Psalm 119 – Taw (I Have Strayed, Seek Me O God)
Psalm 119:169-176 NIV
May my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your word.
May my supplication come before you; deliver me according to your promise.
May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees.
May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous.
May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts.
I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight.
Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me.
I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.
The Psalmist was concluding the last eight verses of this awesome long psalm. How did he end the longest psalm in the entire book of Psalms?
The Psalmist cried (prayed) to God, “give me understanding according to your word.” To many today, crying for understanding of God’s word is quite unheard of, or something that is simply ignored. I would rather be a student of the word than a teacher who claims to know enough.
The Psalmist pleaded that God deliver him “according to your (God’s) promise”, not according to his own desire. He gave in to God’s way rather than wanting God to do it his way. We often ask God for deliverance in our prayers, but in accordance to our desires, not God’s. We won’t be happy if we’ll consider God to have blessed us only when we see our desired results. For example, in work related problems, what kind of deliverance would we ask for? Would we consider God to have delivered us only if He gives us victory and our opponent failure? What if God’s way of delivery requires us to suffer for a while? Will we wait patiently for the final deliverance and see where God wants to lead us?
Our lips can “overflow with praise” for God because He has taught us His decrees. We cannot give praise to God if we have not learnt from His word. All the goodness that we know about God is revealed through His words and not our own imagination. We cannot understand God if we have not read about His holiness from the book of Leviticus. We wouldn’t understand the nature of God if God didn’t reveal it to David when he wrote Psalm 139, about God's omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence.
The Psalmist sang of God’s words for all of His commands are righteous. He could have sung to himself and to others around him. The singing reflects his joy in God’s words. Do you keep this joy only to yourself or do you enjoy sharing it with others. I enjoy sharing my Quiet Time with others because I find His words so powerful in grace; it liberates me to share it with others. When we share what we’ve learned from God’s words with others, it’ll become liberating to those who hear and respond.
When we have chosen to believe God’s words, we will ask for help from Him. The reason why we do not turn to God is because we don’t spend enough time reading His words and meditating on them. Through persistent meditation on His words, we will gain the confidence and trust to ask God for help. And He will help us. That’s what Peter did when he asked Jesus to help him to walk on water, and Jesus did!
After the Psalmist’s cry for understanding of God’s words, supplication for deliverance, praise of God, singing of God’s word and asking for God’s help, he then longed for salvation and delighted in God’s law. Note that salvation and delighting in God’s words go together. We can’t find salvation if we don’t find delight in His words.
“Let me live that I may praise you”. The Psalmist wants to stay alive for that purpose - to praise God. Is that your purpose in life? Do you feel that it is God’s law that sustains you? The word of God nourishes our soul and allows us to live a life with a good relationship with God. When we enjoy a good relationship with God, life will be meaningful and this enables us to praise God. Don’t we find helping the poor and the unfortunate meaningful? We learn that through following God’s word and imitating God’s love.
“I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.”
This is not how I expected the Psalmist to end this longest psalm in the Bible. After spending so much time writing 175 verses before this, the last verse was a declaration to God that he had strayed like a lost sheep and needs God to seek him.
Didn’t God answer his prayer? God did. The Psalmist was in connection with God from the bottom of his heart. He wanted God’s salvation. He was so rooted in his belief that he needed salvation from God. He wanted God to seek him, to find him because he had not forgotten God’s commands.
For God to seek and find us, we must not forget His commands. Do we remember God’s commands? Remembering God’s command means having a relationship with God, and remembering His will for us to be right with Him. God will remember us and seek us. But first, we must acknowledge that we have strayed and we are lost. Remember God by reading His words and practicing them so that we continue to have a relationship with Him. And finally, ask God to seek us. Jesus came to seek us two thousand years ago.
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.