Psalm 119:17-24, “Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word. Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me! My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times. You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones, who wander from your commandments. Take away from me scorn and contempt, for I have kept your testimonies. Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes. Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.”
Again and again, Psalm 119 encourages us to develop a deep love for the Word of God, and it does so primarily by way of example. The evident affection of the Psalmist for the Lord’s revelation stirs within in us the same love for Scripture and prompts a desire to study the profound truths of our Creator that we might know Him better and adore Him more.
Today we are looking at the third section, or strophe, of this Psalm. In verse 17, we find the striking request on the part of the Psalmist for God to be good to him while he lives that he may “obey” the words of the Lord. The writer is not seeking primarily to enjoy a blessing for his own sake; rather, he wants to be preserved that he might walk in the ways of God. Walking in the light of God’s Word will not be possible unless the Lord opens the eyes of the Psalmist to show him “wondrous things” in it (v. 18). Here we find a basic prayer for illumination, a request for the Holy Spirit to search the deep things of the Lord so that we might “understand the things freely given us by God” (1 Cor. 2:9-12). Unless our Creator does this, Scripture will remain a dead letter, a message that we cannot receive unto the benefit of our souls. The Psalmist’s specific request is for insight into God’s law (Psalm 119:18), but as the Hebrew word translated “law” (Torah) simply means “instruction,” the application goes beyond the Mosaic law to refer to all of Scripture.
The Psalmist recognizes that his love for the law of God is not shared by all, so it makes him “a sojourner on earth” (v. 19). Although the Lord promises great blessing for keeping His commandments, He would not have us believe falsely that obedience to Him brings a life free of difficulty. Those who serve our Creator faithfully will have to ask Him for deliverance from those who oppose His will. In fact, the Psalm shows us that it can be appropriate to appeal to one’s love for God’s Word when asking Him to deliver us (v. 22).
Yet even if deliverance is slow to come, the Psalmist remains committed to meditating on and observing the decrees of our Creator. He is convinced that in the long run, faithfulness to the Lord will be blessed even if the most powerful people oppose us (v. 23). This writer would rather endure slander than give up the counsel of God’s statutes (v. 24). Instead of taking the easy way out and forsaking the law of the Lord, the Psalmist resolves to persevere. May we also resolve to persevere as well, and may God give us the grace to do so.
Persevering in affection for God’s law is difficult when we suffer for loving His Word. Such perseverance though is the only way that we will keep ourselves in His Word and find the blessing of wisdom and guidance from it. We should regularly be praying for God to increase and sustain our love for His Word. To that end, we should press through in study of God’s Word even when we feel as if our fervor for His Word has weakened. As we do this, we will be blessed for our commitment to the revealed Word of God which testifies of Christ.