“Your hands made me and fashioned me; give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.” – Psalms 119:73 NASB
As God’s established king, David specifically asked for understanding to learn God’s commands—understanding to learn how God’s law could chasten him. On the surface, this seems a strange idea. I mean, doesn’t learning come from understanding? Isn’t that how it works? Well, in some sense, yes. So why then did David ask for understanding that he may learn? Let’s reflect on this order for a moment—understanding that leads to learning. This seems backward.Why did David ask for understanding THAT he may learn? Click To Tweet
The truth is, this is a well-known order within the Scripture. And even in life. Consider the basic understanding a child must already have in place before he or she learns to read. This understanding is like going to preschool before you start kindergarten. The nursery-level understanding is merely the first domino that falls within a long educational line that eventually results in maturity.
Our first step as the sheep of God’s pasture is to revere Him. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10) In that reverence, our second step is to ask for wisdom and understanding with the same confident expectation as David, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5) Finally, our newfound understanding enables us to learn God’s commandments and to see the beauty of their constraining power.
What David seemed to be asking here is an application question. ‘Lord, give me understanding, so I know how your commands play out, so I understand why you say do this or don’t do that.’ Again, Godly restraint is a product of understanding. But we must seek understanding first and with a humble heart.
This is not unlike the preschooler who willingly obeys his teacher while also desiring to understand the full impact of the action he’s been asked to perform. He’s been asked to trace his ABCs? Well, he wants to understand what letters are. What do they create? Why are they important?
David was ready and willing to obey God’s word, but he also had a humble curiosity that desired an understanding of the whys and hows of that word. This is my opinion, but I think that David needed the why questions answered so he could obey with his whole heart.David was ready and willing to obey God's word, but he also had a humble curiosity that desired an understanding of the whys and hows of that word. Click To Tweet
If we couple verse 73, “give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments” with Psalm 119:34, “give me understanding, that I may observe Your law and keep it with all my heart” I think I can prove my opinion to be informed. According to these two verses, understanding enables both the act of obedience as well as obedience from a whole heart.
So with the picture we painted earlier, can David ask to be taught with any assurance whatsoever? The answer is an emphatic, yes!
“May those who fear You see me and be glad, because I wait for Your word.” – Psalms 119:74 NASB
There’s really not much to say here other than that people who fear the Lord are genuinely glad when they see others (in this case, their king) waiting on God’s word. This is a truth that should motivate all of us. As Christians, we should want to encourage others (in any way possible), and the easiest way is to wait on the Lord.
A faithful life will always serve as an example to those who fear the Lord.
“I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. O may Your lovingkindness comfort me, according to Your word to Your servant. May Your compassion come to me that I may live, for Your law is my delight.” – Psalms 119:75-77 NASB
I’ve blocked these verses together because they really shouldn’t be analyzed separately. It’s not that we couldn’t stumble on the correct understanding; it’s just unlikely. In verse 75, we see righteous judgment and faithful affliction. In verse 76, we see a petition for God’s lovingkindness to comfort in that affliction. And in verse 77, we see that the result of God’s comfort (when it comes) is life.
Any of these verses in isolation, and we don’t see that complete picture of our Good Shepherd. However, when connected, all the brushstrokes combine into a coherent beauty.
In last week’s message, we learned that even God causes affliction at times. But no matter how affliction came, David never had a harsh view of God. He always saw Him as a Good Shepherd. Why would David ask God to comfort him in affliction if he believed God to be anything other than Comforter?
Psalm 34:15-19 captures it well:
“The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry. The face of the LORD is against evildoers, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. The righteous cry and the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.”
This was David’s Good Shepherd and He is ours as well. The One who created us. The One who established us. The One who sighs alongside us in our learning.This was David’s Good Shepherd and He is ours as well. The One who created us. The One who established us. The One who sighs alongside us in our learning. Click To Tweet
“May the arrogant be ashamed, for they subvert me with a lie; But I shall meditate on Your precepts.” – Psalms 119:78 NASB
David’s understanding of God, as we just heard in Psalm 34, was of a God whose face is against evil doers. This clearly informs what we see in verse 78. I love that David doesn’t sound like our postmodern world. There’s no foolish notion that he can never really know who’s right or wrong. He simply says “may the arrogant be ashamed.” David recognized when the arrogant were attacking. He acknowledged when lies were perpetrated against him. David recognized when he was the one in need of justice. And so can we. This doesn’t make us arrogant ourselves.
We don’t have to approach every painful situation in life with an expression of false humility (which is really just pride in disguise), saying things like, “maybe we’re both wrong” or “maybe it’s pride to think I am in the right here.” If absolute right and wrong didn’t exist, and if we cannot recognize them, there would be no precedent for a judicial system. What would be the point of it?If absolute right and wrong didn’t exist, and if we cannot recognize them, there would be no precedent for a judicial system. What would be the point of it? Click To Tweet
So let’s look again at David’s response. Did he change course because people spread lies about him? No! Did he just sit and sulk? No. Did he petition God for justice? Yes. Did he try to execute that justice himself? No. Did he trust his Good Shepherd and look back to God’s word with understanding to learn how to stay the course of Godliness? YES!
Church, with the right view of God, we can and will do the same!
“May those who fear You turn to me, even those who know Your testimonies.” – Psalms 119:79 NASB
David is simply imploring God to restore the people’s allegiance to him, which is itself a bold prayer in the wishy-washy mind of our postmodern world. Isn’t it amazing that David’s view of God was such that in knowing who established him, knowing who was chastening him, knowing who was sighing with him, he could also ask God for restoration of the people’s allegiance? David clearly saw God as a Good Shepherd.
“May my heart be blameless in Your statutes, So that I will not be ashamed.” – Psalms 119:80 NASB
It’s clear that David believed when he reached maturity or completeness that he would walk without shame. We have a perfect verse for this truth in the New Testament there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. He didn’t pretend that future lies wouldn’t come. Instead, he simply believed that, in the end, he would be vindicated.
If we’re putting all of this together church I believe we should see (especially in our own lives) a God who is both disciplinarian (chastening us and using the rod of correction) and a shepherd who cares for his sheep and yet in both is good. The scripture talks of this in many instances. I’m reminded of the story in Job when through all his affliction said “though he slay me, yet I will hope in the Lord.” I hope to never endure anything like what Job faced but what I do want to have is a heart that calls back out to God and says “though you slay me I will hope in you.” I want to have a view of God that is so accurate it produces an unwavering fidelity.
How has your understanding of God as your Good Shepherd expanded or changed recently? Does it help you make more sense of affliction in life? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.