The psalmist, in 119:73 knows that God’s hands have “firmed him up” — the way the sun is “fixed” in the sky at midday, the way pillars hold up the building, and the way a king has been established on his throne. Why does the psalmist care that God’s hands have firmed him — established him?
Because it is the Lord who established him, the Lord can give him understanding to learn the mitzvot, commandments. The connection is important: What the Lord makes is made for a purpose.
The Lord has made us, has established us, has given us a constitution, to know him and to love him and to honor him and to obey him. A six iron golf club is established to act like a six iron; using it as a putter is a misuse and it doesn’t do what is designed to do on that green. A car is established to drive on roads; using it on a railroad track or in a river does not permit it to bring out its designs. A knife is established to cut; using it as a screwdriver bends its tip.
The Lord has fashioned us to to know and do his will. This is what we were made to do. Humans are at their best when doing what they were designed to do.
“Those who fear You will see me and rejoice” (Ps 119:74) and “May those who fear You… turn again to me” (119:79). Friendship of the “fearful”, friendship of those who fear God.
Those who genuinely fear God — who know God, who love God, and who stand in awe of the majesty of God — look with sympathetic and fellowshipping interest on anyone who knows God, who loves God, and who stands in awe of God.
We might say that we meet with one another to share in our joint fear of God.
Unfortunately, this word “fear” (Hebrew yare) can connote cringing fear — the way a small animal might be terrified by a cruel human or a more mighty beast — but the word intends to connote not a cringing fear but a delightful fear — the kind of fear one feels before the kind of God who is overwhelmingly majestic and simultaneously gracious and kind and compassionate and who has established us to love him and to love others.
No one who reads the Psalter can fail to observe how frequently the psalmists are opposed. Here he refers to the insolent, the seethingly rebellious, and he knows they are the opposite of those who “fear” God. Notice 119:78:
”Let the arrogant be put to shame,
because they have subverted me with guile;
as for me, I will meditate on your precepts.”
What can we learn from the psalmist?
First, that naming the arrogant and rebellious is not without merit. While I’m not keen on overuse of labels, and I’m concerned that some use such labels far too often, and that sometimes we label in order to “other” rather than to love … still, there is an important place of discernment here. We have to see arrogance, seething rebellion, for what it is: arrogance against God.
Second, describing what the arrogant have done is valuable. The psalmist says they have subverted me with guile. We don’t always know the motives of others; sometimes we can discern them.
Third — for some the “first” thing — the psalmist prays that the insolent will be “shamed” — that is, defrocked from their position and from their arrogant stand. This is the language of the Magnificat and the Lukan form of the Beatitudes and James’ own hope for the “rich”.
Fourth, instead of dwelling on the naming and shaming of the insolent, the psalmist puts that behind him to move into “meditating on the precepts of God.” He will meditate — turn over and over.