PSALM 129 TALK   TRAVELLING THE CHRISTIAN JOURNEY CAN GET DIFFICULT  

PSALM 129 TALK   TRAVELLING THE CHRISTIAN JOURNEY CAN GET DIFFICULT

 (The tenth Psalm of the 15 Psalm series in the book of Psalms called “Songs of Ascent” which deals with some of the difficulties we will face on God’s journey of faith to heaven. The difficulties this Psalm speaks of come from those who oppose us and the God we believe in. The Psalm tells us that God is with us and will give us victory over these enemies. The enemies of God will in fact be frustrated in their attempts to disrupt our journey to heaven and will face God’s curses rather than his blessing).

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

 GENERAL INTRODUCTION

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

PART 2.    PSALMS 125 – 129   PROGRESSING ON THE JOURNEY

INTRODUCTON TO PSALM 129

 A good friend from my church recently loaned me a movie on a DVD called “All Saints” which is about a newly ordained minister named Michael Spurlock being sent to his first church which was the All Saints Church in Smyrna Tennessee. He was not expected to be their long as the church had recently had a large split when 80% of the congregation left with their minister to form a new independent church.

The movie presents the idea that Spurlock was sent to this church to help close it down once the property was successfully sold. In-fact the real story is that he was sent to see what he could do in a short time frame and selling it was one of the options.

Just as Spurlock came to the decision that the church should to be sold a group of refugee migrants from Myanmar came to his door. These migrants from Myanmar where farmers from the Karen tribal group who happened to be former Myanmar Anglican church members and they wanted to use a large field that was out the back of the church to farm. Interestingly I have visited and ministered in many Karen Anglican Churches in Myanmar myself over the past ten years on my teaching mission trips to that country.

So, just as Michael Spurlock thought the church did not have a future he realised that God saw this differently and sent to his church from the other side of the world new members for his church who were farmers. After Spurlock consulted the bishop it was agreed that the farming option with the Karen people would be given a go.

The film then tells the story of how Spurlock, the Karen and even older and new white American church members struggled with God’s help to get the church field to a successful harvest.

One of the struggles the farming faced was the unusual lack of rain in Smyrna Tennessee had that year but God led Spurlock to a number of hand watering equipment including an old farm tractor which Spurlock got a loan for but needed a successful harvest to pay it back.

Then on the very day the church met to bring in the harvest the heavens opened and even after much wonderful community effort most of the harvest was lost and it looked like the whole farming venture had been a tragic mistake.

Michael Spurlock did not lose his faith but simply acknowledged that God knew what he was doing. The last scenes of the movie are of the area Bishop coming to the church to it seemed tell the people their church was to be sold and Spurlock was to go back to his pre- ordained job as a paper salesmen.

To the surprise of Spurlock and his now thriving congregation the bishop told them that the local diocese would financially back the church making it a special mission church that particularly reached out to the growing numbers of local refugees from Myanmar. Spurlock was moved on to gain more experience in ministry at a church in New York and a new more experienced minister and one of the leading lay Karen man was appointed as a lay minister in charge of special ministry and outreach to the growing numbers of Karen people from Myanmar.

This story shows us that going God’s way is as one famous saying says, “is not a rose garden” in fact problem and difficulties can and do come our way but we can be assured that if we love God and seek to go his way we can know God’s leading and help in and through the difficulties we might face.

The “All Saints” movie and this Psalm 129 reminds me of the famous verse in the New Testament 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 purpose”.

 Spurlock and his church congregation could have thought that God was leading them to a successful harvest day but instead God lead them to a humanly speaking day of disaster but that year of hard community work seeking to reap a material harvest was instead used by God to harvest a spiritual crop of new members in the kingdom of God.

God used the difficulties and the hardship for good and that is the message that comes through Psalm 129, a Psalm more than likely composed after the Jews returned from the disaster of the Babylonian captivity. That disaster was used by God to Judge his people of their previous many sins but God then led them back to the promised land after the Babylonians themselves were oppressed and defeated.

This Psalm became a Song of Ascent or a Psalm sung by the people of God as they journeyed up to Jerusalem up to three times a year to celebrate special festivals there. These journeys would have often proved full of difficulties especially caused by opposition by those who hated them and the God they served. So, this Psalm would have been a great encouragement for the Pilgrim travellers especially as they faced difficulties on those often- long journeys to Jerusalem.

As Christians, we can gain encouragement from this Psalm and the New Testament teaching it will direct us to as well. As we continue to go God’s way or take the journey of faith to God in heaven we also can face times of great difficulty but God is with us to help deliver us from our many enemies.

We will look at this Psalm in this Psalm talk with the theme of journeying to God in the face of great difficulty and my Psalm outline reflects this:

  1. (1 – 2)  THE DIFFICUTY OF OPPOSTION AS WE JOURNEY TO GOD
  1. (vs. 1)   The reality of opposition
  2. (vs. 2)   The reality of God overcoming our difficulties
  1.  (3- 4)   THE DIFFICULTY OF THE PAIN CAUSED BY OPPOSITION
  1. (vs. 3)   The pain caused by opposition
  2. (vs. 4)   The reality of overcoming opposition

    3.    (5 – 8)    A PRAYER FOR FACING DIFFICULT OPPOSITION

 

  1. (vs. 5)   May God make those who oppose us fail
  2. (6 – 7)   May God make those who oppose us reap frustration
  3. (vs. 8)   May God make those who oppose us not to be blessed

 Let’s then have a closer look at this Psalm:

  1. (1 – 2)  THE DIFFICUTY OF OPPOSITION AS WE JOURNEY TO GOD
  1. (vs. 1)   The reality of opposition

This Psalm starts in a similar style to Psalm 124 with the writer putting words into his readers or his singer’s mouths as we see first of all in verse 1,

“They have greatly oppressed me from my youth, let Israel say,

 This way of speaking is also used in Psalm 118 verses 2 – 4 and is a poetic way of the Nation both saying and remembering the important reality that all through their history they have faced opposition that caused them great difficulty.

The term, “from my youth” is used in a number of places to speak of the days Israel was freed from the bondage of slavery in Egypt and in the day’s, that followed that in the wilderness wanderings as we Jeremiah 2: 2 says,

“Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem:“This is what the Lord says:“‘I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved meand followed me through the wilderness,through a land not sown”.

 So, the long history of Israel, the children of God is one of continual times of conflict caused by great opposition from neighbouring hostile nations. Often this opposition arose because God’s people had turned away from going God’s way and turning to other God’s instead of the God of the bible but other times, even when Israel was faithful to the God of the bible like the time of King David other nations rose up against them because they hated and opposed the God they worshipped and followed.

In fact, David is told by God that this opposition and conflict from other nations will be a feature of his reign in Psalm 2: 1 – 3,

“Why do the nations conspireand the peoples plot in vain?The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band togetheragainst the Lord and against his anointed, saying,“Let us break their chainsand throw off their shackles.”

 The New Testament teaches that this opposition to God is a symptom of our sin which Paul speaks of in a verse like Romans 8: 7,

The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so”.

 Hostility to God and his law leads people to be hostile to those who uphold God and his law and this idea led Jesus to say this to his disciples before he left to go to the cross, rise from the dead and return to heaven in John 15: 18 – 20,

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

 So, to the readers and singers of Psalm 129 they would have been forced to reflect on the reality that they as a Nation, the people of God had continually faced opposition from other nations all through their long history and particularly in more recent times when they were again captives and slaves in a foreign land, Babylon.

So, becoming a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and going his way will not give us a “rose garden” existence. In fact, it often leads us to some very difficult testing times of conflict and difficulty. However, we will learn in the next section that God does not desert us in times of difficulties but comes beside us, goes before us and delivers us from the conflict and difficulties we might face as we go his way.

  1. (vs. 2)  The reality of God overcoming our difficulties

 So, the Christian life or way is not an easy, bed of roses way as it does have its own unique set of difficulties like difficulties caused by those who oppose us because they oppose God. However, like the children of Israel we have a great and powerful God helping us and protecting us and even giving us victories over our enemies as verse 2 declares,

“They have greatly oppressed me from my youth, but they have not gained the victory over me.”

 Ray Fowler applies these words to us today by saying,

“You can suffer pain without suffering defeat. We sometimes think if we’re hurting that means we’re defeated. But it’s not true. You can be down but not out. You can persevere through pain”.

 Paul speaks of how he had learnt this secret in his life and ministry to the Philippians in Philippians 4: 10 – 13,

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 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”.

 Paul also spoke of the very real and powerful enemies we as true believers all face in Ephesians 6: 12,

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

 However just before this he speaks of how we can have victory over these powerful forces of evil and how against them when we trust in God we can be strong, verses 10 – 11,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”.

 Note how Paul is not advocating become a Christian or go God’s way and you will avoid conflict rather he is saying go God’s way and he will equip you to be strong and stand your ground in the many battles of life.

The cessation from the battles of life is only promised in heaven when we move from this life to the next as Revelation 21: 1 – 4,

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

 It seems God has a purpose and a plan for our good and this good is sometimes through the difficulties of life. In the story of the people of God in the bible who were greatly oppressed from their youth or beginnings all through their long history but they survived and gained the victory.

This was never truer than what had happened just before this Psalm was probably written. Babylon had overrun Israel completely and a remnant of people were taken into captivity in Babylon but after 70 long difficult years God brought them back to their promised land by using another nation to smash the Babylonians and use these victors as a means to bring them back.

God had a purpose to the initial tragic events of being conquered by the Babylonians and that was to Judge his people for their many sins.

The excellent web page Got? Question poses the question Does God sometimes use evil to accomplish His plans”?  Its answer is very useful:

Habakkuk 1: 5 – 11 is a prophecy in which God relates His intention to raise up Babylon, a “ruthless” and “dreaded” nation, to achieve His purpose. This raises the question; Does God sometimes use evil to accomplish His plans?

There is an important distinction to be made between God controlling evil and God creating evil. God is not the author of sin, but He can use sinful men to attain an objective. Romans 8:28 says, “For those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” “All things” includes both good and bad things. God can use struggles, heartbreaks and tragedies in ways to bring about His glory and our good. Such events, even though we don’t understand the reason for them, are part of His perfect, divine plan. If God could not control evil, He would not be God. His sovereignty demands that He be in control of everything, even “dreaded” nations such as Babylon”. So, God did use evil in the form of the Babylonians to judge his people but he used another pagan evil nation to judge the Babylonians the Persians under their great King Cyrus and Isaiah says this about him in Isaiah 44: 28,

“Who says of Cyrus, He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please: he will say Jerusalem, let it be rebuilt,” and of the temple, let its foundations be laid”.

 So, when Psalm 129 verse 2 says,

“They have not gained the victory over me”.

 In the bible, we are reading the amazing story of God’s people, a tiny in world- wide terms insignificant nation who even exist as a nation today.

Of course, the world wide or universal church of Jesus Christ is God’s new Israel (Galatians 6: 16) who now can claim God’s victory over evil in the many battles of life as Paul states clearly 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”.

 So, as we go God’s way and journey to him in heaven we will face all kinds of difficulties but we can be assured that Jesus is with us through his Holy Spirit and is both helping and protecting us giving us victories over the evil forces we encounter as we travel the road of faith.

    2.    (3- 4)   THE DIFFICULTY OF THE PAIN CAUSED BY OPPOSITION

  1.  (vs. 3)   The pain caused by opposition

In the next two verses the writer of Psalm 129 speaks of the pain and difficulty our opposition can cause us and also how again even though God’s way can sometimes be painful God will deliver us from the evil forces that can cause us this pain.

Verse 3 then, speaks in a vivid poetic picture of the pain we can feel,

“Ploughmen have ploughed my back and made their furrows long”.

This image of pain some commentators believe could be a vivid image taken from the cruel methods of the Babylonians who used farming implements to inflict pain on their captives. It also could be a way of speaking of the scourges caused by whipping again commonly used by conquering nations like the Babylonians.

Isaiah speaks of how Judah will be treated by the conquering Babylonians in similar terms in Isaiah 51: 23,

“I will put it into the hands of your tormentors,who said to you,‘Fall prostrate that we may walk on you.’And you made your back like the ground, like a street to be walked on.”

 Alan Harman points out that this description of ploughing ones back is to be taken figuratively and writes, this figurative description is to,

“Illustrate the sufferings of Israel and her eventual release from captivity”

 The most famous whipping or scourging in the bible is that of Jesus before he was crucified and this fulfilled another prophecy of Isaiah in which he speaks of this scourging and painful crucifixion, Isaiah 53: 3 – 5,

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.Surely, he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 
But he was pierced for our transgressions,he was crushed for our iniquities;the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed”.

 Psalm 129 verse 3 could be a very good description then of the scourging Jesus endured before his crucifixion.

This verse tells us that pain also could be a difficulty we could face on the road to God in heaven but all burdens including physical and spiritual pain are not over looked by Jesus and he says to anyone who seeks to follow him to find rest from our souls through his assistance to carry our loads 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.” 

  1. (vs. 4)   The reality of overcoming opposition

Another image that seems to come out of the Babylonian cruel methods of taking captives seems to appear in the next verse which says,

“But the Lord is righteous; he has cut free from the cords of the wicked”

 Jeremiah speaks of the cruel way King Zedekiah was taken into exile after the fall of Jerusalem in Jeremiah 52: 11,

“Then he put out Zedekiah’s eyes, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon, where he put him in prison till the day of his death”.

 However, this verse speaks of how the cords or shackles were cut free which is speaking about the Jews miraculous release from the bondage of captivity in Babylon.

What does this verse say caused this miraculous release from bondage?

The answer is the words that start this verse,

“But the Lord is righteous”

 Alan Harman explains this phrase this way,

“God acts in accordance with both his nature and his promises and vindicates his people”.

 God, you see is not like us he is a Holy loving God and this is why it was necessary for his only Son to die on the cross as a payment for our sins. He did this to appease his holiness because sin had to be paid for. He did this to show his love in going to the cross to save us even though we don’t deserve to be saved.

Peter puts it this way in 1 Peter 2: 24 – 25,

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls”.

 Paul speak of the Gospel message as God’s message of salvation that reveals the righteousness of God in Romans 1: 16 – 17,

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

 So, as we walk the way of faith or the way to God that Jesus made through his death and resurrection we must realise that we have been released from the cords of sin and death as Paul says in Romans 6: 18,

“You have been set free from sin and have become slaves of righteousness”.

 Paul tells the Galatians that Christ has set us free from the bondage of sin so we must not let sin bind us again, Galatians 5: 1,

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

 So, on our journey to God in heaven we must live as people who are free from sin by not letting sin take a hold of us. Of course, we all still sin but as we get closer and closer to God in heaven we should know more and more that God,

“Has cut me free from the cords of the wicked” or the cords of sin.

    3.  (5 – 8)    A PRAYER FOR FACING DIFFICULT OPPOSITION

    1.   (vs. 5)   May God make those who oppose us fail

The second half of this Psalm 129 turns into a prayer with the word “May” commencing it and continuing two more times at the start of verse 6 and verse 8 the last verse of this Psalm. This last section could also be seen as a prediction of what will happen to those who oppose God and his people and of course is also another example of an imprecatory prayer or a prayer that asks God to destroy or punish our enemies.

I have said many times that these Old Testament prayers particularly found in the book of Psalms are not recommended in the New Testament. This is primarily because of two reasons:

  1. The Teaching of Jesus
  2. The nature of the Christian Gospel – message

Let me explain:

  1. The Teaching of Jesus

In a number of places in the Gospels Jesus is recorded as teaching that he wants us to love and pray for our enemies and not act as a judge or to hit out against them. We see this in Matthew 5: 43 – 44,

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

 What lay behind Jesus teaching on this he explains in the next three verses:

“That you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”

  1. The nature of the Christian Gospel – message

It seems that the very nature of God is love and even though he is a righteous God who demands payment for our sins he is also a loving God who has provided a way for us to be forgiven which is through the death and resurrection of his only Son Jesus Christ. Many verses in the New Testament reflect this like Ephesians 2: 4 – 8,

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

 So, because we are saved by love or grace – love we don’t deserve we must act as people under grace and treat others even our enemies in a way that reflects grace.

This is why I find the actions of people like extreme Muslims so horrifying as they kill all kinds of people, including fellow Muslims in the name of God who they call Allah. There is no sign or evidence in their treatment of people of mercy and grace and in fact they seem to see Christians as people who most of all need to be exterminated because we represent a God of mercy and love who is not, in their twisted understanding the real God of the universe.

With all this in mind I must say that when I read any imprecatory prayers in the Psalms like the ones at the end of this Psalm 129 I think of the certainty of the coming judgment and then the need for the Gospel message to be proclaimed to the world for without God’s forgiveness through Christ there is only the judgment of God. God’s judgment comes about because a person who opposes or ignores God and in some cases oppose God’s faithful followers is under the judgment of God.

With all this in mind lets first look at verse 5 which says,

“May all who hate Zion be turned back in shame”.

 This is an imprecatory prayer or pray for God’s judgment on his people’s enemies that expresses two very important things:

  1. To oppose Zion is Old Testament way of saying you oppose God and his people
  2. To oppose God and his people will lead to shame or failure

Let me explain these two important things:

  1. To oppose Zion is Old Testament way of saying you oppose God and his people

We have seen in many Psalms the significance of the term, “Zion”, This term or place name came up in verse 5 of the previous Psalm and in my Psalm, talk for this Psalm, Psalm 128, I wrote this about the biblical meaning of “Zion”.

“The word Zion simply means in the Hebrew language “Fortress” but when you follow through all the meanings Zion is given in the Old Testament it becomes a rich and informing name for a number of important biblical concepts.

 Let me explore with you just three important concepts Zion represents:

   1.   God’s dwelling place on earth

 Zion first and foremost Zion was the place David placed God’s sanctuary upon in the city of Jerusalem and so many parts of the Old Testament speak of Zion as God’s chosen dwelling place on earth under the Old Covenant like Psalm 76: 2,

 “His tent is in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion”.

   2.   Another name for Jerusalem

 In the previous reference of Psalm 76: 2 we have the name Salem which is the older pre- David time name for Jerusalem and you can see from this reference that sometimes Jerusalem itself is called Zion. This is even clearer from a reference like 2 Samuel 5: 7,

 “Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion—which is the City of David”.

Or Psalm 48: 2,

“Beautiful in its loftiness,the joy of the whole earth,like the heights of Zaphon is Mount

Zion, the city of the Great King”.

   3.  Another name for the people of God. 

 Finally, Zion also is used as another special name for Israel or the people of God as we see in Zechariah 9: 9,

 “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!See, your king comes to you,

 righteous and victorious,lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey”.

 This is the famous prophecy that predicts Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey and shows clearly the close identification of Israel and Jerusalem being known as Zion”.

 So, to hate Zion as verse 5 says is to hate:

  1. God’s dwelling place on earth or the concept that God dwells with his people.
  2. It means also to hate Jerusalem the home of God’s dwelling place on earth.
  3. Finally, it means to hate God’s people who are known as Zion as well.

So, “all who hate Zion” are all who hate God and his faithful followers.

  1. To oppose God and his people will lead to shame or failure

 The second part of verse 5 simply says,

“Be turned back in shame”.

 Allan Harman explains this phrase this way,

“The prayer is that they will come to a position where their evil plans are thwarted and they are disgraced in the eyes of others”.

 So often in the story of God’s people in the bible this is a very good description of what happened to the enemies of God. A great example of this was in the time of King Hezekiah who ruled around the time that Israel in the north fall to the conquest of the Assyrians in 722BC.

Hezekiah twenty -one years later faced the might of the Assyrians whose armies had successfully taken most of Judah, Hezekiah’s kingdom and where now at the gates of Jerusalem and humanly speaking nothing could have stopped Assyria taking Jerusalem or Zion and God’s people also known as Zion at that time.

However, in 2 Kings 18 and 19 we have the amazing factual story of the armies of Assyria being turned back in shame and failure through God miraculously sending some kind of disease through the Assyrian camp and they had to withdraw from Judah and go back to Assyria. The Assyrian king Sennacherib who led this failed campaign a few days after returning to Assyrian was assassinated by some of his sons while he was worshipping his false God’s in his temple in Nineveh.

Some believe that because of this amazing story that verse 5 of Psalm 129 describes what happened means that this Psalm was written at that time maybe even by King Hezekiah himself.

However, this verse could fit many similar stories of God turning back with shame his people’s enemies including the turning back in shame of the all-conquering Babylonians through the Persians that led the Jews back to Zion or Jerusalem which is a more probable time – frame for the writing of this Psalm.

So, with Jesus command to love our enemies in mind what does verse 4 say to us?

I think this verse is saying to us as Christians two great truths:

  1. If you oppose God and his people you will face failure and God’s judgment
  2. What we need to encourage people who oppose us to do is turn back to God.

Let me explain what I mean:

  1. If you oppose God and his people you will face failure and God’s judgment

The prayer in verse 5 asks God to turn back in shame those who oppose God and his faithful followers and in fact I have already indicated that the fact is those who opposed God and his people in the Old Testament where often turned back, failed and faced shame and God’s judgement.

In the New Testament to oppose God and his people also is a road or way that leads to destruction as the famous quote of Jesus words 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”.

 The writer to the Hebrews states clearly the certainty of God’s coming Judgement in Hebrews 9: 27,

“Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment”. 

  1. How we need to encourage people who oppose God and his people to turn back to God.

In the next verse of Hebrews 9 we read the hope of being saved from this certain coming judgement,

“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”.

 But to have this hope of salvation the taking away of our sins through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross we must turn back to God which in New Testament terms is expressed in the word “Repent” as we read in the words of Jesus himself in Mark 1: 15,

“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

 We must pray for, proclaim and encourage those who continue to oppose God and his faithful followers to repent or as verse 5 of Psalm 129 says,

“Turn back”

  1. (6 – 7)  May God make those who oppose us reap frustration

 The writer of Psalm 129 was a man of his time and place as he has already used an agricultural poetic image in his Psalm in verse 3 when he spoke of ploughing a person’s back and now in verse’s 6 and 7 he continues the use agricultural images in his imprecatory Prayer.

He writes,

“May they be like grass on the roof, which withers before it can grow; a reaper cannot fill his hands with it, nor one who gathers fill his arms”.

 The agriculture image here is one of frustration as it depicts something that happened in ancient Palestine houses that had flat opened roofs which got dust and dirt on them and through wind and bird droppings seeds of weeds and grass were often accidentally planted. This very morning, I pulled out some weeds between the cracks of a retainer wall on my houses driveway that, to me, amazingly grow so well in almost impossible places.

The frustration is that this grass or weed plantings amount to nothing, they wither and die with heat and they do not produce any kind of useful crop. In other words, like the weeds in the retainer walls of my driveway they are nothing more than a nuisance.

The writer than in verses 5 and 6 wants those who oppose God and his faithful followers to become like the grass and weeds on the flat roofs of houses, useless and frustrated people.

So, with Jesus command to love our enemies in mind what does verse’s 5 and 6 say to us?

Again, I think they say two things to us:

  1. If you oppose God and his people you will face frustration and God’s judgment
  2. What we need to do is encourage people who oppose us to turn back to God.

Let me explain:

  1. If you oppose God and his people you will face frustration and God’s judgment

The agricultural image of the grass or weeds growing in unproductive ground like the open flat roof of a house in ancient Palestine is something like what Peter says in 1 Peter 3: 12 when he quotes from Psalm 34: 15 – 16,

“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.”  

 The fact is if you go against God and his people your end is only frustration and judgment but if you turn back to God and go his way you have God’s full attention and that leads to hope not despair. This should be part of the message then we as Christians should seek to communicate to un – believers.

  1. What we need to encourage people who oppose us to turn back to God.

If going against God leads only to frustration and judgment and going God’s way leads to hope and salvation we need to warn people and offer them the message of salvation – the Gospel.

Paul advices Timothy to do just that in his charge to him in 2 Timothy 4: 1 – 2,

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction”.

 Note how Paul says to preach the word “in season” and “out of season” which means when it is out of season it will prove difficult because it will be opposed and in season when the message of the Gospel seems to be easier to proclaim. So, the way of God is not always easy as we have been seeing all through this Psalm talk. It is not easy but it is not a way or road that leads to failure, frustration and of course judgment.

  1. (vs. 8)May God make those who oppose us not to be blessed

The final imprecatory prayer verse that closes this Psalm reads this way,

May those who pass by not say to them “The blessing of the Lord be on you: we bless you in the name of the Lord”.

 At first, I could not make head or tail of this verse, what was it saying and then I read these words in Ray Fowlers comments on this verse,

“The blessing of the Lord be upon you; we bless you in the name of the Lord”. This was the standard blessing during harvest time in Israel where you would greet each other with blessings from the Lord”.

 Ray backs up this idea with a reference to Ruth 2: 4 where Boaz greats the harvesters with this kind of blessing.

With this insight in mind the writer of Psalm 129 is saying we should not wish God’s blessing on those who openly oppose God and his faithful followers. He wants God not to bless these people.

The reality is from what the bible says those who do not go God’s way in life and choose to oppose God and those who faithfully follow him will not be blessed by God but cursed and judged.

We see this in the Old Testament Deuteronomy 28: 15 – 20,

“However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you:

16 You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country.17 Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed.18 The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.19 You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out.20 The Lord will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him”.

 Or in the New Testament Paul speaks of God’s coming judgement this way in Romans 2: 5 – 9,

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honour and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile”.

 So, with Jesus command to love our enemies in mind what does verse’s 8 say to us?

My answer might shock you for I will take Jesus command to love and pray for our enemies seriously and in doing this will say we should seek God’s blessing on our enemies, the blessing of God’s grace.

Let me tell you why?

First of all, the New Testament presents the concept that we are all sinners as Paul states clearly in Romans 6: 23,

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

 Secondly this means before we came to Christ for forgiveness and victory over sin we were all enemies of God as Paul states clearly in Romans 5: 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!”

 In fact, Christ died for sinners not people who are righteous or think they are righteous as no one is righteous without the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as Paul states in Romans 5: 6 – 8,

“6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

 Thirdly and finally without the Grace of God or the undeserved love of God no – one can be saved as Paul makes very clear from 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”.

 So, we are to pray for our enemies rather than not say God bless as verse 8 of Psalm 129 suggests. With Jesus command in mind then we should say to our enemies something like, “May God bless you with his grace so that you can see his love for you in Christ”.

A good friend of mine at my church has been involved in prison ministry for many years and he has told me stories of some of the most wretched sinners in jails coming to Christ and these men have been transformed by the love of Christ, by the blessing of his grace in Christ. One notorious murderer who recently died in jail came to Christ through prison ministries and even in jail he witnessed so powerfully to the love of God in Christ that many prisoners came to Christ through his witness and did leave jail to lead productive lives for God.

CONCLUSION

 So, as we travel the journey of faith to God we will face times of difficulty that Peter says in 1 Peter 1: 6 – 7 will test our faith and help to refine or improve us,

“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”.

 Paul speaking about the reality of difficulty or suffering in the Christian walk speaks more clearly of how God uses this to make us better people for him in Romans 5: 1 – 5,

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

 Because of the great benefits of the positive results of suffering if it is endured and overcome by faith in Christ James says we should consider trials of all kinds as pure joy, James 1: 2 – 4,

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”.

It was exactly one year ago from the time of writing this Psalm talk that my wife and I suffered a great difficulty and trial in our lives as my wife came down with pneumonia while travelling with her sister in Vietnam. My wife came close to death and I was stuck at home because I could not travel as I had to have a kidney stone removed before the doctors would let me travel overseas.

After much prayer from my church and Christian friends my wife, praise the Lord, pulled through and was able to travel home safely with her sister and she has had no ill effects from this illness.

God might lead us into strange even un explainable experiences in our walk to heaven with him like Michael Spurlock at the All Saints Church in Smyrna Tennessee who experienced what seemed unexplainable difficulties when his churches wonderful harvest crop was washed away when it was about to harvested.

However, my experience a year ago and the experience of Michael Spurlock was that even in our dark difficult times Jesus is with us helping us carry those burdens and by faith and we can hold onto the promise Paul gives us in Romans 8: 28,

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

 I close as usual with an original poem / song and final word of prayer:

PEACE IN MY HEART

(Based on Psalm 129 and the tune of “Down in the Valley”)

 

We’ve been oppressed Lord since we were young

Sometimes we feel Lord no joy will come.

But we have found Lord peace in our hearts

For you are with us when the tear drops start.

 

We gain the victory through God’s dear Son

For through his death our salvation won.

Satan might drive us to despair

But through God’s Spirit we know the Lords there.

 

Refrain:

 

O down in the valley we looked to the Lord

For in the valley we need God’s word.

For as we face danger and troubles start

We look to the Lord for peace in our hearts.

 

May all who hate God turn from their shame

May they come to God and praise his name.

May they not be like the grass that grows in the sun

That withers and dies when the night time comes.

 

O bless Lord our enemies with now your grace

For all people are far from your glorious face.

May they like us Lord find peace in their hearts

For through The Lord Jesus God’s love does impart.

 

 

Refrain:

 

O down in the valley we looked to the Lord

For in the valley we need God’s word

For as we face danger and troubles start

We look to the Lord for peace in our hearts.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 Dear Father in heaven we look to you for help and blessing in this life for even when life gets difficult you are there with us giving s help and peace. Thank you Lord that when the tear drops start we can know your peace within our hearts. We ask Lord that even those who sometimes oppose us will come to know your love and like us receive the gift of your love. Help us to show your love even to our enemies and help us to look to you always even in life’s darker times knowing that one day we will be with you in the full and certain peace of heaven above. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

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

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

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

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

INTRODUCTION TO THE SONGS OF ASCENT

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

“A song of ascent”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        God in his dwelling place in Psalm 134.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is said he argued that the Songs of Ascent,

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

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

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

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

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

I will quote a lot in these Songs of Ascent Psalm Talks the words of Jesus in John 14: 6,

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

INTRODUCTION TO PSALM 120

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                     JUDEMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Lying lips and deceitful tongues”

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

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

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

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

And John 3: 19 goes on to further explain,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The writer of Psalm 120 called on God to,

“Save him”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He goes on to explain,

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

So with this in mind verse 3 reads like this,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A warriors sharp arrow”.

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

Then in a common household product,

“With burning coals of the broom bush”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first of these last three verses reads like this,

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

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

Allan Harman explains Meshek this way,

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

While his explanation of Kedar is,

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

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

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

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

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

And goes on to explain,

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

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

“Foreigners and exiles”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. A hostile dangerous place

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. A frustrating war torn place

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. A dark godless place

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

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

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

We also live in a dark godless world as,

“Foreigners and exiles”

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

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

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

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

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

GOD’S ROAD 

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

I call to God in my distress

Save me O Lord from this dark place.

And set my feet on your road O Lord

That will bring me to see your face.

 

Chorus:

God’s road to him

Was made by Jesus

When he died to forgive my sins

He made the way back to his father

So that in him new life begins.

 

Chorus:

Called out from this world under wrath

For it is hostile to God’s word.

He set my feet upon his road

Guiding my life by his word.

 

Chorus:

I live in a world from you Lord

I live in a world thats gone astray.

So set my feet on your road Lord

And show me how to live each day.

Chorus: 

I long to live with you O Lord

Where peace does reign supreme always.

O set my feet on your road O Lord

To the place of true peace and praise.

 

Chorus:

God’s road to him

Was made by Jesus

When he died to forgive my sins

He made the way back to his father

So that in him new life begins.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

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

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

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

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

INTRODUCTION

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

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

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

My stanza headings for these eight next stanzas are:

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

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

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

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

                                           PERSECUTION

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

                                           LIVES

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

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

                                            DARKNESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have broken this eighth part into four parts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This eighth stanza starts with verse 57 that says,

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

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

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

Harman goes on to explain the significance of this,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You are my portion (my everything) Lord”

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

“Obey your (God’s) word”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Be gracious to me according to your promise”.

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

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

“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments”.

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

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

And Paul makes it clear that this love of God is ours by faith in the Grace or undeserved love of God in Ephesians 2: 8 – 9,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And not delay”

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

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

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

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

“Though the wicked bind me with ropes”.

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

“Any form of scheming that restricts or impedes”.

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

“I will not forget your law”.

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

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

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

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

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

Paul tells us to praise or thank God in all circumstances in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 18,

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

To thank God in all circumstances including dark and difficult times really reveals our faith in God and our commitment to him and his word.

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

After the writer of Psalm 119 spoke of those who oppose him because of his commitment to God and his word he speaks of the fellowship of those who like him wo fear or revere God and his word he writes in verse 63,

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

I mentioned in my introduction that my three years in Bible College over 40 years ago was a highlight for me of wonderful fellowship with over 70 other committed Christians and lecturers all there to study the word of God and share the many gifts we had amongst us in ministry and worship.

However all through my Christian life I have belonged to vital and active churches who were and are committed to God and his word and I can testify that being with a group of friends who share the same commitment to God and his word as I do is a great encouragement and can and does help promote in me a greater commitment to God and his word.

The New Testament has much to say about the church which is not the building but the people who meet in it. The web site “Gotquestion?org” explains really well what the New Testament teaches about what the church is,

“The word church is a translation of the Greek word ekklesia, meaning “a called–out assembly.” The word describes a group of people who have been called out of the world and set apart for the Lord, and it is always used, in its singular form, to describe a universal group of people who know Christ. The word ekklesia, when pluralized, is used to describe groups of believers who meet together. Interestingly enough, the word church is never used in the Bible to describe a building or organization”.

My experience has generally been positive for all the years I have belonged to churches and have visited and the great unique friendship or fellowship is even more evident the times I have visited in places overseas and I can testify to experiencing oneness in Christ that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 4: 3 – 7,

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it”.

True Christian fellowship is a wonderful encouragement to continue in our committed to God and his word as the writer of Psalm 119 indicates in verse 63.

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

The writer of Psalm 119 now bring this eighth stanza to an end with a final declaration about his God that he has recommitted his life to in previous verses in this stanza. He is committed to a God and his word who is great and loving, two characteristics he obviously believe encapsulates this God he serves and worships.

He writes,

“The earth is filled with your love, Lord teach me your decrees”.

David wrote at the start of Psalm 19 verse 1,

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

In another creation praising Psalm David writes, Psalm 8: 1,

“Lord our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens”.

So now that glory and majesty that God’s creation is declaring is according to our writer of Psalm 119 God’s love. After all God made this world so perfectly and gave it to mankind as Genesis 1: 28 says,

“God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Genesis account of God’s creation features God making everything by and through his powerful word made clear by the word’s,

“And God said”

That term appears six times through the first chapter of the bible, God’s word which this writer of Psalm 119 is so committed to and wants God to teach him more of as he closes stanza 8 of Psalm 119 with the request,

“Teach me your decrees”

Of course this writer has alluded to a much clearer demonstration of God’s love even in this stanza in verse 58 where he prayed,

“Be gracious to me according to your promise”

Obvious reference to the covenantal love of God he and his people Israel knew or at least should have known for the writer of Psalm 119 spoke much about how people in his own nation of Israel especially its rulers had turned away from God and his word and persecuted him for continuing to believe and uphold in God and his word.

We as Christians have a greater and more perfect demonstration of God’s love found in and through the coming of The Lord Jesus Christ that John speaks of in the famous John 3: 16,

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

Later in the apostle John’s life he spoke further about this great love of God in 1 John 4: 8 – 10,

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins”.

So we have great inspiration for a renewed commitment to God’s and his word, the great love God has for the world and us which is shown through the Lord Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for our sins on the cross.

Therefore may we join the writer of this great Psalm who stated this stanza eight with the words,

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

Help me Lord to be committed to you
And not to things of this life
You and your people are my real friends
Your love helps me cope with my strife.

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

Many years ago I read somewhere of a true story of the famous first Anglican Bishop of Liverpool England who died at the ripe old age of 84 one year after he retired from his role as that first Bishop of Liverpool. Ryle wrote many wonderful books and his famous book “Holiness” is a book I still consider one of the top ten books I have ever read.

The story goes that after the death of his third and last wife, Ryle lost two others to illness as well, he attended church in the Liverpool cathedral and was down to preach on that Sunday the day after his wife had tragically passed away from the effects of a heavy cold during a special Exhibition in Liverpool that turned out to be on a very wet and cold day. Instead of preaching a sermon from the cathedral pulpit Ryle went to the bible reading desk and opened the large church bible and lifted up an equally large tapestry book mark the wrong way around.

Ryle spoke briefly of the passing of his third wife with many tears as he held up the bookmark and said at the moment this is like my faith in God but then he turned the bookmark around and the congregation could read the word’s “God is Love”.

Ryle was illustrating a very real point sometimes when we suffer some kind of affliction in life we feel like Ryle and the people in the cathedral that day, unable to make sense of what God is doing but our faith should be like the faith J.C Ryle that even in our darkest hour God is still good as he is a loving God who promises to be with us at all times, both good and bad as James tells us in James 4: 7 – 11,

“Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up”.

Paul says this about the love of God and difficult times in Romans 8: 35 – 39,

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

In stanza 9 our writer of Psalm 119 speaks of God being good even though he was going through a very dark and difficult time owing to some kind of persecution by his enemies and he even says in verse 71 that it was for his good that God allowed him to suffer at the hands of his enemies,

“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees”.

In my reading and study of this ninth section one other verse keeps coming into my head and that is Romans 8: 28 which says,

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

The structure of stanza 9 with the theme of God and his word is good even in times of affliction is”

1.(65 – 66) TEACH ME YOUR GOODNESS ACCORDING TO YOUR WORD

2. (67 – 68) TEACH ME YOUR GOODNESS DESPITE MY FAILINGS

3. (69 – 71) TEACH ME YOUR GOODNESS EVEN IN TIMES OF AFFLICTION

4. (vs. 72) TEACH ME TO APPRECIATE THE GOODNESS OR VALUE OF YOUR WORD

Lets then look a little closer at these four little sections of this ninth stanza:

1. (65 – 66) TEACH ME YOUR GOODNESS ACCORDING TO YOUR WORD

The writer of Psalm 119 starts his ninth stanza with two requests:

  1. (vs. 65) Do good to your servant
  2. (vs. 66) Teach me knowledge and good judgement.

These prayer requests we will see in later verses are in the context of difficulty owing to the persecution of his enemies (verse’s 69 and 70).

So as this writer is experiencing great difficulties his prayer is not just that God be good to him in helping him in his difficult time but that God would teach him new or greater knowledge and judgement as well in this dark time of persecution.

Lets have a close look at these two prayer requests:

(vs. 65) Do good to your servant

His first prayer request goes like this in verse 65,

“Do good to your servant according to your word”.

The Hebrew adjective for “Good” comes up four times in this stanza and Allan Harman explains that the opening use of this Hebrew adjective for “good” is an,

“Appeal for God to act in fulfilment of his word and deal graciously with his servant”.

Solomon at the opening of the Temple speaks of the promises of God being promises God gave through his servant Moses in 1 Kings 8: 56,

“Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses”.

So the good this writer of Psalm 119 wants God to give him are the good promises God gave Israel through Moses we call the covenantal promises of God summed up in Deuteronomy 28: 1 – 3,

“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God: 3 You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country”.

The next ten verses spell out in more detail some of the blessings or good things God promises to give to his people if they obey him and his word.

We are not under this Old Covenant but a new and far greater one that the writer to the Hebrews speaks of in Hebrews 8: 6,

“But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises”.

Note how we who believe in Jesus and what he did for us on the cross have a covenant that has better promises than what our writer in Psalm 119 verse 65 asks God to appropriate for him.

So what are some of the promises we have in Christ under this new covenant?

I found on the net a compulsive answer to this question by an article by a man named Paul Ellis called “The top 12 blessings in the New Covenant and here in a brief format are Paul’s 12 blessings,

1. God forgives all our sins (Matt 26:28, Acts 13:38).

2. God remembers our sins no more (Heb 8:12, 10:17; Jer 31:34).

3. God promises never to be angry with us again (Is 54:7-10).

4. God qualifies us (Col 1:12).

5. Jesus takes hold of us and never lets go (Php 3:12, Ju 24).

6. God credits us with the perfect righteousness of Jesus (2 Cor 5:21).

7. God gives us the Holy Spirit to teach us (Jn 14:26), empower us (Acts 1:8) and remind us of our
righteousness (Jn 16:10).

8. God is for us (Romans 8:31)

9. God is with us (Ez 37:27)! Because of Jesus the door to the throne room is always open (Heb
4:16).

10. God empowers us to overcome the enemy (1 Jn 5:4).

11. God offers us His rest (Heb 4:10-11).

12. God gives us eternal life (Romans 6:23).

So when we pray, “Do good to your servant according to your word” we have so much blessings in God for now and in our future in heaven.

(vs. 66) Teach me knowledge and good judgement.

Then in verse 66 our writer of Psalm 119 prays again for God to teach him which he already requested in verse 64 and also in verse 12. Now he asks for the same thing in verse 66 using the twin concepts of knowledge and good judgment, he writes,

“Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands”.

Knowledge is similar to the other two requests but here he adds “good judgment” which Alan Harman means,

“Discernment or behaviour”

Knowledge of God and his word is very valuable but knowledge on its own is of little value as it does not necessarily achieve anything but knowledge understood and put into practice is wisdom and the wisdom only God can give is very valuable and so we read in Proverbs 3: 7,

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil”.

When I have found myself in very difficult situations in my life particularly caused by how others are acting towards me I have realised what I need is wisdom and wisdom only God can give so I have prayed for that claiming the promise James gives us in James 1: 5,

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

Every time I have prayed for this wisdom God has graciously answered me and given me a insight or thought that has answered my need so perfectly.

2. (67 – 68) TEACH ME YOUR GOODNESS DESPITE MY FAILINGS

The writer of psalm 119 then in verse 67 seems to indicate that the affliction he was experiencing from his enemies came about by his own going astray from following God and his word, he writes,

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word”.

This concept of affliction caused by the writer going astray fits perfectly to David and the affliction his enemies made him suffer as a result of his sins of adultery and murder. As David speaks of in Psalm 35: 15,

“But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee; assailants gathered against me without my knowledge. They slandered me without ceasing”.

David might have been forgiven by God but his enemies where not like God but rather they saw David’s shortcomings as an opportunity to bring him down and exalt themselves over him like David speaks of in Psalm 38: 16,

“For I said, ‘Do not let them gloat or exalt themselves over me when my feet slip”.

So whether our writer of Psalm 119 is David or the writer of Psalm 119 is drawing on some kind of royal diary note of David we cannot tell but the fact is the writer indicates his current affliction caused by his enemies (vs. 69) was caused by his former sin or straying form obeying God and his word.

Then in verse 68 after indicating in the second half of verse 67 he obeyed God and his word he states how God is good so he asks again that God might teach him his word and obviously the writer of Psalm 119 will obey it,

“You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your ways”.

We need to learn from David and this writers example that turning away from God and his word has lots of consequences for our lives not less it opens up a door for Satan to enter with his forces to afflict us with perception or just plain difficulties.

James told us in a previous quote to,

“Resist the devil and he will flee from you” James 4: 7

So the writer of Psalm 119 did sin or disobey God and his word for a time but he obviously turned back to God and his word and he now sought to obey God and his word in verse 67 and he then asked again for to teach him his decrees or word.

3. (69 – 71) TEACH ME YOUR GOODNESS EVEN IN TIMES OF AFFLICTION

Then we come to what I see as the heart of this ninth stanzas teaching and here we read of the writer of this Psalm telling us of his affliction and how even as he suffered this dark and painful affliction caused by his persecutors he was still trusting in God and his word and even delighting in it and wanting to learn more about it.

I have broken this part of the ninth stanza into three parts:

  1. (vs. 69) Affliction but faith in God and his word
  2. (vs. 70) Affliction but delighting in God and his word
  3. (vs. 71) Affliction but the affliction is appreciated

So lets look at these three parts of this third section of the ninth stanza of Psalm 119,

  1. (vs. 69) Affliction but faith in God and his word

I mentioned at the start of my talk on this ninth stanza the story of J.C Ryle and how he with tears held up the opposite side of a tapestry bookmark that expressed how he felt about God and his word after he had just learnt of his third wife death. Humanly speaking we just cannot see how God is good to us when we face terrible turn of events in our lives like J. C Ryle we need to look beyond the tattered mess of our lives to see in God’s word that God is a good and loving and that if only we would hang in and put our trust in God we will receive from him his help and assistance and even ultimately full understanding. This understanding often will not come to us unto we are in heaven but by faith we have to believe that God is working his purposes out for our good.

The writer of Psalm 119 had this kind of faith as he writes in verse 69,

“Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies, I keep your precepts with all my heart”

In the midst of J,C. Rules pain and grief he held on to God and his word and so did the writer of Psalm 119 for he was slandered by arrogant men with false accusations and yet he stayed focussed on God and his word.

David wrote Psalm 27 with the same kind of commitment to God and his word as he faced great difficulty caused by a opposition from his many enemies and he says this in verses 1 – 3,

“The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life
of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my
enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. 3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not
fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident”.

Note how David saw that God alone was his light in his dark times caused by those who opposed him and who sought to bring him down.

Paul spent much time locked up by his opponents Jewish leaders and Roman leaders yet Paul in his seemingly dark times trusted in God and God always helped Paul and Paul wrote encouraging words to the churches about how God used him to establish his church like Philippians 1: 12 – 14,

“Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear”.

2. (vs. 70) Affliction but delighting in God and his word

In verse 70 the writer seems to show the great contrast of the attitude of his opponents and his attitude to God and his word in the face of his opponents persecution, he writes,

“Their hearts are callous and unfeeling, but I delight in your law”.

His opponents do not have any real joy in their lives and their opposition to God and his word leads them to have callous and unfeeling hearts and Leopold says that the actual Hebrew words here describe,

“Men who are devoid of spiritual capacity”.

However in the face of this callous and unfeeling attacks of his enemies our writer of Psalm 119 says he takes,

“Delight in your laws” (or in God’s word”

Peter has these words of advice for his readers who were suffering persecution from people who were callous and unfeeling and in 1 Peter 3: 8 – 17,

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. 11 
They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened. 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil”.

3. (vs. 71) Affliction but the affliction is appreciated

Finally in this third part of the ninth stanza that deals with the goodness of God in the face of affliction our writer actually states in verse 71 that the affliction he was suffering was actually good for him, he writes,

“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees”.

I have experienced times of persecution from people who do not like my commitment to God and his word but looking back at those difficult times I can say as well that I learnt so much about God and his word through those difficult times and my faith did grow as I proved God in my life as I trusted in him as Peter also says about the value of difficult times in 1 Peter 1: 6 – 7,

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

May we join the writer of Psalm 119 in appreciating difficult times through persecution to see that through them we,

“Might learn your decrees”. (vs. 71)

4. (vs. 72) TEACH ME TO APPRECIATE THE GOODNESS OR VALUE OF YOUR WORD

This ninth stanza has struck the note of the goodness and value of God and his word even in the face of terrible difficulty in life through persecution so it is only fitting he should finish this ninth stanza with a statement of the value of God’s word, he writes,

“The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold”.

The concept of the word of God being to our writer very valuable than any earthly riches is something he has already stated in verse 14 and will state again in verses 127 and 162 of this Psalm.

Sadly people today see no value in God’s word but let me put it this way what use is it to have all the riches in the world when we are facing death?

Jesus said in Matthew 6: 19 – 21,

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

God and his word are eternal and he and his word is then are the only thing of any real eternal value so then as the writer of Psalm 119 says they are,

“More precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold”.

Even in this life the hope and comfort God and his word gives money cannot buy as they come only from God himself as a gift we can know and enjoy even in times of affliction. I close this ninth stanza with the words of Paul in Philippians 4: 12 – 13, written remember when he was locked up in a Roman prison,

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength”.

Inspire me now to know your word
O good Lord who is with us now
For even when trouble comes my way
Your word is my comfort each hour.

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

When I was in my late teens I returned to following the Lord after backsliding for four years after I left school and went to work and got involved in non – christians who quickly led me astray in a sinful life. In the first year I was going to church again and seeking to sort out the mess my life was in I attended a church coffee shop that were popular in the early 1970’s and a group of four girls were singing Gospel songs.

One of the four girls sang a solo song and this girl was a very attractive girl herself in her late teens but before she sang her song she shared with the people in the coffee shop that she had just learnt from her doctors that she had a very rare form of cancer that meant she had less than a year to live. She testified to her faith in the word of God and how she believed that the Lord Jesus through his death and resurrection had won for her and all who truly believe in him the gift of eternal life and because of that she knew where she was going when she died and therefore did not fear death.

Once this young girl had finished her song introduction and had sung her song there was not a dry eye in the coffee shop. I was deeply moved by this girls testimony and it certainly helped strengthen my newly re-committed faith in God and his word.

The writer of Psalm 119 in his tenth stanza speaks of the value of a powerful testimony that a person who trusts in God and his word has particularly for other fellow believers and I believe on non – believers as well. The key verse of this tenth stanza is verse 74,

“May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word”.

This testimony of our writers commitment to God and his word is powerful because like the young girt in the coffee shop all those years ago it was in the context of difficulty and strife which adds to its power and value.

I have broken this tenth stanza into three parts all relating to the theme of how trusting in God and his word is a powerful testimony to other people particularly when that trusting in God and his word is done at a time of great difficulty and strife in the life of the person trusting in God and his word:

     1. (73 – 75) THE POWERFUL TESTIMONY OF A PERSON WHO TRUSTS IN GOD AND HIS
            WORD

     2.  (76 – 77) THE COMFORT AND SUPPORT GOD GIVES TO THOSE WHO TRUST IN
          HIM AND HIS WORD

     3. (78 – 80) THE SHAME OF THOSE WHO OPPOSE GOD AND HIS WORD

     1.  (73 – 75) THE POWERFUL TESTIMONY OF A PERSON WHO TRUSTS IN GOD AND HIS
          WORD

The writer of Psalm 119 knew God’s word so well that he knows that he is a created being who without the great and powerful God teaching him his word he is powerless to know and understand it. That is why I believe he asks God for understanding his word in the context of stating that the God of the bible is the creator God, he writes in verse 78,

“Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands”.

We have seen his reliance on God teaching him his word already in verses 18, 27, 33, 66 and he will ask for it again in verses, 135 and 169. So his logic is that if God made him and of course everything else then he has the ability and power to give him understanding of his word as Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 2: 6 – 10, passage in which Paul quotes from Isaiah 64: 4 which as Paul argues speaks of how God must teach us by his Holy Spirit what his word is really teaching us,

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has
conceived” the things God has prepared for those who love him— 10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.

Then in verse 74, once the writer of Psalm 119 had asked for the understanding of God’s word that God alone can give he states the effect the one who is committed to God and his word has on others, he writes,

“May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word”.

The testimony of a person like the writer of Psalm 119 putting his hope in God and his word is described here as bringing joy that causes people who see this testimony of a person like our writer of Psalm 119 hoping in God and his word.

This is even a more powerful testimony because this trusting in God and his word is done as he suffers affliction as verse 75 say,

“I know, Lord, that your laws are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.”

The writer of Psalm 119 like that young girl I heard speak and sing years ago in the church run coffee shop actually strongly trusted in God as they suffered great affliction. For the writer of Psalm 119 this affliction was painful persecution from his enemies and in the case of the girl in the coffee shop it was her immanent death through cancer.

I know that on that night all those years ago I was greatly encouraged and challenged by the faith of the beautiful young girl in the coffee shop and her testimony was so powerful that it still has an effect on me some 40 or so years later.

What that girl all those years ago was doing was what Jesus commands us to do in Matthew 5: 16,

“let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”.

The writer also states in verse 75 that even the affliction he is suffering comes from God’s faithfulness and his thinking here is explained by what he spoke of in the previous stanza and what he said in verse 71,

“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees”.

I spoke of how I have seen the value of difficult times in the past and how during those difficult times I was caused to look to and trust in God more than in easier times and so I often grew spiritually far more in difficult times that easier times. I also referred to what Peter said about the value of suffering for the Christian life in 1 Peter 1: 6 and 7 well here is what Paul says about the value of suffering for the christian in Romans 5: 3 – 5,

“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us”.

2. (76 – 77) THE COMFORT AND SUPPORT GOD GIVES TO THOSE WHO TRUST IN
                       HIM AND HIS WORD

God in his mercy and love might allow us to suffer some kind of affliction from time to time in our lives but this does not mean he will desert us or even not help us when in difficult times as the writer goes on to speak of a number of ways how God helps us when we as believers suffer some kind of affliction.

In verse 76 he speaks of God’s promise of his love,

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

In the case of our writer the unfailing love of God was made clear to him through God’s covenant promise of love that he made to his people Israel which he has obviously been referring to in other stanzas of this long Psalm and which is expressed so clearly in passage of the Old Testament like Deuteronomy 7: 7 – 9,

“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments”.

The unfailing love of God also gave great comfort to the young girt I heard speak and sing years ago who was suffering fro terminal cancer a love from God expressed in what she shared to us that night that is found in verses like John 3: 16,

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

Both the Old Testament covenant love and the New Testaments New Covenant universal love bring comfort to all true believers in the God of the bible but the comfort and support for all true believers in God and his word doers not stop there for our writer of Psalm 119 says this in verse 77,

“Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight”.

In both the Old Testament and New Testament the God of the bible deals with those who turn to him in faith in him and his word with compassion or grace as David speaks of in Psalm 86: 15,

“But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness”.

And in the New Testament Paul says this about this God of mercy and love and why he comforts us in 2 Corinthians 2: 3 – 4,

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God”.

So like the writer of Psalm 119 when we face some kind of affliction we should ask God to let his compassion and grace come on us to comfort us in the midst of our affliction. The young girl in the coffee shop all those years ago was comforted by her faith in the grace or love of God and her witness became a word of comfort and love for me and everyone else who was present that night when she so beautifully and powerfully spoke and sang of God and his word.

Again the writer of Psalm 119 expresses like he has he has done many time before already that God’s word is a delight to him. So it is to us who know it, believe it and proclaim it with our lives and words.

3. (78 – 80) THE SHAME OF THOSE WHO OPPOSE GOD AND HIS WORD

In the final three verses of this tenth stanza our writer speaks of the fate of his evil enemies if they persist to oppose God and his word and of course those like our writer of Psalm 119 who they seek to bring down because of their powerful witness of God and his word.

Then in the next verse 79 he makes the contrast of how the true believers of God and his word support our writer who in the final verse of this tenth section states that God will not put true believers to shame because of their wholehearted commitment to God and his word.

Lets have a look at these last three verses a little closer.

First of all we have verse 78 which is a form or precatory prayer or prayer for God’s judgment to come on his enemies, a type of prayer we find a lot in the book of Psalms. Verse 78 says,

“May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause; but I will meditate on your precepts”.

I have mentioned each time one of theses precatory prayers has come up before that Jesus wants us to not pray for God’s judgment to come on our enemies but rather that God’s love might come upon them as Jesus says in Matthew 5: 44,

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.

I have read of many Christians in our world today who have done just that as they have been so cruelly persecuted and God has used their powerful witness of his love to lead some of their enemies who persecuted them to become believes.

However for this who do not respond to the witness and message of God’s message of love we call the Gospel God’s shame or God’s judgment will come eventually on them as John writes in John 3: 17 – 18,

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son”.

Our writer chooses not to oppose God and his word like his enemies but even as he is being persecuted for his powerful witness of God and his word he resolves to,

“Meditate on your precepts”.

Then in verse 79 we have a very different prayer that reads like this,

“May those who fear you turn to me, those who understand your statutes”

The writer like the Apostle Paul was so sure he was walking in the truth of God and his word he was not afraid for others to imitate or follow his example as Paul tells the Corinthians to do in 1 Corinthians 11: 1,

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ”.

I have asked myself the question,

Could I be so sure of my faith and my witness of it that I would be willing to say to a non- believer or a younger Christian follow my example as I follow Christ?

Finally in verse 80 the writer of Psalm 119 closes this tenth stanza with these words,

“May I wholeheartedly follow your decrees, that I may not be put to shame”.

Maybe because he previously prayed that his powerful witness of God and his word would be imitated by those who fear or revere God he is naturally led as a consequence to ask God to help him wholeheartedly follow or be committed to and put into practice God’s word in his daily life.

Our writer knows that if a person does turn to God and his word they will not be put to shame or be judged by God so he is asking that others, maybe even some of his persecutors be turned around to be committed to God and his word.

I close with the words of Paul to the Philippians that they might have a powerful testimony in this dark world as they hold out or present the word of life or the word of God to what he called this warped and crooked generation in Philippians 2: 14 – 16,

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain”.

Just as you created me O Lord
Help me to understand your word
May my witness of you and your word
Be now seen and forever heard.

Stanza 11 (81 – 88) GOD AND HIS WORD IS WITH US EVEN IN DARK TIMES OF PERSECUTION

Many years ago I was inspired by God to write a new song I called’ “Never Alone” after reading about a Chinese Christian man being locked up for seven years in the 1970’s during the terrible persecution of Christians at the time of the infamous cultural revolution in China.

This man in his dark cell for seven years decided to remind himself of God and his word by scratching with a small rock every verse of the bible he could remember on the walls of his cell. By the time things had settled down for Christians again in China and this Christian man was released from his prison cell the walls of his cell was completely covered with verses he had scratched on the walls of his cell.

The book I was reading this in then said that the man claimed after his release that even though he was in solitary confinement for seven years he felt he was never alone because the Lord was always with him and this statement inspired the chorus of my song that says,

Never alone, Never alone
For the Lord is beside me wherever I roam.
Never alone, never alone
With his Spirit inside me his made me his own.

Stanza 11, the middle stanza of this 22 stanza Psalm has as its central theme the idea that God and his word is with us even in the darkest times of persecution or difficulty and because of that we can both trust in God to help us and eventually save us from the sinful enemies we might face in this life.

I will share some of the verses of my Never Alone song which are inspired by some of the verses I would have attempted to scratch on the walls of a cell if I was locked up for my faith in solitary confinement.

I have broken this stanza 11 into three parts:

      1. (81 – 83) SUFFERING BUT STILL CLINGING TO GOD AND HIS WO

      2. (84 – 85) SUFFERING BECAUSE SOME PEOPLE OPPOSE YOUR WORD

      3. (86 – 88) SUFFERING BUT GOD AND HIS WORD IS WITH ME

Lets have a closer look at each of these three sections of this eleventh stanza:

      1. (81 – 83) SUFFERING BUT STILL CLINGING TO GOD AND HIS WORD

All through the first ten stanzas of this Psalm the original writer of this Psalm speaks of affliction he is facing through persecution from enemies who do not believe in God and his word. It seems that even in our own day and age it is not enough for people to not believe in God and leave believers alone to live and believe as they wish for both individual atheists and Government atheistic regimes like Communist China want to hurt and destroy those who dare believe in a God they reject and claim doesn’t even exist.

My question to such people is, what are you afraid of if God doesn’t exist?

Now in stanza 11 the writer features the opposition and the persecution they have brought on him in a kind of prayer asking for God’s help and comfort. He kicks off this prayer for God’s help and comfort in the face of persecution with three verses that describe his desperate situation but with words of faith and confidence in God and his word.

The three descriptions of how he feels are:

i.) (vs. 81) My soul faints
ii) (vs. 82) My eyes fail
iii) (vs. 83) I feel left out to die

Lets have a closer look at each of these three descriptions of how our writer feels as he is being cruelly persecuted>

i.) (vs. 81) My soul faints

The writer of Psalm 119 writes in verse 81,

“My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word”.

We have no idea just what these enemies of our writer did physically to him but he does tells us that with words they slandered him and brought him low in spirit as he declared in verse 69,

“Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies”.

and verse 78 that says,

“May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause”.

There are hints of him being locked up in some way for his stand to trust in God and his word like verse 61,

“Though the wicked bind m with ropes, I will not forget your law”

Which could be a metaphorical statement or could be a poetic way of saying he was locked up by his enemies. However whatever the persecutors were physically doing to our writer it caused him to be close to death as he says in verse 87,

“They almost wiped me from the earth”

So our writer felt faint in his soul but even as he felt that low owing to his persecutions he was still trusting in God and his word for he writes in the second half of verse 81,

“But I have put my hope in your word”

The apostle Paul had to face all kinds of affliction including being locked up in prison on a number of occasions yet he always kept trusting in God and his word and at the end of his life locked up in prison awaiting, we believe his execution he tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 4: 6 – 8 how he has remained faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ and his Gospel in the great race of life we are all in, he writes,

“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing”

ii) (vs. 82) My eyes fail

Our writer of Psalm 119 continues to describe the desperate situation he is in because of his persecution for his faith in God and how it is effecting him in verse 82,

“My eyes fail, looking for your promise; I say, “When will you comfort me”.

The term he uses, “my eyes fail” could be a literal problem he now faced owing to the mainly tears he might have cried caused by the great pain and anguish he was in but it also could be a
metaphoric description of how he felt close to death as he seems to say he is in verse 87.

Whatever it is it indicates the fact that he is in a terrible dark and painful situation owing to his current persecution and this is made even clearer by his prayer request in this verse that says,

“When will you comfort me”.

I once heard a talk by a famous Australian TV presenter Leigh Hatcher who is a very strong Christian who suffered for over two years the painful condition of chronic fatigue syndrome and how the pain of this condition was not just the physical pain but the emotional and spiritual pain caused by some so called christian friends who tormented him with so called advice like, “get yourself together and get out of bed and get back to work” or “why aren’t you praying about this because if you did pray with real faith God would heal you”. Fortunately Leigh did get real support and comfort from other Christian friends who simply sat with him, prayed with him and encouraged him with practical support and words of comfort.

Leigh came through his ordeal and learnt so much from it he wrote an amazing book “I’m Not Crazy, I’m Just A Little Unwell: My Journey Through Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”.

I’m sure Leigh wept many tears during those two long years of suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” but God did help Leigh through that dark time in his life as he hung on to God and his word through it.

iii) (vs. 83) I feel left out to die

The third description the writer gives of how he felt during his time of persecution from those who opposed God and his word is a little more difficult for us in the twenty first century to understand because the writer uses a old daily item of Bible times to describe it, namely a wineskin, he writes in verse 83,

“Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget your decrees”.

H.C. Leupold explains what a wineskin was i ancient times with these words,

“A wineskin was obviously the Old Testament equivalent of a bottle”.

He goes on to explain that,

“Unused wineskins would be hung near the rafters of a room for storage”.

If this storage room had smoke in it then the smoke would make the dry wineskin to shrivel up and so this Old Testament image is like the old expression “hung out to dry”, which Wiktionary defines its meaning as,

“To abandon someone who is in need or some kind of danger”.

This is the painful feeling the writer of Psalm 119 felt when he was attacked in some way by his persecutors but he might have felt abandoned but he says,

“I do not forget your decrees”

I believe he does not forget God’s decrees or word for he knows that God’s word makes it clear that God will never leave or forsake his faithful followers as he would have known from Deuteronomy 31: 6,

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Also if he knew the writings of David or David himself in some way contributed to what we find in Psalm 119 we have statements of God not forsaking his faithful servants like Psalm 37: 28,

“For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones”.

Jesus tells us that he is always with his faithful followers and will therefore never forsake them as he says in Matthew 28: 19 – 20,

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I spoke in my introduction to this eleventh stanza my song “Never Alone” inspired by the Chinese Christian man who was locked up in solitary confinement for seven years and who scratched on the wall of his cells verses from the bible he could remember. Here is my first verse of my song based on what Jesus said in Matthew 28: 19, 20,

“Low I am with you to the end of the age
That is his promise in the bibles page.
Jesus is with me through joy and distress
And he is the one who’s desire is to bless”.

2. (84 – 85) SUFFERING BECAUSE SOME PEOPLE OPPOSE YOUR WORD

Some might ask if God loves you so much why does he allow you to suffer like the writer of Psalm 119 did?

The problem of suffering is a tricky concept to come to terms with but the answer has a number of levels to it’s answer. In my Psalm 6 Talk I go into some detail in my answer to this question but briefly God allows suffering in this world for four reasons and for each reason I will give just one bible verse to show one small example of how these four reasons come from the bible:

  1. Suffering comes as a test of our faith – 1 Peter 1: 6 – 7
  2. Suffering comes to bring glory to God – John 9: 2
  3. Suffering comes from living in a fallen sinful world – Genesis 3: 19
  4. Suffering comes as a form of discipline from God – Hebrews 12: 4 – 8.

To give you an answer of why you might be suffering is impossible as any one or a combination of the above four reasons is a possible answer but I believe our focus should not be on why we might be suffering at the moment but how are we firstly going to deal with it and secondly what can we learn from going through it.

Our writer suffered because he was livening in a fallen world which causes people who are in rebellion to God and his rule to oppose God and anyone who dates to side with God and his word or in Old Testament terms God’s law.

This is why in verses 84 and 85 our writer of Psalm 119 has to deal with people who oppose God and his word opposing him.

These two verses speak of two things those who oppose God can and often do to people who trust in God and his word and they are:

  1. (vs. 84) Those who oppose God and his word persecute those who trust in God and his
    word.
  2. (vs. 85) Those who oppose God and his word seek to trap and sometimes seek to kill those who trust in God and his word.

Lets have a quick look at each of these two reactions of those who oppose God and his word to those who trust in God and his word:

  1. (vs. 84) Those who oppose God and his word persecute those who trust in God and his
    word.

The writer calls out to God in prayer as he is suffering great persecution from those who oppose God and his word and in verse 84 he prays,

“How long must your servant wait? When will you punish my persecutors”.

Verse 84 is one of only two verses in the 176 verse Psalm that does not mention directly or indirectly God’s word and verse 121 is the other one. It does of course mention the often used call for help,

“How long”

This term features in Psalm 13 and H.C. Leupold commenting on this well used expression in the book of Psalms explains it this way in his commentary on its use in Psalm 13, he writes,

”How long, indicates the extremity of this poor man’s misery. His strength is well – nigh spent. His patience can hold out no longer. Why has God not intervened this long while?”

So the writer, if not David is using this same term to ask why God has not punished his persecutors for it he did punish them as they deserve then his persecution would stop.

This means that firstly those who oppose God and his word will sometimes persecute those who trust in God and his word and Jesus warned his disciples and us that this is exactly what will happen to them and us in John 15: 20 – 21,

“Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me”.

Jesus not only warned his disciples of the trouble and difficulty ahead for them and for us if we follow in their footsteps but he also spoke to his disciples and us of the help he will give us through the Holy Spirit called in the later chapters of Johns Gospel by Jesus in some translations as the comforter and in others the advocate.

In John 14: 23 – 27 Jesus says this about what the Holy Spirit the comforter will and does do for us,

“Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”.

2. (vs. 85) Those who oppose God and his word seek to trap and sometimes seek to kill
those who trust in God and his word.

The writer of Psalm 119 then speaks of what his persecutors were seeking to do to him in verse 85,

“The arrogant dig pits to trap me, contrary to your law”.

John Gill explains the meaning of the concept of the writers enemies digging pits with these words,

“The proud have dug pits for me,…. Laid snares and temptations in his way, to draw him into sin, and so into mischief; they sought indeed to take away his life, and formed schemes for it. The allusion is to the digging of pits for the taking of wild beasts”.

This treatment of those who trust in Gd and his word is in such contradiction to God’s law or word that the writer of Psalm 119 tells us so. He like many people today who are innocent victims of those who oppose God and his word.

The Chinese man who I spoke of in my introduction was thrown in solitary confinement for seven years by cruel God haters who were part of a cruel atheistic Government who claimed they were champions of the poor and lowly but instead they turned out to be brutish God hating tyrants.

My second verse of my song inspired by the story of this Chinese Christian man features the famous Psalm 23 verse 4 verse that says,

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me”.

This verse would definitely be one I would have scratched on my prison wall for even though it has been used at funerals to refer to dying in the sense of going through the Valley of death it has more to do with going through dark and difficult times for other translations like old King James version say it is;

“The valley of the shadow of death”.

This image also fits death as well but it does have a wider meaning than just relating to death. In both cases the promise of this verse is that God through Jesus is with us even in the darkest times of our lives, guiding and comforting us through it all and eventually leading us to eternal life in heaven.

So my second verse of my song “Neve Alone” reads like this:
“Though I may walk through the valley of death
I have no fear for his overcome death.
Jesus did die on the cross for my sin,
He’ll raise me to heaven to feast their with him.”

3. (86 – 88) SUFFERING BUT GOD AND HIS WORD IS WITH ME

In each of the final three verses the writer of Psalm 119 contrasts the cruel and godless attitudes and actions of his persecutors with his trust in God and his word that he believes will help him (vs. 86) and save him from death (verses 87 and 88).

Lets look a little closer at how the writer actually contrasts his trust in God and his word compared to the Godless actions of his persecutors to him.

Inverse 86 he writes,

“All your commands are trustworthy; Help me, for I am being persecuted without cause”.

The people who opposed our writer of Psalm 119 obviously did not trust in God and his word for our writer of Psalm 119 calls God’s commands or word trustworthy but it seems logical to believe that those who were persecuting him did not trust in God’s word because they persecuted our writer of Psalm 119 without cause.

This verse is also call for justice and we know from the New Testament that a great day of justice is coming when Jesus will return in all his glory to judge those who have not turned to him called “the goats” in Mathew 25: 31 – 33, and those who have turned to God and his word through Jesus called “the sheep” who will escape the judgement because Jesus paid for their sins on the cross.

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left”.

Then the writer of Psalm 119 says this in verse 87,

“They almost wiped me from the earth”,

Again as I said earlier this verse seems to be saying in some way or another his persecutors almost killed him, how we do not know but even in the face of death our writer says,

“But I have not forsaken your precepts”.

I have read of how so many brave Christians even today have not forsaken God and his word as they faced their deaths to the cruel Godless hands of people who oppose God and his word in many countries in our world today.

Finally in the last verse, verse 88 he writes,

“In your unfailing love preserve my life, that I may obey the statutes of your mouth”.

Our writer of Psalm 119 appeals again to the covenantal love of God which he has called upon many times already a love his nation Israel did not deserve but God gave it to them because he is a gracious or merciful God. The same God loves us and has saved us through his Son and his death on the cross for us.

I would like to now refer Peter’s words in 1 Peter 2: 9 – 11, which speaks about how we have all of the wonderful promises of the Old Covenant and more in Christ and then present to you the last verse I used in my “Never Alone” song,

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

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

“I am a pilgrim in a foreign land
But the Lord gently guides me by his loving hand.
Wherever I wander yes wherever I roam
The Lord is beside me and “Im never alone.”

So like the Chinese pastor locked up in solitary confinement for seven years during the cultural revolution in the 1970’s in China the writer of Psalm 119 trusted in God and his word and sought to,

“Obey the statutes of your mouth” or obey the very word of God that gives us comfort even in the darkest of times in our lives.

Keep me safe as I trust your word
O Lord my God who comforts me.
Even when I face great pain and strife
May you and your word set me free.

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

Camel Rock at Bermagui is among the oldest rocks in NSW coast of Australia. It was created by undersea avalanches which rumbled down continental slopes of ancient Australia and created a spectacular rock formation that from a distance looks like a camel. On a holiday after I had finished Bible College I visited this amazingly rugged but beautiful beach and rock formation and sitting on a large rocky outcrop I opened up a copy of my New Living Translation of the book of Psalms and read the first two verses of Psalm 90 that read this way in that translation,

“Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! 2 Before the mountains were born,
before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God”.

I had the tune of a old folk song in my head that day which I long lost the name of the original song but I began to write that verse into the metre of that tune and came up with,

“O Lord you’ve always been our home
Before the hills were ever known.
You’ve always been before the world began
Your eternally God who knows no end”.

Then as I sat on that huge rock with the surf pounding away at it I thought of other verses in the Psalms like Psalm 18: 2 that speak of God as our Rock, the one immoveable one who no matter what happens to us is always is there helping us and then I wrote what became the first verse of my new song I called, “The Rock Song” and that first verse simple says,

“We’re like the sea like the froth and foam.
We’re like the sea we forever roam
But you O Lord are a constant rock
You never change no you never stop”.

Now I had the first two verses of my song and later in this talk on the twelfth stanza of Psalm 119 I will share with you the other two verses to this song.

This twelfth stanza has, for me the theme of my “Rock Song” namely the supreme timeless stability of God and his word and how God and his word’s eternal stability gives me support in my daily life no matter what I am going through.

I see this twelfth section in three distinct parts:

     1.  (vs’s 89 – 91) GOD AND HIS WORD IS STABLE FOR THEY ARE ETERNAL

     2.  (vs’s 92 – 93) HOW THE STABILITY OF GOD AND HIS WORD HELPED THE WRITER

     3.  (vs’s 94 – 96) THE WRITERS DETERMINATION TO TRUST IN THE STABILITY OF
          GOD AND HIS WORD

Lets have a closer look at each of these three distinct parts:

     1. (vs’s 89 – 91) GOD AND HIS WORD IS STABLE FOR THEY ARE ETERNAL

The writer kicks of this twelfth stanza with a clear and simple statement about the eternal nature of God’s word in verse 89,

“Your word, Lord is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens”

Jesus made a similar claim of his words having an eternal nature in Mark 13: 31,

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

The word of God both Old and New Testament is a miracle in itself as over thousands of years before the invention of the printing press and computers a very careful and often painful process was made to write out, by hand what we know as the bible. Critics of the bible have tried to dispute the accuracy of the bible but archeological findings like the Dead Sea Scrolls for the Old testament and countless New Testament ancient scripts prove that much care for accuracy of copying techniques was vigorously practiced over many centuries to give us a accurate account of God’s word as it was given to men and particularly through the Lord Christ in ancient times.

It was also God’s word that created everything as we see the words in the first chapter of Genesis using the term, “And God Said, which” is used to describe how God created everything, he simply spoke and things happened, this is what I believe verse 90 is speaking about when it says,

“Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth and it endures”.

Even modern science does not believe everything came out of nothing but something was always there, “matter’ and out of matter through the big bang came everything. However the bible says that it is not matter that is eternal as matter has no power to create the complex and amazing design of the universe but as verse 90 says God,

“Established the earth and it endures”.

So the writer of Psalm 119 says in verse 91,

“Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you”.

In my “Rock Song” for my third verse I picked up what I read in Psalm 90 verse 4 that in my New Living Translation of the book of Psalm says,

“For you, a thousand years are as a passing day, as brief as a few night hours. 5 You sweep people away like dreams that disappear.They are like grass that springs up in the morning”.

As I read these words as I sat on the large rock on the seas edge at Camel Rock beach all those years ago I thought of the fleeting nature of our lives.
I thought of how our lives compared to the creation and more importantly the eternal God who made it were like the verse says just like grass here today and gone tomorrow.

My third verse then for my Rock Song says,

A thousand years is like a day to you
Like yesterday returned anew.
Like a weed that sprouts in the morning sun
We burst and bloom and by night we’re gone.

The term,

“All things serve you”

Albert Barnes explains means,

“All worlds obey thy commands; all are under thy control. They show that they are thy servants by the conformity of their movements to the laws which thou hast impressed on them”.

Science could not study the universe unless it is governed by what is called natural laws that govern it and those natural laws came about because the one eternal God made them and keeps them going.

Paul describes Jesus this way in Colossians 1: 15 – 17,

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together”.

So our writer of Psalm 119 in the midst of his ever changing and turbulent life with all its difficulties and uncertainties particularly because of his persecutors hangs on to one great sure and stable thing, God and his word which in verse 89 he says,

“Stands firm in the heaven”

And in verse 90 he says,

“Endures”

So as I sat on the great rock on the turbulent sea shore at Camel Rock beach Bermagui all those years ago I realised what my first verse of the Rock Song I wrote says,

“We’re like the sea like the froth and foam.
We’re like the sea we forever roam
But you O Lord are a constant rock
You never change no you never stop”.

2. (vs’s 92 – 93) HOW THE STABILITY OF GOD AND HIS WORD HELPED THE WRITER

We come then to two verses in this twelve stanza where the writer makes it clear that God word saved his life. How God’s word saved his life is not made clear but the writer of Psalm 119 is very definite God’s word saved his life and he uses two phrases to express this:

  1. (vs. 92) Perished in my affliction
  2. (vs. 93) Preserved my life

Lets then have a closer look at these two verses and particularly these two phrases that describe how God’s word saved our writers life.

1.) (vs. 92) Perished in my affliction

In verse 92 the writer of Psalm 119 says,

“If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction”.

Albert Barnes offered me the best possible explanation of how God’s word saved our writer from perishing in his affliction when he writes,

“I should then have perished in mine affliction – I should have sunk under my burden. I should not have been able to hold up under the weight of sorrow and trial”.

So many people today suffer from depression brought on in a lot of cases by the trials and tribulations of life. People get so desperate for help in their lives that they see no possible help available so they take their lives and suicide rates are on the rise as a result.

However God and his word offers those who take delight in it as our writer of Psalm 119 did offers us great hope and comfort especially during dark times of difficulty as Jesus holds out help to us in difficult times in passages like Matthew 11: 28 – 30.

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

Being a Christian does not assure us we will not go through dark and difficult times but it does offer us hope and comfort when we for one reason or another we face difficult dark times in our lives.

2i) (vs. 93) Preserved my life

Then, so that we got the message our writer says much the same thing in verse 93,

“I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have persevered my life”.

Many commentators have pointed out that the Hebrew word or term for “preserved my life” is actually “quickened me” or “Given me life” and again Albert Barnes shed the most light on this verse for me with these words,

“By that truth he had been made really to live. He had been brought from spiritual death to spiritual life. He saw before him now, as the result of that, an endless career of blessedness. How could he ever forget what had worked such a change in his character and condition; which had inspired such hopes; which had opened before him such an immortal career of glory!”

Barnes then quotes James 1: 18 as a cross reference which says,

“He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created”.

So God promises in his word to help us in our afflictions and through his word he offers us new life for us in Christ. So sat on the large rock on Camel beach Bermagui I realised that God is like that rock which kept me safe from the raging tide and through Christ, our rock he has given me new life that is eternal. It is eternal as one day he will take all of us who believe in him to the safe shores of heaven itself.

This is the kind of thought I had in mind when I wrote the fourth verse of my song,

“When I realise what I have done
When I think of Christ the eternal one.
I am so ashamed that I bow my head
Then he gives me life when I should be dead.

3. (vs’s 94 – 96) THE WRITERS DETERMINATION TO TRUST IN THE STABILITY OF
GOD AND HIS WORD

The writer of Psalm 119 has just indicated his life was preserved and given life through God and his word but he now asks God to save him yet again, he writes in verse 94,

“Save me, for I am yours”

He indicates in the next verse that he still needs to be saved from his enemies who oppose him because of his stand for God and his word, he writes in verse 95,

“The wicked are waiting to destroy me”.

Yet in both o these two verses that indicate he desperately needs held he reveals a determination to trust in what I believe is the stability or certainty of God’s word, he expresses this in verse 94 this way,

“I have sought our your precepts”

And in verse 95 he expresses this determination to trust in the stability of God and his word with theses words,

“But I will ponder your statutes”.

Jesus offers to save us if we would only but truly seek him as he says in Matthew 7: 7 – 8,

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

This kind of determined seeking after God through Jesus is what non – believers need to do but not only non – believers need to do this but also those of us who trust in the Lord Jesus we aslso need to continually ask, seek and knock. We do this through prayer and trust in the Lord Jesus if we want to find and have the continued stability of knowing God and his word in our daily lives.

The last verse of this twelfth stanza brings all this to a fitting end when it says,

“To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless”.

I like the modern paraphrase version of this verse called the MSG translation that says,

“I see the limits to everything human, but the horizons can’t contain your commands”.

I would have said “but the horizons can’t contain your word” as “Commands” in this Psalm is yet another word or term for God’s word.

God and his word is the rock that we should build our lives upon for all other things in this life will pass away but God and his word will not. Jesus declares this also with a vivid parable of the building of as house and its foundations and the house in this parable is our lives and Jesus says in Matthew 7: 24 – 25,

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

However if we do not build our lives on God and his word then Jesus says in Matthew 7: 26 – 27,

“But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

So stability in this life and the next is built on Jesus and his word and trusting in it and obeying it give us God’s eternal stability.

So when I sat that day on the large secure rock on the turbulent shore line of Camel rock beach at Bermagui I read that great Psalm 90 that spoke to me of the stability of God who David often called the rock. That in turn made we realise afresh how our lives are like that raging tide ebbing and sometimes surging in the storms of life but God and his word is our rock in life therefore we through him can know stability and peace in our lives as my first verse of my song I called “The Rock Song says,

“We’re like the sea like the froth and foam.
We’re like the sea we forever roam
But you O Lord are a constant rock
You never change no you never stop”.

I close with my alphabet poem verse for this twelfth stanza that says much the same thing,

Live your life grounded on God’s word
God and his word lasts forever
Jesus is my rock his word is true
Troubles in life can never sever.

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

I woke up this morning to the surprising and shocking news that the Australian cricket team were caught cheating in the third test in South Africa. The captain and vice captain conspired with another player to deliberately tamper with the cricket ball in a sneaky way to make the ball harder to play. A small piece of some kind of corse tape was used to rough up the ball on one side but with all the TV cameras used in modern TV coverage these days captured this ball tampering and the Captain and the player caught doing this had to admit they had foolishly done the wrong thing and broken clear and simple cricket laws to gain a unfair advantage over their opposing team.

This is a tragic example of great sporting knowledge used in a foolish or unwise way and to me illustrates the difference between simple knowledge and wisdom. I once read somewhere that wisdom is knowledge rightly and inspirationally applied. I can know a great amount of knowledge but if I wrongly apply this knowledge in life I am a fool.

The book of proverbs says in Proverbs 1: 7,

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge but fools despise wisdom and instruction”.

God’s word alone contains the knowledge God wants us to live our lives by so it rightly understood, applied to our lives and obeyed gives us real wisdom from God. Psalm 119 verse’s 97 and 98 says,

“Oh, how I love your law! I mediate on it all day long. Your commands are always with me and make me wiser then my enemies”.

In this thirteenth stanza of Psalm 119 we will see four aspects of how God’s word gives us wisdom for life:

     1. (vs. 97) THE LOVE OF GOD’S WORD BRINGS WISDOM

     2. (98 – 100) THE BENEFITS OF GOD’S WORD IS THAT IT MAKES US WISE

     3. (101 – 102) THE RESULT OF OBEYING GOD’S WORD IS WISE LIVING

     4. (103 – 104) THE VALUE OF GOD’S WORD IS INVALUABLE

Lets then have a closer look at these four aspects of how God’s word gives us wisdom for life

1. (vs. 97) THE LOVE OF GOD’S WORD BRINGS WISDOM

The writer of Psalm 119 states clearly what he thinks of God’s word and what he does with it in his life on a day to day basis, he writes in verse 97,

“Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long”.

This love for God’s word is something this writer speaks of often in this Psalm and Allan Harman puts forward the idea that the love for God’s word is in fact,

“The content of the Psalm summed up”.

Harman sights verses 47 and 48,

“For I delight in your commands because I love them. I reach out for your commands which I love, that I may meditate on your decrees”.

He also sights verse 27, which picks up the love of God’s word and its value which is a concept this stanza speaks of in its closing verses,

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

To read and meditate on something all day means you must love or cherish that person or thing you are constantly prayerfully thinking about. Jesus showed great love for the word of God and this follows from the fact that he was the word become flesh (John 1: 14) and he used the word of God to fight the devil when tempted by him and he even quoted from it as he died on the cross.

Thanks particularly to scripture in song, popular in the 1970’s many bible verses run often through my head and one I often meditated on is the scripture in song based on Song of Songs 2: 4,

“He brought me into his banqueting hall and his banner over me is love”.

Of course I know now that this verse is a reference to the Old Testament Jewish wedding ceremony where the bride and groom meet in a great banquet under a banner but the verse still gives me the ides that as a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ he covers me and is over me in love and I find the message and the words of that great love in his word the bible.

So the word of God we will see in the next verse makes us wise and in that verse and the next two verses wiser than others who don not love and meditate on God’s word.

Paul tells Timothy the value and purpose of God’s word in 2 Timothy 3: 16 – 17, that says,

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

But what does the writer mean by the idea of meditating on the word of God all day long?

I don’t think it means that the words of the bible are always in our minds all day long but rather that the word of God is our inspiration for our daily lives and is something we use in our daily lives to direct us prayerfully as we live our lives.

I like the movement some years ago called, “What would Jesus do in this situation” which some Christians wore a wrist band that reminded them to practice the concept of acting in their daily lives in a way they believed Jesus through his word instructed them to do.

A good question to ask in our day to day lives is, “What would Jesus want me to do” when a problem or decision has to be made in our lives during a normal day. Years I attempted to put this into practice and one effect it had on me was to force me to make a more in depth study of the Gospels to know what Jesus in his word actually might want me to do.

Now I keep more general instructions of Jesus in mind in my daily life, like Matthew 6: 33,

“But seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you”.

Another great two verses of God’s word I often bring to my remembrance in my day to day life is Proverbs 3: 5 – 6,

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

2. (98 – 100) THE BENEFITS OF GOD’S WORD IS THAT IT MAKES US WISE

So the writer of Psalm 119 opened this thirteenth stanza with a declaration of his love for God’s word and now he makes it clear what a true love for God’s word that we meditate on in our daily lives leads to and it is simply expressed in verse 98 as, “wisdom”.

This wisdom is greater than the so called wisdom of three different groups of people in three verses and those three groups of people are:

  1. Our enemies who do not love God and his word (vs. 98)
  2. Our teachers who do not love God and his word (vs. 99
  3. Our elders who do not love God and his word (vs. 100)

Lets have a closer look at each of these three groups of people we are wiser than if we love God and his word:

  1. Our enemies who do not love God and his word (vs. 98)

The writer speaks of the first group of people he believes he is wiser than in verse 98, this way,

“Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies”.

The idea of God’s word being with him always in his day to day life continues in verse 98 and then because God and his word is always with him he makes the bold claim he is therefore wiser than his enemies”.

His enemies we have learnt in a number of previous verses in this Psalm do not love God and his word and in fact because they don’t and he does they seek to persecute our him as he says in verse 53,

“Indignation grips me because of the wicked, who have forsaken your law”.

Or verses 84 and 85,

“How long must your servant wait? When will you punish my persecutors? The arrogant dig pits to trap me. Country to your law”.

So these enemies of our writer are not believers in the word of God and are giving our writer a very hard time because he dares to trust in the word of God which they deny the truth and value of.

I have felt the pressure of this same thing myself but the encouraging word of this verse is that because we know God and his word we are wiser than those who deny God and his word.

Paul makes a clear distinction between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God when he writes in 1 Corinthians 3: 18 – 20,

“Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become ‘fools’ so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world us foolishness in God’s sight”.

The problem with people who do not acknowledge God and his word is that they generally close their minds off to anything to do with God and his word which our writer of Psalm 119 calls arrogance in a number of places. The book of Proverbs makes it clear in a number of places that we simply cannot ever be truly wise if we refuse to let God and his word rebuke and advise us as we read in Proverbs 19: 20,

“Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise”.

The book of proverbs even goes as far as saying that those who will not listen to the advice and discipline of God and his word will become stupid or un- wise as we read in Proverbs 12: 1,

“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid”.

So those of us who read and come to terms with what God is saying in our lives are wiser than those who refuse to acknowledge God and his word. This is also seen in the fact that those who refuse to acknowledge God and his word often become agitated and even aggressive towards those who continue to dare to believe in God and his word thus becoming their enemies.

Our teachers who do not love God and his word (vs. 99)

The second group of people the writer believes we are wiser than are our teachers as he writes in verse 99,

“I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statues”.

This verse is not saying that we are are wiser than those who teach us if those who teach us are themselves believers in God and his word but if our teachers don’t believe in God and his word like our writer who says he, meditates on Gd’s word, then we are wiser than our teachers.

In our universities today most so called wise and knowledgable teachers or lecturers refuse to acknowledge God and the value of his word and so they often come up with foolish or un- wise ideas that are country to the word of God. I did a five year part time university degree course in adult education in the early 1990’s and sometimes found it difficult to operate as a believer in this secular anti – God environment however I always kept Jesus words of advice in mind in those days when he said in Matthew 10: 16,

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”.

Peter gives us similar advice in 1 Peter 3: 13 – 16,

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

As I prepared university assignments and even experienced discussions in out of lectures with my teachers and fellow students I often prayed for wisdom as James encourages us to do in James 1: 5,

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

I can testify to the fact that what God promises through James is true as God often gave me wisdom throughout my five years of university part time study and I both passed all my courses and at the same time was able to witness to the truth and reality of God and his word.

2.  Our elders who do not love God and his word (vs. 100)

The third and final group the writer of Psalm 119 says he is wiser than is his elders as he writes in verse 100,

“I have more understanding than the elders, for I meditate on your statutes”.

This again is not saying that younger people are more knowledgable or wiser than older people as the bible teachers that Godly older people are wiser than younger people in the faith as Job 12: 12,

“Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?”

As Peter advises 1 Peter 5: 5,

“In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders.”

However if those older then us do not submit to the authority of God and his word then we are wiser than them simply because a person who does not believe in God or as the book of Proverbs puts it, fears God than that person is a fool as Proverbs 1: 7 says,

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction”.

So the writer of Psalm 119 has stated that God’s word brings understanding and wisdom if we mediate and obey it and this will make us wiser than anyone else who does not meditate on and obey the word of God.

3. (101 – 102) THE RESULT OF OBEYING GOD’S WORD IS WISE LIVING

The writer of Psalm 119 now tells us what is the results of meditating on and obeying the word of God and we read in verses 101 and 102 what they are:

“I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me”.

Way back at the start of this long and involved Psalm in verse 1 the results of walking in or obeying the word of God is,

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

So God blesses the lives of his faithful people and our writer says that God’s word or law as he calls it in verse 102 has led him to do two things:

  1. Keeping his feet from an evil pat
  2. Not departing from God’s word.

These two things according to verse 1 of this Psalm leads to God blessings in our lives. This is a reflection of the words of the very first Psalm when it says in verse’s 2 and 3,

“But whose delight is the law of the Lord, and who meditate on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither whatever they do prospers”.

Spurgeon writes,

“The Bible is a very sanctifying book. If we keep its precepts, it holds us back from many things into which we might otherwise have run”.

Some Christians have problems with the doctrine of the bible that says we have assurance of being saved once we truly turn to Christ as stated by Christ himself in John 10: 27 – 29,

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

Problems arise of course with this clearly stated doctrine of the bible when we see or hear of Christians falling away from the faith but the truth is made clear by Jesus in another verse like Matthew 24: 13 which says,

“But the one who stands firm to the end will be saved”.

So many of the falling away Christians are showing by the fruits of their lives they were not truly saved in the first place. Another problem is that if depart from God’s word or laws we will start to walk down a evil path according to the writer of Psalm 119 verse 101 but the grace of God does work and those who are truly saved God will bring back them back to himself often through great trials and difficulties in those believers lives (Hebrews 12: 7 – 12).

Jesus also taught in Matthew 7: 16,

“By their fruit you shall recognise them”.

For the writer of Psalm 119 the fruit or outcome of mediating or obeying God’s word is as I stated already,

  1. Keeping his feet from an evil pat
  2. Not departing from God’s word.

4. (103 – 104) THE VALUE OF GOD’S WORD IS INVALUABLE

The writer then returns to another favourite concept of the value of God’s word when he states in verse 103,

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth”.

Already the writer of Psalm 119 has said that God’s word to him is more precious than silver or gold verse 72 and will say that again in verse 12. He also considers God’s word a delight to him vs’ s 16, 24, 35 and 77 and now they are sweet to taste like honey.

David says these two things about God’s law or word in Psalm 19: 10,

“They are more precious than gold, the fine much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb”.

People in the ancient world treasured honey as a food source and it is said that pure honey has even been found in Egyptian Pharaoh’s tombs still able to be eaten up to three thousand years old such is the preservative qualities of honey.

So the precious nature of God’s word, like honey, makes it invaluable and considering how it is God’s word alone that makes a person truly wise we can see why the writer of Psalm 119 might advocate this.

Paul of course spoke of the invaluable nature of God’s word in 2 Timothy 3: 16 – 17,

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

In the final verse of this thirteenth stanza the writer brings to conclusion his thoughts on how God’s word gives us wisdom for life with these words,

“I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path”.

Hatred is not always a bad or sinful thing as to hate sin is to avoid it and to hate evil is to resits falling to its awful consequences. John says in Jude 23,

“Save others by snatching them from the fire, to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh:.

Albert Barnes commenting on hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh writes,

That thing referred to by which the garment had been spotted was polluting, contagious, or loathsome, and that it was proper not even to touch such a garment, or to come in contact with it in any way”.

God’s word then points out what is right and what is wrong and so it wises us up to how we should be living and what we should not be doing in our lives so therefore it will and should promote a healthy hatred of things we should not be doing if we want to walk in the way of the Lord or,

“Kept my feet from every evil path” verse 101 or,

“Not departed from your laws” verse 102.

I close with my verse that starts with a word that starts with the thirteenth letter of the English Alphabet, M which summarises what I have leant from this stanza,

May I meditate on your word
Daily Lord as I walk your way
Give me the wisdom your word does bring
Give me understanding each day.

STANZA 14: GOD’S WORD GIVES US LIGHT IN THE FACE OF THIS WORLDS DARKNESS

I have just started to write this fourteenth stanza on a caravan trip around Australia in a small wester Queensland town called Jericho. My study of this stanza has lead me to believe that the write of Psalm 119 sees God’s word as a lamp or light to his path in the face of terrible darkness represented by the terrible opposition and persecution he faced as he sought to walk in the light of the word of God which he speaks of in verses 107, 109 and 110.

Because I studied this fourteenth stanza in a place called Jericho I have been led by God’s Holy Spirit to reflect on the story of the conquest of Jericho and will use this bible story as a backdrop to my thoughts throughout this fourteenth stanza of Psalm 119.

One of the fascinating aspects of the story of the conquest of Jericho is the part that Rahab the prostitute played in this conquest and in this introduction I would like to point out that this lowly sinful woman somehow came to faith in the God of the bible as she says to the two Israeli spies in Joshua 2: 8b – 11,

“I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below”.

We might say that this lowly prostitute saw the light because obviously her fellow citizens of Jericho although afraid of what the God of the Israelites had done for them did not acknowledge the God of the bible as the one supreme God of heaven and earth as this chapter reveals they sought to kill the spies and fight the incoming Israelites.

Rahab goes on to show how much she had seen the light by her request for salvation for her and her family when the Israelites successfully invade Jericho in verses 12 – 13 of Joshua chapter 2.

So this lowly prostitute shows us what it means to walk in the path of God and his word by acting on her new found faith in God by believing before the invasion of Jericho that God would give his people total victory.

The writer of the book of Hebrews says in Hebrews 11: 31,

“By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient”.

I was inspired to write the words of a new song for this stanza inspired by its words and my observations of the dying little Queensland out back town of Jericho and the first verse and chorus of that song goes like this.

Jericho, O Jericho your creeks dried up and no waters flow
Jericho, O Jericho what has made you so.
Your shops are boarded up and your town is dying
You break my heart and I am crying
Jericho O Jericho what went wrong in Jericho.

Chorus:

Jericho O Jericho
Your like our world today
In darkness and no where to go
Thats the fate of a Jericho.

So we will see three great truths about walking in the light of the word of God in the face of this worlds great darkness in this fourteenth stanza which I have broken down into three parts

     1. (105 – 106) GOD’S WORD IS THE LIGHT FOR OUR PATH IN LIFE

     2. (107 – 110) MANKIND’S WICKEDNESS LEEDS TO ACTS OF DARKNESS

     3.(111 – 112) PEOPLE OF FAITH NEED TO BE COMMITTED TO GOD AND HIS WOR

1. (105 – 106) GOD’S WORD IS THE LIGHT FOR OUR PATH IN LIFE

The writer of Psalm 119 in verse 105 points to a great light for him in such as dark world he has to live in day by day, he speaks of this great light this way,

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

Many people have found this verse to be such a wonderful encouragement as it states the great purpose and benefit of God’s word for our lives. God’s word is a lamp and a light for our lives in this dark world. The apostle John had much to say about God and his light in his Gospel we call, The Gospel of John.

In the first chapter of that Gospel John speaks of Jesus as being the very word of God become flesh, John 1: 14,

‘The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us”.

He goes on to speak of its great light or glory when he says,

“We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.

In chapter three of Johns Gospel John spells out in verses 19 – 21, the value of Jesus, God’s light for those who believe in him but he contrasts this with the terrible reality of the darkness of mankind and how mankind actually loves darkness more than light,

“This is the verdict: light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds are evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God”.

Arthur Deane the principal of the SMBC bible college I attended many years ago told us that he understood this concept of men loving darkness more than light when he once was walking through the Australian bush and turned up a old rotting log and saw how all the bugs who lived under that log could not stand the light for they ran as fast as they could to find darkness and cover under the turned up log.

That is what happens to most people when the light of the Gospel comes upon them they fight, kick and run for the cover of darkness because they love darkness or evil more than good and light.

Rahab in the story of Jericho demonstrated this by her words to the spies about what the rest of the people in Jericho spoke about the light or truth of God working for the Israelites who were closing in on Jericho in Joshua 2: 8b – 11,

“I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below”.

Rahab responded to the light of God’s deeds and word with faith but the rest of Jericho’s reaction to the light of God’s word and deeds for his people is summed up in the words of Joshua 6: 1,

“Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in”.

Jericho was all walled up and shut off to God and his people as they unlike Rahab refused to come to faith in the God of Israel who they had heard was a mighty God to be feared. They probably chose to trust in their own false idol God’s which of course showed that they loved darkness more than light.

Our writer of Psalm 119 reveals his commitment to God and his word of light in verse 106,

“I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws”.

Rahab a fallen sinful woman obviously chose to take an oath to follow the God of the Israelites who is the one true God of the bible as we read of not only her confession of faith to the spies but also what we read of her in Joshua 6: 22 – 23,

“Joshua said to the men who had spied out the land, ‘Go into the prostitutes house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her. So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother, her brothers and sisters and all who belong to her. They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel”.

We later read that Rahab becomes a distant descendent of David and of course Jesus so she becomes a most blessed women of faith in her life time and in the future. Such is the power and wonder of the God and his great light in this dark world.

The next verse of my Jericho song goes like this:

Jericho, O Jericho where is your faith in God’s word to show
Jericho, O Jericho you need the faith that Rahab showed.
Rahab saw the light and then turned to the Lord
Trusting the light of his life changing word
Jericho O Jericho turn to God O Jericho.

Chorus:

Jericho O Jericho
Your like our world today
In darkness and no where to go
Thats the fate of a Jericho.

2. (107 – 110) MANKIND’S WICKEDNESS LEEDS TO ACTS OF DARKNESS

Once the writer of Psalm 119 states his commitment to the word of God he calls the light to his path he then speaks of how the darkness of his world caused by men and women of his country Israel turning against him because he dared believe in God and his word.

He speaks of this opposition as he has already spoken of in previous verses and contrast this opposition with his reaction to this which I have broken into four parts:

  1. vs. 107 The opposition to God and his word seeks to take his life
  2. vs. 108. His reaction to this opposition to praise and seek further teaching from God
  3. vs. 109 His opponents seek to take his life but he will not forsake God and his word
  4. vs. 110 His opponents seek to trap him but he will not stray from following God’s word

Lets then have a closer look at these four contrasting verses that reveal the darkness and wicked acts of those who oppose God and his word.

  1. vs. 107 The opposition to God and his word seeks to take his life

So these four middle verses of stanza fourteen of Psalm 119 reveal a very real and disturbing contrast between the person who comes to the light of God and his word and those who refuse to do so and this contrast is expressed in verse 107 this way,

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

Back in verse 88 he spoke of how those who opposed God and his word opposed him and sought to kill him because of his faith in God and his word,

“In your unfailing love preserve my life, that I may obey the statutes of your mouth”.

Why do some of the opponents of God and his word even today wont to kill or destroy people who have faith in God?

I think what I quoted from Johns Gospel in the previous section offers an answer to this question, John 3: 19 -20,

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

If they hate the light of God then they will hate and sometimes want to kill those who declare or seek to shed the light of God by the way they live and by what they say about God and his word. Jesus warned his disciples of his kind of opposition in John 15: 18,

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first”.

So both times the writer of Psalm 119 spoke of his enemies who live in darkness because they oppose God and his word seeking to take his life he asks God to preserve his life which is what he asks for in verse 107,

“Preserve my life, Lord according to your word”.

Jesus word to his disciples and of course to us in John 15 is that Jesus will not leave us alone but will send to us a helper or advocate or other translations call him counsellor who is the Holy Spirit to help and protect us, as we read in John 15: 26,

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

vs. 108. His reaction to this opposition to praise and seek further teaching from God

Even though the writer of Psalm 119 has just made it clear that his opponents who walk in darkness seek to take his life the big contrast in verse 108 is his reaction to this opposition is to be committed to praise of his God and seeking further teaching from God and his word as he writes,

“Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your word”.

This is an amazing reaction to dark and dangerous opposition instead of compliant and despair our writer reveals praise and commitment to God and his word and this reminds me of Paul’s command to give thanks in all circumstances in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 -17,

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

I have read of many Christians in countries today where Christians are in danger of loosing their lives owing to the faith and commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ praising God even as some of them are being executed by their dark and wicked opponents this kind of testimony has brought others to faith even sometimes the very people involved in their persecution.

Jesus said in Luke 6: 35 – 36,

“But love your enemies, do good to them. And lend to them without expecting to get back anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked, just as your Father is merciful”.

We must always remember that all of us were enemies of God before we came to him and his Son to receive forgiveness and mercy so that is the way Jesus treated us when we were his enemies so should we treat our enemies the same way.

2. vs. 109 His opponents seek to take his life but he will not forsake God and his word

Again in verse 109 the writer of Psalm 119 reveals the danger for him of trusting in God and his word in his day which for him led to possible death at the hands of his enemies he writes in verse 109a,

“Though I constantly take my life in my hands”

In our writers day it was a dangerous thing to trust in God and his word and even though that is not the case in the country I live in Australia at the moment it is not the case in many other countries particularly those were Islam holds the sway. Even in Buddhist dominant counties like Myanmar which I have visited many times to minster being as faith believer in the Lord Jesus Christ has cost some Christians their lives.

However what is the contrasting reaction of this deadly threat, he writes in verse 109b,

“I will not forget your law”

Opposition will not deter our writer and it seems the opposition to God and his word only makes our writer more determined to be committed to it. Many of my friends in Myanmar feel the same way that the opposition they face has only made their faith stronger.

Paul faced prison, persecution and death all through his ministry for God and his word and in what seems to be words written down for his young prodigy Timothy as he faced his death we have Paul’s resolve to be faith to God and his word in 2 Timothy 4: 6 – 8,

“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on that day – and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing”.

3. vs. 110 His opponents seek to trap him but he will not stray from following God’s word

Finally this contrast of those who walk in the light to those who walk in darkness comes to a head with what the writer of Psalm 119 says in verse 110,

“The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts”.

Leopold writes,

“The wicked have set a snare for me – Whether this is to be understood literally or to be regarded as merely expressing the thought that plans are afoot to bring him to fall, the danger is extreme”.

The darkness of wickedness and refusing the light of the word of God leads to great opposition to those who are in the light of God and his word, that has been the main thought of these last four verses but in the face of this very real danger our writer is totally committed to God and his word and in verse 110 he expresses this commitment with these words,

“But Have not strayed from your precepts”.

Our writer like the commander of the Israelites Joshua was totally committed to God and his word as he faced the walled up hostile city of Jericho and God’s seemingly ridiculous battle plan for taking the city of Jericho was followed to the letter by Joshua and his people.

For they were to march around the city of Jericho following the ark of the Covenant that represented God and his word with his people once for six days blowing their trumpets and then on the seventh day they had to march around seven times and then blow their trumpets and the walls of Jericho would fall down.

The significants of this battle plan is mentioned in the third verse and chorus of my new song called Jericho.

Jericho, O Jericho your darkness led to your town to fall
Jericho, O Jericho Joshua followed God’s great call
God told him to march around those walls for seven days
This was to prove that they followed God’s ways
Jericho O Jericho you fell to God O Jericho.

Chorus:

Jericho O Jericho
Your like our world today
In darkness and no where to go
Thats the fate O Jericho.

3. (111 – 112) PEOPLE OF FAITH NEED TO BE COMMITTED TO GOD AND HIS WORD

Now that the writer has contrasted those who walk in the light of God and his word to those who walk in darkness he completes this fourteenth stanza with a clear statement of commitment to God and his word which I believe should be the kind of word of commitment any true believer of God and his word should also profess.

I see this statement of commitment in two parts:

  1. vs. 111 Our inheritance is God and his word
  2. vs. 112 Our hearts should be set on being faithful to God and his word

Lets then have a closer look at this two fold statement of commitment to God and his word.

  1.  vs. 111 Our inheritance is God and his word

I have become disturbingly aware of problems that inheritance can course families over the course of my life as I have seen families torn apart as they all go for the kill of getting the most they can out of their dead parents estates. This grab for money and possessions reveals the dark wickedness of the human heart without God and his word.

For the Christian our inheritance is in heaven not in on this earth and this kind of commitment to spiritual things is what the writer of Psalm 119 verse 111 is hitting at as it says,

“Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart”.

In many places in the bible we read of the eternal nature of the word of the Lord, like Jesus words in Matthew 24: 35,

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

Or Peters quote of Isaiah 40: 6 – 8 in 1 Peter 1: 24 -25 where mans mortality is compared to God and his word’s immortality,

“All people are like grass, and all their glory like the flowers of the fields, the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever”.

If we seek a material inheritance we are saying that our heritage is material things like property and money but if we seek an eternal hesitance then we show by our actions that our hope or as Jesus put in Luke 12: 21 our treasure is in heaven which is founded in the eternal God of the bible.

Paul makes this point of working for or looking forward to our eternal inheritance in Christ Jesus in this life in Colossians 3: 23 – 24,

“Whatever you do, work at it with your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving”.

So the writer of Psalm 119 did not see his heritage or inheritance as land in Israel or money or possessions but his heritage or inheritance was the eternal word of the Lord he calls God’s statutes.

2.  vs. 112 Our hearts should be set on being faithful to God and his word

The second part of our writer of Psalm 119 word of commitment to God and his word is the a statement of the desire or goal in life to always keep the word of the Lord in his life, which he states this way in verse 112, the last verse of stanza 14,

“My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end”.

The writer of Psalm 119 has told us already that he faced great opposition for trusting in God and his word yet here in the last verse of this stanza his desire is to devote his heart to always keeping the very word of the Lord.

I have been referring to the story of Jericho in this stanza as it relates to what the writer of Psalm 119 has been teaching us and here I want to turn your attention to the commander of the Israelite army who God used to bring judgment upon that ancient city of Jericho.

We leant that Jericho was all walled up or closed up in defiance to God and his chosen people, only a prostitute named Rehab and members of her family acted on the very real word of the Lord in what they knew he did for the people of Israel when escaping Egypt and in victories over many enemies in the forty years of their wilderness wanderings.

Joshua was a man of great faith and commitment to God and his word and I want to refer to two references in the book of Joshua that show the commitment of this man Joshua to God and his word.

The first is in Joshua 5: 13 – 14, when Joshua was near Jericho he had a encounter with God through a person called “The commander of the army of the Lord”, some bible scholars say this could have been a pre- incarnation of the Lord Jesus himself,,

“Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, ‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’
‘Neither’, he replied. ‘but as commander of the army of the Lord, I have now come”

Note then what Joshua does on hearing this,

“Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, ‘What message does the Lord have for his servant’”.

Joshua’s heart is clearly here committed to following only God and his word and then I would like to take you to the final chapter of the book of Joshua and reveal to you the word of commitment Joshua had for God and his word even at the end of his life, which reveals that he believed that God and his word was his heritage or inheritance,

Joshua 24: 14 – 15,

“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshipped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But id serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household we will serve the Lord”.

Joshua knew the temptations of serving other God’s would always be a factor in the future history of his people but he made it clear that for him and his family they were committed to serving the Lord.

Jesus makes it clear what our commitment to the Lord should be in Matthew 6: 33,

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

I close with the fourth and last verse of my new song Jericho and my four line poem I finish each of these 22 stanzas of Psalm 119,

Jericho, O Jericho Joshua trusted God as the way to go
Jericho, O Jericho you failed to turn O Jericho
Darkness is the fate for those who turn from the Lord
Light is given through God eternal word
Jericho O Jericho you’ve been judged O Jericho.

Chorus:

Jericho O Jericho
Your like our world today
In darkness and no where to go
Thats the fate of Jericho.

Now your word is a light for me
Showing me the way in this life
Helping me through this dark dangerous world
I trust in Lord even in my strife.

STANZA 15: GOD’S WORD IS TO BE TRUSTED AND OBEYED TO BE SAVED

This year my wife and I celebrate 40 years of happy and successful marriage and when we were married 40 years ago we chose hymns for our wedding ceremony that we hoped would speak to the unbelieving families we both came from. One hymn we chose was the famous and wonderful hymn called Trust and Obey written by John Sammis in the late 19 hundreds after a young man gave his testimony at a D.L Moody evangelistic meeting in Brockton Massachusetts and said, “I’m going to trust, and I’m going to obey”. These words were passed on by Moody’s song leader Daniel Towner to Sammis in a letter to him about this young mans powerful but honest testimony and Sammis used them as the theme of a chorus he soon developed into a hymn.

The first verse and chorus of that hymn goes like this:

When we walk with the Lord
In the light of his word
What a glory he sheds on our way!
While we do his good will
He abides with us still
And with all who will trust and obey.

Chorus:

Trust and obey for there is no other way
To be happy in Jesus
Bit to trust and obey.

The fifteenth stanza of Psalm 119 features this very important teaching about trusting and obeying God and I think verses 115 and 116 speak of this in this way,

“Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God! Sustain me, my God according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed”.

So with the central theme of trusting and obeying God’s word to be saved in mind I have broken this fifteenth stanza into three parts:

    1. (113 – 114) WHEN WE TRUST AND OBEY GOD’S WORD WE HAVE GOD AS A REFUGE
         AND HOPE

     2. (115 – 117) WHEN WE TRUST AND OBEY GOD’S WORD WE WILL BE SAVED

     3. (118 – 120) WHEN YOU DON’T TRUST AND OBEY GOD’S WORD YOU WILL SUFFER GOD’S JUDGMENT

Let’s then have a close look at these three parts of this fifteenth stanza of Psalm 119:

1. (113 – 114) WHEN WE TRUST AND OBEY GOD’S WORD WE HAVE GOD AS A REFUGE
AND HOPE

As the whole of Psalm 119 has done there is a constant contrast with the many who oppose God and his word and the writer who seeks to love and obey God and his word and the first verse of this fifteenth stanza does just that with these words,

“I hate double minded people, but I love your law”.

Allan Harman says that the term “double minded people” speaks of people who are,

“Unstable in all their ways”

Harman points to the words of James in James 1: 7 and 8 where James uses the same expression of being double minded when speaking of people who ask God for things without exercising faith and in fact actually doubt that God will answer their requests, James writes,

“That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double – minded in all they do”.

The people then who opposed our writer of Psalm 119 did not trust and obey God and his word but our writer is saying he does even as they oppose him for doing so.

Then the writer of Psalm 119 makes a clear statement of what it means to trust and obey God and his word and what such trust and obedience leads to in verse 14,

“You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word”.

Our writer picks up a favourite expression of the writers of the Psalms particularly David in the concept of God being their refuge and shield. David puts it this way in Psalm 18: 2,

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation my stronghold”.

The idea that God is our protector or the one who saves those who trust and obey his word is put this way by David in Psalm 32: 7,

“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance”.

Note how the writer of Psalm 119 believes God is his refuge or protector and it is because he has put his hope on God’s word. This means that for this man God’s word promises that God will save or sustain him as he states in verse 116,

“Sustain me, my God. According to your promise, and I will live”.

It is not that David or our writer of Psalm 119 or any other writer of the bible believed that they made any contribution to their salvation but that God, out of his love promises through his word that those who turn to him in faith shown by obedience will be saved by him and him alone. Paul makes this clear in Ephesians 2: 8 – 9,

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

Like the young man at the D. L Moody evangelistic meeting the writer of Psalm 119 says in the second half of verse 114,

“I have put my hope in your word”.

This is another way of saying that he trusted in and sought to obey God and his word and this word promises those who do so have God as their refuge and hope as John Simms puts it in the second verse and chorus of his Trust and Obey Hymn,

“Not a shadow can rise,
Not a cloud in the skies,
But his smile quickly drives it away,
Not a doubt or a fear,
Not a sigh or a tear
Can abide while we trust and obey,

Chorus:

Trust and obey for there is no other way
To be happy in Jesus
Bit to trust and obey.

2. (115 – 117) WHEN WE TRUST AND OBEY GOD’S WORD WE WILL BE SAVED

The writer of Psalm 119 then:

  1. Speaks directly to his enemies who do not trust and obey God and his word (vs. 115)
  2. Speaks directly to God for God to help him trust and obey God and his word (vs’s 116 -117)

Lets look at these three verses a little closer:

  1. Speaks directly to his enemies who do not trust and obey God and his word (vs. 115)

The writer speaks directly to his enemies in direct and strong way with the words in verse 15a

“Away from me, you evildoers”.

It seems that the people who oppose him oppose God and his word because the reason the writer wants these evildoers to leave him alone is so that he can trust and obey God and his word because he writes in the second half of verse 115,

“That I may keep the commandments of my God”.

The writer of Psalm 119 has spoken many times about how his enemies have sought to kill or destroy him because of his commitment and obedience to God and his word as he declares back in verse 95,

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

Even today opposition to those who trust and obey God and his word is alive and kicking and we need to be prepared for such opposition by as Paul puts it in Ephesians 6: 10 – 11,

“Finally be strong in the Lord and his mighty power. Put on the amor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”.

Paul then spells out what that armour is and he includes such things as the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God and the breastplate of righteousness which is all brilliant images of simply trusting and obeying God and his word when we are under attack by the devil and his many followers.

Speaks directly to God for God to help him trust and obey God and his word (vs’s 116 -117)

The writer of Psalm 119 then turns from addressing his enemies to addressing God which is simply a prayer to God for God to help him trust and obey his word in verse 116 and 117,

He writes,

“Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed. Uphold me, and I will be delivered; I will always have regard for your decrees”.

Some say that assurance of faith in God leads to disobedience as if we are once saved and always saved we could take a salvation for granted but the bibles says that a truly saved person is a person of faith and obedience and that not trusting and obeying God reveals we actually have not truly understood and grasped the grace of God he gives to those who trust and obey his son, The Lord Jesus Christ for their eternal salvation as Paul writes in Romans 6: 1 – 4,

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism unto death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life”.

Paul makes his point even more clearer in the next three verses that a true believer has died to sin and freed to serve God in what have been calling trusting and obeying God, Paul puts it this way,

“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been set free from sin”.

So like the writer of Psalm 119 in verses 116 and 117 we should show our trust and obedience to God in our prayer and desire for God and God alone to sustain us, help us to live. Not let our hopes to be dashed and be delivered which is Old Testament language for being saved.

Even here in the Old Testament the act of salvation is in God alone, he sustains us, he causes us to live, he upholds us and he delivers us but we like the writer of Psalm 119 must,

“Always have regard for God’s decrees”.

That also is Old Testament language for trusting and obeying God and his word. I like the third verse of John Sammis hymn “Trust and Obey”

“But we never can prove
The delights of his love
Unto all on the altar we lay.
For the favour He shows,
For the joy he bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.

Chorus:

Trust and obey for there is no other way
To be happy in Jesus
Bit to trust and obey.

3. (118 – 120) WHEN YOU DON’T TRUST AND OBEY GOD’S WORD YOU WILL SUFFER GOD’S JUDGMENT

The Gospel message is both Good news and Bad News in that it is good news to those who accept it and are saved but it is bad news to those who reject it and simply want to stay in rebellion to God. As John puts it in John 3: 18,

“Whoever believes in him is not Condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son”.

The writer of Psalm 119 puts it this way in verse 118,

“You reject all who stray from your decrees, for their delusions come to nothing”.

The writer of Psalm 119 is a Jew or a member of God’s special people called the Israelites who were the people who he is speaking about here in verse 118 and are the same people God’s word came through by the law being given to Moses to them as a gift of grace and some have turned away from following it.

The writers enemies have stopped trusting and obeying God and his word and what they have replaced that with is called by our writer as,

“Their delusions”

Paul told Timothy that what people will turn to when they stop trusting and obeying God’s word is according to 2 Timothy 4: 4,

“Myths”

Interestingly Christians today are accused of believing in Myths but the truth is anything other than the word of God is a delusion or myth. Some forms of Christianity have turned the truths of the Gospel into myths but the word of God is not a myth as it is grounded in history in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So verse 118 of Psalm 119 says that God rejects those who stray from his life giving word and verse 119 goes on to say they are therefore under the judgment of God,

“All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross”

A echo of the words in Psalm 1: 4,

“Not so the wicked! They are like chaff / that the wind blows away”.

These are words of God’s judgment coming on those who refuse to trust and believe in God and his word as verse 5 of Psalm 1 states clearly,

“Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement; nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous”.

The opposite is true of those who trust and obey God and his word as verse 6, the final verse of Psalm 1 says,

“For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous”.

The righteous in this Psalm are is summed up in verse 2 and 3 of Psalm 1 when it says,

“But whose delight is in the law of the Lord and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers”.

The writer of Psalm 119 closes his fifteenth stanza with words of his commitment of trusting and obeying God and his word in verses 119b and 120, he writes,

“Therefore I love your statutes. My flesh trembles in fear of you. I stand in awe of your laws”.

I close this Psalm talk on the fifteenth stanza of Psalm 119 with both the final verse of Trust and Obey and its chorus and my own four line summary verse for this stanza.

“Then in fellowship sweet
We will sit at His feet.
Or we’ll walk by his side in the way;
What He says we will do,
Where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

Chorus:

Trust and obey for there is no other way
To be happy in Jesus
Bit to trust and obey.

Open Lord my heart to your word
Help me now to trust and obey
You are my refuge against my foes
Lord give me hope and faith today.

Introduction to the Psalms

(All bible quotes from The Holy Bible, New International Version)

 INTROUCTION TO THE PSALMS

SONGS AND POEMS OF THE KINGDOM

 Why study the book of Psalms?

My answer is simply why not study the Book of Psalms when you consider:

  • The book of Psalms is quoted in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament book (Psalms quoted 54 times, Isaiah 48).
  • The book of Psalms teaches us more about the nature of God than any other Old Testament book.
  • The book of Psalms has had the biggest impact of any Old Testament book on church writers and thinkers throughout the ages. From Paul, Chysostom, Augustine to Luther, Psalms have been their preferred book.
  • The Psalms has had the biggest influence on Jewish and Christian worship than any other book in the bible.

This impact of the Psalms does not mention how countless Christians throughout the ages have found comfort and inspiration from their reading of the Psalms. Making Psalms the book both Jews and Christians have committed to memory the most.

This amazing book of the bible is in fact 5 books or five collections of poems and songs, which were written and made into its final form over 1,000 years.

In this introduction I will answer the following five questions:

1. What are the main theme’s of the five books of Psalms?

2. Who wrote the Psalms?

3. How and when were the five books of Psalms composed?

4. What are the types of Psalms?

5. How do we interpret the Psalms?

  1. 1.    WHAT ARE THE MAIN THEME’S OF THE FIVE BOOKS OF PSALMS   (SONGS OF THE KINGDOM)

Book 1. Psalms 1 to 41 : THE STRUGGLES OF THE ANOINTED KING AND HIS FOLLOWERS (PART 1)

The central and binding theme of both book 1 and 2 is the struggle between God’s true King and his followers and the false King and his followers. I call this struggle “The highs and lows of the King and his followers” because most of the Psalms start with the writer feeling very down and out and by the end of the Psalm the author is high and rejoicing God for his help in the midst of his conflict.

Most of these are Psalms written by David after some kind of critical event took place in his life. A lot of these events can be determined and offer a wonderful backdrop to the original poem or song.

Considering the original setting of the Psalm has helped me understand the Psalm so much more.

Even when the original setting of the Psalm is unknown a good working knowledge of David’s complex and difficult life sheds much light on what David is often getting at.

Book 2.  Psalms 42 – 72 :   THE STRUGGLES OF THE ANOINTED KING AND HIS FOLLOWERS PART 2

The struggle of book 1 continues and intensifies in the second collection or book of Psalms. A big change in this book is that the covenant name for God “Yahweh” in book 1 changes to “Elohim” in book two. “Yahweh features 272 times to Elohim 15 times in book 1 while “Yehweh is only used 15 times and Elohim 207 times in book 2.

“Elohim” is the more general name or term for God, which we first come across in Genesis 1: 1

(All bible quotes from The Holy Bible, New International Version)

“In the beginning God (Elohim) created the heaven and the earth”

 So if Elohim is the general name or term for God Yehweh is his special covenant name that was given to Moses who was told it means “I am who I am” and became such a Holy and special name for the Jews that they did not write down the vowels and we only have the Hebrew consonants YHWH which has the Greek technical name “The Tetragrammaton” which means “The four letters”

 Michal Hunt wrote this about YHWH in 2003,

“Throughout history, God’s Old Covenant people treated God’s name with great reverence, declaring it too holy to be spoken aloud.

 Speaking God’s divine name was restricted to the priests worshipping in God’s Temple in Jerusalem, and so with the destruction of the Temple His holy covenant name was no longer spoken and correct pronunciation of the name was lost.”

 The dramatic move away from Yehweh to Elohim in the second book could be partially explained by the problem of speaking the covenant name of God out loud as the heavy emphasis on the covenant God (Yahweh) in the first book is moving towards a more personal private and public pleading with God (Elohim) as the struggle to uphold the true King of God intensifies.

 Book 3.  Psalms 73 – 89 :   WORSHIP OF THE KING OF HEAVEN

 This book starts with Psalms written for worship in the Temple (written by Asaph and Sons of Korah, chief musicians and choir leaders in the time of David) and ends with Psalm 89 which deals with the exile of Judah to Babylon and its return and ultimate restoration. This book moves away from the Psalms of David who only wrote Psalm 86 in this section.

Book 4.  Psalms 90 – 106 :  THE REIGN OF GOD’S PROMISED KING TO COME

 Book 4 features the concept that Yahweh is the true King of Israel and the concept of the Messiah King being glorified and reigning in heaven.

These Psalms apart from Psalm 90 (written by Moses, the oldest Psalm in the collection) and Psalms 101 and 103 written by David were probably composed at the time of Ezra. When Israel had returned from exile.

Book 5.  Psalms 107 – 150 :  PRAISE TO THE KING OF HEAVEN WHO OFFERS MERCIFUL LOVE TO HIS FOLLOWERS

 The final book of Psalms features a summary of all of Yahweh’s dealings with his people and end with a number of praise psalms for his mercy and love. This seems to be a fitting way for the editors of the Psalms to bring the collection of Psalms to its high point and conclusion.

2. WHO WROTE THE PSALMS

 As I have already stated the Psalms where written and came together as 5 books over 1,000 years. From the time of King David to, some scalars believe, the first century (the time of Christ or just after this).

We have some idea of the authors of the Psalms from the headings the original collectors of the Psalms put on them.

These are not considered by us to be part of the inspired text of the Psalms but merely as guides to understanding a Psalm when a heading seems to shed light on the teaching in the Psalm. Many of the instructions in the headings are still a mystery to the modern reader as they refer to ancient tunes etc. However from these headings we have the following list of authors of the Psalms :

  • David wrote 73 Psalms and the New Testament attributes 2 others (2 and 95) which are said to have been written by David.

(see : 2 Sam. 23 : 1)

  • Asaph wrote 12 Psalms. Asaph is David’s worship choir conductor.

(see : 1 Chron. 16 : 7 and 2 Chron. 29 :30)

  • The sons of Korah wrote 9 Psalms (Levite or priestly musicians at the time of David and probably Solomon). (see : 1 Chron. 6 : 31 – 38)
  • Solomon wrote 2 Psalms, 72 and 127 (but also had a big hand in writing The Book of Proverbs, Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes

( see : 1 Kings 4 : 32).

  • Moses wrote 1 Psalm, Psalm 90
  • Ethan the Ezrahite, 1 Psalm, Psalm 89
  • Heman wrote 1 Psalm, Psalm 88, Both men are mentioned as contemporary’s of King Solomon (see 1 Kings 4 : 31)

So we know then the authors of about 99 Psalms leaving 51 as unknown authors.

I believe most of the Psalms were edited as time went by and this accounts for many of the 9 acrostics Psalms (alphabetically ordered verses and each first word commencing with each Hebrew letter of the alphabet in turn, from 1 through to 22) loosing some of the Hebrew alphabet words through changes. This does not diminish the biblical authority of these Psalms as all the writings in the Old and New Testament had some form of minor editing unto the two cannons of scripture were finalized. Poems I wrote 40 years ago still get the occasional touch up as I edit them from time to time and most writers do this as well.

3. HOW AND WHEN WERE THE FIVE BOOKS OF PSALMS COMPOSED OR COMPILED

 This is something biblical scholars are still discovering and debating. I would like to give you a summary of what I found on this interesting subject.

Books 1,2 and 3 seem to have been known and together in their present form for some time during the history of Israel.

This was proven when the famous “dead sea scrolls” were found and the material relating to the Psalms shows clearly books 1,2 and 3 collected and together, as we know them. These ancient manuscripts perfectly preserved date back some 200 years before Christ. They however only have fragments of books 4 and 5 suggesting these 2 books were still being formulated as a final collection.

In a recent publication called, “Interpreting the Psalms”, Gerald H. Wilson writes, “Investigation of the contents of these texts (Dead Sea Scrolls) and their arrangements reveal no significant variations in the first three books.

In contrast, the last two books demonstrate widespread differences in content and arrangement in manuscripts as late as the middle of the first century” (page 231)

So we will now look at how :

1.    How Books 1, 2 and 3 might have come together

 2.    How Books 4 and 5 might have come together

 

1.    How Books 1, 2 and 3 might have come together

 BOOK 1.

 It is clear that most of the Psalms of David are found in books 1 and 2. There are 37 or 38 if you include Psalm 2 in book 1 out of a collection of 41.

The final Psalm 41, which acts as a concluding Psalm to the collection is attributed to David suggesting David had a hand in the compilation of the collection. Psalm 2 is an introduction to the first book of Psalms while Psalm 1 seems to be an introduction to the entire five books of Psalms.

BOOK 2.

 Many Bible Scalars note that Psalms 42 – 72 and some say 42 – 89 (covering books 2 and 3) seem to be a separate collection they call “The Elohistic Psalter” because of the heavy emphasis on the Elohim name for God over Yahweh. The breakdown of Elohim to Yaweh in book three is Elohim 63 to Yahweh 44.

It seems that this Elohistic Psalter features the Psalms of “The Sons of Korah”, Psalms 42 – 49, Asaph Psalm 50, another collection of David Psalms 51 – 65, 68 – 70, two Psalms simply said to be “for the director of music” Psalms 66 and 67, one unknown authored Psalm, 71 and the final Psalm by Solomon, Psalm 72.

It has been speculated that part of the Elohistic Psalter (Psalms 42 – 71) existed around the same time as Book 1 of Psalms and Solomon decided to pull it together as the second book of Psalms, which explains his writing of the final Psalm and his final words of that Psalm: 72: 20,

“This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse”

 Which he believed to be true at the time of the second books compilation this was all of the Psalms of David that was known. Of course there are 17 more Psalms of David spread out in book 3, 4 and 5.

Book three also contain another set of Sons of Korah Psalms, Psalms 84 – 85, 87 – 88, and Asaph Psalms 50 and 73- 83, David Psalm 86 and Psalm 89 written by Etham the Ezrahite.

Interestingly The Sons of Korah and Asaph were Levites and worked as part of the priestly team in the Tabernacle in David’s time and the Temple in Solomon time and would have been aware of the restrictions on pronouncing the covenant name of God Yaweh outside of the Temple. We will learn more about each of these men’s roles in the Temple when we look at their Psalms. Maybe they sought to help the people say and or sing their prayers and songs outside of the Temple by using the more general name for God Elohim.

One final fact is the repeat of Psalm 14 in the first book of Psalms in Psalm 53, which differs by the change of the name of God from Yaweh in Psalm 14 and Elohim in Psalm 53. There is a slight changing of words in verse 5 of Psalm 53.

Why is Psalm 14 in the first book repeated in Psalm 53 in the second book?

One explanation for this is that Psalm 53 was originally part of a separate book of Psalms we call the Elohistic Psalter.

This means Psalm 53 is an Elohim Psalm and was able to be recited or sung outside of the Temple. Maybe as time went along Psalm 14 was the version recited or sung in the Temple and Psalm 53 was the one recited or sung outside of the Temple.

BOOK 3.

 That leaves book 3, which seems to be mainly a collection of songs for temple worship leading up to a very interesting concluding Psalm (Psalm 89) which seems to conclude with reference to the fall of Judah and the ending of the line of David/ Solomon Kings.

It was David who set up Temple, or as it was in his day Tabernacle worship as we read in 1 Chron. 25 : 1 – 7.

Here we read of Asaph and Heman who are principal priestly or Levite musicians and singers whose psalms feature in book 3.

This event is also alluded to in the time of Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles 29 : 25 and 26. This brings us up close to the Babylonian take over of Judah and the end of the Physical line of David / Solomon Kings.

This suggests that from the time of David to the time of Hezekiah book 3 was around and developing.

Finally there is an interesting reference to this same kind of Temple worship in the book of Ezra.

We read in Ezra 3 : 10,

“When the builders laid the foundation Temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbols, took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David King of Israel”.

Maybe book 3 had another bit of editing in the time of Ezra. We do not know for sure and can only speculate.

The known fact is all three books are set as they are now by at least one to two hundred years after the time of Ezra, owing to the evidence given to us by The Dead Sea Scrolls.

2.     How Books 4 and 5 might have come together

 Much speculation exists surrounding the bringing together or editing of the final two books of Psalms.

The things we know for certain are :

  • It happened after the return from exile in Babylon.
  • It was complete by the first century.
  • Book 4 is an attempt to gather up any previous known works of people like Moses and David. Also many of these Psalms are songs for corporate worship as indeed most of book 5 is.

Some biblical scalars have speculated that these final collections of Psalms started to come together in the time of Ezra as there was a renewed need for temple worship.

The final thing I would like to comment on here is the fact that there are five books of Psalms the same number as the books of the Law known as the Pentateuch.

Some bible scalars have even suggested the five books of Moses mirror the theme’s and teachings in the five books of Psalms. I find this idea interesting but cannot see this from my study of the Psalms particularly book one which suppose to mirror the central teaching of the book of Genesis.

However I don’t think it is a coincidence that there are five books of the Law and five books of Psalms. Maybe the final editors of book 4 and 5 made sure the final collection was five books long so that Jewish people could see the inspirational value of the Psalms as they would have already accepted for the first five books of Moses known as the book of the law or the Pentateuch.

 4. TYPES (OR CATEGORY)  OF PSALMS

 I have come up with twelve types / category of Psalms :

1.    Wisdom Psalms

 2.    Royal Psalms

 3.    Lament Psalms

 4.    Messianic Psalms

 5.    Acrostic Psalms

 6.    Praise Psalms

 7.    Songs of Zion Psalms

 8.    Historical Worship Psalms

 9.    Pilgrim Worship Psalms

 10.  Entrance Worship Psalms

 11.  Judgment Worship Psalms

 12.  Trust Psalms

 NOTE : I have given all Psalms a classification and for most Psalms this is straightforward however some Psalms appear in more than one classification. This could be for a number of reasons. Some Psalms are in one classification and are also in the Messianic Psalm section like Psalm 8. Others appear in more than one type because they are also acrostic like Psalm 119. Finally some Psalms are a mixture of two classifications like Psalm 19, which starts off as a Praise Psalm, but its second half is a wisdom Psalm.

* Only Psalm 112 appears in three classifications this is because it is acrostic,

wisdom and praise Psalm in one Psalm.

 1.    Wisdom Psalms

 Wisdom Psalms get their name from the “Wisdom” biblical literature like The Book of Proverbs. They set out the way of God as apposed to the way of the wicked. They are about choice, a choice between God’s way and what it leads to and the choice of the wicked way and what it leads to. Psalm 1 is the classic example of a wisdom Psalm.

Other Wisdom Psalms are : 1, 10, 12, 15, 19, 32, 37, 49, 53, 73, 78, 82, 91, 92, 94, 112, 119, 127, 128, 139.

 2.    Royal Psalms

 Royal Psalms deal with the spiritual role of Kings in the worship of God. The king is a key concept in many Psalms and Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the many promises God gives David and his descendants. The best example I know of this type of Psalm is Psalm 2.

Other Royal Psalms are 2, 6, 7,18, 20, 21, 45, 72,99, 101, 110,132 and 144.

3.    Lament Psalms

 Lament Psalms are prayers uttered by the author to God usually with a complaint against some kind of problem particularly an injustice the author has experienced. These psalms often start from a very low point but usually rise by the end of the Psalm with the promises of God ringing in the minds of the reader.

There are two types of Lament Psalms :

1.    Personal

 2.    Corporate

 1.    Personal Laments :

Are as they are called, personal requests to God for help in a very real difficult situation. Psalm 3 is a classic example of this type of Lament. In Psalm 3 we know David cried out to God for help and justice after he had to flee from his rebellious son who sought to kill him and his household so that he could become king.

Other personal Laments Psalms are : 3,4, 5, 11,13, 14, 17, 25, 26, 27, 28, 31, 36, 38, 39, 41, 42, 43, 51,52, 54, 55, 56, 57, 59, 61, 62, 63,  64, 69, 70, 71, 77, 86, 88,89, 116, 120, 129, 139, 140,  141, 142, 143.

2.    Corporate Laments :

 These laments are not personal prayers but prayers prayed for the people of God as they face a very real difficult situation. Psalm 12 is a great example of this type of prayer to God for the people by David as they faced a vicious propaganda war of words from the enemies of God’s people who sought to destroy them with their lies and false accusations.

Other corporate Laments are : 44, 60, 74, 79, 80, 83, 85, 90, 94,124, 126, 129, 137.

4.  Messianic Psalms

 These are the Psalms that refer to the life and work of the Lord Jesus. He is the only one who for fills the things referred to in these Psalms.

Psalm 2 is both a Royal Psalm and a Messianic Psalm and we know this for sure as the NT quotes part of this Psalm as referring to the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Psalm 22 describes 700 years before Christ what Christ suffered on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. It starts with the very words Christ cried out on the cross, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me”.

Other Psalms claimed as Messianic by the New Testament are : 8, 16,22,34, 35, 40, 41, 45, 68, 69, 89, 102, 109, 110 and 118.

5.   Acrostic Psalms

 As I said before acrostic Psalms are Psalms with alphabetically ordered verses and each first word commencing with each Hebrew letter of the alphabet in turn, from 1 through to 22.

There are 9 of these in the Psalms and best example I know is Psalm 9 which seems to commence the 22 letters of the alphabet but is continued and completed in Psalm 10 suggesting that one day these two Psalms might have been one Psalm.

Other Acrostic Psalms are 25, 34, 37,111, 112, 119 and 145.

 6.   Praise Psalms and Thanksgiving

The last type of Psalm are the numinous praise Psalms sometimes called Praise and Thanksgiving Psalms. The title used in the Hebrew Bible for the entire book of Psalms is “Tehillim”, meaning, “Praise Songs.” Therefore praise and thanksgiving Psalms do feature throughout the entire collection.

These Psalms focus on who God is and when referring to what God has done they direct the reader to some aspect of God’s character particularly his love and mercy for his people Israel.

In New Testament terms, God’s people are the true church of God the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

These Psalms where used in the worship services of the ancient Israelites. Psalm 19 is an excellent example of this type of Psalm as it points us to God’s glory in creation and his word as we praise him for who he is and what he has done for us.

Other Psalms of Praise and Thanksgiving are : 8, 19, 29, 30, 33, 47, 65, 66, 67, 75,87, 92, 93, 95, 96, 97, 98,100, 103, 104, 107, 108, 111 , 113, 114, 115, 117, 138 and Psalms 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150.

7.   Songs of Zion Psalms

Zion and particularly “Mount Zion” is the Jebusite name for the fortress that stood on the highest point of Jerusalem, (see 2 Sam. 5 : 7) . After David captured Jerusalem defeating the Jebusites, Zion became one of the names for Jerusalem with particular spiritual meaning once the Temple was built upon it. As Jerusalem became the unifying capital of Israel Zion became a word that represented, Israel the people of God. In the New Testament it became the name that referred to God’s Spiritual kingdom and the new heavenly Jerusalem as we read in Hebrews 12 : 22

These Psalms then would have been principally used in Temple worship.

Theses Psalms  include : 48, 76, 84, 87, 122, 133, 134.

8.   Historical Worship Psalms

 Worship in ancient Israel and modern Jews today feature’s the use of litany.

A litany is where a leader, in ancient Israel a Levite priest, would recite or sing a set of words, which the general Israelite congregation would respond to, with a different set of words. Parallelism (rhyming thought as I call it) lends itself to this kind of responsive praying or singing. The first kind of worship Psalms is what I call The Historical Worship Psalms that recount Israel’s History in this responsive style.

Historical Worship Psalms are  – Psalms  81,105, 106, 131, 135, 136.

9.   Pilgrim Worship Psalms

 Psalms 120 to 134 all have the heading of “A song of ascents” these are believed to be songs happy Israelite pilgrims would sing on their journeys to Jerusalem and the temple. As they came to Jerusalem they would gradually climb up to Mount Zion where the temple stood thus the name “Songs of Ascent”. Many of the Psalms in this section fit better in other categories.

But two Psalms seem to particularly have a Pilgrim Worship style are:

Psalms 121, 123.

10.   Entrance Worship Psalms

 All aspects of Ancient Israelite worship was worked out with procedures and musical accompaniment  including processions into the Temple for worship. We believe Psalm 24 was written by David for the entrance or ascension of the Ark of covenant into Jerusalem and up to Mount Zion the Temple site.

At least two Psalms seem to fit into Entrance Worship : Psalms 15, 24

11.   Judgment Worship Psalms

 The concept of God’s judgment coming down on Israel’s enemies appears in many Psalms. Sometimes we read what is called “Imprecations” which is the theological term for invoking evil or judgment on someone else.

Jesus of course taught us to love our enemies and pray for them Luke 6 : 27 – 29 and not to judge less you be judged Mathew 7 : 1. However the Psalmist in the Old Testament saw God alone as the judge and his coming judgment certain so they merely sought that judgment to come on those who they believed deserved it namely their enemies who opposed the one true God of Israel.

Two Psalms fit neatly into this Judgment Worship Psalm : Psalms  36, 50,58,

(Many others Psalms fit into this category in some parts of them as well)

12.  Trust Psalms

 The last type or category of Psalm is those that communicate a great faith or trust in the Lord. The most famous of this type of Psalm is Psalm 23 where David writes in verse 4:

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, your rod and your staff, they comfort me”.

Many of the Psalms speak of this same trust but Psalms that stand out as solely devoted to this are:  Psalms – 23, 40, 46, 125, 130.

5.   HOW DO WE INTERPRET THE PSALMS

 Many Christians would say that the Psalms are part of the inspired word of God and therefore every word should be taken literally as God’s word. However this would lead us to interpret a verse like

Psalm 17 verse 8, “hide me in the shadow of your wings”

Meaning our God in heaven is a bird like or chicken that has wings for us to shelter under.

Of course you will rightfully say this is imagery or picture language for the concept that God wants us to be close to him and offers his protection and help like a chicken offers its chicks protection and warmth when they need it.

This means that the Book of Psalms is poetry and must be interpreted as poetry to find the real meaning God has for us to learn.

The problem here is Hebrew poetry is not like modern western poetry, which usually relies on meter, rhyme and imagery for its make up.

Hebrew poetry relies on things like parallelism, rhythm and imagery for its make up.

What is parallelism?

 The simplest way I could explain parallelism is that it rhyming thought rather than rhyming sounds of words. There are basically three types of parallelism used in the Psalms.

  1. Synonymous Parallelism : For example Psalm 19 : 1,

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

Synonymous parallelism is when the second line repeats the thought of the first line with different words.

2. Antithetic Parallelism : For example Psalm 1 : 6,

“For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish”

Here the thought of the first statement is contrasted by the thought of the second statement.

3. Synthetic Parallelism : For example Psalm 24 : 3, 4

“Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place, He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false”

Here the first thought is completed by the thought in the final statement.

Rhythm

 Many of the Psalms particularly of David where more than just poems, they were songs that followed the rhythm of known tunes that were probably composed by David as well.

The first Psalm heading that point to a known tune is Psalm 9, which reads “For the director of music. To the tune of “The Death of the Son’. a psalm of David”.  This tune must have been well known but as this tune existed some three thousand years ago it has been long forgotten. This would indicate that the Psalms must have been written with a definite rhythm in mind.

We do not see this rhythm in our English translations and rhythm has no bearing on our interpretation of the Psalms today.

Imagery

 Imagery in poetry seems to be the universal similarity of all poetry throughout the ages and in the Psalms it is vital we seek to unlock the metaphors and similes to give us the image the original author was seeking to obey.

Why do poets ancient and modern use imagery in their poems?

The answer to this lies in the richness and beauty images can convey. David describes God, as he knew him using a variety of images, here are five examples I can give you, there are many more: Shield, Fortress, Rock, Shepherd and King.

How can we get a deep and true understanding of what these images are seeking to convey to us?

Here are four tips on how I seek to understand an image in a Psalm you are studying.

1. Look at the image in the context of the Psalm.

This means trying to come to terms with what the Psalm is about. Sometimes the heading tells us the historical setting of the Psalm like in Psalm 3. Sometimes a key phase in the Psalm can trigger a possible setting of a Psalm. Most times the general reading of the Psalm reveals what the Psalm is generally about.

You see this in Psalm 6, which is about David suffering some kind of sickness that could be causing him to be close to death.

For instance verse 2 reads,

“Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint; O lord, heal me, for my bones are in agony”.

2. Look at the image in the context of the Parallelism it is often part of.

As I said before ancient Hebrew poets used parallelism, rhyming thought. A good example here is Psalm 18 verse 2 which has a triplet of parallel thought all using different images that present the same picture of God:

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer,

My God is my rock, in which I take refuge.

He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

All of these images convey a thought of safety, protection and deliverance and give a deeper insight into how David saw his God helping him in very difficult situations

3. Look at the image in the context of how it used in other texts in the bible.

Often authors like David get their image material from parts of the bible they knew at the time of writing.

David would have known and had access to the first five books of the bible known to the Jewish people at the book of the law or Pentateuch. Also authors of the Psalms drew their images from their customs, culture and language and how an image is used in one part of scripture might shed light on its use in another part of scripture.

An amazing example of this I discovered when studying Psalm 17 and the image David uses in verse 8, when he writes,

”Keep me as the apple of your eye”.

This image along with one that follows

“hide me in the shadow of your wings”

appears in Moses song in Deut. 32 : 10 – 11 :

“In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. 
He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye,

 Like an eagle that stirs up its nest
 and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them
 and carries them aloft”.

This made me realize that David is seeking God’s protection so he wants God to be close to him protecting him as Moses was referring to in his song.

However I found after a little more research that in the ancient Hebrew language the literal translation of “Apple of your eye” is “the little man of the eye”. You see if you stand really close to someone and you looked into his or her eyes you might be able to see your reflection in the other person’s pupil.

This means David was not only asking for God’s protection but he wants God to be really close to him, so close he can see his reflection in his eyes. This also fits the parallelism (Rhyming thought) that follows,

“hide me in the shadow of your wings”.

God is so close to us he protects us like a bird pulling its chicks under its wings in a warm and safe embrace.

4.  Look at the image in the light of the New Testament

 As Christians we should read and study the Old Testament to deepen our understanding of what it is really teaching us. We should also read the Old Testament in the light of the new to help us understand what it is really saying.

As I said before the most quoted Old Testament book in the New Testament is the book of Psalms. Only in what Jesus taught and did can fully understand what the Old Testament is teaching us.

A lot of the Psalms just do not make sense unto we see that it is referring to Jesus, David’s greater Son who came from heaven to proclaim the Kingdom of God and came to earth to make a way for us to come back to God by dieing for our sins on the cross.

The Psalms have many passages about God’s judgment coming upon God’s enemies, these passages also only make sense when we realize Jesus is going to return to this world to bring it to an end and judge the wicked and take his followers back to heaven which in the Psalms and the New Testament is the New Jerusalem.

Now read the words of David in Psalm 22 with what I have just said in mind.

Psalm 22 : 24 – 29

 “For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; 
he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise him, may your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him, those who cannot keep themselves alive”.

This Psalm was written 700 years before the time of Christ yet the words before this quote perfectly describe the suffering of the crucified Christ. Now at the end of the Psalm David is inspired to write of what will happen to this suffering messiah when he returns from heaven.

Only the light of the New Testament can make sense of this Psalm and with it, its images are sharp, clear and magnificent.

CONCLUSION

 The four tips on coming to terms with the images in the Psalms I have just set down could also be the guide to general interpreting of the Psalms as well.

  1. Interpret what the Psalm is saying within its context.
  2. Interpret the Psalm within the context of its Parallelism.
  3. Interpret the Psalm within its Old Testament biblical and cultural settings.
  4. Interpret the Psalm in the light of The New Testament.

The Psalms are more than just the prayer book and hymnal of the ancient and modern Jews. They are real poems and songs written by very real and gifted people who through their spiritual journey and writings were inspired by God to write his word to us.

May you join me in our spiritual journey of discovering of God and his ways in the book of Psalms.

May this lead us to a deeper trust of our God of Mercy and love expressed in a life of praise and service.

Jim Wenman

 

 

Introduction to the Second Book of Psalms

Almost three years ago I researched and studied an overview of the entire book of Psalms and one of the questions I sought to answer in that introduction was

“What are the main themes of the five books of Psalms?”

On book two I wrote:

Book 2.  Psalms 42 – 72 :   THE STRUGGLES OF THE ANOINTED KING

                                              AND HIS FOLLOWERS PART 2

The struggle of book 1 continues and intensifies in the second collection or book of Psalms. A big change in this book is that the covenant name for God “Yahweh” in book 1 changes to “Elohim” in book two. “Yahweh features 272 times to Elohim 15 times in book 1 while “Yehweh is only used 15 times and Elohim 207 times in book 2. “Elohim seems to be a more personal name for God. It indicates that the heavy emphasis on the covenant God (Yahweh) in the first book is moving towards a more personal relationship with God (Elohim) as the struggle to uphold the true King of God intensifies.

This I now believe is only partially correct and my new version of this will now be:

Book 2.  Psalms 42 – 72 :   THE STRUGGLES OF THE ANOINTED KING

                                              AND HIS FOLLOWERS PART 2

The struggle of book 1 continues and intensifies in the second collection or book of Psalms. A big change in this book is that the covenant name for God “Yahweh” in book 1 changes to “Elohim” in book two. “Yahweh features 272 times to Elohim 15 times in book 1 while “Yehweh is only used 15 times and Elohim 207 times in book 2.

“Elohim” is the more general name or term for God, which we first come across in Genesis 1: 1

“In the beginning God (Elohim) created the heaven and the earth”

So if Elohim is the general name or term for God Yehweh is his special covenant name that was given to Moses who was told it means “I am who I am” and became such a Holy and special name for the Jews that they did not write down the vowels and we only have the Hebrew consonants YHWH which has the Greek technical name “The Tetragrammaton” which means “The four letters”

Michal Hunt wrote this about YHWH in 2003,

“Throughout history, God’s Old Covenant people treated God’s name with great reverence, declaring it too holy to be spoken aloud.

Speaking God’s divine name was restricted to the priests worshipping in God’s Temple in Jerusalem, and so with the destruction of the Temple His holy covenant name was no longer spoken and correct pronunciation of the name was lost.

The dramatic move away from Yehweh to Elohim in the second book could be partially explained by the problem of speaking the covenant name of God out loud as the heavy emphasis on the covenant God (Yahweh) in the first book is moving towards a more personal private and public pleading with God (Elohim) as the struggle to uphold the true King of God intensifies.

The other interesting question I also discussed in my introduction the Psalms three years ago was :

HOW AND WHEN WERE THE FIVE BOOKS OF PSALMS COMPOSED (OR COMPILED

I now have some new insights into this process concerning the compilation of five books of Psalm that sheds light on this second book of Psalms.

Many Bible Scalars note that Psalms 42 – 72 and some say 42 – 89 (covering books 2 and 3) seem to be a separate collection they call “The Elohistic Psalter” because of the heavy emphasis on the Elohim name for God over Yehweh. The breakdown of Elohim to Yaweh in book three is Elohim 63 to Yahweh 44.

It seems that this Elohistic Psalter features the Psalms of “The Sons of Korah”, Psalms 42 – 49, Asaph Psalm 50, another collection of David Psalms 51 – 65, 68 – 70, two Psalms simply said to be “for the director of music” Psalms 66 and 67, one unknown authored Psalm, 71 and the final Psalm by Solomon, Psalm 72.

It has been speculated that part of the Elohistic Psalter (Psalms 42 – 71) existed around the same time as Book 1 of Psalms and Solomon decided to pull it together as the second book of Psalms, which explains his writing of the final Psalm and his final words of that Psalm: 72: 20,

“This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse”

Which he believed to be true at the time of the second books compilation this was all of the Psalms of David that was known. Of course there are 17 more Psalms of David spread out in book 3, 4 and 5.

Book three also contain another set of Sons of Korah Psalms, Psalms 84 – 85, 87 – 88, and Asaph Psalms 50 and 73- 83, David Psalm 86 and Psalm 89 written by Etham the Ezrahite.

Interestingly The Sons of Korah and Asaph were Levites and worked as part of the priestly team in the Tabernacle in David’s time and the Temple in Solomon time and would have been aware of the restrictions on pronouncing the covenant name of God Yaweh outside of the Temple. We will learn more about each of these men’s roles in the Temple when we look at their Psalms. Maybe they sought to help the people say and or sing their prayers and songs outside of the Temple by using the more general name for God Elohim.

One final fact is the repeat of Psalm 14 in the first book of Psalms in Psalm 53, which differs by the change of the name of God from Yaweh in Psalm 14 and Elohim in Psalm 53. There is a slight changing of words in verse 5 of Psalm 53.

Why is Psalm 14 in the first book repeated in Psalm 53 in the second book?

One explanation for this is that Psalm 53 was originally part of a separate book of Psalms we call the Elohistic Psalter.

This means Psalm 53 is an Elohim Psalm and was able to be recited or sung outside of the Temple. Maybe as time went along Psalm 14 was the version recited or sung in the Temple and Psalm 53 was the one recited or sung outside of the Temple.