Remember your word to your servant,
in which you have made me hope.
This is my comfort in my affliction,
that your promise gives me life.
The insolent utterly deride me,
but I do not turn away from your law.
When I think of your rules from of old,
I take comfort, O Lord.
Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked,
who forsake your law.
Your statutes have been my songs
in the house of my sojourning.
I remember your name in the night, O Lord,
and keep your law.
This blessing has fallen to me,
that I have kept your precepts.
The authenticity expressed by the psalmist is striking and somewhat destabilizing. We live in a culture where it seems like there is tremendous pressure to hold yourself together, keep calm, be an independent person, don’t let your emotions show, etc.–yet, we see the expressive frustration, anger, pain, joy, dependence and pleading of the psalmist. There is a disarming vulnerability that in some ways may seem foreign to us. The psalmist is honest about his life. The psalmist is truthful concerning the pain of this world. The psalmist is not an optimist or a pessimist, but rather, a fully-orbed fallen human who has discovered true hope.
This stanza of Psalm 119 paints a picture of a stranger in a foreign land, who recognizes himself as a servant with a song. Amidst tremendous difficulty, opposition, and pain, this faithful servant speaks his pain and declares to himself, to God, and to everyone who will hear that his hope is great and his joy is deep.
A Song of Life-giving Hope
All throughout the story of the Bible is a running theme, our God is a God who keeps his promise. God promised Adam and Eve that their disobedience would lead to death (Genesis 2:16-17). God promised that he would bring a people back to himself (Genesis 3:15, 12:1-3). Continually, God’s promise was relied on by God’s People in the Old Testament. They made sacrifices to show that they trusted in God’s Promise. The Promise of God is Jesus himself. God’s promise was to deal with the death incurred by our rebellion and provide life through Jesus to all who would trust in Him. This promise is where the psalmist finds his hope.
God’s promise gives us life. We live in a broken world that has been devastated by our sin and our rebellion against God. It is good for us to examine our hearts and our loves. Think to yourself about the meditations (continual thoughts) of your mind. Think about where you find comfort. Authenticity comes when we are willing to examine ourselves fully in light of the truth of God’s Story. When we don’t immerse ourselves in God’s Story, we forget that we are rebels that God has rescued. We neglect the hope of Jesus and pursue hope in other things. In examining your heart, ask yourself, “Where is my hope? What do I meditate on and find comfort in?”
A Song of Unrivaled Terror
Our culture has an obsession with horror. We see this in the movies we produce, the tv shows that we watch, the ways we celebrate the dark and the gruesome. We are very tuned into the reality of fear. This is not unique to our culture. Fear is a force that can greatly motivate us and guide our thinking and decisions–many times for the worse. However, there is a fear that is right, good and true.
There is a greater fear in the mind of the psalmist than physical pain, torment, verbal abuse, or public derision. His fear is in God. This type of fear is rooted in the meditation of the psalmist on his God who is holy and different than anything else the psalmist knows. A fear of God drives the life of the author. He finds it almost unbearable to fathom the audacity of the wicked in light of a holy God who judges. He compares this to “hot indignation” which actually points to the hot heat blowing across the desert–this all-consuming feeling of being surrounding by heat. As we examine ourselves, another vital question you must ask is: “Who/What do I most fear? What keeps me up at night? What races through my mind as a ‘dreaded scenario’?”
A Song of Foreign Joy
We are pleasure seekers. This is not surprise and in our consumer culture, pleasure seeking is sometimes seen as a right. Constant marketing causes us to think that joy is found in the next biggest thing–the bigger house, the nicer car, the better neighborhood, the smarter phone, the coveted lifestyle, the fashionable look, and our list could go on for pages. The seductive song of our culture plays loudly and influences us in ways of which we are not fully aware. We not only hear this song, but many of us in a multitude of ways, sing this song with our lives–and in doing so reflect the systems of this world and not the character of our God.
“Your statutes have been my songs” is the joyful declaration of the psalmist, who has found a joy that has proven to be long-lasting and yet in some ways foreign. Joy is no small thing and we are told to pursue joy, but don’t settle for empty promises of joy, pursue joy where it truly can be found–in Jesus alone. In our process of Spirit-enabled examination, we must ask ourselves: “What do I most pursue for joy? What do I think will be good for me? What do I think will satisfy me?”
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 119:49-56
If you were limited to mainstream music from the 60’s to communicate aspects of your hope, what song selection would you choose and why?
In thinking through the examination questions above, where do you find God speaking to you about your life?
Use the following short questions to stimulate your self-examination process: Where do you go to comfort yourself? What places do you most fear and why? What situations cause you anxiety and worry? When was the last time you felt pleasure that surprised you? If someone were to examine the things you watch, what would they conclude about you?