Psalms for Troubled Times – Psalm 119:129-152

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The Wondrous Word and Work of Christ

Peh – The Wondering Man

‘Something unusual and extraordinary. A marvellous and wonderful thing!’ This is the definition for the first word of this section, and I find it instructive that this is the theme in the 17th out of 22 sections.

Marvel and amazement at an object is often our initial reaction, but as time passes, and we become familiar with it, we can lose that sense of wonder. Life can become mundane, banal, boring … perhaps even tedious. For many, this has been the consequence of lockdown.

Not so for the psalmist. He has before him an object that continues to amaze, even after in-depth study. He says:

‘Thy testimonies are wonderful: therefore doth my soul keep them. The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.’

(v129,130)

This has been my experience too. The more I read and study God’s Word, the more wonderful it becomes. I have thoroughly enjoyed this study through the psalms, and for me, lockdown has been a delight. I trust you have been similarly blessed.

One of the greatest joys in reading the Bible is what is commonly called ‘the light-bulb moment’, and this is the idea in verse 130. You are reading a passage, and perhaps it’s a bit dull, you’re struggling through it, when … suddenly … you strike upon a gem, a precious thought, a glorious truth, a connection you’d not seen before.

Instantly, you are transformed by the marvel of it. Your mind becomes alert, endorphins flow through your body, your heart rejoices … and the wonder leads your spirit, as it always should, to worship our great and glorious God. We shall come back to this later, but once you’ve had this experience, you want more.

‘I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for thy commandments.’

(v131)

The psalmist’s use of the word ‘commandments’ here, shows that this wonder is no airy-fairy feeling, but has a very practical effect in his life. Indeed, he is led to pray to this end: that he may live a holy and ordered life under the smiling approval of his God (v133,135).

This is easier said than done, for we are surrounded by iniquity and iniquitous men. This causes the psalmist to weep (v136), and to pray for deliverance from the dominion of such (v133,134). Paul would encourage Timothy to do the same:

‘I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.’

(1 Timothy 2:1,2)

Tzaddi – The Righteous Man

In this section we have a further reaction to the ungodly lives of those around him: not sorrow or supplication, but righteous anger!

‘My zeal hath consumed me, because mine enemies have forgotten thy words. Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.’

(v139,140)

This is no self-righteousness, but a righteousness that has its origin in God Himself, delights in His righteous Word, and desires righteous living. In other words, righteousness is foundational and central to the life of the godly man. Isn’t it wonderful that this topic should occupy the central section of this third group?

The psalmist begins:

‘Righteous art thou, O LORD, and upright are thy judgments. Thy testimonies that thou hast commanded are righteous and very faithful.’

(v137,138)

This being so, we realise that we fall short of God’s righteous standards, ‘for all have sinned’ (Roms 3:23). We must therefore face the righteous penalty for our sin, but we read that we can be ‘justified freely by his grace’ (Roms 3:24). How can God save, yet righteous be?

Ah … wonder of wonders! It is in the cross …

‘through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness … that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.’

(Romans 3:24-26)

Praise the Lord that His ‘righteousness is an everlasting righteousness’ (v142). Our God is not like the god of Islam or the gods of this world who are created in the image of men: fickle and capricious. Rather, we can have absolute confidence in the eternal work of Christ and in the unchanging Word of God.

Koph – The Worshipping Man

The theme of this nineteenth section is given in the first phrase, and is a fitting response to the last two sections.

‘I cried with my whole heart; hear me, O LORD: I will keep thy statutes.’

(v145)

Often when we think of worship, we think of joyful song and exuberant praise, but this is far from the psalmist’s present experience. This section is a cry for help in remaining faithful, amidst the persecution he faces.

Nevertheless, his whole-hearted and earnest desire, indeed his promises, ‘I will keep thy statutes … I shall keep thy testimonies’ (v145,146), are in themselves acts of worship.

This is a good reminder to us that praise is only a small part of worship, and that worship primarily is a life that’s lived wholly devoted to the Lord.

‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable worship.’

(Roms 12:1)

This whole-hearted devotion of the psalmist is seen in his preventing (going before) ‘the dawning of the morning’ (v147), and ‘the night watches’ (v148), to ‘meditate’ in God’s Word. In other words, day and night he engaged in communion with God, rising early and continuing late.

This is the secret of living a life wholly for the Lord, and there is no greater example than the Lord Jesus Himself: ‘And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.’ (Mark 1:35)

The following few verses in Mark show the strain He bore, but having spent quality time in the presence of His Father, He would not be swayed by the pressure of the crowd, but turns and moves on elsewhere.

In our day when mob-rule seems to reign and the social presure to conform to a certain way of thinking is great, we need more than ever to learn this lesson, and determine to devote time to communing with our God.

This is the basis of worship!

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