The Psalm of the Word (Part 4): Strength

The Psalm of the Word

My soul cleaves to the dust;
Revive me according to Your word.

I have told of my ways, and You have answered me;
Teach me Your statutes.

Make me understand the way of Your precepts,
So I will meditate on Your wonders.

My soul weeps because of grief;
Strengthen me according to Your word.

Remove the false way from me,
And graciously grant me Your law.

I have chosen the faithful way;
I have placed Your ordinances before me.

I cling to Your testimonies;
O Lord, do not put me to shame!

I shall run the way of Your commandments,
For You will enlarge my heart.

(Psalm 119:25-32)

All of us will face difficulties in life. Job said, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1, KJV). In this lesson, we will focus on how God’s word is our source of strength, particularly when we are dealing with difficult circumstances in life. During such times, we must turn to God’s word to find the strength that we need.

God’s Word Provides Strength in Times of Grief

My soul cleaves to the dust; revive me according to Your word” (Psalm 119:25).

My soul weeps because of grief; strengthen me according to Your word” (Psalm 119:28).

When David said that his “soul cleaves to the dust,” (Psalm 119:25), he was referring to death (cf. Genesis 3:19). David’s son wrote of death and said, “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). This sense of one’s soul cleaving to dust can result as one considers his own death or the death of others (loved ones, fellow citizens, innocents, etc.).

The psalmist said that as his soul “cleaves to the dust” it also “weeps because of grief” (Psalm 119:28). This is the sorrow that comes on account of the painful conditions that currently exist in one’s life.

During these times of sorrow, mourning, uncertainty, and fear, we must turn to God’s word. David made two requests of God, and each one would be accomplished through the word.

First, David said, “Revive me according to Your word” (Psalm 119:25). To revive is to make alive, as opposed to being near death (cleaving to dust). The word of God provides life. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life” (John 6:68). But if we want to be revived by God’s word, we must hold fast to it (Philippians 2:16).

Second, David said, “Strengthen me according to Your word” (Psalm 119:28). In strengthening us, the word of God causes us to stand, as opposed to being bowed down in sorrow (weeping because of grief). The word of God allows us to stand firm. Paul told the brethren in Ephesus that they could “stand firm” by putting on “the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:13-17). Each piece of this armor describes either the word (truth, gospel of peace, word of God) or a quality that is derived from the word of God (righteousness, faith, salvation). If we want to have the strength to deal with the hardships of life, we must turn to God’s word.

God Has Shown That He Cares for Us

I have told of my ways, and You have answered me; teach me Your statutes” (Psalm 119:26).

When David said, “I have told of my ways” (Psalm 119:26), he was not referring to how he may have informed others of his hardships or complained about his circumstances. He was talking about prayer. We know this because it is connected with God answering him.

We are to pray to God in times of hardship. James wrote, “Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray” (James 5:13). Paul said, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). As God “answered” David’s prayer, we have the assurance that our prayers are “effective” (James 5:17). However, we must also remember that the fact that prayer is effective does not mean that every request we make to God will be answered according to our will. “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him” (1 John 5:14-15). The fact that prayers are answered according to God’s will and not our will is actually a blessing since His thoughts and ways are so much superior to our own (Isaiah 55:8-9).

God continues to show His care for us even today. From His merciful care extended to us (Lamentations 3:22-23) to the daily provisions that pertain to our physical lives (Acts 14:17), God proves that He still loves mankind.

Many pray to God, but fail to focus on what is mentioned next – learning God’s word. David said, “Teach me Your statutes,” after mentioning his practice of prayer. These must not be separated from one another. Prayer is not some sort of “magic spell” that if we utter certain words, something will happen. David wrote elsewhere: “Who is the man who desires life and loves length of days that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears are open to their cry. The face of the Lord is against evildoers, to cut off the memory of them from the earth” (Psalm 34:12-16; cf. 1 Peter 3:10-12). Prayer must be connected to a life of obedience to God’s word. Naturally, this requires one to learn of God’s will. James said, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16). We cannot rebel against the word of God, then when hardships come, expect to gain strength from the word of God.

We Can Meditate Upon God’s Wonders to Find Comfort

Make me understand the way of Your precepts, so I will meditate on Your wonders” (Psalm 119:27).

To meditate on God’s wonders is to consider the great things that God has done to prove His love for man. Paul reminded the saints in Rome, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

The Bible begins by expressing this fundamental fact: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Meditating upon God’s wondrous work in creation can help provide us with comfort, since “His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made” (Romans 1:20). God’s creation and continued providence ought to give us comfort as we look to the future.

We also see in the inspired record that God has helped His people during times of temptation and oppression. “He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men,” proving that “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation” (2 Peter 2:7, 9). When the Israelites were in bondage in Egypt, they cried out to God. “God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them” (Exodus 2:25). He then sent Moses to “bring [His] people…out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10). As God delivered them from bondage in Egypt, Jesus is able to deliver us from the bondage of sin and set us free (John 8:32-34).

When one dies, his “spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Knowledge of the afterlife provided David with comfort when he learned that his infant son had died. “Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23). The promise in God’s word of life after death is designed to provide comfort for the faithful (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

False Ways Cannot Strengthen Us as the Truth Can

Remove the false way from me, and graciously grant me Your law” (Psalm 119:29).

During difficult times, many seek to be strengthened by falsehood, rather than by the truth of God’s word. They listen to those who cry “‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14). They hold onto a false sense of security, as those who were “at ease in Zion” while judgment was coming against them (Amos 6:1-8). They will find teachers who will tickle their ears and teach them what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

David’s request to God, as he dealt with hardship, was this: “Graciously grant me Your law” (Psalm 119:29). This is all that will help us. When a loved one passes who died outside of Christ, there is no real benefit in finding a denominational “pastor” who will preach the deceased into heaven. Those in mourning, if they do not understand the Bible, may feel better when they hear these words. But the falsehoods of the denominational preacher do not provide the strength that the truth of God’s word is able to provide.

We Must Make a Conscious Effort to Follow His Word

I have chosen the faithful way; I have placed Your ordinances before me. I cling to Your testimonies; O Lord, do not put me to shame! I shall run the way of Your commandments, for You will enlarge my heart” (Psalm 119:30-32).

Following God’s word always requires us to make the choice to do so. We have freewill. We can choose to do right or wrong. But particularly in times of hardship and grief, we must make a conscious effort to follow the word. The psalmist mentioned four ways in which we can do this.

  • Choose the faithful way (Psalm 119:30). Jesus said there are two paths before us – a “broad way that leads to destruction” and a “way that is narrow that leads to life” (Matthew 7:13-14). We must decide which path to take.
  • Place God’s word before us (Psalm 119:30). We do this by reading and studying the Scriptures (1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 2:15).
  • Cling to God’s word (Psalm 119:31). As Paul told Timothy, “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13).
  • Run the way of God’s commandments (Psalm 119:32). Paul used the analogy of a race to describe our lives as Christians. He told the brethren in Corinth, “Run in such a way that you may win” (1 Corinthians 9:24). However, this did not mean they could run their race in any way they pleased. “If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Timothy 2:5).

Conclusion

How can we gain strength when dealing with grief and loss? We must go to the word of God – learn it (Psalm 119:26), meditate upon it (Psalm 119:27), and obey it (Psalm 119:32). Not only is it able to “build [us] up,” God’s word can also “give [us] the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).


This entire series is available in paperback. Click on the link for more information – The Psalm of the Word: A Study of Psalm 119.


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