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Seeing the Stumbling Blocks

Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.—Psalm 119:65
What does this verse mean? Does it really promise that, if we only love the law of God enough, nothing will ever frustrate or offend us? I’ve heard that said—seriously or in jest, often by someone who was at the same time being deliberately provoking. If that is what it says, this has to be marked down as one of the most discouraging verses in all of Scripture. After all, I hope I can say that I love the law of God—but I hardly float through life in an unpoppable bubble, serenely undisturbed by my circumstances.
Yet if we consider this verse in the context in which it is found, considering what the Spirit actually inspired David to say, we will find that the truth that it teaches is in reality profoundly encouraging. While there are quite a few acrostic poems in the Old Testament, Psalm 119 is the acrostic to beat them all. Each of the twenty-two stanzas in the Psalm has eight verses, each of which begin with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet, with the stanzas arranged in alphabetical order.
David begins this particular stanza by setting up the problem. He has been persecuted, he has been troubled, and it has been for no apparent reason. His response to his trouble is to find constant delight in the law of God. Far from being tempted to join in the practices of those who are troubling him, he is instead infatuated with what God has to say. This focus on God’s law has given his heart peace and preserved him from stumbling. His confidence in the promises of God is what has enabled him to remain steadfastly obedient to what God commands in His word, no matter how much opposition he faces.
With that context in mind, let’s return to the details of the verse with which we began. The phrase translated, “nothing shall offend them,” could be (quite woodenly) translated from the Hebrew as, “there is not to them a stumbling block.” The idea is not that nothing is going to ever trouble you, but that nothing that troubles you, if you keep your eyes fixed upon the Lord, is going to take you down. The going may be rough—and indeed, it sometimes certainly will be—but the law of the Lord is enough to keep you in the fight.
The word here translated offense, is also translated as “stumbling block” in Leviticus 19.14, a passage (in the very law of God to which David was referring) that forbids the placing of such an obstacles in the way of the blind. Blind men cannot, without help, see where they are going—and thus they are vulnerable to stumbling blocks that someone might place in their path. David, because of the clarity of vision that he gained from his time in God’s law, had the ability to see the stumbling blocks that might otherwise have destroyed him. His enemies weren’t going to be able to blindside and destroy him. What a precious source of hope!
I cannot conclude better than with a quote on this verse from the venerable commentator Matthew Henry, “No event of providence shall be either an invincible temptation or an intolerable affliction to them [those that love God’s Word], but their love to the word of God shall enable them both to hold fast their integrity and to preserve their tranquility. ”