The Longest Chapter – Part 16 April 26, 2016

Psalm 119: 121-128

Don’t leave me to the mercy of my enemies for I have done what is just and right.

Please guarantee a blessing for me.  Don’t let the arrogant oppress me!

My eyes strain to see your rescue, to see the truth of Your promise fulfilled.

I am Your servant; deal with me in unfailing love and teach me Your decrees.

Give discernment to me, Your servant; then I will understand Your laws.

Lord, it is time for You to act, for these evil people have violated Your instructions.

Truly I love Your commands, more than gold, even the finest gold.

Each of Your commandments is right. That is why I hate every false way.

We can only imagine how the psalmist, David, felt when pursued by Saul who wanted to kill him out of jealousy.  David had proved his loyalty and respect for King Saul despite the sovereign’s threat. (see I Samuel 18: 1-15)  Yet the king’s hostile attitude was not appeased.

And so we read David’s cry to the Lord in this section.  He had in fact ‘done what was right’ in honoring the king, even sparing his life when he had opportunity to kill him.  And so David petitions, “Please guarantee a blessing for me.”

Have you ever been in a situation when you did right by someone else and yet, it seems as though you never do enough to make them happy?  It is demoralizing and discouraging. In those times, King David stands as our example.  Doing right, even when others do not, gives evidence of a heart intent on pleasing God, rather than self.  Revenge is weakness; forgiveness and loyalty are the marks of a strong spirit.  No wonder God called David ‘a man after my own heart.’

And rather than patting himself on the back for doing right towards Saul, David declares that he is the Lord’s servant and asks for deeper understanding of God’s ways.  He is not self-satisfied but continually hungry to grow in the ways of God – yet another mark of the truly spiritual and committed heart.  David knew that we never ‘arrive’ fully in this life.  To our dying day, there is always more to learn about God, about His love, His faithfulness, His compassion, His kindness, His commandments, His ways.  Each day is a new opportunity to grow closer to Him, to get to know Him better by spending time meditating in the scriptures.

David asks for discernment:’the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure’.  This is why we are encouraged to turn to the Lord in prayer before we begin studying portions of scripture as we are doing right now, to ask Him for understanding; that He would grant us fresh insight into the passages, even if we have read them many times before.  There is always something new to see.

For David, the Word of God was ‘more precious than gold’; his way of saying it was his most treasured and priceless possession.  Is it yours?  If you suddenly had to flee with only what you could carry, would your Bible be the first thing you’d grab to take with you?

To love God’s Word is to love Him for it is through His Word that we come to know Him.

May it be for all of us, like David, our most treasured possession.

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Please pass this study along to anyone you think might enjoy it.

And do leave a comment, a question or an observation below.

Til next Tuesday, walk with God in joyful love.

 

The Longest Chapter – Part 15 April 19, 2016

Welcome back to our ongoing study/meditation in Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible. Our focus today is on verses 113 to 120.

I hate those with divided loyalties, but I love Your instructions.

You are my refuge and my shield; Your Word is my source of hope.

Get out of my life, you evil-minded people, for I intend to keep the commandments of my God.

Lord, sustain me as you promised, that I may live! Do not let my hope be crushed.

Sustain me and I will be rescued; then I will meditate continually on Your decrees.

But You have rejected all who stray from Your decrees.  They are only fooling themselves.

You skim off the wicked of the earth like scum; no wonder I love to obey Your laws!

I tremble in fear of You; I stand in awe of Your regulations.

doubleminded

Divided loyalties…another way of saying ‘double-minded’ which is defined as unstable, vacillating, unable to make up one’s mind.  A double-minded person lives in a constant state of compromise, continually torn in two directions.  On the one hand, he or she sincerely wants to serve God.  On the other hand, the opinion of others or the pull of worldliness does battle against the individual’s commitment to live according to God’s Word.

A double-minded person finds it next to impossible to stay away from the danger zone. He or she moves quickly in that direction at the slightest impulse. The longer a person refrains from that bad habit, the easier it gets to stay away from it. But the more you “cut corners,” the more you find yourself locked into a double-minded quagmire of your own making.

A double-minded man is an unstable man. No wonder old habits seem to hang on indefinitely in the life of a double-minded believer. Those old habits are simply the fruit of an unstable heart and mind.

At the root of double-mindedness is fear: fear of disapproval, fear of rejection, fear of commitment, fear of the face of men.  It is that self-preservation instinct in each of us that consciously or sub-consciously causes us to vacillate when confronted by someone we think will disagree with our opinion, attitude, conviction or commitment.  To protect ourselves from anticipated hostility, we hide behind excuses and compromises which, if we’re honest, means we act insincerely and dishonestly.  The sad result is a weakening of our relationship with God and with others.

The fear of the Lord – that is, the awesome respect and honor we owe Him – will keep us from falling into this self-protecting trap.  As we learn to care more about what He thinks of us than what other people may think of us, we develop a steadfast directness and honesty that in the end is far more productive in building strong relationships.

Let us take a cue from King David.  Look in the mirror and ask yourself, ‘How much do I let the actual or imagined opinion of others towards me dictate what I do or not do, what I say or not say?  Then take some time to think about it.

By no means am I advocating harshness in our communication with others, but being true to God and to yourself and learning to express it in kind and gentle ways is a goal worth striving for.  The more we love God’s Word and study it for the purpose of our own transformation, the more single-minded we will become.

May God help us all to do so!

As Passover is about to be upon us, I want to wish all of you a happy, healthy and blessed Passover week.

Til next Tuesday, walk in joy!

 

 

The Longest Chapter – Part 14 April 12, 2016

Your Word is a lamp to guide my feet, and a light for my path.

I’ve promised it once and I’ll promise it again; I will obey Your regulations.

I have suffered much, O Lord; restore my life again as You promised.

Lord, accept my offering of praise and teach me Your regulations.

My life constantly hangs in the balance but I will not stop obeying Your instructions.

The wicked have set a trap for me but I will not turn from Your commandments.

Your laws are my treasure; they are my delight.

I am determined to keep Your decrees to the very end.

Psalm 119: 105-112

lamptomyfeet

This week’s section of Psalm 119 opens with one of my favorite verses: Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.

The Word of God gives direction in every area, in every aspect, in every circumstance, in every condition of life. Without it, mankind is like a ship without a pilot.

In these verses the psalmist gives us eight indications of his dedication to live out the Word of God. He has told us over and over that he loves the Word of God. He’s told us over and over that He believes the Word of God. He has asked God to help him understand the Word of God. He has asked God to teach him the Word of God. He has ascribed glorious qualities to the Word of God, but in this passage, he is expressing his purpose to live out that word, not to just say that he loves the Word of God but to show that he loves the Word of God by obeying it in his daily life.

  1. First, he declares that God’s Word is his rule of life and he walks by it in all his ways.
  2. He announces his commitment to conform his life to God’s Word.
  3. He is determined to look to God’s Word alone when he is under affliction.
  4. He chooses to worship even in suffering:  ‘accept my offerings, O Lord’
  5. He reaffirms his commitment to never stop obeying God’s Word.
  6. He declares his faithfulness to God’s Word, come what may, even the loss of his life.
  7. He finds his deepest joy in the heritage promised to him in God’s Word.
  8. He is determined to finish the race; to his very last breath, he will obey God.

It is one thing to say ‘I love God’ but love is demonstrated by conforming our lives to the revealed word of God.  Only then is our confession of love confirmed. The greatest commandment is “You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul and with all of your possessions.” Deuteronomy 6:4

To live such a life of obedience requires us to know the Word of God.  Reading and studying God’s word is a necessary priority; it is food for our soul to nourish our spiritual life.  Years ago I knew a man whose motto was “No Bible, no breakfast.”  For years he lived by that principle and taught his students, “One way you can show that God is your highest priority and your greatest love is to feed your soul every morning before you think about feeding your body, for your soul will live forever but these bodies will decay in the ground.  So what’s more important?”

Again in Deuteronomy we read this well known passage: Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.  Deuteronomy 8:3  It’s a great verse but the question is: do we really and truly believe it?

This week’s portion of Psalm 119 challenges us to make the regular reading and studying of God’s Word our highest priority. There’s no better time than today to make or renew your commitment to this challenge.

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Please leave a comment below and if you know someone who would enjoy this study, please forward it to them.

God bless you richly today!

The Longest Chapter – Part 13 April 5, 2016

Happy Tuesday!  Welcome to our continuing study of Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the entire Bible.

index

 

Oh, how I love Your instructions! I think about them all day long.

Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are my constant guide.

Yes, I have more insight than my teachers, for I am always thinking of Your laws.

I am even wiser than my elders, for I have kept Your commandments.

I have refused to walk on any evil path, so that I may remain obedient to Your Word.

I haven’t turned away from Your regulations for You have taught me well.

How sweet Your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey.

Your commandments give me understanding; no wonder I hate every false way of life.

Psalm 119: 97-104

The Bible is not a book of ‘helpful tips for happy living’.  It is the Word of God which He gifted to humanity to enlighten and direct us for a spiritually successful journey through life.

You can trust God’s Word. All of it – every word – is faithful, righteous, and true. It doesn’t change with the times; it is not concerned with political correctness, but with God’s way of righteousness and holiness. One of the amazing things about the Bible is that it speaks with practical relevance to every culture in every period of history.  Expositions of Scriptural passages, written some 500 or 700 years ago to people in a very different world than our own, still speak with relevance to us in the 21st century! The answers to all the problems we face today are contained in the pages of this sacred book, because it speaks God’s truth to our human condition, which has not changed over the centuries.

In this section of psalm 119, King David acknowledges that it is from the Word of God that he gained insight and wisdom.  It was his investment of time in studying the revealed Word of God and living according to its precepts that transformed him from an unknown shepherd boy to the King of Israel of whom God said, ‘He is a man after my own heart.’

What was it about him that earned him that exalted compliment?

First, David had absolute faith in God. Nowhere in Scripture is this point better illustrated than in 1 Samuel 17 where David as a young shepherd boy fearlessly slew the Philistine, Goliath.  Shortly before the duel, we see direct evidence of David’s faith in verse 37 where David says, ‘The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’

Second, David absolutely loved God’s Word. Of the 150 psalms in the Bible, David is credited with writing over half of them. Writing at various and often stressful times in his life, David repeatedly mentioned how much he loved God’s perfect Word and as we see in this week’s section, God imparted to David insight and wisdom because he meditated on God’s Word regularly. There is no substitute for spending time every day reading and pondering the Scriptures.  No commentary, no matter how popular, can ever be as effective as sitting quietly with your Bible in hand, reading a section and then pausing to ponder what you’ve read and in the pondering listening for what God wants to say to your soul at that moment.

Third, David lived a life of thankfulness. David’s life was marked by seasons of great peace and prosperity as well as times of fear and despair. But through it all, he never forgot to thank the Lord for everything. It is truly one of his finest characteristics. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” he wrote in Psalm 100.

Fourth, David was quick to repent when he failed.  He was not a perfect man, but he was perfectly repentant.  David’s most well known fall included adultery, lying and murder. He had sinned against God and takes responsibility for it. He readily admits it and offers no excuse or rationalization in 2 Samuel 12:13: “David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.’”

But admitting our sin and asking for forgiveness is only half of the equation. The other half is repentance, and David did what we should all do: repent of our sins. Psalm 51 is David’s prayer of repentance to God: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” (Psalm 51:1-2).

Let us not forget that David was a man just like us. He had great days and difficult days. He sinned, but despite his sin, he always loved God and repented from the depths of his soul. He never excused himself for his failures, never cut himself any slack.

David, a man after God’s own heart, continues to inspire every generation to seek after the insight and wisdom that only God can give.

Do we love God’s Word like David did?

Do we meditate in it EVERY day?

What’s the last bit of insight or wisdom you have gained from spending time pondering God’s word?  Yesterday? Today?  Or has it been weeks or months?

Is the Word of God ‘sweeter than honey’ to you?

It’s time to ponder….

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