Psalm 119 'ayin'

We’ve made it as far as the sixteenth stanza of Psalm 119 - from verses 121 to 128 prefixed with the letter ayin.

These verses, from the ESVĀ®1, interspersed with my comments are:

121. I have done what is just and right; do not leave me to my oppressors.

  • One of the very few verses in the Psalm that doesn’t make specific reference to God’s word, testimonies, precepts, law, way, etc. The next verse is in the same league.
  • A prayer or plea to the Lord for protection or escape from David’s oppressors.
  • Interestingly the basis for David’s appeal is that he has ‘done what is just and right’. We tend to think in relative terms - that I am more just and right than … (insert name of more evil person here), but God looks at absolutes. Any lack of justice or righteousness incurs God’s judgement because of His absolute holiness, but our righteousness is imputed or acquired by faith in Jesus.

122. Give your servant a pledge of good; let not the insolent oppress me.

  • Prayer for some assurance of protection or relief from oppressors.
  • As is common throughout this Psalm, we don’t know if the danger is physical or reputational (perhaps both) and is seeking safety from these insolent oppressors.
  • The word ‘insolent’ is the Hebrew zed (H2086) and refers to the proud or arrogant.
  • I would suggest the pledge of good the Psalmist is seeking is a specific instance of protection or vindication.

123. My eyes long for your salvation and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise.

  • There is an interesting use of tense in this verse, as well as the use of singular versus plural terms.
  • The Psalmist speaks of his salvation as a future event. I don’t know how the Jews perceived salvation, but a lot of it was tied to being a nation physically present in the land of Israel. In this case the Psalmist may be referring to the same protection we’ve seen in the previous two verses.
  • Interestingly the Lord’s righteous promise is expressed in the singular - rather than ‘promises’. The Hebrew word is imrah or emrah (H565) and refers to a (spoken) word or commandment.
  • I think it likely that the Psalmist is looking forward to the time when the Lord’s promised protection or vindication becomes a reality.

124. Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love, and teach me your statutes.

  • David refers to himself as ‘your servant’, so he is binding himself to the Lord and His service.
  • David seeks to be dealt with on the basis of the Lord’s steadfast love. The Hebrew here is the word chesed (H2617) which means kindness and favour. We could also look upon it as grace.
  • In response to this chesed, David asks the Lord to teach him the Lord’s statutes - so he can respond with obedience.

125. I am your servant; give me understanding, that I may know your testimonies!

  • Here’s a prayer that all believers could use. It recognises three things that I’ll specifically refer to below:
  • Firstly, it continues the acknowledgement made by David in verse 124 of servanthood - of being bound or indentured to the Lord having being purchased by Him (Galatians 3:13).
  • Secondly, we need the Lord (through the Holy Spirit) to give us spiritual understanding and the ability to see truth (John 14:26).
  • Thirdly, the imperative to know the word of the Lord - to be reading, studying and meditating on it (appropriating Paul’s exhortation to Timothy recorded in 2 Timothy 2:15 and the more general exhortation in 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

126. It is time for the LORD to act, for your law has been broken.

  • This is a statement that could apply any time of any day, but presumably the Psalmist had something specific in mind relating to those who were seeking to harm him physically or damage his reputation or legacy.
  • It is an acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty in judgement - that the Lord’s laws have been broken and the Lord must be the one to judge.
  • But there is also the suggestion (to my reading) that the Psalmist has done everything he can in his present situation and now realises that restoration or vindication can only be secured by the Lord.

127. Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold.

  • I’m not quite tracking with the use of ’therefore’ here. This verse (and the next) don’t seem to specifically relate to or flow on from the previous ones.
  • Most of the major translations I use begin the verse with ‘Therefore’ - ESV, NASB, NKJV, Amplified. The CSB seems to better capture the flow of the text beginning verse 127 with ‘Since’ and having verse 128 flow on in the light of verse 127.
  • We can read verse 127 as a single thought of ‘I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold’. That is the value the Psalmist places on the word of the Lord. Should we value it any less?

128. Therefore I consider all your precepts to be right; I hate every false way.

  • Another ’therefore’ - this time continuing the idea from verse 127 of the value that the Psalmist places on the Lord’s word.
  • Because the Psalmist loves and values the word of the Lord above gold, he considers all of the Lord’s precepts to be right and hates deception and falsehood.
  • There is never a day when this is not relevant or important, but perhaps more so in these days when genuine discussion and legitimate questions concerning government responses to the corona virus and the quality and transparency of health authority advice are shut down by government, health departments, mainstream media and tech giants.

There have been some interesting verses in this stanza. The stand out to me is verse 125 ‘I am your servant; give me understanding, that I may know your testimonies’ which is a prayer acknowledging service to the Lord and seeking divine understanding of the Lord’s word.

  1. Scripture quotations taken from the ESV. Copyright by Crossway. ↩︎