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Life and Strength from God

Psalm 119:25-32

Travis: All right, guys, let’s pray.  Father, I want to thank you again for tonight and for another chance to go through this precious, precious Psalm.  We find ourselves, like the psalmist does, we find ourselves sometimes weary, in need of strength.  And this is a perfect, just a perfect stanza for us.  So I pray that you would minister to us by your Spirit, by your Word.  Help us to understand what’s here and to put some practical application to this so that we can live well before you and find great joy in your strength and the power of your Word.  In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Okay, turn to the fourth stanza in Psalm 119.  This is the Daleth stanza.  That’s verses 25 to 32.  Psalm 119, verses 25 to 32.  You may remember in the previous stanza, the Psalmist is rejoicing there in companionship, the companionship of God’s truth and God’s counsel.  And that was, it was so dear to him because he was, you remember, he was feeling an isolation.  He was longing for God desperately, especially feeling like a sojourner.  But also because in light of the hostility that was surrounding him, and that had a further isolating effect, he was being haunted, hunted by even people in the highest positions of power.  There was a high-level conspiracy formed against him, princes plotting against him, verse 23.  But all of that served to drive him to the Word of God and to prayer.  So that was last week.

This stanza we find the psalmist then left in kind of a weakened condition, without strength.  But again, we find the psalmist looking in the right direction for divine aid.  So let’s with that, just as a little introduction, let’s read verses 25 to 32, the Daleth stanza.  

“My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your Word!  When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes!  Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.  My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your Word!  Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law!  I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me.  I cling to Your testimonies, O Lord; let me not be put to shame!  I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!”

So having just read those verses, how would you describe the psalmist’s state of mind?  And what would you say is prompting his prayer?  What’s his state of mind and what’s, what’s prompting his prayer?  

Audience: It sounds like he’s tired, he’s tired of running or he’s tired of being slandered.  And he’s just down.

Travis: Down, tired.  What gives you that impression?  

Audience: I am laid low in the next,

Travis: Yeah, there you go. There’s one.

Audience: Just asking for that preservation of life, according to his Word.  So just having that, the Word, fill, fill your life when you’re tired.

Travis: Exactly, tired, weary.  Yeah, good, good.  I’m kind of feeling that way after like a long run, then I go big, big conference weekend.  So I’m feeling laid low.  I don’t know how you guys feel.  Anybody else want to comment on this?  What’s prompting his prayer?  I mean you may have summed it up for the entire class, but does anybody want to elaborate?

Audience: The, the other thing I see a couple times, it seems like he really seems to grasp his inability.  And says make me, just the idea that I can’t do this again, so it’s looking to God, fulfill what he’s commanded him to do.

Travis: Okay, great. So with what Jenny said, it’s like there’s a weariness, a tiredness.  But you might just think, well just drink a Red Bull, get back in the game.  But you’re at, what you’re saying is exactly right.  There’s a sense here in which he says I’m not going to be able to stand up until you revive me, until you give me strength.  Make me understand.  So he, there’s a, there’s a humble dependence on God that he, he’s laid so low that he, he really has run out of strength, run out of his own resources.  Were you about to say something or were you just grabbing your water bottle?  

Audience: I was just going to say that he knows where to turn, he knows, yeah.

Travis: Yeah, in contrast to finding any resources himself, he, he knows exactly where to turn and it’s to God.  Anybody else?  Okay, so here’s another, another question to ask just to introduce things here.  But I want to set it up for you.  In the psalmist’s lowly state of mind, you might say discouragement, sorrow, if we, we can even use the word depression.  I know that word is thrown around a lot today, clinical depression and all the rest.  If we’re honest, Christians get depressed, Christians get depressed, and that maybe, maybe some people start applying a term, clinical depression, if you’re depressed for a long time.  But Christians can get depressed.  We can go through low ebbs, low periods, and certainly he’s, he’s sensing that here.  

But in this psalmist’s lowly state of mind here, what seems to be his greatest concern?  He’s clearly downcast.  So you got verse 25, “My soul clings to dust.”  You got verse 28, “My soul melts away for sorrow.”  But what is he most occupied with?  To help you find the answer, I want to ask an intermediate question before we return back to that question.  I’d like to identify the prominent ideas in this stanza.  So look at, look at those verses again and what do you see are the repeated words or thoughts?  Because these things are important.  Maggie?

Audience: Twice he says, “cling.”  

Travis: Two times he says, “cling,” where are you seeing, verse 25 and?

Audience: And then, 31, thank you.

Travis: 31, yeah, good.

Audience: He also repeats, “Teach me.”

Travis: Okay, teach me.  All right, Joel?

Audience: Yeah, that’s about all I was going to say, “Teach me your laws.”  “Teach me your ways.”

Travis: Okay, good.  What else do you see?  What’s repeated?

Audience: “According to your Word.”

Travis: “According to your Word,” that’s twice in there, yep.  In fact, verse 25 and 28 really do sound with very little variation.  They, they hit the same beat, beat for beat.  They’re basically saying the same thing.  But they’re not saying the same thing, but they sound very similar.

Audience: His concern for his soul, “My soul, my soul.”  Verse 25 and 28, “My soul.”

Travis: Okay, “my soul,” in verse 25 and, “my soul” in verse 28.  Good, those are repeated.

Audience: And “teach me.”

Travis: Okay, we said that, got the, “teach me” part.

Audience: The word, “way” is repeated like five times.

Travis: Okay, perfect, word “way.”  The word “way” is repeated five times.  What is, what is “way” refer to?  I mean it’s used differently here, so it’s you know has a, has a subject and, and a, it’s predicated by several different things.  But what is the word “way,” it’s, it’s, it’s one, there are a couple of different words in Hebrew that could be translated as way but, or path or something but this one is the same one all the way through.  So it’s “way,” it’s derek, derek, derek, derek, in, in in a construct form.

Audience: Things that are done, the actions or just things you do, life, manner of life.

Travis: Okay, manner of life, manner of life.  Yeah, path before you.  Yeah, okay, good.  So yeah, “my soul” is repeated twice, verse 25, 28, “According to your Word,” verses 25 and 28. “Way” or “ways,” some variation of that, five times 26, 27, 29, 30, 32 and then “cling” twice.  So we’ve got all of them.  So with those repeated thoughts or words, “my soul,” “according to your Word,” “ways,” “way,” and then “cling.”  Let’s return to that question.  In his depressed or downcast state of mind, with what is the psalmist most concerned?  What is the chief preoccupation of his mind?

Audience: In verse 29, it says, “keep me from your, from deceitful ways.”  So is the, when somebody gets down or depressed or just doesn’t maybe always feel that closeness with God, that sometimes we can turn to other things that are deceitful instead of God’s law, instead of his Word.  We can turn to those things that are deceitful to comfort us.

Travis: Very well said.  So there’s a, there’s a vulnerability we have in a low ebb in our life, isn’t it?  With low energy, with low motivation, with feeling weak, to turn to deceitful ways.  What would be like, let’s, let’s be a little more concrete about that word, deceitful ways.  What would those ways be, like for us?  

Audience: Well, if you’re not, if you’re not feeling well or something like that, you’re having physical issues, it might cause you to call into question God’s character.  Does he really care for me?  Does he love me?  Or is the enemy just saying that, just like he did in the garden? Is God withholding from you?

Travis: Okay, so call into question God’s character.  And if we do give up hope that God’s character is good and he’s wise and all this is planned, then what do we do?

Audience: There’s an awful lot of personal pronouns here.  He’s talking about I and me and my.  We look inward.  We look into ourselves and see if we can’t figure it out.

Travis: Okay, so we can look inward, alright.  What are some other concrete, deceitful ways that we chase after to find strength or refreshment that are not God?  Anybody else gonna?

Audience: Well, for depression, medication.

Travis: Medication, how do people medicate themselves today?  Well, it’s the great state of Colorado, right?  In drugs and alcohol, drugs and alcohol is a way.  What is another way of self-medicating?  Medicating might be too, you know, clinical a way of putting it, but there’s a, another medicating way, yeah.

Audience: Obviously, but to answer that question, it’s anything that alters your mind.  It can be, I mean we see it here, alcohol, of course that’s legal.  You have people that will disconnect, they’ll go away, they’ll abandon.  Stoicism is kind of another response.

Travis: Okay, so in a, some kind of an escape is another way of self-medicating, but, but it’s basically trying to find refreshment in that which is not God.  Sometimes people are like, I’m going to just be on a perpetual vacation.  Or some people get into a rhythm of life where they say, I work really hard during the week, the weekends, they’re for me, and even when they come to church, they’re checked out because what, what are the weekends for?  Me.  There, there’s people get into medicating through, you know, entertainment and that kind of thing too, Melinda.

Audience: Sleep.

Travis: Sleep, that is so good, sleep.  Some people just sleep their, their life away because they just want to, they just want to crowd the world out.  And they, I’m sorry, you sleep a lot, or?  Oh, okay, I didn’t know if, I didn’t know if we stepped on your toes.  What’s that?

Audience: Like, who gets to sleep?  That would be nice.  It’s not wrong to desire to sleep though, right?

Travis: I don’t think it’s really good to want a different kind of sin than you already commit, so.  Boy, that would be a great way to sin.

Audience: Food is another way.

Travis: Food, that’s another one.  That’s right.  You know, just different tastes and things like that.  Just something to stimulate, something to take our minds away.  So we have, we have ways that we do, “put false ways far from me,” that’s very, very helpful.  So what, what does he, so these are all dangers, but what’s his chief preoccupation as he sees his vulnerability, as he feels his weakness, as he knows he has no power to lift himself up, what does he want?  God’s Word, huh?

Audience: I was going to say the ability to pursue the strength and pursue God.

Travis: Okay, so the ability, but not just any ability just to get up.  But it’s for a purpose.  It’s aimed at God, good.  So he, he’s concerned and, and the repetition of the word “way” or “ways” five times in this Psalm, or in this stanza should give it away.  He’s concerned about his own way.  He wants his way to be conformed to God’s way.  So he’s concerned about the way forward and what that looks like.  And if it, is it, is it according to God’s way or is it not?  He wants his way to be right.  He wants it to be, and so he’s concerned here about his character and his conduct. 

In the previous stanza, the psalmist was beleaguered, as we said, by isolation, conspiracy and all that.  He found that his only refuge was in the comfort in God’s Word and in this stanza, in his weakness and frailty of his fallen humanity, that’s all showing itself, okay?  So he’s kind of been withered away through, through the, through the fight that he’s been through, and now he’s coming into this stanza and he’s worn down.  He’s wearied from isolation, from contention.  He’s kind of wearied from the battle.  And that’s when the enemy wants to get you most, when the, when the pressure lets off.  That’s when the enemy wants to strike and hit you in your vulnerable state.  

So he’s, he’s physically and spiritually overcome here.  “His soul clings to the dust.”  That is a metaphor for humiliation, public humiliation, okay?  His soul melts away with sorrow.  It’s almost, picture it, literally, he’s, he’s melting away with tears.  So the tears are flowing and his strength is flowing out of his body with it.  So it, it shouldn’t be lost on us ever, that the, the Lord has hidden the author of this Psalm from us, so we don’t know exactly who wrote it.  There’s, there are good contenders are David and Daniel.  Some others have been suggested as well.  

But I think that by keeping this Psalm, the authorship of this Psalm hidden from us, it also hides a bit the occasion that prompted this, the writing.  Why was the Psalmist lamenting here?  What, what was, what was giving rise to this?  Whether it’s the conspiracies in the, in the previous section or his feeling, you know, like his soul’s clinging to the dust and he has no strength and all that.  But I think that there’s a real wisdom in the Lord in hiding that psalmist from us, the authorship from us, because it’s, it, I think, that he wanted the application as broad as possible.  There are different situations that can lead to these kinds of laments.

So since we don’t know who wrote it, what prompted these expressions of lament allows us to suppose the author in the occasion or perhaps different authors in different occasions, as it really, you know, sometimes fits the need of our lives.  So it is one author and one author only.  We know that, but we just don’t know, we just don’t know who, so.  But, but by, by thinking through perhaps maybe just two, let’s, let’s think about two.  

Suppose for a moment that Daniel is the author of this.  And the previous stanza refers to other princes who envied his ascendancy in the kingdom, first in Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar and then under the Medes under Darius, the king.  For a moment turn to the right to the book of Daniel, and I just want to read a couple verses out of here that may, may help us to see this in a different light.  Darius the Mede is on the throne, so Babylon has fallen to the Medes.  Darius, Daniel chapter 6, Daniel 6.  So Darius is on the throne.  Nebuchadnezzar has you know, like Nebuchadnezzar before Darius.  Darius or Darius, some people say Darius.  He’s recognized Daniel’s qualities, by God’s design, he’s elevated Daniel again in the kingdom.  Look at chapter 6 verses 1-5.  

“It please Darius to set over the kingdom a hundred and twenty satraps,” or satraps, those are, satraps are administrators over provinces and districts and stuff.  So they’re administrators with authority, but, it pleased him to set over the kingdom a hundred and twenty of these guys “to be throughout the whole kingdom and over them three presidents, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give an account, so the king might suffer no loss.  Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other presidents and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him.  

The king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.  Then the presidents and the satraps sought to find ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom.”  They are administrators after all, right?  Can’t stand this.  So the bureaucracy is striking back.  “They sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could not, could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful and no error or fault was found in him.  And these men said, ‘We should not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.’”

So these satraps in their wily administrative way, they concoct a situation to put Daniel at odds with the law.  They conspire together to set a legal trap for Daniel, creating a law that they, that he cannot obey.  And in verse 13 they come tattling to the king, “Daniel,” they say, “They say, ‘King Darius, Daniel, one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction that you have signed, then he makes his petition three times a day.’”  So that’s the report to the king.  

What rumor do you think that those administrators spread publicly to all the people that Daniel oversaw?  They didn’t say, “Daniel’s completely righteous in the kingdom.  He’s broken no law and he’s very faithful to his God.”  They didn’t say that.  They said that to King Darius because they entrapped Daniel.  What do you think they said?  What was the rumor that spread about Daniel?  How did they spin this in order to slander Daniel and elevate themselves?  

Audience: He’s not faithful to the king. He’s not loyal, yeah.

Travis: He’s disloyal to the king, disloyal to the king.  What’s that?  Okay, yeah.  So he’s disloyal to the king.  So they start spreading that rumor around.  Yeah, what’s that?

Audience: And to their gods

Travis: Yeah, to their gods, but they’ve known that for a long time.  But, but still, Daniel’s overseeing all these people.  And so they try to run him down with regard to the people that he oversees, the people that know Daniel, know his character.  They say, oh, you think, you, you think he looks squeaky clean, but that’s actually been just a facade.  There’s something else going on.  How do you think he rose to power?  How do you think he got into these different positions of authority?  It’s you don’t think it’s through righteousness, do you?  Oh, come on, don’t be naive. 

If that is some of the occasion for Psalm 119, okay, if that’s what’s going on in the background, doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination to see how lonely and beleaguered Daniel was feeling at this time.  Which is the Gimel stanza and how it, how it wore him down in those withering but false judgments of those in the kingdom that Daniel served faithfully.  The king and all the people underneath them, those people he loved and served faithfully, he, he was withered by their, by their false judgments.  Really, because they were all resulted from official public slander.  So even though the charges are manufactured against Daniel, he had been publicly maligned, and he’d been personally humiliated. 

Which takes us into the Daleth stanza.  Perhaps he felt weakened by sorrow that, you know, facing the death penalty.  Because in Daniel 6 he’s going to be where, thrown into the lions’ den, right?  So, but he’s, he’s not, I think Daniel is not so much concerned about his own safeties.  He’s concerned and sorrowing for the public slander not just against himself but against, what that means against this connection to God, against Yahweh.  Yeah, serving Yahweh.  But he’s disloyal to everybody else around him.  So what do you think of it?  But, you know, what do you think of serving Yahweh?  Or even a concern that he won’t be able to serve the people who most needed him.  I mean, after, after he’s pulled out, all these wicked guys are now going to be in control.  What do wicked people do when they reign?  Just look around, you know?  

So let’s switch gears now, though, and let’s suppose not Daniel is the author of Psalm 119, 119, but David is.  And the occasion, let’s, let’s suppose, is the revolt of Absalom.  So turn back past Psalm 119.  Keep your finger there, but go back to the 2 Samuel, chapter 16, 2 Samuel 16.  David’s reign in the early part of 2 Samuel had reached its culminating point, a pinnacle of strength and joy.  

But then after that wicked sin with Bathsheba, so in that sin, it’s a whole host of sins, aren’t there?  It’s covetous desire.  There’s stealing another man’s wife.  There’s the adultery itself.  There’s the cover up of the resulting pregnancy through deception.  Then there’s cowardly murder of her righteous husband, Uriah.  And through all of this sin that he committed, David’s kingdom started to fall to pieces.  He’d married multiple wives and one of, you know, so basically thinking about like several different families, but they’re all related to David, so they’re all half brother and sister of one another.

So you know the story. Amnon raped his half-sister Tamar, she’s the full sister of Absalom.  And Absalom’s kind of peeved about that.  And especially so because David did not act speedily with justice in his own family.  I think he was, I think he felt morally hobbled and crippled by his own sin, so then he doesn’t feel like he can address the issues in his own family.  So he didn’t act with justice and Absalom then took unjust revenge by murdering his brother Amnon, his half-brother Amnon.  After that, Absalom went into self-imposed exile only to return to Jerusalem and conspire against his father to steal the hearts of the people and lead a coup against David.

So when David was fleeing Jerusalem for his life.  And understand by this time in his life, he is not a young man, he’s an older man.  I just moved my parents up here from down in Golden and it’s hard on older people when they have to leave everything behind and move.  It’s really difficult under the best of circumstances with all the help.  This is not that kind of a move.  This is get run, getting run out of town in a hurry or else you’re dead.  Okay, so there’s the fear of that.  That’s a that’s a difficult thing as an older person.  So especially after all that David had done well.

So look at 2 Samuel 16, verse 5.  “When David, King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shime, Shimei, the son of Gera, and as he came he cursed continually.”  That’s, that’s not really even the only problem, that he had bad language.  “He threw stones at David, Shimei threw stones at David and all the servants of King David, and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left.  And Shimei said as he cursed, ‘Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man!’”

So again, this guy’s from the house of Saul.  So he’s got a history, a memory about David’s transgressions against his own house.  Even though David did a lot of right towards Saul.  But that’s not how the history’s told, right?  So you know these undercurrents are there.  “Get out, you man of blood, you worthless man.  The Lord has avenged on, on you all the blood of the house of Saul.”  Like, finally you’re getting your due. Everybody knew, finally, you’re getting your due. “In whose place you’ve reigned,” that is inappropriately, “and the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom.  See, your evil is on you, for you are a man of blood.”

Look at verses 13 to 14, “So David and his men went on the road, while Shimei went along on the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went, threw stones at him and flung dust. The king, and all the people who are with him, they arrived weary at the Jordan.”  No wonder, right?  

So could that have fit the occasion of Psalm 119?  Could that, if David was the author, could that occasion fill in the background here as well?  Sure it could.  The rocks, the dust, that Shimei threw.  You know David knew he deserved that pummeling.  Abishai said verse 9, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king?  Let me go over and take off his head.”  And David refused, he wouldn’t let Abishai cut off his head.  Verse 10, he says, “if he’s cursing because the Lord has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’”  And verse 11, “Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjamin, Benjaminite!  Leave him alone, let him curse, for the Lord has told him to.”

So, the Scripture says both Daniel and David were counted righteous before God.  Ezekiel 14:14 and 20 talks about Daniel’s righteousness.  1 Kings 3:6, is Solomon’s praise, he affirms David’s righteousness before God.  But there is a key difference between David and Daniel, isn’t there?  Regarding the occasion for their sorrow.  What is it?  

Audience: Sin.  Sin.

Travis: Sin, namely, elaborate.

Audience: Adultery and murder.

Travis: David deserved it, right?  So the, what’s that?

Audience: This was just a fulfillment of what Nathan, “The sword will not depart from your hand and you’re, you’re a man of blood, David.  He goes, I am a man of blood.  He’s right.

Travis: That’s right. So the rocks and the dust that are raining down on David’s head, the material that was used to shame him, humiliate him publicly, was a perfect picture of his nature, right?  He’s just a man of dust.  It was also a symbol of his humiliation; it was something that was deserved for all of his sins.  In Daniel’s case, though, Daniel is impeccable and irreproachable.  He’s a truly blameless man, and that’s difficult for a man in Daniel’s position who is in the public eye, under public scrutiny all the time.  The humiliation that Daniel faced was undeserved, which is a totally different kind of trial.  

In either case, whether you find yourself like Daniel, suffering because of righteous integrity, or like David because of sinful folly, whatever the occasion, I think, you can go back to Psalm 119 now.  I think this stanza in Psalm 119, it really can minister to all true believers.  And you need to understand I’m making that qualification.  All true believers, okay?  True believers, not unbelievers.  There’s no comfort for unbelievers other than the gospel.  So if they find Christ and the gospel, they have all reason for comfort, and all of a sudden they’re brought into this comfort.

But whether you find yourself suffering like Daniel because of your righteousness or like David because of your sin, I think this stanza can minister to you.  It can apply to all of us, whether we’re feeling weak from humiliation or from sorrow.  Daleth is the stanza that is going to show us the way out of the dust and the way forward from tears of sorrow.  

The text divides into two sections, verses 25 to 27, and then the second section, verses 28 to 32.  And as we’ve already observed here, each section starts with a cry for help, which briefly states the situation, expresses a petition, and then provides an important qualification.  So look at verse 25, “My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your Word!”  What’s the situation, the petition, and then the qualification?  It’s one verse, just verse 25 and just three questions.  But you’ll find all the answers right there in the one verse.  What’s the petition?  Or what’s the situation?  What’s the petition?  What’s the qualification?  

Audience: The situation is he’s clinging to, to the dust.

Travis: The dust, so, yeah, he’s finding himself in abject humiliation.  Okay, so that’s the situation.  What’s the petition?

Audience: “Give me life.”

Travis: “Give me life,” right.  You, you think the, you think the answers are harder to find, don’t you?  That’s why you’re reluctant to say, I don’t want to sound stupid.  So thank you, Wes, for trying to sound stupid right, right off the bat.  So yeah, no perfect though, it got us rolling.  So yeah, the petition is, “give me life.”  And what is the qualification?  What’s the delimiting factor here?  

Audience: “According to your Word.”

Travis: According to your Word.  So it’s not just life outside your Word.  He doesn’t see any life outside God’s Word.  So it’s according to your Word, okay?  Just a footnote when he says, “my soul clings to the dust.”  I think we mentioned this last time, but I’ll just give you a footnote here about “my soul,” because it’s repeated in verse 28 as well, verse 25, verse 28, “my soul.”  We talked about it last time.  The Hebrew word nephesh.  It’s often translated soul, but it really does refer to the whole person, the material plus the immaterial parts of us as humans.  

One commentator put it this way.  “This term rarely, if ever, individuates as a reference to a separate immaterial part of man.”  Okay, so it rarely if ever talks about the immaterial nature of man, like my soul, my spirit as being the same thing, that’s not really what it’s talking about.  It’s talking about man is a composite being of material and immaterial and everything that composes us is what my nephesh, my soul is, okay?  

There’s an article in the theological dictionary of the New Testament called The Anthropology of the Old Testament.  It says nephesh is the usual term for a man’s total nature, for what he is and not just what he has, okay?  So it’s talking about what a man is.  So when he says, “My soul clings to the dust,” it’s really a poetic way of referring to oneself rather than just using the pronoun I.  It portrays the person, the self, as a composite being, both the material, material parts that are clinging to the dust.  So, you can see how the material part, I might just go down and grab dirt if I’m being shot at, you know, I’m just going to hit the ground and try to dig my way through into China, get away from those bullets.  That’s the material part of me.  But he obviously, since he’s talking about the whole of himself, there’s an immaterial part of himself too.  And so that’s where we see this is clearly a metaphor.  It’s, it’s a metaphor where he’s clinging to the dust.

So using this term, “my soul,” it’s not just poetic, but it’s also emphatic.  So you could see this is him saying, you could translate it this way.  I myself, I myself cling to the dust.  Then you go to the next one.  I myself am melting away with sorrow.  That’s, that’s the idea.  Translation’s accurate, it just doesn’t have the poetic beauty of “my soul, my soul.”  So that gives us the picture.

Look at verse 28, “My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according your Word!”  So give me the situation, petition, and the qualification there.  

Audience: “My soul is sorrowful.”

Travis: All right, “my soul is sorrowful.”  I’m, I’m lamenting.  I’m weeping.  And that’s, it’s a desperate thing.  That’s the situation, what?  Strength, “strengthen me.”  And then a qualification again, “according to your Word,” right?  Good.  Two petitions are really brief, right?  Give me life.  Strengthen me.  That’s his prayer.  Give me life.  Strengthen me.  What do you think about the brevity of those two petitions?  What explains that kind of brevity?  By brevity, I mean shortness.  Huh?

Audience: Desperation?

Travis: Good, desperation.  You know, when you’re being pummeled this way, you just don’t, you just don’t form sentences very well, you know?  You just, you just can’t really put it together.  Sometimes you’re, you’re perplexed, you’re confused and all that, and so there is an initial in both of these stanza, in both of these sections, there’s an initial just getting it out there.  I’m hurting.  “Help me according to your Word.”  I love the fact that “according to your Word” is tacked on at the end there.  It’s like he’s always thinking God’s word, God’s Word.  But it’s still that the initial part here is a general petition.  Joel?

Audience: When you’re in, in that position, when you’re that far down and out, you, you know what the most important thing is in life and everything.  When you’re in that position, everything else is stripped away.  You know, all your little petty things that are going on in life, all your real, supposed problems, it means nothing.  You’re in that position to see what matters the most, what you need more than anything else in this world, and that is God.  

Travis: That is, that is really well said.  And you know, I think that’s part of the purpose of that trial, is to drive us to that point where it strips everything unimportant away.  And you, you travel light, even in your petition, that’s good.

Audience: I was just thinking, a good example of that is Peter when he got out to walk on the water.  Short prayer, Lord, save me.

Travis: Yeah.  I don’t have time for some rabbinical prayer here, I’m going down.  Yeah.

Audience: I just have a question about the “according to your Word,” is that, is that a petition?  Or is that a statement?  I don’t know what the other alternative is.  But when I read that, I, I’m like, okay, I can appeal to you on the basis of your, your Word and your character.  And so I can ask this on the basis of who you are and what, what your promises are versus, “strengthen me.”  I don’t, I don’t know what the alternative is that I’m thinking of.

Travis: Strengthen me according to my greatness.

Audience: No, no, that would be still be according to your Word.  But I don’t know if anybody else can think of the alternative

In the direction.

Yeah, like, in the direction versus an appeal of

Like, strengthen me based on the promises that you’ve made to strengthen me, or strengthen me to do what, like to go that way.  I don’t, I don’t know.

Travis: Right, right.  So it’s, I, I really think that it, we don’t need to probably draw the line that finely because I think you maybe, maybe you’re thinking according to your name, according to your name, according to your Word.  But what he what he’s saying is in keeping with, in keeping with your Word, it’s basically he’s setting the boundaries around his petition.  So his heart is directed in the right place.  So whether it’s strength that he needs or life, which is the first petition, life that he needs.  He wants it in accordance with God’s Word because he knows that that’s the source.  That’s what informs it.  That’s what provides it, that’s what instructs it, that’s it’s, it’s got everything.  

So is it also according to his promises?  Like, God, you said you’d do this and so here it is in your Word, according to the word you’ve already given.  Sure that can be in there too.  But I don’t get the sense that he’s necessarily, that it’s, it’s, it’s like a, it’s like a pressure play put on God to, not the, not the word.

Audience: I think of desperation, like if you’re in a desperate frame of mind and you’re like, or like especially in maybe David’s situation, he’s not gonna be even confident to say, “give me life Lord.”  You know, he’s going to say “give me life because you promised to do that.”  You know, not because I’m anything, there’s anything worthwhile in me.

Travis: Okay, so, so it sounds like what you’re saying, which is going to be proven through the, through the exposition here, sounds like what you’re saying is that he, he’s finding no cause within himself for God to, for God to answer his petition.  But he’s finding it within the grace of God.  We’re going to get to that.  And that’s, that’s certainly true.  But I’m just saying that in, “according to your Word,” we don’t need to limit it to, he’s only talking about the grace of God or the promises.  But he’s talking about, it’s where the power is found, where the strength is found, where the life is found, where you know, he just, he’s, of course God’s going to command that.  Of course that’s what he would promise because that’s where life comes from, so.

Audience: Wouldn’t he be applying this also in the sense of like according to God’s will?

Travis: Sure, yeah, and in as much as the will of God and the grace of God are bounded by the Word of God.  Yeah, exactly, good, okay so, okay so what I was going to, yeah, we’ve, we’ve already been talking about it because of Kristy’s question.  What makes the qualification “according to your Word” so important?  It reveals in the psalmist, I think, a humble frame of mind that he is concerned about God first.  He’s concerned about living a God centered life here, okay?  So that’s, that’s what, that’s why that qualification, “according to your Word,” is so vital here.  He’s not looking for life.  He’s not looking for liberty, for his pursuit of his own pleasures.  He’s not looking to just relieve the pressure for his own sake.  He’s looking for life and strength, all because God is at the center, all because God is at the center, okay?

So let’s look at that first major section.  And we’ll, we’ll call this, I’m going to say two sections here.  The Word of God has power to produce.  And then I’m going to give you the point, okay?  So the Word of God has power to produce firstly, life out of the dust of humiliation.  The Word of God has power to produce life out of the dust of humiliation.  Okay, so we’ll read those verses again, verses 25 to 27.  “My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your Word!  When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes!  Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.”

Okay, so as we said, breaking up these two sections, two cries for help, one in verse 25, one in verse 28.  Do verse 25, the first of these two cries.  So we can call subpoint A, verse 25, the first cry for help.  Verse 28, that subpoint is going to be called, the second cry for help.  Very creative, I know.  But, so, subpoint A, first cry for help, verse 25.  And his first cry for help is simply for life, life.  So you could say since he’s already breathing, we can say this is a cry for revival.  It’s a cry for spiritual energy, spiritual vitality.

And we’ve already identified the three points of this general petition.  The situation, “my soul is clinging to the dust.”  I’m, I am basically a dead man.  I’m clinging to the dust and I’m humiliated.  Give me life, that’s a petition.  According to your Word, that’s a qualification.  So the picture of this psalmist here, clinging to the dust, is a picture of abject humiliation.  You can, you can trace the word dust in the Old Testament and see that it often refers to this sense of shame and humiliation.  It is, what we come from is dust, so naturally we come from dust.  Genesis 3:19, you’re dust, God said, and to dust you shall return.  So he’s identifying the material nature of his origin, reminding him of his creatureliness there.  

Abraham said, Genesis 18:27, “I’ve undertaken to speak to the Lord, but I who am dust of ashes.”  So it’s a, it’s a reminder of our own humble beginnings.  But when something shameful or sorrowful happened.  Remember how the Old Testament response is to put on sackcloth and then throw dust on the head, right?  Isn’t that kind of weird?  Well, no, it’s actually a perfect picture of what’s going on.  Not just identifying their humility, but their humiliation, that they are lower than the dust.  So rather than burying themselves in a hole, they just figuratively, symbolically put dust on the head and say, look, I’m, I’m just buried under this, under this, buried under the earth.  They’re lower than the dust.

Joshua did that at the defeat of Ai.  Job did that in his disgrace.  He said in Job, Job chapter 2, put dust on his head, and then Job 30 verse 9, 19, he said, God has cast me into the mire and I have become like dust and ashes.  So the dust becomes a symbol in the Old Testament of reproach of, of personal shame and humiliation.  And from this vantage point where the psalmist is, clinging to the dust, he doesn’t see a way forward.  Because that’s kind of what one of you guys were saying over here.

Delitzsch puts it this way, his soul is fixed to the dust.  That that verb there is dabaq.  It’s the same verb used in Genesis 2:24, translated there is cleave, the, the man and his wife will cleave to one another.  That’s the same verb here.  So his soul is cleaving to, fixed on and fixed to and, and clinging to dust.  So it means the psalmist here feels completely incapable in his own strength and power of raising himself up, extracting himself from this situation, this ignominy, a shame and humiliation.  More to the point, he’s incapable of reviving himself.  He prays, “give me life.”  And that’s the verb chayah. It’s, we, the, scholars think that that’s where the divine name Yahweh comes from is this verb chayah, the verb for live or life.  

So it refers to divine life, spiritual life, which you know the, the life of God.  When, when it’s imparted into somebody, it brings salvation, then it leads to sanctification.  So I don’t know if you’ve ever felt this in your life, felt that you’ve been at such a low ebb of spiritual life that you completely lack all motivation, all power, all joy, all.  I mean, you’re, you’re down and depressed and you feel like you have no spiritual energy whatsoever.  Have you ever felt that way?  Because I certainly have.  You guys have.  So what, what leads to that kind of a condition of weakness?  I think sometimes chronic sickness can do that.

Audience: Being out of God’s Word.

Travis: Man, perfect.  You jumped right to the end, but that’s, that’s exactly, she said, being out of God’s Word.  You do that for a while and all of a sudden you’re like parched earth.  You got, you ever go out to the desert and you see just it’s like, it’s like the all the water’s been sucked out.  It hasn’t rained there in like years, cracks everywhere.  That’s how your soul feels.  And you that’s because of being out of God’s Word.  You can, if you’re in God’s word and you go through chronic sickness, life, strength, vitality.  Out of God’s Word, even getting a bonus at work doesn’t matter.

Audience: I’m even thinking at times it’s, as I’m reading this, I’m thinking this is God’s faithfulness as well.  Because if he wasn’t doing this in the life of the psalmist here, would the psalmist even be aware of just, his shortcomings and how desperate he really needs to cling to God’s Word?

Travis: I think if you asked him before the trial, he’s like, I know my shortcomings.  I’m good, I don’t need trial.  But the Lord said, no I, I think you need to know just a little more, you know?  And so, yeah, I think you’re right, exactly right.  It shows the faithfulness of God, because when God takes us down to the dust, he then builds us back, back up from it, doesn’t he?  And that’s what we’re going to see, see here.

So the psalmist in this petition, he seeks the life of God.  And he knows that the life of God is found in the written Word of God.  That’s why he says, “according to your Word.”  So he’s consciously isolating his focus here to scripture.  Not to inform, you know, he doesn’t pray this in this general petition, verse 25, to inform God of anything.  That’s not why he’s praying it, but he’s preaching to himself.  And I would recommend that as a common practice for you, okay?  Talk to yourself, it’s okay.  But preach to yourself the Word of God.  Inform yourself.  And that’s what he’s doing here.  He’s not informing God of anything.  To do this, “according to your Word,” he’s reminding himself.  He’s looking for the kind of life that conforms to God’s word, comes through his Word, by the Spirit of God.  So out of that first cry for help, verse 25, basic petition, “give me life.”  But notice the structure in verses 26 to 27 as the psalmist then goes from a general petition now to getting more specific, okay?  

So you can call this subpoint B, the way from dead dust to fruitful life.  It goes from dead dust to fruitful life.  And here’s the way, verses 26 to 27.  Verses 26 and 27, there is a chiastic structure here.  And if you’re not familiar with a chiastic structure, it’s basically chi, it’s the Greek letter, chi is like an X, okay?  So you take this top portion of the X and the bottom portion of the X, and the two, the opening stanza and the final stanza are parallel to one another.  And then as you kind of come interior to the middle sections, those are parallel.  And sometimes you have a large chiasm that’ll have a lot of different stanza or verses forming down here, and it’s what’s at the center that is receiving the emphasis.  It’s not to say that everything else is less important, unimportant.  It’s just saying there’s an emphasis there.

So you notice in verses 26 and 27, the emphasis in this chiasm is the life-giving power of God’s Word, because that’s what’s at the heart of this structure.  “When I told of my ways, you answered me.”  That’s on the outside.  And then the other one is, “I will meditate on your wondrous works.”  But notice the two middle stanzas.  “Teach me your statutes!  Make me understand the way of your precepts,” okay?  So at the heart of these more specific petitions here is an appeal for the teaching ministry of God.  He is longing for God’s teaching ministry, illumination, but also understanding.  So teach me, make me understand.  

What does that, what does that tell you?  We don’t understand on our own.  We, we need God to not only reveal his Word, but then to teach his Word.  We are completely dependent on God and even more so when we see, coming to God’s Word it is, being the scholar is not the point, the scholarship.  When in a good heart a man who really is focused on, on driving after God, all the scholarship does is help to get you to clarity on some things.  But, really it’s the heart is teach me, make me understand because I am completely dependent on you.  

Notice the migration in this, these couple of verses from his own thoughts to a more God-centered perspective.  He starts by recounting his own ways to God, verse 26.  And then God graciously answers him through the Word.  That, that “when I told of my ways,” is that part there that could, some people think that’s, Spurgeon takes it this way as to, it’s completely about confession of sin, okay?  I, it could include that, but the word is actually broader.  So it’s acknowledging a fault.  Yes, confession of sin, sure, that’s healthy practice before God.  But this word is so far broader.  It’s a broader word, it means to recount.  So it extends to a statement of, of, as one commentator said, “a statement of his cares, anxieties and affairs in general.”  

So it’s not just the sin, but it’s also the thinking.  It’s the plans.  It’s the things I’m worried about or concerned about, my future, all of that.  He’s, this is what he’s doing is, he’s when I told him my ways, he’s, he’s recalling his history of his relationship with God.  That’s what he’s doing.  So when he recalls that history of his relationship and his dealings with God, “I told him my ways, you answered me,” you know he’s, that’s a relationship.  You love me.  I poured out my heart to you.  Whether it was confession, whether it was lament, whether it was petition, whether it was joy, thanksgiving, whatever it was, you answered me. 

So that, that relationship then feeds this desire to learn even more, leave aside his own ways in order to understand God’s way.  So teach me, make me understand.  And learning about God from God, learning the statutes God’s revealed, seeing them worked out through God’s ways recorded in Scripture.  All of that guarantees an outcome of life-giving worship.  So this, verses 26 to 27 there, those two verses kind of, kind of reveal, that breaks down there to a three-step process for finding our way out of the dust.  

So when you, when you sense in yourself, man, I’ve got no spiritual motivation or life to me at all right now.  I don’t want to pick up my Bible.  I don’t really want to pray.  I don’t want to go to church.  I don’t want to be around believers.  I’m just not finding anything there.  What is the way out?  Well, start with that general petition, verse 25.  Pray your way through that, and then maybe walk through some steps here.  

Verse 26a, step one.  Remember God’s faithfulness in the past.  This will be like a past, present, future thing.  So remember his faithfulness in the past.  “I told of my ways, you answered me.”  It is a joy to rehearse God’s faithfulness towards us because it centers our heart and thoughts as you said Gary, on God’s goodness.  We’re not doubting his goodness.  We’re rehearsing just our own personal history and walking with the Lord.  You could even broaden that out to, as it gets in the next thing, to God’s history of God’s people.  And so that takes you into the Word.

Step two, verses 26b to 27a, okay?  So the first, last part of verse 26, first part of verse 27.  Learn God’s Word now in the present.  So, “teach me your statutes!  Make me understand the way of your precepts.”  So if remembering God’s history, faithfulness towards us, it’s kind of like preparing the soil of our hearts.  Learning God’s Word is like filling the soil with water and nutrients, fertilizing it, cultivating it.

Step three, last part of verse 27, set your goal to, for the future, to praise God for what he’s done.  In other words, look to the fruit.  Look to the fruit that’s going to come out.  “Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.”  So when I see the precepts, as I understand those things, then I see throughout Scripture how you’ve worked that out.  I see your dealings with mankind, your wondrous works.  I see your power supernaturally.  I see your providential working as well, bringing all the strands of natural things together in a mysterious way.  I am marveling at you.  That’s a fruit.  You see God’s while working in providence and providence in your own lifetime.  So worship then is the fruit that grows out of a life giving soul of a fertilized, well-watered heart.  I saw a comment there?

Audience: Yeah, I was just thinking how often have we heard it said, this is the reason we need to preach the gospel to ourselves on a daily basis, recalling God’s goodness and faithfulness.  And that seems to be what the psalmist is going through here.

Travis: I think so, yeah, I think so.  He’s returning to the power source, God, his Word, gospel.  And, and we’re going to see divine grace coming in here.  So the Word of God has power then to produce life from the dust of humiliation.  So out of dry dead dust, God is able to raise up new life, He’s able to revitalize dying souls and produce spiritual fruit.  That’s what that’s about.  That’s the first section.

The second section, similar.  Again, the of God has power to produce.  That’s the statement.  The Word of God has power to produce.  Number two, strength through the tears of sorrow.  Strength to the, through the tears of sorrow.  Again, it says verse 28 to the end, “My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your Word!  Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law!  I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me.  I cling to your testimonies, O Lord; let me not be put to shame!  I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!”

Okay, so we said there are two cries for help.  First one, verse 25, second one, verse 28.  This is the second of these two cries.  So subpoint A here, second cry for help, verse 28.  He moves beyond just the need for spiritual life and energy, and now he’s asking for that life to take shape, to be productive, to become strong and stable and steadfast.  And again, there are three points in his general petition in verse 28, as we’ve said, there’s the situation, the petition, and the qualification.  Situation, my soul, my strength.  I’m melting away because of sorrow.  

Petition, strengthen me.  It’s the, the verb is qum, means to stand and it’s in a pi`el stem, which is an intensified form.  So cause to stand, that is put me on my feet or edify me, strengthen me, make me stand and be strong, okay?  And then the qualification once again, is according to your Word.  

So the imagery there, it really does paint a picture of transformation, going from, you might say, in, in physical term, or physics terms, going from a liquid to a solid.  You see that?  He’s been melting away, sobbing, weeping, as if his strength has been draining out of his body with every single tear that he sheds.  And there’s a place where David talks about, “I drench my pillow with tears.”  I don’t know if any of you have sobbed that way, but I think, I think every Christian has.  

Now he’s asking God to strengthen him.  So it turned me from that liquid where I’m spilled out all over the place.  Make me a solid.  Make me stand firm, stand strong like a, like a solid rock.  Again, not apart from the solid rock of God’s Word.  Do it according to your Word.  

So, from this second cry for help in verse 28, this basic petition, strengthen me.  Out of that then flows a structure in verses 29 to 32.  The psalmist gets more specific.  Subpoint B, the way forward from sorrow to strength, verses 29-32.  And once again, the way I see it anyway, there is a chiastic pattern here to these verses to, the chiastic, like that X pattern again to go and organize the structure of the thoughts here.  So notice, “Put false ways far from me, graciously teach me your law!”  That’s one point on the top of the X.  Down at the bottom of the X is there at the end, “Let me not be put to shame!  I will run the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!”

So you got the, “false ways” and the, “let me not be put to shame,” which are negative.  And then you’ve got, “graciously teach me your law” and then, “God’s grace to enlarge his heart so he can run his commandments.”  You got those two things at the top and the bottom.  As you go interior, you’ve got his affirmations, his resolves, his resolutions, right?  “I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me.  I cling to your testimonies,” okay?

The verses on the outside, verse 29 at the start and then verses 31b to 32 at the end.  The subject of those verses is an appeal to the grace of God.  The psalmist expresses his humble dependence on God, not only to keep him out of trouble negatively, but also positively for advancement and strength, power, might, according to God’s Word.  He prays a negative petition in Psalm 29a, “Put false ways far from me,” and then another negative petition in verse 31b, “Let me not be put to shame.”  Those two things are parallel.  So keep, keep him from false, deceptive, spiritually debilitating ways.  Ways of living that lead to shame. The psalmist here is utterly dependent on the grace of God for even that, okay?

Then his petitions swing positive in the second half of each verse.  Verse 20, 29b, “Graciously teach me your law.”  And then verse 32, “I will run in the, in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!”  So he’s dependent on God’s grace for positive advancement as well.  Gracious teaching and then God’s mysterious work in the heart.  Embedded in those petitions for divine grace, so starting and ending with divine grace, okay?  It’s like bread on a sandwich.  What’s in the middle?  What’s the meat in the middle?  What’s the emphasis that he’s trying to provide here?  Personal responsibility.

Verse 29, he’s got fundamental dependence on the grace of God.  Verses 31b to 32 recognizes continual dependence on the grace of God.  So fundamental dependence, continual dependence, grace of God, yes.  Even though he is fundamentally dependent on the grace of God, even though he’s continually dependent on the grace of God.  Look, we get this.  We’re all, we all agree in the sovereignty of God and salvation, and we believe in the divine initiative and in saving us.  Yes, yes, yes, yes.  But he can still see his personal responsibility for practical obedience to God’s Word.  And that is what verses 30 to 31a are about.  “I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me.  I cling to your testimonies, O Lord.”

Okay?  Another three-step process here for growing out of sorrow and into strength.  Step one, verse 30, verse, verse 30a, the first part of verse 30, you might say, remember past resolve.  “I have chosen.”  That’s referring to the past.  “I have chosen,” it’s perfect tense.  So you say something that was done in the past with continuing results into the present, takes us in the future.  “I have chosen the way of faithfulness.”  Again, we already saw the psalmist recognizes and honors the priority of divine grace.  And then he turn, he returns to that initial commitment of his heart, the decision of his will.  It was the first fruits of divine grace.  

So he’s not negating divine grace here.  He’s just saying that first you were gracious to me.  But out of that I made a commitment.  I made a decision.  “I have chosen the way of faithfulness.”  It is in contradistinction to the false ways.  “I have chosen the way of faithfulness.”  So no matter, listen it, Christian, no matter how much you fail, no matter how much you falter, the truth about us, all of us as believers, is that we long to walk faithfully in God’s ways.  

Take a believer on his worst day, and you get him down, and you press him down, put your foot on him, on his neck if you have to, and say you tell me the truth.  Do you long for faithfulness or unfaithfulness?  And the core of his being, in the core of every single believer’s heart is the desire to walk faithfully before the Lord.  That’s just, that’s just part of the new nature.  It’s part of divine, what divine grace produces in us.  So remember past resolve.  Go back to what you really are as a Christian.  What is your identity in Christ?  What is your true nature?  Is it the world’s nature or is it truly a Christian nature?  Step, that’s step one.

Step two, second part of verse 30.  Return to God’s Word in the present.  “I set your rules before me.”  Similar to previous step two, right?  Here the imagery is setting God’s rules or his judgments in front of our eyes, okay?  So it’s kind of like, I don’t know if anybody here has plowed a field, I certainly have not.  But I know that those, these days it’s done by GPS.  But they still set a marker out there and, and the tractor will plow, right, a straight furrow, right for that marker.  Whether it’s done through a signal from a satellite, or whether it’s done by putting a bag at the end of the field and plowing that tractor right toward that bag.  

This is what he does with God’s rules.  He puts God’s rules, God’s judgments, in front of his eyes.  So that judgment is the guidepost that he aims at.  It’s the North Star in his life by which he navigates.  And this whole thing implies humble submission, eager obedience, steadfast obedience.

Step three, so we said step one, remember past resolve.  Step two, return to God’s Word in the present.  Step three, verse 31a, resolve for the future to hold fast to God’s testimony of, of the truth.  He says, “I cling to your testimonies, O Lord.”  

Hear a lot of talk these days about personalized versions of truth, right?  Your truth, my truth.  Look Christians, we only care for one perspective.  What is God’s truth?  I don’t care about your truth, her truth, his truth, their truth, zen truth or what, I don’t know what you call it, zay.  What’s the, what are the personal pronouns?  Zur?  Zur’s another one, yep.

Audience: Just make one up, it’s probably one.

Travis: Zur’s truth.  Don’t care about Google truth, don’t care about Alexa truth.  We care about God’s point of view, his Word, his take, his viewpoint.  And again, don’t miss the significance of the imagery here.  By the power of God’s Word, the psalmist has been enabled to stand up, okay?  When once his soul clung to the dust, he was hobbled by grief and sorrow.  But it was God’s Word that rejuvenated him and motivated him to a godly resolve so he could even return to these resolutions, okay?  

No longer now clinging to the dust.  Now verse 31, he’s clinging to God’s Word.  I think it was Maggie that pointed out the two uses of the word cling.  First, it’s cling to the dust. Now he’s being lifted up to divine heights, to cling to the testimonies of God.  So the psalmist, because of that, is now enabled not only to stand, but to run.  He’s able to run.  Delitzsch puts it this way, “He runs and is, walks vigorously and cheerfully in the way of God’s commandments, for He has widened his heart by granting and preserving, preserving to the persecuted one, the joyfulness of confession and the confidence of hope.”  

Okay, just a few minutes left here.  I want to make a make a point here.  The, the psalmist prayed general prayers, right, in verse 25 and 28, and then he became more specific in the verses that followed to kind of unpack those general prayers.  So I want to talk about that because that pattern is very instructive and helpful for us as Christians.  Someone illustrate the difference to me, it can’t be one of my children, anybody related to me.  But illustrate the difference between a statement that is general and abstract versus one that is concrete or specific and concrete.  So what’s a general abstract statement?  And then what is a specific and concrete statement?  Illustrate the difference.

Audience: General statement, I like your dessert.

Travis: General statement, I like your dessert.  What would be the concrete, specific?

Audience: Ice cream and cookies with strawberries on top of chocolate is very tasty.

Travis: Excellent Gary, very well done.  It is a gift.  It is a gift, to do things well or to think about food?

Audience: Think about food.

Travis: Think about food.  So, but do you see, you see you just talking dessert.  You can even broaden out the abstract to, yeah, nutrition or lack of nutrition or whatever you can.  But then you get very specific and start talking about ice cream, strawberry sauce, little chocolate on there.  So you start painting the mental picture, right?  So in, I always use with my kids I, I talk about, you know they, they try to use very general, not all, so sorry Nic.  But, but, but speaking in general, you know nonspecific terms, abstract terms is like speaking about transportation.  And getting specific and concrete is talking about a red 1976 Corvette Stingray.  So you can picture the one.  Transportation, vague, are we talking about steamships?  Are we talking about windmill or you know Zeppelin’s or whatever, so.

So in his distress, as we said, the psalmist is at first, he’s only able to pray in generalities.  My, the situation, “my soul clings to the dust.”  “My soul melts away with sorrow.”  He gives a petition.  Give me strength, “Give me life.”  Qualification, “According to your Word,” right?  So he’s just, he just getting to the bottom line.  That is often how it is when we go through a trial.  When we suffer affliction, when we experience sinful failure and face the consequences, our immediate impulse to prayer is a good one.  But, we’re often not clearheaded enough to go any further.  

When the Psalmist got more specific, like when he wrote this.  He started with transportation but immediately found his way to the red Corvette in, in applying this.  It’s such an important and yet such a neglected step in our thinking, in our prayers, in our conversation.  Why is specificity in the outworking of our sanctification, in the outworking of our prayer, in our conversation with one another, why is specificity, concreteness so needful to our sanctification?

Audience: Are your kids allowed to answer?

Travis: Yeah, sure.

Audience: You don’t, nothing will happen, if you don’t get specific, nothing will change.

Travis: Well, why will nothing change?  Would it not be enough for him to write verse 25, verse 28 and then leave blank spaces in between?  Would nothing change?

Audience: Well, even in like, we see this even in like, you know, Bill talks about your, I can, I can never remember the words he uses, but your confessional and professional, practical, but confessional and functional, functional.  Yeah, there we go.  Confessional and functional theology and you disconnect that there’s a drop in that’s between them.  And it’s because you don’t take the general theology that you know from Scripture and apply it to specific decisions and actions in your life.

Travis: Good, okay, so what happens to a Christian who always prays and speaks and thinks and talks in general and abstract terms?

Audience: Stagnate

Travis: Stagnation.  What does it demonstrate about a Christian that never gets specific?

Audience: Shallow

Travis: Shallowness?  It could be, yeah, Dori?

Audience: Question, sometimes I don’t get specific with my prayers because I, I, I don’t want to presume to think I know what the answer is, how he’s going to answer that.  You know, just pray generally and then kind of be willing to accept his answer in how God chooses to answer it, rather than being specific like telling God what I think the answer should be.  More about with regards to your sin.

Travis: So talking about sin and sanctification, that may be a different form of prayer.

Audience: Okay, but being specific about being in God’s Word in order to give you strength in life that

Travis: Right.  So let’s say, you know there are people here who work, you know, and they, it’s, here’s the difference between it’s kind of what you’re describing.  Where I think you’re, that is a good impulse.  So Father, I want that job, that promotion and I want it tomorrow.  That’s very specific.  Maybe praying, God, let me please you in all my activity and please give me favor between God and man.  And let the Lord work out how, how that works out.

Audience: Would you call that specific?

Travis: I would call that, I would call that general and abstract, okay?  Here’s the specific one is I want that job, I want this salary, I want it tomorrow.  That’s specific.  That’s concrete.

Audience: And inappropriate.

Travis: And, and could be inappropriate.  I’m just, I’m not going to condemn everybody who’s praying for that particular thing.  But, but I see what you’re saying about being more, more abstract in general.  God give me, let me please you in my work.  Let me, give me favor, give me, bless me, okay?  Blessing may mean you get demoted and stuck over here, right?  Could, could mean you get stuck into a worse position, why?  Because, it’s not about that salary.  It’s about that person you needed to talk to about the gospel, or it’s about that thing you need to learn because you’ve been a knucklehead for far too long in this area in your life.  And so we’re going to humble you, you know, so the Lord knows, that’s right.

But what Melinda said is, is what is going on here is praying specific areas of sanctification.  So we’re talking about the realm of sanctification and our growth, our need in these areas.  When we stay general, we’re trying to shoot a general target.  It’s like, it’s like going to war with Russia.  We’re going to war with Russia.  And I just, Russia’s that way. Alright, give me that gun.  Boom, boom, boom, boom.  I started, just start shooting toward Russia.  I’m shooting east, am I shooting east?

Audience: You’re shooting north.  That’s close.

Travis: I’m shooting east.  So I shoot east.  Well, I’m going over the, I’m going up and over the, thank you, that’s what I was trying to say.  If I shot the other way I’d say, well I’m going around the, you know, anyway, but all I’m trying to say is if I’m shooting right I, I need to actually go and see Russians, you know?  And, and go fight soldiers and, and have, have a target in front of me rather than shooting just a general, in a general direction.

So it’s the same thing in our spiritual lives.  It’s the same thing in our conversations.  Same thing in our prayer life.  It is good to pray these general petitions, but then you got to unpack it.  You’ve got to unpack it and get very specific, okay?  Oh, man, I got more notes.  All right, well listen, what I want to, what I want to close with is, I’m going to leave you with a quote from Calvin.  So you got to, got to listen to this.

Though we are dust, and at times we cling to the dust.  Though we, though we melt away at times with tears and find no strength.  We, when we turn to the Lord and cling to him, we find that we are lifted out of the dust and we cling where we ought to cling, our, our, our God is in the heavens, not in the dust.  Now he’s, he’s not an idol that’s manufactured out of the dust.  He truly is transcendent.  And so when we cling to him, we set his perspective and his worldview as the only voice we listen to.  He not only caused us to stand, he caused us to not only walk, but to run, okay?  So though we begin in dust, and though tears had been our food night and day, by the time we get to the end of this stanza, we’re not only standing, we’re running.

John Calvin said, “No sooner does God expand their hearts than they are fitted not only for walking.”  And walking, by the way, has been the term that we’ve been seeing in all these different stanzas.  I want to walk.  I want to walk.  I want to walk.  And now we’re running.  Gone from just crouched in the dust, all of a sudden standing, and we’re off running, okay?  “So not only for walking, but also for running in the way of his commandments.  When God has once enlarged our hearts, there will be no lack of power, because along with proper affection, he will furnish ability so that our feet will be ready to run.”

We have to put our, our eyes back on him, even in our, and especially, I should say, at our lowest ebb.  Because we’re never going to find help in ourselves.  We’re certainly not going to find help in other people.  Because if we don’t know sometimes the confusion of our own hearts and minds and thoughts, how are we going to get somebody else to come into that and communicate all that stuff?  Only God knows it, only God can lift you up and he will.  He wants to do that.  And sometimes you’re, I mean, you are at that low ebb for precisely that reason, so that he can lift you up, give you motivation, give you joy, give you strength.  Because he wants to show his faithfulness in your life.

Let’s pray.  Father, thank you so much, well, just for that fact that you are faithful.  You are faithful to your, your good character, your good nature, your good, the, you are the essence of goodness.  And we are so thankful to belong to you because of Christ.  We thank you for his sacrifice in the cross to forgive us of all of our sins to pay the penalty that we justly deserved.  Because we’ve committed so many evil things against you, whether thought, word, or deed, since of omission, commission.

Father, we, you’ve been so gracious to us, and you have drawn us near because of Christ.  You’ve united us to him, and you now accept us in him.  You’ve raised him from the dead.  You’ve seated him at your right hand bodily.  And that’s where our life is hidden, is in Christ, near you.  We know that you, whatever you bring us through, even if it’s through severe trial, public humiliation even.  Or, or, or, or just complete sorrow, sadness, grief, tragedy.  We know that you are doing, all these things come from the hand of a good and loving God, and you intend to bring us through it to demonstrate your faithfulness once again.

We pray that you would help us to trust you completely.  We know what that may mean.  It may mean some really tough times ahead.  But we will, by your grace, by your sovereign grace, will remain committed to you.  We pray that you would bring us all good and blessing and bring glory to your name.  In the name of Christ we pray, amen.