If you’ve been following this blog for the past several months, you know that we’re going through Psalm 119 stanza by stanza and looking at what the psalmist has learned about God’s Word. So far, he has told us that he has learned through experience to trust the word of God, to obey it, delight in it, cling to it, and meditate on it. Here in stanza 13, he proclaims that he loves God’s Word (His law, 119:97). Through his experience of turning to God’s Word in every situation, meditating upon it, and obeying it, he has come to love every statute, ordinance, commandment, saying, and precept. He unabashedly declares, “Oh how I love Your law!”
If you have been reading the psalm from the beginning, you know this is not spoken lightly. The psalmist has been through times of deep trouble. He has suffered reproach and contempt (119:22), he has set his eyes on worthless things (119:37), he has been afflicted and derided by the proud (119:50-51), he has gone astray and was corrected (119:67), he has been lied about (119:69), and has felt like a wineskin in smoke (119:83). The wicked had laid a trap to destroy him, and without God’s law he felt he would have perished in my affliction (119:92, 95). But through all the experiences of his life, the psalmist had found God’s word tried and true. Oh how he loved that Word!
In this 13th stanza, the psalmist reveals to us three specific reasons for loving God’s law:
97 O how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
98 Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies,
For they are ever with me.
99 I have more insight than all my teachers,
For Your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the aged,
Because I have observed Your precepts.
101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way,
That I may keep Your word.
102 I have not turned aside from Your ordinances,
For You Yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are Your words to my taste!
Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 From Your precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way.
First, in verses 98-100, the psalmist states that God’s Word makes us wiser than our enemies and gives us more understanding than our teachers and our elders. The psalmist has described his enemies many times in previous verses, and he had lots of them. Although he writes about human enemies, we must remember that we have spiritual enemies as well and we need the full armor of God, revealed in His Word, in order to stand. Do you know the pieces of armor described in God’s Word? Are you careful to put them on every day? Pearl Hamilton, founder of Disciplers Bible Studies, shared that every morning as she got dressed, she pictured herself putting on the full armor of God as described in Ephesians 6:10-18. How can we hope to stand against the enemies that assail us if we do not know what our armor is and faithfully wear it?
Let’s note too that the psalmist isn’t idly boasting in saying he has more understanding than his teachers and elders. His point is that God’s word (His testimonies, 119:99) is always on his mind. He takes it seriously and acts upon it. He doesn’t just have the intellectual knowledge. What he learns from God’s word has become an integral part of his life, directing him in God’s ways. Someone has said that wisdom is not so much about what you know as what you do with what you know.
Secondly, in verses 101-102, the psalmist reveals how God’s Word restrains from sin. By restraining his feet from every evil way (119:101), he has been obedient. By doing what God has taught him in His Word, he has averted sin. Our world today prefers to deny the black and white of good and evil. As in the days of the judges, people enjoy doing what is right in their own eyes. But the Bible teaches a right way and a wrong way. Let me share a short biography written by Portia Nelson. It is five short chapters and I will summarize.
Chapter 1 - While walking down the street, she fell into a deep hole in the sidewalk. She felt lost and helpless and it took her a long time to find her way out.
Chapter 2 - She walks down the same street and the same deep hole is there. She pretends not to see it but falls in again. It takes her a long time to get out.
Chapter 3 - She walks down the same street, sees that same hole, and falls in again. It has become a habit. By now she knows where she is, so she gets out immediately.
Chapter 4 - She walks down the same street and there is that same hole. This time she tiptoes around it.
Chapter 5 - She walks down another street.
God’s Word teaches us how to walk so we don’t fall in the deep holes.
Lastly, in verses 103-104, the psalmist reveals that God’s Word satisfies the soul. Some people have a “sweet tooth” and a meal is never fully satisfying without something sweet. The sweetest most satisfying thing the psalmist can think of is honey, and he says God’s Word is sweeter than honey. What are you craving? It is God’s Word alone that can fulfill that hunger. Will you go to his Word daily to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8)? It will be sweet satisfaction to your soul. In your Bible you will find wisdom to avoid the streets with the deep holes. You will find the understanding to grow to love God’s Word. And you will satisfy the craving of your soul.
Love you all,
What do you rely upon in this world? What is it that you trust in and lean on when you’re down, when you’re worried, when you’re afraid or feel burdened beyond what you can bear alone? Is there something or someone you count on to always be there for you, to always have the right answer, to always -- every time -- lift you up and see you through, and never fail you? Maybe you turn to your spouse, your best friend, or a counselor. But lets see, in this portion of Psalm 119, who the psalmist relies on -- and why. I hope it will be of great encouragement to you.
As we’ve seen previously, the psalmist is writing about God’s word. He mentions it in nearly every verse of Psalm 119, speaking of His “ordinances”, “law”, “precepts”, “testimonies”, etc. (Check back to the 10/9/2016 blog on Psalm 119:1-8 to see all the different terms the psalmist uses in referring to God’s Word.) In the passage before us today, stanza 12 - verses 89-96, he also speaks of God’s faithfulness.
89 Forever, O LORD,
Your word is settled in heaven.
90 Your faithfulness endures throughout all generations;
You established the earth, and it stands.
91 They stand this day according to Your ordinances,
For all things are Your servants.
92 If Your law had not been my delight,
Then I would have perished in my affliction.
93 I will never forget Your precepts,
For by them You have revived me.
94 I am Yours, save me;
For I have sought Your precepts.
95 The wicked wait for me to destroy me;
I shall diligently consider Your testimonies.
96 I have seen a limit to all perfection;
Your commandment is exceedingly broad.
You have probably noticed that in this life there is not much that is permanent. Most things we buy these days aren’t made to last. Sadly, friendships fail, success is fragile, people disappoint, and laws we rely upon to protect our rights change or are not enforced. But the psalmist tells us there are three things we can count on to be truly lasting, settled, enduring, and established. Those three things are God’s Word, His faithfulness, and the earth He created (119:1-2).
First, God’s word is forever…. settled in heaven (119:89). “Natsab”, the Hebrew word translated “settled”, means “stationary, fixed, permanent, with no sense of movement”. In other words, God’s Word is everlastingly the same. From the beginning of time, now and forever, it is unchanging, authoritative, and trustworthy. When people ignore it, despise it, refute it, and defy it, God’s Word does not change. God’s Word stands. It is still the same even when people hate it, twist it, torture it, try to suppress it, and sin against it. People want to have their own way, and when God’s Word does not fit in with their agenda, they disregard it and disdain those who follow it. But God’s Word will always stand and those who diligently keep it are secure in it and secure in God.
Secondly, God’s faithfulness endures throughout all generations (119:87). His faithfulness has endured the test of time. If you have read and studied the Bible, you know that is true. You know God was faithful to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, king David, to His chosen people, Israel, to Jesus, and to the apostles. If you have studied history, you know that God is always faithful to His people -- to those who love Him, call upon Him, and obey Him. If you study military history, you will be amazed and heartened by incidents that were clearly God’s intervention on behalf of those who looked to Him and trusted Him. (For example, read about George Washington and his troops after being defeated at the battle of Long Island and General Patton at the Battle for Bastogne during World War II. Those are just two of many examples!) As God has been faithful to past generations, He will be faithful to ours as well, and to our children who trust Him -- forever.
Thirdly, God established the earth, and it stands fast (119:87). The psalmist confirms God’s sovereignty in the creation of the world. He established (fixed in its place) the earth and it stands fast! “Stand fast” is a command issued by a military commander ordering troops to hold firm -- “hunker down” -- and refuse to abandon their position. Our Creator brought the earth into existence and holds it together by His power (Colossians 1:17). He has given the command for it to stand firm. Even though we sin and make it a terrible place, people do not determine the fate of the earth.
It is by God’s word that all things stand, for all that He has created is here to serve Him (119:91). We too are His servants and He has given us dominion over His creation (Genesis 1:26). This is an awesome responsibility the psalmist took to heart. He sought God through His “precepts” and found life (119:93). He told God, “I belong to You” (119:94) and sought to live the life of a saved man. The psalmist knew where salvation could be found and that gave him delight (119:92), as he entrusted his way to God’s law (119:92, precepts (119:93), and testimonies (119:95).
The psalmist has seen that nothing is perfect in this world - there is a limit to all perfection (119:96). Have you noticed that too? Perhaps on the first date with your spouse, you thought you had found the perfect partner. He or she was the most perfect date ever. But then you made a discovery.....nobody is perfect. Or perhaps you thought you found the perfect car, house, or job but ultimately discovered that even perfection has its limits.
On the other hand, God’s Word (commandment) is exceedingly broad (119:96). The Hebrew word translated “exceedingly” designates a superlative - something that is unsurpassed, and the word “broad” means “roomy in every direction.” So the psalmist is describing God’s Word as being wider, deeper, and higher, extending beyond what we can imagine. As one commentator observed, “Whereas our earthly experience of perfection is very limited, God’s Word is a perfection that is limitless.” (Bobby Stults, “Lamedh - Psalm 119:89-96” on Sermon Central).
Have you experienced the perfection of God’s Word by reading it daily, studying it, applying it to your life, and obeying it? If so, then you know that you can rely upon it. I hope you will commit to read it every morning and rely upon it as you go through your day. I pray that, like the psalmist, you will see the limitless perfection of God's Word and His faithfulness as He works in your life.
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.