Do me a favor and please read Psalm 119:81-88
I am not a patient person by any stretch of the word. I never have been. Just ask my wife or my sister or parents. Not only am I impatient when I see something and I want to buy it but I’m not the most patient as I wait around for things either – and our psalmist seems to be in the same boat as me. Their soul “faints” as they look and do not find God’s salvation (81). Their eyes fail as they look but do not find his promise (82). So they begin asking, “how long?” (84). Their enemies prosper and yet God’s actions, his promise, his salvation, still does not go forth. If it were me, and it’s probably good that it’s not here, I would have acted. I would have responded. I would have taken matters into my own hand. But the psalmist doesn’t. It’s as if they are holding by a thread as they wait for God to act – and while impatient – they wait.
These images given to us by the psalmist are painfully beautiful. A soul that longs for salvation is an image that is similar to Psalm 42 where the author describes that their soul pants for God like a deer to streams of water. Eyes that “fail” can be eyes that are going blind or so focused on one thing that that their begging to get blurry. To be like a “wineskin in the smoke” means that they are becoming shriveled and dried up. And through it all they feel that all that is happening to them is unjustified for they are “persecuted without cause.” And so their question is valid: Where are you God? How long must I wait for you? All that is happening is unjust, invalid, and contrary to who you are so where are you? The struggle? The struggle is that God’s law states one thing and the psalmist knows that to be against the Law is a violation of not only God’s word but who he is. And they know that God will deal with all those who corrupt his law, his word, and his nature. So when that happens they expect God to work, to step in, and do something about it. And yet here they wait…and wait…and wait…and nothing is happening. Scratch thing. THINGS are happening – but it’s not God’s actions that are taking place. The arrogant and the evil, the ones who are abusing God’s nature, THEY are doing things.
The psalmist’s issues are our issues still to this day. We see the arrogant, the proud, the self-loving prosper while the loving, kind, and God-fearing people seem to get stepped on – and it doesn’t make sense. If God’s ways are true and right and we do them – shouldn’t WE be the ones advancing? Shouldn’t WE be the ones getting the better job, more money, and better lives? Shouldn’t it be the wicked and proud who struggle and can’t seem to make it work? Don’t get me wrong sometimes it works the way we think it should – but it sure seems like more often then not it doesn’t. But what’s striking is the psalmist isn’t asking God to punish. The psalmist isn’t asking God to make THEM prosper and bring others low. They just want to be comforted – and in the end they are.
What’s really beautiful, and I almost missed it, is that as we look through these 8 verses what we get are human failings and God’s unfailingness (it’s not a word – but it works). Human souls fail (81). Eyes and thoughts fail (82). Bodies fail (83). Patience fail (84). Humans fail at holding to the word of God (85). God’s command does NOT fail (86). Life fails (87). God’s unfailing love DOES NOT fail (88). The psalmist, as they take stock of all that is going on around them, all that they are feeling and doing, they recognize the failure of their own life and yet the unfailing hope coming from God. That while they struggle they know God’s unfailing word, love, and promise, will save them, preserve them, and hold them fast. And why? Because humans are broken and God is not. Because God’s love is true and good and it will never fail.
The struggle we have, throughout most of our lives, is that we are faced with not only brokenness (ours and this worlds) but a realization that we simply can’t. We cannot do things on our own, we cannot accomplish most things on our own, and we cannot work against many things that harm us. The fact that 99% of the things in this world are outside of our control is frustrating – and yet I’m not sure what I would do without the truth and comfort that it’s all within God’s control. And that while I don’t know WHEN he’s moving I am at peace knowing that he WILL and already HAS moved. I may be impatient while I wait and I may get grumpy but I hold to, as the psalmist does, that while all that I do fails – God does not. And that my life may hang by a thread but God’s work, love, and strength is mightier than the thread that holds me together. And in the end we know that our salvation, unfailing love, and promises are all held firmly in the One who gives us salvation. Whose unfailing love went to the cross and died upon it. And whose promise said that regardless of who or where you’ve been – paradise awaits you.
3 QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CHEW-ON:
- What in this psalm speaks to you? Where are you drawn? Why?
- How do you move past impatience while you wait for God?
- How do you reconcile the truth that we see evil prosper and goodness fail in this world?