Psalm 119 is like the meditation of a faithful man who relates how he remains steadfast in the Lord. In the psalm he describes his encounters with those who hate him, and the response that he gives and lives. Because it’s a writing of the Old Testament, i.e. of the Old Covenant, we can miss how it pertains to us in New Testament – New Covenant – times. The psalmist speaks of obeying God’s laws, rules, precepts, and commandments. This, of course, was the mindset of the faithful Jewish believer. For our purposes, I believe we need to think of how this translates to us as we live out our faith through Jesus Christ. How can we see the legalistic (to us) prescriptions of the psalm through the lens of the grace that is ours? To briefly address this, I’ll comment on several verses from today’s reading.
The first is Psalm 119:69:
The insolent smear me with lies,
but with my whole heart I keep your precepts;
As believers in Jesus Christ, we have always earned the disdain of those who hate God. In the latter days, such scorn is increasing. Lawlessness is rising, we are being pointed at in order to be singled out as targets for those who wish to make an example of us. The wicked tell lies, and because of the echo chamber of the media, the lies become the world’s truth. For our part, we must take the approach that regardless of what is said, or that they do to us, we cling to the Lord. He alone is our refuge and strength. Only by remaining rooted in Him are we able to stay strong in our faith against these attacks.
Next, consider Psalm 119:71:
It is good for me that I was afflicted,
that I might learn your statutes.
Verbal attacks often become physical ones. We’re seeing this play out in certain segments of society in America. Over the last several years, believers who have demonstrated their faith in the creation of celebratory items like cakes, flower arrangements, etc. for Godly weddings or other occasions have repeatedly had lawsuits filed against them by the homosexual community for “discrimination.” These brothers and sisters have resisted even to the level of the Supreme Court. Despite success, those who hate God conjure up new ways to come against these faithful ones. These continuous assaults have significantly affected their businesses and livelihoods.
But what do we see happening? The pressure of this persecution – and make no mistake: it is persecution – causes them to seek God even more. Affliction is the basis for incredible faith. Tertullian wrote: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Have these faithful ones shed their blood yet? I don’t think so, but that time is coming for many of us. What the church has experienced in the 10/40 Window in Islamic, Hindu, or Communist nations, with the resulting underground church of incredibly faithful believers, is coming our way. Don’t think for a minute that it’s not. This affliction will shake up the church in America and leave only a true believing remnant.
Our stand against the tide of persecution is a valuable witness and testimony to the Lord’s faithfulness. It has the positive result noted in Psalm 119:74:
Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice,
because I have hoped in your word.
A strong stand for God by one person can be a catalyst of faith for many. When the overwhelming scourge comes our way and a single person stands in the gap for God, that creates an atmosphere of faith. That person’s bold determination not to be swept away by the winds and waves of whatever crashes upon him provides incredible encouragement for others. This is time-tested in secular situations such as war. One soldier acts courageously and others regain their backbone. It’s the same in Godly matters.
What is it that can enable us to stand like this? Of course, no one knows how he’ll respond in a time of crisis. However, the most important thing any of us can do is to make the determination beforehand that we’ll stand for the Lord and for Biblical values. There is no compromise with evil. If the church had remembered this all these years, it would be in a much better place. As it is, believers who should have known better gave in a little here to encroaching wickedness and a little there. Years later we find ourselves asking, “How did this happen?” We must remain steadfast and never give way to the prevailing wickedness.
In difficult times it’s easy to give up. This is exactly what the psalmist expresses in Psalm 119:92:
If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.
Simply, when we’re overwhelmed by hardship and those who are pressing against us, what do we have in our flesh to resist? Nothing. It is only the Lord who sustains us. We must turn to Him, be rooted in His Word, and be obedient. As we do these things that delight Him, He will hold us in the palms of His hands and bring us the comfort we require. More than that, knowing that He is with us, causes us to rejoice in Him.
Our enemies think they’re smarter than God and can outwit Him. By extension, they believe that those of us who follow the Lord are fools. What a joy it is for us to know that God is sovereign and that His ways are not our ways. Look at Psalm 119:98:
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
for it is ever with me.
What is it about the Word of God that is so special? It is the very nature of God and how He operates as seen in 1 Corinthians 1:18:
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
The world sees God and His followers as fools; God says those who reject Him live in folly. It is they who ultimately lose. Being on God’s side in this war, we are assured of victory. He is wiser than all of mankind combined.
Finally, by being faithful followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have something in this world that no one else can claim. Psalm 119:104 gives us a hint of this:
Through your precepts I get understanding;
therefore I hate every false way.
Paul says it best in this regard in 1 Corinthians 2:16:
“For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
Through our blood-bought salvation in Christ, we are transformed into His likeness. When we turn our hearts to Him, He gives us something astounding: We have the mind of Christ.
He gives us understanding and directs our steps. The Holy Spirit within us guides us away from all falsehoods to the truth.
The writings in the Old Testament are as fresh to us as in the New Testament. We simply have to see with unveiled eyes.