Humility Desires Grace
Psalms 119:133 Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.
David has a healthy fear of his own sinfulness. This is a necessary humility for a man who is going to oppose evil because we must watch over ourselves lest we too are tempted (Galatians 6:1).
- In Psalm 119:104 and Psalm 119:128, he declares his hatred for false ways.
- He desires deliverance from insolent men in Psalm 119:122, 78, 21.
- Evildoers and “the wicked” are consistently derided throughout this prayer.
If we sons of Adam are good at anything at all, we’re good at judging. We often employ the wrong standard when we judge, and sometimes we are quick to judge, enjoying the way it feeds our self-righteousness. There is little in this world that is more exciting for our flesh than to see our fellow man fall in some way. But David recognizes his own sinfulness and prays to God to guide him in his daily walk. “Keep steady my steps according to your promise” is a plea to be kept on the narrow road (Matthew 7:14).
God justifies us by grace through faith alone, and that faith is followed by good works (Ephesians 2:10). God doesn’t just forgive sinners and leave them in their sin; He promises them help along the way (Proverbs 3:6). That is his promise to us. God provides us with new affections and desires. But in our unredeemed flesh, we still must wage war with sin. Confessing our weakness, we ought to pray with the psalmist “let no iniquity get dominion over me!” It is good and right to plan on not sinning, but we humbly request God to be the power that enables us to walk in newness of life. A healthy fear of the power of sin is essential to avoid it. It is those who think they stand who are in most danger of falling (1 Corinthians 10:12). Humbly acknowledge your need for His grace today.
Freedom to Worship
Psalms 119:134 Redeem me from man’s oppression, that I may keep your precepts.
Along with the daily snares of temptation we face as sojourners in this wicked world, we must face the oppression of wicked men! “Redeem me from man’s oppression, that I may keep your precepts,” is another petition to God for help so that the child of God can live out God’s commands. The idea here is not that we cannot be obedient to God while we are oppressed in the sense that somehow sin becomes excusable, but that often oppression prohibits us from performing the positive commands of worship. When you think of this phrase, think of the Israelites in Egypt.
Exodus 8:1 ESV Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Let my people go, that they may serve me.”‘
It isn’t that slavery in Egypt excused the Israelites to break God’s law. But the oppression they faced kept them from being able to truly worship the Lord as they desired. Our world is full of churches that must function in secret. Believers around the world are suffering (1 Peter 5:9) persecution in ways that prohibit them from regular fellowship, singing songs with a local church, or participating in the ordinances. We who are free from such oppression ought to remember our brothers and sisters in prayer who are suffering such oppression (Hebrews 13:3)!
And even if the persecution you face is only green persecution, is that not still suffering for righteousness’ sake? Should we who live in countries peaceful to Christianity be thought to have no share in the suffering of the Righteous One? How many of you have lost home and family or suffer greatly at their hands? Who has lost a job, or a spouse, or even children (Mark 10:28) because of your stand for Christ? Has your livelihood been destroyed or your good name in business dealings, all because you will not keep quiet about our Great King? You also should beseech the Lord for mercy and deliverance by this same earnest prayer.
Servants Desire (their own) Faithful Obedience
Psalms 119:135 Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes.
There is no greater joy to God’s servants than to know that He is pleased with them. When God looks down on the children of men He finds none who are worthy of His love (Psalm 14:2-3). God’s anthropomorphic face appears angry when we consider the blight that humanity is on His creation. David is naked and exposed before the eyes of Him to who he will give an account (Hebrews 4:13), so it is no wonder that he wants God to hide His holy face from David’s sins (Psalm 51:9).
But in the predetermined counsel of God’s will, there is a promise that men will be reconciled to God. Because of the imputation of our sin to the messiah and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness us-ward, we can have a confident hope that God is smiling as He looks upon us (Zephaniah 3:17). Our God is in the Heavens and He does all that He pleases (Psalm 115:3), so you can be SURE that He didn’t save you begrudgingly. And since there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), you can be certain that He isn’t mad you at you today, either. His joy is in us (John 15:11) because we are hidden in Christ Jesus, the beloved Son in whom the Father is well-pleased (Matthew 3:17).
The love of God has been manifested to us through the gospel. Because Christ died and rose for us, we have an abundant life. And because we know that Christ died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3), we want to be extra careful to try to live righteously—thus we need to be taught God’s ways. God’s pleasure in Christ overflowing onto us causes us to cling to God’s testimonies as our direction in this life! His statutes are the basis for our self-evaluation (Galatians 6:4); the standard by which we find the need to confess (Psalm 119:26); the pure and true things we think upon (Psalm 119:27; Philippians 4:8); and descriptors of the perfections of Christ our Lord. We desire to know them and to obey them because we are motivated by God’s love (1 John 4:18-19).
Do You Weep?
Psalms 119:136 My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.
If Psalm 119 is a psalm for the Christian life, verses 131 and 136 are for the mature. Many of us can say with confidence that we have been angry with wickedness (Psalm 119:53), that we want to know more of God’s law (Psalm 119:64), that we believe God’s promises (Psalm 119:50), and that we’ve experienced persecution (Psalm 119:85). But how many of us have actually had a flood of tears because other people forsake God’s law? When we are surrounded by the floodwaters of sin it seems most of us dip our toes or dive in with sinners or react with fierce anger—maybe because we fear that the garment will be stained by the flesh (Jude 23). So we join sinners or we disdain them and their deeds, but do we ever pity them? And how often are we simply moved to tears because God’s law is broken?
I knew a man who was an evangelist with a healthy head on his shoulders. He saw a man getting in trouble with the police while a crowd gathered to watch the commotion. I was looking on as well; there was a spectacle being made. I remember my friend turning to me with tears in his eyes, saying, “that poor man.” I was struck by the compassion and the pity this evangelist had on a lawbreaker. There was a love in his eyes that said, “I love you, neighbor.” May God grant us all softer hearts; hearts that are ready to share in the suffering of our neighbor—soft hearts that are more concerned that God is offended by His laws being broken than how we are personally affected by sinners. May we never forget the One who is ultimately offended by each transgression (Psalm 51:4). Even Lot was vexed by Sodom, how much more should we who have so much more revelation (2 Peter 2:7-8)?!
Dear believer, pray that God would grant you eyes to see how short you have fallen of this standard. Then get up and do the first works! Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself and you will begin to see your thoughts taken captive to obey Christ, and you will have emotions that are aligned with the righteousness and compassion of God. Pray that God would give you feet and hands to serve the church and your fellow man with. Pray for a nose that detects the aroma of Christ in your midst. And finally, pray for ears to hear the cry of those who do not know Christ, and a tongue to proclaim His law and gospel wherever you go.
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