Summary: Jesus is all our righteousness, and all our righteousness is in Him (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:30).
A PRAYING POET’S APPEAL FOR THE LORD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS.
In the midst of this wonderful symphony about the Torah, the law of the LORD, there are also some petitions and prayers. This particular section uses several causative verbs, asking the LORD for things which He has promised to those who seek Him. One of the marks of true prayer is submission to the will of God: and it is His Holy Spirit who lays in our hearts such desires as are consistent with His Word.
Psalm 119:33. The Psalmist asks the LORD to “teach me the way of your statutes”. The desire of the poet’s heart is to find this Way, and he promises to “keep it” to the end. It is not inappropriate to intersperse our petitions with heartfelt promises and resolutions: faith and commitment travel hand in hand.
‘I am the Way,’ declares Jesus (cf. John 14:6). ‘Christ is the end of the law’, says Paul (cf. Romans 10:4). So when the law proved itself unable to save anybody (cf. Romans 8:3), Jesus came to fulfil the law (cf. Matthew 5:17).
Psalm 119:34. Having kept the ‘way’, the Psalmist promises to “keep” the law. Indeed, if the LORD will give him understanding then he will “observe it with (his) whole heart”. Christians are those who have been pronounced righteous in the Way (in Jesus), who thereafter ‘walk in the law of the LORD’ (cf. Psalm 119:1).
Psalm 119:35. The Psalmist also asks “make me to go in the path of your commandments”. This is his “delight” in life. Jesus encourages us to enter the narrow gate and traverse that path (cf. Matthew 7:14). Elsewhere Jesus points to Himself as the ‘gate’ into this journey (cf. John 10:9).
Psalm 119:36. Then the Psalmist asks that his heart be inclined towards the LORD’s testimonies. This is to be preferred above “covetousness”. It is interesting that Paul uses the breach of the commandment not to covet as an example of the failure of the law to eradicate sin in the man without Christ (cf. Romans 7:7).
Psalm 119:37. The Psalmist perhaps dwells upon the subject, mentioning wandering eyes, or “eyes that behold vanity”. As humans we fail, so it is necessary to pray “quicken thou me in the way” – calling for the new life which only comes with Jesus. Then, having been saved, we need to constantly renew our minds (cf. Romans 12:2) - dwelling rather upon that which is good, and of good report (cf. Philippians 4:8).
Psalm 119:38. One thing that is good for us, and always beneficial, is the written word of God, the Bible. We should look to the LORD with reverence (fear) to establish that word in our hearts. Bible study is individual, as well as corporate (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15) - thereby we will always be ready to ‘give an account’ of the hope that is within us (cf. 1 Peter 3:15).
To ask the LORD to establish His Word (K.J.V.), is to ask Him to establish His promise (N.R.S.V.).
Psalm 119:39. When we ask the LORD to “turn away the disgrace” that we “dread”, we are asking Him to grant us His ‘grace’ in its place. We pray that He would be merciful to us, and forgive our failings and failures. Our faith is in His faithfulness to His covenant, as fulfilled in our Lord Jesus Christ’s incarnation, substitutionary sacrifice, resurrection, ascension, and eternal intercession on our behalf.
Psalm 119:40. The Pharisee in one of Jesus’ parables drew attention to himself only in the way of self-congratulation (cf. Luke 18:11-12). However, the Psalmist’s prayerful and humble approach to the LORD does allow him to draw attention to himself: how he has “longed” after the LORD’s “precepts”. This man is not looking to establish his own righteousness, but rather appeals for the LORD’s righteousness to be imputed to him.
The LORD is our righteousness (cf. Jeremiah 23:6), our righteous saviour (cf. Jeremiah 33:16). The righteousness of God is provided for us through the mediation of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Philippians 3:9). Jesus is all our righteousness, and all our righteousness is in Him (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:30).