• Andy de Ganahl

Responding to Real and Present Danger – Psalm 119:145-152 (ק)

145 I cried with all my heart; answer me, O Lord! I will observe Your statutes. 146 I cried to You; save me And I shall keep Your testimonies.

147 I rise before dawn and cry for help; I wait for Your words.

148 My eyes anticipate the night watches, That I may meditate on Your word. 149 Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness; Revive me, O Lord, according to Your ordinances. 150 Those who follow after wickedness draw near; They are far from Your law. 151 You are near, O Lord, And all Your commandments are truth. 152 Of old I have known from Your testimonies That You have founded them forever.

If you’ve noticed a change in our psalmist’s tone, you’d be correct. The last two stanzas have been primarily focused on accurate and righteous worship of the One True God. The psalmist’s enemies have not been ignored altogether, but they have hardly been the focus. Yet we open up to these verses and read intense cries from our psalmist. Cries to be heard, to be answered, and to be saved. The turmoil of reality has broken through the serenity of worship.

As Christians we worship and serve a holy God and are called to imitate that same holiness. Yet we live in a cursed and depraved world. As we attempt be salt and light in this dark and rotting world, this stanza injects some much-needed truth into our veins. As we follow our psalmist’s flow of thought, there are two questions that we must ask ourselves as we live holy lives while navigating a depraved world.

What are our reasons for and attitudes regarding deliverance from affliction? (vv. 145-148)

145 I cried with all my heart; answer me, O Lord! I will observe Your statutes. 146 I cried to You; save me And I shall keep Your testimonies.

147 I rise before dawn and cry for help; I wait for Your words.

148 My eyes anticipate the night watches, That I may meditate on Your word.

Reason: For the freedom to obey (vv. 145-146) – The student should notice that these two verses begin with the same picture (literally the same word – קרא). The psalmist is crying or calling out whole-heartedly. We should remember that the heart is the seat of decision, volition, and will. What we do with our whole heart we do with undivided attention. The psalmist is throwing his entire being into this cry and he desperately pleads for an answer for the covenant God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. The situation is serious, and he needs help. The next verse brings more detail to this cry. He is asking for Yhwh to save him.

Sidebar: We need to understand clearly what our psalmist is asking for. The idea of salvation in the Old Testament usually (about 80% of the time) refers to salvation from temporal circumstances, physical danger, or other threatening situations. In the New Testament the mention of salvation mostly (again about 80% of all references) refers to spiritual salvation from sin and the curse. But for the ancient Israelite under the Mosaic Law, these two ideas (temporal salvation and eternal salvation) are linked. God promised economic prosperity and safety from foreign enemies (Deut. 28:1-14) to Israel as blessing resulting from faithful obedience. In other words, the temporal blessings promised to Israel were to be a taste of greater blessings to come through their faith in Yhwh and His promised redemption. When our psalmist is pleading to be saved in a temporal situation, he is asking God to recognize the fact that he is a redeemed and obedient child of God and thus can expect God’s protection. This becomes apparent when we look at the reason why our psalmist is asking for deliverance.

Note the second part of both verses. Why is the psalmist crying out to God to be saved from danger? So that he can obey! The line in v. 145b reveals the psalmist’s desire: I shall observe Your statutes. With more detail in v. 146 that desire is turned to a purpose statement: That I might keep Your testimonies. What ever this pressure is and wherever it is coming from it is interfering with our psalmist’s physical ability to focus his attention on God.

Is this why we dread persecution? Do we fear our businesses being boycotted, our children scorned, our houses burned, and our bodies imprisoned because these acts would draw our attention away God as we struggle to survive? Or do we fear these things simply because they are unpleasant and undesirable?

Attitude: Anticipating God’s Promise (vv. 147-148) – While not seen in the English text, vv. 147 &148 also begin with the same Hebrew word (קדם – to come before/to meet/to be in front of). Like breadcrumbs through the forest, our psalmist is purposefully linking verses together so that we might follow his train of thought. There’s also a logical link within these verses. In v. 147 the psalmist meets the dawn and in v. 148 his eyes meet the night watches. Before the sun rises, he is up and crying for help. After the sun sets, he remains alert to meditate. But why? What is he searching for? He’s waiting for God to fulfill His Word.

The second line in v. 147 contains a term that we have seen several times before (יחל – to wait/to hope: vv. 43, 49, 74, 81, 114, & 147). There is always a sense of expectation and confidence that what is being hoped for or waited for will most certainly occur. Our psalmist rises before the dawn and cries for help but does so with confident expectation that God’s Words will come to pass.

This anticipation continues in v. 148b. His eyes meet the night watch with an expressed purpose of meditation (שיח – deep/inward contemplation: vv. 15, 23, 27, 48, 78, & 148) upon God’s promise (אִמְרָה used here - Promise). Day and night, he both cries for God to act as He promised He would do but then our psalmist anticipates that action.

This is what faith looks like. If we actually believe all that God has said, then we will cry out to Him that He would act just like He promises to act. But we will not remain there! Just as the psalmist demonstrates, we will rush to the window with our gaze fixed on the horizon anticipating God’s action. Yet, do we know our God well enough to understand what we should call upon Him to do? Do we know His Word well enough to understand what we should be anticipating? Our psalmist does.

What should our expectations be in the midst of real and present danger? (vv. 149-152)

149 Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness; Revive me, O Lord, according to Your ordinances. 150 Those who follow after wickedness draw near; They are far from Your law. 151 You are near, O Lord, And all Your commandments are truth. 152 Of old I have known from Your testimonies That You have founded them forever.

Expect God to remain faithful (v. 149) – This is the only verse in this stanza that does not have a pair. As such, it marks a transition in our psalmist’s thought process. The combined pleas to hear my voice and to revive me picks up the theme from vv. 145-146 (answer me...save me) but it is the reasoning the psalmist uses that is slightly different.

The psalmist pleads for God to hear his voice according to God’s lovingkindness and to revive him according to God’s judgments. Earlier our psalmist’s requests were motivated by his desire to serve and obey without hindrance. Here his expectation is rooted in God’s very nature and character.

The lovingkindness (חסד) of God is woven into the definition of who He is (Ex. 34:6). This loyal love is reserved for those who seek Him and turn to Him (Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2). If God is going to listen to/pay attention to/hear our psalmist in accordance with His lovingkindness, then there is an assumption that our psalmist is one who has turned (repented) and placed his trust fully in Him. This an expectation that God will remain faithful to His servant.

We could say the same about God’s judgments or ordinances. God’s decision regarding those who fear Him and serve Him is that He will be gracious to them and save them. The psalmist does not invoke his own merit, but appeals to God’s unchanging and faithful character.

Expect to be assailed by depraved men and comforted by a faithful God (vv. 150-151) – The English reflects the connection of nearness between these two verses, though most translations do not place the term at the head of the verse. There is a comparison going on between the nearness of wicked men and the nearness of God. The first exists in an ongoing contradiction.

The psalmist calls them those who follow wickedness. This is a very G rated translation. The term translated wickedness (זמה) describes utter depravity and lewdness that even the pagans recognize. This is the term used to describe the gang-rape and murder of the Levite’s concubine (Judg. 20:6) and the same term used to prohibit various forms of incest (Lev. 18:17; 19:29; 20:14). These are not just ones who follow such abominations but pursue them. The Hebrew implies an ongoing, continuous, and head-long pursuit of such lewdness. These are the individuals who are near our psalmist. Like the wicked men of Gibeah, they are at the door.

The contrast comes in the next line. Though these men are near to the psalmist they are far away from God’s law. As a reminder, the word law reflects the Hebrew Torah (תּוֹרָה) or instruction. They are not even in the ballpark when it comes to conformity to God’s revealed instruction nor do they care. This not only highlights the depths of their depravity, but it also increases the threat level against our psalmist. With no regard for God’s Word it is anybody’s guess what they might do if they get their hands on our psalmist. There is good reason to fear men who have no fear of God.

Yet our psalmist is not paralyzed by this very real and very imminent threat. They may be near but so too is Yhwh and all of His commandments are truth. There is no way of telling what these evil and wicked men may do. But the psalmist rests in the certainty and truth of God’s commandments. He knows that justice and righteousness will rain down upon the earth (Amos 5:24). But he also knows that justice and righteousness will only come through the long-anticipated King (Psalm 72:6). David’s words in Psalm 23:4 summarize these verses well: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.

Expect God’s sufficiency to be sufficient (v. 152) – This verse begins with a connection back to vv. 147-148. The verb from קדם (to come before/to meet/to be in front of) has a cognate noun (קֶדֶם) which literally means in front of, but grew to indicate a time in front of/previous to our current time or a time before or even an ancient time. There is a link back to the psalmist’s anticipation here.

The point here is that the Word of God is firmly established (it’s not going anywhere nor will it change). The psalmist has known this for a very long time, and he came to this conclusion simply by reading the Word. If the reader would allow me to paraphrase v. 152 – Long ago I have known from Your testimonies that You have made them firm forever. He expects God’s Word to stand the test of time and continue to be thoroughly relevant for two reasons. First, Scripture makes this claim of itself (case in point). Second, they have been made firm/established very purposefully and specifically by the Author Himself.

Conclusion

We live in a very dangerous world that is growing more hostile to truth with each passing day. Unless the Lord is gracious and grants repentance to the people of this nation on a scale never seen since the day of Pentecost, the church will be forced underground in years; not decades or generations, but years. Our need to cry to our good and gracious God is palatable. But what is our motivation? Do we crave freedom to worship or simply to be comfortable? Do our expectations match reality and divine revelation? This is a time to check our bearings. It is time to prepare. It is time to seek the Lord until He comes to teach righteousness to us. Soli Deo Gloria!

 

©2019 by The Pastor's Brief. Proudly created with Wix.com