Psalms for Troubled Times – Psalm 119:153-168

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We conclude this final group of seven today continuing our look at the response of the blessed man to God. Yesterday we considered how the godly man will seek to live a life of sacrificial worship: ‘for to me to live in Christ, and to die is gain’ (Phil 1:21). Today we are going to examine a prayerful life filled with praise.

Resh – The Prayerful Man

In this closing prayer, the blessed and godly man has one central request, and he repeats it three times: ‘quicken me, O Lord’ (v154/6/9).

The idea here is that he is praying for fullness of life, spiritual prosperity. He has prayed for this eleven times altogether in this psalm, and I would suggest it is what we all long for. Do we pray for it?

1) Praying with Spiritual Purpose ‘Plead my cause, and deliver me: quicken me according to thy word.’ (v154)

While the psalmist’s prayer is for real, practical and tangible deliverance from his ‘persecutors’ and ‘enemies (v157), twice crying out ‘deliver me’ (v153,4), this is not simply for his own safety or personal enjoyment. Rather, the spiritual heart of this godly man is clear, for he is quick to establish the purpose for which he makes his request – that he would be enlivened to the sayings of his Lord.

In the opening overview of the psalm, I mentioned that the use of the word ‘imrah’ (sayings/word), as used here, had the thought of a close relationship with God. The psalmist desired deliverance so he could enjoy the fullness of life lived in communion with, and in obedience to, his Lord. This is devotion!

What about our own prayers? When we pray for the Lord’s help with physical problems, what is our motive? Is it that we would simply have a problem free life, or is it that we would have greater opportunity to live for God?

2) Praying in God’s Will ‘Great are thy tender mercies, O LORD: quicken me according to thy judgments.’ (v156)

Again, turning back to the overview, we remind ourselves that this word ‘judgments’ takes us into the royal palace, and we hear the wise King issue His decrees.

The psalmist understands that God is Sovereign, so that any request must be made according to God’s will. We remember how the Lord Jesus would teach His disciples, saying:

‘When ye pray, say … Thy will be done’

(Luke 11:2)

Of course, this is not simply a mantra, but a heart attitude. It is the appreciation that as God answers my prayer in whichever way He chooses, I’ll be happy knowing His way is best. This is submission!

Submission is only one half of this verse, for at the beginning the psalmist establishes the grounds of his supplication: ‘great are thy tender mercies’. This thought the psalmist repeats in the third supplication.

3) Praying with Expectation – ‘Consider how I love thy precepts: quicken me, O LORD, according to thy lovingkindness.’ (v159)

The previous verse spoke of God’s ‘tender mercies’, that is His love and compassion. This verse uses a different word that emphasises God’s grace and mercy. Both are precious, and the reason we come boldly to petition ‘the throne of grace’ (Hebs 4:16), and ask good things of God, our deeply loving, heavenly Father, as the Lord Jesus encouraged us to:

‘If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?’

(Matthew 7:11)

We also remember how Jesus would speak of having ‘faith as a grain of mustard seed’, wherewith ‘nothing shall be impossible’ (Matthew 17:20). Therefore, we pray in faith, looking with hope for God to answer. This is expectation!

And so, with devotion, submission and expectation, the psalmist prays three times for spiritual and personal revival through the Word of God, and the following section will show that God heard and answered His prayer.

We often hear prayer for revival in our land, but that cannot happen until there is first personal revival in our hearts: a deepening devotion, a willing submission, and a believing expectation in our God. Let us therefore pray to this end, that like the psalmist we may have cause to praise.

Shin – The Praising Man

As I mentioned yesterday, praise is one aspect of worship. Worship begins with wonder, and this is where this section starts.

‘my heart standeth in awe of thy word.’

(v161)

Having a fear of God and a reverence for His Word, means we can face the ‘princes’ which persecute us without fear. Knowing the power there is in the Word, we can speak it boldly in all situations, even when in the prison cell as Paul was in the book of Philippians.

In the next verse the wonder leads to rejoicing over God’s Word, ‘as one that finds’ a treasure hoard. This rejoicing in the circumstances of his life, then rises into praise toward God.

‘Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy righteous judgments.’

(v164)

Some would understand this as literal, and whether it is or not does not change the fact that seven is the number of completeness or perfection. In other words, the psalmist’s ‘soul was filled with gratitude and praise’ (Flanigan) all the day long. We might say “24/7”.

Like with worship, this kind of praise is more than words. It’s an attitude of heart, and in the remainder of the section, the psalmist sets his life before his God, saying ‘all my ways are before thee’ (v168). There certainly can be no hypocrisy here.

In closing we note how the psalmist praises God for ‘great peace’ found through the written word (v165-168). Have we not even greater reasons to praise?

We have ‘peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Roms 5:1), the incarnate Word. What excuse have we not to be people of praise?

1 Hail, thou once despised Jesus!
Hail, thou Galilean King!
Thou didst suffer to release us,
thou didst free salvation bring.
Hail, thou agonizing Savior,
bearer of our sin and shame!
By thy merits we find favor,
life is given thro’ thy name.

2 Paschal Lamb, by God appointed,
all our sins were on thee laid;
by almighty love anointed,
thou hast full atonement made.
All thy people are forgiven,
thro’ the virtue of thy blood;
opened is the gate of heaven,
peace is made ‘twixt man and God.

3 Jesus, hail! enthroned in glory,
there forever to abide;
all the heav’nly hosts adore thee,
seated at thy Father’s side.
There for sinners thou art pleading,
there thou dost our place prepare;
ever for us interceding,
till in glory we appear.

4 Worship, honor, pow’r, and blessing,
thou art worthy to receive;
loudest praises, without ceasing,
meet it is for us to give.
Help, ye bright angelic spirits,
bring your sweetest, noblest lays;
help to sing our Savior’s merits,
help to chant Immanuel’s praise.

[Bakewell 1757, Toplady 1776]

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