Hey, I am going to apologize in advance for the length of this and the fact that it is a rough draft, but I need it to be backed up. I could also use some feedback on it. Hope you enjoy.
Prayers and Meditations of 119th Psalm
Psalms 119 is a very relatable psalm for me and I think many people. It kind of follows the tone of Romans 7; that is, wanting to do the right thing, knowing that the right thing is best, and yet struggling to do the right thing. We can take comfort knowing that David “the man after God’s own heart” struggled and failed like we do. This is not acceptance of our failures as a necessity, allowing sin to move in, but it’s a refusal to get discouraged or give up the fight. I won’t go over the whole thing, since it is a very long psalm, but I will talk about some key verses that have really impacted my thinking. Not necessarily chronological either.
Joy in God versus Counterfeit Joy
Psalms 119:1-3 “Happy are people of integrity, who follow the law of the Lord. Happy are those who obey his decrees and search for him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and walk only in his paths.” (NLT)
Happiness is not found in sin, it’s found in God. That’s why David said in Psalms 16:11 “You will show me the path of life,in your presence is fullness of joy and at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (NKJV) God’s way are the path to life. David later cries out in this same psalm (v35): “Make me walk in the path of Your commandments for that is where my happiness is found.” (NLT)
Sin is like junkfood, tasty at first, but unfulfilling at last. Have you ever been hungry and had no food but candy or cupcakes and then proceeded to eat a bunch of them, hoping to fill your appetite? What happens? At first it’s delicious, but in the end you aren’t any more satisfied, on the contrary, now you are hungry and sick. Do see you see the connection? Sometimes seeking God is not easy, the promises of the Bible seem so far away, God even seems distant, and sometimes God doesn’t even feel appealing. In times like that it is tempting to settle for a cheap and available substitute.
These are times when we must walk by faith, trusting that there is fullness of joy in God’s presence, trusting that these counterfeit joys will hurt us, even if every cell in our bodies tell us otherwise. That is why it is said: the just shall live by faith (Habbakuk 2:4).
Our deepest needs aren’t met in sex, drugs, alcohol, food, popularity, or anything this world can offer. Not only are our deepest needs unmet when we seek them in things other than God, the thing we are seeking them in becomes dysfunctional too. For instance, if you are trying to find the joy that’s found in God in a spouse, well then your needs will go unmet and you will expect too much from your spouse and hurt the relationship.
Psalms 119:5 “Oh that my ways were directed to keep your statutes.”
When anyone accepts Christ he is a new creation (2 Cor 5:17), he is cleansed from the stain of sin and is spiritually alive. So why aren’t we automatically perfect? Justification (right legal standing before God) is instantaneous, sanctification (being made holy in this life) is the process of a lifetime. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we have spiritual baggage and strongholds that must be taken care of through inner healing and deliverance, and this can be an instant breakthrough, like a feeling of new birth; even after already being saved. Yet, the flesh remains. If a 25 year old man gets saved, he has 25 years of instinct of living according to the world, the flesh, and the devil. That doesn’t usually get immediately erased. We are conceived in sin with a sinful nature (Ps 51:5) and continue to have that instinct. We don’t have to learn sin just as we don’t have to learn to be afraid while standing next a very high cliff. Yet when we become followers of Jesus we are called to live with a different mindset. Do not walk according to flesh, but spirit (Gal 5:16). Have the mind of Christ (Phil 2:5) and do not conform but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2). The renewing of one’s mind is a process. It’s like learning to rock climb after 25 years of being afraid of heights. The person is harnessed in and supervised by a professional yet when he looks down he is still terrified. If he follows his feeling, he will give up. If he has faith in the rope and the instructor, he will press on past his instincts and keep going. If he continues to do this faithfully, he will eventually develop a new set of instincts and a new perspective; will there still be a nervousness after many years of climbing? Probably, because his eyes still might tell him that if he falls, he will die. Yet, those instincts are not nearly as strong. In this last section we learned by the Word of God that sin just leads to misery and following God leads to fullness of joy; what do we do when every cell in our body and every thought in our minds says “drinking (or pornography, or popularity, etc) has what I need.”? We stand firm in faith. We say “pshh God is way better” by faith. The more we walk by faith, the more our instincts and feelings are sanctified, making it obvious that God is better. We let the Word of God lead our paths by faith; which we will talk about more later. Without faith it’s impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6)
Responsibility and Dependence
Ps119:10 “With my whole heart I have sought you; oh let me not wander from your commandments!”
Ps119:18 Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from your law.
Ps119:32 “I will run the course of your commands, for you shall enlarge my heart.”
Ps119:33-37 “Teach, O LORD, the way of Your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law, Indeed I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to covetousness. Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way.”
Ps119:147 “I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.”
Something I love about this chapter is the raw humanity of it. David wants to follow God wholeheartedly, yet he knows his weakness. He also knows that if God gives a commandment, he will enable one to follow it. That is why all throughout this verse we can read David’s confident resolutions, his lamenting over his sinful ways and instincts, his plea for grace, and his confidence in God’s empowering to help him succeed. What can we learn from this? It’s possible for us to pursue God by His grace, absolutely difficult, and it will take our whole hearted commitment. And at times we will still fail. Sanctification is a cooperation. God empowers and enables, yet we have responsibility. The Bible never tells us what percentage of sanctification is human effort and what percentage is divine effort; but it does tell us to pursue wholeheartedly. It’s not fair for a man to blame God for “making him a drunk” if he hangs out with friends who drink, hangs out in areas with a lot of drinking, isn’t in prayer, and isn’t in the Word. Jesus gives us a picture of how difficult it may be to fight off sin: “If your right hand eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30) Our spiritual renewal begins inside, but external actions are still spiritual. Paul says to run from anything that stimulates youthful lust, not stand there thinking that you are spiritual enough to resist it, run! What did Joseph do when Potiphar’s wife came onto him? Did he say, “I’m way spiritual to be tempted by such a trivial earthly thing”? No, he booked it so fast that his clothes ripped because he knew that he was apt to fail. Look what happened when David took a second glance at Bathsheba. We have (and want more) heart change, but sometimes practical life choices and inner transformation go hand in hand and work off of each other. If we are unwilling to let go of friends, throw out a computer, spend more time in prayer and the word, or do whatever it takes to break off sin, then our repentance is not deep enough. We must cry out for a greater hatred for sin, love of the Lord, fear of the Lord, and a deeper repentance. God doesn’t ask perfection, He asks willingness, wholeheartedness, and faith.
Occupying the Land and Staying on Guard
Matt. 12:43-44 ” When an impure spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says ‘ I will return to the house from which I came ‘ And when it comes, it finds the house unoccupied, swept and put in order.”
Ps 119:11 “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
John 17:17 “Sanctify them by your truth, your word is truth.”
Phillipians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.”
Matt. 26:41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”
1 Cor 10:12 “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”
Let me ask some obvious questions: is it easier to invade a place with no walls, guards, and towers or a place that is heavily fortified? Is it easier to spot a dark clothed intruder in a lit up area or a darkened area? Of course we know the answer. This is a principle that must be applied spiritually. When our minds are full of scripture and our mouths full of praise; it’s much harder for sin to get in. Meditating on scriptures or carrying around written scripture is a powerful tactic. When an invading thought comes; it’s spotted right away by the spotlight of God’s word and then cut down with the sword of His spirit (or possibly repeatedly cut down as long as it tries to assault you). Often times I have been tempted, and then I catch myself saying “Turn my eyes from worthless things and give me life through your word”. I then might tie that into other verses in Psalms 119 and the rest of the Bible. It’s called a sword for a reason! It’s not just keeping the word memorized, but also at the forefront of our consciousnesses. This may be hard, but keep with it! When we push out pointless, worldly thoughts and stay in the Word and with God mentally, we grow stronger and learn to delight in Him more; which is also to grow stronger and more joyful! Think of the disciples that fell asleep at the garden of Gethsemane; they let the enemies right in. I think this is beyond historical, but spiritual. The garden in the word symbolizes communion with God and the spiritual life, keep it guarded at all costs! If I get off work and I’m stressed and tired and go straight to surfing channels or surf the net in an absent minded manner, I’m just setting myself up for failure. You don’t have to look for sin in this world, it looks for you. Would anyone absentmindedly walk through a mind field? Yet we do it all the time, spiritually speaking. If your mind isn’t engaging in worship, meditation, and filtering it’s easy for sin to sneak in unnoticed; keep the spotlight of the Word on at all times. Keep the armor on at all times. This is a war, should we be surprised when we are attacked?
Blood, Sweat, and Tears
Ps119:25 I lie in the dust, completely discouraged, revive me by your word (NLT)
Ps119:28 My soul melts with heaviness; strengthen me according to your word.
Ps119:81-83 I faint with longing for you salvation; but I have put my hope in your word. My eyes are straining to see your promises come true, when will you comfort me?
I am shriveled like a wineskin in the smoke, exhausted with waiting. But I cling to your principles and obey them.
Have you ever been in the place where you say “It’s hopeless, I give up, I’ll never change”? I know I have. I win one battle with sin, and then an hour later I fail. Maybe I go two days next time and then fail. Two steps forward and one step back; or sometimes it might feel like one step forward and two steps back. You say to yourself “ No one else struggles like this, I’m an exception to God’s promises, how can I be expected to fight like this?” These are all lies. As we saw before, Jesus himself warned us to take radical action against sin and pray and watch. Obviously, He was expecting His disciples to encounter some heavy resistance. What if you do have to fight harder than others? It’s not about how we stack up against others that matter, it’s who we are compared to who we’ve been. Paul calls comparison foolish. As I said earlier, why are we surprised to encounter heavy resistance, it’s a war! Solomon said,” he who conquers himself is greater than he who conquers a city.” Think of sieging a city. It takes so much planning, so much force, so much violence and so much time. Wars can last years. People may be holed up in one castle for months while the invaders are waiting for them to starve. This is the intensity of war. Is it any surprise spiritual war is more intense? How much more important is spiritual war? Should we marvel that there is a cost to winning; exhaustion and frustration. Jesus didn’t give up in Gethsemane, he contended to the point of mighty groans, tears, and sweating blood. Don’t give up! It’s better to fail twenty times a day then give up and put yourself in a posture of failure and defeat. God won’t give up on you. He who began a good work in you will be faithful to finish it (Phil. 1:6) He is the author and finisher of your faith (Heb. 12:2) Whether you’re battling an addiction, a fear, depression, or anything, HOLD ON. God will not quench a smoking flax. (Matt 12:20) The outcome of a war isn’t merely determine by one battle, or ten. It’s impossible to win a war if you give up after a defeat, take encouragement knowing that the LORD is on your side. This will lift. I remember a despair, cynicism, and confusion in my life that never seemed that it would lift; I had no idea why I still persisted; desperation and faith were my main consolations at that time. After a couple years, it lifted and sometimes I weep with joy when I think of the fact that I didn’t give up. And I praise God!
The Blessing of His Word
Ps119:14 I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches.
Ps119:16 I will delight myself in your statutes, I will not forget Your word.
Ps119:24 Your testimonies also are my delight and my counselors.
Ps 119:45 I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to Your word.
Ps119:50 Your promise revives me it comforts me in all my trouble.
Ps119:56 This is my happy way of life: obeying your commandments.
Ps119:92 If your law wouldn’t have sustained me with joy, I would’ve died in my misery.
Ps119:98-99 You commands make me wiser than my enemies, for your commands are my constant guide. Yes, I have more insight than my teachers, for I am always thinking of your decrees.
Ps119:103-105 How sweet are your words to my taste; they are sweeter than honey. Your commandments give me understanding, no wonder I hate every false way of life. Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.
Ps119:133 Guide my steps by your word, so I will not be overcome by any evil.
Ps119:40 Your promises have been thoroughly tested; that is why I love them so much.
Ps119:142 Your justice is eternal, and you law is perfectly true.
Whoa, that’s quite a list! I left out a lot too. How manifold are the benefits of His word! Let’s start to unpack this. There are many verses that just make the point that His word is David’s delight and joyful way of life; what we want to know is why. He says is verse 24 that the word is his counselor and in verse 105 that the word is a lamp for his feet and light for his path. The word provides guidance in a confused and confusing world. Have you ever been lost? It’s scary, especially in the wilderness, we avoid that through God’s word. People are so often caught in bondage and confusion because they drown in the sea of demonic ideas, philosophies, religions, and bad life choices. We can be restored from those bad choices, but furthermore we can avoid them in advance by being led by his word, which leads me to the next verse. Verse 133 says “guide my steps by your word, so I will not be overcome by any evil.” When we are led by circumstances, emotions, or the opinions of men, we will often be overcome by evil; but if we are led by the word and spirit of God, we will walk securely and avoid every destructive, false way of life (v104). Verse 45 says “ I will walk in freedom because I have devoted myself to your commandments”. As I noted earlier, false ways of life lead to bondage; on the contrary, God’s ways lead to freedom. Often people look at God’s laws in a negative light, as if they were designed to ruin fun. They are restrictive because they are protective. Think of it this way: staying inside God’s laws is like staying in a walled in city, a massive walled in city full of joy. Outside of the walls are minefields, vicious predators, robbers, deep wells, spike pits, etc. Would you be more free enjoying God and creation in the “confines” of His law or more free in a deep, dark well with a broken leg? The lie is that outside of the wall is where the fun stuff is and that God is holding out on us. Isn’t that the same lie that Satan told Eve in the garden? The fact is, there is no joy in sin. The false joy in sin is like the joy of the mouse as he tastes the cheese for 1 millisecond before the trap springs and breaks his neck. There is freedom in His laws. No wonder I hate every false way of life (v104)! No wonder following your laws is my happy way of life (v56).
Ps119:50 says “Your promise revives me, it comforts me in all my trouble.” Verse 40 says “ your promises have been thoroughly tested, that is why I love them so much.” God has always been a God of promises, and He is faithful to keep them. What is our comfort in this life? Men will fail us, economies will crash, health will fail, treasures and pleasures will not fulfill and will fade quickly. The eternal Kingdom of God is our hope. The joys and ecstasies of heaven, of His presence and glory. This is an inheritance that nothing can snatch from us. What joy! With all the vacillations of life, we have a transcendent joy and one that far outweighs the worries of this life. Paul says “this, light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor 4:17) and Paul was a man with troubles! Jesus said “ But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt. 6:20) Meditate on the promises of God and fight for them; fight to believe in them.
The word also unveils God to us, which brings us to the next section.
Ps 119:55 “I reflect at night on who you are, O Lord; therefore I obey your instructions
Psalms 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore
There is no greater motivation for holy living than seeing God. We see God primarily through what the word tells us about Him; but we also encounter Him in other very personal ways. Whether it is an experiential encounter or the word of God, it’s always a revelation of God. It’s a subtle combination of fear and love that keeps us on track when we consider and encounter God.
We obey Him because we love Him. “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21) Of course this doesn’t mean that if we are imperfect or struggling that we don’t love Him, our love is merely weak. We loved him because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).
What about the fear of the Lord? Doesn’t John say that perfect love has no fear? There is much confusion on this subject. Fear of the Lord is not, “If I sin, what will he do to me?”. The fear of the Lord could be “what could He do to me?” It is a respect and a holy terror of His very being. It’s seeing Him in His GLORY, POWER, and HOLINESS and being terrified by such an impressive display. That’s why when Isaiah went into the throne room he readily accepted God’s commission. He probably thought “How dare I say no? How can I refuse such a Person? What better could I do than serve Him for that matter?” Furthermore, we are accepted by His love, but we are favored by obeying Him. When we are favored by the Lord, we have the joy of intimate friendship with Him and a flourishing witness. The writer of Hebrews confirms this when He says “without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 11:14) I don’t know about you, but I want to see the Lord! What could be more exciting than having a close relationship with the most awesome, majestic, glorious, beautiful, powerful being? That’s why we must violently fight sin. Saying I do to a spouse means “I choose you and no one else” saying yes to Jesus means the same thing. I highly recommend Joy Dawson for a greater study of the fear of the Lord. I also highly recommend reading AW Tozer, Mike Bickle, and John Piper for a greater understanding of God’s awesomeness and intimacy with Him.