“My soul fainteth for thy salvation: but I hope in thy word. Mine eyes fail for thy word, saying, When wilt thou comfort me? For I am become like a bottle in the smoke; yet do I not forget thy statutes. How many are the days of thy servant? when wilt thou execute judgment on them that persecute me? The proud have digged pits for me, which are not after thy law. All thy commandments are faithful: they persecute me wrongfully; help thou me. They had almost consumed me upon earth; but I forsook not thy precepts. Quicken me after thy lovingkindness; so shall I keep the testimony of thy mouth” (Psalm 119:81-88).
Though false religions often have followers who have a martyr complex and enjoy being persecuted because it makes them appear faithful to their cause, no true worshipper of God revels in it. Nevertheless, though we do not seek it, persecution, and the anguish it brings, is never too far away from those who desire to live their lives in accordance with God’s word. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). The psalmist’s enemies are not only attacking him with abuse, but they are also seeking to remove him for ever.
While we speak of being “strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Ephesians 6:10), we cannot ignore the fact that we often find ourselves spiritually, emotionally and physically weakened by the continuous barrage of abuse and offence the ungodly level at us. It would be far easier to give up and hide, but like the psalmist, we must persist in our trust in the Lord and His word. We long to be delivered from the onslaughts so cry out to God for freedom. We might despair yet our faith in Him will bring us through all the problems we face. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19). There will be times when we feel that the Lord is far from us, but of course He is not, instead emotions are clouding our vision. On such occasions, just as the psalmist found, we may not even find the comfort and strength we need from the Scriptures. Though the place we find ourselves in appears grim and we feel like wrinkled wineskins in a smoke filled room, that is, the fire of persecution is too much to take, we must never give up, instead we must continue to remind ourselves that God’s promises are true. The pain may be severe, but the word of the Lord is all the more powerful. We may be crushed and driven to despair at times, but as God’s people we cannot be destroyed. “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
The psalmist felt as though he could not take much more of this. His despair is revealed in :84 where he asks, ‘How much more of this am I expected to endure, when are You going to intervene O Lord?” He realised that his persecutors wanted him out of the way, maybe even seeking his death (:87), so we can understand why he faltered in the face of such torment. He sees his enemies as hunters who never tire from laying traps for him. The phrase “which are not after thy law” (:85) suggests that he had contemplated the idea that all of this persecution was the judgement of God for the things he had done wrong in the past. He came to the conclusion that because the Lord is a faithful and forgiving God, whatever he was going through was from the devil rather than Him. This was simply a Satanic attack to destroy him and his faith in the Lord. The devil has lied to many followers of Christ with the same notions. The book of Job, especially found in the words of Job’s false comforters, reveal that the devil can use our pains and problems to divert us from the Lord by convincing us that He is executing judgement for unconfessed sin of the past. The psalmist that knew the persecution and the lies told about him were just plain and unadulterated wickedness. “Help thou me” (:86) is one of the shortest prayers in the Bible and ranks alongside Peter’s cry as he sunk beneath the waves as his own faith began to fail, “Lord, save me” (Matthew 14:30). Maybe the psalmist heard similar words from the Lord as Peter, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:31). He could have easily taken matters into his own hands and sought to get even with his enemies, instead though, he committed his soul to the faithful Lord. “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19).
The psalmist ends this section of Psalm 119 with a request for spiritual refreshing. He knows that the God he serves is full of “lovingkindness” for His eternal love is the chief part of the covenant He has made with His people. This love is the very foundation of our relationship with the Lord. “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee” (Jeremiah 31:3). No wonder therefore the apostle Paul could encourage the church with the following words: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39). The psalmist was fully assured of this fact and there is absolutely no reason why we cannot be too. Let us hold to our faith in God. “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for he is faithful that promised” (Hebrews 10:23). Charles Spurgeon wrote, “ If we stick to the precepts we will be rescued by the promises.