When life is hard when obstacles block your way, when burdens weigh heavy, and when the reality of your sin threatens to undo you—where do you seek life? Sometimes we look for life in things, sometimes in our circumstances, and other times in passing pleasures. This passage from Psalm 119 reminds us where life is found—in God and his word.
VV 25-27: Whether David was in the midst of a trial or simply acknowledging the reality of life in a fallen world, he felt the weight of something. In verse 25, David asked God to give him life. This isn’t a reference to physical life; rather, David sought a spiritual life. In the face of his troubles, David sought God and his word. Unlike any other written word, God’s word is a living and active (Hebrews 4:12). It is the truth which sanctifies (John 17:17). It is used to bring us to faith (Romans 10:17). It changes and transforms us (2 Timothy 3:16). As Moses wrote, it is our very life (Deuteronomy 32:47).
In verse 26, David shared with God all that was on his heart, “When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes!” Perhaps he voiced the sorrow and pain of his affliction and troubles, or maybe he told of a battle with his sin nature. Whatever it was, he knew God heard him. And what did David ask? He asked to learn more about God’s ways. God’s word is our source of wisdom, and by learning it, we learn to walk in his ways. Our own Savior sought God and his word when he endured temptation in the wilderness in Matthew 4. There he faced Satan through the strength and truth God’s word. And in so doing, he did what we cannot do; he perfectly obeyed God so he could be our righteousness.
This passage also tells us that God is the one who helps us understand his word. In verse 27, David wrote, “Make me understand your precepts.” This is a prayer God loves to answer! His word is a gift and means of grace to us. But we aren’t left alone to figure it out. He gave us his Spirit who lives within us. The Spirit teaches us the word, convicts us through it, and trains us in righteousness. David didn’t want just to understand the words of the Bible but to understand and know what it teaches. He wanted to know more about God, who he is and what he has done. May this be our prayer as well.
No Life Outside of God
VV 28-29: Verse 28 sounds similar to verse 25. David again tells God of his sorrow and seeks strength in God’s word. Where do we turn when we are in sorrow? Do we try to distract ourselves with the comfort of Netflix, food, or social media? Do we use our circumstances as an excuse for sin? We see here and throughout the Psalms that God wants us to come to him with our burdens and cares. In other Psalms, David describes his trials in in-depth detail. He tells of his feelings, his fears, and griefs. Rather than turn to false comforts, we too need to turn to God with all our cares. As we do, we also need to seek his comfort, peace, and wisdom in the word. Let us never forget that God is our refuge and strength.
In verse 29, David asks that he would not use lying to get out of his troubles. What sins do we turn to when we are in trouble? Perhaps there are certain sins you are prone to turn to when you face hardship. Certainly lying to others, ourselves, and God is one way. Consider the sins you turn to time and time again and turn to God in repentance. Ask the Lord, as David did, “put this sin far from me!” And then ask God to teach you his ways graciously. Another thing to note from this verse is that David asked God to help him turn from sin. Just as God teaches us and helps us understand his word, he is also the one who helps us fight our sin. David sought that help specifically through God’s word. As the author to the Hebrews wrote, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
Pursuit of Life
VV 30-32: Though God is the one who teaches us his word, there is still work for us to do. Though God gives us life, we still need to turn to him in obedience. We have to apply and live out what God teaches us in his word.
In these verses, David states his desire and intention to pursue God and his ways. David wrote that he chose God’s ways (vs. 30). He clung to God’s word (vs. 31). He ran in the way of God’s word (vs. 32). This is not passive learning. He didn’t sit back expecting to take everything in through osmosis. Instead, David intentionally sought God’s word and the path of life. This reminds us of Paul’s description of the Christian life as a race. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it” (1 Corinthians 9:24). “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1). As Christians, we are all in a race. Let us race to win.
I’ll ask the question I asked at the beginning, where do you find life? May you find life today in God and in his holy word.