25 I am laid low in the dust;
preserve my life according to your word.
26 I gave an account of my ways and you answered me;
teach me your decrees.
27 Cause me to understand the way of your precepts,
that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds.
28 My soul is weary with sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word.
29 Keep me from deceitful ways;
be gracious to me and teach me your law.
30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I have set my heart on your laws.
31 I hold fast to your statutes, Lord;
do not let me be put to shame.
32 I run in the path of your commands,
for you have broadened my understanding.
The psalmist says he is laid low in the dust. He likens the state of his soul to that of being dead and buried. His only hope is God’s promise of life found in His word. He asks for God to do this work which only He can do. The psalmist recounts the way in which he confessed his sins – his ways – and how God came to him for forgiveness. Now he wants only to know more about what God requires from a life lived for Him. This part of Psalm 119 reminds me of the first 2 things Jesus said to his disciples on the sermon of the mount:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
The spirit of the psalmist is broken, knowing that only God can help, and he mourns over his sins in hope that God will answer. He asks for God to intervene inside of his soul – to cause him to understand the way of God’s precepts (vs. 27). A precept is a command or principle intended especially as a general rule of action. These principles are only available through the study of God’s word. We cannot read just one line of a paragraph out of the middle of a chapter and book and expect to understand the full meaning of what that line is meant to teach. Just as the psalmist is expressing – we must desire to learn the entire word, and be led by the Spirit, to understand what God desires for our lives. By studying God’s character we can understand His precepts, just like if you study your own father you can understand what he expects from you. Once you start to understand what He expects you’re heart will be overflowed by the sheer volume of His love and mercy towards people who cannot live up to His standards.
We will have no relish for the law of God until he sanctify our minds, and render them susceptible of tasting heavenly wisdom. And from this dis-relish springs indifference, so that it is a grievous thing for the world to give a respectful attention to the law of God, having no savor for the admirable wisdom contained in it. With great propriety, therefore, does the prophet pray that this way may be opened to him by the gift of knowledge. From these words we are instructed, that in proportion to the spirit of knowledge given to us, our regard for the law of God, and our delight in meditating on it, ought to increase. – Calvin
The psalmist has been assured of his standing in God but he is wrought with sorrow. Again he places trust and hope in God’s word for rescue. He asks for God’s hand to be upon his soul and keep him away from the worldly desires of deceit and instead turn him toward truth in God’s law. The psalmist displays his want for devotion to God in that he willingly desires to follow the way of faithfulness, and the way of study, but he knows his own heart leans toward the things that are not of God and so he must rely on Him for strength and perseverance. As God directs him, he grows ever more inclined to want more of the things of God.
Something to ponder:
What is your ‘truth’ based on? Unfortunately we are living in a time when truth is relative to whomever wants to apply it. Though we may think that our truth is the right one we can only be sure by holding it up against the ultimate truth: God’s word. Think about this – how long has your truth been in existence, and has it changed as you have? God’s word, person, and character are the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He will demand an accounting based on His truth. Another thing – truth is not contradictory. There can only be 1 right answer to any given conundrum. If 2 Christians are arguing the interpretation of a passage 1 (or both of them) is wrong. It is our duty to study and show ourselves approved – to know the truth and uphold it.