81 My soul longs for your salvation;
I hope in your word.
82 My eyes long for your promise;
I ask, “When will you comfort me?”
83 For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke,
yet I have not forgotten your statutes.
84 How long must your servant endure?7
When will you judge those who persecute me?
85 The insolent have dug pitfalls for me;
they do not live according to your law.
86 All your commandments are sure;
they persecute me with falsehood; help me!
87 They have almost made an end of me on earth,
but I have not forsaken your precepts.
88 In your steadfast love give me life,
that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.ESV
The psalmist begins this stanza stating that his nefesh (soul) is more than just longing for the Lord’s salvation, he is literally wasting away. “Although the psalmist cannot resolve this situation, he is confident that the Lord can rescue him from his plight” (D. Estes, Psalms 73-150 NAC, 2019, p. 420). Even though the psalmist’s strength is failing and he is wasting away he hopes in the Lord’s Word knowing who He is and what He has done before.
While the ESV supplies the word long in verse 82, this would be better translated, my eyes fail. “The eyes reflect his weariness in watching for a sign of God’s answer; so under a prolonged strain of waiting, the psalmist acknowledges that he is worn out” (A. Ross, A Commentary on the Psalms 90-150 KEL, 2016, p. 535). In his worn and weary state the psalmist asks the question, “when will you comfort me?”
The psalmist clarifies this question stating that he has become like a wineskin in the smoke (v 83a). Meaning that he is “useless, shriveled, and unattractive because of being blackened with soot” (W. VanGemeren, Psalms REBC, 2008, p. 875). The psalmist here demonstrates that he lives by faith and not by feeling nor sight as he states he hasn’t forgotten His statutes (v 83b). Forgetting the Lord’s statues would only make the psalmist’s situation worse.
In verse 84, “The suffering psalmist asks another question; but his questions are essentially laments (so rhetorical questions). ‘How long must your servant endure?’ means ‘Your servant (I) has been enduring long enough.’ The first half of the verse laments his prolonged endurance. The second is concerned with the cause of his condition ‘When will you execute justice on those who persecute me?'” (Ross, p. 536).
Boice makes a profound observation, “It may be significant in this respect that verse 84 is the first in the psalm to fail to mention the Word of God by one of the [many] synonyms for it. When the psalmist was most down, did he lose sight of God’s Word temporarily?” (J. Boice, Psalms 107-150: An Expositional Commentary, 2005, pp. 1008-1009).
It is the opinion of this author that the psalmist did not lose sight of God’s Word temporarily. In this stanza, as well as in other areas of this psalm he states how when he forgot about the Lord and His Word, life did not go well for him. Rather, this lament (rhetorical questions) is from the depths of his affliction. How can we know this? Because in his next verse the he states how the insolent have dug pitfalls to trip him up and that they do not live according to the Lord’s torah (law, v 85). It is comforting to know “in the Lord’s moral order, [the insolent] will fall into the pits they have dug in their attempt to inflict harm on others” (Estes, p. 421).
Verse 86 makes it clear that “in contrast to the arrogant who are unfaithful to God’s instruction (v. 85), the Lord’s commands are true, or reliable. The arrogant speak lies, but the Lord speaks truth. By their lies the wicked do not fight fairly, but the psalmist is confident that the Lord can counter them, so he calls on the Lord to help him” (Estes, p. 421).
The plain meaning of almost made an end of me (v 87) “is that he is almost dead—finished, on this earth. However, to the very end if need be, he affirms his faith: ‘I have not forsaken your precepts'” (Ross, p. 537).
In the first part of verse 88 the psalmist makes an appeal to the Lord to renew his life by His covenant faithfulness (hesed, steadfast love ESV). Why does the psalmist make this appeal? So that he may keep His testimonies. “The purpose of the petition is likewise connected to the covenant: “that I may keep the testimony of your mouth.” The testimony refers to all of God’s instructions, the whole covenant law, which came by direct revelation from God. The psalmist wants to be revived, so that he would be able to keep the covenant fully, without weakness, suffering and distractions due to constant persecution” (Ross, p. 537).
Lord God, as our bodies waste away may we never stop hoping in Your Word. Lord, sometimes our eyes fail us as we wait for Your promise; comfort us by Your Spirit. Lord God, thank You that You have indwelled Your people who are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ with Your Holy Spirit. Thank You Lord that You live inside each believer, that You comfort us and that we can come before Your throne boldly receiving Your grace and mercy when we need it most. Lord God, help us to cling to the truth that for the person in Christ, they are not useless. No matter how bleak or grim the situation looks or as helpless as they feel, remind this believer Lord that they have worth and value to You. Use us Lord for Your glory!
Lord, You inspired the psalmist to ask how long he must endure as well as when will You judge those who persecute him. Lord God, give us Your strength to persevere and endure the challenges and trials that we will face. Lord God, prepare us to glorify You when we suffer from the pitfalls of the insolent. Lord, may we never forget Your commandments. May we never forget You desire our obedience. Lord, there are no shortages of lies and attacks from the insolent, help us to not forsake Your precepts. Lord God, may we NEVER forget Your covenant faithfulness. May we never forget that You will never violate Your Name and Covenant. You will never act contrary to who You are.
Lord God, renew our lives so that we may testify about Jesus in this dark, hostile and hurting world. Lord God, renew our minds that we may focus on the things above. Lord God, conform us to You and Your Word. Lord God, may we desire what You desire and not what this world desires. Lord God, thank You for this reader. May this reader be renewed and revived by Your Spirit today. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.