Gimmel (g) Stanza (17-24)
The aleph stanza (1-8) focused on the happiness of an obedient life. The beth stanza (9-16) showed how to live a pure life by the Word of God. The gimmel stanza (17-24) speaks to dealing with outside pressure and hostility. There is a progression. If we, by grace, live a life of obedience to God, seeking to order our lives according to His Word, then we will face pressure from the world. This stanza, which has Daniel written all over it, shows how to cope with hostility, insult, gossip, and opposition.
Petition for God’s Abundant Supply (17)
17 Deal bountifully with Your servant,
That I may live and keep Your word.
The Psalmist calls himself God’s “servant.” He is trying to live faithfully to God. He is trying to live a life dedicated to the Lord. But he is also convinced that unless God does something for him, he will not live (literally) and unless God does something for him, he will not be revived in his soul. Daniel in Daniel 1 is a good example of this. Daniel put his life on the line for the sake of his own conscience and refused to eat the delicacies from the king’s table. Instead he chose to eat vegetables, and opened himself up to severe punishment, even death. Daniel was utterly dependent on God to deal bountifully with him, preserve his life, so that Daniel could keep on living and obeying the Word of God.
Petition for illumination from the Word (18-20)
18 Open my eyes, that I may behold
Wonderful things from Your law.
19 I am a stranger in the earth;
Do not hide Your commandments from me.
20 My soul is crushed with longing
After Your ordinances at all times.
If God does not open our eyes, we will not see. But when He opens the eyes of our heart, we see the beauty and power of His Word and how His Word applies to our lives. This prayer is powerful because when we face pressures, as the Psalmist did, we need eyes to see, we need Spirit-enabled sight into the Word. That is where we are sustained.
The Psalmist says in verse 19 that is he an exile, a foreigner in the land. He is trying to walk with God, apart from the comfort and security of living in the promised land and access to the Temple. The distance and the circumstances could have made God seem hidden. Sometimes when the pressures of life cave in on us, there can be a sense of distance from the Lord, or even desertion. So, the Psalmist cries out, “Don’t hide your commandments from me!”
In verse 20 the Psalmist is consumed with a longing for God’s instruction. There is a sense of desperation. What a blessing to be desperate for God! Charles Bridges notes, “The longing of the soul can never over-reach its object. The cherished desire, therefore, will become habit – the element in which the child of God lives and thrives.” We can never hunger too much, we can never be desperate enough. Such longing, especially when it has become “the habit” of the soul, is where we thrive before God.
How God Deals with the Arrogant (21)
21 You rebuke the arrogant, the cursed,
Who wander from Your commandments.
If this is Daniel, the exile, then then Daniel is speaking of his fellow Jews in exiles, who were being assimilated into Babylonian culture and forsaking God’s ways and commandments. In Daniel’s prayer in Dan. 9, he said, “Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, but to us open shame, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those who are nearby and those who are far away in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of their unfaithful deeds which they have committed against You” (Dan. 9:7).
There is always a danger that when God’s people become to acclimated to culture that we can wander from God’s ways. The spirit of the age can creep in and erode our loyalty and obedience. This is of course arrogance and pride, going our own way. The Psalmist calls on God to rebuke the arrogant, those who are under the curse of law-breaking. This prayer for rebuke should instill in us the fear of the Lord.
Prayer for Deliverance from Hostile Opponents (22-23)
22 Take away reproach and contempt from me,
For I observe Your testimonies.
23 Even though princes sit and talk against me,
Your servant meditates on Your statutes.
The Psalmist feels the hostility of his opponents, who were insulting him and showing contempt for him. The prayer of verse 22 could be that the Psalmist is asking God to remove the hostility, which is a legitimate prayer. The other option may be something like this, “Let the taunt and abuse roll away from me because I keep Your testimonies.”
James Boice comments, “What is unique about these specific trials is that they seem to have come to the Psalmist because his determination to adhere to God’s Word.”
There is of course a price for holiness and obedience (2 Tim. 3:12). If you stand up for God, in the classroom or the boardroom, God’s enemies will unleash venom. What can we do?
The Psalmist says that “princes plot and speak against me.” This is parallels verse 161. The princes are probably the policy-makers of the foreign land, who were conspiring against Daniel (cf. Dan. 6:3-6). But in spite of this opposition – organized opposition at that – the Psalmist is committed to mediating on the Word. He finds strength in the Word. He meditates on the truth of the Word. The truth of the Word is armor to his soul against lies, accusations and opposition. Charles Bridges comments on this idea of meditation, “[meditation] is the digestive faculty of the soul, which converts the Word into real and proper nourishment.”
Declaration of Confidence in the Word (24)
24 Your testimonies also are my delight;
They are my counselors.
This oft repeated refrain, “Your testimonies are my delight” is so important. True delight in the Word gives ballast to the soul when we are tempted to fear and anxiety. It is the testimony of God that is the greatest counselor! Whatever the counsel and conspiracy of the godless is, the Psalmist looks to the truth of God for counsel.
The harsh reality is that in this world we should expect opposition and hostility because we belong to Jesus Christ. Jesus told us, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also” (John 15:19-20).
When we feel the antagonism of a culture at war with God, the hostility of those who hate holiness and despise the Word of God, we need to go to our source of strength and counsel, which is God’s holy Word.
College students, employees in the work place, and citizens of godless nations need to remember that when our faith is attacked, and we are attacked, that we must go, in dependence, to the Word, so that our souls can be provisioned and strengthened, and we can be reoriented to the Truth in the midst of pressure and even hostility.