By Mike Ratliff
57 Yahweh is my portion;
I have promised to keep Your words.
58 I have sought to please Your face with all my heart;
Be gracious to me according to Your word.
59 I thought upon my ways
And I turned my feet to Your testimonies.
60 I hastened and did not delay
To keep Your commandments.
61 The cords of the wicked have encircled me,
But I have not forgotten Your law.
62 At midnight I shall rise to give thanks to You
Because of Your righteous judgments.
63 I am a companion of all those who fear You,
And of those who keep Your precepts.
64 The earth, O Yahweh, is full of Your lovingkindness;
Teach me Your statutes. Psalms 119:56-64 (LSB)
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.
12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—Romans 5:12 (LSB)
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.
10 as it is written,
“THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;
11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,
THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;
12 ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME WORTHLESS;
THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD,
THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.”Romans 3:10-12 (LSB)
I had a conversation with a co-worker once 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.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (LSB)
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.
1 And Jesus answered and spoke to them again in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. 3 And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been called to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. 4 Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been called, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, 6 and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. 7 But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. 8 Then he *said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were called were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, call to the wedding feast.’ 10 And those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.
11 “But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, 12 and he *said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”Matthew 22:1-14 (LSB)
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.
13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is constricted that leads to life, and there are few who find it.Matthew 7:13-14 (LSB)
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, “ Yahweh is my portion;
I have promised 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 have promised 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 have sought to please Your face with all my heart;
Be gracious to me according to Your word.” 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 words translated “sought to please your face” 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.
16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (LSB)
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.
24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:24 (LSB)
The third and fourth lines in this stanza are, “I thought upon my ways And I turned my feet to Your testimonies.” The phrase, “I thought upon my ways…” tells us the psalmist did self-examination. Should we do this? Absolutely! The Hebrew word translated “thought” 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.
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was being betrayed took bread, 24 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.” 25 In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes.
27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 But a man must test himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. 30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.
33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 1 Corinthians 11:23-33 (LSB 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 hastened and did 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, “The cords of the wicked have encircled me, But I have not forgotten 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 of God’s Law. This truth caused the psalmist to rely even more on it.
The sixth line in this stanza is, “At midnight I shall rise to give thanks to You Because of Your righteous judgments.“ The words translated “give thanks” 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 “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 those who fear You, And 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 Yahweh, is full of Your lovingkindness; 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.
Thank you Mike. I really like this one. Tell me, are you working on another commentary? I wouldn’t mind a volume two of the “Ratliff Commentary Series.”
I am not, but I would really like to do one on another of Paul’s Epistles.
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I would have to nominate Romans. My pastor has been going through Romans on Sunday mornings. He started on Dec 5th 2021, and last Sunday he (finally) completed chapter 15. One chapter left to go. Great sermons, and I have learned and grown from each on of them. Keep up the great work, and thank you for your obedience to our Lord, as He is blessing us through Possessing the Treasure. You have really helped me to grow over the years. I pray that our Lord will bless you richly.