If Psalm 8 taught us that we have God’s attention, then this part of psalm 119 (v89-112) teaches us that we have His word. Psalm 119 is a long psalm and this section is book-ended with the word forever. V1 “forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens” and v112 “I incline my heart to perform your statutes (that is God’s word, his laws) forever, to the end.” Everything in between is what the psalmist has built his memory with and therefore he remembers what he is to be committed to.
The very act of building your memory with the word of God is necessary for preventing memory lapses. The issue here is not that you forgot to buy milk on your way home, that can happen. But as Peter says in the New Testament, that serious memory cases such as amnesia cause you to forget who you are, and the Christian here is writing to have spiritual amnesia. How then can they live as God’s people if they don’t remember that they are God’s people?
The conclusion here is why the word of God needs to be followed because it is a lamp unto our feet and a light to our path. In other words, because of the word of God we are able to see where we are and what direction we ought to walk in. But it begins here in v89 with what that word is, it is fixed in the heavens and by God’s word we are able to tell how He has been faithful to all generations. How that same word established the earth and it stands fast. God appoints with his word and what he appoints serves him v91.
As this is reflected upon v93, those things are committed to memory and then practice. Because having a good memory, about a subject we are able to think clearly and make better decisions. How many times have we made a decision, having forgotten what we knew, only to remember it after the decision is made and feel that annoyance? When we forget small things it doesn’t matter but when we forget important things then it matters a lot more. How then do we build a memory that causes us to think clearly about life with God?
As he meditates on God’s law v97-104, he receives the benefits of the word, which is connected to his effort to being committed to God’s word. He recognises that this word v105 is the lamp to his feet and the light to his path and given that this is a blessing of God to us, we live in that blessing.
When we pay attention to how the earth v90 stands fast according to the word of God. We are to recognise that the word will do the same for us as we live by it. As I look at what God created and how it is all held together by his word and is established, I can expect the same. I can be established and become able to stand fast. For the word of God v93 has given me life. So as we come to God’s word being a lamp to our feet and a light to our path, we can see its importance. It is able to establish a person, giving them stability.
But when we forget the faithfulness of God in this way, or we call God’s faithfulness into question – our own faithfulness is beginning to falter. When we don’t believe that God is committed to us, then our own commitment to him falters. Now because Christians have blessings that other people do not have we would think that we would be mindful of them, but it is when we forget the faithfulness of God that our own faithfulness is no longer found. Have you ever wondered from the truth? Did your faithfulness to God increase or decrease? Did you find that way lit with a strong sense of direction? or no direction at all?
So this is about what we need to know about the word and God, how to commit them to memory and practice. For when we forget them our own faithfulness is tipping over the edge. As we consider the earth being established by God’s word and how it stands fast by the word. The psalmist recognises that the same will apply to him in acts of faithfulness.
In v99 we see how he had more understanding than all his teachers. The focus is on understanding and distinct from simply knowing about. Perhaps you have given an answer that you’re not really sure about, perhaps you have made a decision that you are not really sure about. Perhaps you have even made decision without any understanding or forward thinking. Life is not an experiment, waiting to see what the results will be of our decisions. God would rather we have understanding, knowing what the results of our decisions and commitments will be before we make them.
So he says v109 “I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law”. Imagine carrying a lot of money in your open hand, through a side street in town. Think of the vulnerability you would feel to do that, the danger of it being taken from you. Says the psalmist, I hold my life in my hand continually – but, I do not forget your law”. In other words he considers what he is holding and thinks how can he hold this in the safest possible way. Since God has given me this life, how must I hold it, if it is in my hand? I do so by not forgetting His law.
Living in the light
God’s word is a light to our paths – and a departure from the light is a departure from the path. This is observed in the psalm and it can also be observed as we look back over life itself. We see it when we have departed from the word and so from the way. So being committed to the word of God is simply a commitment to seeing clearly, by pledging himself to the word of God v106 he pledges himself to God and he does this without competition. In other words he does not hold on to his own knowledge but trust in the word. So that he doesn’t compete with God over his life, his life is pledged to God. Perhaps having lived in a way where your life has been the object of competition, who will have the most influence over it, God or you. Now he pledges himself to God.
The word of God is fixed and therefore it doesn’t move, but it doesn’t follow from that, that we won’t move from it. God’s faithfulness endures and this is comfort to the believer, and it’s as we consider those things which stand fast according to the word of God. We should learn from this the benefit of the word of God for living.
The call is to incline your heart v122, to preform your statutes forever, to the end. That kind of commitment is the kind that keeps us committed. We are to build our memory with the word of God for God’s word to us is a blessing and God’s people have blessings that other people do not have. As we build our memory with the word of God we have it to draw on when we’re making decisions, and because it is the word of God it has authority over our desires, what we feel, emotions which can cause us to make decisions without thinking things through.
God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path – now we may think of this like a torch in your hand, where you direct the light in the direction you want to go. But that’s not what’s happening here. God’s word lights the way for us, revealing the direction we should go and showing us where we are.
The psalms are full of those who consider the faithfulness of God and as they do, they are able to do so because of what they remember. They have built their memories and are able to draw on them when they need them, they are able to think clearly because they remember what God is like. For they know that the moment they begin they forget the faithfulness of God their own faithfulness is at the tipping point.
God calls us to make commitments to Him in a world that is constantly changing so that we don’t change with it. We all walk with our life in our hands continually in one respect, so let us not forget the next part – to be devoted to the word of God, to not depart from God’s law. So that our lives are held carefully, with the reminder that God’s faithfulness endures to all generations.