Theme: God’s Love and Salvation
This stanza of Psalm 119 speaks of finding God, his love, and his comfort.
Scripture: Psalm 119:41-64
Bruce Waltke is Professor of Old Testament Studies at Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia, and a former teacher at a number of evangelical schools, including Westminster and Dallas seminaries. He is an outstanding scholar, and he has written a book in which he testifies to the importance of prayer in getting to know God through Bible study.
He explains that early in his life he used to read the Bible for its academic merit and that he got nothing out of it. But one day he heard a preacher say that it is necessary to ask God for enlightenment. So he began praying, “Lord, speak to me through your Word.” At first his reading seemed much the same. “But soon,” he writes, “within three weeks of praying that prayer as I read, my heart began to burn within me. I started to see new things in Scripture. God began revealing to me how his Word should change my life. I developed a love for his teaching. God heard my prayer and began to speak to me through his Word.”1
What Waltke found is what the writer of Psalm 119 tells us in the next three sections of his psalm particularly, namely, that the purpose of Bible study is not merely to get to know the Bible in some abstract or academic sense, but by means of getting to know God’s Word, actually to get to know God. The key is prayerful Bible study.
The psalmist has been speaking this way all along, of course. He has used the first person pronoun more than is the case in other psalms, and he has addressed God directly again and again. It is always “I” and “you.” But in these three stanzas (waw, zayin and heth) he rises to new heights in expressing his desire to know the God of love and all comfort. The climax comes in verse 57, when he declares, “You are my portion, O LORD.”
The first of these three stanzas concentrates on God’s love, which is the most wonderful of his attributes and certainly a fitting place for the psalmist to begin. Surprisingly, it is the first stanza in which he speaks of God’s love. And not only that, it is also the first stanza in which he speaks of God’s salvation. The two words occur together in verse 41:
May your unfailing love come to me,O LORD, your salvation according to your promise.
It may seem surprising that this is the first time the writer has mentioned God’s love, as I said. But it is not the least bit surprising that the first time he mentions love he also mentions salvation. This is because the proof of God’s love is seen in his provision of salvation for sinners. It is out of the great love of God that this salvation comes.
When the Old Testament saints wrote about salvation they could only have had a rudimentary idea about all that was involved. But we live on the far side of the cross and know how the love of God and the death of Christ came together. Do you remember how the Apostle Paul linked the two ideas in Romans 5? “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (vv. 7, 8). Nor can we forget John 3:16, the best-known verse in the Bible. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
1Bruce Waltke, Finding the Will of God: A Pagan Notion? (Gresham, OR: Vision House Publishing, 1995), p. 89.
What is the purpose of Bible study?
With what two attributes of God does the first stanza begin? Why are they linked in verse 41?
What is surprising about this particular stanza of Psalm 119?
Application: Make it a habit to pray before studying God’s Word.
For Further Study: To learn more about loving God’s Word, download for free and listen to Mark Ross’ message, “Oh, how I Love Thy Law!” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)