Do me a favor and please read Psalm 119:49-56
“Hope” is our theme here. We see it in the beginning of the text as the “word” of God is his hope; we see hope as their comfort in suffering as well as their preservation of their life; we see hope as comfort in the “ancient laws” of God; as well as a remembrance of God’s name; and finally as the author practices God’s law. For them: hope is everywhere and everything.
I’ve always struggled with the definition and understanding of hope. So often we use the word as a desire or feeling. We hope something will happen. In this case it’s a strong desire for something to take place. I can hope to eat ice cream later. This doesn’t mean I will and it doesn’t mean I won’t. It’s simply a willed hope that it takes place. In most cases, this is our definition (regardless of what we believe). But when we use hope in our relationship with God it changes. Hope, when placed in God, is also a desire or feeling but there isn’t a conversation around it happening or not happening. We don’t hope in a God that may or may not work, may or may not respond, may or may not love, may or may not teach and guide or anything else. Hope, when placed in God, is a firm statement of fact. And so the hope we have is the response we know that comes. It’s a justified feeling and not an uncertain feeling.
The psalmist declares that the word of God, which was given to them, is their hope. And why is it their hope? Because God’s word is binding and true – it’s called a “covenant” for a reason. The psalmist then declares in their suffering they are comforted, and why are they able to find comfort in their suffering? Because their hope is built on the foundation, the promise, of God. And that promise, which was given in the previous verse, is life-fulfilling. It’s life-giving – which then means it’s life-preserving. What more could one hope for than to know that in this suffering I will not die. That while this suffering is part of my life right now it will not defeat me, get the upper hand of me, but that I will make it through this suffering? And then in verses 51-53, we get comfort in the law and that regardless of the people around them they will stand firm in the law of God – which gives them comfort. A Law that tells them not only how to act and how to respond but one that also shows them the love of God and how HE acts and responds.
Clearly, in this moment, the psalmist is going through a lot and so they have paired “hope” with the things that are hard for them right now. Suffering, whatever it is, is matched with people who mock them, treat them bad, are arrogant, and just generally bad people. And yet through the assault of their peers, through the verbal (and possibly physical) assaults they are able to hold firm because their hope is in the God who restores, doesn’t abandon, and never forsakes. But what about you? Where are you right now and how does the hope of God bring you comfort?
3 QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CHEW-ON:
- What in this psalm speaks to you? Where are you drawn? Why?
- How would you define hope when it comes to our interactions with others VS the hope we have in God? Should we have a different word?
- Verses 51-53, while still hopeful and focused on doing right, we still see that there are harsh feelings that befall the psalmist in response to the harm from others. Is it OK to be “indignant” and angry all the while hopeful in a God who is in control and will deal with sin on his own?