Psalm 119: Assurances During a Pandemic

assurances during a pandemic | greatlywondering.com
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A month or so ago, our Sunday School class began studying Psalm 119. The last Sunday we were able to meet before the coronavirus mandate banning groups of 10 or more, we looked at two stanzas: verses 49-56 and 57-64. I hope these thoughts point you to God’s assurances during this pandemic.

We all have moments of doubt, fear, and anxiety in life. The last few weeks have been full of them. The enemy doesn’t have any new tricks. He goes back to the first one and asks “Did God really say?” Yes, God really did say. That’s the assurance and certainty we can find in God’s Word, and Psalm 119 keeps pointing us back to the Word.

Verses 49-56 read:

Remember your word to your servant;
you have given me hope through it.
This is my comfort in my affliction:
Your promise has given me life.
The arrogant constantly ridicule me,
but I do not turn away from your instruction.
Lord, I remember your judgments from long ago
and find comfort.
Rage seizes me because of the wicked
who reject your instruction.
Your statutes are the theme of my song
during my earthly life.
Lord, I remember your name in the night,
and I obey your instruction.
This is my practice:
I obey your precepts.

Psalm 119:49-56

We can rest

Earlier in Psalm 119, King David mentions that he’s suffering. People are slandering him. People in positions of power are plotting against him. He says people taunt him. Where does he go for assurance that everything is going to be okay? Where does he turn for courage?

Verses 49-50 say, “Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.” The first place David goes for comfort during affliction is the promises of God.

We have all experienced suffering to varying degrees in life. However, COVID-19 has brought a whole new level of fear and anxiety that most of us haven’t experienced before. Yet, it is ultimately the result of living in a broken world because of sin. Life does not function the way it was originally designed, and because of that we have things like diseases, suffering, and anxiety.

About six years ago, a young husband and father in our church had been diagnosed with a cancerous tumor. The doctors were worried that surgery to remove it would be difficult. I don’t know all of the details, but through a series of events the tumor miraculously disappeared. I remember on a Sunday morning after that he got up in front of the church and just read promise after promise and praise after praise from the Word. He was crying. We were crying. It was powerful.

We can rest in the promises of God regardless of the circumstances. Throughout life, there are going to be times of great difficulty, like the pandemic we see today. During those seasons, it may even be difficult to see God through the pain. When those times come, we can find great comfort in the promises of God.

No other promise like this

Romans 8:1–2 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” If you have put your faith in Christ, you are not under wrath. You are under mercy—grace upon grace. You can lean into the promise that sin and death have been defeated and eternal life is yours. There’s no other promise like that.

Dane Ortlund writes in Gentle and Lowly:

When the relationship goes sour, when the feelings of futility come flooding in, when it feels like life is passing us by, when it seems that our one shot at significance has slipped through our fingers, when we can’t sort out our emotions, when the longtime friend lets us down, when a family member betrays us, when we feel deeply misunderstood, when we are laughed at by the impressive—in short, when the fallenness of the world closes in on us and makes us want to throw in the towel… right there, we have a Friend who knows exactly what such testing feels like, and he sits close to us and embraces us…

Our tendency is to feel intuitively that the more difficult life gets, the more alone we are. As we sink further into pain, we sink further into felt isolation. The Bible corrects us. Our pain never outstrips what Jesus himself shares in. We are never alone.

Whatever trial you’re going through, including this pandemic, it’s not because God has left you. He hasn’t forsaken you. He’s right there with you every step of the way.

assurances during a pandemic | greatlywondering.com
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The THeme of My Song

In verses 51 and 52, David is being ridiculed and disrespected, but he doesn’t turn away from the Word. That’s where he finds comfort. In verse 53, He has a righteous anger about arrogant people who forsake God’s law. In verse 54, the NIV says “Your decrees are the theme of my song.” God’s Word runs through everything in his life. It’s the theme. I love how the ESV puts the end of verse 54—“in the house of my sojourning.” To sojourn is to stay somewhere temporarily. In other words, this world is not my home, but wherever I am your Word is the theme of my song.

The night is often a time that fear and worry can creep in. Our minds start racing. In verse 55, David says he remembers the name of the Lord. He calls on God in the night. When we’re having one of those nights, we can reach out to God in prayer, and He hears us.

The stanza ends with David saying keeping the Word is a blessing that has been given to him. Have you ever thought of it that way? A lot of times we think of the law as being something that constrains us, but David calls it a blessing.

My POrtion

The Lord is my portion;
I have promised to keep your words.
I have sought your favor with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
I thought about my ways
and turned my steps back to your decrees.
I hurried, not hesitating
to keep your commands.
Though the ropes of the wicked
were wrapped around me,
I did not forget your instruction.
I rise at midnight to thank you
for your righteous judgments.
I am a friend to all who fear you,
to those who keep your precepts.
Lord, the earth is filled with your faithful love;
teach me your statutes.

Psalm 119:57-64

This is a really key concept to grasp. When you read a review of a restaurant, it may say, “they have good size portions for the money.” Or they may say, “the portion size is small.” What does that mean when we talk about portions? The portion is what you get.

David says, “The Lord is my portion.” God is what we get through faith in Jesus. We get nearness to God. We get relationship with God. And He is enough regardless of life’s circumstances. That’s the true gift of faith.

One of the biggest lies told is that if we put our faith in Jesus everything in life is going to go our way. That’s not the promise of the gospel.

The promise of the gospel is that if you repent and put your faith in Jesus, you will be reconciled to God through Christ’s work for you on the cross. You get a relationship with God, and He’s going to be there no matter what comes your way. If you lost everything in this world including your life, only one thing matters. Do you know God?

He MEans Good For Us

David goes on through this stanza fleshing out what that means—The Lord is my portion. Look at verse 58. One thing it means is that God is gracious or kind to us according to his promises. Earlier in the psalm it points out that God is going to do what is good for us, because He is a good Father. He extends grace to us.

I’ve heard it put this way: God uses a scalpel in our lives like a surgeon. Yes, it leaves a wound, but he is dealing with what might ultimately hurt and kill us. It is strategic, loving, and for our good.

In verse 59, David says when I think about my life and how I’m living, I turn my feet to your Word. Testimonies in this context typically means instructions. In other words, I have thought about where I’ve been, and I’m turning my feet in the direction you are instructing me to go. Later in this same psalm he says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” He means good for us and leads us in that direction.

Hesitation

Verse 60 is sometimes a tough one. Sometimes we want to wait and see how things are going to play out, before we decide to do what God told us to do from the beginning. If things look like they’re going south, then we’ll use God as a back up plan. We’ll turn to God in desperation when everything else has failed.

Have you ever read the story of Deborah and Barak in the book of Judges? Barak hesitates to do what the Lord told him to do. He wants an insurance policy to make sure God will do what God said He would do. So, Barak makes Deborah go with him. Well, by hesitating and insisting on an insurance policy, Barak misses out on the blessing. Jael gets the blessing, and we don’t even know who she is until the end of the story. David says I hurry and keep your commands. I’m not waiting or delaying.

Verse 61 talks about how the sin of others causes us to experience suffering and pain. David has mentioned several times in Psalm 119 that other people are attacking him and plotting against him. Regardless, he does not forget God’s Word.

Assurances during a pandemic
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Always available

With God as our portion, we enjoy His constant presence, His grace, and His testimonies. We also receive the invitation to approach Him at any time. Verse 62 says, “At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous rules.”

This is a great promise. God is always available, even in the dark. Think of God’s invitation to us. No one else makes these kinds of invitations. Are you socially awkward? Depressed? Ashamed? Jesus calls you to Him. He says come and be with me. I will give you rest.

Do you remember the parable of the persistent widow? There’s a judge who is a jerk. This widow keeps coming to him, pestering him to give her justice against her enemy. Eventually, the judge breaks down and gives her justice. Jesus says if a wicked judge will answer someone who’s persistently asking, God will certainly give justice to his people who cry out to him day and night.

Jesus says, “I want you to come to me. Keep asking. Keep knocking. Keep seeking, because I want to be gracious to you. That delights me. I’m available to you.” It’s an incredible invitation.

I can’t help but quote Dane Ortlund again:

The Christian life, from one angle, is the long journey of letting our natural assumption about who God is, over many decades, fall away, being slowly replaced with God’s own insistence on who he is.

God tells us we have the freedom to approach him in confidence any time we want to with honest prayers. We don’t have to hide what we’re feeling—our doubt, fears, or frustrations. We can bring all of that to Him, and His graciousness promises to cover it all.

assurances during a pandemic | greatlywondering.com
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Assurances During a Pandemic

In verses 63-64, David is highlighting that he has been given companions who walk through life with him, in both joy and suffering. Those companions are the people of God. That’s the church. God puts other believers in our lives to endure trials and celebrate good times with us.

Sometimes in our pride, we don’t let others into our lives when we are struggling or when we are in pain. When we do that, we are robbing ourselves of a blessing. We have to be vulnerable enough to invite people into the messiness of our lives in order for them to respond with compassion and empathy and mercy. They become a tangible expression of the presence of God in our lives. He ministers to us through his Spirit and His people.

As we go though this trial together, make a conscious effort to embrace the promises of God. He is near to the brokenhearted. God delights in doing good for us. He is available to us. He gives us other believers to walk with through this. Let’s embrace his promises and assurances during this pandemic.