Psalm 119 is a great paean of praise for God’s eternal, righteous, and inerrant word; and the longest psalm in the Bible at 176 verses. But it is much more than just an exercise in how many ways you can praise God’s word. There’s real substance here, and one of the substantial themes of Psalm 119 is that God will rescue those who keep His word.
On the surface this might seem like a generic promise of God’s blessings on the obedient. But there’s much more here than that. For example…
Psalms 119:58-61 “I sought Your favor with all my heart; Be gracious to me according to Your word. I considered my ways And turned my feet to Your testimonies. I hastened and did not delay To keep Your commandments. The cords of the wicked have encircled me, But I have not forgotten Your law.”
One of the most likely times in life to abandon God’s way is when enemies and oppressors surround us. Sadly we revert rather quickly to worldly thinking, but the psalmist is pointing out the fact that he has not forgotten God’s commands; he had done what God wanted even in the midst of trouble; and that is the basis of his plea and his hope for God’s rescue.
Or consider this part of Psalm 119…
Psalms 119:165-168 “Those who love Your law have great peace, And nothing causes them to stumble. I hope for Your salvation, O LORD, And do Your commandments. My soul keeps Your testimonies, And I love them exceedingly. I keep Your precepts and Your testimonies, For all my ways are before You.”
There are many more similar passages in Psalm 119 that I could cite, but I’d like to make this practical point: God’s rescue must always be God’s way—not ours. Consider some of the more famous rescues from God…
- By an ark and a global flood. Why? Does it matter? Do you want to be rescued?
- By 10 Plagues. Why? Does it matter? Do you want to be rescued?
- By a walk on dry ground over the Red Sea. Why? Does it matter? Do you want to be rescued?
- By holding up a staff over Moses’ head. Why? Does it matter? Do you want to be rescued?
- With only 300 soldiers against thousands. Why? Does it matter? Do you want to be rescued?
- By getting thrown in a fiery furnace. Why? Does it matter? Do you want to be rescued?
- By getting thrown into a lions den. Why? Does it matter? Do you want to be rescued?
- Through a cross and a tomb. Why? Does it matter? Do you want to be rescued?
While it is true that occasionally God has discipline in mind, when He says “No” to a prayer for rescue, there is another possibility that we often pretend “just couldn’t be”—sometimes we are messing up God’s rescue by being disobedient. God’s rescue demands that we do what God has said we should do.
Let me illustrate: To be rescued by a helicopter, you often wear a harness that you need to put on properly and safely secure—you can’t just grab onto their cable like action heroes in the movies (even if it is cool). Rescue from cancer often involves surgery or radiation or chemo or a combination of them—you can’t just take a mild anti-cancer pill and wake up cured (don’t we wish?). Financial rescue usually involves unpleasant long term life-style changes—you can’t depend on a cheery, rich uncle to bail you out (ah, if only…). There are things that are necessary to do to be rescued.
In everyday life we often ask God for rescue from messes we find ourselves in; and then we lie, or we cheat, or we hide from it, or we put off doing something about it, or we do something else ungodly. And then we still expect God to rescue us, and are disappointed when He doesn’t.
Do we really want rescue? Follow His directions, do His commands, obey His precepts, follow His way. That’s what made the psalmist expect God would rescue him.
It works this way in the spiritual realm, too. God gave His Son to die for sinful mankind, because (to make a long story short) mankind simply cannot redeem themselves. Moreover, God has given us what we must do to take advantage of His gracious provision in our deep need: believe in Jesus as God’s Son, Savior, and Lord (John 3:16); repent of sinful living and resolve to follow Jesus (Acts 2:38); confess before others that Jesus is God’s Son (Romans 10:9,10); and obey the Lord in water baptism (immersion) in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins and reception of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
Yet, many still try to redeem themselves with good works, “earn” their way to Heaven. Still others preach a “sinner’s prayer”, others a “born again experience”, and still others seek God’s rescue by “being a spiritual person” (a phrase that can be individually defined). They’ll expect rescue, but will be disappointed. You see, God’s rescue is always on God’s terms, not ours. God has said so.
Do we really want rescue? Follow His directions, do His commands, obey His precepts, follow His way. Get rescued God’s way, because God’s rescue is on God’s terms, not ours.