Psalm 119 'zayin'

We’re up to the seventh stanza from Psalm 119 - verses 49 to 56 prefixed with the letter zayin.

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

49. Remember the word to Your servant, In which You have made me hope.

  • An interesting turn-around in this verse where David asks the Lord to remember His word.
  • Is this word the general revelation of God’s will to the Jewish people as David would have received it (the Torah or first five books of the Bible)? Is this some specific revelation or ‘word’ that David had received from the Lord and wants upheld?
  • David has placed his hope in this word and reminds the Lord of its existence.
  • In response to these verses Matthew Henry poses a couple of questions: ‘Has God kindled in us desires towards spiritual blessings more than towards any temporal good things, and will he not be so kind as to satisfy those desires? Has he filled us with hopes of those blessings, and will he not be so just as to accomplish these hopes?’
  • He answers those questions with ‘He that did by his Spirit work faith in us will, according to our faith, work for us, and will not disappoint us.’

50. This is my comfort in my affliction, That Your word has revived me.

  • There are some interesting tenses going on here: Firstly, that David is feeling or experiencing comfort at the moment in his affliction, and secondly that it is the word of the Lord that has revived him.
  • Note that David can feel comfort even whilst the affliction is still present. This runs contrary to much that we would expect today - that we feel comforted only when the affliction has been removed. Perhaps we don’t really understand the nature of comfort (or the purpose of affliction)?
  • The Lord’s word has the capacity or capability to revive. In this case the comfort is the revival the word has brought.
  • I think I vastly underestimate the nature and power of the word of the Lord. David didn’t.

51. The arrogant utterly deride me, Yet I do not turn aside from Your law.

  • The word translated as ‘deride’ is the Hebrew meod (H3966) and means the vehement and the exceedingly loud. Basically it refers to anyone who makes a lot of angry noise. The nature of any discussion and quality of the argument is irrelevant.
  • Presumably the derision relates to the Psalmist’s belief and demonstrated faith in the Lord for he will not turn aside from God’s law.
  • David is running foul of loud, vehement opposition from some quarters that is at odds with his understanding of God’s word. He chooses the later.
  • These words are apropos for Margaret Court and the many others such as Lyle Shelton who continue to proclaim the word of God in the face of derision (and ridicule, and abuse).

52. I have remembered Your ordinances from of old, O LORD, And comfort myself.

  • A slightly different take on the themes of revival and deliverance than we’ve seen to date. Here the Psalmist comforts himself through bringing to mind Scripture he has known in the past.
  • It’s basically a three step process - firstly, memorise Scripture; secondly, bring it to mind at an appropriate time in the future; thirdly, take comfort from what it declares.
  • In many ways the efficacy of this process is not so much in the words of Scripture, but in the faithfulness and steadfastness of God who is the author and keeper of the words.

53. Burning indignation has seized me because of the wicked, Who forsake Your law.

  • Strong words! The Psalmist is seized by burning indignation because of the actions of the wicked in disobeying the Law.
  • How often am we seized by a burning, righteous indignation when we hear of evils being committed, and how do we react?
  • It should drive us to prayer in the first instance, and to some other response where appropriate. These other actions could be to speak up and declare truth - to advocate or agitate.

54. Your statutes are my songs In the house of my pilgrimage.

  • One of the first verses in the Psalm without any punctuation apart from the concluding full stop.
  • I’m intrigued by the phrase ‘house of my pilgrimage’. Is he referring to the Temple, or to his body, or some other place of refuge? Matthew Henry leaves it open suggesting it could be a place of refuge, the world, and could even refer to David’s palace. In each of these places David is a pilgrim.
  • The phrase ‘Your statues are my songs’ suggests to me that God’s word is what David dwells on. He may well have set parts of the Torah to music and sung or strummed his way through God’s word that way.
  • Clearly many Psalms were both written by David and set to music (then and now) so we can have the Lord’s statutes as songs in our house(s) of pilgrimage, but that’s a circular argument in David’s case as he wrote these parts of Scripture.

55. O LORD, I remember Your name in the night, And keep Your law.

  • The word translated as ’night’ is the Hebrew layil (H3915) and means a ’twist away from the light’. Thus it can refer to the night time or to periods of adversity.
  • Both Matthew Henry and Paul E Kretzmann speak of the night time when David was reflecting and meditating on the Lord and His word when others were asleep. This doesn’t preclude the idea of affliction or adversity which causes sleeplessness.
  • In regard to periods of adversity, David indicates a preference to remember the Lord’s name - to live in the light of God’s word and reputation even in times of darkness.

56. This has become mine, That I observe Your precepts.

  • Another interesting turn of phrase! The Psalmist recognises that obedience to the word of the Lord has become part of who he is - ‘it has become mine’.
  • It is beyond the idea of a declaration or taking some responsibility - it is a recognition of a change in the way David lives.
  • The ESV [2011] translates it a little differently - ‘This blessing has fallen to me’.

Many of the verses in this stanza present different ways of interacting with and living with God’s word - from daytime to night-time; from being revived to being comforted to indignation at evil. I was strongly struck by verse 50 about the nature of affliction and comfort, and the power of the word to bring comfort during affliction.

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