Zayin (Part 7)
Ps 119.49 Remember your word to your servant,
in which you have made me hope.
50 This is my comfort in my affliction,
that your promise gives me life.
51 The insolent utterly deride me,
but I do not turn away from your law.
52 When I think of your rules from of old,
I take comfort, O LORD.
53 Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked,
who forsake your law.
54 Your statutes have been my songs
in the house of my sojourning.
55 I remember your name in the night, O LORD,
and keep your law.
56 This blessing has fallen to me,
that I have kept your precepts.
John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is written as an allegory of the Christian life. One of my favorite scenes takes place in the dungeon of Giant Despair. Christian and his friend, Hopeful, are captured by Despair and taken to Doubting Castle where they suffer for days. The giant beats them and threatens them and tells them that they will never escape. He goads them to take their own lives. The situation seems hopeless.
But, Christian and Hopeful pray all night and just before dawn Christian realizes something. He says, “What a fool am I thus to lie in a stinking dungeon, when I may as well walk at liberty. I have a key in my bosom called Promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any lock in Doubting Castle.” He pulls out the key he’d had with him all along, but had forgotten about for a time. Promise opens every lock and Christian and Hopeful go free.
Here in Psalm 119, the psalmist is meditating on God’s promises. They are for him a comfort and consolation; they are the reason he knows his prayers will be heard. He starts off by asking God to remember his promise (v. 49). It seems absurd to ask the One who cannot forget to remember. But, he isn’t asking because GOD can forget, but because the psalmist knows that HE can. Doubt, despair or simple distance from the Lord can make us forget all about his promise. So, the psalmist is doing something wise. He’s doing what God tells him to do. He is taking God’s own promises to “fill [his] mouth with arguments” and “lay [his] case before him” (Job 23:4). He is praying for those things he knows will certainly be given.
We all pray for things we aren’t sure we need. Sometimes we pray about things we may not even want. Thankfully, our Father filters our prayers and is kind enough to not always give the foolish things we ask for. But, when we ask the Lord to keep his promises, we can be sure that he hears and will do it. Praying God’s promises back to him won’t make them any more certain––they already are. But, it will draw us towards God. It will take his word that we know in our heads and embed it more deeply into our hearts… Prayer moves knowledge to faith.
When the burdens of life get especially heavy, that faith is what we need. The psalmist goes on to pray, “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life” (v. 50). Like Christian in Despair’s dungeon, the psalmist knows that God’s promise is what will get him out. Even when things get terribly difficult or sad, when we go through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, God’s promises sustain us. There’s a sense in which that is true for the future, of course. God has promised that he will raise us up at the Last Day. But, that’s not what verse 50 is talking about. The psalmist is saying that his life is preserved even in the midst of sorrow because God’s promises are true and life-giving right now.
Dear Christian, no doubt you have burdens or struggles ahead of you today. You may even feel like you are already within the gates of Doubt or within Despair’s reach. Will you remember that God has already given you the way out? God’s PROMISE will give life and sustain you. God’s promise is that comfort you need.
Today, will you take those promises back to God and ask him to remember them for your good?