Psalm 119 'lamed'

Continuing on to record my reflections on a verse of Psalm 119 each day that began here and left off here.

We’re looking at the twelfth of twenty-two stanzas of Psalm 119 - verses 89 to 96 prefixed with the letter lamed.

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

89. Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.

  • This verse firstly contains the idea that the Lord’s words are for perpetuity - continuing forever.
  • They are everlasting decrees - with effect and power and effective and effectual forever. Our laws and codes come and go with changes in technology, demographics, economics, ’enlightenment’, progress (good and bad).
  • To be ‘firmly fixed in the heavens’ reinforces this idea of universal application and relevance. They are set over and above us. Visible, yet unchangeable.

90. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.

  • One of the very few verses in the Psalm that doesn’t make some direct reference to the word of God (or testimony, or precept, or commandment, or law, etc). Verse 37 was the first.
  • Continues the ideas of eternal endurance and immutability, but this time ascribing them to the Lord’s faithfulness and His commitment to His creation.
  • Across these two verses what is eternal and immutable is both the efficacy of the word of God and His faithfulness.
  • God’s faithfulness is seen in and demonstrated by His word.

91. By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants.

  • It’s not clear to me what ’they’ are. Is it the word of the Lord (from verse 89) or the earth (from verse 90)? I assume from the plural that it is the law or statutes of the Lord that stand?
  • Matthew Henry takes a different view - that the ’they’ are the heavens and the earth because ’the stability of the ordinances of the day and night, of heaven and earth, is produced to prove the perpetuity of God’s covenant.’
  • He continues that this fulfills the covenant promise to Noah recorded in Genesis 8:22.
  • The NASB contains the word ‘ordinances’ fulfilling the concept that the vast majority of verses in this Psalm make reference to God’s law in some way. The first clause reads, ‘They stand this day according to Your ordinances’.

92. If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.

  • Draws a direct connection or benefit between delighting in the law and being saved or redeemed from affliction. We don’t know what the affliction was or how David was saved from perishing by delighting in the law.
  • It raises the question of whether I delight in the Lord’s word.
  • Matthew Henry makes the point that, whilst we are not kept from affliction, we can be kept from perishing in it - of being kept through it.
  • Matthew Henry finishes his commentary on this verse by saying, ‘His converse with God’s law, and his meditations on it, were his delightful entertainment in solitude and sorrow. A Bible is a pleasant companion at any time if we please.’

93. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life.

  • A declaration by the Psalmist about the character of God’s word and the impact it has had on his life - the precepts of the Lord have given life to David, and, as a result, he declares to never forget God’s word.
  • The word translated as ’life’ is the Hebrew chayah (H2421) usually translated as ‘revive’ and has shades of meaning covering nourishment, restoration or being made whole.
  • The words or precepts of the Lord are the means of transmission of this revival or restoration but it is the Lord who is the source.

94. I am yours; save me, for I have sought your precepts.

  • The Psalmist sees and makes a direction connection between belonging to God, God’s word, and redemption or salvation.
  • The word ‘save’ is the Hebrew yasha (H3467) and at its root means to be open wide or free. By implication it contains the idea of being made free or preserved.
  • I see this idea of seeking the Lord’s precepts to include reading, study, meditation and obedience. There must be both a study of God’s word as well as the desire and intent to apply it.

95. The wicked lie in wait to destroy me, but I consider your testimonies.

  • There have been a number of instances in this Psalm where David has lamented those who would seek to destroy his life and/or reputation and/or legacy and/or family and/or kingdom.
  • The specific situation here is not known to us, but it may be a physical ambush that David was aware of or anticipating. Certainly there were occasions where Saul pursued David with murderous intent (1 Samuel 22 and 23 records some attempts).
  • In the specific case of Saul’s pursuit of David, David’s response was shaped by the Lord’s testimonies (1 Samuel 24:6, 10).
  • Our responses when we are suffering/attacked/persecuted must also be shaped by the Lord’s testimonies.

96. I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad.

  • An interesting contrast is drawn between ‘all perfection’ and the Lord’s commandments.
  • Matthew Henry says David had seen the strongest (Goliath), the swiftest (Asahel), the wisest (Ahithophel) and fairest (Absalom) all fail and fall; but David had also seen that the word of the Lord is eternal.
  • The Amplified Bible puts it this way: ‘I have seen that everything [human] has its limits and end [no matter how extensive, noble, and excellent]; but Your commandment is exceedingly broad and extends without limits [into eternity].’

It’s been good to get back to this Psalm.

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