Psalm 119:81-88

June 19, 2024

81 My soul fainteth for thy salvation: but I hope in thy word.

82 Mine eyes fail for thy word, saying, When wilt thou comfort me?

83 For I am become like a bottle in the smoke; yet do I not forget thy statutes.

84 How many are the days of thy servant? when wilt thou execute judgment on them that persecute me?

85 The proud have digged pits for me, which are not after thy law.

86 All thy commandments are faithful: they persecute me wrongfully; help thou me.

87 They had almost consumed me upon earth; but I forsook not thy precepts.

88 Quicken me after thy lovingkindness; so shall I keep the testimony of thy mouth.

The Point: 

As we are more aware of our deep spiritual and emotional needs, we hang on with more tenacity than ever to the truths of God’s Word. 

How do we feel in the recitation of this Psalm? 

Sometimes we find ourselves spiritually emptied. Faith languishes. Hope fades. Our minds are so filled with consternation, doubt, conflicting thoughts, and emotional pain that we can hardly see straight. Whatever spiritual life that may have existed in us seems to be withering away. More than ever, we are aware of our need for God’s salvation. There is only one thing to do, and that is to hang on for dear life to the words found in Scripture. 

What does this Psalm say? 

Verses 81-83. 

We are a needy people.  In an honest moment, all of us would have to say with the psalmist that we fade away as quickly as the grass of the field wilts (Psalm 103). We are emotionally fragile, easily deceived, and hopelessly lost in sin, unless God chooses to intervene.  At any point in time, we are a minute away from a nervous breakdown and ten minutes away from going insane but that God sustains our minds and gives us some clarity of thought.  Sometimes, we have so little spiritual strength and faith, that we can barely squeak out a cry, “Oh God, save me!” As we do this, we still cling to hope in the truths of Scripture; that there is a God, that He is good, and that He has provided a way of salvation as He has promised us in His Word. 

Doubts fly everywhere.  We doubt our own minds.  We doubt our interpretation of the Word.  We doubt our own faith.  Sometimes, portions of the Word of God become blurry and indistinct in our mind’s eye.  The Word doesn’t always provide the comfort we would like in the flurry of life’s trials and temptations. Yet, still we doggedly hold to the basics of God’s Word through it all. When the North Korean communists destroyed all Bibles and persecuted practically every Christian in the land, the last few remaining Christians held on to several things that they remembered from what they had heard from their grandparents.  Even husbands and wives would not trust each other enough to speak of certain “biblical” things.  Nevertheless, some families continued to rehearse the very simple principles of the Ten Commandments and the forgiveness of God, generation after generation.  That the simple things were enough to sustain the faith is evident from the testimonies of Mr. and Mrs. Bae and others who suffered under the North Korean communists. 

Verses 84-87. 

These verses indicate a discouragement in the soul of our Psalmist.  He seems a little weary of the unrelenting opposition he receives from those who do not love God’s law.  In an honest moment, most unbelievers would admit that they do not like the idea of God having a law, and they would take umbrage with many specific commands He has laid down in the Word. Their hatred of believers is not aligned with the principles of God’s law.  They may accuse the believer of hypocrisy, but they have no true commitment to the ethical basis by which to judge hypocrisy (which must be the law of God). Should the unbeliever point out hypocrisy in the life of the believer, the true believer would thank him for it and tell him that he is committed to rooting out all of that hypocrisy.  Of course, this means nothing to the proud unbeliever, who himself is looking for excuses and rationalism for his own sin.  

When a Christian teacher tried to encourage a student (who happened to be a professing believer) to repent of her public sin of fornication at a public school, she did her best to get him fired from his teaching position. She pointed out to the administration the man’s attempt to share the Gospel in the public school, an act which  usually results in some form of persecution in the present post-Christian environment. This pride and treachery on the part of apostates is not unusual in our day. At times, it seems as if Christians are almost consumed from off the earth as the Psalmist points out in verse 87. It is rare to find somebody standing strong in faith within the public school or the workplace today. Those who take a moral stand will usually feel like they are in the extreme minority.  They may be tempted to compromise a little here and a little there in the pagan workplace or the company parties.  They may lose multiple jobs over a period of time until they are working in some no-account position in the warehouse of a furniture store.  Through it all, however, they will stay true to God’s Word.  Come what may, they refuse to compromise in order to receive a better position in the company. 

Verse 88. 

All true spiritual life begins with God. By nature, we are dead spiritually and we need God’s “quickening” work in our lives, that we might do the will of God and walk in His ways.  The believer is intimately aware of this fact while the unbeliever is unaware of his own deadness, let alone his need for quickening (Eph. 2:1-3). When Jesus came upon Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter lying dead, he had compassion on these poor dead people and raised them to life.  Spiritually, we were the walking dead before Jesus gave us life.  With this life came a new- found sensitivity to His Word and the motivation and ability to keep His testimonies. 

How do we apply this Psalm to our lives? 

When persecution and trials come hard, too many give way to temptations to sin, in hopes that this might relieve the pressure on them.  But the Christian must learn not to give way to these temptations. Giving in to temptations will only further exacerbate his problems, so he must continue to hold strongly to God’s statutes through it all.  

How does this Psalm teach us to worship God? 

Repetition and reminders in worship are not a bad thing.  Perhaps your pastor has mentioned the same promise or the same principle from God’s Word a hundred times.  Are you tired of these reminders, or are these opportunities for you to tighten your grip on the things that you believe.  To remember some principle and to rediscover its relevance to your life is to deepen your convictions and confidence in the Word.  Besides, we are constantly forgetting these principles, unless we bring them back into focus again and again. 


1. How would you describe the human being in the words of the Psalmist? 

2. What shall we do when doubts overwhelm us? 

3. How are the proud described in verse 85? 

4. What did Jesus do when he came to Jairus’ daughter? What does this say about Jesus Christ? 

5. What sort of complaints does the Psalmist make to God concerning the persecution he faces? 

Family Discussion Questions: 

1. What are basic truths you would hold on to strongly if the civil authorities confiscated all of the Bibles in the land? 

2. How do you respond to persecution?