In the next paragraph of Psalm 119 (vv. 121-128, each beginning with the Hebrew letter Ayin), the psalmist considers his own integrity before God from a variety of angles. He appeals to God on the basis of his own integrity, he yearns for God on that same basis, he opens himself up to God, he requests God to act, and he identifies himself on the basis of his integrity. It strikes many today as inappropriate — especially if we are nurtured in Reformation theology. But, the psalmist doesn’t back down and we can learn something from him.
Are you uncomfortable with the psalmist’s disposition here?
Let me back up: what I mean by being nurtured in Reformation theology, as I was myself, is that we think of ourselves as sinners who have no claim on God. Not so the biblical characters who pray. Think of Job, think of the many psalms. It’s noticeable how convinced they are at times of their own integrity. Perhaps we can lay blame on them for thinking this. I think that would be a mistake. There is more to learn beyond the claim of integrity, but true humility is to know who we are before God. It is not pretending to be worse than we are. False humility tempts; true humility knows the truth. I think of this psalmist in the latter category.
And he appeals to God not to abandon him and not to let the arrogant oppress him because “I have done what is just and right” (119:121-122).
Notice he asserts his integrity — that he does what is right before God — and makes three petitions on that basis:
1. Do not leave me to my oppressors.
2. Ensure your servant’s well-being.
3. Do not let the arrogant oppress me.
Something should be observed: The TNIV’s “well-being” is the goal unto which the psalmist asks this protection: “for the good.” It could mean health and survival, but it is probably more comprehensive and means “so that I might do that which is good for more days.”
Still, moral integrity can be a comfort for the follower of Jesus and it can be used as a fulcrum on which we base an appeal to God to deal justly in this world.