This stanza of Psalm 119 speaks of finding God, his love, and his comfort.
Scripture: Psalm 119:41-64
We can summarize this stanza of the psalm by noting that it deals with three kinds of love: 1) God’s love for us disclosed in his provision of salvation, which the writer speaks of finding; 2) our love for God, which is implied in the matter of obedience; and 3) love of God’s commandments, which results in our wanting to tell others about them (vv. 47, 48). Do you tell others about God’s commands and God’s love? It is a measure of your love for God whether you tell others or do not. If you love God and thus also love the Word, how can you not tell others about him?1
The theme of this small grouping of stanzas, getting to know God by means of a prayerful study of the Scriptures, continues in stanza seven, the zayin stanza. But each has its own emphasis, and here the emphasis is on finding God to be a comfort in life’s sufferings. Comfort is mentioned twice, in verses 50 and 52:
My comfort in my suffering is this:your promise renews my life.
I remember your ancient laws, O LORD,and I find comfort in them.
It is an interesting thing about this stanza, dealing as it does with suffering, that there is only one direct prayer to God for help (“Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope,” v. 49), and even it does not ask to be delivered from suffering specifically. All the other verses of the stanza are statements by the writer that he trusts what God has written in his law and will continue to love it and obey its teachings. It is a way of acknowledging that suffering is common to human beings. We are not always able to avoid it. But what is important is not escaping the suffering, even with God’s help, but continuing to trust God and prove him a genuine source of comfort even while we are going through the trial.
One prominent word in this stanza is “remember.” It occurs three times in verses 49, 52 and 55. In the first case, it is an appeal to God to remember his words of promise, which the author is sure he will do. This is the writer’s source of comfort. In the next two uses of the word “remember” he asserts, on his part, that he will not forget but rather will remember God’s “ancient laws” (v. 52) and “name” (v. 55). In other words, he will use his times of suffering to meditate on God’s Word and character, knowing that the two go together and that one purpose of his suffering must be to give him time to get to know God better.
And not just meditating! Verse 54 also speaks of singing in the midst of suffering, so wonderful is God’s comfort in such times. Is that really possible? Of course. Paul and Silas sang in prison at Philippi, after having been severely beaten. And they were doing it in the middle of the night, which is another thing the psalmist mentions (“In the night I will remember your name, O LORD”). The story in Acts says, “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25). After witnessing a faith like that, it is no wonder that the Philippian jailer and many others believed on the Jesus Paul and Silas proclaimed, and that God established a strong enduring church in that city. It was this church that backed Paul’s missionary work, sending time and again to help with his expenses (Phil 4:15, 16).
1This was an easy stanza for the psalmist to write because it is the waw stanza and waw means “and.” Not many Hebrew words begin with waw, so the author has solved the problem by beginning each verse with “and.” It reminds us of how “and” is sometimes used in English poetry to give a soft first syllable to lines, as in Wesley’s hymn, beginning “And can it be that I should gain.” Alexander Maclaren gives a translation of this stanza in which he was able to make each verse begin with “and”:
And let thy loving kindnesses come to me, Jehovah …And I shall have a word to answer him that reproaches me…And pluck not the word of truth out of my mouth…
…and so on. See Alexander Maclaren, The Psalms, vol. 3, Psalms 90-150 (New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1894), p. 256.
What three kinds of love are dealt with in this psalm?
For what does God provide comfort?
What benefits should we remember during times of suffering?
How does the psalmist use the word “remember”?
Application: How do you respond during trials? What does your response reveal about your understanding of God and his attributes?
Observation: Repetition of a word denotes special significance, for example, the word “remember” is used three times.
Prayer: Pray for an opportunity to tell others about God’s commands and God’s love.
Key Point: It is a measure of your love for God whether you tell others or do not.