PSALM 119: 129-144
Your testimonies are wonderful;
The unfolding of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple.
I open my mouth and pant,
because I long for your commandments.
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
Keep steady my steps according to your promise,
and let no iniquity get dominion over me.
Redeem me from man's oppression,
Make your face shine upon your servant,
My eyes shed streams of tears,
because people do not keep your law.
Righteous are you, O Lord,
You have appointed your testimonies in righteousness
and in all faithfulness.
My zeal consumes me,
Your promise is well tried,
and your servant loves it.
I am small and despised,
yet I do not forget your precepts.
Your righteousness is righteous forever,
and your law is true.
Trouble and anguish have found me out,
but your commandments are my delight.
Your testimonies are righteous forever;
give me understanding that I may live.
We are going to focus on the 18th stanza of Psalm 119, verses 137-144. In this poetic text God’s righteousness is mentioned four times. Although the difficult context and life situations of the psalmist have clearly been established in this psalm, hopelessness is noticeably absent in this passage. He could declare or slip into hopelessness. Though his situations could be hopeless, he does not respond with feelings of hopelessness – and this is because of God’s righteousness. Verse 137 shows us that he responds to his situation by looking to God’s righteousness and that he finds hope in God’s righteousness.
We need more than simple self-helps to distract us from hopelessness as we deal with the brokenness and evil in our world. When we see things like suicide bombings, a massacre in a nightclub, racial tensions, terrorist acts, and even our current elections, it can give us a sense of hopelessness. How are we going to respond to these powerful global and national concerns? How will we respond to the brokenness of our personal lives? Will fear and hopelessness rule our thoughts and emotions?
Our best self-help remedies will not help because they are not powerful enough! The only way the sinful brokenness of our world is not going to lead us to hopelessness is if something more powerful than the brokenness fills our vision. We need something with more power and ability than sinful brokenness to shape our reality. We are naturally drawn to hopelessness because sin is always a downward spiral - unless God does something miraculous in someone’s life.
How does the psalmist keep from feeling hopeless? He focuses on God’s righteousness. When the psalmist is in the midst of hopeless situations, he is not hopeless. He looks to the righteousness of God and finds confirmation that he can have hope. A huge part of God being righteous is that He knows, cares, and acts.
In verses 137-142, we see that it is God’s righteousness – so God is the one who is affronted when people do acts of evil. The sin, evil, and perversion of this world is offensive to God because He is pure and righteous. It is His righteousness that is being attacked because it is His rules, His testimonies, His Words, His laws that are being transgressed. God knows (Psalm 7:11). God is affronted by every sin, every injustice, every act of wickedness, every evil act, every evil intention, and every evil thought. This is confronting Him and He is aware of it all. Being totally righteous, He is aware of every single violation of His righteousness.
The only way that we know anything is evil, unjust, wicked or sin is because of God’s righteousness – He has said what is right and good. He is the reason that we know what is wicked and evil. He is aware of it all. This is why we have hope! Every sin is first and foremost against God (Psalm 51:4). This is hopeful – the fact that He knows means we can be helped and humbled.
God helps us because the weight of sin and injustice is heavy – we are incapable of carrying the weight of it. We feel the weight of it even when it doesn’t directly affect us. The offense is not against us – it is against God. He knows. He deals with it. He may bring us into His process and may use us in ways that deal with sin and brokenness – but He carries the weight of how it will be dealt with; we do not. Though sin and injustice is weighty, we do not need to be paralyzed by it. The One who can do something about it knows what’s happening. This truth gives us freedom.
There is a humility that should come knowing that God knows about it. He also knows all of our evil and wickedness. The fact that God knows what’s going on in the world means He also knows what’s going on in us. All sin is an affront to God’s righteousness. God is truly righteous and we are not. God’s knowledge of sinfulness shows me who I am too. There is dissonance between God’s love and what the world is like. There is a dissonance between who God is and who I am. We should be humbled. We are among the unrighteous in God’s eyes – in and of ourselves.
We should not feel superior to or more valued than others – even the vilest of offenders (1 Timothy 1:15). This should shape our perspective on how we think about seemingly hopeless situations. When we are personally wronged we need to rightly understand who we are and how loving God is towards us. When culture goes the wrong direction, are we going to respond out of fear and loss or are we going to respond out of grief that God’s Word is being ignored? Godly grief will lead us to loving our culture and sharing the gospel. Fear will lead us to vilifying, distancing, and fighting. It is a gospel fight, not a culture war.
Verses 138 and 140 speak of God’s faithfulness and His promises. This means that He doesn’t just know about our sinful broken world, He cares about it! He has been faithful and He has made promises – this comes from His care for us. Psalm 10:17-18 speak of God’s care.
He has macro care (verses 142; 144) for our world, for eternity, for every culture and every generation. This means that we can trust our generation to Him as well as our city, nation, and church family.
He has micro care (verses 141; 143) for individuals. God cares though the psalmist is small and despised. This means that we can trust our family, our spouse, and our children to God. He knows how sin ravages our own individual lives and He cares.
God takes action. His righteousness means that He is an active God (verses 139; 141; 143). Sometimes God’s action is being patient. God allowing the world to continue with sin and brokenness is His active patience. He is withholding judgment so that more might receive His grace, forgiveness, restoration, and redemption. We often mistake God’s patience for inactivity. Jonah is a great illustration of God being gracious and patient. God’s patience makes us angry sometimes.
We wonder why God is allowing some things to happen and not giving people what they deserve. God’s righteousness means that sometimes His action is to withhold judgment that we think should be there. Because it is God’s righteousness that is being assaulted, God sets the terms and determines when restitution will be made.
God’s promises show His work. Every time someone comes to faith In Jesus we see Genesis 3:15 on display. It is evidence that Jesus is winning, all is not lost, the world is not hopeless, and God is on the move! We have hope! The world will not always be this way – your life will not always be this way – God sent the One who guaranteed it (Revelation 21:1-5; 2 Corinthians 5:21)
God Is At Work And Will Continue To Work!
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.
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.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Psalm 119:129-144
1. How does God’s knowledge of evil, both help and humble us?
2. What are some
3. What are things that tempt you to respond out of fear and loss?
NEXT WEEK'S PASSAGE: PSALM 119:145-160