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A Faithful Witness

Vav (w) Stanza (41-48)

Introduction

We are called to be witnesses for our Lord Jesus (Acts 1:8). We are called to use words. But we live in times when our words of witness invoke hostility. We can learn much from Daniel and his witness. Daniel knew nothing but a hostile environment, and yet from his youth up he was a faithful witness. When his enemies were trying to put him to death for his faithfulness, he never went into the Lord’s “secret service.” Delitzsch comments, “he prays for the grace of true, fearlessly joyful confession” (249).

God’s Love and a Good Response (41-42)

41 May Your lovingkindnesses also come to me, O Lord,

Your salvation according to Your word;

42 So I will have an answer for him who reproaches me,

For I trust in Your word.

If there is anything that we see in this Psalm it is the psalmist’s continual prayer for God’s love, mercy, and faithfulness to be poured out on him. It is a reflection of his own deep sense of dependence on God. He prays here that God’s “lovingkindnesses” or “mercies” may come to him. Note the plural. The mercies which are new every morning must come to us again and again. They must come to us afresh. God never asks us to live on yesterday’s steadfast love, He promises it to us new every day.

The psalmist then, in a parallel thought, asks for God’s salvation, “according to Your Word.” The fresh mercies are his salvation. The believer, who is saved, needs to be saved every day. He does not need to be converted all over again, but he needs the saving grace and mercy of God to come to him to save him from himself and from the power of sin. The psalmist counts on God delivering because it is “according to Your Word,” or according to promise. How sweet it is to ask God for what He has already promised.

“How sweet it is to ask God for what He has already promised.”

The reason the psalmist counts on these mercies and this salvation is so that he has an answer to give to the scoffer, to the one reproaching him. Again, think Daniel. As Daniel was reproached for his faith and faithfulness, he asks God to give him mercies anew so that he can respond to the God-hater. The psalmist was anticipating 1 Pet. 3:15, being ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us.

Put Your Word of Truth in My Mouth (43-44)

43 And do not take the word of truth utterly out of my mouth,

For I wait for Your ordinances.

44 So I will keep Your law continually,

Forever and ever.

The NET translates v. 43, “Do not completely deprive me of a truthful testimony.” Perhaps he is using a strong negative (utterly) for a positive. “Give me the Word and the power to speak Your Word.” The reason is “For I wait for Your ordinance or Judgment,” that is he is waiting for God to decide the case. He is being faithful and waiting for His outcome.

It seems that the prayer is that as God intervenes, gives him the words to speak, in the midst of opposition, he is saying the result will be deeper obedience.

Freedom and No Shame (45-46)

45 And I will walk at liberty,

For I seek Your precepts.

46 I will also speak of Your testimonies before kings

And shall not be ashamed.

The psalmist then affirms, “I will walk at liberty” (literally, in a wide open place). Delitzsch explains this liberty, “Courageously and unconstrainedly, without allowing myself to be intimidated… inward freedom that expresses itself outwardly.”

I would paraphrase this prayer like this: “Lord, I have sought Your wisdom, Your Word, and it gives me freedom in my witness, power in my witness, boldness in my witness.”

Daniel would experience this boldness of speaking God’s Word without shame, speaking of God’s testimonies before Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, and probably countless others. The psalmist gives us an early echo of “I am not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16)

Fuel for faithfulness in our Witness (47-48)

47 I shall delight in Your commandments,

Which I love.

48 And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments,

Which I love;

And I will meditate on Your statutes.

Emotive words permeate the Psalm. “I delight in Your commandments! I love them!” And then a physical expression of the feeling of the heart, “I lift my hands to Your commandments,” that is, I have a fervent longing, an earnest desire, for Your Word, I praise You for it and long for it!”

What I need to be a faithful witness is to be full of the Word, soaked in the Word and dependent on God’s grace. The Holy Spirit takes the Word-soaked heart and uses it in that moment to testify and witness to God’s truth (Matt. 10:16-20).

Application

I notice some people are so bold in their Gospel witness. They can start a conversation with anyone. Sometimes, however, I find myself not giving witness when I should. Sometimes we don’t open our mouths because we don’t love God and His truth enough. There needs to be something more powerful than the fear of man, and that is deep passion for God’s Word and a zeal for faithfulness. God will answer our prayers for the new mercies to be that faithful witness in our generation.

 

A New Covenant Prayer

He (h) Stanza (33-40)

Introduction

How often do we pray for our spiritual growth? We legitimately pray for all kinds of needs and concerns, but how often do we pray that God would grow and change us from the inside out?

This stanza is a prayer for growth from a changed heart. There are many New Covenant themes in this prayer. It is interesting to muse on Daniel meditating on the New Covenant promises in Jer. 31:31-34 and 32:39-40, and then praying those promises back to God. We know Daniel had access to Jeremiah’s prophecy and prayed about what he read (Dan. 9:2-4). Regardless, this is a wonderful prayer for us to pray today.

O LORD, Teach Me (33-34)

33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes,

And I shall observe it to the end.

34 Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law

And keep it with all my heart.

The first petition in this stanza is for God to teach and give understanding to His child. He uses God’s covenant name (Yahweh) and is asking for “transcendent tutoring” (Zemek, 136). He knows that if he is taught of God, he will obey, every day, all the way. When God the Holy Spirit is our teacher the result is full heart obedience to the end.

Lord, Change My Heart (35-36)

35 Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,

For I delight in it.

36 Incline my heart to Your testimonies

And not to dishonest gain.

The next petition is for God to cause His child to march along in the path of God’s commandments. The path he desires is the beautiful path of God’s law, it is his delight. For the Psalmist, God’s commandments are not burdensome, but rather they are delightful. Immediately he prays that God would be inclining or turning his heart, sustaining that desire. The Psalmist knows himself well enough to know that every day is a battle over what we will take delight in. He knows the inner conflicts of remaining sin. So he looks to God to sustain him with a willing spirit and delighting heart.

We cannot fail to notice the last line of v. 36, “and not to material gain.” Do you remember the offers made to Daniel if he would interpret the dream (Dan. 5:13-17)? Daniel had already prospered (Dan. 2:48). In this petition, the Psalmist asks God to change his heart and to keep his heart from wanting the wrong things.

Lord, Protect My Eyes (37)

37 Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity,

And revive me in Your ways.

The Psalmist knows where he is prone to look. How about us? Do we know where our eyes are prone to wander? He wants God to keep his eyes away from “vanity,” this word means “a vapor, a breath,” and by extension, that which is morally valueless. This describes the things of this world, the lust of the eyes. The Psalmist pleads that God would turn his eyes away from the world and would revive him. God’s life-giving, reviving power can break the attraction of the nothingness of the world.

Lord, Confirm Your Word (38)

38 Establish Your word to Your servant,

As that which produces reverence for You.

To “establish, “ or “confirm,” may have the idea of fulfill. The Psalmist may have in mind a specific word or promise. The reason that word needs to be established or fulfilled is because it produces godly fear. Charles Bridges wonderfully paraphrases, “Whatsoever, therefore, thy covenant has provided for my sanctification, my humiliation, my chastisement, my present and everlasting consolation – ‘Stablish this word:’ let it be fulfilled in me; for I am ‘thy servant, devoted to thy fear’” (94).

Lord, Take Away My Disgrace (39)

39 Turn away my reproach which I dread,

For Your ordinances are good.

The reproach of the enemy is a common theme in the Psalms. The Psalmist dreads such reproaches, not because they hurt his feelings, but because his testimony is at stake. He did not want to bring dishonor to his God.

Lord, Revive Me (40)

40 Behold, I long for Your precepts;

Revive me through Your righteousness.

He concludes this stanza with familiar but vibrant words. He longs for God’s Word and he longs for God to renew his heart through His righteousness. The reason he appeals to revival through God’s righteousness is because God’s righteousness is not only judgment on the wicked, it is also deliverance or salvation for His people.

Application

The New Covenant blessings have been secured for us by Christ and His blood. These blessings are a new heart, with new desires, empowered obedience and perseverance. To pray to God for what He has already promised has a wonderful power to it. Child of God, learn to plead the promises of the New Covenant!

Grace to Stick When Stuck

Daleth (d) Stanza (25-32)

Introduction

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) memorably wrote in the hymn, “None Other Lamb, None Other Name,” these words:

My faith burns low, my hope burns low;

Only my heart’s desire cries out in me.

These lines capture the Psalmist’s emotions in this stanza. He is dealing with what is going on inside him. There is repetition in this stanza which gives it its coherence. The word “cleaves” in verses 25 and 31 is the same Hebrew word. “My soul” is repeated in verses 25 and 28 in lament and petition, setting the stage of the stanza. The repetition of “way” in verses 26, 27, 29, 30, and 32 give this stanza its rebar.

My Soul is Stuck to the Dirt (25-27)

25 My soul cleaves to the dust;

Revive me according to Your word.

26 I have told of my ways, and You have answered me;

Teach me Your statutes.

27 Make me understand the way of Your precepts,

So I will meditate on Your wonders.

This first lament is so vivid. The Psalmist cries out that his soul is glued to the dirt! The NET Bible translates this line, “I collapse in the dirt.” The picture is one who had sunk to the ground and is now stuck under the crushing weight of trouble. As the soul is now glued to the dust, it cannot raise itself up. Whether this is the result of external or internal trials, the Psalmist cannot get any lower. So, he cries out, “Revive me according to Your Word!” Charles Bridges paraphrases like this, “Breathe into me Thine own life, that I may rise from the dust and cleave to Thee.” He then says, “This cry for quickening grace is the exercise of faith” (57).

In verses 26-27, the Psalmist exercises his memory, thinking on God’s answered prayers. Laying prostrate in the dust is the posture for learning.

When the believer is down and almost out, he needs to look back to God’s past answered prayers and faithfulness, he needs to see the learning opportunity, and cry out so that his soul can at least behold God’s wonders, although stuck the ground.

I am dissolved in tears (28-29)

28 My soul weeps because of grief;

Strengthen me according to Your word.

29 Remove the false way from me,

And graciously grant me Your law.

This is the second lament and it is like the first. The glued soul is now the dissolving soul. The ESV says, “My soul melts away from sorrow.” The exile knows loneliness and fear, and the sorrow that ensues. He feels the weight of it, but he also feels it melting his very soul, sapping away his strength and his vitality. Indeed, “My faith burns low, my hope burns low.” The only thing to do is cry out, “Strengthen me according to Thy Word!” God’s child, in exile, needs spiritual strength, his faith needs to be reinforced, his soul needs to be revived.

He begs, in his second petition, “remove the false way from me.” The false way could be the way of the Babylonians, which would have been antithetical to God’s way. The Psalmist feels the pressure of the opposing worldview. He pleads for God, by His grace, to grant him His law. To receive God’s Torah, God’s instruction, is indeed an act of grace. Contrasted with the false way, the way which leads away from God, the Psalmist pleads for the gracious teaching of God’s law which would lead him in God’s way and to God.

I stick to Your Word (30-32)

30 I have chosen the faithful way;

I have placed Your ordinances before me.

31 I cling to Your testimonies;

O Lord, do not put me to shame!

32 I shall run the way of Your commandments,

For You will enlarge my heart.

God has answered once again! He has revived, He has strengthened His child. The evidence of answered prayer is the determination of the Psalmist here. He has determined in his own heart that the false way will not allure him, he will remain on the faithful way, the way of loyalty to God and His Word. Think of Daniel here. How many times was he tempted to the false way, either false worship or compromise of his own convictions, and yet God strengthened Daniel to be faithful and to stick to the Word.

The Psalmist, whose soul was stuck to the dirt, is now making the conscious commitment to keep the Word front and center in his own heart and mind. He says, “I stick to your Word!” (31a). The grace-empowered determination to say, ‘I am clinging to the Word, it is my life and I won’t let go,” is God’s answer for revival and strength.

The Psalmist is aware how much is at stake, “O Yahweh, do not put me to shame!” Throughout this Psalm we encounter again and again the Psalmist’s determination and then his immediate reliance on God’s grace. “Leave me not to myself, lest I become a shame to myself, and an offense to Thy Church” (Bridges, 75).

The final verse is triumphant confidence. The soul that starts out stuck to the dirt is now ready to run. God, in reviving grace, has given him his second wind. He knows he will run in the way of God’s commandments because God is going to enlarge his heart, that is energize his affections, deepen his love and loyalty. God loves to answer prayer in this way, He loves it when His children, though stuck to the dirt and dissolved in tears, look to Him with confidence and say, “Father, I am going to energetically purse You and a life of holiness and obedience because You are going to empower my heart for this pursuit!”

Application

When the Psalmist was stuck, when he was melting, he remembered how God had heard him in the past, and then pled for life and strength in the present and committed to grace-empowered obedience for the future. Child of God, when you are glued to the ground, look up. When your soul is dissolving in tears, polish God’s monuments of faithfulness to you along your way. Cry out! Plead for life and strength. Voice your confidence in God’s grace to do for you what you cannot do for yourself. Cry out, as Christina Rossetti said,

Lord, thou art Life, though I be dead; love’s fire thou art, however cold I be:

nor heav’n have I, nor place to lay my head, nor home, but thee.