25 My soul clings to the dust;
give me life according to your word!
26 When I told of my ways, you answered me;
teach me your statutes!
27 Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
28 My soul melts away for sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word!
29 Put false ways far from me
and graciously teach me your law!
30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I set your rules before me.
31 I cling to your testimonies, O Lord;
let me not be put to shame!
32 I will run in the way of your commandments
when you enlarge my heart! (ESV)
The psalmist opens this stanza with stating that his nefesh (life source, entire being in English translations soul) clings to the dust (v 25a). The psalmist here is “not just having a down day, but he is experiencing a time of real need because dust is a frequent biblical image for humiliation (D. Estes, Psalms 73-150 NAC, 2019, p. 408 see also Job 16:15; 30:19; Ps 44:25; Isa 47:1). It is in humility that the psalmist cries out to the Lord commanding Him to give life according to His Word (v 25b). Life in this verse can also be translated revive or renewal. “The anticipation of renewal is based on the “word” (dābār) of God (W. VanGemeren Psalms REBC, 2008, p. 865 see also vv. 42, 51, 65, 69, 78, 85, 95, 110, 134, 141, 150, 154, 157, 161; Dt 8:3; 30:6, 15, 19–20; 32:47).
In verse 26 the psalmist has told/declared his ways to the Lord and He answered him (v 26a). The psalmist is remembering the Lord’s past faithfulness to him and as such prays for the Lord to teach him His statutes (v 26b). Because God has been faithful to him before, the psalmist can have confidence the Lord will be faithful now.
In verse 27 the Psalmist implores God to cause him to understand (hiphil, imperative, 2ms with 1cs suffix) the way of His precepts. The hiphil is a verb of causation and the Lord here is the Agent. The semantic definition of Agent is “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.).
As the Lord causes the psalmist to understand His precepts, he will meditate on his wondrous works. “With the increase in knowledge and understanding there will be increase in devotion and praise” (A. Ross, A Commentary on the Psalms (90-150) KEL, 2016, p. 491). The Lord’s people should consistently cry along with the psalmist, “cause me to understand your precepts,” because “God’s instruction and illumination deepen human dependence on the Lord. The psalmist prays that he may “meditate” on the “wonders” of the Lord. The word opens the way to recognizing the greatness of God’s acts in creation and in redemption” (VanGemeren, p. 865).
The psalmist’s nefesh is depleted from “grief and vexation” (VanGemeren, p. 865), and he calls out to God to strengthen him by His Word (v 28). The Lord promises to give life according to His Word (v 25). The psalmist again uses a hiphil, imperative to strongly ask God to cause him to put false ways far from himself. The psalmist is pleading with God to be the Agent of change in putting away false ways and the Agent who graciously teaches him His law (v 29).
“Proverbs 14:12 states that “there is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way to death,” so as in Ps 139:24 the psalmist asks the Lord to remove the “offensive way” from him. Whatever deviates from the Lord’s way is deceitful and false, but the instruction of the Lord will keep him on the right path. Though he may stumble into sin, he values the truth of God’s word over falsehood” (Estes, pp. 408-409).
Verses 30-32 “Devotion to God focuses on doing his will. The psalmist affirms his deep commitment in the language of action: “I have chosen … I have set … I hold fast … I run”” (VanGemeren, p. 865). The way of faithfulness stands in contrast to false ways (v 29). Faithfulness’s way “summarizes a life that is characterized by obedience to the will of God” (Ross, p. 493).
The psalmist in verse 25 stated that his nefesh clings to the dust and in verse 31 he clings to the Lord’s testimonies. “As he has cleaved to the dust, so he cleaves to God’s word. Doubtless his oppressors derided him for his commitment to what the Lord has said, so he pleads with the Lord not to put him to shame. He fully expects the Lord to be faithful to him in his need, and he has no backup plan. If the Lord does not strengthen him (v. 28), the psalmist would suffer humiliation and shame” (Estes, p. 409).
This stanza concludes with the psalmist running. “Usually we simply walk in the way of Yhwh’s commands (vv. 1, 4); running in the way of them is another way of suggesting not mere compliance with Yhwh’s expectations but living by them enthusiastically and energetically” (J. Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament: Psalms 90-150, 2006, p. 396).
The Lord is the Agent causing the psalmist’s heart to enlarge. Heart as noted before encompasses the mind, emotions and will. “God’s commands liberate his heart to run in the way of the Lord” (Estes, p. 409). God will cause our hearts to enlarge when we run in the way of His commandments (v 32). We will become more confident like the psalmist when we meditate on God and His wondrous works. By meditating on His wondrous works we will also be less fearful and anxious by the trials, calamities and hardships that we will face.
Lord God, there is so much truth and richness in this stanza. Lord God, may we be a people who seek to hear and obey Your Word. May we run in the way of Your commands, seeking to delight in You rather than to run and delight in the wicked ways of this world. Lord God, cause us to understand Your ways, putting false ways far from us. Lord God, in Your grace and mercy teach us to delight and love Your Word. Lord God, thank You for this reader. Lord God, may we choose, set and cling to You and Your Word each and everyday. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.