17 Deal bountifully with Your servant,
That I may live and keep Your word.
18 Open my eyes, that I may see
Wondrous things from Your law.
19 I am a stranger in the earth;
Do not hide Your commandments from me.
20 My soul breaks with longing
For Your judgments at all times.
21 You rebuke the proud – the cursed,
Who stray from Your commandments.
22 Remove from me reproach and contempt,
For I have kept Your testimonies.
23 Princes also sit and speak against me,
But Your servant meditates on Your statutes.
24 Your testimonies also are my delight
And my counselors.
At the end of the Babylonian exile, when the Jews returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city, the surrounding Persian noblemen and governors did not think the Jews could (or should) ever rise again. As the city walls rose, those same doubters saw the rise of the Jews and plotted against them, sowing seeds of doubt and threatening destruction. But with the strength of the Lord God behind them, the Jews rebuilt the wall in just fifty-two days. They then set to rebuilding the temple, and that is where they had problems. The opposition came and by force of arms stopped construction on the temple, and so it sat with only a foundation for several years. Then the Lord brought the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to encourage the people, their leaders (like Zerubbabel) and the priests (including Jeshua), and they continued rebuilding. The Lord even softened the heart of King Darius to order the rebuilding completed.
6 So he answered and said to me:
“This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel:
‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’
Says the LORD of hosts.
7 ‘Who are you, O great mountain?
Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain!
And he shall bring forth the capstone
With shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”‘”
Despite scorn and opposition, the Jews were strengthened to continue their rebuilding. Despite threats from proud and hateful men, the loving Lord God gave grace to His people to help them accomplish that which seemed impossible.
In today’s verses from the 119th Psalm, the psalmist acknowledges his inability and weakness. He serves God, and yet he feels as if he himself does not see all that God wishes from him. He longs for God’s Word, but still he feels like some things are hidden from Him. Feeling the reproach of men, he yet clings to the promises of God, watching over and teaching the Word of God. The psalmist says he is a servant, a sojourner – not a king that he should own anything, nor a prince who should inherit. He is a stranger here (as are we all!), and so rather than seek the things of earth, he turns his eyes toward the living God, seeking His commandments and His will.
24 By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,
25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,
26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.
The reward of God for His chosen and faithful far outweighs the rewards of men. Eternal life in Christ is a far better thing than earthly crowns and riches. Building a temple to the Lord is a far better thing than owning a palace or keeping great wealth. We are just travelers here, sojourners and wanderers, strangers in a strange land. This world, although made by God, is not what God intends for us. Why? Because it is broken by our sin.
17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:
“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
18 “Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
19 “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.”
Dust to dust we were cursed to return until Christ Jesus removed the stain of sin from us. We who are God’s beloved are to seek His face, to look up from plowing the cursed ground and see the blessed Savior. We who bear the reproach of men for Christ’s sake shall experience the blessing and reward of God the Father. We who own nothing in this world shall take possession of far greater glory when we enter into the peace of God.
We are not to be proud in our accomplishments here in this world, nor be proud in what we own nor proud in our earthly power. It is all “chasing after the wind,” as Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes. It is all vanity and loss – wealth no better than poverty, power no better than weakness, plenty no better than want. The thing that matters is loving and seeking God and His will for us.
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”
Though princes and powers may plot against us, though people will scorn and despise us for our unbending faith, though we shall walk through dark places and fearful times, yet we shall be strengthened by the Lord God who loves us. For we are strangers in this earth, and what little connection we have to our heavenly home is found in our hearts and our minds and our souls. We must seek God’s will, be encouraged and guided by His Spirit, and delight always in His Word. Then we can rest assured that He will indeed deal bountifully with His servants, that we may live and keep His word.
Lord God in heaven, blessed be Your name! Blessed be Your Son and Your Word! Blessed be Your Holy Spirit who resides in Your faithful! Blessed be Your servants, Your shepherds and guides. Blessed be those who seek You always. Blessed be my friends and family, Lord God, that they may be chosen by You to know and love You. Amen.