The Righteousness of God's Word

July 24, 2011 Series: Psalm 119 Scripture: Psalm 119:137-144 by Chris Strevel

137     TZADDI. Righteous art thou, O LORD, and upright are thy judgments.  
138     Thy testimonies that thou hast commanded are righteous and very faithful.
139     My zeal hath consumed me, because mine enemies have forgotten thy words.
140     Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.  
141     I am small and despised: yet do not I forget thy precepts.  
142     Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth.  
143     Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me: yet thy commandments are my delights.
144     The righteousness of thy testimonies is everlasting: give me understanding, and I shall live.

As the True Image of God’s Own Righteousness (vv. 137-138)

Throughout this Psalm, we have been encouraged to give ourselves to God’s word. Sometimes, David speaks of our pressing need for God’s word in affliction and suffering. At other times, his gaze turns to the many enemies we must face for the sake of Christ’s kingdom. Since we are so weak and wayward, he constantly stresses our need for the Lord to be our guide and teacher if we are to keep on the right path: “teach me thy statutes.” Our Father’s goodness to us is urged as the strongest motivation for us to embrace and obey his word. O, may we return to this Psalm, like a light in a dark place, when our soul languishes, when we need encouragement, when we are tormented and worn out by the mockery and brazen wickedness of men. Despite all these incentives to love Scripture, are we still too sluggish and sleepy to come to this rich banquet, mighty fortress, and safe pasture? Here we find another, higher motivation for us to give ourselves to God’s word. It has been assumed all along, but David now makes it explicit.

To remedy our weakness, the Holy Spirit directs us to adore the righteous Author of this book. We shall never be struck as we should be with the perfect rectitude and integrity of Scripture unless we stand in awe before the righteousness of God himself. He is the author of Scripture. Every word in it has come from him. It is the true and living image of his righteousness. True, he lisps to us in baby-talk, so much higher are his thoughts and wisdom than ours (Isa. 55:8-9), but this does not take away at all from the reverence, wonder, and desire we should have for this volume. Critics of Scripture, of course, are always seeking to separate God from the Bible, as if human authorship and historical uncertainty nullify its clarity, accuracy, and authority. These are so many attacks and temptations of Satan to undermine our sense of God’s righteousness shining lustrously in every line. If we remember that he gave us the book, we shall be humbled by the gift and fight against our slowness in availing ourselves of such a present help in all our troubles. We shall never doubt his vigilance in overseeing the transmission and guiding the preservation of his precious word. This is the theme of this section: that bowing before the righteous God, we are led by God’s Spirit to see the Scriptures as the perfect reflection of his righteousness. All we need for every decision, duty, and distress is found therein.

Surrounded by the sin within ourselves and in the world, it is difficult for us to avoid attributing some imperfection to God’s word, for at times we doubt God’s righteousness. If the wicked prosper and seem to be having their own way with things, we doubt his justice. “Lord, how long?” may quickly move from a plea of faith to a cry of frustration. If he waits long to answer our prayers or allows us to languish in sin and temptation for a time, especially when he chastens us for our sins, we question his dealings with us, perhaps blaming him for not producing within us the holiness he promises (Phil. 1:11; 1 Thess. 4:3). We are so self-centered that if he chooses to withhold something we want, even something we are persuaded is necessary for our happiness and even holiness, we argue with him, grow cold in our prayers, doubt his love and faithfulness, and would, were it possible, call him to account for his treatment of us. For these and many more reasons, it is difficult for us to conceive of a righteousness that is so complete and perfect that everything God does is holy and righteous simply because he does it. Whether in his dealings with us or in his government of the world through his Son, each act, word, decree, and thought of God is the very definition of righteousness. I know it is difficult to believe this. Everything in our fallen flesh cries out against it: “if this is true, why do the righteous suffer; why do prayers seem to go unanswered; why do I struggle so much; why does life seem so unfair?” But in each of these questions, do we not assume a standard of judgment that is higher than God, by which we may stand in judgment of him and that ignores his righteousness and unfailing uprightness in his dealings with us? How foolish we are to trust our own understanding (Prov. 3:5-6)! Rather than questioning God’s righteousness, we must question ourselves, doubt ourselves, and fly to God’s throne of grace, there by faith to behold him reigning in justice and truth (Rev. 15:3). When we are perplexed, must we not confess that we cannot see all things, even that what we see is only the beginning of his ways, and that very murky, so great is our darkness and weakness (Job 26:14; Ps. 77:19)? It is neither our place nor within our ability to find out all God’s judgments, call him to give an account of his dealings with us, or measure him by the puniness of our reason and experience. True fear of God begins with the firm persuasion that he is just in all his ways, upright in all his dealings, wise beyond our comprehension, perfection and integrity itself (Deut. 32:4). There is no standard above him by which he is judged; he is the standard.

He has made his righteousness very plain and clear to us in two places. Consider, first, the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Herein is the righteousness of God made manifest” (Rom. 3:21-22). See the absolute justice of God. He “will by no means clear the guilty” (Ex. 34:7). “The soul that sins, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:20). When our Father sent his Son into the world, he did this because there was no other way for his chosen vessels of mercy to receive forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness that would stand the scrutiny of his holy, all-seeing gaze, and peace with him than for an acceptable substitute to suffer and die in our place. This our Lord Jesus Christ did as the appointed, promised sacrifice for our sins. He did not die to make sentiment the heart of a new religion, or as a martyr for the cause of love, narcissistically considered. No, he died under the stroke of divine justice (Zech. 13:7). He became sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21). He took our curse upon himself by humbling himself unto death (Phil. 2:6). Only hereby could God “be just, and the justifier of him who believes in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). Do you not think if any other course were available than for his own Beloved to be crucified for us, that he would have chosen it? Yet, “it pleased the Lord to bruise/crush him; he hath put him to grief” (Isa. 53:10). And why? The demands of his justice must be satisfied. And so perfectly did our Savior obey his Father’s will, so efficacious were his sufferings and sacrifice for us, that we are made righteous before God, given as a free gift the very righteousness that the just God requires as a condition of fellowship with himself (Heb. 10:14). Thus, whenever we are tempted to doubt God’s righteousness, we must return to the cross. If we will but behold our Savior suffering for us, we shall be done with calling God’s uprightness into question. We shall be done with thinking that life is “unfair,” simply because things do not always go our way, hardships abound, or wicked men are given some leash so that they may trouble the righteous, only then to hang themselves by the very chords of their rebellion. No, however we tremble before such exacting righteousness, however we are tempted to question God’s dealings with us in the world, the cross of our Lord Jesus pounds every doubt into the abyss. With every nail hammered, every lash of the whip, every expression of agony of soul, every cry of separation from his Father, every drop of bloody sweat, tear, and stripe, God is showing us that he is righteous, just in all his ways, upright in all his dealings. Silenced are we before the cross: all complaints hushed into reverent silence; every conscience bowed in adoration before grace bringing atonement, love accomplishing peace, mercy satisfying justice and sealing everlasting righteousness to us. Adore God for his righteousness, child of God! Since he was so righteousness in his dealings with his Son on our behalf, we may be sure that he is absolutely upright in all other matters. This is the foundation of true, overcoming faith.

Second, when we come to his word, as David does in the next verse, what else are we to confess but that “thy testimonies that thou hast commanded are righteous, and very faithful,” even truth and faithfulness itself. We are to feel the connection between God’s righteousness and the righteousness of his word very strongly. The Bible is the reflection, the image, the testimony of God’s own righteousness, his essential righteousness, his manifested righteousness in creation, providence, and redemption. Every word, every line, every decree, every command comes to us from the righteous God who knows and governs all things in uprightness. If we do not tremble before his word, we are sound asleep. We need to be humbled again before his majesty. What a treasure he gives to us! With what amazed reverence we should approach God’s word! Each time we read it and especially when he gives us the privilege of hearing it preached, for then he joins his righteousness word with his irresistible power to save our souls (Rom. 1:16). How this puts those troublesome sections of Scripture into a different light! Do we hesitate before affirming the righteousness of God’s command to exterminate the Caananites? Of his ordering the death penalty for violations of the first table of his law, which many Christians today simply cannot stomach? Of the revelation of his electing grace, sovereign love, and awful damnation of the wicked? Why? Is he not righteous? He commands; it stands fast (Ps. 33:9). “Every one of thy righteousness judgments endureth forever” (Ps. 119:160). He utters his voice, let all tremble before him (Ps. 99:1; Isa. 66:2). Let us then rejoice in his righteousness and be about obeying and holding fast to the smallest jot and tittle of his word (Matt. 5:18)! It is our life. When we walk with God in his word, we walk in the paths of righteousness (Ps. 23:3). This blessedness is difficult to fathom – that whether we think of our families, relationships, businesses and vocations, life in the body of Christ, or more personal decisions about health, finances, and home, the righteous God has spoken to us and given us his righteous and true testimonies. We have all the light we need. Even so, this must be imprinted with great force upon our hearts, for we are determined wanderers. O, Spirit of God, write upon our hearts with your own finger a deep conviction of the righteousness of God’s word!  Heal us, Sun of righteousness, from our slowness of heart to believe all the prophets and apostles have written! What a treasure our Father has placed within our very hands! Be humbled and amazed, fear and tremble, rejoice and sing, daughter of Zion, that he now calls the church of his Son “the pillar and ground of his truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), that the Christ who brought in everlasting righteousness dwells in us as his righteous word dwells in us (Col. 3:16). Does this not place obedience in an entirely different light? Would we walk in darkness and foolishness, or submit ourselves to everlasting righteousness, our upright Father or our own vanity? Should we not pore over God’s word each day? Would we say when we stand before God, “Father, I confess that I preferred entertainment to your word, sleep to your word, socializing to your word, my unbelieving friends to your word, my own opinions and will to your righteous will?” Let this deeply embarrassing confession never be required from us, especially when we see how much righteous blood has been spilled to give us God’s word, how many believers around the world snatch even burned copies of Scripture out of the fire in order to possess charred remnants of this treasure, and how much darkness abounds in our own land because God’s righteous word remains largely a closed book to many of his professing friends.

Makes Us Very Zealous for His Honor (v. 139)

When the Holy Spirit writes God’s law upon our hearts (Heb. 8:8-13), he illumines our mind and elevates our affections so that we are persuaded of its righteousness, adore every morsel of his truth, and desire above all to obey it with our whole heart. That we need to be reminded of this so often warns us of the danger of “receiving God’s grace in vain” (2 Cor. 6:1). How often have we been encouraged to love God’s word? This is one of the first lessons with which every faithful church suckles its little ones. Yet, after hearing this hundreds of times, do we still find our hearts cold? Worldliness has this effect, as does too little quietness before God, lack of meditation upon the word itself, self-preoccupation, and unholy associations. Here we are reminded that when we are convinced by the Holy Spirit of the righteousness of God’s word, our hearts burn with zeal for it. This zeal is not religious frenzy, spiritualism, mysticism, romanticism, as when men claim they are following the Spirit while endorsing and teaching all manner of error. Spirit-born zeal is present when we are aroused to search, love, and obey the written words of God. All other religious zeal is “not according to knowledge,” potentially dangerous, and always unwise. The Spirit’s true presence within us always leads us to put ourselves under the tutelage of God’s word. And this zeal consumes us, takes hold upon us, when we see that so many men forget God’s words. Now, as this is a word-bound zeal, David does not mean here that he was constantly angry at wicked men, berated them, or desired to call down fire from heaven, as the disciples once did unwisely, and with a rebuke from our Lord (Luke 9:54). Where zeal is for God’s word, it is marked by sorrow of heart that leads to prayer, personal repentance, and fervent discipleship. It may sometimes evoke strong words, passionate pleas, and solemn warnings. The hold of God’s word upon the godly heart makes us very concerned for God’s glory and authority, as well as for man’s good, temporal and eternal. Faith, as we saw last time, is not passive. It is begotten by God himself through the word. It fuels great zeal for God’s righteousness. It is deeply grieved when men ignore God’s claims upon their lives, live indifferently to his word, and act as laws unto themselves.

Do we have such zeal? Would we have it? Scripture’s zealous men and women were deeply immersed in Scripture: Moses, David, Elijah, Daniel, John the Baptizer, the Apostles. None was more zealous than our Lord: “A zeal for your house hath eaten me up” (John 2:17) because no one has ever been more committed to doing the will of God (John 4:34). Each of these men also had recorded seasons of quiet before God. Directed by Scripture, they sought him about the evils of their times. They prayed for mercy and for truth. Saving our Lord, they repented not only for their own sins but also for the sins of their church and nation. They were sifted and humbled in private before they ever stood for him in public: again, none more so than our Lord (Phil. 2:6; Heb. 5:8). When they had a public duty to perform, a sermon to preach, evil to confront, great boldness characterized their words and actions. The force of their words, even of their character, could not be resisted, except through raging attempts, sometimes successful, to kill them. Zeal comes from bringing our consciences before God, especially in prayer and meditation upon the word. Zeal comes from a clear sense of the majesty and righteousness of God. Especially since “it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us,” the more we walk with him, the more his word dwells in us, the more we deny ourselves and take up his cross in the course of daily life, the more his zeal will be in us by the presence and power of the Spirit (Acts 4:13). Then, like him, we will speak his truth. God’s honor will be of paramount concern to us. We will love God’s truth more than our lives, more than what others may think of us, more than what we want to do in a given situation. At some level, it will be the Spirit of God who speaks in us and through us (Matt. 10:19). We will also have compassion for men, as our Savior did. The beautiful combination of zeal for God and love for men is so evident in his earthly ministry, so compelling and challenging. For many, love is either pursued without zeal for truth, or zeal for truth is evident without compassion and concern for the very men for whose good we speak the truth. We must have both; one cannot really possess one without the other, for love is the holy reflex of truth, and truth is the fuel of love’s fire. Thus, we are brought back again to this fundamental truth: true zeal is the fruit of sober, consistent, and whole-hearted pursuit of the knowledge of God revealed in Jesus Christ. Word-searching, word-hungering believers are zealous believers. May the Lord make us so in his goodness and by his power!

Love and Memory (vv. 140-141)

That zeal is not hot-headed wrath or empty-headed fluff is here made abundantly clear. When David says that God’s word is “pure,” he uses a word that means to be refined or smelted, as in a roaring furnace. There are no impurities in it: none. Every word of God is pure: even those we do not like, or doctrines that make us squirm, warnings we would rather not hear, and commands we would prefer not to obey. The purity of God’s word is built upon the righteousness of his own character. This is one vital reason we must maintain both the inspiration of the written word as originally given by the Holy Spirit and the infallibility of the word as it has come down to us. A high, adoring view of the character of God always leads to high, adoring views of Scripture. And since we are born again by the Spirit of God and are in a living union with Christ Jesus our Lord, our response to God’s word is “love.” Ah, how cheapened this word has become! It almost makes one wish we had another word, a holier word, a word not dirtied by man’s vanities and perversions. We need no other word, provided we understand this: that “love” in Scripture is not emotion without action, sentiment without conviction, words without obedience. “Love” means that our whole soul pants after God and his word. It means that there is within us a deep affection for God’s word that leads to obedience: “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:12). It means that the hungering of our hearts is for more knowledge of God, which is everlasting life (John 17:3), clearer views of his glory, greater understanding of his wisdom, more careful obedience to him – not out of guilt, pride, or partisanship but out of a life-changing revelation of God’s righteousness in our soul in the face of Jesus Christ, that there is nothing better, holier, more satisfying, happier than to walk with him in obedience. Where the Holy Spirit plants such love in us – and admittedly, it may sometimes appear a very small seed of faith indeed – we shall love God and men. We shall be able to deny ourselves, at some level, take up our cross, and follow our Lord – loving and adoring him all the way, not thinking we are making some kind of sacrifice to do so but that it is the most natural and reasonable thing in the world for “Christ in me” to conform me to his own image, break my willfulness, smash my idols, and reorient my entire being toward delighting in pleasing him. In union with our Savior, this love shall be ours, for God’s word is very pure, tried and tested, unmixed with any inferior element of human wisdom or experience. It cannot fail to give what he promises.
Man has wickedly tested its truth throughout history; unbelief has destroyed men and entire cultures. Satan tested it; the cross smashed his skull as a reward for his vicious treason. Peter tested it; his pride was crushed; then, that same word of our Savior restored him, beyond all human expectation. Judas tested it; he hung himself. Above all, the cross itself tested the purity of God’s word: redemption accomplished! Our Savior’s faith in his Father’s word was not disappointed. Even as the scapegoat for our sins, he prevailed over sin and death. All the missiles of Satan and the jeers of the wicked could not thwart him, so great was his commitment to his Father’s word. He rose again for our justification (Rom. 4:25). He reigns at the Father’s right hand, in enjoyment of his promised reward (Luke 24:26). Was not his trust in his Father’s very pure word abundantly vindicated? That we believe upon him now for life and righteousness is proof of this. Should we not love such a word that controls the destinies of men, the rise and fall of our own soul’s affections and progress toward holiness, and the stability of faith when it is tested in the hottest fires of suffering, deprivation, and martyrdom? Believer, adore the purity of God’s word. Do not test it. It has already been tested. Millions upon millions are already with the Son of God in glory because God’s word is very pure. Love this word; cling to it in the darkest dispensations of God’s providence. Make it the polestar of your life, the guide of your emotions, will, and thoughts. Adore the righteous God who gave it to us. Establish your complete happiness in him, and his pure word will bring you finally into his eternal kingdom.

If we are to receive our promised inheritance, we must think of ourselves as David does here: “small and despised.” Now this holy man likely wrote these words in a season of difficulty. Perhaps he was fleeing from Saul, hiding in the cave, or on the run from enemies in his own family. He felt his lowness, that he was nothing in himself. Even so, he trusted God’s pure word. God had made promises to build his house, give him in a seed, and make his greater Son the Savior and Lord of the nations. However wretched his condition, God’s pure word could be trusted. Let Saul treat him meanly or his enemies scoff. Let him live in exile or be chased out of Jerusalem by his own son. He would not forget God’s precepts. Now, it is one thing for a man in a fine suit, nice home, and good health to speak of “not forgetting God’s precepts.” It is one thing for a man in pleasing circumstances to speak of himself as “small and despised.” It is something entirely different for a man of David’s sufferings, some self-inflicted, to speak of himself with such painful honesty, to hope in God’s word in the midst of great suffering. It is like when we see a young Vietnamese girl reading a Bible she has pulled from a fire: its pages scorched, her clothes torn and dirty. Here we behold something of the love for God’s word David has just mentioned. Here we see the reality of our need. Here we see who we truly are: poor and despised. We are poor in that we have nothing but what God is pleased to give us each day. We are poor in that our soul longs for that in which it hopes but does not yet possess in fullness. We are poor in that the world considers us the dung of the earth. If we sensed our true dependence upon God – a neediness that all the homes, economies, vehicles, and social systems in the world cannot truly hide – then we would give ourselves to God’s word as David does here. Yet we are often blind to our true condition. When we are young, we think physical strength will carry us through whatever comes. When we are old, we trust our experience and our accumulated resources. But let the Lord touch us with a little affliction or hide his face from us, let us feel a little of the world’s ridicule of the cross and animosity against Christ’s church, and then we shall see where our true hope lies. Is it in God’s pure word, or in ourselves? Have we been seeing ourselves for who and what we really are – weak, in constant need of our Father’s love and support, helpless to do anything good unless he comes to our aid – or have we believed a lie?

Now, it is a very humbling experience to be brought to see something of our true condition. Especially living in a culture of tremendous wealth, constantly exposed to apparently happy unbelievers, and ourselves partaking in a good bit of the lie – about the nature of man, ultimate reality, true happiness – we are tempted to buy into the delusion that man is the measure of all things. How can we see something of our true need in such an artificial culture: fake money, fake people, fake lives? Only by remembering God’s righteousness: we must turn from these dreams and see ourselves as he sees us, and we may do this only in the penetrating light of his pure word. Our Father’s word tests us. It reveals our true selves, our true neediness. This is one reason apostolic preaching has fallen on such hard times in the church. We resist the shattering of self-delusion. We want to be the creators and definers of reality. Child of God, flee all these vanities if you would sincerely feel something of David’s “I am small and despised.” You have no significance, you are truly “dust in the wind,” vanity, as Solomon says, unless you build your life upon God’s pure word. But admit this, face the truth about yourself, and light dawns, and with it hope. For though we are so reduced and shattered because of our sinfulness, our righteous Father makes us his sons and daughters through the righteousness of his Son. If we embrace his promise, our sins are forgiven. If we build upon his pure word, we are secure – O, so secure that no one can touch us, for our Father himself guards us as the “apple of his eye.” We are even exalted, for we reign with Christ now as his co-heirs (Eph. 2:5-6). To know this joy, to remember God’s precepts as our life, we must be done with the world’s self-delusion. The world and its changing fashions are in reality its death-masks. Christ Jesus has made the world obsolete; it is perishing even now (1 Cor. 7:31; 1 John 2:17). If we do the will of God, however, if we love his pure words, if we remember his precepts, we shall endure forever.

Everlasting Righteousness, Eternal Truth (vv. 142,144)

But the “present” can be so tyrannical, suffocating, blinding. We sometimes suffer, always struggle with sin, and face regular pressures in our homes and in the workplace. Duties press upon us; we want to do good, but evil is present with us (Rom. 7:21). We cannot see our promised inheritance; we cannot see the Savior we love (1 Pet. 1:8). What we see with our eyes can be all-consuming, alluring, deadening to anything so removed from our daily experience as faith and heaven. We must believe that God’s precious promises are as certain as his own righteousness: that as God’s righteousness is everlasting, so our hope is built upon a sure foundation. This is the reason it is so necessary for us to believe that the very Bibles we possess are a faithful reflection of God’s own righteousness and a faithful record of his will. And, his word is eternal because his will is; because he is. Think of the copy of the Scriptures you possess. With minor variations of spelling, occasional word placement, and other copyist differences, it is the very same word that Abraham heard from God’s own mouth, that Moses received from Sinai, that Isaiah delivered boldly to Ahaz, that preserved Daniel in the lion’s den, that armed Josiah, Nehemiah, and Ezra with unconquerable zeal. It is the same word our Savior spoke from the mount and sang on the way to the garden; the same prophecies he delivered to the two on the road to Emmaus; the same gospel Paul preached in Corinth. In a world of constant change, love of novelty, promises hiding lies, and castles of air pretending to be solid, here is the same law of God. Here are the same everlasting testimonies. Did they embolden Elijah? Did they comfort and illumine Daniel? Did they fill Jeremiah with invincible hope while he was in the pit all those days? Did they keep the faithful remnant of the church alive during the four hundred years leading up to the birth of our Savior? And what of all the martyrs, all the humble believers whose dangerous days end contentedly with a crust of bread and a line or two of holy Scripture? If we believe that God’s word is eternal, that his law everlasting, that his promises endure forever, we shall have the same assurance. We shall be able to endure to the end. We shall be content with less, and hope for greater things than those who “have their portion in this life” (Ps. 17:14). We shall be willing to defend God’s honor, speak his gospel, and love our enemies. We shall be humble, hopeful, and happy. And why? We have built our lives upon the enduring word of God. Then, let afflictions come; if God’s word sustained Joseph, it will do the same for us. Let us hear that we have a horrible disease; God’s eternal word that sustained Paul with his enduring infirmity will preserve us. Let us find ourselves living in an ungodly culture; God’s certain, pure word will guide us and fill us with purpose and hope, even as it did Ezekiel and the exiles. Let us even be called upon to suffer for righteousness’ sake; some believers, you will remember, are still regularly burned, crucified, and otherwise tormented beyond description. But did not our Savior hang upon the cross? Did not his soul become “exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death,” and that in anticipation of the cup he was to drink (Mark 14:34)? And when he hung there for our poor sake, he who was holy, harmless, and undefiled made a mockery because of our wickedness, what sustained him? Psalm 22. Psalm 16. Isaiah 53. Genesis 12. Daniel 9. What, nothing more than God’s word? Nothing more. When you build you life upon God’s eternal word and righteous testimonies, you are as secure and immovable as God himself.

All Our Delight and Life (v. 143)

Even when trouble and anguish take hold upon us, threatening by their grip to quench faith and swamp hope, we shall find that God’s righteous, everlasting word is able to give us delight, comfort, and strength. David never tires of putting our feet back firmly on the ground. In the midst of the highest elevation of spirit, the most exalted flights of faith, the Lord never lets him forget that faith must be lived out in the midst of trouble. This is a great comfort to us. When we read of all the deliverances the Lord has given his people, even the moving accounts of missionaries and martyrs whom the Lord used to accomplish mighty acts of salvation, we often think: “Well, they must be made of different material than I am. I could never do that; I am so weak and sinful. They did not live when I do; my times are so evil, my family so needy, my spouse so demanding and unsympathetic.” We should review the rolls of the faithful. Have any of those whom we have had occasion to mention ever had an easy life? Were their circumstances perfect, their nation godly, their friends always constant, their lives idyllic?  No; “out of weakness they were made strong” (Heb. 11:34). In tribulation they rejoiced (Col. 1:24; 1 Pet. 4:13). What gave them the victory over so many enemies and hardships, what filled them with zeal in times of dreadful apostasy and unbelief, was faith in God’s word. Faith quenches the power of the sword, turns to flight the armies of the aliens, and gives endurance in trials of cruel mocking and scourging. We are as weak as they were – in themselves. But we do not live in ourselves. It is Christ who dwells in us (Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:27). It is his Spirit in us who is jealous for our holiness (James 4:5). Their inheritance of faith is ours; their strength ours: God’s enduring righteousness, his righteous word. If it is our delight in difficult times, there is no telling what the Lord will effect through us today (Eph. 3:20). It is our unbelief that withholds the blessing of God’s mighty works of church and kingdom building, as well as personal sanctification, wisdom, and peace (Matt. 13:58). The greater our troubles, the more we must seek from the Lord a heart to delight in his commandments. Are we asking him for such a heart? Are we pleading with him: “Lord, give me understanding, and I shall live?” Here is our sure foundation. God is righteous. His word is as eternal as he is. If we build upon this very word that has sustained so many godly ones in the darkest imaginable times, we shall overcome. We shall have joy in adversity, peace in the storm, and life in a culture of death. But only if seriously displeased with ourselves and casting ourselves upon the righteousness of God revealed and given in Jesus Christ, we delight in God’s word. To do so is to build upon an eternal foundation. “For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withereth and the flower thereof falleth away. But the word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (1 Pet. 1:24-25).