A true measure of our commitment to the Lord is our love for His Word and our desire to know it and live it out in our lives. Do we store it up in our hearts as a treasure? Do we use it as our guide in daily life? Do we meditate on it and delight in it?
Four Ways to Treat God’s Word
Psalm 119—Part 2
We are still looking at Psalm 119 in our Wisdom Journey together. At 176 verses, this is the longest psalm in the inspired hymnal of Israel—the book of Psalms. Although this is a long psalm, the theme is clear and powerful. It’s all about the Word of God.
The Holy Spirit inspired the psalmist to use eight different synonyms to refer to God’s Word. Again, the chart “Words for the Word” gives brief definitions of these eight synonyms because each of them carries a little different nuance—a different flavor, so to speak—for God’s Word.
One more thing we should note here is that most of this psalm is a prayer. Some 255 times, the psalmist actually directs his thoughts concerning God’s Word back to the Lord in prayer. If you want to add freshness and vitality to your prayer life, just start praying your way through Psalm 119.
Now again, we don’t know who wrote this psalm or when he wrote it, but it was written as a very creative acrostic, as each of the twenty-two stanzas of this hymn begins with and features a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. If this psalm were written in English originally, the first stanza—and all eight verses in this first stanza—would begin with the letter A, and so on.
As we take a closer look at this psalm, I want to structure our thoughts around four questions. And frankly, these are convicting questions about how we treat God’s Word. We need to answer these four questions just like this anonymous poet answered them long ago.
Here’s the first question: Do you love the instruction of God? Or, put another way, do you love God’s Word?
In verse 167 the psalmist declares, “My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly.” By the way, when you love God’s Word, it reveals your love for the Author of God’s Word—the Lord Himself.
When I was dating my wife, back in college days, we didn’t have cell phones and computers. We corresponded the old-fashioned way—we wrote each other letters. And let me tell you, we kept the post office in business. Now Marsha was much better at writing than I was—she would write a page, and I would write a paragraph. But did I ever love getting her letters! Why? Because I loved letters? No, because I loved her, and I wanted to hear from her.
In the Bible you are looking at God’s letters, written to you. And if you love Him, you are going to love His Word.
The next question is this: Do you memorize the Word of God? Verse 11 announces the psalmist’s decision here: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” As a child I memorized this verse from the King James Bible: “Thy word have I hidden in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”
The idea of hiding is for the purpose of protecting. Let me tell you, beloved, if your heart is filled with Scripture, your life will not be filled with sin. As I have said before, this Book will keep you from sin; sin will keep you from this Book.
Now here is a third question provoked by this great psalm: Do you want to understand God’s Word? The psalmist illustrates the proper response to this question in verse 18: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”
This phrase “open my eyes” comes from a Hebrew root word that means “to make naked.” It was the common practice to take captured enemies and strip them down and then march them into exile. I imagine that would be a humiliating experience, and the Israelites would know firsthand what this means. The same expression is used of Noah in Genesis 9:21 as he lay “uncovered,” or naked, in his tent.
So, in this verse, the psalmist is asking God to strip him down in humility and lay bare his sinful heart. “Open my eyes” he prays. In other words, he is saying, “Take off the blinders of sin so that I—through confession and cleansing—can behold wondrous things out of Your law.”
A godly believer doesn’t come to the Bible to find a verse to defend whatever he wants to do; he comes with humility to hear God tell him what to do.
Here, now, is the fourth and final question: Do you want to apply the truth of God’s Word?
Maybe you have been waiting for this well-known verse: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (verse 105). That means if you take God’s Word out of your life, all you have is pitch-black, empty darkness, without any direction in life.
But God’s Word gives light to your path. Keep in mind this is referring to that little handheld lamp that was common in ancient days. It cast light just far enough to take the next step. Likewise, God’s Word may not light up next week or next year, but it will give you the light you need for the next step.
I had someone tell me some time ago that he did not like my preaching because I took the Word of God too seriously. He didn’t realize it, but as far as I was concerned, that was a wonderful compliment.
When I was a teenager, my parents bought a few acres of land out in the country and built a small, one-story home. My father hired a friend who served as the general contractor, and together they worked to save every penny they could in the construction of that house.
When the flooring was in, a mason crew came in and laid the hearth and began to build the fireplace in the family room. That night we went over to see the progress. The fireplace was built up about halfway to the ceiling by then. As we stood there looking at it, we just sort of leaned over to one side because it looked crooked to us.
My dad called the contractor, who came over, looked at it, and said, “It’s crooked.” We thought it was! Well, the next day he had his crew tear it back down to the hearth and start over. We came back that evening and walked immediately into the family room to look at what they had done. It had been built up just a little higher than it was the day before. But as we stared at it, we just sort of leaned in the other direction.
The contractor came over and said, “Well, it’s crooked again!” He called his crew, and the next day he had them tear it all the way down to the flooring and start over.
A couple days later, my father and I went over and walked in to look at the fireplace. It was finished all the way to the ceiling, and this time it was perfectly straight.
My father said to the contractor that afternoon, “They got it crooked the first two times; what made the difference this time?” The contractor kind of laughed and said, “Well, Keith, you know we’re trying to save every penny we can, so I hired a young, inexperienced crew to set the brick.” Then the contractor said, “But this third time, I stayed behind and worked with them myself.”
That Bible you have been given is the Divine Contractor. God has left it behind, so to speak, to help you build a life that is straight and true and pure and right. We don’t need to be concerned about taking it too seriously but rather with not taking it seriously enough!
So, let’s treat it right. Let’s love this Word; let’s memorize it; let’s study to understand it; and let’s make sure we follow it as we build our lives to glorify the Lord.