153 Look on my affliction and deliver me,
for I do not forget your law*.
154 Plead my cause and redeem me;
give me life according to your promise!
155 Salvation is far from the wicked,
for they do not seek your statutes.
156 Great is your mercy, O Lord;
give me life according to your rules.
* 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.
For the people of God, the miracle of holy writ serves as the foundation of faith and life. Without God’s wisdom codified, we will have to difficult time transitioning to God’s wisdom personified.
If we desire to live in a manner worthy of God’s love, we have to understand what God’s love creates in us. What I do not mean is that we are trying to earn God’s favor, as if by good works. But that we, recognizing the beauty of God’s free gift, want to do all we can to show our appreciation to God.
These realities do not need to be confused. We can live in obedience, but not in an effort to manipulate God. And we can live in a posture of thankfulness, and not take what God has done for granted.
If we could recapture the balance and the tension of this, we may well understand what has been missing in the Church in recent years. Our efforts to simplify have become oversimplifications. There is a difference. And not knowing what it is can be hazardous to our faith.
As the old hymn captured it: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way / to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.’ [Source]
Verse 153: There have been several instances where the effect of affliction has been tied to not forgetting God’s law. The implication of this theme is that when we are under duress, the initial inclination will be to abandon what God has commanded. This tendency must be anticipated and it should not be a surprise when this feeling emerges. Remembering God’s word is an important discipline to develop before times of great stress and difficulty.
Verse 154: The kind of life we live will be impacted by the many choices we make in life. If those choices are made without the counsel of God and the wisdom of his word, we put ourselves at risk. As we grow in our understanding of God’s promises, we can better appreciate the life God is leading us to live. Over the course of our lives, we become more sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s work in us. This increased sensitivity is what supports and fortifies our trust in God’s direction.
Verse 155: The Psalmist points to the relationship between salvation of the soul and obedience to God’s statutes. It should not be said that obedience guarantees salvation. That is not the direction of the text. Rather, the lack of obedience reveals that an individual has not reckoned honoring God’s commands as worthy of their efforts. This lack of submission indicates an absence of relationship. Without a relationship with God there can be no salvation. So, according to the author, our seeking of God’s statutes serves as a barometer of what we believe about God and our relationship to him.
Verse 156: This refrain of “give me life” happens several times in the Psalm and twice in this selection of verses. It is an acknowledgment of God’s unique place as the source of true life. This call from the Psalmist to God is instructive. By connecting the power of God to give life to the rules of God (and all the other synonymous phrases used), we can see how God uses his word to cultivate our faith and hope in him. What God says leads us to know who God is and what he has done for our redemption.