O, That More Will Keep Thy Law

A brief study of Psalm 119:129-136, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 13 Dec 2013


“PE. Thy testimonies are wonderful: therefore doth my soul keep them. 130 The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple. 131 I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for thy commandments. 132 Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name.  133 Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me. 134 Deliver me from the oppression of man: so will I keep thy precepts. 135 Make thy face to shine upon thy servant; and teach me thy statutes. 136 Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law” (Psalm 119:129-136).

The 17th strophe of Psalm 119 is demarcated by the Hebrew letter Pe (p). This is one of the strophes where the demarcating letter is used for the significant word in almost every sentence. It is used for “wonderful” (pele, al,P,) in verse 129; “entrance” (pethach, jt'Pe) in verse 130; “look” (panah, hn:P;) in verse 132; “steps” (paam, µ['P';) in verse 133; “deliver” (padah, hd;P;) in verse 134; “face” (paniym, hn<P;) in verse 135 and “rivers” (peleg, gl,P,) in verse 136.

However, this is also one of the strophes in which it is difficult to discern any structure. Indeed, the verses seem to be almost independent from each other apart from the fact that they each say something related to the Word of God.

Now, most of the verses express thoughts that are not very new in this psalm as they are repeated in different ways throughout this long psalm. However, there is a verse that is very striking because of its somewhat exaggerated image. I am referring to verse 136—“Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law.

We may take this verse as the key to understanding this song, and with this in mind we can entitle it: “Oh that More will Keep thy Law!” David who probably penned this psalm may be exaggerating a little when he speaks of rivers of water running down his eyes as he beholds many refusing to keep God’s law.

But David wrote under the inspiration of the Spirit of Christ, the Greater David. The Greater David was no doubt deeply grieved as he saw the lawlessness in the land. Did he not cry out with deep anguish:

 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Mt 23:37).

And did he not teach us to pray unto the Father: “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10). As the disciples of Christ, we ought to have the same attitude and desire as our Saviour. It ought to break our hearts when we see lawless behaviour, whether it is a fiery riot or a child spewing out profanities.

But why?

Well, we may derive the answer from the rest of the psalm. The first three verses contain words of testimony with regard to the Word of God. The next four verses are really specific petitions pertaining to our relationship with God and His word. But from these 7 statements, we may deduce reasons as to why the Lord would have us to weep for the wicked who know not God’s word:

1. The Word is Wonderful

129 Thy testimonies are wonderful: therefore doth my soul keep them.

The word “wonderful” translates the Hebrew pele, al,P,. It can also be rendered as “marvellous” and “extraordinary.” It carries the sense of being awe-inspiring.

The testimonies of God or the Word of God are profound beyond all literature upon the earth. It is deep and yet it is consistent and clear. Though it is penned by many human authors, its divine origin is clearly evident. Indeed, it resonates with the regenerate soul which is indwelt by the Holy Spirit because it is inspired by the Holy Spirit.

It is no wonder that we should love the Word of God and desire to keep it, and desire that all should keep it.

2. The Word Gives Light

130 The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.

The Word of God is opened when read or preached. When the word of God is opened, it is like a door in a dark room opening and bright light from outside begins to stream in. The light brings warmth, but especially, it illuminates the hearts of all who behold.

The heart of the simple is full of darkness. Only the light of God can give understanding.

The fallen world is full of those who love simplicity and darkness. The world does not keep God’s law because they love darkness rather than light. “Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” says John (Jn 3:19).

Only the light of God can drive away that love for darkness. This light comes from the Word of God, both written and incarnate.

Christ came for this purpose. He came  “To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” says Zacharias (Lk 1:79). Through Him the Word of God is opened wide for He is the culmination of the Word of God.

We have experienced the Light. How can we not with the Light long with tears that others who are perishing enjoy the same light?

3. The Word of God is
Desirable

131 I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for thy commandments.

In Psalm 42, David writes: “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God” (Ps 42:1).

The picture here appears to be the same. The deer that is being chased pants after the water. It longs for the water. So the believer filled with the Spirit of Christ pants for God’s Word.

As the deer needs water to quench its thirst, so we need the Word of God to quench our spiritual thirst and satisfy our spiritual hunger.

Those who are walking with Christ know what it is like to be so satisfied. When there is a spiritual longing in our hearts, nothing can satisfy as deeply and as lastingly as the Word of God.

When we are satisfied by the Lord through His Word and Spirit, we have a peace and contentment that the world does not understand. The world does not understand because it does not know its own hunger and thirst. The world has, as it were, been satiated with clay and sea water. So it does not long after God’s word. So it keeps not God’s word, but continues in misery and self-destruction through sinful attitudes and behaviours.

Oh how we long that more will know God’s Word and enjoy the refreshment to their souls as we do.

4. The Word of God Identifies
 God’s People

132 Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name.

Those who love God’s name are those who love God’s Word, for the Word of God is spoken in His name (Dt 18:20).

Because spiritual things are spiritually discerned, no one can love God’s word except the spirit of God dwell in them. Therefore, those whom God shows mercy to are really those who are His people, indwelt with the Spirit of Christ.

Therefore, those who love God’s Word can confidently call upon God for mercy and have the assurance that God will show mercy just as He did to saints who have gone ahead of them.

This is a privilege that the world does not have. This is one of the privileges that we desire for the world when we pray “Thy will be done” or when we sing the present song and speak of our tears concerning the ignorance and rebellion of the world.

5.  The Word of God Keeps
Us from Bondage to Sin

133 Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.

The word “dominion” speaks of bondage and slavery. Sin is not freedom as Satan wanted Eve to believe. Sin binds and enslaves. And because sin is lawlessness, the only way to avoid sin is to walk in the path of God’s law.

So we are given to ask the Father to order our steps that we do not fall by the way side and be taken captive by sin.

And knowing that many are enslaved by sin, we are also given to sing of our grief and desire that more be freed to walk in the way.

For sixthly,…

6. The Word of God Gives
True Freedom

134 Deliver me from the oppression of man: so will I keep thy precepts.

This is a prayer for deliverance from the oppression of man. What has this got to do with the main theme of this song which has to do with heartfelt grief for those who walk in sin?

More specifically, what has oppression of man to do with the Word of God? Well, the connection is not too difficult to see. You see, the word of God gives true freedom. When we are obeying the Word of God, we are like fish in water. We can have freedom even when we have to disobey those who have dominion over us in one way or another.

Think of a soldier who has been commanded by his superior to loot some civilians’ homes. The soldier who does not have the Word of God may obey because of his fear of man. He acts under the oppression of man and of sin. But if he is a Christian soldier who knows the Word of God, he can disobey and his conscience does not smite him because He knows that He is serving Christ. He may even be punished for insubordination, but he fears not, for He knows that He is ultimately answerable only to Christ.

Now, the same principle of oppression and freedom applies really in all situations of life. The man who is freed from the oppression of man or the need to please man, will obey God’s Word; and conversely the man who obeys God’s Word is freed from the oppression of man.

Think of a school that requires their children to have extra-curricula activities on the Lord’s Day. Parents who are under the oppression of man will probably comply. But those who know the Word of God, and have the strength of the Lord to resist, will be able to say no without fear of consequences.

Can you see how those who enjoy this freedom ought to feel grief for those who remain under the oppression of man and a constant need to please man?

But finally, we desire that more will know and obey God’s Word because…

7. The Word of God is
a Blessing of God

135 Make thy face to shine upon thy servant; and teach me thy statutes.

This is, of course, another petition. It is a prayer that God will convey a sense of approval upon his servants. Slaves who serve conscientiously are happiest when they see their master’s smile. So believers are happiest when we have the assurance that God is pleased with us.

God is pleased when we walk in His ways. And when He is pleased with us, he teaches us more about His ways. “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance” says our Lord (Mt 13:12).

Thus we are given to pray: “Make thy face to shine upon thy servant; and teach me thy statutes” (v. 135). But not only must we long for the blessing for ourselves, we must also think of others. We must long for their conversion. We must grieve for their continuing in sin.

Thus this song ends with the thought:

Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law” (v. 136).

So great is the blessing of walking according to God’s Law that rather than being indifferent, we ought to weep a torrent of tears for the unconverted and the lawless.

Conclusion

This is the 17th song of Psalm 119: “O That More Will Keep They Law!”

What is expressed in this psalm reflects the mind of Christ. Our Saviour would no doubt have been able to sing it wholeheartedly in His earthly walk.

What about us? Well, I trust that we all do feel a measure of what the Lord felt. All who are in Christ are indwelt with His Spirit. All who are indwelt with His Spirit will have a measure of the heart of Christ. Therefore we can sing this song with sincerity.

Of course, it is possible that some of us are backslidden and have lost interest in the Word of God, or feel very little in regard to the Word of God. Well, we may still sing for we sing as a people covered by the righteousness of Christ. But as we sing, let us listen to one another that we may teach and admonish one another with the Word of Christ.

Oh may the Lord grant that more and more we will appreciate the Word of God, and more and more we will become like our Saviour jealous of the Word of God. Amen.

—JJ Lim