“In my trouble I cried to the LORD, And He answered me.” (Psalms 120:1 NAS95)

If you were in deep trouble, the trouble where your existence was in question, or your livelihood, on whom would you call?  Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just dial up the president of the United States and be like, “can you take care of this for me?”  Or maybe you knew Warren Buffet—one of the richest men in the world—and you could call him up and say, “Warren, I need some money, can you write me a check” [or even better, “send me some Apple cash?”].

It’s easy for us to zip right through Ps. 120.1 without stopping to consider what the psalmist is actually saying.  He is in trouble/distress/anguish and he cries out, not to the king of Israel, nor to the richest man in Israel, but to Yahweh, the One who made the richest man in Israel into the richest man in Israel [“What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7 NAS95)]; the One who raised up the king of Israel to be the king; the One who created the earth and all that it contains.

Why call on something God has made when we can call upon God himself? We have ready access to the most powerful being in all of the universe.  We can call upon him at any time.

What we will find, as the psalmist did here, is that God is ready to help, he is willing to help, and he will help. Our job is to call upon Yahweh, that’s all we have to do.

 

 

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“I hope for Your salvation, O LORD, And do Your commandments.” (Psalms 119:166 NAS95)

The psalmist has an interesting juxtaposition here between what he does and what he hopes.  The psalmist hopes for Yahweh’s salvation, meanwhile, while he is hoping, he does/follows/obeys God’s commandments.  The psalmist sees a vital link between his own act of doing/following/obeying and Yahweh’s act of salvation in the future.  The two are inextricably linked.

Notice that the psalmist doesn’t think that he can bring about his own salvation, he isn’t doing God’s commandments in order that God will save him.  He is doing God’s commandments because he is a God-worshipper and this is what his heart prompts him to do. My son [pastor of Veritas Church, Fayetteville] puts it this way, “we are obedient not for our salvation, we are obedient from our salvation.”  We don’t do what God commands so that he will “like” us better, we do God’s commands because he has changed us and we suddenly begin to realize that God’s commands are good, just, and right, and God has put them in place so that we will flourish.

The psalmist does/obeys/follows God’s commandments because they are God’s good gift to him; when he follows them he will flourish.  Meanwhile, he waits for God to fulfill his word and bring salvation.  It’s not a bad pattern of life to emulate.

 

 

 

Establish my footsteps in Thy word, And do not let any iniquity have dominion over me. (Psa. 119:133 NASB)

The psalmist sets up a contrast here between walking in the light of God’s word and battling the presence of sin.  As followers of Yahweh, both the psalmist and those who read his words understood that it pleased Yahweh for them to avoid falling into sin and iniquity.  Indeed, the psalmist fully understands that the more one falls into sin, the greater power or dominion sin has over that person.

What is the antidote to falling under the power of sin?  Saturation in God’s word.  Notice that the psalmist doesn’t make a proclamation [I will establish my footsteps in They word], he states this as a prayer [Establish my footsteps in Thy word]. This is not to say that we put no effort into sinking one’s life deeply into God’s word, but that the outcome rests upon God’s direction of our lives, and so the psalmist prays for him to act to establish him in God’s word.

Charles Spurgeon comments here:

We ask to do all that is right, and to fall under the power of nothing that is wrong. God is our sovereign, and we would have every thought in subjection to his sway…They [Believers] pant for perfect liberty from the power of evil, and being conscious that they cannot obtain it of themselves, they cry unto God for it.

Couldn’t have put it any better myself.

Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high
(Is 58.4, ESV)

Isaiah is pointing out that the priorities of the Jewish people during fasting are all wrong.  Their fasts are only to quarrel and fight. Isaiah points out that the real motive for fasting is to make their voices heard on high.  In other words, the people should be fasting to gain the ear of God.  JFB commentary puts a quote by Maurer here: “your aim in fasting is strife, not to gain the ear of God.”

We receive in this verse a beautiful explanation of why God instituted fasting at all.  He gave those who follow him fasting so that they could gain his ear when they especially need it.  We could ask the question, “if God is all-powerful, why does he need fasting for us to get his attention?”  The obvious answer to this question is, God doesn’t need fasting.  We need fasting.

Fasting is grace given by God on our behalf so that when we are in really deep trouble, when we really need him, we can be sure that he hears us.  We don’t have to worry about whether or not God hears, we don’t have to offer up special enticements as if we needed to gain God’s favor, we just need to be so focused on communicating our concern to God that we skip the necessities of life (for a short period) in our all-consuming concern.

The New Testament doesn’t prescribe a specific time or place for fasting, we just fast when we feel it is necessary, when we are very concerned about a matter and want to do nothing except bring that matter to the God who surely does hear us.

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” (Deut. 30:19–20 NASB)

Here God tells Israel as they are about to enter the land of promise that there stands before them two great possibilities: life and death, blessing and curse. How could Israel obtain blessing? By doing certain things as they entered the land:

  • By loving Yahweh your God
  • By obeying his voice
  • by holding fast to him

These concepts haven’t changed for we who follow Jesus by faith.  We are told to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2.12), to be diligent to enter God’s rest, to do things that are pleasing to God (2 Cor 5.9).  It all seems so simple, doesn’t it, but the reason that God reminded the Israelites to love, obey, and hold fast to him, was because he understood the human heart and how easily it wanders away from devotion.

We are prone to wander away from pure devotion to God, just like the Israelites, don’t you think?

 

 

O LORD, I remember Thy name in the night, And keep Thy law. (Psa. 119:55 NASB)

The psalmist here mentions something to remember and something to keep. First, he remembers Yahweh’s name. In Hebrew culture a person’s name was a summation of the entire character of that person.  When the psalmist remembers Yahweh’s name, he is not saying that he forgot it, he is saying that, as he lay awake at night, he went over and over Yahweh’s character so that he was intimately familiar with Yahweh.

Second, the psalmist has something to keep: Thy law. To the psalmist, God’s law was good because it guided him into a right relationship with God. It was God graciously saying, “here is how an unholy person can live in the presence of a holy God.”

Like Israel, we who follow Jesus by faith are to remember/think about/be intimately familiar with Our Lord, and we are to keep the instructions he has given us so that we know how to please a holy God.

 

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you. (Is 54:10 NIV11-GK)

God speaking to Israel.

Here God declares his hesed [unfailing live, covenental faithfulness] to his people and declares that nothing, not the mightiest acts of nature that are capable of instant destruction, can destroy his hesed and his covenant of peace with his people. God is therefore all in with his commitment to his people. Nothing can change it; nothing can destroy it; there is no being who can come in and declare it null and void; and God’s faithfulness will never change, flag, or fail.

God’s commitment is no less now to those who follow him by faith, those who are spiritual Israel. He is the same God to us that he was to Israel, He has the same love, the same hesed, the same power against anything that would change that love. In other words, when it comes to God’s faithfulness to us, we are secure.

Our commitment to God can and often does, flag and fail or lessen and ebb. God’s commitment to us never, ever, ever does.