Today for our Scripture passage guide in preparing for worship of our God and Father in Jesus Christ, we turn to the final section of Psalm 119. This is the twenty-second section of this magnificent and is headed by the words “Tau” because each of the eight verses begins with the last consonant of the Hebrew alphabet (comparable to our “t”). The theme of this psalm, as we have seen throughout, is love for God as the sovereign Law-Giver and love for His perfectly righteous and true commandments (Word).
As such this psalm is quite fitting for our worship preparation, since it is the sovereign God Who alone is to be worshiped and He alone Who determines what that worship is and how it is to be done. That He has made known to us in His holy Word, which is law for us as His redeemed and renewed people. And because of that redemption in Christ and renewal by the Holy Spirit, we gratefully and gladly follow that Word and obey that law, so that we may worship Him aright.
Now let us look at this final section of Psalm 119:
169 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.
171 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.
173 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.
175 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.
There are several things that make this last stanza especially fitting as the final part of this beautiful psalm. First, note once more the psalmist’s expressed love for God and His Word (law). Because God’s law is his delight (v.174), he wants to be taught His commandments and grow in his understanding of them all the more (vss.169, 171). He has chosen them as his own (v.173) and wants to be helped by them (v.175). Because God’s law reveals His grace and mercy in Christ, he longs for His salvation in them (v.174).
With this love goes praise for God’s Word and a desire to testify about it. This too the psalmist speaks of here (vss.171, 172, 176). He cannot keep still when God’s Word captivates his heart and shows him the way of life! His lips must tell of God’s greatness and goodness, of His truth and righteousness. His tongue must declare to others what God is and what He has done! This is the language of love for God and His Word.
And it is the language of all God’s saved people. This is the attitude we must have at all times in our lives, and especially when we enter the Lord’s house of worship. And this is the conduct we must have on the Lord’s Day and throughout the week. Shall not our lips also utter praise today out of love for God and His law?
Second, note the psalmist’s expressed dependence on the Lord for help in learning and keeping His commandments. Once again the element of prayer is strong. Eight times in this section alone the psalmist petitions God. This young man of God realizes his dependence on the Lord and His grace, and does not seek to live according to God’s law in his own power. Whether it be for understanding (v.169), or deliverance from sin and sinners (v.170), or quickening (v.175), or guidance (v.175), the psalmist beseeches God to bestow grace according to his need.
Such too is the behavior of all God’s children, young and old, weak and strong. We are all dependent on the Lord for grace to keep knowing His Word, to keep abiding in His Word, and to keep obeying His Word. Conscious of our own inability and of the power of the enemy (Satan, the world, and our own sinful nature), we dare not rely on self or rest on past victories. We rely on the Lord and rest in His grace in Christ alone. And so we pray. We live a life of petitioning, of crying and supplicating, to the God of our salvation. He alone is able to help us. He alone has grace sufficient for all our needs. Shall we not also start this week in such prayer, even as we praise God in our worship?
And finally, in light of the above, note how the psalmist ends this section and this entire psalm. He assumes the posture of a lost sheep and confesses his sinful strayings from God’s ways. He knows he has not perfectly remembered and walked in God’s commandments. He did forget at times to keep God’s law. He did wander like a foolish sheep into the paths of sin. When God desired truth, he chose falsehood. When God required righteousness, he chose crookedness. Yes, for all his love for God and His law, for all his desire to keep His precepts, for all his past obediences, still his sins rise up against him! Can we relate? If we are honest with ourselves, we can. If we let that law of God truly search us out, we can. As we take leave of this psalm, let us say it, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep!”
But that’s not the end. The end of Psalm 119 is a confession that God is our faithful Shepherd, Who for Christ’s sake shows us mercy and seeks us out, to bring us back to the safety of His fold. And so the psalmist confidently raises up one more petition: “seek thy servant”. Shall that not also be our prayer as we finish this psalm? “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Ps.23:1). “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep’ (Jn.10:11). Seek Him Who sought you and still seeks you in His sovereign grace.
If you wish to meditate on this last section of Psalm 119 through the music of the Psalter, I direct you to this page and this versification of the twenty-second stanza. May God and His Word be praised through our music and singing as well. Below are the lyrics; at the link you will also find piano accompaniment.
1. O let my supplicating cry
By Thee, my gracious Lord, be heard;
Give wisdom and deliver me
According to Thy faithful word.
2. Instructed in Thy holy law,
To praise Thy word I lift my voice;
O Lord, be Thou my present help,
For Thy commandments are my choice.
3. For Thy salvation I have longed,
And in Thy law is my delight;
Enrich my soul with life divine,
And help me by Thy judgments right.
4. Thy servant like a wandering sheep
Has lost the path and gone astray;
Restore my soul and lead me home,
For Thy commands I would obey.