Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes;

and I will keep it to the end.

Psalm 119:33 English Standard Version

Perhaps you are thinking, in all these verses, there is so much repetition. It seems he is constantly asking to be taught: at verse 7 “when I learn”; verse 12 “teach me”; “open my eyes” verse 18; “teach me your statutes” verse 26. This is a theme that will flow through-out the 176 verses of this Psalm. Why?

Our hearts are prone to wander. We know the good we should do and run the other way.

Our God is the LORD—He keeps His covenant commitment to us forever faithful. He tenderly watches over us and directs us in His love. Those who hate Him complain that His rules are restrictive.

The way of the LORD’s statutes are critical so that our lives model holy living for those around us. We must be told again and again the ways to keep it so that those who look to us will see the faithful, compassionate kindness of God.

We need the repetition. Our hearts are stubborn in their sinfulness. Our will is in a contest against our commitment to the Living God. The psalmist knows this and wants to be submitted to the LORD, the One Who keeps His promises. He welcomes the repetition—that the goodness of the way of God will drown out the bad intentions and waywardness of his heart. How often have we, as parents said “If I have told you once, I have told you a thousand times”? We know how much we need to repeat what is important so that our children follow in the right steps. The psalmist, a child of God, welcomes the thousand-fold repetition, knowing by this instruction he will keep the way of the LORD.

God of Mercy Who has given us life in Jesus Christ—we thank You for the teaching of Your Word. We thank You for the way of Your salvation. Forgive us. We know how we are prone to wander from Your statutes and commands. Lead us, by Your Word and Spirit, in the way everlasting. Thank You, God our Father, for Your tender-hearted goodness to us. Thank You, God our Teacher, that in Your Word we have rare and beautiful treasures. Amen.

October 10, 2019 -- Psalm 119:32 -- Enlarge my heart

I will run in the way of your commandments

when you enlarge my heart.

Psalm 119:32 English Standard Version

What a dramatic turn around has taken place for the psalmist as he documents it in the eight verses that make up this stanza. It started with his soul clinging to the dust (verse 25). Then his soul was melting away for sorrow (verse 28). He wrestled with false thoughts (verse 29). As you read today’s short verse can you sense the change? The writer is rising up in the strength of the LORD. Now he anticipates running in the way of the LORD’s commandments. The weight of troubles and sorrows have fallen away in the light of the glory and the grace of the Living God.

It is the LORD Who can increase his heart’s capacity for joy.

It is the LORD Who stretches his heart so that it will be prepared for ever greater obedience.

It is the LORD Who makes his heart bigger than all his troubles and sorrows and allows him to have victory.

Maybe this is the prayer you need today? LORD—enlarge my heart.

Thank You for the military images You reveal of Yourself in the Bible—that You are the Warrior. You are the Captain of our Salvation. You are the God in Whom we have victory! Enlarge our hearts this day so that we may truly believe the great and awesome promises of Your Word. Stretch our faith and our hearts so that we can find victory in the areas where we feel so beaten down. Enlarge our hearts so that we will praise You as we prepare to run in Your commandments. Amen.

October 9, 2019 -- Psalm 119:31 -- Clinging to the LORD

I cling to your testimonies, O LORD,

let me not be put to shame!

Psalm 119:31 English Standard Version

In a recent radio broadcast I heard noted apologist and public speaker Ravi Zacharias say he was prepared for the vitriol and shots fired against him and his ministry aimed at him from non-Christians. What he was not prepared for was to be shot in the back by Christians. The very ones who should be supportive and understanding can sometimes we our harshest critics and the ones who seek to shame us.

The psalmist has experienced much ridicule and suffering for his confident faith in the Living God; he has suffered for holding tightly in obedience to the testimonies of the LORD (we can see that in many verses: 22, 23 are some examples). He desires not to be put to shame—his urgent prayer is that when things are good and when things are very difficult he will be consistent in his walk with God.

What is the most difficult time for obedience for you? Is it when everything is going well that you wrestle to remain obedient to Christ, the Captain of our Salvation? Or is it when you suffer betrayal at the hands of those who you thought were fellow believers that you find it almost impossible to remain in the peace won for us in Christ our King? When we allow people or circumstances, our feelings or our thoughts to drag us away from our faithful adherence to the commands of God we are acting in ways that bring shame to us and by association dishonour His Name.

The more I study this psalm, the more I receive it as a prayer in which the psalmist is asking God the Lawgiver to direct him to be loyal in his service. Jesus, the very Son of God, taught us that we must forgive a brother who sins against us, forgiving as often as seventy-times seven if that is how often the brother confesses his sins and seeks forgiveness. How much more gracious, how much greater is the love of God which is demonstrated to us in Jesus our Saviour?! As often as we see we have acted shamefully, as often as we confess our waywardness, He will forgive us and cleanse us from all our wrong-doing. More than this even, He will set our feet back on the pathway of clear-conscience obedience so that we may be found clinging to His testimonies. And the mercy of our Kind Father moves us to humbly thank Him and praise Him in ever greater choruses of wonder and blessing and renewed acts of obedience.

Covenant-Keeping God, Faithful and True, Who is like You? Because of Jesus’ great sacrifice poured out on the cross, You forgive the sins of Your people . You restore to us the joy of our salvation. You give us renewed strength for life and holy service through the powerful presence of Your Spirit within us. Mighty Sovereign we desire to cling to You and Your testimonies so strengthen Your grip of grace on us and strengthen our desire for and our ability to obey all You command. Amen.

October 6, 2019 -- Psalm 119:30 -- The path of faithfulness

I have chosen the way of faithfulness;

I set your rules before me.

Psalm 119:30 English Standard Version

Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. When He has grabbed hold of our hearts we must continually choose, each day, at the place where we are tempted, we must choose the way of faithfulness. It is the way which Jesus leads. When, in hindsight, or by way of conviction we realize we have strayed from the path of faithfulness, we are invited to prayers of confession. We repent—turn from our sins and turn to Jesus. And we set our feet back on the pathway of faithfulness.

In order to stay in the way of faithfulness and keep us from straying, we would be wise to set the rules of the LORD before our eyes. My wife and I have joined the gym. It was so good for us. However, I have noticed that there are many distractions at the gym. When my wife is with me my eyes don’t stray as they can when she is not present with me. Alone I’d notice those men who are buff and I’d find I can resent them. How easy it seems for them to maintain a fit physique. Alone I can get distracted by women in the gym. The moment I realize how my eyes and thoughts wonder I would avert my eyes; but I needed a better solution.

When I committed to memorizing this Psalm, I had a ready answer supplied to me. When I was on the treadmill, I’d have one stanza of this psalm written out and placed in front of me. My thoughts are thereby focused on memorizing and my eyes are not free to go astray. It is one way to choose the path of faithfulness and to put the word of God in my heart so that I won’t sin against Him (check out verse 11).

Consider the ways in which your eyes and minds can stray from faithfulness. What things would distract you from keeping your eyes and attention fixed on Jesus? Now, ask yourself: what are the ways in which the LORD invites you to put His rules before your eyes?

Thank You for Your faithfulness to us, King Jesus. Thank You that Your words and Your ways never strayed from complete, joy-filled obedience to our Father in heaven. Blessed are You, Jesus, even when obedience led you through suffering and pain, You remained steadfast, recognizing the fruit of obedience would yield greater fruitfulness than whatever temptations to stray might have purported to offer You. Thank You Spirit of God, You Who rested on Jesus, also fill the hearts of believers so that we are enabled to live as a new creation, suited to walk in the way of faithfulness. God of Glory and Life, cause the way of faithfulness to be the longing of our hearts so that we bring You the honour Your Name so richly deserves. Amen.

October 4, 2019 -- Psalm 119:29 -- No false steps

Put false ways far from me;

and graciously teach me your law.

Psalm 119:29 English Standard Version

A man stood up in our bible study group and noted how he struggled to live for Jesus. He told the story how he had only one brother and the two of them were very competitive. They worked the rails and were always comparing their accomplishments. When Gerry became a Christian, he realized he probably shouldn’t be arguing with his brother.

Gerry told the group of a time he visited his parents and his brother and brother’s family happened to be there as well. And, as happened so often, the two of them got into an argument again. After getting really frustrated, Gerry quickly said good-bye to his parents. He piled his two kids in the car. He started driving off. He was about two minutes away and into the simmering silence his wife, a new Christian, quietly said to him: “Now, how do you think you’ll be able to speak of Jesus’ love to your brother ever again?”

Gerry, now decades after this event, teared up at the memory. He said her words penetrated straight to his heart. Immediately he turned the car around, drove back to the house and finding his brother he apologized. His brother was really surprised. And blurted out “You started the fight.” His brother baited him. It was their usual pattern. Gerry replied “You are right, I did. Again I am so sorry for my bad behaviour.” Gerry said that moment started the pathway of healing between.

On our own we easily fall into our old paths and patterns of sin. We need to pray urgently that God will redirect our steps into His ways. Stubbornly we look for any and every excuse to charge down our false paths and familiar wrongs. When Jesus takes hold of our hearts we see what we’re doing. When the Spirit of God teaches us from the Law of God, we begin to take up our new life in Christ. People cannot help but see the change in us—and the honour and credit belong to our King!

Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life for all who believe in You, we confess we are prepared to justify our false steps and bad behaviour. In the light of Your gracious Word and by the convicting work of Your Spirit we must confess how often we are startled to find ourselves so far from where we want to be, or ought to be. With the psalmist we plead: “graciously teach us your law” so that we will powerfully live out our new-found love for and gratitude to Jesus. Thank You, Father in heaven, for all the resources You pour out so that we may live as your beloved children. Amen.

October 3, 2019 -- Psalm 119:28 -- Godly Sorrow

My soul melts away for sorrow

strengthen me according to your word!

Psalm 119:28 English Standard Version

Sorrow is not always bad! It is an appropriate response for the Christian when his sins are revealed by the Spirit. The Spirit of God takes the Word of God and holds it up before each of us like a mirror. We are made aware of the beauty of God our Father’s instructions and we realize how we are running from His good Word. This reflects the ugliness of our hearts. Sorrow is an appropriate response.

When the believer has sinned against God by sinning against others—gossip, murderous anger, lust and disparaging the success of others—when we as believers begin to grasp the gravity of such sins and by them how we are destroying community this should cause us godly sorrow.

The believer experiences sorrow over the wickedness of governments and institutions, the callousness of the stock market and evidences of injustice in our courts. Our souls truly melt with sorrow—we can find ourselves seated in a puddle of tears.

Perhaps we should learn to feel sorrow. Maybe our hearts are hard as stone and we are cold towards the Word of God. Maybe we read about sorrow as something completely foreign to us because we have accommodated ourselves to the world and find we are aligned with the world and out of step with the Word. How we need the Spirit to crack our hard exterior and flood us the awareness of our true condition

Yet the LORD our God does not leave us trapped in sorrows. He ears our prayers! He has provided the strengthen we need—Jesus Christ, Who has paid the debt for all our sins. He has removed our shame. He is the way in which broken community can be restored. As we confess our sins in true community we receive forgiveness. We hear the confessions of others and are strengthened and blessed by their words we in turn have the great honour of holding out forgiveness because of the work of Jesus.

Is this crazy? It seems so pie-in-the-sky unattainable and lofty! It is. It is the power of Jesus’ healing work which overturns the effects of the curse of Adam’s sin. We can live this way—deeply and beautifully. Jesus gives us His Spirit to live in us so that we can venture out, offering and receiving forgiveness.

In Isaiah we are taught that Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace, of the increase of His government and rule there shall be no end. That should comfort and strengthen believers We are not at the mercy of whatever government or policy or court decisions are currently in vogue. Those who belong to Jesus are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. We live here confident in the promises of the Word that Jesus rules now at the Father’s right hand and is bringing righteousness and justice full and complete at His return. All wrongs—every single one of them—will be answered and His victory will be over all in through all. What glorious hope that gives us as believers.

Faithful follower of Jesus—grieve and sorrow over the sin you see. And plead the promise of this verse, that His strengthening will saturate our bones and our soul according to the promises of His Word! Helpful hint here: read the Word. Drink deeply of the promises you read there!

Earlier this psalmist taught us to pray: Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of Your law^. We echo that prayer this morning, Sovereign King. Let the Word and all its strengthening promises revive our hope and lift us up from all our sorrows. God, Creator of true community, move among us as Christians so that we will set aside our pride and live as humble believers prepared to offer and receive healing forgiveness for the sake of the Name of Jesus. Amen.

^Psalm 119:18

October 1, 2019 -- Psalm 119:27 --Seeking to Understand

Make me understand the way of your precepts,

and I will meditate on your wondrous works.

Psalm 119:27 English Standard Version

I don’t understand. Those words make us feel helpless. If we are cooking a big dinner for friends and family and suddenly realize “I don’t understand the recipe, what is expected.” Or if we are facing a math problem with all these squiggles and brackets and letters which require solving—I don’t understand and I don’t even know where to begin! Whenever we don’t understand a problem or a situation we can freeze up because of indecision.

In sharp contrast the Psalmist longs to understand the precepts of the LORD, what God appoints for His people to do—for that is what precepts are. These are the ways in which He commands us to live for Him, to live in love for God and love for our neighbour. Our impulses and instincts have us look out for number 1—ourselves. But the LORD would have us live in self-sacrifice, love that acts for the good of our neighbours and forgives our enemies. It is so counter-intuitive.

When we see the glorious work of Jesus Christ—how He poured out His life in loving obedience to His Father and deep compassion and love for the lost of this world—we have before us an example Who helps us understand the way of the Father’s precepts.

The Spirit of God guides us in our understanding. When we submit our will and our lives to Jesus, His Spirit enables us to meditate on the wondrous works of God—how His precepts fit together. Those who believe in God the Creator realize He fits all things together in beauty—even our broken and fallen world which is riddled with sin and the consequences of evil—displays the glorious sustaining love of our Father. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). What a glorious prospect. What marvellous incentive we have to dig in and seek to understand His precepts!

How intricately and beautifully are the pieces of life and creation, purpose and promise woven together in our Lord Jesus Christ. God, Who created and governs everything from quarks to quasars, we confess how little we know of the good You intend for us in Your law and in Jesus, the fulfilment of the Law. With the psalmist we pray to understand. We pray that the eyes of faith will be opened and as we begin to comprehend the richness, the splendour and the terrible beauty of all You appoint for us to do, let our hearts and minds reflect on it, savouring it and delighting in You. Amen.

September 30, 2019 -- Psalm 119:26 -- Trained for Battle

When I told of my ways, you answered me;

   teach me your statutes!

Psalm 119:26 English Standard Version

Sometimes I have to school my reactions so that I don’t roll my eyes and let a derogatory sigh of exasperation escape my lips when I am listening to a speaker. It can be tempting for me to fold my arms and shake my head and act as if I am so much wiser, superior to whatever drivel is being spouted by the talker. Then I must consider this: I am not even smart as a paramecium compared to unlimited wisdom and knowledge of God. Therefore, in allegiance to the All-Wise God Whose ways are higher than my ways and Whose thoughts are inexpressibly elevated beyond mine, I am compelled to exercise kindness and forbearance in all my interactions with other people who share a paramecium-like cranial capacity with me

This glorious, wise, omniscient God does not deride His people; He does not disregard us when we are speaking and mock our ineptitudes. He answers us! James teaches us that God is our Good Father, the source of every good gift. What a gentle Father.

Teach me—the English is rather prosaic here. The background of this word in Hebrew includes a sense of being trained for war. While laying out his life before the Living God—complaints and exasperations all—the psalmist realizes he is being overwhelmed by his sins and the temptations of the enemy. A good friend and prayer-partner had a great description of the very difficult situations of his life. He’d call them “the four horsemen of his personal apocalypse”. He names them: being hungry, tired, lonely, and dealing with untamed sexual urges. When any of those four horsemen, or any combination of them, began riding out, he knew he would be in trouble. He admitted when he was being wise in the LORD, or at minimum aware of the threat, he would cry out to God. I imagine the psalmist being aware of the threats arrayed against him, as he lays out his life before the Lord of Glory, as he is about to be overwhelmed by temptations, enemies, or sin. Therefore he cries out “arm me for battle according to Your statutes”.

The statutes of the LORD are something a believer owes to the Captain of Salvation. When the LORD our Warrior responds to us, teaching us to overcome our enemies, we would be fools to do anything else other than follow His training.

 Thank You, Father—Source of Every Good—for the graciousness with which You hear us. We know Your kindness and compassion are given to us in boundless measure because of Jesus Christ—in Whom all our enemies are vanquished. Spirit of God, as we are being trained for spiritual victory, give us the humble wisdom to put into practice all we are learning. Thank You for the communities into which You have, by Your providence placed us, where we will grow in grace. You have designed it that way. Blessed are You, our God, Warrior and Captain of our Salvation. Amen.

September 29, 2019 -- Psalm 119:25 -- What do you cling to?

My soul clings to the dust;

give me life according to your word!

Psalm 119:25 English Standard Version

At first glance it seems like a strange statement—clinging to the dust. You might think of Adam—he was created out of the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7) and God breathed life into his nostrils. Maybe your mind goes to a phrase often used in burial services: “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust”. That exact wording is not found in the bible, but is a reference to Genesis 3:19—”for you are dust, and to dust you shall return”. After Adam and Eve had rebelled against God He brought the down His curse of sin into our very DNA and the curse of sin which affects all of creation. The LORD Who made us informed us we will return to dust.

The dust then is both what we are made of and what we return to. What sustains us? It is the breath of life from God. Ephesians teaches that we are dust—dead in our sins and trespasses. We do not bring any good thing to the table. We do not please God by our words, thoughts, gifts, deeds, there is no good thing that is in us or flows from us. We sin because we are sin-filled creatures—we are clinging to the dust of death.

But God, rich in mercy, calls us to life. In Jesus, the living word, we are brought from the dust of death to life which begins in Jesus and lasts forever more. Believers in Jesus Christ are raised from the dust and from the useless and meaningless actions which reveal our deadness. Our souls still cling to death. We are still creatures that, left to our own devices, always choose sin, death, destruction and chaos rather than life. Until the very Spirit of God takes up residence in our hearts and works in us the life of Jesus—the living words—and directs us in the way of life—the written word we will always somnambulate through life—live like sleep-walkers.

Today is Sunday. Christians delight in going to church because we praise God—Who has given us life. Today is Sunday and believers across this globe defy governments, risk imprisonment and shunning by their non-believing family members and community because in Jesus Christ alone is life. The Spirit of God Who lives in us reminds us: greater is He Who lives in us (the Spirit of Jesus) than he that is in the world (Satan and the hosts of darkness)—this is I John 4:4. Those who have met Jesus through the Bible and because of the powerful presence of the Spirit don’t have to be cajoled into going to church—we are drawn by joy. God has answered the prayer of this psalmist—my soul clings to the dust-I am appealing to You, asking so urgently: give me life according to Your Word—on the basis of all the promises You have made to me.

Come to church. If you are feeling some inkling to go to church—plan on going this day and seeing the life God our Father is giving through Jesus Christ. See the powerful life-bringing work of the Spirit. That curiosity is God-prompted. You will not regret going to church!

God of Creation and Life-continue to breath life in us through Jesus Christ. God our Father, give us life that wells up in us through faith in Jesus Christ and by the powerful presence of Your Spirit overflows through-out this life and brings us to the joy of eternal life in Your Presence. This day, as the curious ones, drawn by Your Spirit, come to church may we who know life in Jesus’ Name welcome them and show them the joy that is found in Christ alone. Amen.

September 26, 2019 -- Psalm 119:24 -- But God is my testimony

Your testimonies are my delight;

they are my counselors.

Psalm 119:24 English Standard Version

There is a tiny two word phrase that gloriously testifies to the work of the Mighty One of Heaven and Earth.

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. Genesis 50:20

But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol,
for he will receive me. Selah Psalm 49:15

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Man’s power fails, but God’s power avails. Man’s schemes fall to the ground, but God’s power brings renown. Understand it, the Bible is not a moral code book. It is not a successive series of great kings and prophets and moral leaders who conquer all their enemies and have won or earned a right to walk with God! The Bible is filled with sinners, losers, posers, those who were rushing with abandon straight to hell, but God rescued, saved, and delivered. In every instance the Living God is the hero. Therefore the testimonies of Holy One are the delight of this psalmist. Therefore the Bible is the Psalmist’s counselor and advisor. There is no other resource able to inform us of our true condition but God’s word. There is no help available but God makes His great treasures available for all who believe.

Believe me, this is the truth I need to be sounded deep into my own soul every day. I can feel like such a hypocrite as I go out to preach. Yet, time and again I am given strength to go, to do, to speak. Oh, what glory I have found in Jesus Christ—But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14

I hardly dare raise my eyes to heaven to appeal to You and ask of You—but God, while we were still sinners You sent Christ to rescue us. I can slip into fear-filled inertia knowing all the wrongs I have committed even though I know You and claim that in You I have every grace needed for victory—but God You have given us the Only Mediator Jesus Christ, Who points to the fact He was punished in our place and He has given us His righteousness.

Blessed be Your Name O King of Righteousness. Glorious are You. Let this be our song-filled service and testimony all the day: God Your testimonies are my delight; for they are my counselors. Amen.

September 24, 2019 -- Psalm 119:23 -- On what is your attention fixed?

Even though princes sit plotting against me,

your servant will meditate on your statutes.

Psalm 119:23 English Standard Version

Your social standing cannot protect you from the hate non-believers harbor against the faithful followers of the Living God. King David experienced this. Though he was mighty in the land, his own sons plotted against him rebelling against showing themselves to be enemies of the LORD and enemies to their own father.

What was David’s response? Speaking from a worldly point of view, one would expect David to become a bitter old man. Two of his sons mounted rebellions against him. One of David’s sons violated his own sister. His brood was troublesome like a boiling cauldron. Yet the LORD Who is King of kings rescued David each and every time. David is not the hero of this story—it is the LORD his God—Who is David’s Rescuer and the One Who brings peace Who is the Hero.

So David refused to retreat to bitterness. Instead he meditated on the statutes of the LORD the Lawgiver. These are the rules by which we measure the boundaries of our lives. These are the laws which God gives so that we do not conform to the patterns and standards of the world but are wholly directed by Him Who made us and therefore knows what is best for us.

Ultimately it is David’s descendant and his LORD Who lived and fulfilled this verse perfectly: Jesus—Who with the Father, created the heavens and the earth—came Incarnate—God-Man—and His own people did not acknowledge Him. Kings judged Him and pursued Him, hounding Him. Unlike His ancestor, Jesus never sinned. Never was tossed to and fro by sin and doubts. Jesus remained perfectly submitted to the statutes of God. He meditated on them and by them guarded His hearts and His steps so that He became the perfect High Priest and the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.

This Psalm, line by line, verse by verse, stanza by stanza, always points to Jesus. He is the hero of our faith and LORD of our life. The psalm encourages us to live for Him—eyes fixed not on our circumstances, our weaknesses and failures, but sharply focused on His perfections. The rules and laws and statutes and Word of God direct us so that we do not constantly rehearse bitterness in the sound track of our minds, but as we remember all His directives we are ever and always teaching our souls of the perfections of our God.

You are the LORD—faithful to all Your promises which are “yes” and “amen” in Jesus Christ. You are the perfect Lawgiver—teaching us what is just and right in a world gone crazy. Ah, Spirit of God, move our stubborn and inclined-to-bitterness-hearts from focusing on ourselves and lift our thoughts and aspirations to where Jesus is seated at the right hand of God. You know what is best for us therefore as we submit our lives to You show us the secret places of our heart where we are hanging on to unjust thoughts and wicked ways and as these rebellions are exposed, conquer them so that we will be wholly and fully submitted to You and find the peace of Christ which passes all understanding. Amen.

September 22, 2019 -- Psalm 119:22 -- Rolling away scorn

Take away from me scorn and contempt

for I have kept your testimonies.

Psalm 119:22 English Standard Version

Matthew Henry, in his commentary on this verse, writes “Hard and foul words indeed break no bones, and yet they are very grievous to a tender and ingenuous^ spirit; therefore David prays, ‘Lord, remove them from me, that I may not be thereby either driven from my duty or discouraged in it.”

[^innocent, unsuspecting] Mathew Henry Commentaries BibleWorks10 Reference Library

In fact that word “remove” can be translated: roll them away. As if they are a great crushing weight. Interesting that even a king, great as David feels the weight of words and scorn. The very same word, “roll” is used in Joshua “And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” And so the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day.” (Joshua 5:9 note Gilgal sounds like the word “roll” so it is a place name that refers to God’s salvation.)

It is a very odd story. Here is the history: the people of Israel were delivered from Egypt. God formed them as His covenant people, claiming them as His Own, His Kingdom, His priests, His treasured people at Mt. Sinai and having made this declaration He gave them the 10 Commandments. This people went to the Promised Land and were given the opportunity to take it. Ten spies came back with a report: “It is too hard, giants are in the land—we cannot overtake them.” That is true. There were giants. It is also true the people of Israel, who could not save themselves from slavery in Egypt would never be able to move as a military unit capable of invading the Promised Land and conquering the mighty inhabitants. In this instance only God the Warrior (as He described Himself in Exodus) could prevail. Two of the twelve spies pointed this truth out: God Himself is their Warrior.

Israel, in fear, rebelled against the two spies and against Moses their leader and their punishment was to have that generation of adults die off in the wilderness. Anyone twenty or older would die before the LORD of Glory would ever bring His people back to the Promised Land. The forty years passed. That generation which did not believe God’s promises died out. Only the two faithful spies remained and would receive the blessing of entering the Promised Land.

In Joshua 5:9 the army of the LORD is circumcised. They are on the edge of hostile territory. Surrounded by mighty kingdoms. Adult men who are circumcised are in pain for a few weeks. It is odd. An army circumcised is helpless to defend themselves. That is exactly the point. These soldiers, these men, by ways of this act of submission state all their protection and all their hope is fixed on God Who alone can protect them and save them. The reproach of Egypt is taken from this army—they no longer trust themselves, or their own power, powerless they are fully entrusting themselves to the Living God.

David is claiming God alone can roll away the scorn and reproach he experiences. Only the LORD can defend him and cause the scornful and contempt-filled words to lose their power over him. And David is reminding God that he is guarding and keeping his ways according to the LORD’s commandments. He is a soldier in the army of the King of Kings. In Hebrews Jesus is described as: “The Captain of our Salvation”. Men are no longer circumcised. Baptism has replaced the Old Testament sacrament of circumcision. Men and women are covered by the sacrament of baptism and claim they are helpless and unable to rescue themselves unless Jesus the Captain of our Salvation should claim us as His Own.

All our hope for living our new life as sons and daughters of God is fixed on You, Jesus. You alone have rolled away the reproach of our sins and given us new life. Jesus, lead us by Your Word and by Your Spirit—Who lives in us. In our lives God our King be glorified. Amen.

September 20, 2019 -- Psalm 119:21 -- Is God the God of Mercy?

You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones

who wander from your commandments.

Psalm 119:21 English Standard Version

Some hard-hearted people read these words and go: “See, here it is—God is just an angry deity.” Having made that statement they then proceed to act as if by such words they are not bound to act in response to His commandments. But let’s take a moment and unpack this verse.

In the context of this psalm, the insolent and accursed ones are part of the people of Israel. These are the members of the Twelve Tribes, who have seen the mercy of God, experienced His rescue from Egypt, are under covenant promises, have their land protected by the High King of Heaven—despite all these blessings and so many more such people are insolent against their LORD to Whom they owe all their allegiance. To be insolent is to be rude, arrogant, lacking grace or respect.

Consider the mercy of God, as we read it in Isaiah

I spread out my hands all the day
to a rebellious people,
who walk in a way that is not good,
following their own devices; (Isaiah 65:2 ESV).

In His great patient love, God the Mighty and the Merciful has His hands opened wide to receive a people who are continually rejecting them. As long as His hands are open, there is time to repent, there is time to know He truly loves us. However, there will be a day of judgment, a time when the hands spread wide in mercy will clasp together. Jesus, the Saviour of all the Earth and the Just Judge will hold court and those who lived and died in rebellion against God will then face the curse of hell.

Our verse today serves as an invitation and as a warning. God, Who made the heavens and the earth and so knows what is needful for a life of blessing on this planet, is calling us, any who hears these words today, to turn to Him in repentance. Leave your sins. Stop being insolent. Find a Christian whose walk with God you respect and ask him about the way of joyful submission to the LORD.

Who is a god like You, God of Wonderful Mercy?! Help us to see that Your hands are stretched out prepared to receive prodigal sons and daughters. Help us to realize Jesus’ hands were stretched out at the cross where He took our place receiving the punishment which should have fallen on us. Help us to realize the powerful presence of the Spirit Who defeats our flesh’s continual prodigal longings and strengthens us to live for You, our Father the King. We have friends and family members, dear to us, who are still walking as those who are accursed and insolent—break down the stubborn barriers that keep them from running into Your out-stretched arms. Let them know, as we do, the joy of Your salvation and the bountiful way in which Your deal with Your servants—who are renamed sons and daughters of the Most High. Amen. In Jesus’ Name we pray all this. Amen.

September 19, 2019 -- Psalm 119:20 -- A soul consumed with longing

My soul is consumed with longing

for your rules at all times.

Psalm 119:20 English Standard Version

The opening line is one an addict can easily identify with: a soul consumed with longing. The longing of an addict fills his thoughts with getting the next high. The actions of an addict are geared towards sweet talking or manipulating or wheedling—whatever it is that will allow him to get his next hit. It is so easy for those not addicted to alcohol or drugs of some kind to turn up our noses and feel superior. But I ask you, pause a moment and evaluate your life against this text.

What consumes your soul? What is it you think about all the time? Maybe you are someone who records every program of a particular series so that you can “escape” and enjoy this show—ignoring duties and responsibilities in order to do so. There are “acceptable” additions that consume the soul, an example is gluttony. There are many who struggle secretly with pornography—consuming the thoughts and desires, affecting normal healthy relationships tainting them with the comparison of the on-line high. Anger is an addiction, red-hot rage blinding the vision and clouding clear thinking so that periodically, sometimes without warning, words spew out as fountains of fury.

By the profound mercy of God the Faithful the writer of this psalm knows the Living God as the One Who satisfies His soul. The longings of his heat, the impulses of his mind, the focus of his time all of these are directed on the rules of God the Just. He fills this out later in this psalm when he praises God the Mighty by saying: “To all perfection I see a limit, but Your commands are boundless” (Psalm 119:96, NIV; for some time that has been my absolute favourite verse of this lengthy Psalm). All our false loves and addictions will disappoint. Only God Who is infinite in power, boundless in knowledge and unequaled in love can sustain our interest and attention and love by leading us in His ways.

Jesus, when He walked this earth as a man, showed this so powerfully. No matter how great the protests, temptation, the rejection and betrayals, His soul was consumed with longing for the rules of His Father in heaven. He found the boundless strength and hope to continue in the work His Father had given Him—remaining faithful even to the point of enduring death on the cross. Hebrews tells us He endured this all for the sake of the joy set before Him—the joy of obedience to His Father, the joy of walking in His Father’s limitlessly perfect commands. And by His obedience He is for all who believe in Him the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. Glory be to His Name.

God of Clarity and Truth by the powerful presence of Your Spirit expose all our false addictions for the death traps they are. When we, exhausted and spent, realize we have given our lives and our hearts to all sorts of things that can never satisfy, we ask, Spirit of Comfort, fill us with the glorious knowledge of Jesus Christ. In Him and by His power sealed to our hearts by Your presence Spirit of God, help us to deny ourselves, and live in wonder-filled obedience to Him. Let the vast delights of obedience to Him induce us to ever greater acts of obedience and love directed squarely to You, Father: our soul’s greatest longing and only true delight. Amen

September 17, 2019 -- Psalm 119:19 -- What do you boast in?

I am a sojourner on the earth;

hide not your commandments from me!

Psalm 119:19 English Standard Version

A sojourner is one who moves from one place to another—we are invited to be such people—followers of Jesus Christ. He says to each of us: “Follow Me”. He has the right to command this of us because He rescued us from our sins. He has exchanged the filthy rags of our guilt and shame and given us the clothing of His perfections. He gives our lives the great purpose of knowing we will live with God in eternity where sin can not ever take up captive again. Our boast, therefore, is in Jesus Christ, all day long.

Ray Pritchard asks:

What would heaven be like if you had to earn your way there? It would be like going to

one of those $500-per-plate political dinners where people stand around bragging

about how much they gave to help their candidate win the election. “I gave $5,000.”

“So what? I gave $10,000.” “Big deal. I gave $50,000.” “Move out of the way, pipsqueak.

I own this guy. He’s got $300,000 of my money.” And so it goes.

Wouldn’t it be horrible to spend eternity listening to people brag about what they did

to earn their salvation? Heaven would not be heaven if that were the case. Someone

would put his arm around Jesus and say, “You and me, Jesus, we did it. You died on

cross and I baked the cookies.”

Ray Pritchard An Anchor for the Soul, Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2011. page 70

How gross and revealing Pritchard’s statement is. Truly it is all to Jesus, all to Him we owe. He alone is our boast and our song. No one can say to Jesus: “You owe me!” Our best works are as dung and dumpster worthy trash. For this reason He alone can command us: “Follow Me.” As those purchased by His blood and debtors to His mercy, we gladly leave our sins and the weight of condemnation these sins deserve and ask Him: “show me Your commandments—teach me how to walk in step with You.” We follow Him from death to life. We follow Him through joys and trials, pains and victories assured of this: He is the Only One Who can lead us through this life, through death and the grave to the victory of living in the Presence of Almighty God.

Who is a God like You, Mighty and Glorious One?! You live in the Splendour of Unapproachable Light and You deign to make Yourself known to us—weak and sinful though we are. More than this, Jesus our Saviour and King, You rescue us from the clutches of darkness and give us new life. Teach us Your ways, Jesus. Lavish Your Spirit on us so that we have the strength and the ever greater desire to follow You. Amen.

September 16, 2019 -- Psalm 119:18 -- Is the Law Wondrous?! Yes!

Open my eyes that I may behold

wondrous things out of your law.

Psalm 119:18 English Standard Version

Recently I was listening to the well-known preacher, Paul Washer. Washer had been approached by someone right after sermon he’d preached and this man complained, “Don’t you find the law of God oppressive?” In response Washer replied: “Which law do you find oppressive? Do you find it oppressive not to kill? How about not sleeping with your neighbour’s wife? Perhaps do not steal—is that the one?” What a great response.

The law of the LORD our God is wondrous. How so? By the law of the LORD we realize we have been rescued. The God of our Salvation rescued us from our futile way of living, futility which leads to death. By the law of the LORD we understand we need a Savior—for God is holy and perfect and we are sinful and unworthy to enter His presence. By the law of the LORD we recognize, as those rescued from sin, we have a rule for thankful living. God our Father has identified in His wondrous law, the way in which we can show our gratitude for His goodness to us. And the law of the LORD is wondrous because we can live in true community.

Think about the challenges of our culture here in North America. There is the hammer of political correctness that is being wielded by the enemies of Christ. The laws of the land forbid anyone to criticize the false religion of the Muhammadans—followers of Mohamed. The laws of our land promote the abuse of children. Those as young as ten years old, may decide they are trapped in the wrong body—at which point social and medical services will ensure such gender confused children will be given powerful drugs that suppress the very biological expression of maleness or females which their D.N.A. has impressed upon every cell in their bodies. Our Governor General, in Nov. 2017, publicly mocked those who believe the LORD our God created the heavens and the earth. It is confusing. What is wrong is celebrated as what is right and what is right is despised. Christians who disagree with such laws are hounded and fined, ostracised and facing tribunals.

Yet, for us as Christians, we pray that God the Maker of All, will open our eyes so that we will see the intricate beauty of His Laws. We ask the Mighty One to show us how His law allows people to live in community. The laws of God the Compassionate are not oppressive—they are wondrous, giving all those who follow His laws the opportunity to live at peace with the LORD Our Judge and Lawgiver and at peace with one another.

Your Word declares: “Blessed are those who keep the LORD’s testimonies, who seek Him with their whole heart.” We have experienced the truth of this, Living LORD of All. And with the psalmist we continue our appeal to You, asking: Open our eyes that we may behold wondrous things out of your law! Great and Worthy are You, God of Salvation—worthy to receive our praise and honour, love and obedience. Who is like You, King Jesus, sacrificing Himself in our place, so that sinful men and women, are set free from the punishment our sins deserve and by Your Name are called “daughters and sons” of God the Father?! Spirit of God, blessed are You, living in us directing us in the bountiful goodness of God. Amen.

September 14, 2019 -- Psalm 119:17 -- Has God be Bountifully Kind to You?!

Deal bountifully with your servant,

that I may live and keep your word.

Psalm 119:17 English Standard Version

What privilege we have in reading this verse as New Testament Christians. The prayer of the first line of this verse has been answered with God’s great extravagance. Our sins have been washed away by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. God’s great bounty is seen in the fact that He sees us as righteous (those who are made right) because of the life of Jesus. The overflowing blessings of God our Father are seen in the fact that He is leading us in the path of holy living by His powerful Spirit. Do we still sin? Yes. And the Father in heaven has given us the powerful gift of confession—as often as we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness—that is the rock-solid promise given to us in I John 1:9.

In view of His great bounty, all the showers of mercy and downpour of His compassionate love, believers are kept in the pathway of life. Sins lead to death. Sins rob us of life. Sins lead to isolation and the break-down of community. In glorious contrast sins confessed can’t separate us from deep relationship with God and sins that are broken open before God cannot break community. We reach out to one another all of us recognizing God knows the worst about each one of us and He is healing us. That is good news. In fact, it is good news we want to share with others.

When we see God as the One Who has dealt bountifully with us—and keeps on pouring out His goodness and love—the response drawn out of us and obedience. We study the Bible thinking “How can I honour You? How can my life bring blessing to Your Name?!” Even that is a sign of the Majestic One’s goodness to us. Frail and foolish as we are, He receives our acts of love and service as beautiful and honouring to His Name!

Mighty and Merciful Father in heaven, thank You for answering the Psalmist’s prayer! Thank You for the place You have given us in history that we can see the great arc of Your never-failing love most brilliantly revealed in Jesus Christ—in Whom we have forgiveness of all our sins and right-standing before You. Don’t stop there, but as You promised, keep pouring out Your Spirit so that we can live and keep Your Word. Let the words of our lips and the desire we have to please You bring honour to Your Name. Prepare Your preachers and missionaries so the preached word can go out with power to the far corners of this world and Your glory be made known and celebrated! And prepare each one of us, no matter where You have called us to live and serve You, ordinary as we are—help us to tell others of the ways in which Your are dealing bountifully with us! Amen.

September 13, 2019 -- Psalm 119:16 -- Instructions for life

I will delight in your statutes;

I will not forget about your word.

Psalm 119:16 English Standard Version

Notice the two-part vow the writer of this psalm is making. First he will delight in the statutes of the LORD. Years ago I used to love the cartoon strips of Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin was a young lad and his faithful companion was a stuffed tiger who he imagined was alive. Young Calvin had a to-be-assembled model of a World War II airplane. He loved the picture on the box. He was excited about, and imagined what, the finished result would look like—but he refused to use the instructions. So, he pulled pieces apart from the kit and haphazardly started putting things together. As he progressed he realized his model plane did not look anything like the picture on the box. Taking a hammer he smashed it to small pieces saying “It was hit by enemy fire.” We laugh because we can relate to this.

Our lives come complete with instructions: the statutes of the LORD. This are the instructions laid down for us in the Bible. The ultimate vision is this: eternal pleasures at God’s right hand (Psalm 16:11). As we follow these statutes we understand there will be trials and challenges, fussy bits and times of frustration—however, those who belong to Jesus know He has made us new. The challenges posed by the instructions we live by are worth it, every detail, because we know He has already won the victory over sin, death, and hell. Those who believe in Him will never have their lives smashed beyond repair and sent to the never-ending fires of hell. Knowing what we are rescued from and the purposes for which He is putting us together—such things truly bring delight!

The second part of the vow of the psalmist is never to forget the Word of God. Everything God has spoken he will keep in mind. Impossible—that is what my mind is telling me—that is impossible. Is it? Remember that Psalm 119 is written so that each of the twenty two stanzas starts with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Recall also this is a device to help the psalmist remember it. My guess is that he will not forget the Word of God—all the things God has spoken—because he is committing it to memory.

While that seems daunting. consider how many things we remember! Many among us don’t have to open our cupboards before we go shopping because we know what we need to shop for. Others among us make an on-going list on the fridge to remind us. Either way, we are keeping before us the things we need. So too with the Word of God—we can have post-it notes all around us, reassuring us of the great things God has spoken, or we can commit it to memory and rehearse such things regularly.

So many things crowd our thought-life. As the day unfolds there are different challenges and duties to perform. Yet the psalmist has bound himself to this: he will not forget the Word of the LORD. It will be his guide so that his life and his future will be put together as God intends.

What glories You have in store for all those who believe—Father, Source of Every Good Thing! Renew in us the vision of all that is in store for us in eternity. Fill us, Spirit of Truth, with the awareness of the blessednesses^ that accrue to all who walk in obedience to Jesus. We confess that following Your statutes can feel more like hard slogging than delight, but we pray—hold us through the trials and the storms until the strength and peace which accompany Your love fill our thoughts and hearts. Your Word is truer than all the lies that surround us—help us to remember this—according to Your Word and Your great mercy—increase our capacity to remember. Amen.

Yes, I understand “blessednesses” is not grammatically correct, so, in order to understand its usage, I recommend you turn back to the reflections on Psalm 119:1.

September 12, 2019 -- Psalm 119:15 -- Thoughts shaping actions

I will meditate on your precepts

and fix my eyes on your ways.

Psalm 119:15 English Standard Version

This particular psalm is an acrostic poem—each of the twenty-two stanzas consisting of eight verses begins with a letter from the Hebrew alphabet. So in the first stanza each verse begins with the Hebrew letter aleph. The second stanza, the one we are studying now, begins each verse with the Hebrew letter beth. I mention this because it may be the case that the writer memorized the psalm and having the eight verses of each stanza begin with a particular Hebrew letter would aid the memorization of this psalm. When someone memorizes, someone is meditating on, calling to mind and making part of himself whatever it is that he has fixt his thoughts on.

This author, inspired by the Spirit of God to write these words, recognized that repeating the precepts of God over and over again would help him to stay in line with the will of God. Psalm 16:6 notes: “the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.” What is regulated for our lives as the right pathway is in fact the best course for our lives. For the will of our King is that we have life and have it to full through Jesus Christ.

The invitation of Jesus Christ is that we follow where He leads us. His steps are radically different than anything offered by the world. Jesus calls us to deny our self-indulgences. He calls us to leave the life of sin celebrated by our world and instead, fix our thoughts on Him, confess Him before the world, and our friends and family, our peer group and to our own hearts.

I have heard this psalm described as something like a school boy exercise in poetry. You can almost hear a perky teacher requiring of the groaning students: “Make each stanza begin with this letter. Keep strictly to this formula.” I do not read as such a plodding exercise—that makes it seem joyless. Instead, I see in it the hopefulness of the psalmist for the young and the old, for the famous and the unknown, every person in every age and walk of life to fix their gaze on Him Who alone can lead us in the way of life. As the psalmist recites the eight verses of this stanza, all beginning with a “B” sound, he is reminding himself that the Author of Life is leading him in the way everlasting.

As the hymn-writer so poignantly wrote, we pray: “Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my life!”. With this psalmist we pray: let our eyes and our thoughts be focused on You so clearly and with such love that each step we take this day brings You honour and draws us a step closer to the blessed surety of eternity in Your mighty and glorious presence. By Your Spirit train us in the holiness given to us in Jesus Christ. Amen

September 9, 2019 -- Psalm 119:14 -- Whose Story You Gonna Follow?

In the way of your testimonies I delight

as much as in all riches.

Psalm 119:14 English Standard Version

Perhaps you have heard of Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias. He has a unique way of stating things. As he was talking about philosophy and postmodernism he referred to North American culture, how it wobbles and weaves going to an idea then to the next. One of the markers of postmodernity is that there is no over-arching narrative, no big picture story that gives our life meaning. In fact, if the media wants to know something they ask the average man on the street—Zacharias, in his tongue-in-cheek style said something to the effect if the media wants to know something they take a survey. It is the right way to learn “in our salvation by survey culture.” What a great statement. Indeed, it is clear our culture is prepared to be led by mobocracy—the tyranny of the mob as mediated by the leaders of government. Where there is no meta-narrative, no story that draws all things together, the every-man makes something up.

In sharp contrast, the psalmist delights in the testimonies of the LORD. The Mighty King of heaven and earth has clearly declared the way of salvation, found in Jesus Christ alone. There is no survey which can overturn this. No government leader can legislate against the testimonies which stand sure forever.

No wonder King David delights in the Truth of God:

"Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name;

make known his deeds among the peoples!

Sing to him; sing praises to him;

tell of all his wonderful works!

I Chronicles 16:8-9 ESV

Kingdoms rise and fall. Nations gain power, then lose power, are famous and then infamous and finally are forgotten. We see ruined kingdoms and empires all around the world. There is only one Kingdom that stands forever—the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ and He shall reign forever and ever. Therefore, hundreds of years ago the psalmist delights in the testimonies of the LORD. Because Jesus’ reign has no end, we, His followers today, delight in His testimonies and entrust our lives to Him.

As Isaiah so succinctly puts it: “the grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of the LORD stands forever.” Therefore we bless You, LORD of Truth, and we commit ourselves to the way of Your testimonies. Amen.