Daily Archives: October 22, 2017

October 22, 2017: Verse of the day

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89    Forever, O Lord, your word

is firmly fixed in the heavens.

90    Your faithfulness endures to all generations;

you have established the earth, and it stands fast.

91    By your appointment they stand this day,

for all things are your servants.

92    If your law had not been my delight,

I would have perished in my affliction.

93    I will never forget your precepts,

for by them you have given me life.

94    I am yours; save me,

for I have sought your precepts.

95    The wicked lie in wait to destroy me,

but I consider your testimonies.

96    I have seen a limit to all perfection,

but your commandment is exceedingly broad. [1]


119:89–96. God’s Word is settled in heaven and is attested by His faithfulness (vv. 89–91). The psalmist’s delight (cf. 1:2; 119:174) in the established Law had enabled him to win the victory (vv. 92–95). He concluded that God’s Word is boundless (v. 96) in its values.[2]


119:89–96 The wicked wait for me to destroy me, we must not again seek salvation but simply consider Your testimonies. When we look confidently to the Word of promise and daily trust the provision of God’s grace, we are testifying not only to our salvation by God’s grace but also to the face that Your Word is settled in heaven (v. 89).[3]


119:89–96 Stanza 12, Lamedh, marks the midpoint of Psa 119 and reintroduces a positive tone of trust in the eventual triumph of Yahweh’s directions. The psalmist emphasizes the role that Yahweh’s word has in establishing the cosmos (vv. 89–91) and compares that to the way that Yahweh’s directions establish and protect him (vv. 92–95). This section divides into two units of four verses each, marked by the Hebrew word le’olam (implying permanence; see vv. 89, 93).

The psalmist begins this stanza by emphasizing the role of Yahweh’s word in establishing and supporting the created order (vv. 89–91). He then depicts the central role of Yahweh’s directions in preserving him in his time of crisis (v. 92). The second half of Stanza 12 is a sort of inversion of the first half. The psalmist focuses on the role of Yahweh’s directions for him at a personal level for three lines (vv. 93–95), and then shifts to a very broad consideration of Yahweh’s directions (v. 96).

 

119:89–92 As the start of the second half of Psa 119, Stanza 12 may be mimicking the opening of the psalm. The first three verses connect with the broad theme of emphasizing Yahweh’s authority—v. 92 is a personal response to the truth the opening three verses present. The mention of heavens and earth establishes a cosmic scope for the stanza, where Yahweh’s directions establish and then maintain the created order. The double occurrence of the Hebrew word amad (“to stand”) bolsters the theme of God’s sustaining of creation (vv. 90–91).

 

119:89 Forever The expression le’olam means “long time,” “future time” or “perpetually.” It conveys the idea of long-term constancy rather than eternity.

is settled The word natsav means “to stand” or “to be positioned.” God’s directions are enduring because He is absolutely stable.

119:93–96 The psalmist stresses the personal focus of this unit of poetry by mentioning Yahweh’s piqqudim in the Hebrew text (see note on v. 4) and their role in enlivening him (vv. 93–94). He then implicitly contrasts the help that Yahweh’s precepts bring with the destruction that the wicked plan (v. 95). He closes by considering Yahweh’s directions on a cosmic scale (v. 96).

 

119:94 your precepts Verse 93 and 94 both include the word piqqudim (“precepts”); the two instances emphasize that God and His directions have a central place in rescuing the psalmist.

119:95 the wicked lie in wait to destroy me The psalmist waits until now to name the source of his affliction (see v. 92), demonstrating that he is focusing on God’s directions rather than his enemies.

119:96 perfection The Hebrew word used here, tikhlah, conveys completeness or totality in the sense of being totally comprehensive. Even the most perfectly complete thing has a limit.[4]


119:89–91 These verses stress how God’s word expresses his faithfulness, and its terms are therefore firmly fixed.[5]


89–96 Lamedh. Word without end. The Hebrew word ‘for ever’, occurring as eternal (89) and as never (93), divides the section into two parts: the Lord’s word and commitment to the word are alike ‘for ever’. Thought moves from the word in heaven (89) to the word personally enjoyed (92), and then from the word personally enjoyed (93) to the word in its own boundless nature (96). Your word (89), expressing as it does the nature and the will of the Lord, is the fixed point of heaven. But the Lord is the same on earth (90). His faithfulness, unvarying consistency, remains, undergirding successive generations of people and giving stability to the earth they inhabit. Indeed, such is his enduring changelessness that he is the same today and such is his total sovereign sway that all things—good and bad alike—do his will (91). On the personal level it is the same. The enduring word gives durability to the one who delights in it. This naturally leads to commitment, for the word which guarded from perishing equally brought renewal (preserved, 93). Such commitment to the word marks those who are the Lord’s (94). Still in the same period of hostility (95, cf. 69, 78, 85), it will be spent in pre-occupation with the Lord’s statutes (his word declaring what he is and requires). This is the way to life for ‘In everything finite I see a limiting factor but your commands mean real freedom’ (96, cf. 45).[6]


119:89 Faith is not a leap in the dark. It is based upon the surest thing in the universe—the Bible. There is no risk in believing a word that is fixed firmly and forever in heaven.

119:90 The faithfulness of God is displayed not only in His Word but also in His works. It extends to all generations and is seen in the order and precision of nature.

119:91 Heaven and earth obey His laws. Seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night are all God’s servants. And all are regulated and sustained by His word of power.

119:92 Barnes comments:

“I should have sunk a thousand times,” said a most excellent, but much afflicted man to me, “if it had not been for one declaration in the Word of God, ‘The Eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.’ ”

119:93 Those who have experienced the power of the Scriptures in their lives are not likely to forget them. We were “born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Pet. 1:23).

119:94 Even after we have been saved from the penalty of sin, we still need to be saved day by day from defilement and damage. Acquaintance with God’s precepts and with our own hearts makes us aware of the need of this present-tense salvation.

119:95 The only way to avoid the attacks of the wicked is to lead a petty, inconsequential life. As long as our lives are effective for Him, we can expect opposition. But we find strength and solace when we consider God’s testimonies.

119:96 The very best things in this world fall short of perfection and come to an end, but the Word of God is perfect and infinite. The more we get to know the Bible, the more we realize how far short we ourselves come.[7]


Opting for what lasts (119:89–96). The lamed strophe contrasts what endures with what perishes. The stable universe is a visible token of Yahweh’s faithfulness. The results of the word of God in its creative and sustaining role are seen in the ordered world, whose order is homage to its divine master. V 96 sums up the strophe. On the one hand, the scope of God’s revelation embraces the universe, for it is the expression of the divine will; on the other, the feebleness of human potential, apart from God, is blatant. Devotion to God’s Torah is the only means of sustenance: it is the divinely intended channel of true life, as v 93b maintains in an echo of Lev 18:5 or Deut 30:15–16, 19–20 (cf. Luke 10:18). But in addition to its steady infusion of truth and grace, there may be need of direct and dramatic intervention in the believer’s deadly situation. It is for this that the staccato prayer of v 94a craves.

In v 89 דבר, “word,” is an expression of God’s all-embracing purpose, which is not only embodied in the Torah but reflected in the created universe, as v 91 affirms. One may compare the creative role of the דבר, “word,” in Ps 33:6, but now it is responsible for maintaining the created order, as in Pss 147:15, 18; 148:8. It is here equated with divine wisdom (Robert, RB 48 [1939] 11). “The cosmic word of God and the book of his Torah are, for our psalmist, correlative” (Soll, Psalm 119, 39). In v 96 Robert, observing a similar semantic range in Job 11:7, 9; 28:3, understood דבר in terms of a contrast between limited human understanding and divine Torah-wisdom.[8]


The Lamedh Strophe (119:89–96)

Commentary

89–91 The nature of the Lord is also reflected in everything he has created: heaven and earth (vv. 89–90). The constancy and order in all creation reflects the “faithfulness” (ʾemûnâ) of the Lord (v. 90; cf. vv. 75, 86; 89:2; 104; 147:7–9). The order in creation reveals the love, care, and fidelity of the Lord. He is Lord of his created universe, as “all things serve” him (v. 91; lit., “all things your servants”). The regularity of day and night witnesses to the constancy of the Lord. Nature serves and abides by the “word” (dābār, v. 89) and the “laws” (mišpāṭîm, v. 91) of the Lord.

92 The psalmist confesses that he, too, wants to be included among those who serve the Lord by keeping his “law.” He has found “delight” (šaʿašûʿîm; cf. vv. 16, 24, 47, 70, 77, 92, 143, 174) in the “law” (tôrâ “instruction) of the Lord, and this has given him a desire to align his life with the revealed will of the Lord. If he had not found meaning in his experience of “affliction,” he feels that he would have perished. He would have been like a falling star.

93–96 The psalmist will not forget the “precepts” (piqqûdîm, v. 93) of the Lord, for they give order and preserve life (“for by them you have preserved my life”; cf. vv. 25, 37, 40, 50, 88, 107, 149, 154, 156, 159). The preservation of life is related to the covenantal relationship, as the psalmist knows that he belongs to God (“I am yours,” v. 94; cf. v. 125). So he prays that the Lord may continue to sustain his life (“save me,” yāšaʿ; cf. 54:1) in spite of the opposition of “the wicked” (v. 95). As long as his hope is fixed on the Lord, he does not “perish” (ʾabad) in his affliction (v. 92). The wicked may attempt “to destroy” (ʾabad) him (v. 95; cf. Eze 22:27); but as their violence increases, the psalmist seeks refuge in the diligent study (bîn, “ponder”; cf. vv. 73, 104) of the “statutes” (ʿēdôt) of the Lord. The “commands” (miṣwôt) of the Lord liberate him and give him a new lease on life (lit., “very broad”; NIV, “boundless,” v. 96; cf. v. 32; 118:5). Everything else, perfect as it may be, is limited.[9]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 119:89–96). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] Ross, A. P. (1985). Psalms. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 881). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[3] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 728). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[4] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 119:89–96). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1098). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] Motyer, J. A. (1994). The Psalms. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 569). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[7] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 742–743). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[8] Allen, L. C. (2002). Psalms 101–150 (Revised) (Vol. 21, p. 189). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[9] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, pp. 875–876). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.