As we worked through the last section of Psalm 119, we had a front-row seat to what I would argue is David’s most important lesson for us, revering God’s word. Psalm 119 consists of 22 sections, each of which correspond to a letter in the Hebrew alphabet.
One tradition puts forth that David used this Psalm to teach the Hebrew alphabet and the importance of God’s word to his son, Solomon. The wisdom contained is vital to our Christian journey.
God’s Power for a Righteous Life
Verse 175: Let my soul live that it may praise You,
And let Your ordinances help me.
What is David saying within this verse and what is he not saying? David is not groveling before God, saying, “Please don’t smite me with a lightning bolt. Please allow me to live.” David didn’t have a faulty view of God. David deeply understood God’s graciousness. He knew that God was forgiving to those who repent.
This verse shows us another facet of the role of God’s word in our lives. David is in effect saying, “Let me live so that I may praise you,” and also, “Give me understanding so that your ordinances might help me live to your glory.” This is the opposite of groveling. This is a confident request for the power to live to God’s glory, the power which only comes through God’s ordinances.
The path to righteous living is through walking out the word of God. If we walk our own way, we cannot be pleasing in God’s sight. The word of God is vital to our existence, vital to our pleasing God, vital to honoring him, and vital to our reverence of him.
Just as David used reverence for the word of God to instruct his children, we must share it with our own families, training them up in the way they should go. This is what the word of God says and we must immerse ourselves in it so that we would understand it, walk it, and teach it.David didn't have a faulty view of God. David deeply understood God’s graciousness. He knew that God was forgiving to those who repent. Click To Tweet
Verse 176: I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant,
For I do not forget Your commandments.
As we examine this final and extremely powerful verse of Psalm 119, let us remember who is talking. This is David, a covenant member of the family of God, an Israelite, like Paul he is a Hebrew of Hebrews. And he says, “I, David have gone astray like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments.”
Again, let us examine what David is saying and what he is not saying. He is not saying, “I have gone astray. Seek me out but don’t worry…I never forgot your commandments.” If he never forgot God’s commandments, then how did he go astray? This is a challenge for us to wrap our minds around because this seems to be what the English translation is rendering.
If we take a look at the word here used for ‘commandments’ in the lexicon, we see that it can carry with it the idea of the ‘terms and conditions,’ of a relationship. David is not saying that he hadn’t forgotten God’s commands, as in ‘right versus wrong.’ Obviously, David had willingly forgotten right versus wrong when he sinned against Uriah.
What he is saying is that though he went astray, he still hadn’t forgotten the terms and conditions of his relationship with God. He knew, as we saw in verse 175, that God was faithful to forgive those who had a repentant heart.
How is David’s understanding of the terms and conditions of his relationship relevant to us? Because God promises this in his relationship with us all: if we repent, God will rescue us. This is the same thing that happened with the prodigal son. When the prodigal son had hit rock bottom, sitting in a pigsty, ready to eat the food the pigs were eating, he remembered something. He remembered the goodness of his father.
Both David’s teaching and Jesus’s teaching are painting a beautiful picture for us. When we have gone astray, we can find hope in remembering who God is, in remembering the terms and conditions of our relationship with him. We can call out with David, “I’ve gone astray. Seek me because of who you are.”When we have gone astray, we can find hope in remembering who God is, in remembering the terms and conditions of our relationship with him. Click To Tweet
Who is the Lost Sheep?
Understanding this will also aid our understanding of two more commonly misunderstood but very important passages, we find these in Luke 15. They are the parable of the lost coin and the parable of the lost sheep.
Here’s what we’ve missed as the Church. We read the parable of the lost sheep as though God leaves the ninety-nine [saved] sheep to go after the one that is lost [the unsaved/the world]. Does God go after the world? Of course, he does. But who is Jesus talking about in this parable?
He is talking about the lost sheep of Israel. Jesus is seeking the lost sheep of Israel because he longs for his family. He is a protector, a caregiver, a gracious and merciful God who wants his people to return to him. Does he want all the world to be saved? Yes. He wants that none should perish. This is true. But this is not what this parable is talking about.
Luke 15 is reinforcing what David knew and what the prodigal son understood. God seeks out his lost. Can they refuse to repent? Can we refuse to repent? People refuse all the time. People in Israel refused to repent even though they were his covenant people. Jesus went to them and they spit in his face. They hung him on a cross. Yet while he hung on that cross, he said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” They didn’t realize that they were rejecting the God of mercy, the one who was running after them.We read the parable of the lost sheep as though God leaves the ninety-nine 'saved' sheep to go after the one that is lost 'the unsaved/the world'. Is this what it really means? Click To Tweet
When we see this passage in Psalm 119, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep,” we can know that David was serious. He knew he had drifted. He had wandered. We can do the same thing. We do it all the time. We struggle with it. We war over it. We wonder what has happened and we feel distant from God.
But, here is what the word of God will do, it will remind you—if you have read it over and over and hidden it in your heart—of the faithfulness, love, and mercy of our Creator. It will remind us of his terms and conditions. Repent. He is coming. This is an amazing truth because the word of God was given to us, not so that we can pass a test and get into Heaven, but so that we can know and remember the God we serve.
He loves us, Church. With a love that you and I cannot comprehend. With a love that David understood, the prodigal son remembered, Jesus declared, and Paul preached. It’s been a love that we have forgotten or even overlooked. We fear that God doesn’t love us anymore when we sin and fall short. But we fear this because we don’t know his word. Because it isn’t hidden inside. We can’t remember what we haven’t taken the time to learn.The word of God was given to us, not so that we can pass a test and get into Heaven, but so that we can know and remember the God we serve. Click To Tweet
We don’t understand the beginning of Psalm 119 when it says that God has ordained his precepts, that we should keep them diligently. We don’t understand when it says that those who observe his testimonies are blessed. We don’t understand that God is looking for, and will support, those who will diligently seek him.
He’s not looking for flawless people who have never made a wrong decision. Why? Because those people don’t exist. We each have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We have each failed to honor God with our lives.
What I hope you see and understand is that the word of God is the substance of our hope. Everything that we can rest and lean on is within its pages. It contains all hope that we will be forgiven, all hope that we will be rescued. This is why we must read and study it. This is why we must use it to encourage one another, declaring that our God is faithful, that he is coming for those who have repented and called on his name.
The word of God is vital to our faith. It is the substance in which we put our faith. It is our responsibility to immerse ourselves in it and then proclaim it to those around us.He loves us with a love that we can't comprehend. David understood, the prodigal son remembered, Jesus declared, and Paul preached it, but we've forgotten it. Click To Tweet
How are you making the word of God a priority in your life this week? I’d love to hear from you. Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.