Daily Family Worship

Psalm 119: 17-24: Love for the Lord’s Word

by | Jun 22, 2024

psalm 119: 17-24

In this third section of the 119th Psalm, the trials of the Christian pilgrim’s way appear to be manifest to the Psalmist’s mind; and he prays accordingly for the Divine help which will meet his case. In the last eight verses, he prayed as a youth who was newly entering into the dangerous world; but here, he pleads as a servant and a pilgrim, who increasingly finds himself to be a stranger in an enemy’s country. His appeal is to God alone, and his prayer is especially direct and personal. He speaks with the Lord as a man speaks with his best friend.

“Deal bountifully with thy servant!” he prays. He takes pleasure in acknowledging his duty to God, and he counts it the joy of his heart to be in His service. Out of his condition, he makes a plea; for even a servant does have some right to make a request of his master. But in this case, the wording of the plea shuts out the idea of legal claim – for the Psalmist is seeking for bounty rather than reward! It is as if he prayed, “Let my wages be according to Your goodness, and not according to my own merits. Reward me according to the largeness of Your kind generosity, and not according to the scantiness of my wretched service.” All the hired servants of our Father have bread enough and to spare; can we imagine, then, that He will leave a child of His own household to perish with hunger? If the Lord will only treat us as He treats the very least of His servants, we may be very content; for all His true servants are His own sons and daughters! They are princes and princesses of royal blood, and heirs of eternal life. David felt that his great needs required a bountiful provision, and that his little deservings would never earn such a supply; hence he must throw himself upon God’s grace, and look to the great goodness of the Lord for the great things which he needed. He begs for an abundant portion of grace – similar to the fashion of a person who prayed, “O Lord, You must give me great mercy or no mercy, for little mercy will not serve my needs!”

Why did the Psalmist plead thus for such bountiful mercy from the Lord? “That I may live,” he says! Without abundant mercy, he could not live. It certainly takes great grace to keep a saint alive! Even physical life for our bodies is a gift of Divine bounty to such undeserving ones as we are – let alone everlasting life for our souls! Only the Lord can keep us spiritually alive; it is mighty grace indeed which preserves to us the life which we had forfeited by our sins. We must never ascribe prolonged life to anything other than the favor of God. Without spiritual life, this natural life is mere existence – hence this spiritual life is to be sought from the Lord’s bounty, for it is the noblest work of Divine grace; and in it, the bounty of God is gloriously displayed. The Lord’s servants cannot serve Him in their own strength, for they cannot even live unless His grace abounds toward them.

But notice that there is another reason why David besought the Lord for such bountiful mercy – namely, so that he might “keep thy word.” This should be the rule, the objective, and the joy of our life. Of course, it would not be right for us to wish to live and sin, but it is a very good thing for us to repeatedly pray that we may live and keep God’s Word! Life is a poor thing if it is not well-lived, but life is very much worth living when we keep God’s Word. Indeed, there is no true life – in the highest sense – apart from holiness!

The prayer of the opening verse of this section shows that it is only through Divine bounty or grace that we can live as faithful servants of God and obey His commands. If we give the Lord service, it is only because He gives us grace. We work for Him because He works in us. Thus we may make a chain out of the opening verses of the first three octaves of this Psalm: verse 1 blesses the holy person; verse 9 asks how we can attain to such holiness; and verse 17 traces such holiness to its secret source, and shows us how to seek the blessing. The more a person prizes holiness, and the more earnestly he strives after it, the more he will be driven toward God for help therein; for he will plainly perceive that his own strength is insufficient, and that he cannot even so much as live without the bounteous assistance of the Lord his God!

Lord! As we are diving into the depths of this Psalm, we repent of times when we have not truly valued Your Holy Word aright; for David did not have even half of the Bibles that we now enjoy, and yet he perceived that there were “wondrous things” within its pages (verse 18)! Help us, Lord, to never esteem the Scriptures lightly again! Amen.

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