“I have strayed like a lost sheep.
Search for your servant,
For I have not forgotten your commandments.”
Who wrote Psalm 119?
Though the writer’s name is unknown, we can form a portrait of where he (or she) was in life by some of his expressions.
Although verse one affirms: “Happy are those who are blameless in their way […]” the psalmist is not applying these words to himself, for verses five and six explain: “If only I could remain steadfast so as to observe your regulations! Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commandments.”
The psalmist is evidently undergoing some type of affliction as a consequence of past mistakes.
Even though he no longer ‘goes astray,’ he is still an object of “scorn and contempt,” targeted by insensitive, presumptuous liars (Ps. 119:22,67,69,70).
Although the psalmist does suffer sleeplessness and grief, this allows him to find comfort in his knowledge of Jehovah God (Ps. 119:28,52,55).
The psalmist goes so far as to say that his spiritual heritage is the ‘joy of his heart,’ (Ps. 119:111).
What fueled his strength?
Verses 92-95 read:
If I had not been fond of your law,
I would have perished in my affliction. […]
I belong to you; save me […]. The wicked wait to destroy me,
But I give close attention to your reminders.”
Time and again, the psalmist references his bond with God and love for God’s Word as the reasons he can bear his affliction and carry on.
Undefeated, he resolves to fulfill his vows to God and rely on His justice and loyal love (Ps. 119:106,149).
“But you, Jehovah the Sovereign Lord, Act in my behalf for the sake of your name. […]”
When we use God’s name, Jehovah, others come to identify Him as our God.
It is both a privilege and great responsibility.
But when others mistreat us, we can count on Jehovah acting in our behalf.
He does not tolerate anyone bringing such disgrace onto Himself, and what that means for us is that He is a God of action.
While Jehovah may allow an oppressive situation to continue for a bit of time, he will never allow his servants to be left hopeless or helpless.
He loyally extends kindness toward them in the form of deliverance or endurance (1 Cor. 10:13; 2 Cor. 4:7-9).
He may even save us in the form of giving us wisdom to know what our next step should be (Ps. 31:3; Ps. 119:98,99).
And yet another way he acts on our behalf is by forgiving our sins when we have truly repented (Ps. 25:11).
How wonderful it is to serve such a loyal God!
“May you hear the sighing of the prisoner. Use your great power to preserve those sentenced to death,”
In a sense, we are all sentenced to death, due to the consequences of sin (Rom. 5:12).
And while there are people literally imprisoned because of their faith, we may feel trapped in our own life because of burdensome problems.
How wonderful it is to know that our loving Father hears our sighing and is ready to grant us the necessary strength to endure our trials (2 Cor. 4:7).
If we resolve to walk in integrity, come what may, we will be protected behind Jehovah’s spiritual shield.
That will in turn strengthen our confidence, which will allow us to experience the happiness belonging to those who patiently wait on Jehovah (Ps. 84:11,12).
“Will Jehovah cast us off forever? […]
Or has his anger caused his mercy to cease?”
These questions are meant to be rhetorical but God’s word clearly gives us the answer:
Jehovah God is not cold-hearted and wrathful to the point of being unforgiving.
It is normal to be haunted by a guilty conscience and wonder if God will forgive us when we have failed Him.
But He has provided the means to forgiveness through the sacrifice of His son (1 Thess. 1:10).
God promises to not stay resentful toward sinners who return to Him (Jer. 3:12).
He even goes beyond that and offers to comfort us (Is. 12:1).
So if our faith begins to falter because we fear Jehovah has cast us aside, let us remember all that He has done for us in the past and patiently treasure it as evidence of His unrelenting love (Ps. 77:11).
“Because your loyal love is better than life,
My own lips will glorify you.”
What is “loyal love”?
The glossary in the New World 2013 translation defines it as:
“[…] Rendered from the Hebrew word cheʹsedh, referring to love motivated by commitment, integrity, loyalty, and deep attachment. It is often used in connection with God’s love for humans […].”
How is Loyal Love different from God’s love toward humankind as a whole?
It is “kindness that lovingly attaches itself to an object until its purpose in connection with that object is realized. […] It is an act that preserves or promotes life. It is intervention on behalf of someone suffering misfortune or distress. It is demonstration of friendship or piety.”
(“Loving Kindness of God.” Watchtower Online Library. Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Web. 11 July 2016).
The marginal reference in Psalm 63:3 takes us to Psalm 30:5:
Because being under his anger is only for a moment,
But being in his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may come in the evening, but in the morning, there is a joyful cry.
Jehovah God is a compassionate Father who knows we are prone to sin and error.
He actively seeks out His servant who has derailed from a course of righteousness, proving his loyalty and kindness toward him.
God understands we are imperfect but He also knows we can change for the better.
So He does not give up hope in His servants and He does not abandon them.
If one feels he has failed God and returns to Him, he can continue to glorify God on account of His loyal love.
“For you have rescued me from death
And prevented my feet from stumbling,
So that I may walk before God in the light of the living.”
When I am experiencing particularly stressful situations and I do not see a clear solution, I may come to lose all hope that anything will ever improve.
There were times when the Psalmist David felt that he was “wandering,” but he was conscious that God kept His eye on him (Ps. 56:8).
He knew he was not truly alone.
“Of this I am confident: God is on my side” (Ps. 56:9).
The knowledge that Jehovah God stood by him in all his trials fostered a thankful attitude in David that in turn infused in him a serious sense of compromise toward God.
“I am bound by my vows to you, O God; I will offer you expressions of thanksgiving,” (Ps. 56:12).
This kept him going even under circumstances that could have made him lose heart.
Likewise, when I feel that I am at my wit’s end, remembering that God is keeping a watchful eye over me can keep me from stumbling even into a spiritual or emotional death.
Meditating on the vows I have made to God can keep me from giving up.
Instead of being afraid, I will trust in Jehovah (Ps. 56:3).
“As for the one who follows a set course,
I will cause him to see salvation by God.”
Jehovah God values those who have made a covenant or vow to serve Him and strive to fulfill it (Ps. 50:5,14b).
But He knows it will not always be easy; that is why he asks us to rely on Him.
“Call on me in the time of distress. I will rescue you, and you will glorify me” (Ps. 50:15).
Jehovah says He cannot remain silent before our suffering and will act as Judge before us (Ps. 50:3,6).
Therefore we can reach out to Him with the confidence that He cares about us.
When we praise Him with a thankful attitude, we demonstrate that we rely on His strength and not our own (Ps. 50:14a,23a).
Only then can we ‘see His salvation,’ recognizing His works through the eyes of faith.
“O Jehovah, do not withhold your mercy from me.
May your loyal love and your truth constantly safeguard me.”
David, our Biblical poet, felt his ‘errors loom over his head; like a heavy burden, they were too much for him to bear,’ (Ps. 38:4).
For this reason, he ‘walked around sad all day long,’ (Ps. 38:6).
He could say nothing in his own defense (Ps. 38:14).
Still, he relied on Jehovah’s forgiveness, and prayed:
“Turn your harsh gaze away from me so that I may cheer up
Before I pass away and I am gone,” (Ps. 39:13).
Although David felt abandoned by his family and friends, burdened by his own mistakes and the weight of Jehovah’s discipline, he waited on Jehovah.
He knew that with Jehovah’s forgiveness, he could overcome his depression and once again experience the joy of serving Him.
Did his patience pay off?
“You answered me, O Jehovah my God,” (Ps. 38:15).
Jehovah answers our pleas for peace of mind when we seek refuge in the truth of His word and by giving us the strength to carry on (Ps. 138:3; John 17:17).
“This is why every loyal one will pray to you
While you may yet be found.”
Who does God consider to be a “loyal one”?
The previous verse is referring to someone who confesses their sins to God and whom God pardons (Psalm 32:5).
Since we are all imperfect sinners, to remain close to Him I must first recognize and value the extent of His mercy and kindness toward me.
If I trust in Jehovah, He will ‘surround me with His loyal love’ and, despite my errors, I will be able to rejoice joyfully among the righteous (Psalm 32:10,11).
In effect, it is possible for God to consider us, mere sinners, as being “upright in heart,” so long as we do not try to deceive Him.
And when we recognize the immense value of this, we may even find happiness (Psalm 32:1,2).
“But take care that rage does not lead you into spitefulness […] Beware that you do not turn to wrongdoing, choosing this instead of affliction.”
~Job 36:18, 21
Job’s young wise friend Elihu had a profound understanding of human nature.
Instead of questioning Job’s loyalty toward God, he analyzed the resentment Job seemed to be harboring against their Creator.
In his confusion and pain, Job had blindly gone along with his critics’ assumption that his suffering originated in God (Job 34:5).
This led him to adopt a defensive attitude instead of a humble one (Eccl. 7:7).
Elihu saw through this and patiently corrected Job, admonishing him of the dangers of such an attitude.
The Supreme Judge “never violates his justice and abundant righteousness,” (Job 37:23).
When facing trials in which it is difficult to distinguish right from wrong, it is important ‘not to become wise in my own eyes,’ (Prov. 3:7).
A human’s line of reasoning cannot be above God’s (Job 36:26).
Therefore, it would be completely illogical to lose faith in Him or to lose patience with his congregation.
Such an attitude might lead me to indifferently commit sins which I might then try to justify.
While it may not always be easy to explain my own suffering, Jehovah promises to ‘rescue me during my affliction, […] to draw me away from the brink of distress to a broad space, free of restriction’ (Job 36:15, 16).
Only with God’s blessing could someone ever find such a place, free of all suffering.
“Therefore, people should fear him. For he does not favor any who think that they are wise,” (Job 37:24).