Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the entire Bible. It’s longer than several entire books. I imagine that due to our propensity to read to the end of the chapter, a good number of people read Psalm 119 in one sitting when they get to it in their Bible reading plan. While there is nothing wrong with this, I am afraid we may end up with a tendency to get tired near the end. Many people may begin Psalm 119 with zeal, meditating upon what they are reading. But flying through the last 32 verses or so, just to get finished. Let me encourage you to avoid this pitfall and be sure to meditate on the last portion as you did the first. While many themes are repeated which we’ve already encountered, ALL of God’s Word is breathed out by Him and profitable (2 Timothy 3:16). May the God of all mercy permit us to treat it that way.
Affliction & Deliverance
Psalms 119:153 Resh Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your law.
As we begin the third-to-last octave in this beautiful prose, we are reminded of (at least) four great truths. First: that we will be afflicted in this life. Paul tells the Philippians in Philippians 1:29 that “It has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you will not only believe in Him, but also suffer for his sake.” Jesus promises his followers tribulation in this world (John 16:33). You don’t need to be a Bible scholar, though, to believe in affliction. Ask anyone who walks in this cursed world, it’s a shared human experience to know things aren’t quite right. The second great truth we encounter here is that God sees our affliction. This is our comfort! Had God promised and sent affliction in some abstract impersonal manner we’d all be hopeless. But we find comfort in the knowledge that God sees. Thus we pray that He would turn His eyes toward us.
Third, we realize this comfort through the promise of future deliverance (Psalm 119:50). Affliction would be unbearable but for hope. It is the hope that we may be temporarily delivered from affliction in this life that gives us the strength to endure it. And it is the sure hope that we will be delivered from our affliction on the day of Jesus Christ that encourages us to persevere even when temporary deliverance isn’t offered. Men and women act very differently when they catch a cold or flu from when they receive notice of a terminal illness. We must live our lives as if all our affliction is but for a moment (2 Corinthians 4:17; Romans 8:18), knowing that compared to eternity with Christ, it is.
Finally, another gold nugget of truth mined from this verse is the reality that when God opens your eyes and heart, you will see His law as righteous and good and remember it. David remarked earlier that he would run in the way of God’s commandments -> when God enlarges His heart (Psalm 119:32). Our hope for salvation is Jesus Christ alone, and our faith in Jesus is, in part, evidenced by our love for His law (Psalm 119:47,53). And if you love Him, you will remember His commandments and keep them (1 John 2:3,4,5,6).
Jesus Is Our Advocate
Psalms 119:154 Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to your promise!
David calls on God to plead his cause and redeem him. While a temporary fulfillment can be understood (David certainly needed God to go before Him and defend Him in the midst of a wicked and twisted generation), the additional phrase “give me life according to your promise,” points directly to Jesus Christ as redeemer, advocate, and savior. John tells us that if anyone sins we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1). An advocate pleads the cause of another. Normally an advocate pleads a cause between two parties. But in the case of Jesus Christ, He Himself is the judge AND the advocate. It is Jesus who redeemed us by paying the penalty we deserve for sin. Jesus is the one who advocated on our behalf; He pleads our cause and is our intercessor forever (Hebrews 7:25).
It is Jesus’ blood that redeemed us, and it is His glorious, death-defying, resurrection from the dead that gives us life. David looked forward to the promise Paul explains the details of in His epistle to the Romans.
Romans 5:9-11 ESV Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
What wonderful truth! Rejoice, oh Christian. It is not only that God forgave your sins. That would be gracious indeed. But God not only forgave your sins, but He also credits you with the righteousness of Christ. He adopted you and made reconciliation with you. You have LIFE today because you know Jesus (John 17:3). Angels who have never sinned are not treated with the love and care that you are as a child of God Himself. It would have been mercy if God had simply kept you out of Hell and left you in this cursed creation to live forever. But His grace is greater than we can imagine. According to his promise, we have a present relationship with God through Jesus Christ, may boldly approach His throne as heirs of all things, and look forward to future deliverance from our flesh. Amen!
No One Seeks God (On Their Own)
Psalms 119:155 Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek your statutes.
As a result of our redemption, we have been made into new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). Thus, we have affection for things that are good and just and a loathing for all that God hates. While we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, there is also a reality that there really are two classes of people out there, the justified and the wicked. What we need to remember is that the only thing that takes you out of one group (the wicked) and into the other (the justified or righteous) is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is something we should meditate on frequently to keep our pride mortified.
But David gives commentary on the wicked, noting that salvation is far from them. The repeated theme through this Psalm and the entire Bible is that God’s elect seek and love His laws. God’s statutes are not a burden for the soul who loves Him (1 John 5:3). Now here is where we must be careful because it is easy to slip into works-righteousness salvation by misreading God’s Word. David isn’t saying that salvation is earned by seeking God’s statutes or keeping His law. David’s words remind us of other poignant truths about the condition of man: that is, that no one seeks God. In Psalm 14, David tells us that no one seeks after God, that they have all turned aside. Paul quotes this in Romans 3 when he lays out the condemnation of all sons of Adam.
The wicked’s inability and disinterest in seeking God’s statutes is evidence of his wretched condition, rather than the cause of it.
Salvation is far from the wicked, but with God all things are possible. But God is the first seeker in the situation. No one seeks God on his own (Romans 3:11). We are all by nature children of wrath and will not run to someone who is not our father (Ephesians 2:3). And it is right to say that salvation is FAR from each of us. But distances are nothing to God who is almighty in power and strength. He is the one who circumcises the hearts of wicked men that they may seek Him and find Him. He will reward those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), and no one will do that apart from the regenerating work of His Spirit.
Mercy For Us
Psalms 119:156 Great is your mercy, O Yahweh; give me life according to your rules.
Our God is a God of mercy. Praise Him for that! He sent His son Jesus into the world to be the propitiation for our sins. That is, Jesus took the penalty we deserved for our sins upon Himself and suffered precisely what was required by the righteous justice of God. God’s mercy is displayed to us in this way! If God could simply ignore His justice, mercy would not exist. But God is just, thus mercy is our only hope. But it is important to note that God’s mercy is not equivalent to God just turning away from our sins. God’s justice will not allow that. Thus, it was fitting that God’s justice was executed upon a substitute, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ became sin on behalf of His people (2 Corinthians 5:21) and so when God punished Jesus on the cross, He was really and truly satisfying justice for the sins of the elect. This is great mercy, not that the Judge would avoid punishing sinners, but that the Judge Himself would take on the punishment the guilty deserved!
John tells us that if we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). This is the life we hope for. Three times in this octave David will pray that God gives him life. Each time he asks according to different reasons. First, he asked for life according to God’s promise (Psalm 119:153). Last he requests life according to God’s love (Psalm 119:159). And here, he requests life according to God’s rules. And God’s rule is that if you are found hidden in Christ, the only just thing for God to do is to forgive you for your sins. If you have by faith been accounted righteous by God, the only faithful thing for God to do is to cleanse you from all unrighteousness.
This is the abundant life Jesus speaks of in John 10:10. Jesus is the door and the good shepherd. The abundant life promised to all those who follow him is not the riches and honors that this world may bestow on a man, but the honor that comes from identifying with the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Acts 5:41 ESV Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.1 Peter 4:16 ESV Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
It is the abundant life to have no fear of death nor hell nor condemnation, but to live as people who are free (1 Peter 2:16); people who are no longer slaves to sin, but slaves to righteousness.
Romans 6:7-8 ESV For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
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