Psalm 119 Journal - Stanzas 11 & 12
81 My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word. 82 My eyes long for your promise; I ask, “When will you comfort me?” 83 For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I have not forgotten your statutes. 84 How long must your servant endure? When will you judge those who persecute me? 85 The insolent have dug pitfalls for me; they do not live according to your law. 86 All your commandments are sure; they persecute me with falsehood; help me! 87 They have almost made an end of me on earth, but I have not forsaken your precepts. 88 In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.
89 Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. 90 Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast. 91 By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants. 92 If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. 93 I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life. 94 I am yours; save me, for I have sought your precepts. 95 The wicked lie in wait to destroy me, but I consider your testimonies. 96 I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad.
During his reign, king Solomon was a wisest and wealthiest man alive. He had sufficient resources to search wherever he wished for the secret of meaningful life. The Book of Ecclesiastes records his exhaustive, and exhausting, search. He tried everything “under the sun” - money, power, philosophy, sexual indulgence, grand architectural projects, and more. Eventually, Solomon concluded if life is contained entirely “under the sun” (only within the sensible realm human beings occupy) there is only meaninglessness.
The Psalmist captures these thoughts poetically in verse 96. He says everything we can sense is limited in its perfection, but God’s word is not. This is a declaration. There is an unchanging point of reference for all of life. It is the eternal, personal, and powerful creator God. His word is “firmly fixed in the heavens” (v. 89). It is not something that came to be, it is something that has always been. It came down – both figuratively and literally – to earth (v. 90).
The eternal God of holiness and love made everything that exists in the sensible realm by is speech (Gen. 1, John 1:1-5). Why did God choose to create? Because he is love and he has a plan for all of history. All created things – including human beings - exist to fulfill his divine purposes (v. 91). More than that, the existence of all created things depends on God faithfully upholding their existence moment by moment. The creator God of the universe is the only sufficient and reliable source of life.
To whom the Psalmist rightly cries out, “I am yours, save me” (v.94). What does that mean? Is breathing equal to life? Is moving? Is merely existing? No! True life consists of perfectly and joyfully fulfilling the purposes for which one exists. And this can only be done in the context of a proper relationship with one’s Maker. The biblical narrative is the story of human beings who were made by God to enjoy abundant life. Life everlasting in community with God himself. We lost that life through disobedience. But, it can be restored to us by another work of God. A work greater than creation itself. Making us anew is the purpose of the self-sacrificial work of the Lord Jesus Christ who:
is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross (Col. 1).
The Psalmist writes centuries before the incarnation, death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Christ. Consequently, we do not know exactly what he understood about God’s plan for restoring a relationship with sinful human beings. We do know he rests his hope on the promises of God. Promises that were made to the patriarchs of Israel – but the benefits of which extend to all who truly seek God with their whole heart (Eph. 2). This is the “salvation” the Psalmist seeks in the word of God (v.81).
Unfortunately, not everyone will accept the pathway to life that God made available. There are insolent people who reject God’s offer of salvation. They may even persecute God's people causing their hearts to grow hard and dry (v. 83 & 84). But God is faithful and just. Each will receive exactly what they have valued most highly. As C. S. Lewis put it:
“In the end, there are only two kinds of people in the world: those who say to God ‘Thy will be done,’ and those who in the end God says to them, ‘Thy will be done.” (The Great Divorce)