Making Room for God's Word in Our Lives - Psalm 119
(I gave this message at Pines Baptist Church, Pembroke Pines Florida on April 3, 2016. You may listen to this message online at:http://www.sermonaud...SID=43161247211.)
A little over a year ago I brought a message entitled, "The Most Valuable Book in the World." We noted three things in that message. The origin of the Bible; it is God breathed or inspired by God. The nature of the Bible; it is inerrant or without error and it is dynamic or powerful. The purpose of the Bible; t tells us what to believe and how to live. It equips us for a life of ministry.
Today I want to take us into the life of David, by way of Psalm 119. This psalm gives us a look into the life of David specifically his relationship to God's Word.
The transparency of David with regard to his relationship to the word of God will be instructive and challenging as well as a source of encouragement to each of us. And as we do so, I want to remind your of the words of James, as found in 1:22-25 New Living Translation,
"...don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don't obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it."
Joseph Alexander has wrote this about Psalm 119 "There is no psalm...which has more the appearance of having been exclusively designed for practical and personal improvement...than the one before us, which is wholly occupied with praises of God's word or written revelation as the only source of spiritual strength and comfort, and with prayers for grace to make a profitable use of it."
This message is not an exhaustive treatment of this psalm or of this subject. But I want to note three things this morning from this psalm of David; his attitude toward God's Word; his response to God's Word and the effect of God's Word in his life.
David uses eight synonyms for God's Word in this psalm. C. John Collins identifies and defines these terms. Law - that is "instruction," testimonies - "what God solemnly testifies - to be his will," precepts - "what God has appointed to be done," statutes - "what the divine lawgiver has laid down," commandments - "what God has commanded," rules (ordinances/judgments) -"what the divine judge has ruled to be right," and two words translated word or promise - "what God has spoken." Only one verse out of all 176 verses of the this psalm does not have some reference to the Word of God.
You might have heard the story of a little boy who found a large dusty black book high up on a shelf. His curiosity led him to ask his Mom about the book. Embarrassed she explained, "That's God' book." The boy thought for moment then replied, "Well, Mom, if that's God's book, why don't we give it back to Him? Nobody around here uses it anyway."
In contrast, note with me David's attitude towards God's Word. Delight, verse 16, "I will delight in your statutes I will not forget your word." (ESV). David delighted in God's Word. Adam Clarke catches the idea of delight, writing, "I will skip about and jump for joy." It's been defined as, "something that gives great pleasure." (Webster's 9th Collegiate)
To delight means to take great pleasure in something or someone. Just over a week ago, Beth and I drove to Lakeland where our son and daughter-in-law live. We all then drove up to Chattanooga to spend two and a half days with our two daughters their husband and fiancé and our grandson. After returning home last Sunday this is part of what I texted them on GroupMe, "I will always treasure the days we had together this past week. It was such a joy to be with each of you. I miss my family so much...I love you all." I delighted in every moment that I spent with them.
Again David, verse 111, "Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart." (ESV) Verse 162, "I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil." (ESV) David rejoiced because of the value he attached to God's Word. Even in times of trouble David found delight in God's commands. Verse 143, "Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight." (ESV) The New Living Translation reads, "As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands."
How does your attitude towards God's word compare to David's testimony? When you look into the mirror of God's word here, what do you see? We can find delight in many things. Is God's Word one of them?
Thomas Manton, "Worldly men that are intent upon carnal interests forget the Word, because it isn't their delight." How precious is God's Word to you? Do you delight in it?
The parents of the poet Elizabeth Barrett disapproved of her marriage to the poet Robert Browning. In fact they disowned her. Elizabeth longed for reconciliation with her parents, and almost every week she wrote them a letter telling them she loved them. Ten years later, she found the box containing all of those letters. Not one of them had been opened. Had her parents opened even one letter perhaps there would have been an opportunity for reconciliation. God's word is His love letter to you and I. Are you neglecting to read it?
If you are not a believer this morning, to neglect the message of the Bible is like doing what Elizabeth Barrett's parents did. The Bible is a love letter from God to you, where He
communicates all that He has already done through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ to offer you forgiveness of your sins and the gift eternal life, if you will repent of your sin and put your trust in Jesus Christ alone as your Savior.
Secondly, David delighted in God's word because he loved God's word. Verse 47, "...I find delight in your commandments, which I love." (ESV) The New Living Translation reads, "How I delight in your commands! How I love them!"
We are told of David's love for God's word eleven times in this Psalm. A few other examples: Verse 159, "Consider how I love your precepts! Give me life according to your steadfast love." (ESV) Verse 167, "My soul keeps your testimonies, I love them exceedingly." (ESV)
Thirdly, David valued God's word. If you love something or someone you will value them! Think of how you value your wife or husband, your children, your parents, your brother or sister and so forth.
David writes, verse 127, "Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold." (ESV) Verse 72, "The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces." (ESV)
In David's experience, gold and silver, the symbols of wealth, could not begin to compare with the value he placed on God's Word. Jesus put it this way, Matthew 6:21 "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (ESV) Well, it stands to reason then that David fourthly, desired God's Word. Verse 20, "My soul is consumed with longing for your rules [or statutes] at all times." (ESV)
The word for "longing" means "to crush in pieces" (Keil &Delitzsch) So the NASB, "my soul is crushed with longing." In verse 131 David writes, "I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments," (ESV) a very strong metaphor, expressing the intensity of his desire for God's Word.
How do you explain this intense longing for God's Word? Look at the following verse, 132 (ESV) "Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name." His desire for God's Word flowed from his desire and love for God, verse 2, "Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart." (ESV)
David understood the relationship between the desire for God, and the desire for God's word. Verse 10, "With my whole heart I will seek you, let me not wander from your commandments!" (ESV) Verse 57, "The Lord is my portion, or Today's English Version, "You are all I want, Lord!" I promise to keep your words." It is unlikely that you will have a longing for God's word without a heart that longs for God.
Secondly, notice David's response to God's word. He chose God's truth, verses 30-32, "I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me. I cling to your testimonies, O Lord; let me not be put to shame! I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart." (ESV)
David's relationship to God's word was not determined by chance but by choice. These verses speak of the deliberate, intentional choices that he made. I choose, I set, I cling, I run or pursue.
May I share a word of testimony. Back in the 1990's at a pastor's training, a pastor said, "Discipline leads to devotion." As I applied that to my devotional life over the years, I found that if I went to God's Word out of discipline it often led to devotion, the desire to be in God's Word.
There is nothing wrong with coming to the Word of God, of opening our Bible out of obedience or personal discipline. Because when we do so we are exposing ourselves to God's thoughts, His heart, His will, His love, His voice, through His Word. We are giving God the Holy Spirit access to our minds through which He can reach into our hearts and speak very personally as only the He can do.
Giving ourselves to the Word of God is a means of grace. Like prayer it leads us into the presence of God. And inevitably as we fellowship with God in His word we grow in intimacy with God through His Word as His grace is poured out in our lives.
David chose God's truth, and secondly, he obeyed God's word. Obedience. Verse 4 "You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently." (ESV) Verse 8 "I will keep you statutes; do not utterly forsake me!"(ESV) or New Living Translation, "Please don't give up on me!"
He obeyed quickly, verse 60, "I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments." (ESV) David did not use the pick and choose method as he approached God's word. He knew he was expected to obey God's word, and he decided to obey in advance.
And he was motivated by his love for God's word verse 167, "My soul keeps you testimonies; I love them exceedingly." (ESV) David chose God's word and obeyed God's word, but he acknowledged, thirdly, his dependence on God.
As we noted before, verse 10, "With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments." (ESV) His relationship with God's word was not divorced from his relationship with God. He states this explicitly in verses 33-36, "Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep you law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heat to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!" (ESV) "Teach me," "give me," "lead me" "incline my heart" He cries out to God for all that he needed to be rightly related to God's word, both in understanding it and the desire and ability to obey it.
A continued word of testimony; remember, "Discipline leads to devotion"? Over the years as I applied that truth in my life I noticed something else. The devotion or desire led me to add another "D," dependence. Discipline - Devotion - Dependence; I came to experience more dependence on God's word.
Listen to the Apostle Paul's words in Philippians 2:12-13, "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling," (ESV)
That's a choice we make, work out your own salvation. But he continues, "for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasures." That's the grace of God operating in our lives as we yield to Him. The balls in your court says the Apostle Paul; "as you have always obeyed...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling..." Then notice what God does. God works in you to do two things. He works in you to "will," that is He gives you the desire and He works in you to "work," that is He gives you the ability or power to do what He has asked you to do.
Friends, living the Christian life from start to finish never depends on our ability but on God's power and provision. Paul's own testimony, Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God."
David chose God's word; he obeyed God's word; he depended on God; and fourthly,
David meditated on God's word. Seven times in this psalm reference is made to David meditating on God's word. To meditate means to "engage in contemplation or reflection" (Webster's 9th Collegiate) "to focus our thoughts on" something. Verse 15, "I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways." (ESV)
David took the time necessary to focus, to reflect or ponder God's word. Paul VanGorder tells of how he would sit in his study early in the morning. Two woodpeckers would visit his yard each morning. One would drill a hole in the tree with an extended peck, peck, peck feeding slowly on what he found there. In contrast, the other woodpecker got his breakfast with a rapid machine gun like pecking. In a flash, getting the food he was gone. We often do the same. Sometimes we "fly" through our devotions, grab a verse for the day and we're gone. Or we set aside the time to dig into the word, to study it, ponder it, understand it, apply it, and to respond to it.
Meditation takes time, but bears much fruit. David meditated on the word of God through out the day. Verse 97, "O how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day." (ESV) And he meditated in the night. Verse 148, "My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise." (ESV) May I suggest that the more familiar we are with God's word the easier it is to meditate on God's word. In that regard, memorizing God's word is a great asset in meditating on God's word especially when your Bible isn't in front of you.
As some of you know, as you get older you don't sleep as well. In those early moments of the morning I have often meditated on Scriptures I have memorized sometimes pondering one word at a time with great blessing. Charles Spurgeon, "Familiarity with the word of God breeds affection, and affection seeks yet greater familiarity."
Lastly, notice the effect of God's word on David. How God's word affected David was predicated at least in part on what we have already noted. His attitude: He delighted, loved, valued and longed for God's word. His response: He chose it, obeyed it, in dependence on God and meditated on it.
Notice how David benefitted from this relationship with God's word. He avoided evil. Derek Kidner writes, "Attraction to the true and revulsion against the false are, acquired tastes. Verse 104 describes the process..." (Psalms 73-150, pg. 128) Verse 104, "Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way." (ESV)
M.R. Dehann II tells of the challenges of getting through a nearby intersection that had no traffic light. Perhaps you like I have one in your neighborhood that you frequently navigate through going to and from your home. DeHann writes, "After a year of dodging cars at a nearby corner, I was happily surprised when a traffic signal was finally installed. In turned a daily ordeal into an orderly and predictable way of getting onto a busy street. Waiting occasionally at a red light now is almost a pleasure--at least at that intersection of bad memories. iI means I can count on a regulated and protected start."
The Bible contains "red" lights, prohibitions against any number of behaviors, attitudes, actions, practices, and so forth touching virtually every aspect of daily living. As with traffic signals they are there for our protection and the safety of others as well as boundaries that allow us to live free of the ravages of sin.
So David did not resist the commands of God rather as he testifies in verse 101, "I hold back my feet from every evil way in order to keep your word."
Secondly, God's word gave David direction and insight, verse 106, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." perhaps one of the most well known verses in this Psalm. Verse 99, "I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. (ESV)
I read of an emperor who wanted to have his palace decorated with murals that depicted the beautiful countryside where he had grown up. He chose a talented artist and sent him to his birthplace to observe the landscape. As the story is told, "Some months later the emperor asked to see the preliminary sketches. But when the artist was called into the king's presence, he had nothing to show him. 'What is your explanation?' said the emperor. The reply was simple and direct, 'Your Majesty, I can do the work without sketches. It's all vividly impressed on my mind. I have lived there!'"
Friends, when we have lived there, in the Word of God, our lives saturated with God's thoughts; understanding the boundaries He has set; as we immerse ourselves in the Scriptures reading them, meditating on them, memorizing them, absorbing them, into our hearts and minds; they will bring direction, insight and understanding that will literally shape the course of our lives.
This is of such importance in the perilous days in which we live; days of moral chaos. As the prophet Isaiah wrote men call "evil good and good evil," and "put darkness for light and light for darkness, bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter" (Isaiah 5:20) We will see the path clearly because we allowed the truth of God's word to be etched into our hearts and minds giving light to our path.
Closely related to this, thirdly, the word of God brought moral purity to David's life. Verse 9, "How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word." If there ever was a day when we need moral direction it is today. David found it in God's word. God's call to moral purity is very straight forward if we turn to His word.
Two things by way of application. In this day when secular humanism and it's offspring moral relativism both permeate and dominate our culture, let's teach God's standard of moral purity to our children and our grandchildren and let's live it out in front the them. "Give it and live it!" should be our slogan.
Four clergy men were discussing Bible translations. One liked the KJV for its literary style; another the Revised Version of 1881 referring the literal rendering of the Hebrew and Greek. A third liked Moffat's translation because it was the most readable. The fourth pastor was silent. So the others asked him about his preference. "I like my mother's translation best." The other three were surprised and asked, "Did you mother translate the Bible?" "Oh, yes," he replied, "she translated it into life, and it was the most convincing translation."
We should never underestimate the power of God's word in our lives or that of our children whom we have been given the responsibility to disciple.
Fourthly, God's word brought David renewal verse 93, "I will never forget your precepts for by them you have given me life." (ESV) or NASB "by them you have revived me." Verse 107, "I am exceedingly afflicted, Revive me, O Lord, according to your word." (NASB) Thomas Watson, "Let it not only inform you, but inflame you."
Remember when after his resurrection Jesus walked with the two men on the road to Emmaus? After Jesus revealed himself to them, they said, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scripture?" Friends, that is what Jesus wants to do for you and I through His Holy Spirit as we give ourselves to His word.
Lastly, that renewal leads to freedom verse 45, "and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts." What does it mean to "walk in a wide place"? Both the New King James Version and New American Standard Bible translate it "And I will walk in liberty." The New International Version, "I will walk around in freedom."
Matthew Henry, "...freed from that which is evil, not hampered with the fetters of my own corruptions, and free to that which is good."
In closing, Isaiah 55:11, "so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, [void] but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it."
Perhaps you have read the article, "The Pawned Book." It tells the story of W. P. McKay who at the age of 17 left his home to get an education. Before he left his godly mother gave him a Bible in which she had written his name, her name and a Scripture verse. Away from home he disregarded the moral influence of his upbringing, one day even pawning the Bible to get money for some whiskey.
Eventually young McKay completed his studies and began his career as a medical doctor. Listen to what happened. "One day he was attending a dying man who whispered, 'Bring me my Book!' The physician wondered what volume could be so important, so after the patient died, he searched the man's hospital room. He was amazed to find the same Bible he had pawned years before. Taking it with him, he read again his mother's familiar writing and noted many verses she had underlined. Coming under deep conviction, the doctor prayed to God for mercy and became a new creature in Christ."
Friends, as you make room for God's word in you life God says, it "shall not return to me empty, [void] but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it." That was David's testimony I trust that is your testimony. If it isn't, it can be your testimony today.
Remember James' words, "...don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don't obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it."
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