This teaching by Pastor Barry was recorded at our family service on Sunday 9th October 2016. This is the 9th 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 continue on, looking at
TETH : Verses 65-72 – Getting ready…
In this ninth section the verses all begin with the letter Teth. They are the witness of experience, testifying to the goodness of God, the graciousness of his dealings, and the preciousness of his word. Especially the Psalmist proclaims the excellent uses of adversity, and the goodness of God in afflicting him. The sixty-fifth verse is the text of the entire octave. CHS
We have seen the Psalmist growing in grace (vs 41-48), remembering where he has come from (vs 49-56), and in the previous section (vs 57-64), pressing forward to that which is ahead.
Now he begins to see that God has been doing a good work in him; but, as Oswald Chambers points out, the work God does in us is not an end in itself: “God’s purpose is not to perfect me to make me a trophy in His showcase; He is getting me to the place where He can use me. Let Him do what He wants”. (My Utmost For His Highest – December 2)
God wants to use each of us. Paul said “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10).
God has been letting some of us grow in the shade, and we have mistakenly thought He wasn’t interested in using us; however some fruit doesn’t grow well in direct sunlight, and God has been producing fruit in us that will ripen in its due season.
The Psalmist twice makes mention here of previous affliction, and whilst not enjoyable at the time, he now sees that God was in it all.
There is an anticipation here, a spiritual urging to get ready.
Verse 65 Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O LORD, according unto thy word.
It is hard to find a truer statement in the whole of Scripture! For God has dealt with each of us in just the right way for each of our own individual personalities and characters. If He had been too harsh, we might have hardened our hearts against Him. If He’d not chastened us we might have continued in sin.
“O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether” (Ps 139:1-4).
“…your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him”. (Matt 6:8)
“Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee” (Jer 1:5).
He really does know us better than we know ourselves!
The Hebrew word translated as ‘well’ is translated elsewhere as beautiful, best, better. The way God has dealt with us is the best. He is the master craftsman, we are His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). He is the Potter, we are the clay (see Romans 9:20-23).
Consider in contrast how we would have dealt with each other! Oswald Chambers makes the point that whenever we try to ‘interfere’ in other’s lives we are often more concerned about converting them to our point of view than leading them to Christ. In Oswald’s words we become a ‘spiritual amateur providence in other lives’ (My Utmost For His Highest – August 1st)
We can simply be overbearing, judgmental and intolerant, producing resentment in others hearts, driving them away rather than drawing them in. Jesus never does that. The Holy Spirit will never produce resentment or bitterness, because He works ‘according unto Thy Word’!
He has dealt graciously, because He is gracious.
He has dealt patiently because He is patient.
He has dealt gently with us for He is gentle – so gentle that Isaiah records “He shall not cry [shout], nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench”. (Isaiah 42:1-4)
He has dealt with kindness and goodness; as Paul records, it is His goodness, not His rebuke that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
He has not cast us out, but said “your sin I will remember no more’ (Hebrews 8:12).
Just as His Word teaches, He has led us after Him; He has led us beside still waters; He has restored our souls. He has been our comfort even in the valley of death!
He hath done all things well: the rule has no exception. In providence and in grace, in giving prosperity and sending adversity, in everything Jehovah hath dealt well with us. It is dealing well on our part to tell the Lord that we feel that he hath dealt well with us; for praise of this kind is specially fitting and comely. This kindness of the Lord is, however, no chance matter: he promised to do so, and he has done it according to his word. CHS
“My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Heb 12:5-6).
Consider the prayers already lifted up in this Psalm regarding how the Psalmist wanted to be dealt with:
O forsake me not utterly v8
O let me not wander from thy commandments v10
Teach me thy statutes v12, v26, v64
Deal bountifully with thy servant v17
Open thou mine eyes v18
Hide not thy commandments from me v19
Remove from me reproach and contempt v22
Quicken thou me according to thy word v25
Make me to understand the way of thy precepts v27
Strengthen thou me according unto thy word v28
Remove from me the way of lying v29
Grant me thy law graciously v29
Put me not to shame v31
Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes v33
Give me understanding v34
Make me to go in the path of thy commandments v35
Incline my heart unto thy testimonies v36
Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity v37
Stablish thy word unto thy servant v38
Turn away my reproach v39
Quicken me in thy righteousness v40
Let thy mercies come also unto me v41
Take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth v43
Remember the word unto thy servant v49
Be merciful unto me v58
What an awesome prayer to pray! Just try praying this again now! …and at the end we can also add ‘according to Your Word!’
God will always honour that which we pray in accordance with His Word.
This is how well God has dealt with us thus far, and we have the comfort of His promise, that “he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6)
The continued petition to this gracious, gentile, merciful and loving God resumes in the next verse, almost as if in anticipation of what is, or what might be to come.
Verse 66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments.
God has dealt well with him; now he would deal well with others. He has been taught much, now he wants to teach others. But just as with Solomon, we must request Godly wisdom if we are to deal well with other souls.
What use is good judgment and knowledge if it is just to be kept for ourselves, and not in our dealings and conversations with others? Can there be any other reason to ask for good judgment and knowledge than the desire to exercise good judgement toward others? Knowledge if kept to ourselves would be like the Manna that stunk when kept for the following day (see Exodus 16:19-20).
Thus there is the implication here that the Psalmist has grown sufficiently in grace to want to pass what he has learned on to others.
The Psalmist had believed and was certain in his own heart, so there was naturally an overflowing that compelled him to share his faith with others that they might also believe. John said, these things I have written that you might believe. He believed and so wanted others to do so. (John 20:31)
As humans, we cannot read a book, see a play, or listen to a piece of music that captivates us without wanting to tell others and desire for them to have the same experience we have had. How much more, when it comes to the Word of Truth, should we want others to experience the life changing water that has washed and cleansed our souls? Consider the woman at the well in John 4, what did she say to her friends? “Come and see a man… is not this the Christ?!” (John 4:29)
But once again, the Psalmist knows all too well the danger of over exuberance! He could just as easily drive away those he desired to reach if he did not have good judgment and knowledge.
Verse 67 Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.
Affliction has a way of bringing us to our senses. There are many examples in Scripture of those who went astray, found themselves afflicted, humbled themselves and cried out to God, and then were graciously restored.
Think of the Prodigal son in Luke 15. He chose his own path, thinking it would bring him an abundant life, but soon found that the world’s promises blossomed into lies.
Consider also king Manasseh; arguably the worst king in Judah’s history (see 2 Kings 21:1-17). It is said he was responsible for putting the prophet Isaiah to death by sawing him in half (see Heb 11:37). Yet in 2 Chronicles 33 we read: “And when he was in affliction, he besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, And prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God. Now after this… he took away the strange gods, and the idol out of the house of the LORD, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the LORD, and in Jerusalem, and cast them out of the city. And he repaired the altar of the LORD, and sacrificed thereon peace offerings and thank offerings, and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel” (2 Chron 33:12-16).
“…when he was in affliction, “He besought the Lord his God”: even that king’s iron was more precious to him than his gold, his jail a more happy lodging than his palace, Babylon a better school than Jerusalem”. CHS
Whilst this is a great ending to the story, it is heart-breaking to realise the untold damage Manasseh brought to countless lives because of his ‘going astray’! We must never think our sin won’t affect others; remember Achan? (see Joshua 7).
Nevertheless, the point is clear, the LORD uses our affliction to teach us lessons in the night we refused to learn in the day.
There are four stages revealed in this verse that probably all of us have experienced at some time:
- Firstly, there was a time when we had been walking with the LORD to the best of our understanding and had not gone astray.
- Then sin deceived us and either wilfully (as in the examples we have just looked at), or through ignorance, we went astray. Psalm 66:18 tells us that if we regard iniquity in our hearts, the Lord will not hear. What a tragic condition to be in to have placed ourselves ‘out of favour’ with God because of our pride and foolishness. In our affliction we come to an end of our own self-reliance.
- But then, having been removed from a place of blessing we cry out, longing, hoping to be delivered and restored. What comfort when we see our Father afar off with outstretched arms! “…and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out”. (John 6:37)
“The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles”. (Psalm 34:17)
“It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness”. (Lam 3:22-23)
- Finally, having been restored we will forever be mindful of the affliction we had endured. Consider Samson, who though restored spiritually, carried the scars of his ‘going astray’ right up to the end of his life. That is why now we will keep His word. Yet how sad that we cannot simply learn through obedience.
“Often our trials act as a thorn hedge to keep us in the good pasture, but our prosperity is a gap through which we go astray. If any of us remember a time in which we had no trouble, we also probably recollect that then grace was low and temptation was strong”. CHS
The words of the often repeated Anglican prayer are a good summary of this verse: “Father eternal, giver of light and grace, we have sinned against you and against our neighbour, in what we have thought, in what we have said and done, through ignorance, through weakness, through our own deliberate fault. We have wounded your love and marred your image in us. We are sorry and ashamed, and repent of all our sins. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, who died for us, forgive us all that is past; and lead us out from darkness to walk as children of light. Amen”.
Spurgeon comments: “Not that he wilfully, wickedly, maliciously, and through contempt, departed from his God; this lie denies ( Psalms 18:21 ); but through the weakness of the flesh, the prevalence of corruption, and the force of temptation, and very much through a careless, heedless, and negligent frame of spirit, he got out of the right way, and wandered from it before he was well aware. The word is used of erring through ignorance” CHS
As we have noted, the LORD had graciously restored the Psalmist (and He does the same with you and I!) But to what end? Once again, it is not so we can be showcase specimens, but that we might “minister grace unto the hearers” (Eph 4:29) by the Word of God. Having become constant recipients of His grace, we should desire to show the same to others. There is nothing better than to keep His word. His word is Truth, His word is Life, and His word is the Way! What a stark contrast is brought to light when we compare the way of affliction with the way of Truth. Now we have seen it, more than ever before we will want to keep his word!
Verse 68 Thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes.
Everything that God does is good. He is the absolute standard of what is good.
“If the qualities of greatness…were God’s only attributes, he might conceivably be an immoral or amoral being, exercising his power and knowledge in a capricious or even cruel fashion. But because he has attributes of goodness as well as greatness, he can be trusted and loved.” (Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology., 2nd ed.)
“God’s goodness can be defined as the collective perfections of His nature and the benevolence of His acts…God is good by nature and good in what He does.” (Tony Evans. Theology You Can Count On)
Wayne Grudem, in discussing the attributes of God, states of His goodness: “The goodness of God means that God is the final standard of good, and that all that God is and does is worthy of approval.” (Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine page 197)
Spurgeon adds: “Even in affliction God is good, and does good. This is the confession of experience. God is essential goodness in himself, and in every attribute of his nature he is good in the fullest sense of the term; indeed, he has a monopoly of goodness, for there is none good but one, that is God. His acts are according to his nature: from a pure source flow pure streams”.
“Teach me thy statutes. The same prayer as before, backed with the same argument. He prays, “Lord be good, and do good to me that I may both be good and do good through thy teaching.” CHS
Verse 69 The proud have forged a lie against me: but I will keep thy precepts with my whole heart.
The proud have forged a lie against me. They first derided him ( Psalms 119:51 ), then defrauded him ( Psalms 119:61 ), and now they have defamed him. To injure his character they resorted to falsehood, for they could find nothing against him if they spoke the truth. They forged a lie as a blacksmith beats out a weapon of iron, or they counterfeited the truth as men forge false coin.
The proud have crafted a lie. This was intentional, and designed to inflict wound. What defence do we have against such cruel adversaries? God’s precepts!
Precepts – this comes from a word which means to place in trust. God has given us his truth and expects us to respect it. He has placed heavenly wisdom in trust with us. We are custodians of this life-giving knowledge.
Verse 70 Their heart is as fat as grease; but I delight in thy law.
Note the contrast from the previous verse. The Psalmist will keep God’s precepts with his whole heart. The heart of the ungodly however is thick, almost impenetrable. It has become so unhealthy it is heading for a coronary!
Their hearts, through sensual indulgence, have grown insensible, coarse, and grovelling; but thou hast saved me from such a fate through thy chastening hand. CHS
Jesus said of such people: “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them” (Matt 13:15).
Paul speaks of those who have had their conscience seared as with a hot iron (1 Tim 4:2). There are those, particularly individuals who would invent lies to try to entrap God’s servants, who have become so dull to sin that they no longer feel guilt or remorse. Can there be a worse condition of heart and mind this side of eternity?
Their heart is as fat as grease; but I delight in thy law; as if he should say, My heart is a lean heart, a hungry heart, my soul loveth and rejoiceth in thy word. I have nothing else to fill it but thy word, and the comforts I have from it; but their hearts are fat hearts: fat with the world, fat with lust: they hate the word. As a full stomach loatheth meat and cannot digest it; so wicked men hate the word, it will not go down with them, it will not gratify their lusts. —William Fenner.
He has delighted in God’s statutes (v16), testimonies (v24), commandments (v47). Now and twice more he cannot separate the component parts any longer and so simply says he loves God’s Law in its entirety! The world can have its indulgence, I have something far better, something far more satisfying and filling, something that will not kill me but rather gives me life in abundance!
Verse 71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.
Even though the affliction came from bad men, it was overruled for good ends: though it was bad as it came from them, it was good for David. It benefited him in many ways, and he knew it. Whatever he may have thought while under the trial, he perceived himself to be the better for it when it was over. It was not good to the proud to be prosperous, for their hearts grew sensual and insensible; but affliction was good for the Psalmist. Our worst is better for us than the sinner’s best. It is bad for sinners to rejoice, and good for saints to sorrow. A thousand benefits have come to us through our pains and griefs, and among the rest is this — that we have thus been schooled in the law. CHS
Verse 72 The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.
The law of thy mouth. A sweetly expressive name for the word of God. It comes from God’s own mouth with freshness and power to our souls. Things written are as dried herbs; but speech has a liveliness and dew about it. We do well to look upon the word of the Lord as though it were newly spoken into our ear; for in very truth it is not decayed by years, but is as forcible and sure as though newly uttered. CHS
“If a poor man had said this, the world’s witlings would have hinted that the grapes are sour, and that men who have no wealth are the first to despise it; but this is the verdict of a man who owned his thousands, and could judge by actual experience of the value of money and the value of truth. He speaks of great riches, he heaps it up by thousands, he mentions the varieties of its forms, — “gold and silver”; and then he sets the word of God before it all, as better to him” CHS
One lesson, taught by sanctified affliction, is, the love of God’s word. “This is my comfort, in my affliction: thy word hath quickened me.” In reading a part of the one hundred and nineteenth psalm to Miss Westbrook, who died, she said, “Stop, sir, I never said so much to you before — I never could; but now I can say, `The word of thy mouth, is dearer to me, than thousands of gold and silver.’ What can gold and silver do for me by now?” George Redford, in “Memoirs of the late Rev. John Cooke”, 1828.
May God bless you as you study His Word.