Theme: What the Enduring Word Does
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
Starting with the truth of the eternal or enduring character of God’s Word, the psalmist then reflects on what this eternal or indestructible Word has done for him. As we noted in yesterday’s study, it has done three things for the psalmist: it has rescued him in his affliction; it has renewed his nearly extinguished life; and it has saved and, he is sure, will continue to save him from the wicked persons who were trying to destroy him.
2. Renewal by God’s Word (v. 93). Renewal is what the psalmist found as he studied the Bible in his afflictions, which makes verse 93 synonymous with verse 92. In fact, verses 94 and 95 are synonymous, too, making three parallel statements of deliverance that correspond to the three parallel and nearly synonymous statements about the eternal qualities of God’s law in verses 89-91. Still, each of these ideas has its own particular flavor and is worth thinking about separately.
Prayers for renewal are a recurring motif in this psalm. The psalmist prayed for renewal as early as verse 25 (“renew my life according to your word”), a sentence he repeated word for word in verse 37. In verse 40 he wrote, “Renew my life in your righteousness.” Verse 50 declared, “Your promise renews my life.” The same thoughts occurs in the latter half of the psalm: verse 107 (“renew my life, O LORD, according to your word”) and again identically in verse 149; verse 154 (“renew my life according to your promise”); and verse 156 (“renew my life according to your laws”). In the stanza we are studying now the psalmist is not praying for renewal, he is declaring that God has renewed him. But notice that the renewal came about as he remembered God’s Word, which is what the other verses also affirm:
I will never forget your precepts,for by them you have renewed my life (v. 93).
How do we think of renewal? We think of it as something God does by his Holy Spirit, which is right, of course. But we tend to forget the link between the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. We must remember that the Word and the Spirit always go together, as I pointed out in an earlier study. God speaks to us through both working together, and it is also through the Word and not apart from it that the Spirit renews us inwardly.
And speaking of renewal, we cannot miss noting that although affliction was the theme of the preceding three stanzas, where it was developed at great length, and although it has reoccurred in this stanza (in v. 92), it appears here only briefly and as something in the past. Why? Obviously, because God has indeed renewed the psalmist and he is no longer under that depression of spirit that his afflictions caused.
3. Salvation by God’s Word (vv. 94, 95). Verses 94 and 95 belong together because they deal with salvation from the psalmist’s enemies. They were part of his afflictions, because he referred to them earlier in that way: “When will you punish my persecutors?” (v. 84) and “They almost wiped me from the earth” (v. 87). God delivered him from those wicked people who were against him, renewing his life and spirits. This was truly a great salvation. But now we discover that these wicked people were still around, since “the wicked are waiting to destroy me,” he says (v. 95).
This is why the third of these statements of what God has done is in the form of an ongoing prayer (“Save me”) and not a statement of something in the past, as was the case with the others (“I would have perished” and “you have renewed my life”). The writer needed God’s salvation constantly.
And so do we. If God were not with us every moment of every single day, sustaining our lives and preserving us from constant dangers, perceived and unperceived, we would certainly perish. We would perish in an instant. But even more than this, we need God’s constant salvation from our sins. We sometimes speak of three tenses of salvation. The first is salvation in the past by which Jesus died for our sin, making atonement by his death, and when God forgave us on the basis of that utterly sufficient atonement. The second is salvation in the present by which we are enabled to grow in grace and holiness by the power of God’s Spirit working through his written Word, attaining to higher and higher levels of obedience and understanding. The third is salvation in the future when we shall be taken to heaven and delivered from the very presence of sin and of all desires to yield to it.
How can we be sure that God will save us from our sin in all three of these tenses, which we need? It is because “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6). That is a promise. In other words, to go back to the theme of this stanza, stated in verses 89-91, it is because the Word of God is “eternal” and “stands firm in the heavens,” because it “continues through all generations” and “endure[s] to this day.”
And look at the words “for I am yours” in verse 94. Each has only one syllable; they are simplicity itself. But what an amazing truth, that we should belong to God. If we belong to him, we can count on him to save us—now and to the very end. Charles Spurgeon called verse 94 “a comprehensive prayer with a prevailing argument,” noting that “if we are confident that we are the Lord’s, we may be confident that he will save us.”1
1Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 3a, Psalms 88-119 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), p. 317.
In what ways are verses 92 and 93 synonymous?
Why must the Word and the Holy Spirit always go together?
How do we know that the psalmist’s renewal has already occurred?
Explain the three tenses of salvation. How does Philippians 1:6 relate to this teaching?
Reflection: How does today’s study affect how you approach God for renewal?
Prayer: Pray as you study God’s Word that you will be renewed in your walk with him.