Putting Confidence into Action – Psalm 119:105-112 (נ)
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.
106 I have sworn and I will confirm it, That I will keep Your righteous ordinances. 107 I am exceedingly afflicted; Revive me, O Lord, according to Your word. 108 O accept the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord, And teach me Your ordinances. 109 My life is continually in my hand, Yet I do not forget Your law. 110 The wicked have laid a snare for me, Yet I have not gone astray from Your precepts. 111 I have inherited Your testimonies forever, For they are the joy of my heart. 112 I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes Forever, even to the end.
This stanza begins with one of the most well-known verses of this psalm. Most Christians have at least heard of these words, even if they do not know where they come from. The psalmist gives us a beautiful sentiment here that we can all acknowledge and relate to. The Word of God is truly the light that directs our steps. As you might expect there is more here than meets the eye, but there is something else to keep in mind: this wonderful revelation is not uttered in a vacuum. Let’s take a step backwards and view the last several stanzas as a whole.
The Heth (ח) stanza (vv. 57-64) is a confession of commitment but acts like the deep breath before the plunge into affliction.
The Teth (ט) stanza (vv. 65-72) reveals the disciple’s ability to pray, persevere, and praise even in the throes of affliction.
The Yodh (י) stanza (vv. 73-80) picks up right where our psalmist left off and displays a right response to affliction.
The Kaph (כ) stanza (vv. 81-88) is an intense lamentation that confesses impatience in the midst of affliction and longs for restoration.
The Lamedh (ל) stanza (vv. 89-96) stands as a rock upon which our psalmist finds himself standing and clinging to. His confidence is securely and accurately placed in God’s Word.
The Mem (מ) stanza (vv. 97-104) is a declaration of love and devotion to the same Word that he has securely placed his confidence.
The stanza before us (Nun – נ) begins the downward climb and describes the action that comes from such confidence and devotion. I love how George Zemek describes this stanza, “It is a grappling hook that is securely anchored on that high plateau of stability and sufficiency, but at the same time attached to it is the first length of fragile cord for the disciple’s dangerous descent downwards” (The Word of God in the Child of God, p. 248). What good is confidence in God’s Word if we do not act upon it? This stanza puts confidence into action in three basic steps.
Step 1: Understand what Scripture is and fully commit to it (vv. 105-106)
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet; And a light to my path. 106 I have sworn and I will confirm it, That I will keep Your righteous ordinances.
The Word of God is likened to a small lamp, probably made of clay, that gives enough light to see where our psalmist is to place his next step. But more than that, it is also likened to a light, a grander light source, that exposes the entire path upon which he treads. There are a few things that we cannot miss here.
First, the path mentioned is not a metaphor for secular life choices and decisions. In no way is our psalmist referring to decisions like what career to pursue, what car to buy, or which town to live in. You can glorify God and enjoy Him forever as a doctor or a dump truck driver. You can live a life of obedience driving a Camaro or a Corolla. You can make disciples in Burley, Burlington, or Brigham City. This path refers to the moral, ethical, and obedient decisions that we make each and every day. As we determine where to place our next step in things like – how should I respond to my disobedient child? How can I come alongside my struggling husband? What should I say to my disheartened wife? What can I do for my grieving brother? – the Word of God reveals the solid ground of the path in which we can confidently place our foot.
Second, the need for light assumes that there is darkness. No one turns their headlights on during the day, nor carries a flashlight at noon. If our psalmist were able to distinguish the path from the ditch without the illuminating power of God’s Word, then he would not be in need of it. But this world is in darkness and will ever be in darkness until our righteous King returns to complete the work of undoing and reversing the curse. Only then will there be no need for the sun, as all light will come from the throne. Until then, the only light that pierces the darkness of this world comes from God’s Word. Everything else attempts to peer into the darkness with more darkness. It is little wonder why so many stumble and fall!
Third, the use of light assumes action. There is an unspoken assumption that once our psalmist sees the next step, he will take it. Once he sees where the ditch is, he will avoid it. To be able to discern that you’re standing in the ditch, or worse yet off in the field, is utterly useless unless there are steps taken to return to the path.
Our psalmist is not only aware of the fact that God’s Word reveals where he is standing, where his next step should be placed, and the overall direction of travel; but he is also committed to it. In v. 106 he makes a binding oath and is committed to stand for the expressed purpose of obeying God’s Word. To put this verse in the modern vernacular we could say, “I am bound and determined to obey Your righteous judgments!” The first step in turning confidence into action is understanding that only God’s Word can pierce the darkness and being committed to using only God’s Word to discern our course of action.
Step 2: Understand the appropriate response to affliction (vv. 107-110)
107 I am exceedingly afflicted; Revive me, O Lord, according to Your word. 108 O accept the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord, And teach me Your ordinances. 109 My life is continually in my hand, Yet I do not forget Your law. 110 The wicked have laid a snare for me, Yet I have not gone astray from Your precepts.
Informed Dependency – I have news for the reader: to be a child of God is to be an enemy of this world. If the world is in darkness, you shining the light of God’s Word will expose the fact that they are neck deep in mire rather than standing on solid ground. People love the darkness and hate the light (John 3:19). The point is this: if your feet are being directed by God’s illuming Word, then you should expect affliction.
This is the sixth time that our psalmist as explicitly mentioned being afflicted (vv. 50, 67, 71, 75, & 92), but only here does he say that he is exceedingly afflicted. The prayer that follows this realization is a familiar one. Our psalmist has either plead to be revived or made to live and has recounted the historical fact that God has revived/made him to live 6 times before this (vv. 25, 37, 40, 50, 88, & 93). But this cry for life is informed and fully dependent upon God’s previous promise. He cries for God to revive him according to Your Word. He knows his Bible and knows that God will not abandon him. Responding to affliction requires us to know our Bibles and fully trust the promises that God has made.
Righteous Worship – There is urgency in v. 108. The NASB translates the Hebrew particle נא with a vocative O accept… The force behind that is more urgent – Please accept/accept now. The meaning behind this word accept has to do with finding pleasure or favor in something or someone. This term is found throughout Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers when referring to the various sacrifices and offerings that Israel was supposed to offer and the manner in which they were supposed to offer them so that they might be acceptable to God. What is our psalmist offering?
The freewill offerings of my mouth
A freewill offering is not demanded or necessarily obligated but is given from a desire to please and fellowship with God (Lev. 7:16; 22:18, 21, 23; 23:38). This offering is not a lamb or bull or turtledove but is praise coming from our psalmist’s lips. Please find my praise, which I offer voluntarily, pleasing O Yhwh!
Commentators disagree as to the scene being described here. Some are confident that the use of freewill offering (נִדְב֣וֹת) suggests that his praises are offered in conjunction with a formal sacrifice in the temple. Others maintain that the phrase of my mouth highlights the fact that this is an act separate from formal worship. I think that both arguments miss the point entirely. It matters not whether he is in the temple, at home, or in the street; his desire is that God finds his offering acceptable. In other words, he knows that he can only approach God with clean hands and a clean heart. His affliction does not give excuse for flippant worship. He knows who his God is and what He expects. This prayer is offered in humility with a desire to truly worship.
Humble and Eager Submission – It should come as no surprise that he finishes with another request to know his God even better.
Teach me Your ordinances.
The first prayer was in reference to his current state of worship. This is a humble plea in reference to the future. Teach me more about You so that I might continue to worship You aright! This is the sixth time he has made this same request (vv. 12, 26, 64, 66, 68, & 108). A true disciple is always a disciple, a learner. If we know all about God, then we are God and can never submit to Him.
Conscious Fidelity – The next two verses balance the reality of danger with steadfast faithfulness. The expression – My life is continually in my hand – is a common enough phrase (Judg. 12:3, 1 Sam. 19:5; 28:21) that indicates one has knowingly and deliberately placed themselves in a dangerous situation. Our psalmist is not pretending that everything is fine, because it most certainly is not fine. His life hangs in the balance.
The first line of v. 110 tells a similar story. The wicked have set snares for him. The idea is that they have lined his path with tripwires, pitfalls, and nets just waiting for him to fall into one. This is a dangerous and precarious situation and our psalmist does nothing to downplay the danger. He is consciously aware of the reality of physical danger, yet he does not waver.
Back to v. 109, what is the response to his dangerous situation? He does not forget God’s law. He not only brings it to mind, but never fails to neglect doing it. How does v. 110 respond to the traps of the wicked? They do not drive him off course away from God’s step-by-step instructions. If we might return to the opening verse, when God’s Word is the tool that we use to illumine where our feet stand and where we need to go, it will also illumine deadly pitfalls strung along the way. This does not mean that we ignore the danger. It means that we refuse to move off of the path as we wearily avoid traps and temptations.
Step 3: Understand the objective and purpose (vv. 111-112)
111 I have inherited Your testimonies forever, For they are the joy of my heart. 112 I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes Forever, even to the end.
To the ancient Hebrew, that word inherit or possess carries a mountain of meaning. The Promised Land is a key feature in the connection to the rest of God’s promise to Abraham; namely, the promise of a coming seed to undo and reverse the curse and the resulting blessing that all the nations of the earth will receive (Gen. 12:1-3). The nation of Israel was given the land as their possession or inheritance (Ex. 23:30; 32:13; Num. 26:55; 33:54; 34:13; Deut. 12:10; 31:7; Josh. 1:6; 19:51). Our psalmist by no means belittles the inheritance of the land, but even more than that he clutches tightly to his chest the possession of God’s testimonies. God has given His people His Word forever. The result of the great possession is joy.
Please note that joy here is not subjective nor is it purely emotional. Too many professing Christians speak of joy in terms of their subjective happiness. They define it in extremely personal terms as to what makes them happy, what makes them smile, what they find enjoyable. This is how the world, who are drowning in darkness, thinks and functions. Our psalmist’s joy finds its source in the objective nature of God’s Word. He finds his joy in the fact that God’s testimonies, witness accounts, and firsthand declarations belong to him!
His joy is grounded upon the unchanging reality that God is infinitely holy, infinitely good, infinitely righteous, and infinitely sovereign. He rejoices in the fact that God will slay all who oppose Him and will tear down every effect of the curse. His heart (the seat of decision) rejoices in the fact that he belongs to this good and gracious God.
Sidebar: Perhaps now is a good time to remind ourselves of a foundational truth which began this psalm. Back in v. 2 we made the necessary distinction between seeking the blessing vs. seeking the One who blesses. Those who are blessed (those who are direct recipients of God’s good will, favor, and grace) are those who seek Him with all their heart.
Do not fall into the trap, dear reader, of thinking that only heretics like Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer are guilty of pursuing blessing while avoiding the One who blesses. The health and wealth prosperity gospel is no good news at all, but it is also just the tip of the iceberg. We are guilty of the same crime each and every time we attach our joy, happiness, desire for blessing to our subjective feelings rather than to a pursuit of God’s person.
Confidence can never be turned into action unless we are clear on our objective: to love Yhwh with all of our heart, with all of our mind, with all of our strength. Our joy is found in Him and in obeying His Word. Obedience is the command and the blessing! If you and your household are devoted to obeying God, there will be joy in the home. That I can promise you.
This joy is turned into motivation in v. 112. It is because he has tasted and seen that the Lord is good that he turns his heart, bends and stretches his seat of decision, to actively obey and perform the rules and regulations of God. This is no temporary strategy. This is a lifelong battle plan – Forever even to the end.
We as Christians have too long sat on the sidelines. We shout and cheer with bold confidence the sufficiency of Scripture, yet seldom apply it. We send our addicts to 12-step programs. We send our troubled youth to secular counselors. We send our needy to the government. Every Lord’s Day we do great lip service to our supposed love of God’s Word, yet the other six days of the week it lies on the shelf neglected, unopened, and unreferenced. Our lives do not shine forth as a reflection of its light. Instead we are content to stumble in the darkness alongside our lost and dying neighbors and co-workers.
Dear reader, is your confidence and devotion reserved for God and His word? Then follow the example of our psalmist and put that confidence into action. Let the words of our Lord Jesus close this post: You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:14-16