A commentary on Psalm 119:49-56.
“Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life. The insolent utterly deride me, but I do not turn away from your law. When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O Lord. Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your law. Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning. I remember your name in the night, O Lord, and keep your law. This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept your precepts.”
I’m a very forgetful person. My wife can attest to that fact. If I don’t write a task or important piece of information down it’ll fly away, never making an imprint on my memory. I’ve determined to not forget things, though, and I engage this by being a scrupulous user of a to-do list. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to note the psalmist’s choice of words as he begins the 7th section of his masterwork. He implores his Lord to “Remember your word to your servant.” (Ps. 119:49) It’s not like God can forget, so it’s not as if God won’t remember. God can’t forget. He can’t forget you or his promises to you. If you’re his child you are in his utmost care and part of his tenderest affection and attention.
God cares for his own and won’t forget all that he’s vowed to do for, with, and through them.
But likewise, God chooses to not remember. God’s omniscient; he knows everything at all times — past, present, and future. This is why it’s beautiful throughout Scripture when the Lord declares that he won’t remember your sins anymore. He chooses not to. Because of the blood-bought pardon of his Son, Jesus Christ, God chooses to forget the sins of those who put their faith in him. “Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back.” (Isa. 38:17) “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Isa. 43:25) “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (Ps. 103:11-12) “He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19)
All this God does because he remembers you, your plight, your desperation, and he so longs to be glorified and have his name be magnified by his masterpieces that he sends his Son to forever wipe away your sin. I like how Robert Capon puts it:
“Jesus takes all the badness down into the forgettery of his death and offers to the Father only what is held in the memory of his resurrection.” (Capon, Noon and Three)
All your sin has been thrown into the “forgettery” of the cross. And now God sees the righteousness of his Son and not the filthiness of your past. It’s this truth that the psalmist is imploring God to “remember.” Remember in the sense that he’s urging the Lord to assure him of this once again. He longs for the fulfillment of the divine promise. This word of perfect pardon and full and free forgiveness is that which the psalmist hopes in, and as determined and resolute as he is, even he forgets, even he needs reassurance of God’s Surety. All his trust is laid upon the veracity of this Word. His plea is for God to awaken his spirit and enliven his faith.
The psalmist knows that all he has is gifted to him by the Word. All his joy comes from living the Word. All his hope comes from knowing the Word. All his love comes from being in the Word. All his life comes from the Living Word. It’s this life-giving Word of Grace that the psalmist here cries unto the Father for reassurance and solace. The psalmist’s hope in affliction arises solely out of God’s Word. His resolution is to be true to God and his precepts. He vows, “I do not turn away from your law.” (Ps. 119:51) Even in the midst of derision and dissension, we can be bolstered by the Word of God to remain constant.
This determination is not a manifestation of anything internal but only because of our all-loving, all-knowing God who sees and knows everything about us. What he puts away is gone forever. You can hope in the Word of God because it promises and assures you of absolution, a full justification and free forgiveness that’s possible because what Jesus has done. Capon says elsewhere:
“[God] does not so much deal with our derelictions as he does drop them down the black hole of Jesus’ death. He forgets our sins in the darkness of the tomb. He remembers our iniquities no more in the oblivion of Jesus’ expiration. He finds us, in short, in the desert of death, not in the garden of improvement; and in the power of Jesus’ resurrection, he puts us on his shoulders rejoicing and brings us home.” (Capon, Parables of Grace, 39)
Remember this Word. Remember this forgiveness. And in calamity and chaos, you’ll be grounded in the truth that God holds nothing against you, rather, he’s for you.
Notes & References:
Robert Capon, Between Noon and Three: Romance, Law, and the Outrage of Grace (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1997).
Robert Capon, The Parables of Grace (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1996).