Psalm 119:38

Stablish thy word unto thy servant,
who is devoted to thy fear.

~ Psalm 119:38

Stablish thy word unto thy servant
Stablish carries the thought of making sure in the sense of establishing. It also conveys the thought of arising so as to go. The color of the meaning here is for God to do His word that He has promised. He makes sure His word in the sense that He does it and ensures it comes to pass. It is a prayer for God’s word to be fulfilled.

who is devoted to thy fear
The prayer requests such for the servant who fears. There are many words to those who fear God (Psalm 103:11, 13, 17; 145:19; 147:11). The longing of a fearing heart is for God to be glorified through fulfilling His word.

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Psalm 119:37

Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity;
and quicken thou me in thy way.

~ Psalm 119:37

Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity
Vanity has a wide range of meaning. It encompasses from destructive evil to falsehood to empty uselessness. The Psalmist doesn’t want to fix on any of these. We are not to be steeped and expert in evil and malice (1 Corinthians 14:20; Romans 16:19), and the first step from that is to turn away from beholding it.

and quicken thou me in thy way
The turning away on one hand must be a turning toward on the other hand. Quickening is being made alive. The Psalmist pleads for reviving and life energy to pursue the ways of God. Success here requires not only the emptying of vanity but also the filling with good (Philippians 4:8). The vigilant and persistent prayer is to God to turn us from vanity and toward His way.

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Psalm 119:36

Incline my heart unto thy testimonies,and not to covetousness.
~ Psalm 119:36

Incline means to spread out or bend. He is praying for his heart to be bent or stretched toward God’s testimonies. The heart is referred to throughout the Old Testament and heavily in the wisdom literature. In this usage, the heart most commonly stands for the mind, the seat of the intellect and will. Sometimes it stands for the whole inner being, or person. In our modern day, we primarily associate the heart with emotions, but that is not what is meant in the text.

The Psalmist recognizes a natural bent to covetousness and that’s why he prays for Divine power in inclining toward the testimonies of God. This verse is similar to the New Testament passages about renewing our minds (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:23; Colossians 3:10). We fight against our natural bent daily and must trust completely in the grace and power of God to overcome it.

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Psalm 119:35

Make me to go in the path of thy commandments;
for therein do I delight.

~ Psalm 119:35

Make me to go in the path of thy commandments
We don’t want to be overly pragmatic, but God’s law, His word, is a path. It is a way. It isn’t just stimulation for the heart and mind. The capacity to understand and walk in His word comes from God.

This prayer comes from one who has been made to know the Word. He sees the truth, goodness, and beauty in the Word and now longs to go in that way. His struggle seems akin to Paul’s in Romans 7:18, “For to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.”

for therein do I delight
Here is the key to the previous prayer. We understand the impulse of it when we understand that the Word is the delight and pleasure of his soul. When the eyes are opened to really see God in His Word, we are irresistibly drawn to Him. We experience the frustration of a life that merely syncopates the Word and does not exactly reproduce it.

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Psalm 119:34

Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law;
yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.

~ Psalm 119:34

Give me understanding
Understanding is used often in the Proverbs with words related to wisdom. It points to our faculty of discernment; our ability to comprehend spiritual truth. It is not enough to read or hear, we must understand. He seeks understanding from the only source of spiritual understanding. The capacity to understand spiritual things is not native with us. It must be given to us by God (1 Corinthians 2:14; James 1:5).

and I shall keep thy law
Understanding is sought so that the law may be kept. Attempting to keep the law without that understanding only results in self-righteousness and legalism. The publican went down to his house justified rather than the Pharisee (Luke 18:14). Jesus repeatedly reproved the Pharisees because they did not understand the law, though they thought they were righteous. Understanding is vital to walking in the way of righteousness.

yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart

Understanding leads to wholehearted observance. The heart in the Scriptures can stand for the will, emotions, or intellect. Sometimes, it means all of these; our whole inner person or being. That is the intention here where the Psalmist knows that spiritual understanding will engage his whole being in keeping God’s Word

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Psalm 119:33

Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes;
and I shall keep it unto the end.

~ Psalm 119:33

The fifth stanza pleads for perseverance and preservation. This involves the spiritual work of guidance and deliverance, but also the increase of knowledge and understanding of God’s Word.

Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes
“Teach me” is the lowly cry of the learner. One who feels their need and lack is one who sits at the feet of the Teacher. Learning God’s Word is paramount to persevering in His way and that note is immediately struck.

The knowledge sought is not mere information. He cries to learn “the way.” Again, the word here literally means a road or path. He desires to know the road or path of God’s statutes. God’s Word is not given to merely inform our minds, but to instruct our hearts and lead our feet.

And I shall keep it unto the end
The conjunction, “and,” joins the second statement to the first and shows its condition on it. When taught of the Lord, we keep His way unto the end. Perseverance holds all the way to the end of life.

And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake:but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
– Matthew 10:22

So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ
– 1 Corinthians 1:7-8

Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer:behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days:be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
– Revelation 2:10

And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
– Revelation 2:26

The Christian life is not such that you can overfill your barns and then take your ease from the way. It is a persevering unto the very end. We must note again that perseverance is built upon being taught of the Lord. When God has begun a good work, He will finish it (Philippians 1:6).

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Psalm 119:32

I will run the way of thy commandments,
when thou shalt enlarge my heart.

~ Psalm 119:32

To run here means to move swiftly. It implies freedom of movement and certainty of direction. When we are going in an unfamiliar way, we move slowly and more cautiously as we look for signs and obstacles. When we go in the familiar way, we move quickly and know the turns and twists.

The Psalmist states that when God has enlarged his heart with the Word, then he will run the way of God’s commandments. This means he has liberty to run and purpose of direction. He will not be halting and stumbling, but moving forward decidedly.

This fourth stanza has twice referred to the soul and once to the heart. It is concerned with true heart-work and not mere head-knowledge with outward conformity. Resolve and deliberate action are involved in going the right way. Holiness is not something we land on while floating along, nor is it arrived at unintentionally.

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Psalm 119:31

I have stuck unto thy testimonies:
O LORD, put me not to shame.

~ Psalm 119:31

The word for stuck here is also translated as cleave, keep fast, etc. To stick to God’s testimonies is to cleave to them. The word is also used to describe a man keeping fast to his wife in Genesis 2:24.

We have seen thus far that the Psalmist’s life has not been smooth and easy. He started this stanza by expressing how his soul cleaved to the dust (Psalm 119:25). He was bowed low with suffering and sorrow. Through all this, he stuck to God’s testimonies.

Our true spiritual condition is often revealed in how we respond to sorrows, how we move when we suffer. Do we move away from God or toward Him in troubling times? We move away from God when we blame and question Him or murmur because of our circumstances. We move toward Him when we humbly submit ourselves and put all our trust in Him (Job 1:20-22).

Those who put their trust in Him will not be put to shame (Psalm 25:2, 20). To be put to shame is to be confounded or disappointed when your hope is exposed as a false hope. Men live their lives trusting in something, whether it’s themselves, the government, the economy, the philosopher, or whether they are trusting God. Those who place their trust anywhere else and do not stick to His Word will have their hope exposed as false and their expectations disappointed (Jeremiah 17:5-8).

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Psalm 119:30

I have chosen the way of truth:
thy judgments have I laid before me.

~ Psalm 119:30

Previously he asked that the way of lying be removed from him. Now he declares his desire for the way of truth. Way (derek) refers literally to a road trodden or figuratively to a course of life. Truth and lying have a practical effect on life. The way of lying ultimately ends in the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8) and the way of truth ultimately leads to life (John 14:6).

Choosing the way of truth is not realized in mental assent only. He laid God’s judgments before him continually. He meditated in them. Spurgeon commented on this verse:

Men do not become holy by a careless wish: there must be study, consideration, deliberation, and earnest enquiry, or the way of truth will be missed. The commands of God must be set before us as the mark to aim at, the model to work by, the road to walk in. If we put God’s judgments into the background we shall soon find ourselves departing from them.

Paul charged the Philippians to think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, of virtue, and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). These must be the constant meditation of our mind if we are to discern the way of truth and walk therein.

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