Summary: The temptations and accusations of the world are like a man-eating plant that wraps its legs around our character and seeks to drag us down. God's Word is like the searchlight from a Coast Guard helicopter, coming to rescue us in times of trouble.
Psalm 119 is a celebration of God’s Word and a literary masterpiece. But there is also a story arc in this psalm that we can relate to. The psalmist, quite possibly Ezra, is facing temptation and opposition from the world—in an attempt to keep him from serving Yahweh and obeying His Word. He’s blown in in some way and the Lord has disciplined him. The people who don’t like him are using this as a way to further their cause. But Ezra sees deeper than his own weaknesses—to how God uses our faults to transform us more fully into His image as we cling to Him and His Word.
There is something that a person who relies on God has that is available to no one else. There is a shedding of the values of this age as we see that the thing of most value in the universe is a relationship, an eternal relationship, with the Creator, Yahweh.
57 – 64
The psalmist realizes that it doesn’t really matter in the end what other people think about him. The people of this age can reject God and reject him but his feeling of self worth and security isn’t tied to them or this age. When the children of Israel entered the Promised Land, the Levites (the tribe of Levi) did not receive any property. But instead the Lord would be their portion. That is true for us who have become a kingdom of priests to our God (Revelation 5:10). We don’t have a stake in this age any more. Our portion is our God. The psalmist in this section realizes he’s messed up in this area, but when God’s Word came to his mind he ran, and did not walk, back to following God’s character instead of the character of this age.
He uses very picturesque language to describe the temptations of the world like “ropes” that wrapped around his character, pulling him down and away from a godly character. Verse 63 suggests that it may have been that he wasn’t careful in choosing his friends or those who could speak into his life.
1 Corinthians 15:33: Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”
James 4:4 “Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy.”
Proverbs 12:26 (NKJV) 26 “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray.”
The idea is not to shun those who don’t know God (see 1 Cor 5:9-11), but don’t be “unequally yoked” with them (2 Corinthians 6:14). Make sure the values that speak into your life come from God’s Word! Though it seems those that hate God speak loudly in this age, realize that God’s love and grace actually fills this world, even if it is in the background.
65 – 72
As if the psalmist is now really getting it – he asks God for “discernment and good judgment.” He realizes how he followed the wrong values, and listening to the wrong voices. Those voices may have told him that because he was suffering, God wasn’t looking out for his best interests. But now he knows that God is good and treats everyone well. So he asks for discernment—how to live wisely in this age.
Discernment and judgment are interesting words. Judgment means “a taste” and discernment: “cunning.” So, in a sense, the psalmist is asking for God to allow him to know when something is off from God’s character in a situation and to know what to do about it.
He realizes God is the only one who does good and he wants to learn God’s good character and mirror it!
Those that were proud of rejecting God saw his weaknesses and “smeared” him with “lies.” Instead of engaging them, he turns back to God and His Word.
He even appreciates the difficulties the situation brought him so it could cause him to delve deeper into the Word.
So let’s talk about discipline. I think too often we think of discipline as synonymous with punishment—like getting a spanking from God when we blow it. First we must realize that all of our sins, past, present, and future, have been forgiven by the blood of Jesus. We are now disciples (related to the word discipline) or apprentices. God is teaching us to think, speak, and act like Him. Sometimes, perhaps often, this comes when we suffer through hard times.
Hebrews 12:7 “Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline—which all receive—then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had natural fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but He does it for our benefit, so that we can share His holiness. 11 No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”