GOD’S WORD FOR YOU
7 I will thank you with an upright heart
as I learn your righteous judgments.
8 I will obey your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me.
The word translated “thank” is rare apart from the Davidic Psalms. The root word means to throw, but this form always means to give thanks or sometimes praise (Isaiah 12:1).
God’s “judgments” (mishpatim) are in one sense God’s verdicts (“he establishes my right,” Micah 7:9) or commands to be obeyed (1 Kings 6:12). They are the statements of God’s word that have binding power over us. Of course, some of these judgments do not fall on us, but upon our enemies. At such times, we praise God and thank him that his will is being carried out in the world.
In verse 8, “statutes” are the same word we already saw in verse 5, hoqim. It emphasizes the permanence of God’s word.
Here the law is proclaimed to us because God’s judgments are not imaginary (as with the pagan religions), nor conditional, but absolute and binding. He speaks and his word has weight. And the writer assures us that his thanks and obedience are based on the Word of God. This means that he is listening to what the word says; he does not fit his own interpretation over the top of it like a new shirt or a new pair of shoes. The Word of God is God’s because of what God says, not because a man or a woman might slip their own meaning over the top of it and then insist that everybody else must obey their meaning and not God’s holy Word. The ancient bishop Hilary of Poitiers said, “Many have given to the plain words of holy Scripture some arbitrary interpretation of their own…. Heresy lies in the sense assigned, not in the word written. The guilt is that of the expositor, not of the text” (On the Trinity II,3).
In verse 8, we pray, “Do not utterly forsake me.” When we consider the sufferings of Christ in the Garden and on the cross we are brought to the true meaning of this prayer. For the true horror of the cross was not the pain of the nails, nor even the sting of the lash and the open wounds on his back as his flesh was ground into the wood of the cross while he gasped for his air during those hours. There is no report of an eighth word from the cross, “Ow, ow, the pain hurts so much!” But instead we have, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This was the horror of the cross: to be forsaken by God. This is what he came into the world to endure for our sakes. He asked, pleaded and even begged the Father to take the cup of that suffering away. But praise be to the Father that the answer was no, and so Christ willingly took the cup and drank it down to the bitter dregs until there was no more suffering to undergo, no more pain to endure, no more separation from the Father. He knew hell. He lived it. And then he died. And the atonement of his blood was received for our sakes.
When we pray, “Do not forsake me,” the answer will always be the same: “I forsook my Son for your sake. You are my own dear child.” This is our eternal comfort and the summary of our hope. We have a place in heaven because Christ removed every barrier, prepared a place for each one of us, and invites us there himself. His voice will call us from the grave; his hand will take hold of yours to lift you from your tomb to everlasting life.
Pastor Timothy Smith
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Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, New Ulm, Minnesota
God’s Word for You – Psalm 119:7-8 Do not forsake me