Psalm 119 'resh'

Third last stanza. In this post we’re considering the twentieth stanza–verses 153 to 160 prefixed in the Hebrew with the letter resh.

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

153. Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your law.

  • Further prayers for relief–for ‘deliverance’ which is the Hebrew chalats (H2502). Its root meaning is to pull something off or strip something away.
  • He is not seeking reinforcements or resilience, but instead the removal of the cause of the affliction. It reminds me of Pau who prayed that the Lord would remove the thorn from his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
  • On the last clause Matthew Henry writes, ‘The more closely we cleave to the word of God, both as our rule and as our stay, the more assurance we may have of deliverance in due time.’ But can we know when it is due time?

154. Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to your promise!

  • It’s interesting to read the Psalmist asking the Lord to plead his case. A much more common expression or analogy is of the Lord as a judge (and indeed the Lord is a judge and will judge, but with absolute fairness and with all the facts).
  • Here the Lord is approached to be an advocate–one who supports and defends our case. John 14:21 and 1 John 2:1 speak of both Jesus and the Holy Spirit being advocates for believers.
  • The cause the Psalmist is seeking justice for is the freedom to exercise his faith in accordance with the Lord’s word.

155. Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek your statutes.

  • The Psalmist makes a point here whose subtlety may be lost. He doesn’t say ‘for they do not keep your statutes’, but ‘for they do not seek your statutes’.
  • The emphasis is on the seeking rather than the keeping. No one was begin to try to keep the law without seeking the law; but it is possible to begin seeking the law and not manage to keep it.
  • No one can keep the Lord’s statutes in their entirety. The purpose of the Law was to point people to the need for a redeemer (see Galatians 3 and particularly verses 10-11, 21-24).

156. Great is your mercy, O LORD; give me life according to your rules.

  • We see a number of key characteristics of the Lord reflected in this one verse: mercy, Lordship, sovereignty, redemption.
  • The Lord’s mercy is only relevant if He has the power and ability to redeem or rescue. Without these, mercy is empty for it cannot change the situation.
  • Sovereignty is of benefit to those who are subject to it with the presence of mercy. A tyrannical ruler is to be feared, but a ruler who exercises mercy where there is repentance is above all.
  • The Psalmist seeks the Lord’s mercy and redemption in acknowledgement of the Lord’s capacity to extend both.

157. Many are my persecutors and my adversaries, but I do not swerve from your testimonies.

  • The Psalmist here acknowledges tat he has many persecutors and adversaries. I would distinguish between the two by suggesting a persecutor is attacking someone because of their faith whereas an adversary is attacking for another reason–personal or political gain–for example.
  • The Hebrew words indicate different usage. ‘Persecutors’ is the Hebrew radaph (H7291) and means to run after, so this is to follow or pursue with hostile intent. ‘Adversary’ is the Hebrew tsar (H6862)which means narrow or a tight spot. The former expresses what the opponent is doing–pursuing; whereas the latter is the consequence–feeling confined or trapped.
  • In this state of pursuit and entrapment, the Psalmist declares that he does not swerve from the Lord’s testimonies. It is a statement of intent to continue to follow the Lord and of faith in the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness.

158. I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep your commands.

  • Strong language here where the Psalmist feels ‘disgust’. It is the Hebrew qut (H6962) and literally means to cut off, so figuratively it is used of someone or something that you want to be kept away from. Figuratively it conveys the ideas of detesting, loathing or grieving.
  • Other translations use the word loathe (NASB), disgust (NKJV) or hate (NLT). The KJV uses the somewhat milder-sounding ‘grieved’.
  • Interestingly the Psalmist’s grief or disgust is not because he is bearing the brunt of these evil acts, but he grieves from the Lord’s perspective for they ‘do not keep your commands’. He is aggrieved because they are provoking the Lord to anger and judgement.

159. Consider how I love your precepts! Give me life according to your steadfast love.

  • Is ‘consider how I love Your precepts’ something we can genuinely say and pray to the Lord?
  • Then, in the light of his stated love for the word of the Lord, the Psalmist prays for life that flows from and is in accordance with the Lord’s steadfast love. As we’ve seen before, this ‘life’ that the Psalmist speaks of is life, revival, restoration, wholeness.
  • And the Lord’s ‘steadfast love’ is the Hebrew chesed (H2617) and refers to kindness, mercy and favour. It is a gracious love and favour, not earned, but granted.

160. The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.

  • An interesting expression on the source and nature of truth. The word translated as ‘sum’ is the Hebrew rosh (H7218) and means the head or principal or top. It is the primary purpose or aim. Some other versions (NKJV and CSB) use the word ‘entirety’. The Amplified explains the verse as ‘the total of the full meaning of all Your individual precepts’–clunky, but helpful.
  • And each of the individual verses (all 31,102 per the KJV) has enduring effect and relevance.
  • Each verse reflects some aspect or fragment of truth, but it is when they are taken as a whole and in context that the full counsel of God is seen.

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