In the resh strophe the psalmist asks God three times to “quicken” him, and twice he asks God to “deliver” him. He also pleads for God to plead his cause in the manner of an advocate in a court of law. (Compare 1 Samuel 24:15; Psalms 35:1; 43:1). His adversaries’ case against him was without evidence; they lacked a valid or logical basis for their charges. Indeed, their persecution had no legitimate reason. They were lawbreakers themselves who had no one to stand for them, help them, and save them. The psalmist felt sorry for them, but since they were not interested in keeping God’s Word, there was nothing he could do for them.
Psalms 119:153,154 [RESH]:
Consider mine affliction, and deliver me: for I do not forget thy law.
154 Plead my cause, and deliver me: quicken me according to thy word.
We see here the psalmist is pleading with God to act because God has promised to; because this is what God’s own laws demand; and because God, in His care for His people, cannot fail to be moved by their plight, with love and compassion to help them. In the first verse the psalmist asks God to consider his affliction, and in verse 159 he asks God to consider how he loves His precepts. This Hebrew word raah (consider) also occurs in verse 158 where it is translated “beheld.” His request for deliverance happens twice, but with two different Hebrew synonyms. The first is used of armed military rescues, and the second of redemption by a kinsman redeemer. This second word means to redeem, buy back, or deliver by paying a price.
The law stated that a kinsman could buy back the property a poor relative had sold (Leviticus 25:25-28), as Boaz did on behalf of Naomi and Ruth (Ruth 4:9,10). The language here is interesting in light of the psalmist’s earlier request that God stand as surety for him (verse 122). Yet this goes even further. While the terminology of redemption in the Old Testament often takes on a general sense of deliverance from some overpowering circumstance, there is behind all this the legal foundation. There was a price for God to pay to redeem His people from the consequences of sin―a price paid through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The psalmist was ultimately reliant on this same redemption which in his day was yet to come. Whether this was in his mind at the time or not, it was no doubt in the mind of the One who inspired the psalm. Jes us Christ would be our kinsman redeemer. He would be our surety (Psalms 119:122 & Hebrews 7:22).
Salvation is far from the wicked: for they seek not thy statutes.
156 Great are thy tender mercies, O LORD: quicken me according to thy judgments.
The psalmist realizes that the deliverance he seeks is denied to the wicked, for they seek not the Word by which it would surely come. The psalmist acknowledges God’s great mercies and repeats the cry to be quickened. This request for quickening means more than just to lift his spirits or to see to his needs are met; he wants to be revived in the very depth of his being.
Many are my persecutors and mine enemies; yet do I not decline from thy testimonies.
158 I beheld [considered] the transgressors, and was grieved; because they kept not thy word.
Although the psalmist spoke of his many “persecutors and enemies,” his desire was fixed directly on the faithfulness of God’s promises. In verses 153 & 159 the psalmist asked God to consider things, and in verse 158 he tells God what he considers. He beholds or considers his accusers and is utterly disgusted by their treachery against God in the way they have rejected God’s Word. The key to the prayer in this section is his grief over those who don’t keep God’s Word. Throughout this stanza, the psalmist continues to assert his reliance on the truth of what God has said:
Consider how I love thy precepts: quicken me, O LORD, according to thy lovingkindness.
160 Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.
The psalmist ends the stanza with another declaration that God’s Word is true. The Hebrew word rendered “beginning” here is rosh which typically means head. The focus here would be that God’s Word has always been true, and as the rest of the verse maintains, it always will be. This is the third declaration of the truth of God’s Word in close proximity—the other two occurring in each of the two previous stanzas (verses 142 & 151). Jesus Christ confirmed this when He prayed “thy word is truth” (John 17:17). It’s clear that the certainty of His Word and its righteous judgments apply forever. This should be a cause of concern to those who choose to reject God and His laws, and a cause of great hope to us who strive to follow God in keeping His Word.
By Wayne Clapp