Most psalms include the author’s name. So I find it intriguing that no mention is made of the author of Psalm 119, even though this is the longest psalm and the longest chapter in the Bible.
So we can only speculate about the author of this psalm and David’s name is usually at the top of the list. The internal evidence for his authorship reaches a climax in Psalm 119:81-88, for in this stanza the writer shares much about his own circumstances at the time.
Whoever wrote this psalm was experiencing great difficulty at the hands of evil men. He was persecuted unjustly and came close to being killed for no good reason. He was hunted like a criminal yet had done nothing to deserve such treatment. The stress of these turbulent times had worn him out and he was in a state of physical and mental exhaustion – “I am like a wineskin in the smoke” (v. 83).
Through it all, however, he never lost his faith in God or his hope in the Word of God. He clung to his God with an unshakeable perseverance. He cried out for help and longed for God to save him and punish his enemies. “When will you punish my persecutors?” (v. 84) “They have almost wiped me from the earth, but I have not forsaken your precepts” (v. 87)
Certainly David experienced times like these, especially early in his life when he was the innocent victim of King Saul’s erratic outbursts of violent jealousy.
Regardless of who wrote this psalm, verses 81-88 are unique in that all eight verses of this stanza contain a unique combination of the author’s frustration and faith in the midst of a crisis over which he had no control.
And so we are given a stellar example of grace under fire. We have much to learn from this man’s example of faithfulness, for all believers have been promised a life of persecution. Paul wrote, “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus told the disciples, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18).
Certainly the nature and degree of anti-Christian hostility varies greatly around the world. Christians in western nations face much less persecution than Christians in Asia and the Middle East, for example.
But opposition will be there, and we can count on it. We would do well to trust in the unfailing love of God in the midst of tribulation, continuing to “put my hope in your word” (v. 81) regardless of our circumstances. This is easier said than done, and I admit that as a U.S. Christian I have little experience with the type of persecution that our brothers and sisters are going through on the other side of the world.
So we pray for the persecuted church, thanking God for organizations like Voice of the Martyrs, who keep us informed and provide opportunities for us to support those in need.
We are compelled to ask the question, “How do they remain faithful?” How do persecuted believers stay the course when the temptation to jump ship grows stronger every day? How did the author of Psalm 119 continue to trust God no matter what?
I think these eight verses hold the key. Note how the psalmist is locked in on the character of God and the Word of God. Every verse in this stanza mentions something about God and/or his truth. While running for his life, he is keenly aware of who God is. He spends much time meditating on the attributes of God and the fact that his God is the source of salvation, hope, comfort and justice because God is trustworthy, helpful, life giving and loving.
This passage teaches us that strong faith is the result of a mind saturated with the Word. “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). There is a cause and effect relationship between spending time in the Word and strengthening our faith. This is how any believer in any age can persevere in the midst of any crisis.
For more information about the persecuted church, visit www.persecution.com