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.