Psalm 119: The ABCs of Delighting in God’s Word

How Should We Think About/Feel Toward/Respond to God’s Word?

Delight (Verses 14, 16, 24, 35, 47, 70, 77, 92, 143, 174)

“In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.” (v.14) This is a genuine joy in God that delights in whatever he has said.

Love (Verses 47, 48, 97, 119, 127, 159, 163, 165)

“Oh, how I love your law!” (v. 97)

Say that out loud. “Oh, how I love your law!” Did you just make yourself a hypocrite? In a way, all of us are. But this is something to realize about Psalm 119. It is descriptive but also prescriptive. It functions to call us to be the people we should be. Just like other things do. The Pledge of Allegiance or America the Beautiful are quoted and sung regularly to remind us of the citizens we should be even when we aren’t or when America isn’t particularly beautiful. They act as reminders of what we could be and should be.

Psalm 119 is like America the Beautiful. It is idealistic and aspirational. So we read, “O how I love your law!” and while that morning we may not feel love and perhaps reading God’s Word feels like a duty, it shows us what we could be and what we should be. Let it summon confession, O how I want to love your law, God please help me!

Obedience (Verses 3, 4, 10, 21, 29, 32, 36, 44, 59, 88, 112, 115, 145, 146, 166, 167, 168)

In the end, love for God’s Word shows itself by reverent obedience. So much of 119 is about obedience. That’s how we know if we really love God and his Word, we obey it; live by it.

This week I said to Kiralee one morning, “Sweetheart, I need you to be obedient to Mommy today.” She said, “What if I said I’m sorry now for all the times I’m disobedient today?”

Really? Pre-planning disobedience? We humans start young with our ability to rationalize away our sins. Psalm 119 doesn’t rationalize; it cries out to God for help in walking in his ways, obeying his precepts, living according to his Word.

Delight, love, and obedience to God’s Word seem kind of out there to the natural us. Isn’t the Bible an archaic ancient book with morality completely out of touch with modern man and contemporary culture? How can I love it? Delight in it? Obey it?

Imagine if God had not spoken. What if what if there was no revelation? No word from God about anything? No Bible. No knowledge of God or anything he requires. Think of the moral landscape of the world. Think of the barrenness. The emptiness of the soul if there was no Word, no Christ, even creation somehow silenced about a Creator. Nothing. Just one verse of Scripture would be like a morsel of bread to a starving man. How precious! How we would love that one verse. Memorize it. Meditate on it. Treasure it.

We happen to have a banquet feast in Scripture. Old and New Testament. 66 books. 23,145 verses in the Bible. How do we treasure God’s Word? It comes from a heart made alive by the Holy Spirit through the gospel of Jesus Christ. It comes from a true understanding of my depravity and God’s unmerited grace to me. It comes from a heart changed through regeneration. A life transformed by Christ and a mind made new. Made alive to spiritual truth. Like the starving man brought to the grocery store. Every aisle is fantastic. You can’t get him past the produce. Every item must be tasted, savored, experienced, known.

Apart from God and his revelation, we are the starving man. How does a spiritually starving man respond to spiritual food? Delight! O how I love your law! How I want it more than gold or silver! I can’t eat gold. Silver doesn’t satisfy what I need! My soul needs God’s truth! Oh how I love your law!

What should do we do with it? I decided to do my own ABC description of the Christian’s life with God’s Word.

Adore it
Believe it
Confess it
Don’t ignore it
Enjoy it
Fail, it won’t
Give it away
Hope in it
Inspired it is
Jot it down
Keep it close
Love it by livin’ it
Memorize it
Need it
Obey it
Prioritize time with it
Quote it
Reverence it
Study it
Teach it
Underestimate it at your own peril
Vociferously read it!
Wonder at it
Xerox it and pass it around
Yearn for it
Zeal for God is what it creates in us

It’s no Psalm 119. Psalm 119 is a masterpiece inspired by God that calls the people of God to treasure the Word of God within the community of God.

Oh how we need to love thy law!

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2017 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

A Song of Faith for Life’s Journeys

1     I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
   My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
   He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
   Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
   The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
   The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
   The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
   The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore. (Psalm 121 ESV)

The Question: Where Do I Turn for Help?

“I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?” (v. 1)

This question presupposes a problem in life. We look for help when we are in need. This is the kind of problem that we can’t handle on our own. We don’t have the strength. We don’t have the smarts. We don’t have the resources. Where do we look for help? One insight into the condition of our heart is where we turn when the chips are down; when life hurts.

My daughter’s response to pain or something surprising is one example. She says, “Holdy! Holdy!” Where do you turn when your life hurts? Mommy? Perhaps your good friend Jack Daniels?

The psalm begins with a question, but within the question is also the hint of an answer. “I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come?” (v. 1) The commentators debate whether the hills are meant here as refuge or terror. To have the high ground in a conflict is always an advantage even in modern warfare. Do we flee to the hills for safety or look to them for signs of rescue? But the hills also hide dangers and marauders and invaders. So, which is it?

God Our Shepherd

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.”
(Psalm 23:1-4 ESV)

God sustains us

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

These are precious words and so dear to us. David imagines the worst moments we can have and describes them vividly as the valley of the shadow of death. You can shepherd in Indiana without valleys. Here, Baldy is a mountain. But in Israel, to shepherd in Israel is to lead sheep up and down hills. I have personally walked some of this terrain and you can’t go far without going through ravines, gorges, and valleys; those deep places where the sun doesn’t break through. Anyone in a life valley today?

Songs for Sinners: Background & Psalm 1

The NOT Blessed Life

“Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
     nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers. (Psalm 1:1 ESV)

What we see here is something we will hear a lot in the Psalms. It’s called parallelism. The opening line will make a statement, then poetically the second, and in this case, third line, parallels the first line and expands on it. So here the blessed man doesn’t walk in the counsel of the wicked. Walking is a description of living, thinking, following. The blessed man doesn’t live by the values and wisdom of the wicked. Man’s wisdom is godless, carnal, and selfish. That way of thinking is not a path to joy and blessing. Don’t walk that way.

Notice the natural progression from walking to standing in the way of sinners. Thinking like the wicked places your life in the way of the wicked. Now you are standing there with them. The birds of a feather are flocking together. There are increasing levels of acceptance and fraternity. “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7 NKJV) The NOT blessed life moves a person in a downward spiral from an inward way of thinking to an increasingly outward way of living.

Eventually the coup is complete, “nor sits in the seat of the scoffers.” (Psalm 1:1 ESV) From walking to standing to sitting with other non-blessed lives. Sitting connotes that now you are one of them.

I wrote much of this sermon in a local coffee shop. I looked around the coffee shop while writing and nearby was a circle of older women having a morning coffee and on the other side was a couple in apparent relational harmony. Sitting together connotes mutuality. Approval. Oneness. Isn’t that the way it goes? We see it clearly in young people when their circle of friends changes for the worse and you see the attitude change for the worse as well. They are no longer merely walking with the wicked, they are seated together. They are of one mind.

The blessed life isn’t found in pursuing joy apart from God or pursuing the approval of people who are apart from God. That philosophy of life leads to destruction. Look again at verse 5,

“Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Psalm 1:5-6)

Don’t align your life and values with the wicked; look what happens to them. They have no standing on the Day of Judgment. The way of the wicked will perish.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Additional Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

© 2017 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

The End of the End: The Glory of God

An earthly reign from a heavenly throne

“For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Corinthians 15:25 ESV)

Do you remember what Jesus said after his resurrection and right before his ascension? “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’” (Matthew 28:18) What was that about? It doesn’t mean he was less than God before this or lacked any power. What it does mean is that his resurrection inaugurated a new reign, a new realm, a new kingdom. The kingdom of God established on earth. God the Father gave to the Son all authority over every realm and he mediates this authority from heaven on earth. He has all authority. It’s like the old saying, “Where does a lion sleep?” “Wherever he wants.” Jesus is like that. He rules with absolute authority. He goes and moves and revives anywhere he sovereignly chooses. He must reign and he will reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. This refers to the ancient practice of a conquering king putting his foot on the neck of the conquered king. It was symbolic of absolute domination and victory.

Christ has all authority but clearly he does not yet exert that authority in its fullness. This doesn’t mean he isn’t reigning right now. He is on his throne. Yet Satan continues his rebellion. Demons continue their mischief. Billions of humans do not acknowledge Jesus as Lord. In fact, in some ways we could look around and say, This doesn’t look like a victory at all! What is he waiting for?

When Will the Kingdom Come?

“Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, ‘You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.’

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.’” (Matthew 24:1-14 ESV)

Jesus Will Return When the Mission is Accomplished

Here’s what I want us to see. Jesus’ answer to when the kingdom will come in fullness isn’t primarily about the earthquakes and wars and heresies. What is the sign? What is the tipping point? “This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world… and then the end will come.” Proclaimed to all nations? Where have we heard that before?

More and Better Disciples

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18–20 ESV)

Beware of mission rift and mission drift

Many a church has been torn asunder either by fighting about the mission of the church or the slow and gradual loss of vision for Jesus’ mission. One is a rift. One is a drift. A rift is a fight for control. A drift is the loss of any fight or energy at all. Nobody really cares or they pursue something else.

Rifts are terrible firestorms typically resulting in church splits and new churches starting. You can see this in towns where you drive through and you see First Presbyterian Church, Second Presbyterian Church, Third Presbyterian Church. What happened? Group A wanted to do X. Group B thought the church should do Y. Group C thought the church should do more Z. The escalating argument about the mission didn’t energize the church, it fractured it. Rifts are always a danger. I’ve gone through a few fissures myself over the years. We need to be of one mind, grounded in Scripture, that the mission of the church is to make fully devoted followers of Jesus whose lives are all about Him. There are a thousand different ways to get there, but there’s only one mission. Let’s keep it front and center. This is why we are here.