At first glance, Psalm 119 may seem to be a bit repetitive. After all, it uses the same eight words (law, word, statutes, precepts, promises, judgments, testimonies, commandments) over and over and over. Ah, but if we’re bored by this, it might be more of a reflection on us. I give you Spurgeon:
Where we think we have a repetition of the same idea in this psalm we are misled by our neglect of careful study. Each verse is a distinct pearl. Each blade of grass in this field has its own drop of heavenly dew.
Let’s get our feet wet and go pearl hunting, shall we?
Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your law.
David is at the throne of God once again, asking for deliverance. It seems like he had a lot of enemies, doesn’t it? Before you start assuming he was dramatically exaggerating his affliction, keep in mind that every nation around Israel wanted to see it destroyed along with its King. Not only that, there was trouble right inside the royal palace, with several of David’s sons attempting to overthrow their father. Add in all the headaches of being the head of a government and the commander of an army. Oh, and don’t forget, David had numerous wives (eight are named, but there were many more) and at least 20 children. No wonder he felt afflicted (depressed, miserable). Somehow he was able to keep his head on straight and stay mindful of God’s commandments. Whereas affliction sometimes drives people away from God, it drove David closer to God.
It seems a strange thing that such a truly godly man, as David was, should have many enemies; but it was inevitable. The disciple cannot be loved where his Master is hated. (Spurgeon)
Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to your promise!
Perhaps David also had some legal trouble, because he used technical courtroom jargon in this verse. He was asking God to defend his case, to give him acquittal and declare him not guilty. God is the perfect defense attorney, as one of His names is “Wonderful Counselor”. “Give me life” is a recurring theme in this section of Psalm 119, and it means “revive me”. David knew the Word of God was his best source of revival.
Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek your statutes.
The ungodly had no interest in the things of the Lord. They didn’t inquire about His ways, they didn’t darken the door of the temple, and they didn’t hang around with believers. Since they didn’t seek, they didn’t find. Yet David saw their disadvantage: they had no one to consider their affliction, they had no one to deliver them, and they had no one to plead their cause. They were difficult people to deal with, but David maintained a sense of sorrow over their lost condition.
Great is your mercy, O Lord; give me life according to your rules.
When God’s mercy is truly and fully experienced, it is always a great thing. It is never stingy, always abundant. The Message version says, “Your mercies, God, run into the billions.” The King James Version says, “Great are thy tender mercies”. The magnificent mercy of God can be staggeringly overwhelming, so He is tender with them and us. David asked for the kind of mercy that would revive him in the midst of his present state of discouragement.
Many are my persecutors and my adversaries, but I do not swerve from your testimonies.
“Many” is the same word that is used in verse 156 for “great”. As persecutors and adversaries grew in number, so also did the mercies of God. No amount of trouble can swallow up God’s tender mercy — there’s always more mercy than trouble. Still, a momentary lapse in faithfulness might be expected when crisis hits without warning. Yet David resolved not to slip off course, not to wander or waver from the truth.
I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep your commands.
David saw what faithlessness looked like, and he didn’t want to have anything to do with that way of life. He viewed the godless as treacherous betrayers, living under the common graces of God while giving Him the cold shoulder. The revival David sought was already having an effect. As David Guzik points out, “This sensitivity towards sin and passion for the glory of God is entirely characteristic of the revival that the Psalmist prays for repeatedly in this section.” In other words, you are experiencing revival when 1) the sins you used to flirt with begin to make you terribly uncomfortable, and 2) the glory you used to enjoy begins to feel empty and you want God to be in the spotlight instead.
Consider how I love your precepts! Give me life according to your steadfast love.
Look how far he’s come in seven verses! The beginning of this section says, “Consider my affliction” and now he says, “Consider my affection”. That’s real progress! David stated his love for God’s words, but he dared not use the same word for love that he attributed to the Lord. Only God loves with “hesed” steadfast love — He’s on a whole other level when it comes to love. David made his third request for revival based on that unique love, making it a sure thing.
The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.
Every bit of God’s Word is truth. Every word, every letter, every comma, every period. Every “jot and tittle”. “The word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8
“The Scriptures are as true in Genesis as in Revelation, and the five books of Moses are as inspired as the four Gospels … There is not one single mistake either in the word of God or in the providential dealings of God. The Lord has nothing to regret or to retract, nothing to amend or to reverse.” (Spurgeon)
Things I know for sure from this passage:
- I am never alone in my troubles. God sees and helps.
- The quickest way to revival is time in the Word.
- New mercies are waiting for me every morning.
- A mature faith swerves away from God’s Word less and loves it more.
- The unchanging truth in the Bible is an anchor in a world of change.