Wednesday, May 23, 2012


“How happy are those whose way is blameless, who live according to the Lord's instruction!  Happy are those who keep His decrees and seek Him with all their heart.” (Psalm 119:1-2 HCSB)

I read about a woman who was executed at the bloody hand of the oppressive regime of North Korea.  What was her crime?  Distributing Bibles!  In China, Fa Zhou spent seven months in prison for having ninety-six boxes of Bibles.  Believers will huddle together in secret, in Iran, behind locked doors, risking torture and death, to gather and hear the Word of God.  They join the procession of saints down through the centuries that have been drawn irresistibly by the power of the Word of God—willing to suffer and die rather than abandon the truth.

But, in America, we often take for granted this precious Book.  We have numerous copies.  It is accessible in multiple venues and versions.  No one threatens us with prison for possessing them, nor bars our way from meeting for its study—yet.  What privileges we have as a free people, and I fear that by esteeming this liberty lightly, we are in jeopardy of losing it.  Then, maybe, our hunger and thirst for the Bread of Life would intensify.

We may not grasp it, but Satan knows full well the power of the Word.  He trembles in the face of this Book for it is the Sword of the Spirit!  The forces of evil know their demise is sealed when people are delivered from the shackles of sin by the transforming power of truth.  God has ordained that this Book is the seed of salvation—the power of the Gospel that brings us eternal life.  It is His voice that summons us from the grave to glory with resurrection authority!  Upon that Word, the church is established and by it moves forward in faith.  Acts 19:20 underscores this truth, “In this way the Lord's message flourished and prevailed.”  The invincible Word fueled the irresistible witness!

On this point, we will not apologize.  We dare not compromise.  We shall keep the Word of God central in our personal devotion and public declaration.  Bow to its power!  Experience its blessing!  Meditate on the power of God’s Word as we study Psalm 119:1-88.  What is the power of these precepts?

Their power is seen in DIRECTION FOR OUR SERVICE (v.1-8).  Consider this key verse: “You have commanded that Your precepts be diligently kept.” (v.4) 

The Bible isn’t God’s suggestion, but God’s direction!  We open its pages for orders from headquarters, saluting, as we report for duty.  The child of God can heed the Word of God and be blessed, or can be insubordinate and suffer the consequences of such folly. 

Direction is the emphasis in these eight verses.  Verse one speaks of our “way”; verse three of those who “follow His ways.”  God’s Word gives us solid footing for our steps.  In contrast, the world’s vain philosophies are a quagmire.  They take us down the Devil’s detour, and into a dead-end.

From every side we hear the Siren song of Satan, seductively summoning us to destruction.  Let us stop our ears to it with the wax of the Word.  Our minds can be polluted with demonic propaganda.  The defiling deception needs to be flushed out by the water of the Word.  In fact, verse nine poses the rhetorical question, “How can a young man keep his way pure?  By keeping Your word.”

We are to receive the Word as it truly is—not the wisdom of man, but the Word of God (1 Thess.2:13).  Its message is authoritative. We are called to bow to its precepts.  Yet, for those who submit to it, we do not do so with grudging reluctance, but glorious rejoicing!  How happy are those whose way is blameless, who live according to the Lord's instruction! Happy are those who keep His decrees and seek Him with all their heart.” (v.1-2)  This leads me to our next point about God’s power in His Word.

DELIGHT IN THE SCRIPTURE (v.9-24). For example, the Psalmist exults, “I will delight in Your statutes” (v.16a).

When I go to the beach, I usually try to visit one of my favorite stores, just down the road from where we usually stay.  It has two counters set up in an L shape under the same roof.  One side features Dunkin Donuts and the other Baskin Robbins!  Imagine, I can grab a glazed circle of sugared dough in my left hand and a cone with a frozen mound of chocolate cream in the other hand!  No wonder I look forward to entering those doors!

I should find far greater delight, however, in walking through the door of God’s Word and ravenously consuming its sweet message.  It is, “sweeter than honey, which comes from the honeycomb.” (Ps.19:10)  The Psalmist’s passion for the Word is evident.  He says, “I have sought You with all my heart” (v.10a).  Not only do we hear him speak of his passion for it, but his prizing of it, “I have treasured Your word in my heart… I rejoice in the way [revealed by] Your decrees as much as in all riches.” (v.11a, 14).  Furthermore, there is his pleasure in it, “I will delight in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.” (v.16)

We delight in God’s Word because it reveals the heart of the Author.  This link is made in verse ten, “I have sought You with all my heart; don't let me wander from Your commands.”  But, God is more than the Author of the Scripture, He is the Subject, as well.  To study the Word of God is to see the God of the Word.  How delightful!  Such delight brings a powerful effect, which we examine next.

DEDICATION IN OUR STUDY (v.25-40).  Look at verse twenty-seven, “Help me understand the meaning of Your precepts so that I can meditate on Your wonders.”

Our culture has moved away from objective truth to subjective experience.  That doesn’t; surprise us—it is the degrading power of deception which the Devil disseminates.  What is more alarming is that too many churches have surrendered to the desire for religious entertainment rather than righteous education!  They want most of an hour devoted to music, with a little talk about morality or a soothing word of pop psychology at the end to salve their conscience and numb them from conviction.  The masses of church members don’t want to do the hard work of listening and learning, but crave a “sermonette” that only produces “Christianettes”!  That kind of thinking would have been abhorrent to the writer of this Psalm.

He needs God to help him understand.  In this section, he twice cries out, “Teach me” (v.26,33).  He calls for understanding in verses 27, 32 and 34.  This man is dedicated to the diligent study of Scripture.

This is the meaning of meditation.  It is the word picture of a sheep chewing its cud, extracting every morsel of nutrition from it.  We mull it over, we examine it, we consider and reconsider—ingesting and digesting the message.

Such dedicated study produces a discerning student.  Keep me from the way of deceit
and graciously give me Your instruction.  I have chosen the way of truth; I have set Your ordinances [before me].” (v.29-30)   We can distinguish truth from error.  God hones our spiritual senses to sniff out corrupt concepts.  The God of the Word or the god of this world are both presenting their proposals—which do we read?  Turn my eyes from looking at what is worthless; give me life in Your ways.”  (v.37)

David Wells notes,

“Sustaining orthodoxy and framing Christian belief in doctrinal terms requires habits of reflection and judgment that are simply out of place in our culture and increasingly disappearing from evangelicalism as well.”  That is the regretful reality.

Dedication to diligent study is contrary to our fleshly appetites, and so we must strive or it, “I cling to Your decrees” (v.31).  But, if we have stamina, we will find sustenance for growth in knowledge, “I pursue the way of Your commands, for You broaden my understanding.” (v.32)  The broad-minded are not those who drink from the filthy tributaries of the world’s philosophies.  That sludge constricts the channel of thought.  It is the narrow, yet deep, stream of truth that brings an ever-widening knowledge into the One who is Omniscience!

This is powerful!  There is more.

DYNAMIC FOR OUR STRUGGLES (v.41-64).  This is my comfort in my affliction:
Your promise has given me life.” (v.50)

Of course, our greatest affliction is the terminal disease of sin, but through the Word of God we are given the one dynamic power that can heal us.  Let Your faithful love come to me, Lord, Your salvation, as You promised.” (v.41).  This is the same reality which the disciples recognized when Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)  Wonderful words of life!  We are saved by faith and faith comes by hearing the Word of God (see Rom.10:17).  Through the voice of a witness, God is pleased to call, by His Spirit, sinners to salvation.

It will not be an easy life.  Following God’s precepts is to set oneself against the tide.  It is struggle and warfare.  Then I can answer the one who taunts me, for I trust in Your word.The arrogant constantly ridicule me, but I do not turn away from Your instruction.” (v.42, 51)  There will be those who taunt us and heap ridicule on us for following some antiquated Book.  Yet God provides dynamic strength for difficult struggles: “Lord, I remember Your judgments from long ago and find comfort.” (v.52)

Finally, we find DISCIPLINE IN OUR SHAPING (v.65-88)  Here is the affirmation: “Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding so that I can learn Your commands.” (v.73)  God is shaping us into the image of His Son.  As a sculptor’s skilled hands take a hammer and chisel to the rock and begin to shape it into a work of beauty, so God takes His Word and shapes us.  This spiritual discipline forms us. 

If we are reluctant to discipline ourselves, God will discipline us.  Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.” (v.67)  It was good for me to be afflicted so that I could learn Your statutes.” (v.71)   I know, Lord, that Your judgments are just and that You have afflicted me fairly.” (v.75)

God has a way of getting our attention.  It often takes His discipline to drive us to the Word.  He will break our hard hearts with the hammer of truth.  He will melt our cold hearts with the fire of His Word.  “‘Is not My word like fire’--[this is] the Lord's declaration--‘and like a hammer that pulverizes rock?’”  (Jer.23:29)

The stubborn heart of man is steadfastly resistant to being told what to do.  From childhood we are set against someone telling us what to believe or how to behave.  The Word of God, however, demands submission to its message and mandate.  John MacArthur put it this way, “I believe the goal of preaching is to compel people to make a decision.  I want people who listen to me to understand exactly what God’s Word demands of them…Then they must say either, ‘Yes, I will do what God says,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’”

The power of God’s Word is immeasurably great.  It will change you, if you will hear it and heed it by humbling yourself under it.  Will you?

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