Let thine hand help me;
For I have chosen thy precepts (Psa 119.173).
A proper interpretation of even the simplest words of Scripture often requires an appreciation of its grand message of the law and the gospel. At every point the sinner devoid of the Spirit would wrest the sacred words from their biblical context and their divinely-intended sense to make use of them for the gratification of human pride. Such is the case with the verse before us now.
Many are my persecutors and mine enemies;
Yet do I not decline from thy testimonies (Psa 119.157).
David testifies of his courageous faith to the praise of God’s glory, the encouragement of his fellow believers, and the consternation of his opponents. What a tribute to God’s grace and power that he takes sinners in bondage to the fear of man and makes them his undaunted worshippers! What an inspiration to us that such men have stood firm in biblical fidelity against all the opposition of this world, sometimes even to martyrdom! And what frustration their opponents have felt that these stalwarts would not bow to the prevalent idols with the rest of mankind!
Uphold me according unto thy word, that I may live:
And let me not be ashamed of my hope.
Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe:
And I will have respect unto thy statutes continually (Psa 119.116-117).
Filled with the Spirit, David the psalmist exemplifies a state of mind that is common in some measure to all believers, and in which we ought to excel. That state of mind is faith in God’s promise. David’s spiritual posture was seen in perfection in Jesus Christ, the incomparable man of faith. Our sanctification begins when his Spirit takes up his gracious residence in us, and it progresses toward full conformity with Christ’s image as we look to him and follow the Spirit’s leading by his Word.
Thou art my hiding place and my shield:
I hope in thy word (Psalm 119:114).
Unbelievers have much to fear, and the absence of fear in them is a telltale symptom of spiritual insanity. Paranoia is a groundless fear based on delusion, but there is also a tranquility based on delusion which is even more dangerous than paranoia. Jesus spoke of people living in the days of Noah who were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, as if all were well, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Something similar will happen to sinners when Christ comes again (Luke 17.26-27). The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night, for while people are saying, there is peace and safety, then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape (1 Thess 5.2-3).
Thy faithfulness is unto all generations:
Thou hast established the earth, and it abideth (Psa 119.90).
The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) announced that “God is dead,” by which he expressed his belief that the idea of God had been so generally rejected that it no longer remained relevant as the basis for morality or explaining the meaning of life. The “God is dead” concept was popularized in America during the 1960’s and taken a step further—that not only the idea of God, but God himself, had truly died. The fruit of this kind of intellectual perversity is nihilism, a philosophy that ethical values do not exist objectively but are falsely invented, and that life is utterly without meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value.1 Any right-thinking person shudders to consider the implications of all this for society. Indeed, this kind of atheism has already produced injustice and violence on a grand scale throughout the twentieth century.
Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort,
According to thy word unto thy servant (Psa 119.76).
Moved by the Holy Spirit, the psalmist here prays earnestly for comfort. “I pray thee” is emphatic expression, like, “Please! I beg you!” with a focus on the desire of the speaker, used to heighten a sense of urgency.1 If we generally despise such pleas, we exhibit the ungodly trait of pride2 and influence of Stoicism.3 The more our true humanity is restored, the more we will be sensitive to the importance of right feeling and of our need to look above for deepest consolation.
I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right,
And that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me (Psa 119.75).
Many unbelievers implicitly acknowledge God’s control over all things, including their personal catastrophes, and then hold a grudge against him. Perhaps when a loved one was dying of cancer, the person now spiritually-disgruntled had prayed earnestly for healing. “Oh, God, please don’t let her die,” the father pleaded for his sick daughter. And then she not only died, but suffered grievously for six months in the process! And God made this happen to her when she was only four years old—an innocent little girl who did not even know what was happening to her and suffered it all without complaining. Now the father hates God and feels completely justified.
Teach me good judgment and knowledge:
For I have believed thy commandments (Psa 119.66)
“The just shall live by faith” (Hab 2.4; Rom 1.17; Gal 3.11; Heb 10.38). This great biblical statement has depths not fully comprehended by even the most mature Christian and seasoned theologian. It states succinctly some of the most profound truth about God, His creation, and our relationship with Him.
For starters, it is a solid foundation for the doctrine of sola fide, justification by faith alone. The justified one, that is, the one whom God declares perfectly righteous, having forgiven him all his sins, shall live, that is, possess spiritual life in reconciled fellowship with the God whom he had offended, through faith, trusting God and His Word concerning His Son Jesus Christ, and through faith apart from works, trusting in God’s grace to the unworthy as opposed to the self-reliance of the self-righteous sinner. For centuries faithful Bible teachers have given a unified testimony to these things in the Protestant tradition.
The proud have had me greatly in derision:
Yet have I not declined from thy law (Psa 119.51).
One of the most difficult temptations you will ever face as a Christian is ridicule for your faith, but by God’s grace, you can overcome even this.
“The proud have had me greatly in derision.” The majestic vocabulary and rhythm of this statement may seem to remove it from any experiences you have ever had. The rendering of one paraphrase is, “Proud people always make fun of me,” and this is not far off the mark, except that the use of the word “fun” introduces a lightness not warranted by the Hebrew text. Still, we can start to see that the psalmist is testifying of a kind of misery that may even be experienced in a modern office environment, or in one’s own family.
With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth (Psa 119.13).
A really good echo can be an unforgettable experience. The best ones have a long delay and high fidelity. The physical phenomenon involves your sending out sound waves, typically a word or phrase, and having them come back to you again. Echoes require the right environment; well-suited conditions to produce the desired effect are unusual, as in a cave or empty stadium. Usually our voices are just physically lost with no return.