Let Thy Mercies Come!

A brief study of Psalm 119:41-48, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 28 June 2013


Psalms 119 is a collection of songs which may be entitled “The Righteous One’s Alphabet of True Godliness.” They are given to us to sing in union with Christ concerning our relationship with God.

Each of these songs is ordered according to the Hebrew alphabet. For example, every verse in the 6th song which we are considering in this study begins with the Hebrew alphabet Vau or Vav (w). Now there are only 6 words in the Hebrew dictionary that begins with letter Vav. However, the letter Vav serves as the Hebrew conjunction when used as a prefix. So if a sentence begins with the letter Vav, we may translate it literally as beginning with “and” or “even” or “so.”

Now, this is how all eight verses in this 6th song is written. Each verse begins with the Vav-conjunction. This is how the author the ensure that every verse begins with the letter Vav. Now, the addition of the Vav do not really change the meaning of the verse. However, it does remind us that in some ways every aspect of godliness is connecteded to each other. No aspect pertaining to godliness can be spoken of in isolation from other aspects. Our justification is not independent of our santification. Our duty to pray is not independent from our duty to read God’s Word. Our prayers are not independent from God’s promises. Our resolutions are not independent from our duties. The grace of hope is not independent from the grace of peace.

So we can indeed connect everything that is said using a conjunction. This is what makes the use of the Vav meaningful rather than mechanical in this 6th song. But perhaps, it is also because of this inter-connectivity of ideas related to godliness that the songs in Psalm 119 do not appear very distinct from each other. Indeed they appear to bland with each other so much that it is sometimes hard to see the difference between each of the songs.

Nevertheless, it is helpful for us to give a thematic title to each of the songs so that we may meditate on them in a more focused way. For this reason, we may entitle this 6th song with the words “Let thy mercies come.” This title will serve a similar purpose with the letter Vav in the Hebrew. Both serve to help memorization. For when we arrange all the titles that we shall assign together, we will see the acronym, “The Holy Law of the Lord God”!

But this title also provides us a sense of what the song is about. It is taken from the first verse of the 6th song: “Let thy mercies come also unto me, O LORD, even thy salvation, according to thy word.” From here we can see that this song is given to us to express our desire to receive the Lord’s help to enjoy Him in His appointed ways.  It contains two petitions and five resolutions.

 

1. Two Petitions

The first petition with its accompanying argument is in verse 41—

41 Let thy mercies come also unto me, O LORD, even thy salvation, according to thy word. 42 So shall I have wherewith to answer him that reproacheth me: for I trust in thy word. 

The Christian life is not always easy. In fact, there are times when tears flood our eyes when we reflect on the day’s events. It could be sorrow dues to our failures and sin. It could be due to painful providence due to broken relationship, or business failures or loss of job or appointment.

To make matter worst, those who behold us would often judge us or to apportion blame. This is the experience of our Saviour during his earthly sojourn. This will also be our experience.

Whenever this happens, we will feel completely helpless and confused. What shall we do at such times? Sometimes we don’t even know how to pray. Thank God therefore for the words of this psalm which is given us to use especially in such circumstances.

Here we are taught to cry unto God to show forth His mercies and to deliver us according to His promise. “According to thy word” is “according to thy promise.” And why should God answer our plea? What argument should we use to plead with our God?

The answer is in verse 42, we should confess our desire to be able to give an answer to those who reproach us. For only when we are delivered from sin and failures and enabled to walk in integrity according to God’s word will we be able to answer our detractors. As the Puritan Richard Greenham reminds us, we have 3 kinds of enemies: (1) The devil, whom we must answer with humility, i.e. the internal word; (2) Heretics, whom we must answer with the external word of wisdom; and (3) Slanderers, whom we must answer with the active word of a good life.

So let us learn to petition the Father to deliver us from our own failures and poor judgements that we might live a praiseworthy life of faith that we may answer those who would reproach us.

What about the second petition? Verse 43—

43 And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth; for I have hoped in thy judgments. 44 So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever.

The first petition is a positive request that God may help and deliver. The second petition is a negative request that God may not take His word of truth completely out of our mouth.

What does it mean to have the word of truth taken utterly out of our mouth? Well, remember that it is out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks (Mt 12:24). Therefore to have the word taken from our mouth is essentially to loose hope and to become doubtful and cynical about God’s word.

Can you imagine how that can happen? It can happen though a series of negative providence. It can happen through a very depressing event. Whatever it is, it is certainly not a pleasant experience. It is not something you want to go though. Just ask our brethren who have experienced mental exhaustion or experienced clinical depression.

So in our better moments, let us ask the Lord to allow us always to retain a spark of His word always in our heart, and never allow us to be devoid of faith and hope that we cease to walk according to God’s law. If the Lord spares us, then we shall keep His law continually for ever and ever (v. 44).

2. Five Resolutions

Notice the five “I wills” (v. 45, 46, 47, 48a, 48b)? When we sing or pray “I will,” we are speaking of our desire or making a resolution or both.

Consider the first resolution:

45 And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.

The first word ‘and’ comes about through the Vav-prefix. But does it not also show us that our ability to keep what we resolve is dependant upon God’s mercies and help?

The first resolution we are given to declare is that we will “walk at liberty.” To walk at liberty is to walk in freedom as one who is unrestrained. The child of God who loves God’s precepts and seek to walk according to it will walk in freedom. This is what the Lord Jesus mean when he says “the truth shall make you free” (Jn 8:32). Those who walk in sin walk in bondage to Satan.  And those who are not truly converted will find God’s commandments grievous (1Jn 5:3). They will walk with constant fear like a young man hiding in his room to indulge in something he should not.

But if the Lord shows us His mercy and gives us His help, we shall be able to walk in freedom. Indeed, we should resolve to walk in freedom.

The second resolution:

 46 I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed.

This is the desire of every child of God. We want to be bold to speak for God even before kings. We want to have no fear of man no matter how great they are—whether they are our closest friends whom we fear to offend, or the most powerful man before whom we stand in awe.

As the servants of the Most High God, as the ambassadors of Christ, this is our hope and our resolution. We want to be able to speak freely. Only the Lord by His mercies and His Word can give us the courage.

The third resolution:

 47 And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved.

This is related to the 2nd resolution. By the Lord’s mercies and help, we shall be able actually to delight in God’s commandments.

Those who are born again will love God’s Word, so all of us who have the seed of God (1Jn 3:9) will love God’s word. But loving God’s word and delighting God’s word is slightly different. A husband may love his wife but may not find delight in her. A child may love her father, but may not find delight in him.

So it is that we may love God’s Word because the seed of God dwells in us. But we may not consistently delight in the Word due to sin or to spiritual neglect or other reasons.

But as a wife will be hurt to know that her husband love her but does not delight in her. So it is not pleasing to God that we should love his word but not delight in it. So let us learn to ask the Lord to restore our delight of His Word, and let us resolve to do what we can to cultivate that delight.

Now, the 4th and 5th resolutions are:

 48 My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have loved; and I will meditate in thy statutes.

This is related to the previous resolution and hope. As we experience the Lord’s mercies and help, we will not only delight in God’s Word, but also demonstrate this delight inwardly and outwardly.

The words “[I will] lift up [my hands] unto thy commandments” is essentially an expression of outward exhibition of delight in God’s Word. It is like the man on his knees after reading God’s word and calling unto the Father with hands raise in pray: “Father, thank you for thy Word! Give me more, fill me till I want no more.”

The words “I will meditate on thy statutes,” on the other hand, speaks of a demonstration of inward delight in God’s Word. The word rendered “meditate” here is an interesting word. It is the word j'yci (siyach), which actually speaks of talking or singing to oneself. It is a different word from that used in Psalm 1, but the idea is the same. It speaks about verbally reflecting on the word of God. Here the idea seems to be that the word so fills our hearts that we begin to recite it or to sing it.

Oh what a joy it will be when we find ourselves doing so even on this side of eternity!

Conclusion


Oh may this psalm be our prayer and resolution. Some of us, I am sure, would know of believers who are full of Scripture and songs. They quote the scripture freely and will sing scripture songs from memory. Sadly, very few can do so with the psalms because we are too unfamiliar with the psalms. But this is something that we should look forward to doing. The psalms are given by Christ for us to sing in union with him to admonish and instruct one another. What a joy it will be when we can sing His word out of the overflow of our hearts!

Therefore, let us learn to pray as we are taught to do in this psalm —to plead with the Lord not to take His Word from us, but rather to bestow his mercies upon us which enable to delight in his word and to bear testimony of the goodness of His word. Amen..

—JJ Lim