PSALM 119 (Part 1: 1 -56) TALK: THE SUPREMACY AND BENEFITS OF GOD’S WORD

PSALM 119 (Part 1: 1 -56) TALK: THE SUPREMACY AND BENEFITS OF GOD’S
WORD

(The first part of the longest Psalm and chapter in the bible that sets down in some detail how God’s word shows us how we should live our lives if we we want God’s blessings in it. God’s word shows us the way God wants us to walk in this life and we should therefore follow its instructions and praise God for his word to us).

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

INTRODUCTION

Last year I got involved in some long hot debates on line concerning a number of current issues of morality and faith and one of my non – christian music friends told me that I was now completely out of step with modern thinking and attitudes because I both believed in God and the bible. He was actually saying to me that both God and the bible were not only outdated but irrelevant now in the 21st century.

This kind of claim is not new and even back in bible times amongst God’s own people the relevance of both God and his word was challenged. The people of Israel even lost the bible at one point in their history because they were fooled into looking to other God’s at the expanse of God and his word.

One Psalm stands out like a beacon advocating the supremacy and benefits or relevance of God and his word and that Psalm is Psalm 119 which is both the longest Psalm and longest chapter in the bible. Psalm 119 is a “acrostic Psalm” or “Alphabet Psalm” which along with eight other acrostic Psalms were written like this to aid memorisation. Psalm 119 is devoted to the theme of the supremacy and value or benefits of the word of God in a persons life. It uses 10 terms for God’s word. Only two verses in Psalm 119 don’t use one of these ten terms for God’s word and they are verse 84 and verse 122.

Here is an simple explanation of each of the 10 words or terms used in this Psalm for God’s word which I have summarised by Stephen J. Coles in his introduction to Psalm 119:

Law – “” In the first five books of the bible often called, “The Torah” or “The Law”.

2. Testimonies – “To bear witness points to the bibles witness of the things of God”.

3. Ways – “God’s characteristic manner of acting, as contrasted with our ways”.

4. Precepts – “Points to the particular instructions of the Lord”.

5. Statutes – “Comes from a word meaning ‘to engrave in stone’ thus they speak of the binding
force and permanence of Scripture”.

6. Commandments – “Idea of giving orders”.

7. Judgments – “These are the decisions of the all – wise Judge”

8. Word – as used in vs. 9 and 23 – “Emphasising the fact that God has spoken”

9. Word – another Hebrew word for word used in vs. 11 and vs. 19, here means, “to say”

10. Faithfulness – God’s “Righteousness (vs. 40) or “Faithfulness vs.90 and Name vs. 132,
synonymous for the Scriptures in this Psalm”.

The big question of for this Psalm is who wrote it and how did they write it?

We have no definitive answer to these two questions but many commentators argue for David who we know wrote Psalm 19 and verses 7 – 9 which mirrors in a brief form much of what this Psalm has to say to us. However the Psalm was not placed in the book of psalms unto after the return from captivity in Babylon as it is part of book five of Psalms and therefore some commentators point to Nehemiah or Ezra as its possible authors.

Spurgeon makes this interesting speculation with this comment,

“We are incline to the opinion then expressed that here we have the royal diary written at various times throughout David’s long life”.

Could a person like Ezra or some Jewish scribe of that time somehow got hold of a old copy of David’s Royal diary and wrote from it what we now know as Psalm 119?

It is a fact that each of the 22 stanzas stand alone and are actually individual Psalms of eight verses only linked together by the acrostic pattern of the first word of each new stanza staring with a sequenced letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

Psalm 119, no matter who wrote it, sets down twenty two issues in life with information of how God’s word is the supreme authority for that issue and at the same time it spells out some of the bibles help and benefits for those issues.

In my Psalm talk for this Psalm. I will state the life issue and then attempt to explain what the Psalmist says the bible or the word of God has to say to that life issue.

Also because this Psalm is so long I have decided to break it into three Psalm talk parts:

Introduction and stanzas 1 – 7 (verses 1 – 56)
Stanzas 8 – 15 (verses 57 – 120)
Stanzas 16 – 22 and a conclusion (verses 121 – 176)

I hope that through these three Psalm talks on Psalm 119 you will be able to see both the supremacy and timeless practical value of God’s word even for us living in the 21st century.

My outline for the first seven stanzas of this 22 stanza Psalm is:

Stanza 1. (1 – 8) GOD’S TRUE HAPPINESS AND HOW TO FIND IT

Stanza 2. (9 – 16) GOD’S PURITY AND HOW TO WALK IN IT

Stanza 3 (17 – 24) GOD’S GUIDANCE IN THE FACE OF OPPOSITION

Stanza 4. (25 – 32) GOD’S HELP IN THE MIDST OF AFFLICTION

Stanza 5. (33 – 40) GOD’S INSIGHT OF HIS WORD AND THE DISTRACTIONS FROM IT

Stanza 6. (41 – 48) GOD’S LOVE AND HIS HELP TO PROCLAIM IT

Stanza 7. (49 – 56) GOD’S HOPE AND COMFORT IN HIS MANY PROMISES IN HIS WORD

Stanza 1.    (1 – 8) GOD’S TRUE HAPPINESS AND HOW YOU FIND IT

The Psalm opens in a familiar way as verse 1 says,

“Blessed are those whose ways are blameless who walk according to the law of the Lord”.

Psalm 1 opens with,

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers, 2  but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night”.

I wrote this about what the word “Blessed” actually means in my Psalm 1 talk,

“Being Blessed by God or being truly happy is what all people really want but true happiness seems to be such a fickle thing”.

The happiness God wants to give is so different than the happiness people seek today as it involves forgiveness of sin, Psalm 32: 1 – 2,

“Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2  Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit”.

And is more of a deeper spiritual sense of peace as Paul describes in Romans 5: 1,

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”.

And this peace transcends circumstances as Paul speaks of in Philippians 4: 7,

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

The writer of Psalm 119 now tells us how we can have this kind of happiness in verse 1 – 3,

“Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.
2 Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart— 3  they do no wrong but follow his ways”.

Note how these verses tell us how the word of God helps us find God’s happiness for us,

“Walk according to the law of the Lord” and

“Keep his statutes”

If we are honest and real we will all say but I haven’t or even cannot do this and if this came originally from a diary of David he would agree with you and that is why he wrote as we previously saw in Psalm 32 verse 1 and 2,

“Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2  Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit”.

Words we believe he wrote after he had so badly sinned with adultery and murder but what David did after he realised God knew he had sinned big time is what the last part of verse 3 says in Psalm 119,

“And seek him with all their heart”

Even Psalm 119 suggests that the writer knew like David he had not obeyed God’s word fully as he writes in verse 5 and 6,

“O, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands”.

He says this after stating again what God’s word the bible says how he should live in verse 3,

“They do no wrong but follow his ways”.

It was the love of God or rather the mercy of God that David needed and sought in Psalm 32 and Psalm 51 and we read his prayer of looking up to God for mercy in Psalm 51 starting with these words,

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions”.

We have a far greater understanding of this mercy of God and how it has been won for us in the New Testament and Paul using the New Testament word for mercy, grace which he spells out in Ephesians 2: 4 – 9,

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved”. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast”.

The writer of Psalm 119 then closes his first stanza with two commitments that are vital to finding the happiness God wants to give us and they are:

i)  A commitment to praise God as he learns about God in his word (verse 7)
ii) A commitment to seek to obey God’s word (vs. 8)

Lets have a quick look at each of these two commitments of the writer of Psalm 119,

i)  A commitment to praise God as he learns about God in his word (verse 7)

David often finished his Psalm with a commitment to praise God as he does for instance in Psalm 35: 27 – 28,

May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say,

“The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.” 28  My tongue will proclaim your righteousness your praises all day long”.

So here in Psalm 119 we have a similar commitment to praise,

“I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws”.

The easiest times for me to praise God has been when I have been with others reading and studying God’s word together. God gives us so much to praise him for especially for the grace given to us through The Lord Jesus Christ and his death for us and when pondering these sorts of things either in my own private study of God’s word or especially with others praise for God naturally flows.

ii)  A commitment to seek to obey God’s word (vs. 8)

Finally his last commitment that I believe flows also again from his understanding of God’s word is,

“I will obey your decrees; do not forsake me”.

Not only are these words a wonderful commitment that flows from any true study of God’s word but they sum up all that the writer has been trying to say through this first stanza of this long but beautiful Psalm.

He has said that it is through obedience to God’s word that true blessing or happiness comes from God but he indicated his need for God to help him because he knew he had not fully done this so he closes with a plea for God to not forsake him and therefore help him obey God’s word.

A person is blessed by obeying God’s word
Walking in God’s word all their days.
Forgive me O Lord for my wrong deeds
Let me walk down your road with praise.

Stanza 2. (9 – 16) GOD’S PURITY AND HOW TO WALK IN IT

This is the only stanza in Psalm 119 that opens with a question and the question relates to young people for verse 9a says,

“How can a young person stay on the path of purity?”

Why this question is phased in the guise of a young person could have at least three answers?

First of all young people are especially under greater attack by the devil to get involved in acts of immorality and carnal sin.

2. The Psalmist could have been a young person when he wrote this.

3. Phrasing wisdom concepts in the guise of teaching a younger person is a common style
of writing in the Old Testament.

Lets have a look at each of these three reasons why Psalm 119: 9a is a question how a young person can stay pure.

1. First of all young people are especially under greater attack by the devil to get involved in acts of immorality and carnal sin.

It is true that many sins like sexual or interpersonal relationship breakdowns are particularly problematic for a young person. Paul speaks of the sins his Ephesians readers were saved from in Ephesians 2: 3,

“All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath”.

In Colossians Paul lists the desires of the flesh in a bit more detail when he writes in Colossians 3: 5 – 5 – 10,

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[a] 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator”

It is true that we might find many of the temptations to fall into these types of sins more acute when we are young but Paul was not writing just to young people in his letters to the Ephesians and Colossians but to new Christians of all ages and I think the writer of Psalm 119 is speaking to all ages in verse 9 of his Psalm 119.

2. The Psalmist could have been a young person when he wrote this.

Some commentators argue that this first verse is phrased in the guise of a young person because he was young himself but even if that is true the walking of God’s path of road relates not only to when we are young but when we are older as well.

3. Phrasing wisdom concepts in the guise of teaching a younger person is a common style
of writing in the Old Testament.

This seems to be the more logical reason for the way this question is answered as we see in the book of Proverbs which are presented as an older person to a younger person as we see in the start of Proverbs 2: 1,

“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you”.

So how can any of us young or old stay on the road or path of purity”

Verse 1b says,

“By living according to your word”.

The rest of this stanza spells out how we can actually do this and I have broken this down into six things we need to do with God’s word (note they all start with the letter “S”):

i)   (vs. 10) Seek not to stray from God’s word
ii)  (vs. 11) Store God’s word in our hearts and minds
iii) (vs. 12) Savour and learn God’s word
iv) (vs. 13) Sing and Declare God’s word
v) (vs. 14) Strive to put God’s word into practice
vi) (vs. 15) Study prayerfully God’s word
vii)(vs. 16) Satisfy your desires with the word of God

Lets have a closer look at each of these seven things we need to do to be able to live according to God’s word to stay pure:

i)  (vs. 10) Seek not to stray from God’s word

All the advice we find in this Psalm is both practical and straightforward unlike the often complicated and confusing advice you get in self help books these days.

The writes advice in verse 10 simply says to live according to God’s word to stay pure he will,

“Seek you (God) with all my heart”

He then asks God,

“Do not let me stray from your commands”.

James another easy to understand practical bible writer explains how we fall to sin with these words in James 1: 14 – 15,

“But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death”.

When we focus on God and his word our evil desires cannot drag us away to sin and I heard it said by a preacher one day that when any kind of evil non God honouring thought comes into our minds the best thing we can do is follow Paul’s advice in Philippians 4: 8 – 9,

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you”.

In the case of Paul, “whatever you have learned or received or heard from me” would have been what he knew Christ and the word of God had taught so the right, pure and admirable things would include of course God’s word itself”.

Also it has been suggested that Paul’s run down of “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy” fits perfectly a description of the Lord Jesus Christ so we should think about him when the devil seeks to tempt us with evil desires and thoughts.

ii)   (vs. 11) Store God’s word in our hearts and minds

The second way we can live according to God’s word to stay pure is found in verse 11,

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you”.

The value of memorising scripture cannot be over looked, I know so much scripture in my mind from my youth singing scripture in song songs that were popular at my church when I was in my late teens teens and early twenties during the 1970”s.
Also by regular daily bible study over many years again many bible verses and even passages are part of me now and I can easily bring them to mind.

To know the value of knowing God’s word in our heart and mind to stay pure we can go no further than the Lord Jesus himself who when he was tempted by the devil answered him back with God’s word.

Paul tells us the value of knowing God’s word in 2 Timothy 3: 16 – 17,

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”.

God’s word is so valuable to every part of living the Christian life according to Paul in these verses and the writer of Psalm 119 is telling us the value and need to work at hiding or implanting God’s word in our hearts and minds to be able to follow God’s way of purity.

iii)    (vs. 12) Savour and learn God’s word

Suddenly the writer of Psalm 119 breaks out in praise at the start of verse 12,

“Praise be to you, Lord”,

This word of praise particularly for God’s word crops up all through this Psalm and it seems that one of our authors goals in writing his long Psalm is to give praise to God and particularly his word which he finds so valuable so he goes on to ask God,

“Teach me your decrees”.

The writer values God’s word so much that he wants to learn as much about it as he can so he really savours or values God’s word but at the same time he realises that in himself he cannot learn all there is know about God’s word so he asks God to help him learn his decrees or statutes which Stephen J Cole says are,

“The binding force and a permanence of Scripture”

I always pray for God’s Holy Spirit who inspired the whole writing of the word of God to help me both understand and teach me what it is actually saying. Jesus promises his disciples and all who like them seek to follow him as their Saviour and Lord the promise of the Holy Spirit who will lead us all into all truth in John 16: 12 – 15,

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you”.

So Jesus himself is telling us to look in prayer to the Holy Spirit to help us understand and learn God’s word.

iv)  (vs. 13) Sing and Declare God’s word

Then in verse 13 the writer of Psalm 119 speaks of how we need to declare with our lips or tongues God’s word and I believe from many other Psalms this is by word and song, verse 13 puts it this way,

“With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth”.

David spoke on many occasions about declaring God’s word in song like Psalm 18: 49,

“Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name”

And by word in Psalm 35: 27 – 28,

“Let them shout for joy and be glad, Who favour my righteous cause; And let them say continually,
“Let the Lord be magnified, Who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.” 28  And my tongue shall speak of Your righteousness And of Your praise all the day long”.

Before Jesus ascended into heaven after his resurrection he told his disciple to, Mark 16: 15 – 16,

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptised will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned”.

Paul’s final charge to his younger prodigy Timothy in 2 Timothy 4: 2, was to,

“Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and teaching”.

Even if preaching the word is not God’s gift for us we still need to declare God’s wonderful saving message with our lives and do what Peter says in 1 Peter 3: 15,

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with gentleness and respect”.

Of course the main hope we have is found in God’s word so something of our defence or reason for our hope will be something of the word of God which we will declare or testify of.

How this helps keep our way pure or keeps us on the road or path of purity is linked to being connected to God through his word which the previous 3 points pointed to.

v)   (vs. 14) Strive to put God’s word into practice

The next point follows naturally with the last as the last suggests that by declaring God’s word we are helped to stay on the road or path of purity so in order to declare God’s word we must strive to put it into practice and so verse 14 says,

“I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches”.

I mentioned in my introduction that aspects of some of the teaching in Psalm 119 is found in Psalm 19 verses 7- 11 which we know David wrote and the value and priceless nature of God’s word is spoken of so well in Psalm 19: 10 – 11 I want to share it with you,

They (God’s word) are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. 11 By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward”.

Do we treasure God’s word?

Is the bible more precious than gold or as Psalm 119 verse 13 says, “great riches”?

Jesus said in Matthew 6: 21,

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.

So it goes that if we are rejoicing and treasuring God’s word we are valuing it so much we will want to act upon it or put it into practice or as verse 14 says follow it. If we are putting it into practice then we will as verse 9 says,

“Stay on the path of purity by living according to God’s word”.

vi)    (vs. 15) Study prayerfully God’s word

Then in verse 15 we have a word that crops a lot in the book of Psalms and in the bible, “Meditate”and I found this very valuable definition of Christian or the bibles meaning of meditation on the “gotquestions?org sight,

“True Christian meditation is an active thought process whereby we give ourselves to the study of the word, praying over it and asking God to give us understanding by the Spirit, who has promised to lead us ‘into all truth’ (John 16: 13)”.

So verse 15 of Psalm 119 says,

“I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways”.

Psalm 1 verse 2 says,

“But whose delight is in the law of the Lord, who meditates on the his law day and night”.

Putting both verses together we have the truth that if we want to stay on the path of purity you will need to read and study God’s word day and night and then you will know what to follow. If we do this Psalm 1 has a beautiful picture of what this word of God will do in us and that is in Psalm 1: 3,

“That person (he who delights and meditates on God’s word) is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers”.

vii)   (vs. 16) Satisfy your desires with the word of God

The final way a young person or even a older person can keep on the path or road of purity is summarised in verse 16 the last verse in this second stanza.

We have seen how by seeking to not stray from God’s word, storing it up in our hearts and minds, savouring and learning it so that we declare it in song and word after we have studied it prayerfully we will be dong what Psalm 119 verse 16 says,

“I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word”.

And not neglecting God’s word will help us to stay on God’s road or path of purity.

My alphabet poem verse for this stanza then is:

Be a person who lives by God’s word
And stay on the path to God
Reading and studying the word of God
To heaven you will surely trod.

Stanza 3. (17 – 24) GOD’S GUIDANCE IN THE FACE OF OPPOSITION

This amazing Psalm, 119 now looks at the important subject of “Guidance” and states clearly in the last verse of this third stanza, verse 24 that God’s word is where we find God’s guidance in our lives,

“Your statutes are my delight; they are my counsellors”

Even at the start of stanza 3 our writer is seeking God’s guidance and help to obey his word that we learnt in the last stanza that obeying God’s word is God’s path to God’s purity or the way he wants us to live. So we read in verse 17,

“Be good to your servant while I live, that I may obey your word”.

The two key terms in this verse are:

i)   Be Good
ii)  While I live

Lets have a quick look at each of these two terms:

i)   Be Good

Allan Harmon says that this term “be good” actually means,

“Acting generously to someone”

And he gives three verses to explain this and I found two of them very helpful and the first is Psalm 116: 7,

“Return to your rest, my soul for the Lord has been good to you”.

The second reveals that we do not deserve to be treated good by the Lord but he does not treat us as we deserve, Psalm 103: 10,

“He does not treat us as our sins deserve or pay us according to our iniquities”.

We know from the New Testament that this is because God treats us with a special love which it calls “Grace” and that this undeserved love is made possible to us because of what Jesus has done for us in paying for our iniquities on the cross as Paul speaks of in Romans 3: 24,

“And all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus”.

So God is good to us, according his word the bible because he gives us love we don not deserve, called grace.

ii)   While I live

This is the first of many times in Psalm 119 that its writer will refer to living or life and I counted that this Psalmist in Psalm 119 refers to his life or to living 13 times and the others are, 25, 37, 40, 50, 77, 88, 93, 109, 116, 144, 154 and 175.

The writer is keen to not only show the supremacy of the word of God but how relevant and helpful it is to living the life God wants us to live which we learnt from the first stanza is the life of true happiness.

The writer now explains the relevance and even need of the word of God in the issue of guidance especially in the face of opposition in verses 18 – 24 and I have broken this explanation of how God’s word guides us even in the face of great opposition into four key points:

i)   The need for God to open our eyes to what his word is saying to us (18 – 19)
ii)  The need not to stray from God’s word even in difficult times (20 – 2)
iii) The need to stay focussed on God’s word even when things get tough (22 – 23)
iv) The need to see how God’s word is always supreme and why (vs. 24)

Lets have a closer look at each of these four explanations of how God word can guide us even in the face of opposition and difficulty:

i)  The need for God to open our eyes to what his word is saying to us (18 – 19)

The writer of Psalm 119 seems to be going through a difficult time in his life when he wrote these words and if the idea for this Psalm came from a kind of diary of David then either the time of his being on the run from king Saul for eight years or so or when he was on the run from his rebellious son Absalom would fit very well to the ideas in this stanza.

The writer has already asked God in verse 12 to,

“Teach me your decrees”

Now in verse 18 he asks,

“Open my eyes that I might see wonderful things in your law”

The bible is not like any other book and is unique in a number of ways and one of them is that just as it is inspired by the Holy Spirit so it needs the Holy Spirit’s inspiration to understand it as Peter says about the word of God in 1 Peter 2 : 20 – 21,

“Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit”.

And so in that last stanza we read Jesus words in John 16: 12 – 15,

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you”.

This first became clear to me when as a young Christian I was visiting a close christian friends house and this friends father, who was a very convinced atheist said to us, “I have read the bible through twice and it did absolutely nothing for me”. This man now long departed from this life had read the bible without the eyes or thoughts of faith but rather with a closed mind to the things of God.

Even this very devout bible committed writer of Psalm 119 prays to God,

“Open my eyes that I might see”

And what does he want to see?

“Wonderful things in your law”

We read of how David saw the value of the word of God in Psalm 19: 9b – 11,

“The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. 10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. 11  By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward”.

Jesus said in John 7: 38,

“Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them”.

I felt both frustrated and sorry for my friends father who had such a hard heart towards God and his word that he could read his word and get nothing out of it. Jesus has just said in John 7: 38 that faith in him, the word become flesh (John 1: 14) will lead to the wonderful experience of having rivers of living water within us and I can testify that I regularly feel overwhelmed by the wonderful truths God’s word has taught me and through that guided me in my life.

However the writer of Psalm 119 is not saying that following the leading of God in our lives leads to a life without difficulty as he writes in verse 19,

“I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me”

This idea of being a stranger on earth I believe is in the context of the writer feeling out of step with the majority of people around him who do not believe in the God of the bible or his word as David obviously felt in Psalm 39: 12,

“Hear my prayer, Lord, listen to my cry for help; do not be deaf to my weeping. I dwell with you as a foreigner, a stranger, as all my ancestors were”.

Peter in the new Testament calls us foreigners and exiles in this word in 1 Peter 2: 11,

“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul”.

I like the old song that says,

“This world is not my home I’m just a passing through”

Therefore while we live God’s way and value his word in this life we will often feel out of step with the world around us who do not share our faith and commitment in God and his word. The temptation in such conflict is to walk away from God and his word or at least water down our commitment to his word and it seems the writer of Psalm 119 felt the sane way so he asked God to,

“Not hide your commands from me”.

We will see more of what the opposition this writer faced in the next four verses and how God and his word helps guide him through this opposition and difficulty.

ii)   The need not to stray from God’s word even in difficult times (20 – 21)

The writer now goes on to give the contrast to his stand as a believer in God and his word and those who are non – believers in verses 20 – 21, he writes,

“My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times. You rebuke the arrogant, who are accused, those who stray from your statutes”.

I like the MSG translation of these verses that says,

“My soul is starved and hungry, ravenous! – insatiable for your nourishing commands. And those who think they know so much, ignoring everything you tell them – let them have it!”

Not sure if I like the term “let them have it” but the rest of this modern paraphrase of these verses describe well the idea that their is a big contrast in attitude and actions between those who believe in God and his word and those who don’t.

The believers stay focussed and committed to God and his word like a hungry man satisfied by God’s word alone and the non believers arrogantly reject God and his word and seek to live their lives accordingly.

We must be like the writer of Psalm 119 and stay focussed on God and his word even when the majority of people around us seem to be doing the opposite and always remember what Jesus said in Matthew 7: 13 – 14,

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

iii) The need to stay focussed on God’s word even when things get tough (22 – 23)

Now the opposition this writer seems to be up against is spelt out in verses 22 – 23,

“Remove from me their scorn and contempt, for I keep your statutes. 23 Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servant will meditate on your decrees”.

Those who oppose our writer are described it two ways as:

i)   Those who give him scorn and contempt
ii)  Those who rule over everyone and slander him

Let me try and tell you what the writer means by these two descriptions of those who oppose him:

i)   Those who give him scorn and contempt

Often when we as believers do not join or go along with the prevailing crowds attitudes and way of living we are scorned and abused with contempt and this seems to be the problem the writer of Psalm 119 is speaking of in verse 22 and Peter speaks of the same kind of thing in his day in 1 Peter 4: 3 – 4,

“For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4 They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you”.

I have suffered from this myself especially in my non – christian contacts in the local music world I am often appreciated by my non – christian music friends but also like my friend on Facebook I am also scorned with contempt because I dare profess a faith in God and a commitment to his word and for that my local musical prospects are far less than others. Some find me so offensive they merely put up with me because I have both have talent and always seek to be friendly as much as I can.

Peter also told his readers how they should act in the company of people in their non believing world when he says in 1 Peter 2: 11 – 12,

“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us”.

ii)  Those who rule over everyone and slander him

Then a far more difficult description follows in verse 23 as some of his enemies are the local rulers or we might say are people in high office who not only dislike this man who calls himself God’s servant in verse 23 and 17 but who slander him.
This sounds a lot like what David said about his enemies in some of his Psalms written we believe when he was either on the run from King Saul or his rebellious son Absalom.

As David writes sin Psalm 41: 5 – 9,

“My enemies say of me in malice, “When will he die and his name perish?” 6 When one of them comes to see me, he speaks falsely, while his heart gathers slander; then he goes out and spreads it around”. All my enemies whisper together against me; they imagine the worst for me, saying, 8  “A vile disease has afflicted him; he will never get up from the place where he lies.” 9  Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me”.

David was a ruler himself as King of Israel but before he became king he was hunted down and slandered by King Saul only because he was filled with jealousy and later David for a short time was forced to flee for his life when Absalom rebelled and again sought to kill him.

I cannot relate to the idea of being opposed by those in high office except maybe from former non christian bosses who gave me a hard time because I was a Christian and they were not. I have read of Christians who face great opposition from their rulers in the counties they live in and my prayers go up for them.

So how did this writer of Psalm 119 find God’s guidance in the face of this terrible opposition?

His answer is both surprising and very helpful as in verse 23 he says,

“Your servant will meditate on your decrees”.

In the face of such great opposition the writer says he simply prayerfully studies God’s word, which is what I believe the word meditate means here. He does this obviously to find the guidance and encouragement that only God can give him.

David speaks of doing just what the writer of Psalm 119 verse 23b says in Psalm 40: 1 – 3, where David speaks of waiting patiently for the Lord and having his feet secured on a rock and a rock is always in the writings of David a poetical symbol for God and his word,

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. 2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him”.

Jesus offers the same sense of protection and guidance if we build our lives on him the rock in Matthew 7: 24 – 25,

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock”.

I mentioned earlier of how I have read of many christians who suffer at the hands of ant – God or anti – christian rulers or local authorities and how difficult their lives are but i also read of how many these people are loyal to the Lord Jesus and his word and how so often they are finding his guidance and help in such difficult situations.

iv) The need to see how God’s word is always supreme and why (vs. 24)

I started this third stanza of Psalm 119 with the words this amazing Psalm, 119 now looks at the important subject of “Guidance” and states clearly in the last verse of this stanza, verse 24 that God’s word is where we find God’s guidance in our lives,

“Your statutes are my delight; they are my counsellors”

So we have seen that only through obeying God’s word, having God open our eyes to it, longing for its truths, not straying from its commands, keeping it, prayerfully studying it and now delighting in it do we find God’s counsel or guidance even in the face of great opposition and difficulty.

Continually look to God’s word
In it wonderful things you’l see
Even in the face of great difficulty
God will guide you and set you free.

Stanza 4. (25 – 32) GOD’S HELP IN THE MIDST OF AFFLICTION

I have recently become very aware of how fortunate we are living in modern times compared to even as far back as the 1940’s owing to the great blessed advancement of modern medicine. One of the ways that became clear me was after recently reading of a biography on Charles Dickens who lived from 1812 – 1870 and in the book it was said that sickness of some kind was so prevalent that most people were either sick or recovering from sickness.

Before the days of penicillin (1930’s) flu and other viral disease could not be treated and any kind of problem needing an operation was not done effectively unto after 1900 owing to the lack of effective anaesthetics people died often on what we would call primitive painful operating theatres.

So way back 2,500 years ago when Psalm 119 was probably written or at least placed in the fifth book of Psalms sickness and the treatment of it was even more primitive and therefore it is not surprising that the Psalms like this have much to say about dealing with sickness or affliction particularly on a spiritual level.

The fourth section looks at sickness or physical affliction and offers both hope and comfort for any true believer when they experience sickness in their lives today.

How do we know that this fourth section deals with affliction or sickness?

Well for a start the first verse says,

“I am low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word”.

Being low in the dust Allan Harman says is a,

“graphic description of how close he feels to the grave”

This is because low to the dust is a poetic image that comes from Genesis 3: 19,

“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

So he is sick and so sick he is close to death. Also verse 28 speaks of how this sickness has effected him spiritually,

“My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word”.

Both verse 25 and 28 speak of God helping him,

“According to your word”.

This “according to your word” is probably a reference to passages in the Old Testament like Deuteronomy 28 which starts with these words, verses 1 – 2,

“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God”.

Then Deuteronomy 28 goes on with a long list of blessings God will give those who seek to obey his word.

Or the writer of Psalm 119 might have the words of Deuteronomy 32: 39 in mind which says,

“See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand”.

He might even have had the words of God’s promises to help us in times of sickness in mind that the other Psalms speak of like Psalm 107: 20,

“He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave”.

Or Psalm 34: 19,

“The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all”.

Whatever he had in mind it clearly came from God’s word and he wanted God to act for him to save him from death owing to great sickness according to what God had promised in his word.

The writer of Psalm 119 however has a very different way of dealing with sickness and even death and this can be summed up by what he says in verse 30,

“I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws”.

So rather than trusting in man, or letting his sickness course him to turn away from God he determines to stay faithful to God and trust in God’s word no matter what happens to him.

I see then three things this writer seeks to do to find God’s help in the midst of affliction and they are:

i)   Pray and trust in the word of God when your sick (26 – 27)
ii)  Pray and and seek to not sin when your are sick (28 – 29)
iii) Trust in God and seek to obey his word (30 – 32)

Lets then have a good look at each of these three things the writer seeks to do when he is suffering affliction or sickness:

i)   Pray and trust in the word of God when your sick (26 – 27)

In verse 26 the Psalmist writes,

“I gave an account of my ways and you answered me teach me your decrees”

Joseph Benson gives us a full and clear understanding of what this writer first did when he was so afflicted with sickness he felt he was going to die with these words,

“My manner of life, my sins, my temptations, my sorrows, my wants, dangers, fears, cares, and concerns; my designs, undertakings, and pursuits: I have spread them all before thee, by way of sincere confession, humble supplication, or solemn appeal”.

When I have got sick in the past all I can remember doing was asking God to heal me and maybe help me bare the pain and discomfort but this man of God goes into far more detail in his prayer to God when he was very sick.

A lot of God’s word teaches that affliction or sickness comes from God dealing with sin in our lives as David speaks of a number of times like Psalm 6: 1 – 2,

“Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Have mercy on me Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony”.

The bible links the confession of sins to healing as we clearly see in James 5: 16,

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective”.

However the bible also teaches that sickness is not always caused by God disciplining us for our sins as we know from the example of Job.

Job was allowed to become sick at the hands of Satan to bring glory to God by being faithful to God even through sickness and difficulty and we see in the opening two chapters of Job. Jesus himself tells us that a man who was born blind did not have that affection because of his sins or the sins of his parents as he tells his disciples this in John 9: 3 just before he heals him,

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him”.

So the writer of Psalm 119 simple unburdened himself on the Lord like so many Psalms do when a person is in some kind of affliction and the result of this according to the second half of verse 26,

“And you answered me: teach me your decrees”.

This man said that as he unburdened himself on God, God answered him through his word. It is through the bible , the word of God that God primarily speaks to us as Peter declares in 2 Peter 1: 3,

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness”.

The writer who knew this fact of spiritual life then asks God to help him understand what God is saying to him through his great affliction in verse 27,

“Cause me to understand the way of your precepts, that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds”.

I have found that affliction like sickness will do one of two things when it comes on us, it will either drive us away from God or it will draw us closer to God. Our writer had the second experience through his time of affliction as he says it caused him to understand God’s word so much more.

He even wants to now medicate or prayerfully study what God has wonderfully done. His focus in affliction is not then centred on himself like sadly I have done in the past when I got sick but his focus was on God and his word.

ii)  Pray and and seek to not sin when your are sick (28 – 29)

When I have got sick in the past as I have just said I have prayed prayers to God for healing or relief from my sickness which is quite OK but as we saw in the past two verses I should also widen my prayer to asking God to help teach me something of himself and his word through that time of sickness or any other kind of affliction.

However the writer in verse 29 picks up another flaw in most of our approaches to dealing with sickness and I include myself here and that is he wants to not sin when he is suffering sickness or affliction as he writes,

“Keep me from deceitful ways”.

In verse 28 he has indicated that he is in deep pain and difficulty particularly spiritually as he writes,

“My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word”

So now he wants God to help him not sin or be deceitful and Albert Barnes explains what he is really asking for here with these words,

He was, like all people, in danger of acting from false views, from wrong motives, or under the influence of delusion and deceit”.

Another reason we suffer all kinds of trials like sickness or some kind of affliction the bible teaches is to test our faith as Peter says in 1 Peter 1: 6 – 7,

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed”.

So often when I got sick I did not really exercise faith in God but simply grumbled and complain and even have doubts in my faith but God through other christians encouraging me and through his word taught me to trust in the Lord and his word and in a sort of way I too was able to join with the writer of Psalm 119: 29 to find God’s grace and even learn from my experience as he writes in verse 29b,

“Be gracious to me and teach me your law”.

iii)  Trust in God and seek to obey his word (30 – 32)

In the final two verses we find his final helpful words of how we as God of the bible believers should face sickness or affliction and this is expressed in two resolves:

i)   Trust in God’s word (30 and 31)
ii)  Seek to obey God’s word (vs. 32)

Lets have a closer look at each of these two resolves:

i) Trust in God’s word (30 – 31)

In both verse 30 and 31 the writer of Psalm 119 resolve in the face of affliction or sickness is to trust in God’s word as he goes through it. In verse 30 he puts this resolve this way,

“I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws”.

It is though there are two ways to face affliction or sickness as I said in a previous point either give God away or believe in him more. In many popular films I hear people say something like, “I once believed in God but once this or that happened I gave up my belief for how could a so called loving God allow that to happen”.

This is not what the wrier of Psalm 119 says rather his reaction to his affliction was to say, now even more because of what I am going through I am going to trust in God and his word, I am deliberately going to go the way of faith in God.

Then he says much the same thing in verse 31,

“I hold fast to your statutes, Lord; do not let me be put to shame”.

I remember an illustration I once read Charles Spurgeon gave of what its means to have God as our anchor in life and he said its like a boat that is anchored which might move around this way or that but it will never go off into disaster as it is tied securely to a anchor. As the writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 6: 19,

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure”.

I remember when I was very young and going through Bible College and attending a local church near my college as a trainee church worker and one of the elders called a church wardens in my denomination gave his Christian faith away when his wife died painfully of cancer. The minister I was working under said “isn’t it sad that just when this man needed God and his church the most he had chosen to walk away from them”.

Things will and do happen in life and we will probably not often know the reasons for them but God knows and he offers his help to cope as Jesus promises in Matthew 11: 28 – 30,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Will you choose the way of faithfulness or holding fast to God and his word the next time you face affliction like sickness?

If you do let me assure you Jesus promises to help you carry that load of that burden.

ii) Seek to obey God’s word (vs. 32)

The writer concludes his fourth section of Psalm 119 that deals with dealing with sickness or affliction in his life with a final resolve to this time obey God and his word expressed this way in verse 32,

“I run in the path of your commands, for you have broadened my understanding”.

To run in the paths of your commands is a poetic way of saying he will seek to put into practice God’s word in his day to day life and this final verse with its image of running in the way of God’s commands or word reminds me of one of my favourite verses in the bible namely Proverbs 3: 5 – 6,

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight”.

That’s how you run in the path of God’s commands even as you face great sickness or affection.

Determined to look to God’s word
Even in the face of great pain
Trusting in God not turning away
In sickness and in health you’l reign.

Stanza  5. (33 – 40) GOD’S INSIGHT OF HIS WORD AND THE DISTRACTIONS FROM IT

Before I study God’s word or before I seek to present it publicly I always pray a prayer like, “Lord help me by your Holy Spirit to understand your word” or “Help me and those here today to understand your word through your Holy Spirit”. I and most of the preachers of God’s word I listen to always pray something like this before presenting God’s word. They have already prepared the sermon or lecture but they still pray for God’s insight for themselves and their hearers by his Holy Spirit before they seek to present the message they have prepared,

Why?

I think Paul answers this question very well with 1 Corinthians 1: 14 – 16,

“The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ”.

The writer of Psalm 119 now devotes a stanza to a prayer for God to give him insight into God’s word because he too knew that without God’s inspiration he in himself cannot understand God’s word and because of many temptations we can easily get distracted from both understanding and putting into practice the wonderful truths found in the word of God.

This section follows a three part pattern which is:

I)   (33 – 35) A prayer to God for insight into his word
ii)  (36 – 39) A prayer for God to help him avoid the distractions from insight into Gods’ word
iii) (vs. 40) A final prayer for insight into putting God’s word into practice

Lets then have a look at each of these three parts of this fifth stanza of this Psalm:

I)   (33 – 35) A prayer to God for insight into his word

The first two verses of this fifth stanza are a prayer for insight into God’s word and the first word for insight is the word “Teach” so verse 33 reads this way,

“Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end”.

All through this long Psalm the concept of walking a path or road is used and here he wants God to give him insight to walk that road to its end. He knew the he constantly needed God’s help to understand and learn from God’s word. This prayer for God to teach him his word is not unique to this Psalm as we have seen it twice already in Psalm 27: 11 and Psalm 86: 11 both Psalms of David.

David prayers in Psalm 27: 11,

“Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors”.

Psalm 27 features the need for us to have spiritual light in our lives and as verse 1 of that Psalm says,

“The Lord is my light and my salvation”.

Jesus spoke of himself as being both God’s light John 8: 12,

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life”.

And Jesus also claimed to be the truth, John 14: 6,

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

So we must ask Jesus through his Holy Spirit to teach us so we can know him, God’s light, truth and way in life that leads all the way to the end, heaven with God forever.

Then in verse 34 the writer of Psalm 119 says a prayer for understanding,

“Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart”.

The bible is a unique book and Jesus who is the bible or God’s word become flesh, John 1: 14 is a unique person as only he has the words of life as Peter declared to Jesus in John 6: 68. Because of the uniqueness of both the word of God the bible and its main focus, The Lord Jesus Christ we need God’s help to both understand it and put it into practice which the writer of Psalm 119 says is to,

“Keep your law and obey it”.

The wonderful thing is Jesus promises all of his disciples, those who seek to follow him help to understand his word through the Holy Spirit in John 16: 12 – 14,

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you”.

Some say that these words or this promise was only for the disciples of Jesus present at the last supper but what these men and men like Paul received from Jesus through the Holy Spirit was his word which presents and glorifies Jesus and so that same Holy Spirit of God that inspired the disciples to write down what Jesus said and did will help us through it to be guided into all the truth.

The New Testament only contains the work and words of Jesus declared, explained and applied through the Letters of men like Paul, Peter, John and other men who heard and saw what Jesus did and said.

So when we pray to God for insight before reading, studying or presenting God’s word Jesus promises through his Holy Spirit to give us that insight or understanding we need to have.

Even in verse 35 of Psalm 119 the writer of this Psalm is asking for insight and particularly in this verse direction into the word of God for his path or road to walk in life,

“Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight”

It is such a wonderful delightful experience to gain God’s insights into his word but this can not be gained by human intelligence alone for we need the direction of God’s insight, through his Holy Spirit to fully understand and be able to apply this most precious word of God. As Paul prays for his Ephesian believers in Ephesians 1: 17 – 20,

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms”.

ii)  (36 – 39) A prayer for God to help him avoid the distractions from insight into Gods’ word

The writer then reveals that he because he is human or a sinner living in a sinful world faces daily many temptations to look away from God’s word. Things that will prevent him having insight into God’s word and particularly things that will stop him from putting God’s word into practice so in verses 36 – 39 he prays for God’s help or assistance to avoid the temptations and distractions that cause him to not have insight into God’s word and stop him from putting it into practice.

He speaks of four temptations or distractions that stop him from having insight into God’s word and also stop him from putting that word into practice in his daily life and those four things are:

I)   (vs. 36) Selfish gain – or money and riches
ii)  (vs. 37) Worthless things – or materialism
iii) (vs. 38) Reading God’s word falsely
iv) (vs. 39) Fear of opposition to God and his word

Lets then have a closer look at each of these four temptations or distractions to insight into God’s word and putting God’s word into practice:

i)  (vs. 36) Selfish gain – or money and riches

The first temptation or distraction to insight into God and his word is expressed in verse 36 as “Selfish gain” as verse 36 says,

“Turn my heart toward your statutes and not towards selfish gain”.

Paul says in 1 Timothy 6: 10,

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs”.

Paul is pinpointing out a great fact of life that the love for money or more money and riches is a great evil that leads many astray in following God and here in Psalm 119 verse 36 understanding his word.

Some might think that this problem with money is one only rich people have but Paul does not say money is the root of all evil but the love of money. Even a very poor person who has very little money can be consumed with desiring and seeking money and when poor and rich people make trying to get more money or riches their aim or goal in life then God and his word very quickly goes out the window or out of a persons sight and they quickly become spiritually dead.

I have seen even in the church of God sadly money issues causing conflict and division. Church committees I have been on in years past operate often very well unto a money issue comes up and then the real spiritual state or commitment of those on the committee is often revealed.

I went to youth fellowship groups with many far gifted and talented Christian young people than me but so many of those more promising Christians than me no longer believe and follow the Lord Jesus Christ because they got caught in the money trap as Jesus explanation of in his parable of the soils in Matthew 13: 22 says,

“The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful”.

The problem then is that the love of money can easily pull us away from God and his word if we let this pursuit of money or riches dominate our lives so the writer of Psalm 119 verse 36 asks God to,

“Turn his heart towards your statutes”

Note that the problem of seeking riches is a problem of the heart and Allan Harman explains that the heart is,

“Regarded as controlling the whole direction of life”.

We then need to put Jesus at the centre of our being or heart by putting into practice what Jesus tells us to do in Matthew 6: 33,

“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”.

The poorest time in my life or when I had the least money in my life was when I was in Bible College for three years in my early twenties but I can testify to the fact that during those three years I lacked nothing I needed and in fact in many ways God blessed me with what I needed in abundance.

Just one example here for your encouragement is when my old VW car broke down on the way to a church youth fellowship camp. My old car was completely finished as the motor dies. Within three weeks of that church youth fellowship camp the members of my Youth Fellowship group collected money amongst themselves and purchased another VW car for me. One Sunday night after our fellowship meeting before church they blindfolded me and led me to the church car park and there they gave me my new second hand car.

I have heard christian preachers say in the past, “God is no mans debtor” which comes from Hebrews 6: 10 and so if you want insight into God’s word and the ability to put it into practice ask God to do what the writer of Psalm 119 verse 36 wants God to do,

“Turn my heart toward your statutes and not towards selfish gain”.

ii) (vs. 37) Worthless things – or materialism

Something that follows on from the problem of the love of money as our main priority in life is the pursuits of things called “worthless things” in verse 37. Materialism goes with the love of money because to buy lots of things you need lots of money. So verse 37 says,

“Turn my eyes away from worthless things; persevere my life according to your word”.

Note how the writer views the pursuit of what he calls “worthless things” as a problem of our eyes and Allan Harman points out that,

“The mention of eyes suggests the external influences that effect behaviour”.

We see things which appeal to us and desire them. For me musical instruments will be a delight to my eye and I have two high quality Ukulele’s. However Ukulele friends of mine who are not believers have many but when I see an attractive Ukulele in a shop or at a festival I say to myself, I can only play one ukulele at a time and both Ukuleles I have sound great so why do I need to spend lots of money on another one.

When you are young the temptation to buy lots of material things are even greater and young Christians need to look away from the “things” that they are attracted to buy and work out what they need rather than what they want before they make a purchase of anything.

Some might say how can all material things be called “Worthless” well in the terms of eternity and what is important to God anything else is relatively worthless as the old saying says,

“You can’t take it with you when you die”.

John has this to say about loving things in this world more than God in 1 John 2: 15 – 17,

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever”.

So with all this in mind we should pray what the writer of Psalm 119 prayed in verse 37,

“Turn my eyes away from worthless things; persevere my life according to your word”.

iii) (vs. 38) Reading God’s word falsely

The writer of Psalm 119 then prays what seems a strange prayer in the context of what we have been looking at in previous verses for in verse 38 which reads like this in the NIV translation,

“Fulfil your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared”.

But other translations do not use the word “Fulfil” but “Confirm” and I like how a modern translation phrases this verse with the word confirm and it is called “The Christian Standard version” at it reads like this,

“Confirm what you said to your servant, for it produces reverence for you”.

When we use “Confirm” or “stablish” rather then “fulfil” Albert Barnes says the meaning of this verse is,

“Stablish thy word unto thy servant – Confirm it; make it seem firm and true; let not my mind be vacillating or skeptical in regard to thy truth”.

Therefore the writer of Psalm 119 wants God to help him understand God’s word correctly Tremper Longman 111 says,

“He again counts on God to keep him on the straight and narrow”.

To tamper with God’s word to suite our own purposes is another temptation or distraction that will interfere with gaining God’s insight into his word and if we continue to do so we will loose reverence or fear of God as the last part of verse 38 says.

Paul warned Timothy about the danger of false teaching coming into the church and says this to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4: 2 – 5,

“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry”.

So if we want to have God’s insight into his word that leads to greater reverence of God we should also pray the words of verse 38 which says,

“Fulfil or confirm your promise (God’s word) to your servant, so that you may be feared”.

And that is not only feared by us but by those who hear our teaching from God’s word by ear or in print.

iv) (vs. 39) Fear of opposition to God and his word

Then the final temptation or distraction to finding God’s insight into his word is expressed this way in verse 39,

“Take away the disgrace I dread, for your laws are good”.

This word “disgrace” could also be translated “reproach” and most commentators believe it is referring to the reproach or disgrace given to us by those who oppose God and his word. Allan harman says that he is actually praying,

“For release from such attitudes of his enemies”.

This writer is very real and human by indicating he does not like or even finds opposition to God’s word by his enemies hard to handle as he uses the word “dread” or “reproach” as some commentators translate.

No matter how difficult or uncomfortable opponents of God and his word can make us feel the writer of Psalm 119 says that God’s laws or God’s word is good. Some Christians do find the modern pressure to see God’s word as out of date and irrelevant to much to bare and either stop reading their bibles or abandon the bible all together.

We heard what Paul told Timothy to do in 2 Timothy 4: 2 in the previous section,

“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction”.

The bible today is definitely out of season but we must not abandon it for as the writer of Psalm 119 says,

“Your laws (or God’s word) are good”.

3. (vs. 40) A final prayer for insight into putting God’s word into practice

The writer of Psalm 119 makes a call or prayer to God for God to give him insight into God’s word to now put that word into action in his life he writes,

“How I long for your precepts! In your righteousness preserve my life”.

The Geneva Study bible explains what the writer is asking for with these words,

“Give me strength to continue in your word even to the end”.

The writer longs to be taught by God his word as in verse 33, he prays for understanding of God’s word by God in verse 34, he asks God to direct his path in life to follow God’s word in verse 36 and 37 he asked God to turn his heart to his word. He then asked God to help him to not let earthly distractions cause him to not have insight into God’s word in verses 36 – 39.

Now in verse 40, the final verse of this stanza he asks God to answer his longing for his word to be given to him by God’s righteousness or saving power so that he can put Gods’s word into all the days of his life.

One commentator saw the words of Peter in 1 Peter 1: 3- 5 as fitting closing words for this stanza of Psalm 119,

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time”.

The living hope Peter speaks of in this passage is found in the message of Jesus death and resurrection which we know through God’s word that he makes this clear to us through the work of the Holy Spirit therefore we must read, study and act upon this word of God looking to God for insight to do so.

Enlighten me O Lord above
By your promised Holy Spirit’s power
Help to understand and apply
Your saving word each day and hour.

Stanza 6. (41 – 48) GOD’S LOVE AND HIS HELP TO PROCLAIM IT

In June 1967 the Beatles performed the song ‘All You Need is Love” as Britains contribution to a TV program called “Our World” a TV program described as the first global television link watched by over 400 million people in 25 different countries being broadcast for the first time via satellite. The single released the previous month became a world wide super hit. The simple but haunting chorus says:

“All you need is love, all you need is love
All you need is love, love, love is all you need”.

In the sixth stanza of this 22 stanza Psalm the writer of Psalm 119 has a similar message but his message of love is not human love but what he calls in verse 41, God’s,

“Unfailing love”

May I suggest the Beatles got the message the world needs right in one sense, all the world needs is love but as Psalm 119: 41 – 48 presents that the world needs the message of the love of God and like the writer of Psalm 119 we need God’s help to obey and proclaim this message of God’s love to the world.

The structure of this sixth stanza is again like the other stanzas very simple and follows this four point pattern:

  1. (vs. 41) The content of the message – God’s love
  2. (42 – 43) The value of the message – It is truth
  3. (44 – 45) The commitment to the message – obey it and live it out
  4. (46 – 48) The need to proclaim the message – Speak, delight and praise God for it.

Lets then have a close look at these four parts to this sixth stanza of Psalm 119 that relate to the message of God’s love and the need to believe in it and proclaim it.

  1. (vs. 41) The content of the message – God’s love

The sixth stanza commences with a wonderful Old Testament statement of the central message of the bible namely the message of God’s saving love for this world, it says,

“May your unfailing love come to me, Lord your salvation according to your promise”.

In Old Testament terms the writer of Psalm 119 is speaking of the message of God’s love in the covenant or agreement God made with his people Israel found in passages of God’s word like Deuteronomy 7: 9 – 10,

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. 10 But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him”.

God set his love on a people who did not deserve his love as the two verses before Deuteronomy 7: 9 – 10 state,

“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt”.

In New Testament terms this love widens out to the whole world because of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ who gave his life in love to save not just sinful Israel but the world as John 3: 16 says,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

Like Israel no one in the world deserves this love of God but God gives it even though we don’t deserve it and the New Testament calls this love, “Grace” or love that is not deserved as Paul speaks of this way in Ephesians 2: 4 – 7,

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”.

So all this is what the writer of Psalm 119 verse 1 calls God’s,

“Promise”

So the writer of Psalm 119 who would have known the promise of God’s covenant love wants God to bring it to him or I think make him fully understand as it is as he states that this love of God is the message of,

“Salvation”

Or how God saves us by making us right with himself and this then is God’s message we will now see that God wants us to proclaim even to Kings and rulers (vs. 46).

   2.   (42 – 43) The value of the message – It is truth

The writer of Psalm 119 believes that this message of God’s love is so great and powerful that he believes that it answers all the taunts or mockery of his enemies as he writes in verse 42,

“Then I can answer anyone who taunts me”

He reveals his belief and confidence in the message of the love of God for salvation for anyone with the words of the second half of verse 42 that says,

“For I trust in your word”.

He only knows this message of God’s love because he read about it from God’s word the bible.

But why is what for him was written on scrolls and for us is written in a book is the grounds for faith and trust?

The answer is in the first part of the next verse, verse 43,

“Never take your word of truth from my mouth”

You see he trusts in the reality of God’s love because it is in the word of God and that word is the truth and therefore because it is the truth God’s love is not some kind of fairytale but is real and therefore accessible for anyone.

Jesus spoke a lot about truth and I like these words he said about truth in John 8: 31 – 31,

“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Then Jesus later says in John 14: 6,

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

Note how Jesus claims to be the way to God which I believe is what biblical salvation is all about and so God’s love is real because he sent Jesus into the world which was a real event and therefore it is based on truth.

Atheists believe Christians believe in fairytales but Jesus is not a fairytale he is a real person who lived in what is sometimes called time and space and his death actually took place and he also rose from the dead and the resurrection proves that Jesus has won victory over death.

Pau believed and proclaimed that Jesus resurrection won for us victory over death and this is what he says in 1 Corinthians 15: 55 – 56,

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law”.

The writer of Psalm 119 has just said he wants God’s word which is the truth not taken from his mouth and I believe he does not want it taken from his mouth because apart from the scrolls in the Temple and Synagogues the only way he could carry the word of God around in bible times was in his head. Jewish boys even in Jesus day went to school at the local Synagogue to learn and memorise the bible and particularly the Psalms and so they would say out loud with their mouths God’s word.

So why doesn’t he want God’s word not taken from his mouth?

And the answer is twofold, first it is because God’s word is truth and secondly because the writer has,

“Put his hope in God’s laws” or as we understand in this Psalm what God’s laws stand for namely God’s word.

Paul speaks of holding on to the word of life or the word of God in Philippians 2: 16 and the many benefits that word of God will bring to his readers.

    3.   (44 – 45) The commitment to the message – obey it and live it out

The commitment to the word of God we have just seen in verses 42 and 43 then finds practical expression in two ways in our writers life namely in:

i)   Obeying it (vs. 44
ii)  Living it out (vs. 45)

Lets have a closer look out how the writer wants to practically show his commitment to God’s word and its central message of love.

i) Obeying it (vs. 44)

The first way he wants to show his commitment to the word of God is expressed this way in verse 44,

“I will always obey your laws for ever and ever”

Here the writer of Psalm 119 is saying he will act on what God’s word says in obedience which is the principal way God wants us to respond to his love as Jesus expresses in John 15: 10,

“If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Fathers commands and remain in his love”.

Even in the Old Testament we are not saved by obedience to God’s law as David says in Psalm 51: 14,

“Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my saviour and my tongue will sing of your righteousness”.

Paul says we are saved by faith in the grace of God alone in Ephesians 2: 8 – 9,

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – 9 not by works, so that no one can boast”.

However James points out clearly that we show that we have faith by our obedience to God in James 2: 18,

“But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds”.

So we too should seek to show our faith and love for Jesus by obeying his commands.

ii) Living it out (vs. 45)

This obeying God’s word is shown in how we live and so the writer of Psalm 119 says this amazing thing about living out his obedience to God in verse 45,

“I will walk in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts”.

Note how even here in the Old Testament the living out of obedience which is often described in the image of “walking in” in this Psalm is in described as “freedom”.

Albert Barnes explains here what this idea of freedom would have meant to the original writer with these words,

“He would not be restrained by evil passions and corrupt desires. He would be delivered from those things which seemed to fetter his goings”.

Paul had much to say about Christian freedom in his letter to the Galatians and he starts chapter 5 with these words,

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery”.

The message we should be taking to the world is that the natural way of thinking we can get right with God by trying to do good or not sin is something we cannot do. Therefore God sent Jesus to die for our sins on the cross to set us free from this slavery to trying to save ourselves by doing good.

So through the death of Christ the penalty of our sins is paid for and all we have to do is turn to God and receive his gift of salvation sometimes called righteousness and then show our gratitude for receiving this free gift by seeking to live a life of obedience and service to God as Paul sums up in Romans 5: 17,

“For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one men, Jesus Christ”.

I referred earlier to Paul’s words in Ephesians 2: 8 – 9 how we are saved by faith in God’s grace alone well Paul goes on to say in verse 10 how this being saved by faith in God’s gift of grace alone leads to a life of obedience or in here in Ephesians 2: 10, a life of good works,

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”.

So we should join the writer of Psalm 119 verse 45 to confess a commitment to following God’s word of love in a walk or a life of freedom and service.

4. (46 – 48) The need to proclaim the message – Speak, delight and praise God for it.

Finally the writer of Psalm 119 asks God to help him proclaim this great message of his loving salvation found in his word in the last three verses of this sixth stanza and each of the last thee verses speaks of three ways he wants God to help him do this:

I)   (vs. 46) Boldly speak God’s message even to his rulers
ii)  (vs. 47) Delight in God’s word that contains this message
iii) (vs. 48) Praise God as he learns his message from his word

Lets have a closer look at each of these last three verses,

i) (vs. 46) Boldly speak of God’s message even to his rulers

The writer of Psalm 119 has spoken about rulers which could apparently be another accepted word for kings in verse 23 slandering him and in verse 161 he speaks of rulers persecuting him without cause so here he is speaking about his boldness to speak or proclaim God’s message to even his current enemies who seem to be his rulers, he writes,

“I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame”.

The putting to shame is like David often talked about in many of his Psalms when his enemies falsely accused him and put him to shame like Psalm 25: 2,

“I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me”.

Jesus spoke of loving our enemies and praying for them and Christians who live in countries where their leaders oppose the Gospel put Jesus words into action sometimes paying for that with their lives but more than often showing the Gospel message is a message of love in action with great effect.

I must confess this kind of boldness is lacking often in my life so I find personally the truth of this verse very challenging but at the same time very encouraging.

ii) (vs. 47) Delight in God’s word that contains this message

A number of times this writer of Psalm 119 speaks of delighting in God’s word and here in verse 47 he tells us a reason why he delights in God’s word and that reason is because he loves it,

“For I delight in your commands because I love them”.

If we love God’s word and particularly his message of love then we to will delight in God’s word and this should lead us to want to share it more boldly and Paul told the Roman church his delight and love of the Gospel and why he had it in Romans 1: 16,

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile”.

Then in Ephesians 6: 19 – 20 he asks his readers that he might always speak or proclaim the Gospel or the word of God,

“Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should”.

Again I find these words of Paul very challenging but if we truly delight in God’s word and particularly his Gospel we would naturally want to speak or share it.

iii) (vs. 48) Praise God as he learns his message from his word

The last verse does not mention the word praise but when it says,

“I reach out for your commands which I love”

Alan Harman suggests he is lifting up his hands in praise as he says,

“Lifting up of hands is in connection with praise”

Harman then gives a number of references from the book of Psalms that speak of the lifting of hands as a act of praise and here is one that clearly says just that, Psalm 63: 4,

“I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands”.

So final way we proclaim the central message of God’s word, his saving grace, is bound up in how our lives as well as our lips live in praise of that wonderful message of the love of God found in his word.

The writer of Psalm 119 concludes this sixth stanza of his Psalm with his final commitment to meditate on God’s word which is to prayerfully study it, he writes,

“That I may meditate on your decrees”.

I like the prayer of Thomas Cranmer found in his original prayer book the the Anglican church which says,

“Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen”.

The expression Cranmer came up with of “hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them” perfectly sums up for me what real Christian meditation of God’s word is all about. If we do that then what the writer of Psalm 1119 prayed for at the start of this sixth stanza will be answered,

“May your unfailing love come to me, Lord your salvation, according to your promise”.

Fill me now with your love O Lord
For I know your Son did come
Freely he died on the cross for me
Forever may I praise your Son.

Stanza. 7. (49 – 56) GOD’S HOPE AND COMFORT IN HIS MANY PROMISES IN HIS WORD

Many years ago when I first started to preach sermons in my church I preached a sermon on the topic of “Hope” and my minister came up to me at the end of the service and said I don’t think you can use the word hope today as that word means something like “I hope something will happen” and the bibles concept of hope is as you said in your sermon is more to do with certainty and expectation.

I decided to re- name my sermon “Hope to Cope” and made sure that I compared the modern use of the word hope as opposed to the way it is used in scripture as we see in the first verse of the seventh stanza of Psalm 119,

“Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope”.

Or Paul’s use of the word hope in Romans 8: 24 – 25,

“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently”.

This biblical hope is certain not a wishful thinking thing and we will now see that this kind of hope and the comfort it brings is in the seventh stanza of Psalm 119 as its central theme.

I have broken this seventh stanza of Psalm 119 into three parts:

  1. The writers hope and comfort founded in the promises of God (49 – 50)
  2. Why the writer needed hope and comfort (51 and 53)
  3. How the writer appropriates God’s hope (52 and 54 – 56)

So lets then have a close look at these three parts of stanza 7,

  1.  The writers hope and comfort founded in the promises of God (49 – 50)

The first two verses speak of hope although only verse 49 uses the actually word, hope because verse 50 uses the word “Comfort” which we will see has a similar meaning to the writers idea of hope.

The writer of Psalm 119 opens the seventh stanza this way,

“Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope”.

As we will see in more detail in the second part of this stanza the writer is facing difficult times and yet in the midst of these difficulties he has hope and in verse 50, comfort. This writer speaks of hope in God a lot as it comes up in this Psalm in verses 43, 81 and 147 and so he is testifying a number of times to the certainty and comfort he has in God that he says in verse 49 comes from,

“Your word”

In the New Testament the words hope and faith are interchangeable and this is how Hebrews 11: 1 defines faith and this is a good definition of the sort of hope the writer is speaking about in verse 49 of Psalm 119. So Hebrews 11: 1 sats,

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”

So the writer of Psalm 119 asks God to help him remember his word and implies that through this word from God he has hope.

The next verse, verse 50 spells this out even more when it says,

“My comfort in my suffering is this; Your promise preserves my life”;

Paul calls God the God of all comfort and explains how the comfort of God works its way out in the Christian church in 2 Corinthians 1: 3 – 5,

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ”.

The writer of Psalm 119 speaks of where he gets God’s comfort from and he calls that source of God’s comfort,

“Your promises”

The bible both Old and New Testament is chock full of promises and it said that the bible contains 5,467 promises and the writers of “Bible Gateway” say this about the Promises of God,

“The promises of God reveal his particular and eternal purposes to which he is unchangeably committed and upon which believers can totally depend”.

People might ask me why do I spend so much time reading and studying such a ancient book as the bible?

My answer is I believe that the Bible is like no other book as it contains the wonderful promises of God and how we might have the fruit of these promises in our day to day lives. The writer of Psalm 119 in verse 50 claims that even when he is suffering or going through a difficult time the promises of God help him or as the text says, they,

“Preserve my life”

This term “Preserve my life” is translated by the commentator H.C Leopold as “Gives Life” and he writes this about that term,

“Gives life does not refer to inner spiritual processes such as regeneration but to the revitalising of the ebbing strength of body and soul”.

The full quote of Paul’s word on the bibles hope in Romans 8 is verses 22 – 25 is,

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently”.

So God’s word promises the Christian believer his Holy Spirit who even in difficult times gives us hope to cope.

     2.   Why the writer needed hope and comfort (51 and 53)

The writer of Psalm 119 speaks in two verses of his seventh stanza of why he needed God’s hope and comfort and those two verse come down to speaking about how the writer was facing great difficulty through persecution. The two verses speak of persecution in two ways:

I)   (vs. 51) Being mocked for believing in God’s word
ii)  (vs. 53) The pain of being close to people who don’t believe in God’s word

Lets have a look at each of these two ways the writer of Psalm 119 is facing difficulty through persecution:

I)  (vs. 51) Being mocked for believing in God’s word

In verse 51 the writer of Psalm 119 yet again speaks of difficulties in his life caused by persecution. I say yet again because he has already spoken about this in verses 22 and 23and will speak of it again in verses 61, 69, 78, 85, 95, 110, 134 and 157. Here in verse 51 he says,

“The arrogant mock me unmercifully, but I do not turn from your law”.

The writer is not talking about enemies outside of Israel here but arrogant men within his own so called people of God community who according to verse 53 have forsaken the word of God persecute him because he dares to believe in God and his word. Allan Harman says,

“Adherence to God’s ways provides opposition”.

Currently my church has been studying in sermons and bible studies the Gospel of Mark and we have seen over and over again the hostile reaction Jesus suffered from the so called religious leaders of his day and in Mark 11 they seek to trap Jesus with tricky incriminating questions which Jesus turns back on them with clever bible based answers and then in Mark 12 after Jesus told them the parable of the evil tenants we read this in verse 12,

“Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away”.

Eventually the religious leaders of Jesus day seem to have had a victory in getting Jesus arrested at night, away from the crowds on trump up charges which led to his death by Roman crucifixion.

Before Jesus is arrested he warned his disciples and us that the same kind of persecution he faced we will also face in John 15: 18 – 21,

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’[a] If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me”.

So the writer of Psalm 119 who lived hundred of years before Christ suffered mocking at the hands of people who should have had a commitment to God and his word yet they had no such commitment so they attacked with mocking words the writer of Psalm 119 but he says in the second half of verse 51 that in face of this mocking he will,

“Not turn from your law”

Why?

Because as we have seen already in God’s law or word he finds God’s hope, verse 49 and God’s comfort, verse 50.

Jesus promised his disciples and us his help through the Holy Spirit who he calls the “Spirit of truth”, John 15: 26,

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me”.

Also note the word “Advocate” could also be translated “Comforter” so Jesus speaks of the promised Holy Spirit giving his disciples and everyone who believes and follows him inspiration and help. In John 16: 12 – 15 he even predicts the coming of the Holy Spirit to the disciples to lead them into all truth (verse 12) to write the New Testament which contains so many promises for believers when they face difficulties like persecution.

ii) (vs. 53) The pain of being close to people who don’t believe in God’s word

Then in verse 53 the writer of Psalm 119 pin – points the root cause of people from his own nation mocking him and that reason is that they have,

“forsaken your law”.

Being surrounded by people who have forsaken God’s law or word causes the writer of Psalm 119 to say in the first part of verse 53,

“Indignation grips me because of the wicked”.

The wicked here are people who should have known better for God gave them his word yet they forsake it. We might think that people forsaking the word of God and mocking those who believe in it is a relative modern thing but here we have it hundreds of years before Jesus came. Even before that we have stories of prophets who lived hundreds of years before the time of the writer of Psalm 119 facing the same problem.

The prophet of God named Elijah who after beating the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel goes off to a cave and complains to God that he alone believes in God and his word but God reveals to Elijah in 1 Kings 19: 18 how he has 7,000 faithful believes in Israel.

When I here of church leaders forsaking the word of God today it does upset me and like the writer of Psalm 119 because of it,

“Indignation grips me”.

How the writer appropriates God’s hope (52 and 54 – 56)

In verse 52 and the final three verses the writer of Psalm the writer of Psalm 119 seeks to tell us how he actually seeks to appropriate God’s hope he finds in God’s word and I have broken these appropriations into three parts:

I)   (52 & 55) He remembers God’s word
ii)  (vs. 54) He sings God’s word
iii) (vs. 56) He obeys God’s word

Lets then have a closer look at these three ways the writer of Psalm 119 seeks to appropriate the God’s hope which is found in God’s word.

I)    (52 & 55) He remembers God’s word

In two verses in this seventh stanza of Psalm 119 the writer speaks of remembering God’s word as one of three ways he sought to appropriate God’s hope and comfort even in the face of great difficulty caused by persecution and it was through simply remembering God and his word, he writes in verse 52,

“I remember, Lord your ancient laws, and I find comfort in them”.

One of my most popular Psalm talks on the internet is Psalm 70 which has the simple message of remembering God and his word and in it I speak in that Psalm talk of how we are so often dominated by memories of the past usually in a negative way but Psalm 70 and now this verse 52 of Psalm 119 encourage us to look back to the past but not to our sinful short comings of our past but long back in the past to God and his word called here in verse 52,
“Ancient laws”

People today seem to reject things of the past and write them off as out of date and even superstition but the past can and does teach us many great truths and we only have our present so called modern knowledge because great work was done in the past that we today so often don’t realise we have built our knowledge upon.

God’s laws or word is ancient because it goes back as far as creation itself and even for the writer of Psalm 119 who lived at least 2,500 years ago his written word of God particularly came into being up to 2,000 years before his time when Moses led his ancestors out of Egypt and God told his people even back then that they were to always remember his commandments which was his law or word he gave to them then through Moses at that time as we read in Deuteronomy 6: 4 – 7,

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up”.

God’s word might be ancient but it is timeless truth that our writer and countless people through the ages and even today find,

“Comfort in them”.

So when we face difficulties in our lives the best thing we can do is remember God and his word like Jesus words of comfort and help tell us in John 14: 26 – 27,

“But the Advocate (or Comforter), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”.

Then in verse 55 the writer of Psalm 119 speaks of remembering God and his word, he writes,

“In the night, Lord, I remember your name, that I may keep your law”.

Could the night be a poetic expression for a dark difficult time?

Or is he literally speaking of night time when he is alone in bed and thinking and praying over the problems and difficulties of his day?

In both instances whether we are in the midst of a dark or difficult time of life or even if we are simply thinking over the problems and difficulties of the day in bed at night the advise of the writer of Psalm 119 is very valuable he says he did this in his night,

“I remember your name”

The name of God is all that God is, all his love and power, all his faithfulness and many promises and all his grace towards us that we find clearly spoken of in his wonderful word. That is what Jesus is speaking about in John 14 that if we look to God in faith his Holy Spirit will remind us everything that Jesus has told us and when that happens his promise is his peace, John 14: 27,

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”.

Paul speaks of turning our anxieties into prayers and when we do that the peace Jesus promises will be given to us even in the most difficult of times, Philippians 4: 6 – 7,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

ii)  (vs. 54) He sings God’s word

Then in verse 54 he speaks of how, for him, singing the word of God, which was particularly the Psalms as they are the music of the Old Testament believer, he writes in this in verse 54,

“Your decrees are the theme of my song wherever I lodge”.

This writer reminds me of David who spoke so much about using music and singing as a way of both praising and proclaiming the truths of the word of God as David writes and sings in Psalm 28: 7,

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him”.

Then David writes and sings this in Psalm 105: 1 – 2,

“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. 2 Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts”.

Music can be greatly undervalued in the Christian church and even in the Christian life but I believe God has given us the gift of music to play a vital role in us appropriating his word in our lives and as a wonderful means for proclaiming that word to the world.

Paul did not undervalue the role of music in the church for in two letters, Colossians 3: 16 and Ephesians 5: 18 – 20 Paul speaks of how music is to play a important role in the church. This is Paul’s advice to the Ephesian church about the value and place of music,

 “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”

The expression,

“Wherever I lodge”,

Is translated by H.C. Leupold as,

“In the house of my pilgrimage”

This expression could be more to do with the idea of singing the word of God where ever we go in life and so that means that we should take music that is based on God’s word into all our lives. Then we will remember God and his word for music does help us remember God and his word and we will find God’s comfort as verse 52 indicates.

iii) (vs. 56) He obeys God’s word

The writer of Psalm 119 ends his seventh stanza of his 22 stanza Psalm stating the third way he appropriates the hope and comfort of that God’s word gives him is by stating yet again his commitment to obey it, he writes in verse 56,

“This has been my practice: I obey your precepts”.

The writer of Psalm 119 has stated in this seventh stanza of this Psalm that God’s word provides the promises of God that give him hope and comfort even in the face of difficulty caused by persecution. He has indicated that he appropriates this hope and comfort by firstly remembering God and his word and by making it the basis of his songs for life and now he says this hope and comfort is his because he obeys this word which is his, “Practice”.

Or way of life, a way of faith and faith put into practice by his obedience to God’s word.

We know from the New Testament and particularly Paul’s teaching in the book of Romans that yes God requires our obedience to his law but we simply just cannot obey owing to our sinful nature as Paul makes clear in Romans 3: 23,

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.

Paul goes on to point out that God had to do something for us to make us right with him and so in the next three verses, 24 – 26 Paul states what God has done for us in his Son Jesus Christ,

“And all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood – to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus”.

So this is telling us that the most appropriate way to respond to God’s word is by faith but this faith as James taught must show itself in our lives that seek to now obey God as James says in James 2: 17,

“Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action is dead”.

I close with a quote from a short article by John Piper which is a answer to the question “How do we build our hope in God?

Piper writes,

“So the essence of what we look to in the Bible to build our hope is, What has Christ done for me in my sinful condition that enables me to know that I will not come in to judgment and condemnation and that all things are working for my good? And the answer is that Christ died for me, rose again for me, and therefore all the promises of God are yes in him”.

God please remind me of your word
That offers comfort and hope
Even when I face pain and stress in life
Your promises give me hope to cope.

My summary poem of these first seven stanzas of this 22 Stanza Psalm uses the first letter of the English alphabet in each first word on each stanza in sequence and it is my summary of what have learnt from these first seven stanzas.

I also have a closing prayer for this first part of Psalm 119,

GOD’S A – Z OF THE BENEFITS OF HIS WORD
(Part 1: A – G – Based on Stanzas 1 – 7 of Psalm 119)

A person is blessed by obeying God’s word
Walking in God’s word all their days.
Forgive me O Lord for my wrong deeds
Let me walk down your road with praise.

Be a person who lives by God’s word
And stay on the path to God
Reading and studying the word of God
To heaven you will surely trod.

Continually look to God’s word
In it wonderful things you’l see
Even in the face of great difficulty
God will guide you and set you free.

Determined to look to God’s word
Even in the face of great pain
Trusting in God not turning away
In sickness and in health you’l reign.

Enlighten me O Lord above
By your promised Holy Spirit’s power
Help to understand and apply
Your saving word each day and hour.

Fill me now with your love O Lord
For I know your Son did come
Freely he died on the cross for me
Forever may I praise your Son.

God please remind me of your word
That offers comfort and hope
Even when I face pain and stress in life
Your promises give me hope to cope.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

Father in heaven I thank you for your word given to us freely long ago and particularly through the coming of your Son who is your word become flesh. Help me to remember all your wonderful promises that help me live the life you have planned for me. May I seek to remember your word, live by it and proclaim it to others and may those who do not know your life changing word come to faith in it so that they also may know the real happiness and purpose that faith in your word gives us. In Jesus name I pray Amen.

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