The Cry of the Righteous
Psalms 119:121 Ayin I have done what is just and right; do not leave me to my oppressors.
One of the most pernicious effects of the social justice movement of the early 21st century is that it skews the truth about oppression. David knew what it meant to be truly oppressed, as did our Lord Jesus and all who follow in his steps. Oppression certainly occurs in areas outside the Christian faith, as well. But all too often our view of oppression is reduced to “anything that keeps me from freely doing whatever I want.” Knowing the distinction will help us minister to those who are truly hurting as the result of oppression and properly deal with those who just have a wrong view of how they deserve to be treated.
Our psalmist begins with a declaration of his own righteousness. I have done what is just and right, he says. The Christian has no righteousness of his own, but an alien righteousness as the result of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to him. But that imputation is always followed by holy living. The man or woman of God who cannot say, “I have done what is just and right,” has no right to expect God to answer his or her prayer to be delivered from oppression (1 John 3:22). When we come to God as the psalmist does here, we are appealing to God’s attribute of justice. Because we have done what is just and right, our oppression is unjust. This is a cry for an end to evil like what we saw in Psalm 119:84.
But a servant is not greater than his Master (John 15:20)! If they persecuted the Lord of Glory who literally only did what is just and right, will they not also persecute you? Yes, Jesus suffered in our place, and the penalty He suffered under the wrath of God was for sin and unrighteousness (our sin, of course!). But the oppression Jesus suffered at the hands of men was for righteousness’ sake (Matthew 5:10). If God did not deliver the righteous Jesus from the hand of those who hate those who do what is just and right, we can be sure that we ourselves are still under God’s blessing whether we are delivered or not (Matthew 5:11-12).
Deliver Us From The Insolent
Psalms 119:122 Give your servant a pledge of good; let not the insolent oppress me.
The fact that we must expect tribulation and even oppression in this world does not at all preclude us from asking to be delivered from it. No reasonable person enjoys pain and affliction, and God is glorified when we cry out for His aid. Our very weakness points to His perfect strength when it moves us to prayer.
Thus, when the psalmist asks for a “pledge of good,” he is asking God to be his surety. Those who love God are aware of their own sinfulness and inability. Do you remember Psalm 119:32? It is only after God does a work in us that we are able to be good. And God gives us this pledge in His Holy Spirit, does He not? The Spirit of God comes to dwell in the hearts of believers, sealing them for eternity and promises them “good.” The sense is not so much that we ask God to promise good to us, but that we need him to pledge to make us to be good. God cannot help but be good to His own. Thus, we ask to be made holy by His grace.
Proverbs 16:5 ESV Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished.
And we know that every suffering we face in this world is part of His sovereign plan. When the righteous cry for help, Yahweh hears and delivers them. But that deliverance is rarely immediate. For many believers that deliverance has come at the end of great trial, and only through their death! So we cry to our God because He hears. We cry to Him because He hates the insolent and the proud (Psalm 119:21). And we cry to Him because it exhibits our dependence upon Him.
We Long For Glorification
Psalms 119:123 My eyes long for your salvation and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise.
We walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), but that faith is a hopefulness that we will one day see what we are looking forward to. Faith isn’t the end-all of the Christian walk. It is the instrument by which we persevere unto glorification. It is said that we “are saved,” “are being saved,” and “will be saved.” Inasmuch as we rejoice in our justification and sanctifications, our ultimate rest will come at glorification. David’s eyes long to see the salvation promised to him: the deliverance from this cursed flesh. While Christ is a sympathetic high priest because he was tempted in every way (Hebrews 4:15), David is an example of a sinner who effectively sinned in every way. While Christ gives us hope because He resisted every temptation, David gives us hope because, well, “if God can save David, he can save me too.”
Not only are we promised deliverance from our own cursed flesh, but we are promised freedom from the evil of this world. We long to see the day when all of God’s enemies are finally made a footstool (Hebrews 1:13) so that we might be delivered from them! Our suffering and oppression, although ordained by God and granted by God (Philippians 1:29) is nevertheless something we naturally want to avoid. We long for the time and place where God will wipe away every tear (Revelation 21:4), where there will be no more pain and no more death. Suffering and pain are results of the curse, and all creation groans to be delivered—ourselves included (Romans 8:22-23). It is this meaningful focus on future deliverance that strengthens the child of God for every circumstance in this world. We are not promised health and wealth now, but when we inherit all the rewards earned by the Christ, we will be glad we traded none of them for temporary comfort!
So while our eyes long to see what we have the conviction of (Hebrews 11:1), we rest in the fact that God’s promises are righteous and will be fulfilled. This isn’t a hopefulness like the love-smitten teen who hopes the girl will go out with him. This is a sure hopefulness. God’s promises are a sure thing, and if we lack faith, He has given us an abundance of examples in the Scripture of fulfilled promises. We see the preservation of the line of Judah to Jesus (Genesis 49:10). We see the Israelites in their land (Joshua 21:43-45). We have the promised son of Abraham in Isaac (Genesis 17:16). Space will not permit us to even scratch the surface. But the point is clear. God is absolutely trustworthy with His promises. We would do well to know them, keep them in our focus, and proclaim them to others.
God’s Love Toward Us
Psalms 119:124 Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love, and teach me your statutes.
Although no verse of Psalm 119 repeats itself, the phrase “teach me your statutes” is a repeated theme. Seven times in the ESV the psalmist prays, “Teach me your statutes.” Consider the following:
Psalm 119:12 Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes!
Psalm 119:26 When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes!
Psalm 119:64 The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes!
Psalm 119:68 You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.
Psalm 119:124 Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love, and teach me your statutes.
Psalm 119:135 Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes.
We are to learn God’s statutes because God is blessed and good forever (Psalm 119:12,68; Romans 1:25). His statutes are necessary for our confession and repentance to have any usefulness (Psalm 119:26). And God displays His love toward His dear children by teaching them His statutes! His face shines upon us. By teaching us His statutes, God provides us with the instruction we desperately need. Our consciences are not strong enough to guide us in the way of holiness; we will eventually encounter a situation where we are unsure. But God’s statutes are never wrong and always provide needed direction if we will learn them. Law is not grace, but the provision of God’s law to us is gracious.
So we see the progression in Psalm 119 in the verses listed above. God teaches us His statutes because He is blessed and good—and because we need to be taught. His statutes are given at times of confession that we may properly confess and learn to follow Him more closely. The teaching of His statutes is an indicator of His steadfast love toward His people. Rather than seeing these rules as limitations to our pleasure, we understand them more to be like a high-voltage sign warning us of fatal danger. And finally, when we understand these things, we respond with praise to the Almighty.
Psalm 119:171 My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes.
See all posts in this series
Psalm 119:1-4 — Blessed!
Psalm 119:5-8 — Blessed!
Psalm 119:9-12 — Purity is the Objective
Psalm 119:13-16 — Declare and Delight!
Psalm 119:17-20 — Open My Eyes!
Psalm 119:21-24 — The Comfort of God
Psalm 119:25-28 — Thirst and Life
Psalm 119:29-32 — Shame Shifting
Psalm 119:33-36 — Seeking The Way
Psalm 119:37-40 — Behold God's Promise
Psalm 119:41-44 — Answering the Taunter
Psalm 119:45-48 — A Wide Place
Psalm 119:49-52 — Comfort Amidst Affliction
Psalm 119:53-56 — Righteous Anger?
Psalm 119:57-60 — What's Your Portion?
Psalm 119:61-64 — Companionship
Psalm 119:65-68 — Afflicted by God
Psalm 119:69-72 — More Affliction?
Psalm 119:73-76 — Sovereign Creator
Psalm 119:77-80 — May God Supply!
Psalm 119:81-84 — Our Whole Being Longs for God
Psalm 119:85-88 — They Have Dug Pitfalls
Psalm 119:89-92 — Established
Psalm 119:93-96 — Limited Perfection
Psalm 119:97-100 — Elevated Wisdom
Psalm 119:101-104 — Sweeter Than Honey
Psalm 119:105-108 — Freewill, Oaths, and More Affliction
Psalm 119:109-112 — Sorrows, Snares, Sons, and a Savior
Psalm 119:113-116 — My Hiding Place and My Shield
Psalm 119:117-120 — God Discards the Dross
Psalm 119:121-124— Deliverance
Psalm 119:125-128— God's Law > Everything on Earth
Psalm 119:129-132 — Into The Light
Psalm 119:133-136 — Does Your Love Bring You To Tears?
Psalm 119:137-140 — Zeal + Ignorance = Worthless Religion
Psalm 119:141-144 — Assurance of Perseverance
Psalm 119:145-148— Meditate on the PROMISE
Psalm 119:149-152 — Be Comforted For God Is Near
Psalm 119:153-156— Christ Alone Delivers
Psalm 119:157-160 — We Are In A Battle
Psalm 119:161-164— Do You Hate Falsehood?
Psalm 119:165-168 — Cause → Effect
Psalm 119:169-172 — Eruption of Praise
Psalm 119:173-176 — Seek Your Servant Like a Lost Sheep