YOUR DECREES ARE THE THEME OF MY SONGPsalm 119:49-119:64
Key Verse: 119:54
When we live according to the words of God, we often face troubles which discourage and make us fearful. In todayâ€™s passage, we will meet a Psalmist who suffered a lot. But he could overcome his hardship because the word of God was with him. He could live a victorious life confessing that the words of God are the theme of his song. How can I overcome my troubles? What would happen to us when we deeply love the words of God? We may be able to answer through studying this passage.
Part 1. The word of God: the theme of my song.
Look at verse 49-50 â€śRemember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is this: your promise preserves my lifeâ€ť Psalmist suffered in an ungodly environment. He asked God to remember his word to him. In other words, he asked God to fulfill his words. In his suffering, he fixed his heart to Godâ€™s promise which gives him hope. When we suffer, we feel like everything ends hopelessly. However, Psalmist put his hope in the words of God. Hope enables us to bear suffering. At the same time, suffering helps us to examine our true hope. People put their hope in material, social position and high technology etc. But when they become really sick, they realize that those are not real hope.
God gave us his words of promise. His promise is our true hope because it is unchanging. Think about Abrahamâ€™s life. Abraham left his hometown to go to an unknown country at the age of 75. How could he do that? It is because he found hope in Godâ€™s promise. God promised â€śI will make you into a great nation and your name great and you will be a blessingâ€ť. Sometimes, Abraham had lost the promise. But God never changed his promise. Hebrews 11:11 â€śBy faith Abraham, even though he was past age--and Sarah herself was barren--was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise.â€ť As God promised, Abraham became a father of faith. Taking another example, God disciplined Israel 70 years in Babylon because of their sins. They lost the country and were forced to move to Babylon. They could not think they would come back to home land. But after 70 years later, as God promised, he moved the heart of the Babylonian king and made them return to the home country. Like this, Godâ€™s promise surely gives hope. As Christian, we have Jesusâ€™ promise. Jesus promised that he would come back and bring his people to his eternal kingdom. Although early Christians were persecuted severely, they could overcome it by putting their hope in his promise.
Godâ€™s promise also gave comfort to the Psalmist in this passage Look at verse 50. He made a very strong statement about his comfort. â€śmy comfort in my suffering is this: your promise preserves my lifeâ€ť. Suffering people need comfort. Each of us has own suffering. â€śMy sufferingâ€ť My suffering is different from otherâ€™s suffering. In school study, suffering of student in humanity study is different from engineering student. Even in marriage life, husbandâ€™s suffering can be different from wifeâ€™s suffering. â€śMy sufferingâ€ť comes from job situation, study, future direction or material. While we are suffering, we want to receive comfort. Who can truly understand my suffering and give proper comfort? Where can we find perfect and restful comfort? This Psalmist found the best comfort. It was the word of God. God understands our individual suffering. His promise preserves our life. Psalmist was hurt and wounded by peopleâ€™s merciless mocking. But, he was comforted by the words of God which gave him healing and peace. Godâ€™s comfort through his words is powerful and effective to make us alive and overcome suffering. [2Co 1:5] â€śFor just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.â€ťGod gives overflowing comforts to his people through his words, enabling them to overcome the present suffering.
Look at verse 53. â€śIndignation grips me because
the wicked, who have forsaken your lawâ€ť This verse shows his spiritual anger to the wicked. That was righteous anger bursting out of passion for Godâ€™s honor. In the book of Numbers, when Israel men indulged in sin with gentile women and worshiped idols against Godâ€™s command, Godâ€™s anger burned against them. God gave plague to the assembly of Israelites. At that time, Phinehas, the priest found a man and woman who sinned and killed them, out of spiritual anger. Then, the plague suddenly stopped. God said about Phinehas â€śPhinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites; for he was as zealous as I am for my honor among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to them.â€ť (Number 25:11) Likewise, those who have spiritual anger can challenge sin problem. Psalmist had same anger which came out of love for God and his word.
Look at verse 54 â€śyour decrees are the theme of my song wherever I lodgeâ€ť While the wicked despised the word of God, Psalmist loved it so much. Due to persecution, he might frequently move from one place to another. His places were not nice like five star hotel but shabby places like cave. But he was not sorrowful with self-pity. Rather, his heart was full of songs of joy and delight. He confessed that the word of God is the theme of his song. Delightful songs seem to be proper when everything goes well. However, he praised God at the time of troubles. There was one single reason for that! It was because of the words of God in his heart.
How could the word of God become the theme of his song? He liked to think and talk about the words of God, like when someone likes to talk about money, money becomes his theme. Wherever the Psalmist went, he thought and talked about the words of God. When he saw those who were in despair, he encouraged them with the words of God. To those who were in fear, he helped them trust in the words of God. The words of God were in the centre of his heart. In this way, the words of God became the theme of his song.
In addition, he held onto the word of God. The word of God was consistently the theme of his song regardless of his situation. Whenever I heard life testimonies at bible conferences, there was common thing in different testimony speakers. They testified that they could overcome their life troubles by holding onto one word of God. So the word of God was with them in their troubles. As we know, suffering is not enjoyable. However, it is meaningful because it leads us to depend on God alone. Through suffering, we can go deeper into the words of God. There is an interesting story about music instrument and its material used. Do you know where we can find the best material for violin to make the best sound? It is the timberline where most plants and tree canâ€™t grow well due to strong wind and extreme climate. In that area, trees that endure suffering can survive. Their shape is not that great because of the strong wind that made them bend. However, amazingly, this wood produces best resonance to make best sound of violin. Likewise, when we deeply experience the power of the words of God at the time of suffering, we can praise best song to God for his marvelous work and love.
Look at verse 55. â€śIn the night I remember your name, O LORDâ€ť He remembered the name of God in the night. Night is the time for rest. When people work hard during the day, they want to rest with sound sleep at night. However, from time to time we have anxious night. Psalmist moved here and there possibly to escape from the hands of enemies. When something makes us anxious, it bothers our deep rest at night. Recently, I had some troubles at work. Although I want to ignore it and have a sound rest at night, it was not easy. When I went to bed, my heart was still troubled. I barely slept. I woke up at 3 am and I was still remembering the person who gave me hard time. Throughout that night, I was harassed. My night was not restful. I confess that with other reasons such as my research study, work, parentsâ€™ illness and future security, I had many anxious nights. But I newly learn a secret about how to make my anxious nights into peaceful ones from Psalmist. He said â€śI remember your name, O LORDâ€ť Not the name of the person who gave me trouble. In the bible, many different names of LORD are written. LORD means Yahweh in Hebrew (Jehovah in Latin). For example, Yahweh Jireh (The LORD will provide.), Yahweh Nissi (The LORD is my Banner.), Yahweh Shalom (The LORD is Peace.) etc. The names of LORD show who my LORD is. He knows what we need. He protects us and gives us his victory. In him we can truly find rest in the night of sorrow and fear. Psalmist remembered Godâ€™s name and trusted his name. His burden of life was gone and he could make a decision to keep Godâ€™s law continually.
In verse 56 he said â€śThis has been my practice: I obey your preceptsâ€ť He loved the word of God and held fast to them. At the time of suffering, the word of God gave him comfort, joy and rest so that he could continue to live up to Godâ€™ word. â€śI obey your precepts.â€ť This Psalmist is indeed a beautiful man of obedience and truly a wise man and victor in this world. 1 John 2:17 says â€śThe world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.â€ť I pray that we all may continue to learn this beautiful practice before God. Sometimes we spend time for reading, meditating and memorizing the words of God, especially writing reflection. Our bible students set a priority on the bible study and come to study the words of God in the midst of both heavy study and break. .Our struggling with the words of God is truly beautiful. I pray that we may make same confession like this Psalmist. â€śObeying the words of God is my practiceâ€ť
Part II. You are my portion.
Psalmist lived a life of obedience to the words of God. We learned that his hope, comfort, anger, song, and practice is different from ungodly people. In this section, we see more how the words of God influenced and changed his life. Look at verse 57 â€śYou are my portion, O LORD; I have promised to obey your wordsâ€ť Deuteronomy 32:9 says â€śFor the LORD'S portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance.â€ť Godâ€™s people are Godâ€™s portion. But in this passage, Psalmist said to God â€śYou are my portion.â€ť It shows very strong mutual intimate relationship. â€śYou are my portionâ€ť it sounds like you are everything to me. God said to his people. â€śYou are everything to me.â€ť Now Psalmist also confessed. â€śYou are everything me, O LORD.â€ť We see that this was his single and earnest desire. The more he mediated the words of God he could value GOD most. Suffering also pruned his life to have this single desire. To possess God as our portion is truly novel desire. Actually, it is Godâ€™s desire for his beloved creature to have. St. Paul had same desire and he said in Php 3:8 â€śWhat is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christâ€ť Jesus Christ, the God incarnate is our treasure the Bible testifies and we must seek. God may help each of us to have same desire to seek him as our portion.
With his strong single desire, Psalmist wanted to live a life of obedience (57b). But he also had weakness so that he could not but seek Godâ€™s favor humbly. Verse 58 (â€śI have sought your face with all my heart. Be gracious to me according to your promise.â€ť) He found impurity in him before the holy words of God. He humbly depended on Godâ€™s mercy and favor. Furthermore, he positively lived a life of repentance. Verse 59-60 â€śI have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes.â€ť â€śI will hasten and not delay to obey your commandsâ€ť Here â€śI considered my waysâ€ť shows that he made a pause to think the course of his life. It is the time of reflection; â€śIs this way right before God?â€ť He had a sense of problem about his life. By doing so, he wanted to turn his steps to the words of God. Whenever he found something wrong in his life, he quickly went back to the words of God without delay. This is a spiritual U-turn. In spiritual U-turn, faster is best and safest. Swift turn from my wrong way to Godâ€™s right way really prunes our life. From time to time, we walk our own way and enjoy our own way without knowing what would happen as a consequence because we are deceived by our own sinful desire. So we need time for reflection every week or every day at best. In that way, we can truly walk on Godâ€™s way led by his words. Look at verse 61. â€śThough the wicked bind me with ropes, I will not forget your lawâ€ť Even though I lose everything even my life, I will not forget your law. It means that he will willingly pay price for going right way.
Influence of the words of God in his life continues in verse 62-64. Look at verse 62. â€śAt midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws.â€ť It shows that he meditated the words of God at night. At midnight, we fall into deep sleep due. . But he rose and thanked God for the words of God. His night was Hallelujah night! In a spiritual sense, midnight is the spiritually dark or hard times. In that situation, our heart can also easily be darkened. When spiritual atmosphere was dark due to sinful environment, we can be overwhelmed and discouraged. But this verse tells that the words of God make us thankful because they reveal us his victory and give great encouragement. It awakens our tiring heart and stirs us up with deep thanks to God and raises us up to praise him.
Verse 63. He made a good friendship with those who fear God. â€śI am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your preceptsâ€ť Godly friendship is essential in our life of journey. There are beautiful story of godly friendship in the Bible: Daniel and three friends: Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. They overcame the influence of the pagan culture and kept their identity as Godâ€™s people. Likewise, through deep godly friendship, we are mutually encouraged to follow the way of God together. Ecclesiastes 4:10 says â€śIf one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!â€ť In the words of God, we can form beautiful friendship.
Look at verse 64. His view point about the world has changed. â€śThe earth is filled with your love, O LORDâ€ť When he lived according to the words of God, he could see that the earth was the object of Godâ€™s love. Of course, the world was not beautiful and loveable to him. But Godâ€™s love changed his eyes to see the earth as the place where Godâ€™s love abounds. John 3:16 says â€śFor God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.â€ť When we think of terrible events in this world, we canâ€™t see Godâ€™s love. But when we see what God has done, we know that Godâ€™s love flows in this earth. When Psalmist saw the world through the words of God, he saw Godâ€™s love filling the earth. Filling can mean fullness. Fullness of Godâ€™s love to the world is evident through Jesus Christ who came down to us and died for our sins. Psalmist fully received Godâ€™s love through Godâ€™s forgiveness and guidance. When a sinner accepts deep grace of God, his view also changes. I remember that when I received Jesusâ€™ forgiveness based on John 8 â€śNeither do I condemn you, go now and leave your life of sinâ€ť, everything looked different to me. When I saw sky, it seems as if clouds were smiling at me. The world did not change, but my heart changed and my view changed in Jesus. I was not happy with my life but was happy and thankful because of the love of Jesus in me.
Look at verse 64b. What is the Psalmistâ€™ conclusion? â€śTeach me your decrees.â€ť The words of God gave him delight and happiness. The words of God changed his life. He wanted to know the words of God more and more. He prayed â€śTeach me your decreesâ€ť His heart was burning with the desire to learn Godâ€™s words. May God help each of us to love his words more and deeper. The words of God may be a theme of our song.