Every verse in this section of Psalm 119 starts with the Hebrew letter “Tsadhe” (more on that tomorrow). The letter means “righteous” — and that’s definitely the theme of this passage. A form of the word is used six times in eight verses. Let’s dig in!
Righteous are you, O Lord, and right are your rules.
Righteous: upright, moral, virtuous, good, pure, true, just. Righteousness covers a lot of ground, but basically it boils down to perfect perfection, excellent excellence, faultless faultlessness. You get the idea — just keep on piling up the words. David made the connection that a righteous God would have to be the author of righteous laws, otherwise He wouldn’t be righteous. God’s perfect rightness was a great comfort to David, assuring him that God would always deal with him in the same way: uprightly, morally, with virtue and goodness, in purity, truth and justice.
You have appointed your testimonies in righteousness and in all faithfulness.
Moses is given credit for writing down the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch, or Torah). But David didn’t forget that every word was a result of divine authority, given to Moses by the direction of God. The Bible is not a smorgasbord that we get to pick and choose from according to our personal preferences and tastes.
It is not left to our choice whether we will accept them or not; they are issued by royal command, and are not to be questioned. God’s word is righteous and cannot be impeached; it is faithful and cannot be questioned; it is true from the beginning, and it will be true unto the end. (Spurgeon)
See that little word “all” before faithfulness? Like a balloon that keeps expanding with every breath blown into it, this expression means His faithfulness never explodes. It just keeps filling and filling until it’s as faithful as faithful can be.
My zeal consumes me, because my foes forget your words.
David’s certainty about the perfection of God’s law made him incredulous when he saw others dismiss it with contempt. It ate him up inside to witness his enemies utterly ignoring the commands of God Himself. David wasn’t personally offended, but burned with holy anger that God would be treated in such a way. I get it. It riles me up to observe professing Christians, who have been taught the truth, act like they have forgotten every bit of it.
Your promise is well tried, and your servant loves it.
Other versions use the words “very pure” and “thoroughly tested”, but I like the sound of “well tried”. Commands are to be obeyed, but promises are to be “well tried”. The Word can stand up to the test. That’s why David loved it so — it had been weighed and measured and NOT found wanting. In fact, “the more we try the promises, the surer we shall find them.” (George Horne)
I am small and despised, yet I do not forget your precepts.
David was the youngest of the eight sons of Jesse. That’s seven older, burly brothers. When Samuel was looking for a king to anoint in Jesse’s house, David wasn’t even considered a possibility by his father. Years later, as King of Israel, perhaps David still suffered from “Youngest Child Syndrome” — the littlest child overshadowed by a crowd of strong personalities. When David showed up on the front lines of the Philistine battle, his older brothers despised him for challenging Goliath. It’s hard to get over things like that. That’s conjecture, of course. Still, David didn’t blame God or use pain from the past as an excuse. Like David, we all have had past experiences that left us feeling insignificant and undervalued. And like David, we need to hold on to the truest, most reliable thing in life — God’s words.
Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your law is true.
David tried hard to establish the theme of righteousness in this passage. Here he started piling up the words: God is right and He is righteously righteous. He is righteous as righteous can be. And it’s not a temporary thing — it’s a forever-and-ever-amen thing. That truth gave David a firm foundation on which to stand.
Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight.
It seems like a contradiction to have trouble and anguish alongside delight.
Only the one who is acquainted with the struggles of the spiritual life will understand the expression before us. Let the reader herein find a balance in which to weigh himself. Does he find, even when he is begirt with sorrow, that it is a delightful thing to do the will of the Lord? (Spurgeon)
Well? Are you begirt (surrounded) with stress and pressure? Can you still delight in the Lord? How does your scale read?
Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live.
One more time, just in case you missed it, God’s words are righteous forever. Got it?
And so he rejoices in the sheer trustworthiness of the word of God. That the small, despised nobody, who burns with jealous anger for the honor of God, who endures trouble and anguish, may safely rest on this righteous word. (Christopher Ash)
Things I know for sure from this passage:
- When I say God is righteous, I’m not describing what He does, I am describing who He is.
- God invites me to put His promises to the test.
- Well tried promises lead to deeper love for the Word.
- Even when trouble finds me, I can find delight in God’s words.
- Studying God’s Word and gaining understanding adds life to my days.