For our worship preparation this Lord’s Day we consider the next section (the twentieth) of Psalm 119, which consists of verses 153-160. This stanza in the psalmist’s love-song on the Law-Giver and His law is headed by the transliterated Hebrew word “Resh”, since the eight lines in this section all begin with this Hebrew letter (comparable to our “r”). As we meditate on this part of Psalm 119, may we consciously apply these words to our worship of our Triune God and Father this day. Here is the Word of God which we love in this place:
153 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.
155 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.
157 Many are my persecutors and mine enemies; yet do I not decline from thy testimonies.
158 I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved; because they kept not thy word.
159 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.
What we notice at the outset here is that the psalmist’s suffering and persecution are on the foreground. He speaks of “his affliction” (misery, poverty), which we know at this point from the rest of the psalm is the pain of being pressed by wicked law-breakers, especially because he is a law-keeper (vss.153, 157, 159). Notice how in v.157 he states that these wicked persecutors and enemies are “many”! Not merely a handful were opposing him in his Christian life, but many were opposing him and seeking to bring him down. Many were trying to lead him out of his love and liberty of God’s law into the bondage of sin and enmity against God.
Do we also feel that pressure of the unbelieving world about us? Do we bear the reproach of Christ because we are law-abiding citizens in God’s kingdom?
But by the power of God’s grace he was resisting and holding firm to God and His way of life. The love of God for him was his strength in abiding in love for God and His Word. He had not forgotten God’s law (v.153). He had not declined from His testimonies (v.157). He knows how true and righteous God’s law is (v.160). God’s Word is reliable and faithful, and he has depended on it for all his needs. He even asks God to “consider” (see, perceive, inspect) his love for His precepts. And by the power of this divine love the psalmist even expressed love for his enemies (out of supreme love for God!). Note vss.155 and 158: as he beheld these transgressors, he realized that salvation was far from them because they did not seek God’s statutes; he was grieved deeply because they did not keep God’s Word. He had pity on them – and no doubt prayed for them!
Do we have the same attitude toward our enemies and God’s? Or do we simply turn our backs on them? That is easy to do, but it is not the way of love for God or our neighbor. Their rebellion and reproach should turn into our pity and prayers.
Finally. notice once again too the psalmist’s earnest prayers to the Lord. I count eight (8) petitions in these eight verses. That reveals that while he was committed to God and His way, he was also deeply conscious of the difficulty of that way. He knew well the power of the enemy and the weakness of his own flesh.Though faithful, he dared not trust himself. Besides, he also knew the Lord’s tender mercies to him in Christ (v.156). And so he casts himself on the Lord. “Consider mine affliction, and deliver me! Plead my cause (as my defense Lawyer), and deliver me!” And three times he prays for quickening (making alive, renewal). Why that request so often? Because he knew the deadness of his sinful nature and sensed his spiritual life waning under the pressure of persecution. He needed and wanted the revival of his new life in Christ. “Quicken me!”
Are these also our petitions? Are we keenly aware of our own insufficiency to stand in this battle against law-breaking and for law-keeping? Or have we become too self-confident, too casual, too careless in the battle? Then we are destined to cave in to the wicked’s pressure. Then we will collapse spiritually and fail to love God and His Word as we ought. But let us realize the strength of the foe, the weakness of ourselves – and the God of our salvation – and pray to Him for grace to withstand and to stand! Then the psalmist’s testimony will be ours.
If you wish to reflect on the wisdom of this Word of God through music, you are encouraged to make use of our Psalter and this versification of this 20th stanza of Psalm 119. Here are the lyrics; you will find the piano accompaniment at the link provided.
1. Regard my grief and rescue me,
For I do not forget Thy laws;
As Thou hast promised, save me, Lord;
Redeem my soul, and plead my cause.
2. Far is salvation from the men
Who do not seek Thy statutes, Lord;
Great are Thy mercies, quicken me
According to Thy holy word.
3. I bear the spite of many foes,
Yet from Thy law I do not swerve;
I saw the faithless and was grieved,
For they Thy word do not observe.
4. Behold how I Thy precepts love!
In kindness, Lord, revive Thou me;
The sum of all Thy word is truth,
Thy word abides eternally.