We have now come to the final section of Psalm 119. We have journeyed with the psalmist through a wide variety of his personal experiences. He has focused on the Word of God and stressed his desire to obey it. With the alphabet exhausted, the psalmist fills his concluding strophe with repeated cries for help. In a barrage of petitions, he five times uses the word “let” along with the words “give,” “deliver” and “seek.”
Psalms 119:169,170 [TAU]:
Let my cry come near before thee, O LORD: give me understanding according to thy word.
170 Let my supplication come before thee: deliver me according to thy word.
This petition is a reminder that no believer can ever assume that he has reached a stage where he does not need to grow in understanding and spiritual perception and awareness. Prayer about this matter was instigated by the fact that he still needed deliverance. The parallelism of the structure of these first two verses suggests that the end of each is as similar as the beginning of each. In other words, the deliverance he is seeking will come with further understanding.
My lips shall utter praise, when thou hast taught me thy statutes.
172 My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness.
The outcome of being taught of God is always resounding praise back to Him. The psalmist has discovered that all God’s commandments are right, and when they are obeyed, they provide the way for a content life.
Let thine hand help me; for I have chosen thy precepts.
174 I have longed for thy salvation, O LORD; and thy law is my delight.
The psalmist also prays for divine guidance and aid, anticipating the helping hand of God. Using the imagery of the Lord having a hand, shows us that He has the power to do what is needed. He can lift us when we fall, guide us when we are confused, protect us when we are in danger, console us when we are hurt, and much more besides. The psalmist knows that his deliberate choice to obey engages God who acts according to His Word. In verse 174 the psalmist again expresses his longing for God’s salvation, which could apply to immediate rescue, or ultimate deliverance in the future resurrection of the just. Perhaps both are intended. The psalmist once again declares his delight in God’s law.
Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me.
176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.
The psalmist again asserts his resolve to praise God and is thankful for the help His judgments provide. In closing, the writer of this psalm sees himself as a lost sheep having strayed, now in need of rescue. This may be an acknowledgment of sin (as his earlier one in verse 67), though he has not strayed in that way during his affliction (verse 110). This simile of the lost sheep is used elsewhere (see Isaiah 53:6 & I Peter 2:25). The psalmist goes to God as his shepherd (remember the 23rd Psalm) and asks for His attention. He needs the intervention of the Good Shepherd to come and rescue His sheep; i.e., His servant, like the parable Jesus told in Luke 15:4-7. This request is made on the basis of being a faithful servant—one who remembers God’s commandments.
While he was clearly not sinless, the psalmist counted himself among the righteous. He loved God’s law and made it his chief delight (verse 174). His desire was to live and praise God (verses 171 & 175). He integrated God’s Word into his life. He walked in conformity to God’s will in contrast with the unrighteous who had no desire to live obediently. God does not obligate Himself to aid the wicked, but He offers abundant help to His servants (Psalm 23 & Psalms 119:121). The belief that he was among the righteous whom God rewards, gave the writer of Psalm 119 confidence to make his requests. Our righteousness today is based on the accomplished works of Jesus Christ, and not on our own works. However, our confidence in approaching God is bolstered as we do those things which are pleasing in His sight.
I John 3:21,22:
Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.
22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
We, too, may also stray; let’s make sure we, like the psalmist, ask for God’s assistance whenever it’s needed.
By Wayne Clapp