Psalm 119 - Daleth (Survival Kit)
I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word.
I gave an account of my ways and you answered me; teach me your decrees.
Cause me to understand the way of your precepts, that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds.
My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.
Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me and teach me your law.
I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws.
I hold fast to your statutes, Lord; do not let me be put to shame.
I run in the path of your commands, for you have broadened my understanding.
The Psalmist was speaking in the present tense. He wasn’t relating some situations he had encountered in the past, but what was current in his life. This psalm relates to those among us who believe we cannot fly high because of our discouragements, and think we can be only ‘more spiritual’ after our troubles are over.
The Psalmist was in a very devastating situation and described himself as been “laid low in the dust”. That’s akin to being ‘sent to the grave’, and he begged God “preserve my life”. ‘Preserve’ would mean to sustain and to maintain, to save him from his terrible situation. He opened up fully to God about his feelings and was transparent to Him.
God of course knows everything that has been going on in our lives. But it is different if we come to God and be frank to Him because that is the only way God can answer us. The answer that God gave the Psalmist was to study the word of God. That’s the answer I receive from God too, to study His words. It means so much to me today that I cannot live a day without reading and meditating on His words.
The Psalmist said, “Cause me to understand the way of your precepts”. The Bible is not a book of do’s and don’ts. It is not a manual on how to operate our life. It is an autobiography of God. Jesus is the beginning and the end. It starts with God creating the heavens and the earth and then made man in his own image to enjoy His creations and ultimately enjoy God. But man failed God because of sins; and God has to rescue us and teach us again how to enjoy true life again.
So in saying, “Cause me”, the Psalmist asked God to help him and even to push him to understand God’s ways. We need to ask God to teach us, open our eyes to understand the “way” of His precepts. The ‘way’ is the reasons for the precepts. To know the precepts without understanding the ‘way’ is like knowing how to drive a car but having no clue that you can drive the car to your destination (God). It is only when we understand the ‘way’ of God’s precepts that we can see that God’s deeds are wonderfully thought, and designed to bring us to the destination He has planned for us.
The Psalmist’s soul was “weary with sorrow” and he looked to the word of God to “strengthen” him. We don’t run away from the scriptures and say, “Let me settle my problems before I read my Bible”. Find strength from God’s words, it is so amazingly powerful. Ask those who pray and meditate on God’s words regularly and learn what helped them!
The Psalmist was very grounded and was careful not to go to “deceitful ways”. There are many ways to solve problems including deceitful ones. They are shortcuts to bring quick relief, but our soul remains low because we know it is wrong. The Psalmist asked God to “be gracious” in teaching him. Are we humble to ask God to be gracious to teach us His words? Many read the Bible and fail to understand it. Try asking in humility and God will unfold His wisdom to us.
Despite being in a dire situation, the Psalmist had “chosen the way of faithfulness” and set his heart on God’s law so that he would not “be put to shame”. When the truth is out, it can be embarrassing and shameful. It is better to be honest instead of using deceitful means to get out of a terrible situation. At the end, things will be fine, like how many of our other problems have been sorted out. Every problem I have faced in the past lasts only for a while. But if we aren’t honest in the way we get out of difficult situations, that fact will remain to haunt us forever.
The Psalmist could “run in the path of your (God’s) commands” because God has “broadened my (his) understanding”. I used to go for runs with brother Jackie. He is super fit and seemed to run with unlimited leg muscles and oxygen. Comparing the both of us, he is like a Ferrari and I’m like an old Datsun 120Y, the car which I learned to drive on. Jackie trains a lot in his running. How can we broaden our understanding of God’s way without studying and mediating on His words? No way. We may know the rules, but our understanding is shallow. It won’t take us far.
The Psalmist’s soul was devastated. He was lowly and distressed, but he was still in the run. Who else can we think of whose soul was troubled and distressed but was still in the run? It’s Jesus, isn’t it? Before Jesus died on the cross, he said, “It is finished”. Our race is a long and tough one, but we can still finish it when we understand what race we are running and where the finishing line is.
Andy is the head of compliance for an international bank and is happily married, with three daughters. He became a disciple of Christ three decades ago, and studies God's Word passionately. He desires to be constantly led by the Spirit.