By Mike Ratliff
Heth. The LORD is my portion; I promise to keep your words. I entreat your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise. When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies; I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments. Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your law. At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous rules. I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts. The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes! (Psalms 119:57-64)
God does not need us. God is holy; therefore, He is fully fulfilled in Himself. His holy attributes show us His perfection and infinite power. At the fall of man, found in Genesis 3, God would have been perfectly justified in wiping out Adam and Eve then starting over. However, He did not. Praise the Lord He did not! God was merciful to Man whom He loves. He still is.
Man does not deserve God's mercy. That is why it is an act of grace for God to be merciful to Man. The fall of Man into sin is called the Original Sin. This act of disobedience by Adam altered his lineage so all of his descendants inherit his sin nature. All male and female human beings born since Adam and Eve are born Totally Depraved. That does not mean all men; women, boys, and girls are wicked all the time. What that means is the heart of Man was corrupted by the Original Sin so he cannot and will not seek God. In fact, from birth, all people are born spiritually dead and are enemies of God.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—(Romans 5:12)
There are no exceptions. All have sinned, but the problem is why. We are all born sinners because we have that inherited sin nature. Because of that, we are dead in our sins and can do nothing, in ourselves, to grasp the grace of God.
as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. (Romans 3:10-12)
I had a conversation with a co-worker the other day about our Total Depravity or perhaps better-called Total Inability. When I stated that she asked me, very pointedly, "Don't you think you are a good person?" My opinion does not matter and neither does any other persons. No matter how well behaved we become we are still dominated by a heart that is completely unable to contact God or seek Him outside of His grace.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Those who say believers come to salvation by some effort of their own have elevated Men beyond what they are capable of and lowered the value of God's grace. God is sovereign. He has elected those whom He will save. He extends the call to all, but few are chosen. The following parable spoken by Jesus illustrates the call to all, but the sad truth is few actually believe. Therefore, few are chosen.
And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.' But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.' And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. "But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen. (Matthew 22:1-14)
Who are the chosen? They are those who believe God and obey Him by surrendering to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This act of salvation brings them into the Kingdom of God as God mercifully extends His Grace to these believers by gifting them with the faith to believe. Sadly, the chosen are a small group compared to all who are called. Most that are called reject it. Many try to earn their salvation. Many simply try to be good people. Many try to be religious.
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14)
The few who find the narrow and hard way are those who accept salvation by grace through faith as they surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ. No one deserves it. This salvation is an act of mercy on God's part.
We are looking at the stanza in Psalms 119 entitled "Heth." The first line in this stanza is, "The LORD is my portion; I promise to keep your words." The psalmist uses God's name, "YHWH," in this line. What does he say "I Am" is to him? He says God is his portion. The word "portion" can also be translated as "inheritance" or "allotment." This phrase is telling us the psalmist's character is godly because he understands his relationship and salvation through the Lord is his most valuable possession. Temporal glory or possessions are irrelevant to the one who grasps this truth and makes it the core of their character. Of course, God is developing His own character in us through the regenerative processes through which He takes us. When He circumcises our hearts this truth is one those first pillars of our deepening faith of which we become aware. I remember that day very well. I went from a self-focused prideful man to a God-focused humble man as God changed me. This has never diminished. I love my Lord with my entire being. All I want is to be in His presence and to do His will. I still sin and I hate it when I do, but I repent and get back into the race He has set before me, all by His grace and mercy
The second phrase says, "I promise to keep your words." The word "keep" in this verse is the same word found in v55. This is the guarding of something by building a thorny hedge around it. What is he guarding? The word "words" in this verse is not referring to all of the Word of God, but a part of it. We have already looked at this. What is the psalmist saying in this verse? We need to look at the word "promise." This Hebrew word used for "promise" in this verse means to "declare" as in a "vouch." Therefore, this is a promise by the psalmist to keep specific parts of God's word. Why? God is his inheritance.
The implication in this verse is the only way we can remain faithful to God is a result of Him increasing our faith as we believe and obey Him. We must internalize God's Word, hide, and guard it in our hearts so we can keep our promise of faithfulness.
The second line in this stanza is, "I entreat your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise." The first phrase in this verse is a remembrance of prayer in which the psalmist sought God's face with his entire being. The Hebrew word translated "favor" in this verse is a word picture. This picture shows us the speaker seeking to have another person turn his or her face towards him. For me this Spirit-led walk is a continuous act of entreaty through prayer and worship to seek God's face. It is an act of love on my part as I delight in His presence. Why do we do this? This is what He wants us to do and He is always right. He knows we are fulfilling our true purpose as we express and reflect Him.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
We can do this only as we walk in His presence. Only the Spirit-led can do this. Notice in v58 how the psalmist tells God he seeks God's face with his whole heart. This is worship in spirit and truth. This is how we must worship God or we are not really worshipping Him at all.
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:24)
The third and fourth lines in this stanza are, "When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies; I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments." The phrase, "When I think on my ways…" tells us the psalmist did self-examination. Should we do this? Absolutely! The Hebrew word translated "think" in this verse implies deep evaluation or consideration. In this verse, the psalmist is thinking deeply about himself and his ways. We should do this. We must be very active in making sure we are walking in obedience to our Lord. This process includes checking our conscience for blame. If it is seemingly silent there is probably a deep problem called hardheartedness. If that is the case, we will find we have been operating out of pride. This Spirit-led walk is for the humble. If we are prideful, we will have all sorts of problems maintaining our Walk by Faith. In the Apostle Paul's first Epistle to the Corinthian Church, he gave them much wisdom about how to heed our consciences. He used their misuse of the Lord's Supper to teach this truth.
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— (1 Corinthians 11:23-33 Emphasis Mine)
We must examine our motives for all we do and say. This is vital in this Spirit-led walk. Our hearts have to be monitored and denied as we direct them to our Lord and away from fleshly pursuits. If we find ourselves doing or saying things that cause our consciences to blame us, we should stop right there, examine our motives, and see what is wrong. When we do this what is next? The second phrase in v59 says, "I turn my feet to your testimonies…" This is our turning away from what our flesh wants and turning to God. This is how we turn in our act of repentance. This turning to Jesus is how we keep our focus on Him and off ourselves. The Holy Spirit convicted us to heed our conscience as it blamed us. Since we are tenderhearted, we do a quick self-examination and this causes us to recoil in horror at our sin then with a penitent heart we turn to our Lord for forgiveness. The word translated as "testimonies" is referring to solid unequivocal truth. The turning we do as we seek for the Lord to grant us repentance is in light of the covenant we have with Him. All sin on our part is a violation of that covenant. We must seek covenant renewal through Repentance with Joy.
Verse 60 gives us the result of turning from self to Jesus like this. It says, "I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments." This is the active result of repentance granted by God. Who can keep the moral Law? Only the Spirit-led can do it. The Spirit-led believer is walking as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) who is keeping the Lord's commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13) because the Holy Spirit is leading, guiding and directing their paths.
The fifth line in this stanza is, "Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your law." This statement is a contrast. The psalmist is professing to God even though he has been badly mistreated by wicked men who have sought his destruction as well as the theft of his wealth. However, it has not affected his walk and dependence on the Torah. He was stating to God evil works by men do not alter, in any way, the veracity God's Law. This truth caused the psalmist to rely even more on it.
The sixth line in this stanza is, "At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous rules." The word translated "praise" in this verse is better stated as "thanksgiving." This statement is a declaration of thanksgiving to Lord. Why did the psalmist rise at midnight to express thanks to God? Was he thanking God for doing things for him or giving him stuff? No, this psalmist is expressing thanksgiving for God's righteous rules. The word "rules" could also be written as "judgments." We have already looked at this word. This is an expression back to God thanking Him for his righteous ruling of His people. The psalmist was also expressing thanksgiving for God's perfect rule in his own life. God's rebuke can seem hurtful at times, but is always an expression of his perfect love for us. He is always right.
The seventh line in this stanza is, "I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts." Who are the Spirit-led's best friends and companions? Those who also walk in fear of God are the ones with which we should fellowship and worship. Those who fear God out of a proper relationship with Him will also keep His precepts. These are the Spirit-led. Only the ones who are lead by the Spirit do this. We should proclaim to God that we are brethren with all who are Spirit-led.
The eighth line in this stanza is, "The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes!" God is merciful to all of His creatures, including Man, by His grace. The earth is full of God's mercy. This truth led the psalmist to plead for God to teach him his ways and truths. This is a statement of worship and praise. I ask God to reveal Himself to me all the time. I want to know Him. Why? I love Him and live for His glory. He has graciously put all of that in me out of mercy. Those who really know God love Him and worship Him continually. His joy is our strength. That joy empowers our will, which enables us to obey our Lord and keep His commandments. When we walk in this sort of worship we see God is sovereign and in complete control. He is all-powerful and does not need us at all. However, He is merciful to us and graciously extends that mercy to us so we can love and serve Him for His glory.
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.