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.

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.

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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.

PSALM 116 TALK: HALLELUJAH – FOR GOD HEARS OUR PRAYERS AND SAVES US

PSALM 116 TALK: HALLELUJAH – FOR GOD HEARS OUR PRAYERS AND SAVES US

(A very personal Psalm written by a man who called out to God with a desperate prayer for help as he seemed to face certain death but who found that God hears his prayers and saved him. His testimony gives us hope and encouragement in our prayers that the same God the Psalmist prayed to also hears our prayers and helps and saves us).

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

INTRODUCTION

In my study of this Psalm, Psalm 116 I read and watched some other preachers seek to open up this Psalm and in that research I came across a sermon illustration for this Psalm that I want to borrow for my talk because it is so good.

The illustration comes from a popular black American preacher named Tony Evans from Texas USA who spoke of being in a elevator in a high rise building that one day got stuck between floors high up in the building. He was in the elevator with a number of people who reacted in all sorts of ways. Some, he said yelled out loudly and they hoped someone would hear them and do something to get the elevator going again.

Some of the people beat the walls of the elevator and a couple just fell to the floor weeping with fear. Then Evans just made his way to the front of the elevator and opened the door of a little box on the wall and calmly pulled out the phone in the box and spoke to the emergency operator and asked for help to be rescued from the elevator he was trapped in.

Evans then goes on to explain that we all will get stuck in difficult and even uncomfortable situations in life and what we know and believe will determine what we do in those situations. Some will kick and yell and even scream while others will fall in a crying heap on the floor paralysed by fear and despair.

The Christian however has a powerful God they can call upon and that God is non – other than the God who made this world and the universe who has unlimited power and resources to help us. I like the Australian hit song of the 1960’s by a an Australian aboriginal singer named Jimmy Little called “Telephone to Glory” which was written by a man named Fredrick . M. Lehman in 1919 here is the first verse and chorus of that song,

Central’s never “busy,” always on the line;
You may hear from heaven almost any time;
’Tis a royal service, free for one and all;
When you get in trouble, give this royal line a call.

Refrain:

Telephone to glory, oh, what joy divine!
I can feel the current moving on the line,
Built by God the Father for His loved and own,
We may talk to Jesus through this royal telephone.

Psalm 116 is according to another sermon I read on this Psalm is a personal testimony of a man
who for some reason came very close to death either through sickness or through the attacks of
his enemies and in that situation he used the Royal Telephone, prayer to the God of the bible to get
help and he got help in a wonderful way and that experience caused him to have greater
confidence in God which we read particularly in verse 1,

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. 2 Because he turned his ear to
me, I will call on him as long as I live”.

He tells us many things about prayer and the God who listens and answers it and he longs to also show his thanks to the God who listened to him and saved him and he tells us that he will publicly thank God through the required sacrifices laid down in the bible for this and he will use this to proclaim his God’s great name.

Another interesting aspect to this Psalm for me is that we know that this Psalm is part of the “Hallel” Psalms (113 – 1118) also called by the Jews, “The Egyptian Hallel Psalms” because these Psalms were used as part of the Passover celebrations where the Jews celebrated God saving his people out of the bondage of Egypt. Psalm 116 was and is used in Jewish worship after the passover meal has been eaten. This possed for me a very real question:

How does this deeply personal testimony Psalm relate to the Passover celebrations?

I like H.C. Leupold answer to this question:

“It is not inappropriate for the individual to think of the nations deliverance as being analogous to his own”.

So the answer to the Psalmist prayer for salvation or deliverance from certain death is an analogy of the Nations of Israel’s answered prayer for deliverance from death and bondage in Egypt.

Therefore as the Passover is an analogous event in history of the deliverance from the bondage of sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus we to can study and learn from this Psalm that God hears us when we pray and is in fact the only one who can save us from the consequences of our sins which is eternal death.

We have no idea when this Psalm was written or what actual event led to the Psalmist writing it only to say two things:

It was placed in the fifth book of Psalms after the return from exile.
The writer was delivered or saved from certain death.

Why many Psalms are vague concerning the full details of what the writer is praying about I think is done on purpose so that the Psalm can relate to individuals going through similar but not the same kind of experiences and find the same help and encouragement from the Psalmist experience and words.

The Psalm also contains many bible references particularly from previous Psalms which means the writer of this Psalm knew his bible and used the words from it in his day to day walk with the Lord.

I find the words of the actual Psalm so powerful and personal that I have attempted to use them even as my headings in my outline of this Psalm which is based on the concept of this Psalm being a praise of the Lord for how the God of the bible hears our prayers and saves us:

(1 – 9) I LOVE THE LORD

1. (1 – 2) I love the Lord
2. (3 – 9) I will call on him

2. (10 – 14) I TRUST IN THE LORD

1. (10 – 14) I trusted the Lord
2. (12 – 14) I will repay the Lord

3. (15 – 19) I SERVE THE LORD

1. (15 – 16) I am your servant
2. (17 – 19) I will worship the Lord

(1 – 9) I LOVE THE LORD

1. (1 – 2) I love the Lord

This very personal Psalm commences with the intense and emotionally charged words of verse 1 that says,

“I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy”.

Many commentators who know the original Hebrew point out the unusual way the Hebrew actually goes here. Allan Harman says this,

“This translation of the NIV is possible, but the position of the word “Lord’ is debatable. The preferred and more literal rendering is, ‘I love, for the Lord heard the voice of my supplications”.

Harmon goes on to explain what this literal translation of the original Hebrew means,

“The unusual expression may well draw attention to the intensity of the love that he felt for the Lord”.

So the original writer really now loved the Lord far greater than he did before his recent experience of God answering his prayers. Harmon also quotes the words of the apostle John in 1 John 4: 19,

“We love because he first loved us”.

Note the other word for love this Psalmist uses at the end of verse 1, “mercy” which is the Old Testament word for grace or love we do not deserve. It is this concept of grace or love we do not deserve that features in the presentation of God in the bible that separates it from all other concepts of God found in other religions.

The God of the bible helps us when we don’t deserve help as Paul makes it clear in Romans 5: 8,

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

Also the God of the bible actually listens to us when we pray as we read in verse 2,

“Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live”.

The idea of God listening to us features all through the Psalms, 17: 6, 31: 2, 71: 2, 86: 1 and
102: 2 . As we learnt from Psalm 113: 5 – 6, the God of the bible is both great, mighty, powerful and lives enthroned in heaven but also chooses to stoop down to as it says here in Psalm 116 to,

“Turn his ear to me”.

I have already mentioned in my introduction some of the words of the song “Telephone to Glory” and I think the last two lines of the chorus says it all,

“Built by God the Father for his loved and own
We may talk to Jesus through his royal telephone”.

When we speak to God through the Lord Jesus we are not on a dead line with no one on the other end but God is listening and the writer to the Hebrews speaks of this confidence we can have when we pray in Hebrews 4: 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”.

Paul tells us in Romans 8: 34 that Jesus established this “Royal Telephone” or communication with the Father in heaven, called prayer through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus,

“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.”

So the writer of Psalm 116 says that he loves the Lord because the Lord showed him the love he did not deserve when he listened to his desperate prayer for help and finally this renewed experience of the love of God will lead him to,

“Call on him (the Lord) as long as I live”.

When we prove God in our lives though answered prayer our faith in God is given a boost and we learn afresh to trust in the Lord and love him more. This was the experience of this Psalm writer his actual personal experience of a remarkable answer to his prayer bolstered his faith and led him to look to God even more in prayer.

May we do the same and lean that God does love us because he not only sent Jesus to die for us but he listen to us and answer our prayers as John says in 1 John 5: 13 – 14,

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us”.

2. (3 – 9) I will call on him

In the first two verses we are not told what the writer of Psalm 116 cried out to the Lord about, what his prayer request was for but now we are told in both verses 3 and 8 that it was what seemed to be certain death that caused him to call out to the Lord.

In verse 3 this prayer request is expressed this way,

“The chords of death entangled me the anguish of the grave cam over me”.

And in verse 8 the prayer request is expressed this way,

“For the Lord has delivered me from death”.

Why the Psalmist was close to certain death we are not told. Could it have been like King Hezekiah recorded in Isaiah 38 sickness as verses 1 says,

“In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

Or could it been certain death that would come from some kind of enemy as David speaks of in Psalm 18: 3,

“I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies”.

I mention Psalm 18 because the writer of Psalm 116 lifts and steals the opening words of David’s next verse, verse 4 in the opening words of Psalm 116 verse 3 to describe his near death experience,

“The chords of death entangled me”

The next words of the writer of Psalm 116 in verse 3 are:

“The anguish of the grave came over me”

Which I think echo David’s words in Psalm 18 verse 5,

The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me”.

Our death or facing what might seem certain death is probably one of the most confronting and difficult things we will ever experience as the mortality of our existence and the sheer hopelessness of our situation is never more real and terrifying.

So whether this writer faced death through sickness or death at the hands of his enemies is not clear but he did face what seemed to him to be certain death. The image for him and David as death being like cords pulling him into the grave is described this way by writers of the Pulpit commentary,

“Death is pictured as seizing his victim and binding him with cords”.

Leopold likens it to the actions of a ancient hunter who traps his animal pray in a net and the victim feels trapped in the mesh of the hunters net that is dragging it to its certain cruel and bloody end, death.

These are vivid images of a very real and frightening situation the writer of Psalm 116 prayed his prayer from.

So in verses 3 – 9 I see four other things that the writer of Psalm 116 wants to convey to us about his experience of a remarkable answer to prayer he prayed when he faced what seemed to him and others like certain death and they are:

  1. How he felt when he faced certain death (verses 3b and 8b)
  2. What he did when when he faced certain death (verse 4)
  3. What God did when he called out to him (verses 5 and 6)
  4. What he did when his prayer was answered (verses 7 and 9)

So lets have a closer look at each of these four things the writer of Psalm 116 wants to convey to us about his experience of a remarkable answer to the prayer he prayed when he faced what seemed to him was certain death.

How he felt when he faced certain death (verse 3b and 8b)

As I said this is a deeply personal testimony of the writers experience of his answer to prayer of deliverance from certain death and in the second half of verse 3 he tells us how he felt as he was being pulled very quickly to what seemed certain death, he writes,

“The anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow”

Then in verse 8b he writes,

“My eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling”

I have only personally witnessed the actual death of one person my own dear father who died ten years ago at the age of 80 and my wife and two sisters stood around his bed in hospital as he spent what was for me about half and hour of terrible suffering as he died of the effects of pneumonia on his already weakened aged body.

My dad gasped to breath and we stood around him weeping and seeking to somehow comfort him as his life seemed to be taken away from him. We all cried out with a loud wale of anguish and despair as he breathed his last breath. Death I thought later is not a pretty thing it is an awful unnatural and devastating experience to witness and I am sure go through.

My Dad was not a believer and he came from a long line of non – believing ancestors as his father and grand father were honest open atheists who hated believers and the churches they belonged to. I was often a great disappointment to my Dad and the family that both he and my mum came from. I dared to believe in God and at family gatherings I was often the but of many peoples jokes as the tea tottering foolish believer of fairy tales.
However when the chips are down and death is staring us all in the face then my so called foolish faith seems for a short while not so foolish and I have had some of my best opportunities to witness to my non believing families at funerals of family members over many years now.

Paul makes many startling claims about death and the Christian faith and I love his words about our victory over death in 1 Corinthians 15: 55 and 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”.

Note that Paul tells us death has a sting or it will be a painful and unpleasant experience but because of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ the pain or in Psalm 116 terms anguish and tears of death will turn into victory.

What he did when when he faced certain death (verse 4)

The writer of Psalm 116 unlike my Dad was a true believer and as he faced certain, painful and frightening death he did something that verse 4 now tells us,

“Then I called on the name of the Lord; ‘Lord save me’”

What the writer did has three parts:

  1. He called
  2. On the name of the Lord
  3. Save me

Lets have a closer look at each of these three parts of what the writer of Psalm 116 did as he faced certain death.

  1. He called

Spurgeon writes,

“Prayer is never out of season, he prayed then, when things were at their worst. When the good man could not run to God, he called to him. In his extremity his faith came to the front: it was useless to call on man, and it may have seemed almost as useless to appeal to the Lord; but yet he did with his whole soul”.

In my introduction I spoke of the sermon illustration Tony Evans gave of his experience in a high rise buildings lift when it stopped working and got stuck between floors and of how people in the lift reacted different ways. He said some called out loudly, while others thumped the walls of the lift all hoping some might hear they were in trouble and needed help. He even said some simply slumped to the floor and gave up in despair.

But Tony Evans alone knew what to do and he calmly stepped forward and opened a little box near the front of the lift and used the phone in that box to call for help.

Tony Evans lift illustration is an analogy of what people do when they face real problems and difficulties in their lives, they might call out in vain hope to others for help, or thrash around thumping walls in anger or despair or both or they might just slump to the floor and simply give up.

However the true believers of the God of the bible know where the real life line is found and it is through prayer which I alluded to in my introduction as God’s telephone to glory. When the chips are down or when death is staring us in the face what we do then really shows what we really believe.

For the writer of Psalm 116 he followed the example of David in Psalm 18 verse 6,

“In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help”.
Jesus wants us to turn and call to him when life gets hard and burdensome as he says to us 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.”

Not that when we might face death in the future turning to Jesus will save us from it, he might if our time in this life is not over but rather even if it is our time to pass from this life to the next he will be with us helping us through the pain and burden of even our deaths.

I hope that when my time comes to die, and we all know we will, then my faith will cause me to call out to the Lord for comfort and help knowing that his promise is to give me rest.

2. On the name of the Lord

The writer of Psalm 116 did not call out vainly in the air for help like the people in the lift did in Tony Evans stuck lift story he called on the name of of the Lord. Leopold explains well what calling on the name of the Lord really means when he writes,

“God’s name implies the fulness of revelation that the Lord has made concerning himself”.

In David’s Psalm 18 that the writer of Psalm 116 was obviously very familiar with David speaks this way about what he believed God had revealed himself to him in verse 2 of that Psalm,

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and deliverer; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold”.

And remember David wrote these words when he himself seemed to face certain death and like the writer of Psalm 116, called out to this Lord he has just described.

People might even try and pray when they face death but who or what are they praying to, often simply is a vain hope of someone or something beyond themselves who they think might be there to help and deliver them.

However David and the writer of Psalm 116 called out to the God of the bible who as I said earlier is the creator of this world and the entire universe who has unlimited resources to draw upon to help us. I mentioned earlier the confidence the writer of the Hebrews spoke of in Hebrews 4: 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”.

And Paul spoke of in Romans 8: 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.”

The writer of Psalm 116 will tell us a bit more about the kind of God he called upon in the next verse but for now I offer the verses that precede the Hebrews 4: 16 verse that tell us that when we pray to the revealed name and person of the Lord Jesus Christ we not only have a saviour who has access to unlimited resources but we are praying to someone who understands our needs and difficulties, Hebrews 4: 14 – 15,

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”.

3. Save me

The writer of Psalm 116 simple prayer request was,

“Lord save me”.

Sometimes the best prayers are the simple to the point prayers that do not prattle on but get straight to the point and sometimes the situation is so dangerous and great all we can do is pray something like, Lord save me or even Lord help me.

I call simple prayers like this arrow prayers, prayers spoken in the heat of a situation when time for longer more thought through prayer is simply not available. I seek to commence my day some time in the morning after breakfast with a time of prayer but I also seek to practice saying simple arrow prayers when needed during the day.

Some writers call prayer the Christians breathing and the writer of Psalm 116 when he was faced with certain death used some of what could have seemed like his final breath praying,

“Lord save me”.

This prayer request lies at the heart of all prayer requests as in a sense its what we all need in various ways.

We need to be saved because of our many sins and Paul says this in Roams 6: 23,

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

Paul says in Romans 10: 9,

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”.

We also need to be saved or helped in various ways throughout our Christian life as we face all kinds of trials and difficulties which again we can look to The Lord Jesus Christ as Peter encourages his readers to do in 1 Peter 5: 6 – 7,

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”.

3. What God did when he called out to him (verses 5 and 6)

The writer of Psalm 116 now tells us in verses 5 and 6 what God did when he called out on the name of the Lord to save him when he faced certain death and his answer tells us a little more about what he believed the God the bible is like as well.

He tells us two things the Lord did after he called out to him when he faced certain death:

  1. The Lord was gracious (vs. 5)
  2. The Lord saved him (vs. 6)

Lets have a closer look at each of these two things the Lord did after the writer of Psalm 116 called out to the name of the Lord to save him when he faced certain death.

  1. The Lord was gracious (vs. 5)

The first thing the writer tells us the Lord did when he called pout to him to save him is what we read in verse 5,

“The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion”.

This description of God comes up all through the book of Psalms and all through the bible and first appears in the book of Exodus when God comes close to Moses and somehow passes by him we read in Exodus 34: 6,

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness”.

David spoke about this quality of God a lot and it appears twice in his Psalm 57 like verse 3,

“He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me— God sends forth his love and his faithfulness”.

David also speaks of God in the same way in verse 10 of that Psalm when he says,

“For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies”

The writer of Psalm 116 adds “righteous” to graciousness and later in the verse compassion and Albert Barnes explains and applies why “righteousness” is as important as graciousness or love,

“And righteous … – Just; true; faithful. This, too, is a proper foundation of appeal to God: not that we are righteous, and have a claim to his favour, but that he is a Being who will do what is right; that is, what is best to be done in the case. If he were an unjust Being; if he were one on whose stability of character, and whose regard for right, no reliance could be placed, we could never approach him with confidence or hope.”

So even the fact that God “turned his ear” as the writer of Psalm 116 to his prayer or call for help is only because the God of the bible is both gracious and righteous”.

2. The Lord saved him (vs. 6)

Then in verse 6 the writer tells us that this gracious and righteous God saved him from the certain death he faced but in telling us this he speaks of another great truth about the God of the bible for in verse 6 he writes,

“The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me”.

The unwary could be translated “simple minded” but Alan Harman says it should be translated,

“Those people who are resting on the Lord and his promises”.

Allan Harman points out that,

“The Psalmist was simple – hearted person when in humility he called on the Lord, and was saved”.

Jesus gives us the secret to God acting towards us in compassion and righteousness when he fleshes out what it means to be simple – hearted or people who are resting in the promises of God in the beatitudes in Matthew 5: 3 – 10,

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted. 5  Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, or they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, or theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.

James simply says, in James 4: 10,

‘Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up”.

The writer of Psalm 116 was brought very low and as he humbled himself before the Lord and called out to him to be saved, we read at the end of verse 6,

“He saved me”.

4. What he did when his prayer was answered (verses 7 and 9)

The writer obviously wrote this Psalm after he had gone through his near death experience and was saved from it by God after he prayed to God or called on God to save him so we have two verses in the first half of the Psalm that the writer tells us his resolve as a result of Gods wonderful answer to his prayer. The second half of the Psalm deals much more with what the writer of Psalm 116 now intends to do as a result of God’s answer to his desperate prayer.

So we have two things the writer of Psalm 116 now resolves to do as a result of God’s answer to his prayer and they are in two verses. They are:

  1. Get back to being at rest with God (vs. 7)
  2. Continue to walk in faith with the Lord (vs. 9)

Lets have a closer look at each of this two resolves in the first half of this Psalm:

  1. Get back to being at rest with God (vs. 7)

I have met Christians in the past who have survived and come through difficult traumatic experiences and sadly have not moved on in peace and assurance with the Lord. Many years ago a good Christian friend of mine returned from a tour of Vietnam during the Vietnam war and he survived after we all at my church had prayed much for him but he was so shaken up by the experience of that war and could not let his memory of what he saw and maybe did go that he turned his back on his faith in God and even us as his friends. He kept saying to me, “but you weren’t there Jim I was and I cannot forget what I saw”. What my friend was suffering from now has a name, “Post Traumatic Stress”.

The writer of Psalm 116 had just experienced great trauma in his life and it could have been as a result of being threatened by a enemy like David alludes to in Psalm 18 the writer of Psalm 116 resolve is in verse 7,

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

I lost contact with my soldier friend as he moved away from his home town soon after returning from Vietnam. However a couple of years later I met another Christian young man who also had served in Vietnam and one night on a fellowship camp I went to he gave us a talk on his often terrifying experiences while he was in Vietnam. He spoke of terrible things that happened or that he witnessed but at the same time he spoke of how God had helped him not only to survive but helped him cope with the trauma he had and the memory of it since he returned to Australia.

He had the same resolve as the writer of Psalm 116, he wanted to find rest and peace for his soul as he looked to the Lord who had helped him through the dark and difficult time he had gone through in Vietnam.

The apostle Paul went through many difficult and traumatic experiences as he sought to proclaim the Gospel in his day but he tells us why he was able to cope and get through these traumas in Philippians 4: 12 – 13,

“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”.

We all have to come to the point in our lives when we answer the all important question,

What will define my life now, the problems, difficulties and even failures of my past or The Lord Jesus Christ who gave his life for me and promises his help and strength me now and in the
future?

2. Continue to walk in faith with the Lord (vs. 9)

The second resolve of the writer of Psalm 116 now that God had saved his life after he prayed a desperate prayer to his is in verse 9, that says,

“That I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living”

My close Christian friend who returned from Vietnam many years ago obviously suffering from Post Traumatic Stress” obviously at the time I was speaking to him all those years ago chose to do the opposite thing to what this verse speaks of doing, he chose to not walk with the Lord in the land of the living.

Maybe God kept his hand on this young man and helped turn him around I do not know but it was very sad and even frustrating for me talking with my good friend as at the very point he needed God’s help in his life he seemed to be turning his back on the Lord.

I have sadly witnessed others doing the same thing for different reasons like the church warden of a church I attended years ago who after loosing his dear wife to cancer said, “well if that is what God can do to a person I want nothing to do with him anymore”. With that statement he stopped attending our church and cut off friendship and contact with all of his long standing Christian friends.

The minister of my church said to me in private that he felt to sad for that church warden because just when God and his church could offer so much help and assistance to him he simply refused to keep walking with the Lord and as a consequence now had no one to turn to that could help him.

Earlier in Philippians 4 chapter I recently quoted Paul gives us some further words of advice when he says this in 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.”.

The other soldier friend I met a few years after my other friend had come back from Vietnam was obviously a man who practiced prayer and trust in the Lord and he seemed to have within him a quiet but sure confidence that only God can give, He had put the horrors of the war behind him and like the wrier of Psalm 116 was resolved to walking,

“Before the Lord in the land of the living”.

Again what are you going to do live in the past in the land of the dead or walk in the present with the Lord in the land of the living?

2. (10 – 14) I TRUST IN THE LORD

1. (10 – 11) I trusted the Lord

Verse 10 commences what many commentators call the second section of this Psalm and it is interesting to note that the original Greek version of the Old Testament called “”Septuagint” breaks the second half of this Psalm away from the first half as a seperate Psalm. However Leuopld points out that even though some of the logic between the two sections is a bit fuzzy the Psalm still can be seen unified and that it is the writers feeling of gratitude that moves him along and,

“The stricter concerns of logic may momentarily be disregarded”.

So in this first part of the second half of this Psalm we see how the Psalmist trusted in God when everyone said his situation was hopeless.

He states again clearly in verse 10 what he did when he realised he was facing what seemed to be certain death,

“I trusted in the Lord when I said, ‘I am greatly afflicted”.

When it seemed as though there was no hope for our writer he exercises real faith in God which he calls trusting in the Lord. When all else fails in our lives then our faith is really proven. My young friend returning from Vietnam had his faith surely tested through the horrors of the Vietnam war and sadly his faith was found wanting as did the church warden a few years later when his dear wife died of cancer.

Peter speaks of the testing of our faith in God this way 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”.

My other friend who experienced the horrors of the Vietnam war had a different reaction to that time of grief and trial as he never gave up his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and he returned a chastened man but a man of faith who had a wonderful testimony to tell of how God sustained him and even saved him through the danger and calamities of that war.

Like the people in the lift that got stuck in my opening illustration some people in times of difficulty simply yell and scream and thrash about banging the walls so to speak but Tony Evans the minister who told this story simply went to the little box in the front of lift and opened it to use the emergency phone to call for help.

When I find myself in the midst of a trail I too have been able to turn to God in prayer and by doing so I proved again for myself God is not only there but as the writer of Psalm 116 says in verse 1,

“He turns his ear to me”.

Then in verse 11 the writer I believe reveals the very real desperate plight he faces with the words of verse 11,

“In my alarm I said, ‘Everyone is a liar”.

Allan Harman suggests a very plausible explanation of these words when he writes,

“Men may have been giving him false advice, and he knew them well enough to declare them to be Lias”.

Not that they were dishonest but humanly speaking all they could see was that our writers predicament was so grave that only his death could be its outcome. Like a doctor treating a terminally ill cancer patient he must tell the patient his prognosis.

It is at this point of the Psalm that the story of the life threatening illness of King Hezekiah relates best as even the great true prophet of God Isaiah was forced to tell Hezekiah that his sickness would end in his death as Isaiah 38: 1 records,

“In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

Then we read of Hezekiah’s desperate prayer of faith in verse 2,

“Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 3 “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly”.

So it seems that if the advice of great prophet is you are going to die then it would seem that humanly speaking you will die but Isaiah was seen to be kind if lying because after that God tells Isaiah something quite different and it is good news for king Hezekiah as we read in verses 4 – 6,

Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: 5 “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. 6 And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city”.

God chose to work through the faith of King Hezekiah, making the sound human advice that he would surely die a lie as he worked a miracle and saved King Hezekiah’s life and through him his peoples lives from the powerful Assyrians.

2. (12 – 14) I will repay the Lord

Then in the second part of the second section of Psalm 116 the writer asks what he can do to repay the Lord for his miraculous loving deliverance or salvation with the words of verse 12,

“What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me”.

Of course the obvious answer is he could not repay the goodness of God for that price’s payment would be far greater than any man or women could ever come up with. His deliverance is therefore priceless as it comes from a God who love and power is limitless.

Our salvation in Christ is even more priceless than what the writer of Psalm 116 price would have been for his miraculous deliverance from certain death. As Paul states in Ephesians 1: 6 – 7,

“To the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace”.

However even though we could never repay God for his amazing grace in saving us through the giving of his Son’s blood on the cross he still wants a response of gratitude from us for our realisation that he has saved us and the writer of Psalm 116 gives us two things he would do out of gratitude for what God so lovingly did for him and they are:

  1. Lift up the Lord in proclamation of his salvation (vs. 13)
  2. For-fill the promises he made to the Lord (vs. 14)

So lets have a closer look at each go these two things:

  1. Lift up the Lord in proclamation of his salvation (vs. 13)

I believe that the writer of Psalm 116 does not believe he can actually repay the Lord what he called the Lords gracious goodness to him but he must show in some way his gratitude to the Lord for his loving acts for him. So the writer speaks first of all lifting up the salvation he performed for him in a public proclamation of the Lord, he writes in verse 13,

“I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord”.

  1. The cup of salvation seems to be a poetic expression for one of two things which are:

A general expression of saying thanks to the Lord publicly like a kind of toast.

Or

2. A specific ceremonial offering like a drink offering (Numbers 28: 7) or the cup offered up as part of the Passover meal as Jesus used in his last approver meal in the last supper which Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 10: 16.

Many commentators lean towards the ceremonial interpretation owing to the reference in verse 17 of the offering of the sacrifice of a thank offering.

In any case both interpretations to me are a form of a public declaration of the Lords salvation. Jesus intended that lifting a cup and drinking out of it and the breaking of bread to represent the giving of his blood and body as a way of remembering his spilt blood and broken body for us in achieving our salvation as Jesus declares in Luke 22: 17 – 19,

“After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

So in the communion service, however your church might do it is a way of us lifting up the cup of salvation as a physical act of proclaiming our Salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ for us.

2. For-fill the promises he made to the Lord (vs. 14)

Then the writer of Psalm 116 speaks of a way of showing genuine gratitude for God’s salvation for him in a very Old Testament way by the fulfilment of a vow in verse 14, he writes,

“I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people”

Allan Harmon points out that,

“A vow was a verbal promise to God (Numbers 30: 1 – 4 and Deuteronomy 23: 21)

Which he goes on to point out that,

“It involved the offering of a promised gift for sacrifice”.

So it seems that the writer of Psalm 116 made some kind of vow to God as he prayed for the Lord to deliver him from what seemed to him to be certain death. The concept of offering vows features in the Psalms of David as well as we see in Psalm 56: 12 – 13,

“I am under vows to you, my God; I will present my thank offerings to you. 13 For you have
delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life”.

So again this offering of a vow was a form of public proclamation of the salvation of the Lord for a certain individual and in this case the writer of Psalm 116.

In the New Testament we have the concept of the sacrifice of praise as the writer to the Hebrews speaks of in Hebrews 13: 15,

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name”.

Note how this sacrifice of praise is offered by our lips as we profess or proclaim the name and I believe work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul speaks in Romans 12: 1 that our worship now because of the mercies of God offered to us in Jesus Christ is a sacrifice of service to the Lord,

“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”.

This sacrifice of service is obviously form of public act of love to others that shows that we really do appreciate what God has so richly has done for us out of his love for us.

3. (15 – 19) I SERVE THE LORD

1. (15 – 16) I am your servant

The last section of this Psalm continues the writer of Psalm 116 resolve to praise and worship the Lord because of what he did for him in his merciful answer to his desperate prayer to save him from what seemed to him and even his close friends certain death.

However the first verse of this last section, verse 15 is probably the hardest verse in the Psalm to interpret, it says,

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants”.

It sounds looks like at first sight that the writer of Psalm 116 is saying God delights or takes pleasure in the death of his faithful servants. We know that this must not be the case for Ezekiel 18: 23 says,

 “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”

The faithful servant of God is a person who has truly turned from his wicked ways so God could not take pleasure or consider precious their deaths.

Allan Harmon answers this quandary for me with these words,

“This means God will never be uncaring when his people come near to death”.

Harmon then quotes Psalm 72: 14, which says,

“He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight”

So the writer of Psalm 116 somehow learnt that God cares for his servants, those who have faith in God and seek to put that faith in action through service even when they come close to death or even die.

This is a comforting thought for all of us as we all will die one day and we of course take Jesus words in John 11: 25 – 26 seriously when they say,

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die”.

Then in verse 16 the writer confirms that he is and has been a faithful servant of God when he says,

“Truly I am your servant Lord”

Then adds a personal testimonial fact,

“I serve you just as my mother did”,

Obviously the witness of his dear mother was a major factor in his own faith in God just as it was for Timothy as Paul says to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1: 5

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also”.

Finally in verse 16 he adds the recent testimony of God’s loving help with the words,

“You have freed me from my chains”.

He poetically pictures his recent illness or crisis with his enemies as being like locked in chains and having the Lord himself setting him free from the chains that bound him.

I read a very helpful little article on the Net by Jack Graham called “4 Steps to breaking free from the chains that bind you” and here is that short article for your edification.

“Do you feel like you’re living in hope and victory – or like you’re being held hostage by fear, worry, and other self-destructive thoughts and habits? The great news is Jesus is your bondage breaker. In His name, you can break free from any chains that bind you – whether they’re chains of anxiety and fear… or alcohol and drugs.

Here are four steps to help you fight the lies and break free:

1. Remember who you are in Jesus. If you’re a Christian, you’re a new person in Christ. You’re not a slave – you’ve been set free! (See Galatians 5:1.) You just need to learn to live in the victory that Christ has given you.

2. Rely on God’s strength, not your own. We’re all helpless in our own strength, but we’re not hopeless! You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you, as Philippians 4:13 promises. In His name, you can defeat any enemy and shake off any shackles.

3. Fight the lies by focusing on God’s life-changing truth. As Jesus said in John 8:32, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Stop believing the lies you tell yourself or the enemy tells you. There’s no adversary or addiction that can’t go down in the name of Jesus. You just have to know God’s truth so you can fight the lies.

4. Be willing to be set free, healed, and made whole. Remember what Jesus said to the lame man at the Pool of Bethseda. He had been lying there for 38 years – nearly 4 decades! One day, Jesus came by, looked him in the eye, and said, “Do you want to be healed?” That’s the question Jesus is asking you today: “Are you willing? Do you want to let go of this and be set free?” Some people get comfortable in their behaviour – but sin is like a disease. If you’re willing to admit there’s a problem and let it go, Jesus will help you break every chain.

So reject the lies of Satan and start believing what Jesus says to you. Jesus says, “I love you and I have a plan for your life.” So trust Him. Yield your life completely to Him. Say, “I’m not going to live my life this way anymore. Lord Jesus, change me, cleanse me, and take control.” As you do that, Jesus will break the chains so you can live free in unbridled hope and victory in Him”.

2. (17 – 19) I will worship the Lord

The writer of Psalm 116 complete his Psalm with a final resolve to show gratitude for God’s amazing answer to his desperate prayer of deliverance from certain death and these last three verses contain a resolve to publicly worship God. He expresses his resolve to publicly worship God in Old Testament pre – coming of Jesus terms.

He actually expresses two Old Testament worship activities that could have been combined in one act of formal worship. The two Old Testament worship activities are:

  1. The sacrifice of a thank offering (vs. 17)
  2. The fulfilment of a vow (vs. 18)

Lets have a close look at these two Old Testament (v. 17)

  1. The sacrifice of a thank offering (vs. 17)

We have to remember that our writer of Psalm 116 is a Old testament believer who lived hundreds of years before the coming of Christ so he is referring to Old Testament sacrifices when he writes in verse 17,

“I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord”..

The thank offering is what is laid down through the Old Testament law in Leviticus 7: 12 – 15,

“‘If they offer it as an expression of thankfulness, then along with this thank offering they are to offer thick loaves made without yeast and with olive oil mixed in, thin loaves made without yeast and brushed with oil, and thick loaves of the finest flour well-kneaded and with oil mixed in. 13 Along with their fellowship offering of thanksgiving they are to present an offering with thick loaves of bread made with yeast. 14 They are to bring one of each kind as an offering, a contribution to the Lord; it belongs to the priest who splashes the blood of the fellowship offering against the altar. 15 The meat of their fellowship offering of thanksgiving must be eaten on the day it is offered; they must leave none of it till morning”.

One commentator pointed out that the thank offering was a very public form of sacrifice as it was a kind of meal involving a special kind of bread that was eaten by the giver and the priests or Levites in the Temple.

This is probably why he can speak of proclaiming or calling on the name of the Lord in the offering of this kind of sacrifice. He is actually saying he will use his thank offering as a opportunity to give a testimony to the grace and goodness of God in answering his recent prayer concerning his deliverance from what seemed certain death.

Paul makes it clear that because of what Christ has done for us we are now under a different pattern of teaching in Roams 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”.

Paul is saying we are no longer under law but grace and in Romans 12: 1 he speaks of how that works in way out for us in our acts of worship,

“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”.

As we serve God as our act of worship we should call on the name of the Lord or proclaim him to others and share our testimony of what the Lord has done for us like the writer of Psalm 116 obviously sought to do.

2. The fulfilment of a vow (vs. 18)

Then the writer of Psalm 116 speaks or another Old Testament worship requirement called the fulfilment of vows as he writes in verse 18,

“I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of his people”

The Leviticus 7 passage I quoted from in the first point speaks of the fulfilment of vows and the making of a thank offering in verse 16 – 17,

‘“If, however, their offering is the result of a vow or is a freewill offering, the sacrifice shall be eaten on the day they offer it, but anything left over may be eaten on the next day. 17 Any meat of the sacrifice left over till the third day must be burned up”.

So the Old Testament worship requirements spoken about in verses 17 and 18 could be the one act of offering a thank offering in the connection of the keeping of a vow which I pointed out was a very public or social thing as the special bread used in the Thank Offering was eaten by the participant and the priests and Levites present in the Temple at the time of the offering.

So the words,

“In the presence of his people”.

Means again the writer of Psalm 116 wants to use this special religious ceremony as a form of public testimony to the grace and goodness of the Lord in answering his recent prayer of deliverance from what seemed certain death.

I mentioned in my comments of verse 14 that vow keeping was a serious matter for Old Testament believers who sought to obey the word of God and even David speaks of keeping his vows in Psalm 56: 12 – 13,

“I am under vows to you, my God; I will present my thank offerings to you. 13 For you have
delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life”.

Even David saw the short comings of the Old Testament sacrificial system when he says this in Psalm 51: 16,

“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings”.

In the next verse David tells us what God actually delights in,

“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God will not despise”.

The writer of Psalm 116 shows all the signs of a man who wants to show God his appreciation from his heart and his willingness to speak of God publicly and to perform worship publicly proclaiming the name of the Lord points to his obedient and contrite heart.

His final words of his Psalm speak of where he will publicly fulfil these acts of thankful worship,

“In the courts of the house of the Lord – in your midst, Jerusalem”.

He is speaking of the Temple in Jerusalem that must have been there either before the Babylonian conquest or the re- built Temple after the return from Babylonian captivity. There in God’s appointed place he determines to publicly testify to God’s grace and goodness in delivering him from what seemed certain death when God answered his desperate prayer.

For us the Temple is long gone and Paul teaches that we are now little Temples of God or individual dwelling places of God on earth, 1 Corinthians 6: 19 – 20,

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies”.

And we are also members of the church which is now the household of God or God’s Temple on earth as Paul teaches in Ephesians 2: 19 – 22,

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit”.

So we should seek first to testify to the grace of God he has given us even in the answer to our prayers in the church where we meet publicly to worship the Lord with other believers.

Also we should be willing to testify to others outside of the church of how God has answered our prayers as this kind of thing does give glory to God and points others to the reality of his love and power.

The writer of Psalm 116 then ends his Psalm with the Hebrew word “Hallelujah” which we translate in English as “Praise the Lord”. This is a fitting end to this writers testimony of how it was God alone who pulled him through what seemed certain death after he called on him to be saved by him.

We are saved from eternal death through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ and this should bring from our lips our “Hallelujah” or “Praise the Lord” because our God through the Lord Jesus Christ has saved us not because of anything we have done but as Paul says in Ephesians 2: 8,

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”.

I close as usual with a new original poem and a prayer:

I LOVE THE LORD
(based on Psalm 116)

Chorus 1:

I love the Lord
For he heard my cry for love
He turned his ear to me
For I called out to God above
And he answered me with love.

The chords of death entangled me
And deaths anguish filled my soul
I was overcome with distress
So I called on God to make me whole.
Our God is gracious and full of love
He saved me when I was so low.
So now I rest in his glorious Love
For he saved me and made me whole.

Chorus 2:

I trust in the Lord
For he delivered me from death
He saw my tears and stumbling feet
So he sent his Son to die for me
And his death has set me free.

What shall I give to God above
For his goodness to me?
I’ll lift the cup of his salvation
Remembering the blood he shed so free.
Precious is the blood he spilt
That he shed on the cross for me
So now I long to serve the Lord
And worship him eternally.

Chorus 3.

I love the Lord
For he heard my cry for love
And I’ll join God’s family
Who seek to praise the Lord above
Proclaiming the message of his Love.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

I give praise to you Father up above for you answered my cry for salvation by sending down your Son to shed his blood on the cross to forgive my sins and give me the gift of eternal life. I no longer fear death as I now see it as your doorway into your eternal dwelling place you call heaven. Help me to show that I really do believe in your love for me and help me to show my gratitude for it by the way I live my life in service for you and by the way I now seek to join your family in praise and worship of you and your amazing love for us, In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

PSALM 115 TALK: HALLELUJAH: THE LORD ALONE DESERVES OUR TRUST AND PRAISE

PSALM 115 TALK: HALLELUJAH: THE LORD ALONE DESERVES OUR TRUST

                                     AND PRAISE

(A Psalm of praise that directs us to trust and praise the God of the bible alone as he deserves our praise because he is the creator of this world and the entire universe and at the same time he has loved us with an everlasting and faithful love and promises to bless us if we but turn to him in faith and obedience).

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

INTRODUCTION

One of the current ministers of the church I attend is a very good preacher and bible teacher and often receives compliments for his interesting and helpful sermons and he has told us that his usual response to these compliments is to say, “praise to the appropriate authority” and then points one of his fingers to the sky indicating the praise belongs to the Lord above for anything he said that they found helpful.

Psalm 115 is another “Hallelujah Song” (Psalms 111 – 118) that states clearly we do not deserve praise only God and in fact because of God’s loving faithfulness to his people he also deserves our trust as well.

Psalm 115 is also part of what is called “The Egyptian Hallel” Psalms (Psalms 113 – 118) used as part of the Passover Celebrations and Psalm 115 was one of four Psalms sung or said after the Passover meal was completed.

The Psalm was believed to have been written after the Jews returned from exile in Babylon which was when this Psalm was certainly placed in what we call the fifth book of Psalms. If this is correct then this was a very difficult time for the Jewish nation who have just returned to a ruined Israel now containing many non – Jewish and non God believing people who had started to settle in the land of Israel after most of the Jews who were not killed by the Babylonians were taken in captivity in Babylon for 70 years or more.

The returning Jews would have been small in number and would have had great challenges from idol worship religions of many other nations which explains why this Psalm features a challenge to the one God of the bible belief as opposed to what it sets down as false and powerless idol worship.

The people from other Nations now also in Israel would have known what happened to the Jews first through the Assyrian conquest and nearly 200 hundred years later what happened to the southern kingdom Judah and would have asked the question in verse 2,

“Where is your God”

Not only did the Jews not have a idol to represent their God but their God seemed to be both silent and inactive when foreign different God believing nations overran them. This of course is counted by the fact that the prophets of Judah like Jeremiah had predicted that God would judge the Nation of Judah through the Babylonians because of their unfaithfulness and sinfulness to the God of the bible.

Also the prophets like Jeremiah predicted that after only 70 years in exile in Babylon the Babylonians would be overrun by another great nation and be allowed to return to Israel to re-build there Temple and capitol city of Jerusalem and freely practice their faith in their God again.

This all happened around 539 BC when the Persians defeated the Babylonians as Jeremiah had predicted and the Jews were miraculously allowed and even encouraged to return to their homeland to rebuild their nation and practice their faith in their God again.

Today one of the main anti – God of the bible views, “Atheism” aggressively seeks to put down and eliminate any following of the God of the bible. They are now arguing that faith in a God and particularly the God of the bible is both a fairytale and dangerous.

A coupe of years ago a non – Christian radio presenter named Richard Glover wrote a article in a local newspaper entitled, “Sticking up for the believers” and in that article he says this,

“Inviting a cleric onto ABC radio, as I do from time to time, brings a torrent of enraged correspondence. “How dare you give this man airtime?”, “I am disgusted you would allow this,” and, “Who possibly thought this was a good idea?”.

The phrase “religious nutter” is then much employed, as if it would be a grammatical mistake to use the world “religious” with a “nutter” in close attendance.

The “nutter” in question is usually the Catholic or Anglican Archbishop of Sydney – two chaps who are both scholarly, quick-witted, urbane and humane. To any open-minded person, what they say is at least as interesting as what anybody else has to say.

So why the derision? Why the fight to the death? Why the demeaning sneers of, “This guy believes in fairy stories”?

This kind of intensive opposition has been growing over the past twenty years or so now and is a modern version of what I believe the Jews faced in the return from exile in Babylon which I believe the writer of Psalm 115 picks up in his Psalm. The Psalm then will have a lot to say to us as we face the same kind of opposition the people faced after the return from exile in Babylon.

The final introductory remarks I would like to add before we look closely at this Psalm is the idea that this Psalm is designed to have as H.C. Leopold describes a,

“Lively liturgical pattern of rendition”.

This means that Psalm 115 was used by ancient Hebrews in their worship services after the Passover and different parts were either sung or read by different members of the Hebrew congregation. Who sang or said what is now lost but Leopold suggests the following possible liturgical makeup he quotes from a man named Kittel,

1. (vs’s 1 – 2) – Congregation (as a whole), 2. (vs’s 3 – 8) – Choir, 3. (vs’s 9 – 11) – Levites, 4. (vs’s 12 – 13) – Priests, 5. (vs’s 14 – 15) – Choir, 6. (vs’s 16 – 18) – Congregation (as a whole).

With the theme of the Lord alone deserves our praise and trust my outline for this Psalm talk is:

(vs. 1) PRAISE THE LORD ALONE

1. (1a) God alone deserves our praise
2. (1b). He deserves our praise alone because of his love

2. (2 – 8) PRAISE THE LORD ALONE AND NOT ANY OTHER GOD ALTERNATIVE

1. (2 – 3) Where is you God?
2. (4 – 8) The uselessness of all alternative God views

3. (9 – 15). TRUST IN THE LORD ALONE

1. (9 – 13) All true believers trust in God
2. (14 – 15) Trust in the Lord alone and be blessed by him

4. (16 – 18) A FINAL CALL TO PRAISE THE LORD ALONE

1. (vs. 16) Why God alone deserves our praise
2. (17 – 18) While your alive you must praise the Lord

(vs. 1) PRAISE THE LORD ALONE

1. (1a) God alone deserves our praise

The Psalm starts with a very upfront statement that says,

“Not to us, Lord, not to us but your name be the glory”

If Kittel’s liturgical pattern is correct the whole Hebrew congregation states clearly and strongly that they are not to receive glory but God alone deserves to be glorified. Even Jesus spoke of his purpose as to glorify his father in heaven in John 17: 1 – 4,

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do”.

Paul spoke of our purpose is to bring glory to God and not ourselves in 1 Corinthians 10: 31,

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”.

Tremper Longman 111, says this about the opening words of this Psalm,

“The repetition of ‘not to us’ is for emphasis and signals just how hard it is for us to diminish our own accomplishments and give the praise to the one to who it belongs”.

Two of the prophets, Ezekiel and Daniel who lived and wrote their prophecies during the time of the Babylonian captivity spoke strongly that the people of God where brought out of captivity in Egypt so that God’s name could be glorified, Ezekiel 20: 9,

But for the sake of my name, I brought them out of Egypt. I did it to keep my name from being profaned in the eyes of the nations among whom they lived and in whose sight I had revealed myself to the Israelites.

And likewise out of captivity in Babylon for the same reason, so that God can be glorified, Ezekiel 36: 21 – 23,

“I had concern for my holy name, which the people of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone.

22 “Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. 23 I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.”.

And Daniel says something similar in prayer to God in Daniel 9: 18 – 19,

“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.”

So at the start of Psalm 115 the writer is getting the people to openly state in their worship of God, probably after the passover celebration to declare that God alone deserves their praise,

We must learn from this and seek as much as we can to direct praise away from ourselves to God who alone deserves our praise as the minister at my church seeks to do by saying,

“Praise to the appropriate authority”

Who the opening of this Psalm says is,

“God’s name”

Or as we have seen in previous Psalms God’s name means all that the God of the bible is which we will learn something of in the rest of this Psalm.

2. (1b). He deserves our praise alone because of his love

So the first and principle reason this Psalm says that the God of the bible deserves all praise alone is expressed in the second part of verse 1,

“Because of your love and faithfulness”

I have read so many times of God’s love and faithfulness in so many of the Psalms I have studied and that is up to 115 now. The early Psalms that are particularly written by King David speak of the love and faithfulness of God over and over again, like Psalm 36: 5,

“Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies”.

David particularly knew that he was saved by God from both the consequences of his sins and his enemies because of God’s love and faithfulness as he clearly states in Psalm 57: 2 – 3,

“I cry out to God Most High, to God, who vindicates me. 3 He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me— God sends forth his love and his faithfulness”.

And relating to the terrible consequences of his sins of adultery and murder he prays this in Psalm 51: 1,

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

Why did David have such a view that the God of the bible, his God was such a great God of love and faithfulness?

The simple answer is he knew his bible and particularly when the bible speaks of how God decided to relate to his nation, Israel as we read in 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”.

Note how this love of God is called God’s,

“Covenant of love”

A covenant is an binding agreement and God gives Israel his promise of his love which is binding or faithful in other words he must and will keep it.

When we Psalm 115 was written God had again demonstrated his love and faithfulness or promise to save and love his people by brining the people out of bondage in the captivity in Babylon. The Jews themselves were powerless to save themselves out of the powerful hand of the Babylonians.
God had to act on their behalf and he did through the rise of the Persians who crushed the Babylonian empire so quickly and ruthlessly and then had the remarkable policy of sending former captive people back to the lands they originally came from and not only that resourcing them to rebuild their homelands again and practice their former faiths as well.

This I believe is what the writer of Psalm 115 has in mind when says,

“Because of your love and faithfulness”

They are to give the Lord the glory he therefore deserves.

We too must do the same for even greater reasons as we know from the famous John 3: 16 verse,

“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”.

God again acted miraculously in human history to love and save us from the consequences of our many sins. We like the Jews in Babylon cannot save ourselves and God alone has to do it for us as Paul makes it clear in Ephesians 2: 8,

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”.

God alone deserves our praise as he through The Lord Jesus Christ is the glorious God of love who Paul tells us we should praise and why in Ephesians 1: 3 – 10,

“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. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he[a] predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ”.

During my study of this Psalm the Lord inspired me to write new song based on the teaching in this Psalm and I will quote from it when what it says summarises my thoughts on the different parts of this Psalm talk and the chorus of this new song relates to what I have learnt from the first verse of this Psalm and it goes like this:

Not for me but for the Lord
That’s the way its got to be.
Glorify the Lord up above
And praise him for his wondrous love.

2. (2 – 8) PRAISE THE LORD ALONE AND NOT ANY OTHER GOD ALTERNATIVE

1. (2 – 3) Where is you God?

After the very up front statement of the first verse that we believe the entire Hebrew congregation sang or said about how God alone deserves the glory and not us and therefore he alone deserves our praise the congregation then possess a question in verse 2 that says,

“Why do the nations say,
“Where is their God?”

If this was written and first used in Jewish worship at the time of the return from Babylonian captivity then it is a very appropriate question to ask.
They had just spent at least 70 years as a captive nation in the many god’s, idol worship world of the Babylonians. The Jews had no physical representation of their one God as the second commandment of the ten commandments says in Exodus 20: 4 – 6,

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth
beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord
your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth
generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love
me and keep my commandments”.

The pressure of not believing in the God of the bible would have continued back in Israel now also
occupied by many non – Jewish people who also would have believed in many god’s and of course
all these so called “gods” had some kind of physical representation of them that we call a idol.

People might ask, so whats so wrong with having a physical representation of God?

I see three main answers to this question:

No matter what physical or earthly object or animal you choose you will not be able to capture
the true essence of the God of the bible. For instance you might chose an animal like a bull
to say God is strong like a bull but a bull is also a dumb animal so you are also saying that the God
of the bible is not only strong but dumb. This means you are selling short the reality of what the
bible says about what the God who made heaven and earth is actually like.

2. Once you set up a physical representation of the God of the bible the reality is this image
becomes the object of what you worship. I saw this on a trip through Europe years ago where the
Roman Catholic church had statues of Mary and the crucified Christ everywhere and people
bowed and worshipped the statues and I believe not what they supposed to represent. They kissed
the statues, bowed before them and treated them as though that was the focus of their worship
and not the God of the bible.

3. The God of the bible is not a man with a physical body of any kind as the bible presents God as
a spirit, as Jesus says in John 4: 24,

“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Gotquestions?org explains it this way,

“The fact that God is spirit means that God the Father does not have a human body. God the Son came to earth in human form (John 1:1), but God the Father did not. Jesus is unique as Emmanuel, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). Numbers 23:19 emphasises God’s truthfulness by contrasting Him with mortal men: “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind.”

Another reason why the Nations around about the Jews asked the question “Where is your God is
because they knew that they had been defeated by the Babylonians and were sent into captivity for
70 years or so and therefore they would have thought that because of this the supposed all
powerful God of the Jews was either not really there or had deserted them and therefore they
would ask,

“Where is your God?”

The reason of course why the Jews went into captivity in Babylon was because their God, the God
of the bible judged his people for their many sins particularly the sin of turning to other God’s who
were represented by idols that the Jews even set up in the Temple that was supposed to point
them and other people to the biblical reality that the God of the bible lives in heaven but has
chosen to make his presence known with his people who are called by him to trust and obey him
and him alone as Jeremiah foretold in Jeremiah 25: 1 – 11,

“The word came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, which was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.

2 So Jeremiah the prophet said to all the people of Judah and to all those living in Jerusalem: 3 For twenty-three years—from the thirteenth year of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah until this very day—the word of the Lord has come to me and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened.

4 And though the Lord has sent all his servants the prophets to you again and again, you have not listened or paid any attention. 5 They said, “Turn now, each of you, from your evil ways and your evil practices, and you can stay in the land the Lord gave to you and your ancestors for ever and ever. 6 Do not follow other gods to serve and worship them; do not arouse my anger with what your hands have made. Then I will not harm you.”

7 “But you did not listen to me,” declares the Lord, “and you have aroused my anger with what your hands have made, and you have brought harm to yourselves.”

8 Therefore the Lord Almighty says this: “Because you have not listened to my words, 9 I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,” declares the Lord, “and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin. 10 I will banish from them the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones and the light of the lamp. 11 This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.”.

This would have been known by the Nations but of course they would have been sceptical or even rejected this interpretation of why the Jews went into exile and why they were allowed to return from exile because of a lucky turn of events in that time that also luckily fitted into the supposed prophecies of men like Jeremiah.

I say this because even today when God answers Christians prayers sceptical non – believers often explain these events as just lucky turn of events that helped the Christian who happened to have prayed to their supposed God who answered their prayers.

If a person does not wont to believe in a God they will find all kinds of reasons and arguments to back them up. Some might say that this is the same with people who believe in a God that they will find all kinds of reasons and arguments to back them up.

All we, as believers can do is follow the advice of Peter when he says in 1 Peter 3: 15 – 16,

“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”.

The nations round about the Jews back in Israel after they spent 70 or so years in captivity have just asked in verse 2 the question,

“Where is their God”

Then in verse 3 Kittel’s liturgical scheme of how the ancient Hebrews sang or said this Psalm says that a special choir would answer this question with,

“Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him”

This is the biblical answer to where is God, even today,

God lives in heaven where he controls and rules the universe and the world from as we read in Psalm 99: 1 – 3,

“The Lord reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake. 2 Great is the Lord in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations. 3 Let them praise your great and awesome name— he is holy”.

Or 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”.

I learnt this same truth from my study of Psalm 113 the same thing when he says in verses 4 – 5,

“The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens. 5 Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high.”

However the next verse says,

“Who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?”

So the God of the bible is both a God who dwells and rules the world and the universe from heaven but chooses to stoop down to both speak to and help his people who are those who turn and trust in him as second half of this Psalm will tell us.

In my Psalm talk on Psalm 113 I spoke of how this stooping down of God was so far that he sent his Son into the world to become a human being like us and serve mankind not be served and to go as far as dying on the cross for our sins as Paul particularly sets down in Philippians 2: 6 – 8 but then in verses 9 – 11 this stooping down ceases and Jesus then rises up and ascends back from the dead into heaven from where one day he will stoop down again but this time as the great almighty God who will judge the world and be acknowledged by everyone as the great King or Lord of heaven and earth as he is, verses 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”.

Finally verse 3 says,

“He does whatever pleases him”

Albert Barnes gives us a complete explanation to these words in verse 3 with this,

“He is a sovereign God; and mysterious as are his doings, and much as there seems to be occasion to ask the question “Where is now your God?” yet we are to feel that what has occurred has been in accordance with his eternal plans, and is to be submitted to as a part of his arrangements. It is, in fact, always a sufficient answer to the objections which are made to the government of God, as if he had forsaken his people in bringing affliction on them, and leaving them, apparently without interposition, to poverty, to persecution, and to tears, that he is “in the heavens;” that he rules there and everywhere; that he has his own eternal purposes; and that all things are ordered in accordance with his will. There must, therefore, be some good reason why events occur as they actually do”.

The last part of the Albert Barnes quote reminds me of Paul’s words in Romans 8: 28,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.

The God who controls and rules heaven and earth might be a sovereign God who does whatever he pleases but his is also according to verse 1b is a God of,

‘Love and faithfulness”

Which means what he pleases to do, according to Paul in Romans 8: 28 is to work all things for good for those who trust in him but if we reject him we will have to face him in judgement as their is no salvation from the consequences of our sins without the shed blood of Christ, as Hebrews 9: 22 says,

“In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness”.

Then in verses 27 and 28 the writer to the Hebrews declares,

“Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him”.

My first verse of my new song inspired by Psalm 115 summarises what I learnt from verses 2 and 3 of this Psalm,

Where is your God, they say
Who you pray to every day?
Our God is in heaven up above
And he cares for us with his love.

2. (4 – 8) The uselessness of all alternative God views

According to Kittel’s liturgical structure of this Psalm the choir continues to sing the words of verse 4 to 8 which speak of the uselessness of idol worship which I will expand on to include any alternative God view that is not that of the God of the bible.

Why does the writer move on to speak about idol worship in verses 4 – 8?

The best answer for me to this important question came to me from The Cambridge Bible commentary for schools and colleges,

“The heathen taunt us with the impotence of our God? What are their own gods? Nothing but their own handiwork, destitute of ordinary human senses, though represented with organs of sense”.

So the writer is saying by implication, alright you say we have a God who is useless and powerless or as they say today does not exist ,

Well what do you believe in?

In our writers day the great God of the bible alternative view was usually some kind of god’s that were made of wood or stone. In Myanmar which I visited again recently the idols are usually big Buddhas often made of gold or at least coated with gold but no matter how big or expensive looking they are might be they leave me feeling cold not inspired as they are useless religious structures that have no spiritual power or ability.

This is what verses 4 – 7 is actually saying,

“But their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands. 5 They have mouths, but cannot speak,
eyes, but cannot see. 6 They have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell. 7 They have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk, nor can they utter a sound with their throats”.

I love Isaiah’s sarcastic go at the futility of idol worship of idols made out of wood in Isaiah 44: 14 – 20,

“He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak. He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow.
15 It is used as fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it. 16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill.
He also warms himself and says, “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.” 17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, “Save me! You are my god!”

18 They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand. 19  No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, “Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood?” 20 Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, “Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”

Idol worship is condemned in a number of places in the bible, like other passages in Isaiah, 40: 18 – 20, 41: 7 and verse 29, 46: 5 – 7 and even Jeremiah has something to say about this in Jeremiah 10: 1 to 5.

Psalm 135 uses these verses directly in its verses 13 – 18, which also includes verse 8 of Psalm 115.

So God through his word is making it clear that these idol god alternatives are useless and powerless and yet the implication of the question asked by the nations who believe in these idol God’s is that Israels God, the God of the bible is useless and powerless.

The final verse the choir sings here is verse 8 which says,

“Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them”.

Leopold writes,

“Futility is the mark of the idols and futility marks their worshippers”.

The story of Elijah challenging the priests of the idol worshipping god called Baal shows both the futility and powerlessness of idol worshippers and of course the value and power of believing in the one true God of heaven and earth, the God of the bible. The climax of that wonderful story is in 1 Kings 18: 36 – 39,

“At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”

Even though idol worship still exists today in the Old Testament form of man fashioning idols as I have seen in places like Myanmar when I visit there other alternatives to the God of the bible is still applicable here.

Any god view that does not see God as the almighty spirit who dwells in heaven as lord supreme of this world and entire universe and who is both God to be feared and yet God who has stooped down particularly through the Lord Jesus Christ to save us is nothing more than a delusion.

When Paul was in Athens recored in Acts 17 he saw the many idols their and reasoned that this was evidence that these people did not know God. All other non – God of the bible views of God are simply elaborate attempts by human beings seeking to know the unknown God and designing from their own minds and imaginations a view of God that is useless and futile.
So Paul’s sermon to the top thinkers of the idol worshipping Athenians was to take them from a altar to a unknown God to the message of the God who has revealed himself in his Son, Jesus Christ and Paul says this about him in Acts 17: 24 – 31,

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.
26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.” As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring’.

29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he 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.”

My new song inspired by the message of Psalm 115 summarises verses 4 – 8 with these words,

Turn form this worlds idols now
For they have no spiritual power.
They cannot help you when your down
They are useless when life causes you to frown.

3. (9 – 15). TRUST IN THE LORD ALONE

1. (9 – 13) All true believers trust in God

Now two particular special groups of the ancient Hebrew congregation share the singing or saying of the next 5 verses according to Kittel’s liturgical pattern, with The Levites sining or saying verses 9 – 11 and the priests singing or saying verses 12 – 13.

There is actually three main groups people mentioned here:

  1. The whole of the Nation of Israel (vs. 9, 12a)
  2. The religious leaders of Israel (vs. 10, 12b)
  3. All who fear the Lord, the God of the bible (vs. 11, 13)

These verses change from a call to praise to a call to trust in the Lord in whom they must praise alone. They feature a kind of refrain which contains two good reasons why they must trust in the Lord, the God of the bible and that is,

“He is their help and shield”.

So lets have a closer look at these next five verses, first looking at the call to trust to the three groups of people.

  1. The whole nation of Israel (vs. 9 and 12a)

Verse 9 is a call to all of the members of the Israel to trust in the Lord and it reads this way,

“All you Israelites, trust in the Lord”

Then in the first part of verse 12,

“The Lord remembers us and will bless us; He will bless his people Israel”.

Israel was God’s special nation who he called to be his special people who were to be a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19: 5 – 6).

To be this God made a covenant with them that said that if they trusted in him alone and kept his commandments they would be blessed by him. This blessing involved protecting them from their enemies, giving them a Promised land and giving them the blessing of children and a prosperous nation.

These great promises lie at the heart what Psalm 115 is speaking about when it says that Israel should trust in the Lord alone and not obviously any other God alternative like the many idol gods of the Nations around about them.

Verse 12a speaks of how God remembers to bless his people which is God remembering his special covenantal promises and even the blessing of children is spoken of in verse 14,

“May the Lord cause you to flourish, both you and your children”.

The promise of God helping and protecting his people is in the refrain words of these verses that says simply,

“He is their help and shield”

A shield was a very real poetic image for people of ancient times as shields helped soldiers fend off swords, spears and arrows that were used to attempt to kill them in battle.

As Christians we have a far better covenant of God’s love as we live after the coming of the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ who both fulfilled the original covenant and established are far better new covenant as the writer to the Hebrews sets out in Chapter 8 of his letter, as we read 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”

My third verse of my new song inspired by this part of Psalm 115 summarises well what I understand these verses are saying,

So trust in the Lord today
He will shield you when you pray.
He came from heaven up above
To help and save you by his love.

2. The religious leaders of Israel (vs. 10, 12b)

The second people the writer of Psalm 115 picks out to call to trust in the Lord alone are the religious leaders of the Nation of Israel. These men are part of the whole nation of Israel but have been called to do a special job which was to lead and teach the people God’s word and lead them in worship of him.

The religious leaders on the Old Testament were the descendants of Aaron and this is why we read this in verse 10,

“House of Aaron trust in the Lord – he is their help and shield”.

The descendants of Aaron became the priests assisted by the descendants of Levi who were loyal to Moses and God’s covenant in the incident of the false idol worship of the Golden calf recorded in Exodus 32 and became known as the Levites.

Allen Harmon points out the significance of the priests or the house of Aaron after the return from Babylonian captivity with these words,

“The involvement of the house of Aron is particularly fitting for the period after the exile, when the priests had to assume a very prominent role and were the principle teaches of the people”.

As the prophet Malachi speaks of after the return from captivity in Babylon in Malachi 2: 7,

“For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth”.

So if the people of Israel are led by priests who trust in the Lord alone and do not turn to the worship of useless idols they will be both blessed and a blessing to the people of God as verse 12 says,

“The Lord remembers us and will bless us; He will bless his people Israel, he will bless the house of Aaron”.

In the New Covenant we read of Jesus being our priest who both represents us before God the father and who offers up himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins as we start to read of in Hebrews 8: 1 – 2,

“Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being”.

And as the perfect sacrifice for our sins Hebrews 9: 11 – 14,

“But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”

In the New Covenant then Jesus is the high priest and Peter teaches that all followers of him are now priests or part of the kingdom of priests that proclaim the wonderful message of God to the world 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’.

Our ministers in the church should not be called priests as some Christian churches still do but rather ministers or pastors of the flock which Paul set down in many of his letters to the churches. Our minsters or pastors have the special job of teaching and equipping the church or God’s flock to be priests or instruments of blessing to the world was Paul says to Timothy 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: 2 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”.

3. All who fear the Lord, the God of the bible (vs. 11, 13)

The last group of people the writer of Psalm 115 calls to trust in the Lord alone are called simply,

“Those who fear him” (vs. 11 and 13)

Of course this description fits both the general people of Israel and of course the priests but it could also fit as a description of people outside of the nation of Israel in Old Testament times up to the coming of Christ who trusted or revered, feared the Lord of heaven and earth as presented in the bible.

The New Testament actually calls these people, “God fearers” as we see for instance in Acts 10: 2,

“He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly”

This is a description of a non Jew named Cornelius a Roman centurion who Peter is called by God to bring to faith in the the Lord Jesus Christ with his whole household.

So even in the Old Testament people outside of the special nation of Israel were called upon to fear or revere the God of the bible and to trust in him, verse 11,

“You who fear him, trust in the Lord – he is their help and shield”.

They to are promised to be blessed by God in verse 13,

“He will bless those who fear the Lord – small and great alike”.

The words small and great alike could be in Old Testament terms the young and old alike or as Tremper Longman 111 says,

“God does not favour the powerful and rich over the disenfranchised and the poor, or vice versa, All may put their confidence in him”.

My fourth verse of my new song based on Psalm 115 sums up what these verses have said to me:

The Lord will remember us
And all we have to do is trust.
He promises to bless us all our days
If we turn to him and give him praise.

2. (14 – 15) Trust in the Lord alone and be blessed by him

So Kittel would suggest that these two verses, 14 and 15 would have been sung by the choir again and they speak to the three previous groups of people, the whole nation of Israel, the religious leaders and the non – jew believers the writer of Psalm 115 call “you who fear him” which the New Testament calls “God fearers”.

What the choir sings about two forms of blessings for those who trust in the Lord alone:

  1. The blessing of the nation flourishing who trust in the Lord alone (vs. 14)
  2. The general blessing of all who trust in the Lord alone (vs. 15)

Lets have a closer look at each of these two promises of blessings that the Hebrew choir now sing.

  1. The blessing of the nation flourishing who trust in the Lord alone (vs. 14)

This first promise of God’s blessing on the Nation of Israel would have been very apt for the Jews of the time of their return from exile in Babylon. They had by then suffered massive loss of lives when the Babylonian invaded Judah and then took a number of those who survived into exile. Many would have died in the harsh life of captivity and not all of them would have returned from exile as well.

The relatively small number of God fearing, God believing and God trusting Jews would have been tiny in number and we learn from the books of Ezra and Nehemiah and the prophetic books of Zechariah and Malachi that the Jews were now living back in Israel with many non Jewish non God of the bible believing people.

So the blessing of the Nation flourishing in just numbers again was crucial for the survival of God’s people, so we read of this promise in verse 14,

“May the Lord cause you to flourish, both you and your children”.

The promise of God’s people flourishing goes back as far as Abraham and is stated in the time of Moses in Deuteronomy 1: 11,

“May the Lord, the God of your ancestors, increase you a thousand times and bless you as he has promised!”

In Old Testament terms the reality of families flourishing was a sign of God’s blessing on a community or nation as we read in Psalm 127: 3 – 5,

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. 4 Like arrows in the hands of a
warrior are children born in one’s youth. 5 Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court”.

In the New Testament the concept of families flourishing is seen in how the book of Acts records a number of families coming to the Lord like we saw earlier in the case of the Roman centurion named Cornelius in Acts 10. Also Paul had much to say to families and speaks of the obligations of Husbands, wives and children in a number of places.

However it is the spiritual family that the New Testament has much to speak about, The New Israel of God that is made up of Jews and people of every nation of the world which Paul speaks about in Galatians 3: 26 – 29,

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”.

Paul speaks in Galatians 4 of how God worked through the process of birth when Jesus came to earth born of a women, Mary to be redeem us from our sins so that we could receive the gift of Sonship or being part of the blessed family of God, Galatians 4: 4 – 7,

“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir”.

So all the promises of God made to Israel in the Old Testament are now applicable to Christians as we are no longer foreigners and strangers as Paul speaks of in Ephesians 2 but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, Ephesians 2: 19 – 22,

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit”.

So when Psalm 115: 14 says:

“May the Lord cause you to flourish, both you and your children”.

Through what Christ has done for us we can apply this to ourselves, our human families and even more to the family of God which we belong to through faith or trust alone in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The general blessing of all who trust in the Lord alone (vs. 15)

Then the choir sings of God’s general blessings to those who trust in God alone as verse 15 says,

“May you be blessed by the Lord the maker of heaven and earth”

Spurgeon aptly writes,

“This is an omnipotent blessing, conveying to us all that an Almighty God can do, whether in heaven or on earth. This fulness is infinite, and the consolation which it brings is unfailing: he that made heaven and earth can give us all things while we dwell below, and bring us safely to his palace above. Happy are the people upon whom such a blessing rests; their portion is infinitely above that of those whose only hope lies in a piece of gilded wood, or an image of sculptured stone”.

Spurgeon is picking up the point that the wording of verse 15 might seem to be a very general blessing but it is a blessing that comes from,

“The Lord the maker of heaven and earth”

Because he is the maker of heaven and earth he has unlimited resources and therefore his blessings are unlimited. Paul gives praise to all the blessings we have in Christ as part of being in the family of God in Ephesians 1 and says this in verses 3 – 10,

“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. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ”.

Many years ago two Mormon missionaries from America came to my door and wanted to come into my house to give me a blessing and I said, “No I did not need your blessing as I have all the blessings I could handle and more in Christ Jesus already” and I opened my bible and read this passage. They left my house shaking their heads and muttering with an American ascent, “and he doesn’t want our blessing”.

My fifth and final verse of my new song inspired by the words of this Psalm sums up what I learnt from these verses in the Psalm:

May the Lord bless our families
As we come to him on our knees.
Praise the Lord who made heaven and earth
For his transformed us by spiritual re-birth.

4. (16 – 18) A FINAL CALL TO PRAISE THE LORD ALONE

1. (vs. 16) Why God alone deserves our praise

According to Kittel’s liturgical plan for this Psalm the final two verse were sung or said by the entire ancient Hebrew congregation. They represent a final call to praise the Lord alone and verse 16 makes it clear why we should do so,

“The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to mankind”.

The writer of Psalm 115 has made it clear that idol gods’ have no power or worth so we should not trust in them or give them praise but The Lord, the God of the bible is according to verse 15,

“The maker of heaven and earth
And now in verse 16 the heaven and earth belong to him and so he alone deserves our trust and praise.

Then verse 16 gives us another reason to praise God alone and that is because he has given to us the earth. This idea comes directly from the first book of the bible Genesis, in Genesis 1: 26 – 28,

“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the
fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all
the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. 28 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.”

Mankind was given the earth to rule over it but because of sin or rebellion to God the earth now is cursed and we struggle and toil to subdue it and work in it as we read in Genesis 3: 17 – 19,

“To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18  It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field. 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.”

However God has still given the earth to mankind and this should cause us to do two things:

  1. Praise God for all he has given us in this world and this life.
  2. Seek to look after what he has given us in this world and this life.

Paul speaks of creation groaning in Romans 8: 18 – 21 as it to awaits its release from our sin and its consequences,

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God”

Paul goes on to say that because we, even as God’s children groan as well because we still live in a fallen world. But we groan with a great hope and with great support from God’s Holy Spirit who helps us as we groan or struggle at times in this fallen world, Romans 8: 22 – 27,

“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. 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God”.

So we have much to praise God for as he who we trust in and who blesses us even in our struggles in this world as we seek to live for him.

2. (17 – 18) While your alive you must praise the Lord

So the Psalm ends with what seems a strange final call to praise in verses 17 – 18,,

“It is not the dead who praise the Lord, those who go down to the place of silence; 18  it is we who extol the Lord, both now and forevermore. Praise the Lord”.

It was Albert Barnes who best explained the real meaning of these final two verses to me with this,

“The dead praise not the Lord – The meaning of this is, that as those who are dead cannot praise God, or cannot worship him, this should be done while we are in the land of the living. This opportunity, like all other opportunities, will be cut off in the grave, and hence, we should be faithful in this duty, and should avail ourselves of this privilege, while life lasts”.

Some say that this Psalm was written after a battle where dead soldiers were real in the minds of the people but I don’t think this is necessary to understand while the writer of Psalm 115 chose to speak about the living praising God and as the dead cannot praise the Lord.

However from a New Testament point of view the dead in Christ are with the Lord and there they join the angels in praise forevermore as we read in Revelation 19: 4 – 8,

“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.”

The point of this final call to praise the Lord alone is expressed in verse 18,

“It is we who extol the Lord both now and forevermore”.

The first question of the famous Westminster Catechism is:

“What is the chief end of man?”

And the answer is:

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever”.

Our lives as well as our worship of our Lord should be in a attitude of praise as Paul makes it clear 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”.

We have learnt in this Psalm that there are many reasons why we should praise and trust God alone and so it is only fitting that the final words of this Psalm is,

“Praise the Lord”

Or as it is in the ancient Hebrew language:

“Hallelujah”.

I Close this Psalm talk with the full set of words for the new song I composed based on and inspired by this Psalm and what it taught me and then I will close the Psalm talk with a prayer.

NOT FOR ME BUT FOR THE LORD (Based on Psalm 115)

Chorus:
Not for me but for the Lord
Thats the way its got to be
Glorify the Lord up above
And praise him for his wondrous love.

Where is your God they say
Who you pray to every day
Our God is in heaven up above
And he cares for us with his love.

Chorus:

Turn from this worlds idols now
For they have no spiritual power
They cannot help you when your down
They are useless when life causes you to frown.

Chorus:

So trust in the Lord to day
He will shield you when you pray
He came from heaven up above
To help and save us by his love.

Chorus:

The Lord will remember us
And all we have to do is trust.
He promises us to bless us all our days
If we turn to him and give him praise.

Chorus:

May the Lord bless our families
As we come to him on our knees.
Praise to the Lord who made heaven and earth
For his transformed us by spiritual re- birth.

Chorus:

Not for me but for the Lord
Thats the way its got to be
Glorify the Lord up above
And praise for his wondrous love.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

I praise you Lord above because you are such a great and loving God and I know this because you sent Jesus into our world to die for me so that my sins could be forgiven and through that I have become a member of your eternal family. I recognise that you alone deserve all praise and glory and I reject any alternative to you and your word and I seek to trust you and you alone. I know from your word that if I trust you your promise is to help and protect me. I thank and praise you Lord for your many blessings and I ask that you will help me to always trust in you alone as you are the Lord and creator of the universe who loves me even though I don’t deserve this love. In the glorious name of Jesus Christ I pray, Amen.

PSALM 114 TALK: HALLELUJAH – GOD LEADS HIS PEOPLE OUT OF BONDAGE BY HIS POWERFUL PRESENCE

PSALM 114 TALK: HALLELUJAH – GOD LEADS HIS PEOPLE OUT OF BONDAGE BY HIS
POWERFUL PRESENCE

(This Psalm is part of a series of Psalms that are called The Hallelujah Songs and this Psalm is one of two, 113 and 114, that were said or sung before the Jewish Passover Festival and the two following, 115 and 116 were said and sung after the passover festival. This Psalm does not contain the Jewish word “Hallelujah” but it is a word of praise that features how God intervened in history with his special powerful presence to lead his people out of bondage in Egypt and into the Promised land of Israel).

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

INTRODUCTION

In January 1936 a school girl named Phyllis wrote a short letter to Albert Einstein, who is probably one of the greatest scientific minds of the 20th century. Phyllis asked Einstein “Do scientists pray, and what do they pray for?

Albert Einstein’s reply is as follows,

Dear Phyllis, 

I will attempt to reply to your question as simply as I can. Here is my answer:

Scientists believe that every occurrence, including the affairs of human beings, is due to the laws of nature. Therefore a scientist cannot be inclined to believe that the course of events can be influenced by prayer, that is, by a supernaturally manifested wish.

However, we must concede that our actual knowledge of these forces is imperfect, so that in the end the belief in the existence of a final, ultimate spirit rests on a kind of faith. Such belief remains widespread even with the current achievements in science. 

But also, everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is surely quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive. 

With cordial greetings, 

your A. Einstein

Einstein is said to have had what is called a Deist view of God and this has been explained to me by a women named Catherine Giordano who wrote a article in June 2017 entitled, “What was Einstein’s Religion? Diest? Pantheist? Humanist? Atheist?, she writes quoting Albert Einstein first and then explaining what he is saying,

“I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.”

Spinoza’s god was a deist god, a “God of Nature,” a “Prime Mover,” who set the universe in motion, but then no longer concerned Himself with it. Einstein often speaks of a “cosmic religion”—he describes himself as religious because he is in awe of the universe and the spirit that he perceives to have created it and is imbued in it”.

The Deist view of God is very popular today and so to is the Atheist view which is to argue that there is no God and that all we see and know and even don’t know about the life and the universe came about by a miraculous accident of evolution.

Psalm 114 speaks directly against these two false views of God as Psalm 114 presents clearly that God is there and that he has concerned himself with the fates and actions of human beings because he got involved in human history and led his special people, Israel out of their bondage in Egypt and successfully into his promised land for them known originally as Canaan but became known as Israel.

God achieved this by using his great and almighty power to do things like divide the waters of a sea so his people could cross, made a mountain tremble and smoke as he came close to it, made water come out of a rock to provide water for his people in a desert and stopped the waters of the river Jordan so his people could cross to go into his promised land and conquer it.

Allan Harmon sums up what this Psalm has to say and how it was composed by saying,

“This Psalm uses vivid poetic images to show how the creator used the forces of nature to achieve his purposes”.

Psalm 114 and 113 are said to be part of the “Hallelujah Songs” (Psalms 111 – 118) and also part of the Egyptian Hallel Psalms (113 – 116) used as part of the Passover celebrations and 114 and 113 have been sung by Jews for centuries before the passover meal and 115 and 116 sung after the passover meal.

Psalm 114 does not contain the Hebrew word “Hallelujah” but it is still a praise of the Hebrew God who is called “Yahweh” particularly when he used Moses to lead his people, Israel out of Egypt and up to the Promised land and then under the leadership of Joshua into the Promised Land.

Psalm 114 tells us very clearly that God is there and he is, has been and will be involved in our world. As Christians we will see what I call parallels between the Jewish Passover, God leading his people out of slavery in Egypt and into his presence in his Promised land in Israel and The Lord Jesus Christ through the Easter message leading us out of the slavery of sin and into his presence ultimately into his eternal dwelling place called heaven.

Leopold quotes Martin Luther’s application of this Psalm with these words,

“We on our part sing this psalm daily to praise Christ, who leads us out of death and sin, through the midst of the raging’s of the world, the flesh, and the devil into life eternal”.

It is not a coincidence that Jesus died for our sins on the cross at the time of the Jewish passover celebrations as his death and resurrection is God’s direct involvement in human history like the original passover to lead those who put their trust in his son and what he has done for them out of the slavery of sin and into his eternal presence which is heaven for all true believers.

We do not know when this Psalm was first written although the special reference to Judah becoming God’s sanctuary places its composition after Israel became divided into two Kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judah in the south. However we know that this Psalm was placed in the fifth and final book of Psalms after the return from exile. The Psalm would have spoken to the Jews of that time on a number of levels.

Similar to God leading his people out of the bondage of slavery in Egypt they had recently saw how God acting through actual history of their times and led them out of cruel captivity in Babylon and back into the Promised Land of Israel.

The Psalm would also had given the Jews of the post Babylonian exile hope and more reasons for faith as they struggled back in Israel to re-establish their Land and Jerusalem their holy capitol. It was not a easy time for the post Babylonian captives in Israel as they faced the hardship of local non – Jewish opposition and a land and city of Jerusalem totally smashed and destroyed by the Babylonian invasion but their God is high and mighty and is described in verse 7 this way,

“Tremble earth, at the presence of the Lord at the presence of the God of Jacob”.

With the theme of Praise the God (Hallelujah) who leads his people out of bondage of slavery by his powerful presence my outline for this Psalm follows the simple four, two verse structure of this Psalm:

(1 – 2) OUT OF EGYPT AND INTO GOD’S PRESENCE

1. (vs. 1) Out of Egypt’s bondage
2. (vs. 2) Into God’s Presence

2. (3 – 4). GOD’S PRESENCE MADE THE SEA AND RIVER FLEE AND THE MOUNTAINS
LEAP

1. (vs. 3) God’s presence made the sea and river flee
2. (vs. 4). God’s presence made the mountains leap

3. (5 – 6) WHY DID THE SEA, RIVER FLEE AND THE MOUNTAINS LEAP?

1. (vs. 5) Why did the sea and river flee?
2. (vs. 6). Why did the mountains leap?

4. (6 – 7) GOD’S PRESENCE IS POWERFUL

1. (vs. 7) God’s presence makes the earth tremble
2. (vs. 8) God’s presence is powerful and provides his people’s needs

(1 – 2) OUT OF EGYPT AND INTO GOD’S PRESENCE

1. (vs. 1) Out of Egypt’s bondage

This Psalm considered to be part of the “Hallelujah Songs” neither starts with “Hallelujah” or finishes with it yet it vibrates with reasons for praise all through it.

It starts with the words,

“When Israel went out of Egypt.”

Spurgeon aptly writes,

“The song begins with a burst, as if the poetic fury could not be restrained, but overleaped all bounds. The soul elevated and filled with: a sense of divine glory cannot wait to fashion a preface, but springs at once into the middle of its theme”.

Israel could only come out of that bondage of that all powerful super power of its day because a far greater super power enabled it to. Allan Harmon points out that the expression,

“Out of Egypt”

“Was almost a standard expression”

He then gives us six times we find this expression in the early books of the bible, four in Deuteronomy, 4: 45 – 46 / 22: 4 / 24: 9 and 25: 17 and two in the book of Joshua, 2: 10 and 5: 45.

The infant nation of Israel called here Jacob, as Jacob who became Israel was this nations founder was called out of Egypt a nation much larger and greater who the Israelites found spoke a,

“foreign tongue”

This implies that the Egyptian language was unintelligible to the people of Israel and God had to work a small miracle for their future leader Moses to be brought up in Egyptian culture and language so that Moses in his later life could converse with Pharaoh to ask him to let his people go and when he did not comply tell him what God would do to his land and eventually to his family.

I recently returned from Myanmar where many different languages are spoken and know first hand the difficulties one has when trying to communicate to people who don’t speak your language and you don’t speak theirs.

One day I got dropped off in a local market near where I was staying and when I tried to catch a bus back to my hotel I could not find anyone who could speak English and I ended up getting in a taxi and went the opposite way to my hotel. Once I realised I was lost and could not communicate to the taxi driver I prayed to God for help.

Soon after I prayed the taxi driver stopped at a taxi stand in a small town and got out and spoke with some other taxi drivers. I had a iPad picture of my Hotel and one of the other taxi drivers put the name of the hotel in his phone and through the help of google maps he took me back to my hotel safely still unable to speak to me I thanked him but he probably didn’t even know I was thanking him such is the problem of not speaking the local language.

I thought after my 2 hour trip that should have only taken 15 minutes if I was going the right way that as Christians Peter tells us we are living as foreigners and exiles in this world, 1 Peter 2: 11 and therefore, spiritually we are not thinking and at times speaking the same as the general population who don’t know the Lord and his word and therefore like I felt in that taxi in Myanmar, lost and frustrated by my inability to communicate, so I often we feel the same when living for the Lord in this spiritually foreign or alien world that is speaking, spiritually a foreign language.

Peters advice of how we should live in this fallen Godless world is the next verse, 1 Peter 2: 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”.

So God’s people needed God’s power intervening for them to be able to come out of the land of slavery called Egypt in which they lived as aliens and strangers not even able to communicate to them because they spoke a different language and believed in a different view of God, so unlike the multi God views of their Egyptian slave masters.

As I said in my introduction the Passover is linked with the work of Christ’s salvation through his death on the cross which is the central message of Easter celebrated at the same time as the Jews celebrate Passover.

All the New Testament writers saw the significance of Christ death for our sins on the cross and how that act of the power and love of God in real time history freed us from what Paul calls the law of sin and death, he speaks powerfully of this in Romans 8: 1 – 4,

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit”.

So I will remind you again of how Martin Luther saw how this Psalm relates to the Christian,

“We on our part sing this psalm daily to praise Christ, who leads us out of death and sin, through the midst of the raging’s of the world, the flesh, and the devil into life eternal”.

2. (vs. 2) Into God’s Presence

Where did God lead them to when when he brought his people out of Egypt the land of bondage and slavery?

The answer to that question is contained in verse 2,

“Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion”.

Alan Harmon points out that this Psalm,

“Gives a very condensed account and telescopes events together that happened many years apart”.

Here in verse 2 we have an excellent example of this as this verse speaks of not only the Exodus but the conquest of Canaan and the setting up of the sanctuary in Jerusalem all in the simple verse of,

“Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion”.

The place God led his people to when he lead them out of the bondage or slavery of Egypt was ultimately the promised land of Israel which the verse calls,

“His dominion”

But more than that it looks forward from coming out of Egypt to the conquest of the land of Canaan to become Israel and then setting up of God’s sanctuary in Jerusalem given to the tribe of Judah, with the words,

“Judah became God’s sanctuary”

God gave Moses the law on Mount Sinai and in giving this law he set up with Israel a covenant of love which he told Moses to explain to the people this way in Exodus 19: 4 – 6,

“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 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, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

The nation of Israel living in the land of Israel will be a nation of priests as God will dwell with them in a special way on earth. In Jerusalem in Israel which is part of the tribe of Judah was a special place called “The Sanctuary” later to become “The Temple” and from there God will tell them and the world his word as there he dwelt or is present with his people. We know from many other bible verses that from Jerusalem God will send out his message of love and salvation to the world, as we read in passages like Isaiah 2: 2 – 3,

“In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. 3 Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem”.

Again it is not just a coincidence that Jesus died and rose and ascended in Jerusalem and he sent his disciples out from Jerusalem with the saving Gospel message to the world. In Acts 1: 8 Jesus gives his disciples this charge,

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Note how the power to fulfil this great charge does not come from themselves but from the indwelling of God’s special presence in the person of the Holy Spirit in his disciple.

In AD 70 God worked through the Roman invasion of Jerusalem to destroy the Temple in Jerusalem to never be built again. Paul taught even before AD 70 that we are now God’s Temple the Church and we are all kind of mini Temples or places of God’s special dwellings moving out and living in all the world, 1 Corinthians 6: 19 – 20,

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies”.

2. (3 – 4). GOD’S PRESENCE MADE THE SEA AND RIVER FLEE AND THE MOUNTAINS
LEAP

1. (vs. 3) God’s presence made the sea and river flee

The book of Exodus speaks of God going before his people in power and might this is again condensed in this Psalm as Allan Harmon says,

“Telescoped events together that happened many years apart”.

The Psalmist also uses the poetic devise of personifying inanimate objects in nature that God caused to do miraculous things through in order to save his people and lead them out of Egypt and into the land of Israel. Sea, river, mountains are spoken of as though they are living people with legs to run away and leap like rams.

In verse three the writer personifies the red sea and the river Jordan and writes,

“The sea looked and fled, the Jordan turned back”

The book of Exodus makes it clear that God’s presence went before his people day and night as he led them out of Egypt as we read in Exodus 13: 21 – 22,

“By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people”.

So verse 3 of Psalm 114 now speaks of the first great specific intervention of God the Creator of the Universe getting involved in this world and changing the natural laws that govern our universe to bring about salvation for his people.

This miraculous event is the parting of the red sea that is described poetically in Psalm 114 verse 3a as,

“The sea looked and fled”

The Exodus account speaks of this miracle this way in Exodus 14: 15 – 16,

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground”.

Moses of course raised his staff and that staff, I believe represented the very presence of the God of the universe and the sea obeyed his command and parted. If the sea was a person, the Psalmist says it got up and ran away from the presence of God.

I will always remember the first time i saw the movie, The Ten Commandments and that amazing scene in the movie when Charlton Heston, a very convincing Moses, stands on a large rock at the edge of a sea and raises his staff and the sea divides in half and the Israelites walk through the gap in the sea to the other side.

I was around 17 or 18 and had backslidden from the Lord and was in a car with someone my non- Christian mates at a drive In theatre. My mates had fallen asleep as we had come to the drive in theatre straight from the beach that day and we were all very tied. Somehow I was wide awake and yelling out to my mates, “wake up, wake up you have got to see this, it is amazing”.

Even as a backslidden Christian I was caused to think thoughts of wonder that if this actually happened what a powerful God the God of the bible must be. Of course modern scholars even so called Christian ones argue this is a made up story and that archaeology and modern reason says this is nothing more than a fairytale. Yet Israel still exists today and their history is one of a series of amazing so called powerful fairy tales that has helped preserve what has always been humanly speaking a tiny insignificant nation.

Like the Atheist view that everything came out of nothing by accident the only reasonable explanation for Israel a tiny nation that came form so called no where is that God interviewed in human history and made and saved this people so that through them he could send his Son to save people from every nation on earth from the consequences of their sins.

Then verse 3 says,

“The Jordan turned back”

Again a inanimate object, the river Jordan is personified and given a body that now is said to have turned back. The miracle of the blocking of the waters of the Jordan obviously up stream from where the people of Israel crossed happened not in the quiet and peaceful time of the rivers cycle but at a time of floods as Joshua 3: 14 – 16 says,

“So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 15 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho”.

Note the perfect timing of this miracle as it was as the priests carrying the ark of the covenant feet touched the waters edge the river stopped flowing. The Ark of the Covenant is a symbol of the presence of the Lord so the river in verse 2b of Psalm 114 turned back or stopped flowing in the presence of the Lord of the universe.

Many miracles in the bible could be explained by natural phenomenon but even if God used natural phenomenon’s to perform the miracle it is still a miracle because of the timing as the river turned back or stopped flowing when the feet of the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant stepped on the edge of the river.

Modern thinkers, like even Albert Epstein do not believe the laws of nature can be changed so that miracles can happen but I argue that why can’t the one who invented and set in place those laws of nature not alter or change them if he so desires to do so.

It would seem that God generally works through the laws of nature he has set in place but sometimes God does intervene in this world and our lives to perform what we call a miracle. I know personally many people who have been told by doctors that nothing humanly speaking can be done for them when they were very sick or badly injured but in some cases the doctors have said all you can do now is pray.

Pray they did and it turned out that God does intervene sometimes to save and heal people even the doctors had to admit that their recovery could only be explained by a miracle of God.

I saw this in the case of a young man named Vince who mocked his brother Peter years ago for being a Christian when I attended a youth fellowship group Peter was part of.

Vince was smashed up in a terrible car accident in which his young fiancé was tragically killed. Vince’s right leg was so badly broken the doctors gave him no chance of keeping it but his brother Peter and our young fellowship group prayed for a miracle.

Vince’s leg was in plaster and within 3 months his leg healed up as though it was only basic brake and this led Vince to the Lord and he became a strong and committed follower of the Lord.

Sceptical non believers will say this is impossible but we must remember the words of our Lord when he said in Luke 18: 27,

“What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

So I say to the sceptical unbeliever to have faith in God and take up the challenge David gives us in Psalm 34: 8a,

“Taste and see that the Lord is good”.

2. (vs. 4). God’s presence made the mountains leap

Then this personification of inanimate objects continues with mountains leaping in verse 4,

“The mountains leaped like rams, the hills like lambs”.

I like part of Spurgeon’s explanation of this verse,

“Men fear the mountains, but the mountains tremble before the Lord. Sheep and lambs move lightly in the meadows; but the hills, which we are wont to call eternal, were as readily made to move as the most active creatures”.

Verse 4 is a obvious poetic reference to the coming of the Lord of the universe on Mount Sinai recorded in Exodus 19: 16 – 19,

“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. 19 As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him”.

The description here says that when the God of the universe descended on the mountain it not only was covered in smoke and fire but it, “Trembled” meaning it shook violently and this is what the writer calls the mountain, leaping like a ram or a sheep. I have seen on my occasional trips to the country sheep leaping and for the people of bible times this would have been a powerful poetic image.

God is presented here as being so powerful that seemingly immovable objects like mountains just tremble or leap around in the presence of the Lord.

This again fly’s in the face of the Deist who says that God is distant and not involved in our world now. God is active and alive in this world as Psalm 95: 3 – 5 declares,

“For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. 4  In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. 5  The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land”.

God is mighty and powerful in creation and in upholding the earth and the entire universe and so is he mighty in salvation as Psalm 96: 1 – 6 declares,

“Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. 2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. 3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous deeds among all peoples. 4  For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. 5 For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. 6 Splendour and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary”.

We as Christians proclaim a great message that can and has changed this world and it does this by influencing and changing the individuals in this world who accept the Gospel meagre of Jesus Christ and turn to him as Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 2: 14 – 17,

“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? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God”.

The leaping of the mountains, those seemingly immovable objects of nature remind me of the story of the lame bigger who asks Peter for money and Peter heals through the power and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ at one of the Temple gates and we read this in Acts 3: 6 – 10,

“Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognised him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him”.

Sceptics again might say this simply does not happen today but remember my true story of Vince who God healed his right leg miraculously and he was a modern example of how faith in the Lord Jesus Christ can heal us and cause us to leap or jump in praise of our Lord who is active in our world with power and love.

3. (5 – 6) WHY DID THE SEA, RIVER FLEE AND THE MOUNTAINS LEAP

1. (vs. 5) Why did the sea and river flee?

The writer of Psalm 114 then uses another poetic device namely three rhetorical questions. A rhetorical question is a question with a obvious answer and the first of these three rhetorical questions is in verse 5a.

“Why was it, sea that you fled?”

Note how the writer continues the personification of the innominate object of the sea and speaks directly to the sea asking why it fled from the presence of the Lord.

The obvious answer from the context of the Psalm is that it fled or in reality parted because the Lord of the Universe is so powerful that when he wants something to happen no human or earthly power can stand in his way.

Psalm 93 presents the idea that sometimes nature or this world is like us in rebellion to God so it says in verse 3,

“The seas have lifted up, Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their funding waves”.

This verse could be a poetic image of the mighty Babylonian nation lifting up its power to challenge Israel and its God and in fact the seas lifting up here could be translated the flood waters lifting up and raging across the dry land of Israel in destruction and devastation.

However verse 4 of Psalm 93 proclaims,

“Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea – the Lord on high is mighty”.

Yes the babylonians conquered Judah as a act of God’s judgment on his sinful disobedient people but God is mightier than the babylonians as 70 years after they took the people of God into captivity he raised up and even mightier nation called the Persians and they overran and destroyed the Babylonians and allowed and encouraged the people of God, the Jews to return to the Promised land of Israel.

So God has power even over the chaos of the universe represented many times in the bible by the sea or the ocean and Jesus showed he had power over the sea when he stood up one day on a turbulent stormy sea of Lake Galilee and said to the storm and the sea, “Be Quiet” and immediately the sea or lake was calm, Mark 4: 36 – 41.

Even hardened and experienced fisherman like Peter and his fisherman fellow disciples knew what Jesus did was simply amazing as we read their reaction to what Jesus was able to do in verse 41,

“They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

So the obvious answer to the question in verse 5a of,

“Why was it, sea that you fled?”

Is because God told the sea to part and the sea obeyed the word of the powerful creator God and parted or as it says in the poetic image, “you fled”.

Likewise the answer to the rhetorical question in verse 5b of,

“Why, Jordan did you turn back?”

This same, God told the river to stop running or for the rocks to fall that caused a temporary blockage of the river Jordan and it obeyed him.

The answer to these rhetorical questions also points to the power of the word of God as it was by his powerful word that the world was created, as we read in Genesis one a number of times the words,

“And God said”

And immediately different things were created.

So powerful is the word of God that the writer to the Hebrews describes it this way in Hebrews 4: 12,

“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”.

We can trust in the wonderful powerful word of God as through it God has a purpose that cannot be thwarted as Isaiah proclaims in Isaiah 55: 11,

“So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it”.

So the powerful word of God parted the red sea and stopped the river Jordan flowing and on Galilee Jesus word to the storm calmed it immediately and his word primarily found in the message of the Gospel transforms lives through faith in him as Paul declares in Romans 10: 17,

“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ”.

So as Paul calls us in the previous verses in Romans 10 to preach and teach the Gospel message we to can see the power of God’s word if we follow his advice and proclaim it.

2. (vs. 6). Why did the mountains leap?

The final rhetorical question concerns the power and might of God seen on Mount Sinai when God descended down to speak to Moses and give him his word wrapped up then in the law of God.

The rhetorical question of verse 6 goes like this,

“Why, mountains, did you leap like rams, you hills, like lambs”.

Again the obvious answer is because the Lord of the universe came close and spoke his word and when God is close and speaks, wonderful things happen.

This is spoken about all through the bible, that God is not the remote distant God of the Deist like Albert Einstein believed in. No God is involved in this world and has descended down to it as the previous Psalm stated in verse’s 5 and 6,

“Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth”.

In my last Psalm talk I spoke of the present day popular atheist Richard Dawkins who stated in a debate that.

“Christians believe that the so called creator of the vast and limitless universe could not think of a better way to deal with the problem of sin than to descend to this small spec of cosmic dust called earth to be tortured and executed so that he could forgive himself.

Dawkins says this is:

“profoundly unscientific and does not give justice to the grandeur of the universe and is petty and small minded”.

What Dawkins sees as petty and small minded is seen by those who believe it as what God has done which is both amazing and wonderful. Dawkins is hitting at the heart of the Christian belief and attempting to deride and ridicule it but what he does not realise is that what he is ridiculing is in fact the message that saves and transforms the lives of those who believe in it.

God did come down with his holy and powerful presence on Mount Sinai and make that mountain and the mountains surrounding it tremble or as it is expressed poetically in Psalm 114, leap like rams and sheep.

Equally and in a greater way God did come down to this cosmic speak of dust we call earth in the person of his Son to save us from out sins as the famous verse, 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”.

This is not small minded and petty but is both mimd blowing and amazing and deserves our praise that we should express is service as Paul declares in Romans 12: 1,

“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”.

I pointed out earlier in this Psalm talk that this Psalm along with the one before it was said or sung at the times of the Passover celebration. The passover was celebrated to help the Jewish people remember what God did to save the Nation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt.

As Christians we are reminded every Easter of the death and resurrection of Jesus that the Passover story is only a shadow of. The Jews were saved from the bondage and slavery of Egypt but through Christ death on the cross we are saved from the bondage and slavery of sin.

However Jesus does not want us to remember his death on the cross just at Easter but he instituted on the night he was betrayed a perpetual remembrance service of his death for us which we call today, “The Lord’s Supper”.

Paul gives us a summary of how Jesus wants us to remember his act of powerful salvation for us on the cross in 1 Corinthians 11: 23 – 26,

“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”.

So God descended on Mount Sinai and the mountains trembled and when Jesus descends to earth the second time not only will mountains tremble but the whole earth will tremble at the coming of the Lord and we read of mountains being removed or changed and the sky and heavens being changed as well. Revelation 6: 12 – 14,

“I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, 13 and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. 14 The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.

In Revelation 6: 15 – 17 we read of how some influential people will seek to hide in mountain caves when the Lord returns. But Revelation 6: 15 – 17 tells us how no one will be able to hide from this coming of the Lord in great power and might,

15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us[a] from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”

4. (6 – 7) GOD’S PRESENCE IS POWERFUL

1. (vs. 7) God’s presence makes the earth tremble

Some see verse 7 as the key to the whole message of Psalm 114 but I see it as the natural follow on to what we have just been reading of in the previous verses. Three rhetorical questions have just been asked why nature acted in a different and miraculous way in God leading his people out of their slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land of Israel and the obvious answer is because the Lord of the Universe had come down and was near and spoke his powerful word and so verse 7 says,

“Tremble earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob”.

This is the climax of what the Psalm has been saying that God’s presence with his people caused miraculous things to happen.
The red sea acted abnormally to help save his people out of slavery. The river Jordan had its water flow stopped and before that Mount Sinai shook and trembled as God’s presence came near to it. So the writer of Psalm 114 calls the whole earth to,

“Tremble earth, at the presence of the Lord”.

The Cambridge Bible commentary for schools and colleges nails down clearly what the author of Psalm 114 is seeking to say here with these words,

“It was at Jehovah’s presence that earth trembled then; but instead of a formal answer the poet’s words take a wider range, and he bids earth tremble still at the presence of its Lord, Who proves His sovereignty by transforming its most stubborn elements for the benefit of His people”.

Deist believers like Albert Einstein cannot see how nature can be changed by a the God who made it as their view of God is limited by only what they see day after day in their scientific study, that this universe runs on strict laws that seem immovable.

However we know from the Bible and the history of God’s dealings with his special people Israel that the God who invented and installed the laws of nature can and has altered them to intervene for the purposes of salvation and this is even more startling in the case of the coming of the Lord in the person of Jesus Christ.

He came via virgin birth a change of the laws of biology, he came to be both God and man, a change in the makeup of a normal human being and he was able to perform miracles which represent changes in the laws of nature to do things only the force or person who created those laws could achieve.

C.S. Lewis argued in the 1930”s that there are only three alternatives to who Jesus actually was. Jesus claimed to be God in a number of places in the Gospels, like John 10: 30,

“I and the Father are one”.

This verse comes from a passage were Jesus points to his miracles as proof that he is God and his promised Messiah, John 10: 22 – 30

“Then came the Festival of Dedication[b] at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 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. 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”.

So C.S Lewis says that Jesus claim to be God gives us only three alternatives and they are either Jesus is a Liar, Lunatic or The Lord.

Jesus teaching and actions discount the first two alternatives, Lair or Lunatic so the fact that Jesus could perform miracles, deeds that change the normal laws of nature point to Jesus being The Lord. The reaction of the Jews who heard Jesus make the claim of,

“I and the Father are one”

Tells us they knew Jesus was claiming to be God in the flesh as we see from verses 31 – 33,

“Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

This claim of Jesus being God led to his death on the cross and that might have been the end of the Jesus story but three days after his death another truly remarkable miracle occurs as Jesus rose from the dead which is a change from the normal law of nature that says once your dead your dead.

So returning to our verse 7 of Psalm 114 the New Testament says that Jesus will cause all mankind to tremble or revere him as the Lord when he returns as Paul declares in 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”.

The final part of verse 7 of Psalm 114 says that this trembling before the Lord is in the presence of,

“The God of Jacob”

I have given a lot of thought in the past to how the Psalms interchange the name of the Jews from Israel to Jacob and of course Israel and Jacob are the same person. One of Abraham’s grandson’s is Jacob who’s name means “supplanter” as he was a rebellious character who sought to pull down the birth right of his twin brother Esau and eventually in his later years he has a special encounter with God and after wrestling with God’s Angel gets an injury to his hip and is given a new name, Israel.

We read this story in Genesis 32 and we read the vital part of this story in verses 24 – 30,

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” 29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

So I believe the name Jacob indicates more the humanity of God’s people, their weakness to sin and not go God’s way and so here in Psalm 114,

“The God of Jacob”

This is the God of the fallen yet chosen people who God turned in Israel which is literally means, “In whom God prevails” and so we tremble or fall down in worship before the God who has saved us from the slavery of sin through his Son Jesus Christ who one day will return and then all mankind and creation will fall down in worship before him.

As we read about in the book of Revelation like chapter 11: 15 – 18,

“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.”16 And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying: “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. 18  The nations were angry, and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your people who revere your name, both great and small— and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”

2. (vs. 8) God’s presence is powerful and provides his people’s needs

This God of Jacob is not some kind of vague and remote force as the Diest like Albert Einstein believe in but is a God who is deeply involved in his chosen people helping them again sometimes in a miraculous ways as the last verse of the Psalm suggests, verse 8,

“Who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water”.

It seems God performed this miracle of providing water in a waterless place like a desert twice for his people, the descendant’s of Jacob when he led them out of slavery in Egypt. The first was early in their wanderings in the desert areas in Exodus 17 and then later in their wanderings when they should have been ready to enter the promised land in Numbers 20.

Both times the Israelites sinned and failed to trust in their God who they had seen was able to perform great miracles for them like divided the red sea to create a path for them to safely cross and make a mountain smoke, fire and tremble when their God came close to Mount Sinai.
He had even provided miraculous food for them yet the people grumbled and lacked faith when water became dangerously low. They even suggested to Moses and through him God that they were actually better off in Egypt as slaves where they had food and water, probably in short supply but they had it.

Even after all this God still performed the miracle of turning a rock into water such is the love and faithfulness of their God. Of course this continued disobedience and lack of faith on the part of this wilderness generation who also did not believe God could help them conquer the land of Canaan led God to not let them enter his Promised Land and it was their children and two older men, Joshua and Caleb who trusted in God who entered the promised land after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

The New Testament tells us in many places that this same God of Jacob or Israel is a God who provides what we need now through the Lord Jesus Christ who through his death and resurrection has called people from every nation on earth to now be his chosen people.

The apostle Paul uses the story of this rebellious wilderness generation and even the incident of the rock into water as a warning to us as Christians in 1 Corinthians 10: 1 – 6,

“For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did”.

We have a God who through Christ as Paul says, is our spiritual rock who provides all we need and more as Jesus promises in Matthew 6: 33 -34,

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”.

God provides all we need and more and I love how the closing words of Jude, 24 – 25 puts it,

“To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen”.

The “him” these verses refer to is of course The Lord Jesus Christ who we tremble before or worship because he is our Lord who we can turn to in prayer at any time and know that he will intervene in our daily lives to save and help us always.

CONCLUSION

I started this Psalm talk with the little girl’s letter to Albert Einstein in 1936, the little girt named Phyllis asked the great man,

‘Do Scientist pray”

Albert Einstein gave what I called a Deist view of God answer,

“Scientists believe that every occurrence, including the affairs of human beings, is due to the laws of nature. Therefore a scientist cannot be inclined to believe that the course of events can be influenced by prayer, that is, by a supernaturally manifested wish”.

Which becomes clearer in the next thing he wrote to the little girl,

“But also, everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is surely quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.”

The some naive are of course Christians who believe God does intervene in human life and history and answers prayer.

Psalm 114 has shown us that the bible clearly presents a God who is real, powerful and willing and able to get involved in the lives of his people, those who have turned to his Son in faith as Jesus told his disciples on the night before his death for our sins in John 14: 11 – 14,

“Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it”.

The scientist who is a Christian and there are many of them would have given Phyllis a different answer and their answer would have gone something like this,

Scientists believe that every occurrence, including the affairs of human beings, is due to the God of the bible who usually works through the laws of nature but sometimes he works outside of those his laws of nature to bring about his saving purposes.

This God sent his Son Jesus Christ to this so called insignificant spec of cosmic dust to die for our sins on the cross.

Faith in God’s Son brings to us the miracle of God’s forgiveness which opens up a way back to this creator supreme God who we are learning more about through our study of science and his word daily.

So through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ I pray and he answers me sometimes intervening in my day to day life to provide his help and provisions as he promises he will in many parts of his word the bible”.

I close as usual with a original poem and a prayer:

OUT OF SLAVERY WE NOW COME
(Based on Psalm 114)

Out of Egypt God called his flock
Out of slavery they came
To be his special nation
To proclaim his wonderful name.

Out of Sin we now come
Through the cross we are given
The gift of God’s forgiveness
That leads us now to heaven.

Chorus:

Hallelujah God sent his only Son
Who died for our sins
So out of slavery we could come.

God divided the sea for them
So his people could walk free.
Stopped the water of the Jordan
Now the Promised land they could see.

God gave his Son out of Love
To die on the cross for us
Given us a place in heaven
And all we have to do is trust.

Chorus:

Hallelujah God sent his only Son
Who died for our sins
So out of slavery we could come.

Tremble before the Lord above
For he has demonstrated his power
By making the mountains leap with fear
As his presence came in power.

Turn to Christ our rock and hope
Who is God’s eternal Son.
Who provides our every need
As out of slavery we now come.

Chorus:

Hallelujah God sent his only Son
Who died for our sins
So out of slavery we could come.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

I thank you Father in heaven for how you sent your Son to die for our sins on the cross. We now have been freed from the slavery of our sin so that we can now serve you Lord and one day be with you in heaven. Help us to always tremble before you in worship and praise as we realise who you really are and what by love you have done for us. May we worship you in sacrificial service knowing that you promise to provide our every need and answer our every prayer. In Jesus Name we pray Amen.

PSALM 113 TALK: HALLELUJAH – GOD IS EXALTED AND GRACIOUS

PSALM 113 TALK: HALLELUJAH – GOD IS EXALTED AND GRACIOUS

(This Psalm is is part of a series of Psalms that feature the word “Hallelujah” which means praise the Lord. This Psalm praises God as the great exalted God of the universe who is also gracious in that he stoops down to our minute speck of cosmic dust called earth that he created and lifts up the poor and needy of the earth to be exalted before him).

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

INTRODUCTION

My good friend and mission partner Ted Penney and I had the privilege on our recent trip to Myanmar to visit the famous Chin Hills. We have made so many Chin christian friends over the years and had visited many times the township of Kalaymyo which is a large town on the plains just bellow the Chin Hills where many Chin people had migrated from.

Up unto two years ago no foreigners had been allowed to go into this very mountainous area between Kalaymyo and the Indian border for nearly 40 years. Now that their is a new democratic government and peace in most parts of Myanmar foreigners like us now could freely explore this amazing and beautiful area of Myanmar.

I say explore because the road up to the Chin state capital called Hakha 6,500 ft high was probably one of the roughest roads I have ever travelled on over a long distance. Constant work is being done on the road to improve it but it was still full of big bends and at times uneven rough surfaces and it took our four wheel drive four hours to travel 50 miles and I got car sick on the first day of travel.

Once in Hakha the capitol of the Chin state we decided to look at some of the towns attractions or points of interest and of course we had to stop and view from a lookout this amazing town built on the top of a high mountain they call a hill because it is part of the hills or smaller mountains that lead up to the massively high Himalayan Mountains.

The next place of interest was the first church built by the original Christian missionaries who came to Hakha and the Chin Hills with the life saving message of the Gospel in 1899. Just down from this large and impressive Baptist Church is the graves of some of these original missionaries and some of the early converts and first ordained local ministers. The first missionary in the Chin hills was a man named Arthur Carson and his wife Laura and both laboured for the Lord in what would have been considered a inhospitable corner of the ends of the earth in their day.

Ted and I could not imagine the hardship and difficulty those early missionaries must have faced after our arduous trip on the rough road we had just experienced to get their ourselves and yet these pioneer missionaries would have had no roads, just primitive tracks with very poor food and living conditions to contend with as well.

In a article I read since coming back from Myanmar a couple of weeks ago I read these words from a article in The Baptist Bible Tribune by Thomas Ray about how Laura Carson initially reacted to these appalling conditions,

“The Mountain Chin were extremely suspicious of foreigners and unbelievably superstitious. On their arrival, Laura Carson was appalled by what she saw. As she looked upon the half- naked and filthy Chin she began to cry and said, “Author, I can’t do it! I thought I could go with you anywhere that God called and stay there and work with you. But, I have been weighed in the balance and found wanting. I can’t live my life in this awful place among these loathsome people”.

The article goes on to say that Arthur Carson comforted his wife and even told her she did not have to stay and then the article went on to say,

“The next morning, Laura Carson looked into the face of a beautiful young half – naked native girl. She later wrote, ‘I saw beneath the grime and filth and saw the need of the soul’. Not once in the next 21 years did Laura think about abandoning her post”.

The Carson’s took six years of teaching and preaching the word of God before they saw their first convert and three years later in 1908 Arthur Carson died of acute appendicitis unable to be treated properly in such a remote part of the world. Laura laboured on for another 12 years before she too got very sick and had to return to the U.S.A but now it is estimated that 90% of the Chin people call themselves Christians.

This story spoke to me powerfully of how the love of God for the lost of this world can a does inspire people like the Carson’s to take the message of his love to the ends of the earth. These people are only copying what God has done for us.

Paul says this about The Lord Jesus Christ 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 Paul is telling us that Jesus was exalted in heaven yet he chose to stoop down or descend to earth to become a human being like us to not to live and reign in luxury but become a servant and then to die like a common criminal for us on the cross.

This is the message of Psalm 113 as verses 4 – 6 says,

“The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens, Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?”

The next verse tells us how far he stoops down,

“He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap”.

The ash heap or dunhill was the place all ancient towns dumped their rubbish and refuse and this place is where the poorest and most wretched people lived and so God stoops as low as the rubbish tips of life to lift up the poor and needy of this world.

Laura Carson in 1899 felt she had come with her husband to the rubbish dump of humanity in Hakha in the Chin hills of Myanmar but as she looked into the eyes of that native half naked chin girl she saw the need of the love God and the potential of God’s life changing Gospel message and she and her husband laboured on and saw the beginning of a transformation where these poor Chin people spiritually echoed the words of verse 8 of Psalm 113,

“He seats them with princes, with the princes of the people”.

In heaven all true believers in the Gospel of Christ will reign with Christ in heaven as Paul says in 2 Timothy 2: 11 – 12,

“Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; If we endure, we will reign with him.”

So this third Hallelujah Song (Psalms 111 – 118 are called the Hallelujah Songs) we are called to sing and say “Hallelujah” or “Praise the Lord” because our God is both Exalted and Gracious and we will explore this theme in both this Psalm and in the teaching of the New Testament in this Psalm talk.

So with the theme of how God is both exalted and gracious in mind my outline for this Psalm is:

(1 – 3). A CALL TO PRAISE THE LORD

1. (vs. 1) Praise the Lord you servants
2. (2 – 3) Un-ending and universal praise

2. (4 – 6) PRAISE THE GOD WHO IS EXALTED AND GRACIOUS

1. (4- 5) Praise the exalted and glorious God of heaven
2. (vs. 6) Praise the Gracious God of heaven

3. (7 – 9). PRAUSE THE EXALTED AND GRACIOUS GOD WHO RAISES THE LOWLY

1. (7 – 8) Praise the God who lifts humanity from the garbage heap of life
2. (vs. 9) Praise the gracious God who blesses the childless women

(1 – 3) A CALL TO PRAISE THE LORD

1. (vs. 1) Praise the Lord you servants

The Psalm like most of these “Hallelujah Songs” commences with the Hebrew word “Hallelujah” and they often start with call to praise.

The other introductory comment I would like to make here is that this Psalm and the one that follows it have a tradition of being Psalms or songs sung before great Hebrew or Jewish festivals and particularly the Passover and it has been suggested by many bible commentators that this Psalm and the one that follows it, Psalm 114 could be the very Psalms Jesus and his disciples sang before they left the upper room to go Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives in Matthew 26: 30,

“When they had sung a hymn, they went to the Mount of Olives”.

This is also recorded in Mark 14: 26.

So it is not surprising then that this call to Praise the Lord is to all God’s “servants”

Spurgeon picks up the slave / servant image as it applies to the passover with these words,

“While they were slaves of Pharaoh, the Israelites uttered groans and sighs by reason of their hard bondage; but now that they had become servants of the Lord, they were to express themselves in songs of joy. His service is perfect freedom, and those who fully enter into it discover in that service a thousand reasons for adoration. They are sure to praise God best who serve him best; indeed, service is praise”.

So it is with us we were slaves to sin before Jesus died for our sins on the cross and brought unto us the glorious knowledge of this Gospel or Good News that because of what Jesus did for us on the cross we are no longer slaves of sin but servants of the the most high God as Paul speaks of 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”.

In the first verse of 1 Corinthians 4 Paul tells us to regard ourselves as servants of Christ with a great job to do,

“This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed”.

Our job or role then as servants of Christ is to proclaim God’s revealed mysteries revealed to us in Christ and what he has done for us, namely the Gospel message.

Psalm 113 calls all servants of the Lord to praise him and one of the best ways we can praise him is to proclaim the message of how the exalted God of heaven and earth stooped down to earth to become a human being like us to serve and not be served and to give his life as a ransom for many, 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”.

2. (2 – 3) Un-ending and universal praise

Verse 2 and 3 then tell us the scope of this praise for “Yahweh” the “yah” of Hallelujah, which is the supreme name for God that declares that he is the great “always being” or eternal supreme God of heaven and earth.

The scope of this praise is expressed in two ways:

Forevermore (vs. 2)
To the ends of the earth (vs. 3)

Lest’s have a closer look at each of these scopes of praise:

Forevermore (vs. 2)

Verse 2 simply says,

“Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forevermore”.

The first scope of this praise for “Yahweh” then is the length of time this call to praise desires and it is expressed in two words, “now” and “forevermore”.

Leupold explains this verse best for me when he writes,

“Since his deeds are so manifold, His praise should be continuous and unending”.

Leupold then points out aptly that the word “forevermore” is used four more times in Psalms that follow this one namely, Psalm 115: 18, 121: 8, 125: 2 and 131: 3 making this word a popular expression of the eternal nature of God and the praise he deserves in book five of Psalms.

I have pointed out many times in previous Psalm talks that Paul spoke a lot about giving praise or thanks to God in all circumstances like 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”.

All circumstances includes all the time which verse 2 of Psalm 113 says and it also says that it includes “now” and “Forevermore” and so endless praise or praise or thanks in all circumstances is described by Paul as, God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

Endless praise is the great theme of the extent of praise in heaven in the book of Revelation as we see in a verse like Revelation 7: 11 – 12,

“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!”

It is a interesting thought that Jesus with his disciples might have sang this Psalm as he was going to the place where he was betrayed by a man he loved and trusted which would have been one of the lowest points of his life and ministry and yet he was full of eternal praise to his father in heaven.

This reminds me of stories of Christians being martyred for their faith in Christ even today at the hands of extreme muslims I have read of Christians going to their horrible deaths praising the Lord they truly love and seek to serve even in their deaths for him and I would say that really is praising God in all circumstances.

To the ends of the earth (vs. 3)

The scope of praised being called for in this opening section of Psalm 113 is extensive as we read this expression in verse 3,

“From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised”.

This expression of the sun rising and setting is used in scripture to express the ends of the earth or even the entire earth as we read in Psalm 50 verse 1,

“The Mighty One, God, the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to where it sets.”

Or Malachi 1: 11,

“My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord Almighty”.

Isaiah saw the literal fulfilment of this kind of praise in the coming of the promised Messiah as he writes in Isaiah 59: 19,

“From the west, people will fear the name of the Lord, and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory. For he will come like a pent-up flood that the breath of the Lord drives along”.

It is only through, then, the coming of Jesus Christ or Jesus the Messiah as Christ is the Greek term for Messiah that this scope or extent of praise for God has been fulfilled and that has come through the Gospel of Christ going out into all the world as Jesus commanded his disciples to do in passages like Matthew 28: 19 -20,

“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.”

In my introduction of spoke of the story of the Gospel going into the remote and difficult Chin Hills area of Myanmar and how Arthur and Laura Carson endured great hardship and difficulty in seeking to make disciples of the desperate spirit worshipping people who lived their. I have just come back from that area and on two occasions I had the pleasure of attending two churches in that area and joining with those people in singing Hallelujah or praises to the God who is highly exalted yet he scooped down to earth in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, his one and only Son to save even these Chin people who live as far as even other tribal groups in Myanmar are concerned the ends of the earth.

2. (4 – 6) PRAISE THE GOD WHO IS EXALTED AND GRACIOUS

1. (4- 5) Praise the exalted and glorious God of heaven

As so many of these praise Psalms go from a call to worship and praise to some reasons why we should worship and praise the Lord and this Psalm 113 is not different as we have in the next two verses two reasons why we as God’s servants should praise the Lord forevermore and to the ends of all the earth and those two reasons are because he is both:

Exalted (vs. 4 and 5)
Gracious (vs. 6)

Exalted (vs. 4 and 5)

In verse’s 4 and 5 he is described as a the great exalted and glorious God enthroned on high,

“The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high”.

The exalted nature of God is expressed twice in David’s Psalm 57 as a kind of chorus or refrain in that Psalm as both verse 5 and verse 11 say the same thing,

“Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth”.

In my comments of these words in verse 11, the last verse of Psalm 57 I wrote,

“David is telling us in this use of the refrain that his God is the Lord or King of heaven and earth and we can see his glory in all the earth”,

David wrote Psalms 8 and 19 that express and flesh out the exalted glory of God that can be seen in nature as Psalm 19 verse 1 says,

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

David wrote Psalm 57 as a call for mercy and help from God as he faced his enemy who we believe was probably King Saul who sought to kill him. In that Psalm he testified to God’s love and faithfulness in helping him against his many enemies like verse 3,

“He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me – God sends forth his love and his faithfulness”.

So then twice David speaks of the exalted nature of God who declares his exalted glory in the world in what God has made and continues to uphold.

However Psalm 113 verse 4 speaks of how the Lord is exalted over all the Nations. We cannot tell when this Psalm was written but it seems that it was placed in the last book of Psalms after the return from Babylonian exile and therefore the people of that time would have seen God showing in his saving deeds in their recent history of how he is exalted above the nations in the fall of the Babylonians through the rise of the Persians. Therefore not so much in nature now do we see the glory of God but in his victory over the nations in the form of victory and judgment of the Babylonian empire and in the using of their Persian conquers to bring his people back to the land of Israel.

We can see in history again how God revealed his glorious exalted state over sin and evil in the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ. Jesus death and resurrection has cosmic significance as we see in the words of the writer to the Hebrews in chapter 2: 9 – 10,

“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. 10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered”.

I mentioned in my introduction the famous passage in Philippians 2 about how God stooped down from heaven through his Son Jesus Christ becoming a human being like us and stooping even further down by becoming a servant and even dying on a cross for us like a common criminal.
But that passage then turns to speak of how Jesus Christ has been exalted by God in his resurrection and ascension and will be gloriously exalted and acknowledge by everyone when he comes again to judge this world of sin and take to glory those who truely turn to him, 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”.

So, as Psalm 113 verse 4 says,

“The Lord (who is Jesus) is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens”.

Then the writer of Psalm 113 asks a rhetorical question in verse 5,

“Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high”.

I recently taught at a number of different Bible Colleges a series of 8 Psalms in fourth book of Psalms that speak of how our God the king reigns from heaven over all the earth. These “Our God the King who Reigns” Psalms start with Psalm 93 and end with Psalm 100 and I believe the answer to Psalm 113 rhetorical question in verse 5 is answered by the opening two verses of Psalm 93,

“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. Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity”.

Of course my simple answer to this rhetorical question is the obvious answer which the Psalmist does not have to state, no one is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high.

I have already declared Paul’s words in Philippians 2: 10 and 11,

“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”.

Finally the book of Revelation speaks of the exalted state of the Lord Jesus in heaven who is called symbolically in that book “The Lamb” as he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world as John the Baptist said in John 1: 29. Now John writing in his final book of the bible says this about the exalted state of Jesus in heaven and the praise he will receive because of who he is and what he has done for us 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. 6) Praise the Gracious God of heaven

So we have seen that Yahweh deserves our praise because he is the exalted God of heaven and earth who sits in glory on his throne high up in heaven but now his glory and greatness is seen in an amazing other way.

Verse 6 declares the second reason why “Yahweh” the God of the bible deserves our praise,

“Who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth”.

I am writing this Psalm talk only a few days after Christmas and Christmas is the amazing story of the incarnation which is the real message of Christmas. The verse uses the term “who stoops down” and of course it was through Jesus coming to earth as a man that is the most incredible example of God’s stooping or lowering of himself which reveals the extent to which the God of heaven and earth would descend to in his loving rescue of mankind.

John expresses the reality of God’s stooping down so well 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 Psalmist did not know of course the message of the incarnation as he was writing hundred of years before it actually happened but he did know that the God he was urging his hearers to praise not only a transcendent God but a imminent God or God who has made himself known and has acted on behalf of his people. Again as David put it in Psalm 57: 3,

“He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me – God sends forth his love and his faithfulness”.

I remember the words of Richard Dawkins the famous atheists in a debate with the Christian scholar John Lennox when he basically said that Christians believe that the so called creator of the vast and limitless universe could not think of a better way to deal with the problem of sin than to descend to this small spec of cosmic dust called earth to be tortured and executed so that he could forgive himself.

Dawkins says this is:

“profoundly unscientific and does not give justice to the grandeur of the universe and is petty and small minded”.

However that is the point of the incarnation or the stooping down of God it is simply an amazing idea and it is so amazing it deserves our praise.

The God of the bible is then not only exalted and glorious but is gracious and loving in that in his exalted state he chose to stoop down to a part of his creation, earth and sacrifice his only Son to deal with the problem of sin and make a way back to knowing and serving him as he originally intended us to be as his special creation.

The editors and maybe even the writer of this Psalm had just seen God’s amazing stooping down to look on the heavens and the earth and in fact intervene in the case of the freeing of his people from captivity in Babylon through the nation of Persia conquering what seemed the all powerful unstoppable super powerful nation of Babylon. Then through the Persians God made it possible for his people Israel to return to the Promised land of Israel to not only live there again but re-build Jerusalem and the Temple that the Babylonians had so ruthlessly destroyed some 70 years before.

Christmas is the time we should stop and ponder how much God stooped down to save us from our sins and also cause us to not only praise him for that but reflect on the reality of his second coming when Jesus will stoop down again not to save but to judge this world, doing away with sin and rebellion and to raise to heaven all who believe in him.

As Paul speaks of in 1 Thessalonians 4: 15 18,

 “According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words”.

This was the message that Arthur and Laura Carson took to the Chin people in Myanmar and it was this act of God stooping down to earth that transformed this poor wretched people into the strong and vibrant Christian Chin state of Myanmar today.

It is the message of the Gospel and it has done the same thing for many people from every Nation of this world and it is the message we must continue to take to the world unto the day Jesus decides that the day of Salvation or the Gospel age is over when he returns to earth the second time.

3. (7 – 9). PRAUSE THE EXALTED AND GRACIOUS GOD WHO RAISES THE LOWLY

1. (7 – 8) Praise the God who lifts humanity from the garbage heap of life

The writer then spells out two poetic examples of this gracious God in action in our world and these two poetic examples are expressed in verses 7 and 8,

“He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes, with the princes of his people”.

The bible is full of God’s gracious love for the poor and needy and indeed even the great King of Israel, King David often called himself poor and needy like Psalm 40: 17,

“But as for me, I am poor and needy”.

David wrote these words when he was possibly on the run from King Saul and at that time he would have been materially poor and needy but he used the same expression or similar ones to describe himself when he was King of Israel and would have been materially very rich, like Psalm 70 which could have been a taken by David from Psalm 40 for a new prayer when he was around 60 years of age and on the run from his rebellious son Absalom, Psalm 70: 5,

“But as for me, I am poor and needy, come quickly to me, O God, you are my help and my deliverer; Lord, do not delay”.

Or the opening of Solomons Psalm 72 which applies to Solomon and the people of real faith in God who live under his rule through King Solomon, Psalm 72: 1 -5,

“Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness. 2  May he judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice. 3  May the mountains bring prosperity to the people, the hills the fruit of righteousness. 4  May he defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; may he crush the oppressor. 5  May he endure as long as the sun, as long as the moon, through all generations”.

Solomon was one of the riches men materially in the bible yet the Psalm 72: 4 says,

“May he defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; may he crush the oppressor”.

This is obviously referring to spiritual need which is what Jesus is referring to in the first beatitude in Matthew 5: 3,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven”.

gotQuestions?org makes it clear what Jesus is saying here with these words,

“Jesus is declaring that, before we can enter God’s Kingdom, we must recognise the utter worthlessness of our own spiritual currency and the inability of our own works to save us”.

So when Psalm 113 says that God,

“Raises the poor from the dust”

It is not just speaking of the materially poor but in fact both materially poor and materially rich people must all recognise their spiritual poverty before God and that they cannot save themselves but God has to stoop down to lift us up and save us and this is not our own doing but a gift of God as Paul makes it clear in Ephesians 2: 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— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”.

David in both times of riches and poverty always saw himself before God as poor and needy as he writes in Psalm 69: 30 – 33,

“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. 31 This will please the Lord more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hooves. 32 The poor will see and be glad – you who seek God, may your hearts live! 33  The Lord hears the needy and does not despise his captive people”.

So David is saying in Psalm 69: 32 that the spiritually rich are those who realise that they are poor before God and because of this they,

“Seek God”,

So God raises the poor according to verse 7 of Psalm 113 but from where does he raise them from?

The Dust
The Ash heap

Lets have a closer look at these two important poetic images:

The Dust

It is interesting to note that these concluding verses of Psalm 113 mirror part of Hannah’s song after God blessed her with the birth of a son she named Samuel and when she took him to the Temple to serve the Lord when Samuel was three years old. 1 Samuel 2 and verse 8 is a direct pinch from that song of Hannah for verse’s 7 and 8 of Psalm 113.

In 1 Samuel chapters 1 and 2 we have God blessing the childless women Hannah and being childless in bible times meant great hardship and even poverty for a women. Even a few years ago in Australia a women with a child or children who did not have the support of a husband or family faced incredible hardship and poverty. In bible times a childless women was often divorced and left destitute and so to was widowed women with or without children as children were the ones who looked after her once they were grown up and generating income for their families and their poor widowed mother.

To be raised from the dust would signify then being very poor and also spiritually “dust” in the old testament signified repentance and prayer for forgiveness as the outward sign of this was to put on sackcloth (rough uncomfortable clothing) as we read of David doing in 1 Chronicles 21: 16,

“David looked up and saw the angel of the Lord standing between heaven and earth, with a drawn sword in his hand extended over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell facedown”.

Ashes where usually thrown around on the hands and face and repentant sinners like David and his elders would have been literally kneeling in a pool of dirty ashes as a way of saying to God they were truly repentant of their sins. Mourning the dead often employed not only wailing but wearing sailcloth and Ashes.

Also earnest prayer like Hannah prayed in 1 Samuel 1 often was done in sackcloth and ashes. It is not said that Hannah used sackcloth and ashes but 1 Samuel 1: 10 says that Hannah weeped bitterly as she prayed for a son to be born by her.

David we believe wrote Psalm 30 after God delivered Israel from a great plague caused by God when David sinned by disobeying the Lord and counting his fighting men throughout the land as recored in 1 Chronicles 21.

However God stooped down in the person of the Angel of the Lord and stopped the plague and saved the people of Jerusalem obviously responding to Davids prayer of repentance and David writes in Psalm 30 verses 11 and 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”.

God answered the earnest repentance prayer of David and the earnest desperate prayer of Hannah for a son in 1 Samuel 1. So God stooped down or intervened in the lives of David and Hannah and lifted them up from the dust or their despair and wretched state to answer the prayers of his needy faithful servants who although still sinful were blessed by the gracious exalted God of the bible.

In the New Testament the custom of sackcloth and ashes does not continue but both James and Peter speak of humbling yourselves before God and Peter writes in 1 Peter 5: 6 – 7,

 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

God therefore will lift us up from the ashes of despair if we would but humble ourselves before him because we can be assured the he does truly care for the spiritually poor and needy.

The Ash heap

The parallel rhyming thought of verse 7 of Psalm 113 and verse 8 of 1 Samuel 2 is,

“And lifts the needy from the ash heap”.

C.J Elliott the great 19th century commentator says that the term “Ash heap” could be translated as “Dunghill” or “heap of rubbish” and then explains to OldTestament times meaning of such a term or image,

“Before each village in Israel there is a place where the household heap up the sweepings of their stalls, and it gradually reaches a great circumference and a height which rises far above the highest buildings of the village.”

Today we would call the “Ash heap” the garbage heap or garbage dump so this poetic image is that God lifts the spiritually needy repentant sinners of this world from the garbage dump of this life.

The bible presents clearly that man’s sin has trashed both our lives and this world as Paul says in Romans 1: 24 – 25 the results of sin in our lives in this world,

“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”.

Even creation itself has been trashed by our sin and looks forward to its release from man’s sin and rebellion to God in Romans 8: 19 – 21,

For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.
20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God”.

So Psalm 113 verse 6 says God,

“Swoops down”

Now verse 7b says God,

“lifts the needy form the ash heap”

Or the garbage dump of sin by throwing himself on that garbage dump of sin through his death on the cross to lift us up from sin or that garbage dump to sit with him in eternity in heaven and even now before we arrive in heaven he offers the needy or those who realise they need his forgiveness life now and life in all its fullness, John 10: 10,

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”.

If you think I am getting a little carried away with my image of God through Christ his only Son stooping down to the garbage heap of life or sin to lift us up to heaven then let me quote how Paul put it, 2 Corinthians 5: 21,

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

Remember the writer of Psalm 113 is using a direct quote in these verses from the song of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2: 8 and he continues this quote with Hannah’s words of how God raises the poor and needy with the words,

“He seats them with princes, with the princes of his people”.

Hannah’s child, a result of God stooping down to answer her desperate prayer for a child turned out to be Samuel who grew up to be a great prophet and leader of his people and more than that he in turn became a king maker not once but twice in the persons of King Saul and the great King David.

Both Saul and David started out as relative poor and needy men who had low social status yet both of them became princes or even more than princes, Kings of their people.

Unfortunately King Saul stopped thinking he was spiritually poor before God and in his pride turned away from following God and in the process lost his mind and his kingdom.

On the other hand David, the lowly youngest son of a minor family in Judah who was given the lowly job of shepherd was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13: 14 and Acts 13: 22) David basically was a man who always recognised his spiritual poverty before God and went on to be the greatest King of Israel and the founder of a dynasty through his great descendant Christ that would last forever. Yes David sinned and at times sinned badly but he always returned to God in repentance and faith and called on the love and faithfulness of his God.

David is a role model of how God wants us to live which is as men and women who recognise their spiritual poverty and need before God and who accept his gift of love or grace and it is God’s grace that saves as God’s love is underserved. God’s grace comes to us through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives who raises us up from the garbage heap of sin and this world to serve and praise the God who is both highly exalted and wonderfully gracious.

I will let David have the final word of praise here in what he says at the end of his Psalm 57, verses 10 and 11,

“For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. 11 
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth”.

2. (vs. 9) Praise the gracious God who blesses the childless women

As I have been pointing out the writer of Psalm 113 seems to have been inspired by some of the words of Hannah the mother of Samuel who wrote a song recorded in the second chapter of the historical book of 1 Samuel and the previous two verses come directly from one verse, verse 8 of that song. Now the final verse of Psalm 113 seems to continue the influence of Hannah’s song.

Hannah was a poor childless mother in a relationship or marriage where her husband a man named Ramathaim had two wives, Penninnah and of course Hannah. Penninnah was blessed by God with children but for many years Hannah did not have a child and was tormented by Penninnah for being childless.

I have already pointed out the importance of women in bible times being both married and having children and this problem seems to crop up in the bible in a number of places. We have at least four other women who faced childlessness in bible times, Sarah, Rachel, Manoah and Elizabeth in the New Testament, mother of John the Baptist.

So Hannah, childless for many years praises God for the miraculous birth of her son, Samuel with these words in 1 Samuel 2: 5,

“Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry are hungry no more.
She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away”.

So Hannah goes on to speak of how God heard her cries for help which she expresses as a person who was before God was poor and needy and gives us a verse that the writer of Psalm 113 uses to write his verses 7 and 8,

“He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; 8  he seats them with princes, with the princes of his people”.

Then our writer of Psalm 113 closes the Psalm with, I think Hannah in mind with the words of verse 9,

“He settles the childless women in her home as a happy mother of children”.

Although Hannah only had Samuel in her home for three years because she takes him to the Tabernacle then in Shiloh to serve the Lord, though I’m sure she still saw lots of him and continued to have a great influence over him in his early years.

Interestingly all the other women in the bible who had problems with bearing children were like Hannah raised up or lifted up by God to become happy mothers of very important and blessed sons, Sarah or course the mother of Isaac, Rachel the mother of many including Joseph, Manoah the mother of Sampson and in the New Testament, Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist.

These stories show how much God cares for women and uses them in wonderful ways for his plans of salvation for the people of God. Jesus born of Mary and through Jesus all the people of the world were blessed.

I taught scripture at a Girls High School in the 1970’s when at Bible College and the girls in my scripture classes on the first week at that high school told me the Bible was nothing more than a chauvinistic book that had nothing to say to women in this modern world. I switched all my lessons for the next 12 months of teaching there over to women in the bible and not only were my students enriched as young women but I gained a greater appreciation of God’s love and grace to women and how just as he calls men to serve him and play vital roles in his Kingdom he equally calls women to serve him and play vital roles in the extension and building up of his kingdom here on earth.

I love the prophecy in the Old Testament about the role of men and women in this Gospel age that started to be fulfilled on the day of Pentecost recored for us in Acts 2: 17 – 18,

“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy”.

God calls men and women to serve him in this world in various ways and even through the bearing of children God’s stooping down to raise us up from the garbage heap of sin in this world can and has been used by God to help extend his Kingdom. This reveals to us our God’s great exalted glorious and gracious nature as he continually stoops down to raise us up from the garbage dump of life.

CONCLUSION

This Psalm ends as it began with the Hebrew word “Hallelujah” which is translated in our English bibles as “Praise the Lord”. We have seen in this Psalm that we should praise the Lord or praise “Yahweh” because he is the great exalted and glorious God who sits on his throne high in heaven above far greater and more powerful than anything or anyone in the entire universe.

Also the Psalm encourages us to praise this great and exalted God because even though he is exalted on high he chose to stoop down to what the atheist, Richard Dawkins calls “this spec of cosmic dust we call earth”, to get involved in our world and to lift up all who realise they are spiritually poor and needy and who turn and accept his gift of forgiveness that makes us right before him.

This lifting up through scooping down goes as far as the great and glorious God coming to the garbage dump of this life’s sin and the degradation and through his Son’s death on the cross he raises us up and gives us the gift of righteousness so that we can serve him now and forevermore.

I started this Psalm talk with the story of Arthur and Laura Carson who gave up a comfortable life in America in the late 18th century to go to a poor and primitive place considered the ends of the earth in their day to bring the message to the Chin people in Myanmar of how God scooped down through his son, Jesus Christ . He did this so that they could know his forgiveness through his death on the cross and also be transformed into his servants who are through faith in his Son now part of his eternal family.

I mentioned how difficult it was for me and my friend Ted Penney to travel to the Chin hills even today yet in 1899 the Carson’s somehow made that arduous journey into the Chin Hills and Laura Carson after realising the difficult living conditions of this place and seeing the pitiful state of the Chin people wanted to return home.

However the next day Laura Carson looked into the eyes of a poor Chin girl and realised that God had led them to this place to bring his life changing message of his love and then she never looked back from joining her husband in bringing the Gospel to the Chin people.

Even though Arthur Carson died within nine years of arriving in the now Chin state capitol, Hakha he did witness the first Chin convert and started to baptise a few more. Laura Carson pushed on with some other new missionaries for another 12 years before ill health forced her to return to America. Now after 118 years from when the Carson’s came to the Chin Hills with the message of the Gospel it is estimated that 90% of the Chin people claim to be Christians and their lives have been transformed or lifted up through God’s stooping down through the death and resurrection of his only Son Jesus Christ.

This all then should lead us to sing and say “Hallelujah” or “Praise the Lord”.

I close as I usually do with a poem and a prayer:

GOD STOOPED DOWN (Based on Psalm 113)

Praise the Lord you servants now
For God’s name speaks of his mighty power
His name surely does declare
That he is great and is always there.
God should be praise for evermore
From east to west and from shore to shore.

Praise the exalted God above
Who’s glory is seen in his great love
No one is like this God so high
For he is great and reigns on high
Yet he chose to stoop to earth
Through his son’s amazing birth.

Chorus:

God stooped down
Yes God stooped down
Jesus gave up glory to come down
God stooped down
Yes God stooped down
Through his death we’re heaven bound.

Praise the Lord who lifts the poor
To sit with him forever more.
Poor in spirit because of sin
Needing forgiveness and peace within
He came to our garbage world of sin
To die on a cross a death so grim.

Praise the Lord he has cleared a way
To be give us righteousness today.
For his death paid for sins great price
And won for us eternal life
We are now part of his family
That God now blesses eternally.

Chorus:

God stooped down
Yes God stooped down
Jesus gave up glory to come down
God stooped down
Yes God stooped down
Through his death we’re heaven bound.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

We praise you Father in heaven because you are the great exalted and glorious God of heaven and earth who made this universe and this world. Yet Lord we know that as great and exalted as you are you decided in your love to stoop down to this garbage dump of sin and degradation in the person of your Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins on the cross. We praise you O Lord because through that death for our sins we can now have the gift of your righteousness which means we can live with you in heaven.
Even now your Sons death for us on the cross gives us your blessings and hope in our day to day lives. Now may we live for you and for the extension of your Kingdom here on earth. In Jesus

PSALM 112 TALK: HALLELUJAH – BLESSED IS THE MAN WHO FEARS THE LORD

PSALM 112 TALK: HALLELUJAH – BLESSED IS THE MAN WHO FEARS THE LORD

 (The second Psalm is a series of Psalms that feature the word “Hallelujah” which means praise the Lord and this Psalm praises God for his blessing on the person who fears or respects the God of heaven and earth and who delights or loves his word and shows that he does love the Lord by the way he lives his life and shows to the world all the wonderful things his God has given him.)

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

INTRODUCTION

The other day I had a very real disturbing yet revealing experience when I was standing in line at a checkout at our local supermarket. The women in front of me who was being served by the checkout operator was obviously a young mum and she had at her feet a three or four year old boy who was throwing a tantrum. What was disturbing about this was that the little boy was hitting his mothers legs with his fists with all his might and all the mother did was say constantly the her child, “You know mummy does not like that, please stop doing that”. The little boy did not stop and his mother’s words only seemed to make him cry louder and hit his her harder.

The mother paid her bill picked up her shopping bags and walked out of the shop with the child screaming and still hitting her and all I could hear from the young mother, in a calm voice was her words over and over again saying what I heard her say in front of me in the checkout line, “You know mummy does not like that, please stop doing that”.

I felt like saying something to the checkout operator but stopped myself because I could see that being at the head of a long line of shoppers in a checkout queue was not the place to discuss modern discipline techniques as opposed to the so called old fashioned ones I was bought up with.

At home that day I reflected on what I saw that young mother do or rather not do and it seemed that her child had not learnt and kind of respect or fear for his mother yet I even wondered when he might ever have any respect for his mother or anyone else he found over him in the future.

I also thought of my dear mother, who passed away five years ago now and how she instilled in us total respect for her and all people who had authority over us like teachers, police and our bosses at work. My own mothers discipline approach was much more ruthless and even cruel compared to how my wife and I disciplined our own children but she believed as we believed that as parents we deserved total respect from our children at all stages of their lives.

My thoughts about this mother and child then led me to think of God our heavenly father and what kind of discipline he operated with according to the bible. Was he the God of heaven and earth who would allow his created beings belt him around and treat him with disrespect in the name of love, saying, “you know I don’t like the way you are living please stop living that way because it upsets me”.

Or is the God of heaven and earth as presented in the bible as a God who disciplines with harsh and heavy judgment because he demands the fear or respect he deserves as our creator and provider?

Both the mother in the supermarket and my own mother are sinful fallen creatures as we all are so both will not show what the perfect, holy and mighty God of heaven and earth is like in how he deals with his world and the rebellious people who live in it.

I see a combination, in a sense of the two mothers approaches as God did deal harshly in discipline or judgment with his special chosen people Israel. On many occasions God disciplined his people harshly and the best example of this is what had happened to Israel a few years before Psalm 112 was written. After generations of his chosen people turning away from him to serve other false God’s, with worship involving sex, sacrifice of children and living lives that exploited the poor and needy for personal gain God sent the nation of Babylon to overrun them, kill many of them and take most of those who left into exile in Babylon for 70 years or so.

Then we have the example of God’s dealings with his sinful people in the climax of the bible story when he sends his only Son, Jesus Christ into the world and allows sinful people to arrest him on false charges, find him guilty on those charges, belt him up before allowing them to nail him up on a cross to suffer physically, socially as huge insults were hurled at him by people around the cross and spiritually as he took on himself our sin and was disserted by his heavenly father as he hung their for us in the name of love.

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5: 21,

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

Psalm 112 is the second Psalm in a series of Psalms from Psalm 111 to Psalm 118 that feature the concept of Praising the Lord represented by the Hebrew word, Hallelujah which means literally “Praise Yahweh” which we translate in English as “Praise the Lord”. Psalm 111 had supplied us with a perfect Hallelujah because it set down in its acrostic, Hebrew Alphabet style some of the great works of God for us that deserve our constant perfect praise.

Now Psalm 112 offers us the flip side to this, how we should respond to what God has done for us. God promises to bless us in so many ways if we do rightly respond to his great deeds of love and faithfulness. The basic response God wants from us then is expressed in the first verse of this Psalm,

“Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands”.

I am taking up the idea in this Psalm talk that to fear God is to respect and love him and act in the opposite way the young child did in his lack of respect and love for his mother. We must stop rebelling against God’s authority over our lives and rather then striking out against God, live the way he wants us to live inspired by what he has done for us through Jesus death on the cross to forgive our sins.

I changed my normal approach to my preparation of this Psalm talk as I normally write a poem based on this Psalm after I had written the Psalm talk but this time I attempted to write my own Alphabet poem based on the wording of the Psalm.

I did this to try to understand better how the writer of Psalm 112 thought as he wrote his Hebrew Alphabet Psalm but the Hebrew Alphabet only has 22 letters while the English Alphabet has 26 letters so because verse 1 is so crucial to understanding the main idea of the Psalm I used four letters from the English Alphabet rather than two for this verse and somewhere through the poem and the Psalm included another two letters of the English Alphabet to write my Alphabet poem based on this Psalm.

The experience of writing my own Alphabet poem made me feel that I was entering into some of the thinking processes of the original writer of this Psalm and I will quote my wording of the words of my poem as I state and seek to open the Psalm writers original words. Then at the end of the Psalm talk I will let you read my full version of my Alphabet poem based on this Psalm.

With the theme of “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord in mind then my outline for this Psalm talk is:

  1. (vs. 1)   GOD BLESSES PEOPLE WHO RESPECT AND LOVE HIM

 

  1. (1a)   Praise God for he blesses those who respect and love him
  2. (1b)   People who respect and love God delight in his word

 

  1. (2 – 5)   HOW GOD BLESSES PEOPLE WHO RESPECT AND LOVE HIM

 

  1. (2 – 3) God’s blessing of family and wealth
  2. (4 – 5) God’s blessing of help in hard times

 

  1. (6 – 10)   PEOPLE LOVE AND RESPECT GOD CONTRASTED WITH THOSE

                     WHO DON’T

 

  1. (6 – 9) How people who respect and love God live
  2. (vs. 10) How people who don’t respect or love God live

 

  1. (vs. 1)   GOD BLESSES PEOPLE WHO RESPECT AND LOVE HIM

 

  1. (1a)   Praise God for he blesses those who respect and love him

“Praise the Lord (Hallelujah)

Blessed is the man who fears the Lord”

Alleluia yes praise to the God above

Blessed is the person who knows God’s love

Note how my Alphabet poem version uses the word, “Alleluia” instead of “Hallelujah” and of course “Alleluia” allows me to use the first letter of the English Alphabet “A” to commence my Alphabet poem version of this Psalm. I found this excellent explanation of the difference between Hallelujah and “Alleluia” on a blog page on the net called “Pastors Pantry” by man who simply calls himself Michael,

“In the past several weeks I’ve been asked by several folks what is the difference between “Alleluia” and “Hallelujah”. They are both an expression of praise to God. Hallelujah comes from the Hebrew (used in Psalms) which means “Praise Yahweh”. It’s also found in the New Testament book of Revelation. Alleluia is simply the Greek or Latin form of the same word. They can be used interchangeably. But the important thing is, no matter what form you choose to use, DO praise God for all that we have been given”.

 So Psalm 112 like the start of Psalm 111 starts with the call to praise “Yahweh” which many believe is a call to worship and this Psalm like many would have been used by the ancient Hebrews in their lively and very musical praise type worship services.

However the focus of this Psalms praise of the God of the bible is the blessing God gives those who fear him. Let me explain then the two main ideas of this opening phrase of this Psalm and the two key ideas I would like to explain are:

  1. Blessed
  2. Fears the Lord

Lets then have a close look at these two key ideas:

  1. Blessed

This word “Blessed” is the first word that appears in the book of Psalms and therefore is the first word in Psalm 1 and in a number of ways some aspects of this Psalm 112 reminds me of Psalm 1 like the blessings God promises his faithful people in this Psalm and of course the contrast of the way of life the wicked person or non – God believing person to the believing person that both Psalms conclude on.

I found the Hebrew concept of “Blessed” a tricky concept to fully understand and explain way back in my first Palm talk I wrote so I will quote from that talk to explain what the word “Blessed” actually means,

“Being Blessed by God or being truly happy and is what all people really want but true happiness seems to be such a fickle thing. Many people buy lottery tickets to win large cash jackpots and think that if only they could win millions of dollars, then they would really be happy. The reality is that many who win big lotteries often find very little happiness at all. Relatives, friends and con men trying to get a piece of the prize hound them. They buy houses, boats and go on expensive holidays but still, in side themselves they aren’t happy. Others go deeply religious and do all kinds of religious activities. Martin Luther before he found Christ and the great liberating truth of Justification by faith, crawled up the steps of St Peters in Rome, praying as he crawled and when he got to the top said, he felt more of a sinner after doing the crawl than before he started it.

 Yes the bible makes it clear, to be truly blessed by God you need to find his forgiveness first, Psalm 32 verses 1 and 2 says :

 1 Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.

 2 Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.

 How do we find God’s forgiveness ?

 It is only found through faith in Jesus and his great death for us as Paul says in Romans 5 verses 1 to 5 :

 “ 1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us”.

 Psalm 1 states clearly that we can only find real and true happiness in knowing and following God. It says “delight in God’s law” (word) and “meditate on it day and night” 

  1. Fears the Lord

So how does Psalm 112 say we can find God’s blessedness or true happiness in our lives today and the answer is,

“Who fears the Lord”

Interestingly Psalm 111 finished with value of fearing the Lord, Psalm 111: 10,

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.

 I would like to quote myself again from my Psalm 111 and my comments on this verse and then talk about how what we learnt from that verse relates to the first verse of this Psalm when it speaks of “fearing” God,

“This follows what we read at the end of verse 9 that God or the God of the bible is both Holy and Awesome. If he is Holy, different and perfect and awesome, great and powerful then he deserves our respect and worship, which the Old Testament calls fear.

 This verse reads and sounds like it comes from the book of proverbs and Allan Harman picks out four similar book of Proverbs references that speak of the fear of the Lord and wisdom, Proverbs 1: 7, 9:10, 15: 33. I would like to quote the first of these Proverbs 1: 7,

 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction”.

Note how this verse, very similar to some of the wording of Psalm 111: 10 speaks of how fearing God or reverencing him also brings knowledge as well as wisdom which Godless people simply do not have or will not have if they continue to rebel against God.

Paul says in 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”.

People are wilfully living their lives without any acknowledgment of God ignoring God and even defying him and his laws and then wondering why their lives fall foul to his judgments in the form of sinful consequences in their lives and of course all this will lead to the ultimate judgment to come when they will stand before his throne in the final judgement.

As Paul and that verse in Proverbs points out the not fearing God or reverencing him also has consequences to our way of thinking.

We might appear to be smart or even intelligent but we will lack real wisdom in life if we continue to ignore God and not fear him or revere him as Holy and Awesome or great”.

In this Psalm then, Psalm 112 ‘fearing God” which I believe is revering God leads to blessedness or as I have just pointed out true and real happiness. When that toddler threw his tantrum in the supermarket and started belting his mother he was not very happy, in fact he was in the complete opposite emotional state to happiness as he was angry, in emotional pain and frustrated and that was clear by the howling screams and thumping fists that belted his mothers legs and that is a perfect picture of a person’s state when they are in rebellion to God the Father of heaven and earth.

We see, read and hear about how so many people in our growing Godless society are screaming, kicking and even dying of their desperate unhappiness. They take drugs, drink alcohol to excess and try all kinds of modern Godless answers to life’s problems and yet true deep and lasting happiness eludes them. Some seek happiness through material things but again some of the most miserable and unhappy people in our world today are the very rich and so called successful people.

No the only answer to the problem of unhappiness is “fearing God” or revering God, putting him in the rightful place in our lives and through the forgiveness of his Son’s death on the cross come to know his love and happiness in our lives. When I was a children and Youth worker many years ago we sang a kids song that says it all so well and it goes like this,

“Happiness is to know the Saviour

Living a life within his favour,

Having a change in my behaviour

Happiness is the Lord.

 

Real joy is mine

No matter if the tear- drops start

I found the answer

Its Jesus in my heart”.

So again my Alphabet poem line for this part of Psalm 112 is simply,

 

Blessed is the person who knows God’s love.

  1. (1b)   People who respect and love God delight in his word

Then we read in the second part of this first verse, these words,

“Who finds great delight in his commands”.

My Alphabet poem words for this phrase is two lines that say,

“Captivated and committed to his word

Delighted in that word of the Lord”.

The word for “commands” in Psalm 111: 10 version of this concept is “precepts”.

And this verse simply says,

“All who follow his precepts have good understanding”.

 Psalm 1 says it another way in verse 2, with these words

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

The law, precepts, commands are Old Testament terms for what we call the word of God, which is of, course the bible. Psalm 1 verse 3 goes on to tell us how valuable delighting in and meditating on the word of God is with these words,

“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”.

Today people have written off the bible as books of myths or something the fourth century church concocted to control and manipulate the lives of its members. However the evidence is clear that the New Testament written in ancient Greek existed long before the fourth century and manuscripts go back to very close to the time of the events with more convincing evidence of authenticity than any other ancient writing that is fully accepted as fact today like Caesars Gallic Wars which no one denies Caesar wrote.

What people today confuse the writing of The New Testament as something the fourth century church wrote with is that it in the fourth century the church approved what was actually written soon after the time of Christ and what was not and they rejected many popular church writings as not truly the word of God because they knew that only the writings of the original disciples of Christ and other close followers of Christ like Paul and Luke where truly inspired by God as his word as Paul says himself 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 may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”.

So when we delight in the word of God we too are inspired to see the truth of God about life and how he wants us to live and then how he wants to bless us which the next part of Psalm 112 is going to tell us.

I have had years of delight and inspiration from both personal study of the bible and group study in the many bible studies I have attended. I can agree wholeheartedly with David when he says this about the place and value of God’s word in Psalm 19: 7 – 11,

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. 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.

My extra verse from my Alphabet poem that puts all the teaching of the first verse of this Psalm 112 is:

Endowed with blessing God does give

Faithful servants who seek to live

Honouring the God who made all things

Intense love for them he always brings.

  1. (2 – 5)   HOW GOD BLESSES PEOPLE WHO RESPECT AND LOVE HIM

 

  1. (2 – 3) God’s blessing of family and wealth

My headings for the two parts of this middle section will be the wording of my Alphabet poem based on this Psalms and the first is:

  1. Just look at their children people say (vs. 2a)

The actual verse 2a of the Psalm reads,

“His children will be mighty in the land”.

 In the Ancient world of the Hebrews a mans family and how successful they were was a major sign of God’s blessing on him as we see in a verse like Psalm 127: 3 – 4,

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court”

Or Proverbs 12: 7,

“The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous stands firm”.

So if verse 1 is correct that God blesses or gives deep and lasting happiness to the person who fears or reveres him then the good health and strong standing of a man and women’s family is a obvious out come of that blessing of God as the second commandment says in Exodus 20: 6,

“But showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments”.

And what kind of things does God often give children of faithful believing parents?

My next line of my Alphabet poem based on this Psalm says for the requirements of a man to be an elder in Titus 1: 6,

“An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient”

Knowledge and good manners come their way

I have had the pleasure of meeting many God fearing families in the church that God has blessed with wonderful children well mannered and knowledgeable and faithfully serving the Lord and to me this is a result of God’s blessings on that family.

  1. Long do we appreciate a believer’s life (vs. 2b)

Another blessing that was hotly desired in Old Testament times was being appreciated and remembered long after your passing from this life and I think the second part of verse 2 speaks of this blessing from God when it says.

“The generation of the upright will be blessed”.

 David Guzik expounds on this phrase with these words,

“If any one should desire to leave behind him a flourishing posterity, let him not think to accomplish it by accumulating heaps of gold and silver, and leaving them behind him, but by rightly recognising God and serving him, and commanding his children to the guardianship and protection of God”.

 Spiritually we are all called to minster to the people livening in our time, our generation but also Paul speaks of having in mind the next generation as well in that he instructs the younger, next generation Timothy in his time to entrust the message of the Gospel on to others who will in turn pass the message on to others which includes the next generation coming up behind him, 2 Timothy 2: 1 – 2,

“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others”.

Part of my own vision for these Psalm talks is that they will live on long after I have gone to be with the Lord so that future generations can be taught and blessed through them.

My next line of my Alphabet poem based on Psalm 112 picks up a idea expressed in 5 verse which speaks of how the person who fears or reveres God helps his generation making that person appreciated through chartable giving,

Mercy did they show to those in strife.

I will have more to say on this when I comment on verse 5 soon.

  1. No fear of debts for God has blessed them (vs. 3a)

We read of how the person who fears or reveres God is blessed by God with material wealth,

“Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever”.

This could be seen today as a tricky concept with the rise of the prosperity Gospel message that proclaims that good health and material wealth are given to those who have faith in Christ, one quote I found on the internet by Stephen Hunt explains this false Gospel message this way,

“In short, this means that “health and wealth” are the automatic divine right of all Bible-believing Christians and may be procreated by faith as part of the package of salvation, since the Atonement of Christ includes not just the removal of sin, but also the removal of sickness and poverty”.

 The prosperity Gospel preachers might jump on this third verse in Psalm 112 as proof that the bible teaches that material wealth does come to all who truly have faith in the God of the bible.

However I do not believe this verse in isolation can be proof God intends all believers to be wealthy in an earthly material sense. It is true that people who come to true faith in Christ often turn their lives around so much that materially they are much better off. Take for instance the true conversion of a person who is has a gambling problem or a drinking problem, if they receive God’s help in dealing with these problems after coming to faith in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins then sure they will be financially better off.

However the bible equally teaches that hardship and trials are also part of the Christian life as the next verse of this Psalm says with these words,

“Even in darkness light dawns for the upright”.

 All the New Testament writers speak of the place and value of trials and difficulties for the true believer like Peter in 1 Peter 1: 3 – 7,

“ 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, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 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. 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 refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed”.

 I included in this quote the place and function of suffering or difficulties in the Christian life the first three verses as they speak of what Christ has won for us through his death on the cross and it is not material wealth or good health but is spiritual new birth, a living hope of the resurrection, a eternal inheritance which is heaven and the promise of God’s protection in the midst of the dangerous and uncertain world we live in.

So what is verse 3a of Psalm 112 telling us when it says,

“Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever”.

I think Spurgeon explains the meaning of this verse best for me when he writes in the following rather long but very helpful quote,

“Wealth and riches shall be in his house. Understood literally this is rather a promise of the old covenant than of the new, for many of the best of the people of God are very poor; yet it has been found true that uprightness is the road to success, and, all other things being equal, the honest man is the rising man. Many are kept poor through knavery and profligacy; but godliness hath the promise of the life that now is. If we understand the passage spiritually it is abundantly true.

What wealth can equal that of the love of God? What riches can rival a contented heart? It matters nothing that the roof is thatched, and the floor is of cold stone: the heart which is cheered with the favour of heaven is “rich to all the intents of bliss.”

 As said when commenting on “Blessedness” being true happiness material wealth does not guarantee or even brings true deep spiritual happiness and in fact those that have material wealth now as believers have the new burden of how they should be using that material wealth in the work of God and the spreading of the Gospel message to the world.

My next line of my Alphabet poem based on Psalm 112 picks up what all true believers have rich or poor materially,

Over and over God seems to help them

This is my attempt to express the other phrase in verse 3a that simply says,

“His righteousness endures forever”.

 Interestingly this expression is used to describe God in the previous Psalm, Psalm 111 verse 3,

“Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever”,

 So because we look to God and believe in him something that is part of him becomes part of us namely his “Righteousness”.

Clearly the New Testament teaches that God’s righteousness is God’s gift given to all true believers as a result of what Christ achieved for us on the cross, like 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 my concept is when God helps us over and over again this is evidence of God’s righteousness enduring in us by grace in his help and favour and this is the real wealth we have as Spurgeon said,

“Is “rich to all the intents of bliss.”

  1. (4 – 5) God’s blessing of help in hard times

I will continue to use my Alphabet poem lines based on Psalm 112 for my headings in the second part of the middle section of this Psalm and the first heading is:

  1. Particularly in dark times they seem to shine (vs. 4)

As I have just pointed out some modern day preachers seek to convey the idea that believing in Jesus will lead to wealth and good health and of course no more problems and difficulties in life. To a certain extent coming to Christ will mean for many people a change in their financial state and health.

This often comes from the fact that living a rebellious sinful life not only destroys the soul but it destroys the body and our finances however God does not take away from Christians a number of things when they come to Christ and they include:

  1. Living in a fallen and dangerous world
  2. Being still part of the natural process of aging and physically dying
  3. Facing opposition and evil attacks
  4. Still being sinful and making mistakes in life

All these things that Christians or believers have to face are the same things non -believers face and the difference is that the Christian or the believer does not face them alone as he or she now has God and particularly Jesus with them to help them through the problems and difficulties of life.

This is what I believe verse 4 is telling us,

“Even in darkness light dawns for the upright”

 The ironic fact of life is that non – believers often accuse God believers as weak people who need some kind or crutch to lean on and belief in God is that crutch. The reality is they are partially correct we are all weak, sinful and fallen beings who need someone of something greater than ourselves to lean on or get help from and Jesus is that someone greater and stronger we can go to as the writer of Psalm 112 says, in darkness to find light. Jesus is the one we can go to and find rest and help for our souls and lives as Jesus calls us to 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.”

 If believing the Gospel always leads to prosperity financially and physically why did Jesus offer all believers these wonderful words of comfort?

King David was a great and powerful king who had wonderful gifts of soldiering, worldly wealth, great wisdom and insights and yet he says this in Psalm 61: 2 – 3,

“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe”.

David went through many dark times but over and over again God’s light dawned on him. I can relate to that even in recent times as I have had some personal medical problems to face and my dear wife has had some serious ones and yet it was through prayer and trusting God that helped us come through those difficult times and proved the wonderful gracious and compassionate love of God as a result of them.

So we have a great Savoir to turn to any time in our lives and particularly in times of darkness or difficulty. The next line of my Alphabet poem based on Psalm 112 states clearly what we as believers have that non believers will never have if they continue to refuse to turn to God in faith,

Quickly God answers them every time.

The final words of verse 4 are another example of words used in Psalm 111 to describe God in verse 4 of that Psalm and here are:

“For gracious and compassionate and righteous man”.

 Again what God is like is what we should seek to be like and for us as Christians the image of a perfect or righteous and loving person is the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul many times to be imitators of God by imitating or following the example of Christ, Ephesians 5: 1,

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”.

 The next line of my Alphabet poem based on Psalm 112 describes how we should be according to verse 4b of this Psalm and what Paul has just stated to us in Ephesians 5: 1,

Upright and loving is the person God calls

  1. Respected for their generosity to a cause (vs. 5)

Flowing from this person who fears or has reverence and faith in God being like God as a compassionate and righteous person is what is said of him in verse 5,

“Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice”.

 Albert Barnes fleshes out what this verse is actually saying with these words,

“A good man shows favor – He has the means to show favor to others, or to promote their welfare, and he is disposed to do this. It is the characteristic of a good man – of a heart that is truly pious – to do good to others; to promote their welfare here, and to assist them in their endeavor to secure happiness in the world to come”.

 My thought was the ability and desire of people of real faith to their generous support of right and good causes and I love helping people on my many short term mission trips to struggling nations like Myanmar where I take extra funds with me to give to causes or needs I come across I believe God wants me to support.

Paul speaks of poorer churches giving financial assistance to him which he saw as evidence of God’s grace outworking in them in their generosity to support the cause that Paul was involved in at that time, 2 Corinthians 8: 1 – 5,

“And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.

For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us”.

So I’m sure good came to the people of these Macedonian churches as it does to Christians today who generously support Gospel based causes in our world today either through straight giving or interest free loans.

Paul gives us the principle we all should head and follow in the question of our financial giving to God’s Kingdoms causes in 2 Corinthians 9: 7,

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”.

 So we have seen how God blesses people who truly fear or reverence him and I’m sure the issues the writer of Psalm 112 chose to highlight are not the full way in which God enriches and blesses his faithful people. I once had two Mormon missionaries come to my door and ask if they could come into my home and give me a blessing and I said I do not need your blessing as I have all the blessings I can handle and more in Christ and quoted Ephesians 1: 3,

“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.”

  1. (6 – 10)   PEOPLE LOVE AND RESPECT GOD CONTRASTED WITH THOSE WHO DON’T

 

  1. (6 – 9) How people who respect and love God live

So we could say that verses 6 to 9 just continue to tell us more of the blessings God gives to those who fear or reverence him and these verses certainly do that but I feel they also offer a big contrast to the terrible plight of the unbeliever spoken of in verse 10 the final verse of the Psalm.

To open this up to you I have decided to use lines from my Alphabet poem based on this Psalm as my headings for these next four verses and the first is:

  1. Surely God’s people will never be shaken (vs. 6a)

I have already sought to open up what the writer of Psalm 112 said of those who trust in God or fear or reverence him in verse 4a.

“Even in darkness light dawns for the upright”.

Now he speaks of problems and difficulties and how they affect the person, who trusts in God with these words,

“Surely he will never be shaken”

 Albert Barnes explains the meaning of these words so well again I will quote what he says on this first phrase in verse 6 in full,

“Surely he shall not be moved for ever – Luther, “For he shall remain always.” He shall be fixed, stable, firm, and prosperous. He shall not be driven from place to place. He shall have a permanent home. He shall have a steady reputation. He shall have a constant influence. He shall be a firm, stabilized, prosperous man. Of course this is to be taken in the general, and should not be pressed to mean that it will be, in the most literal sense, and always, true, for a good man “may” be “unfortunate in business,” and suffer with others; he may be sick; he may see reason to change his residence; he will certainly die. But still it is true that religion “tends” to produce this permanency, and that in this respect there is a marked difference between people who are truly pious, and those who are not”.

 So the Godly or believing person will not be shaken but the non – believing person verse 10 says will,

“Come to nothing”

 In the book of proverbs the person who fears God or trusts in God is called “The wise” and the person who does not believe in God is called “The Fool” and the wise and the fool are often contrasted and in Proverbs 10: 8 – 9 we read this contrast that sheds much light on verse 6a of Psalm 112,

“The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin. Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out”.

So to continue to look away from God and the way he wants us to walk or go is to travel on the path to destruction which is what Jesus speaks of as a way many travel upon 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”.

I have had it said to me recently on Face book by a non – believing friend that I am very much out of step with the majority of society who no longer believe in God and his word but if Jesus is correct in what he just said the way of the majority of society is the way things have always been.

However I can testify to the truth that:

Surely God’s people will never be shaken.

  1. Trusting in their God to heaven they’re taken (vs. 6b)

Then added to the concept of the person of true faith, one who fears or has reverence for God not being shaken comes the statement in second half of verse 6 that says,

“A righteous man will be remembered forever”.

 This follows the idea of not being shaken even in dark or difficult times and in New Testament terms is the promise of being given the gift of God’s righteousness that leads us to eternal life in heaven. As Paul speaks of in Romans 6: 23,

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

 The being remembered forever in the Old Testament becomes the living with God forever in Heaven in the New Testament.

This is in total contrast to the wicked or non- God fearing man or person in verse 10 who rather than being remembered forever will simply,

“Waste away”

 The death of the non- believing person in The New Testament involves eternal punishment like Paul speaks of in 2 Thessalonians 1: 7 – 9,

“This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.”

  1. Untroubled by bad news through confidence in prayer (vs. 7)

The concept that the true believer will not escape problems and difficulties in life but will enjoy God’s help to cope and get through these difficult times continues in verse 7, that says,

“He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord”.

 All of us have had and will receive bad news in our lives even as faithful believes. Recently I got a message from my sister in law who was on a tour of Vietnam with my wife and the news was really bad as she informed me that my wife was very sick in hospital with a serious case of pneumonia.

The verse says that believers in God have no fear of bad news because their steadfast hearts are trusting in the Lord and I can say that through my prayers and the prayers of many other believing people who know my wife and I we trusted in the Lord for my wife’s healing and safe return to our home in Australia.

It was interesting to read the supportive posts on face book from some of my non- believing friends who could not really offer me much help and support because they do not believe in prayer and the God we trust in but I pray that the wonderful way the Lord helped my wife and I cope with and get through that time of bad news will encourage some of them to consider what it means to have faith in the God of the bible.

During the two weeks of so of my wife’s serious illness God led me to many comforting and encouraging words from his word the bible and the bible reference that stands out the most to me at that time was 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. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

To me the contrast between a believer receiving and coping with bad news compared to how a non – believer’s not coping is summed up well in verse 10 of this Psalm in the words,

“The wicked man will see and be vexed”

  1. Victory awaits them when God declares

With me they are in my arms of love (vs. 8)

For this fourth contrast between believers and non – believers of the God of the Bible in verse 8 I wrote two lines of my Alphabet poem. The words of verse 8, read like this,

“His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes”.

 The writer continues to speak of how a true believer in the God of the bible, namely a person who fears or revere’s him copes with problems and difficulties in his or her life and this verse says they have three wonderful things from God in difficult times:

  1. A secure heart
  2. No fear
  3. Triumph or Victory

To understand what this verse is actually saying to us let me now look a little closer at these three things God gives a true believer during difficult times in their lives:

  1. A secure heart

The heart is the deep seat of who we are and here in the depth of a believer he is secure with hope to cope with whatever life throws at him or her as Spurgeon puts it,

“His love to God is deep and true, his confidence in God is firm and unmoved”.

 As I said earlier David who was a gifted and well off man battled all his life with personal problems and many enemies but through his many Psalms he shows us how he had a secure heart even in the midst of great difficulty, like Psalm 16 when David starts with his declaration of his security in God in troubles times in verses 1 and 2,

“Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”

 Then in verse 9 – 11 he speaks of how his heart, his inner most being is secure in the Lord and is even rejoicing because he believes with all his heart that God is always with him even in death and because he will trust God no matter where he leads him and God gives him the joy or happiness that no one else can give him.

“Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, 10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. 11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand”.

Paul spoke like this about his hope and security he had in the love of God made known to him through The Lord Jesus Christ on many occasions in his letters to the churches he helped found and a good example of this is 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, 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 contrast the non – God believer or God fearer according to verse 10 of this Psalm has no sense of real security because he or she will,

“Come to nothing”.

  1. No Fear

Then we read the amazing claim of the writer of Psalm 112 in the words,

“He will have no fear”

 Spurgeon believes the writer of Psalm 112 is saying here that,

“His courage has a firm foundation, and is supported by Omnipotence” (or great power)

 This fear seems to be the fear caused by his enemies as he goes on to speak of triumph or victory over his enemies. Again I think of David who battled most of his adult life with many enemies and he faced them all with courage that only God himself could give as he testifies to in Psalm 34: 4,

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears”.

 Then I verse 6 he says,

“This poor man called and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles”.

 And finally he says in verse 15,

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry”.

 David wrote these words after God helped him escape the death trap of Gath where the local Philistines of Gath turned on David seeking to kill him and where King Saul was on his way to trap him there and also seek to kill him and his faithful followers.

Paul spoke a lot about having confidence in our Lord and how we should not fear even our greatest enemy Satan and in Ephesians 6: 10 – 11,

 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”.

Then concerning fear he says in Romans 8: 15 – 17,

“15 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.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory”.

In contrast the non- believer in God who does not fear or revere him according to verse 10 will,

“Gnash their teeth and waste away”.

  1. Triumph or Victory

The final words of verse 8 make another remarkable claim,

“In the end he will look in triumph on his foes”.

 David spoke often about how he and indeed his God would have victory over their enemies and there is no finer example of this than Psalm 34, which I have already quoted from, a Psalm written after David escaped from the Philistine city of Gath and he concludes that,

“The Lord redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him”.

 David always asked for and looked forward to the ultimate triumph of God over his enemies as we read in Psalm 25: 1 – 2,

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

In the final Psalm of this “Hallelujah Songs” series Psalm 118 we read of God’s triumph over his enemies in verse 7,

“The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies”.

The word “Triumph” or “Triumphal” is used by Paul in 2 Corinthians 2: 14,

“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.\”.

This triumphal procession is made possible by what Christ did for us on the cross which Paul speaks of in Colossians 2: 15 when he uses the word “Triumph” yet again,

 “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross”.

The book of Revelation presents the ultimate triumph or victory over all that opposes him in a number of places in spectacular picture language and I like best the picture of this triumph or victory of God in Revelation 20 verses 11 – 15,

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire”.

The contrast of the believer and the non- believer here is that the believer will have victory and the non – believer will face defeat and this defeat is graphically spoken of in verse 10 as the non – believer will,

Gnash his teeth and waste away”.

  1. X ray like light God uses to raise them above. (vs. 9)

The most challenging Alphabet letter for my Alphabet poem based on Psalm 112 was of course X as very fear English words start with the letter X. I chose the word X ray that my dictionary “The Collin’s Gem” defines X ray as,

“A stream of radiation that can pass through some solid materials”

 Verse 9 of this Psalm does not mention anything about light but it does speak also of the final victory of God and his followers over their enemies in the words,

“His horn will be lifted high in honor”.

 In the Psalmist mind these words speak of how the true believing in God person will through the sharing of his gifts, God’s blessings shared with the poor or those not as well off as he or she might be and then God will lift him up in honor as recognition of his God like actions.

As we read of at the start of verse 8,

“He scattered abroad his gifts to the poor”.

When the great lifting up of the true believer in Christ happens when Christ returns to earth and all true believers are lifted up to heaven, then great X – Ray type light is spoken about in Revelation 21: 22 – 27,

“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life”.

Jesus does not speak directly of this great light that all will see but uses the words “power and glory to describe how he will return to judge the world and gather and lift up all his faithful followers in Matthew 24: 30 – 31,

“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other”.

So while we live in this life The Testament teaches that we are to use the many gifts God has given us for the benefits of others as Paul teaches Romans 12: 3 – 8,

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Finally in the middle of verse 8 we read these words,

“His righteousness endures forever”

 Which we have read in this Psalm before in verse 3 and also read referring to God in Psalm 111: 3 and I said on my comments on verse 3,

“So because we look to God and believe in him something that is part of him becomes part of us namely his “Righteousness”.

 Also I pointed out that the New Testament teaches us that God’s righteousness is a gift God gives us through the death for us of Christ for our sin, 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!”

Here the statement of the person of faiths righteousness enduring forever relates to his ongoing wiliness to give to others and Spurgeon says,

“His liberality has salted his righteousness, proved its reality, and secured its perpetuity”.

 God is the great giving and loving God and if we are seeking to be like him, which we have a clear picture or image of in Christ than we too should be giving and loving unto the day we will be raised with Christ in his great light or glory to be with him in heaven for ever more.

  1. (vs. 10) How people who don’t respect or love God live

We come then to the final verse of the Psalm, which speaks of the non – believer and his or her fate in contrast to the wonderful hope of the believing person. The first two lines of my last verse of my Alphabet poem based on Psalm 112 cover what I understand this verse is saying,

Yet the man who continues to rebel against God

Zero satisfaction is the path he will trod.

I get these ideas from verse 10 that read this way

 “The wicked man will see and be vexed, he will gnash his teeth and waste away; the longing of the wicked will come to nothing”.

 Right from the first time I read this last verse in my study of the Psalm I was caused to think of the famous parable Jesus told in Luke 16: 19 – 31, often called the parable of The rich man and Lazarus.

Here we have a parable that touches on the realities of heaven and hell and in verse 10 we have a poetic picture of the same thing.

So what do these two similar accounts of the fate of the non – believer who refuses to fear or revere God?

The answer to this important question is both important and disturbing and I want to pick out what I believe are the three main things from these bible references of the fate of the non – believer who refuses to fear or revere God:

  1. The non- believer will see the heavenly blessings of the believer
  2. The non- believer will fret, fume and lament in agony
  3. The non – believer will be eternally not satisfied

So lets have a look at each of these three fate’s of the non – believer who refuses to fear or revere God.

  1. The non – believer will see God’s blessings of the believer

One of the greatest witnesses to the reality of God is how he blesses those who put him first and seek to follow him. Jesus speaks of in Matthew 5: 17 of non – believers seeing the blessing of our good works so that they will acknowledge and praise our God in heaven,

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”.

 In Jesus parable of Lazarus and the rich man he pictures the rich man going to hell and from there looking up to see how God was blessing the poor man Lazarus who had been a faithful believer in Luke 16: 23,

“In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side”.

 So the first consequence Psalm 112: 10 picks up of the continued refusal of a person to acknowledge God and fear him or reverence him is,

“The wicked man will see”

 So in this life and the next the believers blessing by their God and this will have an effect on him or her. This effect in this life might lead him or her to check out the Christian faith and lead them to faith in God themselves as we heard Jesus spoke of in Matthew 5: 17 and as Paul encourages us to do in Colossians 4: 5 – 6,

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone”.

 However the blessing of God on our lives in this might not have a positive outcome as Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 2: 15 – 16 where Paul alludes to the witness of our lives leading to people being saved or being like a bad odor to those not being saved, those who reject God even though they see him in us and his message we bring to them,

“ 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?” 

  1. The non- believer will fret, fume and lament in agony

Verse 10 not only says that the non- believer will see God blessing the believer in this life and in the life in heaven to come but what he or she sees will cause them to be vexed and even worse,

“He will gnash his teeth and waste away”

 Spurgeon writes,

“The child of wrath shall be obliged to witness the blessedness of the righteous, though the sight shall make him gnaw his own heart. He shall fret and fume, lament and wax angry, but he shall not be able to prevent it, for God’s blessing is sure and effectual. He shall gnash with his teeth. Being very wrathful, and exceedingly envious, he would fain grind the righteous between his teeth; but as he cannot do that, he grinds his teeth against each other”.

 David used the concept of gnashing teeth in Psalm 37: 12,

“The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them”.

 Jesus speaks of hell the place non – believers go after they die as a place of weeping and the gnashing of teeth in Matthew 8: 12,

“But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth

 Then in Jesus poor man Lazarus and the rich man in hell parable in Luke 16 we something of the frustration or gnashing of teeth by the un- believing rich man in his words to Abraham in heaven in verses 27 – 28,

“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment”.

 Of course the answer is no which would have caused even more frustration or gnashing of teeth by the non – God honoring rich man.

  1. The non – believer will be eternally not satisfied

Not only will the witness of God’s blessing on his faithful followers in this life and the life to come be a source of frustration for the non – believer but it will also cause him or her to not be satisfied as we read in the last part of verse 10,

“The longing of the wicked will come to nothing”

 The nineteen sixties Rolling Stone song, “I Can’t get no satisfaction” with its chorus,

“I can’t get no satisfaction, I can’t get no satisfaction
‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
I can’t get no, I can’t get no satisfaction.”

 Is the theme song of all non – believing people in this life and the next. Only in God and having a relationship with him can we find true and lasting satisfaction in this life and the next as David speaks of in Psalm 63: 2 – 5,

“I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live,

 and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you”.

 And Jesus says 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.”

 Finally in Jesus parable of the poor man Lazarus and the rich man his picture of the effects of hell on the rich man is very disturbing as it speaks of eternal no satisfaction in Luke 16: 24,

“So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.”

 This non- believing rich man is thirsty and his thirst cannot be quenched a picture of the no satisfaction nature of eternal life without God, which is what hell actually is. The person who did not want God in their lives in this life ends up not having God and all the good things that go with having him for eternity.

CONCLUSION

 We have seen then from this Alphabet Psalm 112 what are the many blessings God gives the person who fears him or reveres him and they include good families, financial security, being remembered for good after we die, help in the midst of difficulty and triumph over our enemies all of which led the writer of Psalm 112 to sing, “Hallelujah” or “Praise the Lord”.

We also saw how the believers life contrasted so majorly to the non – believers life and how it is a life that through trusting in God and his love leads to real and deep satisfaction even in the midst of problems and difficulties while the non – believing person has only a life and a eternity to look forward to of frustration and no satisfaction.

So with this conclusion in mind I wrote two more lines to my Alphabet poem that does not feature a letter from the Alphabet but does offer a great challenge and promise.

So turn to the Lord of heaven above

And be blessed by him by his amazing love.

I now conclude with my complete Alphabet poem based on Psalm 118 and of course a final word of prayer:

THE A – Z OF THE PERSON WHO BELIEVES IN GOD

(Based on Psalm 112 and the English alphabet)

 

Alleluia yes praise to the God above

Blessed is the person who knows God’s love

Captivated and committed to his word

Delighted in that word of the Lord.

 

Endowed with blessing God does give

Faithful servants who seek to live.

Honouring the God who made all things

Intense love for them he always brings.

 

Just look at their children people say

Knowledge and good manners come their way.

Long do we appreciate a believer’s life

Mercy did they show to those in strife.

 

No fear of debts for God has blessed them

Over and over God seems to help them.

Particularly in dark times they seem to shine

Quickly God answers them every time.

 

Upright and loving is the person God calls

Respected for their generosity to a cause.

Surely God’s people will never be shaken

Trusting in their God to heaven they’re taken.

 

Untroubled by bad news through confidence in prayer

Victory awaits them when God declares

With me they are in my arms of love

X ray like light God uses to raise them above.

 

Yet the man who continues to rebel against God

Zero satisfaction is the path he will trod.

So turn to the Lord of heaven above

And be blessed by him by his amazing love.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 Dear Father in heaven I praise you for your many blessings in my life in so many ways. For your love O Lord has saved me and given me my wonderful family, financial security, help in the midst of trouble and rest and fulfillment in this life.

I long that those who still do not know your love will see how you have blessed your people and seek to know the same God they know coming to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and through that faith avoid your eternal punishment and find instead the satisfaction that knowing you in our lives can only bring. In Jesus powerful name I pray Amen.

PSALM 111 TALK: HALLELUJAH – GREAT ARE THE WORKS OF THE LORD

PSALM 111 TALK: HALLELUJAH – GREAT ARE THE WORKS OF THE LORD

 (The first Psalm is a series of Psalms that feature the word “Hallelujah” which means praise the Lord and this first Psalm speaks of praising the Lord because of his great works in saving his people and giving them so much from food to a land to live in and of course Salvation and therefore this demands our reverence, faith, obedience and praise.)

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

INTRODUCTION

 It is said that over 100 versions of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” have been sung and recorded and the popularity of this song will mean many more will come as well. Apparently Leonard Cohen recorded the song on his not so popular record album in 1984 called “Various Positions” and no one noticed it except Bob Dylan who sang it in some of his late eighties concerts.

Then a young artist by the name of Jeff Buckley recorded it on his debut album called “Grace” in 1994 and the song really took off. Interestingly Jeff Buckley tragically died in an accidental drowning before he finished his second studio album at the young age of 30.

What do the words of this very popular song mean?

The popular music magazine “Rolling Stone” in an article in 2012 on this song said that Leonard Cohen had, “Brilliantly mingled sex and religion” in his song Hallelujah. Leonard Cohen was asked why is the song so popular and he said, “It has a good Chorus”. Later Cohen is also said to have explained the meaning of the song as,

“It explains that many kinds of Hallelujah’s do exist, and all the perfect to the broken Hallelujah’s have equal value”.

 I have sung this song many times in Ukulele groups I have belonged to and as Leonard Cohen said it is the chorus that gets me in because it is that magical pure Hebrew word Hallelujah that strikes a deep spiritual chord within my soul. Hallelujah is a combination of two Hebrew words, “Hallelu”, praise and “Yah” which is the first letters of the special name for God we call either “Yahweh” or “Jehovah” and this is because the full name for God that “Yah” represents is the start of a name of God which was never fully written down because it was considered so sacred and only appears in the Hebrew texts a YHWH missing it’s all important vowels.

“Yah” then is the special name for the Lord our God whose name “Yahweh” which literally means, “ I am who I am” donating the supremacy and immortality of the God of the bible. “Hallelujah” translated into English usually is something like “Praise the Lord” and Psalm 111 is the first of a series of Psalms, 111 – 118 that are called “The Hallelujah Songs” (Allen Harman).

Leonard Cohen says that his “Hallelujah” song is a mixture of those who have faith in God in Cohen’s own words, “the perfect Hallelujah’s” and those who do not have faith in God or have doubts in God in Cohen’s own words, “the broken Hallelujah’s”.

Well Psalms 111 – 118 are part of what I call the perfect Hallelujah’s and we can be part of those perfect Hallelujah’s by uniting with the Psalmist who wrote them with our own praise for the Lord of Heaven and earth based on these Psalms.

Each Psalm in this series except for Psalm 114, which does not use the word “Hallelujah”, will have at the start of its title “Hallelujah” and then what the Psalmist is saying “Hallelujah” for. I must also say that Palm 118 does not have the Hebrew word “Hallelujah” in it but it is clearly is a song of praise for the Lord like Psalm 114 is. Psalm 118 continually uses the phrase, “His love endures forever”, so that Psalm will be entitled by me as “Hallelujah his love endures forever”.

So what is Psalm 111 praising God for?

The answer I think appears in the first seven words of verse 2,

“Great are the works of the Lord”

 These seven words then will be the theme of praise that I will develop in this Psalm talk. I must also comment on the structure of the first two Psalms of these “Hallelujah Songs” series as both Psalm 111 and 112 are what is called “acrostic” Psalms that Allan Harman explains for these two Psalms with the words,

“They start each half verse with the consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet”.

 Other acrostic Psalms start each verse with the consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet and of course Psalm 119, the longest Psalm in the book of Psalms starts each group of eight verses with a word that has a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Other acrostics Psalms are 9, 10, 25, 34, 37 and 145.

Why did the ancient Hebrew go to all the trouble of writing acrostic Psalms?

Here I would like to quote my answer to this question from my Psalm 37 talk,

“This devise could have been used to help people memorize it as ancient Hebrew people could only carry around the word of God in their heads as expensive and cumbersome scrolls were only kept in special places like the Temple. Another commentator, J.A Motyer suggested the acrostic Psalm was, “a poetic way of saying that a total coverage of the subject was being offered”. This is like saying that this is the “ABC” or the “A to Z” of a subject.”

 Most commentators believe that Psalm 111 and 112 is a pair of Psalms written by the same author who probably lived after the return from exile in Babylon. The two Psalms are exactly the same length, same style (acrostic) and contain similar Hebrew phrases like the phrase; “his righteousness endures forever” which is in verse 3 in Psalm 111 and verse 3 and 9 in Psalm 112.

H.C Leopold best puts why it was written after the return from Babylonian exile for me with these words,

“Since the era after the return from Babylon Captivity was one of discouragement and littleness of faith, one cannot help but feel that the psalm was written to hearten the faith of that generation by showing the nature of God’s works throughout the history of his chosen people and then concluding with the patient observation that the fear of the Lord and the doing of His commandments were still basic for God’s people as they had always been”.

These Psalms were incorporated then in the final book of Psalms, which we know, from evidence like the Dead Sea scrolls after the Jews returned from exile in Babylon. So if faith in God was little or shallow when the Jews returned from exile then how could it be described today?

Simply as people like Leonard Cohen reveal faith in God is even smaller than little yet men Cohen still show signs that their inner being aches for spiritual satisfaction and meaning as the popularity of Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” demonstrates.

I hope as you journey with me through these “Songs of Hallelujah” you will turn your broken Hallelujah’s into the Psalmist’s perfect Hallelujah’s and this will help strengthen our little faith in God and help us sing a real and true Hallelujah to the great God of the bible.

My breakdown then for Psalm 111 is:

  1. (vs. 1)   HALLELUJAH / PRAISE THE LORD

 

  1. (vs. 1a)   Hallelujah explained
  2. (vs. 1b)   Praise the Lord in your heart and in your church

 

  1. (2 – 9)   HOW GREAT ARE THE WORKS OF THE LORD

 

  1. (2 – 4)     God’s great works declared
  2. (5 – 9)     God’s great works fleshed out

  

  1. (vs. 10)   HOW GOD’S GREAT WORKS SHOULD EFFECT US

 

  1. (vs. 10a) Cause us to fear or reverence the Lord
  2. (vs. 10b) Cause us to trust and obey the Lord
  3. (vs. 10c) Cause us to praise the Lord

 

  1. (vs. 1)   HALLELUJAH / PRAISE THE LORD
  1. (vs. 1a)   Hallelujah explained

As I said in my introduction most of the Psalms between Psalm, 111 and 118 contain the Hebrew word, Hallelujah which is made up of two Hebrew words, “Hallelu” which is a word that exhorts the worshipper to praise and “Yah” which is an obviation of the special name for God first given to Moses we translate either as “Yahweh” or “Jehovah” and means that God is the one and only God who has always existed as Moses was told, “I am who I am”.

Putting these two Hebrew words gives us the spiritually uplifting word “Hallelujah” and it’s meaning is usually translated in English versions of the bible as,

“Praise the Lord”

 This is the opening words of Psalm 111 and we will come across this term a number of times in the next seven Psalms giving them the special name of “The Hallelujah Psalms”.

I also mentioned in my introduction that in Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” speaks of a broken Hallelujah as one version puts in verse 3, which says,

“You say I took the name in vain,

I don’t even know the name,

But if I did, really what’s it to ya?

There’s a blaze of light in every word,

It doesn’t matter which you heard

The holy or the broken Hallelujah”.

 Maybe at the start of Psalm 111 we have an example of the “Holy” or as Leonard Cohen put it in an interview the “perfect” Hallelujah. Maybe because of our many sins we all sing or say a broken Hallelujah but I believe God wants and even longs for us to say Hallelujah even though he knows and sees our many sins and we will see from the second section of this Psalm that we who speak a broken Hallelujah can be united to the Holy or perfect God through what he has done for us out of his love in Christ when he died on the cross to forgive us our sins and make us right, holy, perfect before God as Paul says in Romans 5: 9,

“Since we have been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him”.

 Yes we all, one way or another sing or say broken Hallelujah’s or “Praise the Lord” because of our many sins but through faith in Jesus Christ and not by any good deeds of ours our broken Hallelujah’s can become holy or perfect Hallelujah’s before God himself.

  1. (vs. 1b)   Praise the Lord in your heart and in your church

The writer of Psalm 111 then commences his acrostic Psalm with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet kicking of the second part of verse 1 and it deals with how and where he wants to sing and say his Hallelujah’s or Praise for his Lord. So lets have a look at the how and where he wants to praise the Lord.

  1. How he wants to praise the Lord

He expresses how he wants to praise the Lord with the words,

“I will extol the Lord with all my heart”.

 David Guzik explains this expression with these words,

“There would be nothing help back in his praise, it would be given to God with his whole heart”.

 He wants to pour out of his inner most being pure praise for God, if there is anything like pure or perfect praise from us it must come out of our hearts. I have heard a lot of singers over the years and the ones that stand out to me are the ones who sing from their hearts. They are people who sing sincerely what they really believe and they don’t hold back what they really want to say. Sadly of course what they believe is not uplifting or even true but I still admire a singer who sings from his or her heart because at least they are really giving themselves in their singing and not putting on an act.

The writer of Psalm 111 sang his praise for God from his heart and he really believed in it he was singing. Many examples of people in the bible could be cited here, as people who sang perfect or pure Hallelujah’s and I will only mention here two, one from the Old Testament, David or King David and one from the New Testament, the Apostle Paul.

First we have David who Leonard Cohen speaks of in his Hallelujah song and points out the broken Hallelujah of King David and mixed with the story of Sampson from the book of Judges Cohen’s song says,

“Your faith was strong but you needed proof,

You saw he bathing on the roof,

Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya.

She tied you to a kitchen chair,

She broke your throne she cut your hair

And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah”

 However even though David sinned and sinned really badly he knew the forgiveness of God that even forgave a King who fell to the twin serious sins of adultery and murder and in his confessional song he sang from his heat these words in Psalm 51: 14 – 15,

“Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. 15 Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise”.

This is the only real perfect Hallelujah or “Praise the Lord” we can sing as we might not have murdered someone or committed adultery but as Jesus says about sin in Matthew 5: 21 – 22,

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’[ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell”.

Then he speaks of the sin of adultery in verses 27 and 28 of the same chapter in Matthew,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’[ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”.

Leonard Cohen is right on the money when he says we sing broken Hallelujah’s but like David we too can sing a perfect or holy Hallelujah through what Jesus did for us when he died on the cross for our sins.

My New Testament example of a man who sang God’s praise from his heart is the Apostle Paul who before he discovered the life changing forgiveness of God in Christ went around arresting Christians, having them put in prison, beaten up and even executed. However listen to this man Paul who could be said sang a spoke broken Hallelujah’s yet in Ephesians 1: 3 – 8 Paul speaks from his heart a perfect Hallelujah or Praise of the Lord that he says was made possible by Christ,

 “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”.

  1. Where he wants to Praise God

Then the writer of Psalm 111 tells us where he wants to Praise God or sing his Hallelujah,

“In the council of the upright and in the assembly”

 I call this praising God in his church because the expressions in this last phrase of verse 1 are Old Testament terms for what we call today as the Christian church.

David Guzik explains,

“The word assembly and the word for congregation speak of different size groups. Assembly (or council) refers to a smaller group – something like our modern small group, and congregation to the larger gatherings of God’s people”.

 The word “church” in modern times refers usually to the building alone that Christians meet in but as Mary Fairchild points out in her article on the “What is the Church”,

“The word “church” as rendered in the New Testament comes from the Greek term ekklesia which is formed from two Greek words meaning “an assembly” and “to call out” or “called out ones.”.

Fairchild gives a number of bible references in her articles but I like her reference to Ephesians 1: 22 – 23, where Paul speaks of the church as the body of Christ,

“And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way”.

It is in the presence of other God fearing, God honouring and God praising people that the writer of Psalm 111 wants to sing Hallelujah or his praises to God and its here we should seek the same. As Peter also speaks about in 1 Peter 4: 11 where he speaks of how we in the church or body of Christ we should minister to one another with the unique gifts God has given us,

“If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen”.

The hallelujah or praise of the Lord in church in small or large gatherings of God’s people are the holy or perfect ones given by forgiven broken people who know the forgiveness and love of God in Christ.

Peter was not speaking as some kind of perfect human being here but he too was broken by sin when he denied the Lord three times on the night before his death. Peter was met by Christ after Christ rose from the dead and three times he asked him if he loved him and three times Peter answered, “Yes Lord you know that I love you. Now forgiven by Christ love he could sing the perfect Hallelujah.

  1. (2 – 9)   HOW GREAT ARE THE WORKS OF THE LORD

1.  (2 – 4)     God’s great works declared

So each of these “Hallelujah Songs”, Psalms 111 to 118 will give lots of reasons for saying Hallelujah’s or Praise the Lord and the middle section of Psalm 111 gives us this Psalms reasons for singing Hallelujah or Praise the Lord and it is summarised well by verse 2,

“Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them”.

 So in verses 2 – 4 we have six truths about the great works of the Lord declared and they are:

  1. The Lord does great works (vs. 2a)
  2. God’s great works are pondered by those who delight in them (vs. 2b)
  3. God’s works are glorious and majestic (vs. 3a)
  4. God’s righteousness endures forever (vs. 3b)
  5. God’s wonders are caused to be remembered (vs. 4a)
  6. God’s works are gracious and compassionate (vs. 4b)

Lets have a closer look at each of these six truths about the great works of God:

  1. The Lord does great works (vs. 2a)

The God of the bible is not just a God who should be praised for who he is but also for what he has done. In fact the first part of verse 2 implies that we know how great God actually is by seeing and remembering what he has done,

“Great are the works of the Lord”

 The God of the bible is presented to us as a God of action or works and in verse 3 of this Psalm deeds. We see God’s works in this world in so many ways, for instance take the natural world, we find even in the microscopic world to the larger beautiful world we live in to the vastness of space God’s amazing design pointing to his glorious greatness as David declares in Psalm 19: 1,

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

 Notice how David sees in nature represented by the sky the evidence for the work of God’s hands. A son of Korah says this about the God of the bibles greatness in this world in Psalm 47: 2,

“How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great king over all the earth”,

 Then in the next Psalm, Psalm 48 verse 1 he says,

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise”.

The perfect Hallelujah then centres not on what we have done but on what God has done and because of what he has done we proclaim how great he is.

However the great works of God are not only visible in nature but are also seen in his saving works which are great as well. The writer of Psalm 111 will speak of these soon but for now I must state that God is seen as being great because he has reached down to us with his love as David declares in Psalm 57: 3,

“He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me; God sends his love and his faithfulness”.

 Israel knew this great God of loving action in so many ways and their very existence as a Nation over thousands of years is a result of this great loving works of their God, the God of the bible.

We who live after the coming of Jesus know the greatness of God’s loving works even more than the writer of Psalm 111 did as we know that God sent his only Son in the world to die for our sins on the cross to make a way for us back to him in heaven as Paul declares in Ephesians 2: 4 – 5,

“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”.

It is only because of God’s great love and mercy, which Paul calls grace that we who sing broken Hallelujah’s can now sing holy or perfect Hallelujah’s praising the great love of God in and through the great works of his Son Jesus Christ.

  1. God’s great works are pondered by those who delight in them (vs. 2b)

God’s greatness is clearly seen in his works of creation and new creation in hearts and lives of those who believe in him but only appreciated or pondered or and declared by those who delight in what he has done for them as we read in the second part of verse 2 says,

“They are pondered by all who delight in him”

 Mankind’s rebellion to God which the bile calls sin will cause them to seek and find something other than God for answers to questions like who made the world and did Jesus really come from God to save us as Paul makes clear to us in Romans 1: 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”.

Ancient people exchanged the glory of God and acknowledgement of his great works of creation to false images of God but modern man has come up with other foolish answers to the creation of the world and the explanation of who Jesus was and did.

Some would rather speak of Mother Nature than God or Evolution did this or that or it all happened by a great gigantic accident called the big bang.

They explain Jesus away by saying he is like Santa Clause a myth or they say his word and deeds where a invention of the church in the fourth Century.

However mother nature, evolution and big bangs cannot explain the intricate detail and beauty of the design and purpose of things like the human body or even just the working of say the human eye that can visualise the wonder of the creation around it. Can anyone honestly believe that chaos produced order or nothing produced something and that something made itself into the miracle of life on earth?

The sad truth is that so many people today, because of their rebellion to God’s rule do believe that something came out of nothing and the great design of the universe is just an incredible accident called evolution.

So the truth of verse 2b of this Psalm is that only those who ponder the God question and believe in him actually delight in his wonder and greatness. David challenged the people of his day in Psalm 34 verse 8 to try believing in God and see what he is like and what he can do for you,

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him”

Jesus put it another way in Matthew 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 broken or sinful and empty Hallelujah’s can become perfect Hallelujah’s if we would but seriously take God at his word ponder, taste or seek him and because we do that then we will delight in him and praise his name.

  1. God’s works are glorious and majestic (vs. 3a)

Continuing the theme of the greatness of the works of the Lord the writer of Psalm 111 says this about them in verse 3a,

“Glorious and majestic are his deeds”

 I really like Nancy deClaisse – Walford’s comment on this,

“The Hebrew word translated ‘wonderful deeds’ is nipha’oth it means something that I simply cannot understand, or something different, striking, remarkable, something transcending the power of human intelligence and imagination”.

 I love the old hymn “I cannot tell” and its first verse goes like this,

“I cannot tell why he whom angels worship

Should set his love upon the sons of men.

Or, why as shepherd he should seek the wanderers

To bring them back, they know not how nor when.

But this I know, that he was born of Mary

When Bethlehem’s manger was his home

And that he lived at Nazareth and labored;

And so the Savior, Savior of this world has, come.

 God’s deeds are so much not like our deeds, God’s love is so much not like our love as the prophet Isaiah put it in Isaiah 55: 8

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord”.

These words are preceded by Isaiah’ version of David’s challenge to taste God and see and are like Jesus challenge to seek God and find, in verses 6 and 7 of the same chapter,

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon”.

Leopold says,

“When God acts, his deeds are always done on a high level and are worthy of the great Lord who performs them”.

So our Hallelujah or praise the Lord has substance if we are focused on his wondrous, majestic and great deeds or works for us.

  1. God’s righteousness endures forever (vs. 3b)

Then the writer links the wondrous, majestic and great deed or works of God to his righteousness in the second part of verse 3,

“And his righteousness endures forever”

I could not work out initially what this phrase actually means unto I read this written by Allan Harman,

“The word ‘righteousness’ in the Old Testament often means more than just uprightness. As here, it often denotes God’s saving activity on behalf of his people and in accordance with his covenant promises”.

So the God of the bible always acts true and sure according to his many promises and in Old Testament terms that is in accordance to his covenant, a fact that is also referred to in verse 5 of this Psalm.

God can be relied upon because he is Holy and Righteous and we compared to him are as Isaiah puts it in Isaiah 64: 6,

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

The Old Testament covenant offers God’s promise of salvation freely given by God to his chosen people Israel however it was not fully realised unto Christ came to fulfill or complete the covenant God by the shedding of Christ blood payed for our sins. We see a clear understanding of this in Romans 4 where Paul says that even Abraham, the father of the covenant was saved by faith, Roman 4: 1 – 3,

“What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Paul completes his arguments about how Abraham was saved under the old covenant through faith that was made complete in Christ who gives us God’s righteousness through what he did on the cross, Romans 4: 22 – 25,

“This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification”.

So we can sing or say the perfect Hallelujah because Jesus has given us the gift of God’s righteousness through faith in Christ and his death and resurrection for us.

  1. God’s wonders are caused to be remembered (vs. 4a)

God has gone to a lot of trouble to make sure that his great works and deeds will be remembered as the first part of verse says,

“He has caused his wonders to be remembered”

God chose a people through calling Abraham and this people’s history is a living testimony of the wonderful amazing and great deeds of God and in this people lives the traditions of the Passover which is a major example of a great and wondrous deeds of God. Interestingly not only is the story of the Passover written down in the bible but also it is year after year celebrated and remembered by the Jews in the festival of the Passover.

God made what Jesus did for us another and even greater act of love in history and Jesus, who died for our sins on the cross during the Jewish Passover instituted a memorial service for Christians to remember his wondrous act of love when he died on the cross as recorded in the Gospels and made clear as a memorial act for all Christians by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11: 23 – 25,

“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”.

But of course the prime way God has caused his wonders to be remembered is through the creation of his word the bible and Peter says this about the creation of that in 2 Peter 1: 21,

“For prophecy (scripture) never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit”.

Paul says this about God’s word the bible 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 may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”.

So when we use what God made to cause our remembrance of his wondrous deeds namely the bible in our praise of him we are not giving him a broken Hallelujah but a perfect one.

Interestingly there is a number of history of Israel Psalms like Palm 78 and in verses 1 – 4 of that Psalm we read,

“My people hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old—things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us.We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done”.

  1. God’s works are gracious and compassionate (vs. 4b)

Then the writer of Psalm 111 gives us the main thrust of the great and wondrous deeds of God expressed all through the bible and that his deeds of gracious love and compassion, he writes,

“The Lord is gracious and compassionate”.

This expression seems to be a very clear echo of the famous words about the loving attributes of God in Exodus 34 verse 6,

“And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness”.

Here God comes close to Moses and what is said of God is that he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness. All through the bible and indeed the history of Israel God’s love and compassion is on show. On so many occasions he could have destroyed completely this sinful and stiff necked people but so often he showed them love and forgiveness.

Even David, who I mentioned as a part of Leonard Cohen’s example of a broken Hallelujah as he slept with another man’s wife and then had her husband killed to cover up her pregnancy owing to his act of lustful adultery was forgiven by God. Why did God forgive David?

David answers that at the start of his famous Psalm of confession, Psalm 51: 1,

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

Then in the New Testament God’s love is declared for all the world in 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”.

Paul tells us clearly how God demonstrates his love for us in Romans 5: 8,

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

The sending of Jesus and the death of Jesus for us is God’s greatest great wondrous deed or act of love and Paul says that it is that act of love that helps transform our lives as Paul goes on to say in Romans 5: 9 – 11,

“Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation”.

Our perfect Hallelujah or Praise of the Lord should be out of thanks for God’s great love and compassion for us expressed in praise and thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ who died for our sins on the cross and rose from the dead to give us new life.

  1. (5 – 9)     God’s great works fleshed out

 The composer of Psalm 111 after stating what is the basis of his Hallelujah or praise for the Lord is namely the great works or deeds of God for him and his people now fleshes out those deeds of God in verse 5 to 9 and he speaks of four actual things God gave his people and they are:

  1. Food (vs. 5)
  2. Land (vs. 6)
  3. Law (vss. 7 – 8)
  4. Redemption (vs. 9)

Lets have a closer look each of these four things:

  1. Food (vs. 5)

In verse 5 we read of God’s basic provision of food for his people,

“He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever”.

This provision of food is probably a reference to the manna God gave his people, Israel in the wilderness for 40 years. This was given by a miraculous deed or work of God and it was such a strange substance that the wilderness people called it Manna which literally means, “what is it”, Exodus 16: 15.

Once the people entered the Promised Land we are told in Joshua 5: 10 – 12,

On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. 11 The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. 12 The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate the produce of Canaan”.

Note how the manna stopped once the people were in the Promised Land because now God could provide them food the normal way which is through crop growing and other farming techniques that God has blessed man with over the course of history.

God’s provision of food in verse 5 is said to be God remembering his covenant forever and this by Matthew Poole,

“Of his covenant which he made with Abraham and with his seed forever; whereby he obliged himself to be their God, and to provide all necessaries for them”. (Genesis 17)

In the New Testament we have a interesting incident relating to God’s provision of manna and that is how some of the people who were fed freely by Jesus at the feeding of the 5,000 came after Jesus to feed them without having to work for their food and Jesus says this to them in John 6: 26 – 27,

“Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, and you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

Then in verse 29 Jesus says this,

“Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

Finally Jesus says to this group of what I call freeloaders in verses 32 – 33,

“Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

Jesus went on of course to declare that he is the bread of life and he is using the physical provision of food to speak of the spiritual food or nourishment we all need to get people by seeking him for the right reasons but of course they like most people today reject Jesus offer of spiritual nourishment and this is why so many people end up in such a mess both physically and socially.

Our perfect Hallelujah or Praise of the Lord should also include how he provides us with both physical and spiritual food as it is part of God’s great deeds or work spelt out in our daily lives.

  1. Land (vs. 6)

The second of the four things the writer of Psalm 111 speaks of fleshing out his great deeds or work in the history of his people Israel is the provision of his Promised land for them,

“He has shown his people the power of his works, giving them the lands of other nations”.

 Right back to Abraham the land known as Canaan was promised to his descendants, which was a land, occupied by many different nations of people at the time of its conquest by Israel.

God did not take the land of these nations away from them to spite them or even just to favor his special people but because the provision of this land was also a judgment on the great sins over many generations of these ancient Canaanites. Israelites would show the world how God wants people to live as we read in Deuteronomy 7: 1 – 6,

“When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you—

and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.

 Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire. For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.

 Of course the Israelites failed to obey God in both driving out the wicked people God was judging and even after time turned to the ways of the Canaanites and from time to time God judged Israel for this and especially through the Assyrians in Israel and Babylonians in Judah God judged his people by driving them out of the Promised Land.

For Judah this captivity in Babylon only lasted for 70 years and God restored them to the Promised land around 539BC.

So this verse 6 in Psalm 111 would have spoken to this generation of God’s people as the writer of that Psalm probably wrote it during that time and so they saw,

“The power of his works”.

 For us we have a greater inheritance than a piece of earthly land as our Promised Land in Christ is heaven itself as Hebrews 9: 15 says,

“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”.

And Peter spells out how this eternal inheritance of Heaven is given to us by God’s great mercy or grace in Jesus Christ and this should cause us to say Hallelujah or Praise the Lord in 1 Peter 1: 3 – 4,

“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, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you”.

  1. Law (vss. 7 – 8)

The start of verse 7 mentions again the great works of God in nature,

“The works of his hands are faithful and just”

 Then the parallel rhyming thought is a reference to the law of God, which in Old Testament terms is the word of God,

“All his precepts are trustworthy”

 One bible dictionary I consulted defined a biblical precept this way,

“A commandment, an authoritative rule for action; in the Scriptures generally a divine injunction in which man’s obligation is set forth”.

 This verse reminds me of Psalm 19 that presents the two ways God makes himself known to us, which is through his works of nature, represented by the first verse of that Psalm,

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

 The second way God makes himself known is through his word, which, as I said in Old Testament terminology is the law or precepts represented in Psalm 19 by verse 7,

“The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple”.

Notice how David speaks of the law or God’s revealed word as being perfect and Psalm 111 says that God’s revelation of himself is both “just” and “trustworthy”. This means that no matter how out of step we as believers in the God of the Bible might seem compared to the way others think and behave in the world around us we must trust in God and his word because only there will we find real truth that not only makes wise the simple but gives real refreshment for the soul as David puts it.

Paul speaks of how we need to not be conformed to the pattern of the world in Romans 12: 2 but be transformed by the renewing of our minds,

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, 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”.

It is through God’s word that we learn the truth and it is that truth that renews us or as Jesus puts in John 8: 31 – 32, will free us,

 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 in verse 8 the writer of Psalm 111 says this about the precepts or word of God,

“They are steadfast for ever and ever, done in faithfulness and uprightness”.

 The word of God presents an image of what God is like and we saw in the first part of this middle section of the Psalm that God is great, glorious, majestic, righteous or here in verse 8 upright and steadfast in loving faithfulness. This last part of what God is like is a echo as I said before of Exodus 34: 6,

“And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness”.

So God is all these things so his word is all those things as well because his word is an expression of who he is and what he has done for us that flows out of who he is. If God is great, glorious and majestic then his word is great, glorious and majestic and here in verse 8 our writer of Psalm 111 is saying that God’s word is steadfast (reliable), faithful (loving) and upright (always true totally) and of course this is because the author of the laws or word of God is all these things as well.

John in his first chapter of his Gospel starts by talking about the word of God and says this, verse 1,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning”.

 Then in verse 14, John tells us who this “Word of God” is,

“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”.

So Jesus is God’s word become flesh and so if God’s word is a reflection of what God is like than all that God is like can be seen in Jesus and therefore all the wonderful attributes of God that the writer of Psalm 111 speak of can be seen in Jesus, namely, true greatness, glory and majesty and here in verse 8 our writer of Psalm 111 is saying that God’s word is steadfast (reliable), faithful (loving) and upright (always true totally).

When I taught junior High school scripture to teenagers who usually knew nothing about God and his word I was often asked two questions,

“How do you know that there is a God? and

“If God is there what is he like?

The answer to these two often asked questions is, Jesus, we know there is a God because Jesus came to call us to repent and believe in him and we know what God is like because Jesus is as Paul says in Colossians 1: 15 – 20 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. 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”.

 By the way verse 15 is not saying Jesus was born but the term “Firstborn” means that Jesus is supreme over all creation and is then a term that is saying he is God or as we know from the teaching of the New Testament the second part of the united three in one God which is called the Holy Trinity.

So if we want to sing or say a perfect Hallelujah or Praise the Lord as opposed to a broken or sinful Hallelujah we need to use in our praise of God the word of God we call the bible.

  1. Redemption (vs. 9)

The last fleahing out of the greatness of God who we are praising with that special word Hallelujah is found in verse 9, which says,

“He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant holy and awesome is his name”.

 This is clearly speaking of what I call Old Testament salvation based on God’s love outworking in ancient history to create and save a people or a special nation that it seems he wanted to use as a means towards saving people from every nation. We see hints of this in the very calling of the Nation of Israel when given the renewed covenant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to the saved nation of Israel at Mount Sinai in Exodus 19: 3 – 6,

“Then Moses climbed up the mountain to meet with God. The Lord spoke to him on the mountain and said, “Tell this to the Israelites, the great family of Jacob: ‘You people saw what I did to the people of Egypt. You saw that I carried you out of Egypt like an eagle and brought you here to me. So now I tell you to obey my commands and keep my agreement. So if you do this, you will be my own special people. The whole world belongs to me, but I am choosing you to be my own special people. You will be a special nation—a kingdom of priests.’ Moses, you must tell the Israelites what I have said.”

Note three truths here that relate to Psalm 111 verse 9 and they are:

  1. God redeemed his people Israel (vs. 9a)
  2. God only renewed his covenant at Mt. Sinai (vs. 9b)
  3. God is called both Holy and awesome (vs. 9c)

Let me comment on each of these great truths here that relate to Psalm 111 vs. 9:

  1. God redeemed his people Israel (vs. 4)

The writer of Psalm 111 would have had in mind the redemption of the nation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt when he wrote verse 4, that simply says,

“He provided redemption for his people”

 God’s saving acts of redemption happened all through the little nation of Israel’s history. I believe we cannot fully grasp the miraculous nature of Israel surviving as a nation for so long today as in ancient times hundreds maybe even thousands of nations have come an gone often wiped out by bigger more humanly powerful nations.

Even in Roman times we have the example of the powerful North African nation of Carthage but in 146BC after years of conflict with the Romans Carthage as a nation fell to the Roman sword and was virtually wiped out. Israel in the north suffered a similar fate to Carthage in 722BC at the hands of the Assyrians.

It seemed Judah to the south had suffered the same fate in 587BC to the hands of the Babylonians but a large number of the Jews from Jerusalem and Judah went into exile in Babylon and in 539BC.

God’s redemption for Judah came in the form of the Persians who then allowed the Jews to return to Israel and even allowed them to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. So if this Psalm was written after the return from Babylonian captivity in exile then the words of verse 9 also applies to God’s redemption of his people from exile in Babylon. So again this tiny nation of Israel miraculously survived for another 400 years so that Christ could come for God to be able to offer salvation or redemption to the whole world.

As the prophet’s like Isaiah predicted like Isaiah 59: 20,

“The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins, declares the Lord”.

 And to the whole world in Isaiah 42: 6 – 7,

“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness”.

In the ministry of Jesus we see these prophecies of Isaiah fulfilled both literally and spiritually and Jesus refers even John the Baptist to his fulfillment of the bibles prophecies in his ministry on earth when even John the Baptist and some of his close disciples had questions about Jesus being the Messiah and Jesus answer refers to another Messiah prophecy recorded in Luke 7: 22 – 23,

 “So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 23 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” (Isaiah 35:4 – 6)

 Jesus saw his mission on earth as a spiritually redemptive one as we see from his own words 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.”

 The ransom is his life that redeems the payment for our sins as Paul states clearly in Ephesians 1: 7,

“ In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace”.

The people of God in the writers time could look back to their ancestors being redeemed or saved out of Egypt and together with their own redemption from exile and captivity in Babylon which was an experience they could sing or say a perfect Hallelujah to their saving God.

We as Christians can look back to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our redemption or salvation and with that in mind sing or say the perfect Hallelujah to praise God as well.

  1. God only renewed his covenant at Mt. Sinai (vs. 9b)

Then the writer in the next phrase of verse 9 speaks again about the covenant of God with his people,

“He ordained his covenant forever”

 There are two major covenants in the bible that God has ordained, the covenant of law and covenant of grace, which the New Testament calls “The New Covenant.

After Abraham, Isaac and Jacob God ordained a major renewal and restating to Moses at Mt. Sinai of his covenant with his people of Israel. In this restating of the covenant is introduced to the covenant the idea of the law and the keeping of the law.

The big jump of course in God’s covenant is seen in the New Testament in its renewal and in fact fulfillment through the work of the coming of the Messiah who of course is presented in the New Testament as Jesus Christ and the word Christ is not a last name for Jesus but a title which is the Greek word for Messiah. This covenant shift and fulfillment is so great it is called “The New Covenant” or the Covenant of grace as we read of in Hebrews 8: 6 – 13,

“But the work that has been given to Jesus is much greater than the work that was given to those priests. In the same way, the new agreement that Jesus brought from God to his people is much greater than the old one. And the new agreement is based on better promises. If there was nothing wrong with the first agreement, then there would be no need for a second agreement. But God found something wrong with the people. He said,

“The time is coming, says the Lord, when I will give a new agreement to the people of Israel and to the people of Judah. It will not be like the agreement that I gave to their fathers. That is the agreement I gave when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt. They did not continue following the agreement I gave them, and I turned away from them, says the Lord.

 10 This is the new agreement I will give the people of Israel. I will give this agreement in the future, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write my laws on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

 11 Never again will anyone have to teach their neighbours or their family to know the Lord. All people—the greatest and the least important—will know me. 12 And I will forgive the wrongs they have done, and I will not remember their sins.”

13 God called this a new agreement, so he has made the first agreement old. And anything that is old and useless is ready to disappear”

Note how the writer of the letter to the Hebrews quotes from Jeremiah 31: 31 – 32 which is a prophecy for the coming of the New Covenant of God.

So the writer of Psalm 111 speaks of God’s covenant being ordained by God forever as it is based on this great covenant of God that God will use to judge and save all mankind.

We know from the teaching of the New Testament that it is by grace we are saved and this is for all people from every nation both Jews and Gentiles (non – Jews) as Paul declares 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”.

Concerning the difference between Jews and Gentiles Paul says in Galatians 3: 26 – 29,

“ So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”.

So in our perfect Hallelujah or praise of God we need to include our praise and thanks to God for his grace in saving us which is expressed in the New Covenant or agreement between God and us which came into being or was ordained forever through the coming and dying of the Lord Jesus Christ.

  1. God is called both Holy and awesome (vs. 9c)

The last phrase of verse 9 simply says,

“Holy and awesome is his name”

 Two final biblical attributes of God close this verse and they are holy and awesome which are stated as closing remarks to this section part of the second section of this Psalm which has been fleshing out the great works of God especially in saving his people which we relate to through the new covenant and its promise of salvation through God’s grace.

In the context of what has been said about God’s great works for his people the writer of Psalm 111 is saying that the God of the bible is:

  1. Holy
  2. Awesome

Lets have a look at these two final attributes of God:

  1. Holy

He is Holy because his ways and acts of love are so different than any of any creature or so-called God can do or has done. As we read in Psalm 77: 13,

“Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God?”

He is Holy because he is so different than us in his perfection and righteousness, as we see in Psalm 99: 3 – 4,

“Let them praise your great and awesome name— he is holy. The King is mighty, he loves justice-  you have established equity; in Jacob you have done what is just and right”.

Peter applies the concept of the holiness of God to the life we should live because of the grace of God and says this in 1 Peter 1: 13 – 16,

“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Our lives lived for God in holiness or as Peter says, obedience to God is a way of offering God a perfect Hallelujah or praise to the Lord as with our lives we show God and the people around us that we are children of the grace and in this we give glory to God and not ourselves.

  1. Awesome.

The attribute of Awesomeness is a wonderful way to finish this second section of Psalm 111 as it speaks in another way of the greatness of God. Many Psalms have made the same point and one Psalm in book two of Psalms, Psalm 66 features the concept of the awesomeness of God which a term devalued today because of the way it is used as a popular slang word, verses 3 and 4 contain key concepts to Psalm 66 and they read this way,

Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you.All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you,

 they sing the praises of your name.”

I would like to quote from my Psalm 66 Psalm talk in my explanation and application of this word awesome in the context of making a perfect rather than a broken Praise to God or Hallelujah,

“The God this writer wants us to focus our praise on is an awesome God of deeds. This is the first time we come across the “awesome” word in this psalm. As I said in my introduction don’t think of the slang meaning of this word which is as Robert Lane Greene says is the default description for anything good”.

 Rather lets think of the “Dictionary.com” meaning for awesome which is,

 “Causing or inducing awe, inspiring an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration or fear”.

 This God should be feared because the next line of verse 3 reads,

 “So great is your power”

 The writer of Hebrews says this in Hebrews 10: 31, As the English standard version and many others translate it,

 “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”.

 The fear hear is reverence or respect for a God who is so big and even dangerous if you are on the wrong side of him.

 So God is great, glorious, powerful and awesome and this is who our loud and joyful praise should be focus on”.

  1. (vs. 10)   HOW GOD’S GREAT WORKS SHOULD EFFECT US

We come then to the last verse of this Psalm 111 and I have made it a separate section to the Psalm because it moves on to a different concept or idea in the Psalm. I understand that verse 10 is the writer of Psalm 111 attempt to apply what he has been speaking about in making what I have called a perfect Hallelujah as compared to a broken Hallelujah and Hallelujah remember is the Hebrew word we translate in English as Praise the Lord.

The verse has three aspects to this application, which are:

  1. (vs. 10a) Cause us to fear or reverence the Lord
  2. (vs. 10b) Cause us to trust and obey the Lord
  3. (vs. 10c) Cause us to praise the Lord

These three aspects of our writer of Psalm 111 application of making a perfect Hallelujah become then my three parts of this third and last section of this Psalm.

  1. (vs. 10a) Cause us to fear or reverence the Lord

The first part is the phrase in verse that says,

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”

 This follows what we read at the end of verse 9 that God or the God of the bible is both Holy and Awesome. If he is Holy, different and perfect and awesome, great and powerful then he deserves our respect and worship, which the Old Testament calls fear.

This verse reads and sounds like it comes from the book of proverbs and Allan Harman picks out four similar book of Proverbs references that speak of the fear of the Lord and wisdom, Proverbs 1: 7, 9:10, 15: 33. I would like to quote the first of these Proverbs 1: 7,

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction”.

Note how this verse, very similar to some of the wording of Psalm 111: 10 speaks of how fearing God or reverencing him also brings knowledge as well as wisdom which Godless people simply do not have or will not have if they continue to rebel against God.

Paul says in 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”.

People are wilfully living their lives without any acknowledgment of God ignoring God and even defying him and his laws and then wondering why their lives fall foul to his judgments in the form of sinful consequences in their lives and of course all this will lead to the ultimate judgment to come when they will stand before his throne in the final judgement.

As Paul and that verse in Proverbs points out the not fearing God or reverencing him also has consequences to our way of thinking.

We might appear to be smart or even intelligent but we will lack real wisdom in life if we continue to ignore God and not fear him or revere him as Holy and Awesome or great.

The broken Hallelujah that Leonard Cohen spoke of in his song Hallelujah comes from the mouth of he or she who is still in rebellion to God and his rule in their lives but the perfect Hallelujah that he spoke about comes from the lips and lives of those who acknowledge God as Holy, Awesome and great.

  1. (vs. 10b) Cause us to trust and obey the Lord

What I have just said might sound very negative to some but a very positive application of singing, saying and living a perfect Hallelujah, reverencing him as God leads to according to the writer of Palm 111,

“All who follow his precepts have good understanding”.

 The writer of Psalm 111 could also have had the verse on fearing God and gaining wisdom and understanding from the book of Job as Job 28: 28 says,

“And he said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.”

 The positive side of fearing God is that it leads to wisdom and understanding and Paul even says in 1 Corinthians 1 that what we believe about God and especially about Christ and his death on the cross for our sins is foolishness to those who do not believe in God but is in fact God’s wisdom that leads us into wisdom and understanding, ! Corinthians 1: 18 – 21,

 “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe”.

So knowledge that does not include God is foolishness but those who are spiritually perishing consider those who include God in their understanding of things fools. However Paul is saying that when we come to understand and accept that Jesus died for our sins on the cross we are not only given understanding and wisdom but we are saved from perishing before the Judgement seat of God.

I leave my last word on this positive aspect of fearing or reverencing God to Spurgeon who writes,

“To know God as to walk aright before him is the greatest of all the applied sciences. Holy reverence of God leads us to praise him, and this is the point, which the psalm drives at, for it is a wise act on the part of a creature towards his Creator. A good understanding have all they that do his commandments. Obedience to God proves that our judgement is sound”

 The perfect Hallelujah or Praise the Lord is a result of fearing or reverencing God which puts God in his place as Lord and King of our lives and this is expressed in our gratitude for his saving work for us in Christ.

  1. (vs. 10c) Cause us to praise the Lord

 The Psalm commenced with the Hebrew word Hallelujah which is translated in English as “Praise the Lord” and it finishes with a statement of how if we understand and believe in the greatness of God particularly seen in his deeds of saving works then we should praise him eternally,

“To him belongs eternal praise”

 The book of Revelation which is the closest we come to seeing or at least understanding what its is like in heaven speaks of great and wonderful eternal Hallelujah’s as people and Angels praise the Lord and my final bible reference comes from a passage in Revelation that speaks of this great eternal perfect praise of God, Revelation 19: 6 – 10,

“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.

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. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)

 Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

10 At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.”

 In that great wedding supper of the Lamb (Jesus Christ) and his bride the church, which we who believe in him are part of will be the place that great perfect Hallelujah’s will be sung and spoken and these Hallelujah’s or Praise for the Lord will then be a eternal praise that the great God of the bible deserves.

As I have been referring to Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” all through this Psalm talk I have attempted to write my closing original poem in the structure of that song. Then I will close this Psalm talk with a prayer.

THE PERFECT HALLELUJAH

(Based on Psalm 111 /

and using the structure of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”)

 Now I heard there is a perfect way

To praise the Lord every day

For you know he is the Lord who really loves yah?

It goes like this, he is the best

He says to us I long to bless

He wants us all to say Hallelujah.

 

Chorus:

 

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

So I will seek to impart

My praise for God with all my heart

So come an join the perfect Hallelujah

God’s works are great they show his love

So enjoy and praise the Lord above

And join his family in Hallelujah.

 

Chorus:

 

The perfect praise for God above

Praises God for his deeds of love

Majestic is the God who really love’s Ya.

He saves your life and his word is true

He even provides food for you

So join me now and sing your Hallelujah.

 

Chorus:

 

He sent to earth his only Son

Who through the cross our salvation won

So come and praise him now with Hallelujah.

His steadfast love is great and sure

It’s made a way to heavens shore

And there we’ll join the angels in Hallelujah.

 

Chorus:

 

So this is my song of praise

For an awesome God in so many ways

Revere him now and sing your Hallelujah

Follow what his word does say

And you will prove him every day

And then you’re sing the perfect Hallelujah.

 

Chorus:

 

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

Words by: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

 Father in heaven we lift our voices up to you in Hallelujah. Yes Lord we long to sing and say the perfect Hallelujah, which we know from your word, speaks of all the great things you have done for us. You sent your Son from heaven above to come to earth and become one of us to then die for our sins on the cross so that we can be forgiven and one day join with other believers and the Angels in heaven to evermore sing Hallelujah. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.