GIMEL - A Sojourner’s Prayer
(17) Deal out good to your servant, and I will live. I will obey your word. (18) Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things from your law. (19) I am a sojourner on the earth. Do not hide your commands from me. (20) My soul is crushed with longing for your judgments at all times. (21) You rebuke the insolent who are cursed and who stray from your commands. (22) Remove from me reproach and contempt, for I keep your statutes. (23) Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servant will meditate on your decrees. (24) Your statutes are my delight. They are my counselors.
Two related words help us grasp the meaning of this stanza, words the psalmist used to describe himself: “servant” (vss. 17 & 23) and “sojourner” (vs. 19). By aligning himself with God’s Word and God’s cause, he has, in essence, alienated himself from the world and become a stranger and pilgrim for whom this hostile world provides no welcome, no resting place.
As a sojourner, he asks God to sustain him with good (vs. 17), to open his eyes to the truth (vss. 18 & 19), and to satisfy his longing heart (vs. 20). As God’s servant, he seeks divine protection from the contempt of the insolent (vss. 21 & 22) and the slanderous plotting of evil rulers (vs. 23). He closes the stanza with a reaffirmation of his confidence in God’s Word to direct his life (vs. 24).
I. A sojourner’s prayer for provision (17-20)
II. A servant’s prayer for protection (21-24)
Those who serve God by delighting in his Word look for his provision and protection in an alien, hostile world.
Our identification as sojourners is confirmed by the Apostle Peter. In his first epistle, he wrote, “Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:11 & 12). This alienation, which sounds quite negative, is the result of something overwhelmingly positive, that is, our becoming followers of Jesus Christ. Consider the statement Jesus made to his disciples in the Upper Room, just before he went to the cross: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (Jn. 15:18 & 19).
The fact that Christ chose us for himself is enough to alienate us, remove us, from belonging to a system that has always been diametrically opposed to God’s truth and God’s ways. Because of this, we need to maintain the kind of spiritual focus which the psalmist displays in this stanza so that we can stand firm for Christ while living in enemy territory. Each of these verses petitions God for strength, encouragement, and enablement, good examples of how we should express our dependence on God every day.