Psalm 119 'tav'

The last stanza! After spending nearly 6 months of daily considering a verse from Psalm 119, we’re at the end. This last stanza covers verses 169 to 176 and all begin in the Hebrew with the letter tav. It can also be transliterated as tau or taw.

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

169. Let my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word!

  • Are these two clauses related? Not necessarily for they can be viewed as independent prayers or requests, but they can be viewed together.
  • In the first clause the Psalmist is pleading for a hearing–that the Lord will hear and respond to his prayer.
  • And the apparent prayer being made is that the Psalmist be given understanding according to God’s word. Anyone can read the Bible, but it is equally clear that many can read it and have no read idea or understanding of what it is saying. I’ve done it myself too often–read a passage of Scripture and had no idea what it’s about. It is only the Holy Spirit that can give us the revelation of understanding.

170. Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to your word.

  • One of a few verses in the Psalm which is directly related to an adjacent verse. In this case the verse echoes or parallels the prior one.
  • In verse 169 the Psalmist asked that his cry come before the Lord, and here it is his plea that he is seeking to have heard. In the Hebrew a cry is a call or shout whereas a plea is an entreaty or supplication.
  • Here the Psalmist is seeking deliverance in accordance with the Lord’s word. Deliverance from what? We don’t know, but have seen repeatedly in both the Psalm and the life of David that people pursued him to destroy his life, his kingdom, his legacy and his reputation.

171. My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes.

  • The Psalmist identifies praise as one of the results of knowing, understanding and obeying the Lord’s word.
  • Praise hasn’t been widely mentioned in the Psalm, though we did see a reference to it in the reflections on the previous stanza at verse 164 (and it appears again in verses 172 and 175).
  • The word rendered as ‘praise’ is the Hebrew thillah (H8416) and specifically refers to a hymn of praise–played and/or sung rather than spoken words. Interestingly many of the Psalms were written to be sung.
  • Praise, whether spoken, thought or sung is an obvious consequence of knowing God–we respond with thanksgiving when we realise how the Lord loves us, what He has done to redeem us, and how He continues to sustain us.

172. My tongue will sing of your word, for all your commandments are right.

  • A further declaration of praise. This is in line with our previous verse’s use of the Hebrew thillah indicating musical praise rather than spoken. Here the Psalmist declares he will sing of God’s word.
  • The word translated as ‘sing’ is the Hebrew anah (H6030) and refers to the idea of heeding or responding generally with speech and more specifically with singing.
  • And the basis for this response of (sung) praise is the rightness of the Lord’s commandments. God’s word spoken to us calls for a response and the most appropriate one is of thanks and praise.

173. Let your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts.

  • A verse seeking the Lord’s help in light of the fact that the Psalmist has chosen to follow the Lord’s precepts.
  • It sounds like presumption or bargaining–help me because I follow You–but it is the Lord’s desire that we obey His words and He has promised care and grace to those who put their faith in Him. Isaiah 26:3-4 reads, ‘You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.’
  • Matthew Henry makes an interesting observation on the second clause. He writes, ‘I took [Your precepts] for my rule, not because I knew no other, but because, upon trial, I knew no better.’

174. I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight.

  • The Psalmist expresses a desire for the Lord’s salvation. What is the nature of this salvation? Is it deliverance from persecution, is it the final redemption when he leaves this earth? Yes.
  • The Hebrew rendered as ‘salvation’ is yshuah (H3444) and refers to something saved or delivered so David may be referring to deliverance from persecution or to the salvation of his soul or to both.
  • In any case he declares that the law is his delight. As Matthew Henry observes, ‘Those that are cheerful in their obedience may in faith beg help of God to carry them on in their obedience; and those that expect God’s salvation must take delight in his law and their hopes must increase their delight.’

175. Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me.

  • Both clauses use the verb ’let’ as the basis of these two requests of the Lord. The realisation or recognition that we can (and should) make these types of requests of the Lord demonstrates an understanding of the sovereignty of the Lord.
  • We rely daily, hourly on the Lord for our lives–not only for our own bodily functions but also for suitable conditions in which to live and praise.
  • But we also need to Lord’s help (through the instruction, guidance and revelation of the Holy Spirit) of God’s word or ‘rules’.

176. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments.

  • The last verse of Psalm 119!
  • The Psalmist recognises he has gone astray. He also recognises that he needs help to find his way back to the flock and the shepherd so he asks the Lord to seek him out.
  • The last word is Matthew Henry’s, ‘Observe here, (1) It is the character of good people that they do not forget God’s commandments, being well pleased with their convictions and well settled in their resolutions. (2) Even those who, through grace, are mindful of their duty, cannot but own that they have in many instances wandered from it. (3) Those that have wandered from their duty, if they continue mindful of it, may with a humble confidence commit themselves to the care of God’s grace.’

In the next few days I intend to post some concluding thoughts and something of a summary of Psalm 119.

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