Brad Libolt speaking on Psalm 119: 81-88. Brad talks about a relationship with God that is beyond the mundane. He focuses on the need for a transparent and genuine relationship with God that, with depth and transparency, brings freedom.
When I was visiting my in-laws a while ago, I got into an argument/discussion with my father-in-law that lasted for three hours. We both had strong differing opinions and he wasn’t backing down and neither was I. We were outside by the campfire and my wife and mother-in-law went inside and then it was just the two of us. When we went inside, my wife and mother-in-law were upset because they thought that we just had this huge fight. They were worried that we would never visit her parents again, but that wasn’t the case at all. My father-in-law and I disagreed and we each held our ground, but our relationship wasn’t damaged because of it. In fact, because we had this raw, real, open conversation we grew even closer in our relationship. It didn’t damage the relationship, it strengthened it.
When we argue with God and let him know everything that we are feeling; including anger, sadness, joy, frustration, all of it, then our relationship with God grows deeper. Through our hardships and persecutions we should be crying out to God. We have a freedom to bear our emotions to God and to express what we really think. We are able to do this because God wants relationship with us. God wants us to be real with him, so he has given us the freedom to express our emotions to him. In this text the psalmist is getting real with God, and in that his relationship with God strengthens and grows.
81 “My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word.”
v. 82 “My eyes long for your promise; I ask, ‘When will you comfort me?’”
Verses 81 and 82 are saying the same thing. The psalmist is longing for salvation, hope, God’s word, and comfort. He is going through something difficult, probably persecution, and wants salvation and comfort from his present circumstances. And we have that freedom to express our emotions and our desire for comfort.
This past summer Dave took some of us on a 42 mile backpacking trip and it was really tough. It was mostly uphill, we had to pump all of our water, and we ate dehydrated food that we had to rehydrate. The food didn’t taste very good but we were really hungry and hiking 42 miles in 3 days was exhausting. On the way back we decided we were going to stop at Dairy Queen. We were longing for the good food that we would find there. Like the psalmist says here, we were in a difficult situation and we wanted the comfort of good tasking Dairy Queen food. We weren’t able to get that comfort ourselves, we had to go somewhere (Dairy Queen) to get it. The psalmist is asking God to comfort him, because we can’t get the comfort that we need by ourselves. As this psalmist says, it is ok for our desperation to show, as long as we are hoping in the promise of God’s salvation.
v. 83 “For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I have not forgotten your statutes.”
When wineskins are touched by smoke they shrivel up and become useless and ineffective. We can become like shriveled wineskins when we don’t approach God for comfort. When we take burdens on our own the weight causes us to be uncomfortable, and we should immediately go to God. When we feel ineffective, we should not forget what God has promised.
84 “How long must your servant endure? When will you judge those who persecute me?”
The psalmist is still expressing great emotion to God and he has the freedom to do that. He is calling out of desperation and distress. He is enduring this for a long time without relief from God, but he continues to seek him and continues to cry out to him. Even when God seems to be silent in our suffering, we should remain faithful and seek him. Yet our response is to rest a little longer.
Revelation 6:9 says, “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.”
When we desire other’s judgement, we need to remember to rest a little longer. Judgment is up to God, not us, and we should pray for those who persecute us.
v. 85 “The insolent have dug pitfalls for me; they do not live according to your law.”
v. 86 “All your commandments are sure; they persecute me with falsehood; help me!”
He is saying that those who are arrogant have set traps for him, traps of falsehood and persecution. False words, philosophies, and ideas can trap us and throw us off. It is ok to cry out to God for help, and in fact we should. When we feel trapped with no way out, God is the one we can call out to.
v. 87 “They have almost made an end of me on earth, but I have not forsaken your precepts.”
They almost killed this man; he was persecuted almost to the point of death. But he stayed strong in his faith and did not forget God’s commandments. When we get to points where we think it couldn’t be worse and we are at the end of the rope, we need to remember to continue having faith in God and who he is. Don’t be afraid to express your raw emotion in those times, because it will strengthen your relationship with God. When you feel like you are at the end of your rope, do not forget the promises of God.
88 “In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.”
He is persecuted to the point of death, and his last cry is that he can have life. Not life just to live, but life so he can obey the commandments of God and live for him. Our lives should be dedicated to obeying God and loving him, and when that gets hard he is there to listen to our cries for help. The life we have been given is not to be lived for ourselves, but to be lived to glorify God.