Deliver Me,
That I May Keep Thy Statute!

A brief study of Psalm 119:145-152, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 20 Feb 2013


The 19th strophe of Psalm 119 is demarcated by the Hebrew Qoph (q). It is not surprising then, that the keywords in this psalm are ar;q; (qara) or “cry” and broq; (qarob or b/rq, qarowb) which means “near.” In the first four verses we are given to express our desire to be heard by the Lord as we cry unto Him. In the next four verses we are given to confess how wicked men who are far from the Law of the LORD draw near to us, but how God is even nearer to us. The enemies are near, but God is nearer still and His laws are trustworthy.

We may subtitle this song: “Deliver me, that I may Keep thy Statutes.”

This psalm is inspired by the Spirit of He “who in the days of his flesh,… offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death…” (Heb 5:7). It is a psalm which expresses His innermost thoughts. It is a psalm given for us to sing in union with Him as He leads us in worship.

It has, as I mentioned, two main parts.

1. I Cried with My Whole Heart

145 I cried with my whole heart; hear me, O LORD: I will keep thy statutes. 146 I cried unto thee; save me, and I shall keep thy testimonies.  147 I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried: I hoped in thy word. 148 Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word.

The word translated “cry” in verse 145 and 146 (ar;q, qara) does not denote weeping. That is another word, hk;B; (baca), as in the “Valley of Baca” (Ps 84:6). Here the word refers to a call or cry for help. The word used in verse 147 is yet another word, [w"v; (shava) which refers to an intense or loud cry for help.

The idea here is a sense of desperation and helplessness. But what is the context? What is it that prompts us to call for help? Why do we need deliverance as we are given to sing in verse 146? Well, the context is given in verse 150They draw nigh that follow after mischief: they are far from thy law.” We need help because we are confronted by lawless persons who seek to do us wrong, or to turn us away from walking with the Lord.

It is interesting that the 1611 KJV has an alternate translation on verse 146 in the margin. It reads: “I cried unto thee; save me, that I may keep thy testimonies.

What is the difference between the translation in the text and the marginal translation? Well, our translation portrays the cry as a call for help augmented with a vow to keep God’s Word when help is received. On the other hand, the translation in the margin suggest that the call is a cry for help to be delivered from a situation where we are prevented from walking according to God’s ways. In other words, one is a cry motivated by present difficulties, whereas the other is a cry motivated by a desire to keep God’s Word.

Well, the Hebrew seems closer to what is given in our text. But perhaps there is an element of both.

You see, the child of God is different from an unbeliever. He is not only troubled by external factors or by difficult people. He is also troubled when he is kept from walking with God. In his heart of heart, he desires to have fellowship with God and to please God. So when he senses that something has come between him and his God, he is troubled and restless in his heart. He finds no peace. Thus David when he was pursued by Absalom spoke of his longing to attend public worship at the Tabernacle. “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?” he says (Ps 42:2).

So you see, David was not only concerned about the hardship that he was experiencing due to Absalom’s rebellion. He was concerned that he could not walk with the Lord in the way that He has appointed.

This could well exemplify the situation that gives rise to this psalm. And such would the situation in our life when this psalm is particularly relevant.

Let’s look at the verse:

145 I cried with my whole heart; hear me, O LORD: I will keep thy statutes. 146 I cried unto thee; save me, and I shall keep thy testimonies.

I cried wholeheartedly. I do sincerely desire to walk in thy ways. I am deeply grieved not merely by the trouble that has befallen me, but by the fact that am prevented from walking with thee, from enjoying thee, from using the means of grace and from serving thee. O deliver me from the present straits that I am in!

147 I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried: I hoped in thy word. 148 Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word.

We may paraphrase: I got up early to pray and to meditate on Thy Word. I look forward to the appointed times of prayer in the night.

This was what the Lord Jesus did. He woke up before the sun rose to pray; and He ended the day in prayer and meditation. Oh may we have the desire as our Saviour for spiritual exercises of reading and prayer—for therein is the delight of our soul. Oh may the Lord remove the obstacles that stand in our way to hinder our Christian walk and fellowship with the Lord!

But as we cry unto the Lord for deliverance, let us do so with assurance that the Lord is near. Thus, in the second part of the song, we are given to sing:

2. I know Thou Art Near
to Deliver

149 Hear my voice according unto thy lovingkindness: O LORD, quicken me according to thy judgment. 150 They draw nigh that follow after mischief: they are far from thy law. 151 Thou art near, O LORD; and all thy commandments are truth. 152 Concerning thy testimonies, I have known of old that thou hast founded them for ever.

We are still in the same circumstance. Trouble attends our soul because those who care not for the law of God are pressing upon us (v. 150).

Who are these? Well, for David it might have been Saul or Absalom. For the Greater David, it was the Scribes and Pharisees and false disciples like Judas Iscariot. What about for us?

Well, in our case, it could be lawless bosses, co-workers, relatives or friends who are imposing their will upon us and so causing distress to us. Your boss may want you to work on the Lord’s Day. Your customer may want you to make a false declaration or lose his business. Your relatives may put pressure to attend a function at a pagan temple. Your friends may compel you to drink or to do something you are uncomfortable with. Your neighbours may complain that your singing at family worship is offensive to them.

In every of these instances, there is present trouble as well as an imposition upon your conscience or a denial of the joy of worship or fellowship.

The presence of such persons in our life weighs us down. We feel pressured to conformed and are tempted to give up walking in the straight and narrow way.

Have you ever felt like that? If so, take heart. You are not alone. And our Lord has given you a psalm to sing in union with Him to pour out your heart unto the Father.

We have already considered the first four verses, which expresses our wholehearted cry. Here in these second four verses, we appeal to the Lord’s loving-kindness, justice and nearness to us.

149 Hear my voice according unto thy lovingkindness: O LORD, quicken me according to thy judgment.

We desire the LORD to hear us. But on what basis? There is really nothing in us to commend ourselves to the Lord. The only thing we have is the LORD’s covenant loving kindness. As He has taken us to be His covenant people, and has promised to bless us, we plead his covenant mercies. LORD, hear me not because I deserve to be heard but because Thou art a covenant-keeping God. Quicken me! Lift me up from the heaviness that is attending my soul. Quicken me according to thy perfect justice by which thou would not allow thy children to be oppressed by the wicked one and by lawless persons more than is good for us. For these are pressing hard against us.…

150 They draw nigh that follow after mischief: they are far from thy law.

They surround me like the bulls of Bashan, but they are far from thy Law. But on the other hand, verse 151—

151 Thou art near, O LORD; and all thy commandments are truth. 152 Concerning thy testimonies, I have known of old that thou hast founded them for ever.

The LORD is near unto His people because of His love for them. The troublers of our soul are near, but God is nearer still. He is omnipresent. But not only so, for He is in our heart for His Spirit indwells us; and we are in His heart for He loves us. This is true today; this was true in Old Covenant days. The Lord is our ever-present help.

And his commandments and testimonies are true and everlasting. But how is this related to the subject on hand? Well, it is related because we are being hedged in by those who are far from God’s law. Inevitably, under such circumstances, there will be a temptation to give up walking in the narrow way? Whenever there is pressure by those who care not for the law of God, there are two possible outcomes: One is bend to our will and so violate God’s law. The other is to remain steadfast to resist. Now if we have no confidence that the law of God is right and firmly established, will we not be more tempted to give up with it and so please those who want us to bend to their will?

But if we know that the Lord is near, and that His laws are right and everlasting, will we not have the strength to resist the temptations to sin against the Lord, and to pray for His deliverance?

Conclusion

This is the 19th song of Psalm 119.

This song is always relevant to us for it would have been the cry of our Saviour. As we sing it we can feel how our saviour must have felt as He was surrounded by lawless persons clamouring for His blood. But this song is also relevant to us, for filled with the spirit of Christ, we also face the same struggles, albeit to a lesser degree.

May we be encouraged to turn our eyes to our Saviour as we face pressures from different people, malicious or well-meaning. He understands. He was tempted at all points as we are yet without sin. He has given us a song to sing with him and with one another. May we be comforted by the fact that the LORD is nearer to us than those who are the enemies of our soul! May we be encouraged to cry unto him because He loves us! Amen.