Psalm 119 'kaf'

We’re looking at the eleventh stanza of Psalm 119 - verses 81 to 88 prefixed with the letter kaf. This will bring us to the half way mark in the Psalm.

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

81. My soul languishes for Your salvation; I wait for Your word.

  • Interesting to see the words ’languishes’ and ‘wait’ in this verse. It runs counter to the idea common in Christian (and other) circles that we always need to be doing something.
  • The word languishes is from the Hebrew kalah (H3615) and expresses the idea of ending or completing, to faint or to fail. It is more than just lying around and strikes me as the idea of fading away.
  • And this languishing soul is looking for the salvation that comes from the Lord. It can only come from the Lord. So David waits hopefully and patiently for the Lord’s word to be fulfilled.

82. My eyes fail with longing for Your word, While I say, “When will You comfort me?”

  • Continues this idea from yesterday’s verse of waiting expectantly and hopefully.
  • This time David is seeking comfort from the Lord’s word - the fulfilment of the word of the Lord.
  • Matthew Henry observes that:
    1. ‘The salvation and consolation of God’s people are secured to them by the word, which will certainly be fulfilled in its season.’
    2. ‘The promised salvation and comfort may be, and often are, long deferred, so that they are ready to faint and fall in the expectation of them.’
    3. ‘Though we think the time long ere the promised salvation and comfort come, yet we must still keep our eye upon that salvation, and resolve to take up with nothing short of it.’

83. Though I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget Your statutes.

  • I’m not sure what this simile is pointing to. What are the characteristics of a wineskin in smoke? Wrinkled? Grey? Blotchy? Smelly? Unusable until cleaned? Permanently damaged?
  • The reference to not forgetting the Lord’s statutes would point to age or the passing of time.
  • Regardless of the cultural transference of the smoky wineskin analogy, the point is that the Psalmist is declaring he doesn’t forget the Lord’s statutes. These are a part of his identity and direction because he has long been reading, memorising, studying, meditating on and seeking to live by and abide in these statutes.
  • Matthew Henry suggests that, ‘a leathern bottle, which, if it hung any while in the smoke, was not only blackened with soot, but dried, and parched, and shrivelled up. David was thus wasted by age, and sickness, and sorrow.’ Despite that unattractive picture, he continues, ‘Whatever our outward condition is we must not cool in our affection to the word of God, nor let that slip out of our minds; no care, no grief, must crowd that out.’

84. How many are the days of Your servant? When will You execute judgment on those who persecute me?

  • There seems to be a a common thread through this and the preceding three verses - that David is getting old and/or frail and he wants to see God’s vindication before he dies.
  • David’s soul is languishing (v. 81), his eyes are failing (v. 82), he has become like a wineskin subjected to smoke (v. 83) and now he is asking how many days he has.
  • David is seeking justice to be mete out by God on those who persecute David.
  • The first clause reminds me of Psalm 90:12, ‘So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.’ They are coming from different places and have different emphases, however.

85. The arrogant have dug pits for me, Men who are not in accord with Your law.

  • Continues the theme of affliction by David’s enemies.
  • The pit that has been dug is (hopefully) metaphorical. The Hebrew words translated as ‘dug pits’ can also be read as plotting a fall - so it is conspiring to bring about David’s downfall or at least a fall.
  • David draws a comparison between those who are digging the pits and those ‘who are not is accord with Your law’.
  • This idea of being ‘in accord with Your law’ isn’t referring to those who pay lip service to God and His laws, but to those who are living consistently as God would have them. It’s those who aren’t wilfully sinning but instead intentionally seeking to live holy lives.

86. All Your commandments are faithful; They have persecuted me with a lie; help me!

  • Further commentary on those who are persecuting David. The pits they have dug (from verse 85) are lies. The intention is to discredit David.
  • There is a strong contrast between the commandments of the Lord - which are faithful, trustworthy and true, and the lies of those seeking to persecute David.
  • David seeks the Lord’s help against his persecutors. He anticipates some relief because the Lord’s commandments are faithful.

87. They almost destroyed me on earth, But as for me, I did not forsake Your precepts.

  • David lets God know (and us) that the plotting and digging and persecution and affliction against him almost succeeded - ’they almost destroyed me’.
  • The qualifier ‘on earth’ is interesting because it points to a knowledge that there is something more. Perhaps it is because his thought or prayer is expressed to God ‘in heaven’, but it strikes me that David has an understanding that his eternal future could not be destroyed.
  • And the basis for that confidence is because he did not forsake the Lord’s precepts. David was obedient to the word of God and trusting in God’s revealed character and nature.

88. Revive me according to Your lovingkindness, So that I may keep the testimony of Your mouth.

  • The Psalmist is again seeking/praying for personal revival (not in the sense it was/is used in Christian circles today) - for the Lord to preserve and restore David.
  • And this request is consistent with the Lord’s lovingkindness - because of His demonstrated love for His people and His creation.
  • David concludes the stanza by stating the reason for his request - so he can keep the testimony of the Lord’s mouth - to be able to attest to the Lord’s goodness and trustworthiness.

This brings us to the end of the first half of Psalm 119. I intend to take a break from meditating on the verses from this Psalm and posting those reflections for the next few months and resume the second half in July.

  1. Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation. ↩︎