Deal bountifully with Your servant, that I may live and keep Your word – Psalm 119:17 NKJV
It’s just one verse, but it speaks volumes to us. This is the Psalmist speaking to God asking a simple request, but there is nothing simple about it. This verse breaks down into 4 phrases. Looking at each of these carefully, one gets a sense of how our priorities are to be structured.
Phrase #1 – Deal Bountifully
The word “deal” can bring us images of a card game. You’re dealt cards to play in a random manner. You may get some good cards or you may not. But that isn’t the idea behind the term used here.
While we translate this into 2 words, in the original Hebrew, this is one word. It’s an interesting term meaning maturing. It’s to be a good and rewarding process. It’s the same word we used in 1 Samuel 1:24 that we translate as “wean.” When a child is weaned, that’s a good thing, the child is maturing and it can even be something to celebrate. It’s also used in Isaiah 18:5 where we translate this as ”ripen” as in the ripening of grapes.
So the Psalmist is asking for God to mature him, to ripen him, to grow him up. Growth, maturity takes time. It can be a long process and it can be even painful for a short while. But ultimately, in the end, it is a good thing, a rewarding thing for us.
Phrase #2 – Your Servant
Being a lowly servant is not something most people seek. It isn’t the career path many choose. In fact, I find it doubtful that too many people ever seek to get a bachelors, master or doctorate degree of servant-hood. Yet… didn’t Jesus call us to serve? Isn’t that to be a mark of a believer?
Servant-hood is difficult for many and for some of us it’s nearly impossible. Whether it’s a result of our sin nature or just plain selfishness, we must constantly battle this idea. Not only to serve each other, but to serve God. Learning to submit to His direction in my life is a daily task. While I do believe in a point of salvation, the daily struggle to submit to Him seems to be on-going.
I am His servant. His wishes take precedent over mine. I do not get to perform only the tasks I want to or those that I like, but I must submit to Him will. Whether I agree with His commands or whether I don’t. Whether I like them or not, whether I understand the “why” behind the command or not. I am His servant. The Psalmist is making this simple statement, I am Your servant LORD. It is a reminder that all of us need to make part of our daily walk.
Phrase #3 – That I May Live
How often to you thank God for life? It is only through God that we live. He holds the world together. In Him all things “consist” (Colossians 2: 17). He is the creator and giver of life. It is a precious thing that only comes from the Father.
Life is more than just existing. Jesus told us that He came to give life and life more abundantly (John 10:10). In the same verse He draws a contrast between what the “thief” does (steal, kill and destroy) and what He is to do. How amazing is it to grasp that God provides life and that our life may be abundant and full of value. One way you might look at this verse is to say our life is to be productive. You aren’t meant to merely exist, but to experience this great and unique thing called life.
I think when the Psalmist uses this phrase he is speaking out about experiencing life. Not just living but finding fullness or purpose.
Phrase #4 – Keep Your Word
This dovetails nicely with the second phrase about being a servant, but adds a point about His Word. The Psalmist’s goal is not just serving God but keeping His Word. The writer has an obvious high value on the Word and he prays that he is able to “keep” or obey it.
The Word isn’t something one is to take lightly. It is God’s message to us, yet as I reflect back on my own prayers, I often realize I haven’t often prayed, “Lord help me keep Your Word.” My tendency is to pray for my comfort, protection, provision etc. Even when I pray for others, I find I rarely pray specifically that God would help someone obey (or keep) His Word.
So, let’s put these four phrases together and see if there is something deeper here than just a simple prayer. In other words:
As God matures me, and all that the mature process entails, I must always maintain an attitude of service or submission to Him. As that happens, I find my life, through Him, has more purpose and fulfillment. This is even more evident when I am embracing His Word and walking in obedience to Him.
It’s only one verse. But this is a rich verse and a great prayer for all of us.
Blessings my friend.