Psalm 119 celebrates God’s Word in multi-faceted ways. Psalm 119 sings and prays about at least four benefits of meditating, delighting and keeping God’s Word: liberation, light, life and stability.
- Liberation: The paradox that where God is master, ‘service is perfect freedom,’ is found not only in verse 96, but equally in verse 45, where ‘liberty’ is found in God’s precepts, not in release from them. Two elements of this freedom are, first,the breaking of sin’s dominion as one’s steps are steadied by the Word (v.133), and secondly, the mind-stretching encounter with a greater wisdom and vision than one’s own. “At liberty” (v.45) means “at large”: it is like the “broad place” that David found in Psalm 18:19. But in verse 32 it recalls the ‘largeness of mind’ which Solomon was given.
- Light: Two memorable verses speak directly to this. In verse 105 there is a typically practical touch in the mention of ‘my feet’ and ‘my path’: it is light to walk by (cf. v. 128), not to bask in. But verse 130 brings out its educative power in creating a discerning mind—for it is little help to have sight without insight. The plea, ‘give me understanding’ (or ‘insight’), appreciates this; it keeps occurring (vv. 34, 73, 125, 144, 169). To this practiced eye, what is false (v. 104) loses its appeal. The point is made in other terms in the prayer of verse 66 for good judgment and in the testimony of verses 98-100 to a God-taught wisdom that is on a higher plane than man’s.
- Life: This is the theme of many prayers, especially towards the end, where they come thick and fast (five times between 144 and 159). Sometimes the link between Scripture and the gift of life consists of a promise which the singer claims (vv. 25, 50, 107, 154); sometimes it is that the very keeping of God’s law is restorative (v. 37) and life-giving (v. 93), since they turn one’s eyes and steps towards him. Sometimes, conversely, the psalmist asks for life to enable him to keep these precepts (v. 88). The various phrases in the RSV translation—“revive me” (v. 25), “give me life” (v. 37, 40, etc), “spare my life” (v. 88), “preserve my life” (vv. 149, 159)—reflect the nuances of the context, on the whole; but the Hebrew is the same for all, simply “cause me to live,” which acknowledges the direct dependence of vitality on God. This singer is no legalist, content with a round of duties: he will press for nothing short of God’s vitalizing touch. Otherwise, his religion, he knows, will be dead.
- Stability:This is well seen in the threatening situation of verse 23, where Scripture fills and occupies a potentially distracted mind. This is not escapism but attention to the best advise (“your testimonies are my counsellors”, v. 24) and to the main issue, which is the will and promises of God, more real and more relevant than the plots of men. Verses 49 and 50 show the psalmist doing this: basing ‘hope’ and ‘comfort’ on a dependable ‘word’ and ‘promise.’ Above all, the serene testimony of v. 165: “Great peace have those who love thy law; nothing can make them stumble.”
As we continue to read, meditate, delight in and pray the Psalms, may we experience the liberation, light and life, and stability that God provides through His Word, and ultimately in Christ our Lord who is the Word-made-flesh.
*Adapted from a commentary on Psalms by Derek Kidner.
|Monday: Psalm 119:161-176||☐||Thursday: Psalm 122||☐|
|Tuesday: Psalm 120||☐||Friday: Psalm 123||☐|
|Wednesday: Psalm 121||☐||Saturday: Psalm 124||☐|