Crying out to Understand

Let my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word!” (v. 169).

- Psalm 119:169–76

Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, is a magnificent chapter that shows how the Lord’s redeemed people love His law and, by extension, all of His Word. It shows us the place of divine revelation in keeping us from falling into sin (vv. 9, 11). The psalmist teaches us that the Word of God brings us life (v. 25; see James 1:18). We see that God will bring affliction into our lives to move us to submit more fully to Scripture and the wisdom it brings us (Ps. 119:67, 75). The author of Psalm 119 assures us of the surety of God’s Word (v. 89) and encourages us to taste its sweetness (v. 103). He also displays the attitude that we are to have in seeking the Lord’s assistance, namely, that part of the reason we should want to be redeemed is so that we can follow the good commands of our Creator (vv. 115, 126). This makes perfect sense in light of the truth that we cannot even begin to keep God’s law until He first saves us by grace alone (Rom. 7:7–8:39). Psalm 119 indicates that the failure of people to keep the law of the Lord should inspire mourning, and not only anger (v. 136). We should be sorrowful that God’s rules are broken because it means His glory is not being acknowledged and people are running headlong into ruin.

Today’s passage concludes Psalm 119, highlighting several themes already presented in the psalm and giving us key things to remember as we seek to frame our life in a way that will please our Maker. Verse 169 features the psalmist’s prayer that the Lord would give him “understanding” according to His Word. All people can read Scripture and learn things, but only those to whom God grants His Holy Spirit will attain the understanding that leads to salvation and enduring transformation. We require “the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,” as Paul teaches in Ephesians 1:17, if the Word is to take root in our lives. God brings us to new spiritual life via this Spirit in regeneration, sends Him to dwell in our hearts when we believe, and continually blesses us with insight into His revelation by His Spirit as we seek Him in faith.

The Holy Spirit provides deliverance through His Word. As the Word of God is preached and studied, the Spirit brings His people to salvation and by the supernatural gift of wisdom enables us to live in a way that pleases Him, moving us to a life of worship and praise (vv. 170–75). By this Word He seeks us out when we are being attacked by our enemies or are stuck in sin so as to deliver us from evil and bring us again to repentance (v. 176).

Coram Deo

John Calvin comments, “Whilst God liberally promises all blessings to his people, to enlighten them by his Spirit, that they may excel in true and sound wisdom, is justly entitled to be ranked among the chief of his promises.” The greatest blessing our Lord can give us is the illumination of His Spirit as we read His Word and hear it preached. By this, He brings us to salvation and gives us the wisdom and understanding we need to please Him so that we will receive eternal blessings.

Passages for Further Study

1 Chronicles 22:12–13
Romans 10:5–17
James 1:18
1 Peter 1:22–25

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