This teaching by Pastor Barry was recorded at our family service on Sunday 2nd October 2016. This is the 8th session in our verse-by-verse study of Psalm 119.
The first four verses of this Psalm outline God’s perfect standard for any who would truly follow Him, with a whole heart. The next four verses recall the hope we have that one day we will be conformed, transformed and renewed outwardly as well as inwardly. We will awake in the likeness of Christ (Psalm 17:15), and all the troubles, trials and temptations of this life will be past (1 Cor 15:53). But until that time we are to “walk by faith, not by sight”(2 Cor 5:7). We are to “walk in the Spirit, and not gratify the desires of the sinful nature”(Gal 5:16). We are to “walk worthy of the calling wherein we are called” (Eph 4:1).
But how? How are we to do this when we are continually wrestling against the world, the flesh and the devil?
The remainder of this Psalm is your guidebook to walking a life of victory! That may sound quite a claim, but this Psalm is the voice of experience. It has walked this path before and has been given to us by the Holy Spirit to be a companion on our journey, an instructor with Godly counsel.
In this study we look at:
After the brief respite of the previous section, the upward climb continues. The first thing to do is to ensure we have a good hold…
In this section the Psalmist seems to take firm hold upon God himself; appropriating him ( Psalms 119:57 ), crying out for him ( Psalms 119:58 ), returning to him ( Psalms 119:59 ), solacing himself in him ( Psalms 119:61-62 ), associating with his people ( Psalms 119:63 ), and sighing for personal experience of his goodness ( Psalms 119:64 ). Note how the first verse of this octave is linked to the last of the former one, of which indeed it is an expanded repetition. “This I had because I kept thy precepts. Thou art my portion, O Lord: I have said that I would keep thy words.” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon)
“In this section David laboureth to confirm his faith, and to comfort himself in the certainty of his regeneration, by eight properties of a sound believer, or eight marks of a new creature. The first whereof is his choosing of God for his portion”. David Dickson.
Verse 57 Thou art my portion, O LORD: I have said that I would keep thy words.
“Thou art my portion, O LORD. A broken sentence. The translators have mended it by insertions, but perhaps it had been better to have left it alone, and then it would have appeared as an exclamation, — “My portion, O Lord!” The poet is lost in wonder while he sees that the great and glorious God is all his own! Well might he be so, for there is no possession like Jehovah himself”. CHS
As the Psalmist considered in the previous verse what he has now gained, specifically:
- The promises of God and the hope they bring
- The comfort in affliction and renewed life
- Strength to endure in the midst of derision
- The righteous judgments of a never changing God
- A newly found hatred of sin
- A heart overflowing with praise
- A 24/7 walking in the way
…his mind is seemingly drawn to consider the sum of the parts – namely God Himself! He has not just got individual blessings, he has been granted an eternal abiding relationship with the Creator, sustainer and source of life itself! He declares that God is His portion.
The world may seek its portion from wealth or success, from social acceptance or from the number of friends on Facebook. But none of these will give a full portion. If you went to a restaurant and they served up half a portion, you would not be happy! That is what the world does, not necessarily intentionally, but because it simply cannot supply all your needs. God on the other hand, because His is your Creator, can supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:19). He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, (Eph 3:20). Given that, why wouldn’t we want to keep His words?
“Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
“Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23).
Verse 58 I intreated thy favour with my whole heart: be merciful unto me according to thy word.
Having made God his portion- the one he has chosen, and having stated that he will keep God’s words, he now throws himself on God’s mercy.
Maybe, as the words in the previous verse passed his lips he heard with his mind what his heart was saying and realised his utter dependence once again on God if he were to keep his vow.
Solomon stated: “Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:5). So it is not surprising that of all the verses thus far in this Psalm, this is arguably the most intense. Not only does he plead for favour, it is none other than God’s favour that will do; thus he will seek it with all his heart. But that is not enough, for he knows that favour without mercy is like a fire without oxygen. Without God’s mercy, God’s favour cannot be realised in his life, so he throws himself onto the only sure thing he knows… the promises of God! “according to thy word”. If for no other reason, because God is faithful, he can be assured him of his desired response for His word states: “him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).
“The Word of God may be divided into three parts; into commandments, threatenings, and promises; and though a Christian must not neglect the commanding and threatening word, yet if ever he would make the Word a channel for Divine comfort, he must study the promising word; for the promises are a Christian’s magna charta for heaven. All comfort must be built upon a Scripture promise, else it is presumption, not true comfort. As faith is the life of a Christian, so the promises are the life of faith: faith is a dead faith if it hath no promise to quicken it. As the promises are of no use without faith to apply them, so faith is of no use without a promise to lay hold on”. –Edmund Calamy.
Verse 59 I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.
“The transition which is made in the text from the occasion of this alteration, “I thought on my ways,” to the change itself, is very lofty and elegant. He does not tell us that, after a review of them, he saw the folly and danger of sin, the debasedness of its pleasures, and the poison of its delights; or that, upon a search into God’s law, he was convinced that what he imagined so severe, rigid, and frightful before, was now all amiable and lovely; no, but immediately adds, “I turned my feet unto thy testimonies”; than which I can conceive nothing more noble or strong; for it emphatically says, that there was no need to express the appearance his ways had when once he thought upon them”. William Dunlop
“And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb 10:17)
There was such a gulf between my ways and His ways, only His grace and mercy provided a way to cross from one to the other. The rich man in hades thought upon his ways, and deeply desired the comfort that he saw Lazarus now enjoy; yet alas, it was too late. The day of Salvation is now (2 Cor 6:2). It is therefore wise to consider the end of our ways now, to see where they will lead us, to see what promise await us if we continue on our own path. We will soon not need convincing that our feet need to do an about turn. It is never too late as long as you have breath, and never too soon!
The Hebrew word here used for thinking, signifies to think on a man’s ways accurately, advisedly, seriously, studiously, curiously. This holy man of God thought exactly and curiously on all his purposes and practices, on all his doings and sayings, on all his words and works, and finding too many of them to be short of the rule, yea, to be against the rule, he turned his feet to God’s testimonies
Note that he turned his feet. The decision had been made in his heart and mind, but it required action. It couldn’t just remain a hope or desire, it had to result in actual change. Faith without words is dead.
Consider here also that the Psalmist is 59 verses into his journey, much ground has been covered, and the Word of God has been more and more permeating his thinking, yet he is only now arriving at this milestone, this moment of decision. Before this verse he has stated that he loved God and his commandments, that he sought His precepts, statutes and testimonies, yet somehow he had managed to continue along his own path whilst observing God’s.
However, as the two paths have separated, as the distance between them has grown. Like a fork in the road, our way has been steadily moving away from God’s, we have been able to observe it, we have been comforted by doing so, but now no substitute will do. The longing we have for His judgments has grown too great (see v20).
Many Christians live for many years walking what appears to be a parallel path with God’s, yet it is their own way. Sadly many live a live outside of the blessings because they take action with their feet to turn daily to his Word, to turn devotedly to prayer, to seek godly fellowship, and keep always before them the sacrifice that Jesus made for them (see the list of essentials in Acts 2:42).
Verse 60 I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.
He made all speed to get back into the royal road from which he had wandered, and to run in that road upon the King’s errands. Speed in repentance and speed in obedience are two excellent things. We are too often in haste to sin; O that we may be in a greater hurry to obey. CHS
The smart thing to do is to run into His arms!
See 2 Chron 34:14 – the immediate reform of Josiah
- 1) To receive blessing
- 2) To prevent a curse
Verse 61 The bands of the wicked have robbed me: but I have not forgotten thy law.
I have been robbed of innocence
I have been robbed of peace
I have been robbed of fellowship
I have been robbed of joy
I have been robbed of countless blessings
As I begin to consider my ways, I realise just what I have missed out on, I have been robbed…
But what a work of Grace, “I’ve never gone so far that I’ve forgotten my way home” – Russ Taff
Verse 62 At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments.
Why at midnight? Because as we noted in verse 55, the night belongs to the children of the world. We are children of the light, children of the day.
“Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:5-6).
Whilst at midnight the world around us may be falling headlong into vice and sin, we will remember that in the depth of the night He has not forsaken us, and at any time we might hear the call of the Bridegroom. We want to be such that have their lamps full of oil, for His righteous judgment will be poured on this unbelieving world.
It has already been said by the Psalmist that he will remember His name in the night, but now he will specifically wake to give thanks and praise! He cannot wait for the morning, the morning might not come and he could die in his sleep. Let it be that his last act is to give thanks for God’s righteous judgments; and if by God’s grace and mercy he wakes in the morning to face another day, he will begin again and praise Him that His mercies are new every morning (Lam 3:23). His heart is overflowing with gratitude, love and joy.
His ears are as open to His own at midnight as during the fullness of the day. “Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight… he will rise and give him as many as he needeth” (Luke 11:5-8)
Verse 63 I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts.
It may be a narrow way, but I have some distinguished companions who have walked this path before me, and many that walk it with me now. David, Samuel, Noah, Daniel, Esther, Ruth, Paul, Jude et al have all walked this path, they have all been on this same journey. The very words of this Psalm are the memoirs of one who has climbed the mountain of life, and has left us this map and these instructions.
All who fear God we can call our companions. This fear however is not the fear of judgment, it is not the fear that comes from knowing God’s wrath is about to be poured out. It is the fear that comes out of holy reverence for an awesome God. It’s the fear that Solomon said is the beginning of all wisdom (Proverbs 9:10).
Those who reverently fear Him will also be those who keep His precepts. We cannot say we fear Him and continue to walk our own way.
This section is all about decision. Will we keep His words and entreat His favour with our whole heart? Will we turn our feet from our own path to His testimonies with haste? Will we determine to praise him when the world around us lunges further into sin? Will we rejoice that we can travel with these companions?
They are the ones I now want to call my friends and traveling companions. How we can mutually encourage each other to keep His precepts! How we can be accountable to each other. How great to know I’m not journeying alone! Iron does sharpen iron!
“Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up” (Eccl 4:9-10).
Verse 64 The earth, O LORD, is full of thy mercy: teach me thy statutes.
The recurring theme now is God’s mercy! But thankfully the earth is full of it!
…so that is my basis to ask again “teach my thy statutes”
May God bless you as you study His Word.