Psalm 119:17-19 reminds us that the grace of God is essential for obedience to his Word and understanding of his Word. The Psalmist understands that he is weak and blind. He knows that God’s Word requires much of him. He knows that God’s Word is often shrouded in darkness. The meaning and the application of it can be hard to discern. He knows the human heart is like a rock unable to receive the seed of the Word. He knows that we are fallen, weak men who need God’s strength to help us obey. Therefore he begins this third section of Psalm 119 with a plea for help.
He asks God to deal bountifully with him. This word is used in several other Psalms to express God’s great kindness (Psalm 13:6, 116:7, 142:7). The psalmist is asking the Lord to open up the treasures of his grace and pour out his goodness upon him. The psalmist is a servant of the Lord. But what does he ask God to do for him? He wants God to be kind to him by helping him walk according to God’s Word. What a great prayer! Oh, Lord show me your grace so that I might obey your commandments. The Psalmist understands that grace, God’s unmerited kindness, precedes obedience. If he is going to live and keep the Word, grace must come first.
Finally the psalmist asks God to unveil his Word because he is as stranger in this world. He, like all Christians, is passing through looking for that final house whose builder is God. It is the nature of man to find himself too at home in the world. He forgets eternity and his own immortality. He becomes too entangled in the affairs of this earth and the end becomes blurry. An older author described this as putting anchors down in the world. We become tied to this world by a thousand ropes. While Christians can and should enjoy the many gifts God gives in this life, our eyes should not lose sight of the final destination. Calvin says we are to “aspire after the place we are invited.” We are to long for our heavenly home. But why does this lead the psalmist to pray that God would not hide his commandments from him? What is the connection between being a stranger in this world and seeing God’s commands rightly?
The key point of these three verses is that we need the grace of God to obey his Word, to understand his Word, and to use his word to guide us in this world.
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