In this last section of Psalm 119, we are reminded of our own need as poor sheep, and learn how the Lord will answer our prayers to supply what we lack.
Scripture: Psalm 119:169-176
In these last verses of this psalm, the writer lists what he lacks unless God is his shepherd. He is lacking in five areas, including understanding, which we looked at in yesterday’s study.
2. Salvation or deliverance (v. 170). The second thing the psalmist knew he lacked and therefore asks God to give him is deliverance: “Deliver me according to your promise” (v. 170). This word is a large word with many meanings, just like “salvation,” which is a close equivalent and even a possible translation of the Hebrew word in this sentence. Deliverance could mean deliverance from the power of death or enemies, which is how it has frequently been used in this psalm. Commentators who think that the poet is referring to himself as a lost sheep only in the sense of being weak and in danger from those who hate him obviously take it this way. They think that when he says “deliver me,” he must mean “deliver me from my enemies.”
Perhaps, but if he is thinking of spiritual things, as I believe he is, then “deliver” really does mean what we refer to by the word salvation. It means deliverance from sin—from its penalty, power and presence—from the evil influences and outlook of the world, and perhaps even from the power of the devil. Whatever the case, it is clear that we are lacking salvation in that sense. We can do nothing to deliver ourselves, so we need to ask God for salvation, which is what the psalmist does.
Charles Bridges believed the psalmist was thinking of deliverance in this sense, particularly because he speaks of it explicitly in verse 174: “I long for your salvation.” So this is the way he wrote about it toward the end of his five-hundred-page commentary on this psalm. Bridges looked at the “fullness” of our salvation, which includes all the mercy of God’s great covenant of grace. He looked at the “ground” of this salvation, the work of Christ on the cross. He looked too at the “simplicity” of salvation, not keeping the sinner away from God in useless moral striving or bewilderment, but opening the way through faith in Christ’s atonement. He looked at the “unchangeableness” of our salvation, which is above and beyond and superior to all our weak feelings and failures. He concluded, “Is not this an object for the longing of the soul, that feels its own pressing wants and sees in this salvation an instant and full supply?1
Is that your longing? Are you looking to God for the salvation that only he can supply? If you are not, it can only be because you do not have a true sense of need. You think you can handle things yourself. Learn from this psalm. These first petitions reflect the two great needs of fallen men and women, namely, to know God and to be saved from sin.
3. The ability to worship God rightly (vv. 171, 172). The psalmist is a saved man, of course. Study of the Bible has taught him something of God and God’s ways. He is trusting God to save him. But knowledge of God and salvation are not all he needs. If God is his Savior, he ought also to praise God for his salvation. How is he to do that? How are any of us to do it? If he is to worship God rightly, he needs two things. He needs to know what pleases God in worship, that is, the elements of worship that God has himself determined. And he needs to have a heart so filled with love for God that his worship is genuine and not merely the repetition of empty words or the practice of vain exercises. So he prays,
May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees.May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous.
1Charles Bridges, Psalm 119: An Exposition (Edinburgh, Scotland, and Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1977), p. 470. First edition 1827.
What is the spiritual meaning of the psalmist’s request for deliverance?
What is the other way deliverance has been understood?
What two things are needed to worship God rightly?
Reflection: Are you surprised at how God wants you to worship him? Are there things you need to change to conform to his desires?
Prayer: Thank God for his mercy in saving you. Whom do you know who needs to hear the message of God’s mercy from you?
Key Point: Are you looking to God for the salvation that only he can supply? If you are not, it can only be because you do not have a true sense of need.