Lord, Vindicate Thy Servant

A brief study of Psalm 119:121-128, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 22 Nov 2013


“AIN. I have done judgment and justice: leave me not to mine oppressors. 122 Be surety for thy servant for good: let not the proud oppress me. 123 Mine eyes fail for thy salvation, and for the word of thy righteousness. 124 Deal with thy servant according unto thy mercy, and teach me thy statutes. 125 I am thy servant; give me understanding, that I may know thy testimonies. 126 It is time for thee, LORD, to work: for they have made void thy law. 127 Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold. 128 Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.” (Psalm 119:121-128).

“The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword” (Heb 4:12). It cuts in a variety of ways. It cuts truth from falsehood. It cuts righteousness from sin. But it also cuts saints from sinners.

It cut saints from sinners not only in the sense that one will obey it while the other will disregard it. Rather, it cuts them into two kingdoms and two opposing armies. One of these kingdoms is the Kingdom of God. The king of this kingdom is Christ, the Seed of the Woman, who is also the Captain of Salvation of the church. The other kingdom is the Kingdom of Satan. The prince of this kingdom is the Devil, the Seed of the Serpent, the Prince of Darkness.

There is a cosmic war between the two kingdoms. Victory has been secured by the Seed of the Woman. But there are yet battles to be fought as there pockets of resistance still to be cleared.

Indeed, sometimes the resistance seems to be so strong that the saints of Christ feel rather isolated.

Our Captain faced the intensity of the battle; and He has warned us that we will have our own battles too.

“If the world hate you,” He says, “ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (Jn 15:18-19).

Why does the world hate Christ? Why should the world hate us? The apostle John who recorded the Lord’s words gives us the answer. “Wherefore [did Cain] slew [Abel]?” He asks. “Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous” he replies (1 Jn 3:12). And then he adds: “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you” (1 Jn 3:13).

It is clear that the world will hate us because the word of God, when obeyed, distinguishes us from the world.

Thus, the Lord, the captain of our salvation has given us numerous psalms to sing in union with Him in regard to the conflicts with the world that we will face as we seek to walk according to God’s word. The 16th strophe of Psalm 119 is one such song.

It is demarcated by the Hebrew Ayin ([). The letter is not use significantly in most of the statements. But it is used for the significant word in verse 126, which is really the key verse of this stanza:

126 It is time [t[e] for thee, LORD, to work: for they have made void thy law.

This is a song to call upon God to arise in behalf of his persecuted people and also to judge the wicked who made void His law. We may entitle it “Lord, Vindicate Thy Servant.” The “servant” (verse 122, 124, 125) is no doubt, ultimately, Christ and all His covenant people.

There are two parts to this song. First, from verses 121-124, we are given to plead with the Father for protection and deliverance from the proud. Secondly, from verse 125-128, we are given to sing of our allegiance to God and His word.

1. Plea for Protection
& Deliverance

121 I have done judgment and justice: leave me not to mine oppressors. 122 Be surety for thy servant for good: let not the proud oppress me.

These two verses stand unique in Psalm 119, for apart from verse 84, they are the only verses that do not directly refer to the Word of God. Nevertheless, to do judgement and justice requires obedience to God’s Word for only God’s Word gives us true and perfect justice.

Obedience to the word of God makes us unpopular with the wicked. But at the same time, it gives us the privilege of crying out unto God for deliverance from those who oppress us. Conversely, “if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Ps 66:18), but neither will I be oppressed for being a servant of God.

It is not that being oppressed by the wicked is a good thing by itself. But if we are not oppressed by the wicked because we are of the world, then woe are we, for we would face the wrath of God with the world.

Only those who are walking and fighting with Christ can expect the Father’s blessing. Only those who are walking in obedience can ask God to be their surety for good (v. 122). What is a surety? A surety is a pledge, a guarantee, a bail. Christ could call upon the Father to be His surety because He is the Son of God. What about us? We can call upon God to be our surety because God spared not His own son for us. Indeed, Christ has been appointed the surety of the New Covenant of which we are beneficiaries (Heb 7:22). And the Spirit has already been given to us as an earnest of our eternal inheritance. But only those who walk with Christ can have this assurance to call upon God to be their surety in times of trouble.

And these same persons can pray with expectation, verse 123—

123 Mine eyes fail for thy salvation, and for the word of thy righteousness.

Imagine being waylaid by a band of robbers in the middle of the desert. They beat you up and rob you and leave you to die under the oppressive heat of the desert. You are too weak to walk to safety. You look toward the horizon hoping that you will see someone coming to help you. This is the picture being painted in these two verses.

There are times in our life when we feel like we have been waylaid and left to die in the middle of the desert. At such times, our heart cries out “How long? How long will it be before deliverance comes my way? How long will it be before God’s word of righteous promise to me be fulfilled. How long will it be before God vindicates and rewards.”

Of course, even in such times, we know that we do not deserve God’s deliverance. In a sense, even Christ did not deserve the Father’s deliverance because He was bearing our sin. Thus it is proper for him to cry out for mercy. We, on the other hand, do not deserve God’s deliverance because of our own sin. Therefore even as we plead for deliverance, we know that if the Lord deals with us according to strict justice, we are not much different from the lawless. Therefore, we are given to ask the Lord to deal with us according to His mercy, or more specifically according to His covenant loving kindness.

124 Deal with thy servant according unto thy mercy, and teach me thy statutes.

We do not deserve God’s mercy for we are by nature children of His wrath who hate Him. But God will show us mercy because He has purposed to bless us according to the covenant relationship He has entered us into. For in taking us to be His covenant people, He promises to accept the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf and so forgive us of our trespasses against Him. Then as a forgiven people, we are adopted into God’s family and are taught God’s statutes (v. 124b).

But let us not only plead for mercy. Let us also…

2. Pledge of Allegiance to God
& His Word

Such as would serve the Lord gratefully and faithfully will want to know the will of God so that he may serve Him effectively. Thus we are given to sing in union with the Son—

125 I am thy servant; give me understanding, that I may know thy testimonies.

Oh that more of us will learn to pray this pray every day of our life even when things are going smoothly for us.

If we do so, then when things do not go well, or when we are persecuted by the world, we can pray, verse 126—

126 It is time for thee, LORD, to work: for they have made void thy law.

Can you see how you can only pray this prayer if you know God’s law and are walking in obedience? If not, when you point a finger at the lawless, you point three to yourself.

But if you, by the grace of God, are learning to walk according to God’s law, and you suffer for Christ’s sake, you can plead His vindication.

Think about it. You work as a sales person. You tell your boss that you are a Christian and therefore you will not work on the sabbath since it is neither a work of piety, mercy, necessity or emergency. But your boss will not hear. Instead, he schedules you for the Lord’s day even more. You quit the job. But at your next job the same thing happens. Oh how exasperating! How should you pray? Pray as you are given to pray in this verse!

Or you are a gynaecologist and the state or the medical centre you work with insists that you perform abortion upon demand or loose your license to practice. Oh how grievous! How should you pray? Will you not pray as you are given in this verse?

It is time for thee, LORD, to work: for they have made void thy law.

Or you are a member of a church which care not about the regulative principle of worship. You know it is sin to worship God in the way that is done in the church. You speak to the pastor, but he would not hear. You speak to the elders, but they see nothing wrong. You want to leave, but you love the church. It is hard to leave. How should you pray? Pray as the Lord has given you in this verse to pray in union with him:

It is time for thee, LORD, to work: for they have made void thy law.

But what if the Lord, does not arise to do something immediately? What if the Lord does not vindicate immediately? Well, let us not be discouraged. Rather let us all the more stir our hearts to be zealously affected by the Word.

This is what we are given to sing in the last two verses in this strophe:

127 Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold. 128 Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.

At first sight, it seem quite hard to link the “therefore” to what goes before. But I agree with Calvin that what the psalmist is saying that…

“…the more he saw the wicked outrageously breaking forth into wickedness, the more was he incited by a holy indignation burning in his heart, to love the law” (Calvin)

John Gill has a similar view. He says:

“His love was the more inflamed and increased towards it by the contempt it was had in by others” (John Gill).

This was no doubt true of our Saviour. He is the Word of God. Therefore, the more sinners make void the Law of God, and suffer the consequence of it, the more He is inflamed to love God’s law and the righteousness that it demands.

So the same sentiments must be true of every child indwelt by the Spirit of Christ. The opposition of the wicked to the truth ought not to discourage us. Rather if we are filled with the Spirit, we will be even more fervent to regard the law of God even more highly.

The Word of God will be more precious than gold, yea above fine gold, and beloved above everything else. Beloved brethren and children, do you treasure God’s word? Perhaps you do not treasure it as much as you should because you have not experienced overt persecution, and the word has not be banned in our land. But oh love the Word of God today. Do not wait till the Lord allows the word to be snatched from you.

Conclusion

This is the 16th song of Psalm 119. Oh may the Lord grant us that we may sing it with sincerity. Let us learn to sing it when we are persecuted or hated for walking according to God’s word. But let us also use it to express our love and zeal for the Word when things are smooth sailing. Let us sing it prayerfully as we ask the Lord to vindicate us day by day. Amen .

—JJ Lim