The Word of Hope: Psalm CXIX Part 4
A commentary on Psalm 119:25–32.
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!
One word that has surely been hijacked and diluted from its original meaning is the word “hope.” Nowadays, when one says they “hope so,” it’s usually said without any real certainty that said thing will occur. It’s more of a wishing and a dreaming of it to happen. For instance, when your favorite sports team is about to play in a big game, we casually say, “I hope my team wins”; but often that hope is just wish, a wanting of a particular outcome to materialize for your greater good. This is vastly different, however, from biblical hope, which is not really a “hope so,” as we understand the terms, but in actuality a “know so”: a confident expectation that said outcome will transpire.
It is with this mindset that we must approach the Word of God and such verses as Romans 5:2: “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” — which is a divine promise that the Son of God, Jesus Christ, grants boldness and grace by faith in him and hope in his glory and divinity. Hoping in Christ is laying your life upon something that’s sure and definite. Even here in our text, where the psalmist cries out, “My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word” (Ps. 119:25), he’s depending fully upon the Lord to raise him from the dead by the Word — hoping in God.
A Living, Breathing Hope
The hope of a Christian is an assured anticipation that what Jesus said was true and will come about. It’s a knowledge of the veracity of God’s character and the truth of his Son that produces a faith and belief in him, in which we now wait with hopeful exuberance. The hope of a Christ-follower is in the joy of knowing that everything’s settled, the work has been done, that “it is finished.” As John Angell James has said, “None can be lost who place themselves on that foundation, which God himself has laid.” (41) Hoping in the foundation which has been established by Christ is trusting in a solid, sure, eternal foundation, strong enough to weather the fiercest blasts from the enemy, comfort enough to console all who seek refuge there, generous enough to approve and accept all who run to it with the knowledge of themselves and the hope of Jesus’s grace.
You see, apart from the Word of God we have no hope. The Word of God imparts life by the Spirit of God telling us the good news of the Son of God. This is especially true because the Word of God is a living book. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) God’s Word isn’t filled with cold, lifeless doctrines and facts that are merely to be read and memorized as repetitive creeds. No, it’s filled with the very Voice of God.
God did not write a book and sent it by messenger to be read at a distance by unaided minds. He spoke a Book and lives in his spoken words, constantly speaking his words and causing the power of them to persist across the years . . . It is more than a thing, it is a voice, a word, the very Word of the living God. (Tozer, 61, 66)
The Circularity of Hope
This Word of God is alive and it gives life and hope to those who are dead. “My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!” (Ps. 119:28) Likewise, “if the Bible is not a revelation from God, if it can’t be trusted to tell us who God is and what he has done, then we have no hope to be saved.” (Wittmer, 65) The psalmist, here, is praying for hope. He’s hoping in the Lord to continue to reassure his hope as he prays for hope. This is the circularity of the believer, as we trust in God to give us the faith to trust in him more.
What we all must realize is that our hope in God is not in vain, it’s not baseless or founded upon something unsure or fragile. On the contrary. Our hope is found in the blood of Jesus and the righteousness and forgiveness he gives freely to all who come to him in repentance and faith. It’s forever secured in the work of the Son, so that the child of God is never without hope and confidence in the world. “The life of the child of God [is] but a continuous experience of the truth of his Word, and the veracity of his promises.” (Winslow, Day 31) That’s your life and mine, Christian, hoping in the Word of Jesus’s grace and believing in the promises of the Word of God.
John Angell James, Christian Hope (London: Hamilton, Adams, & Co., 1858).
A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Whitakers, NC: Positive Action For Christ, 2007).
Octavius Winslow, Thus Saith the Lord: Words of Divine Love (London: John F. Shaw & Co., 1872).
Michael Wittmer, Despite Doubt: Embracing a Confident Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House, 2013).