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Watch 2022 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - Great Chapters of the Bible, Psalm 119

John Bradshaw - Great Chapters of the Bible, Psalm 119


John Bradshaw - Great Chapters of the Bible, Psalm 119
John Bradshaw - Great Chapters of the Bible, Psalm 119
TOPICS: Great Chapters of the Bible, Psalm 119

This is It Is Written. I’m John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. We’re continuing our ongoing series, "Great Chapters of the Bible," and we’re looking at a chapter that qualifies as great by any number of measures. It’s the longest chapter in the Bible, 176 verses, almost 2,500 words, much longer than that next longest chapter in the Bible which is First Kings 8. None of the verses are longer than about 21 words though. But Psalm 119 is a fascinating homage to God and it speaks from beginning to end of the life-changing power of the Word of God. Now, there are a couple of things that are really fascinating about this psalm. Of the 176 verses, only one does not contain some explicit reference to the word of God, or God’s revelation to the human family.

Now, you could argue that there are another couple, but they reference God’s faithfulness and mercy. So, verse 122 seems to stand alone. Here it is. "Be surety for your servant for good; do not let the proud oppress me". Every other one of the remaining 175 verses references God’s word, whether it’s a reference to Scripture or to God’s testimonies or His law or statutes or precepts or judgments. And this chapter is written in an interesting way. Psalm 119 is written in 22 paragraphs or stanzas of eight verses each. Every one of those verses in each section starts with the same Hebrew letter. The psalm was written so that the first eight verses all start with the Hebrew letter, "aleph," the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Next set of eight verses start with the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, "beth".

Third group of eight starts with "gimel," then "daleth," "he," "waw," and so on all the way through the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. That’s how we end up with 176 verses. And these verses all follow a certain theme, a theme the writer establishes at the very beginning of the psalm. Now this is verse one. "Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord"!

Now that verse sets the tone for the entire psalm. Those who are obedient to God are blessed. That’s really another way of saying that those who are led by the Spirit of God are blessed. Incidentally, that word blessed is the same word which begins the Book of Psalms entirely, when it says in Psalm 1, verse 1, "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful," which is much the same thought really. It’s a theme that carries right through the Book of Psalms. Faithfulness to God and the life-changing power, the transforming power, of God’s Word.

So look at Psalm 119 and verse 1 again. "Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord". Blessed or bless-ed are the complete, those who are without blemish, the upright, those without spot. Now that’s clearly God’s plan for His children, that they are recovered from the power of sin. And what’s written here really reflects the words of Jesus. Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep my commandments" in John 14:15. Revelation 22:14 says, "Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city". John wrote in First John 5, verse 3, "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not grievous".

The writer of Psalm 119 understood something, not just from a theological perspective, but from his own bitter experience. Sin does damage. As Isaiah the prophet said, it separates a person from God. He said that in Isaiah 59, verse 2. Jesus came into the world to save us from the penalty of sin. But not only from its penalty, also from its power. And also from its presence. Here’s where many people are selling themselves short and selling God short. Christianity, faith in God, isn’t just a matter of acknowledging God as God, acknowledging Jesus as Savior, and then going on with the old life as though God hasn’t impacted your life. Faith in God is about God taking away your old sinful heart and placing within you a new heart that beats in harmony with the heart of God. God makes you new. And after He does that, He wants to keep you, to sustain you, to live in you, so that your life is lived for God’s glory.

When God saves you, He puts you on a whole new path. Now the question is, of course, how in the world are we to stay on that path? How can sinful people live new lives? Psalm 119 answers that question in verse one. We are to "walk in the law of the Lord". Look what the same writer wrote in Psalm 19, starting in verse 7. Psalm 19 and verse 7. "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statues of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether".

It’s been said that Psalm 119 is an elaboration of that passage from Psalm 19. Psalm 19 was written by David, and although it isn’t otherwise made clear, thematically and linguistically, it seems that Psalm 119 was written by David as well. And then back in Psalm 19, he says in verses 10 and 11, "More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward".

Of course, if David wrote this, he knew that there’s not a person alive who can save themselves or somehow muster up the strength to live godly lives. He’s talking about a profound reliance upon the word of God, and this side of the cross we’re able to say, and upon Jesus the Word made flesh. There is power in the Word of God. Paul called the Gospel, "the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes" in Romans 1, verse 16. And this is reiterated in Psalm 119. Look at verse 9. "How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word".

Now, isn’t that a profound thought? And a helpful thought? If you’re looking to live a life of integrity, a life that honors God, if you’re looking for God to bring out the best in you, then this is for you. How can a person cleanse his or her way? By listening to, by taking note of, the word of God. And verse 11 pretty much repeats the thought. "Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You". So how are we to live without falling into sin? Only one way, by taking heed to God’s Word, by letting God’s Word have its way in our lives. By making decisions based on the Word of God. By consulting the Bible and letting the Bible be your guide.

It’s too easy today to ignore the Word of God. Too many distractions today that make it easy to take your cue from other places. In this world, you’re either going to acknowledge God’s Word as your guide, or, well, something else. And there’s nothing else that brings into your life the transforming power of God. Let me suggest something. If you’re not taking time with God’s Word, start doing so right away. Take time every day. Every morning read a passage of the Bible. Let God’s Word speak to you. Let God’s Word fill you, cleanse your mind with God’s principles. Have His Word on the tip of your tongue. Take your Bible with you. Read it when you get a few moments during the day. Memorize Bible verses that you know will be helpful to you.

Isaiah wrote that God will keep in perfect peace the person whose mind has stayed on God. Depending on the research you read, it seems that most Americans never or very rarely read the Bible. And that could explain a lot. How’s it working out for you? If you’ll take time in the word of God, if you’ll read the Bible regularly, systematically, you’ll find the peace and the power and the presence of God in your life in an amazing way. In a moment, in Psalm 119, does the Bible writer exaggerate to make his point? I’ll be right back.

Thanks for joining me on It Is Written. We’re looking at Psalm 119 in our ongoing series, "Great Chapters of the Bible". It’s the longest chapter in Scripture at 176 verses, almost two-and-a-half thousand words. It’s been said that the great missionary David Livingston memorized the entire psalm, a chapter that would take you around 15 minutes to recite or to read out loud. Again and again, Psalm 119 speaks about God’s word, His commandments, His statutes, His law. This is the Bible writer recommending the Bible as the source of strength for believers, as the means of receiving not only powerful holy living, but also hope in this world and in the world to come.

Notice what it says starting in verse 14 and think about the words used. "I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches. I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways. I will delight myself in Your statues; I will not forget Your word". I’ve rejoiced in Your testimonies as much as in all riches? Now, David was a wealthy man. Here he says that God’s Word meant more to him than all the wealth he could accumulate. So, let’s ask an honest question here. Is this just hyperbole? Is David simply exaggerating to make a point? No, he’s not. For him, God’s Word was the most precious commodity he knew of. For those who live in parts of the world where the Bible is freely available and you can live your faith in freedom, it might be less easy or less common to feel that way about the Bible. But David was deadly serious about this. And what did he do with the Word of God?

Well, he meditated on it. He contemplated it. He thought about it. He chewed it over in his mind. He was determined not to forget it. You know, this modern world where our minds seem to be always occupied. We’re checking social media or, or email. People drive along listening to the radio or to music they brought with them. Life is full of flashing lights and distractions. It’s not nearly as easy as it used to be to simply think about God’s Word. Less people do it. To let God’s Word wash over your mind and influence your daily life. Modern life conspires against faith. I’ve been told by people a thousand times, "I’m just too busy". "I just don’t have time".

Who do you think worked it out that way? The devil does not want you to read the Bible, and he’s figured out a thousand ways to keep you from getting into it. But David, he meditated on God’s Word. Now don’t get this confused with Eastern religious practices. Meditating on the Bible has nothing to do with emptying your mind or repeating a mantra. It’s about focusing on the Word of God. Thinking about Scripture. Letting it sink into your mind. Ask yourself, when did you last really focus on God’s Word? Thinking about what God is actually saying to you through the Bible? Considering what a verse really says and wondering with God about how that verse or passage should be applied to your life? That’s the meditation being written about. That is healthy and it’s helpful.

Now it says in verse 24, Psalm 119, verse 24. "Your testimonies also are my delight and my counselors". Now see how practical that is? The word of God is to guide you. It advises you. You make your decisions for life on the basis of what God suggests. God wants you and me to be just like that. When it’s decision time, it’s Bible time. What does God have to say about this decision in your life? You’ll know if you take the time to read and pray. Now, look at this passage. It is powerful. We start in verse 34. "Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to covetousness".

You see what the writer is saying here? I will keep your law, that’s my will, my purpose. But, God, make me walk in the right way, bend my heart in Your direction. David knew what you and I need to know for sure. Desires to do right in the sight of God are well and good, but without God taking the reins of your heart, without God having possession of your will, if you don’t surrender to God and let Him have your will, those desires to live God’s way are only going to end up in frustration. Too many people fail spiritually where they might succeed because they don’t surrender their will to God. If you’re not asking and asking and asking God to take your heart and your will, it’s time to do that right now.

Now, as the twelfth set of eight verses begins in Psalm 119, you read this in verse 89. "Forever, O Lord, Your Word is settled in heaven". Now this speaks to the eternal nature of God’s word. Forever. It’s much like what Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 40 in verse 8. "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever". It’s like what Jesus said in Matthew 5 in verse 18. "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled". You don’t want to make the mistake of thinking that somehow God’s word or God’s law isn’t important today. The psalmist understood what Jesus understood. God’s word lasts forever. It matters forever. No matter what the skeptics say or what the critics say, God’s word is as relevant today as it has ever been. In a moment, perhaps the most well-known verse in Psalm 119. I’ll be right back.

Thanks for joining me on It Is Written. We’re continuing our series, "Great Chapters of the Bible". And today we’re looking at Psalm 119. It’s a powerful chapter of the Bible. It’s the longest psalm and every verse but one of its 176 verses speaks in some way to God’s Word or His law or to God’s revelation to humanity. Some quick points from Psalm 119. This is verse 97. "Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day". And David meditated on God’s Word and here he says, on God’s law. He thought about it. He let it sink deep into his mind. In verse 98, he says he has more understanding than his enemies.

In verse 99, more understanding than his teachers. And in verse 100, more understanding than the ancients. Why? Because he keeps God’s precepts. The Bible will open up your mind. I met a woman recently who couldn’t read at all until she was in her late thirties, and she learned to read when she got a Bible and began to read the Bible. Changed her life. I could tell you about a young man who never thought it was possible that someone as slow as him could ever go to medical school. He wasn’t a smart kid. But Bible study opened up his mind and expanded his understanding. There is power in the Word of God. There’s a similar thought expressed in verse 130. "The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple".

Now verse 105 is likely the best-known verse in Psalm 119. It says, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path". And if you could sum up Psalm 119 in one verse, this might be the one verse that you’d use. That’s what the Bible ought to be, your light in a dark world, that guide you need to guide you in times when you’re not sure which way to go. A light on your pathway. Why does God call it that? A lamp and a light? The God of heaven is our only hope in this world of sin. And it is a world of sin. Just look around. If you haven’t experienced that in your life, then you’ve seen it in the life of someone that you care about. But God’s word can guide you. It can offer you hope. It’ll keep you.

Where do I go with my life? God’s word will tell me. How can I have a hope in this world? I find that hope in God’s word. How do I know the right direction to go? God will lead me through His Word. And what this means is that God wants to have a personal relationship with you, where He speaks to you through Scripture. He wants you to be acquainted with what the Bible says. Not merely doctrinally, as important as that is, but experientially. How well do you know God? A big problem in this world is that people simply don’t know God. They’ve heard about Him. But often it’s a very negative report. Have you taken the time to really get to know God? Imagine if the answer to that question is no.

In the Book of Job you’ll find this encouragement. It’s Job 22:21. "Acquaint yourself with Him and be at peace; thereby good will come to you". In other words, get to know God, and when you do, peace will flood your life. Verse 136 of Psalm 119 is interesting. It says, "Rivers of water run down from my eyes, because men do not keep Your law". What do you think he’d say today? Now Christians who emphasize grace, and, honestly, that should be all Christians, shouldn’t get nervous about this emphasis on the law. No, the Bible writer isn’t talking about salvation by law or salvation by works. He’s talking about the beauty and the power of God’s word. How much he loves it. And the powerful effect it has on his life.

The psalmist would recognize that God’s law and God’s grace are in perfect harmony. It’s not a matter of one or the other, it’s both and, not either or. You can row your boat with just the oar of grace or with just the oar of obedience, and in both cases you’ll find yourself going around in circles. That’s what happens when you row with just one oar. But, but row with both oars, with grace and obedience, and you’ll be led by God in that straight line of faith and love. Now notice verse 146 with me. "I cry out to You; save me, and I will keep your testimonies". That’s clearly expressed. You save me and my response to You is that I obey You. Obedience is the response of the sinner to the salvation that God grants. It’s not the root of salvation, but obedience is the fruit of salvation. But one more verse to look at in Psalm 119, that great testimony to the transforming power of the Word of God.

Verse 165. The writer says, "Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble". If you want peace in your life, and everyone does, choose to love God’s law, God’s word, His testimonies, His precepts, His judgments, His statutes. In this psalm, David isn’t simply saying that he respects the Bible, he’s saying he loves the Word of God. And it brings assurance and peace into his life. Verse 165 is much like the thought that Isaiah placed into Isaiah 32:17. "The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quiet and assurance forever". It’s like what Paul wrote in Romans 5:1, "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ". When you make God’s word your guide, the authority for your life, when you choose to allow God to have your heart, that’s when you have peace.

Let me ask you. How’s that working out for you? It’s not reasonable to expect real peace in your life if you’re not making time for God and His Word. This great chapter of the Bible is an encouragement to everyone. Incorporate the Bible into your life. Read it. Dwell on it. You’ll learn to love it, and you’ll love its Author. Our time on this earth is just so short. People can make time for everything, social media, and, and, and binge watching television series and sport and who knows what else. But is there time in your life for the most important thing? Hide God’s word in your heart. Let if fortify you, strengthen you. Let it fill your mind. Follow where it leads you, and you’ll find that you have the Word made Flesh, Jesus, present in your life like never before.
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