Deliver Me According To Thy Word
A brief study of Psalm 119:169-176, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 25 April 2014

We have come a long way in our study of Psalm 119. We are now considering the final strophe or song of this long psalm. It is demarcated by the final letter of the Hebrew alphabet t (tau). But it is remarkable that only two of the lines actually begin with words that basically start with t. They are verse 174, which begins with the word ba'T; (ta’av), translated “I have longed”; and verse 177, which begins with h[;T; (ta’ah), and is translated “I have gone astray.” All the other verses begin with words that start with t only because they are 3rd person feminine imperfect.

Now, Hebrew verbs have only 2 tenses, perfect and imperfect, although there are many verbal stems or forms. Entreaties and resolutions are always in the imperfect tense because they speak of actions that are not yet completed. And in this song, apart from the two verses mentioned, all the rest of the verses are entreaties and resolutions.

This is a humble and passionate song. It is a humble prayer to the Father, a fit conclusion to the whole psalm. We may entitle it: “Deliver Me According to Thy Word.”

Like all the other songs in this collection, this is a kingdom song inspired no doubt to express our Lord’s experience as our mediator-King for us to sing in union with him. As such, this is a song which our Saviour could have taken upon His holy lips in the days of His humiliation.

Some think that this cannot be because of the last verse. But a closer look at the verse reveals that it is perfectly consistent with our Lord’s circumstance upon His earthly pilgrimage. It would have been perfectly meaningful for Him to sing these words.

There are three parts to this song. The first two verses contain a plea to be heard; the next two verses are a promise to praise; and the remaining verses contain a plea for deliverance.

1. A Plea to be Heard

169 Let my cry come near before thee, O LORD: give me understanding according to thy word. 170 Let my supplication come before thee: deliver me according to thy word.

This is a song of the saint as it is a song of the Saviour. Our Saviour was constantly in communion unto the Father. He never doubted that the Father would hear Him. But He did not presume that He would be heard. He was not spiritually complacent. He pleaded to be heard. He prayed that we might also learn to pray by following his example.

What did he pray? He prayed for understanding (v. 169). He prayed for deliverance (v. 170).

He had perfect understanding in His divinity, but as human He needed to learn. So He prayed for understanding according to the Word. Again, He certainly never doubted God’s Word that God would keep His promise, but He did not presume, and so are given to sing of how He prayed that He might be delivered according to the promises of the Word.

In doing so, He sets us an example of prayer. If our Saviour, the only begotten Son of God would not presume He would be heard, how much less should we be presumptuous. If the worthy Son of God would pray, how more should we who are unworthy sons of God.

But our Lord did not only pray. He returned promises unto the Father.

2. A Promise to Praise

171 My lips shall utter praise, when thou hast taught me thy statutes. 172 My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness.

This was the reason why our Lord came. He came to do God’s will. He came to proclaim God’s righteousness (Ps 40:8-9). He came so that a great congregation might be gathered unto the praise of the Father (cf. Ps 40:10).

He would do so by living and dying for His people to purchase life eternal for them. He is the Captain of their Salvation. He would lead them to worship the Father. So He himself must begin to praise the Father. He had done so in eternity as the eternal Son, as God. He must now do so as the incarnate Son, as the God-Man. So He must learn obedience (v. 171; cf. Heb 5:8). So he must teach the righteousness of God (v. 172) so that the great congregation might join Him in eternal worship:

171 My lips shall utter praise, when thou hast taught me thy statutes. 172 My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness.

Our Saviour would praise as we gather to praise in His name. Indeed, each time we gather for worship in His name, He worships. Our Saviour would speak God’s Word. Each time His word is preached in the congregation our Saviour speaks. Our Saviour would testify of the righteousness of God. He did so in living a perfectly righteous life, in paying for our unrighteousness, and in working righteousness in us.

When we sing His word, we celebrate this marvel.

But we must never forget our Saviour sufferings for us. Thus the psalms we sing with Him will always bring us back to the days of His suffering. This is so in the last verses of Psalm 119, where we sing…

3. A Plea for Deliverance

There are two inter-related petitions in this final section. Consider the first, first…

173 Let thine hand help me; for I have chosen thy precepts. 174 I have longed for thy salvation, O LORD; and thy law is my delight.

The word “salvation” does not always mean being freed from sin. It means deliverance. For sinners, as we are, all deliverance involves being freed from sin. But for Christ, the Perfect Man, all deliverance involves only freedom from the effects of sin.

Christ as God cannot be affected by the effects of sin. But Christ as God-Man could, not only because He was dwelling amongst sinful man, but also because He was actually bearing our sin.

Thus He prayed for deliverance. He does so on the basis of His perfect obedience. He does so also on the basis of His desire to walk according to God’s law, the delight of His soul.

In so praying He teaches us to do the same.

The second petition is similar:

175 Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me. 176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.

The desire of our Saviour would be no different from the desire of every true child of God, namely, to have freedom to glorify and enjoy God. This is life in the fullness of its purpose.

It is, as such, undesirable to be in a circumstance which distracts us from enjoying God. Being perplexed like a lost sheep is one such circumstance.

As I mentioned earlier, many think that Psalm 119 could not reflect the thoughts of our Saviour because of the reference to walking astray while our Saviour never walked astray.

But let us remember that in the original to go astray is not necessarily to walk in sin. It speaks rather of wandering. Our Saviour was wandering about having nowhere to lay his head. And He had, in a sense, no rest in His soul, but was constantly vex due to the persecutions He is facing daily.

But He never forgot God’s commandments. He was constantly walking in the path of righteous. For this reason, He could appeal to His remembering God’s law as He prayed for deliverance from the perplexing situations He was in.

As those united to Christ, we were indeed wandering in sin. But are we not often also at a loss and wandering even after our conversion? Oh how greatly we need to sing these words of our Saviour to ask the Father to seek us out and to stablish our heart even as we forget not his commandments.

“Let my soul live.” Quicken me. Strengthen me according to thy judgement and give me the occasion to praise thee. I feel perplexed and lost like a sheep gone astray. But be thou with me, for I forget not thy commandment. I desire to walk in thy righteousness and enjoy thee.

Conclusion

This is the final part of Psalm 119. This is Psalm 119. As we studied through this psalm together, I have at times expounded it as our song applied to our own experience; whereas at other times, I have expounded it as the experience of our Saviour. I have rarely spoken of the psalms simply as the words of David or of an anonymous writer.

The reason for this is that I am convinced that the apostle Paul is thinking of the Psalms when he speaks of “the word of Christ” in Colossians 3:16—

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

The psalms are special and relevant to all the saints through all the ages because they are the word of Christ. We are connected to the saints of old not merely by experience, but rather by our union with Christ.

The Psalms are not merely suitable songs for congregational singing, they are the songs of Christ. When we sing the psalms we are singing the words, feelings and experience of Christ. When we apply them to ourselves, we apply them only as those who are united to Christ and covered in His righteousness. He is the Righteous One. We are righteous ones in Him. No one else can honestly sing the psalms.

But before we apply these words to ourselves, let us appreciate how they open a window into the heart of Christ so that we may know Him and cultivate His mind as we apply His words to ourselves in the changing scenes of life (cf. Phil 2:5). Amen.