(The Faith Forum Series – Batch 8)
There is an interesting fact about Psalm 119. If you read it through, you will find that, except for verses 90, 122 and 132, all of the other verses make reference to God’s Word!
Take a careful look at each of the 173 verses. You will find that each verse mentions something about God’s Word, either through the use of the word “word” itself or another word that is used to mean the same thing. Psalm 119 is a lengthy chapter, so this is significant. You will find all 173 verses (with the exception of the three mentioned above), all directing the reader back to one or more of eight (8) words about God’s Word. These eight (8) words are as follows:
Since nothing that God does is by chance and the Bible is his inspired Word, it is clear that the Lord deliberately allowed the Psalmist to state what he was stating with this design. The Psalmist himself may not have even realized it (as God often uses his children without them even realizing it) but there is a definite pattern in all of the 173 verses!
That the Psalmist mentioned something about God’s Word in every one of those 173 verses, I think speaks to the significance of that Word, that everything in life centres around it and points back to it. There is no getting away from the Word. What God has said is central to our very existence and earthly operations.
The Psalmist understood this. He understood the pivotal role that the Word of God played and was to have in the life of humanity and he clearly made the Word of God central to his operations. He was not trying to flee from it or ignore it or put it on the backburner but in every verse, he went right back to it. He promoted it because he understood that his life depended on his obedience to it. He understood that in the Word of God was life and in nothing else.
He clearly esteemed it highly, as all human beings ought to and loved it dearly. In verses 72 and 127 for example, he stated, “The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver…Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold.”
Come what may and irrespective of what people did or how they cast scorn on it, the Psalmist was making it clear that he had pledged his allegiance to God and to his Word. He was not ashamed of it and in fact, he was trusting God to let him not come to shame because he was holding fast to it, resolving to never let it go.
He loved God’s Word and was passionate about it. He understood that it was man’s duty to obey and that each one would be held accountable by God with consequences for disobedience but apart from his duty, the Word of God was a delight to him. It was counsel that he enjoyed.
In verse 4 he stated of man’s duty, “Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently.” In verses 14, 16, 24, 35, 47-48 and 97 though, he went on to state:
- “I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches… I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word…Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counselors….Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight….I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved. My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have loved; and I will meditate in thy statutes…O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.”
The Psalmist was therefore adhering to God’s Word, not just as a duty but also because it was his delight. Given his love for the Word of God and because he could not have divided loyalty, he hated all that went against it. For, the Word of God was true and he knew it and therefore, that which opposed it was false.
In verse 104, he stated, “Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.” In verse 106, he declared, “I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments.”
The Psalmist had an appetite for God’s Word. He was hungry for it. In verse 131, he said, “I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for thy commandments.”
He also realized that in God’s Word was contained wisdom and therefore, had the power to make him wise. He therefore desired to learn more and more about it and to be schooled by it and asked the Lord to teach him his statutes (36-27,33-34).
In verses 98-100, he stated:
- “Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.”
In verse 130, he further said, “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.”
The Psalmist also understood that the Word of God was so powerful, that it had the ability to cleanse the person who took heed to it, meaning, took note of it and obeyed its wise counsel. He therefore wanted to benefit from its sanctifying effect.
It grieved him, knowing how important God’s Word was to man’s sustenance and spiritual health, to see them spurn it, as if it was not important. He knew that this would be detrimental to their own selves. Of their rebellion, he stated, “I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved; because they kept not thy word“(158).
He also experienced, it seemed, ostracism from people in general due to his love for God’s Word. In verse 19 for example, he stated, “I am a stranger in the earth…”. In verses 22 and 23, he prayed, “Remove from me reproach and contempt; for I have kept thy testimonies. Princes also did sit and speak against me: but thy servant did meditate in thy statutes.”
Speaking a bit of the oppression he encountered as a result of his loyalty to God’s Word, he stated:
- “The proud have had me greatly in derision: yet have I not declined from thy law. I remembered thy judgments of old, O Lord; and have comforted myself. Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law…The bands of the wicked have robbed me: but I have not forgotten thy law… Let the proud be ashamed; for they dealt perversely with me without a cause: but I will meditate in thy precepts…Let my heart be sound in thy statutes; that I be not ashamed. My soul fainteth for thy salvation: but I hope in thy word. Mine eyes fail for thy word, saying, When wilt thou comfort me? For I am become like a bottle in the smoke; yet do I not forget thy statutes. How many are the days of thy servant? when wilt thou execute judgment on them that persecute me? The proud have digged pits for me, which are not after thy law. All thy commandments are faithful: they persecute me wrongfully; help thou me. They had almost consumed me upon earth; but I forsook not thy precepts… The wicked have waited for me to destroy me: but I will consider thy testimonies…The wicked have laid a snare for me: yet I erred not from thy precepts.” (51-53, 61, 78-87, 95 and 110).
Despite the fact that his love of God’s Word made him unpopular and not liked, he did not change his resolve. He did not back down or go back. He chose God’s Word over being accepted, over being considered normal and fitting in. He understood that to stand by God’s Word meant to stand out like a sore thumb, by people who were growing more and more intolerant of truth. Yet, he pressed on and clung firmly to it, willing to pay whatever the price was for his love of God’s Word.
No matter how people tried to shut him up, to intimidate him or to distance themselves from him because of his passion for God’s Word, the Psalmist was determined to walk in the liberty that God’s Word provided. He was determined to still proclaim its message to others because like the apostle Paul in the New Testament, he was not ashamed of it (Romans 1:16). On the contrary, he was honoured, as God’s servant, to convey God’s Word to others.
In verses 45-46, he declared, “…I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts. I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings, and will NOT be ashamed.” In verse 115, he stated to those who were his oppressors, “Depart from me, ye evildoers: for I will keep the commandments of my God.”
He then prayed to God:
- “Uphold me according unto thy word, that I may live: and let me not be ashamed of my hope…I have done judgment and justice: leave me not to mine oppressors. Be surety for thy servant for good: let not the proud oppress me…It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law…Deliver me from the oppression of man: so will I keep thy precepts. Make thy face to shine upon thy servant; and teach me thy statutes. Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law. Righteous art thou, O Lord, and upright are thy judgments. Thy testimonies that thou hast commanded are righteous and very faithful.
- My zeal hath consumed me, because mine enemies have forgotten thy words. Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it. I am small and despised: yet do not I forget thy precepts. Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth. Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me: yet thy commandments are my delights…Consider mine affliction, and deliver me: for I do not forget thy law. Plead my cause, and deliver me: quicken me according to thy word. Salvation is far from the wicked: for they seek not thy statutes. Great are thy tender mercies, O Lord: quicken me according to thy judgments. Many are my persecutors and mine enemies; yet do I not decline from thy testimonies.”(116, 121-122, 126, 134-143 and 153-157).
Psalm 119 has been very edifying to me and also quite timely. The Psalmist’s wise perspective helps me to refocus, even at a time when I feel tired and beat up by the world and even professing believers, for taking a stand for God’s Word.
Overwhelmed by my oppressors and the pain that I have endured, sometimes the enemy tells me that I should just give up, stop making so much of a fuss, stop insisting on doing things God’s way (which has cost me a lot, even lucrative jobs) and just give in to the flow, even as many other professing believers have done. After all, those who had compromised on their beliefs were seemingly living large and some fellow believers did not seem to be in half the amount of trouble that I kept finding myself. Maybe I was really making too much of a fuss, had displayed too much zeal and had taken the Word of God too seriously and literally.
These thoughts sometimes flood my mind before the Lord intervenes to raise up a standard against it, through his Word.
Isaiah 59:19 states, “So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.”
This is exactly what I believe the Spirit of the Lord did today with Psalm 119. For, this Psalm reminds me that the battle is real and that I cannot give up because this is a battle worth fighting. I am reminded that I stand upon good authority when I stand on the Word of God, no matter how much I suffer as a result and even if it seems like I’m alone in the fight.
It also reminds me that I am not crazy for having such zeal for the Word of God, for seeing my whole life as inextricably wrapped up in it, for delighting in it to the point where I enjoy meditating on its truths for hours and writing these Articles and it reminds me that no matter how things look now, I will not be ashamed in the end. For, all that I have suffered in upholding the Word of God, God has taken note of. He has seen. What I’ve been through for his sake is not lost on him.
On another note, one cannot love the Word of God too much. The Lord approves of such zeal. In Revelation 3:15-16, the glorified Lord Jesus denounced the lukewarmness of the Laodicean Church, telling them “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.” The people in this Church had such a life of comfort, that they had grown complacent in their faith walk. Yet, Jesus wanted them on fire for him and his cause (which attracts suffering) and was not at all pleased with them, although they had amassed so much of life’s possessions. Threatening to spue them out of his mouth if they remained lukewarm, he told them, “…be zealous therefore, and repent.”(19).
Finally, Psalm 119 reminds me that I am not alone. There are a great number of witnesses in the Bible that stood for God’s Word (Hebrews 11; 12:1) (the Psalmist being one of them) and there are other serious-minded and non-compromising Christians around the globe today, also contending for the faith and upholding the Word of God, no matter the cost, even as there was in the Bible days.
Sadly, we are in a world today where the Word of God is belittled, ignored, insulted, said to be archaic and irrelevant and where even professing believers treat it as if it is not important any more or some parts in which clear commands have been given by Jesus our Lord are not as important as others. People generally live their lives as they see fit, tempered only by the laws of the land but little or no regard is given to what God’s Word says.
For example, God’s Word says that women should keep silent in the Churches and not usurp authority, the God-ordained authority being the man. He says that he hates divorce and that those who remarry while their spouse is still alive or marry a divorcee, will have committed the sin of adultery. Yet, people pretend that this is not in the Bible or that God did not know what he was saying or that he changed his mind or would make an exception in their case and live their lives as they please, even in some Churches.
His Word denounces revelry, yet people have brought it into the Churches with ungodly music that is anything but sober and reverential and call it “worship”, deluding themselves into thinking that this is acceptable to God.
As stated before, even among people who have professed to be Christians, much of God’s Word is ignored and people do as they see fit, blatantly ignoring clear commands of the Lord. When a Christian, seeking to stick close to the Word, mentions a disparity between how people are conducting their lives and what the Word of God says, it is often downplayed, the person is considered to be too fussy, strange, delusional or is labelled a nitpicker.
This is quite sad. It is something that has grieved my heart, even as it did the Psalmist and made me feel discouraged at times. Psalm 119 is therefore refreshing to read, as it reminds all those who take God’s Word seriously, of how important it is and that it will remain equally as relevant today and for all eternity, even as it was in the Bible days.
We have not been fighting in vain! Even if people are rebelliously doing their own thing and thinking that God no longer minds or that he has no expectation for us to obey his Word to the same extent as back in the Bible days, Psalm 119 reminds us that such thinking is incorrect. For, God’s Word has not changed and he expects the same level of obedience as he did back in the Bible days. People may be busy living their lives as if there will be no consequences for disregarding what God has said on so many issues but there will be. For, the Word of God makes it clear that God is not mocked and that whatever a person sows, he will reap (Galatians 6:7). If we sow disobedience, stubbornness, rebellion and non-submission to God’s way, if we pretend that we don’t know what he has said on a particular matter, so that we can just do our own thing or what is popular and think it is okay because so many others are doing it, we will one day reap the unpleasant harvest for our disobedience.
In closing, the Psalmist in 119 was in clear agreement with what was recorded about God’s wonderful Word in Psalm 19. In Psalm 19:7-11, David declared, most likely from his own experience:
- “The LAW of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the TESTIMONY of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The STATUTES of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the COMMANDMENT of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the JUDGMENTS of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is GREAT reward.“
(Written on 27th December, 2022)