Reflections on Psalm 119:169-176

[Psalm 119 is broken into blocks, each starting with the same Hebrew letter in this case Taw.  This is the last such block.]

Sometimes we presume that God will act. The words of the Psalmist indicate that prayer is needed even when it seems that God is sure to act.

Psalm 119

169 May my cry come before you, Lord;

    give me understanding according to your word.

I can presume that if I spend time meditating on God’s word, that I will gain understanding through it, it is after all the source of all understanding. The Psalmist however cries out to God for understanding.

God’s Word does not in of itself give understanding. Understanding comes through the Father opening the door to our minds and hearts. Why would the Father hold out on something that would be of so much benefit, especially when a person is giving time to His word? I think because the Lord wishes us to walk with Him through His word, and not to examine it in independence of Him. Walking with God must be an act of faith and love, not of my own independent spirituality.

170 May my supplication come before you; deliver me according to your promise.

I can presume that if God has promised something then I can be certain of His intervention. Here, the Psalmist prays to the Father to prompt him to pray – ‘MAY my supplication …’. His purpose being that the Lord will act according to His promise.

This is really strange, praying so that I will remember to pray. The Psalmist realises how naturally prayerless he is, and asks the Father to prompt him.

I suppose I need to qualify this a little. My suspicion is that the promise mentioned here is a general promise of Scripture. The Psalmist’s supplication is prayed until the Lord gives His more specific promise to the Psalmist himself. When He has received assurance that the prayer is answered, only then may he rest silent, assured that the prayer is answered.

171 May my lips overflow with praise,  for you teach me your decrees.

I can presume that when I gain new insight from the Lord, then I will naturally overflow with praise. This is not the case. All too often I think it has happened naturally, or even if I do see God’s intervention, I am not too forthcoming with praise.

The Psalmist asks His Father ahead of time to well up his heart so that his lips will overflow with praise when the Lord gives His insights.

I can think that God teaches me to walk with His decrees because that would produce a better lifestyle, one in which He is more pleased. The Psalmist has seen that the Lord wants to share His insights so that we can be lost in wonder together, with praise at how wonderful God’s Word really is.

172 May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous.

There comes a moment when I suddenly understand some new aspect of God. The light dawns and I see that this command which I have previously understood as irksome and unnecessary, is in fact righteous and good. I am humbled by the new insight.

I can presume that on gaining such insight that I would respond with praise to God. The Psalmist makes no such presumption, but rather asks ahead of time that the Lord would direct his tongue in a song to His word.

173 May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts.

I can presume that when I choose to follow God’s way that He will intervene to help me. The Psalmist makes no such presumption. Even though no problem is on the immediate horizon, he already asks the Lord for His arm to be ready for intervention.

The Lord is not looking for rule followers, but for people who will walk with Him through life.

174 I long for your salvation, Lord, and your law gives me delight.

Now the Psalmist changes track. He expresses his heart for the Lord and how he is both looking forward in expectation for the fulfilment of all God has said, and at the same time delighted and filled by what God has shown him in His word.

175 Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me.

The Psalmist changes around the normal expectations. Rather than saying, I live therefore I praise, He says, Praise is so important to me that I ask for more life so that I may praise more. Rather than saying, ‘Your laws make my life work’, he says, ‘May your laws sustain me.’ The implication of this is that God’s word gives the sustenance and the building up so that the life I lead will be God’s life.

176 I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.

The Psalmist finishes not just the 8 verse section, but the whole psalm with the recognition, that he, this mighty prayer warrior, has strayed from God. He knows that he is not up to returning under his own steam, but rather asks the Lord to seek him.

Usually the Psalmists declare their intention to seek the Lord. Here the Psalmist appeals to his Lord to seek him out.

Even in his straying the Psalmist says that he has not forgotten the Lord’s commands. This is a testimony to what straying can mean. That is, living a godly life, but not doing it under one’s own steam, rather than in fellowship with the Lord.