85 The insolent have dug pitfalls for me;
they do not live according to your law*.
86 All your commandments are sure;
they persecute me with falsehood; help me!
87 They have almost made an end of me on earth,
but I have not forsaken your precepts.
88 In your steadfast love give me life,
that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.
* Through these reflections, those phrases that identify God’s word, revelation, or law will be highlighted in the text in the hopes of accentuating the many and varied ways we can visualize what God has given to us for our good.
The Psalmist offers an interesting perspective about what should be most valued in life. In the final verse the selected section, the writer makes a request for continued life. That the life to be given is the consequence or result of God’s steadfast love.
What is interesting, and even verges on the peculiar, is the reason for the request for life. The Psalmist desires to live so that they may keep, or observe, the testimonies of God. What God had said was worthy of living so as to enjoy them longer.
It is an odd time to walk on the earth. There are so many who value the word of God so little. They crack open its pages when there is sufficient time, or when it is convenient. This is a sad and unhealthy way of interacting with God and his word.
Our keeping of God’s word is not the means of attracting God’s attention. Our observance and obedience to God’s word is the result of our having received God’s incalculable love.
Until we see this relationship clearly, we will interact with God in transactional ways, rather than spiritual and relationship ways.
Verse 85: When people chose to reject the law of God as a standard for living, they become susceptible to all manner of unethical acts. To live in conformity to God’s prescription is to create a spiritual and moral division between us and the world. Not with the intention of creating obstacles for others, but as a consequence of our faithfulness being a reminder of their lack of it. This is one of the many challenges of the Christian journey. We are to live in the light of God’s holiness, but that very activity cause those outside of that relationship to resent us for it. We are forced to choice the approval of God over that of men.
Verse 86: The surety, or the constancy, of God’s commandments are a comfort in times of persecution. To know that God will never go back on his word can be a boon in times of great difficulty. What is also important to note is the nature of the persecution. It comes because “falsehoods” had to be told to conjure up the negative pressure against the child of God. If those of the world are to make our lives difficult, let it be because they had to fabricate the reasons. It can be encouraging, in spite of the pain, that what they are saying about us are lies and doing to us is unjust.
Verse 87: Continuing on the theme of having those in the world coming against us, we see how important God’s word is to the Psalmist. The burden of the attacks were so severe, they had brought them to the point of death. The implication is that the writer was as close as they had ever been. And yet, in the midst of the upheaval, the thought of forsaking God’s precepts was dismissed. No level of discomfort and no degree of danger should dislodge our commitment to God’s precepts. It will take courage to live in this way.
Verse 88: The love of God is described as being steadfast. The immovable reality of God’s love is a key to our holding onto our faith. It means we can trust God. With this reality in view, the Psalmist calls upon God to give them life. After all that had come against them in the previous verses, it is no wonder we see this request. However, the reason for the continued sustaining of life was not just personal entertainment. The purpose of the Psalmist’s life was to be able to keep the testimonies of God. In linking continued life with the keeping of God’s testimonies, what we find one of the deepest and most important reasons we can endure the attacks in our lives. What God has said, God will do. And what God has promised, nothing can deter.