Righteous are you, O Lord,
and your laws are right.
God’s correctness, goodness and justice inevitably overflow into his spoken instructions – laws – which come from God’s heart, just as our words come from our heart. The difference is that our heart is changeable, so our words are passing, but God’s heart is faithful and unchanging, so his words are laws, permanent descriptions of what has been, is and will be.
The statutes you have laid down are righteous;
they are fully trustworthy.
All God’s past utterances are equally valuable – he does not delete – and we can reap their benefits at any time, any year, on into the future, without fearing them, knowing all of scripture is God-breathed and good for teaching, rebuking, correcting and making us holy. The laws to the Jews are like fine wines, laid down and stored, but still so good to drink. Some might strike us as old-fashioned – but consider how well they stand up, even though they were brewed for very different tastes, written by God to a people far away in time and in a very different culture. Yet these laws are only the impressions of his own speaking self – his heart – that Jesus summed up in another way – the command to love God and our neighbour without holding back.
My zeal wears me out,
for my enemies ignore your words.
It is exhausting to be zealous, and rightly so, for it should be a drawing out of the depths of ourselves, like exhaustion, seeking with a whole heart, because there are no examples in the world of righteousness and no easy answers. We cannot simply rest on our brothers’ and sisters’ abilities to find God’s way but must each go direct to God to seek him and his law for our lives. How does your unchanging character, O God, impress commands into my life and my culture and my daily life? I have seen how your law pushed into the Jews’ world – now how about mine, today? Exhausting work! Zeal is travelling, seeking, walking.
Your promises have been thoroughly tested,
and your servant loves them.
We have only good testimony of God. His utterance is tried, refined, purified, his Word was refined through the desert, his promises have no weakness or flaw: they are coherent, complete, proportionate, lovely, strong, living and have every appeal to a servant, for they are what we need – not orders but promises, principles rather than simply instructions, so we are free to act for ourselves with full conviction of purpose.
Though I am lowly and despised,
I do not forget your precepts.
No! It is exactly then, when we do not enjoy the world’s recognition, that we can be most sure of the goodness of God’s word to us. We are each lowly, despised by the worldly for having these principles, but forgetting them would be the despicable thing. We must remember through action – by continuing to enact.
Your righteousness is everlasting
and your law is true.
The eternity of God’s character and nature gives integrity to his speech: he alone can claim such a thing.
Trouble and distress have come upon me,
but your commands are my delight.
Oh joy and celebration in trouble and worry – let this be in my life, Lord, for your commands are designed for these times – whether it is difficulty from someone else or our own inconsistent confidence, we can feast on God’s word and his place in our life.
Your statutes are for ever right,
give me understanding that I may live.
They hold the key to eternal and abundant life, and oh, understanding of God’s ways is life indeed! Being changed by them is really living – a life that will continue beyond the grave. Ah, Lord God, I long to live with real understanding of your word in me, knowledge of your Son, intimately.