As my series on Psalm 119 draws to a close, I want to return to a theme that crops up repeatedly throughout the Psalm, and that is of salvation. The psalm is filled with petitions for rescue, deliverance, salvation. Here’s a few from the Resh strophe (Ps 119:153-160)
- “deliver me” (v153)
- “defend me” (v154)
- “redeem me” (v154)
- “preserve my life” (v154, 156, 159)
As I pointed out under the Lamedh section, the salvation he is seeking is a holistic salvation – body and soul. He wants to be rescued from his persecutors and delivered from physical harm, as well as to be saved from God’s final judgment on the wicked.
Chris Wright makes a similar point in his superb book, “The Mission of God”, where he notes that Israel’s “redemption” from Egypt through the exodus was primarily being them delivered from the sins of others, rather than from bondage to their own sins (the return from exile is a better example of that). He goes on to argue that this should inform our understanding of mission – without in any way wanting to minimise the spiritual aspect of salvation (being forgiven from our sins), there are political, economic and social implications to God’s redemption that cannot be overlooked.
The Word of Salvation
As we would expect in a Psalm that never leaves the theme of the Word of God for a moment, the Psalmist forges a strong link between God’s words and his saving activity. Ultimately, of course, the Psalmist is looking to God himself for salvation, but his confidence that God will save him comes as he meditates on the saving God he sees revealed in Scripture.
In fact, we can say that God always saves by means of his Word. It is his Word that contains the message of salvation and the promise of salvation. It is when his Word is preached that we hear the call of salvation that brings about faith (Rom 10:17). But it is deeper than that. God’s word actually effects our salvation. When he says “you are forgiven”, a real change of status takes place – our guilt is removed and we are justified. When he says “you are my beloved son”, we acquire a new status as children of God. When he sees us kicking about in our blood and says “live” (Ez 16:6), new life enters into us and we are born again. God’s words are “declarative speech acts” – when he speaks, things happen.