I shared my reflections on another section of Psalm 119 at Lighthouse Community Church this week. You can find the previous talk here.
This morning I’d like to look at verses 81-88
New International Version
My soul faints with longing for your salvation,
But I have put my hope in your word.
My eyes fail, looking for your promise;
I say, ‘when will you comfort me?’
Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke,
I do not forget your decrees.
How long must your servant wait?
When will you punish my persecutors?
The arrogant dig pitfalls for me,
Contrary to your law.
All your commands are trustworthy;
Help me, for men persecute me without a cause.
They almost wiped me from the earth,
But I have not forsaken your precepts.
Preserve my life according to your love,
And I will obey the statutes of your mouth.
In The Message it reads:
I’m homesick – longing for your salvation;
I’m waiting for your word of hope.
My eyes grow heavy watching for some sign of your promise;
How long must I wait for your comfort?
There’s smoke in my eyes – they burn and water,
But I keep a steady gaze on the instructions you post.
How long do I have to put up with all this?
How long till you haul my tormentors into court?
The arrogant godless try to throw me off track,
ignorant as they are of God and his ways.
Everything you command is a sure thing,
but they harass me with lies. Help!
They’ve pushed and pushed – they never let up –
But I haven’t relaxed my grip on your counsel.
In your great love revive me
so I can alertly obey your every word.
One commentary describes this section as ‘at the end of your tether’
The Psalmist (probably David) is at the end of his tether: he’s longing for God to fulfil his promises:
‘my soul faints with longing for your salvation…. 81
‘I’m homesick … I’m waiting for your word of hope TM
‘my eyes fail, looking for your promise; I say, “when will you comfort me? 82
‘my eyes grow heavy watching for some sign of your promise; how long must I wait for your comfort? TM
‘How long do I have to put up with all this? How long… ?
Sound familiar? We’ve all been there, longing for God to fulfil his promises, wondering if it will ever happen.
I was reminded of Hebrews 11 – the Hall of Fame of People of Faith.
Heb 11:13 says, ‘All these people [Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham] were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised… ‘
Many a time when I’m praying about something or someone, God reminds me, ‘this is not the end of the story’. And sometimes we won’t see the end of the story this side of glory.
* * *
The Psalmist was being hard pressed by his enemies. He called them: ‘my tormentors’ , the arrogant godless , that they persecuted him without cause  and that he feared for his life, ‘they almost wiped me from the earth  they’ve pushed and pushed – they never let up’
He was at the end of his tether, but what was his response? Did he give up? Did he seek revenge on his tormentors?
‘My soul faints… but I have put my hope in your word. 
‘I do not forsake your decrees  – in TM ‘I keep a steady gaze on the instructions you post’
‘all your commands are trustworthy  – TM ‘everything you command is a sure thing.’
- was he here reflecting on the past, how following God’s law had stood him in good stead, and so despite everything he would continue putting his trust in God?
‘I have not forsaken your precepts 
Despite everything his enemies threw at him, he would continue with his God.
He was at the end of his tether but he wouldn’t forsake his God and His ways.
Jesus spoke about this – The Message starts the beatitudes with ‘You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule’ [Mt 5:3] or more familiarly in the NIV ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [incidentally, this ties in with what Jamie was telling us about the kingdom of heaven not being a geographical or political place, but everywhere that God’s rule holds sway.] Ideally, being at the end of our tether should drive us closer to God.
The Psalmist ends this section by appealing to God: ‘Preserve my life according to your love.’ – TM ‘In your great love revive me so that I can alertly obey your every word’ 
Note: He doesn’t appeal to God on the basis of anything that he’s done, his own goodness, but on Who God is, on God’s loving nature.
- and also note his motive – he doesn’t ask God to preserve his life, or revive him, to make life easier for himself, but so that he can continue to obey God [The Living Bible], ‘to alertly obey God’s every word’ [TM]
One commentary sums up this section of Ps 119 by saying: ‘at the end of tether there is hope’
Habakkuk spoke of his response to life’s hardships like this: ‘Though the fig-tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.’ [Hab 3: 17,18]
Jesus repeats this message of not giving up in his letters to the churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3.
He promises wonderful things to those who ‘hang on in there’ [Rev 2:25; 3:11]
To the over comers, those who stand firm, He promises:
‘I will give the right to eat from the tree of life’ [2:7] – a reversal of what happened when Adam and Eve were driven out of the garden of Eden.
‘he will not be hurt at all by the second death [2:11]
‘I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it [2:17]
‘I will give authority over the nations… just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star. [2:26-28]
‘He will be dressed in white… I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels [3:5]
‘I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem… and I will also write on him my new name [3:12]
I will give him the right to sit with me on my throne…’ [3:21]
Wonderful promises for the over comers, those who hang on in there, those who stand firm.
How can we stand firm?
Paul tells us in Ephesians. In Ephesians 6, he tells us to ‘put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able o stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand’ [6:13]
What is the armour of God?
- the belt of truth
- the breastplate of righteousness [not our own righteousness, but the righteousness of Christ]
- our feet shod with the gospel of peace
- the shield of faith
- the helmet of salvation
- and the Sword of the Spirit – the Word of God – our one and only offensive weapon, the rest of the armour is defensive – the Word of God was what Jesus used when he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness.
The Psalmist in Psalm 119 says that he has put his hope in God’s word.
The message is: if you’re at the end of your tether, hang on in there, don’t give up hope – wonderful things are to come. And Remember: Jesus will be there for you, every step of the way, and He won’t give up on you. Reading and meditating on God’s word reminds us of these wonderful promises.
To bring this right up to date, only this morning I was meditating on verse 96: ‘to all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless.’
I wondered if the psalmist was talking about human perfection, our best efforts.
Isaiah 64:6 says that ‘all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.’
Our best efforts are like children’s paintings, messy daubs compared to the work of a great artist like Rembrandt or Leonardo. Our best efforts are rubbish compared with what God can do.
Jesus tells us to ‘consider the lilies of the field’, ‘even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.’
Our best efforts at creating something are puny compared with the beauty of a single flower.
In context, Jesus was telling us not to worry. God clothes the grass with splendid flowers which are here today and soon wither. How much more will God care for us who are so precious to Him, we are the apple of His eye.
When we’re in a dark place, at the end of our tether, we often can’t think straight; so it’s good to have a store of gems from the Bible that we can reflect on.
A favourite of mine is from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Philippians 4:6,7.
‘Be anxious for nothing, but in everything – in all circumstances – by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving – being thankful for God’s faithfulness in the past and that He has a plan for us, a good plan, and that He will see it through – make your requests to God.’
- ‘the peace of God, which transcends, goes beyond, all human understanding, in Christ Jesus, will guard your hearts and your minds’ (you won’t go mad).
Store up these treasures from the Bible so that in the dark times, times when you’re at the end of your tether, you have something to hang on to.