Yet Will I Rest in Thy Promises

A brief study of Psalm 119:49-56, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 28 June 2013


It is almost cliché to say that the Christian life is no bed of roses. Indeed the conscientious Christian will often suffer more than the non-Christian. We can think of several reasons for that.

·   In the first place, Christians have a new nature so that they often find themselves out of place in this present world; and at the same time grieving when they seem to enjoy that which is sinful in this world.

·   In the second place, God would have us suffer affliction in this life so that we may long for and appreciate better the life to come.

·   In the third place, as Christ suffered intensely for our sin, so God would have us to suffer that our hearts may be filled with gratitude to the Lord for what He has done for us.

·   In the fourth place, suffering shuts us up to our Lord to remember His promises and to hope in Him.

·   In the fifth place, afflictions cultivate patience and experience in our heart.

·   In the sixth place, in this world, there will be those who remain in sin, whose life will bring grief to the godly.

·   In the seventh place, there will be those who hate Christ and righteousness who will persecute His people.

Some of these reasons form the basis of the 7th part of Psalm 119. This is a song about affliction. It is a song given by Christ our Saviour for us to sing in union with Him about His suffering and about our suffering. It leads us to think of His suffering for us when we suffer. It encourages us to rest in God’s promises as our Saviour did when He suffered. We may entitle it “Yet will I rest in thy promises.”

The structure of this song is not immediately obvious, but a careful look reveals that the first verse is a petition to the Father to keep His promise (v. 49), whereas in the rest of the verses (v. 50-56) we have a testimony of a life that gives rise to confidence in God’s promises. You can see the apparent unity of the second section by observing the word ‘this’ in verses 50 and 56.

1. A Petition to Keep Promise

49 Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope.

This is a plea to God our Lord. Clearly “the word” (v. 49) is a word of promise, for it is a word that gives hope. So this is an appeal to God to remember His promise.

Our Lord would, no doubt, have appealed to His Father in the same way in His earthly pilgrimage as He suffered affliction for us. For as He suffered He was both a son and a servant to the Father. And has not His Father made His promise concerning Him?

“…I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. 14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. … 15 … my mercy shall not depart away from him…” (2 Sam 7:12-15).

So it was proper for our Lord to request the Father to remember His promise. However, take note that this plea does not imply that God is forgetful. It is rather to be understood as the loving words of a child to his father to remind him of his promises.

When we take these same words in our lips, we would essentially be saying: “Thou has caused me to hope” by Thy promise, and so I humbly plead thy promise.

But now let us understand that not everyone can rest upon God’s promises. Such as rest upon God’s promises must first be made alive by the Word and then live by the word (cf. v. 50, 56). This is what the rest of this song is about.

2. A Testimony of Comfort
Inducing Life

Who may have confidence in God’s promises? The answer is found in the verses following:

50 This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.

Christ, the ultimate singer of this song could have comfort in God’s promise because the Word had “quickened” him. What is the meaning of “quickened”? Well, to “quicken” (hy:j;, chayah) is to make alive, to revive, to enliven.

The word of God has power to save our soul (Jas 1:21; Rom 1:16). It is able to make us wise unto salvation (2 Tim 3:15). How does it quicken? It quickens by renewing our minds and filling our hearts with an attitude of life. The principles and philosophies of the world deaden our hearts and therefore our lives. The word of God, including His promises, quickens us. It is food for the soul. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4).

This was the case for our Saviour in His pilgrim walk. This was so for David. It must be the same for all of us.

Unless we have been quickened and continue to live by the Word of God, we can have no comfort and hope in the promises of God when undergoing affliction.

But if we are quickened by the Word of God, then not only are our minds renewed, but our lives will be transformed. We will have a Christ-likeness that is centred on the Word of God. We shall be able to sing the following verses wholeheartedly in union with Christ as we reflect on the graces of His perfect life and on a glimpse of the same graces in our lives.

Consider first the grace of fidelity to the Word…

51 The proud have had me greatly in derision: yet have I not declined from thy law.

This was the experience and testimony of our Lord. While He was a friend to the humble and contrite, He spoke against the proud and the arrogant. So they hated Him, and they derided Him. They mocked Him and ridiculed Him. “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?” (Mk 6:3). “He saved others himself he cannot save?” (Mt 27:42). “Physician, heal thyself” (Lk 4:23).

Not only did our Lord declined not from God’s law, He continued resolutely to do God’s will.

Shall we not imitate His example that when we sing these words (cf. v. 51), we can say that it was both His and our testimony?

Consider secondly the grace of reflecting on the Word…

52 I remembered thy judgments of old, O LORD; and have comforted myself.

Our Lord found comfort and encouragement to do that which is right as He reflected on God’s “judgements of old.” God has always dealt justly. He has always rewarded the righteous and punished the wicked. He will surely continue to do the same.

Again, shall we not be encouraged in well-doing by the same reflection?

But consider also our Lord’s zeal for the Word…

53 Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law.

The word ‘horror’ (hp;[;l]z¾, zalaphah) speaks of a raging heat. It is related to the word for anger (¹['zÉ, zaaph). So the idea here is a burning anger at the sight of the wicked having no regard to the law of God. Later in verse 139 of this same psalm, a similar idea is expressed: “My zeal hath consumed me, because mine enemies have forgotten thy words” (Ps 119:139).

Does this not remind us of how the Lord said: “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (Jn 2:17; cf. Ps 69:9).

Our Lord was not sanguine and unmoved at the sight of the Law of God being violated by man created in God’s image. He was grieved. Nay, He was filled with indignation. Horror gripped Him.

Do you, beloved brethren and children, have this same zeal for God’s law?

Consider thirdly, the grace of a godly habit upon the Word…

54 Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.

The statutes, the word of God were the content of our Lord’s meditation and His songs in His earthly pilgrimage. The house (singular) of His pilgrimage refers, no doubt, to His earthly body.

The psalms are the statutes of God designed for singing. Our Lord, no doubt, sang the psalms with His disciples often. We are told, for example, how on the night He was betrayed, He led His disciples to sing a hymn before they went out into the mount of Olives (Mk 14:26). No doubt the hymn was a psalm. Perhaps Psalm 118, the last of the Egyptian Hallel.

Beloved brethren and children, is it true of you too that the words of the Lord are your song in your journey to the Celestial City?

But consider, finally, the grace of remembering the Word…

55 I have remembered thy name, O LORD, in the night, and have kept thy law.

To remember God’s name is to remember His Word and His honour. The Word of God and the honour of God is never absent from the mind of our Saviour. Whatever He does, where ever He was, whatever time it might be, God’s name was in His mind, and He conformed to God’s Law.

When darkness descended over the day, or when darkness threatened to overtake the soul of our Lord, He did not forget the name of the LORD. He persisted to keep God’s Law.

Is this so for you, beloved brethren and children? Consider our Lord’s final word in this song…

56 This I had, because I kept thy precepts.

As I mentioned earlier, this verse is tied to verse 50. Our Lord had comfort and hope in God’s promises because He is enlivened by the Word (v. 50); and because He lives by it by choice (v. 56). What appear between these two verses are the evidences of a life that is founded upon the Word.

But without being bogged down by the structure, essentially what we are given to sing is:

I have comfort in thy promise when under affliction because I was quickened by thy word (v. 50) and therefore have chosen to keep thy precepts (v. 56).

Because this is true by Thy grace, I am blessed (1) with stability in my heart when the proud derided me (v. 51); (2) with good recollection of thy judgement of old (v. 52); (3) with zeal for thy law (v. 53); (4) with biblical songs in my heart and my lips (v. 54); and (5) with remembrance of thy word through the night-seasons (v. 55).

Our Lord was made under the Law that by His obedience, He might procure life for us. But His living and keeping God’s law also bore delightful fruits of comfort and peace in His soul.

Oh beloved brethren and children, if we would live by God’s Law and do His will out of love for Him, we shall also taste of the fruits that our Saviour delighted in.

Conclusion


This is the 7th song of Psalm 119. The Christian life will have many afflictions. Yet, I will rest in the word of God. Yet will I rest in the promises of God.

May the Lord grant us that as we reflect upon how our Lord would have taken the words of this song in His holy lips, we may also be moved to imitate Him more and more. Oh that we may be able to sing the psalm with sincerity as we reflect upon our Saviour’s suffering for us and as we contemplate on our own sufferings as Christians. Amen.

—JJ Lim