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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Psalm 119:17-24 - Prayer for True Understanding of God's Word

The third section of Psalm 119 opens with a prayer for God's help: 'Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word.' In this petition, the psalmist reveals his desire and his dedication, and both of these features are found in genuine prayer. It is an insult to ask God to help us if we have no intention to serve him. The psalmist must have been facing a life-threatening situation. But he realised that should his life be spared the only valid response would be a life of discipleship marked by obedience to God's Word. Obedience to God's Word  'should be the rule, the object, and the joy of our life' (Spurgeon).

The next verse develops his prayer: 'Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.' Here we have expressed the best attitude towards the contents of the Bible -- it is full of wonders. These wonders are connected to God's gracious actions on behalf of those who trust in him. Some of them have already occurred (such as what Jesus did when here on earth) and others will take place in the future. When we pick up the Bible to read it, we should anticipate being astonished.

The psalmist uses his spiritual status (a sojourner or pilgrim) as a reason why the Lord should answer his prayer (v. 19). After all, it was the Lord who had brought about the change in his life. As a sojourner, the psalmist was homesick and reveals his homesickness by his desire to live according to the rules of heaven. He did not wish to be absorbed by what was practiced by those around him. Further, he knew that there was always the danger his circumstances could hide God's ways from him. Therefore he prayed that he would be enabled to live as a citizen of heaven.

This request was not a casual expression. Instead it came from a heart 'consumed with longing for your rules at all times' (v. 20). 'Longing is the soul of praying, and when the soul longs till it breaks, it cannot be long before the blessing will be granted' (Spurgeon). It is essential for us to have a heart focus in our praying. Half-hearted prayers are ignored by God.

In verses 21-24 the psalmist mentions his opponents. He indicates that they were powerful princes who treated him with disdain. Yet he knew that in the past the Lord had rebuked other rulers who had departed from his commandments. He also knew that the Lord could protect him from powerful enemies. Therefore he resolved to remain faithful to God by continuing to centre his life on God's Word. The test of devotion is always our conformity to God's requirements.

The first way to respond to opposition is prayer. If we attempt to deal with something without prayer we will not achieve a happy outcome. Then we should meditate on God's Word and it will give us a true perspective on our situations. Prayer to the Lord and glad meditation on what he promises in his Word will keep us loyal to him in the most difficult of circumstances.

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