“Remember your word to your servant for you have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise renews my life.”
The seventh section (i.e. the Hebrew letter “Zayin” strophe) of Psalm 119 begins with an ever-important reminder that God and his words are the source of life. “You have given me hope”, the Psalmist prayed, and then adds “your promise preserves my life” (v. 49, 50). To God he looks for renewal and strength in the midst of troubling events and relationships (“You have given me”); to God’s words he clings with promising anticipation (“your promise”).
Despite the travails of circumstances, the word of God remained the focus of the Psalmist’s life, hope, and delight. The same law that incites persecution and suffering is also his comfort, peace, and pride: “the arrogant mock me without restraint, but I do not turn from your ancient laws, O Lord, and I find comfort in them. Indignation grips me because of the wicked who have forsaken your law” (vv. 52, 53). The arrogant are those who turn away from the goodness of God’s commands (v. 21). Persecution and suffering because of allegiance to the word of God is an axiom (cf. Proverbs 28:4; 29:10, 27).
Keeping the word must be conjoined with trustful prayer because God seeks relational followers. In other words, the word is not intended to work on its own as if by formula or mechanical operation (Satan quoted it in such a way to Jesus). The psalmist always entreats the Lord’s presence, protection, and power. To God he appeals as the author of the word and ever-present, overseeing director over his life and all other human beings. God works through his word but not independent of it. Because God works through the Scripture, it must be planted and tilled and watered so that it is deeply rooted in the core of a person’s life; in such a way, the person becomes a spring of ‘living water’ flowing from within him as a transformed source of well-being and goodwill. But because God does not work independently of his word, he interacts personally (i.e. through faith, prayer, and interactive presence). God’s purpose is not to create robots but develop free-willed lovers. In faith, we entrust ourselves to God’s re-creation and tutelage under Jesus; in prayer we constantly depend on his help; and with his interactive presence, he always lives with and within us.
Throughout our life, we must always turn to God and the word through which he acts and intervenes and transforms our existence. We neither entreat God without committing ourselves as apprentices of his way, nor ever exclude God himself from it.