Let’s dig in to Psalm 119:49-56.
Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope.
“Remember” is one of those words in Hebrew that goes above and beyond our meaning, which is “recalling to memory something forgotten”. That definition doesn’t work here, because God isn’t forgetful. He is infinite, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, sovereign, incomparable. The Lord is not our Grandpa in the Sky who needs our reminders on how to run the world.
Instead, David was calling on God to take action on all that He promised in His word. To remember meant “to stretch out the arm to act.” In other words, David was waiting for a move of God and although delay was painful, he knew it did not nullify the promise. “It is the plan of God that the believer hold on in hope. God calls us to patient waiting.” (Christopher Ash) “Have no fear of failure, for the Lord has never forgotten a single promise to a single believer.” (Charles Spurgeon)
This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.
Where do you go for comfort? I’ve thought about that a lot during these past weeks of quarantine. Times of difficulty often unmask our idols. Is it favorite foods, mind-numbing TV, shopping online, sleep, reruns of sporting events? Or do I go to the life giving power of the Word? As believers, we can find comfort even in the midst of trouble, for Jesus has promised, “I will not leave you comfortless.” (John 14:18)
The insolent utterly deride me, but I do not turn away from your law.
There they are again, those pesky critics. To deride means, “to laugh at in scorn or contempt; scoff or jeer at.” That’s hard to take day after day. Yet, they did not get the upper hand with David because he did not turn aside from God’s way. That takes fortitude, but be assured, it still hurts to be laughed at, to be made fun of, to get the eye-roll, or to be belittled with disrespect. Even when you’re a king.
When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O Lord.
Once again, we see how David directed his thoughts to bring himself comfort. Just as he asked God to remember His word, David also remembered the times God moved on his behalf. He rehearsed in his mind the many past rescues God provided for him and for the Israelites. This bolstered David’s confidence in his God as a Covenant Keeper. What experiences can you draw from as evidence of God’s care for you in the past?
I have dates written down next to certain verses in my Bible. For instance, “Dec. 1991, Marshfield Hospital” is written on the margin of Psalm 34; “Mar. 22, 1988 – Appointment to Jim Falls” is noted by Isaiah 58:11-12; “Mar. 2001 — waiting for Blake’s bypass surgery” is next to Psalm 27:13-14; “4-24-18, Ember Blake born” is beside Psalm 46:5. These are markers for me, helping me remember God’s faithfulness in the past, reminding me of His sure provision in the future.
Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your law.
Although he dealt with his own group of naysayers, the thing that really got David hot under the collar was the way they dishonored God. According to Christopher Ash, “We too need to learn this indignation.” We tend to overlook others’ disregard for God’s Word, especially if they are really nice, decent, good people. We forget how serious rebellion against God is, and that “turning away from the written instruction God has given is a personal insult and an outrage against the Creator of the universe.”
Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.
How did David cool down his hot indignation? By singing. He played music that lifted up the holy word of God. He sang songs that reminded him he was not at home in this world, but a pilgrim passing through it. Singing the very words of God is a form of worship that is full of power. Believing people have always been singing people. I have a playlist titled “Psalms” and every time I hear a song based on a psalm, I add it to the list. These are my songs “through the years of my earthly pilgrimage” (TLB). It’s a great soundtrack for life!
I remember your name in the night, O Lord, and keep your law.
One advantage of learning scripture songs is that they can pop into my head even in the middle of the night. That seems to be when I need them the most. During the night, my mind can be inundated with “what if” and “if only” and “why am I still awake?” David reminds us to remember (it’s a theme in this passage).
Remember Paul and Silas in jail in Acts 16? They sang hymns at midnight so loud that all the other prisoners heard them. Evidently, so did God. An earthquake shook the place, the doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. That’s the power of songs in the night.
This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept your precepts.
This verse must have been hard to translate, because it is expressed very differently across various versions. The ESV is printed here, but the NIV says, “This has been my practice: I obey your precepts.” I like that. This way of life takes some practice. We don’t learn it in a day. However, obedience becomes easier as we practice. And that results in blessing.