who died as a martyr in Ecuador, put it this way: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” (www2.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/faq/20.htm) And C. T. Studd put it this way: “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.” – http://hockleys.org/2009/05/quote-only-one-life-twill-soon-be-past-poem/
“Revive me according to Your lovingkindness, So that I may keep the testimony of Your mouth.” (V. 88) David prayed for a “revived” life nine different times in this one psalm. What he wanted most was God’s enabling power so that he could obey God’s Word (“keep the testimony of Your mouth.”) This is the abundant life Jesus spoke of in John 10:10, not the material prosperity gospel taught by the TV hucksters. It is the opposite of spiritual sloth: [“There is a disease in America that has reached epidemic proportion, affecting millions of people in all spheres of society – young and old, rich and poor, in every ethnic group. It is highly contagious and highly insidious, often disguised and undetectable for years and often discovered too late to be cured. The name of the disease is SPIRITUAL SLOTH and it is defined as: A spiritual laziness that stems from a lack of valuing spiritual truth that requires effort or sacrifice to pursue. It is not physical laziness or idleness but spiritual sluggishness. In fact, it is often disguised under an admirable cloak of busyness. Yet the cure for sloth does not begin with Christian activity. Even that can cover over the real disease. The cure for sloth is to hunger and thirst for God, for His righteousness, for His presence, for intimacy with Him. David echoes this heart cry to know the Lord in many of his psalms. “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” (Psalm 42:1) “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you.” (Psalm 63:1) http://www.lensykes.com/archives/35] May the Lord empower us to hunger and thirst for Him and His righteousness.
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. Developing an eternal and spiritual perspective through a love for and obedience to God and His Word is the essence of the Christian life and hope. What has helped you to develop an eternal perspective?
3. “Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.” Have you ever felt God-forsaken? How did you get through it? What can we learn from our Lord Jesus if we ever do?
4. “But yet comfort, though necessary, is not so necessary as holiness: therefore, though comfort is not to be despised, yet sincere love to God is to be preferred, and, though it be not dispensed so certainly, so constantly, and in so high a degree, in this world, we must be contented. The Spirit’s comforting work is oftener interrupted than the work of holiness; yet so much as is necessary to enable us to serve God in this world, we shall assuredly receive.” Thomas Manton. Try to put Manton’s statement in your own words and discuss its implications in our lives.
5. David was so worn out that he felt useless to God. Have you ever felt that way? If so, what did you do about it?
6. When we are in pain and confusion in this fallen world we must always go from what we know about the Lord (His promised daily strength and His ultimate justice) rather than start with what we don’t know (how long He will allow our enemies to sin against us). “And as your days, so shall your strength be.” (Deut. 33:25) “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matt. 6:34) Do you live day by day in dependence on God as He calls us to do? How would doing so help you in your present life struggles?
7. “The arrogant have dug pits for me, Men who are not in accord with Your law.” What are some of the pits in our day and times that worldly people dig for us to fall into?
8. “Revive me according to Your lovingkindness, So that I may keep the testimony of Your mouth.” “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” And C. T. Studd put it this way: “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.” Have you ever experienced spiritual sloth? What can we learn from David to deal with it?