God’s Word for You
Psalm 119:25 According to your word
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, May 6, 2023
This new stanza of the Great Psalm seems to me to be directed toward a life of sanctified living, to living out my faith, and to prayer. But our poet begins with his face in the dirt.
25 My soul is laid low in the dust;
revive my life according to your word.
The old translation of dabaq was “cleave,” an old-fashioned word in English that had two meanings, either to cut something completely in two, like what you do with a meat cleaver, or else to do just the opposite: to bind two things so closely together that they no longer seem to be two, but one united thing, as when a wife and a husband cleave together in marriage. Here in the psalm the second meaning is meant, when the poet’s life is laid so low in the dust that he and the ground hardly seem like separate items anymore.
He calls his life “my soul” so that we know that he means all of it, the physical and spiritual. He is down, so far down that he has to look up to see the worms. His spirit has been crushed by the wicked things his enemies say to him. “He throws me into the mud, and I am reduced to dust and ashes” (Job 30:19). In fact, when Job said those words, he was watching the fast approach of an oncoming storm, a storm in which he would learn just how near God is to each of us at all times. But he would say in his grief and loneliness that he felt like one of the sticks a storm picks up and then drives before the wind, “you toss me about in this storm” (Job 30:22). But our poet is not complaining about the hopelessness of his situation. He is turning to the Lord for help.
He says: “Revive my life according to your word.” In that sentence, the great truth is found, as it so often is, in the most ordinary of words; the little particle “according to.” In Hebrew, this is just a single letter (כ, caph), but it teaches us exactly what the source of living is for the Christian. It is “according to your word.”
The poet is saying, I will not get out of this trouble I am in by my own works, by my own merits, or by my own choices or abilities. I am crushed and pulverized, and I am being thrown around like a pinecone in a tornado. But according to God’s word, I have life, stability, I am revived and refreshed, and I can truly live for God no matter what my miserable circumstances may be. And as we confess in the explanation to the Third Article: “I believe that I cannot by my own thinking or choosing believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”
But there may also be times when God may intervene to stop the direction our lives have taken, and when he will guide us to new things. This happened when King David had conquered Jerusalem and put it into his mind to build a temple for the Lord in his beautiful new city, but the Lord told him that he could make the plans, but his son would build the temple, not David. And the king set a good example for us by saying, “According to your word and according to your will, you have made this known to your servant” (2 Samuel 7:21), and he praised God for letting him know that the idea was a good one, and that God would bless it and the temple he had in mind, even though David wouldn’t be the one to build it.
So we can be, and so we can say, when God pulls back on the reins or so works things in our lives that we have to be content planting a few hills of potatoes instead of a magnificent vineyard. A change of plans, a humble life instead of a fabulous or famous one, is still a life of service. And if God can help me to remain faithful to him by letting me cleave to the dust from time to time, then praise his holy name forever! He cares enough for me to discipline me like a good father. “For the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in” (Proverbs 3:12).
So our final confidence comes from knowing the place we have at God’s side in the resurrection, no matter what service he may call us to do here on earth. Returning to the explanation of the Third Article: “On the Last Day he will raise me and all the dead and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.”
Pastor Timothy Smith