i have done what is just and right; do not leave me to my oppressors. give your servant a pledge of good; let not the insolent oppress me. [psalm 119:121-122]
how do we know when we are doing the will of God? when we are walking rightly with God?
when we know God. we know that david was “a man after God’s own heart” [1 samuel 13:14, acts 13:22]. we don’t know if it was david who wrote psalm 119, but the psalmist’s heartbeat certainly resonates with david’s as someone who has sought, is continually seeking, and has tasted intimacy with the Lord.
the psalmist knows he has been just because he has seen God’s justice displayed in his Holy word.
the psalmist knows what is right because he has seen God’s infinite “right-ness”–a perfect integrity in fulfilling his promises.
the psalmist is convinced of his own righteous acts–that he has acted consistently with God’s definition of justice and rightness, but instead of boasting in himself, he reveals his inadequacy and makes a request known to God. he isn’t saying he ‘deserves’ God’s mercy because of his righteousness, instead he knows of God’s sovereignty and he begs God to show mercy and promise him good.
the psalmist asks God to simply act in accordance with who God is. it is not wrong to ask for relief from suffering or pain or oppression as the psalmist does, because God does relieve suffering and pain (and plans to ultimately, finally relieve it as well [revelation 21:4]), in fact, any relief of suffering and oppression and pain is sourced from God whether we give him credit or not.
but we also need to acknowledge that suffering and pain, while a result of sin, is allowed by (and even ordained by) a holy and just God, and it can have two very different results:
it can cause us to curse God;
it can cause us to be driven to our knees, like the psalmist, pleading to the only one where we can hide for relief: our savior, our friend, our brother, our perfect lamb: Jesus.
rock of ages, cleft for me–let me hide myself in thee!
~ conor eastman