Your Word Guides Me | Psalm 119
For the past six weeks we have been looking at the Psalms we have grown to love. Google lists the Psalms that we are looking at as the most popular psalms that people look for.
We’ve looked at what the Book of Psalms are about, and we also looked at perhaps the most popular Psalm – Psalm 23 – The Lord Is My Shepherd. We looked at Psalm 34 and verse 8 “Taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalms 34:8 NIV). Four weeks ago, we studied Psalm 42, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God”. We’ve looked at Psalms 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God” and Psalm 51, “Create in me a pure heart, O God”. Last week Robbie preached a great sermon from Psalm 118, “his love endures forever”.
Today we are looking at 119. Now today I will be doing what is called expository preaching, which is the type where preachers expound or commentated on each verse, sometime for many minutes for each verse. Now, you may be aware that Psalm 119 is only 176 verses making it the longest chapter in the bible. So, if I say only preach for 3 minutes for each verse that would me I will be preaching for 528 minutes which is just under 9 hours! Mmmmm… somehow, I think that not many will be left here.
Being such a long chapter, why has it become one that we have cherished? Because it is all about God’s Word and how precious it is. In fact, in almost every verse, about 170 in total, mentions God's Word. Such repetition was common in the Hebrew culture. People did not have personal copies of the Scriptures to read as we do, so people memorized his Word and passed it along orally. The structure of this psalm allowed for easy memorization.
Life Application Study Bible
Perhaps one of the verses that we have memorized over the years is verse 105, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalms 119:105 NIV). Some of remember gospel singing Amy Grants song based on this verse.
The context around this verse, in fact the whole chapter, is that the writer (who probably lived during the exile days) was experiencing hardships and persecution. Look at verse 107, “I have suffered much; preserve my life, LORD, according to your word” (Psalms 119:107 NIV). Throughout this Psalm, we read of the writer’s hardships and yet through the darkness of his fear, he sees God’s word is like a lamp that lights up the direction that he needs to go. And that is exactly what God’s Word is for us – it is a lamp that guides us through the darkness of this world.
I want to tell you about a boy who experienced hope in God’s Word in complete darkness. Adun is 14 years old. When he was 7 his parents took him to a church in Thailand where Pastor Go Shin and his wife began caring for him. They also registered Adun into a Child Sponsorship Program through Compassion. The reason why the parent did this is that they are part of the “Lua” ethnic group. They wanted to give their son the best opportunities to get an education and serve God, so they took him to a church. Nearby countries are prone to conflict between ethnic groups, civil unrest, and politically motivated violence. Giving Adun the opportunity to grow up in Thailand would give him the life his parents always wanted him to have.
Through the church, Adun learnt much about God and who He is through what the Bible teaches.
Then just last month, in complete darkness, Adun turned to the God who He knew. You see Adun was one of the 12 boys and their coach who were trapped for 18 days in those completely darkened Thailand caves. And this is what Adun said what happened: “By the 10th night, we were losing patience, hope, physical energy and courage. We could not do anything to help [the situation]. The only thing that I could do was to pray. I prayed ‘Lord, I’m only a boy, you are almighty God, you are holy, and you are powerful. Right now, I can’t do anything, may you protect us, come to help us all 13,’”.
And within hours, when that English Rescue Diver popped his head out from the water and said hello, is anyone there, it was Adun who could speak English, communicated with the divers, translating for his team mates and delivering the news that the world was waiting and praying for - when asked how many were in the cave, Adun answered “thirteen”.
And then commenced the most amazing rescue of all 13 boys. Just a couple of weeks ago, all 11 boys went to a ceremony to become novice Buddhist monks, however Adun did not attend. Instead, he was involved in a thanksgiving service at his local church and Compassion centre. At this service, they also spent time honouring the life of the Thai Navy Seal who lost his life on the rescue mission.
During this service Adun shared his amazing story and the prayer he prayed, and then said, “And then I finished my prayer, thanking God for everything that happened to myself and my friends—all 13 of us. Thank you to everybody who prayed for me and the whole team, thank you to everybody that helped us and the last thank you to the Lord, thank you God. God bless you all. Thank you.”
What an amazing 14-year-old who experience the light of God’s Word in pitch darkness and God came through and rescued them.
As the writer wrote in Psalm 119, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalms 119:105 NIV).
Psalm 119 is arranged in an acrostic pattern. As there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, this Psalm contains 22 units of 8 verses each. Most translations except for the NIV, show this at the beginning of each section. Each of the 22 sections is given to a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and each line in that section begins with that letter. No wonder it’s the longest chapter in the Bible!
Since this is a Psalm glorifying God and His Word, it refers to Scripture over and over again. The psalm is remarkable for how often it refers to God’s written word. It is mentioned in at least 171 of 176 verses.
Listen to these verses: “Praise be to you, LORD; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. Be good to your servant while I live, that I may obey your word. Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me” (Psalms 119:12-19 NIV).
These verses are an example that in this Psalm there are 8 basic words used to describe the Scriptures:
• Law (torah, used 25 times in Psalms 119);
• Word (dabar, used 24 times);
• Judgments (mispatim, used 23 times);
• Testimonies (edut/edot, used 23 times);
• Commandments (miswah/miswot, used 22 times);
• Statutes (huqqim, used 21 times);
• Precepts (piqqudim, used 21 times);
• Word (imrah, used 19 times).
While these eight all refer to God’s Word, there are subtle differences. Look at Deuteronomy 6:1-3, Moses said to the Hebrews: “These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, promised you” (Deuteronomy 6:1-3 NIV). Here, we see Moses referring to God’s Word to the Hebrews in three ways, yet there are differences. These differences include the commandments that are God’s eternal Word like the Ten Commandments, and there are the laws that God applied only to Ancient Israel dealing with sacrifices, and the list continues.
While there are subtle differences, the overall principle that writer of Psalm 119 wants the readers to know is one of obedience to all that the Lord commands, whether it’s a general command, a prescribed law, a legal verdict, or a religious festival or ritual.
I love some of the quotes the writer uses about God’s Word:
“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalms 119:11 NIV).
“Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Psalms 119:18 NIV).
“I weep with sorrow; encourage me by Your word” (Psalms 119:28 NLT)
“Your word, LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens” (Psalms 119:89 NIV).
“You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word” (Psalms 119:114 NIV).
“All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal” (Psalms 119:160 NIV).
The Holy Bible does contain the very words of God. That’s why the Hebrew writer wrote about it: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 NIV). That’s why Paul wrote to Timothy about it saying: “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” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV). So, no wonder Paul told the church at Ephesus that one of the effective ways to withstand the darts of the devil is to “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17 NIV).
William Felt, a great minister of the gospel has written that “the Bible ought to have written on its cover: “High Explosives! Handle With Care". It is explosive. It will transform you to be more like Christ.
While there is danger in reading the Bible, there is more danger by not reading it. Judges 2:10 says: “That whole generation also died, and the next generation forgot the LORD and what he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10 GNB). They had become bankrupted in their values. They were left with no basis on which to make moral decisions. They were in a position of a dangerous drift.
Those who believe in God but neglect reading His Word are in a position of a dangerous drift. It’s the same with us as a congregation. If we follow what we think will reach a crowd and not teach from God’s Word, we will also drift.
Those who “immerse” themselves in it will be transformed to be like His Son, Jesus Christ. This pleases God like nothing else. Jesus says, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:28 NIV).
Why did Jesus say, “blessed are those…”? I’ll tell you why. Jesus knew that the Word of God transforms people.
Then why is it that studies are revealing that we are reading our bibles less? I think I might be right to say that most of us go through seasons where we have struggled to read his Word for us on a regular basis. It could be other priorities, it may be where you are at spiritually, or it could be health related – you are too ill with very little energy to read.
I’ve been through those patches.
And in all his positive statements about God’s Word and law and precepts, the writer to may have gone through such patches to. If you blink you would miss it. But reading his thoughts and his desire ought to encourage us. Look at verses 35-37: “Make me walk along the path of Your commands, for that is where my happiness is found. Give me an eagerness for Your laws rather than a love for money! Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through Your word” (Psalms 119:35-37 NLT).
Here, the writer is turning to God in prayer. It’s like he was struggling and so he is praying to God to make him walk along the paths of His Word, to give him eagerness for His Word, and to help him turn from other priorities and temptations and find life through His word.
What a beautiful prayer. He is pleading with God to give him desire for the word. He knows that ultimately God is sovereign over the desires of the heart. So, he calls on God to cause what he cannot make happen on his own. This is the answer to lack of desire.
John Piper has written: “I cannot stress enough how our real spiritual helplessness should be accompanied by the daily cry to God that he would sustain and awaken our desire to read his word. Too many of us are passive when it comes to our spiritual affections. We are practical fatalists. We think there is nothing we can do. Oh, well, today I have no desire to read. Maybe it will be there tomorrow. We’ll see. And off to work we go.
This is not the way the psalmists thought or acted. Life is war. And the main battles are fought at the level of desires, not deeds. When Paul said, “Put to death what is earthly in you,” he included in the list “passion, evil desire, and covetousness” (Colossians 3:5). These are the great destroyers of desire for the word of God. What did Jesus say takes away our desire for the word? “The cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word” (Mark 4:19). Paul tells us to kill those “desires for other things” before they kill us! He does not encourage us to be passive or fatalistic. He encourages us to fight for our lives. That is, fight for your desire for God’s word.
When life becomes dark, when you can’t see what’s ahead, His Word will light your path. When you feel so dry, His Word is like a fresh stream of living water. When you are lost, His Word is like a compass and will guide you.
Fight for the desire to be there. Pray for the eagerness to return. And see how the Word of God speaks hope, faith, and life into your very situation.
You see the Bible was…
written over a 1,500-year span;
written over 40 generations;
written by more than 40 authors, from every walk of life - including kings, peasants, philosophers, fishermen, poets, scholars, etc.
written in different places: Moses in the wilderness; Jeremiah in a dungeon; Daniel on a hillside and in a palace; Paul inside prison walls, Luke while travelling; John on the isle of Patmos and others in the rigors of military campaigns;
written at different times: David in times of war and Solomon in times of peace
written on three continents: Asia, Africa and Europe.
written in three languages: Hebrew; Aramaic and Greek.
And yet the Biblical authors spoke with harmony and continuity from Genesis to Revelation. There was one Holy Spirit breathing His Words through the many authors telling the one unfolding story: “God’s redemption of people through Jesus Christ”. This Bible is unique for it is the very Word of God for us today.