Theme: God’s Deliverance
In this week’s lessons from Psalm 119, we see the endurance of God’s Word and its saving power.
Scripture: Psalm 119:89-96
Psalm 119 is not offered to us as the personal life experiences of the psalmist. It is a collection of inspired reflections on the nature of God’s Word and of the righteous person’s proper response to it. Nevertheless, it is hard to escape feeling that in some places at least the writer is speaking personally. He seems to be doing that in the stanzas we looked at in the last study and in the stanza to which we come now.
In moving from a study of the kaph to the lamedh stanzas (from stanza eleven to stanza twelve), we are passing the midpoint of the psalm and are moving beyond its lowest level. Stanzas nine through eleven described the psalmist’s afflictions, and they did so in such a powerful and poignant way that we can hardly doubt that these were sufferings the writer actually did experience. In stanza eleven he says his soul had fainted with longing for God’s salvation (v. 81). His eyes had failed (v. 82). He was “like a wineskin in the smoke” (v. 83). He says that he had almost perished: “They had almost wiped me from the earth” (v. 87). The stanza ends with a gasping cry to God: “Preserve my life according to your love, and I will obey the statutes of your mouth” (v. 88).
Now we come to stanza twelve, and we find that this is exactly what God had done and that there is an entirely different tone as a result. God had preserved and delivered him. Thus, from this point on, the writer begins to move forward and upward again, building his life on the only foundation that is truly steadfast and eternal, namely, the enduring Word of God.
It is as if he had been struggling in a pounding ocean surf, trying desperately to reach land, and had at last drawn himself up upon a great rock standing by the shore. Or as if he had been sinking in quicksand and had suddenly found solid ground beneath his feet. That rock, that solid foundation is the Word of God. If the psalmist had known that great hymn from the Selection of Hymns by Rippon, he might well have sung:
How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord,Is laid for your faith in his excellent Word!What more can he say than to you he has said,To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
Actually, he has sung it (the content, if not the very words) in the stanza to which we come now.
Martin Luther once wrote of God’s Word, “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me. The Bible is not antique or modern. It is eternal.”1 That is the theme of this stanza or, more particularly, of verses 89-91.
Each of these verses is more or less parallel to the others. That is, each says virtually the same thing, and what each says is that God’s Word is everlasting, hence, something upon which a person can build not only for this life but for eternity. Verse 89 declares: “Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” Verse 90 says: “Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures.” Verse 91 observes: “Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you.”2
1Quoted by Joel R. Beeke and Ray B. Lanning, “The Transforming Power of Scripture” in Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible, ed. Don Kistler (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1995), p. 331, 332.
2Verse 90 is the second verse (following v. 84) that does not seem to mention the Scriptures specifically. But “faithfulness” probably refers to God’s Word. The best argument for this is the parallel structure of verses 89-91, in which “your word,” “your faithfulness” and “your laws” seem to be used as synonyms.
Describe the change in tone from stanza 11 to stanza 12. What made the difference?
How did Martin Luther describe God’s Word?
Reflect on times you felt like the psalmist, that you were sinking in quicksand. How did God provide solid ground?
What place does God’s Word have in your life?
Key Point: God’s Word is everlasting, hence, something upon which a person can build not only for this life but for eternity.
For Further Study: To learn more about the nature of the Word of God, download for free and listen to Richard Phillips’ message, “The Eternal and Living Word.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)