Waw (Part 6)
Ps 119.41 [And] Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD,
your salvation according to your promise;
42 then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me,
for I trust in your word.
43 And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth,
for my hope is in your rules.
44 I will keep your law continually,
forever and ever,
45 and I shall walk in a wide place,
for I have sought your precepts.
46 I will also speak of your testimonies before kings
and shall not be put to shame,
47 for I find my delight in your commandments,
which I love.
48 I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love,
and I will meditate on your statutes.
Now that we have an almost one year old (!), our nightly family routine involves Bible story time. Just the other night, Katie, Eli and I read the story of Jesus calming the storm. His disciples were terrified, but Jesus rebuked them for their fears and asked “where is your faith?” (Luke 8:25). The reality was, Jesus was with them the whole time. They were perfectly safe, because they were resting in his care. But, from their perspective, all they saw was storm.
As Christians we face the same dilemma, don’t we? We believe that all of God’s children will “certainly persevere to the end and be saved” (Westminster Confession, 17.1, paraphrased), but life’s storms can make us feel otherwise. They can put blinders on any eternal perspective and leave us with dread. Sometimes we are so challenged, troubled, or spiritually empty that God’s salvation feels like a distant memory… That’s what this prayer is for.
The psalmist prays “[And] let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise” (v. 41). This is no conversion prayer. The psalmist is a mature believer who is practiced at pouring out his heart to the Lord. We’ve seen that for 40 verses already. But that gets at the point of this particular section! It is titled “waw,” which is not only the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet, but also Hebrew word “and.” The ESV translators didn’t include it because it doesn’t exactly make for smooth English (but, I’ve added it in brackets, above). Charles Spurgeon put it this way: the psalmist is saying “there you have the first forty verses of my psalm… AND in view of them….” He begins to pray in light of what he’s already prayed. It’s a transition of sorts. Verse 41 begins a prayer, not for conversion, but for the experience of God’s salvation, a consciousness of his mercies, the comfort of his steadfast love.
This is a prayer we should all be making ourselves. We don’t want to assume God’s promise and then go about our day unaffected. No, we want to experience the fruit of God’s work for us. We want to participate and live out what is different because we’ve received the steadfast love of God.
That’s what the psalm goes on to meditate about. The “then” at the start of verse 42 begins his consideration of the benefits of God’s steadfast love and promise:
Because of God’s love, v. 42, we have an answer for people who reproach us––God is for us, and so it doesn’t matter if they are against us (Rom 8:32).
Because of God’s love, v. 43, we can have the courage to give enemies and scorners an answer. We can give the reason for our hope (1 Pet 3:15).
Because of God’s love, v. 44, we can trust in his promise and receive motivation and power to obey and walk with him (Rom 8:12–14).
Because of God’s love, v. 45, we are free and no longer controlled by our fears, appetites, sins. “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:32, 36).
Because of God’s love, v. 46, we can boldly speak about God because the one who is with us is the one who overcame the world (John 16:33).
Because of God’s love, vv. 47–8, we can look at God’s commandments with love instead of with dread. God’s rules are no longer the reason we should be afraid, Jesus has been perfect for us. Now, they show us what is wise and the way of blessing and the things we can do for God to say “thank you.”
Dear Christian, this psalm is a handbook on perseverance. Praying like this is how we get our perspective back… meditating on God’s promises and all of the ways he is our help and keeper will help us take our eyes off the waves and storm and put them back where they belong.