SEVEN TIMES A DAY I PRAISE YOUPsalm 119:161-119:176
Key Verse: 119:164
Thank and praise God for helping us to study Psalm 119 in 11 lessons over the last four years. Today, we will learn the last two sections. These two sections are quite different each other. The psalmist in the first part was full of joy and praise while the second one shows his struggling in his lowest point. However, the common thing is that he depended on the words of God, for which he praised God. Psalm 119 expressed wonderful things and all kinds of blessings in and through the words of God. What could be our response to God for his words? That is praise. Through todayâ€™s passage, we may learn how the words of God helped the Psalmist to live victorious life in his troubles.
Part I. Seven times a day I praise you.
Let us read verse 161 â€śRulers persecute me without cause, but my heart trembles at your word.â€ť As we know, rulers exercise absolute power in this earthly kingdom. In Psalmistâ€™ days, rulers were ungodly and did not acknowledge supreme authority of God and persecuted those who believe in God. They persecuted the psalmist although he did not do anything wrong. They wanted to destroy his life. In this affliction, what did the psalmist do?
The psalmist feared Godâ€™s word. He said â€śmy heart trembles at your wordâ€ť. If the authority persecutes us, the first thing we feel can be fear. If your boss gives hard time on you, you may be anxious and afraid. Likewise, fear can make oneâ€™s heart and mind turn from God to the visible rulers. However, the psalmist overcame fear of men and situation through fearing the words of God. We can find another good example in the book of Exodus. When the Egyptian king Pharaoh ordered midwives to kill Hebrewâ€™s baby boys, they did not follow him because they feared God more than the king God blessed their act of faith. Although rulers are strong, they are temporal and so are his words. But God and his words are lasting forever. With healthy fear toward God, the psalmist could overcome fear of men in this world.
Let us look at verse 162. â€śI rejoice in your promise like one who finds great spoilâ€ť When he was trembled at the words of God, his heart was full of joy. We may wonder how fear and joy stay together. God fills joy to those who fear him. The joy the psalmist had was triumphant joy which came from defeating enemies and collecting great spoil. When Toronto Raptors beat Cleveland two times, Torontonians tasted the joy of victory for several days. In Israel history, God brought such joy to his people through victories over their strong enemies. Despite inferiority, when they depended on God alone, God made them conquer the enemies. Everyone wants to have such joy of conquest in difficult times. The psalmist confessed that he had such joy when he had Godâ€™s promise. Sense of victory over his difficulties burst out from his heart. We learn that holding Godâ€™s promise truly gives us joy and victory in our heart. For example, when Lazarus died, Jesus helped his sisters to believe his resurrection power. They were ruled by the power of death with deep sorrow of the loss of their beloved one. But Jesus knew that what they need was faith in his word of promise so he planted it in their hearts. Likewise, in our difficult times, we may have Godâ€™s word which turns our anxiety and fear into triumphant joy.
Let us read verse 163. â€śI hate and abhor falsehood but I love your law.â€ť How much he hated falsehood? â€śI hate itâ€ť. â€śI abhor itâ€ť What is falsehood? It includes things that make our life unfruitful and empty. According to Ecclesiastes, Solomon said â€śMeaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.â€ť This is the very nature of our life in this fallen world although there are many things that are attractive to our eyes and satisfy our earthly desires. Our life can be ended empty unless we secure right things which are truly valuable. An author of Proverb prayed to God â€ś"Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.â€ť (Proverb 30:7-8). It is so important to watch over falsehood and seek truth to make our life right and fruitful before God. In our days, materialism prevails. People say â€śMoney talksâ€ť But Jesus clearly warned in his parable of the Sower that our heart should watch over the deceitfulness of wealth in order to bear the fruit of the words of God. Lotâ€™s wife can be an example. Her heart was occupied with the worldly temporal things in which she put her future security. When God destroyed her city completely, her treasures were gone and she also ended her life shamefully because she clung to them so badly. The psalmist hated and abhorred falsehood but loved the words of God which can make his life truthful, fruitful and meaningful.
His deep love for the words of God enabled him to praise God. Letâ€™s look at verse 164. â€śSeven times a day I praise you for your righteous lawsâ€ť He praised God seven times a day. Some scholars say that Jews praised God twice in the morning before reading the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments), and once after; twice in the evening before the same reading, and twice after; making it the whole seven times. But, this verse contains more than literal meaning. The number seven shows his full and complete praise to God each and every day. The bible emphasizes praise is the very right thing for us to do before God. God desires us to praise him. In the book of the Revelation, the kingdom of God is the place where we give our constant praise to him. Psalm 150 is the last chapter of the whole psalm, called the psalm of praise. The very last verse of whole psalm is â€śLet everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.â€ť (Psalm 150:6) Whoever can breathe should praise God. It means that we must praise our Creator LORD God. We should praise him using our voices, guitar, violin, piano, Saxophone, etc. It is Godâ€™s command and our holy duty and responsibility.
There are many reasons we can praise God such as his provision, love and care. Two days ago, Yachen graduated. We can give thanks and praise to God for that. The psalmist praised God for his righteous laws. He was so thankful to God for his righteous words. How grateful it would be to know the righteous word in this fallen world with full of deception! Because of his words, we know him and how to live right before him. The righteous laws save and protect us from evil one. The words of God teach us the way of righteousness. There are many laws in this world. But no words and laws can lead us to God but his words. So, knowing the words of God is indeed great blessing and privilege we have in God. When the psalmist realized it, praise burst out from his heart and sang beautiful songs to God seven times a day. The words of God we have now is the true source of our joy and love and they lead us to know the grace of Jesus Christ who gave up his life for saving all sinners like us. We may continue to bring beautiful melodies to God.
Let us look at verse 165 â€śGreat peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.â€ťThe psalmist was in great peace. Peace is Shalom in Hebrew. We all eagerly want Shalom, great Shalom. Where can we have such peace? While I am driving, I often listen to classical music through the radio channel FM 96.3, which is called â€śBeautiful music for a crazy world.â€ť However, the beautiful music does not guarantee true peace for me. How can I get great peace in this crazy world and crazy situation? Rulers canâ€™t give peace. In our history, the Roman Empire proclaimed Pax Romana which means Roman Peace, but in reality many suffered. Great peace does come only from God. Great peace comes to those who love his word. The word of God brings great peace to his people. Then, nothing can make such people stumble. The psalmist was outwardly in troubles but inwardly he had great peace from God. In the Bible, Daniel was put in the lionâ€™s den. Outwardly he was in great danger but inwardly he was in great peace. Peace is the very nature of Godâ€™s ruling. There are songs about peace we like. â€śPeace! Peace! Wonderful Peace! Coming down from the Father above!â€ť â€śIâ€™ve Got Peace like a riverâ€ť. I pray that we all may have great peace through loving Godâ€™s words.
Look at verse 166. â€śI wait for your salvation, O LORD, and I follow your commands.â€ť His heart was joyful and peaceful. But he waits for Godâ€™s salvation which is salvation from his present problems and also completed redemption of his body. He eagerly wanted Godâ€™s kingdom come. This verse also shows his life direction. Waiting for Godâ€™s salvation may sound like passive, meaning that we wait without doing anything. The psalmist said that until God delivers him, he follows Godâ€™s commands. Salvation will be realized in the future but he prepares that day through following the words of God each and every day. Like the psalmist, one must be awakened by Godâ€™s word until the salvation is indeed realized in us.
Verses 167 and 168 also show his decision. â€śI obey your statutes, for I love them greatly. I obey your precepts and your statutes, for all my ways are known to you.â€ť He obeyed God because of his great love for the words of God. Obedience is the measurement of our love for the words of God. The psalmist said â€śall my ways are known to youâ€ť God knows all our ways, past, present, and future. Who knows us better than God? Our whole life is known to him. So, he can truly lead our every step. We need to follow his guidance through obedience.
In this section, we see the power of the words of God working in the heart of the psalmist who was in great troubles. Joy and peace overflowed from his heart when he deeply loved the words of God. He expressed his deep thankfulness to God through his abundant praise daily. Our 2016 Summer Bible Conference is approaching. I pray that God may richly bless us with his words so that we all may taste such blessings as the Psalmist had.
Part II. Seek you servant
This is the last section of Psalm 119. The previous section shows the psalmistâ€™s great spiritual life with full of faith, sense of victory and hope. He was like spiritual general without any fear. But in this section, he was weak and vulnerable. He confessed that I am a lost sheep. I didnâ€™t understand why he put this section in the last part of victorious and graceful psalm 119. It is like anti-climax. But I could learn a very important message about our spiritual life. There are times of victory and also times of weakness. The best athletes can also hit a slump. In the bible, David went through very vulnerable times. Elijah was also depressed after his great victory. So as human, we can have such times feeling that we are lost. How did the psalmist handle this matter?
Look at verse 169-170 â€śMay my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word. May my supplication come before you; deliver me according to your promise.â€ť The psalmist said â€śmy cry and my supplicationâ€ť Like him, when we are in great trouble, God is the very one to whom we can cry out and pray. When our cry reaches God, he can take care of it.
What is the psalmistâ€™s prayer? He asked God to give him understanding and deliverance. Understanding of the words of God shows that he needed his counseling and direction through his words. He also sought Godâ€™s deliverance from his troubles.
Then, he wanted to have overflowing praise for his word again. Look at verse 171-172 â€śMay my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees. May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous.â€ť In his problems, his praise to God seemed diminished. So, he wanted to restore his prayer life and life of praise in and through the words of God.
Look at verse 173-174. â€śMay your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts. I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight.â€ť He chose the words of God. He could choose more tangible things to resolve his troubles. But he decided to hold the word of God through which Godâ€™s hand is with him. When Godâ€™s hand is with him, he can help any situation and any problem. The hand of God helped him to restore delight in his words. He longed for Godâ€™s salvation. In verse 175, the psalmist pleaded with God â€śLet me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me.â€ť His motivation for seeking Godâ€™s salvation was to praise him. He also asked that the words of God sustain him.
As you see, each verse of this section is his earnest prayer. He bore his troubles only through prayers. In verse 176, he spoke out his condition. â€śI have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.â€ť He confessed that in his troubles, he became like a lost sheep, vulnerable and lonely, seeking shepherdâ€™s protection. â€śLost sheepâ€ť it is his honest confession. In that situation, he cried, prayed and sought the words of God. Then he earnestly prayed to God â€śSeek your servantâ€ť. â€śSeek your servantâ€ť is a very unique expression since it is only once used in the whole psalm 119. When we read this psalm 119, we see how much he emphasized the importance of seeking God and his words. â€śBlessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.â€ť However, in this last verse of this psalm, he pleaded with God â€śSeek your servant for I have not forgotten your commands.â€ť From one aspect, we see that it is truly important to seek God wholeheartedly, particularly having the words of God. But fundamentally, encountering God happens with his initiatives. It is truly significant that unless he finds us, we completely stay as lost sheep. However, the lost sheep in this verse does not mean that the psalmist deserted God since he did not forget Godâ€™s commands. He tried to live a life in God; however, in certain moment, his struggling was not enough for him to stay true to God in his ups and downs. In this moment, he asked God to find him and strength him to live a victorious life.
This verse gives us a very important message. The psalmist experienced and sang great victories. He knew the power of the words of God and it was great encouragement to those who are in similar troubles. He testified that the word of God is only hope and trustworthy in the turmoil of life. But in this last section, he humbly confessed his state. This may make us very perplexed. We studied this Psalm over the last four years and each study has revealed wonders of the words of God. But in this moment, he became like a lost sheep possibly in his weakness and limitation. As a lost sheep, he did not know where he was and how to get back to the right path. Recently, there is international headline news that a boy in Japan was lost in a forest and later was found by a rescue team. Like the little boy, the psalmist was not in right place and lost in direction, desperately needs shepherdâ€™s rescue. His only hope for restoration was that God may come and seek him. â€śSeek your servantâ€ť. These three words are the one he can speak to God at the moment. â€śSeek your servantâ€ť (SYS). It is similar to well known distress signal, SOS (Save Our Ship, Save Our Souls). The signal is effective and powerful to deliver urgency of the situation to rescue team. Likewise, SYS is the very powerful words which we can use toward God. In our long journey of life of faith, we face many challenges. We can see great moments of victory but also meet critical moments. The words of God will give us strength to overcome but we also definitely need the Psalmistâ€™s three words in our total helplessness. Pastor Joshua said once that psalm 119 is like 911 in our various life problems. When we feel like lost sheep, we may remember the powerful word, SYS. God never forgets us and he can find us as we seek him. We can continue to run on the journey of faith. So this section is truly encouraging for those who live a life in Godâ€™s word. Whether we are vulnerable or strong, it is God who can enable us to live a life in his word. Thank and praise God for giving us his wonderful words. We may give our thanks to him and obey him so that we may live a victorious life in God.