This teaching by Pastor Barry was recorded at our family service on Sunday 23rd October 2016. This is the 11th 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 verses 89– 104:
Lamed: Verses 89-96
A Firm Footing
“Here the climax of the delineation of the suppliant’s pilgrimage is reached. We have arrived at the centre of the psalm, and the thread of the connexion is purposely broken off. The substance of the first eleven strophes has evidently been: “Hitherto hath the Lord brought me: shall it be that I now perish?” To this the eleven succeeding strophes make answer, “The Lord’s word changeth not; and in spite of all evil foreboding, the Lord will perfect concerning ms the work that he hath already begun.” Joseph Francis Thruput, 1860.
Verse 89 For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.
“After tossing about on a sea of trouble the Psalmist here leaps to shore and stands upon a rock. Jehovah’s word is not fickle nor uncertain; it is settled, determined, fixed, sure, immovable. Man’s teachings change so often that there is never time for them to be settled; but the Lord’s word is from of old the same, and will remain unchanged eternally. Some men are never happier than when they are unsettling everything and everybody; but God’s mind is not with them. The power and glory of heaven have confirmed each sentence which the mouth of the Lord has spoken, and so confirmed it that to all eternity it must stand the same, — settled in heaven, where nothing can reach it. In the former section David’s soul fainted, but here the good man looks out of self and perceives that the Lord fainteth not, neither is weary, neither is there any failure in his word”. CHS
This verse reveals something incredible. God’s written Word is a copy of what is already written and recorded in Heaven. God’s Word is itself outside of time. It speaks of the future as if it were the past. In Isaiah we read “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isaiah 46:9-10). In Isaiah we also read: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever” (Isaiah 40:8), and Jesus said: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).
If every material thing will be destroyed yet the Word will remain, the Word is not merely physical. It could be said that the Bible is the ultimate in cloud based storage!
In addition, Psalm 12 tells us “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever”. If therefore the Word of God is ‘established’ in Heaven, if it is unchangeable, if it cannot be corrupted by man and if God has personally undertaken to preserve His Word, critics of the Bible who say it has changed throughout the centuries and been altered, and claim it is merely a work of man are wide of the mark, very wide indeed!
God of course used the Jewish nation as a means to deliver His Word to the World. Paul notes in Romans 9:4 that it was to Israel that God gave his covenants and Law. It is therefore no surprise to find that those entrusted with this great task of recording, copying and passing down to future generations God’s Word did it with a precision unparalleled in history.
For example, the Talmud lists more than a dozen rules for copying the Torah, a sort of built-in security system to prevent any corruption to the text. The meticulous process of hand-copying a scroll would take about 2,000 hours (a full-time job for one year).
Throughout the centuries, Jewish scribes have adhered to the following guidelines:
- The parchment must be made from the skin of a clean animal (clean meaning ceremonially clean according to the Old Testament sanitary laws); must be prepared by a Jew only, and the skins must be fastened together by strings taken from clean animals.
- Each column must have no less than forty-eight, nor more than sixty lines.
- The entire copy must be first lined.
- A Torah Scroll is disqualified if even a single letter is added.
- A Torah Scroll is disqualified if even a single letter is deleted.
- The scribe must be a learned, pious Jew, who has undergone special training and certification.
- All materials (parchment, ink, quill) must conform to strict specifications, and be prepared specifically for the purpose of writing a Torah Scroll.
- The scribe may not write even one letter into a Torah Scroll by heart. Rather, he must have a second, kosher scroll opened before him at all times.
- The scribe must pronounce every word out loud before copying it from the correct text.
- Every letter must have sufficient white space surrounding it. If one letter touched another in any spot, it invalidates the entire scroll.
- If a single letter was so marred that it cannot be read at all, or resembles another letter (whether the defect is in the writing, or is due to a hole, tear or smudge), this invalidates the entire scroll.
- Each letter must be sufficiently legible so that even an ordinary schoolchild could distinguish it from other, similar letters.
- The scribe must put precise space between words, so that one word will not look like two words, or two words look like one word.
- The scribe must not alter the design of the sections, and must conform to particular line-lengths and paragraph configurations.
- The ink must be of no other color than black, and it must be prepared according to a special recipe.
- He must reverently wipe his pen each time before writing the word for “God” (Elohim), and he must wash his whole body before writing the name “Jehovah” (LORD in KJV), lest the Holy Name be contaminated.
- Each Hebrew letter has a numerical value; each column when completed must be added up and be the exact numerical value as the scroll you were copying from.
- Each page must also add up numerically
- The revision (to correct any errors) of a roll must be made within thirty days after the work was finished; otherwise it was worthless.
- One mistake on a sheet condemned the entire sheet. If three mistakes were found on any page, the entire manuscript was condemned.
One of the critic’s favourite challenges is that “you can’t trust the Bible, it’s been changed so many times”. Consider this: There are 304,805 letters in the Torah (the first 5 books of the Bible). How many errors do you suppose have been introduced in 1900 years of copying the text? “The fact is, that after all the trials and tribulations, communal dislocations and persecutions, only the Yemenite Torah scrolls contain any difference from the rest of world Jewry. For hundreds of years, the Yemenite community was not part of the global checking system, and a total of nine letter-differences are found in their scrolls. These are all spelling differences. In no case do they change the meaning of the word.” Aish HaTorah.
Books have already been written to demonstrate the divine inspiration of the Bible: Dr Chuck Missler’s ‘Cosmic Codes’, F.C. Payne’s ‘The Seal of God’ and Grant Jeffrey’s ‘The Signature of God’ are three books that prove beyond doubt the Bible is ‘from outside our time domain’ and is the Word of an infinite Creator God to Mankind.
Other books have been written to demonstrate the accuracy and integrity of Scripture (see the Authenticity series by Dr Bill Cooper – www.billcooper.org.uk) , or ‘Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament’ by Dr Robert Dick Wilson – an insightful quote from the latter states: “For 45 years continuously I have devoted myself to one great study of the Old Testament…The result of those 45 years of study which I have given to the text has been this: “I can affirm that there is not a page of the Old Testament concerning which you need have any doubt!”
Evidence of the faithful transmission of the Bible down through the centuries has been confirmed by the discovery in 1946 of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
In 68 A.D. numerous manuscripts were found in caves in Qumran in southern Israel. Now, most people are aware that the scrolls contained portions of Old Testament books, practically identical to the books we have today, showing that for the best part of two thousand years these have been faithfully reproduced and past down to us without alteration. However, what most people are unaware of (and there are those who would like it to stay that way!) is that in Cave 7 were found fragments on a number of New testament books, including 4 fragments from copies of the Gospel Mark, all copied by different individuals. This proves that Mark was written and in wide circulation before A.D. 68! Also found is a fragment of a commentary of the book of Romans, proving once again that Romans was written and in circulation by 68 A.D., much earlier than the critics would have us believe. This all goes to underline the accuracy and authenticity of the Bible.
Curiously, when some time later German archaeologists applied to the Israeli authorities to further excavate Cave 7, they were told that the cave was no longer there! Apparently it had eroded! That is, a cave that had stood undisturbed for almost 2000 years suddenly eroded! Yet there is no evidence of erosion, the cave has simply been destroyed, and one has to conclude that this was done intentionally by the Jewish authorities to obfuscate the fact that what had already been found provided great support for the New Testament.
This kind of skulduggery is nothing new. Thought the ages there have been repeated attempts to denigrate the Bible and keep it away from people. Even in Paul’s day he stated: “For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God” (2 Cor 2:17). John, Peter and Jude all tackled the problem of those who would twist, amend or deny scripture (see 1 John 2:21-22 / 2 Peter 3:16 / Jude v3-4). Yet forever God’s Word is settled in Heaven and He will not let it be silenced. Even through the dark ages His Word was not forgotten – much to the displeasure of the Roman Catholic Church. It is no secret they have actively discouraged people from reading scripture, because as was clearly seen with Martin Luther, when people turn to God’s Word, man’s wisdom is shown to be foolishness!
(For a shocking expose of the deliberate deciet employed by the Roman Catholic Church, see The Forging of Codex Sinaiticus. by Dr Bill Cooper (http://www.genesisexpo.org.uk/product/forging-codex-sinaiticus/) – this also lifts the lid on the corruptions that have deliberatly been introduced in to most modern translations of the Bible – yet God’s word is still preserved and setteld in heaven!
It was the Word of God itself that sparked the reformation that in turn led to the rediscovery of the Word of God. William Tyndale ended up dying in his attempts to translate the Bible into English, and make it accessible to all. Up to that point only the clergy were permitted to have and read the Bible. When a fellow priest objected to Tyndale’s plans, Tyndale hotly replied: “If God spares my life, before many years pass I will make it possible for a boy behind the plow to know more Scripture than you do.”
“In the following years Tyndale translated portions of the Old Testament and brought out an improved edition of the New. Church officials continued to hound him, however, and in 1536 he fell into their hands. After seventeen months in prison Tyndale went to his death—at the stake. His dying prayer was, “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes.” B L Shelley, from “Church history in plain language”.
That prayer was answered. “Once Tyndale’s translation of the New Testament was widely available, there was no turning back. Tyndale’s translation would have to be authorised – or it would have to be bettered. There seemed to be no alternative. Reluctant to adopt the former course, [King] Henry [VIII]’s advisers chose the latter. They would produce their own Bible, and require it to be used in the public worship of the churches” Alister McGrath
Verse 90 Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: thou hast established the earth, and it abideth.
From that which is in heaven, the Psalmist now turns to consider the earth. Note that the Word is established ‘forever’ whereas the earth simply ‘abides’ i.e. it is for now. Heaven and earth will pass away…
God has been faithful and has kept the earth spinning, the sun shining, the eco system balanced, the oxygen levels, the hydro system functioning – all because of His faithfulness. He has not flooded the earth again as He promised, He could have cut mankind off on account of our sin, but He has continued to sustain life for all – the righteous and the ungodly. The sun shines on the wicked and the good. Great is His faithfulness! In the end all will be loosened – every atom will fly apart, but for now He keeps His word and allows the earth to abide
Verse 91 They continue this day according to thine ordinances: for all are thy servants.
They… the heaven and earth.
They don’t complain about their lot. They are content to serve in the place and in the way God has ordained. Why should the thing formed question the one who has formed it? Do we do all things without murmuring and complaining?
The idea is not that we do work for God, but that we are so loyal to Him that He can do His work through us—“I reckon on you for extreme service, with no complaining on your part and no explanation on Mine.” God wants to use us as He used His own Son. Oswald Chambers – My Utmost For His Highest
Verse 92 Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction.
Bringing it back down to the personal level… The Word is settled for ever in heaven and the earth abides for now, but all this only amplifies the frailty of man. Our lives are but a whisper, smoke that is passing. We need something to hold onto on this earth that is spinning at over 1000 mph and traveling through space at around 3 million mph!
The Psalmist talks again of his affliction, and that it was of a magnitude to have almost destroyed him.
Whatever the physical component, the emotional turmoil was overwhelming to him, and he needed something to hold on to.
The Hebrew implies ‘unless Thy law had delighted me, I would have wandered away and been destroyed, by my misery. Oh the rancid effect of sin on human lives! Note how David was in despair on account of his sin:
“When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah”. (Ps 32:3-5)
Verse 93 I will never forget thy precepts: for with them thou hast quickened me.
How can we forget that which has rescued us from sure disaster?
The Psalmist has spoken now on many occasion of being quickened.
“Forgetfulness is a great evil in holy things; we see here the man of God fighting against it, and feeling sure of victory because he knew the life giving energy of the word in his own soul. That which quickens the heart is sure to quicken the memory”. CHS
“It seems singular that he should ascribe quickening to the precepts, and yet it lies in them and in all the words of the Lord alike. It is to be noted that when the Lord raised the dead he addressed to them the word of command. He said, “Lazarus, come forth,” or “Maid, arise.” We need not fear to address gospel precepts to dead sinners, since by them the Spirit gives them life. Remark that the Psalmist does not say that the precepts quickened him, but that the Lord quickened him by their means: thus he traces the life from tile channel to the source, and places the glory where it is due”. CHS
Verse 94 I am thine, save me; for I have sought thy precepts.
This is the sum basis of His plea. God is good, I am God’s, so please save. For I have sought thy precepts is not a bargaining chip, or a tool to demonstrate our worthiness, but rather the statement that it is because of them, because I have sought them that I have been made aware of my condition and am thus prompted to cry out for grace and mercy.
Verse 95 The wicked have waited for me to destroy me: but I will consider thy testimonies.
They have laid traps for me, they are lying in wait, but You can safely navigate me through
Yet it is not just that I was dead in trespasses and sin, and that I had to be afflicted to come to the knowledge that I needed a Saviour, but also that I had real adversaries who sought my destruction. Life is a minefield. The odds of safely navigating are slim indeed, unless we turn to a map for guidance. His testimonies are just that. CHS
Verse 96 I have seen an end of all perfection: but thy commandment is exceeding broad.
“There is no perfection beneath the moon” CHS
The Psalmist here is speaking of how things will one day be, when corruption puts on incorruption, when the would will be made new, when there will no longer be a sun for the Lamb will be the light. But what a journey still lies ahead of us!
Mem: Verses 97-104
Verse 97 O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.
O how love I thy law! It is a note of exclamation. He loves so much that he must express his love, and in making the attempt he perceives that it is inexpressible — and therefore cries, “O how I love!” We not only reverence but love the law, we obey it out of love, and even when it chides us for disobedience we love it none the less. The law is God’s law, and therefore it is our love. We love it for its holiness, and pine to be holy; we love it for its wisdom, and study to be wise; we love it for its perfection, and long to be perfect. Those who know the power of the gospel perceive an infinite loveliness in the law as they see it fulfilled and embodied in Christ Jesus. CHS
Has God’s Law become this to you? Do you love his Word? Have you discovered the joy of meditating in it? To meditate is to simply go over and over, drawing out all the spiritual nourishment you can. It really is “health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones” (Prov 3:8)
Verse 98 Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me.
God’s enemies will always be with us, they will not hesitate to ridicule and persecute us because of our faith and trust in God’s word. But the wisdom of the world is foolishness in God’s eyes. The world is proud of it’s accomplishments and achievements, but as Jeremiah said “They have rejected the Word of the Lord so what wisdom is in them”?! (Jeremiah 8:9).
Verse 99 I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.
This is true from personal experience – wisdom and knowledge come from the Lord, not the world’s academia.
In the final analysis no one will want more qualifications when standing before the throne of God. The beginning of Wisdom is the fear of the LORD.
Verse 100 I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.
We now have the whole cannon of Scripture. They desired to look into the things which we now enjoy.
“..Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into”.(1 Peter 1:10-12)
Verse 101 I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word.
I have turned my feet unto Thy testimonies because I realised that the path I was on was leading me to self-destruction.
Now have have exchanged despondency for peace and emptiness for comfort!
Verse 102 I have not departed from thy judgments: for thou hast taught me.
“We have had the best, most gentle and wise teacher, we are bound to Him by love, curiosity and gratitude. Now that we have been taught a little, how can we not want to learn more?” CHS
Before we had no anchor for our souls, but now we have God’s word as a faithful companion.
Verse 103 How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
The intensity of experience and the reality of the live-changing world only increases with time.
Verse 104 Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.
We don’t just have greater understanding than before in order to sit comfortably, it is to allow us to identify the way of truth and the way of falsehood.
May God bless you as you study His Word.