PSALM 124 TALK:    THE PILGRIM TRAVELLER MUST TRUST IN THE NAME OF THE LORD

PSALM 124 TALK:    THE PILGRIM TRAVELLER MUST TRUST IN THE NAME OF THE LORD

(This is the fifth Psalm in a 15 Psalm series of Psalms called “Songs of Ascent” and we have come to see that these Psalms were used by ancient Israelites as they went on annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem and the Temple their to worship together their God, the God of the bible. This Psalm is the last of the setting off Psalms that looks to their God’s help and protection in the past and it calls on the Pilgrim travellers to trust in the powerful name of the Lord as they set out on what was often a very dangerous journey to Jerusalem in ancient times.)

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

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

For an introduction to the Songs of Ascent see Psalm talk for Psalm 120

PART 1.    PSALMS 120 – 124   THE JOURNEY BEGINS – THE WAY

INTRODUCTION TO PSALM 124

At the outset of this Psalm talk I must acknowledge the work of a man named Ray Fowler who I discovered on the internet has two excellent talks on Psalm 123 and this one Psalm 124. I was so impressed with Rays work on this Psalm that I have quoted from it a couple of times in this Psalm talk.

Ray in his introduction mentioned the John Lennon song, “Imagine” and he says this,

“John Lennon imagined a world without God or heaven and thought it would be a better place. Psalm 124 imagine what would happen without God, and it is a picture of complete devastation”.

This idea that the world would be a better place without God and any form of religion is a very popular idea today and John Lennon’s song both captures it well and has helped to make it even more popular idea. At a folk festival I went to recently I overheard someone say to another person,

“The world would be a better and safer place if all religions were done away with”.

I was so stunned and taken a back by this and it has continually come back to me and I have tried to think through what I would have said if I had the opportunity to respond to this outrageous comment.

Let me share three things I have thought of on the topic of if their was no God”

1.    If there was no God we and our world would not be here for without God to create everything          nothing would exist.

2.    If there was no God our world would be torn apart and destroyed by chaos if God does not 

       continually up hold the universe and the laws of science that make this possible.

3.   If God does not exist than anything good in this world and universe would not exist as well.

In short no God, no religion that acknowledges him and I’m afraid John Lennon’s hope that no God and no religion would lead to peace is a delusion for no God and his followers to promote peace in this world would mean we would have only war and chaos that would destroy it.

The fact that non – christians say such things about God not existing only further illustrates both their spiritual blindness and rebellion to God.

Psalm 124 is set in the context of our rebellious dark and dangerous world, a world hostile to God and his followers but Psalm 124 speaks of yet another reason that God makes a difference in our world and that is that for those who trust and believe in his love and power protects them.

In fact his love and power delivers them from the powerful evil forces in this world and beyond that could easily overwhelm them as verse 6 says,

“Praise be to the Lord, who has not let us be torn by their teeth”.

I would like to answer two important questions before we look closely at this Psalm and the first is:

Who write this Psalm?

The Hebrew heading attributes this Psalm to David and Allan Harman points out that in the early days of David’s reign he faced what seemed like certain annihilation from Israel’s Philistine enemies . Harmon points to 2 Samuel 5: 17 – 21 to show what a dangerous situation God delivered David and his nation from,

“When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, they went up in full force to search for him, but David heard about it and went down to the stronghold. 18 Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; 19 so David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?”

The Lord answered him, “Go, for I will surely deliver the Philistines into your hands.”

20 So David went to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them. He said, “As waters break out, the Lord has broken out against my enemies before me.” So that place was called Baal Perazim.21 The Philistines abandoned their idols there, and David and his men carried them off”.

How does this Psalm relate to the “Songs of Ascent”?

So if David did write this Psalm at the time of God delivering him and his people from the all powerful Philistine threat then this Psalm became a Psalm looked to on many occasions after this including the threat of powerful enemies overrunning the returning Jews to Israel and Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity.

This Psalm was also relevant to Israelites setting out on their often dangerous pilgrimage journeys to Jerusalem and the Temple. So as the pilgrim travellers set out knowing the danger of many powerful enemies attacking them on their long upward journeys to Jerusalem they reminded themselves through this Psalm to trust in the name of the Lord the maker of heaven and earth who had delivered his people from the attacks of powerful enemies in the past and would deliver them from powerful enemies in the present as well as God was on their side.

With the theme of trusting in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth and is on our side to help and deliver us my outline for this Psalm i

1.     (1 – 5)   IF GOD HAD NOT BEEN ON OUR SIDE

        (1 – 2)   God is on our side

        (3 – 5)   If God had not been on our side

2.     (6 – 7)   GOD IS ON OUR SIDE SO HE ALONE HAS SAVED US

         (vs. 6)  Praise the God who saves us

         (vs. 7)  Praise the God who saves the defenceless

3.     (vs. 8).  GOD IS ON OUR SIDE SO TRUST IN HIM FOR HELP

         (vs. 8a) Trust in the God who helps us

         (vs. 8b) Trust in the God who made heaven and earth

Lets then have a close look at this Psalm:

  1.   (1 – 5)   IF GOD HAD NOT BEEN ON OUR SIDE

       1.  (1 – 2)   God is on our side

This Psalm has a very unique and unusual beginning as it starts to make a statement which it doesn’t complete and then stops and asks Israel to make the same statement which again it does not complete unto the last verse. Let me quote these two verses and I will show you what I mean.

First of all the first two verses,

“Iff the Lord had not been on our side – Let Israel say – If the Lord had not been on our side when people attacked us”.

So what is the writer of Psalm 124 saying?

Allan Harman believes the full statement the writer should had said is the inclusion of  verse 8, and therefore he is suggesting it should read this way,

“Iff the Lord had not been on our side – Our help is in the name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth”.

Or

“If the Lord had not been on our side – our help would not have been in the name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth”.

So why does it read the way it does then?

Leopold answer to this question is that these,

“First two verses represent a sort of gasp on the part of a refugee who has escaped into a safe haven of refuge”.

If this is David, as the Hebrew heading suggests then when he came up against the Philistine’s dangerous threat he realised that God alone could save him and when he wrote the Psalm he realised that God and his power and might could alone save him.

Once David started to state this fact he stopped mid thought and called on his people to join him in saying how it was only because God was on their side and fought for them that they were saved from the Philistines dangerous and deadly attacks.

The MSG or modern Message bible paraphrase translation puts that way of understanding these first two verses this way,

“If God hadn’t been for us – all together now, sing out – If God hadn’t been for us when everyone went against us.”

I am loathed to think of modern wars like particularly The First World War as “God on our side” and not the Germans side. For instance on the first Christmas in the trenches in 1914 all along the western front soldiers from both sides defied there political and army superiors and sang Christian Christmas Carols and stopped hostilities and met in no mans land and exchange Christmas wishes and in some cases Christmas gifts.

War I believe is a National statement and result of sin and rebellion to God and Christians can find themselves sometimes on both sides of a conflict. However in the case of Israel and the Philistines and many other anti – God of the bible nations God was on there side.

Christians caught up in war must not identify I believe with the fallen sinful political reasons for them but identify with God through Christ.

Many soldiers in both the first and second war conflicts did identify with God on both sides of those conflicts and in many cases God was with those faithful soldiers and saved them to be a witness to his love and power of the God of the bible.

Other Christians lost their lives in those terrible conflicts but even then they were a witness to the love and power of God in both the way they died helping others and in the fact they went to be with God in heaven through their deaths on the battle field or in the hospitals they went to from the battlefields.

The spiritual background to this Psalm is Paul’s teaching on the Spiritual battle we daily face set out in Ephesians 6: 10 – 18. Paul sets the stage or reality of this spiritual battle in verse 12 of that passage when he writes,

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

This description of the battle ground we face every day is very frightening but we can join David and say,

“If the Lord had not been on our side”

We too would be in a very no win situation but Paul says in Romans 8: 37,

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us”.

In the Ephesians 6 passage Paul says in verse 10,

 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power”.

This is such a reality to Paul that he can conclude Romans chapter 8 with these words of confidence in 38 – 39,

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, 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”.

How would these first two verses of Psalm 124 relate to a Jewish Pilgrim setting out for Jerusalem and the Temple there?

I think even the opening words of this Psalm would have been a great encouragement to the Jewish Pilgrims as they set out on their annual journeys to Jerusalem and the Temple as they knew the journey ahead could be very dangerous and as we learnt in the last Psalm those pilgrim travellers could and usually did encounter many vicious enemies and even attacks from them.

The knowledge that The Lord has been on the side of his people Israel in the past would help these Pilgrim travellers to trust in God believing he is on their side too. They could believe that,

“Our help is in the name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth”, (vs. 8)

If these ancient pilgrim journeys spiritually mirror our spiritual journey of life where we travel or live a life that ultimately leads to the New Jerusalem, heaven then we to can trust in the biblical fact that God is on our side and therefore our help is found in the Lord alone, the Lord or God of the bible who is the maker of haven and earth.

As the writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 13: 6,

“So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”

    2.  (3 – 5)   If God had not been on our side

The writer of Psalm 124, who we believe was King David now tells us with two vivid poetic images what the Lord did to show us that he was on the side of Israel. These two poetic images are:

  1. (vs. 3)   Saved from being swallowed alive
  2. (4 – 5)   Saved from raging flood waters

So lets have a look at these two vivid poetic images:

  1. (vs. 3)   Saved from being swallowed alive

The first vivid poetic image our writer uses to describe what the Lord saved his people from is the jaws of a mythical monster, verse 3 puts that this way,

“They would have swallowed us alive when their anger flared against us”.

Tremper Longman 111 sets down in his commentary a very good argument for the idea that this swallowing of a nation poetic image is a image borrowed from Canaanite Baal worship, he writes,

“Probably a mythological allusion to the Canaanite god Mot (death) swallowing Baal”.

Longman goes on to explain that,

“Mot is described as a god whose upper lip is in the heavens and lower lip is on earth, swallowing everything in his path”.

This could have been used by David to describe the Philistine threat he faced in the early part of his reign as Baal worship was the preferred religion of the Philistines. It also is a good poetic picture of the later two powerful conquering nations of Assyria and Babylon who both in the end did swallow up Israel in the North through the Assyrians and Judah in the south through the Babylonians. 

However here in Psalm 124 because the Lord was on the side of Israel whoever this is referring to did not swallow up Israel. The 2 Samuel chapter five reference does fit well to this poetic image as we read in verse 5 of that chapter,

“When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, they went up in full force to search for him, but David heard about it and went down to the stronghold”.

The words, “went in full force” means that the Philistines were very determined to overthrow David and Israel probably thinking that at the start of the regime change in Israel David and his nation were vulnerable to being overrun by them. 

The phrase in verse 3 that says,

“Their anger flared against us”, indicates that people like the Philistines really hated with a passion the people of the bible which fits the wording of the opening words of Psalm 2 that characterise the vicious opposition David faced both inside and outside of Israel because of his unique connection with the God of the bible, these three verses read this way,

Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth rise up and the

rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, 3 “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.”

The rest of Psalm 2 describes how God promises to rebuke and judge the nations who oppose him and his anointed king and this also reveals how God is on the side or fights for his people unless they turn away from him and his laws. 

Eventually God did turn away from his chosen people first in the northern kingdom of Israel and then in the southern Kingdom of Judah bringing down on them his judgment in the form of the Assyrians in the north and a coupe of hundred years later the Babylonians in the southern kingdom.

I mentioned in my comments of the first section of this Psalm that dealt with the concept of God being on our side in our spiritual battles of life Paul’s description of what we are constantly up against in Ephesians 6: 12,

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

This battlefield is one in which without God’s fighting for us we would be swallowed up by the overwhelming powerful forces of evil but God word declares that he protects and saves us constantly as the apostle John tells us in 1 John 4: 4,

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world”.

Paul gives us careful instructions of how we can have this daily protection from the forces of evil in his Ephesians 6 passage and this involves us putting on God’s armour which sets down in verses 14 – 18,

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people”.

  1. (4 – 5)   Saved from raging flood waters

The second vivid poetic image our writer of Psalm 124 uses to describe the protection against our powerful enemies is the image of a raging flash flood and reads this way in verses 4 and 5,

“The flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, 5 the raging waters

would have swept us away”.

This image most commentators suggest comes from the rare but real flash floods of the Palestine region and H.C Leopold explains that this way,

“Perhaps a flat flood in a typical wadi or dry mountain torrent of Palestine”.

The reality of this type of floods came home to me on my recent caravan trip around Australia one of the driest continents in the world where we drove through some of the dry flat areas of our countries north and saw signs that said “Road subject to Flooding”. Not only was the area we were driving through flat and dry but most of the creeks and rivers we crossed had no water in them. However only a month before we drove through that region a massive cyclone that had turned into a major rain depression and quickly dumped hundreds of inches of rain on that dry flat country and caused massive flooding torrents of water to flow.

In the dry mountains of Palestine the occasional big downpour of rain would engulf anything in its path and this is the poetic description our writer chose to use as a image of what God saved his people from. As we see a number of times in the Old Testament like Psalm 32: 6,

“Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them”. (see also Psalm 66: 12, 69: 1 -2, 144: 7 and Lamentations 3: 54.

This is not literally referring to floods but again powerful nations overrunning the people and the land of God’s people Israel but equally the image of a flood engulfing Israel in the north and Judah in the south is an image of the nations of Assyria and Babylon overrunning them like a great flash flood as the prophet Isaiah speaks of Assyria overrunning Israel in the North in Isaiah 8: 6 – 8,

“Because this people has rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah and rejoices over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, 7 therefore the Lord is about to bring against them the mighty floodwaters of the Euphrates— the king of Assyria with all his pomp. It will overflow all its channels, run over all its banks 8 and sweep on into Judah, swirling over it, passing through it and reaching up to the neck.

Its outspread wings will cover the breadth of your land, Immanuel!”

As Christians we can trust in God and his word because if we do he is on our side in the great spiritual battles we face as we walk the way or journey to God in heaven as Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians 3: 3,

“But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one”.

2.     (6 – 7)   GOD IS ON OUR SIDE SO FOR HE ALONE HAS SAVED US

        1.   (vs. 6)  Praise the God who saves us

The writer of Psalm 124, who could be David then tells us in verses 6 and 7 that we should praise the Lord because it is he alone who has saved us. The way he communicates this in verses 6 and 7 which are two more vivid poetic images which are:

  1.     (vs. 6)   Saved from the teeth of a wild animal
  2.     (vs. 7)   Saved like a bird from a bird trap

Lets have a a closer look at these two vivid poetic images of what and how God has saved us.

  1.     (vs. 6)   Saved from the teeth of a wild animal

In the next section of this Psalm our writer makes it even clearer that because God is on our side or fighting for us and us alone then we should respond with praise and trust. This is clear from the opening words of verse 6 which says,

“Praise be to the Lord”.

Leuopld calls this phrase simply “Thanksgiving” and we have seen all through the book of Psalms the instruction to offer up thanks to God for both who he is and what he has done for us and here are just four other examples of this in the book of Psalms , Psalm 28: 6, 31: 21, 66: 20 and 144: 1.

Ray Fowler takes the theme of Praising God or giving him thanks to God as the concept of giving God the glory citing Psalm 115 verse 1 and then saying this,

“Have you escaped from trouble? Have you survived the flood? Don’t take the credit for yourself, but give credit where credit is due. Give God the glory for what he has done”.

Fowler points us to the story of the man who Jesus cast the demons out of and into a herd of pigs in Mark 5 and then points out what Jesus said to the man when he asked Jesus to let him go with him and Jesus reply is what we read in Mark 5: 19,

“Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

The man responds in the right way as the next verse says,

“So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed”.

So we are to give God the praise for his help and salvation a salvation that is described in the second part of verse 6 in the vivid image of being saved from the teeth or jars of a wild animal and this goes like this,

“Who has not let us be torn by their teeth”.

This seems to be a return to the image of a large wild beast or monster that our writer referred to in verse 3 when he said,

“They would have swallowed us alive”.

Now the beast or monster is not seen just swallowing someone alive but tearing them to bits with its teeth. 

If this is King David writing he could be referring again to the humanly speaking powerful Philistines again who worshipped a God called Mot who had a large ferocious mouth so David is saying God saved him and his nation from the jaws of the Philistines as we read in 2 Samuel 5: 19b – 21,

The Lord answered him, “Go, for I will surely deliver the Philistines into your hands.”

20 So David went to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them. He said, “As waters break out, the Lord has broken out against my enemies before me.” So that place was called Baal Perazim.21 The Philistines abandoned their idols there, and David and his men carried them off”.

Note here how the Philistines abandoned their idols which would have included their idol for the God calledMot who failed to crush David and his nation and was left like a toothless tiger for David and his men to simply carry off.

Even if this is not the context of the original Psalm 124 I can site many stories all through the Old Testament where powerful enemies rose up against Israel and found themselves defeated by the God of Israel who we know as the God of the bible.

Many nations in the history of the world have come and gone usually as a result of other more powerful nations both overrunning them and devouring them yet this tiny nation of Israel even survives today and this must be a pointer towards the fact that the God of heaven and earth is on their side.

In New Testament terms the church, the New Israel of God has God on their side or has The God of the bible fighting all spiritual battles for them again as Paul proclaims 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, 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. 7)   Saved like a bird from a bird trap

The second second vivid poetic image of how God alone has saved his people is that of a tiny bird being freed from a hunters trap in verse 7, which says,

“We have escaped like a bird from the fowlers snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped”.

This image of the Nation of Israel being like a tiny bird being freed from a hunters trap has been used before in the book of Psalms in Psalm 91: 3, which says,

“Surely he will save you from the fowlers snare and from the deadly pestilence”.

It is a powerful image because it pictures the Nation of Israel as a being only a tiny bird trapped in a hunters trap. This image has two main applications which are firstly the nation of Israel is very small and defenceless and then its enemies are big an powerful.

This is a perfect image of Israel right through its long history as it was never a big and powerful nation maybe the closest it came to this was in the time of King Solomon, Davids’ son but this quickly disappeared when the Nation of Israel was split in two after Solomon died.

The image is saying as an image, you Israel could not save yourself just as a tiny bird could not by itself escape from a powerful hunters trap. Yet because God was on Israels side he could brake the hunters trap and free the bird who in the image is Israel. 

Ray Fowler writes,

“This is another image of our utter dependance on God, because you don’t get out of a snare (or trap) on your own. Once you’re trapped. But here God comes along and breaks the snare, and then you escape”.

This a great image of how our salvation works as the bible says we are incapable of saving ourselves as Paul indicates to the Galatians in Galatians 4: 8 – 9,

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces ? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?”

However by God grace alone we are saved from sin and its consequences namely being enslaved to it as Paul makes very clear 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”.

So we are saved from sin and its consequences by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ which means we are now free like that little helpless bird in the hunters trap God has broken the trap and set us free as Paul proclaims in Galatians 5: 1,

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

Knowledge of this great work of salvation of God should lead us to praise God and give him thanks or as Ray Fowler put it give God the glory for what he has done for us in Christ.

So far as the pilgrim travellers in ancient times setting off on the dangerous journey up to Jerusalem and its Temple this would have been a very encouraging thing to both hear and sing about. They were not left to defend for themselves their God was with them proven by what he had done for them in the past.

So it is with us on our journey of faith to heaven itself. It was made possible by God alone and it will be God alone who will safely get us there in the end.

3.     (vs. 8).  GOD IS ON OUR SIDE SO TRUST IN HIM FOR HELP

       1.   (vs. 8a) Trust in the God who helps us

With what we had just come to understand that our salvation is in God alone the last verse of this Psalm is not a surprise because it simply tells us,

“Our help is in the name of the Lord the maker of heaven and earth”.

I will deal with the first part of this verse as a seperate part to this last section of the Psalm which is simply verse 8.

The first part then is of course the words,

“Our help is in the name of the Lord”.

Our writer of Psalm 124, who could be King David has made it clear that he and his people were only saved and helped by God alone and that it was God alone who saved them from.

  1. Being swallowed alive (vs. 3)
  2. Being swept away in a flood (vv’s 5 and 5)
  3. Being torn apart by a wild animal (vs. 6)
  4. Being set free like a bird from a hunters trap (vs. 7)

All vivid poetic images of the small and hopeless state of Israel being saved by the power and might of their God alone. The key to understanding this first phrase of this verse 8,

“Our help is in the name of the Lord”

 is in understanding the meaning of the phrase, “The name of the Lord”.

H. C. Leopold explains so well what this phrase would have meant to a ancient Israelite who knew his bible, he writes,

“The aim of this term is to include in one term all the marvellous revelations of his power that the Lord has so amply demonstrated in the course of the history of His people”.

God’s name is God’s character and his character is to love and save his people and we see that even clearer in the New Testament where we learn from that famous key verse John 3: 16 that the God of the bible is both a loving and a saving God,

“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”.

This means we can trust in the God of the bible in both good and bad times in our lives for God is our helper and our saviour.

For the ancient Israelite setting out on their annual pilgrim journey to Jerusalem and the Temple this concept of God being their helper and saviour would have been a great encouragement for them helping them to not only set out on these pilgrimages but also help and encourage them on the course of their long and often difficult journeys.

This is the same for us following God’s way made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus who has gone before us like a trial blazer and inspiration for us to follow just as the writer to the Hebrews put it 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”.

 2.   (vs. 8b) Trust in the God who made heaven and earth

The final phrase of this Psalm 124 adds power and authority to the phrase before it because it simply says,

“The Maker of heaven and earth”.

I like David Guzik’s take on this phrase he writes,

“It is not a vain confidence. The same God who created heaven and earth was mighty to help his people”.

The God of the bible is the real deal, he is the Alpha and Omega or beginning and end, he is the Lord of all because he made all and he is the King of Kings because without him nothing would have ever existed. As we read in Revelation 4: 11,

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all

things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

Someone was there at the beginning of creation a long, long time ago to create everything by his mighty powerful hand and Paul tells us in Colossians 1: 16 – 20 that Jesus Christ, God’s only Son was there creating everything and even then planning the rescue mission on earth for us that made the way back to God,

 “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross”.

The mystery because our puny brains which cannot fathom how God knew we needed saving even before we had fallen as God is all knowing and our knowledge and understanding is extremely limited but the God who made heaven and earth who knows the beginning and the end of this world can be relied upon as a perfect helper.

As Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 2: 7,

“No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began”.

As I said at the start of this Psalm talk a world without God is a impossibility and even if it was possible would be a very scary and hopeless mess. However because God does exist and is such a powerful and loving God we can trust him to help us as we walk his way just as the ancient Israelite after they read or sang Psalm 124 could have the confidence to travel to Jerusalem and the Temple because they now knew their,

“Help is in the name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth”.

I close as usual with my poem / song and final word of prayer.

THE LORD IS ON OUR SIDE

(Based on Psalm 124 and the tune of “Where you there when they crucified my Lord)

If the Lord had not been on our side

If the Lord had not been on our side

Oh our enemies would have swallowed us alive

If the Lord had not been on our side.

 

If the Lord had not been on our side

If the Lord had not helped us to abide

Oh life’s flood waters would have washed us away

And we would never see heavens glorious day.

 

Praise the Lord who has not let us be torn apart

Praise the Lord who has not let us be torn apart

Oh from our enemies he has helped us to depart

Like a bird set free with a fresh new start.

 

Our help is in the name of the Lord

Our help is in the name of the Lord

Oh our God the maker of heaven and earth

Saves our lives and gives us new birth.

 

If the Lord had not been on our side

If the Lord had not been on our side

Oh we would not have had the power to abide

If the Lord had not been on our side.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

Thank you Father in heaven that you are on our side. Not that this should make us arrogant and full of pride but rather full of praise and humble service for we know that it is only through your undeserved love for us that you have saved us and given us new spiritual birth. May we trust always in your mighty love and power for you made the universe and saved us through your Son and continue to help and lead us by your Holy Spirit, in Jesus powerful name we pray, Amen.

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PSALM 123 TALK:   THE PILGRIM TRAVELLER LOOKS UP TO GOD

PSALM 123 TALK:   THE PILGRIM TRAVELLER LOOKS UP TO GOD

(This is the fourth Psalm in the 15 Psalm series called “Songs of Ascent” and in this Psalm the writer prays a desperate prayer for himself and his fellow travellers for God’s mercy and help when facing vicious and powerful enemies. He does this by looking up to God who sits on his throne in heaven and therefore has amazing power and love to help him and his fellow pilgrim travellers).

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

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

For an introduction to the Songs of Ascent see Psalm talk for Psalm 120

PART 1.    PSALMS 120 – 124   THE JOURNEY BEGINS – THE WAY

INTRODUCTION TO PSALM 123

Unfortunately I did not grow up in a Christian home and in fact it was quite the opposite as my father and grandfather were committed atheists and had no time for God or his church. My father often proudly told me the story that on the night my grandfather died the local Anglican minister came to his hospital bed room to offer ministry and prayer for my dying grandfather and he was told off by my grandfather with words something like, “get out of here I had no time for God and the church in my life and I have no time for them now as I am dying”.

I can say that over the years of my life as a active christian growing up in my family home and suffering persecution at times for my faith my father towards the end of his life had moved from being a atheist to a agnostic and even came to church a couple of times to hear me preach butt sadly he did not come to faith in Christ before he died at the age of 80.

What my father and grandfather refused to do in their lives was look up to God and that is what I did for the first time in my teenage years, look up to God and particularly Jesus for help and salvation. This looking up to God did cause me to be completely out of step with my family and many of my friends at the time but I have never regretted my decision to do this looking up to God in my life.

The fourth Psalm of the fifteen series of Psalms called “The Songs of Ascent” starts with the words,

“I lift my eyes to you, to you who sit enthroned in heaven”.

I believe the pilgrim traveller to Jerusalem and the Temple of God there started their journey and maybe even travelled on it endured hostility and danger caused by non believing people who probably mocked the pilgrims and even attacked them as they travelled the long and dangerous journey up to Jerusalem. 

Some commentators have suggested that this Psalm was probably written in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah as it fits the hostile environment the returning Jews form the Babylonian captivity had to cope with even in Jerusalem itself (see Nehemiah 2: 19. and 4: 1 – 4). This argument is strengthened by the well used expression,

“Hand of the Lord”

Used seven times in the book of Ezra, Ezra 7: 6, 9, 28, 8: 18, 22 and 31 and two times in Nehemiah 2: 8 and 18, which mirrors the expression,

“Hand of their master”  in verse 2 of this Psalm.

However we cannot know for sure when this Psalm was written and maybe the problem of Pilgrim travellers copping abuse and ridicule for making these journeys as verses 3 and 4 suggest’s was a problem these pilgrim travellers had to cope with all through Israel’s history.

All we know for sure is that this Psalm is part of the “Songs of Ascent” series and most commentators agree were used by pilgrims travelling up to Jerusalem and the Temple there for one or more of the Jewish festivals held there each year.

This idea of looking up to God introduced in the first verse of the Psalm forms my central theme for this short but wonderful Psalm and so with that in mind my outline for this Psalm is:

1.      (vs. 1)   LOOKING UP TO GOD

         1.   (vs. 1a)   Looking up

         2.   (vs. 1b)   Looking up to God in heaven

2.      (vs. 2)   LOOKING UP TO THE GOD OF MERCY

         1.   (vs. 2a)   Looking up to God with the eye’s of a servant

         2.   (vs. 2b)   Looking up to the mercy of God

3.      (3- 4)     LOOKING UP TO GOD FROM GREAT DIFFICULTY

         1.   (vs. 3)     Looking up to God for mercy in great difficulty

         2.   (vs. 4)     Looking up to God for help in the face of great opposition

Lets then have a closer look at this Psalm with the theme of Looking up to God in mind.

  1.     (vs. 1)   LOOKING UP TO GOD

         1.   (vs. 1a)   Looking up

The idea of looking up to God runs all through these Songs of Ascent and we have it expressed in the opening words of Psalm 120 when it says,

“I call on the Lord in my distress”

And even more strongly stated in the opening two verses of the next Psalm which says,

“I lift my eyes to the mountains” or “Hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord the maker of heaven and earth”.

And even in later “Songs of Ascent” like Psalm 130 verse 1, we read,

“Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord”.

Allan Harman says that these words reveal a attitude in the Psalmist of,

“Reverence for God”.

When a person lifts their eyes they are saying they are looking up and in the case of the Psalmist the looking up is to God. Atheists of course love to point out that now that we have been able to do space travel we know for sure that God does not dwell above the sky but the bible does not say God lives above the sky as the second half of this verse says he lives in heaven,

“To you who sit enthroned in heaven”.

Heaven is not above the clouds as that still is in our physical realm but God is Spirit so he lives in the spiritual realm of heaven. Paul indicates in Ephesians 6: 12 that this heavenly or spiritual realm is vast and full of not only God and his domain but a darker and dangerous evil domain as well,

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

However this looking up would have been a physical reality for the Pilgrim Traveller as they journeyed up from the flat often desert plains of Israel into the hills or Mountains where Jerusalem and the Temple were. They would have been always looking up. My father and mother moved close to us in the Blue Mountains for a few years many years ago and my father often said that when you live in the mountains you are either walking up hill or down and never really on flat ground.

So this pilgrim traveller was not looking down but his eyes were looking up. However this “looking up” has a spiritual interpretation as non – believers don’t look up or look to God as my grandfather certainly sadly didn’t, they look to themselves or some other than God of the bible entity or idea for help in their lives.

Paul speaks of this not looking up to God or looking away from God this way in Romans 1: 19 and 20,

“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”.

Paul goes on to explain what this looking away from God leads to in verses 21 – 23,

 “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. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles”.

How does God react to this looking away from him?

Well Paul goes on to tell us the answer to this in verses 24 – 25,

“Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen”.

You might ask why?

Well God gave us the gift of free will so if we choose to look away from him then he says OK go, look aware but unfortunately you must suffer the consequences of that.

My Grandfather chose to look away and refused to look back or up even as he faced probably the greatest difficulty of life itself, death. 

Paul’s message of how we have looked away from God and suffered the consequences might seem be a hopelessly bleak message but there is light at the end of this dark tunnel which is in Paul’s message of the Gospel in Romans, salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, like Romans 3: 21 – 26,

 “But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. 

He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—  26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus”.

Paul is saying we can believe or in terms of Psalm 123, look up to God or even look back to God and God’s grace or mercy which we will explore in the second section of this Psalm will save us or bring us back in fellowship with God and save us from the consequences of sin which is death and Paul speaks of this amazing Good News this way in Romans 6: 23,

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

I mentioned the true story of how my fathers father, my grandfather refused to look up to God by refusing to even speak to the local Anglican minister the night of his death. However on the other side my family my wife’s father suffered from throat and lung cancer and eventually died from it. At his funeral the local Anglican minister came up to my wife and I and said, “I know you are both Christians so I want to tell you that your father, in my case father in law, allowed me to speak to him in his home a number of times before he died and I was able to share the Gospel with him and I believe he accepted Christ as his Saviour and gained much peace of mind and soul as a result”.

So my grandfather and father failed to look up to God but praise God my wife’s father seems to have looked up to God just before he died. I remember that this reminded me of the story of one of the thieves on the cross who we read looked to Jesus just before he died that day. Luke records this story in two verses this way, in Luke 23: 42 – 43,

“Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

After hearing a wonderful Easter Service message on the story of the thief on the cross many years ago I was inspired to write a little song about it and the first verse of that songs says,

Oh I wish you could see now all is not at loss

For Jesus remembered the thief on the cross.

    2.   (vs. 1b)   Looking up to God in heaven

So the first part of the first verse of Psalm 123 encourages us to look up or lift our eye’s and the second part of that same verse says who we should look up to and that is,

“To you (God) who sit enthroned in heaven”.

The phrase,

“Sit enthroned in heaven”

Is a phrase used at least three other times in the book of Psalms, Psalm 9: 4, 103: 19 and 113: 5 and Allan Harman says that this,

“recognises that God is enthroned in the heavens as the all – powerful creator of all things”.

The idea that God is the all powerful God who rules the earth and the universe from heaven is a theme explored in some detail in Psalms 93 – 100 and is introduced to us by the words of Psalm 93: 1 – 2,

“The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength;

indeed, the world is established, firm and secure. 2 Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity”.

These Psalms were written or started to be collated I believe during and just after the exile of the Jews in captivity in Babylon and gave the Jews of that time great confidence of faith in the God of the bible when the world seemed to be turned up side down.

It could have looked like God and his people were defeated by great evil forces but God was always in control and was always ruling as verse 4 and 5 of Psalm 93 says,

“Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea— the Lord on high is mighty. 5 Your statutes, Lord, stand firm; holiness adorns your house for endless days”.

The words of this Psalm that says,

“Holiness adorns your house for endless days”.

Refers I think to God’s heavenly home but it also relates to the final destination of our pilgrim travellers as that was Jerusalem and the Temple and as Tremper Longman 111 points out,

“The Temple was the focus of God’s presence on earth, and the ark of the covenant was thought to be the footstool of his throne”.  (see 1 Chronicles 28: 2)

So the writer could be saying he is looking up to Jerusalem and the Temple in which sits the Ark of the Covenant which represents God’s dwelling with his people. It was not what the Temple was as it was a mere building as God told the prophet Nathan to tell King David in 2 Samuel 7: 5 – 6,

“Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling”

The New Testament makes this even clearer in Stephens last speech before he was stoned to death he says in Acts &: 48 – 49,

“However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says:

49 “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me?

says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be?”.

No, the building was not special but what the building represented was special, God dwelling with his people and what the building was for, the place Israelites gathered together to worship the God of the bible made it a place to look up to.

In New Testament terms the Old Testament realities of the Temple and the ark of the covenant and the offering of sacrificial blood on it for the forgiveness of sins is only a shadow of what came through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ as the writer to the Hebrews explains in Hebrews 10: 1 – 10,

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: 

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; 6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased”,

 7 Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, my God.’” 

First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”.

So in New Testament terms we come to God’s throne of grace through The Lord Jesus Christ who we look up to by faith in what he did for us on the cross as we read in Hebrews 4: 14 – 16,

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”.

2.      (vs. 2)   LOOKING UP TO THE GOD OF MERCY

         1.   (vs. 2a)   Looking up to God with the eye’s of a servant

So I have just stated that we only come to the throne of God because of the grace of God and grace means love we don’t deserve and in the Old Testament this is called mercy and this is how our writer of Psalm 123 believes he too can only come to God.

He makes this clear in two ways in verse 2 and the first way he makes this clear in this verse is through a cultural analogy of a slave or maybe servant of his day. He expresses this analogy this way in the first part of verse 2,

“As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress”.

Allan Harman points out that,

“In Eastern countries servants are often directed by hand signals”.

So a servant or slave had to sit or stand looking up to the hand signals of either their masters or mistresses. If they missed the hand signal they could be in big trouble. 

Of course the servants or slaves were also dependant on the good hand of their masters and mistresses for food and clothing and lodging so the first part of this verse is, I think a great picture of our standing before God. We can do nothing to save ourselves and we are therefore totally dependant on the loving hand of God.

The fact that God has a loving hand has nothing to do with us but is purely a result of his great loving nature,

David showed in his many Psalms that he knew he was saved, helped and protected only because of his God being a God of  loving mercy or grace as he states in Psalm 25: 6 – 7,

“Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. 7 Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good”.

Then again in Psalm 31: 7,

“I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul”

Finally the final clincher for David about how he was totally dependant on the love and mercy or grace of God would have been how God answered his prayers of confession for adultery and murder by giving him forgiveness and not treating him as he deserved as expressed in Psalm 51: 1 – 2,

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion

blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin”.

David could not have even contemplated praying a prayer like this after what he had done unless he believed his God the God of the bible was a merciful loving God.

The New Testament application of this image of being a slave or servant in the eyes of God is to me simply amazing as Jesus states very clearly that he gave up being God in heaven to become a servant to save us from our many sins as Jesus states in Mark 10: 45,

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

Paul picks up how this great fact that Jesus  became a servant to save us should be something we should model our lives upon in his letter to the Philippians in Philippians 2: 5 – 8,

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 

rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient

to death— even death on a cross!”

So Jesus gave up being at the right hand of God to become a human being and even a servant and finally he became a executed criminal who had done no wrong to save us. How amazing is the grace of God when we realise what all that means however Paul does not stop there as he goes on to present the fact that once Jesus died for our sins on the cross he was raised from the dead and then ascended back to heaven so we can now look up to the ascended loving Saviour who will one day come again, Philippians 2: 9 – 11,

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.

    2.   (vs. 2b)   Looking up to the mercy of God

The second way our writer of Psalm 123 makes it clear that he can only look up to God through his mercy and love is by simply stating that fact in the second part of verse 2, when her says,

“So our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he shows us his mercy”.

Note how he is not arrogantly assuming the mercy or grace of God in these words but says he will look up to God until God shows him and his fellow pilgrim travellers his mercy. 

As I have been saying the pilgrim journey to Jerusalem and the Temple of God there was a hazardous and often difficult journey and the pilgrims relied on the merciful help of God to successfully and safely make it.

The Christian journey or life that these Old Testament pilgrim journeys mirror is a spiritually hazardous and often difficult journey and we to rely on the grace of God to successfully complete that journey.

However the New Testament makes it clear that the grace of God will hep us all through this great journey of faith as we see from two relevant New Testament passages.

First of all we have Titus 2: 11 – 14,

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good”.

And Paul’s prayer for the Philippians in Philippians 1: 3 – 6,

 I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”.

So we are only saved because we have looked up to God who came down to earth to save us through his Son’s death on the cross and this demonstrates to us the grace or love of God and so this grace is something we can have confidence in and even have more confidence in than the writer of Psalm 123 who said he was waiting for God to show Israel his mercy or grace.

As Christians we can not only look up to God with confidence but look back to the cross where the grace of God was demonstrated once and for all and is ours by faith in and through The Lord Jesus Christ.

3.      (3- 4)     LOOKING UP TO GOD FROM GREAT DIFFICULTY

         1.   (vs. 3)     Looking up to God for mercy in great difficulty

Our writer so far in this Psalm has indicated he desperately needs help from God which he believes comes from the mercy of God who he is looking up to. Now in the final two verses he tells us what he needs help for from God and I call this the difficulties caused by those who oppose him and his people.

I have already said that because this Psalm is part of the Songs of Ascent which most commentators believe were songs sung by Jewish pilgrims as they travelled up to Jerusalem for one or all of the three annual festivals celebrated there that these enemies causing great difficulties are non Jews who for some reason or another hated the Jewish pilgrims making their pilgrimages.

This kind of opposition is best seen in the bible at the time of the return of the Jews to Israel and particularly Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity recored in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. In this time the and particularly to the north of Israel many non Jewish nations had settled their and they opposed the Jews in a very vicious and underhanded way and did use slander and false accusations against them to try and stop both the building of the walls and Temple in Jerusalem.

To see the difficulties the Jews and possible Jewish pilgrims would have faced in the post Babylonian exile period have a look at Ezra 4 and 5 and Nehemiah 4.

With this in mind these last two verses read this ways:

“Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us, for we have endured no end of contempt. We have endured no end of ridicule from the arrogant, of contempt from the proud”.

To open up these last two verses I have come up with three aspects to them I would like to discuss with you and they are:

  1.   A desperate double call for mercy (vs. 3a)
  2.   A statement of the kind of difficulty faced (vs. 3b)
  3.   A description of the people causing the difficulty (vs. 4)

So lets have a look at these three aspects of the last two verses of Psalm 123.

  1.   A desperate double call for mercy (vs. 3a)

The first aspect of these last two verses is the double call for mercy in verse 3, that goes like this,

“Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us”

Why is there a double call for mercy?

Ray Fowler who has an excellent study of this Psalm on the internet answers this question best for me when he writes,

“Notice the psalmist cries out for mercy twice in rapid succession. The psalmist is desperate here. He is being mocked and persecuted for his faith, and so in desperation he cries out to the Lord for mercy. When you are in desperate situations, you also need to look to the Lord as your merciful Saviour.”

I mentioned in my introduction that I grew up in a non -christian home and I did find all kinds of difficulties came about for me as a result of that. It is hard enough not being understood for why you go against your family and become a believer but being ridiculed by those you feel close to is very difficult. I thank God for my church and Christian friends who encouraged and helped me through the years of my growing up at home when I was a active Christian believer.

I see my own growing up difficulties as minor compared to so many Christians today living in hostile anti – christian countries where Christians are mocked, ostracised and even jailed or killed by the people in the communities they live in. These people I’m sure would call out to God for mercy just like the writer of Psalm 123 did.

I personally found the words of Paul in Philippians 4: 6 – 7 very helpful and encouraging all through my life when I faced all kinds of difficulties including difficulties caused through persecution.

As we travel through the great pilgrimage or journey of the Christian life we will come across speed humps and other difficulties on our road to God in heaven but we need to look up to God and pray for mercy and help as Paul says we should do in verse 6 of Philippians 4,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God”.

If we do look up to God in prayer instead of being anxious Paul tells us in verse 7 of this sane chapter,

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

I have heard of many persecuted Christians doing just this in far more difficult situations than I have endured and over and over again they speak of the deep peace God has given them through the grace of The Lord Jesus Christ.

  1.   A statement of the kind of difficulty faced (vs. 3b)

So our writer of Psalm 123 calls out desperately to God in heaven for mercy but what is the difficulties he is facing that brought this about?

The answer lies in the words of the second half of verse 3 which says,

“For we have endured no end of contempt”.

It seems from these words that those non – Jews who opposed them and their pilgrimage journeys used words of ridicule and scorn against them. I could imagine groups of Jews on the rough roads travelling through towns where non – Jews also lived and having people hanging out of their windows shouting abuse at them or even walking up to them and abusing them to their faces.

I mentioned the contempt and abuse the Jews suffered after their return from Captivity in Babylon and we have a little account of the kind of verbal abuse the Jews had to bear at this time form non – Jews in Nehemiah 4: 1 – 3,

“When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?”

Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!”

This abuse did not stop at this kind of public demonstration of it but it showed itself in back handed corruption against the Jews and even official letter of complaint with false information was sent by Jewish opponents to Cyrus the King as we read of in Ezra 4: 4 – 6,

“Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. They bribed officials to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia.

At the beginning of the reign of Xerxes, they lodged an accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem.

The letter accused the Jews of sedition by building the walls of the city of Jerusalem to rebel against their Persian overlords to not pay their taxes to them.

As I said before Christians today in many parts of the world face similar verbal attacks and they also are falsely accused of disrupting the peace and other ridiculous false charges. 

We know that Jesus faced a tremendous amount of public abuse from particularly the religious leaders of his day who also made up false charges against him and Jesus warned his disciple and us that because they persecuted him they will seek to persecute us as he says in John 15: 18 – 20,

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

Jesus goes on to explain why this will happen in verses 21 – 25,

They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to full fill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason”.

Jesus in the same chapters of John where he speaks of this opposition and therefore difficulties also promises to send his disciple and all who put their faith in him his Holy Spirit who in the original Greek could be translated a ‘The Comforter”. We read of this promise for instance in John 14: 15 – 21,

“If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate (comforter) to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[a] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

So when we face the difficulties caused by the contempt, scorn or ridicule of those who oppose us and our message we need to look up to God and Jesus will help us and even comfort us through the person of his Holy Spirit.

  1.   A description of the people causing the difficulty (vs. 4)

The Psalm ends with a description of the people who oppose these pilgrim travellers and they are given the duel descriptions of:

  1. Arrogant (vs. 4a)
  2. Proud (vs. 4b)

Lets have a closer look at each of these two descriptions of those who showed contempt to the pilgrim travellers.

  1.   Arrogant (vs. 4a)

The first part of verse 4 says,

“We have endured no end of ridicule from the arrogant”.

Those who oppose Christians today like atheists like Richard Dawkins who comes across as a self assured arrogant man, listen to theses two quote form his book, “The God Delusion”,

“There is something infantile in the presumption that somebody else has a responsibility to give your life meaning and point… The truly adult view, by contrast, is that our life is as meaningful, as full and as wonderful as we choose to make it.” 

Dawkins is saying here that God believers like Christians are simply infantile in their thinking by daring to look up to God who is greater than anyone.

Or this further quote from the same book,

“Do you really mean to tell me the only reason you try to be good is to gain God’s approval and reward, or to avoid his disapproval and punishment? That’s not morality, that’s just sucking up, apple-polishing, looking over your shoulder at the great surveillance camera in the sky, or the still small wiretap inside your head, monitoring your every move, even your every base though.” 

Dawkins is only one example of attitudes towards God believing people today and his comments above are really mild compared to the arrogant general nasty attitude society in general has towards Christians today.

I reminded you of what Jesus said to his disciple and us in John 15 about how the world hated him first so it will hate us also. Ray Fowler says this about the plight of the arrogant,

“The arrogant and proud do not receive God’s mercy because they don’t think they need God’s mercy. And because they don’t think they need God’s mercy, they don’t look to God for mercy. And because they don’t look to God for mercy, they don’t ask God for mercy. And because they do not ask, they do not receive.”

Fowler then quotes James 4: 6,

“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.”

  1. Proud (vs. 4b)

The Psalm closes with this final description of the opponent’s of the Pilgrim Travellers, which is similar to the first,

“Or contempt from the proud”.

Ray Fowler has already shown us how arrogance is linked with pride particularly through his quote of James 4: 6. Here James is quoting Proverbs 3: 34, 

“He mocks proud mockers but shows favour to the humble and oppressed”.

It is interesting that this proverbs version speaks of God showing favour or mercy to the humble and oppressed which means God cares for us when arrogant proud non believers attack us in this case verbally.

So as the Jews journey towards their goal of Jerusalem and the mountains they encounter all kinds of difficulties and these difficulties included verbal attacks from non believers of the God of the bible who in a arrogant and proud way sought to Lord it over the poor pilgrim travellers.

However Psalm 123 offers the perfect antidote to this problem which I think is perfectly expressed in the opening words of this Psalm which says,

“I lift up my eyes to you, to you who sit enthroned in heaven”.

As we journey through the Christian life we too will face difficulties like contemptuous words from non – believers but we need to look up to God. I like the way Ray Fowler concludes his study of this Psalm and I quote it here,

“Psalm 123 is the cry of a person who has nothing left to do but pray. When you have had enough, when you are at the end of your rope, don’t despair but look to the Lord. Don’t take matters into your own hands, but look to the hand of your master. Look to the Lord for mercy. Confess your complete dependence on God for all things. And then through Jesus you may approach God’s throne with confidence, so that you may receive mercy and find grace to help you in your time of need”.

I close as usual with my original poem / song and prayer.

I LIFT MY EYES TO GOD

(Based on Psalm 123 and the tune of “The Big Rock Candy Mountain”

I lift my eyes when I am down

To the God who lives in heaven

For he sent his son so that anyone 

Can one day go  to heaven.

He died upon the cross for me

And his death has set me free

So come with me on the journey now

That one day leads to heaven.

 

I lift my eyes to the throne of God

Like a servant looks to his master

For by the grace of God he lifts me up

From my sins great disaster.

For by the grace I’m saved from sin

And his changing me now within

So come with me on the journey now

That one day leads to heaven.

 

I lift my eyes to God’s throne of grace

And I pray that God will help me

For my enemies seek to bring me down

With words that really hurt me.

But I know the Lord hears my prayers

For his word tells me he cares.

So come with me on the journey now

That one day leads to heaven.

 

I lift me eyes to the God above

The God who sits in heaven

The God who said I love the world

So I’ll send my Son from heaven.

He wants us now to turn from sin

And ask his Son to come in.

So come with me on the journey now

That one day leads to heaven.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

I lift my eyes to you Lord the God who sits on his throne in heaven and I ask that by your grace I might be saved. Saved from my sins by the death of your Son, saved from my going astray by your Holy Spirit strengthening me and saved from my enemies by your mighty powerful hand working in me, through me and going before me. Help me to encourage others to join the journey you want us to take that one day leads to you in heaven. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

PSALM 122 TALK:   THE PILGRIMS JOUNEY’S DESTINATION AND TRAVELLING COMPANIONS

PSALM 122 TALK:   THE PILGRIMS JOUNEY’S DESTINATION AND TRAVELLING COMPANIONS

(The third Psalm in the collection of Psalms called “Songs of Ascent” which are songs designed for the ancient pilgrims of Israel to sing as they made their often long journeys up into the hills or mountains in Israel to Jerusalem at least three times a year for one of three religious celebrations held their. This Psalm deals with the destination proclaimed as the pilgrim set out and also speaks of his fellow pilgrim travellers which is spiritually a wonderful picture of the fellowship of all believers we call today The Church.)

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

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

For an introduction to the Songs of Ascent see Psalm Talk for Psalm 120.

PART 1.    PSALMS 120 – 124   THE JOURNEY BEGINS – THE WAY

INTRODUCTION TO PSALM 122

One of the joys of the christian life for me is the fellowship I have had and continue to have with not only fellow Christian believers in my country of Australia but from around the world. I have had the blessing of God in my life to both visit and minister in other countries and what I call the fellowship of all believers is one of the many blessings of doing this. Infect I never get tired of joining in not only fellowship with Christians from other countries and cultures but worshipping with them as well and I have often considered that this is, for me, a small taste of heaven to come.

The theme of the Christian life being a journey enjoyed and even helped by other fellow pilgrims is to me the central theme of the third song of Ascent and I will explore this theme with you in this Psalm talk.

Before I give my outline I must answer the question of who, when and why was this Psalm written.

 The Hebrew heading says that this Psalm was actually originally composed by non other than King David. Three other songs of Ascent are attributed to him as well, Psalms 124, 131 and 133. 

Some bible scholars reject the authorship of this Psalm to David but I go along with bible commentators like Allan Harman who see no problem in attributing this Psalm to the pen of David. Allan Harman gives these three reasons for believing that the Hebrew heading is correct:

1.    David’s connection with Jerusalem as its capturer and establisher as the capital of Israel  (2 Samuel 5: 6 – 8)

2.    David entered a major building program in Jerusalem once he captured it (2 Samuel 5: 9 – 12).

3.    David brought the Ark of the Covenant up into Jerusalem and set it in the Tabernacle and later this Tabernacle was  replaced by his son Solomon when he built the Temple on the same Spot as the Tabernacle (2 Samuel 6: 12 – 19)

Some commentators argue this Psalm could not have been written by David as it refers to the house of the Lord and this was the name given to the Temple that did not exist in David’s time. However H.C Leopold gives us four instances in the Old Testament where The Tabernacle was also called “The House of the Lord”, Judges 19: 18, 1 Samuel 1: 7, 24 and 2 Samuel 12: 20.

Why David wrote is not really known but a good case can be put forward for the idea that some time after David set up Jerusalem as Israels capital and before Israel was split into two seperate Kingdoms, verse 4,

“That is where the tribes go up – the tribes of the Lord – to praise the name of the Lord”

and when David moved The Ark of the Covenant into the Tabernacle there he wanted to encourage his people to fulfil the command of the Lord in Deuteronomy 6: 16 – 17,

“Three times a year all your men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks and the Festival of Tabernacles. No one should appear before the Lord empty-handed: 17 Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you”.

This meant that most of the people had to travel to Jerusalem and therefore make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and this then, according to this argument is a song David wrote for these pilgrim travellers to sing as they made their pilgrimage’s to Jerusalem.

The three David Pilgrimage songs did not become part of the official book of Psalms unto the editors of the fifth book of Psalms included the seperate collection of Songs of Ascent that were used on and off for hundreds of years before the fifth book was put together by Pilgrim travellers to Jerusalem for one or all of the Festivals held there.

So with the theme of the Christian life being a journey enjoyed and even helped by other fellow pilgrims or fellow travellers in the Christian life or way to the destination of The New Jerusalem which is the Church on and earth and heaven to come my outline for this Psalm is:

1.    (1 – 2)   THE JOURNEY’S END FROM THE BEGINNING

       1.   (vs. 1)   The encouragement of other believers to journey to God together

       2.   (vs. 2)   The journey’s end from the beginning

2.    (3 – 5)   JERUSALEM (THE CHURCH) IS A PLACE OF UNITY FOR ALL BELIEVERS

       1.   (vs. 3)   Jerusalem (the church) is well ordered

       2.   (vs. 4)   Jerusalem (the church) is where believers join together to praise God

       3.  (vs. 5)    Jerusalem (the church) is where believers should resolve their differences

3.   (6 – 9)   JERUSALEM (THE CHURCH) IS A PLACE OF PEACE

       1.   (6 – 8)   Jerusalem (the church) the place of God’s peace

       2.   (vs. 9)  We should seek together the prosperity of God’s church

Lets then have a close look at this third song of ascent with this outline of this Psalm in mind.

  1.   (1 – 2)   THE JOURNEY’S END FROM THE BEGINNING

       1.   (vs. 1)   The encouragement of other believers to journey to God together

The first two verses set up the two teaching points of this entire Psalm namely:

  1.   The encouragement of other believers to journey to God together
  2.   The goal of that journey and how it inspires us to take the journey with others

So verse 1 contains the main teaching point of the encouragement of other believers to journey to God together, David our writer puts that this way in verse 1,

“I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘let us go to the house of the Lord”.

Some commentators argue that this could not have been written by David as he did not need to journey to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the three festivals held there because he lived and reigned in Jerusalem. However if we see this Psalm as a song David composed for Pilgrims travelling up to Jerusalem then this verse makes a lot of sense.

David knew the value and power of fellow believers encouragement and this is why he sees the journey of a pilgrim at beginning being encouraged by fellow believers to go on what was more than likely a hard and dangerous journey to Jerusalem as we saw from the previous Psalm, Psalm 121.

Paul always made a big deal about the power of the encouragement of other believers to help us live the Christian life or journey on the way to God in heaven as he writes to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 1: 3 – 7,

Praise be to the 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 in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort”.

Paul is arguing that he needed the comfort or encouragement of the believers in Corinth and they in tern needed his comfort or encouragement and in fact God leads us sometimes in life into different kinds of difficulties so we can receive his help and encouragement and we hen can help and encourage others who might be going through the same problems or difficulties.

A New Testament cross reference for this entire Psalm is Hebrews Hebrews 10: 24 – 25,

 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching”.

In the opening verse of David’s first song of ascent he envisaged fellow believers doing what the writer to the Hebrews wants his readers to do and that is,

“Spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (vs. 24)

To

“Not giving up meeting together” (vs. 25)

David says that the Pilgrim who eventually got to Jerusalem with the encouragement and support of his fellow encouraging believers will,

“Rejoice” with them.

So if going on these Old Testament Pilgrim journeys is analogy of living the Christian life that leads to heaven then when we get to heaven we will rejoice with those who helped or encouraged us to follow Christ to get to heaven.

May I say don’t wait till you get to heaven to do this but even now on the Christian journey rejoice with those who have helped you on this great journey of faith with the Lord.

Listen to Paul doing just that for the believers in Philippi in Philippians 4: 10,,

“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it”.

Then again in verses 14 – 16,,

“Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need”.

This word of thanks by Paul for the Philippians concerns material money aid but in other places like the opening chapter of 1 Thessalonians his rejoicing for other believers was their shared enthusiasm for spreading the Gospel message in their area and region as Paul writes in verses 4- 8,

 “For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it”

So every aspect of the Christian journey or experience and even life is a collaborative venture and this is the first great clue to the role and function of the church in our journey to heaven.

  2.   (vs. 2)   The journey’s end from the beginning

I think my most controversial aspect of this Psalm talk will be my interpretation of the second verse of this Psalm as all of the commentators I looked up said that this verse suggests the writer has already arrived in Jerusalem and is now standing at the gates of Jerusalem because it reads this way,

“Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem”

This is reading this verse literally or without considering what it might be saying poetically. So my take on this verse is that I believe the writer is poetically picturing himself at the end of his journey while actually at the start of it, thus my heading, “The journeys end from the beginning”.

My reasons for this is that the first verse is a poetic picture of the start of our writers journey when it says,

“I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord”.

Now the writer pictures himself arrived in Jerusalem and standing at its gates the threshold of making the final steps of his long journey up to the Temple. 

When our writer pictures himself their at the gates of Jerusalem he then develops a picture of Jerusalem from a pilgrim travellers perspective. A kind of poetic word picture travel brochure.

We get a better understanding of this interpretation when we consider its writer being David, he wants the people in his kingdom to be inspired to come up to Jerusalem for the festivals held there for up to three times a year and so he wants them to be inspired to come to Jerusalem via the long journey up to it  and what better thing could he come up with for that inspiration than for them to picture themselves standing at the gates of there final destination, Jerusalem.

When I recently travelled 19,000 kilometres around my country Australia my wife and I had to drive hundreds of kilometres each day pulling our caravan and the scenery between the places we stopped at was often very much the same but what often kept us going was the interesting and usually beautiful scenery to come of our destination which we usually had built up in your minds from touring brochures we had picked up at Information centres in previous towns.

So what would be the poetic picture we should have in our minds for the Christian journey?

The New Testaments poetic picture to inspire us is non other than that of The New Jerusalem coming down from heaven that will be a place where we will spend eternity with God in heaven as depicted in Revelation 21: 1 – 5,

“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.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Some might say this picture is far to out of this world for me to fully appreciate but the New Testament offers us what I call a foretaste of what this is like in its teaching on the New Jerusalem being the Church of God on earth in passages like Hebrews 12: 22 – 24,

 “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”.

When Christians gather in church together they are experiencing just a little taste of heaven for they are meeting together with other believers to worship God together, they have God through his Spirit present with them and they have the inspiration of The Lord Jesus Christ to think of, sing about, hear about and speak about in sweet fellowship which again is something all true believers will know and experience far, far more in heaven for eternity.

This is why we need to work on making our church meetings not only Christ centred but Christ inspiring with lots of opportunities to experience sweet fellowship with other believers, then we can all truely say,

“Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem”.

2.    (3 – 5)   JERUSALEM (THE CHURCH) IS A PLACE OF UNITY FOR ALL BELIEVERS

       1.   (vs. 3)   Jerusalem (the church) is well ordered

So David wants his people of his kingdom to visualise themselves standing at the gates of Jerusalem to inspire them by his song to make the journey up to it and to the Temple going there to celebrate the annual festivals there up to three times a year. He then seeks to further inspire them by picking up some of the attractions of that city and reasons for making such a difficult and often dangerous journey.

The first attraction David chooses to speak about is the physical make up of this unique and what would have been in ancient times inspiring layout as he writes in verse 3,

“Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together”.

I like Spurgeon’s explanation of this verse,

“Not a conglomeration of huts, but buit as a city with substantial structures; and not a straggling city, like some we read of, that have been called “cities of magnificent distances,” but it was “compact together.”

David quickly entered into building projects when he took over Jerusalem with his palace (2 Samuel 5: 11), sturdy homes of its permanent citizens and walls around it as well (2 Samuel 5: 9).

Then in Solomons time the magnificent Temple and many more buildings made Jerusalem a truly desirable city that would inspire anyone who visited it.

How does this relate to the Church, the New Jerusalem of God?

I like Spurgeon’s answer to this he writes,

“Happy is the church that is at peace; blessed are the people who are joined together by a gracious brotherly love”.

I like this quote as the New Testament interpretation of the expression David uses of,

“Closely compacted together” 

I praise God that the church service I attend when I am not away from home is a closely compacted fellowship of brotherly love, only around 50 people but warm and encouraging. Other services of my church which are much larger in attendance also I am told generate a feeling of close brotherly love.

Paul tells the Roman church how they can experience the joys of close compacted brotherly love in Romans 12: 9 – 13,

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality”.

I praise God that I have visited many other churches over the years both in my country, Australia and many others and have experienced something of what Paul is speaking of here in the book of Romans and I hope you might know that at the church you attend as well when you enter the doors  of your New Jerusalem, The Church of Jesus Christ here on earth.

       2.   (vs. 4)   Jerusalem (the church) is where believers join together to praise God

So David seeking to inspire his people to make the annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem now picks up another attraction and reason for going up to Jerusalem annually, as we read in verse 4,

“That is where the tribes go up – the tribes of the Lord – to praise the name of the Lord according to the statutes given to Israel”.

There are actually three things here that should inspire Israelites to make the journey and as they are doing it continue to journey on and these three reasons are

1.     The destination of the fellowship of pilgrim travellers.

2.     The reason why the fellowship of pilgrim travellers make the journey

3.     The biblical reason for the fellowship of pilgrim travellers to make the journey.

Lets have a closer look at each of these three things that David chose to inspire these annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem.

  1.     The destination of the fellowship of pilgrim travellers.

The first part of verse 4 says,

“That is where the tribes go up – the tribes of the Lord”.

David is saying firstly Jerusalem is the destination of this journey but it is a journey not made by pilgrims on their own but made with other members of their tribe. 

We know that their were 12 tribes who entered the promised land and under the kingship of David and Solomon these twelve tribes lived all over the land of Israel and would have annually come up to Jerusalem for the celebration of at least three great festivals, Passover, Weeks and Tabernacles.

However after Solomon the nation of Israel split into two different Kingdoms with 10 tribes to the North called Israel with its capital of Samaria and two tribes in southern Israel called Judah wo kept Jerusalem as its capital.

So if this was written by David and used extensively for a number of years in the days of David and  Solomon by the pilgrims from the 12 tribes then the destination would have been Jerusalem. 

Capital cities of any nation give the people in those nations a place where they can come together as a nation and so Jerusalem served to do this for many years before the kingdom of Israel was divided in two.

Also this verse says that the pilgrim journey was a fellowship experience and as I said before Jesus is recorded as going on these annual pilgrimage journeys up to Jerusalem. One of these pilgrimage journeys Jesus is recored going on was the one recorded in Luke 2: 41 – 51 when Jesus was only twelve years old.

On the return journey which was a fellowship of tribal groups travelling together Jesus is not with them as he stayed behind in Jerusalem listening to Temple teachers of his day and asking them questions. It takes them some time to realise Jesus was not with them as, I believe the pilgrimage crowd was so big and Luke 2: 43 – 46 puts it this way,

“After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions”.

The Christian journey or life is not a solo experience but a fellowship experience a fellowship of believers all travelling together to the final destination of heaven. So the tribes of Israel represent the new nation or Kingdom under God which is his church on earth, the New Jerusalem which will be united with Christ in heaven when he returns to earth the second time at the end of the age we currently live in that I like to call The Gospel Age.

Here are two passages from the New Testament that express this great truth:

  1. 1 Peter 2: 9 – 10,

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”.

    2.    Galatians 4: 25 – 31,

Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written: “Be glad, barren woman, you who never bore a child; shout for joy and cry aloud, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman

than of her who has a husband.” 28 Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. 30 But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son. 31 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman”.

So Paul is arguing here that the Old Jerusalem, the city of God before the coming of Jesus has been superseded by the New Jerusalem which he calls here,

“The Jerusalem that is above”

So as those who have come to God through faith in his Son Jesus Christ are now, children of promise verse 28 and children of the free women (symbol for Christ) and not children of a slave women (symbol for the devil).

2.     The reason why the fellowship of pilgrim travellers make the journey

The second thing that David used in verse 4 to inspire the Pilgrims to make the journey to Jerusalem is expressed this way in the second part of the verse,

“To praise the name of the Lord”.

In the Old Testament the Jewish festivals served as a rallying point for praise or worship of the God of the bible.

Peter writing in the New Testament told us in the verses I quoted earlier,  1 Peter 2: 9 – 10,

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”.

Note we are this new chosen people of God who are called to,

“Declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”.

So we are to make this journey to God in heaven not on our own but with a tribe or group of believers who do so to praise the God who has called us out of darkness into his wonderful light made possible by God’s Son, Jesus Christ who did it through the mercy or grace of God.

The writer to the Hebrews speaking to christians in churches in his day put it this way in Hebrews 13: 15 – 16,

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased”.

3.     The biblical reason for the fellowship of pilgrim travellers to make the journey.

David continues to inspire his people to come up to Jerusalem for the celebration of the festivals by also stating that this pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the Temple or the Sanctuary in his day was a biblical imperative and puts that this way,

“According to the statute given to Israel”.

Statute is another word for law and I have already quoted this law for the people to come to the place God has appointed for the three main festivals God gave Israel to celebrate in Deuteronomy 6: 16 – 17,

“Three times a year all your men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks and the Festival of Tabernacles. No one should appear before the Lord empty-handed: 17 Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you”.

David believed that the place God chose for these celebrations of the three main Jewish festivals was Jerusalem as David found out from the Lord in very difficult circumstances.

The story goes that David sinned big time after he conquered the Jebusite’s who occupied Jerusalem and had a number of great victories over many of Israels enemies by disobeying the word of the Lord in counting his fighting men. A great plague overtook Israel and many people died and just as it looked like Jerusalem itself would fall to this plague David and his fellow leaders prayed desperately and God relented after David buys a Jebusite threshing floor on one of the hills in the city where David is to make a sacrifice to the Lord on. On the site of that newly purchased threshing floor David has a vision of the Angel of the Lord who turns away from killing anymore Israelites.

Then God makes it clear to David that this newly purchased threshing floor is to be the site of the Tabernacles and later Temple in Jerusalem for the people to come to for the celebration of the three God ordained festival (see 1 Chronicles 21: 18 – 30).

The first verse of the next chapter I 1 Chronicles says this,

“Then David said, ‘The house of the Lord God is to be here, also the altar of burnt offering for Israel”.

So in Psalm 122 verse 4 David is reminding the Pilgrim Traveler’s that their pilgrim destination is Jerusalem and The Temple or Tabernacle and this is laid down as the place and the thing to do according to God’s law.

What is the relevance of this to us as Christians?

I have heard many people over the years say that they are Christian believers like me but choose not to go to church as they feel they can worship God far better out in God’s creation. This idea has many problems and one is that the bible tells us that attending and being involved in his church when it gathers is his ordained plan for all Christians, as we saw in the earlier reference  of Hebrews 10: 24 – 25,

 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching”.

It seems even in New Testament times some Christians had this same idea of the people I have met who say they can be a Christian without going to Church. It is not that because we go to church we are a Christian but because we are a Christian we should and must join with others for fellowship, mutual encouragement and true worship of the God we say we believe in.

One person I read years ago said it is like a person claiming to be a baseball player who also claims he doesn’t need to join a baseball team and play baseball to be a baseball player. He might appreciate the many fine aspects of the game of baseball but to be a player he must join at team and play otherwise he is simply a baseball interested person.

So a true believing Christian will be like a baseball player find a church or baseball team and join it and attend or play regularly and then we are saying by our actions I belong to Christ and his people because I am member of his church or in the case of the baseball player I am a active member of the baseball team.

   3.  (vs. 5)    Jerusalem (the church) is where believers should resolve their differences

The final reason David gives his people to inspire them to journey to Jerusalem up to three times a year is in verse 5 which says,

“There stand the thrones for judgement, the thrones of the house of David”.

Albert Barnes explains this verse really well with these words,

“The word throne is now commonly appropriated to the seat or chair of a king, but this is not necessarily the meaning here. The word may denote a seat or bench occupied by a judge. 

The meaning here is, that Jerusalem was the supreme seat of justice; the place where justice was dispensed for the nation. It was at once the religious and the civil capital of the nation”.

So the pilgrim traveller is being told that if he or she has any civil grievance they can get this sorted out when they are in Jerusalem as Jerusalem is not only the spiritual centre of Israel but the political and civil capital as well.

For us as Christians I can only think of one application for this verse and that is the concept that as Christians we are to resolve any differences we might have in the church and not in the outside civil courts which was a principle Paul had to lay down for the Corinthian church of his day for some reason or another.

Paul says this in 1 Corinthians 6: 1 – 6,

“If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!”

You might think this is not something that we need to consider today but let me tell you a good friend of mine who now attends a church in a country area of my state was horrified to find that a neighbouring church in the same Christian denomination of his had taken their disputes with their church leaders to court to resolve issues concerning the sale of church property. This according to my friend was such a negative witness in his area that many people said things like if this is how so called Christians act amongst themselves we don’t wont anything to do with them and their so called church that spoke of love but acted with hate and conflict in the general community they lived in.

3.   (6 – 9)   JERUSALEM (THE CHURCH) IS A PLACE OF PEACE

       1.   (6 – 8)   Jerusalem (the church) the place of God’s peace

The final section of this Song of Ascent verses 6 – 9 is I think David asking the Pilgrim travellers to Jerusalem to pray for Jerusalem as they travel to it annually each year.

We must remember that this is a song and a song designed by David for Pilgrim Travellers coming up to Jerusalem each year for one of the festivals celebrated there in and around the Tabernacle in Davids time and in and around the Temple in Solomons time. So as the pilgrims sang this song they where also asked to pray for Jerusalem. 

The prayer request for Jerusalem has two parts:

  1.   (vs. 6)   Peace for the people of Jerusalem
  2.   (vs. 7)   Peace for the city of Jerusalem as a whole

Lets then look at the two parts of this prayer for Jerusalem.

  1.   (vs. 6)   Peace for the people of Jerusalem

The sixth verse in Davids song for Pilgrim travellers starts with the word pray and therefore is a prayer request and this prayer request starts with the words,

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem”

David’s prayer request for peace in Jerusalem is actually in the original Hebrew language a very clever play on words as Allan Harman points out that the name Jerusalem means foundation of peace and the Hebrew word for peace is “Shalom. So the word play in English Allan Harman says would read like this,

“Ask for the peace of the foundation of peace”.

Doug Hershey points out that Shalom the Hebrew word for for peace is not the absence of conflict or war but,

“To be safe in mind, body, or estate.” It speaks of completeness, fullness, or a type of wholeness that encourages you to give back — to generously re-pay something in some way”.

It was vital for Jerusalem to have this kind of peace and also to be secure if these pilgrimages wanted to continually pilgrimage to Jerusalem so it naturally follows that the idea of the city and its inhabitants being secure is what the second half of verse 6 says,

“May those who love you be secure”

If the city is secure then those who love that city are secure.

I really like Albert Barnes application of this verse for us as Christians who are part of the New Israel of God and of course the New Jerusalem which is the church, he writes,

“To us now it inculcates the duty of praying for the church: its peace; its unity; its prosperity; its increase; its influence on our country and on the world at large. It is a prayer that the church may not be divided by schism or heresy; that its members may cherish for each other right feelings; that there may be no jealousies, no envy and no jars; that the different branches of the church may regard and treat each other with kindness, with respect, and with mutual recognition; that prosperity may attend them all”.

I attended a interdenominational Bible College and I learnt through that experience that conflict and strife can easily erupt in the church on a wider level but I also learnt through my three years their how to do what Albert Barnes says we all must do,

“Regard and treat each other with kindness, with respect, and with mutual recognition; that prosperity may attend them all”.

I was reminded of the importance of this when I attended during my first year at Bible College my first Christian Convention held at Katoomba two hours drive out from Sydney in the beautiful Blue Mountains and seeing the big sign up the front above the speakers desk that quotes Paul’s word from Galatians 3: 28,

“All one in Christ Jesus”.

  1.   (vs. 7)   Peace for the city of Jerusalem as a whole

This prayer request for the people of Jerusalem then is followed by a similar request for the city itself in verse 7, which says,

“May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels”

The term,

“Security within your citadels”

Is a term that means the whole city as Leopold points out when he says that the citadels refers to,

“The two outside limits”  of the city.

So again if the actual city was secure with peace then the pilgrims could journey up to it and enjoy the worship and fellowship God designed them to have there. We can see eventually what happened to Israel once Jerusalem and the Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586BC and we see how devastating this was for the Jews with these words from the book of Lamentations  2: 7,

The Lord has rejected his altar and abandoned his sanctuary. He has given the walls of her palaces into the hands of the enemy; they have raised a shout in the house of the Lord as on the day of an appointed festival”.

This terrible day happened to Israel as an act of Judgment because of their many sins and we read in Daniel 9: 25 – 19 Daniels prayer prayed in exile in Babylon for the Lord to help his people return to their land and particularly to Jerusalem,

“Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.

17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favour on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”

Daniel knew of the prophet Jeremiah’s prophecy that after 70 years of exile this prayer would be answered as he speaks of it before he started praying the prayer above in Daniels 2: 1 – 2,

“In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom— in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years”.

So on our Pilgrim journey to God in heaven our Jerusalem here on earth is the church of The Lord Jesus Christ and we should pray for peace within its walls and amongst its people and be warned that even though Christ Church will never be destroyed Matthew 16: 18,

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it”.

Individual parts of it can be judged if found wanting in sin and lack of true love for God as we see in the letters to the churches in the book of Revelation in chapters 1 – 3. 

I think some of the final words of these three chapters sums up what we all must do today in the Christian church, Revelation 3: 19 – 20,

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me”.

We must pray for peace in our churches and make sure that Christ and his word is at the centre of all we say and do.

2.   (vs. 9)  We should seek together the prosperity of God’s church

David’s final word to the pilgrims coming up to Jerusalem in his song for them now called Psalm 122 is that they all seek the prosperity of the Lord’s house, verse 9 says,

“For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity”.

So much emphasis today is made of the needs of the individual christian in our churches but the bible over and over again is concerned for individuals but it is more concerned for the church or the people of God as a whole. 

This verse in Psalm 122 is a good illustration of what I am saying, David wants the people to sing as they travel together a pledge to seek the prosperity of God’s house or Temple and in New Treatment terms God’s House or Temple is the people of God come together through faith in his Son, The Lord Jesus Christ as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3: 16,

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”

And as the writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 3: 6,

“But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory”.

And finally Peter says in 1 Peter 2: 4 – 5,

“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”.

Note how each of these New Testament references refer to the Church as a body of people and so as David encouraged his people to pray for the prosperity of God’s House I would like to use this to encourage you to pray for the prosperity of God’s house today, the people of God known as his church on earth as Paul showed us how to pray for the church in Colossians 1: 9 – 14,

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins”.

Spurgeon adds this these words of advice,

“Not only pray for it, but work for it, give for it, live for it: “I will seek thy good!”

CONCLUSION

We have seen in this third Song of Ascent how David sought to inspire the Pilgrim travellers on their way up to Jerusalem and the Temple to go together with other believers and to be encouraged by them to eventually stand in the gates of their great city.

We have seen how Davis sought to inspire them to go on this often dangerous and difficult journey by always having a vision of the wonder and beauty of their final destination in there minds and hearts. Also David wanted them as they set out for Jerusalem and as they journeyed towards it to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and its people and to always seek the prosperity of The House of the Lord that dwelt in the city of Jerusalem.

As Christians we need to always realise that our journey to heaven is not a lonely solo effort but we are always walking God’s way with other fellow believers and in fact we are part of a great New Jerusalem and even House of the Lord which we should pray for peace and seek it is well. 

Finally we are not to seek our own prosperity but the prosperity of God’s world wide church which we are a part of and when we play our God given role in that we will see God’s House or God’s church grow and prosper unto it is fully united with Christ as The New Jerusalem or the eternal home of Heaven with God at it’s centre.

I close  as usual with my original poem / song and prayer:

LETS GO TO THE HOUSE OF THE LORD

(Based on Psalm 122 – to the tune of “All the good times are past and gone”)

Lets all go to the house of the Lord

Lets all travel their now.

For God’s church is the house of the Lord

The home of God’s peace and power.

 

My feet now stand in God’s heavenly home

For thats where I’m headed for.

The place called New Jerusalem

To where one day I’ll soar.

 

Heaven is a place so beautiful

God’s church is foretaste of it.

So lets all go to the house of the Lord

And be led by his Holy Spirit.

 

Pray for peace in the house of the Lord

Pray that it might be secure.

Trusting alone in the Lord Jesus Christ

Who alone can make it sure.

 

For the sake of your family and friends

I pray that you will have peace.

For if God’s house does prosper now

Our joy of the Lord will increase.

 

Lets all go to the house of the Lord

Lets all travel their now.

For God’s church is the house of the Lord

The home of God’s peace and power.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

Yes Lord we thank you that through your people’s witness to us we have heard your call to travel to your heavenly home through trusting and obeying the Lord Jesus Christ. We know that the Lord Jesus Christ died for our sins on the cross and through that wonderful act of love and made a way back to you Father in heaven. Help us to pray for the peace and prosperity of your church here on earth so that through its witness and message many more people might join it on its journey to the New Jerusalem your eternal home above. In Jesus Powerful name we pray this, Amen.

PSALM 121 TALK:  THE PILGRIM JOURNEY’S DESTINATION AND TRAVEL TRAPS

PSALM 121 TALK:THE PILGRIM JOURNEY’S DESTINATION AND TRAVEL TRAPS

(The second of 15 Psalms or songs of ascent that deals with getting our final travel destination clear in our minds, namely God in heaven and also raises some of the dangers ahead in getting there and God promises to protect us on our journey to him in heaven).

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

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

For a introduction to the Psalms of Ascent see Psalm Talk for Psalm 120.

PART 1.    PSALMS 120 – 124   THE JOURNEY BEGINS – THE WAY

ONTRODUCTION TO PSALM 121

I once heard in a sermon at my church years ago where the preacher asked the question:

Are you a destination traveller or a person who travels for the adventure and enjoyment of travel itself?

The Christian Pilgrimage or Journey is actually a bit of both as we go God’s way to arrive at a destination – Heaven but we also look to God to help us on that journey and we both enjoy and learn from this journey as God leads us through both good and difficult times on this journey of life.

So the second Song of Ascent that is part of the first five of these songs that deal with beginning our journey speaks of the destination we must all set our sights on, “The Mountains” vs 1 and “The Lord” vs. 2. 

Then this second Psalm of Ascent uses Old Testament poetic terms to identify some of the dangers this Pilgrimage or Journey will encounter and spells out who will protect us from these dangers as we travel on God’s way to the Mountains – a poetic Old Testament symbol for God in Heaven as we will learn in the Psalm talk that follows.

It is interesting that the other way of interpreting, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains” is that the hills or mountains represented to the pilgrim traveller difficulty and hardship but this interpretation says that the Psalm is saying our help in overcoming these difficulties is found in the Lord who promises to help us. Both interpretations I think lead to the same conclusion and maybe our writer cleverly made the Psalm to read the way it does so that both interpretations can be seen and appreciated.

God through Jesus calls us to look to Jesus as The Way, The Truth and the Life to find the road to God the Father (John 14: 6) who dwells in heaven so this Psalm 121 will help us prepare for starting out on God’s way – road in life that will ultimately lead us to be with God in heaven.

With this central theme of the Christians journey’s destination and travel traps in mind my outline for this Psalm is:

1.   (1- 2)   THE JOURNEYS DESTINATION IN SIGHT

  1.     (vs. 1)    The journeys destination
  2.     (vs. 2)     The journey’s protector named

2.     (3 – 6)   THE JOURNEY’S DANGERS IDENTIFIED

  1.     (3 – 4)     The danger of falling
  2.    (5 – 6)      The danger of exposure – (shelter from evil)

3.     (7 – 8)   THE JOURNEY’S PROTECTOR GUIDES US

  1.     (vs. 7)     God the great protector
  2.     (vs. 8)     God’s protection is comprehensive

So lets now have a close look at each of these three Journey preparations we must all do as we begin our journey with the Lord to heaven.

  1.   (1- 2)   THE JOURNEYS DESTINATION IN SIGHT
  1.     (vs. 1)    The journeys destination

We do not know the writer of Psalm 121 but he certainly knew both where he was headed on his Pilgrimage and who would help him on his great journey there. He sets his sights on the pilgrimage’s destination right at the start of his Psalm which he phrases in both the form of a question and using a Old Testament biblical poetic phrase, he writes in verse 1,

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from?”

Some translation use the word “Hill” instead of “mountains” but both have the same image in mind.

To us, not being people who lived as Jews before the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 this verse is not clear in what it is actually saying so let me take you into the mind of a pre- AD 70 Jewish mind and then you will see what this verse is actually telling us.

H.C Leopold points out in his commentary on the Psalm,

“When a native Israelite said that he looked for help to the mountains, that expression had a very specific meaning”.

Leopold goes on to explain that “Mountains” in the Old Testament had great spiritual significants and he catalogues many of the key events in the life of the Ancient Israelites that took place on mountain tops, like Abraham and the near sacrifice of his only son, Isaac (Genesis 22) or Moses receiving the law of God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19) and of course the choosing and building of the Temple on Mount Zion (2 Samuel 24: 16 – 25 and 1 Chronicles 5 – 7). 

Many other great events in the Old Testament took place on mountains but “the mountains” I’m sure the writer of Psalm 121 had in mind was the mountains where Jerusalem dwelt and in that mountainous city where a number of hills, sometimes called mountains and the main hill there was called Zion which was a hill in the city that Solomon had build the Temple on and under the leadership of Ezra was re-built after its destructions by the Babylonians and the return of the Jews after their 70 year captivity in Babylon.

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains”

Is the Pilgrim traveller looking up from a distance to the final destination of his Pilgrim journey, namely Jerusalem and the holy mountain of Zion where the Temple of God sat.

As I said in my introduction some see, “I lift my eyes to the mountains” as a way of saying I look up to the difficult journey ahead and this interpretation could have also been in the mind of the writer as he goes on to speak of the difficulties and dangers of this pilgrimage to God’s mountains and I believe God’s ultimate hill or mountain destination, Mount Zion and the Temple built on top of it.

The second phrase,

“Where does my help come from?”

And its answer in verse 2,

“My help comes from the Lord”

Only makes sense when we realise what that Old Testament city of Jerusalem and particularly The Temple meant to a Old Testament Jew. The Temple we learn from the Old Testament was, God’s dwelling place on earth with his people. This does not mean God was confined to a building on earth but rather it means that Jerusalem and the Temple had special significance to the nation of Israel, listen to part of Solomons prayer on the day the first Temple in Jerusalem was dedicated, 2 Chronicles 6: 18 – 21,

18 “But will God really dwell on earth with humans? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! 19 Yet, Lord my God, give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence. 

20 May your eyes be open toward this temple day and night, this place of which you said you would put your Name there. May you hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. 21 Hear the supplications of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place; and when you hear, forgive”

The Temple was like a giant visual aid that told the people of Israel that God was real and through his covenant of love he made with them he was with them and would guide and help them.

This is why our writer of Psalm 121 can look to the Mountains of Jerusalem and the Temple, I believe and confidently say,

“My help comes from the Lord”

So as Christians what does this first verse of Psalm 121 say to us?

For us the answer lies in the person and work of The Lord Jesus Christ as he is God manifest in the flesh for us and all mankind not just the Jews, 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”.

Jesus is God’s perfect visual aid for us in that we cannot see God as he is Spirit but we can see a man and the man named Jesus Christ was someone who revealed what God is really like as we read in Hebrews 2: 9,

 “But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone”.

Note the writer says that we see Jesus not just as a miracle worker and great teacher which he was but we see Jesus the God – Man who died for our sins on the cross so that,

“By the grace of God he might taste death for everyone”.

This is why Jesus can say in John 14: 6,

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

So at the start of our spiritual journey we must look up from our sinful state and see Jesus and particularly Jesus who was lifted up on a cross to die for our sins so that a way back to God was possible and was in fact made.

Note finally that the way or road (as the word for road and way are the same in the original language of the New Testament) leads to the Father and where does God the Father dwell, Solomon indicates the answer to this in his Temple Dedication prayer in 2 Chronicles 6: 18,

“But will God really dwell on earth with humans? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! “.

So as we begin our spiritual journey we have to set out sights on the final destination of our spiritual journey namely God in highest heaven.

2.       (vs. 2)    The journey’s protector named

Then in verse 2 our pilgrim setting out on his great journey to the Mountains that contain Jerusalem and The Temple where God’s dwelling with his people is symbolise names who will help him get there by his protection and guidance, he writes in verse 2,

“My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth”.

The idea of God helping the pilgrim traveller is right through Psalm 121 expressed in various other ways, like three times, “watching over us”, vs. 3, 4, 5 and 8, “not letting us come to harm”, vs. 6 and “keeping us” from harm in vs. 7. 

Any journey we might take in life has inherent dangers and possible problems and we must be aware of this before we start out on any journey from the relative safety of our homes. Inexperienced travellers have got themselves into all sorts of problems and difficulties when they have set out on their journey ill prepared for that journey.

For our writer he knew his pilgrimage was going to be dangerous and in the next section he will elude to some of these dangers but in verse 2 he is confident that generally speaking he knows were his help will come from and that is,

“The Lord”

But not just any God or Lord but,

“The Lord, the maker of heaven and earth”.

The Maker of Heaven and earth is an expression describing the God of the bible popular in Psalms in this fifth book of Psalms as it is used in four other Psalms, 111: 15, 124: 8, 134: 3 and 146: 6. 

Isaiah makes it even clearer who this Lord is in his more detailed use of this expression in Isaiah 37: 16,

“Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth”.

So if the God of the universe for he is its maker goes with us we have the most powerful helper we could possible come up with to help us as we journey to God in heaven.

Paul tells us to be strong in the Lord and the power of his might in Ephesians 6: 10 especially as we battle against unbelievably powerful enemies he describes this way in verse 12 of that chapter,

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

Over the years I have gone on many special short term mission trips with my brother in Christ Ted Penney and we have never gone out spiritually unprepared as we seek to take every step of the way in prayer to The Lord for protection and guidance and have enlisted up to 50 believers to back us in prayer to the Lord for our ministry and journeys overseas. 

Both Ted and I can testify to the many ways God has helped us and kept us safe from the many evil forces we have faced on these trips away in service to our Lord. 

Every day of our lives is in fact a spiritual journey if we now know the Lord and so we must look to the Lord the maker of Heaven and earth for help and guidance.

2.     (3 – 6)   THE JOURNEY’S DANGERS IDENTIFIED

  1.     (3 – 4)     The danger of falling

The writer of Psalm 121 then in his preparations for his Pilgrimage to the Mountains that contain Jerusalem and God’s Temple now specifies some of the dangers he will face on this great pilgrimage and how God will protect him against these dangers ahead.

The first danger is what I call the danger of falling for we read in verse 3,

“He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber”.

If this journey will take this pilgrim traveller up into mountains then the danger of slipping over and falling off a cliff is very real. H.C Leopold points out,

“Roads no more than trails, slipping and stumbling could be dangerous with rocks and stones strewn in the path”.

The Old Testament pilgrim then had to prepare for the dangerous journey ahead on these very primitive roads. On my last mission trip to Myanmar Ted and I went on a three day journey into The Chin Hills in Myanmar. We were not actually traveling on hills but mountains that were up to 6,000 ft high on very narrow rough roads that had no guard rail and one slip by the car we travelled in could mean certain death off cliffs that the bottom of could not be seen from the top. I prayed constantly on that trip for The Lord to keep us safe as we were thrown around up and down on the so called roads we travelled on.

If we take in the battle Paul tells us we are involved in (Ephesians 6: 12) every day on our spiritual journey to heaven then we should be in constant prayer and trust in the Lord for only in him Paul says we are strong, Ephesians 6: 10.

Note how God stops us from falling or slipping, it because,

“He watches over you”

And this watching over us is always there because he,

“Will not slumber”

I love the bible story of Elijah on Mount Carmel when he battles with the priests of Baal to see which God would light the sacrifice there. As the priests of Baal called out to their God, Baal and nothing happened, Elijah said this, jokingly to them in 1 Kings 18: 27,

“Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.”

The God of the bible according to Psalm 121 verse 3,

“Will not slumber”

As Elijah proved and the prophets of Baal saw when God sent fire from heaven to light the sacrifice and burn it up.

Then in verse 4 its says,

“Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep”.

In our spiritual journey that ends in heaven we too must realise there is the danger of falling or slipping spiritually but if we continue to trust in The Lord Jesus Christ we will not fall as he promises in John 10: 27 – 30,

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

The unfortunate reality of the Christian journey is God does not go to sleep and will never leave us but we can go to sleep, spiritually and seek to leave him. Those who choose to fall away from God face a very terrible journey and I know for I did such a foolish thing in my mid teenage years.

However even if we fall to sleep (spiritually) and fall away from God, God, because he never slumbers or sleeps is always there for us to turn back to as James encourages us to do in James 4: 8 – 10,

“Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up”.

I have continually praised God since my late teens because I realised that God had not slumbered or slept when I was falling away from him and I turned back to God and he lifted me up and put me back on track to continue to travel on his road to heaven.

2.       (5 – 6)     The danger of exposure – (shelter from evil)

One of the basic needs of all human beings is adequate shelter and sadly their are many people living in our world today suffering from lack of adequate shelter even in cities and towns in my own so called wealthy country there are people living on the street. 

For anyone going on a long and difficult journey adequate shelter must be planned for. This is why my wife, who plans our many trips away spends a lot of time organising accomodation options for those trips. Ted and I always arrange our accommodation before we leave Australia so that we have adequate shelter on our short term mission trips.

The writer of Psalm 121, a pilgrim traveller up into the mountains of Israel to Jerusalem and the Temple there was concerned about the travel problem of inadequate shelter because in verse 5 he writes,

“The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand”.

In a land like Israel in the Near East the danger of sun stroke from poor shelter or no shelter was very real and important. However this pilgrim trusted in the Lord to watch over him when facing this very real danger. 

The writer of Psalm 121 describes his God, The Lord or Yahweh as his,

“Shade at your right hand”.

Allan Harman believes that the idea of God being his shade is a shortened version of the often used expression in the Old Testament and particularly the book of Psalms as,

“The shadow of your wings”. (Psalms 17: 8, 36: 7, 57: 1, 63: 7 and even Isaiah 51: 16.

Harman also quotes Isaiah 25: 4, which says,

“You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall”.

Here Isaiah is telling us according to my NIV study bible that,

“God is concerned for the poor and is a refuge for them. When we are disadvantaged or oppressed, we can turn to God for comfort and help”.

Of course in our spiritual journey to God in Heaven we are all spiritually poor and need God’s help to shelter us from the dark forces of evil we all face daily. As Paul declares in 2 Thessalonians 3: 3,

“But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one”.

I cannot leave speaking about verse 5 without making a comment or two on the phrase at the end of that verses that says,

“At your right hand”.

I have commented a number times in my Psalm talks about the right hand of God and basically the right hand is an expression is both a position of honour and also represents God’s power as usually our right hand is our strongest hand. 

A good example of this from the book of Psalms is Psalm 16: 8,

“ keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken”.

So as we begin our spiritual journey to heaven we need to look to Jesus who has gone ahead of us trail blazing if your like all the way to the right hand of God from which he can shelter and protect us on our way to him as the writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 12: 2,

“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”.

Then is verse 6 we have, what I found a tricky verse to come to a understanding of because it says,

“The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night”.

If our writer only said,

“The sun will not harm you by day”

Then we could say he is simply continuing to make the point that God will provide for us in the journey of life, shelter from the sun however he says also,

“Nor the moon by night”

But the moon offers no source of danger we need shelter from.

The three possible explanations for this are:

1.      The moon in ancient times was considered to be a factor in causing mental illness and we get our word “lunatic” from the           Latin name for the moon, luna.

2.    The moon appears in the night so shelter from the cold of night could be what the reader has in mind.

3.   The writer could simply being saying God offers shelter and protection day and night or always.

      This is the interpretation I favour as it fits in with the two verses that follow it.

So on our spiritual journey to heaven we need to realise that only God himself, the powerful one can protect us from the many dangers we can and do face. 

In fact so real are the dangers we face that sometimes God allows us to go through what seems very difficult times and I attended a bible study this where we studied the first eleven verses of 2 Corinthians chapter 1 and these two verses jumped out at me, verses 6 and 7,

‘If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort”.

Paul is telling the Corinthians in the opening verses of his second letter to them that if we hit some bad pot holes on the road in our journey these are for a purpose. That purpose is to equip us to help and comfort others suffering similar or the same things we have suffered and been helped by God to come through.

3.     (7 – 8)   THE JOURNEY’S PROTECTOR GUIDES US

  1.     (vs. 7)     God the great protector

The final two verses of Psalm 121 conclude our writers reflections on what he needs from God as he is about to commence his pilgrimage or journey to “the Mountains”, Jerusalem or Temple of God and his special presence there.

He has referred to two possible dangers, falling and lack of shade and we have seen that God is going to always be there to help him with these two traveling dangers. So now he speaks of God as his protector against harm or evil and how this protection is all embracing and constant.

Lets have a look first at verse 7 which speaks of how his God, the God who made heaven and earth, the God of the bible is his great protector,

“The Lord will keep you from all harm”

I have said that any journey away from the relative safety go home proposes possible dangers. At the time of writing this Psalm talk I had just returned from a four and a half month driving trip around Australia and we pulled our caravan to do this 19,000 kilometres. We faced the danger of a traffic accident, getting lost, being burgled and many other unforeseen dangers. Such is the reality of modern travel but a man named Andre Gide once said,

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore”.

The same could be said about my many short term mission trips overseas that I could for the sake of personal safety simply never venture out from home but trusting in the Lord we can have the confidence that,

“The Lord will keep you from all harm”.

The journey up to Jerusalem even in Jesus day was dangerous because of the possible attack by thieves and robbers as Jesus draws on in his famous parable of the Good Samaritan where a traveler is robbed and attacked on the Jericho road part of that Journey.

However Leopold suggests that the original Hebrew word for “harm” could be translated bad or even evil. Spiritually the biggest danger we face on our journey to God in heaven is evil and the evil one as Paul confidently told Timothy in 2 Timothy 4: 18,

“The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen”.

Note how Paul says “evil attack”, if we choose to venture on God’s way or road to heaven we will face attack from evil and the evil one but if we continually trust in the Lord he will,

“Keep us from all harm”

The writer of Psalm 121 says this is possible because,

“He (The Lord) will watch over your life”.

The image of someone watching over us is like the watchman  on a ancient city wall watching out for the possible dangers that could come on a city or the sentry or guard on watch for a building or even person. God is the sentry or guard for our life who we learnt in verse 4, 

“Watches over Israel (God’s people)” 

And who,

“Will neither slumber nor sleep”.

Finally the same idea of constancy and comprehensiveness is picked up in the final verse of the Psalm,

“The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and for evermore”.

What a comfort these words would have been for the ancient Israelites setting out on their annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem and the Temple there. God was not just with them but he was watching over them both morning (coming) and night (going) or maybe even at the start of their journey and the end of it as well.

On our spiritual journey to God in heaven God is with us if our sights are set on him and if we but trust in him as both our protector and our guide. I close with the opening three verses of Hebrews 12, my original poem / song lyric inspired by this Psalm 121 and a closing prayer.

First then Hebrews 12: 1 – 3,

“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. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart”.

I LOOK TO THE HILLLS

 (Based on Psalm 121 and the tune of “Banks of The Ohio”)

I look to the hills as I travel God’s way

Knowing that he’s with me to help me each day.

I look to the hills where I could fall

But the Lord helps me because he goes before.

 

I look to the hills the hills of life

And know the Lord help’s me in my strife.

I look to the hills God’s home above

Where one day I’ll enjoy his love.

 

I look to the hills and Lords my guide

For his always with me throughout my life.

I look to the hills and God’s by my side

For he never sleeps so in him abide.

 

I look to the hills where I need to be warm

But the Lord watches over me in life’s many storms.

I look to the hills where there is harm

But the Lord holds me in his loving arms.

 

I look to the hills where I’m traveling to

The glory of God that one day I’ll view.

I look to the hills and the Lord protects me

For the Lord is with me for eternity.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

Lord help me to always set my sights on your hills or mountains which is your eternal home as the final destination of living the life you have made for me. I know from your word that this way in life has been made by your Sons death on the cross and I thank you for that. Help me to stay on your path in life, keep me safe from the many dangers this way in life can produce but above all continue to equip me with your Holy Spirit so that I can serve others helping them join your way and helping them in continuing to follow it. In Jesus name I pray Amen.

PSALM 120 TALK: THE PILGRIM JOURNEY BEGINS FROM A DARK LOST WORLD

PSALM 120 TALK: THE PILGRIM 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.)

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

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.

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.

PSALM 119 (PART 2: 67 – 120) TALK: THE SUPREMACY AND BENEFITS OF GOD’S WORD

PSALM 119 (PART 2: 67 – 120) TALK: THE SUPREMACY AND BENEFITS OF GOD’S WORD

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

INTRODUCTION

This then is the second 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.

Written at least 500 years or so before the coming of Christ this Psalm and its theme of the supremacy and benefits of God’s word is referring to what we know today as the Old Testament but we have so much more revelations from God in and through the coming of God’s Son Jesus Christ who John calls in John 1: 14, “The word (of God) become flesh”.

So far I have found each one of the first seven stanzas contained different but very practical helpful advice on living the life of a true believer. This continues in my second part of Psalm 119 and I will seek to open up eight more stanzas for you under the general theme of The Supremacy and benefits of God’s word.

My stanza headings for these eight next stanzas are:

Stanza. 8   (57 – 64)   GOD’S WORD INSPIRES COMMITMENT AND FELLOWSHIP

Stanza  9   (65 – 72)   GOD AND HIS WORD IS GOOD EVEN IN TIMES OF AFFLICTION

Stanza 10   (73 – 80)   GOD’S WORD TRUSTED I  PRODUCES A POWERFUL TESTIMONY 

Stanza 11   (81 – 88)   GOD AND HIS WORD IS WITH US EVEN IN DARKEST TIMES OFF

                                           PERSECUTION

Stanza 12  (89 – 96)   GOD’S WORD IS ETERNAL AND STABLE AND IT SUPPORTS US IN  OUR

                                           LIVES

Stanza  13  (97 -104)  GOD’S WORD GIVES US WISDOM FOR LIFE

Stanza  14 (105 – 112) GOD’S WORD GIVES US LIGHT IN THE FACE OF THIS WORLDS

                                            DARKNESS

Stanza 15  (113 – 120) GOD’S WORD IS TO BE TRUSTED AND OBEYED TO BE SAVED

Stanza. 8. (57 – 64) GOD’S WORD INSPIRES COMMITMENT AND FELLOWSHIP

I still consider some of the most blessed and rewarding years of my life were the three years I spent in Bible College over 40 years ago. There I spent three intense years in the sweet fellowship of over 70 other students and lecturers learning every day more and more about God and his word. We did this through lectures, private study, fellowship discussions and yes even through exams and we were all inspired to a greater commitment to God and his word and we were led to be able to have wonderful fellowship in the Lord again through our learning and sharing of the word of God, the bible.

The eighth stanza of Psalm 119 verse 57 – 64 has what I experienced in Bible College as its theme is how the word of God inspires in us greater commitment to God and fellowship the fellowship we have with others who trust in God and his word as well.

A key verse in this part is verse 63 which says,

“I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts”.

You don’t have to be in Bible College to experience what the Psalmist is talking about here as whenever we gather together formally or informally with other Christians we do get inspired by God’s word to greater commitment of God and experience the sweet fellowship of sharing God and his word together.

I have broken this eighth part into four parts:

     1. (5 7 – 60) A RENEWED PERSONAL COMMITMENT TO GOD AND HIS WORD

     2. (61 – 62) A COMMITMENT TO GOD AND HIS WORD EVEN IN THE FACE OF
          OPPOSITION

     3. (vs. 63) A COMMITMENT TO FELLOWSHIP WITH OTHER FELLOW GOD’S
           WORD BELIEVING MEN AND WOMEN

      4. (vs. 64). A FINAL WORD OF COMMITMENT TO GOD AND HIS WORD

1.  (5 7 – 60) A RENEWED PERSONAL COMMITMENT TO GOD AND HIS WORD

I mentioned in my introduction that I enjoyed a wonderful experience of learning from God’s word and enjoying wonderful sweet fellowship in Bible College over 40 years ago and how those three years of intensive study of the word of God deepened my commitment to God and his word. Sadly that commitment to God and his word which I still have did not continue in some of my fellow former Bible College students.

Many students in my years at college did go on to love and serve the Lord like I have but a few have seemingly lost their love and commitment to God and his word and from what I can gather this for some of these former student friends is a result of the anti – God world we live in having a negative impact on their lives. Also the temptations of materialism and even the problems caused of going to churches that God’s word was not really believed in an taught also had a negative impact on some of my former Bible College students friends.

They and us all need to have a continual renewal of our commitment to the word of God like the writer of Psalm 119 speaks of here in the eighth section of Psalm 119 verses 57 – 60.

I have given each one of these first four verses as heading that encapsulates what I think each verse is telling us:

  1. (vs. 57) Committed to God’s word because God is his everything
  2. (vs. 58) Committed to God’s word because God has been sought and found
  3. (vs. 59) Committed to God because I have considered my wa
  4. (vs. 60) Committed to actively obey God and his word.

Lets then have a closer look at each of these first four verses under the theme of commitment:

  1. (vs. 57) Committed because God is his everything

This eighth stanza starts with verse 57 that says,

“You are my portion, Lord; I have promised to obey your words”.

Alan Harmon has an interesting theory on what the term, “You are my portion” might have meant to the original writer of Psalm 119 and he writes,

“These words could imply that the Psalmist himself was a levite”.

Harman goes on to explain the significance of this,

“No territory was given to Levies but the Lord was their portion” (Numbers 18: 20 and Deut. 10: 9)

We believe that David wrote Psalm 16 when he was on the run from King Saul and had to flee Israel and became for a while in exile in the land of Israel’s enemy the Philistines and so he then had lost his inherited land and he writes in verses 5 – 6 of Psalm 16,

“Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup, you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance”.

So for David and our writer of writer of Psalm 119 the Lord is their portion or in Old Testament material terms, their everything. This is a sure word of commitment to God and his word as Jesus said in Matthew 24: 35,

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

Peter speaks of the transient nature of our lives and i believe the things in our lives as compared to God and his word in 1 Peter 1: 23 – 25,

“For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, 25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you”.

So some of my former Bible College fellow students might have lost their commitment to God and his word because the lure of material things overcome them as Jesus says in the parable of the soils about the seed or word of God that falls amongst thorns in Matthew 13: 22,

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

All of us need to guard against becoming like soil that contains weeds or things that can and will deceive us and choke the word of God in our lives and we must be renewed in our commitment to God and his word by realising like the writer of Psalm 119 did in verse 57 that,

“You are my portion (my everything) Lord”

And by doing what he says by showing in our lives that we,

“Obey your (God’s) word”.

2. (vs. 58) Committed to God’s word because God has been sought and found

The writer of Psalm 119 continues in verse 58 to speak of his renewed commitment to God and his word by describing how, I think he came to this renewed commitment to God and his word. He firstly says,

“I have sought your face with all my heart”.

Jesus gives us a great promise about the results of anyone who seeks him in Matthew 7: 7 – 8,

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened”.

I have read of many famous Christians like John Newton and even a young John Stott proving this verse to be true as they sought to know God and asked God to reveal himself to them and they came to understand the true message of the Gospel.

The writer of Psalm 119 speaks of seeking God’s face and this term means according to an article called “Seeking the face of God’ on a internet sight called “Shofasound”,

“To seek the face of God is to seek His presence”.

To seek God’s presence is to seek who he really is or all that he is and a major attribute of who he is or what he is all about is mentioned in the second part of verse 58 when it says,

“Be gracious to me according to your promise”.

The God of the bible is a gracious or loving God and the word gracious means the same thing as the New Testament word, “Grace”, love that is undeserved. So the writer of Psalm 119 has a renewed commitment to God because he had sought God as he is and found yet again he is a gracious or loving God according to his promises in his word the bible.

The graciousness of God that the writer speaks of as the promise of God for him is what is found in God’s covenant love to his people Israel made clear by God himself in references like Deuteronomy 7: 7 – 9,

“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 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”.

This covenantal love widens out to the whole world through the coming of Jesus and his death for our sins on the cross as John 3: 16 declares,

 “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 Paul makes it clear that this love of God is ours by faith in the Grace or undeserved love of 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— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast”.

So we after seeking God afresh and seeing his grace should be able to re – commit our lives afresh to God and his word like the writer of Psalm 119 did in verse 58.

3. (vs. 59) Committed to God because I have considered my ways

If a person has come to a realisation that they have let something pull them away from commitment to God and his ways then they need to do what the writer of Psalm 119 says he has done in verse 59,

“I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes”.

John tells us in 1 John 1: 9 what we should do if we find we have been pulled away from God and his word by some kind of sin in our lives, he writes

 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”.

Even the most committed Christian is still a sinner forgiven by God if he or she does what the writer of Psalm 119 says in 59,

“I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes”.

So commitment to God and his word is an ongoing daily process that the writer of Psalm 119 seems to have practiced.

4.  (vs. 60) Committed to actively obey God and his word.

The writer of Psalm 119 concludes his first part of his commitment to God and his word with a resolve and that resolve in verse 60 goes like this,

“I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands”.

This resolve to “hasten” a pleading with God for immediate help like David uses the word in Psalm 40: 13,

“Be pleased to save me, Lord, come quickly (or hasten), Lord to help me”.

Or is it a term used to show the writers readiness to act as we see in Psalm 55: 8,

“I would hurry (hasten) to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm”.

It would seem to me to be the second idea of a readiness to act as he adds,

“And not delay”

So this shows his commitment to act and act quickly or decisively to obey God’s word. Paul expresses real and biblical commitment in Philippians 3: 13 – 14,

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”.

2.  (61 – 62) A COMMITMENT TO GOD AND HIS WORD EVEN IN THE FACE OF
      OPPOSITION

We realise after reading the first part of verse 61 that this commitment of the writer to God and his word was in the face of great difficulty caused by the persecution of his enemies as the verse reads,

“Though the wicked bind me with ropes”.

All commentators agree this is not literal but a metaphorical expression as Allan Harman says this expression includes,

“Any form of scheming that restricts or impedes”.

The writer of Psalm 119 has just made very clear statement of commitment to God and his word and he now says he is making this in the face of great opposition to God and his word yet he says in the second half of verse 61,

“I will not forget your law”.

David faced many scheming enemies who sought to restrict or impede him serving God and he offers words of advice and comfort in times of difficulty when he wrote in Psalm 37: 5 – 6,

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: 6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun”.

Then in verse 62 the writer of Psalm 119 uses I think another metaphor for difficulties he faced when he writes,

“At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws”.

Midnight could be a metaphor for darkness or difficulty and even if it isn’t he is praising God at the so called ungodly hour of midnight and so his faith is one way or another strong enough to face with God’s word and its many promises in mind any form of darkness in his life with commitment and praise.

Paul tells us to praise or thank God in all circumstances in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 18,

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

To thank God in all circumstances including dark and difficult times really reveals our faith in God and our commitment to him and his word.

3. (vs. 63) A COMMITMENT TO FELLOWSHIP WITH OTHER FELLOW GOD’S
WORD BELIEVING MEN AND WOMEN

After the writer of Psalm 119 spoke of those who oppose him because of his commitment to God and his word he speaks of the fellowship of those who like him wo fear or revere God and his word he writes in verse 63,

“I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts”.

I mentioned in my introduction that my three years in Bible College over 40 years ago was a highlight for me of wonderful fellowship with over 70 other committed Christians and lecturers all there to study the word of God and share the many gifts we had amongst us in ministry and worship.

However all through my Christian life I have belonged to vital and active churches who were and are committed to God and his word and I can testify that being with a group of friends who share the same commitment to God and his word as I do is a great encouragement and can and does help promote in me a greater commitment to God and his word.

The New Testament has much to say about the church which is not the building but the people who meet in it. The web site “Gotquestion?org” explains really well what the New Testament teaches about what the church is,

“The word church is a translation of the Greek word ekklesia, meaning “a called–out assembly.” The word describes a group of people who have been called out of the world and set apart for the Lord, and it is always used, in its singular form, to describe a universal group of people who know Christ. The word ekklesia, when pluralized, is used to describe groups of believers who meet together. Interestingly enough, the word church is never used in the Bible to describe a building or organization”.

My experience has generally been positive for all the years I have belonged to churches and have visited and the great unique friendship or fellowship is even more evident the times I have visited in places overseas and I can testify to experiencing oneness in Christ that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 4: 3 – 7,

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it”.

True Christian fellowship is a wonderful encouragement to continue in our committed to God and his word as the writer of Psalm 119 indicates in verse 63.

4. (vs. 64). A FINAL WORD OF COMMITMENT TO GOD AND HIS WORD

The writer of Psalm 119 now bring this eighth stanza to an end with a final declaration about his God that he has recommitted his life to in previous verses in this stanza. He is committed to a God and his word who is great and loving, two characteristics he obviously believe encapsulates this God he serves and worships.

He writes,

“The earth is filled with your love, Lord teach me your decrees”.

David wrote at the start of Psalm 19 verse 1,

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

In another creation praising Psalm David writes, Psalm 8: 1,

“Lord our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens”.

So now that glory and majesty that God’s creation is declaring is according to our writer of Psalm 119 God’s love. After all God made this world so perfectly and gave it to mankind as Genesis 1: 28 says,

“God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Genesis account of God’s creation features God making everything by and through his powerful word made clear by the word’s,

“And God said”

That term appears six times through the first chapter of the bible, God’s word which this writer of Psalm 119 is so committed to and wants God to teach him more of as he closes stanza 8 of Psalm 119 with the request,

“Teach me your decrees”

Of course this writer has alluded to a much clearer demonstration of God’s love even in this stanza in verse 58 where he prayed,

“Be gracious to me according to your promise”

Obvious reference to the covenantal love of God he and his people Israel knew or at least should have known for the writer of Psalm 119 spoke much about how people in his own nation of Israel especially its rulers had turned away from God and his word and persecuted him for continuing to believe and uphold in God and his word.

We as Christians have a greater and more perfect demonstration of God’s love found in and through the coming of The Lord Jesus Christ that John speaks of in the famous John 3: 16,

“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”.

Later in the apostle John’s life he spoke further about this great love of God in 1 John 4: 8 – 10,

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 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”.

So we have great inspiration for a renewed commitment to God’s and his word, the great love God has for the world and us which is shown through the Lord Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for our sins on the cross.

Therefore may we join the writer of this great Psalm who stated this stanza eight with the words,

“You are my portion, Lord I have promised to obey your words”.

Help me Lord to be committed to you
And not to things of this life
You and your people are my real friends
Your love helps me cope with my strife.

Stanza 9 (65 – 72) GOD AND HIS WORD IS GOOD EVEN IN TIMES OF AFFLICTION

Many years ago I read somewhere of a true story of the famous first Anglican Bishop of Liverpool England who died at the ripe old age of 84 one year after he retired from his role as that first Bishop of Liverpool. Ryle wrote many wonderful books and his famous book “Holiness” is a book I still consider one of the top ten books I have ever read.

The story goes that after the death of his third and last wife, Ryle lost two others to illness as well, he attended church in the Liverpool cathedral and was down to preach on that Sunday the day after his wife had tragically passed away from the effects of a heavy cold during a special Exhibition in Liverpool that turned out to be on a very wet and cold day. Instead of preaching a sermon from the cathedral pulpit Ryle went to the bible reading desk and opened the large church bible and lifted up an equally large tapestry book mark the wrong way around.

Ryle spoke briefly of the passing of his third wife with many tears as he held up the bookmark and said at the moment this is like my faith in God but then he turned the bookmark around and the congregation could read the word’s “God is Love”.

Ryle was illustrating a very real point sometimes when we suffer some kind of affliction in life we feel like Ryle and the people in the cathedral that day, unable to make sense of what God is doing but our faith should be like the faith J.C Ryle that even in our darkest hour God is still good as he is a loving God who promises to be with us at all times, both good and bad as James tells us in James 4: 7 – 11,

“Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up”.

Paul says this about the love of God and difficult times in Romans 8: 35 – 39,

“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”.

In stanza 9 our writer of Psalm 119 speaks of God being good even though he was going through a very dark and difficult time owing to some kind of persecution by his enemies and he even says in verse 71 that it was for his good that God allowed him to suffer at the hands of his enemies,

“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees”.

In my reading and study of this ninth section one other verse keeps coming into my head and that is Romans 8: 28 which says,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purposes”.

The structure of stanza 9 with the theme of God and his word is good even in times of affliction is”

1.(65 – 66) TEACH ME YOUR GOODNESS ACCORDING TO YOUR WORD

2. (67 – 68) TEACH ME YOUR GOODNESS DESPITE MY FAILINGS

3. (69 – 71) TEACH ME YOUR GOODNESS EVEN IN TIMES OF AFFLICTION

4. (vs. 72) TEACH ME TO APPRECIATE THE GOODNESS OR VALUE OF YOUR WORD

Lets then look a little closer at these four little sections of this ninth stanza:

1. (65 – 66) TEACH ME YOUR GOODNESS ACCORDING TO YOUR WORD

The writer of Psalm 119 starts his ninth stanza with two requests:

  1. (vs. 65) Do good to your servant
  2. (vs. 66) Teach me knowledge and good judgement.

These prayer requests we will see in later verses are in the context of difficulty owing to the persecution of his enemies (verse’s 69 and 70).

So as this writer is experiencing great difficulties his prayer is not just that God be good to him in helping him in his difficult time but that God would teach him new or greater knowledge and judgement as well in this dark time of persecution.

Lets have a close look at these two prayer requests:

(vs. 65) Do good to your servant

His first prayer request goes like this in verse 65,

“Do good to your servant according to your word”.

The Hebrew adjective for “Good” comes up four times in this stanza and Allan Harman explains that the opening use of this Hebrew adjective for “good” is an,

“Appeal for God to act in fulfilment of his word and deal graciously with his servant”.

Solomon at the opening of the Temple speaks of the promises of God being promises God gave through his servant Moses in 1 Kings 8: 56,

“Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses”.

So the good this writer of Psalm 119 wants God to give him are the good promises God gave Israel through Moses we call the covenantal promises of God summed up in Deuteronomy 28: 1 – 3,

“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God: 3 You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country”.

The next ten verses spell out in more detail some of the blessings or good things God promises to give to his people if they obey him and his word.

We are not under this Old Covenant but a new and far greater one that the writer to the Hebrews speaks of in Hebrews 8: 6,

“But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises”.

Note how we who believe in Jesus and what he did for us on the cross have a covenant that has better promises than what our writer in Psalm 119 verse 65 asks God to appropriate for him.

So what are some of the promises we have in Christ under this new covenant?

I found on the net a compulsive answer to this question by an article by a man named Paul Ellis called “The top 12 blessings in the New Covenant and here in a brief format are Paul’s 12 blessings,

1. God forgives all our sins (Matt 26:28, Acts 13:38).

2. God remembers our sins no more (Heb 8:12, 10:17; Jer 31:34).

3. God promises never to be angry with us again (Is 54:7-10).

4. God qualifies us (Col 1:12).

5. Jesus takes hold of us and never lets go (Php 3:12, Ju 24).

6. God credits us with the perfect righteousness of Jesus (2 Cor 5:21).

7. God gives us the Holy Spirit to teach us (Jn 14:26), empower us (Acts 1:8) and remind us of our
righteousness (Jn 16:10).

8. God is for us (Romans 8:31)

9. God is with us (Ez 37:27)! Because of Jesus the door to the throne room is always open (Heb
4:16).

10. God empowers us to overcome the enemy (1 Jn 5:4).

11. God offers us His rest (Heb 4:10-11).

12. God gives us eternal life (Romans 6:23).

So when we pray, “Do good to your servant according to your word” we have so much blessings in God for now and in our future in heaven.

(vs. 66) Teach me knowledge and good judgement.

Then in verse 66 our writer of Psalm 119 prays again for God to teach him which he already requested in verse 64 and also in verse 12. Now he asks for the same thing in verse 66 using the twin concepts of knowledge and good judgment, he writes,

“Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands”.

Knowledge is similar to the other two requests but here he adds “good judgment” which Alan Harman means,

“Discernment or behaviour”

Knowledge of God and his word is very valuable but knowledge on its own is of little value as it does not necessarily achieve anything but knowledge understood and put into practice is wisdom and the wisdom only God can give is very valuable and so we read in Proverbs 3: 7,

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil”.

When I have found myself in very difficult situations in my life particularly caused by how others are acting towards me I have realised what I need is wisdom and wisdom only God can give so I have prayed for that claiming the promise James gives us in James 1: 5,

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

Every time I have prayed for this wisdom God has graciously answered me and given me a insight or thought that has answered my need so perfectly.

2. (67 – 68) TEACH ME YOUR GOODNESS DESPITE MY FAILINGS

The writer of psalm 119 then in verse 67 seems to indicate that the affliction he was experiencing from his enemies came about by his own going astray from following God and his word, he writes,

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word”.

This concept of affliction caused by the writer going astray fits perfectly to David and the affliction his enemies made him suffer as a result of his sins of adultery and murder. As David speaks of in Psalm 35: 15,

“But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee; assailants gathered against me without my knowledge. They slandered me without ceasing”.

David might have been forgiven by God but his enemies where not like God but rather they saw David’s shortcomings as an opportunity to bring him down and exalt themselves over him like David speaks of in Psalm 38: 16,

“For I said, ‘Do not let them gloat or exalt themselves over me when my feet slip”.

So whether our writer of Psalm 119 is David or the writer of Psalm 119 is drawing on some kind of royal diary note of David we cannot tell but the fact is the writer indicates his current affliction caused by his enemies (vs. 69) was caused by his former sin or straying form obeying God and his word.

Then in verse 68 after indicating in the second half of verse 67 he obeyed God and his word he states how God is good so he asks again that God might teach him his word and obviously the writer of Psalm 119 will obey it,

“You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your ways”.

We need to learn from David and this writers example that turning away from God and his word has lots of consequences for our lives not less it opens up a door for Satan to enter with his forces to afflict us with perception or just plain difficulties.

James told us in a previous quote to,

“Resist the devil and he will flee from you” James 4: 7

So the writer of Psalm 119 did sin or disobey God and his word for a time but he obviously turned back to God and his word and he now sought to obey God and his word in verse 67 and he then asked again for to teach him his decrees or word.

3. (69 – 71) TEACH ME YOUR GOODNESS EVEN IN TIMES OF AFFLICTION

Then we come to what I see as the heart of this ninth stanzas teaching and here we read of the writer of this Psalm telling us of his affliction and how even as he suffered this dark and painful affliction caused by his persecutors he was still trusting in God and his word and even delighting in it and wanting to learn more about it.

I have broken this part of the ninth stanza into three parts:

  1. (vs. 69) Affliction but faith in God and his word
  2. (vs. 70) Affliction but delighting in God and his word
  3. (vs. 71) Affliction but the affliction is appreciated

So lets look at these three parts of this third section of the ninth stanza of Psalm 119,

  1. (vs. 69) Affliction but faith in God and his word

I mentioned at the start of my talk on this ninth stanza the story of J.C Ryle and how he with tears held up the opposite side of a tapestry bookmark that expressed how he felt about God and his word after he had just learnt of his third wife death. Humanly speaking we just cannot see how God is good to us when we face terrible turn of events in our lives like J. C Ryle we need to look beyond the tattered mess of our lives to see in God’s word that God is a good and loving and that if only we would hang in and put our trust in God we will receive from him his help and assistance and even ultimately full understanding. This understanding often will not come to us unto we are in heaven but by faith we have to believe that God is working his purposes out for our good.

The writer of Psalm 119 had this kind of faith as he writes in verse 69,

“Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies, I keep your precepts with all my heart”

In the midst of J,C. Rules pain and grief he held on to God and his word and so did the writer of Psalm 119 for he was slandered by arrogant men with false accusations and yet he stayed focussed on God and his word.

David wrote Psalm 27 with the same kind of commitment to God and his word as he faced great difficulty caused by a opposition from his many enemies and he says this in verses 1 – 3,

“The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life
of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my
enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. 3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not
fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident”.

Note how David saw that God alone was his light in his dark times caused by those who opposed him and who sought to bring him down.

Paul spent much time locked up by his opponents Jewish leaders and Roman leaders yet Paul in his seemingly dark times trusted in God and God always helped Paul and Paul wrote encouraging words to the churches about how God used him to establish his church like Philippians 1: 12 – 14,

“Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear”.

2. (vs. 70) Affliction but delighting in God and his word

In verse 70 the writer seems to show the great contrast of the attitude of his opponents and his attitude to God and his word in the face of his opponents persecution, he writes,

“Their hearts are callous and unfeeling, but I delight in your law”.

His opponents do not have any real joy in their lives and their opposition to God and his word leads them to have callous and unfeeling hearts and Leopold says that the actual Hebrew words here describe,

“Men who are devoid of spiritual capacity”.

However in the face of this callous and unfeeling attacks of his enemies our writer of Psalm 119 says he takes,

“Delight in your laws” (or in God’s word”

Peter has these words of advice for his readers who were suffering persecution from people who were callous and unfeeling and in 1 Peter 3: 8 – 17,

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. 11 
They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened. 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil”.

3. (vs. 71) Affliction but the affliction is appreciated

Finally in this third part of the ninth stanza that deals with the goodness of God in the face of affliction our writer actually states in verse 71 that the affliction he was suffering was actually good for him, he writes,

“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees”.

I have experienced times of persecution from people who do not like my commitment to God and his word but looking back at those difficult times I can say as well that I learnt so much about God and his word through those difficult times and my faith did grow as I proved God in my life as I trusted in him as Peter also says about the value of difficult times in 1 Peter 1: 6 – 7,

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

May we join the writer of Psalm 119 in appreciating difficult times through persecution to see that through them we,

“Might learn your decrees”. (vs. 71)

4. (vs. 72) TEACH ME TO APPRECIATE THE GOODNESS OR VALUE OF YOUR WORD

This ninth stanza has struck the note of the goodness and value of God and his word even in the face of terrible difficulty in life through persecution so it is only fitting he should finish this ninth stanza with a statement of the value of God’s word, he writes,

“The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold”.

The concept of the word of God being to our writer very valuable than any earthly riches is something he has already stated in verse 14 and will state again in verses 127 and 162 of this Psalm.

Sadly people today see no value in God’s word but let me put it this way what use is it to have all the riches in the world when we are facing death?

Jesus said in Matthew 6: 19 – 21,

“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”.

God and his word are eternal and he and his word is then are the only thing of any real eternal value so then as the writer of Psalm 119 says they are,

“More precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold”.

Even in this life the hope and comfort God and his word gives money cannot buy as they come only from God himself as a gift we can know and enjoy even in times of affliction. I close this ninth stanza with the words of Paul in Philippians 4: 12 – 13, written remember when he was locked up in a Roman prison,

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength”.

Inspire me now to know your word
O good Lord who is with us now
For even when trouble comes my way
Your word is my comfort each hour.

STANZA 10 (73 – 80) GOD’S WORD TRUSTED I PRODUCES A POWERFUL TESTIMONY

When I was in my late teens I returned to following the Lord after backsliding for four years after I left school and went to work and got involved in non – christians who quickly led me astray in a sinful life. In the first year I was going to church again and seeking to sort out the mess my life was in I attended a church coffee shop that were popular in the early 1970’s and a group of four girls were singing Gospel songs.

One of the four girls sang a solo song and this girl was a very attractive girl herself in her late teens but before she sang her song she shared with the people in the coffee shop that she had just learnt from her doctors that she had a very rare form of cancer that meant she had less than a year to live. She testified to her faith in the word of God and how she believed that the Lord Jesus through his death and resurrection had won for her and all who truly believe in him the gift of eternal life and because of that she knew where she was going when she died and therefore did not fear death.

Once this young girl had finished her song introduction and had sung her song there was not a dry eye in the coffee shop. I was deeply moved by this girls testimony and it certainly helped strengthen my newly re-committed faith in God and his word.

The writer of Psalm 119 in his tenth stanza speaks of the value of a powerful testimony that a person who trusts in God and his word has particularly for other fellow believers and I believe on non – believers as well. The key verse of this tenth stanza is verse 74,

“May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word”.

This testimony of our writers commitment to God and his word is powerful because like the young girt in the coffee shop all those years ago it was in the context of difficulty and strife which adds to its power and value.

I have broken this tenth stanza into three parts all relating to the theme of how trusting in God and his word is a powerful testimony to other people particularly when that trusting in God and his word is done at a time of great difficulty and strife in the life of the person trusting in God and his word:

     1. (73 – 75) THE POWERFUL TESTIMONY OF A PERSON WHO TRUSTS IN GOD AND HIS
            WORD

     2.  (76 – 77) THE COMFORT AND SUPPORT GOD GIVES TO THOSE WHO TRUST IN
          HIM AND HIS WORD

     3. (78 – 80) THE SHAME OF THOSE WHO OPPOSE GOD AND HIS WORD

     1.  (73 – 75) THE POWERFUL TESTIMONY OF A PERSON WHO TRUSTS IN GOD AND HIS
          WORD

The writer of Psalm 119 knew God’s word so well that he knows that he is a created being who without the great and powerful God teaching him his word he is powerless to know and understand it. That is why I believe he asks God for understanding his word in the context of stating that the God of the bible is the creator God, he writes in verse 78,

“Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands”.

We have seen his reliance on God teaching him his word already in verses 18, 27, 33, 66 and he will ask for it again in verses, 135 and 169. So his logic is that if God made him and of course everything else then he has the ability and power to give him understanding of his word as Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 2: 6 – 10, passage in which Paul quotes from Isaiah 64: 4 which as Paul argues speaks of how God must teach us by his Holy Spirit what his word is really teaching us,

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has
conceived” the things God has prepared for those who love him— 10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.

Then in verse 74, once the writer of Psalm 119 had asked for the understanding of God’s word that God alone can give he states the effect the one who is committed to God and his word has on others, he writes,

“May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word”.

The testimony of a person like the writer of Psalm 119 putting his hope in God and his word is described here as bringing joy that causes people who see this testimony of a person like our writer of Psalm 119 hoping in God and his word.

This is even a more powerful testimony because this trusting in God and his word is done as he suffers affliction as verse 75 say,

“I know, Lord, that your laws are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.”

The writer of Psalm 119 like that young girl I heard speak and sing years ago in the church run coffee shop actually strongly trusted in God as they suffered great affliction. For the writer of Psalm 119 this affliction was painful persecution from his enemies and in the case of the girl in the coffee shop it was her immanent death through cancer.

I know that on that night all those years ago I was greatly encouraged and challenged by the faith of the beautiful young girl in the coffee shop and her testimony was so powerful that it still has an effect on me some 40 or so years later.

What that girl all those years ago was doing was what Jesus commands us to do in Matthew 5: 16,

“let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”.

The writer also states in verse 75 that even the affliction he is suffering comes from God’s faithfulness and his thinking here is explained by what he spoke of in the previous stanza and what he said in verse 71,

“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees”.

I spoke of how I have seen the value of difficult times in the past and how during those difficult times I was caused to look to and trust in God more than in easier times and so I often grew spiritually far more in difficult times that easier times. I also referred to what Peter said about the value of suffering for the Christian life in 1 Peter 1: 6 and 7 well here is what Paul says about the value of suffering for the christian in Romans 5: 3 – 5,

“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 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”.

2. (76 – 77) THE COMFORT AND SUPPORT GOD GIVES TO THOSE WHO TRUST IN
                       HIM AND HIS WORD

God in his mercy and love might allow us to suffer some kind of affliction from time to time in our lives but this does not mean he will desert us or even not help us when in difficult times as the writer goes on to speak of a number of ways how God helps us when we as believers suffer some kind of affliction.

In verse 76 he speaks of God’s promise of his love,

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

In the case of our writer the unfailing love of God was made clear to him through God’s covenant promise of love that he made to his people Israel which he has obviously been referring to in other stanzas of this long Psalm and which is expressed so clearly in passage of the Old Testament like Deuteronomy 7: 7 – 9,

“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 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 unfailing love of God also gave great comfort to the young girt I heard speak and sing years ago who was suffering fro terminal cancer a love from God expressed in what she shared to us that night that is found in verses like John 3: 16,

“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”.

Both the Old Testament covenant love and the New Testaments New Covenant universal love bring comfort to all true believers in the God of the bible but the comfort and support for all true believers in God and his word doers not stop there for our writer of Psalm 119 says this in verse 77,

“Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight”.

In both the Old Testament and New Testament the God of the bible deals with those who turn to him in faith in him and his word with compassion or grace as David speaks of in Psalm 86: 15,

“But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness”.

And in the New Testament Paul says this about this God of mercy and love and why he comforts us in 2 Corinthians 2: 3 – 4,

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God”.

So like the writer of Psalm 119 when we face some kind of affliction we should ask God to let his compassion and grace come on us to comfort us in the midst of our affliction. The young girl in the coffee shop all those years ago was comforted by her faith in the grace or love of God and her witness became a word of comfort and love for me and everyone else who was present that night when she so beautifully and powerfully spoke and sang of God and his word.

Again the writer of Psalm 119 expresses like he has he has done many time before already that God’s word is a delight to him. So it is to us who know it, believe it and proclaim it with our lives and words.

3. (78 – 80) THE SHAME OF THOSE WHO OPPOSE GOD AND HIS WORD

In the final three verses of this tenth stanza our writer speaks of the fate of his evil enemies if they persist to oppose God and his word and of course those like our writer of Psalm 119 who they seek to bring down because of their powerful witness of God and his word.

Then in the next verse 79 he makes the contrast of how the true believers of God and his word support our writer who in the final verse of this tenth section states that God will not put true believers to shame because of their wholehearted commitment to God and his word.

Lets have a look at these last three verses a little closer.

First of all we have verse 78 which is a form or precatory prayer or prayer for God’s judgment to come on his enemies, a type of prayer we find a lot in the book of Psalms. Verse 78 says,

“May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause; but I will meditate on your precepts”.

I have mentioned each time one of theses precatory prayers has come up before that Jesus wants us to not pray for God’s judgment to come on our enemies but rather that God’s love might come upon them as Jesus says in Matthew 5: 44,

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.

I have read of many Christians in our world today who have done just that as they have been so cruelly persecuted and God has used their powerful witness of his love to lead some of their enemies who persecuted them to become believes.

However for this who do not respond to the witness and message of God’s message of love we call the Gospel God’s shame or God’s judgment will come eventually on them as John writes in John 3: 17 – 18,

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son”.

Our writer chooses not to oppose God and his word like his enemies but even as he is being persecuted for his powerful witness of God and his word he resolves to,

“Meditate on your precepts”.

Then in verse 79 we have a very different prayer that reads like this,

“May those who fear you turn to me, those who understand your statutes”

The writer like the Apostle Paul was so sure he was walking in the truth of God and his word he was not afraid for others to imitate or follow his example as Paul tells the Corinthians to do in 1 Corinthians 11: 1,

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ”.

I have asked myself the question,

Could I be so sure of my faith and my witness of it that I would be willing to say to a non- believer or a younger Christian follow my example as I follow Christ?

Finally in verse 80 the writer of Psalm 119 closes this tenth stanza with these words,

“May I wholeheartedly follow your decrees, that I may not be put to shame”.

Maybe because he previously prayed that his powerful witness of God and his word would be imitated by those who fear or revere God he is naturally led as a consequence to ask God to help him wholeheartedly follow or be committed to and put into practice God’s word in his daily life.

Our writer knows that if a person does turn to God and his word they will not be put to shame or be judged by God so he is asking that others, maybe even some of his persecutors be turned around to be committed to God and his word.

I close with the words of Paul to the Philippians that they might have a powerful testimony in this dark world as they hold out or present the word of life or the word of God to what he called this warped and crooked generation in Philippians 2: 14 – 16,

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain”.

Just as you created me O Lord
Help me to understand your word
May my witness of you and your word
Be now seen and forever heard.

Stanza 11 (81 – 88) GOD AND HIS WORD IS WITH US EVEN IN DARK TIMES OF PERSECUTION

Many years ago I was inspired by God to write a new song I called’ “Never Alone” after reading about a Chinese Christian man being locked up for seven years in the 1970’s during the terrible persecution of Christians at the time of the infamous cultural revolution in China.

This man in his dark cell for seven years decided to remind himself of God and his word by scratching with a small rock every verse of the bible he could remember on the walls of his cell. By the time things had settled down for Christians again in China and this Christian man was released from his prison cell the walls of his cell was completely covered with verses he had scratched on the walls of his cell.

The book I was reading this in then said that the man claimed after his release that even though he was in solitary confinement for seven years he felt he was never alone because the Lord was always with him and this statement inspired the chorus of my song that says,

Never alone, Never alone
For the Lord is beside me wherever I roam.
Never alone, never alone
With his Spirit inside me his made me his own.

Stanza 11, the middle stanza of this 22 stanza Psalm has as its central theme the idea that God and his word is with us even in the darkest times of persecution or difficulty and because of that we can both trust in God to help us and eventually save us from the sinful enemies we might face in this life.

I will share some of the verses of my Never Alone song which are inspired by some of the verses I would have attempted to scratch on the walls of a cell if I was locked up for my faith in solitary confinement.

I have broken this stanza 11 into three parts:

      1. (81 – 83) SUFFERING BUT STILL CLINGING TO GOD AND HIS WO

      2. (84 – 85) SUFFERING BECAUSE SOME PEOPLE OPPOSE YOUR WORD

      3. (86 – 88) SUFFERING BUT GOD AND HIS WORD IS WITH ME

Lets have a closer look at each of these three sections of this eleventh stanza:

      1. (81 – 83) SUFFERING BUT STILL CLINGING TO GOD AND HIS WORD

All through the first ten stanzas of this Psalm the original writer of this Psalm speaks of affliction he is facing through persecution from enemies who do not believe in God and his word. It seems that even in our own day and age it is not enough for people to not believe in God and leave believers alone to live and believe as they wish for both individual atheists and Government atheistic regimes like Communist China want to hurt and destroy those who dare believe in a God they reject and claim doesn’t even exist.

My question to such people is, what are you afraid of if God doesn’t exist?

Now in stanza 11 the writer features the opposition and the persecution they have brought on him in a kind of prayer asking for God’s help and comfort. He kicks off this prayer for God’s help and comfort in the face of persecution with three verses that describe his desperate situation but with words of faith and confidence in God and his word.

The three descriptions of how he feels are:

i.) (vs. 81) My soul faints
ii) (vs. 82) My eyes fail
iii) (vs. 83) I feel left out to die

Lets have a closer look at each of these three descriptions of how our writer feels as he is being cruelly persecuted>

i.) (vs. 81) My soul faints

The writer of Psalm 119 writes in verse 81,

“My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word”.

We have no idea just what these enemies of our writer did physically to him but he does tells us that with words they slandered him and brought him low in spirit as he declared in verse 69,

“Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies”.

and verse 78 that says,

“May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause”.

There are hints of him being locked up in some way for his stand to trust in God and his word like verse 61,

“Though the wicked bind m with ropes, I will not forget your law”

Which could be a metaphorical statement or could be a poetic way of saying he was locked up by his enemies. However whatever the persecutors were physically doing to our writer it caused him to be close to death as he says in verse 87,

“They almost wiped me from the earth”

So our writer felt faint in his soul but even as he felt that low owing to his persecutions he was still trusting in God and his word for he writes in the second half of verse 81,

“But I have put my hope in your word”

The apostle Paul had to face all kinds of affliction including being locked up in prison on a number of occasions yet he always kept trusting in God and his word and at the end of his life locked up in prison awaiting, we believe his execution he tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 4: 6 – 8 how he has remained faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ and his Gospel in the great race of life we are all in, he writes,

“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing”

ii) (vs. 82) My eyes fail

Our writer of Psalm 119 continues to describe the desperate situation he is in because of his persecution for his faith in God and how it is effecting him in verse 82,

“My eyes fail, looking for your promise; I say, “When will you comfort me”.

The term he uses, “my eyes fail” could be a literal problem he now faced owing to the mainly tears he might have cried caused by the great pain and anguish he was in but it also could be a
metaphoric description of how he felt close to death as he seems to say he is in verse 87.

Whatever it is it indicates the fact that he is in a terrible dark and painful situation owing to his current persecution and this is made even clearer by his prayer request in this verse that says,

“When will you comfort me”.

I once heard a talk by a famous Australian TV presenter Leigh Hatcher who is a very strong Christian who suffered for over two years the painful condition of chronic fatigue syndrome and how the pain of this condition was not just the physical pain but the emotional and spiritual pain caused by some so called christian friends who tormented him with so called advice like, “get yourself together and get out of bed and get back to work” or “why aren’t you praying about this because if you did pray with real faith God would heal you”. Fortunately Leigh did get real support and comfort from other Christian friends who simply sat with him, prayed with him and encouraged him with practical support and words of comfort.

Leigh came through his ordeal and learnt so much from it he wrote an amazing book “I’m Not Crazy, I’m Just A Little Unwell: My Journey Through Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”.

I’m sure Leigh wept many tears during those two long years of suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” but God did help Leigh through that dark time in his life as he hung on to God and his word through it.

iii) (vs. 83) I feel left out to die

The third description the writer gives of how he felt during his time of persecution from those who opposed God and his word is a little more difficult for us in the twenty first century to understand because the writer uses a old daily item of Bible times to describe it, namely a wineskin, he writes in verse 83,

“Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget your decrees”.

H.C. Leupold explains what a wineskin was i ancient times with these words,

“A wineskin was obviously the Old Testament equivalent of a bottle”.

He goes on to explain that,

“Unused wineskins would be hung near the rafters of a room for storage”.

If this storage room had smoke in it then the smoke would make the dry wineskin to shrivel up and so this Old Testament image is like the old expression “hung out to dry”, which Wiktionary defines its meaning as,

“To abandon someone who is in need or some kind of danger”.

This is the painful feeling the writer of Psalm 119 felt when he was attacked in some way by his persecutors but he might have felt abandoned but he says,

“I do not forget your decrees”

I believe he does not forget God’s decrees or word for he knows that God’s word makes it clear that God will never leave or forsake his faithful followers as he would have known from 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.”

Also if he knew the writings of David or David himself in some way contributed to what we find in Psalm 119 we have statements of God not forsaking his faithful servants like Psalm 37: 28,

“For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones”.

Jesus tells us that he is always with his faithful followers and will therefore never forsake them as he says in Matthew 28: 19 – 20,

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I spoke in my introduction to this eleventh stanza my song “Never Alone” inspired by the Chinese Christian man who was locked up in solitary confinement for seven years and who scratched on the wall of his cells verses from the bible he could remember. Here is my first verse of my song based on what Jesus said in Matthew 28: 19, 20,

“Low I am with you to the end of the age
That is his promise in the bibles page.
Jesus is with me through joy and distress
And he is the one who’s desire is to bless”.

2. (84 – 85) SUFFERING BECAUSE SOME PEOPLE OPPOSE YOUR WORD

Some might ask if God loves you so much why does he allow you to suffer like the writer of Psalm 119 did?

The problem of suffering is a tricky concept to come to terms with but the answer has a number of levels to it’s answer. In my Psalm 6 Talk I go into some detail in my answer to this question but briefly God allows suffering in this world for four reasons and for each reason I will give just one bible verse to show one small example of how these four reasons come from the bible:

  1. Suffering comes as a test of our faith – 1 Peter 1: 6 – 7
  2. Suffering comes to bring glory to God – John 9: 2
  3. Suffering comes from living in a fallen sinful world – Genesis 3: 19
  4. Suffering comes as a form of discipline from God – Hebrews 12: 4 – 8.

To give you an answer of why you might be suffering is impossible as any one or a combination of the above four reasons is a possible answer but I believe our focus should not be on why we might be suffering at the moment but how are we firstly going to deal with it and secondly what can we learn from going through it.

Our writer suffered because he was livening in a fallen world which causes people who are in rebellion to God and his rule to oppose God and anyone who dates to side with God and his word or in Old Testament terms God’s law.

This is why in verses 84 and 85 our writer of Psalm 119 has to deal with people who oppose God and his word opposing him.

These two verses speak of two things those who oppose God can and often do to people who trust in God and his word and they are:

  1. (vs. 84) Those who oppose God and his word persecute those who trust in God and his
    word.
  2. (vs. 85) Those who oppose God and his word seek to trap and sometimes seek to kill those who trust in God and his word.

Lets have a quick look at each of these two reactions of those who oppose God and his word to those who trust in God and his word:

  1. (vs. 84) Those who oppose God and his word persecute those who trust in God and his
    word.

The writer calls out to God in prayer as he is suffering great persecution from those who oppose God and his word and in verse 84 he prays,

“How long must your servant wait? When will you punish my persecutors”.

Verse 84 is one of only two verses in the 176 verse Psalm that does not mention directly or indirectly God’s word and verse 121 is the other one. It does of course mention the often used call for help,

“How long”

This term features in Psalm 13 and H.C. Leupold commenting on this well used expression in the book of Psalms explains it this way in his commentary on its use in Psalm 13, he writes,

”How long, indicates the extremity of this poor man’s misery. His strength is well – nigh spent. His patience can hold out no longer. Why has God not intervened this long while?”

So the writer, if not David is using this same term to ask why God has not punished his persecutors for it he did punish them as they deserve then his persecution would stop.

This means that firstly those who oppose God and his word will sometimes persecute those who trust in God and his word and Jesus warned his disciples and us that this is exactly what will happen to them and us in John 15: 20 – 21,

“Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me”.

Jesus not only warned his disciples of the trouble and difficulty ahead for them and for us if we follow in their footsteps but he also spoke to his disciples and us of the help he will give us through the Holy Spirit called in the later chapters of Johns Gospel by Jesus in some translations as the comforter and in others the advocate.

In John 14: 23 – 27 Jesus says this about what the Holy Spirit the comforter will and does do for us,

“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. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”.

2. (vs. 85) Those who oppose God and his word seek to trap and sometimes seek to kill
those who trust in God and his word.

The writer of Psalm 119 then speaks of what his persecutors were seeking to do to him in verse 85,

“The arrogant dig pits to trap me, contrary to your law”.

John Gill explains the meaning of the concept of the writers enemies digging pits with these words,

“The proud have dug pits for me,…. Laid snares and temptations in his way, to draw him into sin, and so into mischief; they sought indeed to take away his life, and formed schemes for it. The allusion is to the digging of pits for the taking of wild beasts”.

This treatment of those who trust in Gd and his word is in such contradiction to God’s law or word that the writer of Psalm 119 tells us so. He like many people today who are innocent victims of those who oppose God and his word.

The Chinese man who I spoke of in my introduction was thrown in solitary confinement for seven years by cruel God haters who were part of a cruel atheistic Government who claimed they were champions of the poor and lowly but instead they turned out to be brutish God hating tyrants.

My second verse of my song inspired by the story of this Chinese Christian man features the famous Psalm 23 verse 4 verse that says,

“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”.

This verse would definitely be one I would have scratched on my prison wall for even though it has been used at funerals to refer to dying in the sense of going through the Valley of death it has more to do with going through dark and difficult times for other translations like old King James version say it is;

“The valley of the shadow of death”.

This image also fits death as well but it does have a wider meaning than just relating to death. In both cases the promise of this verse is that God through Jesus is with us even in the darkest times of our lives, guiding and comforting us through it all and eventually leading us to eternal life in heaven.

So my second verse of my song “Neve Alone” reads like this:
“Though I may walk through the valley of death
I have no fear for his overcome death.
Jesus did die on the cross for my sin,
He’ll raise me to heaven to feast their with him.”

3. (86 – 88) SUFFERING BUT GOD AND HIS WORD IS WITH ME

In each of the final three verses the writer of Psalm 119 contrasts the cruel and godless attitudes and actions of his persecutors with his trust in God and his word that he believes will help him (vs. 86) and save him from death (verses 87 and 88).

Lets look a little closer at how the writer actually contrasts his trust in God and his word compared to the Godless actions of his persecutors to him.

Inverse 86 he writes,

“All your commands are trustworthy; Help me, for I am being persecuted without cause”.

The people who opposed our writer of Psalm 119 obviously did not trust in God and his word for our writer of Psalm 119 calls God’s commands or word trustworthy but it seems logical to believe that those who were persecuting him did not trust in God’s word because they persecuted our writer of Psalm 119 without cause.

This verse is also call for justice and we know from the New Testament that a great day of justice is coming when Jesus will return in all his glory to judge those who have not turned to him called “the goats” in Mathew 25: 31 – 33, and those who have turned to God and his word through Jesus called “the sheep” who will escape the judgement because Jesus paid for their sins on the cross.

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left”.

Then the writer of Psalm 119 says this in verse 87,

“They almost wiped me from the earth”,

Again as I said earlier this verse seems to be saying in some way or another his persecutors almost killed him, how we do not know but even in the face of death our writer says,

“But I have not forsaken your precepts”.

I have read of how so many brave Christians even today have not forsaken God and his word as they faced their deaths to the cruel Godless hands of people who oppose God and his word in many countries in our world today.

Finally in the last verse, verse 88 he writes,

“In your unfailing love preserve my life, that I may obey the statutes of your mouth”.

Our writer of Psalm 119 appeals again to the covenantal love of God which he has called upon many times already a love his nation Israel did not deserve but God gave it to them because he is a gracious or merciful God. The same God loves us and has saved us through his Son and his death on the cross for us.

I would like to now refer Peter’s words in 1 Peter 2: 9 – 11, which speaks about how we have all of the wonderful promises of the Old Covenant and more in Christ and then present to you the last verse I used in my “Never Alone” song,

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

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

“I am a pilgrim in a foreign land
But the Lord gently guides me by his loving hand.
Wherever I wander yes wherever I roam
The Lord is beside me and “Im never alone.”

So like the Chinese pastor locked up in solitary confinement for seven years during the cultural revolution in the 1970’s in China the writer of Psalm 119 trusted in God and his word and sought to,

“Obey the statutes of your mouth” or obey the very word of God that gives us comfort even in the darkest of times in our lives.

Keep me safe as I trust your word
O Lord my God who comforts me.
Even when I face great pain and strife
May you and your word set me free.

Stanza 12 (89 – 96) GOD’S WORD IS ETERNAL AND STABLE AND IT SUPPORTS US IN
OUR LIVES

Camel Rock at Bermagui is among the oldest rocks in NSW coast of Australia. It was created by undersea avalanches which rumbled down continental slopes of ancient Australia and created a spectacular rock formation that from a distance looks like a camel. On a holiday after I had finished Bible College I visited this amazingly rugged but beautiful beach and rock formation and sitting on a large rocky outcrop I opened up a copy of my New Living Translation of the book of Psalms and read the first two verses of Psalm 90 that read this way in that translation,

“Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! 2 Before the mountains were born,
before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God”.

I had the tune of a old folk song in my head that day which I long lost the name of the original song but I began to write that verse into the metre of that tune and came up with,

“O Lord you’ve always been our home
Before the hills were ever known.
You’ve always been before the world began
Your eternally God who knows no end”.

Then as I sat on that huge rock with the surf pounding away at it I thought of other verses in the Psalms like Psalm 18: 2 that speak of God as our Rock, the one immoveable one who no matter what happens to us is always is there helping us and then I wrote what became the first verse of my new song I called, “The Rock Song” and that first verse simple says,

“We’re like the sea like the froth and foam.
We’re like the sea we forever roam
But you O Lord are a constant rock
You never change no you never stop”.

Now I had the first two verses of my song and later in this talk on the twelfth stanza of Psalm 119 I will share with you the other two verses to this song.

This twelfth stanza has, for me the theme of my “Rock Song” namely the supreme timeless stability of God and his word and how God and his word’s eternal stability gives me support in my daily life no matter what I am going through.

I see this twelfth section in three distinct parts:

     1.  (vs’s 89 – 91) GOD AND HIS WORD IS STABLE FOR THEY ARE ETERNAL

     2.  (vs’s 92 – 93) HOW THE STABILITY OF GOD AND HIS WORD HELPED THE WRITER

     3.  (vs’s 94 – 96) THE WRITERS DETERMINATION TO TRUST IN THE STABILITY OF
          GOD AND HIS WORD

Lets have a closer look at each of these three distinct parts:

     1. (vs’s 89 – 91) GOD AND HIS WORD IS STABLE FOR THEY ARE ETERNAL

The writer kicks of this twelfth stanza with a clear and simple statement about the eternal nature of God’s word in verse 89,

“Your word, Lord is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens”

Jesus made a similar claim of his words having an eternal nature in Mark 13: 31,

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

The word of God both Old and New Testament is a miracle in itself as over thousands of years before the invention of the printing press and computers a very careful and often painful process was made to write out, by hand what we know as the bible. Critics of the bible have tried to dispute the accuracy of the bible but archeological findings like the Dead Sea Scrolls for the Old testament and countless New Testament ancient scripts prove that much care for accuracy of copying techniques was vigorously practiced over many centuries to give us a accurate account of God’s word as it was given to men and particularly through the Lord Christ in ancient times.

It was also God’s word that created everything as we see the words in the first chapter of Genesis using the term, “And God Said, which” is used to describe how God created everything, he simply spoke and things happened, this is what I believe verse 90 is speaking about when it says,

“Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth and it endures”.

Even modern science does not believe everything came out of nothing but something was always there, “matter’ and out of matter through the big bang came everything. However the bible says that it is not matter that is eternal as matter has no power to create the complex and amazing design of the universe but as verse 90 says God,

“Established the earth and it endures”.

So the writer of Psalm 119 says in verse 91,

“Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you”.

In my “Rock Song” for my third verse I picked up what I read in Psalm 90 verse 4 that in my New Living Translation of the book of Psalm says,

“For you, a thousand years are as a passing day, as brief as a few night hours. 5 You sweep people away like dreams that disappear.They are like grass that springs up in the morning”.

As I read these words as I sat on the large rock on the seas edge at Camel Rock beach all those years ago I thought of the fleeting nature of our lives.
I thought of how our lives compared to the creation and more importantly the eternal God who made it were like the verse says just like grass here today and gone tomorrow.

My third verse then for my Rock Song says,

A thousand years is like a day to you
Like yesterday returned anew.
Like a weed that sprouts in the morning sun
We burst and bloom and by night we’re gone.

The term,

“All things serve you”

Albert Barnes explains means,

“All worlds obey thy commands; all are under thy control. They show that they are thy servants by the conformity of their movements to the laws which thou hast impressed on them”.

Science could not study the universe unless it is governed by what is called natural laws that govern it and those natural laws came about because the one eternal God made them and keeps them going.

Paul describes Jesus this way in Colossians 1: 15 – 17,

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together”.

So our writer of Psalm 119 in the midst of his ever changing and turbulent life with all its difficulties and uncertainties particularly because of his persecutors hangs on to one great sure and stable thing, God and his word which in verse 89 he says,

“Stands firm in the heaven”

And in verse 90 he says,

“Endures”

So as I sat on the great rock on the turbulent sea shore at Camel Rock beach Bermagui all those years ago I realised what my first verse of the Rock Song I wrote says,

“We’re like the sea like the froth and foam.
We’re like the sea we forever roam
But you O Lord are a constant rock
You never change no you never stop”.

2. (vs’s 92 – 93) HOW THE STABILITY OF GOD AND HIS WORD HELPED THE WRITER

We come then to two verses in this twelve stanza where the writer makes it clear that God word saved his life. How God’s word saved his life is not made clear but the writer of Psalm 119 is very definite God’s word saved his life and he uses two phrases to express this:

  1. (vs. 92) Perished in my affliction
  2. (vs. 93) Preserved my life

Lets then have a closer look at these two verses and particularly these two phrases that describe how God’s word saved our writers life.

1.) (vs. 92) Perished in my affliction

In verse 92 the writer of Psalm 119 says,

“If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction”.

Albert Barnes offered me the best possible explanation of how God’s word saved our writer from perishing in his affliction when he writes,

“I should then have perished in mine affliction – I should have sunk under my burden. I should not have been able to hold up under the weight of sorrow and trial”.

So many people today suffer from depression brought on in a lot of cases by the trials and tribulations of life. People get so desperate for help in their lives that they see no possible help available so they take their lives and suicide rates are on the rise as a result.

However God and his word offers those who take delight in it as our writer of Psalm 119 did offers us great hope and comfort especially during dark times of difficulty as Jesus holds out help to us in difficult times in passages like Matthew 11: 28 – 30.

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

Being a Christian does not assure us we will not go through dark and difficult times but it does offer us hope and comfort when we for one reason or another we face difficult dark times in our lives.

2i) (vs. 93) Preserved my life

Then, so that we got the message our writer says much the same thing in verse 93,

“I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have persevered my life”.

Many commentators have pointed out that the Hebrew word or term for “preserved my life” is actually “quickened me” or “Given me life” and again Albert Barnes shed the most light on this verse for me with these words,

“By that truth he had been made really to live. He had been brought from spiritual death to spiritual life. He saw before him now, as the result of that, an endless career of blessedness. How could he ever forget what had worked such a change in his character and condition; which had inspired such hopes; which had opened before him such an immortal career of glory!”

Barnes then quotes James 1: 18 as a cross reference which says,

“He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created”.

So God promises in his word to help us in our afflictions and through his word he offers us new life for us in Christ. So sat on the large rock on Camel beach Bermagui I realised that God is like that rock which kept me safe from the raging tide and through Christ, our rock he has given me new life that is eternal. It is eternal as one day he will take all of us who believe in him to the safe shores of heaven itself.

This is the kind of thought I had in mind when I wrote the fourth verse of my song,

“When I realise what I have done
When I think of Christ the eternal one.
I am so ashamed that I bow my head
Then he gives me life when I should be dead.

3. (vs’s 94 – 96) THE WRITERS DETERMINATION TO TRUST IN THE STABILITY OF
GOD AND HIS WORD

The writer of Psalm 119 has just indicated his life was preserved and given life through God and his word but he now asks God to save him yet again, he writes in verse 94,

“Save me, for I am yours”

He indicates in the next verse that he still needs to be saved from his enemies who oppose him because of his stand for God and his word, he writes in verse 95,

“The wicked are waiting to destroy me”.

Yet in both o these two verses that indicate he desperately needs held he reveals a determination to trust in what I believe is the stability or certainty of God’s word, he expresses this in verse 94 this way,

“I have sought our your precepts”

And in verse 95 he expresses this determination to trust in the stability of God and his word with theses words,

“But I will ponder your statutes”.

Jesus offers to save us if we would only but truly seek him as he says in Matthew 7: 7 – 8,

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened”.

This kind of determined seeking after God through Jesus is what non – believers need to do but not only non – believers need to do this but also those of us who trust in the Lord Jesus we aslso need to continually ask, seek and knock. We do this through prayer and trust in the Lord Jesus if we want to find and have the continued stability of knowing God and his word in our daily lives.

The last verse of this twelfth stanza brings all this to a fitting end when it says,

“To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless”.

I like the modern paraphrase version of this verse called the MSG translation that says,

“I see the limits to everything human, but the horizons can’t contain your commands”.

I would have said “but the horizons can’t contain your word” as “Commands” in this Psalm is yet another word or term for God’s word.

God and his word is the rock that we should build our lives upon for all other things in this life will pass away but God and his word will not. Jesus declares this also with a vivid parable of the building of as house and its foundations and the house in this parable is our lives and Jesus says in Matthew 7: 24 – 25,

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

However if we do not build our lives on God and his word then Jesus says in Matthew 7: 26 – 27,

“But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

So stability in this life and the next is built on Jesus and his word and trusting in it and obeying it give us God’s eternal stability.

So when I sat that day on the large secure rock on the turbulent shore line of Camel rock beach at Bermagui I read that great Psalm 90 that spoke to me of the stability of God who David often called the rock. That in turn made we realise afresh how our lives are like that raging tide ebbing and sometimes surging in the storms of life but God and his word is our rock in life therefore we through him can know stability and peace in our lives as my first verse of my song I called “The Rock Song says,

“We’re like the sea like the froth and foam.
We’re like the sea we forever roam
But you O Lord are a constant rock
You never change no you never stop”.

I close with my alphabet poem verse for this twelfth stanza that says much the same thing,

Live your life grounded on God’s word
God and his word lasts forever
Jesus is my rock his word is true
Troubles in life can never sever.

STANZA 13 (97 -104) GOD’S WORD GIVES US WISDOM FOR LIFE

I woke up this morning to the surprising and shocking news that the Australian cricket team were caught cheating in the third test in South Africa. The captain and vice captain conspired with another player to deliberately tamper with the cricket ball in a sneaky way to make the ball harder to play. A small piece of some kind of corse tape was used to rough up the ball on one side but with all the TV cameras used in modern TV coverage these days captured this ball tampering and the Captain and the player caught doing this had to admit they had foolishly done the wrong thing and broken clear and simple cricket laws to gain a unfair advantage over their opposing team.

This is a tragic example of great sporting knowledge used in a foolish or unwise way and to me illustrates the difference between simple knowledge and wisdom. I once read somewhere that wisdom is knowledge rightly and inspirationally applied. I can know a great amount of knowledge but if I wrongly apply this knowledge in life I am a fool.

The book of proverbs says in Proverbs 1: 7,

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge but fools despise wisdom and instruction”.

God’s word alone contains the knowledge God wants us to live our lives by so it rightly understood, applied to our lives and obeyed gives us real wisdom from God. Psalm 119 verse’s 97 and 98 says,

“Oh, how I love your law! I mediate on it all day long. Your commands are always with me and make me wiser then my enemies”.

In this thirteenth stanza of Psalm 119 we will see four aspects of how God’s word gives us wisdom for life:

     1. (vs. 97) THE LOVE OF GOD’S WORD BRINGS WISDOM

     2. (98 – 100) THE BENEFITS OF GOD’S WORD IS THAT IT MAKES US WISE

     3. (101 – 102) THE RESULT OF OBEYING GOD’S WORD IS WISE LIVING

     4. (103 – 104) THE VALUE OF GOD’S WORD IS INVALUABLE

Lets then have a closer look at these four aspects of how God’s word gives us wisdom for life

1. (vs. 97) THE LOVE OF GOD’S WORD BRINGS WISDOM

The writer of Psalm 119 states clearly what he thinks of God’s word and what he does with it in his life on a day to day basis, he writes in verse 97,

“Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long”.

This love for God’s word is something this writer speaks of often in this Psalm and Allan Harman puts forward the idea that the love for God’s word is in fact,

“The content of the Psalm summed up”.

Harman sights verses 47 and 48,

“For I delight in your commands because I love them. I reach out for your commands which I love, that I may meditate on your decrees”.

He also sights verse 27, which picks up the love of God’s word and its value which is a concept this stanza speaks of in its closing verses,

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

To read and meditate on something all day means you must love or cherish that person or thing you are constantly prayerfully thinking about. Jesus showed great love for the word of God and this follows from the fact that he was the word become flesh (John 1: 14) and he used the word of God to fight the devil when tempted by him and he even quoted from it as he died on the cross.

Thanks particularly to scripture in song, popular in the 1970’s many bible verses run often through my head and one I often meditated on is the scripture in song based on Song of Songs 2: 4,

“He brought me into his banqueting hall and his banner over me is love”.

Of course I know now that this verse is a reference to the Old Testament Jewish wedding ceremony where the bride and groom meet in a great banquet under a banner but the verse still gives me the ides that as a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ he covers me and is over me in love and I find the message and the words of that great love in his word the bible.

So the word of God we will see in the next verse makes us wise and in that verse and the next two verses wiser than others who don not love and meditate on God’s word.

Paul tells Timothy the value and purpose of God’s word in 2 Timothy 3: 16 – 17, that says,

“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”.

But what does the writer mean by the idea of meditating on the word of God all day long?

I don’t think it means that the words of the bible are always in our minds all day long but rather that the word of God is our inspiration for our daily lives and is something we use in our daily lives to direct us prayerfully as we live our lives.

I like the movement some years ago called, “What would Jesus do in this situation” which some Christians wore a wrist band that reminded them to practice the concept of acting in their daily lives in a way they believed Jesus through his word instructed them to do.

A good question to ask in our day to day lives is, “What would Jesus want me to do” when a problem or decision has to be made in our lives during a normal day. Years I attempted to put this into practice and one effect it had on me was to force me to make a more in depth study of the Gospels to know what Jesus in his word actually might want me to do.

Now I keep more general instructions of Jesus in mind in my daily life, like Matthew 6: 33,

“But seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you”.

Another great two verses of God’s word I often bring to my remembrance in my day to day life is Proverbs 3: 5 – 6,

“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”.

2. (98 – 100) THE BENEFITS OF GOD’S WORD IS THAT IT MAKES US WISE

So the writer of Psalm 119 opened this thirteenth stanza with a declaration of his love for God’s word and now he makes it clear what a true love for God’s word that we meditate on in our daily lives leads to and it is simply expressed in verse 98 as, “wisdom”.

This wisdom is greater than the so called wisdom of three different groups of people in three verses and those three groups of people are:

  1. Our enemies who do not love God and his word (vs. 98)
  2. Our teachers who do not love God and his word (vs. 99
  3. Our elders who do not love God and his word (vs. 100)

Lets have a closer look at each of these three groups of people we are wiser than if we love God and his word:

  1. Our enemies who do not love God and his word (vs. 98)

The writer speaks of the first group of people he believes he is wiser than in verse 98, this way,

“Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies”.

The idea of God’s word being with him always in his day to day life continues in verse 98 and then because God and his word is always with him he makes the bold claim he is therefore wiser than his enemies”.

His enemies we have learnt in a number of previous verses in this Psalm do not love God and his word and in fact because they don’t and he does they seek to persecute our him as he says in verse 53,

“Indignation grips me because of the wicked, who have forsaken your law”.

Or verses 84 and 85,

“How long must your servant wait? When will you punish my persecutors? The arrogant dig pits to trap me. Country to your law”.

So these enemies of our writer are not believers in the word of God and are giving our writer a very hard time because he dares to trust in the word of God which they deny the truth and value of.

I have felt the pressure of this same thing myself but the encouraging word of this verse is that because we know God and his word we are wiser than those who deny God and his word.

Paul makes a clear distinction between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God when he writes in 1 Corinthians 3: 18 – 20,

“Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become ‘fools’ so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world us foolishness in God’s sight”.

The problem with people who do not acknowledge God and his word is that they generally close their minds off to anything to do with God and his word which our writer of Psalm 119 calls arrogance in a number of places. The book of Proverbs makes it clear in a number of places that we simply cannot ever be truly wise if we refuse to let God and his word rebuke and advise us as we read in Proverbs 19: 20,

“Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise”.

The book of proverbs even goes as far as saying that those who will not listen to the advice and discipline of God and his word will become stupid or un- wise as we read in Proverbs 12: 1,

“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid”.

So those of us who read and come to terms with what God is saying in our lives are wiser than those who refuse to acknowledge God and his word. This is also seen in the fact that those who refuse to acknowledge God and his word often become agitated and even aggressive towards those who continue to dare to believe in God and his word thus becoming their enemies.

Our teachers who do not love God and his word (vs. 99)

The second group of people the writer believes we are wiser than are our teachers as he writes in verse 99,

“I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statues”.

This verse is not saying that we are are wiser than those who teach us if those who teach us are themselves believers in God and his word but if our teachers don’t believe in God and his word like our writer who says he, meditates on Gd’s word, then we are wiser than our teachers.

In our universities today most so called wise and knowledgable teachers or lecturers refuse to acknowledge God and the value of his word and so they often come up with foolish or un- wise ideas that are country to the word of God. I did a five year part time university degree course in adult education in the early 1990’s and sometimes found it difficult to operate as a believer in this secular anti – God environment however I always kept Jesus words of advice in mind in those days when he said in Matthew 10: 16,

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”.

Peter gives us similar advice 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 that 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”.

As I prepared university assignments and even experienced discussions in out of lectures with my teachers and fellow students I often prayed for wisdom as James encourages us to do in James 1: 5,

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

I can testify to the fact that what God promises through James is true as God often gave me wisdom throughout my five years of university part time study and I both passed all my courses and at the same time was able to witness to the truth and reality of God and his word.

2.  Our elders who do not love God and his word (vs. 100)

The third and final group the writer of Psalm 119 says he is wiser than is his elders as he writes in verse 100,

“I have more understanding than the elders, for I meditate on your statutes”.

This again is not saying that younger people are more knowledgable or wiser than older people as the bible teachers that Godly older people are wiser than younger people in the faith as Job 12: 12,

“Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?”

As Peter advises 1 Peter 5: 5,

“In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders.”

However if those older then us do not submit to the authority of God and his word then we are wiser than them simply because a person who does not believe in God or as the book of Proverbs puts it, fears God than that person is a fool as Proverbs 1: 7 says,

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction”.

So the writer of Psalm 119 has stated that God’s word brings understanding and wisdom if we mediate and obey it and this will make us wiser than anyone else who does not meditate on and obey the word of God.

3. (101 – 102) THE RESULT OF OBEYING GOD’S WORD IS WISE LIVING

The writer of Psalm 119 now tells us what is the results of meditating on and obeying the word of God and we read in verses 101 and 102 what they are:

“I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me”.

Way back at the start of this long and involved Psalm in verse 1 the results of walking in or obeying the word of God is,

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

So God blesses the lives of his faithful people and our writer says that God’s word or law as he calls it in verse 102 has led him to do two things:

  1. Keeping his feet from an evil pat
  2. Not departing from God’s word.

These two things according to verse 1 of this Psalm leads to God blessings in our lives. This is a reflection of the words of the very first Psalm when it says in verse’s 2 and 3,

“But whose delight is the law of the Lord, and who meditate on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither whatever they do prospers”.

Spurgeon writes,

“The Bible is a very sanctifying book. If we keep its precepts, it holds us back from many things into which we might otherwise have run”.

Some Christians have problems with the doctrine of the bible that says we have assurance of being saved once we truly turn to Christ as stated by Christ himself in John 10: 27 – 29,

“My sheep listen to my voice, I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Fathers hand”.

Problems arise of course with this clearly stated doctrine of the bible when we see or hear of Christians falling away from the faith but the truth is made clear by Jesus in another verse like Matthew 24: 13 which says,

“But the one who stands firm to the end will be saved”.

So many of the falling away Christians are showing by the fruits of their lives they were not truly saved in the first place. Another problem is that if depart from God’s word or laws we will start to walk down a evil path according to the writer of Psalm 119 verse 101 but the grace of God does work and those who are truly saved God will bring back them back to himself often through great trials and difficulties in those believers lives (Hebrews 12: 7 – 12).

Jesus also taught in Matthew 7: 16,

“By their fruit you shall recognise them”.

For the writer of Psalm 119 the fruit or outcome of mediating or obeying God’s word is as I stated already,

  1. Keeping his feet from an evil pat
  2. Not departing from God’s word.

4. (103 – 104) THE VALUE OF GOD’S WORD IS INVALUABLE

The writer then returns to another favourite concept of the value of God’s word when he states in verse 103,

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth”.

Already the writer of Psalm 119 has said that God’s word to him is more precious than silver or gold verse 72 and will say that again in verse 12. He also considers God’s word a delight to him vs’ s 16, 24, 35 and 77 and now they are sweet to taste like honey.

David says these two things about God’s law or word in Psalm 19: 10,

“They are more precious than gold, the fine much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb”.

People in the ancient world treasured honey as a food source and it is said that pure honey has even been found in Egyptian Pharaoh’s tombs still able to be eaten up to three thousand years old such is the preservative qualities of honey.

So the precious nature of God’s word, like honey, makes it invaluable and considering how it is God’s word alone that makes a person truly wise we can see why the writer of Psalm 119 might advocate this.

Paul of course spoke of the invaluable nature of God’s word in 2 Timothy 3: 16 – 17,

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

In the final verse of this thirteenth stanza the writer brings to conclusion his thoughts on how God’s word gives us wisdom for life with these words,

“I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path”.

Hatred is not always a bad or sinful thing as to hate sin is to avoid it and to hate evil is to resits falling to its awful consequences. John says in Jude 23,

“Save others by snatching them from the fire, to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh:.

Albert Barnes commenting on hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh writes,

That thing referred to by which the garment had been spotted was polluting, contagious, or loathsome, and that it was proper not even to touch such a garment, or to come in contact with it in any way”.

God’s word then points out what is right and what is wrong and so it wises us up to how we should be living and what we should not be doing in our lives so therefore it will and should promote a healthy hatred of things we should not be doing if we want to walk in the way of the Lord or,

“Kept my feet from every evil path” verse 101 or,

“Not departed from your laws” verse 102.

I close with my verse that starts with a word that starts with the thirteenth letter of the English Alphabet, M which summarises what I have leant from this stanza,

May I meditate on your word
Daily Lord as I walk your way
Give me the wisdom your word does bring
Give me understanding each day.

STANZA 14: GOD’S WORD GIVES US LIGHT IN THE FACE OF THIS WORLDS DARKNESS

I have just started to write this fourteenth stanza on a caravan trip around Australia in a small wester Queensland town called Jericho. My study of this stanza has lead me to believe that the write of Psalm 119 sees God’s word as a lamp or light to his path in the face of terrible darkness represented by the terrible opposition and persecution he faced as he sought to walk in the light of the word of God which he speaks of in verses 107, 109 and 110.

Because I studied this fourteenth stanza in a place called Jericho I have been led by God’s Holy Spirit to reflect on the story of the conquest of Jericho and will use this bible story as a backdrop to my thoughts throughout this fourteenth stanza of Psalm 119.

One of the fascinating aspects of the story of the conquest of Jericho is the part that Rahab the prostitute played in this conquest and in this introduction I would like to point out that this lowly sinful woman somehow came to faith in the God of the bible as she says to the two Israeli spies in Joshua 2: 8b – 11,

“I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below”.

We might say that this lowly prostitute saw the light because obviously her fellow citizens of Jericho although afraid of what the God of the Israelites had done for them did not acknowledge the God of the bible as the one supreme God of heaven and earth as this chapter reveals they sought to kill the spies and fight the incoming Israelites.

Rahab goes on to show how much she had seen the light by her request for salvation for her and her family when the Israelites successfully invade Jericho in verses 12 – 13 of Joshua chapter 2.

So this lowly prostitute shows us what it means to walk in the path of God and his word by acting on her new found faith in God by believing before the invasion of Jericho that God would give his people total victory.

The writer of the book of Hebrews says in Hebrews 11: 31,

“By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient”.

I was inspired to write the words of a new song for this stanza inspired by its words and my observations of the dying little Queensland out back town of Jericho and the first verse and chorus of that song goes like this.

Jericho, O Jericho your creeks dried up and no waters flow
Jericho, O Jericho what has made you so.
Your shops are boarded up and your town is dying
You break my heart and I am crying
Jericho O Jericho what went wrong in Jericho.

Chorus:

Jericho O Jericho
Your like our world today
In darkness and no where to go
Thats the fate of a Jericho.

So we will see three great truths about walking in the light of the word of God in the face of this worlds great darkness in this fourteenth stanza which I have broken down into three parts

     1. (105 – 106) GOD’S WORD IS THE LIGHT FOR OUR PATH IN LIFE

     2. (107 – 110) MANKIND’S WICKEDNESS LEEDS TO ACTS OF DARKNESS

     3.(111 – 112) PEOPLE OF FAITH NEED TO BE COMMITTED TO GOD AND HIS WOR

1. (105 – 106) GOD’S WORD IS THE LIGHT FOR OUR PATH IN LIFE

The writer of Psalm 119 in verse 105 points to a great light for him in such as dark world he has to live in day by day, he speaks of this great light this way,

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

Many people have found this verse to be such a wonderful encouragement as it states the great purpose and benefit of God’s word for our lives. God’s word is a lamp and a light for our lives in this dark world. The apostle John had much to say about God and his light in his Gospel we call, The Gospel of John.

In the first chapter of that Gospel John speaks of Jesus as being the very word of God become flesh, John 1: 14,

‘The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us”.

He goes on to speak of its great light or glory when he says,

“We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.

In chapter three of Johns Gospel John spells out in verses 19 – 21, the value of Jesus, God’s light for those who believe in him but he contrasts this with the terrible reality of the darkness of mankind and how mankind actually loves darkness more than light,

“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. 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”.

Arthur Deane the principal of the SMBC bible college I attended many years ago told us that he understood this concept of men loving darkness more than light when he once was walking through the Australian bush and turned up a old rotting log and saw how all the bugs who lived under that log could not stand the light for they ran as fast as they could to find darkness and cover under the turned up log.

That is what happens to most people when the light of the Gospel comes upon them they fight, kick and run for the cover of darkness because they love darkness or evil more than good and light.

Rahab in the story of Jericho demonstrated this by her words to the spies about what the rest of the people in Jericho spoke about the light or truth of God working for the Israelites who were closing in on Jericho in Joshua 2: 8b – 11,

“I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below”.

Rahab responded to the light of God’s deeds and word with faith but the rest of Jericho’s reaction to the light of God’s word and deeds for his people is summed up in the words of Joshua 6: 1,

“Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in”.

Jericho was all walled up and shut off to God and his people as they unlike Rahab refused to come to faith in the God of Israel who they had heard was a mighty God to be feared. They probably chose to trust in their own false idol God’s which of course showed that they loved darkness more than light.

Our writer of Psalm 119 reveals his commitment to God and his word of light in verse 106,

“I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws”.

Rahab a fallen sinful woman obviously chose to take an oath to follow the God of the Israelites who is the one true God of the bible as we read of not only her confession of faith to the spies but also what we read of her in Joshua 6: 22 – 23,

“Joshua said to the men who had spied out the land, ‘Go into the prostitutes house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her. So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother, her brothers and sisters and all who belong to her. They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel”.

We later read that Rahab becomes a distant descendent of David and of course Jesus so she becomes a most blessed women of faith in her life time and in the future. Such is the power and wonder of the God and his great light in this dark world.

The next verse of my Jericho song goes like this:

Jericho, O Jericho where is your faith in God’s word to show
Jericho, O Jericho you need the faith that Rahab showed.
Rahab saw the light and then turned to the Lord
Trusting the light of his life changing word
Jericho O Jericho turn to God O Jericho.

Chorus:

Jericho O Jericho
Your like our world today
In darkness and no where to go
Thats the fate of a Jericho.

2. (107 – 110) MANKIND’S WICKEDNESS LEEDS TO ACTS OF DARKNESS

Once the writer of Psalm 119 states his commitment to the word of God he calls the light to his path he then speaks of how the darkness of his world caused by men and women of his country Israel turning against him because he dared believe in God and his word.

He speaks of this opposition as he has already spoken of in previous verses and contrast this opposition with his reaction to this which I have broken into four parts:

  1. vs. 107 The opposition to God and his word seeks to take his life
  2. vs. 108. His reaction to this opposition to praise and seek further teaching from God
  3. vs. 109 His opponents seek to take his life but he will not forsake God and his word
  4. vs. 110 His opponents seek to trap him but he will not stray from following God’s word

Lets then have a closer look at these four contrasting verses that reveal the darkness and wicked acts of those who oppose God and his word.

  1. vs. 107 The opposition to God and his word seeks to take his life

So these four middle verses of stanza fourteen of Psalm 119 reveal a very real and disturbing contrast between the person who comes to the light of God and his word and those who refuse to do so and this contrast is expressed in verse 107 this way,

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

Back in verse 88 he spoke of how those who opposed God and his word opposed him and sought to kill him because of his faith in God and his word,

“In your unfailing love preserve my life, that I may obey the statutes of your mouth”.

Why do some of the opponents of God and his word even today wont to kill or destroy people who have faith in God?

I think what I quoted from Johns Gospel in the previous section offers an answer to this question, John 3: 19 -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”.

If they hate the light of God then they will hate and sometimes want to kill those who declare or seek to shed the light of God by the way they live and by what they say about God and his word. Jesus warned his disciples of his kind of opposition in John 15: 18,

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first”.

So both times the writer of Psalm 119 spoke of his enemies who live in darkness because they oppose God and his word seeking to take his life he asks God to preserve his life which is what he asks for in verse 107,

“Preserve my life, Lord according to your word”.

Jesus word to his disciples and of course to us in John 15 is that Jesus will not leave us alone but will send to us a helper or advocate or other translations call him counsellor who is the Holy Spirit to help and protect us, as we read in John 15: 26,

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

vs. 108. His reaction to this opposition to praise and seek further teaching from God

Even though the writer of Psalm 119 has just made it clear that his opponents who walk in darkness seek to take his life the big contrast in verse 108 is his reaction to this opposition is to be committed to praise of his God and seeking further teaching from God and his word as he writes,

“Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your word”.

This is an amazing reaction to dark and dangerous opposition instead of compliant and despair our writer reveals praise and commitment to God and his word and this reminds me of Paul’s command to give thanks in all circumstances in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 -17,

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

I have read of many Christians in countries today where Christians are in danger of loosing their lives owing to the faith and commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ praising God even as some of them are being executed by their dark and wicked opponents this kind of testimony has brought others to faith even sometimes the very people involved in their persecution.

Jesus said in Luke 6: 35 – 36,

“But love your enemies, do good to them. And lend to them without expecting to get back anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked, just as your Father is merciful”.

We must always remember that all of us were enemies of God before we came to him and his Son to receive forgiveness and mercy so that is the way Jesus treated us when we were his enemies so should we treat our enemies the same way.

2. vs. 109 His opponents seek to take his life but he will not forsake God and his word

Again in verse 109 the writer of Psalm 119 reveals the danger for him of trusting in God and his word in his day which for him led to possible death at the hands of his enemies he writes in verse 109a,

“Though I constantly take my life in my hands”

In our writers day it was a dangerous thing to trust in God and his word and even though that is not the case in the country I live in Australia at the moment it is not the case in many other countries particularly those were Islam holds the sway. Even in Buddhist dominant counties like Myanmar which I have visited many times to minster being as faith believer in the Lord Jesus Christ has cost some Christians their lives.

However what is the contrasting reaction of this deadly threat, he writes in verse 109b,

“I will not forget your law”

Opposition will not deter our writer and it seems the opposition to God and his word only makes our writer more determined to be committed to it. Many of my friends in Myanmar feel the same way that the opposition they face has only made their faith stronger.

Paul faced prison, persecution and death all through his ministry for God and his word and in what seems to be words written down for his young prodigy Timothy as he faced his death we have Paul’s resolve to be faith to God and his word in 2 Timothy 4: 6 – 8,

“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on that day – and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing”.

3. vs. 110 His opponents seek to trap him but he will not stray from following God’s word

Finally this contrast of those who walk in the light to those who walk in darkness comes to a head with what the writer of Psalm 119 says in verse 110,

“The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts”.

Leopold writes,

“The wicked have set a snare for me – Whether this is to be understood literally or to be regarded as merely expressing the thought that plans are afoot to bring him to fall, the danger is extreme”.

The darkness of wickedness and refusing the light of the word of God leads to great opposition to those who are in the light of God and his word, that has been the main thought of these last four verses but in the face of this very real danger our writer is totally committed to God and his word and in verse 110 he expresses this commitment with these words,

“But Have not strayed from your precepts”.

Our writer like the commander of the Israelites Joshua was totally committed to God and his word as he faced the walled up hostile city of Jericho and God’s seemingly ridiculous battle plan for taking the city of Jericho was followed to the letter by Joshua and his people.

For they were to march around the city of Jericho following the ark of the Covenant that represented God and his word with his people once for six days blowing their trumpets and then on the seventh day they had to march around seven times and then blow their trumpets and the walls of Jericho would fall down.

The significants of this battle plan is mentioned in the third verse and chorus of my new song called Jericho.

Jericho, O Jericho your darkness led to your town to fall
Jericho, O Jericho Joshua followed God’s great call
God told him to march around those walls for seven days
This was to prove that they followed God’s ways
Jericho O Jericho you fell to God O Jericho.

Chorus:

Jericho O Jericho
Your like our world today
In darkness and no where to go
Thats the fate O Jericho.

3. (111 – 112) PEOPLE OF FAITH NEED TO BE COMMITTED TO GOD AND HIS WORD

Now that the writer has contrasted those who walk in the light of God and his word to those who walk in darkness he completes this fourteenth stanza with a clear statement of commitment to God and his word which I believe should be the kind of word of commitment any true believer of God and his word should also profess.

I see this statement of commitment in two parts:

  1. vs. 111 Our inheritance is God and his word
  2. vs. 112 Our hearts should be set on being faithful to God and his word

Lets then have a closer look at this two fold statement of commitment to God and his word.

  1.  vs. 111 Our inheritance is God and his word

I have become disturbingly aware of problems that inheritance can course families over the course of my life as I have seen families torn apart as they all go for the kill of getting the most they can out of their dead parents estates. This grab for money and possessions reveals the dark wickedness of the human heart without God and his word.

For the Christian our inheritance is in heaven not in on this earth and this kind of commitment to spiritual things is what the writer of Psalm 119 verse 111 is hitting at as it says,

“Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart”.

In many places in the bible we read of the eternal nature of the word of the Lord, like Jesus words in Matthew 24: 35,

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

Or Peters quote of Isaiah 40: 6 – 8 in 1 Peter 1: 24 -25 where mans mortality is compared to God and his word’s immortality,

“All people are like grass, and all their glory like the flowers of the fields, the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever”.

If we seek a material inheritance we are saying that our heritage is material things like property and money but if we seek an eternal hesitance then we show by our actions that our hope or as Jesus put in Luke 12: 21 our treasure is in heaven which is founded in the eternal God of the bible.

Paul makes this point of working for or looking forward to our eternal inheritance in Christ Jesus in this life in Colossians 3: 23 – 24,

“Whatever you do, work at it with your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving”.

So the writer of Psalm 119 did not see his heritage or inheritance as land in Israel or money or possessions but his heritage or inheritance was the eternal word of the Lord he calls God’s statutes.

2.  vs. 112 Our hearts should be set on being faithful to God and his word

The second part of our writer of Psalm 119 word of commitment to God and his word is the a statement of the desire or goal in life to always keep the word of the Lord in his life, which he states this way in verse 112, the last verse of stanza 14,

“My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end”.

The writer of Psalm 119 has told us already that he faced great opposition for trusting in God and his word yet here in the last verse of this stanza his desire is to devote his heart to always keeping the very word of the Lord.

I have been referring to the story of Jericho in this stanza as it relates to what the writer of Psalm 119 has been teaching us and here I want to turn your attention to the commander of the Israelite army who God used to bring judgment upon that ancient city of Jericho.

We leant that Jericho was all walled up or closed up in defiance to God and his chosen people, only a prostitute named Rehab and members of her family acted on the very real word of the Lord in what they knew he did for the people of Israel when escaping Egypt and in victories over many enemies in the forty years of their wilderness wanderings.

Joshua was a man of great faith and commitment to God and his word and I want to refer to two references in the book of Joshua that show the commitment of this man Joshua to God and his word.

The first is in Joshua 5: 13 – 14, when Joshua was near Jericho he had a encounter with God through a person called “The commander of the army of the Lord”, some bible scholars say this could have been a pre- incarnation of the Lord Jesus himself,,

“Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, ‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’
‘Neither’, he replied. ‘but as commander of the army of the Lord, I have now come”

Note then what Joshua does on hearing this,

“Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, ‘What message does the Lord have for his servant’”.

Joshua’s heart is clearly here committed to following only God and his word and then I would like to take you to the final chapter of the book of Joshua and reveal to you the word of commitment Joshua had for God and his word even at the end of his life, which reveals that he believed that God and his word was his heritage or inheritance,

Joshua 24: 14 – 15,

“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshipped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But id serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household we will serve the Lord”.

Joshua knew the temptations of serving other God’s would always be a factor in the future history of his people but he made it clear that for him and his family they were committed to serving the Lord.

Jesus makes it clear what our commitment to the Lord should be in Matthew 6: 33,

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

I close with the fourth and last verse of my new song Jericho and my four line poem I finish each of these 22 stanzas of Psalm 119,

Jericho, O Jericho Joshua trusted God as the way to go
Jericho, O Jericho you failed to turn O Jericho
Darkness is the fate for those who turn from the Lord
Light is given through God eternal word
Jericho O Jericho you’ve been judged O Jericho.

Chorus:

Jericho O Jericho
Your like our world today
In darkness and no where to go
Thats the fate of Jericho.

Now your word is a light for me
Showing me the way in this life
Helping me through this dark dangerous world
I trust in Lord even in my strife.

STANZA 15: GOD’S WORD IS TO BE TRUSTED AND OBEYED TO BE SAVED

This year my wife and I celebrate 40 years of happy and successful marriage and when we were married 40 years ago we chose hymns for our wedding ceremony that we hoped would speak to the unbelieving families we both came from. One hymn we chose was the famous and wonderful hymn called Trust and Obey written by John Sammis in the late 19 hundreds after a young man gave his testimony at a D.L Moody evangelistic meeting in Brockton Massachusetts and said, “I’m going to trust, and I’m going to obey”. These words were passed on by Moody’s song leader Daniel Towner to Sammis in a letter to him about this young mans powerful but honest testimony and Sammis used them as the theme of a chorus he soon developed into a hymn.

The first verse and chorus of that hymn goes like this:

When we walk with the Lord
In the light of his word
What a glory he sheds on our way!
While we do his good will
He abides with us still
And with all who will trust and obey.

Chorus:

Trust and obey for there is no other way
To be happy in Jesus
Bit to trust and obey.

The fifteenth stanza of Psalm 119 features this very important teaching about trusting and obeying God and I think verses 115 and 116 speak of this in this way,

“Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God! Sustain me, my God according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed”.

So with the central theme of trusting and obeying God’s word to be saved in mind I have broken this fifteenth stanza into three parts:

    1. (113 – 114) WHEN WE TRUST AND OBEY GOD’S WORD WE HAVE GOD AS A REFUGE
         AND HOPE

     2. (115 – 117) WHEN WE TRUST AND OBEY GOD’S WORD WE WILL BE SAVED

     3. (118 – 120) WHEN YOU DON’T TRUST AND OBEY GOD’S WORD YOU WILL SUFFER GOD’S JUDGMENT

Let’s then have a close look at these three parts of this fifteenth stanza of Psalm 119:

1. (113 – 114) WHEN WE TRUST AND OBEY GOD’S WORD WE HAVE GOD AS A REFUGE
AND HOPE

As the whole of Psalm 119 has done there is a constant contrast with the many who oppose God and his word and the writer who seeks to love and obey God and his word and the first verse of this fifteenth stanza does just that with these words,

“I hate double minded people, but I love your law”.

Allan Harman says that the term “double minded people” speaks of people who are,

“Unstable in all their ways”

Harman points to the words of James in James 1: 7 and 8 where James uses the same expression of being double minded when speaking of people who ask God for things without exercising faith and in fact actually doubt that God will answer their requests, James writes,

“That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double – minded in all they do”.

The people then who opposed our writer of Psalm 119 did not trust and obey God and his word but our writer is saying he does even as they oppose him for doing so.

Then the writer of Psalm 119 makes a clear statement of what it means to trust and obey God and his word and what such trust and obedience leads to in verse 14,

“You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word”.

Our writer picks up a favourite expression of the writers of the Psalms particularly David in the concept of God being their refuge and shield. David puts it this way in Psalm 18: 2,

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation my stronghold”.

The idea that God is our protector or the one who saves those who trust and obey his word is put this way by David in Psalm 32: 7,

“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance”.

Note how the writer of Psalm 119 believes God is his refuge or protector and it is because he has put his hope on God’s word. This means that for this man God’s word promises that God will save or sustain him as he states in verse 116,

“Sustain me, my God. According to your promise, and I will live”.

It is not that David or our writer of Psalm 119 or any other writer of the bible believed that they made any contribution to their salvation but that God, out of his love promises through his word that those who turn to him in faith shown by obedience will be saved by him and him alone. Paul makes this clear 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 can boast.”

Like the young man at the D. L Moody evangelistic meeting the writer of Psalm 119 says in the second half of verse 114,

“I have put my hope in your word”.

This is another way of saying that he trusted in and sought to obey God and his word and this word promises those who do so have God as their refuge and hope as John Simms puts it in the second verse and chorus of his Trust and Obey Hymn,

“Not a shadow can rise,
Not a cloud in the skies,
But his smile quickly drives it away,
Not a doubt or a fear,
Not a sigh or a tear
Can abide while we trust and obey,

Chorus:

Trust and obey for there is no other way
To be happy in Jesus
Bit to trust and obey.

2. (115 – 117) WHEN WE TRUST AND OBEY GOD’S WORD WE WILL BE SAVED

The writer of Psalm 119 then:

  1. Speaks directly to his enemies who do not trust and obey God and his word (vs. 115)
  2. Speaks directly to God for God to help him trust and obey God and his word (vs’s 116 -117)

Lets look at these three verses a little closer:

  1. Speaks directly to his enemies who do not trust and obey God and his word (vs. 115)

The writer speaks directly to his enemies in direct and strong way with the words in verse 15a

“Away from me, you evildoers”.

It seems that the people who oppose him oppose God and his word because the reason the writer wants these evildoers to leave him alone is so that he can trust and obey God and his word because he writes in the second half of verse 115,

“That I may keep the commandments of my God”.

The writer of Psalm 119 has spoken many times about how his enemies have sought to kill or destroy him because of his commitment and obedience to God and his word as he declares back in verse 95,

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

Even today opposition to those who trust and obey God and his word is alive and kicking and we need to be prepared for such opposition by as Paul puts it in Ephesians 6: 10 – 11,

“Finally be strong in the Lord and his mighty power. Put on the amor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”.

Paul then spells out what that armour is and he includes such things as the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God and the breastplate of righteousness which is all brilliant images of simply trusting and obeying God and his word when we are under attack by the devil and his many followers.

Speaks directly to God for God to help him trust and obey God and his word (vs’s 116 -117)

The writer of Psalm 119 then turns from addressing his enemies to addressing God which is simply a prayer to God for God to help him trust and obey his word in verse 116 and 117,

He writes,

“Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed. Uphold me, and I will be delivered; I will always have regard for your decrees”.

Some say that assurance of faith in God leads to disobedience as if we are once saved and always saved we could take a salvation for granted but the bibles says that a truly saved person is a person of faith and obedience and that not trusting and obeying God reveals we actually have not truly understood and grasped the grace of God he gives to those who trust and obey his son, The Lord Jesus Christ for their eternal salvation as Paul writes in Romans 6: 1 – 4,

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism unto death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life”.

Paul makes his point even more clearer in the next three verses that a true believer has died to sin and freed to serve God in what have been calling trusting and obeying God, Paul puts it this way,

“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been set free from sin”.

So like the writer of Psalm 119 in verses 116 and 117 we should show our trust and obedience to God in our prayer and desire for God and God alone to sustain us, help us to live. Not let our hopes to be dashed and be delivered which is Old Testament language for being saved.

Even here in the Old Testament the act of salvation is in God alone, he sustains us, he causes us to live, he upholds us and he delivers us but we like the writer of Psalm 119 must,

“Always have regard for God’s decrees”.

That also is Old Testament language for trusting and obeying God and his word. I like the third verse of John Sammis hymn “Trust and Obey”

“But we never can prove
The delights of his love
Unto all on the altar we lay.
For the favour He shows,
For the joy he bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.

Chorus:

Trust and obey for there is no other way
To be happy in Jesus
Bit to trust and obey.

3. (118 – 120) WHEN YOU DON’T TRUST AND OBEY GOD’S WORD YOU WILL SUFFER GOD’S JUDGMENT

The Gospel message is both Good news and Bad News in that it is good news to those who accept it and are saved but it is bad news to those who reject it and simply want to stay in rebellion to God. As John puts it in John 3: 18,

“Whoever believes in him is not Condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son”.

The writer of Psalm 119 puts it this way in verse 118,

“You reject all who stray from your decrees, for their delusions come to nothing”.

The writer of Psalm 119 is a Jew or a member of God’s special people called the Israelites who were the people who he is speaking about here in verse 118 and are the same people God’s word came through by the law being given to Moses to them as a gift of grace and some have turned away from following it.

The writers enemies have stopped trusting and obeying God and his word and what they have replaced that with is called by our writer as,

“Their delusions”

Paul told Timothy that what people will turn to when they stop trusting and obeying God’s word is according to 2 Timothy 4: 4,

“Myths”

Interestingly Christians today are accused of believing in Myths but the truth is anything other than the word of God is a delusion or myth. Some forms of Christianity have turned the truths of the Gospel into myths but the word of God is not a myth as it is grounded in history in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So verse 118 of Psalm 119 says that God rejects those who stray from his life giving word and verse 119 goes on to say they are therefore under the judgment of God,

“All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross”

A echo of the words in Psalm 1: 4,

“Not so the wicked! They are like chaff / that the wind blows away”.

These are words of God’s judgment coming on those who refuse to trust and believe in God and his word as verse 5 of Psalm 1 states clearly,

“Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement; nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous”.

The opposite is true of those who trust and obey God and his word as verse 6, the final verse of Psalm 1 says,

“For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous”.

The righteous in this Psalm are is summed up in verse 2 and 3 of Psalm 1 when it says,

“But whose delight is in the law of the Lord and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers”.

The writer of Psalm 119 closes his fifteenth stanza with words of his commitment of trusting and obeying God and his word in verses 119b and 120, he writes,

“Therefore I love your statutes. My flesh trembles in fear of you. I stand in awe of your laws”.

I close this Psalm talk on the fifteenth stanza of Psalm 119 with both the final verse of Trust and Obey and its chorus and my own four line summary verse for this stanza.

“Then in fellowship sweet
We will sit at His feet.
Or we’ll walk by his side in the way;
What He says we will do,
Where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

Chorus:

Trust and obey for there is no other way
To be happy in Jesus
Bit to trust and obey.

Open Lord my heart to your word
Help me now to trust and obey
You are my refuge against my foes
Lord give me hope and faith today.

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

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

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

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

INTRODUCTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Commandments – “Idea of giving orders”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spurgeon makes this interesting speculation with this comment,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 1 opens with,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Walk according to the law of the Lord” and

“Keep his statutes”

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

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

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

“And seek him with all their heart”

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

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

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

“They do no wrong but follow his ways”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verse 1b says,

“By living according to your word”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Seek you (God) with all my heart”

He then asks God,

“Do not let me stray from your commands”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Praise be to you, Lord”,

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

“Teach me your decrees”.

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

“The binding force and a permanence of Scripture”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And by word in Psalm 35: 27 – 28,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do we treasure God’s word?

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

Jesus said in Matthew 6: 21,

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

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

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

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

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

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

So verse 15 of Psalm 119 says,

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

Psalm 1 verse 2 says,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My alphabet poem verse for this stanza then is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The two key terms in this verse are:

i)   Be Good
ii)  While I live

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

i)   Be Good

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

“Acting generously to someone”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ii)   While I live

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The writer has already asked God in verse 12 to,

“Teach me your decrees”

Now in verse 18 he asks,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Open my eyes that I might see”

And what does he want to see?

“Wonderful things in your law”

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

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

Jesus said in John 7: 38,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I like the old song that says,

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

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

“Not hide your commands from me”.

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

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

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

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

I like the MSG translation of these verses that says,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

i)   Those who give him scorn and contempt

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

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

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

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

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

ii)  Those who rule over everyone and slander him

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

As David writes sin Psalm 41: 5 – 9,

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

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

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

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

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

“Your servant will meditate on your decrees”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well for a start the first verse says,

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

Being low in the dust Allan Harman says is a,

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

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

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

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

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

Both verse 25 and 28 speak of God helping him,

“According to your word”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or Psalm 34: 19,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In verse 26 the Psalmist writes,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Keep me from deceitful ways”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

i) Trust in God’s word (30 – 31)

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

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

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

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

Then he says much the same thing in verse 31,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ii) Seek to obey God’s word (vs. 32)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

This section follows a three part pattern which is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

David prayers in Psalm 27: 11,

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

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

“The Lord is my light and my salvation”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Keep your law and obey it”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul says in 1 Timothy 6: 10,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Turn his heart towards your statutes”

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

“Regarded as controlling the whole direction of life”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“For release from such attitudes of his enemies”.

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

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

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

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

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

“Your laws (or God’s word) are good”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Unfailing love”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Promise”

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

“Salvation”

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

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

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

“Then I can answer anyone who taunts me”

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

“For I trust in your word”.

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

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

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

“Never take your word of truth from my mouth”

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

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

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

Then Jesus later says in John 14: 6,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

i) Obeying it (vs. 44)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ii) Living it out (vs. 45)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I reach out for your commands which I love”

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

“Lifting up of hands is in connection with praise”

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

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

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

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

“That I may meditate on your decrees”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Your word”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Your promises”

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

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

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

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

“Preserve my life”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Adherence to God’s ways provides opposition”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Not turn from your law”

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

“forsaken your law”.

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

“Indignation grips me because of the wicked”.

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

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

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

“Indignation grips me”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Comfort in them”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I remember your name”

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

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

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

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

ii)  (vs. 54) He sings God’s word

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The expression,

“Wherever I lodge”,

Is translated by H.C. Leupold as,

“In the house of my pilgrimage”

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

iii) (vs. 56) He obeys God’s word

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Piper writes,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

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

PSALM 118 TALK: HALLELUJAH – GOD IS GOOD FOR GOD IS LOVE

PSALM 118 TALK: HALLELUJAH – GOD IS GOOD FOR GOD IS LOVE

(A Psalm that presents the central biblical idea that the God of the bible is good because he is a God of love who saves, leads and protects his people even in times of difficulty and strife and because of that we should praise and worship him).

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

INTRODUCTION

Early this week I went to the dentist for the first time in four years and one of the reasons why it took so long to go to a dentist again is that four years ago my longtime dentist had retired. This meant I had to find a new dentist to go to and so at my first appointment with my new dentist I had to explain why i had no teeth on the top of my mouth.

I explained to my new dentist and a lady who works as her assistant nurse, who happens to go to my church that when I attend that when I was 14 years old my father had a major car accident when he picked up me and my sister and two cousins from the train station after we had been on a church fellowship picnic. The car was hit at the back of the right hand side so my father was technically in the wrong as in Australia at that time you had to give way to all cars on your right hand side.

I was flung from the car, there were no seat belts in cars in those days. As I was flung from the car it is believed my face stuck the frame of the door of the car shattering three of my front teeth and badly cutting my bottom lip. As I landed on the road outside of the car my head hit the gutter and I suffered a fractured skull. The car then continued to spin out of control and landed on top of an old colonial milage stone and underneath that is were I lay unconscious.

I was the only passenger in the car who suffered any injuries in the accident and for two days I lay in hospital in a kind of coma. When I woke up in hospital I had a massive headache for two days but eventually after a week in hospital I was well enough to go home.

However over the next three years I went many times to the dentist and even the dental hospital as the trauma of this accident to my teeth caused my top teeth one by one to developed abscesses and they had to be taken out. By the age of 18 it was decided that the best solution for my top teeth problems was that all remaining teeth had to be removed and a full top denture plate was made.

As a result of the very expensive costs and trauma I suffered it was decided I would seek third party compensation by technically suing my father who was covered by compulsory third party insurance which we have in Australia for all registered vehicles. The money from this insurance paid fully for all my dental costs and at age 21 I received a cheque for a reasonable amount of money. Two years later I believed God was calling me into full time youth ministry and I applied for Bible college and I realised why God had given me the money from the insurance as it paid for my first two years fees and living expenses of a three year bible college course.

After I told my dentist and her assistant of my story of the trauma I suffered to my teeth from the car accident i said I should have been killed by that accident but the assistant who I said goes to my church said, “God obviously had a plan for your life”. When I went home and reflected on what had happened to me I realised that indeed God is good and he not only protected me from death that day but he used that traumatic time in my life for eventual good in using it to provide the money to pay my first two years of bible college training.

This and other difficulties in my life makes me think of Paula words in Romans 8: 28 that says,

“And we know that in all things God works for good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.

Psalm 118 starts with a call to thank or praise God because he is good and his love endures forever,

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good and his love endures forever”.

We really do not know who wrote this Psalm but we do know when it was placed in the Psalms as it is part of the fifth and final collection we know was put together after the Jews returned from captivity in Babylon in what is called the intertestamental period or the time between the last Old Testament book of Malachi and the start of the New Testament that records the life and ministry of Jesus the Messiah or The Christ.

This opening verse appears all through the bible and has strong connections to David who seems to be its first author in 1 Chronicles 16: 36 which is a verse in his Psalm or song he composed for the procession for the entry of the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem.

Then it appears in the time of Solomon in 2 Chronicles 5: 13 when the first temple is dedicated. It then crops up in the time of King Jehoshaphat as part of the song sung by his army as they went into battle against a combined invading army of Ammonites and Moabites recorded in 2 Chronicles 20: 21.

Finally it appears again this time at the dedication of the foundation stones of the second temple after the Jews had returned from captivity in Babylon receded in Ezra 3: 11.

It also features in a number of Psalms besides Psalm 118 as it is in Psalm 100: 5, 107: 1 and is the main feature and theme of Psalm 136.

So it seems something of Psalm 118 has a long history starting with David and continuing through to the time of the return of the Jews from captivity in Babylon.

The theory of the composition of this Psalm I found most interesting is the one I read in a commentary by Gordon Churchyard who says this Psalm might have fully come into being in 444 BC. His argument for this date is that this is when a great celebration that involved a procession over the nearly completed walls Jerusalem into the nearly built second temple in the time of Nehemiah recorded in Nehemiah 12.

His reasoning is in the explanation of verse 27, which reads,

“The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine on us. With boughs in hand, join in the festival procession up to the horns of the altar.”

It is believed that this dedication of the nearly completed walls of Jerusalem took place as part of the festival of Tabernacles where Jewish worshippers made the roofs of their little temporary dwellings out of palm trees and went to the temple at the time of the festival waving palm branches as part of that procession. This of course is the very festival being celebrated when Jesus road into Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday.

The concept of this Psalm being a song designed and used for a procession into the Temple at the time of the festival of Tabernacles is the only explanation for what the Psalmist is talking about in verse 27 of his Psalm when he refers to,

“Boughs in hand, join in the festival procession up to the horns of the altar.”

So this Psalm has a truly fascinating background and is also the last of the Egyptian Hallels which are Psalms said or sung during the Jewish celebration of the passover and its message of God’s goodness shown by his love manifest to his people when they faced great opposition and needed God’s salvation out of slavery in Egypt. It is also a great Psalm to celebrate God saving his people out of the bondage of captivity in Babylon. Finally it is a great Psalm for the celebration of God’s people out of the bondage of sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s Son the promised Messiah.

God is good because God is love is therefore the theme I will explore through this Psalm talk and my outline for this Psalm reflects this:

(1 – 4) GOD IS GOOD BECAUSE OF HIS LOVE FOR US

1. (vs. 1) God is good because his love endures forever
2. (2 – 4) God is good so his people should declare his love

2. (5 – 21) GOD IS GOOD BECAUSE HE ALONE SAVES US

1. (5 – 14) God’s goodness and love is seen in his salvation
2. (15 – 21) God is good so live your life in praise

3. (22 – 29) GOD IS GOOD SO HE DESERVES OUR WORSHIP AND PRAISE

1. (22 – 25) God is good so remember what he’s done for us and rejoice
2. (26 – 28) God is good so come before him in worship
3. (vs. 29) God is good because his love endures forever

(1 – 4) GOD IS GOOD BECAUSE OF HIS LOVE FOR US

1. (vs. 1) God is good because his love endures forever

As I said in my introduction this first verse appears at least 7 times in other bible references and the last time it appears in various forms in Psalm 136 over twenty five times. The first part of verse 1 holds for me the key words of,

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good”

Stephen J. Cole in his remarks on this verse in Psalm 136 quotes the amazing comprehensive biblical definition of the concept that God is good from a writer called Stephen Charnock from a book called, “The Existence and attributes of God”,

“God is only originally good, good of himself. All created goodness is a rivulet from this fountain, but Divine goodness has no spring. God only is infinitely good. God is only perfectly good, because only infinitely good. the goodness of God is the measure and rule of goodness in everything else. God only is immutably good. There is not such a perpetual light in the sun as there is a fulness of goodness in God”.

Another great writer on the attributes of God is Arthur Pink and he writes,

“All goodness there is in any creation has been imparted from the Creator, but God’s goodness is underived, for it is the essence of His eternal nature. As God is infinite in power from all eternity, before there was any display thereof, or any act of omnipotency put forth, so He was eternally good before there was any communication of his bounty, or any creature to whom it might be imparted”.

Jesus says in Mark 10: 18,

“No one is good – except God alone”.

Jesus is implying that for him to be good he must therefore be God or as we know from the New Testament part of the Godhead. We are therefore the opposite of good and good is also called righteousness in the bible and Isaiah says this about our unrighteousness in Isaiah 64: 6,

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

God therefore needs to give us goodness or righteousness as a gift and Paul tells us in Romans 5: 17,

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

So through faith in Christ we are given the gift of righteousness or goodness and even David knew that only God and his forgiveness could make him good especially after his sins of adultery and murder as he speaks of in Psalm 51: 10,

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me”.

So Psalm 118 kicks off with the statement that God is good but his goodness is primarily seen in what verse 1 goes on to say about this great good God of the bible for it says,

“His love endures forever”

David knew that God was a loving and forgiving God because he starts his Psalm 51, a Psalm of confession and repentance with these words,

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

These words of verse 1 about the goodness and love of God appear many times in the bible and each time they seem to be spoken in the context of God’s loving salvation to his unworthy people. When Psalm 118 was put in the book of Psalms and at least finalised as the Psalm as we know it God had recently saved his people known as Israel out of the bondage of captivity in Babylon. We know his people did not deserve God’s act of loving salvation because they were only in the captivity in Babylon because they were so sinful that God had to judge them or as verse 18 says chastise them,

“The Lord has chastened me severely but he has not given me over to death”.

Yet these wayward people who were defeated so convincingly by the mighty Babylonians were freed from their captivity in Babylon after only 70 years or so and this salvation from bondage in Babylon which is like their ancient relatives salvation from slavery in Egypt is what I think this Psalm is referring to when it speaks of God’s love that endures forever.

We have in Jesus Christ a greater demonstration of this amazing love of God because we too do not deserve this love of God saving us from the bondage of sin and yet God has done it as Paul writes in Ephesians 2: 1 – 7,

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus”.

Finally God shows us how great he is by how great his love is and this should as the first words of this first verse say cause us to,

“Give thanks”

2. (2 – 4) God is good so his people should declare his love

In my study of Psalm 118 I came across the work of a lady named Nancy Koester who propounds the idea that Psalm 118 became entrance liturgy to the temple and was particularly used at the festival of the Passover. As such she says,

“The Psalm was a liturgical script, complete with speaking parts for leaders and congregation”.

This seems obvious in verse 2 to 4 as it has three different people addressed to and if Nancy Koester is right actually speaking in this liturgy for entering the Temple for worship. The three groups of people are:

Israel (vs. 2)
House of Aaron (priests) (vs. 3)
Those who fear the Lord (vs. 4)

These three groups of people cover all the possible worshippers as Israel are those born as God’s people, Israel while the house of Aaron are those selected by God to be priests or leaders in worship and I believe those who fear the Lord are those even outside of the nation of Israel who have turned to the God of Israel or better still the God of the bible.

We saw these same three groups of people back in Psalm 115 verses 9 – 11 and a more detailed run down of these three groups of people are in my Psalm talk on Psalm 115. But for now the focus these three groups of people are to have is the goodness of God expressed in his love that endures forever.

Each of these three groups of people are called to “say” or proclaim the love of God that endures forever as we read in verses 2 – 4,

“Let Israel say: ‘His love endures forever’. Let the house of Aaron say: ‘His love endures forever’. Let those who fear the Lord say: ‘His love endures forever”.

Non- conformist churches often seem to throw rocks at churches like the kind of church I attend called The Anglican church because we dare to have some form of liturgy or set prayers but here we have yet another example of liturgy in the Psalms that was a major part of Hebrew Old Testament worship. Sure liturgies can fall into the danger of being just words some churches just parrot off without thinking about but even extempore prayers can be just people saying religious or even biblical words without real thought or heart felt belief put into them as well.

Jesus gives us this advice on how we should and should not pray in Matthew 6: 5 – 8,

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him”.

Jesus then gives us some basic liturgy in what we call the Lords prayer which is not only a prayer he wants us to pray but is a model for real prayer for us to copy in verse 8 – 12.

9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12  And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one”.

So part of the set prayer for entering the Temple for worship according to Psalm 118 verses 2 – 4 is to proclaim the goodness of God as seen in his love that endures forever. All of Israel was to declare in their entry to worship the message that their God was a God of endless amazing love sometimes called mercy or grace and Peter in 1 Peter 2: 9 – 10 says that through what Christ has done on the cross we who believe in him and what he has done for us are now God’s people and we too must proclaim what God has done for us in saving us by his mercy or his love,

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”.

Our entry into worship should be in the context of our proclamation of God’s amazing love for us which endures forever because we have been saved by a eternally good and loving God.

2. (5 – 21) GOD IS GOOD BECAUSE HE ALONE SAVES US

1. (5 – 14) God’s goodness and love is seen in his salvation

Psalm 118 now changes to speak in the first person as we read the writer speaking as “I” and using first person words like “my” but if this is a Psalm used by God’s people entering worship then maybe the first person style we read from verse 5 to verse 21 is simply a devise as many modern hymns use when they are written in the first person but sung by a group of people as the group identifies together with what the first person truths are speaking about.

If this is literally the first person then it would appear as commentators like Allan Harman speak of this being the words of a leader like the king who led his people into battle but if it is as other commentators say, a way of speaking for the nation facing their enemies in particularly spiritual battles with the Lord helping them then this Psalm gives us a different slant and applies to us a the church in the battles of life and not just as a individual believer.

It is as the Nation speaking in the first person that I made the best sense of the teaching of this Psalm and so with that approach I hope to open up this Psalm to you.

So in verses 5 – 14 we will explore the theme of God’s goodness and love seen in our salvation, a salvation won by God for us alone. I have broken verses 5 – 14 into two main parts:

  1. God’s goodness is seen in how he has saved us (vs’s 5 – 7)
  2. God’s goodness is seen in how he alone can save us (vs’s 8 – 14)

Lets then have a close look at each of these two parts:

  1. God’s goodness is seen in how he has saved us (vs’s 5 – 7)

As I have already pointed out this Psalm switches from third person in verse 1, then first person plural in verses 2 to 4 to first person singular here is verses 5 – 21 and then first person plural in verses 22 – 27 then first person singular in verse 28 and finally third person in verse 29.

Yet it seems that this Psalm is an example of a piece of liturgy said or sung by a group of people in a procession into the Temple to worship God.

This means I favour the interpretation that many commentators like Leopold favour that when the Psalm read’s “I” or “me” it is referring to the Nation as a whole now saying or singing the words of this Psalm.

Even if this Psalm was not written by a person who lived after the time of the liberation of God’s people from captivity in Babylon it was definitely placed in the fifth book of Psalms after the return from captivity in Babylon so the question I will first answer in my exposition of this Psalm will be,

What did this Psalm say to the Jewish people who read or sang this Psalm who lived after the return the time of the captivity in Babylon?

I will then answer the question:

What then does this say to us today?

Lets look at verses 5 to 7 with this in mind as well as the main point that these verses speak of the goodness of God seen in how he has saved us.

First of all then we have verse 5,

“When hard pressed I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place”.

These words would have been very appropriate for the Jews who lived after the return from captivity in Babylon as they describe perfectly what happened to them.

Firstly they were hard pressed or in a very difficult and hopeless situation. They had been soundly and cruelly defeated by the mighty Babylonians and then most of the people who survived were forcibly dragged off to a foreign land where they would have been like under permanent house arrest for something like 70 years. The book of Lamentations poetically describes the people in captivity plight.

Listen to this description of Israel in captivity in Lamentations 1: 2 – 4,

“Bitterly she weeps at night, tears are on her cheeks. Among all her lovers there is no one to comfort her. All her friends have betrayed her; they have become her enemies. 3 After affliction and harsh labor, Judah has gone into exile. She dwells among the nations; she finds no resting place. All who pursue her have overtaken her in the midst of her distress. 4  The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to her appointed festivals. All her gateways are desolate, her priests groan, her young women grieve, and she is in bitter anguish”.

So there in captivity in Babylon verse 5 of Psalm 118 says,

“I cried to the Lord”

In chapter 2 of the book I Lamentations we have in verses 18 – 19 again a poetic description of the desperate prayers or cries to the Lord by God’s people trapped in captivity,

“The hearts of the people cry out to the Lord. You walls of Daughter Zion, let your tears flow like a river day and night; give yourself no relief, your eyes no rest. 19 Arise, cry out in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint from hunger at every street corner”.

Finally verse 5 of Psalm 118 says,

”He brought me into a spacious place”.

Around 70 years the Jews were locked up in terrible and painful bondage in Babylon but then God moved through history to use the Persian empire to defeat and overran the seemingly all powerful Babylonians and then issue a decree for captive nations like Israel to return home the Jews returned to the wide open spaces o their homeland and freedom.

These words in verse 5 of Psalm 118 speak of the freedom and joy God’s salvation brought to the Jews returning from exile and a good example of what that was probably like is captured well in the book of Ezra when the emotions of freedom is recored when the foundations of the new Temple is laid, recored in Ezra 3: 11 – 13 (note how the opening of Psalm 118 is used in this celebration):

“With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: “He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.” And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. 12 But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. 13 No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away”.

As christians we to have the joy of our salvation in Christ from the bondage of sin and the wonderful gift of eternal and Peter speaks of this joy and rejoicing we have in Christ even if at times we might have to face difficulties in this life in 1 Peter 3 – 9,

“3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.

This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 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, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls”.

God is good and his love endures forever and we know that because God through Jesus has saved us and will bring us all one day into the spacious and beautiful place of heaven above.

In verse 6 the writer of Psalm 118 tells the people in the procession to say,

“The Lord is with me, I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’

The Jews returning from captivity in Babylon could really relate to these words as they now have seen a real and powerful example of God not deserting them even though for a while it might have seen he had. God used Israel’s captivity in exile to judge his people for their many sins leading up to it but this does not mean he gave up on them for he had a plan to bring them home once he hoped they had learnt their lesson of what it means to turn from the Lord.

So even the mighty babylonians were in the end no match for the one and only powerful God and Paul tells us in Ephesians 6: 10 that we can be strong in the Lord and power of his might and in Philippians 4: 13,

“I can do all things through him who gives me strength”

Jesus promises his protection and help and that no one can take the salvation he has won for us from us in John 10: 27,

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand”.

Finally as verse 6 of Psalm 118 says Jesus, our Lord is always with us as he promises to in Matthew 28: 19 – 20,

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

As Paul says in Romans 8: 31,

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

So the writer of Psalm 118 has his people in his procession to the Temple for worship say much the same thing as Paul has just stated in what he goes on to say in verse 7,

“The Lord is with me; he is my help. I look in triumph on my enemies”.

The conflict with the peoples enemies now features in this Psalm, so what enemies did the Jews face when they returned from captivity in Babylon?

Obviously they had faced the great enemy of Babylon who had recently conquered them and took them into captivity so this verse would have brought to mind to the people of that day of the Lord’s triumph over the Babylonians.

However Psalm 118 seems to be referring to triumph over ongoing current enemies and we know from the books of Ezra and Nehemiah that the returning Jews to Israel and particularly Jerusalem had a number of enemies who opposed them and caused them great difficulty. Nehemiah speaks of two enemies of that time in Samaria, once northern Israel and Ammon now modern Jordan opposing the building the walls of Jerusalem in Nehemiah 4: 1 – 3,

“When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, 2 and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?”

3 Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!”

Nehemiah also speaks of opposition from people he calls Arabs in verse 7 and 8 and people from Ashdod plotting together to come to Jerusalem fight the Jews repairing the walls of the city,

“But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. 8 They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it”.

However Nehemiah speaks of praying to God for help and protection in verse 4,

“Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity”.

And again in verse 9,

“But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat”.

Nehemiah speaks of further opposition from Israel’s enemies seeking to stop him and his people building the walls of Jerusalem in chapter 6 and attempts are even made on his life and his enemies use so called prophets to give him false advice to trap him but Nehemiah and the people soldier on in their re- building trusting in the Lord and then we read of the Lords victory or triumph over these enemies in Nehemiah 6: 14 – 16,

“Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, my God, because of what they have done; remember also the prophet Noadiah and how she and the rest of the prophets have been trying to intimidate me. 15 So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days.

16 When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realised that this work had been done with the help of our God”.

The New Testament says that we too will face great opposition as we live for the Lord but if we also trust in the Lord we will triumph over our many enemies as Paul advises the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 3: 1 – 5,

“As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honoured, just as it was with you. 2 And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. 4 We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance”.

God is so good that he calls us to proclaim his Gospel and at the same time Jesus is not only with us to guide and protects us (as we read in Matthew 28: 20) but as Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 2: 14 – 16,

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?”

2. God’s goodness is seen in how he alone can save us (vs’s 8 – 14)

The writer of Psalm 118 then in verses 8 and 9 to get the members of the triumphant procession into the Temple to speak of the goodness of the Lord in being our only refuge and saviour in a kind of repetitive saying that goes like this,

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than trust in humans. 9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes”.

To the people of Ezra and Nehemiah’s day, those who came back from captivity in Babylon it was a temptation to rely on themselves or look to their Persian overlords when local nations apposed them and even threatened them with violence and war if they persisted in rebuilding their temple and city walls but we saw in the previous part that God fraughted all their enemies attempts to stop this rebuilding and at the completion of the rebuilding of the walls we read in Nehemiah 6: 16,

“When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self – confidence, because they realised that this work had been done with the help of our God”.

This means that under Ezra and Nehemiah’s Godly leadership the people sought refuge and salvation in the Lord alone and proved that it is better to take refuge in God alone and not anyone else even kings or princes even though the Persian leaders where used by God to allow the Jews to continue and compete their rebuilding work in Jerusalem.

James has this advice and God’s promises that comes from it in James 4: 7 – 10,

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up”.

We must follow the example of the Jews who returned from captivity in Babylon led by Ezra and Nehemiah and submit ourselves to God not anyone else and if we do he will come near to us and as James says, “Lift us up”.

The writer of Psalm 118 then spells out what this opposition the people faced was like in verse 10 – 13, which says,

“All the nations surrounded me, but in the name of the Lord I cut them down. 11 They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the Lord I cut them down. 12 They swarmed around me like bees, but they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns; in the name of the Lord I cut them down. 13 I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me”.

These verses particularly read like a portion of liturgy a group of people would say or sing together with the little refrain that is said or sung three times,

“In the name of the Lord I cut them down”

David Guzik simple explanation of these repeating words is helpful here when he writes,

“The Psalmist understood that the power for victory was not in Himself, but only in the name of God”.

These verses finish with the words,

“”But the Lord helped me”

Guzik says,

“He would be rescued as the Lord helped him”

Israel was only able to get out of captivity in Babylon because the Lord fought for them through the Persians and therefore the Lord helped them.

Then these verses build up a picture of the enormous overwhelming size and power of what Israel was up against during there recent captivity and even when they were back in their homeland and seeking to rebuild both the Temple and Jerusalem’s walls with three poetic descriptions in these verses:

  1. All the nations surrounded me (vs. 10)
  2. Surrounded me on every side (vs. 11)
  3. They swarmed around like bees (vs. 12)

I spoke of how almost every nation that surrounded Israel at the time of the Jews returning from captivity opposed and threatened the returning Jews as they sought rebuild the Temple and the walls of Jerusalem. So the idea of being surrounded by their enemies fits this time of the return from captivity in Babylon.

Then we have the image of their enemies being like a swarm of bees and this also fits the time of the return from captivity in Babylon as the number of Jews who returned to join a small population of local Jews who had remained in the land was so small compared to the Nations that surrounded them as well as the rest of the Persian empire.

Finally verse 13 says simply,

“I was pushed back and about to fall”.

So things got pretty desperate and Nehemiah says in chapter 4 of opposition and difficulty that halted rebuilding and or slowed it down but the people of God at that time trusted in the Lord and the words of the rest of verse 13 ring true to what happened in Nehemiah’s time when it says,

“But the Lord helped me”.

Christians have faced great opposition since the time of Christ and have often been in a small minority outnumbered like being overcome by a swarm of bees but as the second part of verse 12 says they saw their enemies,

“consumed quickly as burning thorns”.

Which is a picture of a fire that burns intensely but very quickly often with a loud cracking sound according to many of the commentaries I read on this.

One remarkable example in the Christian churches history is the time of the Reformation and especially in the case of Martin Luther. It is said that Martin Luther really loved this Psalm and said this about it,

“This is my own Psalm which I specially love. Through the entire Psalm and the Holy Scriptures are indeed very dear to me my sole comfort and my very life, yet I have come to grips with this Psalm in a special sense, so I feel free to call it my own”.

Luther was a lowly monk from the back waters of Wittenberg Germany yet he stood up against the overwhelming power of the Catholic church of his day to say it had lost its way by not understanding the true Gospel of the bible and through God’s protection he lived to lead a great reformation of the Christian faith.

Luther’s faith was in God and Christ alone for his salvation and God protected him against overwhelming odds just as Paul tells the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 3: 3,

“But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one”.

Finally in these verses that present God’s goodness seen in how he alone can save us we have verse 14 that says just that,

“The Lord is my strength and my defence: he has become my salvation”.

This verse comes straight out of the song of Moses in Exodus 15 when he and the people of Israel saw God make a path for them through the red sea and then how God then closed that path on the Egyptian army that pursued them killing them all as we read in Exodus 15: 2,

“The Lord is my strength and my defence ; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him”.

It is no accident that this Psalm along with the previous five Psalms were and are used by the Jews as part of the Jewish festival of Passover when they remember how God miraculously saved their ancestors out of slavery in Egypt.

The Jews who returned from captivity in Babylon also saw something similar when God’s powerful hand saved them out of the bondage of captivity in Babylon and we have seen the same sort of thing when we see how God through The Lord Jesus Christ has saved us out of the bondage of sin through his death on the cross as Paul declares in Galatians 2: 20,

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”.

And relating to slave of sin Paul says in Romans 6: 17 – 18,

“But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness”.

2. (15 – 21) God is good so live your life in praise

The writer of Psalm 118 now moves his procession to the Temple to do what he determined at the start of his Psalm to do namely thank God or praise God for his goodness seen primarily in his love that endures forever. He does this in this second part of the second section of the Psalm by speaking about three good things about God that should cause his people to shout for joy about their God or praise him for:

  1. God’s goodness seen in his powerful right hand (15 – 16)
  2. God’s goodness seen in saving his people from death (17 – 18)
  3. God’s goodness realised as his people enter his presence (19 – 21)

Lets have a closer look at each of these three good things to praise God for:

  1.  God’s goodness seen in his powerful right hand (15 – 16)

The writer of Psalm 118 speaks of the joyful praise that should and he believes does come from God’s faithful people who he calls “the righteous”, he writes in verse 15a,

“Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous”

Commentators agree that the expression “tents of the righteous” is a poetic expression for the homes of the true believers in the nation of Israel.

However I believe because of the mention of boughs or branches in the hands of those in this procession in verse 27 that this procession was part of the Jewish Festival of tabernacles also called the Festival of booths because during that festival the Jews lived in Jerusalem for 8 days in temporary dwellings like tents and the roof of these temporary structures were usually made out of Palm tree branches so the “Tents of the Righteous” could also refer to God fearing / believing Jews celebrating this festival.

This festival remembered how God freed the people from slavery in Egypt and then provided for them during their wilderness wanderings as they lived in temporary dwellings like tents.

Again this festival is remembering how God has been good to his people and this should cause his faithful people to shout for joy or praise him for his goodness to them. The goodness of God had been seen again through the return from captivity in Babylon when we know this Psalm was placed in the fifth book of Psalms so the people of that day did shout to God with joy because of his victory over their main enemy which was Babylon at that time.

As Christians we are called to praise and thank God at all times in the New Testament and particularly for the act of our Salvation carried out by The Lord Jesus Christ as Paul does in 1 Corinthians 1: 4,

“I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus”.

Then in the second half of verse 15 and in verse 16 the writer of Psalm 118 speaks of God’s goodness to us revealed in what he calls, “The Lord’s right hand”,

Vs. 15b, “The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things”

Vs. 16,, “The Lord’s right hand is lifted high; the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things”.

Leopold calls this,

“A beautiful instance of solemn reiteration”

So it too lends itself to a communal song for worship which I believe was used as part of a procession from the nearly rebuilt walls of Jerusalem and then into the temple through the inner gates of the Temple as we will see soon in verses 19 and 20.

The concept of the “right hand of God” is used a lot in the book of Psalms like Psalms 16: 8, 63: 8 and 139: 10 and in other parts of the OldTestament as well like Isaiah 41: 13 and Lamentations 2:3). It is an expression that speaks of God’s power as the right hand is usually our most powerful or useful hand and it is an expression used by Moses in his song of praise in Exodus 15 which celebrated a wonderful example of God’s powerful hand opening up a sea for his people to cross and then closing the sea to destroy the Egyptian army bent on killing God’s people, the Israelite.

We have this reference to God’s right hand in Moses song of praise in Exodus 15: 6,

Your right hand, Lord, was majestic in power. Your right hand, Lord, shattered the enemy”.

The Jews who lived through the return from captivity in Babylon also had seen the results of God’s goodness through his right hand or powerful act of salvation when he used the Persians to both destroy the Babylonians and then make it possible for his people in captivity to not only return to Israel there promised land but allow them to rebuild their Temple and city walls.

We to benefit from the goodness of God as a results of his powerful right hand in Jesus saving us from the bondage of sin and then going back to God after he rose from the dead to sit at God’s right hand as the writer to the Hebrews says about Jesus in Hebrews 1: 3,

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven”.

So we too should thank God with shouts of joy because we too benefit from the goodness of God seen in the deeds of God’s right hand in and through The Lord Jesus Christ.

God’s goodness seen in saving his people from death (17 – 18)

The writer in the next two verses speaks of God’s goodness seen in how he saved his people from death or ethnic annihilation in verses 17 – 18 which, speaking in the first person plural says,

“I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done. 18  The Lord has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death”.

It amazes me, a amateur student of history and the bible that the tiny nation of Israel has existed for so long. So many much more powerful and larger nations have been destroyed and have disappeared from the face of the earth yet Israel or the Jews still exist today and this I believe is no fluke or lucky turn of events in the history of the world.

When the Northern Kingdom called Israel was defeated by the Assyrians they ceased to exist as they were either killed or dispersed so widely they lost their identity as a nation but when the southern kingdom known as Judah were conquered by the Babylonians and if not killed they were taken as a national group into exile in Babylon and then seventy years later freed to return to Israel or Judah when the Persians defeated the Babylonians.

This scenario fits the words of verse 17 when it says,

“I will not die but live”

If in fact this is a poetic way of the writer speaking about the his nation of Judah (now whats left of Israel) rather than just himself. Of course if he lived himself through the release from captivity in Babylon then it is literal but also being part of the Jews God saved from physical and national death through the right hand of God.

What he says next he is now doing namely proclaiming,

“What the Lord has done”

I mentioned earlier that Martin Luther loved this Psalm and called it “his own” Nancy Koestar speaks about Martin Luther’s love of this Psalm and says this about it,

“While Martin Luther was hiding in the Coburg Castle during 1530, he wrote (among other things) an extensive commentary on Psalm 118. On the wall of the room where he worked was written his personal motto: ‘I shall not die, but live, and recount the deeds of the Lord, Psalm 118: 17.”.

Against incredible overwhelming odds Martin Luther did not die at the hands of his powerful enemies but lived on to minster for many years establishing the great reformation that changed the world.

While God has a purpose for us in this life we will live but once he sees his purposes for our lives complete then and only then he will take us to himself through our certain future deaths and this kind of confidence that the writer of Psalm 118 and Martin Luther had was also the same confidence Paul had when he wrote in Philippians 1: 23 – 24,

“I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body”.

Then in verse 18 we have a verse that gives strong evidence that the writer has been speaking about the Babylonian captivity because it says,

“The Lord has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death”.

The Lord of course chastised the whole nation of Israel for their many sins by using the Babylonians to conquer them and take them into cruel captivity in Babylon just as prophets like Jeremiah had both warned them about and of course predicted as we read in Jeremiah 1: 14 – 16,

“The Lord said to me, “From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land. 15 I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms,” declares the Lord. “Their kings will come and set up their thrones in the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem; they will come against all her surrounding walls and against all the towns of Judah. 16 I will pronounce my judgments on my people because of their wickedness in forsaking me, in burning incense to other gods and in worshiping what their hands have made”.

So Judah was overrun by the disaster from the North, namely Babylon and God used that to chasten or discipline his people but verse 18 goes on to say that,

“But he has not given me over to death”.

Even though many lost their lives to the Babylonian many others and indeed the nation lived and did not die but were taken into captivity in Babylon and Jeremiah knew this also and told the exiles in Babylon through a letter recorded in Jeremiah 29 that this captivity would only last 70 years and then God would free his people and bring them home to Israel, Jeremiah 29: 10 – 14,

“This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.[a] I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

The writer to the Hebrews says this about how and why God still disciplines even us today in Hebrews 12: 7 – 11,

“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it”.

God’s goodness realised as his people enter his presence (19 – 21)

From verse 19 on the concept of this being a Psalm that was sung or said in a procession to the Temple where worship would take place becomes clearer as in verses 19 and 20 we read,

“Open for me the gates of the righteous: I will enter and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter”.

Gordon Churchyard gives an explanation of these two verses with these words,

“The Jews sang Psalm 118 in a special way. The priests said some verses, then the people coming in to the temple answers them with other verses”.

“The people coming in (to the Temple) said, ‘Open the gates’ (vs. 19). The priests answer from inside the temple gates, ‘Righteous people can go in”.

Churchyard goes on to say no one is righteous and of course we learnt earlier that only God is righteous but he explains what being righteous here means,

“These are the people that love him. They are the people who trust and obey his covenant”.

The New Testament like Romans 6: 23a says,

“For the wages of sin is death”.

Which means because of sin we cannot enter heaven when we die but God knows that we are sinful or unrighteous so he has to give us life in heaven or eternal life as a gift so the second half of Romans 6: 23 says,

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

Psalm 118 verse 21 says,

“I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation”.

The Jews in captivity did not deserve God’s act of salvation from Babylon just as we do not deserve to be saved by Jesus death on the cross so we can enter heaven when we die yet God is good and his love endures forever so he did save his people out of Babylon and he does save us from sin so we can enter heaven.

Our right response to this is of course to have faith in what God has done and show that like this Psalmist does with,

“Thanks”

As Paul encourages the church in his letter to the Colossians chapter 3: 15 – 17

“5 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”.

3. (22 – 29) GOD IS GOOD SO HE DESERVES OUR WORSHIP AND PRAISE

1. (22 – 25) God is good so remember what he’s done for us and rejoice

We come then to the third and final section of this Psalm which I have been opening up as a ancient song or hymn sung by a procession of Jewish worshippers on their way into the Temple where different types of people say or sing different parts in response often to other people’s parts. This last section suggests in verse 27 that originally this was used on the feast of the Tabernacles but we know that it became a Psalm used as part of the Passover celebrations and is in fact the last of six Egyptian Hallelu Psalms used at the time of the passover.

The first of three parts of this last section is a very controversial part as it us quoted extensively in the New Testament even by Jesus himself. I will aim to open it up first in the context of Psalm 118 and then look at what it has to say in the context of Jesus as the promised Messiah who was rejected in his day by the Jewish leaders and most of the ordinary people which led to his death on the cross.

The first verse in this first part is verse 22 and it says,

“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”.

Gordon Chuchyard speaks of a Jewish legend about the building of the temple in Jerusalem, he writes,

“They cut big stones to build the temple. One stone was the wrong shape and size. They threw it away. Then they needed one that shape and size. They needed it to fix two walls together. So, they found the stone that they threw away. They put it in an important place at the top of the two walls”.

Even if this is not what actually happened when the Jews rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem when they returned from captivity in Babylon it does tell us what this verse originally was trying to say. If this is talking about the nation of Israel then to the world it was like a stone the builders rejected in a great building project we might call humanity as Israel was not only small but insignificant and was cast off into captivity by the Babylonians.

Then this seemingly cast off little nation is helped by the God of heaven and earth to be delivered and given a special place in humanity as God’s special people.

So verse 23 says,

“The Lord has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes”.

The Jews seemed dead and gone after the Babylonians conquered them but God did a marvellous act of salvation for this so called tiny insignificant nation and now they are back in the Promised Land with a new rebuilt temple and city walls and they can see what the Lord has done.

They might say as the Psalm says, God is good as his love endures forever.

Finally we have the famous verse everyone has probably sung or said many times, verse 24,

“The Lord has done it this very day, let us rejoice and be glad”.

The version most people know and sing is the King James version,

“This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it”.

When this Psalm was first sung probably after they had returned from captivity in Babylon and probably on the day the walls of Jerusalem were competed and celebrated these words would have meant a lot. God had done a wonderful good and loving deed of salvation brining the people out of the bondage of captivity in Babylon just as one day many years before he had done the good and loving deed of saving the people out of slavery in Egypt.

Now and for evermore this is the day, the day of salvation we should rejoice and be glad in.

Now what did Jesus mean when he quoted verse 22 about the stone that the builder rejected becoming the cornerstone?

Jesus quotes this verse in the Gospels as his conclusion to the parable of vineyard where he likens Jews of his day to farmers who rented a field but when the vineyard owner sent servants to collect the fruits of the harvest he deserved the farmers who rented the vineyard beat up the servants who came to collect the owners dues.

So the farmer sent more servants to find that they too were beaten up by the vineyard tenants. Lastly the farmer sent his son and they simply rejected him and killed him. So the farmer finally came and threw the tenants out of the vineyard.

Jesus then quotes from Psalm 118 verse 22 – 23 and this is what he says with this verse in Matthew 21: 41 – 44,

“He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes’ 43 “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”

Then in 1 Peter 2: 7, Peter quotes verse 22 to argue that Jesus is the stone that the builders, here the Jews rejected and he who they rejected has become God’s cornerstone of the church, the New Israel of God made up of Jews and non – jews or people from all nations and tribes.

God is good and his love endures forever and we should be glad and rejoice now every day in that wonderful fact of God’s amazing love seen in our salvation.

The last verse of this first part of the final section simply reads,

“Lord, save us! Lord grant us success”

I cannot add any more to Albert Barnes explanation of this verse so I offer it to you as a compressive explanation of it,

“Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord … – The word save here seems to be used in the general sense of imploring the divine interposition and mercy. It is a part of the word which in the New Testament is rendered “Hosanna” – save now Matthew 21:9 – and is the language which the multitudes employed when they followed the Saviour as he went from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem. The language which they used on that occasion was borrowed from this psalm, and was eminently appropriate to the occasion – “Hosanna – blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord;” but the fact that it was thus employed does not prove that the psalm had original reference to the Messiah. The language was not improbably used on high festivals, and would be naturally employed when the Messiah came”.

2. (26 – 28) God is good so come before him in worship

So the procession has now entered through the gates of the Temple by faith in the Lord of goodness and love and so now the writer of Psalm 118 calls on the members of the procession to worship the Lord starting with the statement about how God blesses those who worship him verse 26,

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you”.

Many commentators point out how the first part of this verse,

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”.

Is what the people say as they enter the Temple for worship snd the second part.

“From the house of the Lord we bless you”.

Would have been said by the priests who the Old Testament says have the job of pronouncing God’s Blessings on his people as the next verse suggests that probably something of Numbers 6: 22 – 27 (often called Aaron’s blessing) has been lifted for these verses,

 “The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them““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.”’27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

For the first part of verse 27 reads like this,

“The Lord is God, and he made his light shine on us”.

The concept of verse 25 being the Hebrew word “Hosanna” or “save us” and the opening words of verse 26,

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”.

Is found in Mark 11: 9 (also in Matthew 21: 9 and John 12: 13) and spoken by the crowd as Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem and fits beautifully the idea of the Messiah entering Jerusalem in triumph even though the original words are not Messianic they rightfully declare Jesus as the Messiah especially in the words that follow in Mark 11: 10,

“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David”

Albert Barnes makes it clear that with these words the idea the crowd had in mind when they quoted Psalm 118: 26 about coming in the name of the Lord they were referring to the Messiah with these words,

“Coming in the name” of the Lord here evidently means coming according to the “promise” of the Lord. The sense may be thus expressed: “Prosperity to the reign of our father David, advancing now according to the promise made to him, and about to be established by the long predicted Messiah, his descendant.”

Jesus of course one week later faces another crowd who now cry out, “Crucify him” encouraged to do so by the Jewish leaders who were there and so we see the fickle nature of crowds but Jesus came or rode into Jerusalem to be crucified to win for us our salvation and so do what the middle section of verse 27 says,

“Has made his light shine on us”.

The darkness of the cross is the light of God in that through Jesus suffering comes forgiveness, life and hope as Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 1: 9 – 10,

“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel”.

Then in the last part of verse 27 we have the words that point to this procession in the Temple being one maybe first conducted on the Festival of Tabernacle or as it is also called “Feast of Booths” with the mention of the procession participants holding “boughs” in their hands,

“With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar”.

We have to always keep in mind that Old Testament worship involved the offering of sacrifices on the altar in the Temple so it is not strange for us to here that once this procession of worship has entered the Temple area proper that we have a reference to an altar and we know from Old Testament passages like Exodus 27: 1 – 8 that the altar referred to here is the one in the Temple with a horn on each of its corners.

Paul makes it clear in Romans 12: 1 that New Testament worship no longer involves animal sacrifice because of the mercy of God expressed through the perfect sacrifice of God’s Son Jesus Christ on the cross but now we are to offer ourselves in sacrificial service and this is now the acceptable worship God desires,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship”.

Finally verse 28 becomes a clear statement that God is good so therefore we must worship him,

“You are my God and I will praise you; you are my God, and I will exalt you”.

The wording style reverts back to first person singular but I have been advocating all through this Psalm talk that all the words of this Psalm was spoken or sung by groups of different worshippers like the general Israelite worshippers, priests and maybe even God fearing non – Jews worshippers who I believe were referred to in verse 4.

This verse 28 reads like something said by one group in the first part and then responded to by another group with the words of the second part.

Allan Harman simply says that,

“Trusting in him inevitably leads to praise and adoration”.

Paul’s prayer for his Roman believers says it all, Romans 15: 13,

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”.

That overflow of hope and power in the Holy Spirit should outwardly show itself in praise.

3. (vs. 29) God is good because of his love endures forever

The Psalm finishes with the words it started with,

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever”.

Our God is a good and loving God not like the God of other religions who is either vague like the God’s of Hinduism or nasty and vengeful like the God of Islam. He is the God who we learnt in the previous Psalm, Psalm 117 loves the world so much he sent his only son Jesus Christ into the world to die for our sins on the cross that whoever believes in him will not perish but receive eternal life (John 3: 16).

This great and good God wants us to thank or praise him and if you have something done extraordinary for you you will naturally want to thank him and tell others what he or she did for you. Well God sent his Son to die for you so that through faith in he gives you the gift of eternal life.

Isn’t that something to thank him for and tell others about?

God loves you and I hope you now know why this is so true from what we have learnt in this Psalm talk for Psalm 118.

The words for my new song express what this Psalm has taught me about the Goodness and love of God and my concluding prayer is my offering of praise for the truth that God is good because his love endures forever.

GOD IS GOOD
(Based on Psalm 118 verses 1 – 9 and 27 – 29)

Chorus:
God is good for God is love
For sent his Son from heaven above
God is good for God is love
And one day he will raise us to heaven above.

1. So I’ll thank the Lord each day
For his goodness to me.
For his love endures evermore
So praise him and you’ll be free.

Chorus:
God is good for God is love
For sent his Son from heaven above
God is good for God is love
And one day he will raise us to heaven above.

2. So when I felt so hard pressed
I cried unto the Lord
And he bought me into a spacious place
And restored me with his word.

Chorus:
God is good for God is love
For sent his Son from heaven above
God is good for God is love
And one day he will raise us to heaven above.

3. So the Lord is always with me
To help me when life gets rough
He is my refuge I trust in him
No other helper is good enough.

Chorus,
God is good for God is love
For sent his Son from heaven above
God is good for God is love
And one day he will raise us to heaven above.

4. For the Lord he is God
For his light has shone on us
So we will praise him now and exalt his name
For in his goodness we can trust.

Chorus:
God is good for God is love
For sent his Son from heaven above
God is good for God is love
And one day he will raise us to heaven above.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

I thank you Father in heaven above that you are so good because of your love for me which I see in the death of your Son on the cross for me. I praise you for your love and continued help in my life. I praise you Jesus for always being there with me helping me through the trials and difficulties of life. I thank you Holy Spirit for your word and your work in my life changing me day by day to be more like Jesus. Help me Lord to live my life in service to you as a result of your goodness and love which I know from your word is what you desire as acceptable worship. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

PSALM 117 TALK: HALLELUJAH – FOR GOD LOVES THE WORLD

PSALM 117 TALK: HALLELUJAH – FOR GOD LOVES THE WORLD

(A short Psalm with a great message that calls on all people from every tribe and nation to praise God because he loves them all and can be relied upon at all times now and forever).

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

INTRODUCTION

I have just returned from a wonderful cruise to New Zealand in which I had the joy and privilege of being involved in two special activities which were playing trivia with my wife and others and joining with believers from around the world in fellowship and praise each morning at a special bible study run by one of the crew members wives.

The trivia competitions took place twice a day on the ship as a special activity for passengers to enjoy meeting up with others and enjoying trying to answer often obscure questions about all sorts of things in the past and present. Wikipedia defines trivia as,

“Pieces of information of little importance or value”.

My wife and I answered questions like:

How does a snake hear?

And the answer is with its tongue, which is true but who cares and the answer is anyone who gets that question in a trivia completion and answers it correctly.

Here are three bible trivia questions for you which have the same answer:

What is the shortest chapter of the bible?
What is the shortest Psalm?
What lies at the centre of the bible?

The answer is of course Psalm 117 as each Psalm is a chapter of the bible and Psalm 117 has only two verses making it the shortest chapter of the bible and of course the shortest Psalm. Also it has been calculated that there are 1,189 chapters in the bible and Psalm 117 is chapter 595 which means there are exactly 594 chapters in the bible before Psalm 117 and 594 that follow it placing it right in the centre of the bible.

These are trivia facts about Psalm 117 as they are pieces of information with little importance or value but its what Psalm 117 has to say through its short two verses where the real value of it is found. Listen to three commentators summary of the message and value of Psalm 117,

Charles Spurgeon,

“This Psalm, which is very little in its letter, is exceedingly large in its spirit”.

Campbell Morgan,

“This is the shortest song in the whole collection, but there is none greater or grander in its expression of praise”.

Albert Barnes,

“The idea (of this Psalm) is that God has a claim to universal worship, and that all the nations of the earth are under obligation to adore him as the true God”.

But for me I believe this Psalm is at the centre of the bible by design not accident because the reason why God deserves universal praise is because he has universal love or as John 3: 16 says,

“God loves the world”

This is, for me, what lies at the centre of the message of the bible and it is what separates its message from any other religion known to man. The opening words of verse 2 simply state that,

“Great is his (God) love towards us”.

This Psalm also has been called a missionary Psalm and I found these words of John Piper quoted by a man named Danny Akin this way,

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Mission exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate”.

I would like to add that mission is possible because God has given us a message to proclaim that calls men and women back to God through the loving sacrifice of God’s Son, Jesus Christ by his death and resurrection therefore we proclaim the message of John 3: 16 to the world that says,

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

This Psalm is also part of the “Egyptian Hallel” which are Psalms sung before (Psalms 113 – 115) and Psalms sung after (Psalms 116 – 118) the passover and it is no accident also that the passover was the time that Jesus gave his life in the sacrifice of his blood on the cross as this is when a greater act of God’s love was shown to us. This act of love that Jesus did for us made it possible for the whole world to come into the family of God and therefore Jew and Gentile (non – Jew) can now praise and worship the Lord as this Psalm alludes to.

I said at the start of this introduction that I enjoyed two things on my 14 day cruise of New Zealand, trivia competitions and joining with fellow Christian believers from all round the world in bible study each morning led by a crew members wife. Diane led us through some wonderful studies in God’s word and I even shared one day my insights into Psalm 1 and the book of Psalms but the enjoyment for me came from the wonderful opportunity God made for us on that cruise to meet up with fellow believers from many different nations to fellowship in the Lord and praise him which now I realise was an opportunity of putting into action the message and meaning of Psalm 117stated clearly by its opening words,

“Praise the Lord, all you nations”.

So lets look at this short but grand Psalm that follows a simple praise formula of a call to praise followed by reasons for it followed by a final call to praise. This means my outline for this Psalm is:

(vs. 1) A CALL TO THE NATIONS TO PRAISE THE LORD

1. (vs. 1a) Praise the Lord you Gentiles
2. (vs. 1b) Praise the Lord all tribes of the earth

2. (vs. 2a -b) TWO REASONS WHY THE NATIONS SHOULD PRAISE THE LORD

1. (vs. 2a) He loves us
2. (vs. 2b) He is faithful

3. (vs. 2c). A FIANL CALL TO THE NATIONS TO PRAISE THE LORD

1. (vs. 2c) Everyone say Hallelujah
2. Conclusion – God loves the world

(vs. 1) A CALL TO THE NATIONS TO PRAISE THE LORD

1. (vs. 1a) Praise the Lord you Gentiles

This two verses that open this Psalm are a call to worship that on the surface does not tell us much but when we come to terms with who is actually being called to praise in both lines of the first verse of this Psalm we discover some wonderful truths.

The NIV translation reads,

“Praise the Lord, all you nations”.

Translations like the New King James version picks up the literal Hebrew word for Nations as Gentiles and therefore reads,

“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles”.

Allan Harman points out that the Psalmist is,

“Issuing a call to the Gentile nations to join in the Lords praise”.

We don’t know when this Psalms was actually originally written but we know it was placed in the fifth book of Psalms after the Jews returned from captivity in Babylon. This was up to 500 years before the coming of Christ God’s Messiah. Until he came the people of God are only the people of Israel the nation God called into being. Yet this opening line of Psalm 117 looks forward to the coming of the Messiah who other prophecy says will make it possible for Gentiles – non Jews to know the Lord and praise him as Isaiah prophecies in Isaiah 49: 6,

“Indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,
That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

Psalm 117 then calls for the Gentile world or non – Jewish nations to worship the Lord and this is not unique in the book of Psalms for we read of this kind of thing in Psalm 47: 1, 2 / 66 4 / 98: 4 / Psalm 67 / 22: 27 and 86: 9. God’s love and concern for the Gentile world should not have been a shock for Jews before the time of Christ if they understand God’s commission or role for Israel to perform as stated as far back as Exodus 19: 6,

“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”

The story of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament is a story of a people who at best heard the words that they would be a special people of God but not also a kingdom of priests or a people who would represent God and his word to the world and therefore will take the message of the one true God to the world which is here called the Gentiles or the non – Jewish nations.

Even when Jesus came to the Jews as the Messiah they had become so closed off to the world or the Gentiles that they rejected Jesus because he dared to speak and minister to the social outcasts of their world and even the Gentiles or non -Jews like the Romans as we see in verses like Matthew 9: 9 – 13,

“As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.

10 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance”.

Matthew might have been a Jew but he was working for the Romans and was also despised because tax collectors extorted Jews asking for more money than the Roams demanded so that they could line there own pockets. Yet Matthew and a man named Levi both came to know the Lord and through that knowledge worship him.

Jesus spoke with and ministered to despised Gentile Samaritans as we see in John 4 and the fact of Jewish exclusiveness is seen in the disciples reaction to Jesus speaking with a women but a despised Samaritan women in John 4: 27,

“Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a women. But no one asked, ‘What do you want?’ or ‘Why are you talking with her”.

Even the early church had problems with Jewish exclusiveness as we see that even Peter himself needed a vision from God in Acts 10 to say God does not see the Gentiles as unclean so that he was willing to go to a Gentiles home of Cornelius to minster to him and his family. Cornelius was a Roman centurion and Peter starts his presentation of the Gospel to Cornelius and his family with these words in Acts 10: 34 – 35,

“Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.

Even later the Christian churches council in Jerusalem struggle with the concept of Paul’s ongoing ministry to the Gentiles and how the Jewish laws applied or did not apply to them.

If men like Paul had not fought the battle of the message of the Gospel being for the world and not just the Jewish nation then the Christian faith would have died out in the first or second centenary as just a minor Jewish sect.

Jesus makes it clear in John 10: 16 that he came to call and save people outside of the Nation of Israel when he states,

“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”.

Finally Jesus states clearly to his disciple that they are to preach the Gospel to all the world or all nations making disciples from every nation in the great commission in Matthew 28: 18 – 20,

“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Paul uses this first verse of this Psalm in Romans 15: 11 as one of many verses that declares the inclusion of the Gentiles into God’s kingdom or family and he speaks to promptly Jewish Christian believers he was writing to in Rome that they must accept all people who are part of God’s new nation of God because of the work of Christ and the message of the Gospel so he writes in verses 7- 9,

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed 9 and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy”.

Note how Paul sees the ultimate aim or goal of the inclusion of the Gentiles is to bring praise to God as John Piper pointed out in my quote from him in my introduction mission is not the ultimate goal of the church worship is and that is what Psalm 117: 1 is saying,

“Praise the Lord, all you nations”

However Piper goes on to point out that,

“Mission exists because worship doesn’t”.

Therefore the church of Jesus Christ must go into all the world and make disciples of all nations so that they will be able to and want to praise the Lord once they realise what he is like and what he has done for them.

2. (vs. 1b) Praise the Lord all tribes of the earth

The second line of verse 1 also seems very straight forward as the first line did as it simply says in the NIV translation,

“Extol him all you peoples”

However commentators like H.C Leupold point out that,

“Peoples, implies ‘nationalities’ and thinks in terms of the wide density of types found in the national groups”.

Some even suggest that “Peoples” could well mean even tribes which Danny Akin defines as,

“Different ethnic and linguistic groups”.

As I said in my introduction I recently came back from a cruise to New Zealand where my wife and I enjoyed going to a morning bible study with Christians from all over the world. We of course all could speak English but we came from different countries and from different ethnic groups but we all were able to fellowship together with lots of encouragement and praise in the Lord who we all knew as our Saviour and Lord.

United as one loving family through Christ with people from different ethnic and linguistic groups is a privilege only Christians can and do experience through the mighty love of God in Christ. I have also had the opportunity and joy of worshipping and ministering in non – English speaking countries like Myanmar and even their because of our common belief and commitment to Christ and his gospel message I have joined in worship and praise and sweet fellowship with my bothers and sisters in Christ from different ethnic backgrounds.

The second line of this call to praise of the Nations of the world speaks of praise with the word “extol” which when fully understood gives us some wonderful teaching as well. David Guzik translates ‘extol” with the word “Laud” and explains what that means with these words,

“To laud is to say praiseworthy things about a person”.

I have two beautiful grandchildren and I often Laud or say praiseworthy things about them and I do this because I love them dearly. So the writer of Psalm 117 calls all the nations and their tribes or different ethnic groups to laud or say praiseworthy things about the God we will see in the next section loves us so much.

So my final thought here is that God wants and loves our praise which of course he truly deserves and no matter what country or ethnic background or even social status we belong to we all can and do unite in the praise and worship of the great God of heaven and earth. This is what the book of Revelation sees as the ultimate expression of worship and praise of our God of believers and Angels in Revelation 7: 9 – 12,

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honour and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”

2. (vs. 2a -b) TWO REASONS WHY THE NATIONS SHOULD PRAISE THE LORD

1. (vs. 2a) He loves us

As I said this Psalm follows a familiar pattern in the book of Psalm when it has a call to praise our God then followed by reasons why we should praise the Lord and the writer of Psalm 117 gives us two reasons:

1, He loves us
2. He is faithful to us

In this section I will deal with the fact that God loves us. The writer of Psalm 117 says in the first line of verse 2,

“For great is his love towards us”

Danny Akin picks up on the key Hebrew word here which is ‘hesed” and writes,

“The various ways English translations attempt to capture its meaning is instructive: NKJV: merciful kindness, NASV; lovingkindness, HCSB; faithful love”.

Other writers speak of this love of God in the Old Testament as “Covenantal love” and we see this covenantal love of God way back in the book of Deuteronomy and particularly in the words of 7: 7 – 8a,

“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the Lord loved you”.

John makes it very clear in his first epistle when he writes, 1 John 4: 19,

“We love because he (God) first loved us”.

God loves because John says in 1 John 4: 8,

“God is love”

And how do we know God actually loves us?

John answers that important question as well with these wonderful words in 1 John 4: 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”.

The new Testaments special word for love is “Grace” which is “Mercy” in the Old Testament and grace basically is love we don’t deserve. Israel did not deserve to be called God’s special people who had God’s love lavished upon them and equally we do not deserve God’s love but as Paul says in Ephesians 2: 8- 9,

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

All other religions speak of how we must clean ourselves up or do good works and then God will love us or show mercy to us but Paul makes this remarkable claim in Romans 5: 8,

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

Finally the first line of verse 2 in Psalm 117 says that this love is:

“Great”.

Spurgeon writes,

“This mercy has been very great, or powerful. The mighty grace of God has prevailed even as the waters of the flood prevailed over the earth: breaking over all bounds, it has flowed towards all portions of the multiplied race of man. In Christ Jesus, God has shown mercy mixed with kindness, and that to the very highest degree”.

God therefore is great and his love is great so this should cause us to want to speak praise worthy things about God which we learnt in the previous section is to extol or laud this great God of love.

Spurgeon concludes,

“We can all join in this grateful acknowledgment, and in the praise which is therefore due”.

2. (vs. 2b) He is faithful

The second line of verse two gives us a second reason for praising the God of the bible and it reads this way,

“And the faithfulness of the Lord, endures forever”.

I mentioned in my previous comments on the covenant love of God which expressed in Hebrew as “Hesed” that God declared that as far back as his calling of the nation as God’s special people after he saved them out of slavery in Egypt recorded in Deuteronomy 7 and verses 7 – 8 but I stopped giving you the words of that reference after the words of verse 8 says,

“But it was because the Lord loved you”

The verse goes on to speak of the faithfulness of that commitment of love with these words,

“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”.

God is totally faithful and when he makes a promise he always keeps it. This is why many commentators speaking about the second line of verse 2 refer to this commitment of faithfulness as God’s word or God’s truth because the promises of God are found in the word of God and God’s word or promises are faithful or truthful and will endure forever.

Many Psalms and of course the apostle Peter speak of the eternal sure nature of the word of God compared us as us being like grass which is here today but gone tomorrow but God’s word endures or lasts forever, 1 Peter 1: 24,

“ For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, 25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

Peter is quoting Isaiah 40: 6 – 8 but similar words are found in Psalm 103: 15 – 18,

“The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; 16  the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. 17 But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—18 with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts”.

Just as God is love and loves us we therefore should love him so is it true that because God is faithful to us we should be faithful to him and as Psalm 103 verse 18 says,

“Keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts”.

David Guzik sums it up beautifully when he writes,

“God is to be praised not only for his loyal love, but also for his truth. His ever – enduring truth means that He will not change in His love and goodness to us”.

People today often speak of falling in love with someone but sadly also falling out of love for someone but God’s love is eternal and will never change so he loves us with a everlasting love as he is faithful.

3. (vs. 2c). A FIANL CALL TO THE NATIONS TO PRAISE THE LORD

1. (vs. 2c) Everyone say Hallelujah

The structure for praise found in many Psalms continues in this one for it started with a great call for the nations or all people from every tribe, tongue and ethnic group to praise the Lord followed by two great reasons for this praise of the Lord namely his love and faithfulness and now it concludes with a further and final call to praise with that Hebrew word, “Hallelujah”.

We have learnt that Hallelujah is translated “Praise the Lord” but it literally is made up of “Hallelu” which means praise and “Jah” which is the the start of the special covenantal name for God we translate as “Yahweh”. Which means the Psalm ends with Praise Yahweh.

This as we delve a little deeper has wonderful things to teach us. John Piper says this about that special name of God in connection with the word “Hallelujah”,

“You know the name Yahweh best from its shortened form Yah at the end of “Hallelujah,” which means “praise Yahweh.” I love to think about this when I sing. When I sing, “Hallelujah,” I love to really mean, “No! I don’t praise you Bel, or Nebo, or Molech, or Rimmon, or Dagon, or Chemosh. I turn from you with disdain to Yah! I praise Yah. Hallelu Yah!”

In another article on the name “Yahweh” John Piper gives us 10 things that the name “Yahweh” teaches us about God and I want to share his ten things here,

1. “He never had a beginning. Every child asks, “Who made God?” And every wise parent says, “Nobody made God. God simply is. And always was. No beginning.”

2. God will never end. If he did not come into being he cannot go out of being, because he is being.

3. God is absolute reality. There is no reality before him. There is no reality outside of him unless he wills it and makes it. He is all that was eternally. No space, no universe, no emptiness. Only God.

4. God is utterly independent. He depends on nothing to bring him into being or support him or counsel him or make him what he is.

5. Everything that is not God depends totally on God. The entire universe is utterly secondary. It came into being by God and stays in being moment by moment on God’s decision to keep it in being.

6. All the universe is by comparison to God as nothing. Contingent, dependent reality is to absolute, independent reality as a shadow to substance. As an echo to a thunderclap. All that we are amazed by in the world and in the galaxies, is, compared to God, as nothing.

7. God is constant. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He cannot be improved. He is not becoming anything. He is who he is.

8. God is the absolute standard of truth and goodness and beauty. There is no law-book to which he looks to know what is right. No almanac to establish facts. No guild to determine what is excellent or beautiful. He himself is the standard of what is right, what is true, what is beautiful.

9. God does whatever he pleases and it is always right and always beautiful and always in accord with truth. All reality that is outside of him he created and designed and governs as the absolute reality. So he is utterly free from any constraints that don’t originate from the counsel of his own will.

10. God is the most important and most valuable reality and person in the universe. He is more worthy of interest and attention and admiration and enjoyment than all other realities, including the entire universe”.

So when Psalm 117 or any other part of the bible calls us to say “Hallelujah” or praise the Lord we are not just praising a god but the eternal God who has always existed, who made heaven and earth and as we have seen in the previous section loves us.

Danny Akin who is the President of the Southheaston Baptist Seminary says this about praising Yahweh,

“God’s character cannot change and his promises cannot be broken. Call on Him and you will be saved. But, to call on Him, you must know Him, This is God’s heart. This is our mission. Praise! Hallelujah!”

Finally the last book of the bible the book of Revelation has some of the most glorious passages of praise in the bible and those passages of praise often feature the word “Hallelujah” and here is a fine example of that in chapter 19 verses 1 – 8,

“After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:

“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2 for true and just are his judgments.
He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” 3 And again they shouted: “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”

4 The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was
seated on the throne. And they cried: “Amen, Hallelujah!” 5 Then a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both great and small!” 6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. 7  Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8 
Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”

2. Conclusion – God loves the world

I started my Psalm talk on this amazing short but powerful and helpful Psalm 117 with some bible trivia that included the trivia fact that Psalm 117 is the middle chapter of the bible and therefore lies at the centre of the bible as we know it today. This, I believe is not a random useless piece of trivia as, I believe God has purposely placed this Psalm at the centre of his word to us for this Psalm also contains in its brief but comprehensive two verses the central message of the bible namely that,

“God loves the world”

This message comes from the fact that this Psalm calls all Nations, including those outside of Israel God’s special chosen nation to Praise him because of his great love towards us all and because of his faithfulness which is his word to us that endures forever.

The message that God loves the world is found so beautifully in what I call the verse of the New Testament that contains God’s central message to all mankind, John 3: 16 that says,

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

This is not trivia, a piece of information of little importance or value but a vital life changing fact that should cause us always to praise the Lord and lift up his name all the days of our lives.

I close my Psalm talk as usual with a original poem and a prayer,

PRAISE THE GOD OF LOVE
(Based on Psalm 117 and John 3: 16)

Praise the Lord now all you people
Praise his great and mighty name
For he is the God who calls us
To serve him and proclaim
That he is a God of love
Who sent his Son to die
And if we but believe in him
In death he will raise us high.

Chorus:

Praise the God the God of love
Who came down from heaven above
To sacrifice his life for us
So praise the God the God of love.

Extol the name of God today
For his done so much for us
He is a faithful loving God
Who longs for us to trust
And his word can be relied upon
It tells us he loves us
So turn from sin and follow him
For he died for you on the cross.

Chorus:

Praise the God the God of love
Who came down from heaven above
To sacrifice his life for us
So praise the God the God of love.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

Father in heaven I praise and thank you for your love and faithfulness to me which I principally see in the sending of your Son to die for my sins on the cross. I praise you for your word which reveals your love to me and which I can rely upon every day of my life. Help me Lord to praise you not only with my lips but with my life and help me to join with people from every nation in praise and worship of your wonderful love for us. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.