“Applying God’s Word for God’s Glory” – Psalm 119:41-48 (ו)
Updated: Mar 9, 2021
You will notice that this stanza is marked by a “ו” or “Vav” or “Waw” in your Bible. As you might expect, ו is the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet and so each verse in this stanza begins with a ו (pronounced wow or if you prefer vav – reflecting a more Germanic and modern pronunciation). The interesting thing is that this letter can stand alone as a word by itself, much like our English “I” or “a” can stand alone as a word or function as a letter inside of a word. This letter, when functioning independently, is used as a conjunction meaning “and/or/but,” “so,” “also,” or “then.”
Many of our translations don’t take seriously the use of this conjunction. Glance over these verses. How many begin with a conjunction of some kind? For example, v. 47 in the NASB shows no trace of this divinely inspired conjunction. Rather than looking at the text as just a stylistic choice to complete the acrostic, maybe we should assume that the use of “and/or/so/also” actually advances the author’s big picture argument. What has come before this stanza?
The א stanza (vv. 1-8) displays the connection between blessing and obedience, but also the necessity of pursuing the One who blesses rather than the blessing itself.
The בּ stanza (vv. 9-16) explains the life that contains blessing is a life that matches the trajectory of God’s Word.
The ג stanza (vv. 17-24) transitions from principal to practical as the psalmist prays for the ability to respond to a sinful world in a manner that glorifies God.
The ד stanza (vv. 25-32) is a prayer that leads the psalmist from despair, to dependence, and finally to devotion.
The ה stanza (vv. 33-40) reveals the power in humility in both obedience and holiness.
So here we are at the “and” stanza, the stanza that seeks to connect 8 additional thoughts to the child of God as he seeks to live according to the Word of God. What we see here is a prayer for the ability to apply God’s Word in real life situations and circumstances. Briefly, the psalmist seeks the ability to apply God’s Word to a very specific circumstance, and then the ability to apply God’s Word in an overarching manner to all of his life.
Specific Application (vv. 41-42)
“May your lovingkindnesses also come to me, O Lord, Your salvation according to Your word;
So I will have an answer for him who reproaches me, for I trust Your word.”
The conjunction here is not placed at the beginning, but is translated by the word also. Yet this is a continuation from and a connection to the previous stanza. From the longing of God’s step-by-step- instructions and the request for life (v. 40) comes this prayer for the lovingkindnesses and salvation of Yhwh (note the spelling of Lord – all capital letters indicate the covenant name Yhwh).
A quick note on the word lovingkindnesses. The Hebrew חסד (hesed) is a pregnant term that is bursting with meaning. It is difficult to put this term into a single English word, which is why William Tyndale created the word lovingkindness when he translated the first English Bible from the Hebrew and Greek. The word indicates a deep and loyal love that is shown to those who do not necessarily deserve it, but who are also in desperate need of it. Perhaps the best way of describing it is to combine the New Testament ideas of love (ἀγάπη – agapa – unconditional love) and grace (χάρις – undeserved favor). The psalmist prays for the unconditional love and undeserved grace of the covenant God, Yhwh, according to Your word.
Again, that term word is better translated as promise. This is not a prayer that is offered in wishful thinking. The psalmist prays in perfect accordance with what God has already promised. But for what is this prayer for loyal love, covenant love, merciful grace?
So I will have an answer for him who reproaches me
That word so reflects the ו conjunction and provides the reason for this request. The psalmist is in need of God’s grace so that he will be able to answer the one who has been giving him grief since v. 22. Here the reproach takes on a human form. How is the child of God supposed to give a biblical and God honoring response to those who slander, reproach, and taunt him? This is an application of His Word.
It is ridiculously arrogant for us to presume that God will magically give us the answers to all of life’s problems when we remain ignorant to the body of instruction that He has already provided. In short, God never blesses laziness or faithlessness. But to the one who is immersed in His Word, He will provide the right response when we humbly ask Him. Notice that this request is based upon a complete trust of God’s Word - for I trust Your word. If we trust (believe, affirm, and rest upon) God’s Word, then we will seek to know it and obey it. This is simply a request for God to give him the ability to put into practice what he has already committed to mind and heart in a very specific situation. Lord, help my hands [or in this case, his mouth] to do what I have placed in my head and stored in my heart.
General Application (vv. 43-48)
“And do not take the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for I wait for Your ordinances.”
Verse 43 introduces another prayer and additional thought. The word picture is an interesting one, but the sense is easy enough to understand. He is asking that God not remove the pleasure, privilege, and ability to speak the word of truth. In support of this request, he quickly adds for I wait for Your ordinances. The word wait is sometimes translated as hope in our English Bibles, but wait more accurately reflects the expectant and certain anticipation of what biblical hope really is. This is not wishful thinking, but expectant anticipation of God’s ordinances, judgments, decrees, and pronouncements. In other words, he claims to be an obedient child who not only knows what God has declares but lives in a way that actually anticipates the fulfillment of God’s Word.
What follows in vv. 44-48 fleshes out what it means to wait for God’s judgments. These verses describe a life that is pleasing to God, a life that is above reproach and thus a life that displays as well as declares the word of truth. As one commentator said, “language dies away on the mouth of him who is unworthy of it [declaring the word of truth] before God.”
Perpetual Obedience (v. 44) – So I will keep Your law continually, forever and ever.
This verse should not require a lot of commentary. This is a declaration of devotion to obey the law (Torah/instruction) of God in a perpetual and indefinite fashion. Notice how he concludes the verse – continually (habitually and repetitiously) forever and ever (without ceasing). The believer that actually waits for God’s judgments or hopes in God’s Word, is the believer who ceaselessly obeys it.
Procedural Freedom (v. 45) – And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts.
The word liberty literally means a wide place. The idea is that he will walk (live his life, behave in such a way) in a place that is free of constraint. Do you realize that obedience to God is not binding but actually offers freedom? The unregenerate are slaves to sin and unrighteousness and are unable to live in any other manner. But for the believer, there is freedom in Christ. We are free to live exactly the way in which God originally designed us. The yoke of our savior is easy, and His burden is light (Matt. 11:28-30). There is no need for the believer to be enslaved to his lusts and passions. Seeking, looking intently, investigating God’s step-by-step instructions leads to a wide place with freedom.
Public Testimony (v. 46) – I will also speak of Your testimonies before kings and shall not be ashamed.
With freedom comes boldness. The psalmist adds to his desire to obey and enjoy freedom the desire to boldly declare the account of God before those in supreme earthly power without fear of shame! How many times have our mouths remained closed because we fear the opinion of man? How many times have we refused to speak forth the word of truth because we dread the shame that men will heap upon us? What shackles and confines us is nothing less than the sinful and arrogant fear of man. What freedom there is in a healthy and holy fear of Yhwh! With that freedom comes the boldness of lions!
Personal Sanctification (vv. 47-48) – I shall delight in Your commandments, which I love. And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, which I love; and I will meditate on Your statutes.
These last two verses turn from the external manifestations of a life that waits for God’s judgments to the internal attitude and desires that hope for God’s decrees. We all know what it means to delight. It means to take joy in something, to enjoy and look forward to it. The psalmist expresses delight in the commands of God, but does not stop there. He delights in them because he loves them.
There is no getting around the connection between obedience and duty. But that obedience is supposed to sprout from love. What did our Lord say? “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). It’s telling that our psalmist pairs this delight and love with the commandments of God; the dos and don’ts. Do we love the commands of God? Do we delight and rush to obey them? The psalmist does, and rushes to lift up his hands in surrender and praise to these same commandments. He is ready, willing, and eager to obey the commandments that reflect the character of the God he loves.
The very last line is so beautiful. And I will meditate on Your statutes. We have already stated several times that obedience begins in the head, invades the heart, and proceeds out of the hands. But continual and perpetual obedience is a cycle, returning again to the head to reinvade the heart and re-motivate the hands.
The Word of God is always practical in the life of the believer. But applying it to each and every circumstance requires first that we know it, secondly that we actually practice it, and thirdly that we humbly seek God for the ability to apply it. When our focus is not on our own circumstances, but zeroed in on God’s glory learning, obeying, and submitting will become second nature. Soli Deo Gloria!
 F. Delitzsch, Psalms, ed. C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, trans. James Martin, vol. 5, 10 vols., Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975), p. 249.