How many are the days of thy servant? when wilt thou execute judgment on them that persecute me? Ps. 119:84
How long, O Lord?
This question appears to be the basic note of this particular section of Psalm one hundred nineteen.
Strong expressions of grief and sorrow, of anguish of soul and body, but also of hope and yearning for the salvation of the Lord, characterize the entire passage.
The Psalmist’s soul fainteth for the salvation of Jehovah, his eyes fail for the Word of God as he anxiously asks the question: when wilt thou comfort me? He is become like a bottle in the smoke, parched and dry, wrinkled and miserable, a thing of reproach and contempt. The enemies have digged pits for him, persecuted him wrongfully, and he is almost consumed by their furious anger. And he prays for God’s quickening grace, that he may continue in the way of Jehovah’s testimonies. And so, the suffering and longing of his soul are centrally expressed in these questions of impatience: “How many are the days of thy servant? when wilt thou execute judgment on them that persecute me?”
How long, O Lord?
It is the question that is pressed repeatedly from the hearts of the people of God in this world, as they are “killed all the day long,” and look for the final realization of Jehovah’s promise.
Persecuted by the enemy, apparently delivered over to destruction by the anger of Jehovah, the Church cries out; “O God, why hast thou cast us off for ever?
. . . . How long shall the adversary reproach? shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever? . . . . Arise, O God, plead thine own cause.” Ps. 74:1, 10, 22. “How long, O Lord? wilt thou be angry for ever? shall thy jealousy bum like fire. . . . Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name.” Ps. 79:5, 9. “How long, Lord? wilt thou hide thyself for ever? shall thy wrath burn like fire? Remember how short my time is: wherefore hast thou made all men in vain?
. . . . Lord, where are thy former lovingkindnesses, which thou swarest unto David in thy truth? Remember, Lord, the reproach of thy servants. . . . wherewith thine enemies have reproached, O Lord; wherewith they have reproached the footsteps of thine anointed.” Ps. 89:46-51.
How long, O Lord? . . . .
We are waiting, hoping, longing! “As the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us. Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us: for we are exceedingly filled with contempt. Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease and with the contempt of the proud.” Ps. 123:2-4.
How long, O Lord? . . . .
“How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” Rev. 6:10.
It is but one way in which the Spirit and the Bride express their intense longing for the coming of the Bridegroom:
Come, Lord Jesus!
How many are the days of thy servant?
It is a question of longing, not of vain curiosity. Other answer than that the extent of the days of our years are three score years and ten, or at the most fourscore years, the poet expects not.
Nor is the question a complaint that the days of our life are all too brief, and that we fly away too fast. This is our attitude in as far as we are earthy, and live close to the things that are earthy. O, we do not want to be “unclothed.” And the longing to be “clothed upon” with our heavenly house is not always strong. Perhaps, we prosper to an extent, and our soul cleaves to the dust, to things that are of this world. We are rather satisfied with the present, and we seek not the kingdom of God. Our treasure is upon the earth, and where our treasure is, there is our heart also. And we reluctantly think of the end, and anxiously notice how fast the time flits by. . . .
How many are my days? O, how few! . . . .
But this is not the attitude of the poet, nor the intent of his question. The entire context proves the contrary, as also the last part of this same verse: when wilt thou execute judgment? . . . .
The question expresses a holy impatience, a longing for the end of his days!
Do not misinterpret this intense and eager longing.
It is not the longing of the suicide that is expressed here. The poet is not so overcome with the sorrows of this present time, he is not so oppressed with the burdens of his present existence, that he prefers death to life. He is not morbidly yearning for the end as such, that is, for death. No Christian does. The dissolution of the earthly house of this tabernacle is never in itself an end to be desired. Death is and remains the last enemy. The believer does not want to be unclothed but clothed upon. . . .
But the poet’s longing is a yearning and hoping for the final realization of the promise of God, for the perfection of salvation, for the glory of the inheritance incorruptible, and undefilable, and that fadeth not away, for freedom from sin and death and the suffering of this present time, for the glory of God’s eternal tabernacle, for the final, public, and perfect adoption unto children, which shall be realized through the redemption of the body. For this salvation his soul faints, his eyes fail in longing. And, as the last part of this verse shows plainly, he longs for this day of salvation, and, from this viewpoint, for the end of his present days, especially because it will be the day of his perfect and public justification. He is being persecuted, killed all the day long. As an evil-doer he is filled with contempt and reproach. He must be justified. And the day of the final revelation of the righteous judgment of God he expects with a great longing.
How many are the days of thy servant?
How long, O Lord?
When wilt thou come to deliver me, and to avenge my blood, and the blood of all the saints, Thy servants,
that has been shed upon the earth?
The days seem long.
It appears sometimes as if the Lord were slack concerning His promise.
Day after day passes, and there is no deliverance.
The enemy scorns and derides, and mockingly asks the soul-piercing question: “Where is now thy God?”1
“Where is the promise of His coming?
Come, then, O Lord! Show me Thy salvation! Execute judgment upon them that persecute me!
How many are my days? These days in the body of this death ? These days of sin and imperfection, of knowing in part, of looking in a glass darkly, of things that are seen, of the triumph of the enemy, of battle and suffering, of reproach and shame. . . .
Come quickly, O God of my salvation!
Mighty impatience of the saints!
Mighty, for, paradoxical though it may seem, it is this holy impatience that makes them truly patient!
Impatient with a view to the glory that shall be revealed in them, and with respect to the final justification for which they long and wait in hope, they are truly patient in regard to the sufferings of this present time.
Impatient in their longing for the hope they see not, they do with patience wait for it!
For, mark you well, the poet’s anxious query is not motivated by the dissatisfaction of unbelief.
O, unbelief is also impatient, but it is impatient only with respect to the sufferings of this present time. It is not satisfied with God’s way. It murmurs and grumbles because of God’s dealings with men. It is rebellious. It is mutinous. It refuses to fight the battles of Jehovah. It has no strength to continue in the way of God. It is faint and weak and miserable, and bitterly complains that the way of the Lord is not equal.
Carnal Israel in the desert revealed this attitude of unbelieving impatience repeatedly. They never embraced God’s promise. Always their heart was in Egypt. O, it is true, the oppression in Egypt had been intolerable, and freedom from that oppression had appealed to them also. Besides, even to their carnal imagination a land flowing with milk and honey had its appeal. But they cared not for the service of Jehovah. The glory of His name was of no concern to them. Their confidence was not in the Lord the God of Jacob. And when the way of the land of promise was long and difficult, led through the terrible wilderness, they soon manifested their unbelief. In retrospect, the land of Egypt, with its fleshpots, its onions and garlicky after all appealed to them. They became impatient, they murmured against Jehovah, they grew faint in the way, and they could not enter in because of their unbelief. . . .
They were impatient. . . .but for Egypt!
Their impatience made them look back with longing to the land whence they had been delivered with a mighty hand!
O, and even the carnal nature of the children of God can sometimes so assert itself that they become a prey to this same rebellious impatience.
Asaph, before he went into sanctuary, and considered “their end”, uttered such a complaint of carnal impatience with the way of the Lord. Did he not see how the righteous suffered, how his own chastisement awaited him every morning; and how the wicked prospered, had more than heart could wish, and how they proudly boasted in their prosperity? O, his feet well-nigh slipped, and it was in his heart for a moment to complain that there is no knowledge in the Most High!. . . .
It is characterized, not at all by a longing for the revelation of the glory that shall be revealed in us, but by dissatisfaction with our present way, the way of the Lord. It is motivated, not by the longing for the things that are heavenly, but by the lust for the things that are earthly. It is not a patient enduring unto the end, but an impatient refusal to bear the cross. It has no strength to rejoice even in tribulations, but is so weak that it complains and murmurs at the slightest sign of suffering for Christ’s sake. It does not fight the battle, but lays down the arms. . . .
It can never enter into the kingdom of God!
How different is the impatience of the psalmist!
His is the impatience of true patience!
It is an impatience that lends strength of endurance to his patience!
Is he not even now conscious of his being the servant of the Lord? And, to be sure, this means that he is “saved,” that he is regenerated, called, justified, and partakes of all the blessings of salvation. But it also means much more. To be servant of the Lord implies that one’s whole life in this world is an appointment by the Most High which one must fulfill, a sacred charge which one must accomplish, a holy obligation which one dare not shirk. It means that by the grace of God His precepts are our delight, and we have a strong desire to walk, not only according to some, but according to all His commandments. It means that we are of the party of the living God, and are set in this world to the glory of His grace in the beloved.
How many are the days of thy servant? . . . .
The psalmist is conscious of his being the servant of the Lord. He calls himself thus with a free conscience!
It means that he has not forsaken his post. He stands where the Lord his God has stationed him. The enemies attack, persecute, fill him with reproach and shame. In the position appointed him by his God, he suffers. He does not flee for fear, of the enemy. They almost consumed him, but he did not forsake the precepts of his God. And remaining steadfast at his post, he still prays: “Quicken me after thy loving kindness; so shall I keep the testimonies of thy mouth.” vs. 88.
But while he is thus patient, he is impatient.
Patient in tribulation, strong to endure, he longs with a mighty longing for the salvation of the Lord!
His soul faints, for it!
How long are the days of thy servant, O Lord?
Come, yea, come quickly!
For even this mighty longing for the revelation of the final glory-of the children of God is concentrated in, and consecrated to the glory of Jehovah’s name!
This was true of the impatience of the psalmist.
And it is true of all the cries of longing of the servants of Jehovah, of the saints in Christ, throughout the ages.
They long for the theodicy, for the revelation of the righteous judgment of God, they cry to Him day and night, in order that their God and His cause, the cause of the Son of God, the cause of His covenant, which by His grace is their cause, may be justified!
When wilt thou execute judgment upon them that persecute me?
How long dost thou not avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
The cause of the Son of God they represent in the world. By grace they are righteous. Out of darkness they have been called into God’s marvelous light, and as children of light they walk. To the glory of God’s grace in the Beloved they are set in the world. Therefore the world hates them, as they have bated God’s Christ. And they are persecuted. And they must suffer. And the cause of the Son of God is evil spoken of. It is condemned by the mighty of this world. It apparently suffers defeat. They that represent that cause are killed all the day long. . . .
And so, the righteousness of God does not appear!
The wicked prosper, the righteous suffer. And God is longsuffering. His very name and glory are at stake. Yet, He appears to be slack concerning His promise!
How long, O Lord? For thy name’s sake, how long? . . . .
Execute judgment upon them that persecute. Thy saints, and let the glory of Thy holy name appear!
And Thy righteousness shine as the noonday sun!
For ever and ever!