The Exile’s Inheritance

Heth (x) Stanza (57-64)

Every Israelite has an inheritance in the land. Exile would mean expulsion from the land and loss of the inheritance. So what do you do when you are removed from the land and it looks like the inheritance is lost? The Psalmist, as an exile, looks to the ultimate reality of the inheritance, and it was not a piece of real estate, it was the Lord Himself. Girded with that truth, he works out the implications of the Lord as his inheritance in this stanza.

The Exile’s Inheritance (57a)

57a The Lord is my portion;

In the OT, Israel was the Lord’s inheritance (Deut. 32:9). As mentioned in the opening paragraph, every Israelite, after the settlement of Joshua, had a family inheritance. The inheritance was the chief thing a man possessed. But what of a temple-less priest? What of a landless Jew? This declaration, “the Lord is my portion or inheritance” is spoken by faith. Psalmists and Prophets had made such declarations before (Psa. 16:5; 73:25-26; Lam. 3:24). Now, the Psalmist in exile confesses, “the chief thing I have is God Himself. He is my inheritance and my portion, He is my chief good and best joy.”

Obedience, Grace and More Grace (57b-58)

57b I have promised to keep Your words.

58 I sought Your favor with all my heart;

Be gracious to me according to Your word.

If God is the most important person in my life, if He is my portion and my joy, then a continual resolve to obey His Word is the natural and necessary result. But this resolved obedience is not mere obedience, it is an earnest pursuit of communion with God as the fountain of all grace. Seeking Him, seeking His favor (literally “seeking Your face”) with all my heart is my passion.

The Psalmist, after his commitment to obey and seek God’s grace, now prays that God would give him grace according to His Word. We cannot but help to see that virtually every time the Psalmist makes a commitment, a resolution, a determination, he follows up with asking God for the grace and favor to what he has committed to do. John Calvin summarizes this:

“Let us then desire nothing else, but that God would draw us into himself, link us unto him, and grant us the grace to keep his commandments.”[1]

Confession, Repentance, and Obedience (59-60)

59 I considered my ways

And turned my feet to Your testimonies.

60 I hastened and did not delay

To keep Your commandments.

When God is our treasure, our inheritance, it causes us to examine our lives and our priorities. The process, of course, can be painful, but the Holy Spirit will faithfully show us where there are contradictions and conflicts. This is what the Psalmist does. He considered his ways and then repented! Repentance is described as “and turned my feet to Your testimonies.” His feet represent his ways, his actions, the direction of his life. Matthew Henry noted,

He determined to make the word of God his rule, and to walk by that rule. He turned from the by-paths to which he had turned aside, and returned to God’s testimonies. He turned not only his eye to them, but his feet, his affections to the love of God’s word and his conversation to the practice of it.[2]

He says he did this immediately. Upon his self-examination, he repented without hesitation. Child of God, beware of being slow in repentance. Beware of being too cerebral and delaying what we know we need to do. Beware of putting on God what He has put on you! Matthew Henry again:

“When we are under convictions of sin we must strike while the iron is hot, and not think to defer the prosecution of them… When we are called to duty, we most lose not time, but set about it today, while it is still called today.”[3]

Rejoicing While Persecuted (61-62)

61 The cords of the wicked have encircled me,

But I have not forgotten Your law.

62 At midnight I shall rise to give thanks to You

Because of Your righteous ordinances.

The Psalmist is a man of principle and true piety. His heart is in the right place, and yet he still encounters the “cords of the wicked.” He is surrounded and overwhelmed (Psa. 18:6). Think of Daniel in Daniel chapter 3 and 6, surrounded by enemies. Now the Psalmist is able to say, even though enemies surround me, despite persecution, I have not drifted from Your Word, I have not forgotten it in the pressure cooker of life. He arises in the night to give thanks to his God and for His Word.

Godly Companions (63)

63 I am a companion of all those who fear You,

And of those who keep Your precepts.

Close friendship with those who fear and obey God is a powerful means of grace in our lives. Just as sure as “bad company corrupts good morals_” (1 Cor. 15:33; Prov. 15:33), so godly friends can help us, encourage us, exhort us, pray for us and walk with us. Daniel’s friendships are a model and an admonition to keep godly company. I wonder how many Christians, when they have encountered hardships and trials, have been led astray by the counsel of ungodly friends? Our friendships, especially as exiles and strangers in this world, are vital for our own faithfulness.

The Lord’s Hesed Fills the Earth (64)

64 The earth is full of Your lovingkindness, O Lord;

Teach me Your statutes.

This verse forms a beautiful bookend to this stanza. It begins with an inheritance and ends with covenant love. God’s hesed, His covenant love, is better than life (Psa. 63:3). The Psalmist, despite his circumstances, sees God’s covenant love everywhere. God’s lovingkindness meets him every morning, and he sees it. It surrounds him throughout the day, and he acknowledges it. It lays his head at night and is there as he awakes in the night. Such eyes of faith which sees God’s loyal love everywhere inform the heart to once again cry out, “Teach me Your statutes!.”

Application

We are exiles. We are aliens and strangers. We are pilgrims in this world. When God is our inheritance, our Treasure, we have all we need to be satisfied and to live a life of joyful obedience. When God is our inheritance we are committed to obedience, to self-examination and godly friendships. When He is our everything, we have all the covenant-love we could ever need to face life’s challenges.

[1] John Calvin, Sermons on Psalm 119 (reprint, Old Paths Publications, 1996. Originally published, 1580), 153.

[2] Matthew Henry, A Commentary on the Whole Bible, Volume III, 698.

[3] Henry, 698.