J.Calvin on Psalm 119: – “…he did not search after vain consolation….”

Calvin PreachingFor our further reflection on and profit from the seventh section of Psalm 119 today, we also include these comments of John Calvin on the opening verse, v.49. May his thoughts also point us to the true comfort found in God’s Word and of our need to turn to that Word in all our troubles.

49. Remember thy word.

He prays that God would really perform what he promised; for the event proves that he does not forget his word. That he is speaking of the promises we infer from the end of the verse, in which he declares, that cause was given him to hope, for which there would be no place unless grace had been presented to him. In the second verse he asserts, that though God still kept him in suspense, yet he reposed with confidence in his word. At the same time he informs us, that during his troubles and anxieties, he did not search after vain consolation as the world is wont to do who look around them in all quarters to find something to mitigate their miseries; and if any allurements tickle their fancy, they make use of these as a remedy for alleviating their sorrows.

On the contrary, the prophet says he was satisfied with the word of God itself; and that when all other refuges failed him, there he found life full and perfect; nevertheless, he covertly confesses, that if he do not acquire courage from the word of God, he will become like a dead man. The ungodly may sometimes experience elevation of spirit during their miseries, but they are totally destitute of this inward strength of mind. The prophet, then, had good reason for stating, that in the time of affliction the faithful experience animation and rigor solely from the word of God inspiring them with life. 

Hence, if we meditate carefully on his word, we shall live even in the midst of death, nor will we meet with any sorrow so heavy for which it will not furnish us with a remedy. And if we are bereft of consolation and succor in our adversities, the blame must rest with ourselves; because, despising or overlooking the word of God, we purposely deceive ourselves with vain consolation.

Sunday Worship Preparation: Psalm 119g (Zain)

Psalm119gAs we continue to look at the Word of God in Psalm 119, we are up to the seventh (7th) section of this wonderful acrostic psalm. In this section the eight (8) lines/verses begin with the Hebrew letter “Zain” (or “zayin”, comparable to our “z”). For our purposes, this is how it reads in English (And, keep in mind that the psalmist also calls us to meditate in God’s Word, so reflect on it slowly and carefully.):


49 Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope.

50 This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.

51 The proud have had me greatly in derision: yet have I not declined from thy law.

52 I remembered thy judgments of old, O Lord; and have comforted myself.

53 Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law.

54 Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.

55 I have remembered thy name, O Lord, in the night, and have kept thy law.

56 This I had, because I kept thy precepts.

Each time we have looked at a section of this psalm, we have tried to note new aspects of the psalmist’s love for and devotion to the law of God. As he expresses throughout this psalm the beauty, truth, and power of God’s law (i.e., Word), so he also expands on the implications these things have on his own heart and life. In this seventh stanza too we may note some new thoughts. The idea of remembering is on the forefront here. Three times he uses this word, first in a prayer to the Lord, asking Him to remember His Word unto His servant (v.49). And then twice he talks of remembering God and His word (vss.52,55), even in the night. This shows that this young man had God’s law on his heart and mind all day and into the night before he fell asleep. And he was able to “remember” it, because he had meditated on it and memorized it.

That is a powerful reminder to us of the importance of committing God’s Word to memory and rehearsing it in our minds, both during the day and at night. If we wish to have God’s Word “handy” in times of need, then we need to meditate on it and memorize it. This psalm itself is a good place to start. Shall we memorize one verse from each section this summer?

Another theme in this section is that of comfort. You will notice that twice he uses that word specifically here (vss.50,52). The psalmist needed comfort because he was experiencing affliction in his life (v.50). It seems that affliction was primarily in the form of persecution, because in v.51 he refers to the “derision” (contempt, ridicule) of the proud, a suffering we have seen before in Psalm 119. What is important is that the psalmist’s comfort came directly from God’s Word. And don’t forget, that the “Word” the psalmist had was limited to the law (first five books of the Bible – perhaps a little more). We don’t think of this portion of God’s Word as being very comforting perhaps, but the psalmist did. That’s because God is revealed there, and God’s promises are set forth here too. That was all that the psalmist needed to be assured that he was the Lord’s, that God was for him, and that this affliction was for his saving profit.

Can we say the same? Our only comfort, of course, is belonging to Jesus Christ (Q&A 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism).  But what is the source of that comfort? God’s Word, where God Himself in all His comforting character is revealed, where our comforting salvation is described in all its fullness, and where the precious promises of God in Jesus are found. So, where do we go when we are in affliction? To God’s holy Word! Do we? Daily, for ALL our needs? Let the psalmist’s example be our model.

And finally, note that the psalmist also made God’s law his song, v.54. This is the first reference to the fact that this believer also sang God’s Word. We know the power of music and the great value of singing the psalms and the rest of Scripture, especially for comfort and hope. This is what the psalmist did as well. Knowing that he was a pilgrim in the earth, with no abiding place here but with a mansion being prepared for him in glory, he sang God’s Word to sustain and strengthen himself in the midst of affliction. They were his “songs in the night” (Job 35:10). I believe all of us have sung God’s Word in these circumstances. Yes, we come together today to sing God’s Word in worship, to thank and praise our great God. But we also sing together (and privately) to comfort one another in our varied afflictions and sorrows (see Eph.5:19 and Col.3:16). May we remember the power of God’s Word to do that too as we sing it.

For that purpose too, we include here the lyrics of our Psalter and encourage you to make use of the resources on our Psalter at our newly re-designed website. There you will also find the musical accompaniment with the lyrics below and a beautiful video of the PR Psalm Choir performing this versification of Psalm 119.

1. Lord, Thy word to me remember,
Thou hast made me hope in Thee;
This my comfort in affliction
That Thy word hath quickened me.

2. Mocked by those who are unrighteous,
Still to Thy commands I cleave;
Thinking on Thy former judgments,
Help and comfort I receive.

3. Wicked men Thy law forsaking
Stirred my indignation strong,
For in all my pilgrim journey
Thy commandments are my song.

4. Thou hast been my meditation
And Thy law hath been my guide;
I have kept Thy righteous precepts,
And have found them true and tried.