God’s Sustaining Word

My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word” (v. 81).

- Psalm 119:81–88

If there is one thing that we learn from Psalm 119, it is the power of God’s Word to sustain the faith of God’s people in even the most difficult circumstances. Throughout this text, the psalmist returns again and again to the fact that the promises of God alone can give the people of God life when they are facing the toughest trials and tribulations. In verse 50, for example, the psalmist tells us that the Lord’s promise gives him life in the midst of his affliction, and we know from verse 54 that the psalmist is finding this promise in the statutes and commandments of our most holy Creator. This sustaining power of divine revelation should not surprise us, for all Scripture is sufficient to prepare us for every good work, including the good work of perseverance (2 Tim. 3:16–17).

Today’s passage also confirms the infallible sustenance provided by the Word of God in the lives of His people. Verse 81 begins the next section of Psalm 119 with a cry for salvation, which in this context is not primarily the salvation from sin and death that is the heritage of God’s elect; rather, it is rescue from affliction, from men and women who are persecuting the author (vv. 84–87). This longing for salvation is evidence of persevering faith, for only those of faith will continue to hope in the Savior. They are the ones in whom the seed of God’s Word has put down firm roots (Matt. 13:18–23). As we read in Psalm 119:81, the longing for salvation flows from the psalmist’s hope in the Word of God.

The psalmist’s perseverance is altogether remarkable in light of his description of himself in the midst of his affliction. He has “become like a wineskin in the smoke” (v. 83)—all but useless, just like a wineskin that is dried out and covered with soot is useless for storing wine. Yet the psalmist shows confidence that this condition will not last forever. He has not forgotten the Lord’s sure statutes, nor has he forsaken the divine precepts, and he calls upon God to give him life so that he can keep these testimonies (vv. 83, 86–88). John Calvin comments, “In whatever ways he was afflicted, his mind had not been distracted by various devices, because, trusting in the word of God, he never doubted of his assistance.”

Like the psalmist, we can persevere in faith only as we trust in the promises of God and turn to His Word for sustenance. May we continually return to the Scriptures so that we will remain steadfast in the love of our Father in heaven.

Coram Deo

We can by no means continue to believe in the promises of the Lord if we do not know what they are. Thus, we must return again and again to God’s life-giving Word, turning to it both when we feel like reading it and when we find it hard to pick up a Bible. The Lord will bless His people with strengthened faith when they seek to know and trust God’s promises, so let us memorize and meditate on His Word.

Passages for Further Study

Deuteronomy 32:44–47
Psalm 119:107
John 5:24
Philippians 2:14–16

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