Psalm 119 Journal - Stanzas 7 and 8
49 Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope. 50 This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life. 51 The insolent utterly deride me, but I do not turn away from your law. 52 When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O LORD. 53 Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your law. 54 Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning. 55 I remember your name in the night, O LORD, and keep your law. 56 This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept your precepts.
In verse one of Psalm 119 the poet pictures himself as a traveler – a person who is walking a “way”. In this stanza he refers to himself as a sojourner (v.54). One who is passing through. He knows his ultimate destination and is sure it is good. God’s promises regarding that future end are the basis of his hope – a wellspring of life itself.
The Psalmist’s and the patriarchs of Israel shared the same future vision. According to Hebrews 11:
13 [the patriarchs] died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
As a sojourner, the Psalmist anticipates his residency in a land and citizenship in a city that are yet to be fully revealed (Phil. 3:20,21). To live this way, he must remember what God has spoken. He recalls God’s rules (v. 52) and His name (v. 55). Like songs, they are a source of constant joy that is so real and satisfying he is enabled to live as he should. The Psalmist is not deterred by critics. He is offended, rather than tempted to do evil, by those who live contrary to God’s perfect law. Because he is an heir to great blessing, he seeks to walk – here and now – in a manner worthy of what he has already attained (Phil. 3:12-16).
57 The LORD is my portion; I promise to keep your words. 58 I entreat your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise. 59 When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies; 60 I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments. 61 Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your law. 62 At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous rules. 63 I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts. 64 The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes!
The Psalmist’s simple words, “The LORD is my portion” carry a substantial weight of personal, historical and cultural baggage. The promised land of the Old Testament was a source of blessing as well as a figurative representation of life in God’s eternal land and city. When God led the Israelites from the wilderness into the land of promise he directed them to divide it among the families of Jacob’s sons (Joshua 14-20). The descendants of the third son, Levi, did not receive an allocation. As God’s appointed priests, they were to live in cities scattered throughout the nation (Joshua 21). This did not mean they were left without God's blessing. While still in the wilderness:
The LORD said to Aaron [a Levite and priest] “You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them. I am your portion and your inheritance among the people of Israel (Numbers 18:20).
Though the Psalmist is probably the king of Israel, he does not measure the worth and purpose of his life by an earthly kingdom. Instead, he claims an inheritance in God himself. He clings to the source of every good thing who has promised an eternal future in His land and city.
The importance and power of these promises – to both God and the Psalmist – are conveyed by the structure of the language. Every verse contains a confession (“I”) of dependence and an expression of confidence in the character of God himself: your words, your favor, your promise, your testimonies, your commandments, your law, your righteous rules, your precepts, your steadfast love, your statutes. These gifts are so great they flood the mind when the Psalmist wakes in the middle of the night. A song pours out of the Psalmist’s heart - invoking God’s covenant promises and evoking their immeasurable value to those who trust in Him.