Well we’re back in Psalm 119. You may have forgotten; I did! We were working on the sermon schedule and somebody said – I think it was Sean, he said, “Well Ligon, you need to finish the last four sections of Psalm 119.” I said, “I’ve already finished Psalm 119.” He said, “No you haven’t!” And I looked back and he was right! I hadn’t finished Psalm 119! And so we worked it into the schedule and I’m delighted that we have because this is a great psalm and you don’t often get an opportunity to hear a part by part exposition of the whole psalm. I’m not sure, in my entire Christian life, if I’ve ever heard an exposition in a local church of all of Psalm 119. So if you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with me to Psalm 119. We’ll begin in verse 145 tonight. And as we look at this passage you’re going to say, “This sounds familiar! Here’s the psalmist, in trouble, crying out to God for help.” And you may be thinking, “That’s a little repetitious. How many times has that happened in Psalm 119 alone?” And then you think that, just remember that the Lord is very patient with us and He says the same thing over and over and over again to us in a manifold variety of ways because He knows we’re slow to learn and we’re slow to believe and we’re quick to despair.
And so in this passage tonight what I want you to be on the lookout for is these four things. First, the cries of the psalmist. Then, the problem that the psalmist faces. Then, the help that the psalmist finds. And the purpose that the psalmist declares. Be on the lookout for those four things and let’s pray before we read and hear God’s Word and ask for His help and blessing.
Heavenly Father, this is Your Word and Your Word is truth and Your Word is profitable. I do not know all the troubles and trials, the problems and dangers that Your people have brought to this place tonight, but You do. You knew those things before the foundations of the world. You knew those things before Your people were ever born. And You work all things together for our good. But in order that we might walk in the midst of trouble and danger with comfort, we must attend Your Word. And so that is where we find ourselves tonight, O Lord, looking to Your Word, waiting for the comfort that You alone can give. So give it, we pray, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
This is the Word of God. Hear it, beginning in Psalm 119 verse 145:
“With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O LORD! I will keep your statutes. I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies. I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words. My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise. Hear my voice according to your steadfast love; O LORD, according to your justice give me life. They draw near who persecute me with evil purpose; they are far from your law. But you are near, O LORD, and all your commandments are true. Long have I known from your testimonies that you have founded them forever.”
Amen, and thus ends this reading of God’s holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.
I. The Cries of the Psalmist
Once again, the psalmist is teaching us how to find comfort in trouble and he points us especially to God’s precious Word, which is the great uniting theme of this wonderful psalm. And as we consider the comfort we get in trouble from God’s Word I want us to see four things tonight. The first thing is simply this – I want you to look at the cries that the psalmist lifts up. Very strong words are used. In verse 145 – “I cry.” In verse 146 – “I call to you.” In verse 147 – “I cry for help.” We see here in the psalmist’s prayers urgency, intensity. This isn’t a casual prayer that the psalm is lifting up. He is urgently, desperately, calling out for the Lord’s help. And this is seen in specifically what he says. Look at verse 146 – “Save me.” “Help me” – verse 147. And we’ll see, of course, eventually in verse 150, it is because he is in a desperate situation. And so the prayer comes in the form of a cry, a cry for help, a call for salvation, a whole-hearted cry. And this reminds us in time of trouble we must learn to give a whole-hearted cry to God. Are you urgent in times of trouble in your prayers? Did you know that Jesus Himself was urgent in time of trouble in prayer, and He, like the psalmist, lifted up prayers to God with urgent cries?
Jesus: A Model of Urgent Prayer
Turn with me in your Bibles to the New Testament to Hebrews chapter 5. We’ve been studying through the book of Hebrews on Sunday morning for many weeks together, many months together, and one of my favorite passages in the book of Hebrews is found in Hebrews chapter 5 verse 7 and this is what it says about Jesus. “In the days of His flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death and He was heard because of His reverence.” Do you remember that verse? Your Savior, in time of trouble, in time of danger, lifted up His voice not calmly, but with loud cries and tears and He was heard. Now if the Savior, in time of trouble, lifted up his voice with loud cries and tears, so should we! How much more should we? In time of trouble, we must learn to give a whole-hearted cry unto God.
I love what William Plumer says about this verse. “In supplication, we must not only call upon God but continue to call upon God. We must not only pray, but pray without ceasing. We must not only cry with the voice, but with the holy vehements of the soul. We must not only pray with the heart, but from the whole heart. Our attitude must be the attitude of Jacob – I will not let you go until you bless me!” Do you remember the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel? “I will not let you go until you bless me!” These are good words to remind us that so often our lack of comfort in trouble is because of our lack of urgency in prayer. Plumer goes on to say this. “Your soul would not be so empty of comfort if your mouth were not so empty of prayer.” Oh, that is a rebuke to me! May it be an encouragement to you to be urgent, to be importunate, to be desperate, to be vehement in your prayer. So there we see the cries.
II. The Problem that the Psalmist faces
The second thing I want us to see is the problem, and the problem of course is spelled out for us in verse 150 – “they draw near.” And who are “they?” Persecutors, persecutors who have evil plans, evil purposes. “They draw near who persecute me with evil purpose.” This is what is driving the urgency of the psalmist’s prayer. And my friends, as believers, especially in times when God’s Word is not honored, we should not be surprised to find ourselves in these kinds of circumstances and more and more as the days grow darker. Do not be surprised by this. If the psalmist had to go undergo these in Bible times, it should not surprise us to have to undergo these things in ours. But here he is and the problem is evil people with evil purposes are drawing nigh. They’re encircling him, they’re surrounding him, and he fears their purposes against him.
Now notice the very interesting juxtaposition of words. In 150 – “they draw near…they are far.” Did you see that in verse 150? “They draw near” and the very reason that they are drawing near to persecute him with evil purposes is because “they are far from the law of God.” They are far from the Word of God. Because they are far from the Word of God they do not honor the Word of God and they engage in evil purposes against God’s people. So here’s the problem – they’re drawing near but they’re far from God.
The Hope: When Trouble is Close, God is Closer
But hope is not far away, is it? Look at the very first words of the next verse. Look at Psalm 119 verse 151 – “But you are near.” Now isn’t that an interesting juxtaposition? They draw near; that’s why he’s worried. They are far – they don’t honor God’s Word, they don’t pay attention to God’s Word, they don’t fear the living God – they draw near to do evil things to the psalmist. They are far from God’s Word but what is the consolation in trouble? “You are near.” Here’s the principle, my friends, and it’s the second thing we learn in this passage. When trouble is close, God is closer. When trouble is close, God is closer. When danger surrounds you and draws near, your God is closer. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” When trouble is near, God is nearer, and it is that hope which becomes the help in the problem. Do we believe that? Do you believe it? That when those who do not love the Lord, those who do not believe His Word, draw near to you to do harm, they’re the ones who are really in danger, because whether they realize it or not, the Lord is nigh unto you. The armies surrounding Elisha and his servant could not see the armies of angels protecting him. When trouble is near, the Lord is nearer.
III. The Help that is the Hope of the Psalmist
And this leads us to think on the help. And it’s spelled out, isn’t it, in three parts, in verses 151 and 152. Here we see the help that is the hope of the psalmist. Now he’s already lifted up a prayer in verse 149 on the basis of two things. He says, “Hear my voice according to – “ what? “According to your steadfast love, your loving-kindness, your covenant love.” “Hear my prayer, Lord, because your loving kindness, your covenant love has been poured out on me, your servant. And hear my voice, O Lord; according to your justice give me life.” Now he’s not saying, “I’m perfect, therefore I deserve Your justice.” He’s saying, “Lord, these persecutors, they’re worse than I am! I’m a sinner, Lord, but they don’t even care about Your Word! So in Your loving-kindness and in Your justice, hear me.” In other words, the psalmist has confidence in the character of God. He knows that God is loving, he knows that God is loyal, and he knows that God is righteous, and therefore he has confidence in lifting up his voice in prayer to Him.
Hope in God’s nearness
But if you’ll look at verse 151 and verse 152, you will see three things in particular that the psalmist fastens on for hope, for help, in his time of trouble. And here it is. “You are here, O Lord, your commandments are true, your testimonies are forever.” There you see it. There you see it. In trouble, where do you get help? Prayer? Yes. Urgent prayer? Yes. Urgent prayer to a God in whose character you trust. He’s loving, He’s loyal, He’s just, but especially his nearness, the truth of His Word, and the utter stability of His Word. “You are near, O Lord.” There’s the first hope, there’s the first help that the psalmist has in trouble – the nearness of the Lord.
Hope in the truthfulness of God’s Word
Second, the truthfulness of God’s Word. “All your commandments are true.” The Word of God is true and therefore it can be trusted. Why is it true? Because God is true. There is no untruth in Him. He is not a man that He should lie and therefore His words may be trusted because He can be trusted. And so the psalmist says, “Lord, You’re near and Your Word is true. You won’t let me down.”
Hope in an unchanging God
And then finally, “Lord, Your word is forever. Your testimonies are forever.” In other words, “Lord, Your Word doesn’t change from one moment to the next.” Why? God’s Word is unchanging because God is unchanging. You see, each of these three comforts are rooted in who God is. He is near unto His people because He is the sovereign God. Nothing in all of space and time can keep Him away from His people in the hour of their need. His Word is true because He is true. His Word is stable and unchanging because He is unchanging. And these things comfort the psalmist in time of trouble. Do you go back to these things and meditate on them in your time of trouble? If you don’t, you’re missing out on a blessing and you’re missing out on comfort that the Lord wants you to have.
IV. The Purpose of the Psalmist
And then we see the purpose of the psalmist. We’ve seen the cries of the psalmist, we’ve seen the problem that the psalmist is facing, we see the help that the psalmist draws from God’s nearness and from His true word and His stable word, but now, the psalmist in gratitude for God’s deliverance, declares that he wants to keep God’s Word and meditate on His promise. In other words, he declares a purpose. “Lord, because I’m grateful for Your deliverance, I want -“ get this – “I want to live life as a sacrifice of praise.” It’s interesting, in Calvin’s commentary on this psalm he uses that exact phrase out of Hebrews 13 verses 15 and 16 that we were studying this morning. He said, “David knows that God would have His people live as a sacrifice of praise, and therefore he purposes to praise God in word and deed.” And look at what he says. Go back to verse 145. “Answer me, O Lord. I will keep your statutes. I call to you, save me, that I may observe your testimonies. I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your word. My eyes are awake before the watches of the night that I may meditate on your promise.” Did you see those four things? “I will keep your statutes, I will observe your testimonies, I will hope in your words, I will meditate on your promises.” In other words, he is going to devote himself to the study of the Word of God and he is going to devote himself to the practice of the Word of God. He is going to worship God in word and in deed. He is going to keep the statues, observe the testimonies, hope in His Word, meditate on His promises. In other words, God’s deliverance of the psalmist fuels his desire to live life as a sacrifice of praise.
Have you ever had that experience yourself? Not long ago, the Lord gave me a very unexpected deliverance. I was in a place that I did not think that I could come out of. And in a way that only He could do, He saved me, and it made me want to live for Him, to live as a sacrifice of praise. That’s what the psalmist is saying and that ought to be all of our responses to the Lord’s mercy and deliverance in time of trouble. We ought, in gratitude, want to live life as a sacrifice of praise because He’s delivered us in trouble. And this whole section of the psalm teaches us once again how to find comfort in the midst of danger and how to find hope when we need help, and every believer needs that just about all the time. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word. Give us hope in danger, give us comfort when we need help, and grant us hearts to live in gratitude with our lips and our lives, with our words and our deeds, with our study and our practice, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Would you stand for God’s blessing?
Receive now the Lord’s benediction.
Peace be to the brethren and love with faith from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, until the daybreak and the shadows flee away. Amen.