Daybreak: Psalm 119:137-176
“Many are my persecutors and mine enemies; yet do I not decline from thy testimonies.” (Psalm 119:157)
Ivan Moiseyev — or Vanya, as he was called by his friends — entered the Soviet Army in 1970 at the age of eighteen to fulfill his two-year term of required military service. Though he had been taught Communist philosophy and atheistic beliefs in school, Vanya’s parents were Christians, and in his teen years he had been wonderfully saved. From that point on, he was sold out to God, fearlessly sharing God’s love with others whenever he had an opportunity. Even in the military he openly spoke of his faith, an action which was forbidden under the atheistic regime. Consequently he was often punished and persecuted by his supervisors.
On one occasion, Vanya was punished for sharing God’s Word with several soldiers. He was forced to stand outside his barracks for the whole night wearing only his lightweight summer uniform, though the temperature was thirteen degrees below zero. As he stood there hour after hour, he prayed for his persecutors and quoted Scripture. Miraculously, he did not freeze to death. But his ordeal was not over — the same punishment continued for twelve more nights! Throughout that excruciating time, Vanya did not freeze, beg for mercy, or renounce God.
Afterward, though he knew further punishment was certain, Vanya continued to share his faith. His commanders tried to get him to deny Jesus but he would not turn his back on his Savior. At one point he told his interrogators, “I have one higher allegiance, and that is to Jesus Christ. He has given me certain orders, and these I cannot disobey.” The persecution intensified. Vanya was put in refrigerated cells for long periods of time. Food was withheld from him. He was placed in a cell where icy water from overhead pipes rained on him continually. Time after time, God brought him through and gave him strength and courage for the next round.
Ultimately, Vanya gave his life for his faith. Shortly before his death — seemingly knowing that it was imminent — he wrote to his family, “You will not see me anymore.” He then described a vision of angels and Heaven which God had sent to strengthen him for the last trial. Because of his ardent testimony and his faithfulness in standing for his beliefs, many of his military comrades were converted. After his death, his commander stated: “Moiseyev died as a Christian.”
We do not know precisely what persecution the psalmist endured, but we do know that like Vanya, he did not turn away from God. In our focus verse he declared, “Many are my persecutors and mine enemies; yet do I not decline from thy testimonies.” The Bible abounds with accounts of those who faced tremendous opposition, yet stood true. As we read of God’s faithfulness to His own, we are encouraged and strengthened. We can learn from their examples that when we take a stand for Christ, He will be with us. And whether our deliverance comes in this life or the next, ultimate victory will be ours!
Psalm 119, Stanzas 18-22
Continuing in the same pattern as the previous sections of Psalm 119, these five concluding stanzas contain eight verses each, are titled with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and have a central theme of appreciation for God’s Law. The sections covered in this portion of text are Tzaddi, Koph, Resh, Schin, and Tau.
In the stanza titled Tzaddi, after the eighteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the psalmist proclaimed the righteousness, purity, and truth of God’s Law. He concluded that understanding it was the very basis of his life.
The emphasis of the stanza titled Koph is that through the truth of God’s Word, trouble can be overcome. The psalmist stood on the promises of God when he was in peril, and God’s Law sustained him.
Resh records the psalmist’s prayer for revival and deliverance. The phrase “quicken me” (to “make alive” or “revive”) is repeated three times in these eight verses. Though embattled and persecuted by his enemies, the psalmist held fast to his loyalty to the Law of the Lord.
In the stanza titled Schin, the topic is the paradox of peace in the midst of persecution and turmoil. The psalmist said he praised God “seven times a day” (a poetic expression for “continually”) for God’s righteous judgments because they brought him great peace and stability.
The final stanza, Tau, is a prayer for help and guidance. The psalmist pleaded, “Let thy judgments help me” (verse 175), and rehearsed the blessings that can be attained through God’s Law. Because he obeyed the Law and delighted in it, he was assured that God would extend help.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines – Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. Book I (1:1 — 41:13)
II. Book II (42:1 — 72:20)
III. Book III (73:1 — 89:52)
IV. Book IV (90:1 — 106:48)
V. Book V (107:1 — 150:6)
A. Psalm 119
18. Tzaddi (119:137-144)
19. Koph (119:145-152)
20. Resh (119:153-160)
21. Schin (119:161-168)
22. Tau (119:169-176)
A Closer Look
- In the stanza titled Tzaddi, what did the psalmist say he needed in order to live? Why do you think he felt this acquisition was so vital?
- Verse159 reminds us that as we serve the Lord from day to day, we need His quickening in our souls. What does the word “quicken” mean in this verse?
- In verse 165, the psalmist pointed to what is necessary in order to have “great peace.” What are some steps we can take to cultivate that state of mind and spirit?
When we look to God, He can and will give us courage to stand up for Him and cling to our faith in spite of persecution.