PSALM 120 TALK: THE CHRISTIAN’S JOURNEY BEGINS FROM A DARK LOST WORLD

PSALM 120 TALK: THE CHRISTIAN’S JOURNEY BEGINS FROM A DARK LOST WORLD

(The first Psalm in the series of Psalms called the “Songs of Ascent” that deal with the pilgrim journey to God in Jerusalem – God’s dwelling place on earth which for the Christian is the church that one day will manifest itself in heaven. This Psalm starts that pilgrim journey in our dark and hostile world where we need to constantly call on God for help to travel his way or journey through this life to heaven itself.)

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INTRODUCTION TO THE SONGS OF ASCENT

Psalm 120 is the first of 15 Psalms that have the Hebrew heading, the first verse  of each of these Psalms in the ancient Hebrew bible that says, 

“A song of ascent”

To an ancient Hebrew or Jewish person this headings meaning would have been clear and easily defined. However after the Jews were dispersed by the Romans in AD 70 and the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jews were ejected from the promised land of Israel the meaning of “A song of ascent” was lost.

Most commentators speak of up to six possible meaning for the expression “A song of ascent” and these six meanings have to do with the Hebrew translations of the Hebrew word word for ‘Ascent”. The two main translations of this Hebrew word are “Steps” or “Ascent in the sense of going upwards” and it was H. C. Leopold who helped me understand the meaning of this Hebrew word.

Two of the possible meanings of “Songs of Ascent” draw on the Hebrew meaning for “Ascent” “Steps” and they are:

1.    Songs or Hymns sung by Levite priests as they went up on of the 15 steps in the Jerusalem           Temple that lead to the court of men in that Temple.

2.    Step songs or Psalms that have a internal step like structure.

Appealing as these two interpretations are they both fail to fully capture the scope and meaning of these 15 Psalms and I believe both of these explanations can be explained by the most likely meaning of the term “A song of ascent” which I will discus last.

The other four explanations utilise the other Hebrew meaning for “Ascent” which is “Ascent in the sense of going upwards” and they are:

3.    The gradual songs or Psalms that develop in their structure as movement up to God from the 

        low point of being lost in a dark, hostile, foreign world in Psalm 120 to being in the presence of 

        God in his dwelling place in Psalm 134.

4.   Similar to gradual songs / Psalms is the idea of Progression songs in that even with these 15 

      Psalms there seems to be a upward movement from a low spiritual position to a higher spiritual 

      point. Calvin even suggested that the term could refer to tunes that went from low to high pitch.

5.   The procession from Babylon Songs / Psalms which seem to have been composed sometime 

      after the return from exile in Babylon and sung by the returning Jews. This was an upwards 

      journey from Babylon on sea level and below to Jerusalem which is above sea level.

6.   The Pilgrims Festival songs / or Psalms and this last explanation seems to fit best as

      once it is applied it resonates with the message of each Psalm in this 15 Psalm series.

The idea here is that all Jews travelled up to Jerusalem up to three times a year for three main festivals, Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacle”. Our Lord himself is recorded as having made this journey of ascent himself in a number of places in the Gospels like John 5: 1,

“Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals”.

These journeys of going up to Jerusalem, or ascending up could have taken Jews living in bible times of up to three to five days of hard walking steadily up hill according to where they started from and it is believed that these 15 Psalms were the songs these pilgrim travellers sang as they made this annual journey up to Jerusalem.

Leopold even suggested that these 15 Psalms might have started their life as a little book, scroll in ancient times that was put together for pilgrims to use when travelling up to Jerusalem for these festivals and the editors of the fifth book of Psalms decided to put them into this final collection of Psalms and show their origin by giving them the Hebrew heading of “Songs of Ascent”.

This understanding of the “Songs of Ascent” can also fit the other explanations of the meaning of The Songs of Ascent in my way of thinking.  After the songs were put together for Pilgrims coming up to Jerusalem for one of the three festivals the Levites could have adapted them to use as songs to sing as they ascended the 15 steps into the Temple.

These Psalms were also chosen by the original editors because they had a structure that fitted a pilgrims journey up to Jerusalem with both message and style in which they were written and maybe in the structure of the tunes they were sung by. Also some of these Psalms like Psalm 126 do seem to fit the return from Babylon this could be simply an apt time of a special pilgrimage to Jerusalem that helped inspire these compositions. 

So finally the style and message of these Psalms, possibly even in the way they were sung fit a going up or ascending nature and again make them very appropriate for pilgrim journeys up to Jerusalem for one or more of the Jewish festivals celebrated each year in ancient Israel right up to the time of Christ. This means that Jesus himself probably sang these songs as he joined with his family and then his disciples when he went up to Jerusalem to celebrate one or more of the Jewish festivals held their each year.

My structure for the 15 Songs of Ascent Psalms comes from an inspired interpretation I discovered in my research on these Psalms by a man named Paul Faris who called “The Songs of Ascent”, “The Pilgrims Psalter” and he divided these fifteen Psalms into three sections:

  1. Psalms 120 – 124 – Beginning the Journey
  2. Psalms 125 – 129 – Progressing on the Journey
  3. Psalms 130 – 134 – Perfecting the journey

It is said he argued that the Songs of Ascent,

“Captured the three stages of our spiritual journey. We begin our walk with God by leaving evil behind (Beginning), make progress in our faith by working on various areas of our life to bring them in submission to God (progressing) then, as we near our destination, ready ourselves to meet our God (Perfecting).

I have captured this inspired interpretation and adapted it to be my three sections of The Songs of Ascent”, which are:

  1.   Psalms 120 – 124 – The Journey begins – The Way
  2.   Psalms 125 – 129 – The Journey progresses – The Road
  3.   Psalms 130 – 134 – The Journey Ends – The destination

I also need to define what I believe is the meaning of the term “A Christian Pilgrim” and “ A Christian Journey” is. After careful study of these terms I came to this conclusion:

The theme of pilgrimage is developed through many books that make up what we call as Christians, the bible and it is a term that has many aspects to it like being on a journey through life to God, experiencing exile, living as a sojourner in a foreign land and seeking God’s way for our lives and walking in it by faith to God in heaven. Heaven is the final destination of the children of God made possible by the work of The Lord Jesus Christ by his death and resurrection.

I will quote a lot in these Songs of Ascent Psalm Talks the words of Jesus 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”.

INTRODUCTION TO PSALM 120

A few years ago I watched a very interesting movie called ‘The Way” which was about a American eye specialist name Dr Thomas Avery played by Martin Sheen who travels to Spain after the death of his grown up son who died in a fierce storm while attempting to walk the pilgrim way in the Pyrenees called Camino de Santiago translated as “The Way of St. James”. This is an ancient Roman Catholic pilgrimage that many people still do today for various reasons.

Dr Thomas, a materialistic, godless man decides in memory of his son to complete this arduous journey to scatter his sons ashes at the end of the pilgrimage. Dr Thomas meets a number of fellow travellers on his long and difficult journey and discovers some of the many reasons why people attempt this famous pilgrimage. He becomes friends with three fellow travellers and as the movie progresses he discovers many things about himself and life he had never really thought about and it appears that he for the first time in his life sees something of a spiritual dimension to his life he never ever thought of before.

This movie is a excellent introduction to the Songs of Ascent and illustrates to me where all of us start our journey to God in heaven from, darkness, despair and hopelessness. We are all spiritually speaking blind to God and need to come out of that darkness to his glorious light to see the way he has made for us to walk or live that leads us eventually to heaven.

This is the central theme of the first Psalm of Ascent and is best illustrated by what verse 5 is actually saying, the verse reads like this,

“Woe to me that I dwell in Meshek, that I live among the tents of Kedar!”

We will see, when I get to this verse that what the author of Psalm 120 actually saying here is that he is dwelling in a dark and godless place far from Jerusalem and therefore far from the presence of God that Jerusalem represented in the Old Treatment.

Psalm 120 has as it’s main theme  as the “Journeys beginning” or where we all start our true spiritual journey to heaven from, namely from sin and hopelessness.This theme of where we begin our journey or pilgrimage from will also be explored in the next four Psalms before we move to the second section of these Psalms of Ascent, Psalms125 – 129 that deal with progressing on in our journey or travelling the road God has made for us to travel on

With this theme in mind my outline for this first Song of Ascent is:

1.       (1 – 2)   THE JOURNEY BEGINS BY LOOKING TO GOD WITH FAITH

2.      (3 – 4)   THE JOURNEY BEGINS WHEN WE REALISE WE ARE UNDER GODS 

                     JUDEMENT

3.      (5 – 7)   THE JOURNEY BEGINS FROM LIVING IN A DARK AND LOST WORLD

Lets then look at where all of us begin our journey to God according to this first Psalm of ascent.

  1.   (1 – 2)   THE JOURNEY BEGINS BY LOOKING TO GOD WITH FAITH

Our writer of Psalm 120 starts his short Psalm of Ascent with a desperate prayer in verse 1,

“I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me”.

This man reveals where a true spiritual journey to God begins in the opening words of his Psalm, namely a prayer of faith made in the heat of problems and difficulties. I have heard many people in my past testify that they came to the Lord not initially willingly but God had to put them in a very difficult situation to wake them up spiritually. This is what the film “The Way” reveals as Dr Thomas Avery was so caught up in making money and pursuing his career he had no time for not only God but other people including his son who died on his spiritual pilgrimage in Spain.

Our writer found himself in some kind of distress, which we are not told what it  actually was but later in the Psalm it does seem to be connected with living in a godless and dark world that sought to pursue war not peace and these people who sought war not peace used as a weapon against him their, vs. 2,

“Lying lips and deceitful tongues”

The New Testament makes it clear that without God people are living in a dark hopeless world that is full of deception and conflict as John tells us plainly in John 3: 19 – 20,

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed”.

However the message of The Gospel is clear that we come out of this darkness through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the light and love of God who has come into this world to save us as John 3: 16 says plainly,

“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”.

And John 3: 19 goes on to further explain,

“But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God”.

Our writer might have started his journey up to Jerusalem in a dark place in difficult circumstances but in that dark place he called on the Lord and he knew from previous experience of God in his life that God answered his prayers of faith just as Jesus assures anyone else who prays prayers of faith that he will answer them as he indicates in Mathew 7: 7,

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you”

Our writer continues his prayer of faith to ask in verse 2,

“Save me , Lord, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues”.

Our writer wants to be saved from the dark world he lived in to be in a place of peace as he indicates in verse 7, the final verse of his Psalm. The darkness he faced came in the form of slander and lies and Allan Harman in his commentary says that this fits well with the problems Ezra (Ezra 4: 1 – 24) and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 4: 1 – 14, 6: 5 -14) faced after the Jews returned from exile in Babylon to re-build the Temple and walls of Jerusalem. Here Samaritans and Arabs now living also in Jerusalem and Israel used false accusations against the Jews in an attempt to stop them rebuilding God’s Temple and the walls of Jerusalem.

Even today opponents of Christians and the Gospel message use false accusations against them to seek to put them down and destroy their effectiveness. 

Because of this I cautiously view news of Christians being reported to have done the wrong thing although if they have I know this is just evidence of Paul’s teaching on how we are all sinners, Romans 3: 23,

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

The writer of Psalm 120 called on God to,

“Save him”

This call to God for him to save us is the very first act we must all take to begin the spiritual journey that will lead us ultimately to God in heaven. Jesus said in John 14: 6 that he has made the way back to God in heaven,

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

To go to heaven we need to be saved from our sins and Peter, speaking about Jesus says this in Acts 4: 12,

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Once we are saved we are ready to begin the journey to God and heaven. When Jesus said he is “The Way”, he literally was saying he is “The Road” and so he is telling us that by calling on him to be saved he will set us on a new path or road in life that will lead us to his father in heaven.

2.      (3 – 4)   THE JOURNEY BEGINS WHEN WE REALISE WE ARE UNDER GODS JUDEMENT

The writer of Psalm 120 in the next two verses, verses 3 and 4 then expresses in a strange way to our ears or eyes a message of the judgement of God. It was Allan Harman who helped me understand what the writer is actually saying in these verses, he writes,

“This is an indirect appeal to God to bring judgment on the slanderer”.

He goes on to explain,

“It is phrased in terms similar to oaths such as ‘May God do to you, and more also’ (1 Samuel 3: 17)”.

So with this in mind verse 3 reads like this,

“What will he do to you, and what more besides, you deceitful tongue?”

The modern paraphrase version of the bible, The MSG version puts it this way,

“Do you know what’s next, can you see what’s coming, all you barefaced liars?”

The writer of Psalm 120 goes on to make it clear he is calling for God’s judgment to come on his enemies when he writes in verse 4,

“He will punish you with a warriors sharp arrow, with burning coals of the broom bush”.

This praying for God’s judgment to come on their enemies called theologically a imprecatory prayer which is very common in the book of Psalms and I have said many times before that Jesus does not want us as his followers to pray like this as he tells us in verses like Matthew 5: 43 – 44,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.

However I have also said many times before when I read these imprecatory prayers in the book of Psalms I always think of how God’s Judgment is coming and how everyone one day will stand before the judgment seat of God and again we need to be saved from judgment. As Paul declares in Acts 17: 31,

For he (God) has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

Paul makes that clear what this judgment of God leads to and offers the solution and hope in one short verse, Romans 6: 23,

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

Our writer speaks of the judgment of God coming on those who rebel against God and show this in their opposition to God and his faithful followers in ancient images of warfare,

“A warriors sharp arrow”.

The ancient archer found his target in the body of his opponent just as God will punish the unforgiven with his clear and decisive judgment.

Then in a common household product,

“With burning coals of the broom bush”.

The broom bush is a tree common to the Near East which is very hard wood so it burns very hot. So this is the image of a deadly consequence of sin and rebellion to God much worse than the effects of his enemies slanderous words. 

So as we all are under God’s judgment without the saving grace of God in Christ and so we all start our long road back to God in heaven from a realisation we are under the judgment of God and therefore must have the saving love of God to travel the way or road of God that leads to our heavenly home with God forever.

Jesus is the only way or road back to God in heaven because he alone provides the forgiveness we must have through his death and resurrection. As John makes clear from John 3: 36,

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them”.

3.      (5 – 7)   THE JOURNEY BEGINS FROM LIVING IN A DARK AND LOST WORLD

The final three verses do not seem to have an obvious meaning but once some of the key words of these verses are explained then we see where all people start their journey of salvation and future glory from which is the dark and lost world of sin and godlessness.

The first of these last three verses reads like this,

“Woe to me that I dwell in Meshek, that I live among the tents of Kedar!”

So were is Meshek and Kedar and what is their significance?

Allan Harman explains Meshek this way,

“Mecheck was named after a son of Jephath (Gen. 10:2) and refers to Eastern Anatolia, now modern Turkey”.

While his explanation of Kedar is,

“Kedar was one of Ishmael’s sons and father of the tribe that bore his name (Gen. 25: 13)

Harmon explains that these people the writer is referring to are actually Bedouin Arabs who lived southeast of Damascus”.

So these two groups of people lived geographically poles apart so what is he saying by using these two different peoples names?

It seems according to most commentators he is describing living in a world totally alien from God, a world of barbarians or total non – believers in the God of the bible. I like Temper Longman 111 way of describing this, he writes,

“In other words a modern equivalent might be, ‘I am as far away as Timbuktu’ 

And goes on to explain,

“Even though Timbuktu is a real place, the expression indicates being anywhere that is incredibly distant and foreign”.

Spiritually that is a good description of where we start our pilgrimage or journey with God from as non – believers. We are in the dark and godless world that once we leave it Peter calls us in 1 Peter 2: 11,

“Foreigners and exiles”

In the world we now live in because in a previous verse in that same chapter, verse 9, he says God,

“Called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”.

And remember here the earlier verses in Johns Gospel I quoted that speak of how those not living in the light of God, The Lord Jesus Christ are living in darkness, John 3: 19 – 20,

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed”.

So the dark world we live in could cause us to cry out to God like the writer of Psalm 120,

“Woe to me that I dwell in Meshek, that I live among the tents of Kedar!”

Then in the last two verses of this Psalm our writer speaks of peace and war and living among people who hate peace and love war instead, verse 6 and 7,

“Too long have I lived among those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war”.

These two verses reveal to me three things about where our writer is starting his pilgrimage from:

  1. A hostile dangerous place
  2. A Frustrating war torn place
  3. A dark godless place

Let me explain how I came to these three descriptions of the place our writer starts his pilgrimage to God from and its significance to our spiritual journey as Christians living in a dark Godless world.

  1. A hostile dangerous place

The first of these last two verses, verse 6 says,

“Too long have I lived among those who hate peace”.

If the people around you actually hate peace then that would make the world you live in a very hostile and dangerous place. Most modern popular movies and TV shows feature war or conflict and the general plot of their story lines is murder, revenge and bloodshed. This is because we too live in a world of danger and hostility. 

Some places in our world are worse than others as they seem even further away from God, the God of the bible than other places but once we look away from God to go our own way in life Paul says in Romans 1: 28 – 32,

“Just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them”.

Call me cynical and negative but Paul has just described the world I live in and Australia and the part I live in is considered reasonably safe and civilised with so called peace loving people yet our nightly news is full of murders, family breakdowns and all sorts of other things Paul catalogued in the previous bible quote.

We hear of course in our nightly news of wars and rumours of wars and war is just human conflict on a national scale. People without the love of God do not love peace and I am often disappointed when I hear of Christians advocating war or conflict as the answer to problems in our world. 

As a young Christian I was a out and out pacifist but after many theological discussions and arguments I changed my views to say that Christians have the right to defend themselves and their country but this is a last resort strategy as Jesus said in Matthew 5: 9,

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”.

So our writer of Psalm 120 is telling us in verse 6 that he wants to no longer be in a world that hates peace. So from this dangerous hostile world he lives in he wants to journey to Jerusalem where he would be out of danger and hostility and in the presence of God. As the writer of Psalm 84 says,

“How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! 2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. 3 Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God. 4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever

praising you. 5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. 6 

As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. 7 They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion. 8 

Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty,  listen to me, God of Jacob. 9 Look on our shield, O God look with favour on your anointed one. 10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. 11 

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favour and honour; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless’.

This Psalm expresses the yearnings of all true believers that they would be able to travel to the place that God dwells in and we know that this is heaven which is described this way in Revelation 21: 1 – 4,

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

  1. A frustrating war torn place

In the last verse of this Psalm verse 7 our writer describes the place from which he started his pilgrimage to Jerusalem from this way,

“I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war”.

Our writer sought to promote peace and harmony but those around him would have non of it as they only wanted war. This is a simple description of a frustrating war torn place in which our writer has been living in. 

He does not speak of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem directly in this Psalm but he has been inferring to it by speaking of being in a hostile, frustrating place where peace is hated and war is promoted. For him he wants to go to a place of peace and in Old Testament terms that place is Zion, or Jerusalem or God’s Temple which we heard the writer of Psalm 84 describe in his beautiful Psalm about Jerusalem and the house of the Lord that sat on top of Mount Zion.

For us as Christians we must continue to live in a frustrating often war torn world but we must always keep our eye’s on the ultimate destination of being with God in heaven which the writer to the Hebrews speaks of in Hebrews 12: 1 – 2,

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”.

  1. A dark godless place

So in conclusion then the place he now finds himself in is nothing more than a dark godless place as revealed by these last two verses and it is a place where war reigns and there is no peace.

From the rest of the Psalm he is also speaking of the place from where he is starting his journey or pilgrimage from as a dark and godless place by speaking of it as place of;

  • Lying lips
  • Deceitful tongues (vs. 2)
  • A place under God’s judgment (vs. 4)
  • A place far from the presence of God (vs. 5)

We also live in a dark godless world as,

“Foreigners and exiles”

Which we learnt from 1 Peter 2: 11 and this Peter explains in verse 9 is because God has.

“Called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”.

So we start our pilgrim journey from the dark world of sin and rebellion like Dr Thomas Avery the central character of the Hollywood movie, “The Way” he started his pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain as a selfish, materialistic Godless man but as he journeyed on that difficult trail he discovered a new spiritual dimension to his life that changed him completely.

As Christians we have come out of the darkness of this world to start our walk on the way or the road to God following the Lord Jesus Christ who made that way back to God possible through his death on the cross for our sins.

I close with my own original poem inspired by what I have learn in my study of Psalm 120 and a final prayer.

GOD’S ROAD 

(based on Psalm 120 and the tune of Wayfaring Stranger)

I call to God in my distress

Save me O Lord from this dark place.

And set my feet on your road O Lord

That will bring me to see your face.

 

Chorus:

God’s road to him

Was made by Jesus

When he died to forgive my sins

He made the way back to his father

So that in him new life begins.

 

Chorus:

Called out from this world under wrath

For it is hostile to God’s word.

He set my feet upon his road

Guiding my life by his word.

 

Chorus:

I live in a world from you Lord

I live in a world thats gone astray.

So set my feet on your road Lord

And show me how to live each day.

Chorus: 

I long to live with you O Lord

Where peace does reign supreme always.

O set my feet on your road O Lord

To the place of true peace and praise.

 

Chorus:

God’s road to him

Was made by Jesus

When he died to forgive my sins

He made the way back to his father

So that in him new life begins.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

I ask you Father in heaven above to help me as I face the pain and difficulty of living in this dark world of sin. I know your Son made a way for me back to you Father in heaven by dying for my sins on the cross so I thank you for your way and I pray that you will help me walk in your way in my life today. I commit my life to you Lord and I look forward to one day being with you in heaven where there will be no more pain, strife and tears, in Jesus powerful name I pray, Amen.

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PSALM 119 (PART 3: 121 – 176) TALK: THE SUPREMACY AND BENEFITS OF GOD’S WORD

PSALM 119 (PART 3: 121 – 176) TALK: THE SUPREMACY AND BENEFITS OF GOD’S WORD

(The third part of the longest Psalm and chapter in the bible like the first two parts sets down in some detail how God’s word shows us how we should live our lives how we are to consider it as more valuable than anything in this life).

INTRODUCTION

This then is the third part or instalment of my Psalm talk on Psalm 119 the longest Psalm and chapter of scripture in the bible. Its length is a testimony to the love and devotion of this ancient man to God and to what he saw as the supremacy and benefits of the word of God.

 We have seen so far the the writer of Psalm 119 defends, promotes and stays true to God and his word even in the face of overwhelming opposition to him and his God and his word. It seems he was only opposed because he dared to continue to trust and obey the word of God at a time that such devotion and commitment to God and his word was completely out of step with the majority of society in his day. This situation fits perfectly our world today as Christians who dare to even suggest that God is real and his word the bible is true and valuable are laughed at, ridiculed and even persecuted for such beliefs.

Therefore in these final seven stanzas we will continue to learn the benefits and the supremacy of God’s word in our own day and age as well.

My eight stanzas in this third part of Psalm 119 are:

Stanza. 16.  (121 – 128)   GOD’S WORD DEMANDS COMMITMENT IN THE FACE OF PEOPLE OPPOSING AND      

                                                 ABANDONING IT

Stanza. 17.  (129 – 136)   GOD’S WORD IS WONDERFUL BECAUSE IT GIVES LI UNDERSTANDING TO THE SIMPLE AND

                                                 DIRECTS OUR PATHS  IN LIFE.

Stanza. 18.  (137 – 144)   GOD’S WORD IS TRUE AND RIGHT AND CAN BE RELIED UPON.

Stanza  19:   (145 – 152)   GOD’S WORD GIVES US REAL FAITH TO BE ABLE TO CALL ON  HIM IN OUR HOUR OF NEED

Stanza  20:   (153 – 160)   GOD’S WORD PRESERVES AND REVIVES US IN THE ROUGH AND  TUMBE OF LIFES

                                                   DIFFICULTIES

Stanza  21:   (161 – 168)   GOD’S WORD IS PRECIOUS BECAUSE IT OFFERS US PEACE AND SALVATION IN THE HOSTILE

                                                  WORD WE LIVE IN

Stanza 22:    (169 – 176)   GOD’S WORD IS THE INSTRUMENT OF HIS HELP AND SALVATION THEREFORE I WILL SING

                                                   ITS PRAISES

 

Stanza. 16.  (121 – 128)   GOD’S WORD DEMANDS COMMITMENT IN THE FACE OF PEOPLE  OPPOSING AND

                                                  ABANDONING IT

 When each of my three children were young and still at home my wife and I had a rule which was that when they requested for us to pay and support their involvement in some kind of sport or leisure activity they had to remain committed to it for the season or term it ran before they could pull out of it.

We had this rule because we wanted to teach our children the all important ethic of life of commitment. 

A couple of times one or two of our three children wanted to pull out of a season or term commitment and we said no and this caused tension in our relationship with this child at the time but my wife and I stuck to our rule and on one occasion of doing this one of our children actually changed their mind as they continued to attend the activity they wanted to pull out of and actually signed up the following year for the same sporting activity.

One of the sad and negative aspects of our world today, as I see it is the often complete lack of commitment many people have to life today. In the church this lack of commitment is seen in people failing to turn up to church regularly or in people not fulfilling commitments to ministry or jobs in the church.

A greater sign of lack of commitment is to the very word of God as many so called professing christians show a compete lack of belief and commitment to the very word of God often caused by the prevalent negative opposition to the bible which most people today dismiss as ancient fairytales or archaic out of date made up stories that have little or no relevance to our world today.

Our writer of Psalm 119 in stanza 16 sets forth his commitment to the word of God in the face of overwhelming opposition to it. Opposition that causes our writer to feel oppressed and uneasy and in need of God’s deliverance from immanent danger to his very life.

In this stanza we have three things about commitment to the word of God our writer sets down:

1.    (121 – 123)   A CALL TO GOD THAT HIS COMMITMENT TO GOD’S WORD WILL ASSURE HIS SALVATION

2.    (124 – 126)  A PLEA TO GOD THAT HIS COMMITMENT TO HIS WORD WILL LEAD GOD TO SHOWING COMMITMENT

                                 TO HIM

3.   (127 – 128)   A FINAL DECLARATION OF OUR WRITERS COMMITMENT TO GOD AND HIS WORD

Lets then have a closer look at these things our writer speaks of about commitment to God’s word.

  1.   (121 – 123)   A CALL TO GOD THAT HIS COMMITMENT TO GOD’S WORD WILL ASSURE HIS SALVATION

Like other sections of this long but beautiful Psalm 119 the opening three verses are written as a prayer to God and these first three verses of the stanza are a call to God expressing his commitment to God and his word as a reason for God to deliver him from his oppressors as he writes in verse 121,

“I have done what is righteous and just; do not leave me to my oppressors”.

The fact that he has been committed faithfully to God in acting righteously and justly does not equal merit for God to act as H.C Leopold points out,

“Though he may not merit deliverance he has at least not done that which would make him unworthy of it”. 

The writer of Psalm 119 has already stated he only believes God will deliver him because of God has promised to do so for for his faithful followers as he writes back in verse 82,

“My eyes fail, looking for your promise”

In fact in another previous verse, verse 76 he says that God’s promise of deliverance or salvation is linked to God’s love,

“May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant”.

God’s promise of salvation is given because he is a loving and faithful God and in Old Testament terms this is linked with the covenant promises of God as we read in Exodus 34: 6 – 7,

“And he (God) passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love, and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin”.

The Old Testament covenant goes on to warn that those who are not committed to God in obedience to his covenant will face God’s judgment and not receive the blessings of his loving promises.

In the New Covenant’s the promises of God are made by a loving God out of love to those who are committed to The Lord Jesus Christ as the writer to the Hebrews states in Hebrews 9: 15,

“For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance – now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant”.

Paul speaks of our salvation in terns of a very special form of love he calls grace and says this about how we find salvation from God 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 – not by works, so that no one can boast”.

Then in verse 122 he uses the term “Servant” to describe himself that he uses again two more times in verses 124 and 125.

I believe the term servant is a humble way of the writer of Psalm 119 is both describing his relationship with God and his commitment to God even in the face of hostile and powerful opposition, he writes in verse 122,

“Ensure your servant’s well – being; do not let the arrogant oppress me”.

He, unlike his oppressors is a faithful servant of God and his word and again because of his obvious commitment to God and his word he has the faith to ask God for his help to give him well – being which Leopold reveals literally means,

“Do good for a man”.

The concept of being a faithful servant is a major teaching in the New Testament which flows from the very attitude and teaching of Jesus who describes himself and his mission in coming to this world this way in Mark 10: 45,

“For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many”.

Paul tells the Philippians to use the servanthood nature and actions of Christ as a model in their relationships with one another in Philippians 2: 5 – 8,

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross”.

So our commitment to God and his word should show in our lives as being faithful servants of God. This is shown by us by the way we serve God’s faithful people who like us seek to be committed to God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The third verse in this first part of stanza 16 is verse 123 which makes this call for salvation or deliverance from his oppressors because of his commitment to God and his word in a stronger way, he writes,

“My eyes fail, looking for your salvation, looking for your righteous promise”.

Spurgeon explains the meaning of this verse well, this way,

“He wept, waited, and watched for God’s saving hand, and these exercises tried the eyes of his faith till they were almost ready to give out. He looked to God alone, he looked eagerly, he looked long, he looked till his eyes ached. The mercy is, that if our eyes fail, God does not fail, nor do his eyes fail”.

The New Testament does not offer those who are committed to God and his word an easy life with no sorrow or tears but it does offer us comfort in our times of trials and difficulties as Paul states clearly in 2 Corinthians 1: 3 – 4,

“Praise be to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those with the comfort we ourselves receive from God”.

We of course look forward to heaven when things like tears are wiped away and this life of peril and conflict will be no more, Revelations 21: 3 – 4,

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. 

They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away”.

2.    (124 – 126)    A PLEA TO GOD THAT HIS COMMITMENT TO HIS WORD WILL LEAD GOD TO SHOWING COMMITMENT

                                  TO HIM

The next part of this sixteenth stanza followers a similar idea as the first three verses with what I see is not just a call or prayer request but a desperate plea for God’s salvation from his aggressive oppressors. The plea he makes in these verses has at its heart the concept that because he is committed to God and his word God will in turn be committed to him and free him or save him from his enemies who are not committed to God and his word.

We have in these three verses in fact three pleas which I have called:

  1.   (vs. 124)   A plea for God to deal with his committed servant according to his love
  2.   (vs. 125)   A plea by the committed servant of God and his word to give him discernment
  3.   (vs. 126)   A plea by the committed servant of God and his word to act for him now.

Lets then have a closer look at each of these three pleas to God by this committed servant of God and his word.

1.      (vs. 124)   A plea for God to deal with his committed servant according to his love

In this first plea I believe the writer has in mind what I said he had in mind when he spoke of God’s promises in verse 123 and that is the covenant of love which is Israel’s relationship with God is founded on, he writes in verse 124,

“Deal with your servant according to your love and teach me your decrees”.

I spoke earlier of the basis of any help, blessing and salvation coming from God, even in the Old Testament, is based on God’s unmerited love and I will quote again something I think our writer of Psalm 119 had in mind when he pleads with God to deal with him,

“according to your love”

Namely  Exodus 34: 6 – 7,

“And he (God) passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love, and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin”.

The write of Psalm 119 who calls himself,

“Your Servant” or God’s servant

The writer of Psalm 119 is saying he is committed to God and his word and according to his word as we have just read God promises to deal with those who are faithful and committed to him not with anger or disdain but with love. Our writer therefore is claiming a promise of God in prayer for his current desperate situation. 

I also mentioned earlier that for us under the new covenant we have even a greater declaration of God’s commitment to deal with us according to his love and the message of Christ is in fact the message called the Good News that God because of what he has done for us deals with us according to love not vengeance. This is something we simply do not deserve as Jesus declares in John 15: 9 – 14,

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Fathers commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 

My command is this; love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command”.

According to John 3: 16 God sent Jesus into the world to die for our sins to save us and he did this because of his great love for us,

“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”.

So like the writer of Psalm 119 we too who are committed to God and his word should have the same confidence to plea to God for his help on the basis of his love and his love alone.

2.     (vs. 125)   A plea by the committed servant of God and his word to give him discernment

His second plea is for discernment which is called by some commentators as a plea for understanding or insight which Leopold says,

“Helps a man to meet difficult situations as to the ones which the psalmist now finds himself in”.

As verse 125 syas,

“I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes”.

The writer is committed to God and particularly his word which he says back in verse 105 is,

“A lamp for my feet, a light on my path”.

So the writer now is saying if your statutes or word is my guide then give me understanding of it for my current problems with my oppressors. 

Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 16 and 17 that not only is the bible or the word of God inspired by God but it is useful for teaching and understanding,

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

The writer of Psalm 119 in verse 125 is asking for wisdom and wisdom he does not humanly have so it must come from God and particularly from God’s word. 

This reminds me of a wonderful verse in James, which is James 1: 5, which says,

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without fault, and it will be given to you”.

I have personally claimed this promise in this verse on many occasions in my long life and God has wonderfully answered me with insight or discernment every time.

3.     (vs. 126)   A plea by the committed servant of God and his word to act for him now.

Allan Harman presents the key to understanding this verse is the phrase,

“Your law is being broken”,

He says that our writers opponents were nothing more than, “breakers of God’s covenant” so our writers third desperate plea to God is,

“It is time for you to act, Lord”.

Jeremiah speaks of what will happen to lawbreakers in Jeremiah 11: 10 – 11,

“They have returned  to the sins of their ancestors, who refused to listen to my words. They have followed other gods to serve them. Both Israel and Judah have broken the covenant I made with their ancestors. Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I will bring on them disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them”.

Old Testament prophets like Jeremiah all spoke of the fate of lawbreakers or covenant breakers is God’s Judgment and even in Exodus 34 when God gave the covenant of love to Moses God warned that those who are not committed to God’s covenant  of love face generations of God’s judgement as Exodus 34: 7b says,

“Yet he (God) does not leave the guilty unpunished, he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation”.

So when our writer pleas for God to act in verse 126 he is asking for God to judge his oppressors who are not committed to God and his word because they are law breakers.

The reality is that we are all law breakers as Paul says in Romans 3: 23,

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

In the early chapters of Romans Paul sets down how both Jews who God gave the law to and Gentiles or non – jews who have the basis of God’s law in their hearts all failed to keep God’s law and therefore are law breakers.

In Romans 6: 23, he revels first of all the penalty of our law breaking when he says,

“For the wages of sin is death”.

But then in the same verse he declares the wonderful message of the Gospel when he declares,

“But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

So when God acts in final judgment our only hope is the wonderful message of the Gospel that because we are committed to the Lord Jesus Christ with faith in what he has done for us then we will be saved from God’s terrible judgment.

3.   (127 – 128)   A FINAL DECLARATION OF OUR WRITERS COMMITMENT TO GOD AND HIS WORD

Our writer of Psalm 119 then concludes this sixteenth stanza of his 22 stanza Psalm with two verses that declare his total commitment to God and his word in two ways:

  1.   (vs. 127)   He considers God’s word as the most precious thing he knows in this life
  2.   (vs. 128)   He considers God’s commands right and anyone who opposes it is in the wrong

Lets take a closer look at these two expressions of commitment to God and his word in these final two verses.

  1.   (vs. 127)   He considers God’s word as the most precious thing he knows in this life

Five times in this long Psalm our writer declares that God’s word is the most precious thing he knows as we read in verses 14, 57, 72, 111 and will see again in verse 162 and here in verse 127 he says it this way,

“Because I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold.

Gold in the ancient world was the most precious of all metals and even today gold is the most stable commodity on the earth for high value so gold has been and is the benchmark for the most precious thing in this life. 

So what does our Psalmist think of the word of God?

He loves it more than gold.

It is the most precious thing he knows and would trade any amount of gold or riches to have it, now that is commitment to God and his word. Jesus declared both the eternal nature and value of his word which is the basis of God’s word to us when he says in Matthew 24: 35,

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away”.

Peter and the early disciples of Jesus had the same commitment to the word of God which they now knew as the word of Christ Jesus as we see in Peters encounter with a crippled man in Jerusalem in Acts 3: 6,

“Silver or gold  do not have, but what I do give you, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth walk”.

The name of Jesus embodied all Jesus is as said so really this man rose up and walked through the power of Jesus word communicated to him through the lips of Peter. 

When I have given English bibles to christians in Myanmar who are not able to purchase them there I have witnessed unbelievable gratitude and one man went to his knees and kissed the bible I gave him. Such devotion and feeling of value to the bible simply does not happen in my own country yet when the bible is almost impossible to get in a country like Myanmar Christians value it so much.

  1.   (vs. 128)   He considers God’s commands right and anyone who opposes it is in the wrong

Then in sixteenth stanza that I believe commitment to God and his word in the face of great opposition to him is its central theme our writer of Psalm 119 closes with a final word of commitment to God and his word with these words in verse 128,

“And because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path”.

Such is our writers commitment to God and his word that he see it and it alone as right and true and as verse 105 says, 

“A lamp for my feet, a light on my path”.

God’s word showed our writer how he should live his life so anyone who goes against the word of God walks a wrong path. 

I close with some of C.H Spurgeon’s comments on this verse,

“His detestation was as unreserved as his affection; he had not a good word for any practice which would not bear the light of truth. The fact that such large multitudes follow the broad road had no influence upon this holy man, except to make him more determined to avoid every form of error and sin. May the Holy Spirit so rule in our hearts that our affections may be in the same decided condition towards the precepts of the word”.

My four line conclusion verse for this sixteenth stanza is:

Please dear Lord help me in my daily walk

To follow your word every day

Not letting this world squeeze me into

The mould that does not follow your way.

Stanza. 17.  (129 – 136)   GOD’S WORD IS WONDERFUL BECAUSE IT GIVES LIGHT AND UNDERSTANDING TO THE

                                                 SIMPLE AND DIRECTS OUR PATHS   IN LIFE.

I am writing this Psalm talk for stanza 17 of Psalm 119 while I am about half way round the great lap of Australia. The great lap is the long and wonderful tour around my country Australia so many both young and old alike are doing today. Australia is a vast and beautiful country and we are going to be away for four months just to complete the lap and see just some of the highlights of our amazing country.

As wonderful as Australia is and has been so far it’s magnificent rouged often untouched wonder is no match according to the writer of Psalm 119 to the wonderful nature and value of God’s word the bible. He writes in verse 129,

“Your statutes are wonderful”.

He then proceeds to both tell us some of the wonderful things about the word of God and as he does this he applies what he sees as wonderful to the current needs in his life in a prayer which basically asks for mercy or love, guidance and freedom from the evil clutches of his enemies who not only oppose him but also oppose the very word of God our writer finds wonderful.

With this in mind my breakdown for this seventeenth stanza is

1.      (vs. 129)      THE WONDERFUL NATURE OF THE WORD OF GOD

2.     (130 – 132)   THE WONDERFUL LIGHT AND LOVE GOD GIVES US THROUGH HIS WORD

3.     (133 – 135)   THE WONDERFUL DIRECTION GOD’S WORD GIVES US IN LIFE

4.     (vs. 136)      THE TERRIBLE EFFECT ON US WHEN GOD’S WONDERFUL WORD IS REJECTED BY OTHERS.

Lets then have a close look at these four parts of our Psalmist appreciation of the wonderful nature of the word of God.

1.     (vs. 129)     THE WONDERFUL NATURE OF THE WORD OF GOD

At a church service I attended this morning we sang the great old hymn, “How great thou art” and the first two lines of this great old hymn go like this,

O Lord my God when I in awesome awesome wonder

Consider all the works thy hands have made.

I was struck by the term “awesome wonder” having the day before read and studied the first verse of the seventeenth stanza of Psalm 119, verse 129 which starts with the statement,

“Your statutes are wonderful”.

The first verse of “How Great thou Art” goes on to speak of the awesome wonder of God’s deeds in creation when it says,

I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder

Thy power throughout the universe displays.

While Psalm 119 verse 129 speaks of the wonder of God’s statues or as we have seen throughout this long Psalm the word of God we call the bible there is a connection with the wonder of creation and the word of God as the bible and particularly the first chapter of the book of Genesis tell us God made the world through his word as six time in Genesis one we have the phrase,

“And God said”

And of course when God spoke things were made and brought into being.

 David starts Psalm 19 with God’s work of wonder in creation with these words,

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the works of his hands”.

Then in the second half of his Psalm 19 starting at verse 7 David gives praise to the word of God.

 But what does the writer of Psalm 119 mean by the phrase,

“Your statutes are wonderful”.

Allan Harman says in answer to this important question,

“Wonderful, a word exclusively used of God’s actions and words matched by what cannot be produced by human effort”.

Psalm 25: 1 says,

“Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago”.

But how is the bible or the word of God particularly wonderful?

I love Spurgeon’s answer to this question when he writes,

“Full of wonderful revelations, commands and promises. Wonderful in their nature, as being free from all error, and bearing within themselves overwhelming self evidence of their truth; wonderful in their effects as instructing, elevating, strengthening, and comforting the soul”.

David spoke of the wonderfulness of the word of God this way in Psalm 139: 6,

“Such knowledge is to wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain”.

In the New Testament Jesus is described as the very word of God become flesh in John 1: 14 which John declares,

“The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father. Full of grace and truth”.

Johns description of Jesus the word of God become flesh as being glorious is his way of saying that Jesus the word of God become flesh is wonderful. In fact Isaiah prophesying of the coming Messiah who we know is Jesus Christ, God’s Son says his name would be called “Wonderful Counsellor” in Isaiah 9: 6,

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Prince of Peace”.

Wonderful Counsellor is a great description of Jesus the word of God helping us like a counsellor or guide in our lives which of course is exactly what the writer of Psalm 119 saw as a major role of the word of God in verses of his Psalm like 105, which says,

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path”.

Finally the writer of Psalm 119 says after declaring God’s word or statutes being wonderful in the second half of verse 129,

“Therefore I obey them”.

He is saying one of the reasons why he obeys or follows the word of God is because it is so wonderful and so should we for as Spurgeon said, the word of God is,

“Full of wonderful revelations, commands and promises”.

Non believers might see the bible as a boring book of rules, outdated and irrelevant to our world today but all true believers see it like Spurgeon and the writer of Psalm 119 as a inspired book full of wonderful revelations.

2.     (130 – 132)   THE WONDERFUL LIGHT AND LOVE GOD GIVES US THROUGH HIS WORD

Now in verses 130 and 132 our writer of Psalm 119 speaks of three great reasons why he considers the word God wonderful and then in verse 131 he implies God’s word is the only thing that will satisfy the deepest longing of his heart by making a plea for God’s word to satisfy his hearts deepest longings. So I have broken these three verses of the second of the seventeenth stanza into these three parts:

1.    God’s word is wonderful because it gives light to the simple (vs. 130)

2.    God’s is wonderful because it alone satisfies the deepest longing of our hearts (vs. 131)

3.    God’s word is wonderful because It offers mercy and love (vs. 132)

Lets then have a closer look at these three parts of this second section of the seventeenth stanza of Psalm 119:

  1. God’s word is wonderful because It gives light to the simple (vs. 130)

The writer of Psalm 119 expresses his first reason why he sees God’s word as wonderful this way,

“The unfolding of your words gives light”.

The fact is that spiritually without the light of the word of God we are all in the dark. Why do so many today say I don’t believe in God because I cannot see him. One of my favourite modern folk singings who is not a believer says in one of his songs that he has not seen anything that tells him their is a God. This is a honest statement of a unbeliever as we are so much in the dark when it comes to God that John tells us in John 3: 21,

“Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God”.

Paul presents in the early chapters of the book of Romans that the darkness about God is caused by sin or rebellion to God as he says in a verse like Romans 1: 21,

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened”.

John back in John 3 also speaks of a big problem caused by this dark state of the human heart and mind when he writes in John 3: 19,

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil”.

We will see in the third part of these three verses of the second section of the seventeenth stanza that God for some turns to them in mercy and love and as Paul says that God works in the hearts and lives of men and women through his Spirit to make us his sons or able to know his love, Romans 8: 14 – 16,

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children”.

The writer of Psalm 119 speaks of God’s word “unfolding” which Leopold explains that God’s word,

“brings with it new and deeper insight”.

The writer of Psalm 119 then says that this deeper insight,

“Gives understanding to the simple”.

This does not mean that intelligent men and women do not gain insight from God’s word but rather all enlightened men and women can understand the deeper insights God gives through his word the bible alone not by their so called intelligence.

Jesus in fact spoke of having the faith of a child (Luke 18: 17), which also means not childish faith but child like faith which is simple and accepting. Another wondrous thing about God’s word is that all kinds of people can and do gain insight from it, from the simple child or ordinary average intelligent person to the very intelligent type person but it is a wisdom Paul says that is not the wisdom or understanding of the world but of the Spirt as he writes in 1 Corinthians 12 – 13,

“What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak , not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit explaining spiritual realities with Spirit taught words”.

2.    God’s is wonderful because it alone satisfies the deepest longing of our hearts (vs. 131)

As I have already indicated the writer of Psalm 119 in verse 131 breaks into a plea to God for his word to satisfy a deep spiritual longing but as we reflect on what he is asking for in this verse we have another reason why he considered God’s word to be wonderful.

His plea to God goes like this,

“I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands”.

Leuopld explains what is going on here with these words,

“The Psalmist has always opened his mouth, as it were, in great thirst and panted for God’s commandments”.

The word “panting” is the word used to describe an animal longing for water and is used by a Son of Korah to describe his deep spiritual thirst at the start of Psalm 42,

“As a deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you my God”.

Spurgeon sees the animal not panting for water but breath and writes,

“So animated was his desire that he looked into the animal world to find a picture of it. He was filled with an intense longing, and was not ashamed to describe it by a most expressive, natural, and yet singular symbol. Like a stag that has been hunted in the chase, and is hard pressed, and therefore pants for breath, so did the Psalmist pant for the entrance of God’s word into his soul. Nothing else could content him. All that the world could yield him left him still panting with open mouth”.

So the word of God is wonderful for it alone quenches the deep seated spiritual thirst or longing we all have within us. Jesus in two places in Johns Gospel speaks of how he alone quenches our spiritual thirst and the first is to the adulterous Samaritan women at the well in John 4: 13 – 14,

“Jesus answered, ‘everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life”.

My NIV study bible makes a great point when it says,

“We would not think of depriving our bodies of food and water when the hunger and thirst. Why then should we deprive our souls? The living Word, Jesus Christ, and the written Word the bible, can satisfy our hungry and thirsty souls”,

Then in John 7: 37 and 38 Jesus says a similar thing when he says,

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them”.

So many people today show by their lives how desperately spiritually thirsty they really are through alcohol abuse, drug abuse and even mental depression but the promise of Jesus is put your faith in him and he will quench that great spiritual thirst you have and the sad reality is that so many people today wont even look into God’s word to find this great promise and so they continue to go thirsty and hungry.

Praise God some people do look to the wonderful word of God and find that true and wonderful satisfaction of their deepest longing hearts.

3.    God’s word is wonderful because It offers mercy and love (vs. 132)

The writer of Psalm 119 continues to plead with God asking for mercy and love in verse 132,

“Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name”.

The mercy this writer seeks is the mercy of God to save him from his oppressors and he asks for God’s mercy and love with confidence as he uses the phrase,

“As you always do”

He says this because he knew in his bible the Old Testament that God offers mercy and love to his faithful people and in fact mercy and love is the very foundations of God’s covenant with his people Israel as I have referred to many times in my Psalm talks in passages like Exodus 34: 6 – 7,

“And he (God) passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love, and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin”.

He know doubt knew the example of great men of faith like David who always experienced the love and mercy of God in their lives and maybe his own past experience of trusting in God and his word lies behind his phrase,

“As you always do”

So our writer of Psalm 119 believes God’s word is wonderful because it tells him assuredly of the love and mercy of God and how all he has to do is turn to God for his love and mercy and God will give it.

Paul presents to the Ephesians the great basis of our relationship with God which he calls grace the New Testament word for mercy and love and he says these wonderful words about God’s grace in Ephesians 1: 6 – 9,

“To the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ”.

So wonderful is the grace and love of God in Christ that it and it alone brings us into God’s glorious presence forgiven and blessed with riches beyond understanding.

3.     (133 – 135)   THE WONDERFUL DIRECTION GOD’S WORD GIVES US IN LIFE

Our writer of Psalm 119 has been exploring in his seventeenth stanza some of the reasons why he considers God’s word to be wonderful and with what he has already reflected on namely how God’s word,

1.    Gives light to the simple (vs. 130)

2.    Satisfies the deepest longing of our hearts (vs. 131)

3.    Offers mercy and love (vs. 132)

He now asks God for guidance and direction as all the three reasons above that express why God’s word is wonderful encourage him to seek the guidance and direction he needs in his life with confidence that God will give it to him.

He asks for this guidance by God through his wonderful word in three ways and they are:

  1.   A direct request for guidance (vs. 133)
  2.   A request for redemption or deliverance from his enemies (vs. 134)
  3. A priestly appeal for God’s face to shine on him (vs. 135)

Lets then have a close look at these three requests for direction and guidance in his life based on the wonderful word of God.

  1.   A direct request for guidance (vs. 133)

In verse 133 our writer of Psalm 119 directly asks for direction or guidance when he writes,

“Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me”.

In verse 130 he has made it clear that he believed that God’s word gives him light and understanding and that the understanding he so desired was a deep seated hunger or thirst that only God can fulfil through his word, verse 131 and then that inner satisfaction was only possible because of God’s great mercy and love, verse 132 and so now he wants his God to direct him according to his wonderful word.

Proverbs 3: 5 and 6 says something similar and fleshes out how God actually does direct us and what we must do to have that direction or guidance in our daily lives and it says,

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

Not leaning on your own understanding is another way of saying look to God’s understanding which we only find in the pages of the bible which is God’s understanding made known to us. 

Paul told Timothy how he should operate as a faithful minister of the lord and part of his advice is these words in 2 Timothy 3: 16 and 17,

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

By trusting in the Lord and following his word in a submissive and prayerful way will result in God directing our footsteps. 

The writer of Psalm 119 knew that this was not always easy as he completes this request for direction with a plea for sin not to rule over him. He knew what his own sinful heart could do and he knew what his sinful or God rebelling enemies could do and had done to him so when he asked God for direction he also asked for God to not let sin rule over him.

Paul knew also how sin and this world can squeeze us into its mould or pattern and so he gives us this warning and word of advice in Romans 12: 2 – 3,

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world (squeeze you into its mould) but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will”.

  1.   A request for redemption or deliverance from his enemies (vs. 134)

Maybe he was thinking of the pressure and sinful influence of his enemies when he asked God to,

“Let not sin rule over me”.

As he now asks in verse 134 for redemption or deliverance from his enemies, when he writes,

“Redeem me from human oppression, that I may obey your precepts”.

He has spoken a lot about his oppressors who even sought to take his life verse 95 and they certainly made life very difficult for him as has says in verse 107,

“I have suffered much; preserve my life, according to your word”.

So now in verse 134 he wants God to deliver him from these enemies so he can be free to obey the wonderful word of God.

The New Testament is full of advice on how we should act when we find ourselves oppressed for our faith and I take comfort and advice from the words of Peter on this in 1 Peter 3: 13 – 16,

“Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened. But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander”.

  1. A priestly appeal for God’s face to shine on him (vs. 135)

I call this a priestly appeal for God’s face to shine on him because the request in verse 135 echoes what is known as the priestly blessing Aaron gave his people, Israel in Numbers 6: 24 – 26,

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace”.

Our writer thinking of this priestly prayer of Aaron writes in verse 135,

“Make your face shine on your servant and teach me your decrees”.

The face of God is the essence of God and also the presence of God and thats what our wrier wants in the face of his continuing problems with his enemies.

On many occasions the writers of the Psalms draw on this priestly prayer and here are just two famous examples. First we have David using it this way in Psalm 31: 16,

“Let your face shine on your servant save me in your unfailing love” 

Then Asaph draws on the priestly prayer three times in his Psalm 80, first in verse 3 then 7 and finally 19 and it is seems to be the chorus for his song for each time it reads this way,

“Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved”.

It is the wonderful face or nature of God that makes the difference for Israel and for us as our writer of Psalm 119 rightly adds to a request for the face of God to shine on him with a further request for God to teach him his decrees or word because we only know, see or experience the wonderful face or nature of God through the word of God as we read it, believe it and inwardly digest it as John tells us about Jesus, the word of God become flesh in John 1: 14,

“The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.

In five verses before that wonderful verse John speaks of how believing in this glorious light or word of God makes all the difference and brings us into the family of God that the priestly prayer of Aaron relates to, in verses 12 and 13 he says,

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husbands will but born of God.”

4.     (vs. 136)      THE TERRIBLE EFFECT ON US WHEN GOD’S WONDERFUL WORD IS REJECTED BY OTHERS.

I have made the last verse of this seventeenth stanza a seperate part of the Psalm as it deals with a completely different aspect of the wonderful nature of the word of God in what I would call a negative way.

It is a negative way because it describes the emotion those who see the wonderful nature of the word of God have when others reject the word of God and write it off as useless and worthless, the writer of Psalm 119 puts it this way in verse 136,

“Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed”.

A very close friend of mine in my late teens and early twenties was a strong believer and like me found wonder and purpose in God’s word but my fiends father was a committed atheist and said to us one day that he had read the bible through twice and he found it of no value and in fact he found it to be a boring outdated book that should be assigned to the trash heap.

I’m not sure if my fiends father had actually read the bible through twice but he certainly had attempted to read it in some way but obviously with a closed mind of a committed atheist. I think he was attempting to aggressively challenge his son and me with what he said and I think I said to him that I felt sad by his conclusion about the bible and would pray that God might show him the wonder and truth of his word. He simple scoffed at my reply shaking his head and refused to discuss our obvious faith and commitment in God any further.

When non believers scoff and ridicule the bible it is a sad thing and even Jesus wept at least on one occasion at the lack of faith in God he found in the great city of God Jerusalem in his day when we read in Matthew 23: 37 – 39,

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left resolute. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”.

Jesus like the writer of Psalm 119 feels deep and painful tears as he saw, heard and experienced rejection of him, the word become flesh and knew when he said these words that this rejection of him and his word would lead very soon to them killing him by nailing him to the cross.

God’s word is wonderful to those who read it with an eye of faith but it is worthless and scorned by those like my friends old father who read it with a spirit of disobedience. 

Another sadness we feel is that as Jesus predicted the result of staying in a state of disobedience is the terrible judgment of God that is surely coming.

John tells us how God’s judgment works in relation to the rejection of God’s light, his word who is Jesus Christ in John 3: 19 and 20,

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds are evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.

This seems like a dark message not a message of wonder and light but the next verse gives us the wonderful message of the Good News of the Gospel when John says in verse 21,

“But whoever lives by the light comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God’”.

CONCLUSION

We have seen that the nature of God’s word is wonderful as it brings light and guides to those who are simple or humble before God. God’s wonderful word directs us through this life if we believe it for it shows us not only how we should live but also the loving wonderful face or nature of God which we see in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

But we must also say that God’s word rejected bring terrible consequences and leaves those who reject God and his word in terrible darkness and judgement.

I close with my four line summary verse for this seventeenth stanza of Psalm 119,

Quench my thirst Lord with your wonderful word

For your word brings hope and light

Direct my steps by your word O Lord

And help me to proclaim it aright.

Stanza. 18.  (137 – 144)   GOD’S WORD IS TRUE AND RIGHT AND CAN BE RELIED UPON.

 While I was doing my research this eighteenth stanza of this Psalm I was also reading a biography of a recent Australian politician and throughout the book the politician reveals how so many politicians in all parties of our political system played with the truth for their own often well meaning and sometimes doubtful self interests. This was a disturbing piece of information but sadly it did not surprise me.

St. Paul makes it clear that all men and women are nothing more than fallen sinners in the early chapters of the Book of Romans, like Romans 3: 23,

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

All are not just criminals or ordinary people in this world like you and me but even those we elect to lead us are sinners or are people who lie and do not do the right things in life. That is not to say they and us do not always do wrong things but compared to the righteous standards of God we read in the bible our righteous acts are like filly rags, as Isaiah says in Isaiah 64: 6,

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags”. 

Isaiah is saying that compared to the righteous standard of God even our so called righteous acts are tainted with sin for at heart all of us are sinners from our birth as David declares in Psalm 51: 5,

“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me”.

However even though our elected leaders sometimes show their sinfulness with their lies and unrighteous acts God is not like them or us in his government or control of this world and the universe as the writer of Psalm 119 makes clear a number of times in this eighteenth stanza of his long Psalm that God and his word is totally righteous or true as we see in his opening statement of this stanza which we call verse 137,

“You are righteous, Lord, and your laws are right”.

Four times our writer refers to the righteousness of God in this stanza directly in verses 137, 138, 142 and 144 and he refers to God and his word as being right and true a number of other ways in this eighteenth stanza. 

The reality is that in the mind of the writer of Psalm 119 because God is righteous or right and true his law or word is right and true and because of that we can rely on God and his word to guide and help us even in the face of difficulties and trials.

So I will seek to open up this eighteenth stanza with the righteousness of God and his word as its central theme, a theme I have simplified by calling God’s righteousness as being that which is right and true.

1.      (137 – 138)   God and his word is right and true so trust in God and his word

2.     (139 – 143)   God and his word is right and true so delight in God and his word

3.     (vs.  144)     God and his word is right and true so live for God and follow his word

So lets have a closer look at these three parts of this eighteenth stanza of Psalm 119 that all relate to God and his word being right and true.

  1.   (137 – 138)   God and his word is right and true so trust in God and his word

The writer of Psalm 119 starts his eighteenth stanza with a clear statement of the righteousness of his God and his word with these words,

“You are righteous, Lord, and your laws are right”.

C.H Spurgeon makes a clear statement of what the writer is trying to say with these words,

“He praises God by ascribing to him perfect righteousness. God is always right, and he is always actively light, that is, righteous. This quality is bound up in our very idea of God. We cannot imagine an unrighteous God”.

Spurgeon is right for right throughout the bible one of the core nature of God is his righteousness and this simply put is that he is always right and true unlike our political leaders who sometimes bend and abuse the truth to continue to rule. However God rules this world and in fact this universe with righteousness as he is totally good and right and true as David for instance declares in Psalm 9: 8,

“He (God) rules the world in righteousness and judges the peoples with equity”.

God’s righteousness is a key concept in the New Testament where we are given the gift of the righteousness we lack through faith in Christ as Paul states a number of times in verses like 2 Corinthians 5: 21,

“God made him him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”.

And then Paul links this imputed righteousness of God with the very Gospel message again a gift we have from God in Romans 1: 17,

“For in the gospel the righteousness of God revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘ The righteous will live by faith”.

The Gospel is a New Testament term for the message or special word of God which the writer of Psalm 119 says is right or righteous and this is so because God’s word flows from his very nature of righteousness or being right and true. Paul declares in Roams 10: 4 that Christ is the culmination of the law, Paul says,

“Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes”.

It is not our faith that makes us righteous before God it what our faith is in, namely the death and resurrection of Christ that makes us righteous before God.

The writer of Psalm 119 then makes it clear concerning the righteousness or the right and truth of the very word of God in verse 138, he writes,

“The statutes you have laid down are righteous; they are trustworthy”.

Then in verse 142 he writes,

“Your righteousness is everlasting and your word is true.

Note how he says that God’s word is both trustworthy and true as Jesus says in John 17: 17,

“Sanctify them by the truth: your word is truth”.

If God is righteous the wrier of Psalm 119 is arguing then his word is righteous or right and true and so it is trustworthy so trust in God and his word.

This is a message our world needs to hear today as we are so often surrounded by that which is not right and even our so called leaders lie and deceive us to gain and keep power but in this world of unrighteousness we can have faith in a righteous God, a God who because he is right and true can trusted. We will see in the rest of this eighteenth stanza how this truth relates powerfully to our day to day lives.

2.     (139 – 143)   God and his word is right and true so delight in God and his word

The writer of Psalm 119 then tells us some of the very real problems he faced because he dared in the Godless unrighteous world he lived in to continue to trust in God and his word. He says this in verse 139,

“My zeal wears me out, for my enemies ignore your words”.

Our writer of Psalm 119 has spoken many times already about the enemies of God and his word he faced, enemies he often called his oppressors like he says in verse 121,

“I have done what is righteous and just; do not leave me to my oppressors”.

He was being oppressed because he dared to trust in, believe and follow the word of God and therefore he had zeal or true commitment to God and his word. This zeal or commitment to God and his word did not let this writer down in the face of the despite oppression he faced by those who chose to disobey God and his word as he says this in verse 140,

“Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them”.

God and his word has helped this man so much he is willing to say in the face of opposition to God and his word that he trusted in them and loved them and they had never let him down.

The apostle John had a lot to say about love in the letters he wrote to struggling churches he sought to teach and encourage we believe later in his life and ministry and in 1 John 4: 7 – 12 John speaks of how God’s love has come to us and how this love should inspire us to love God and the message or word of God and others, he writes,

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us. He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 

This is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends , since God so loved us, we ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us”.

Our writer of Psalm 119 then tells us the standing he had or was given in the society he lived in because he dared to trust in God and live according to his word in verse 141a, he writes,

“Though I am lowly and despised”

We do not know who this writer was or what official job or position he held in the society of his day but so far as his enemies were concerned because he trusted in God and his word he was considered by them as lowly and despised.

Jesus was thought of this way by his enemies the scribes and Pharisees and eventually on the cross his enemies and our sin made Jesus totally despised and their he fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the suffering Messiah in Isaiah 53: 3,

“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem”.

Yet our writer and I believe Jesus too even in the face of being despised still loved God and his word and so our writer of Psalm 119 says in verse 141b,

“I do not forget your precepts”.

So easy would it be to abandon God and his word when we face persecution but this man does not simply because of what he says in the next two verses about God and his word he writes,

“Your righteousness is everlasting and your word is true. Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands give me delight”.

He is saying that because God and his word is right and true he believes even in the face of distress and trouble God and his word is his delight. Our writer of Psalm 119 agrees with the writer of Psalm 1 where he says in verse 2,

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

Or as Paul says in Romans 7: 22,

 “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law”.

Allan Harman explains well what the Psalmist is saying here with these words,

“In the midst of difficulties, in which he is confronted with trouble and distress, he takes pleasure in God’s commands”.

Paul speaks of the delight of the soul or what I call inner peace in the midst of outward conflict this way in Philippians 4: 7,

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

God and his word through the Lord Jesus Christ, the very word of God become flesh (John 1:14) gives us this peace or delight of the soul when we trust in Jesus and what he has done for us. This is only possible because God and his word is true and I and many other believers can testify to this wonderful reality of the Christian faith and experience.

3.     (vs.  144)     God and his word is right and true so live for God and follow his word

I have made the last verse of this eighteenth stanza of Psalm 119 a seperate part on its own as it introduces and final new idea about how God and his word is true and that is that if he and his word is true then we should always seek to live by it or follow its truths in our day to day lives.

The final verse says this,

“Your statutes are always righteous; give me understanding that I may live”.

The writer of Psalm 119 has asked God for understanding or further insight into his word on a number of occasions in his Psalm 119, like verse 125, 66, 49, 33, and then he will ask for it again in verse 169 where he puts this request for understanding of God’s word this way,

“May my cry come before you Lord; give me understanding according to your word”.

Jesus made it clear that if we follow his teaching or his word in John 8: 31 and 32,

“You will know the truth and the truth will set you free”.

So we have wonderful understanding of God and life through the word of God and particularly through the word of Christ. We must then follow that word in our daily lives and we like the writer of Psalm 119,

“May live”.

I really like how Proverbs 3: 5 and 6 puts not trusting in our own understanding but in God and his word when it says,

“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”.

God promises here to always guide us in our daily lives if only we trust in him and we do that by living not according to our own understanding but living by the true and living word of God.

God is true so his word is true so live for God by following his word that is the central message of this eighteenth stanza of Psalm 119.

I close with my four line poetic summary of this eighteenth stanza:

Under your righteous word and truth I live

For you Lord are as righteous God

Though I face many trials in this life

I delight in your word as I trod.

Stanza 19:   (145 – 152)   GOD’S WORD GIVES US REAL FAITH TO BE ABLE TO CALL ON  HIM IN OUR HOUR OF NEED

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5: 7,

“We live by faith, not by sight”

This faith is not blind faith but a faith in the very word of God made finally clear by the coming of his Son, Jesus Christ into the world to preach God’s word and to die on the cross to forgive our sins and rise from the dead on the third day after his death to declare that who he is and what he has achieved for us is real and true.

This walking by faith not sight is rejected and ridiculed by this so called enlightened age we live in that says it only believes in what it can see. 

I was reminded of the foolishness of the concept of only believing what you can see by a good friends recent post on Facebook which picked up a remarkable story that goes like this.

“A gardener once worked for a heart surgeon. The heart surgeon was an atheist. The gardener was a man of faith. They got on very well together, but had friendly arguments about the nature of life, and faith and the spiritual life.

One day the heart surgeon thought he had finally settled the argument when he told the gardener, ‘You talk about a soul, but let me tell you I have cut open thousands of human hearts in the course of my career, but not once have I found a soul inside”.

‘Well’, replied the gardener, ‘I have to tell you that in the course of my work over all these long years your garden, I have accidentally sliced through many buried daffodil bulbs with my spade, but have never seen a daffodil inside them’”.

The post then goes on to say a  number of things but I like these words about faith and sight that go like this,

“Just because we cannot see something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. When you shut your eyes does the world around you actually disappear”?

Other explanations of believing in things you cannot see are gravity or love which you can feel the effects of or see the results of but you cannot physically actually see. So it is with God and faith in God is not a reality based on sight.

The writer of Psalm 119 had never seen God but he had read his word which in the last stanza he described his God and his word this way in verse 142,

“Your righteousness is everlasting and your word is true”.

Now in stanza 19 the confidence in this righteous and true God known to him through his righteous true word gives him the confidence for him to believe by faith that the God he is calling out to in his great hour of need will not only hear his cry for help but will answer him with his salvation or deliverance as we read in verse 149,

“Hear my voice in accordance with your love; preserve my life, Lord, according to your laws”.

So the writer has faith in God to deliver him in his hour of need because he knows that this is what God promises to do for those who have faith and he only knows this because he has read it to be so in the word of God we call today the bible.

With this theme of God’s word gives us faith to be able to call on God in our hour of need I have broken this nineteenth stanza into the following four parts:

1.     (145 – 146)   REAL FAITH IS BASED ON GOD’S WORD

2.     (147 – 149)   REAL FAITH IS SHOWN BY CONSISTENT FAITHFUL PRAYER

3.     (150 – 152)   FAITH IS  REAL DESPITE GREAT OPPOSITION TO THE FAITH WE HAVE  IN GOD

Let’s then have a closer look at these three aspects of what it means to call on God for help and salvation through faith in his word made by prayer even in the face of great opposition to God and his word.

  1.   (145 – 146)   REAL FAITH IS BASED ON GOD’S WORD

This nineteenth stanza is a very real prayer for help and deliverance or salvation by our writer of Psalm 119. Allan Harman points out how this stanza starts a trend in the Psalm from this point onwards to a direct prayer to God for help, he writes,

“As the Psalm moves towards its conclusion the direct prayers to God increase”.

The first two verses start with the words, “I Call” which is the Psalmist’s phrase for “I pray” and this prayer is very real and full of faith in God and his word. This opening call of prayer contains two main elements:

  1.   Earnestness faith based on Gods’s word (vs. 145)
  2.   Practical faith based on God’s word (vs. 146)

Let me explain what I understand from these two descriptions of the opening of this mans prayer in verses 145 and 146.

  1.   Earnestness faith is based on Gods’s word (vs. 145)

The writer of Psalm 119 does not simply have a intellectual or simple knowledge based faith in God and his word as his prayer in verse 145 simply says,

“ I call with all my heart; answer me, Lord, and I will obey your decrees”.

This man’s faith in God’s word is practical, simple and above all earnest. He is, in this verse pleading with God in prayer for God to answer him and I get this idea from the words in this verse that says,

“I call with all my heart”.

The heart in the Old Testament could be summed up as the real you that lives deep within us all and the real you or person of the writer of Psalm 119 is a man of deep real earnest faith in God and his word. 

I have been to many churches over many years both visiting and being a member of them and I have witnessed the two extremes when it comes to faith in God and his word and those two extremes are a faith that is dry and intellectual that the person whom has it is just full of sometimes great knowledge but it shows little impact in that person life. Then I have sadly come across people who say they are Christian believers but they have denied the value and role of the bible calling it a book that only contains the word of God but is not actually God’s word.

Both these types of people suffer from what I call real earnest true faith in God and his word but praise God the churches I have belonged to all my life have been generally full of true earnest believers of God and his word like our writer of Psalm 119 who’s prayer in verse 145  goes on to say,

“Answer me, Lord, and I will obey your decrees”.

Spurgeon points out the significance of the Psalmist request for God to answer him with these words,

“He asked that the Lord would draw near, and listen with friendly ear to the voice of his complaint, with the view of pitying him and helping him”.

Those with only bible knowledge in their heads might quote the bible like Matthew 7: 7,

“Ask and it will be given you”.

Then argue why is this so called bible believer is not realising that God’s word says God’s word promises that when we pray he listens but even Matthew 7: 7 says by its wording that God wants from us genuine earnest prayer for Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 7: 7,

“Seek and you will find: knock and the door will be opened to you”.

Also some people might say all we need to do is pray but I say to who are you addressing your prayer to? I think what makes the difference in prayer is in fact who it is directed to and for our writer of Psalm 119 it is God and in fact the God of the bible he prayed to. This reveals in our writer of Psalm 118 a true earnest faith in God and his word by the words of his prayer that says,

“Lord, and I will obey your decrees”.

The title “Lord” or “Yahweh” is the Old Testament covenant name for God and the commitment to obedience of that “Lord’s” word reveals that our writers faith is anchored soundly in the God of the bible.

So our faith in God should show itself in earnest prayer to the God of the bible as Paul speaks of in his great word on practical earnest prayer in Philippians 4: 6  and 7,

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

  1.   Practical faith based on God’s word (vs. 146)

The writer of Psalm 119 then in verse 146 continues his prayer or call to God with what to me in the context of this Psalm and this nineteenth stanza is a word of faith for practical help. Let me explain what I mean. 

The words of verse 146 says,

“I call out to you; save me and I will keep your statutes”.

He is calling on God to save him and you might ask:

Save him from what?

Well have a listen to the situation he presents in verse 150,

“Those who devise wicked schemes are near, but they are far from your law.”

He has spoke a lot about those who oppose him because he dares to continue to have faith and obedience in God and his word and here he speaks of wicked or Godless schemes that are schemes the writer says his enemies have to even kill him as he says in verse 96,

“The wicked are waiting to destroy me, but I will ponder your statutes”.

So I believe our writer is asking for practical help from God to save him from even death from his enemies when he calls out to God to save him in verse 146. 

This mans faith is not theoretical of mere head knowledge but it is real practical faith that seeks God to act on his behalf to save him from his enemies. 

Also his faith is not wishy washy but firmly anchored in the word of God because when he asks for salvation from his enemies he goes on to offer the God he has faith in a commitment to keep his word,

“I will keep your statutes”.

Jesus spoke a lot about obedience and faith in his final words to his disciples at the last supper like John 14: 15,

“If you love me, keep my commands”

And John 15: 10,

“If you keep my commands, you remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love”.

So faith that does not lead to obedience is a dead faith as James suggests in James 2: 17.

2.     (147 – 149)   REAL FAITH IS SHOWN BY CONSISTENT FAITHFUL PRAYER

So this nineteenth stanza continues as a prayer and in the second section its writer tells God how and when he has been praying and concludes with why he has faith in God and his word and as a result has the confidence to call to God in prayer believing he will answer him.

I have broken this second part of stanza nineteen into three parts:

  1. (vs. 147)  Consistent earnest prayer in the morning 
  2. (vs. 148)  Consistent earnest prayer in the night
  3. (vs. 149)  Consistent earnest prayer anchored in the love and word of God

Lets have have closer look at each of these three parts of the second section of stanza nineteen of Psalm 119,

  1. (vs. 147)  Consistent earnest prayer in the morning 

I have been making the point already on my Psalm talk of stanza nineteen that our writers prayer was earnest and practical and real and now in his prayer he tells God when he is actually praying this prayer of faith and it reveals consistency because in verse 147 he is telling God he is praying when he rises from his bed in the morning to pray to God to save him from his enemies, he writes,

“I rise before dawn and cry for help: I have put my hope in your word”.

This verse and the next remind me of two of David’s Psalms we believe he wrote as desperate prayers when on the run from his rebellious Son Absalom and those Psalms are Psalm 3, a prayer prayed in the morning of the second day of David’s flee from his sons murderous threats for his life and Psalm 4 a prayer uttered on the first night when he fled from Absalom. Interestingly the opening words of Psalm 4 are the same words we have just read in verse 145,

“Answer me, Lord”.

So our writer of Psalm 119 says he prays when he gets up in the morning and with that he speaks also of his obvious faith commitment to God and his word with the words,

“I have put my hope in your word”.

David shows his consistent faith in God and his word when he writes in Psalm 3: 5,

“I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me”.

Spurgeon sums up this man’s earnest, consistent and real faith in the God of the bible with these words,

“His supplications had become so frequent, fervent, and intense, that he might hardly be said to be doing anything else from morning to night but crying unto his God. So strong was his desire after salvation that he could not rest in his bed; so eagerly did he seek it that at the first possible moment he was on his knees”.

If this man did not so consistently pray to God for the deliverance from his enemies than his faith could be said to not be real.

Peter says in 1 Peter 1: 6 and 7 that having faith in God in the face of trials proves the genuineness of our faith and for this we should rejoice when in the midst of the trials of life.

2.  (vs. 148)  Consistent earnest prayer in the night

Like Spurgeon has just indicated this writer of psalm 119 was not just going to God in prayer driven by his faith in God in the morning when he rose from his sleep but verse 148 says he was even praying at night before he went to bed, he puts it this way,

“My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises”.

So this man was praying morning, noon and night and this shows us that he had real faith in God because he prayed to God for practical help morning, noon and night. 

Jesus spoke a lot about consistent real prayer and one great example of this is the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18: 1 – 8. This women was not given justice by a judge so she continually kept coming to the judge and asking for justice and finally because of he persistence the judge gives her the justice she deserves simply to get rid of her persistent requests for justice.

Jesus concludes this parable with these words in verse 7 and 8,

“And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Note how Jesus finishes this parable about showing faith in God by persistent and real prayer with a question about how much real faith will he find on earth when he comes again.

3.    (vs. 149)  Consistent earnest prayer anchored in the love and word of God

The writer speaks of God hearing his voice a voice that is speaking words of prayer to God based in both who God is, love and what he has declared to us, his word in verse 149 which reads like this,

“Hear my voice in accordance with your love, preserve my life Lord, according to your law”.

The writer of Psalm 119 is saying here that he knows what God is like and what he has promised him in his law which is an Old Testament term for God’s word because our writer knew what God is like from the law or covenant agreement that was given through Moses as we read in Deuteronomy 7: 7 – 9,

“The Lord did not set his affection on you and chose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 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. 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”.

The writer of Psalm 119 words in verse 140,

“In accordance with your love”

Are a echo of the words for the love of God he knew was the very covenant love Deuteronomy 7 and other verses in the Old Testament speak about.

For us under a new covenant brought about by the coming of and the death and resurrection of The Lord Jesus Christ, God’s son become flesh we know more perfectly the love of God as proclaimed by the apostle John in his well known verse, John 3: 16,

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

Note how God’s word indicates that it we only experience his gift of love through real faith in his one and only Son, Jesus Christ. So real faith in God is anchored in God’s word which has been made manifest to us through the coming of Jesus Christ and through his death and resurrection.

Real faith then shows itself in our persistent and real prayers to God as at has been said by many before me, “prayer is the breath of faith” or prayer is our faith in God working itself out in our daily lives.

3.     (150 – 152)   FAITH IS  REAL DESPITE GREAT OPPOSITION TO THE FAITH WE HAVE  IN GOD

I have already made it clear what the connection of real faith in God is to trials and difficulties in life especially when I quoted the words of Peter in 1 Peter 1: 6 and 7 which I would like to fully quote here,

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

Now we will see that connection of trials and difficulties to real faith in God in this Psalm.

Our writer of Psalm 119 now speaks of the painful trials and difficulties he currently faced in verse 150,

“Those who devise wicked schemes are near, but they are far from your law”.

As I have said many times throughout this long Psalm the writer of it suffered much at the hands of those he called his oppressors who he calls here people far from God’s law or people who do not believe in God and his word and remember these people more than likely would have been Jews like our writer and therefore should have known the God of the bible.

Maybe they even still professed some kind of faith in God but their wicked actions or schemes revealed that their faith in God was not real but was in fact false. 

One of the most painful things true bible believing Christians face is how they are criticised by so called Christians who deny the authority of the bible or water it down so much it becomes just another reference book to refer to in their flimsy wishy washy sermons. Real faith to the writer of Psalm 119 is anchored in God and his word the bible and this is so true to him that those who work against bible believers in his day he says are in fact,

“Far from your law”  Or in fact far from God.

Paul warned Timothy of the problem of preachers and church leaders moving away from God’s word and what Timothy should do about this in 2 Timothy 4: 1 – 5,

“In the presence of God and in Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word, be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will 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. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry”.

The writer does not dwell on the wicked schemes of his enemies here but goes on to declare real faith in God in the words of verse 151,

“Yet you are near, Lord and all your commands are true”.

Our writer is speaking pure and true words of real faith here as he cannot see God but he believes he is real and near to him despite the terrible opposition by those who either deny God’s existence or distort his revealed nature with a false view and faith in God.

Interestingly Peter in my previous quotation from 1 Peter 1 goes on to speak of faith without sight but real faith based on the testimony of Disciples of Jesus like Peter who did see the word become flesh and did witness his death and resurrection. Peter says this in 1 Peter 1: 8 – 9,

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls”.

As the writer to the Hebrews explained what real faith actually is in Hebrews 11: 1,

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

Our writer of Psalm 119 finishes this nineteenth stanza with a pure word of real faith when he writes in verse 152,

“Long ago I learned from your statutes that you established them to last forever”.

Our writer knew his bible and he knew it was the very word of God from which his faith was anchored in. This word did not rely on him or anyone else to be believed but on its own merit it stood forever as the very word of God unchangeable.

Jesus made such a claim about his own word which of course was God’s word also as Jesus is God’s word become flesh (John 1: 14) in Matthew 24: 35,

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away”.

The writer of Psalm 119 seems to be a man of some age as he speaks of learning and knowing the word of God, “long ago” but his faith was built on solid ground, the very eternal word of God and his faith was real as it stood the test of being challenged by wicked men who made life for him very difficult.

May we too trust in the eternal word of God and show the world that we have real faith by our consistent and devoted allegiance to God and his word.

I close with my usual four line summary poem for this nineteenth stanza:

Salvation from my enemies Lord I crave

As I trust in your word each day.

Day and night I come to the Lord in prayer

In your word Lord my faith finds your way.

Stanza 20:   (153 – 160)   GOD’S WORD PRESERVES AND REVIVES US IN THE ROUGH AND TUMBE OF LIFES

                                                  DIFFICULTIES

Life sometimes seems smooth and good and at other times life seems rough and difficult. This has been my experience of life of over 60 years now and yet I can testify as a bible believing Christian that through all times of my life God has always been there to help preserve and revive me through it all.

I cannot imagine who or what people who do not know the God of the bible turn to in difficult times in their lives and recently I was reminded of this when a person I know reasonably well who does not know the Lord lost her husband to cancer. 

On Facebook many people who knew her offered her all kinds of words of comfort but the best her non believing friends could say was, “I’m thinking of you” and I decided to say on my post to her that I was thinking of her and praying for her and I asked God before, during and after the funeral of her dear husband that God would preserve and revive her life as she went through a painful rough and difficult time in her life.

The preservation and reviving of our writer when faced yet again with painful difficulties caused by those who opposed him and his God and his word is the main theme of stanza 20. This is because his request for God to preserve him appears three times in this stanza in verses 154, 156 and 159,

H.C. Leopold who’s excellent commentary on the book of Psalms which I always read thoroughly in my own research of the Psalms I am studying translates the word “preserve” as “revive” as does older translations of the bible like the King James version and Leopold does this because he believes the original Hebrew verb has the idea of,

“Becoming free and joyous again”.

Becoming free and joyful again is what we all seek in dark and difficult times in our life like my friend who lost her husband now in the dark grips of grief. She would long to be free and joyful again and this is the true preservation and revival of the soul we all need from time to time in the rough and tumble of this life.

We will learn from this twentieth stanza of Psalm 119 that the preservation and revival of the soul we so often need and seek can only be found in God and his word and this God is non other than the God we find in the bible.

So with the theme of God’s word preserves and revives us in the rough and tumble of life in mind my outline for this stanza

1.     (153 – 154)   GOD’S WORD ALONE PRESERVES AND REVIVES US

2.    (155 – 158)    GOD’S WORD REJECTED LEADS TO NO PRESERVATION AND REVIVAL FOR US

3.    (159 – 160)   GOD’S ETERNAL WORD LOOKED TO AND BELIEVED IN GIVES US PRESERVATION AND REVIVAL

Lets now have a closer look at these three sections:

  1.   (153 – 154)   GOD’S WORD ALONE PRESERVES AND REVIVES US

There is no doubt that the writer of Psalm 119 when he wrote Psalm 119 was going through a very difficult time in his life which he attributes to the opposition he was suffering from non – bible believing enemies as he indicates in verse 157 of this twentieth stanza which says,

“Many are the foes who persecute me, but I have not turned from your statutes”.

So his prayer that started at the start of the previous stanza continues with this further request in verse 153,

“Look on my suffering and deliver me, for I have not forgotten your law”.

Note he is suffering we know from the persecution of his enemies but what does he do in the difficult time in his life?

He:

  1.   Looks to God
  2.   Continues to trust in God’s word

This is what he has been doing all through this long and wonderful Psalm he has been looking to or trusting in God and at the same time he has been looking to or trusting in God’s law or as we understand that, God’s revealed word we call the bible.

Last Sunday I attended a church that is part of a denomination where the most part of it deserted the word of God as The word of God and became liberal in its views of God and the bible. The church I went to was a small part of that denomination that remands faithful to God’s word the bible and it continues to grow as the larger non – bible believing liberal denomination continues to die.

The fact is only God’s word and God and his word along can preserve and revive us as the writer of Psalm 119 goes on to say even clearer in verse 154,

“Defend my cause and redeem me; preserve or revive my life according to your promise”.

The first part of verse 154 apparently uses legal terminology in the term we translate, “Defend my cause”, and it is as though the writer of Psalm 119 is asking God to become his advocate or attorney who will present his case for redemption and revival from the enemies he faces.

I find this a very revealing fact because the same language is used by Jesus when he promises us The Holy Spirit in the later chapters of Johns Gospel. In John 15: 26 – 27 Jesus says this about the coming of and the function of the Holy Spirit,

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who goes from the Father – he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning”.

Note how this advocate or some translations call the counsellor actually helps the disciples to testify or speak the truth which is another name Jesus calls the Holly Spirit,

 “The Spirit of truth”.

The New Testament part of the bible only came into being because God through the person of The Holy Spirit led and inspired those early disciples to be able to remember and write down what Jesus did and said as Jesus tells his disciples in John 16: 12 – 15,

“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. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

So when a person and even worse a church moves away from the word of God they move away from the reviving and preserving word of life and as we see with many Churches today they die and are no more.

We can only then find the real reviving of our souls and lives in the rough and tumble of life when we trust and believe in God and his word. The writer of Psalm 119 knew this and this is why he asks in his prayer for preservation and revival,

“Preserve or revive my life according to your promise”

Where do we find the promises of God?

Only in his word which we call today the bible.

2.    (155 – 158)    GOD’S WORD REJECTED LEADS TO NO PRESERVATION AND REVIVAL FOR US

In the second part of this twentieth stanza our writer of the Psalm points out very clearly that when a person and of course a church rejects the word of God they put themselves in a very difficult and dangerous place and this idea is found very clearly in the first verse of this second part of this twentieth stanza, verse 155 which says,

“Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek out your decrees”.

The word “Salvation” is more like deliverance and what the writer of this Psalm said in the opening verses of how his deliverance he called restoration and revival will not come to those who are wicked and who show this by the way they do not seek out or trust in the word of God. 

I know of many Bible believing churches in the denomination I belong to which are thriving and going ahead and yet in other places in my country the same denomination I belong to is dying and I can say the main difference is the trust and commitment to the word of God that makes all the difference.

Sure you will point out to me what you see as bible believing churches that you know are dying but it not a matter of simply not giving up the bible but it is all about truly trusting in and living by that word that makes all the difference.

Our writer of Psalm 119 not only knew his bible but he trusted in the essence of what it was all about , namely the love or grace of God offered freely to us for in verse 156 he says this about God in contrast to what his bible non – believing enemies seem to say about him.

“Your compassion, Lord is great; preserve (or revive) my life according to your laws”.

Our writer knew that the God of the bible was a God of compassion or love and we as bible believing Christians know the underserved love of God the New Testament calls “grace” as Paul declares so beautifully in Ephesians 2: 4 – 8,

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 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. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”.

However just as this is Good News for the bible believer it is equally bad news for the person who rejects the bible and its message of grace and hope and our writer of Psalm 119 says as much in the next two verses, 157 and 158,

“Many are the foes who persecute me, but I have not turned from your statutes. 158  I look on the faithless with loathing, for they do not obey your word”.

Our writers enemies persecute him because he dares trust in God and his word but he knew that only in God’s word do we find salvation and revival of our souls and lives. He loathed what the non – bible believers stood for and lived for and as he said back in verse 155,

“Salvation is far from the wicked”.

Paul spoke in  number of places in his writings in the New Testament about how even within the church preachers and leaders will turn aside from God and his word and he gives such a warning of this to the elders or minister leaders of the church in Ephesus in Acts 20: 28 – 31,

“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 

30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears”.

Paul loathed the idea that leaders in the church of God would one day lead people away from God and his word and we need to be reminded of this today that any teaches in the church who stray from the word of God should be loathed as they offer no real help to their hearers in the rough and tumble of this life and in fact as Paul said they are in fact like savage wolves who destroy the flock of Christ.

3.    (159 – 160)   GOD’S ETERNAL WORD LOOKED TO AND BELIEVED IN GIVES US PRESERVATION AND REVIVAL

The third and final time the writer of Psalm 119 asks God for preservation of revival in his life as he faced suffering owing to his persecutors is in verse 159 and he again links his hope of preservation and revival of his life with the word of God and the love of God, he writes,

“See how I love your precepts; preserve my life, God, in accordance with your word”.

On a number of occasions in this long wonderful Psalm the writer has referred to the love of God which in Old Testament terms is part and parcel of the covenant of love especially give through Moses on the Mount Sinai as we read in Deuteronomy 7: 7 – 9,

“The Lord did not set his affection on you and chose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 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. 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”.

As Christians we know the love of God through what the book of Hebrews calls The New Covenant   as Hebrews 9: 15 declares,

“For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant”.

Paul makes it clear that because of the work of Christ on the cross to win for us our salvation by grace all who put there faith in Christ are now not under law but are under grace, Romans 6: 14,

 “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace”.

So the bible speaks of in both Old and New Testaments that our preservation and revival in the rough and tumble of life comes through the underserved love of God.

Then our writer of Psalm 119 concludes this twentieth stanza with a statement of the importance and value of God’s word in which he is looking to to give him preservation and revival in the face of dark and painful suffering caused by persecution by his enemies, he writes in verse 160,

“All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal”.

I like Spurgeon’s comments on this verse and particularly his following words,

“Whatever the transgressors may say, God is true, and his word is true. The ungodly are false, but God’s word is true. They charge us with being false, but our solace is that God’s true word will clear us.”

We might face all kinds of trials and difficulties in our experience of the rough and tumble of life but as bible believing Christians we can join with Paul and declare as he does in Romans 8: 37 – 39,

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

I close this stanza as I have done in all the previous nineteen stanzas with my four line poem that sums up what I have learnt from this twentieth stanza:

Take away the pain my enemies cause

Revive me O Lord I pray

Trusting your word I will find the way

To know your love and your peace each day.

Stanza 21:   (161 – 168)   GOD’S WORD IS PRECIOUS BECAUSE IT OFFERS US PEACE AND SALVATION IN THE HOSTILE

                                                 WORD WE LIVE IN

We all live in a dark and hostile world where all kinds of things can easily destroy our peace and security and make us feel anxious in this life. I remember visiting many years ago a very old and frail Christian lady in a nursing home that some of my friends joined me in visiting once a month to offer ministry and encouragement to the aged residence there.

This women was once an active ministers wife but her husband had passed away many years before I met her. She herself was now unable to get out of bed but her mind was still active and her faith in God still strong. This women was such a encouragement to myself and the other young people who accompanied me every time we visited her. When we entered her room she refused to let us sing to her, read the bible to her and pray with her unto others in rooms around her were invited if they could get out of bed to come an join her.

This women in her strife and difficulty still radiated the love and peace of the Lord Jesus and even in her bed ridden state still sought to minister for the Lord in the power of his word. She helped to make me realise that even in pain and difficulty we can both know the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ and can be a powerful witness to the wonderful salvation he offers us.

The memory of witness of that lady in the nursing home came back to me when I was studying the twenty first stanza of Psalm 119 and I think verse 165 in that stanza captures the central message of this second last stanza when it says,

“Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble”.

That was the testimony of the writer of Psalm 119 when he faced great turmoil and difficulty in his life and that was the living testimony of the elderly Christian lady I visited all those years ago in the Nursing home where she was bedridden.

These two testimonies remind me of the first verse and chorus of the famous him, “It is well with soul” which goes like this,

When peace, like a river attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

What ever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

           Refrain : It is well, it is ell, with my soul, with my soul

                          It is well, it is well, with my soul.

The preciousness of God’s word and the peace and Salvation it offers in the hostile world we live in is the theme I have chosen for this second last stanza of Psalm 119 and my three section outline that follower reflects thi

1.     (161 – 163)   GOD’S WORD IS PRECIOUS TO THOSE WHO TRUST AND REJOICE IN IT

2.    (164 – 166)    GOD’S WORD IS PRECIOUS BECAUSE IT OFFERS US PEACE AND  SALVATION

3.    (167 – 168)    GOD’S WORD IS PRECIOUS SO LOVE AND OBEY IT

So lets now have a closer look at this amazing twenty first stanza of Psalm 119:

  1.   (161 – 163)   GOD’S WORD IS PRECIOUS TO THOSE WHO TRUST AND REJOICE IN IT

This first section of the twenty first stanza of Psalm 119 I have broken down into three parts that make the point that God’s word is precious to those who trust and rejoice in it. 

Those three parts are:

  1.   (vs. 161)   The context of the writers words – great persecution
  2.   (vs. 162)   The statement of how he values God’s word – precious.
  3.   (vs. 163)   The reason why others find Gods word useless – falsehood and faithlessness

Let me then open up in more detail each of these three parts of this first section;

  1.   (vs. 161)   The context of the writers words – great persecution

Our writer has spoken a lot about the pain and difficulty he has received from people he sometimes calls his oppressors (vs. 121 and 134) and at least some of these oppressors were the very leaders or rulers of his time (vs. 23 and 46) and now in this verse, verse 161a he writes,

“Rulers persecute me without cause”.

Who these rulers and even kings in verse’s 23, 46 and here in verse 161 where we cannot tell as we simply do not know who the writer of Psalm 119 actually is and when he was living when he composed the Psalm. Many candidates could be suggested like the prophet Jeremiah who was persecuted by at least  three of the five kings during his ministry and almost killed by king Zedekiah. Jeremiah was also persecuted by chief priests and other rulers of his day during his long difficult and often painful ministry.

Then in the times of Nehemiah and Ezra both these men were oppressed by leaders and rulers now in a multi – cultural Israel after the Jews return from the exile in Babylon. Nehemiah foils a plot by some non – jewish oppressors to kill him recorded in Nehemiah 6.

However right through the bible God’s prophets were rejected and often persecuted by the rulers and kings of Israel as theses kings and religious rulers rejected God’s message to repent of their sins and return to him with faith in his word as Jesus concludes in Matthew 23: 37,

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing”.

But in the face of such powerful opposition our writer of Psalm 119 says he is not afraid of these powerful rulers but in fact more afraid of someone far more powerful namely the God of the bible as he writes in the second half of verse 161b,

But my heart trembles at your word”.

Again Jesus tells us who we should fear in Matthew 10: 28,

 “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell”.

All through the history of the church and even in our present day true believers of God and his word have faced great opposition for their faith even from rulers and kings and many have lost their lives because of their brave stand for God but they knew who to really fear and even if their bodies were bashed and destroyed to kill off their powerful testimony to God and his word they were saved by God who has the power to,

“Destroy both soul and body in hell”.

And of course this God has the power and ability to save them from hell through the saving death of Christ on the cross as Paul points out so beautifully in Romans 8: 31 – 39,

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  1.   (vs. 162)   The statement of how he values God’s word – precious.

Once our writer reveals the context of his statement of how he values God’s word which is of course great opposition to it that leads to persecution he then states in verse 162 what he sees as the value he places on the word of God which he describes this way,

“I rejoice in your promise like one who finds great spoil”.

It has been said that there are around 5467 promises in the bible and the writer of Psalm 119 obviously knew many in what he would have had of the Old Treatment because he says,

“I rejoice in your promise”.

Promise here is yet another term for the word of God and to call the bible “God’s promises” is a neat way of saying that the bible gives us great hope and reasons for being positive even as we see in our writer of Psalm 119 faced in midst of a very difficult time in his life. The apostle Paul practiced and preached the idea of rejoicing or glorifying God in our suffering and for good reasons as he writes in Romans 5: 3 – 5,

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us”.

Paul knew that God used all things to work together for good for those he calls according to his good purpose (Romans 8: 28). Most of the promises of God offer God’s help and hope in the face of difficulty and most of the Psalms like this one would not have been written if the writer had not faced persecution or some kind of suffering in their lives that caused them to write the Psalm.

So the value of God’s word is then stated in verses 162 in ancient battle imagery because he the writer says,

“Like one who finds great spoil”.

The writer of Psalm 119 has spoken three times before of the great value of God’s word the bible (vs’s 14, 72, 111) but now he says its value is like great spoil which is like a soldier picking up items of great value from the battle field after their enemies had been defeated. Many armies in ancient times thrived on the spoil they took from their defeated enemies. Spurgeon explains well what our writer is saying here when he writes,

“He compares his joy to that of one who has been long in battle, and has at last won the victory and is dividing the spoil”.

His enemies might think they have the upper hand or come from the more superior position as those who reject God’s word often do but in the true state of affairs they are looser’s and the bible believer is the winner as they have the most valuable thing in life, the very word of God. 

Jesus makes the value of God’s word real in two verses and the first is Matthew 24: 35,

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my word will never pass away”.

Then in Matthew 6: 19 – 21 he says these wise words,

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.

  1.   (vs. 163)   The reason why others find Gods word useless – falsehood and faithlessness

Finally in the third verse of this first section of the twenty first stanza he says this in verse 163,

“I hate and detest falsehood but love your law”.

Here our writer of Psalm 119 is telling us that to turn away from God and his word which is most precious is a result of falsehood or faithlessness. This falsehood or faithlessness our writer detests or hates and he has said similar things before like verse 21,

“You rebuke the arrogant, who are accursed, those who stray from your commands”.

Note how in this verse it is arrogance or pride that leads to faithlessness in God and his word and arrogance or pride is what lies at the root of mans sinfulness. People do not want God in control of their lives so Paul says in Romans 1: 18 – 20,

 “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse”.

So it is little wonder that people even today find little value in even reading the bible and write it off as a antiquated book of myth or fairytales. Even in the so called Christian church their are many who have so devalued the word of God that it is rarely considered and has become merely one of the many text books Christians can refer to for truth and insight. 

This terrible state of affairs in the Christian church was even a problem in the New Testament times as Paul gives Timothy this warning with advise about problems he believes Timothy must be prepared for in the future in 2 Timothy 4: 1 – 5,

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 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. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”.

Our writer is not like those who love falsehood and therefore turn away from God’s precious word but he is a person who loves God word because in the second half of verse 163 he simply says,

“But I love your law”.

This is something he has been saying all the way through this long and wonderful Psalm and in fact the whole Psalm is a praise for the supremacy and benefits of God’s law or word that this writer of Psalm 119 loves.

2.    (164 – 166)    GOD’S WORD IS PRECIOUS BECAUSE IT OFFERS US PEACE AND SALVATION

After our writer of Psalm 119 made it clear that God’s word is very precious to those who rejoice in and love the word of God he makes a claim about how God’s word influences him in his day to day life. This shows us how he puts into practice his rejoicing in and his love of the word of God, he writes in verse 164,

“Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws”.

I don’t think our writer of Psalm 119 is saying literally that he praise’s God’s word seven times a day but rather using the Jewish number for completeness or perfection, seven, he is saying he lives continually in a attitude of praise for the word of God. Spurgeon explains it well when he writes,

“He laboured perfectly to praise his perfect God, and therefore fulfilled the perfect number of songs. Seven may also intend frequency. Frequently he lifted up his heart in thanksgiving to God for his divine teachings in the word, and for his divine actions m providence”.

This is a similar idea to Paul teaching in particularly in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 18,

Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

Then our writer gives us two great practical reasons why God’s word is so precious in the next two verses and they are:

  1.   (vs. 165)  God and his word gives us peace
  2.   (vs. 166)  God and his word gives us salvation

Lets have a closer look at each of these two great practical things God gives us through his word that makes his word so precious:

  1. (vs. 165)  God and his word gives us peace

Our writer of Psalm 165 now comes to, what I believe is the heart of this twenty first stanza namely God’s blessing of his peace in our lives especially in times of problems and difficulties as he writes in verse 165a,

“Great peace have those who love your law”.

This peace of God is something we can have even in times of problems and difficulties because he qualifies it with what he says in the second part of verse 165,

“And nothing can make them stumble”.

Where did our writer get from God’s word that God and his word will give him peace?

I believe this idea of the blessing of God and his word being his peace is found in what is called the Priestly Blessing of Aaron found in Numbers 6: 24 – 26,

The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: 24 ‘“The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’

God turns his face or character towards his people by revealing that face or character through his word the bible. Allan Harmon writes,

“God gives us ‘peace” which is much more than mere absence of hostility or strife. It is a gift for those who are blessed, guarded and treated graciously by the Lord”.

It is a peace that God gives us in the midst of hostility and strife as the writer of Psalm 119 says it is a peace that means,

“Nothing can make them stumble”

I was so taken by this amazing offer of peace God promises us when we trust in him and his word that I did a detailed study of “Christian peace” in the New Testament and here is my favourite three New Treatment references from that study:

  1.   We have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ – Romans 5 : 1 – 5,

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us”.

Note the peace we have through the Lord Jesus Christ is not a peace that is absence form hostility but a peace that Paul describes as being access by faith to God and more particularly the grace of God which Paul says we now stand.

Paul goes on to say that in fact this peace with God is not absence from hostility but rather is a peace that we have in suffering that God uses to produce perseverance, character and hope.

2.    Peace that passes all understanding – Philippians 4: 6 – 7

In the second peace passage in the New Testament that really impressed me was one of my all time favourites and I have quoted it many times in my Psalm talks and it comes from the fourth chapter of Philippians and verse 6 and 7 which says,

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

Again note the peace Paul offers here is not again absence from hostility but the ability to cope with it and have a peace in the midst of it that Paul says in verse 7,

“Transcends all understanding”

This peace Paul says,

“Will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

This is a similar idea to the writer of Psalm 119 idea in verse 165 of,

“Nothing can make them stumble”

God you see is not saying trust in me and my word and you will no longer have any conflict or difficulty in your life rather he is saying trust in me and my word and I will help you in the midst of any conflict or difficulty you might face and if you do trust in me and my word I will give you my peace.

3.   Jesus offers peace that the world cannot give us – John 14: 27,

My last choice of a peace passage or verse in the New Testament is from the lips of our Lord himself when in John 14: 27, Jesus spoke these words to his disciples  on the night before he went to the cross to pay for our sins and make a way fro us back to God. Jesus knew that his disciples would face all kinds of difficulties and even conflict  in the days and years ahead but he offers them in the midst of that conflict his peace. 

Let me quote now the words of Jesus offer of peace,

 “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”.

We might think God does not care for us and our world because it is in such a mess and even those of us who trust in him and his word still suffer often like the writer of Psalm 119 did because we trust and believe in God and his word but Jesus is saying I will give you my peace even in the midst of the difficulty and conflict you are going through.

This kind of peace the world or those outside of Jesus cannot give and with this inner peace Jesus offers us we can not let our hearts get troubled or be afraid or again as the writer of Psalm 119 says in verse 165 with this peace,

“Nothing can make them stumble”

  1.   (vs. 166)  God and his word gives us salvation

The second practical reason why God’s word is precious to those who trust in it is what I will call salvation and the writer of Psalm 119 speaks of this in verse 166,

“I wait for your salvation, Lord, and I follow your commands”.

It is obvious that our writer had not yet experienced absence from all hostilities yet but he believed ultimately God would give him this as he said he now waits for God’s salvation. This is his faith in the word of God in action and his understanding of this hope of salvation was not based on his feelings or desires for that salvation but on the very words of God which he calls in this verse,

“Your Commands”.

I quoted earlier the type of words of commands this writer knew and obviously trusted in passages like Deuteronomy 7: 7 – 9,

“The Lord did not set his affection on you and chose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 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. 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”.

Even in the Priestly blessing of Aaron there is a strong indication of God giving those who trust in him and his word ultimate salvation, Numbers 6: 24 – 26,

The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: 24 ‘“The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’

However nothing in the Old Testament comes close to the clear and sure offer of peace with God and ultimate salvation like we read in the New Testament and brilliantly illustrated by the previous word of Paul I quoted from Romans 5 : 1 – 5,

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us”.

This passage of Paul speaks of the three aspects of our salvation:

  1. We are saved – vs. 1,

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

2.   We are being saved – vs’s 3 – 4

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us”.

3.  We will be saved – vs. 2b

“And we boast in the hope of the glory of God”.

Note it is a hope to come not a hope that might come but a hope that will come.

I would like to quote C.H Spurgeon as he shows us how being saved by grace connects with obedience to the word of God. Spurgeon argues that works are but the the outworking of the grace of God we claim we have found, he writes,

“That same divine teaching which delivers us from confidence in our own doings leads us to abound in every good work to the glory of God. In times of trouble there are two things to be done, the first is to hope in God, and the second is to do that which is right. The first without the second would be mere presumption: the second without the first is mere formalism”.

3.     (167 – 168)    GOD’S WORD IS PRECIOUS SO LOVE AND OBEY IT

The writer of Psalm 119 finishes his twenty first stanza or his second last stanza with a word of commitment to God and his word a commitment that has flowed from his understanding of the preciousness of that word that he has just said gives him now God’s peace to cope with conflict and difficulty and will give him ultimate salvation from all conflict and difficulty.

His commitment to God’s word is twofold:

  1. (vs. 167) – Love it

2.  (vs. 168) – Obey it

Lets have a closer look at these final two verses of this twenty first stanza with these two aspect of commitment our writer pledges for God’s word.

  1. (vs. 167) – Love it

In both of the last two verses the word “obey” appears but I will focus on that word more in the last verse and here I will focus on the concept of loving God’s word for verse 167 says,

“I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly”.

Seven times the writer of Psalm 119 declares that he loves God’s word (47, 97, 119, 127, 140, 159 and 163) and the whole Psalm has spelt out in many wonderful ways why he loves the word of God which includes seven times referring to knowing God’s love or compassion for him (41, 64,76, 77, 88, 149, 156) which he obviously only got from God’s word.

The apostle John spoke a lot about the love of God including the important idea that we only love God because he first loved us, 1 John 4: 19,

“We love because he first loved us”.

So we too only know that God loves us because of Jesus the word became flesh declares that God loves us because he died for our sins on the cross, John 3: 16. Not only John 3: 16 tells us God loves us but the whole bible tells us that as well, one way or another, infant it is to me the central message of the whole bible.

Therefore God loves us according to his word so that means we should love God and the word that tells us he loves us. 

John knew personally the very word of God become flesh, Jesus Christ and he says this about loving God and how that love should inspire us to love one another, 1 John 4: 7- 12,

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us”.

2.  (vs. 168) – Obey it

Finally the love that our writer has for his God and particularly his word meant for him that he  sought to obey it as he writes in the first part of verse 168, the final verse of this twenty first stanza,

“I obey your precepts and your statutes”

He has just not only stated that he loved God’s word in verse 167, the previous verse but there also he stated,

“I obey your statutes”

At the end of the second section of this twenty first stanza I quoted C.H. Spurgeon’s comments on the relationship of grace and works or here love and obedience and I would like to give you the first part of this important quote again,

“That same divine teaching which delivers us from confidence in our own doings leads us to abound in every good work to the glory of God”.

Jesus himself makes the connection between loving him and obeying him when he simply says in John 14: 23,

“Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them”.

Earlier in verse 15 of that same chapter i John’s Gospel he simply says,

“If you love me, keep my commands”.

Jesus wants us to follow his example, he was loved by his father and he in term loved him and that led him, while on earth, to obey what the Father wanted him to do and he spells this out in the next chapter in verse’s 9 – 10,

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love”.

Paul spells out the function of Good works or obedience to God and his word at the end of his famous passage on bing saved by grace or God’s underserved love alone through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ in Ephesians 2 with these words in verses 8 – 10,

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”.

True Godly or God given good works flow from a true love for what God has done for us and if we do not have them or show them then you reveal that you have not truly come to faith in God as James puts it more simply in James 2: 17,

“In the same way, faith by itself, if not accompanied by action (or works) is dead”.

Our writer of Psalm 119 said he loved God’s word and that meant for him that he sought to obey it and he was so sure that his proclaimed faith and obedience was real because he closes his twenty first stanza with the words,

“For all my ways are known to you”.

He was sure that the God who sees all and knows all knew he had real faith in him that showed in our writers life by his obedience to his word.

I close as usual with my four line summary verse of this twenty first stanza of Psalm 119,

United with you Lord I fear no foe

For your word is precious to me.

It gives me great peace in the midst of strife

I love you for setting me free.

Stanza 22:   (169 – 176)   GOD’S WORD IS THE INSTRUMENT OF HIS HELP AND SALVATION THEREFORE I WILL SING ITS

                                                  PRAISES

In one lecture I had at Bible College many years ago I remember a question one lecturer asked us that I will never forget and the question was:

When Christians gather together for worship what is the most important thing they do?

Members of my year at college started to give a answers to this important question. One person suggested the sermon as that is when we learn about God and how we should respond to him. The lecturer said the sermon was a very important part of the worship service but was not the most important thing we do.

Another student suggested singing the praises of God as that is when we are really worshipping him. The lecture said yes singing the praises of God was a very important part of worship but it was not the most important thing we do when we gather to worship.

Finally another student said the most important thing we do when we gather to worship God was prayer for that is when we talk to God. The lecturer said yes prayer is a very important part of worship but it still is not the most important thing we do.

By this stage the lecture hall was quiet as no other suggestions where made. Then the lecturer picked up his bible and said the most important thing we do in a worship service is when the word of God the bible is read to us. This is the most important thing we do when we gather to worship as this is when God speaks to us with no human intervention but the voice of the bible reader.

He went on to explain that a good sermons should only explain and apply God’s word. That singing God’s praises should always conform to the word of God and even prayer is just us speaking to God but the way God chooses to answer is primarily through his word the bible.

We have seen all through Psalm 119 its writer singing the praises of God’s word and telling us in a most comprehensive way the benefits and value of God’s word. Here in the last stanza of this enormous Psalm the writer brings home this message. He sees God’s word and God’s word alone as God’s instrument of help and salvation for his daily life. He says in the first verse of this stanza,

“May my cry come before you, Lord; give me understanding according to your word”.

You see when this man prays to God he asks for a reply, a answer, he believes that answer comes only through the very word of God which he says,

“Gives me understanding”.

We will explore together the theme of this last stanza of Psalm 119 namely how God’s word, the bible is God’s chosen instrument of help and salvation and we will see yet again how the writer of Psalm 119 always sings its praises or speaks of its value and benefits in both word and song.

With this theme in mind then my outline for this twenty second stanza is

1.     (169 – 170)   A PRAYER BASED ON THE WORD OF GOD BEING GOD’S INSTRUMENT  OF HELP

2.    (171 – 173)   A PRAISE OF GOD’S WORD AS THE INSTRUMENT OF HIS HELP

3.    (174- 175)    A LONGING FOR GOD’S SALVATION GIVEN THROUGH THE  INSTRUMENT OF HIS WORD.

4.    (vs. 176)      A FINAL PLEA FOR GOD TO SAVE HIM THROUGH HIS INSTRUMENT OF SALVATION THE WORD OF GOD.

  1.   (169 – 170)   A PRAYER BASED ON THE WORD OF GOD BEING GOD’S INSTRUMENT OF HELP

When I worked as a church youth worker after left bible college many years ago I taught scripture in both primary and high schools. In my home state in Australia, New South Wales to this day the churches by law have access to public schools to teach the scripture’s for up to two hours a week. This became law in New South Wales when a deal was struck for the churches to give up most of its schools to the state to run. This law is seriously under attack at this present time as our society moves further and further away from God and his word.

A often asked question by students in my scripture classes was:

How can you know there is a God?

I would always point my students to the bible and how the bible and the bible alone tells us about God and how we can know him through The Lord Jesus Christ, God’s word become flesh who came to earth to show us what God is like and make a way back to him.

Some students would say, “Thats a dumb way for God to make himself known”. I thought about this reaction a lot and came up with this answer. If God chose to speak to us with a great universal voice in the sky what would that be like. I would then put my hands to my mouth making a way of making my voice sound louder and then in a loud voice say something like,

“Hey world I am God listen to me”

I pointed out how disconcerting this would be and then pointed out how God is spirit and therefore we cannot physically see him in this life so he made it possible for us to see him in a form we can handle and understand, namely a human being like we are who spoke like we speak and that was recorded for all time and we read the record of this in this book called the bible which has been translated into most of languages of the world and those who don’t have it in there native tongue Christians are right now working on changing that,

Our writer of Psalm 119 knew this important principle as well as we see in verse 169, the first verse of the twenty second stanza of Psalm 119 when it says,

“May my cry come before you Lord; give me understanding according to your word”.

You see our writer believed he could speak to the God of the bible in prayer which this verse calls,

“My cry”.

Then our writer tells us that God’s chosen instrument of speaking to us is his word for the second half of the verse says,

“Give me understanding according to your word”.

The writer to the Hebrews says this about how God speaks to us in Hebrews 1: 1 – 2,

“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe”

You see to get understating of God you need his revelation of himself and his chosen instrument to do this is his word brought to us first through the prophets which represents the Old Testament and finally through his Son, Jesus Christ who is one with God in heaven come to earth as John declares in John 1: 14,

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.

The next verse in this final stanza of Psalm 119 continues the same idea, verse 170,

“May my supplication come before you; deliver me according to your promise”.

Note how our writer of Psalm 119 again prays to God for supplication is another word for prayer and one dictionary I found on line defines supplication as,

“The action of asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly”.

But our writer begs or earnestly asks God for deliverance from his many enemies with confidence of God answering, because he knew the many promises God had made in his word that told him of God’s to help the people who truly trust in him. 

Promises like Isaiah 40: 29,

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak”.

Or Psalm 72: 12 – 14,

“For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. 13  He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. 14 He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight”.

In the the last stanza I pointed out that there are 5467 promises in the bible and many of these are in the Old Testament so our writer put his faith in God’s word that contains many promises for help and salvation.

As Christians we have a far greater knowledge of the promises of God because we know Jesus Christ who Paul says in whom all God’s promises find their yes, 2 Corinthians 1: 20,

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God”.

Paul knew that Jesus was the way God made back to God and that faith in him brings us salvation and help as Paul states in Romans 5: 1- 5,

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us”.

So God’s channel for hope and salvation is The Lord Jesus Christ who we know today through the word of God we call The Bible.

2.    (171 – 173)   A PRAISE OF GOD’S WORD AS THE INSTRUMENT OF HIS HELP

So we have seen all through Psalm 119 our writer has praised God’s word and so here in the final stanza it is not strange then that our writer praises God’s word. In verses 171 and 172 he speaks of two ways he seeks to praise God’s word:

  1.   (vs. 171)   By speaking it

2.      (vs. 172)   By singing it

So lets have a closer look at these two ways our writer seeks to praise God’s word and in both why he wants to speak and sing its praises.

  1.   (vs. 171)   By speaking it

The first way our writer wants to praise God’s word is by speaking of it, he writes in verse 171,

“May my lips overflow with praise”.

Our writer has spoken before of using his mouth as a means for praising God and particularly for praising his word like verse 108,

“Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws”.

So our writer of Psalm 119 in this verse wants to speak of the praise he has for Gods’ word and at the same time he wants God to teach him his word. Even Paul, who particularly knew and proclaimed the word of God always wanted to know that word of God who is The Lord Jesus Christ more and more as he indicates in Philippians 3: 10 – 11,

 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead”.

So why does our writer want to speak the praises of God and his word and his answer to this is in the second part of verse 171,

“For you teach me your decrees”.

C. H Spurgeon explains the meaning of these words by saying,

“Eminent disciples are wont to speak well of the master who instructed them, and this holy man, when taught the statutes of the Lord, promises to give all the glory to him to whom it is due”.

God teaches him or uses his word as the channel to teach him and in turn he promises to speak of what he has leant with praise from his lips as David often promises to do like Psalm 30: 11 – 12,

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, 12  that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever”.

2.      (vs. 172)   By singing it

Our writer of Psalm 119 has composed a very long and beautiful Psalm that in one way or another sings the praises of the word of God. He has done this because he knew that through the word of God, God channels his help and blessing so he determines to continue to sing the praises of the word of God in verse 172 when he says,

“May my tongue sing of your word”.

His tongue and his hand in writing has done just that and he goes on to say why he sings such wonderful and comprehensive praises of the word of God in the second part of verse 172, when he declares,

“For all your commands are righteous”

The truth of God’s word has been another constant theme in this Psalm appearing one way or another eight times before (7, 43, 106, 128, 137, 142, 160 and 164). I like verse 137 and I think its worth quoting here,

“You are righteous, Lord, and your laws are right”.

Jesus prays to his father in heaven for the disciples and what will happen to them after he dies, rises from the dead and goes back to heaven in John 17.

In John 17 he speaks of the truth of the word he has given them which became what we now call The New Testament. Jesus says this about the word of God in John 17: 14 – 17,

 “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth”.

God is true or righteous so what he says is true and righteous and so the writer of Psalm sings the praises of God’s word in word and song believing that it is God word alone that can save him and he goes on in verse 173 to say this,

“May your hand be ready to help me”

The hand of God Allan Harman says is a,

Synonym for power” (see Deuteronomy. 32: 39 and Isaiah 28: 2)

Harmon goes on to explain,

“The appeal is for a demonstration of divine action in securing him from his trouble”.

Note how again this writer of Psalm 119 links this appeal for rescue by the hand of God to the word of God as he says,

“ I have chosen your precepts”.

So God’s chosen channel of help and salvation for every believer is the word of God.

3.    (174- 175)    A LONGING FOR GOD’S SALVATION GIVEN THROUGH THE  INSTRUMENT OF HIS WORD.

So this underlining theme of the word of God being God’s instrument or channel of help and salvation continues in the next two verses where he:

  1.   (vs. 174)   Longs for God’s salvation through God’s word which he delights in

2.    (vs. 175)    Longs for God to let him live by sustaining him by his word

Lets have a closer look at these next two verses:

  1.   (vs. 174)   Longs for God’s salvation through God’s word which he delights in

All through this long Psalm our writer has referred to the enormous difficulties he faced caused by his enemies who he often calls his oppressors who are people who reject God and and his word as being true and helpful. His zeal for the word of God has caused him to be the object of his non – bible believing opponents scorn and ridicule as he aptly declares in a verses like 22 and 23,

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

These powerful enemies got so vicious it seems they sought to take his life as he indicates in verse 95,

“The wicked are waiting to destroy me, but I will ponder your statutes”.

So in verse 174 our writer longs for God’s Salvation or deliverance from these dangerous vengeful enemies and he writes,

“I long for your salvation Lord”

And then he indicates in the second part of the verse that this salvation will only come through God’s word which he delights in,

“Your law gives me delight”.

Delighting in God’s law has been mentioned seven time before (16, 24, 47, 70, 77, 92 and 143) and is another constant theme in this long Psalm that sings the praises of the word of God and pinpoints its many benefits.

Now, however its benefit is his salvation which he sees connected to the word of God and so I ask where did our writer get the idea that God’s word will give him salvation?

Our writer of Psalm 119 knew that God saved his people Israel out of Egypt and this showed him that the God of the bible had the willingness and ability to save him. God had saved his faithful people and this was the basis of his loving covenant with his people as we read in Exodus 19: 3 – 6,

“Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

So all through the Old Testament God is presented in his word as a gracious and loving God who saves people who trust in him and obey his word. In the previous Psalm, Psalm 118, we saw how God is good because his love endures forever and three times in that Psalm God is spoken of as their saviour, verses 14, 21 and 25. I will quote just one of these verses, verse 14,

“The Lord is my strength and my defence; he has become my salvation”.

So God chooses to love and save us even though we don’t deserve this salvation and we know this through the word of God so like the writer of Psalm 119 we should delight in his word as it alone brings us the message of God’s salvation and that delight for God and his word should cause us to want to sing the praises of our God and his precious word, the Bible.

In the New Testament we have clearer message of God’s salvation, like Acts 2: 21,

“And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”.

We read in the New Testament of how God saves us like the famous John 3: 16 verse clearly proclaims,

“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”.

So God’s instrument of salvation is his Son, Jesus Christ the word of God become flesh who gave his life to save us from our sins. Therefore we must call on him and according to Acts 2: 21, we,

“Will be saved”

The writer of Psalm 119 sought salvation of deliverance from his powerful enemies but we seek deliverance or salvation from the powerful enemies of sin and the devil.

2.    (vs. 175)    Longs for God to let him live by sustaining him by his word

So I have made it clear in the previous point that the salvation or deliverance the writer of Psalm 119 sought from God was from his powerful enemies who sought to kill him and this becomes even clearer in the first part of the next verse, verse 175 which says,

“Let me live that I may praise you”.

Being saved from their enemies and even from sin so that the writer may praise God is all through the book of Psalms and a brilliant example of this is in David’s confessional prayer in Psalm 51 offered after he realised God knew his sins of adultery and murder and in verses 12 – 14, David prays,

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Saviour, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness”.

Our writer like David knew this offer of such wonderful love and salvation was only clear through the word of God so he completes verse 175 with these words,

“And may your laws sustain me”.

So our writer sought God’s sustaining power that he believes comes through the word of God as in that word there are many promises of God’s help and protection like in the Old Testament Deuteronomy 31: 6,

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

And in the New Testament 2 Thessalonians 3: 3,

“But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one”.

The writer of Psalm 119 had connected the promise of God sustaining him with the word of God back in verse 116 which says,

“Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live”.

So God has chosen to offer those who put their trust in him his protection and help and we only know this because we have his word, the bible which declares it.

We also have the proof of God’s love and offer of protection in the living word of God become flesh in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ who endured the cross to win for us our salvation and prove once and for all that God promises to bless those who believe in him with his amazing grace is true and real and through it we have his salvation and blessing.

I once had some mormon missionaries come to my door and they asked if they could come inside and bless me and my home and I refused them entry because I did not need their blessing as I had all the blessings I could ever want in the Lord Jesus Christ. I then read to them from my bible Ephesians 1: 3 – 9,

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ”.

The Mormon missionaries left my front door shaking their heads and saying something like, “and he dos’t wont our blessing”, I thought they just didn’t get it as God’s word promises us his blessing in Christ that includes his sustaining power and might in our daily lives in this life.

4.    (vs. 176)      A FINAL PLEA FOR GOD TO SAVE HIM THROUGH HIS INSTRUMENT OF SALVATION THE WORD OF GOD.

The last verse of this twenty second stanza which is of course the last verse of this amazing long Psalm might seem to be a bit of contradiction to what the writer has been saying for over 175 verses now for this verse says,

“I have strayed like lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands”.

On a surface level this verse might make sense if it said something like,

“My persecutors your enemies have strayed like lost sheep”

But no the writer of Psalm 119 says that he has strayed like a lost sheep. So why would he say this when over and over a again he has said something like he says in the last part of this verse,

“For I have not forgotten your commands”.

Allan Harmon offers a different way of understanding the writers expression of,

“I have strayed like lost sheep”.

When he explains,

“It must be a reference to the Psalmist helplessness in the face of persecution”.

If his persecutors are both many and include the powerful rulers of his day which he has referred to at other times in the Psalm like verse 23,

“Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servant will meditate on your decrees”.

Then the image of a lost sheep who had strayed from the protection of its shepherd would be a powerful one.

Our writer of Psalm 119 chooses a popular biblical image of sheep and their protector and guide the shepherd who is the God of the bible. This image David employs so beautifully in his famous Psalm 23: 1 – 4,

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me”.

The protection and guidance David speaks of here is what our writer longs for from God because in this last verses he goes on to call himself,

“Your Servant”

So he wants God to act like the Good Shepherd he is and go after his lost sheep or his sheep that has wandered into great danger and save him from his many enemies. 

Our writer links the salvation and help of God to the word of God in his final statement of the Psalm when he writes,

“For I have not forgotten your commands”.

Our writer has shown over and over again that he believes that God’s instrument of help and salvation for his people is his word.

Of course I want to link the instrument of God’s help and salvation to the word of God become flesh who is The Lord Jesus Christ who also honed in on this popular biblical image of The Good Shepherd looking after his sheep in John 10: 11 – 18,

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

So with this powerful image of God being like a Good Shepherd who cares for his sheep especially those in trouble our writer of Psalm 119 concludes his long but beautiful Psalm. He has declared so comprehensively throughout this long Psalm both the supremacy and value of God’s word and has applied its many benefits to his very difficult life in which he faced many powerful enemies who denied value of God’s word.

We live in a world that flatly denies value of God’s word but it is God’s word alone that offers us both help and salvation.

I close with what the writer to the Hebrews says about the word of God in Hebrews 4: 12 and 13 and my usual four line verse that sums up the message of this twenty second stanza of Psalm 119,

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account”.

Vital is your word to my life O Lord

Help me to understand it now.

For your word declares your love for me

And it gives me your grace and power.