Time for the Lord to Act

Psalm 119:121-128

Focus of psalmist here oppression and his hope that God will act on his behalf.

Deut 28:29…And you shall be only oppressed and robbed continually, and there shall be no one to help you.” Oppression a consequence of disobedience, God’s reversal of blessing; also a consequence of living in fallen world. Comes at us potentially from two directions, then: from God, from our neighbor. The first not in view here – psalmist lays claim to blameless living. Focus is on oppression carried out by evil people against the righteous…because they are righteous.

Was right to seek help from God since God has strong position against oppressors – Mal. 3:5“Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, …says the LORD of hosts.”

Is important to remember: if we think we are in similar circumstances to Psalmist, should seek to strive for same condition as him: doing what is right before God. Can’t expect God to defend us when we are not pleasing him first.

Writer makes his case that he has a worthy cause – gives six reasons why God should intervene to help him, then describes his response.

A. a righteous cause (121)

sounds like Job! on two counts – his condition and his treatment;Job described by God as “man [who] was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.”Job 1:1

circumstances described by God this way: “he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.”Job 2:3

both men doing their best with God’s help to live right, circumstances / ill treatment not consequences for bad behavior

if author was David, he not only lived by standard of justice and righteousness, that was also general character of his government

order of statements in verse is critical: I’m continuing habit of doing right, therefore, intervene for the sake of righteousness

not a plea for help after he got busted – I’ll straighten up and fly right if you get me out of this pickle I’m in

since God “executes justice for the oppressed” (Psa. 146:7) is reasonable in these circumstances to expect he will act

if you have “a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed”, can rightly make same request psalmist did

side note: just because we have confidence God will act, doesn’t guarantee he will act according to our plan; he can be counted on to do what is right

B. a good cause (122)

proud people get no traction with God – no basis in reality for their pride, yet it forms the foundation of their treatment of others

for proud, self is #1 object of attention – my needs, my ideas, my priorities – everyone else should defer, serve the proud one

little or no thought for impact on other person, not on the radar at all; only how to promote own self-interest

psalmist is absolutely counter-cultural: no reliance on self, total reliance on God to guarantee his future – “you be my surety”

since James 4:6“God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble”, psalmist is in right situation to expect help

given the character of God, he can be confident of a good outcome if Christ is his surety, his guarantee

can also be sure God will not allow him to be overcome by his oppressors: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Cor. 10:13

true of all sorts of situations whether Satan is primary or secondary agent – Christ has overcome sin and Satan, will help us do the same… when we rely on him as our security

fast-forward to NT, Rom. 8:28-30 – confidence not founded on karma, fate, luck; has its source in Sovereign Ruler who is Surety for his people

God has plan, guarantees it, works it, is ultimately for our good – what is necessary to bring glory to God and us safely home

C. a compassionate cause (123)

request for help implied in this statement: here is where I’m at, I can count on your help, right? I’m waiting, I’m depending, I’m about at the end of my strength…

is strong declaration of dependence on God, confidence in his promises – “My eyes grow tired as I wait for your deliverance, for your reliable promise to be fulfilled.” NET

notice – unjust oppression didn’t manage to shake his faith even though God had not yet moved to help him and… he’d been waiting a while – tired of looking

also important – our inability to perceive God at work is not the final word; must live on basis of truth contained in Bible, not our perceptions (what we are able to see, how we feel)

one of those truths: God purposely allows testing, to go on for period of time, to stretch/grow us, then he acts

can hear the cry for compassion in psalmist’s voice – I can’t hang on much longer, take pity on me and come my rescue

is still committed to waiting on God, waiting for God; no hint of desire to look elsewhere for different solution

ultimately is looking for even bigger promise to be fulfilled – this one is important Isa. 43:2,

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.”

this one even more so Rev. 22:7, 12, 14

“”And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book. Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.” Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.”

D. a merciful cause (124)

total absence of arrogance here – pleading his case on its merits and at same time depending on God to show him mercy

Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love” – does not disconnect God’s love from his own response: teach me

he understands some things: even though he does right to best of his ability, is still just that – short of perfection; requires mercy for God to accept his efforts

and…if God intends for this to be testing / learning experience, is mercy and love that brings deliverance before destruction

desire expressed for instruction, continues into next verse also; here, psalmist wants to be better equipped to love God better in response to God’s covenant love

note: additional teaching can only be safely received when accompanied by mercy – more teaching = more responsibility = need for merciful treatment by God

now, let’s turn it over: is demonstration of mercy on God’s part to teach us – only when God teaches us by his Word, Spirit, and servants can we more fully know how to please him and require less of his correcting discipline

E. a helpful cause (125)

sandwiched between two requests – declaration of commitment and reminder of relationship with God: “your servantI am”

position of dependence on God (servant), needing master’s provision for continued life – I need your help because, remember, I’m your servant

contrasted with them! oppressors obviously not God’s servants, are instead his enemies and enemies of psalmist

because of location in text, implies ongoing commitment to serve God, expectation of continued master/servant relationship

true regardless of what God teaches him, what new understanding of God and his ways psalmist might gain

need God’s help in multiple ways – for both instruction and understanding; can be taught facts without gaining understanding

most anyone can memorize 10 Commandments; ability to recall does not equal insight to know how they apply and lead to Christ

is such a thing as human wisdom – is genuine, possessed in varying measure by many non-Christians, only goes so far

to grasp spiritual piece, to have discernment about tricky situations – is essential to have God’s help and understanding he supplies

F. a legal cause (126)

gone on long enough, God needs to act – several good reasons for expecting God to have limit to his patience

if the law says… and breaking it repeatedly prompts no response, law no longer acts as restraint on evil and evildoers

prolonged inaction encourages greater outrageousness – if I can get away with this, how about THIS? think undisciplined children; an extreme but valid example: ISIS

God definitely justified in acting – reality is that any law-breaking warrants consequences from God; fact he seems slow: 2 Pet. 3:9The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

if God were to haul oppressors into court, evidence is all in God’s favor…and with added weight of persistent rebellion

not just a few mistakes, the “crime” in view here is wilful disregard for God and his law – taking position of being above the law or law to themselves

remember, God gave his law for everyone’s good – to keep them out of harm so long as they obey, to point to need of Christ when they can’t obey even when they try

summary: since God is righteous (Isa. 45:19), good (Ps. 34:8), compassionate (Ps. 86:15), merciful (Ex. 34:6), helper (Ps. 54:4), lawgiver (Isa. 33:22) – should have absolute confidence God will act according to his character

G. a proper response (127-128)

treasure God’s way (emotional) (127)

“The two illegitimate goods with which the world is enchanted are pleasure and profit. Old people are all for profit, young people are all for pleasure.” Manton

true servant loves God’s commands above all temporal things because: come from God, lead to God, enable one to please God

think God’s way (intellectual) (128a)

crucial point: it’s a given, God’s precepts/principles about everything are right, always; so…must develop / follow biblical worldview

that means viewing all of life through framework of Bible and from God’s POV as best we can given our finite understanding

commit to God’s way (practical and spiritual) (128b)

requires consciously, purposely choosing to follow course prescribed by our worldview – iow, living/choosing consistently with what we claim to believe, who we claim to be

not something we can do once, then forget about it; must keep our commitment fresh and strong each day, every day

Days of our lives like our fingerprints – only get issued one set; when they are gone, don’t get a do-over. Make sure you follow example given here, live pleasing to God.

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