In the midst of suffering, we sometimes forget that we live in the midst of the community of the faithful. Or that such a community even exists. We feel alone. But the author of Psalm 119 did not forget.
I am a friend of all those who fear you,
of those who observe your precepts.
Psalm 119.63 WEB
Although the psalm emphasizes individual confidence in spite of trials, the author does not lose sight of his place in the community.
- The double blessing at the beginning of the psalm speaks, in the plural, of those who obey God, vv. 1-3. The author is well situated in the midst of the people of Israel.
- He is aware of speaking to others about the testimonies of God, even to kings, v. 47.
- Those who fear God will rejoice to see his faithfulness, v. 74. He is concerned with his example.
- He sees himself as serving as a support for those who fear God, v. 79.
- He recognizes the training he received from his teachers and elders, vv. 99-100.
- The psalmist recognizes his responsibility toward the inexperienced, v. 130.
- He wants God to act toward him as he always does toward those who love his name, v. 132.
- He remembers the experience of those who love God’s law; they have “great peace” v. 165 ESV.
Faith is individual, but its practice is interpersonal. “Devotion to God is genuine in private, and bold in public” TLSB.
The term for “friend” here is not the most common one in the Old Testament. It is found in Ecclesiastes 4.10: “If you fall, your friend can help you up. But if you fall without having a friend nearby, you are really in trouble” CEV.
Friendship is extended to those who fear and obey, two related actions.
May our walk, O God, be in step with those who fear and love you, for the joy of us all.
Hold this thought: What unites us is our attitude toward God’s precepts.