Have you ever prayed for God to be good to you? I’m sure you have prayed that prayer for a loved one or friend, but it is an interesting way to pray for yourself. Obviously though, the psalmist has no problem with it. Listen to his heart as he prays in this third section of Psalm 119.
17 Be good to your servant while I live,
that I may obey your word.
18 Open my eyes that I may see
wonderful things in your law.
19 I am a stranger on earth;
do not hide your commands from me.
20 My soul is consumed with longing
for your laws at all times.
21 You rebuke the arrogant, who are accursed,
those who stray from your commands.
22 Remove from me their scorn 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.
I guess praying like this depends on our motivation i.e., why we want God to be good to us. Well, we do not have to go too far to understand the psalmist’s motives. His motivation is so that I may obey your word. His desire is for “God to be good to him with the result that the conditions will be right so that he can obey God’s word.” (# 30)
What follows are words of a prayer that many of us have heard many times, as well as having probably used ourselves in prayer prior to reading God’s Word – 18 Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. The psalmist “asks God to illuminate his understanding of the law.” (#30) His expectation is high. Not just to understand what God has to say to him but to see all the wonderful things that he has not understood before.
As a young believer, I remember hearing older believers say that the longer they lived and the more they studied, the more they realized just how little they understood from God’s Word. We need to have an attitude of humbly being lifelong learners. But, of course, not just hearers of God’s word but doers also, i.e., obedience!
Then listen to the psalmist’s deep desire as regards God’s wonderful law. He says, 20 My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.
So, his desire is for God to reveal his goodness to him so they he can continue to find his delight in God’s words and obey them every day. But remember, it is important to understand, is in the context of suffering, i.e., living in a world often hostile to God’s truth. He speaks of the arrogant, who are accursed, those who stray from your commands. [and asks that God] Remove from me their scorn and contempt, [these] rulers [who] sit together and slander me. (vv. 21-23)
It is no wonder he is then able to say that 24 Your statutes are my delight; they are my counsellors or as the New Living Translation puts it, they give me wise advice.
For the psalmist, “submission to the word is a recipe not for frustration, but for revival; what he finds in the law is not a cramping of one’s style, but a stretching of one’s vision… What creates problems for him and underlines his need of such a handbook, is the fact that though this really is God’s world there are plenty of people in it who do not behave as if it were.” (# 5)
Back to the psalmist’s initial request – be good to your servant, is this difficult for God to answer? Well, let the Scriptures answer for us:
Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. (Psalm 73:1)
For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. (Psalm 84:11)
… it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Phil. 2:13)
And then that wonderful promise by Jesus:
9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matt. 7:9-11)
So, take heart, God’s plan is to do good for you. Plan to obey his word as he teaches you wonderful things. Delight yourself in the Word of God, acting upon its wise counsel, to the glory of God.