by Mike Ratliff
Daleth. My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word! When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes! Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works. My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word! Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law! I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me. I cling to your testimonies, O LORD; let me not be put to shame! I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart! (Psalms 119:25-32)
We must understand that God draws us into maturity by His grace. Without God extending His grace to us, we could not be saved. We would not even seek Him. God calls those who are in Christ to grow unto Christ-likeness. That means we must grow in grace as God develops our character to resemble Jesus Christ’s character. The method God uses to mature one believer will be different than it will be for others. We are all unique and God has His own plans for each one of us according to His will. We do not choose any of it. God is in complete control of the whole process.
In this stanza of Psalms 119 entitled “Daleth,” we see a man in the throes of remorse and penitence. As this stanza was being written, it is apparent God had sent conviction into his Soul and his conscience was echoing that conviction with condemnation. I know all about that. God’s conviction is piercing and precise. The condemnation that comes from my conscience makes me feel as if it is the end of the world. God uses both to move us into the proper spiritual position so He can pulverize our hearts according to His will. This is one way He matures our hearts. Never forget it is God doing this, not us. We are called to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ by hearing, believing and obeying. God gives us His grace, which gives us joy, which enables all of our hearing, believing and obeying. Our path to Christ-likeness is not the one we choose though. God does that.
The first line in this stanza is My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!” The psalmist is complaining to God of the feeling of death and separation that comes to those who have become accustomed to God’s presence and now He seems far away. This coldness and flatness is hard to bear. What does he ask of God? Come to me, comfort me and teach me your Word. There are times I get into these funks where I get self-focused then God seems to pull away. He has not but I have. Finding our way back to His presence is key. The psalmist asks God to teach him more and this will be life to him. Being in God’s presence as He teaches us is life itself to those who have been there. I love it with the same intensity with which I hate it when I find myself with my Soul clinging to the dust. I know then I have lost my focus and have sinned. It feels as if God has forsaken me.
Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? For our soul is bowed down to the dust our belly clings to the ground. Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love! (Psalms 44:23-26)
This anguished call reflects our utter helplessness in any remedy for our affliction. We must have God come to our rescue. Why? He is sovereign and it is only by His Grace this life makes any sense.
The second line in this stanza is, “When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes!” This is a statement or confession of a close intimate relationship with God Himself. Does God hear and answer us? Yes indeed! He will also teach us the truth and fill us with His wisdom. Why? From our new birth in Christ until our physical death, God will be constantly sanctifying our hearts.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:5-8)
God’s grace is truly amazing. We deserve nothing but His wrath, but He has chosen those He foreknew, the elect, by His grace. None of us has any claim of self-sufficiency that would enable us to attain salvation outside of His grace. In fact, our righteousness is as filth when compared to His.
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Isaiah 64:6 KJV)
This verse tells us the best we can do outside of God’s grace is as the filthy polluted rags that are wrapped around festering wounds. They are good for nothing. The contrast is those who are within God’s grace are spiritually clothed in sparkling clean salvation robes. I'll take grace. Our works are simply the outward evidence of our salvation not what brings salvation. This verse should also clearly show us we can do nothing to save ourselves since the best we can do is filthiness. Our salvation is by God’s grace through the faith He gives us.
The third line in this stanza is, “Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.” Meditation is a lost art amongst modern Christians. However, it is a mighty spiritual tool. Why? We turn the corner in our spiritual maturity when we come to understand God’s true nature. In my own spiritual growth, I can look back at that very short few weeks a year ago and see that big jump in growth that came out of my going hard after Him and staying His presence as much as possible. I was in the Word and in worship nearly the whole time. My concept of God came into focus. Meditation is the act of absorbing God’s wisdom and truth then working it out in our minds. This process is spelled out for us in the following passage.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
The renewal of our minds is speaking of a complete renovation. We need it. What happens when we submit to God’s call to meditate on Him as we fast from the world and feast on Him? God will transform us. This means we will go through the metamorphosis process that matures us. God is doing it all as we hear, believe, surrender, and obey.
The fourth line in this stanza is, “My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!” When we sin, we must repent. This statement is a cry from a penitent heart. Why the grief? Why the mourning? When believers sin it hurts God. It hurts our relationship with Him. We must grieve. We must mourn because of the hurt we have brought upon our gracious Lord. However, when we confess our sins, in all humility, to our Lord and ask Him to forgive us He will do that and much more.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
He forgives us, by His grace, and then He cleanses us from all unrighteousness. God faithfully forgives and cleanses us. This is God being faithful to His covenant and Word. That is part of the Blood Covenant, which we entered into at salvation. It provides this forgiveness and cleansing. When we become cleansed of our sin, we must renew that covenant with our Lord. That means we must seek His face, worship and adore Him. Delight in His presence and seek for God to continue to change us so we can stop stumbling into that particular sin. This can only occur by His grace as He strengthens us. This process is stated in the fifth line in this stanza, “Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law!”
The sixth line in this stanza is, “I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me.” This is our declaration of our Blood Covenant renewal. I have found the sweetness and welcome I find in my Lord’s embrace after I repent and renew is beyond explanation. I have no trouble committing myself to walking closely with my Lord at that point. God’s grace has drawn me back to Him, rebuked me, cleaned me up, and then set me on the right path. What a deal! During my brokenness through this whole process, do you suppose the Lord has done any sanctifying work in my heart? Of course! In this statement, the psalmist says he has chosen the ways of faithfulness. This could also be translated as “the ways of truthfulness.” This is a declaration of our desire to emulate the character of our Lord. Who put that desire there? God's active grace produces all of the drawing to move us into these sanctifying experiences.
Because of this, we also find ourselves desperately dependant on that grace. That is stated in the seventh line in this stanza, “I cling to your testimonies, O LORD; let me not be put to shame!” This is well stated. The Lord has changed me to the point I abhor even the thought of me sinning. However, I know my heart will go right back to it if I lose focus. Therefore, I cling to Him. How? I stay in the Word. I stay immersed in it as I mediate and study. I ask many questions. Why do I do all this? I hate to hurt God and be ashamed of my lack of Christ-likeness and faithfulness.
After Covenant renewal, I get back into the race. I walk the Walk by Faith and I abide in Christ. How can I do this? This is stated in the last line in this stanza, “I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!” What enables us to be faithful? What gives us the endurance to run the race God has set before us? What gives the peace and patience to abide in Christ no matter what our circumstances are like? God enlarges our hearts. That means He grows us in grace. He is transforming us into the image of His Son.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are taken from The Holy Bible, King James Version.