“I long for your salvation, Lord, and your law gives me delight” (Psalm 119:174).
The psalmist has poured out his heart, perhaps over many years, in the writing of Psalm 119. Has any writer of Scripture told us so much about himself in one chapter as this man has?
Many things impress me about him. He has a steadfast commitment to God and his Word. He has an unwavering faith that has remained strong despite much suffering and affliction.
But perhaps what I like most about the author of Psalm 119 is his passion. His desire for God and his Word is intense.
We’ve read of his longing throughout the psalm –
My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times. (v. 20)
How I long for your precepts! (v. 40)
My soul faints with longing for your salvation. (v. 81)
I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands. (v. 131)
He longs for God’s Word, and he longs for God’s salvation. And we should not be surprised at either one. We know about the writer’s devotion to God’s truth. That has been the topic of virtually every verse. And we know about the writer’s unfortunate circumstances as an innocent victim of unwarranted and unjustified persecution at the hands of evil men (see verses 109 and 110).
So I take this longing to be a desire primarily for physical salvation. The many references to his difficult circumstances would argue strongly for this interpretation. He wants to see the light of day and expresses what any normal human being would want – he wants to live!
Another reason I take this verse to mean physical salvation is because of the immediately preceding verse, “May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts” (Psalm 119:173). He is asking for God to help him by providing protection from his foes.
I also like his man for his humility. He longs for God’s salvation. He knows that God is in control and that only God can provide the salvation he needs.
He expresses his humility in verse 176 – “I have strayed like a lost sheep.” Even though the psalmist has proclaimed his innocence from any wrongdoing that would justify the way his enemies are treating him (see verses 78 and 86), he is the first to admit that he is still a sinner.
He has prayed for God to keep him away from deceit (v. 29), selfishness (v. 26), and worthless things (v. 37), no doubt because he has been guilty of such unrighteous behavior. He confesses, “before I was afflicted I went astray” (v. 67).
The psalmist has a biblical understanding of his own sinfulness and is transparent about it before God and his peers, for he no doubt wrote this psalm as a song to be sung by the people of God.
This is the portrait of a true believer – one who is deeply aware of his depravity before a holy God, all the while depending on his God to be gracious to him and save him. May we follow in his footsteps, all the days of our lives.