The Bible is Central 19

photo-1462219157779-8a35f2687626_optThe qof section of Psalm 119, vv. 145-152, explores the psalmist’s call to God. The psalmist, once again in a condition of being hunted down like an animal (v. 150), cries out to God. And along with his cry is a corollary.

The psalmist cries to God — and he asks God to answer him (145) and to save him (146). These two verses are parallels to one another.

Along with this cry to God to hear his prayer (of deliverance) and to save him (from his enemies no doubt), he makes a commitment: “I will keep your statutes” (145) and “that I may observe your decrees” (146).
I don’t think it would be right to see this simply as a bargain with God, though I should not think it inappropriate for the psalmist, but more of an opportunity: he wants deliverance so he can obey God longer.

I doubt it is simply that he wants deliverance and, if God delivers him, he’ll be obedient.

No one who has worked through this psalms thus far would think the psalmist is simply bargaining with God; what strikes the reader of this psalm is his utter and relentless declarations that he will obey the Torah (or the various words he uses for God’s Torah).

The psalmist is diligent. Notice his words — a kind of two-step direction in his diligence:

147 I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I put my hope in your words.
148 My eyes are awake before each watch of the night,
that I may meditate on your promise.
Morning and at intervals during the night the psalmist first:
Cries for help (once again, like vv. 145-146) and second:
Meditates on God’s promise (uttered promises).

He cries and he meditates. He does it all night long and early in the morning. What does he do it for?
It appears to me that v. 147 shows what his diligence was directed at: “hope in your words.” The meditation then of v. 148 is probably not simply Torah-study but meditation on God’s words in order to find comfort during his oppression.

The psalmist’s hope of deliverance is so he can continue his life of obedience to the Lord.

The psalmist is crying out for deliverance from his persecutors. He wants to be delivered so he can continue a life of Torah observance. He cries out to God all night long — and the foundation for his cry for deliverance is significant:

In your steadfast love hear my voice;
O LORD, in your justice preserve my life (149).

It is often said that theology (what we think of God) should shape our prayers; it sure does this psalmist. In fact, it has been said that our theology determines our prayer and our prayer reveals our theology.

The psalmist thinks God should deliver him because:

1. Of God’s steadfast love and
2. Of God’s own justice.

God’s chesed and God’s mishpat. The theology of the psalmist is this: God is faithful in his love and God’s faithful love should give rise to God’s judgment on behalf of the psalmist.

What we see here is the confidence of the psalmist in God.

The psalmist’s confidence brims over the top now: if v. 149 shows that he can make claim on God because of God’s steadfast love and judgment, in vv. 150-151 the psalmist expresses a singular confidence.

150 Those who persecute me with evil purpose draw near;
they are far from your law.
151 Yet you are near, O LORD,
and all your commandments are true.

Here is his confidence: his opponents are near in the sense that they are at his doorway and ready to bring him down. They may be near to the psalmist’s place, but they are “far from your law” (150).

But, and here’s a big one, they may be near, but God is near. God’s nearness trumps the nearness of the opponents.

The last line in v. 151 might just be another way of restating what the psalmist said in v. 149: God’s steadfast love and judgment are God’s utter faithful truthfulness (v. 151). God remains true to his word; God remains true to himself. Therefore, God’s nearness trumps their nearness: if God is near and if God is true to his righteous judgment, then the opponents are doomed.

Confidence.

The psalmist begins this section by crying out to God for deliverance. As the section develops he becomes confident, and part of the reason for his confidence can be found in v. 152.

Memory: he remembers that long ago he learned the decrees and he learned at that time that God’s decrees are set in stone. They are permanent because God is permanent.

So, the opponents may be near, but God is also near. And because God’s judgment is true and because God’s decrees are permanent and forever, he can utter a sense of relief: he can rely on God to deliver him.

I find this psalm a bit like Psalm 77 — where we find a psalmist struggling with God until he finds relief in remembering the faithfulness of God.

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