The Climax of Psalm 119, Ayin

Push comes to shove in the sixteenth section of Psalm 119, in which each verse in the original begins with the Hebrew letter Ayin.

In our amble through Psalm 119, we’ve noted that nearly every verse contains a word that is synonymous for God’s word, which is no surprise since the Psalm is well-known as a testimony in praise of God’s law.

But we’ve also discovered that the Psalm secondarily focuses on persecution at the hands of the wicked. And the Ayin section of the Psalm sharpens that focus acutely.

The righteous psalmist begs God for rescue from the wicked:

I have done what is just and right;
   do not leave me to my oppressors.
Give your servant a pledge of good;
   let not the insolent oppress me (121-122, ESV).

As the psalmist begs for deliverance from oppression, he also asks for a “pledge of good” to encourage him. He knows God’s word and longs for its fulfillment in his salvation.

My eyes long for your salvation
   and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise (123, ESV).

Salvation seems to indicate not only the eternal salvation that believers will enjoy after death, but also a temporal salvation from the oppression of the wicked. The psalmist contrasts that oppression with God’s loving kindness:

Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love,
   and teach me your statutes (124, ESV).

How often do we link learning God’s word with his love? God is love. He deals with his people according to his steadfast love while he teaches us his statutes. Love is never divorced from knowledge. And knowledge without love is lifeless.

Our love must be based on an awe-filled reverence for God, which is the beginning of wisdom. So the psalmist humbles himself before God, asking for the ability to comprehend his word (125, ESV):

I am your servant; give me understanding,
   that I may know your testimonies!

In what strikes the reader as an almost demanding tone, the psalmist states:

It is time for the LORD to act,
   for your law has been broken (126, ESV).

This is the climax of Psalm 119. The psalm pinpoints the conflict into sharp focus. God’s law has been broken. The time for God to act is now!

Note it is not time for the Lord to act because I have been hurt. It is not time for the Lord to act because I want to get even. It is time for the Lord to act because his law has been broken.

God protects his people, but he also protects his priceless word and keeps it pure.

Therefore I love your commandments
   above gold, above fine gold (127, ESV).

Because God saves his people now and for eternity, because God loves his people and teaches them his law; because God gives understanding to the humble and protects his word, the psalmist loves God’s righteous word and hates every false way.

Therefore I consider all your precepts to be right;
   I hate every false way (128, ESV).

The psalmist’s reasoning has circled from his confession of doing “what is just and right” to his confession of believing all of God’s precepts “to be right”; two confessions that wonderfully bookend this Ayin section of Psalm 119. 

May God act now to redeem every situation where his law has been broken! And may our love for his word and our knowledge of it enable us to join the psalmist in hating “every false way”!

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