This week we’re going to look at the ninth stanza of Psalm 119. In the Hebrew, each line of this stanza begins with the Hebrew letter “Teth”. In the English King James Version (below), each line begins with the letter “T”. The whole stanza is the psalmist’s personal testimony to his experience of the goodness and graciousness of God in his life and the preciousness of His Word. Particularly, in these verses the psalmist proclaims the goodness of God in afflicting him (119:67 and 71). Yes, you read it right -- the goodness of God in afflicting him -- because it was through his affliction that he came to learn and treasure God’s law.
65 Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O Lord, according unto thy word.
66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments.
67 ‘Til I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.
68 Thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes.
69 The proud have forged a lie against me: but I will keep thy precepts with my whole heart.
70 Their heart is as fat as grease; but I delight in thy law.
71 ‘Tis good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.
72 The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.
The stanza begins with the psalmist’s testimony (119:65). God had dealt well with him. In his experience, God had been faithful to His Word in all situations. God had never let him down!
Through God’s Word (His statutes, precepts, law), the psalmist sought to learn good judgment and knowledge (119:66). To him, God’s Word was a teaching tool (119:66-68). He learned, believed God’s instructions, and he kept (119:67) them. When afflictions came, he turned to God’s Word, believed, and obeyed. He came to see the goodness of God and the goodness of all He did. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul wrote, And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). The psalmist had experienced the goodness of God in his life, even (and maybe especially) in times of pain and suffering. As a result, he wanted to learn more. He wanted to be taught. What an example for us! Instead of complaining and dwelling on our problems, let's be like the psalmist and turn to God and His Word, knowing that He is good and will work out our difficulties for good as we obey and trust Him.
In119:69-71, we see an example of the affliction the psalmist mentioned. People had told lies about him. It seems there was “fake news” even in Old Testament days. The psalmist described the hearts of the liars as being fat as grease (119:70) meaning they were disgusting….detestable. Their words and their way of life reflected what was in their hearts, and rather than harming the one they targeted, their words defiled them (see Matthew 15:18). Their lies and their lives were not aligned with God’s law, but the psalmist took great delight in God’s law, so much so that he realized it was good for him to experience affliction. That is what motivated him to learn God’s law (statutes, 119:71). We can learn a lesson from this that should encourage us to have an intimate relationship with God’s Word. As we go to God's Word, leaning on it in all we do, we find true delight -- even in hard times. In return, we develop an even deeper desire to live by His laws, statutes, and precepts.
Through his affliction and experience of slander against him, the psalmist came to treasure God’s law and to see that God’s words are better than any amount of earthly wealth. His eyes were open to the truth and He made his decision for God and His Word. The psalmist's treasure was in heaven and not on this earth. Where is your treasure?
G. Campbell, in Notes on the Psalms, wrote, “Affliction to the trusting and obedient soul is invariably beneficial. The rebellious are broken and embittered by it, but the obedient are healed and ennobled.” Those who refuse to humble themselves under God’s Word will inevitably lead broken and bitter lives. Bitterness is a terrible thing. The writer of Hebrews warns, See to it….that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble and by it many be defiled (12:15). Bitterness not only destroys the individual but those around him or her as well. Have you noticed when you buy a basket of strawberries, if there is rotten one, all the strawberries that touch it develop rotten spots as well. Let us cleanse our hearts and delight in the great treasure God has given us. May our lives reflect the goodness and grace of His Word. May goodness and godliness shine from our hearts and be a light that draws many to the truth.
Obedience. What comes to your mind when you hear the word obey? What emotions does it elicit? Does it stir up positive thoughts or negative ones? Lets take a look at the concept of obedience to God and His Word, for that is what the 8th stanza of Psalm 119 is all about.
57 The LORD is my portion;
I have promised to keep Your words.
58 I sought Your favor with all my heart;
Be gracious to me according to Your word.
59 I considered my ways
And turned my feet to Your testimonies.
60 I hastened and did not delay
To keep Your commandments.
61 The cords of the wicked have encircled me,
But I have not forgotten Your law.
62 At midnight I shall rise to give thanks to You
Because of Your righteous ordinances.
63 I am a companion of all those who fear You,
And of those who keep Your precepts.
64 The earth is full of Your lovingkindness, O LORD;
Teach me Your statutes.
What can we learn about obedience from this psalm? There are six truths the psalmist reveals in these verses: his motive for obedience (119:57), God's grace in obedience (119:58), the need to "consider" our obedience (119:59), the importance of hurrying to obey (119:60), obedience will be tested (119:61), fellowship encourages obedience (119:63).
After Israel entered and conquered the Promised Land, the land was divided and each of the tribes of Israel was given a portion of the land as an inheritance. The priestly tribe of Levi, however, did not receive an inheritance in the land because the LORD was to be their portion (Numbers 18:20). That is the picture the psalmist evokes when he writes, The LORD is my portion (119:57). It is the blessing of having the LORD as his portion that motivates the psalmist to keep God’s words. And so it is with us. The LORD is our portion and we are to obey Him because of who He is, the greatest treasure and inheritance we could have. As our portion, He is our hope (Lamentations 3:24), our security (Psalm 16:5), our strength (Psalm 73:26), our refuge (Psalm 142:5). Do we need any better reasons to obey Him?
We all know that obedience does not come easily. We all stumble and fall, but the psalmist reminds us of God’s grace and favor (119:58). When we seek Him, we find that He is gracious even when we fail. The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail (Lamentations 3:22). Our obedience will not be perfect, and we will fail God at times, but He will never fail us. That is grace.
To help us obey, 119:59 reveals the importance of taking a critical look at our lives. The psalmist says he considered his ways. If we want to obey, we need to “consider” our lives. We need to evaluate our words and our actions. And how do we do that? We dig into God’s Word to learn what He requires of us. We hold His Word up as a mirror to see how our obedience measures up. The apostle James warned about looking in the mirror of God's Word, turning away, and promptly forgetting what we saw there (James 1:22-24). An honest consideration of our ways should turn our feet to obedience -- immediately!
The psalmist says he hastened and did not delay (119:60) to obey. In the New Testament alone, we see numerous encouraging examples of people who did not delay but responded “immediately” when they were healed, called, prompted, or commanded by the Lord. See Mark 2:12, 5:42; Luke 4:39, 8:55; Acts 9:20, 9:34, 10:33, 16:10. Will you follow their example? It is human nature to put things off. But if you procrastinate, you will never obey, and like Pharaoh, your heart will grow hard. It has been said that delayed obedience is disobedience. It is rebellion!
Even in the toughest times, when we see wickedness all around us (119:61), we need to follow the psalmist's example to remember God’s Word and obey. James 1:2-4 says that trials are a testing of our faith and we can’t just give up or give in. We need to patiently endure and obey, no matter what. Do you place limits on your obedience or are you determined to obey God no matter what? Do you find it easy to compromise with the world or do you cling to God (Deuteronomy 10:20). It is necessary to practice obedience daily, moment by moment, even in seemingly insignificant things. Then we will have the capacity to endure in the face of trials instead of being overcome by the wickedness of the world. If you fall down in a land of peace, How will you do in the thicket of the Jordan? (Jeremiah 12:5).
The psalmist shows us that our friends impact our obedience. He chose companions who feared God and kept His word (His precepts, 119:63). We tend to become like those we hang out with the most. Are your closest friends those who honor God and obey His Word? Do you have friends who set an example and encourage you to obey. Being in a Bible study like Disciplers where you study, share what you’ve learned, and apply it to your life will help you make obedience a way of life. Obedience thrives on godly fellowship!
We all make many choices every day, and in these few verses the psalmist has shown us how to make positive choices for obedience. None of us will ever be perfect this side of heaven, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t want to be the best we can be right now. Of course, we’ll all fall short at times, and it’s good to know that we’re saved by God’s grace and not because of our obedience (119:58 and Ephesians 2:8-9). However, our obedience -- our works (our actions, and even our words) -- offer proof that we are saved, for those who have surrendered their lives to Christ will love His words and obey Him.
We’re just beginning a New Year. What a great time to begin practicing obedience and putting Psalm 119 to work in our lives. Let's inspire one another by being examples and encouragers. I pray that we will all find joy in obedience in 2017!
Happy New Year! I hope you have been following along the past three months as we have been looking at Psalm 119, taking it stanza by stanza and learning wonderful things about God’s Word. Of course, if you are a person who loves to read and study God’s Word, you already know a great deal about it -- not just the facts, what it’s all about -- but about how important it is for your daily life. In the first six stanzas of Psalm 119, the psalmist has begun to tell us what God’s Word means to him: it blesses those who obey; it is a delight; it is filled with wonderful truths to be treasured and kept; it can be depended upon; it fills him with hope as it reveals God’s mercy and salvation.
Perhaps the psalmist’s witness to God’s Word has encouraged you to spend more time reading and considering what it means to you. Perhaps you have come to personally experience some of the truths you are learning as you read and let it sink into your mind and heart. I hope you will stay with us as we continue through this wonderful psalm in 2017. This week we're looking at the 7th stanza and the psalmist’s sweet confession that God’s Word is his song (119:54). Lets take a look and see why he says that.
49 Remember the word to Your servant,
In which You have made me hope.
50 This is my comfort in time of trouble,
That Your word has given me life.
51 Arrogant men treat me with insolent scorn,
Yet I do not turn aside from Your law.
52 I have cherished Your decrees all my life long, O LORD
And in them I find comfort.
53 Burning indignation has seized me as I think of evil men
Who forsake Your law.
54 Your statutes are my songs
Wherever I make my home.
55 O Lord, I remember Your name in the night,
And dwell upon Your law.
56 This is true of me,
That I keep Your precepts.
These eight verses are a revelation of what God’s Word means to the psalmist. It is as if he has been writing for 48 verses and suddenly he is overwhelmed with the goodness of God’s Word and all it means to him -- in his heart and in his life. In fact, he says God’s Word has given him life (119:50)! As he encounters troubles and troublers, wherever he goes and even in the darkest night he clings to God’s Word. As he ponders all God’s Word means to him, he comes to see that it is the song of his life.
God’s Word is his life. It is his hope (119:49), his comfort (119:50), His strength (119:51), and his song in the face of evil (119:54). As believers in God and lovers of His Word, we have this life too. God’s Word never leaves us without hope or comfort. Even the weakest of us is strong when we stand upon His Word. And it is our song to sing wherever in this world God has placed us. It is our song of hope to sing when we are suffering or comforting others. It is our song in the face of evil. It is our song in the night. This is true of every believer: God’s Word is your song. I’m praying that you will make it the song of your life.
Have you ever had the experience, when listening to music, that a particular tune may get stuck in your mind and then play itself over and over in your head all day, and even be there, repeating itself, when you wake up in the night? I’m praying that God’s Word will be like that with you. When you awaken in the night, may you remember His name and dwell on His Word (119:55). And may His word to you be the first thing that comes to mind every morning. May His Word be your song, to live and to sing. And may you sing it out loud and strong in the New Year!
I have been involved in Disciplers since 1987, as a discussion leader, teacher, writer, and now as director. I am profoundly committed to the stewardship of this ministry which God has entrusted to me for a time. God’s word is the chief joy of my life. I cherish my personal time in the word, and I am filled with gratitude to be able to share His word with you, my fellow disciples in Christ.