73Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands. 74May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word. 75I know, LORD, that your laws are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. 76May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant. 77Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight. 78May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause; but I will meditate on your precepts. 79May those who fear you turn to me, those who understand your statutes. 80May I whole heartedly follow your decrees, that I may not be put to shame. (NIV)
Psalm 119 Overview
Psalm 119 is the longest psalm in the Bible’s “Book of Psalms” (hymns). It is divided into 22 octrains (stanzas of 8 verses each), each one under the heading of a letter in the Hebrew “alef-bet” (alphabet), with each line beginning with that letter (in the Hebrew language). Psalm 119 treats mostly with the value and beauty and practical benefits of the Word of God, both the written word that we have in the scriptures (which tells us of God’s active involvement in our lives throughout the history of mankind) and in the Word-Made-Flesh, which is Jesus Christ, the Messiah prophesied in Genesis 3:15, come in the Gospels, and is coming again (ref. Revelation). The writer of the psalm is to be considered the “collective soul” of all Israel during the time awaiting the Messiah (pre-New Testament). We have spent some time on Teth/Tet, and now we move on to spend a little time in Yod (Psalm 119:73-80).
Yod is a psalm of the aggrieved. It is not the only psalm or prayer in the Bible that comes from one suffering from the injustice of others, but we can take comfort in these 8 verses at least, that God sees all suffering and injustice. By God’s inclusion of this faith- and joy-filled lament, we see that God desires us to turn to Him for our defense and comfort, and to lean hard on the words God has already spoken to us. He offers to sustain and guide us through our trials safely, without compromise or falling away.
We do become fatigued by the injustices of this world, don’t we? Some injustices we may inadvertently bring on ourselves by failing to see how we have “missed the mark” with others. And yet some injustices come about because we walk in an imperfect world. It is not only the enemies of Christ who can mistreat us, but because even followers of God (or, modern Christians) have moments of moral failure (“there is none righteous, no not one” Rom. 3:10-12), we can be stung by the actions of fellow believers, too.
One of the things that Psalm 119 teaches us is that our enemy is never really other humans, but our enemy is sin. The psalmist, more than anything else, is very wary of his own temptation to sin when being wronged, to allow degraded emotions to have full reign in his spirit, to flag in devotion to God, to become despondant and avoid the study of God’s Word, or to withdraw from fellowship with other believers (all prologues to sin). The Psalmist cries out to God only once in Yod for defense, which is telling. The whole of the passage is a litany of praise for the embrace God’s Word has already given him in his suffering and grace to hold on to faithful worship.
An unknown (to me) radio pastor recently quoted an elderly, mentoring pastor concerning the constant requirement to “hear God’s voice” (audibly, uniquely and personally). We who trust God (or hope to trust God) can relate! We want lightning bolts for answers! We want “the world to move” so that we can know for sure which way to go, what to do, etc. But this elderly saint responded, “I don’t need to hear God’s voice, when I already have God’s VERSE!” In other words, God has already spoken. We might want to try reading what God has already said first.
This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t speak uniquely or personally or immediately to us through scripture, or through the Holy Spirit-inspired counsel of a trusted, believing friend. God uses many ways to speak to us! God speaks through His Creation first and foremost. In fact, this is where the psalmist begins: with God’s Sovereignty.
God’s Sovereignty Our First Comfort
“Your hands have made me and formed me…” The psalmist begins with the beginning. God is our first line of defense and comfort in suffering (and in our sin) because it is He Who has made us and we are His (Psalm 100 , esp. v3).
When I received my new kitchen lighting, I immediately drew out the requisite paper literature that told me how to install it and make it work, because the manufacturer knows the product and I don’t. Likewise, when we are at odds with this world and its troubles that impinge on us, we turn to our Creator, Who has made Himself available to us. He has made Himself known to us through “the things that are made” (Romans 1: 19-20), the recorded words of God in all scripture (Genesis through Revelation) and through the Word of God-made-Flesh, who is Jesus Christ. We are not without a way to contact our Creator! We are not without a way of hearing from Him for counsel.
The unknown author of the Letter to the Hebrews made it clear that we must begin our arguments about God, and about His Son, by acknowledging that there is a Creator and He is the God of the Bible.
Further, Jesus is God’s Son, and co-Creator with God. While our Yod psalmist wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit before the time of Christ, Christ is already present and operative at Creation! Hebrews 1:1-3 tells us that, though in the past God spoke through prophets and sent angels as messengers to us, God has now sent us His Son “whom He appointed heir of all things, and through Whom He made the universe.”
This was attested by the Apostle John:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.John 1: 1-5
This is John’s preface to his Gospel account of Jesus Christ. Note the similarities with Genesis 1:1-2
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was overing over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”Genesis 1:1-2
Jesus Christ, the Promised Messiah, is Our Co-Creator
Notice that the books of Genesis, John, Romans, and Hebrews all begin establishing God as Creator, and the last three establish Jesus as Co-Creator! We can’t turn away from this. God wants us to understand who Jesus is. Jesus is Sovereign. He is the Compassion of God come down to man to resolve the Justice of God that we, ourselves, deserve. This should begin to wash over our troubled hearts and minds. In my cry for justice, I can easily forget that I would be condemned if God’s mercy had not met God’s justice!
As the Sovereign Co-Creator of the world, Jesus came to become “our brother” in creatureliness and suffer and die for our sins. His ultimate sacrifice in both the Incarnation and the Crucifixion allows him to know more about injustice than we do. It is His modeling that teaches us how to respond in our own suffering. And we know the end of the story. In case you don’t know it, let me tell you!
At the “end of the book” of God’s Word, the Book of the Revelation to John of Jesus Christ, we are told that Jesus does right the injustices of the world. This world in all its brokenness and corruption will be remade in glorious perfection. We, too, in all our process of being made holy (as believers) will be complete and remade as well. We will be then what we hope now to be. All the “dross” of the this gold ore will have been burned away in the fires of our current afflictions and all that is left will be His image reflected (Job 23:10).
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. . . . . “Revelation 21:1-6 NIV
God’s Sovereign Guidance, My Hope
The psalmist gives us a good foundation to build our prayer: the Beginning. God and Jesus created this world, and created me. I can trust Him for the answers and also for my defense and comfort. I can trust Him as He guides me and shapes me even in these circumstances to be a lover of God in Christ, and a faithful follower of His Word.
I can trust Him to keep me safe all the way through to the glory that awaits me, if I desire that with my “whole heart”. The psalmist builds upon God’s Sovereignty by petitioning God to now guide him according to God’s own plan for his life: “Give me understanding to learn Your commands.”
The importance of “the beginning” is that we do have an “end”– a glorious, victorious, honored place in God’s Holy Kingdom—with Him in fully-restored fellowship and joy. We need the guidance He has already given us in His Word, but we must ask for it. This is the essence of Yod, as we shall see in the coming verses.
Let’s just soak together in these “beginning” truths today:
- God is Sovereign over me and all there is.
- Only He holds the past, present and future.
- Because I have seen God’s goodness in the past,
- I will look to Him for guidance in my present trials, and
- I can trust in Him for my “abundantly good” future.
Dear Lord Jesus, Creator of the Universe, my Maker and my Friend! Thank you for coming to suffer and die in my place on the Cross to recreate me in beauty and joy! Because of this great love, in times of trouble I can come to you and you care for me in ways I cannot even now understand. I know from Your Word that You have a plan for my life despite all that I currently see or feel. You have made me with a purpose and hope of a future and you are continually shaping me for this good, even when it doesn’t feel so good right now. Help me to pray through these verses in Psalm 119:73-80 and make them into my own prayer to you. Guide me and keep me safe as I lay all my defense in Your Sovereign hands. I trust You to bring me through to all the joys of fellowship with You and also with my fellow man. I will wait for you in faithful worship and service. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
© by ReadPsalm119.com, 2023. ARTWORK: “All my life He has been faithful…”, 2023, by ReadPsalm119.com, a primitive “worship sketch” of the faithfulness of God throughout the different seasons of life.
UPDATE: The Prayer for Yod has been udpated after more recent study and “living” the psalm as it was meant by the author. Click on “Prayers” in the top menu and scroll to “Yod” (or click the Yod links in this post).