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God’s Remembering and Ours

Zayin (z) Stanza (49-56)

When the child of God calls upon God to remember, it is an act of faith. Not because we think God can forget, but because we are calling upon God to act upon a specific promise on our behalf. When the child of God himself remembers God’s promises, it is an act of faith because we are recollecting God’s promises and God’s past faithfulness to us to stir up faith. Charles Bridges noted, “Recollections without faith are shadowy notions” (138). In this stanza, the Psalmist calls God and himself to remembrance as an act of faith.

God’s remembering (49-50)

49 Remember the word to Your servant,

In which You have made me hope.

50 This is my comfort in my affliction,

That Your word has revived me.

The Psalmist begins by petitioning God to remember. In Scripture, “remembering” is a mental activity that often is a call to pay close attention and results in action. But God never forgets because He is omniscient. When the Psalmist asks God to remember he is calling upon God to take notice and to act on his behalf.

The thing he wants God to remember is “the word to Your servant, in which you have made me hope.” The Psalmist is, as it were, taking his finger and pointing to the Word, the promise, which he has now personalized. He is not simply asking God to remember His Word in a general way, but he wants God to remember the Word He gave to him. The child of God does not look at the Word of God as if it were a general Word given indiscriminately, rather, the attitude of God’s child is “This Word is mine! This promise is mine! It is for me! God has given it to me, He has made me hope in it, and now I am reminding Him!” Bridges says, “Thus is prayer grounded upon the promise, which it forms into a prevailing argument, and sends it back to heaven; nothing doubting, but that it will be verified in God’s best time and way” (123).

As the Psalmist looks back to God’s monuments of faithfulness, he remembers the times God had revived him. This has been and continues to be his comfort during his affliction. He has lived a life of faith in the living Word, his experience of God through the Word is a powerful comfort. Christian, in your affliction do you point out God’s promises to Him? Do you know how to form a prayer, grounded on a promise, into an argument and then send it to heaven? Do you live in confident expectation that He will again come through? He remembers every promise He has ever made, and He loves for you to point them out and call upon Him to remember what He can never forget.

I have remembered Your ordinances (51-53)

51 The arrogant utterly deride me,

Yet I do not turn aside from Your law.

52 I have remembered Your ordinances from of old, O Lord,

And comfort myself.

53 Burning indignation has seized me because of the wicked,

Who forsake Your law.

Now it is the Psalmist’s turn to remember. The pagans who surrounded Daniel, scorned him and mocked him, his religion and his God. But he would not turn aside, he remained loyal. How foolish to abandon the steadfast Law of God when carnal opinions are against us. The Psalmist would not be detoured for the path of God’s holy Law. He engages himself in the mental activity of remembering. He is paying close attention to God’s ancient words and testimonies, he rehearses them, he preaches them to himself, and is comforted.

Instead of flipping or flopping because of the wicked, he experiences righteous indignation. This is probably not a reference to the pagans in Babylon, but rather Daniel’s fellow Jews who were compromising in Babylon. The compromisers were the wicked who were abandoning God’s Law for the sake of Babylonian acceptance. Such apostasy caused the Psalmist to burn with indignation.

I remember Your name (54-56)

54 Your statutes are my songs

In the house of my pilgrimage.

55 O Lord, I remember Your name in the night,

And keep Your law.

56 This has become mine,

That I observe Your precepts.

These lines, following his burning indignation, give us insight into the character of the Psalmist. He didn’t become an angry blogger who attacked all who were unfaithful, instead he re-focused his heart and mind and worshiped the Lord. He sings Scripture. “In the house of my pilgrimage” is a reference to captivity in Babylon (Ezek. 20:38). Even in a strange land, the Lord’s truth is his song. He again exercises his memory in the night, that blessed time for reflection and meditation.

The last verse is variously translated. The KJV and the NASB remain quite literal. Perhaps the ESV best captures the thought, “This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept Your precepts.” The Psalmist sees his own obedience as a blessing, a gift, which has been given to him. In a faithless generation, it is a great blessing to be among the obedient remnant, and those who are in that camp are there by grace alone.

Application

The role of remembering in the Christian life is so important. God’s remembering His covenant (Ex. 2:24; 6:5) is the foundation for Him acting in the Exodus. God’s people call upon Him to remember again and again. As Spurgeon put it, “Let but the Lord remember His promise, and the promised act is as good as done.”

And yet we are the ones with short-term and long-term spiritual memory loss. Remembering and not forgetting is an ethical issue in the Bible.

The Psalmist does not hesitate to remind God of His promise. This is an act of faith. He also knows that he too must remember. This memory exercise is so poignantly put into practice when we come to the Lord’s Table. We can point to the bread and the wine and say, “Father, remember Your Son’s sacrifice for my sins! Forgive me for Christ’s sake. You have promised that if I confess my sins You will forgive me of my sins and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. You promised.” But the Supper also says, “Child, do this in remembrance of Me. Eat this bread and drink this cup because you remember My great love and sacrifice for your sins. Remember it. Believe it. Act on it!” How such blessed remembrance should stir our hearts to observing the Word of the Lord.

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!