Psalm 119 'tet'

We’re up to the ninth stanza from Psalm 119 - verses 65 to 72 prefixed with the letter tet.

These verses, from the NASB®1, interspersed with my comments read as follows:

65. You have dealt well with Your servant, O LORD, according to Your word.

  • An interesting phrase or concept - that God has ‘dealt well’ with David. Equally interesting is David’s observation of this state of affairs.
  • We can rely on the fact that God will deal with us is accordance with His word.
  • Matthew Henry observes ‘However God has dealt with us, we must own he has dealt well with us, better than we deserve, and all in love and with design to work for our good. In many instances God has done well for us beyond our expectations.’

66. Teach me good discernment and knowledge, For I believe in Your commandments.

  • The Psalmist recognises the need for both good discernment and knowledge. Good discernment strikes me as being akin to judgement (or closely related). The word translated as ‘discernment’ is the Hebrew taam (H2940) and means perception and understanding.
  • David seeks both knowledge and the capacity to read and understand people/situations. Knowledge can be seen as knowing what to do; judgement or discernment speaks to knowing if and when to do it.
  • The Lord’s commandments and word can provide discernment and knowledge; but these are best provided by and moderated by the Holy Spirit as we apply His wisdom and teaching into situations.

67. Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word.

  • We need to grasp the relationship between the affliction and the straying. Presumably the straying precipitated the affliction and had the effect of modifying David’s behaviour.
  • Matthew Henry puts the cause, effect and timing such that David was going astray, the Lord then afflicted him (or allowed afflictions) to discipline and correct his behaviour. David now keeps the Lord’s word.
  • The New Living Translation2 seems to put is best: ‘I used to wander off until you disciplined me; but now I closely follow your word.’
  • But how well do we understand affliction? Do we see it as the effects of a fallen world, or as the Lord’s discipline, or as some attack from the evil one, maybe just as bad luck, or do we even think about its source and effects? Some of these viewpoints are not exclusive.

68. You are good and do good; Teach me Your statutes.

  • David speaks of the nature and character of God - that the Lord is good, and does good. You can have one without the other, but I would hold that there would be failure and inconsistency in the results.
  • Given that the Lord is good and does good, then the words of the Lord as also good and bring about good results or outcomes that are consistent with the character and purposes of God.
  • Given that the words of the Lord are good and bring about good, it makes sense that David would want to learn these statutes.
  • It also makes sense that any believer should be seeking knowledge and understanding of God’s word for all of those same reasons.

69. The arrogant have forged a lie against me; With all my heart I will observe Your precepts.

  • Different versions render the word ‘arrogant’ as insolent (ESV) or proud (NKJV). There is a smear campaign being conducted against David - untruths have been created and spread.
  • David’s response is not revenge, or justification or spreading lies in response; but obedience to God’s word.
  • Obedience to God’s word doesn’t preclude responding to correct the lies, but it does dictate how we behave - with love and truth in equal measure.

70. Their heart is covered with fat, But I delight in Your law.

  • Some ugly imagery in this first clause! Sounds like a continuation from the previous verse about the arrogant who have slandered David with lies.
  • The most likely meaning of the verse is that these arrogant people who wrongfully slander David are content and relaxed in their pride, and have grown fat and are unfeeling and unresponsive to the word of God.
  • The corollary is to delight in God’s law - to be responsive and obedient to truth rather than content and even prideful in sin.

71. It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.

  • This is similar to verse 67 above - that affliction can be a positive experience if it moves us towards God.
  • I think we can safely assert that the Lord brought or allowed the afflictions that caused David to learn the Lord’s statutes.
  • This idea of ’learning the Lord’s statutes’ doesn’t necessarily mean learning memory verses, but can be that David came to understand and experience the truth of God’s word in his life in a new or deeper way.
  • Matthew Henry summaries the teaching as, ‘God visited him with affliction, that he might learn God’s statutes; and the intention was answered: the afflictions had contributed to the improvement of his knowledge and grace.’
  • We see similar teaching in Hebrews 16:6 which tells us ‘For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines’.

72. The law of Your mouth is better to me Than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

  • What price truth? David values it more highly than thousands of gold and silver pieces. His valuation is figurative because truth, properly understood and lived is priceless.
  • Truth these days isn’t valued highly. Political correctness, mob-mentality ‘cancel culture’, polarisation such that if you’re not 100% with us then you must be 100% against us, absolute black or white, tolerate everything except a Christian worldview. These are the new ’truths’ which aren’t truths at all.

Reflecting briefly on these past eight verses, the idea of affliction and our recognising and understanding value and purpose in it sticks with me.

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

  2. New Living Translation, copyright ©1996 by Tyndale House Foundation ↩︎