121I have done what is just and right;
do not leave me to my oppressors.
122Give your servant a pledge of good;
let not the insolent oppress me.
123My eyes long for your salvation
and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise.
124Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love,
and teach me your statutes.
125I am your servant; give me understanding,
that I may know your testimonies!
126It is time for the LORD to act,
for your law has been broken.
127Therefore I love your commandments
above gold, above fine gold.
128Therefore I consider all your precepts to be right;
I hate every false way.
I usually read a passage of scripture with the question “What does this say about God?” at the forefront of my mind. Reading the later portions of Psalm 119, I instead find myself struck by what this passage says about the psalmist.
- The psalmist places his request for God to “Teach me your statutes” third only behind requests for God not to leave him to his oppressors and for God to deal with him according to His steadfast love.
- The violation of God’s law (not a chance at some personal benefit) causes him to call on the LORD to act.
- He places his love for God’s commandments above gold.
- He axiomatically considers all of God’s precepts right, and harbors a hatred for every other way.
129Your testimonies are wonderful;
therefore my soul keeps them.
130The unfolding of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple.
131I open my mouth and pant,
because I long for your commandments.
132 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
as is your way with those who love your name.
133 Keep steady my steps according to your promise,
and let no iniquity get dominion over me.
134 Redeem me from man’s oppression,
that I may keep your precepts.
135 Make your face shine upon your servant,
and teach me your statutes.
136My eyes shed streams of tears,
because people do not keep your law.
The psalmist continues:
- His soul keeps God’s testimonies because he considers them wonderful.
- He recognizes God’s words as the source of light and understanding.
- His longing for God’s commandments drives him to pant.
- He asks to be redeemed from the oppression of men not for personal liberty but that he might keep God’s precepts.
- Tears constantly pour from his eyes because other people fail to keep God’s law.
137 Righteous are you, O LORD,
and right are your rules.
138You have appointed your testimonies in righteousness
and in all faithfulness.
139My zeal consumes me,
because my foes forget your words.
140Your promise is well tried,
and your servant loves it.
141I am small and despised,
yet I do not forget your precepts.
142Your righteousness is righteous forever,
and your law is true.
143Trouble and anguish have found me out,
but your commandments are my delight.
144Your testimonies are righteous forever;
give me understanding that I may live.
The list goes on:
- The psalmist is consumed by his own zeal when, of all things, his foes forget God’s words.
- He loves God’s promises.
- He considers himself insignificant and despised, but it seems that he couldn’t care less about that because he’s managed to remember God’s precepts.
- So great is his delight in God’s commandments that he is all but impervious to trouble and anguish. This is definitely not someone who sees God’s rules as a burden!
- He equates the understanding of God’s testimonies with his very ability to live.
This psalmist is something. I take him at his word that all of these statements are absolutely true, even if poetic. I’m sorry to say I’m having difficulty finding shared ground with him. I wish I could say I fully shared his views, but of course I don’t. I could say that I want to share the depth of his passion for God’s words and commands, but that too would be a lie, as ashamed as I am to admit it.
What if I take this one step lower? I wish that I wanted to have such an honestly passionate view of God’s words and precepts. Yes, I can say that in truth.
Dear Lord, forgive me for not being able to honestly echo the words of this psalmist. Have mercy upon me for harboring in some as-yet unclean corner of my heart a lack of desire to master your Word and your law as this psalmist has. Give me a pure and authentic passion to study your Word and obsessively pursue Your truth as aggressively as described here. Lead me to the point where I’m inconsolable at the very idea of failing to follow you with all my heart and all my soul and all my mind with all my strength. Amen.