Psalm 119:137-144

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137 Righteous are you, O Lord,
and right are your rules.
138 You have appointed your testimonies in righteousness
and in all faithfulness.
139 My zeal consumes me,
because my foes forget your words.
140 Your promise is well tried,
and your servant loves it.
141 I am small and despised,
yet I do not forget your precepts.
142 Your righteousness is righteous forever,
and your law is true.
143 Trouble and anguish have found me out,
but your commandments are my delight.
144 Your testimonies are righteous forever;
give me understanding that I may live.

The psalmist knows that the Lord is Righteous and that His rules are right (v 137). The Lord is the One who has appointed His testimonies in righteousness and in all faithfulness (v 138). The Lord is Righteous in His Character and Right in His Conduct. “Trust in the reliability of God’s word is directly proportionate to one’s trust in the Lord himself. The conviction that the Lord is righteous and faithful, as is his word, evokes a response of great devotion” (W. VanGemeren, Psalms REBC, 2008, p. 884).

The zeal that the psalmist has for the Lord’s Word is an all consuming zeal because his foes forget God’s Words (v 139). This zeal is a deep anger that almost destroys the psalmist. Ultimately, “he could not however stand by while the word of the LORD was being nullified, for it is truth. The reliability of the word of the LORD is not something he had heard, or had been taught—it has been proved by him. He had been in situations where he was forced to rely on the promises of the LORD, to discover that the LORD keeps his word” (A. Ross, A Commentary on the Psalms 90-150 KEL, 2016, pp. 572-573).

The psalmist knows the Lord’s promises firsthand, and as His servant he loves it (v 140). Even though the psalmist is small and continually despised (niphal, participle, 2ms, absolute) he does not forget the Lord’s precepts (v 141). “Being the little son, the youngest, or being small of stature, means being insignificant and not counting. That is the suppliant’s status in the community; it likely reflects the troubles the psalm has referred to. Trouble leads to being discounted and disregarded” (J. Goldingay, Psalms 90-150 BCOT, 2008, p. 433).

Unlike his foes who forget the Lord’s Words, the psalmist does not. Even though the psalmist is being afflicted and continually despised by his foes, he still loves the Lord’s promises. “The psalmist acknowledges candidly that he is totally unimpressive, with no importance or prestige or honor. Nevertheless, he does not let his low status deter him from staying true to the Lord. What distinguishes him is his commitment to God’s word, nothing inherent in himself that would cause others to be impressed with him” (D. Estes, Psalms 73-150 NAC, 2019, p. 432).

Returning to the theme of righteousness (vv 137-138) the psalmist states the Lord’s righteousness is righteous forever and His Torah (law) is true (v 142). What the Lord says is true and can be trusted because of Who He Is. The Lord NEVER speaks nor acts in a manner that violates or contradicts His Character!

Although trouble and anguish have found the psalmist, the Lord’s commandments are his delight (v 143). “From the context of this stanza as well as the previous stanzas the difficulty most likely has been caused by his enemies in high places who are oppressing and demeaning him (Ross, p. 573). Zeal and obedience to God’s law (v 139) are what drive his foes to oppress him. “The psalmist might have wished not to feel so strongly about people’s ignoring Yhwh’s word, but passion does not give options. No doubt declaring this passion again signals that the psalmist is definitely not someone who fails to be mindful of Yhwh’s words” (Goldingay, p. 432). The psalmist delights in the Lord’s commands even when it hurts.

The psalmist ends this stanza again stating the Lord’s testimonies are righteous forever; and because of this, he petitions the Lord to give him understanding so that he may live (v 144). Understanding here is a hiphil, imperative 2ms with 1cs suffix. As the psalmist has done in other verses, he is commanding God to cause him to have understanding. God here is as He was in verse 27 is the Agent: “the person or thing that instigates an action or causes change in another person or thing” (J. Thompson, The Lexham Glossary of Semantic Roles, 2014, n.p.). The Lord has never ceased being in the heart changing business! The Lord is the One who causes effectual and lasting change and understanding in His people. The psalmist knows that the Lord and His Word are righteous; as such, he delights in it with his whole being. Because the Lord is always calling people to grow in their love and devotion to Him, the psalmist knows that God will hear his petition for understanding so that he may live for him. “As the Lord is perpetually righteous (v. 142), so his decrees are righteous forever. There will never come a time when God’s word will fail, so obeying God’s word is always the right thing to do. The psalmist, therefore, calls on the Lord to give him understanding (cf. v. 130) so that he can choose the path of life” (Estes, p. 433).

Lord God, thank You and praise You that You are Righteous forever! Thank You Lord that Your Word is Righteous and True. Thank You Lord that You are not like finite humans who change their mind 500 times a day, oh Lord God how my family and friends can attest to how guilty I am of that! Lord, thank You that in Your Sovereignty and Timing You appointed Your testimonies in righteousness and in all faithfulness. Lord God, thank You that in Your Sovereignty and Timing You sent Jesus into this world to be born of a Virgin, taking on flesh, dwelling among sinful people who was crucified, dead, buried and resurrected on the third day. Thank Father that Jesus is now seated at Your Right Hand and when the appointed time comes, Jesus will return. Thank You Father that at the appointed time through Jesus’s Work on the Cross, You sent Your Holy Spirit into the world to convict sinners of their need for Jesus. Holy Spirit, thank You for indwelling and sealing Your people. Holy Trinity, for the reader who is not in Christ may today be their appointed time for salvation.

Lord God, may our zeal and passion for You and Your Word be productive and not a hindrance. Lord God, I love You and I love Your Word more than life itself. Lord, I hate how Your Word is being mocked and twisted by apostate believers. Lord, each day when I hear what these apostates are saying I come to a greater understanding of Paul’s zeal and passion for wanting the Judaizers to castrate themselves! Lord God, help me to have righteous anger and not sinful, vengeful anger. Lord God, may we never make excuses for unbelievers behavior but may we not be surprised when unbelieving people act like unbelivers. Lord God, how well Your people know Your promises and intervening in their lives. May we always be Your servants who love Your precious promises.

Thank You Lord that Your Good News was first revealed to the humble. Lord may we remain a humble people even if that means we are deemed small and provincial, despised by the world. May we never forget Your Word because we know in both times of trial and times of joy You are Righteous and Your Word is true. May we never cease delighting in Your Word. May we never cease in asking You to cause us to have more understanding so that we may live more for You. Lord God, may we never forget that You never teach us anything to keep it to ourselves! Lord God, stir Your peoples hearts to want to have understanding and to obey the understanding that You give us! Lord God, thank You for this reader! Holy Trinity, cause this reader’s understanding to grow by the Spirt, through the Son, for Your Glory Father. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

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Blue Collar Theologian

My name is Mandy Sweigart-Quinn, I live in Lancaster, PA and I am a “Blue Collar Theologian.” I love Jesus! I am passionate about His Word (The Holy Bible)! I come alive when I can encourage others in their walk with Jesus (whether by writing or speaking). As a “Blue Collar Theologian” it is my aim to live/practice/work out my Christian hope with sincerity, authenticity and genuineness. As a “Blue Collar Theologian,” I strive to meet people right where they are (“Incarnational Theology”). I graduated in May 2019 from Capital Seminary and Graduate School with a Master's in Biblical Studies. I am a passionate, excited and enthusiastic person! I love flowers, sports and sunsets. Since January 2, 2018 I have had the privilege of being married to Nathan.

28 thoughts on “Psalm 119:137-144”

  1. Wow, Mandy. This just made my heart sing, first your exposition, then your prayer. Praise God! This point you made struck me: “[The psalmist] petitions the Lord to give him understanding so that he may live (v 144). Understanding here is a hiphil, imperative.” This is something the psalmist repeatedly asks for so he won’t fall into error. How much more should we, following his example, especially in the crucible of affliction, a place where despair and helplessness tempt us to doubt God’s character. God’s blessings on you, Mandy, as you continue to study His word and enrich us with what you learn! Keep pressing on, sister.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your encouraging comment, Dora! The next set of verses I think are the most lamenting thus far and if we do not ask God for understand or help with His Word we could/can easily fall away or fall into error in our afflictions. I do not ever want to be so arrogant as to think that I cannot be deceived or that I am not prone to error. I know you know how I feel about this, in the West we do everything we can to avoid and mask pain (not advocating for masochism!) instead of processing our pain and afflictions with a godly and theological lens. I am so thankful Dora that you want to praise Jesus no matter what season of life you are in. You are an inspiration friend and mentor to me and I cannot thank you and God enough! Love, hugs and blessings!!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This Psalm has me thinking about zeal and how much I have. The Psalmist also spoke of it in Psalm 69:9 which is a prophecy of Jesus. David had zeal. Jesus had zeal. It is a characteristic of people of faith.

    Thanks for the great insight. May our zeal increase. I join in your prayer “Lord God, may our zeal and passion for You and Your Word be productive and not a hindrance. “

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As I read this I pray I would have growing zeal for His Word. Even when it hurts as you said. Also even when others look down on us as you said: “Nevertheless, he does not let his low status deter him from staying true to the Lord. ”
    Good point that His Word would not fail. And grateful He is righteous forever.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Amen! What a joyous thing to wake in the am with the Spirit stirring your heart to prayer, coming downstairs and finding a sister in Christ expressing the very same thing that is on your heart. We worship and serve the same triune God and the same Spirit is in us all. Lately I feel like the psalmist and I confess that my tendency sometimes is to look inward instead up-upwards. Praise God that he is not just “better” than I could ever be, but He is Holy and infinitely greater than I can ever imagine. Praise God that He has chosen to share His love with such an insignificant thing as me. Praise God that His Son has made me righteous in the sight of the Father and I can be called His son. Praise God that He sees me as His child and though insignificant, I am His and therefore priceless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is powerful writing, Jimmy! You should start a blog! (I know, as if you need 1 more thing to do!!!!!) Praise God that although we are insignificant we are His! Have a great day Jimmy! Praying for you and your family!!!!!


  5. Thanks for your prayerful analysis of this passage! Sooooooo much bad teaching out there pushing “health and wealth” prosperity for believers, all thoroughly refuted here. We will cling to the Lord and His Word despite the “trouble and anguish” circumstances.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you Mandy for again stirring our hearts with God’s precious word.
    A highlight I have on the other side of the page bled through to highlight verse 140 and it really speaks to my heart.
    A promise, like faith itself, proves its value only when tested. In the worst times of my life, I clung to 1 Peter 1:7. There’s no greater joy than passing a test of faith except perhaps in the revelation that His promises are so faithful and true!
    “Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them.”
    Amen sister, “…shine like a star in the universe as you hold out the word of life…”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so thankful that we do not suffer trials and hardships in vain! It strengthens our faith and dependence on God if we allow them. Praise God His Promises are True! Each day I am more thankful for than the day before for our salvation and praying for your parents salvation! How was your church event on Sunday?!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you so much for your beautiful fellowship sister. At the last service we had our potluck luncheon. I made vospov kofta which thankfully came out pretty good! (I know, sounds like bragging but its really gratitude, I get nervous cooking for others!)
        The church now has regular coffee hour fellowship which is a real blessing.
        I just posted something about the church instead of emailing you. But I think I’ll email you anyway to share more! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Verse 144 truly stands out to me- asking the Lord for understanding so that we may live. For the psalmist to live is to live for the Lord. And that is how we should be too. Living life in the truest sense and in the fullest sense is to walk in His path.
    Thank you Mandy. As always I am blessed by this detailed study.
    Much love to you my sister 🤗💙

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading this, Manu! You sound like the Apostle Paul, “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom 14:8). I am SO thankful that we are walking this narrow path together!!! Lots of love, hugs and blessings!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh my! I only hope to live like that. I am a ways to go in how I live and pursue the Lord but as we know we look for progress in our growth rather than perfection.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. This stanza of Psalm 119 and what you wrote make me me think of a situation my husband is going through. Yesterday, we were just talking about how he needed understanding. I suggested we pray that God gives him discernment so that he’ll know how to respond in his difficult circumstances. I love how timely this post straightens my commitment to pray for that for JJ. I may just suggest he reads through Psalm 119. Thanks, Mandy!


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