PSALM 119: 81-96

My soul longs for your salvation;
    I hope in your word.
My eyes long for your promise;
    I ask, “When will you comfort me?”
For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke,
    yet I have not forgotten your statutes.
How long must your servant endure?
    When will you judge those who persecute me?
The insolent have dug pitfalls for me;
    they do not live according to your law.
All your commandments are sure;
    they persecute me with falsehood; help me!
They have almost made an end of me on earth,
    but I have not forsaken your precepts.
In your steadfast love give me life,
    that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.

Forever, O Lord, your word
    is firmly fixed in the heavens.
Your faithfulness endures to all generations;
    you have established the earth, and it stands fast.
By your appointment they stand this day,
    for all things are your servants.
If your law had not been my delight,
    I would have perished in my affliction.
I will never forget your precepts,
    for by them you have given me life.
I am yours; save me,
    for I have sought your precepts.
The wicked lie in wait to destroy me,
    but I consider your testimonies.
I have seen a limit to all perfection,
    but your commandment is exceedingly broad.

 


Charles Bridges calls Psalm 119 “twenty-two pearls on one string” referring to the eight stanzas dedicated to each of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This psalm will describe the basics of Christian experience and maturity that must result from that experience.  

In our text today, specifically verses 81-88, the psalmist raises questions about what is going on in his life. There are things that he cannot reconcile. His actual life and what he expected do not meet. 

Everyone’s life has experienced varying degrees of suffering. Often times we cannot make sense of our lives – we live in a broken sinful world that gives us countless situations that we cannot reconcile. Life gives us questions that we want answered. What are we supposed to do with our questions? What are we to do when we would like the Lord to explain something to us? Why is He doing something or appearing not to be doing something? Why is He doing something the way that He is doing it? How could someone in my life act that way? Is it okay to voice these questions? 

We are going to use the words and experience of the psalmist to help us understand what we are to do with our questions. Let’s let the text guide us:

The Questions Of The Psalmist 

The context of the psalmist’s questions is important. He is honest about what is going on in his life (verses 85-87). There are people digging relational pits trying to destroy the psalmist. They are persecuting him and trying to kill him – or at a minimal trying to end his influence. In verse 83 he describes himself as a wineskin in the smoke – which is an analogy of how he feels like his life is shriveling up. He can’t see his way out of this. He doesn’t know how to move forward. He doesn’t know why his life is on this course. He feels like he is dying a slow painful death and he can’t make sense of it. In this context, the psalmist asks three questions:

When will you comfort me?

He is really asking when he will feel relational closeness to the Lord again. He feels disconnected. He knows that he has not been abandoned or disconnected, but he doesn’t feel that fullness like he used to sense it. So he cries out to God, “I need that from you”! 

How long must I endure? 

We can relate. How long is this going to be my life? When is this season going to end? You may be asking this regarding your marriage that seems loveless. You might be asking how long you have to continue to cry over your child and their choices. You might be asking how long you have to live alone and lonely on this earth after losing your spouse. 

When will you judge those who persecute me? 

When will you bring justice in my own life and the world I live? When will you make the wrong right? When will we see an end to injustice?

Bringing our questions to Him rather than questioning Him is a matter of the heart.

THE HEART OF THE PSALMIST

We can and should ask the kinds of questions that the psalmist has asked. But we have to be very careful. If we misapply this we will sin. There is a difference between asking God questions (humbly coming before God) and questioning God (arrogantly attacking, insinuating, and accusing. 

We must not put God on trial, “you owe me an answer”, “justify yourself”, “I don’t trust your motives, choices, logic, or intentions, so prove them to me”! This is not what the psalmist does. He brings honest questions that he wants answers to. He may not get an answer. 

The heart of the psalmist is trusting. A rebellious heart comes to God and questions His authority, goodness, and power. It is never okay to question God or place Him on trial – this is a dangerous place to be. Questioning God is in effect saying, “God, I know better than you – you answer to me”.  God does not have to prove Himself to us. 

Bringing our questions to Him rather than questioning Him is a matter of the heart. Notice the psalmist’s declarations woven in his questions (verse 81-82). He has a longing, a hope in God’s Word, and a trust and confidence in God despite the fact that things are terrible and he can’t make sense of it. He has hope because of he knows the steadfast love of God. He has confidence because of the promises of God (2 Peter 1:3-4). 

The psalmist isn’t wondering if God is even good or listening – he is sure of both! Your questions should include a longing, hopeful, and humble confidence. When you are questioning God as a rebel you are asking with fear and doubt regarding who God is. Instead, ask God heartfelt questions trusting that He is who He is, that He loves you that He pursued you, and you belong to Him as a child belongs to his Father. 

You may not receive an answer. However, your heart will not only affect your questions, but it will affect how you live while you are waiting. 

 

HOW THE PSALMIST LIVES IN HOPE WITH HIS QUESTIONS

Notice the psalmist’s progression of thought and declaration throughout his questions:

  • I hope in your Word
  • I have not forgotten your statutes
  • I have not forsaken your precepts
  • Your steadfast love gives me life

His hope is in God and His Word. He leaves His questions with God while he reminds himself of what God said, who God is, and the promises He made. You can live with hope while you live with questions! Questions and hope can coexist! The psalmist’s questions confirm to him how desperately he needs God. If your questions drive you away from God, then you are questioning God. If your questions draw you to God, then you are asking your Father to help you because you are dependent upon Him (not autonomous). 

OUR QUESTIONS SHOULD DRIVE US TO GOD!


IN COMMUNITY

This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing to discuss the implications of the message.

BLESS RHYTHMS

This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.

Bless
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.

Listen
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.

Eat
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.

Speak
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.

Sabbath
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.

DISCUSS THE MESSAGE

Read: Psalm 119:81-96

Share about a moment in your life when you were striving to discover something. What was the journey like? How did you feel once you found what you were searching for? Who did you consult?

Have you ever questioned God? What was driving you toward this posture toward God?

How can the choices we make actually reflect our heart towards God and show that we can be earnestly seeking God or questioning him and putting him on trial?

 

NEXT WEEK'S PASSAGE:   PSALM 119:97-112