Psalm 119

Committed To God's Word

June 5, 2011 Series: Scripture: Psalm 119:105-112 by Chris Strevel

105 NUN. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
106 I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments.
107 I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O LORD, according unto thy word.
108 Accept, I beseech thee, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O LORD, and teach me thy judgments.
109 My soul is continually in my hand: yet do I not forget thy law.
110 The wicked have laid a snare for me: yet I erred not from thy precepts.
111 Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart.
112 I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes alway, even unto the end.

As My Only Light (v. 105)
We cannot feel our need of God’s word deeply enough. This is the reason the Holy Spirit continues to call us to give ourselves to God’s word. Will we recognize how easily we are distracted and how little “godliness with contentment” attracts us to simple lives of quiet obedience to God and joyful service? A thousand things unite to cast obstacles in our path so that we do not meditate upon God’s word as we should. We may overcome these only by, as we see David doing here, confessing and maintaining commitment to God’s word. This famous line reminds us that without God’s word, all is darkness. Without God’s word, our soul is dark, troubled with guilt, anxiety, and uncertainty, knowing neither the way we should go nor why our lives are marked by such trouble. “The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble” (Prov. 4:19). There is also the darkness that we must combat: the many temptations that besiege us, the schemes the wicked plot against us, and the prevailing unbelief that vexes our soul. We are fools and mere children if we do not recognize “how great is that darkness” where God’s word does not prevail in us, where we are not walking with God in singleness of vision (Matt. 6:23). Our merciful Father has placed the remedy for our darkness right before us. It is his word. It is our only lamp and lantern, our only guide, our infallible guide. It dispels the darkness of our soul with God’s promises. It dispels the darkness of the world so that we can distinguish the true from the false, the wise from the foolish, the good and noble from the evil and base. To it, as Peter wrote, we must give constant heed “as unto a light that shineth in a dark place” (2 Pet. 1:19). Walking in this light, the “path of the just is as a shining light, that shineth more and more until the perfect day” (Prov. 4:18).

Yet, we will know little of this blessed light if we think a casual, half-hearted, or distracted reading of a few verses is sufficient. Approaching God’s word in this way, our hope will be disappointed. God’s word will not seem light to us. We shall derive little benefit from it. You see, if the word of God is to be our lamp, the Spirit of God must illumine our hearts to see the glorious light that is Scripture all the time but that we are too sluggish to see without divine assistance. Hence, Paul prays that the Lord may give unto us “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation” (Eph. 1:17). He adds, “In the knowledge of him,” for Jesus Christ is the light of the world (John 8:12). The written word will be light to us only as the living Word shines upon our hearts, scatters our darkness, and subdues our wills unto himself. We must ask him to be our Shepherd and Guide. We must come to him with those well-worn but constantly effectual gospel cries: “Save me, Lord;” “Lord, make me clean;” “Lord, open my eyes.” Then, if we are hungering and thirsting after him, his word will dwell in us richly and be our light (Col. 3:16). We will have guidance upon our path. We will see through the darkness, be able to distinguish the “barely permissible” from the “certainly pleasing” (Col. 1:10; 1 John 3:22), Satan’s lies and schemes from God’s true guidance (2 Cor. 2:11; 11:14), the lawful from the edifying (1 Cor. 6:12). We have God’s own promises.

True, many claim the authority of Scripture for doctrines and principles they profess to have drawn from its sacred lines, and it is sometimes difficult to distinguish God’s principles from my preferences, exegetical faithfulness (drawing out of Scripture what God has truly said) from eisegetical (reading into Scripture what we want to find) wishful thinking. There are some things in Scripture “hard to be understood,” as Peter said (2 Pet. 3:16), and it is telling that most bizarre and questionable doctrines and practices come either from men who “twist” and corrupt Scripture to bring others under their sway rather than laboring so that Christ alone will have the rule over us, or from well-meaning but misguided believers who do not handle the Scriptures wisely. And this is one way we can distinguish true light from its counterfeits. Does the light I claim to have found in Scripture draw me closer to Jesus Christ? Does it humble me when I am sinning, comfort me when I am repenting, warn me when I am slipping? Is it encouraging me to deny myself that I may come sincerely to Jesus Christ, to love God with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind, to walk in the Spirit rather than to gratify my fleshly desires? Is my pride being humbled, my lust being subdued, my spirit made peaceable and calm in love for truth and holiness? Am I longing to know more of Christ, to be found in him, to feel “it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me?” If, on the other hand, the light I am professing to find in Scripture is encouraging me, for example, to “mind high things,” as those who babble on about changing the world but whose lives, families, and churches manifest little of the meekness and gentleness of Christ, turn Christ’s spiritual kingdom into an earthly and political one, or to think of myself more highly than I ought to think, I may be sure that I am guilty of Scripture twisting, confusing my own desires with God’s pure light (Rom. 12:16; John 18:36; Rom. 12:3). If we are humbled before God as we ought to be, we do not try to find in Scripture principles to confirm our cherished convictions. No, we turn there to find light in our darkness, to have God alone to be our teacher and guide, and to be transformed from “glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18). Then, what great joy and stability will be ours, for we have God’s own promise to lead us by his infallible word, to guide us with just the nod of his eye (Ps. 32:8), to bring us safely through the perils of this world into his everlasting kingdom with the saints in light (Col. 1:12). How we must seek this light, for there is darkness all around us, especially within us! How we must forsake all other “lights!” They are nothing but darkness pretending to be light, lies pretending to be truth, foolishness masquerading as wisdom. Our God has something better for his redeemed children. He pledges to take us by the hand, dispel all the darkness yet clinging to our soul, and make his word the very light of his eternal majesty and holiness in us.

I Have Sworn (v. 106)
If we would enjoy these glorious benefits, our lives must be nothing but a continual pledging of ourselves to obey God’s word. In fact, the more the Lord is guiding us by his word, our resolve to walk with him will increase. How can it not? “In his presence is fullness of joy” (Ps. 16:11). To have his word as our light is to have him. Our hearts burst with commitment at the very thought – to walk with the living God in this way, to have him lead and guide me, for him to deliver me from the misery of my stubborn heart! Of course, I will run to the Lord. “Lord, bind me to you forever; I bind myself to you. I want nothing but to obey you, to walk with you, to be delivered from my waywardness.” Now, such a resolve, which we speak of as a vow, will seem dangerous, even presumptive, for we feel our weakness. Should we promise what we cannot perform? While we should never make vows to God about trifling matters, and certainly not respecting things we have neither a promise from him for grace nor clear light from him that it is actually a certain duty for all his people at all times, we must hazard all in committing ourselves to walk in obedience to his word. After all, we do not make this pledge trusting in our own strength but in his promise to keep us as we seek to be led by him. Like Paul confessed: “I am persuaded that he will keep that which I have committed unto him” (2 Tim. 1:12). The Lord will never forsake us in our endeavor to walk with him more obediently. And in certain areas of clear duty – such as where we feel ourselves to be sluggish and need more quickening and constraint to follow the Lord – specific vows are in order (Gen. 28:20-22; 31:13; Num. 30:4-11; 1 Sam. 1:11; Ps. 22:25; 50:14; 66:13; 76:11; Nah. 1:15). We might commit to the Lord, for example, to be more regular in seeking the light of his word, praying, or holding worship times with our family. These duties admit of no possibility of mistaking God’s will. He calls us each one of us to these. Do we, however, find ourselves slow, lazy, and halfhearted? What better way to stir ourselves up than to make personal, solemn pledges to the Lord, swearing to him that as he gives us grace we shall walk with him more faithfully in these areas. What if we fall away again? The fear of sin is never a reason to withhold a lawful vow from the Lord. He will forgive us, if our hearts are truly broken and trusting in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. Our sense of weakness must never prevent our hearts from responding to God with ardent zeal and personal commitment to walk with him in the ways he has commanded. He has regard not to our faults but to our sincere and honest desires before him, for he placed these in us.

How deeply personal and participative is our walk with the living God! Should not our hearts fly with desire to his word? It is no wonder that our hearts are often so cold and lifeless, duty so tasteless, and the world so attractive. We lack the sense of our Father’s open, inviting heart, his willingness to guide and give us joy in his word, that all our happiness and peace lies in steadfast, consecrated, ardent obedience to him. We must not approach his word with guilt. We must not fear duty. We must throw off fear and unbelief. How can we do all these things? His word is our light. We are pledged to him. Did he not on his part promise himself to us by placing his name upon us at our baptism? Does he not set the “cup of the covenant,” his Son’s precious blood, in our own hands, even upon our very lips, in the Lord’s Supper? What else does he mean by these things but that he has taken us for his own possession, loves us, and would have us know the pleasure of walking with him? And yet, our hearts are so cold, often weighed down by duty, and selfishly wrapped up in our own preferences and agendas. It is no wonder that our souls are like merry-go-rounds and roller-coasters, up and down, round and round, even, God forbid, “always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). It is because we do not give ourselves to our God, cast ourselves into his hand for safekeeping, and sincerely pledge to walk with him in all our ways, never taking a step without confidence of his approval and always pleading to be led by him. Then, our steps will be firm under us. We will err, for there is no perfection in this life, but he will use our many failings to draw us to him more firmly, with greater desire, even flaming love for him and his word. Is he your light, or do you know not at what you are stumbling? Why does my life look like it does? Why am I constantly frustrated? Why is there no more joy in my soul? Some of these, admittedly, are tied to the cross of our Lord that we carry, but many of them are self-inflicted. We are not committing ourselves to the Lord, responding to his gracious covenant with joyful promises of our own. Yet, there is our glorious Savior and Husband, standing at God’s right hand, inviting us to respond to his wooing and kisses with joy and affection, kisses of our own to him, pledges to walk with him in obedience. This is joy unspeakable.

My Only Life in Affliction (v. 107)
But it is not giddiness. How many times have we already seen David, as if gazing upon the promised land from the top of Pisgah, his soul overflowing with joy in the Lord and hope in his word, immediately turn to ask the Lord to help him endure affliction? This warns us against ignoring our Savior’s cross and our need to be conformed to him. It also reminds us that affliction is a leading aspect of the Lord’s regimen in our lives. Will we ever seek to have his word as our light and joy until we are seriously broken of self-trust and worldliness? No, we will not. We are too lethargic to seize upon God’s promises in any other way than through the “many tribulations through which we must enter God’s kingdom” (Acts 14:22). We will never pant after him and commit our ways unto him until he has emptied us of our delusions of life and peace apart from him. This is the reason the Lord says that faith is like gold that must be refined and a vine that requires pruning (Zech. 13:9; John 15:2). He will bring us to feel our weakness. When various afflictions arise, hardships and reproaches for the cross, or simply the regular life-refining that the Lord is continually performing in all his, we must remember the goal. It is not to weigh us down with anxiety or make us go through life with drooping heads and fainting hearts. No, it is to lead us to him as our good. In this, he shows himself to be our faithful, loving Father (Heb. 12:6). He knows that sin is the true weight upon our spirits, love of self the true bitterness in our souls. By purging these, even painfully, does not he lead us to love his word as our light all the more? Especially when these chastening and affliction come to us heavily due to our own sinfulness, we learn: “Ah, I am here because I have not been committed to God’s word. I will return to my Father’s house. His arms are open to me. In submission to him is my joy and peace.” Let us remember this when we feel with David: “I am afflicted very much.” The Lord would lead us to him as our only quickening, our only life. He would have us look to him as our only help and security in this world. He calls us to turn from our sins and renew our commitments to him. He offers himself to be our teacher. If we would be quickened, however, renewed to faithfulness, strengthened to perseverance in hard times, and encouraged to seek the light of God’s word, we must fall back upon God’s promises. David does not ask for quickening because he deserves it or because he feels his current state of affliction to be unfair. All he desires is for the Lord to “remember his word unto his servant” (Ps. 119:49). Would we act similarly when afflictions come to us? Then, let us be about seeking to be filled with the light of God’s word. We cannot pray his promises if we do not know them. We cannot expect light in dark places unless that light has been our desire in better times. The best preparation for affliction is the same as our hope during them: that we look to God’s word as the lantern for our path and commit ourselves to be guided by him.

Willing to Obey (v. 108)
Notice that even while David was “afflicted very much,” his mouth remained open in praise to God. Since the Lord has offered himself to be our light and teacher, whatever hardships we may be experiencing, we must be praising him for his goodness, declaring to him our sincere love, and thanking him for the many mercies we receive continually from his hand. We must offer these “freely” to the Lord, voluntarily and sincerely. There is no room for complaining and hypocrisy. In fact, one purpose of our afflictions is to expose the falseness that lies in each of us. It is easier to praise and thank the Lord, to commit ourselves to him, when things are going well – though, how few of us are anywhere near as humbled and stirred to serve him as we should be when he blesses us? We tend to think these are deserved or the fruit of our own industry. Prosperity has its own snares, does it not, and the most frequent is that it puts us to sleep, making us self-contented when we should be overflowing with praise to God, gratitude for his goodness, and greater consecration to his service. Here, though, we find David offering these sacrifices of praise when he was greatly afflicted. How? Why? The Spirit teaches us that we need adversity of various kinds. He reminds us to give thanks without ceasing and strengthens us to rejoice in all things (1 Thess. 5:18; Phil. 4:4). He gives us patience in hardship. He lifts our souls heavenward through the groaning of sin and weeping of chastisement. If we remember that the goal of God’s refining is purer faith, greater resolve unto obedience, and closer fellowship with the Lord, we begin to identify with James when he says: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” (James 1:2). “If the Lord did not love me,” we think to ourselves, “if he did not intend great good for me through his cross, he would never have brought these pressures to bear upon me. He would have allowed me to go blindly on my way without confronting and purging me of sin and worldliness. Therefore, thank you, Lord, for sending this my way. I cannot say this sincerely, though, I cannot fulfill my vows to you, however, unless you sustain me and ‘teach me your judgments.’ Take me in hand yet again, and especially since you are pleased to sift me, topple my idols, and expose my vanity.” In all seasons, then, but especially in hardship, we are to call upon the Lord and offer praise to him for his goodness and faithfulness. The more we turn from bitterness and frustration when he afflicts us, as if we deserved something better or he did not know exactly what is best for us, the more we shall be led to our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Father never accepts our “free will offerings” except through his Mediation. So, praising the Lord in all seasons leads us to our blessed Savior in all seasons. We have nothing but what he gives us, purchased for us by his blood, and secures for us as our Advocate before the Father.

Again, we find that the goal of our affliction is to bring us to say: “Teach me your judgments.” Stepping back for a moment, it is easy to see that all the misery, heartache, and bitterness in the world, the ultimate source of that whole catalog of blackness that characterizes the family of men, is that we run off to do as we please. This is certainly true of the world of unbelieving men, but David and all the faithful feel the same in their own souls. “For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18). Is not this the common confession of all the godly in every age? No amount of secularist education, consumerism, and wishful thinking can make us forget this. Do you believe that “no good thing dwells in you?” Are you horrified and ashamed by the sins you have committed (Rom. 6:21)? Do you count all the things that you once considered gain, a badge of honor, a reason for pride, as loss, a colossal waste of time, energy, nobility, and even of your own soul (Phil. 3:7)? Can you honestly admit that you are still prone to rush off on your own accord, even as a believer, and pursue what you think is best, even under the cloak of doing good? David did. This is the reason he prays: “Teach me your judgments.” This is the reason he rejoiced in his afflictions, for he knew God would break him more through them. And he will break us through his infallible program of affliction. Why? Why not make life easier for us, always cause things to go our way, and bring us to heaven upon an easier, broader path? We will never know the blessedness of having the Lord for our teacher until we are broken of our willfulness. We will never cry, “Lord, I only want to know the light of your judgments. I want only one will between us: yours.” Did not our Savior, though holy and perfect in every way, make this very confession in his last and darkest hour before the cross: “Not my will, but thine be done?” Not my way or will, Lord, but yours. Rejoice that the Lord would so work in us, child of God, for our happiness lies where our Lord’s lies: in doing the will of our Father in heaven; in always doing those things that please him.” We shall never arrive at this perfect blessedness in this life, but our Father will move us closer, and affliction is his best tool. Like our Head and Savior, we learn obedience through the things that we suffer (Heb. 5:8).

Before Evil’s Onslaught (vv. 109-110) We should not underestimate the intensity with which afflictions can come. To say that “my soul is continually in my hand” means that David felt that there was “but a step between him and death” (1 Sam. 20:3). Was not our Lord’s earthly life a continual battle with Satan and the hordes of the ungodly, both on earth and against principalities and powers? Traps and snares were his lot; he had to endure and overcome them because we have fallen into every one of them. He was oppressed to the point of feeling utterly overwhelmed: “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful unto death” (Mark 14:34). Admittedly, respecting suffering, he was the “Man of sorrows;” he stands alone in sounding fully the depths of our misery and curse. Yet, his sufferings will in some measure be completed in us, for he is our Head (Col. 1:24) – not in their redemptive significance, but as we are made one with him and share in the sufferings that all experience who fight against sin and seek God’s eternal kingdom. What are our security, strength, and joy in such times? What is our only preservation in the face of so many snares laid for our soul? We must not forget God’s word. This was our Savior’s shield: “Thy will be done.” No matter how besieged by Satan, how amazed in his soul at the cup before him, how overwhelmed by the weakness to which his flesh was reduced by his sufferings, he was committed to his Father’s word. “The Son of man must suffer many things” (Luke 9:22). Why “must?” It was God’s will. He never forgot his Father’s word or erred from his commandments. His will was set: “My meat is to do the will of him who sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4:34). “Mine ears thou has opened” (Ps. 40:6).” “I have come, O God, to do thy will” (Heb. 10:7-9). By humbling himself, by setting his will to do his Father’s will, he saved us from our rebellion (Heb. 10:10) – by his obedience unto death, his consecration to his Father’s will. This is the very paradigm we are given for our battle against sin and Satan. Waiting for the right feeling – well, you will wait forever. Waiting until your circumstances improve – how were our Lord’s? Depending upon your own strength – remember Peter. Our only preservative against the snares of the wicked and strength to bear the cross is to seek from our Lord Jesus the same commitment to God’s word. That word, considered as our only strength and shield against Satan’s wiles, has been tried in the hottest furnace – our Savior’s contest with sin, Satan, and death, as well as his drinking the cup of divine justice. It prevailed! That word sustained him on the cross, when he was forsaken and consumed for our sins. Why did he not leave the cross, as the Jews taunted him, simply destroying Jews and Romans alike, and plunging the entire world into irremediable judgment and impenetrable darkness forever? His Father’s word held him on his course. There is nothing like God’s word – it is immovable, insuperable, Satan’s worst fear, the sword he dreads, the foundation he cannot crack. We need nothing else – absolutely nothing to maintain our courage in times of adversity, to be calm and courageous before the whirlwind of God’s sifting work of his church and his desolating of the wicked.

To enjoy this stable defense, however, nothing else will suffice but to seek from the living God a heart that is committed to God’s word. This is much easier said than done, for the very reason we need affliction and have to be reminded of the onslaught of the wicked is that we are not as committed to God’s word as we should be. We are easily turned by our deceitful hearts and the baubles of the world, whatever mask they happen to wear to convince us that they are not really the playthings of the dead and costumes of corpses (1 Cor. 7:29-31). First, we must be seriously persuaded of our great need to be supported by God’s word at every turn. Then, we must see how freely God offers his word to us, himself to us, as our shield and sword. We will never give ourselves freely and fully to him unless we are persuaded that he is our only good and strength, that his heart is open to us, and that all other remedies are nothing but foolishness and weakness in comparison to his word (1 Cor. 1:25). Believing his promise to us in Jesus Christ, we must actively give ourselves to God’s word, seek the Spirit’s illumination upon its precious lines, and hide it firmly in our hearts. Do we require motivation? Not only is the glory of God and the sacrifice of our Savior at stake in the church’s present demise, but also the remedy is right before us. Nothing new is required: no new paradigms, no new denominations, no new strategies. The old path is still the certain path: for every sincere believer to immerse himself in the holy Scriptures, think God’s thoughts after him, and to bind himself unswervingly to walk by every word that has come from the blessed mouth of the living God. He who does God’s will abides forever (1 John 2:17). He abides forever, overcomes all Satan’s assaults and the weakness of his own heart because God’s word cannot be moved (Matt. 7:24-25). It is the light that penetrates every dark scheme of Satan and evil men, the promise that sustains weak faith in every dark hour, and the impulse of God’s own heart and mind that scatters fear, doubt, and despair. Believer, move not one inch from God’s commandments, and however weak you are, however often you fail, if this is your commitment, you may be certain that God will honor his own word in you, build his Son’s church victorious, and bring you safely through every trial and affliction into his presence and eternal glory.

As My Heritage and Joy (v. 111)
So great must be our commitment to God’s word that we look to it alone as our “heritage.” This means that it is our treasure, inheritance, most prized possession. When God holds out his word to us in this way, it is nothing else but for him to offer us the highest felicity. And what does he give us when he gives us his word? He gives us his Son, Jesus Christ, whom to know is everlasting life, peace, righteousness, and joy (John 17:3). He puts the very sword of his Spirit in our hands. He gives us title-deed to heaven, even raising us up from our death to be kings and queens in his beloved Son. He promises unquenchable light to walk securely and courageously before all of Satan’s attacks and traps. When God’s word is our heritage, we are never without hope of deliverance and strength, for we have God’s infallible promises, which are sufficient for every trial and temptation. We have joy, for obedience to God’s word is happiness. To possess these blessings, even “every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 1:3), we must take God’s word as our chief treasure. We must hold it closely in our hearts and minds, desire it in our souls, cling to it in life, and obey it at all times. Yet, we shall never so take God’s word unless it is the “rejoicing of our hearts.” We must have a personal interest in it. We must possess it, and it must possess us. Does it? Can we honestly say that God’s word holds chief sway in our hearts, determines our will, and guides our steps? Are we self-conscious in thinking of it, laboring to subdue our very thought patterns and emotions to his revealed will so that we are continually rejoicing in his thoughts as our most precious possession (Ps. 139:17)? This is to rejoice in God’s word: not when we give it some lip-service, read it occasionally, or even defend it against its many detractors. It is the rejoicing of our hearts when it enters into us, shapes the way we think and feel, sets our affections on things above, and binds us firmly to walk in obedience to God. We can know if this is true in us, for example, if when we are pressed, rebuked in terms of God’s word, or hear God’s word, do we respond humbly? Or, do we raise our backs against God’s will and try to figure out some way we can do what we want while not completely abandoning God’s word. A treasure is undivided. The treasure of our heart is one. It is either God’s word, or it is something else. We cannot serve God and enjoy this inheritance with a divided heart. When God’s word is the rejoicing of our heart, we are committed to it – to the death – to the death of our flesh, to the demolition of our cherished idols and vanities, to the death of all those thoughts that are not a panting after God’s thoughts, to the death of even our earthly security and peace, should having and holding God’s word require us to give them up. Do we have such a personal interest, participation, share in this heritage? If so, we shall go from strength to strength, glory unto glory, grace unto grace (Ps. 84:7; 2 Cor. 3:18; John 1:16). God’s word always leaves its defining mark upon those who have eaten it; it is the rejoicing of their hearts (Jer. 15:16).

I Am Resolved (v. 112)
In the light of such blessedness offered to us by the hand of God and written upon our hearts by the finger of the Holy Spirit, what else can we say but, “I have inclined my heart to perform thy statutes always, even unto the end?” To “incline our heart” is to stretch out our inmost being to God’s word. Commitment to God’s word as our heritage is never a passive affair. It is not a matter of outward confession alone. It is a bending of our wills toward God’s will, so that “it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us.” Commitment to God’s word says: “I want God’s will to be my will.” It is an earnest extending of the soul to obey God more devotedly. It is a life-long turning aside from sin and self to holiness and righteousness. Now, we can no more incline our hearts to do this than we can reach out and grab the moon. Our commitments to God are flimsy, our goodness as the morning dew (Hos. 6:4). Hence, we are led here by God’s own grace to his commitment to us. He extends his covenant, his grace, love, and presence to us through Jesus Christ. In return, we cast ourselves upon him. We are resolved to obey him. We take active steps to obey him. We do so in dependence upon his promise of grace to us. We see in ourselves inconstancy, darkness, weakness, and no good thing – at all. Yet, the God of the universe puts this heritage into our hand. He gave his Son for us when we were dead in sin. We pierced him. Our sins nailed him to the tree. Had we been there, we would have either crucified him or fled in fear. Faithless are we, heartless, selfish, and corrupt. He is faithful. We are never safer than when we venture all upon his bare word. Since he commits himself to us, we must respond by committing ourselves to his word. Have you not been meditating upon it? Stop whatever is interfering and begin hiding his word in your heart. Have you been breaking the word of his covenant by some sin in your life? Stop and repent; put off your old man and put on the new man in righteous. Have you been fighting against God’s will? Pray: “Lord, make my meat, the food of my soul, the pleasure of my life, be to do your will. I want your will; I hate mine. Mine is death; your will alone is my life. Change me; break me; work in me so that my heart reaches out to your word, is stirred by it, delights in it, derives light from it. Guide me with your eye; make me so pliable before you that a nod from your word sets my feet in the path of holiness.” Pray this, seek this, and God’s word will be your heritage. His commitment to you will sustain your commitment to him, until he finally brings you to heaven and floods your soul with the rivers of his pleasures. What will that river be? It is will be absolute pleasure in obeying him; unmixed satisfaction in hearing his word; enrapturing devotion in fulfilling his every wish. This is the heritage of his saints.

When We Love God's Word

May 29, 2011 Series: Scripture: Psalm 119:97-104 by Chris Strevel

97 MEM. O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.
98 Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.
101 I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word.
102 I have not departed from thy judgments: for thou hast taught me.
103 How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.

We Confess and Meditate (v. 97) All men talk about the things and people they love. If they love movies or automobiles, they find ways to bring them into the conversation. If a man loves a woman, he speaks adoringly of her, constantly of her. This is the way we are made: what is in the heart manifests itself through our words. So it is with the lover of God’s word. And he does not simply speak of it out of obligation. As we here find David, who has just written of some very low points through which God’s word sustained him, the Christian speaks of God’s word passionately. “O how I love thy law!” It has sustained me in dark valleys of testing and affliction. When all my other vain hopes and loves were dashed to the ground, exposed as so many idols of my heart, there was God’s word at the very bottom of my soul, keeping me from falling, giving me hope in my despair, light in my darkness. I cannot love it enough! Through it, God gives himself to me. I do not require any pressure from others to speak of it. I am not ashamed of it, or of my love for it. I will shout from the housetops that God’s word alone has quickened me, preserved me, and comforted me. I love it for revealing God’s faithfulness and wisdom. I adore it for its beauty and grace. Your thoughts, Lord, are very previous to me, indeed, my most valuable possession. I will give up everything else if necessary, but do not ask me to give up your word. Do not take it away from me. Do not send a famine of your word. Afflict my soul, if I require it. Riddle my body with disease. Take away all my comfort and ease. Do not, I beg you, remove from me your word, for it alone gives me a sense of your familiar, friendly presence, shows your beloved Son to me, and satisfies me. You have created me, Father, to think your thoughts after you, and my existence is nothing but a miserable flight of dust unless you give me your word. These are some of the thoughts and utterances of the lover of God’s word.

Yet, it is not simply God’s word in general that we love. David here speaks of loving God’s law. There is a world of theology wrapped up in this personal confession. As God’s law is his rule for our lives, what we really confess when we love God’s word is that we love to be guided by God’s own hand. We have given up the desire to rule ourselves, live as we please, and find ways to join a hypocritical or half-hearted religious profession with an underlying personal autonomy. No, we have learned, often by very painful experience, that our only joy lies in yielding ourselves to God, to be guided by his hand, to turn from our own thoughts and ways. We can never love for God to lead us unless we also love his gospel. Love of God’s law is the fruit of love of God’s gospel, obedience to God the fruit of receiving the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Humbled by our Savior’s death for us on the cross, in fact, overwhelmed by the thought that he would bear our curse and give his back to the smiters for such wretched sinners, we have no other desire than to “present ourselves to God, as those who are alive from the dead, and our members of instruments of righteousness unto God” (Rom. 6:13). It is when we feel ourselves bound to God for his saving mercies to us in Jesus Christ that we willingly and cheerfully bind ourselves to be governed and directed by him. And even if we see all the world running headlong to destruction, the would-be-gods of our age celebrating their freedom from God in escapades of rebellion that should horrify rather than titillate us, we love God’s law that much more. It is not, you see, theological narrowness or ethical ignorance that leads us to God’s law as “the eternal rule of a devout and holy life,” as Calvin described it, but love for God, gratitude his goodness and grace to us in our Lord Jesus, and heartfelt adoration of his sovereignty over us and the wisdom of his word.

Thus, it is our meditation “all the day.” To be meditating upon God’s word continually is nothing else than to return to the Garden of delights from which we were expelled because we insisted upon thinking our own thoughts and trampling upon God’s. No one who is an outward professor alone, who lacks the inner humbling before God and joy in the Lord for his goodness, can have this delight in God’s word. He may turn to it to silence a troubled conscience or to be able to tell others that he has been reading this or that, but he has no heart to give himself to God’s word. How can he? The Spirit of God has not yet emblazoned God’s word upon his very inmost being by his own quickening finger. The word of God comes to him with no life. The Bible is a good book, an important book, even a holy book. It is not, however, the book of God, with letters still blazing with the fiery, penetrating wisdom, goodness, and power of God. The child of God, however, requires no guilt to motivate him. He comes to God’s word with a pressing sense of his need. He also approaches it with deep longing. He loves the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ” (Rom. 8:2). God himself is drawing him to its cleansing, refreshing waters. They enter his soul sometimes like a torrent, sometimes like a delightful mountain brook. But enter into his very inmost self they do. He exercises himself upon the word of God, as Luther said, shaking every verse like a branch, waiting for the heavenly fruit to drop as seeds of life and wisdom. Thus, sincere love for God’s word always leads to constant meditation upon it: at home, working outside, in the business cubicle, in relationships, in the town hall. We mine its gem-laden caverns over and over. We find it inexhaustibly rich, immeasurably heavy, luminously heavenly, and comprehensively Christ-centered. We find it to be our life and our love. Do we thus think about God’s word? We do not if we are not reading and memorizing it, praying it and believing it. If only true professors of Christ would so delight in God’s word and give themselves to it, the world would quickly be confronted with a power it could not explain away, a wisdom it could not refute, a loveliness it could not foul, a loyalty it could not compromise. It would find true believers, armed with the very sword of the Spirit, made fruitful by God’s life-giving word, made beautiful by the constant influences that time spent meditating upon God’s word necessarily exerts upon those who live in the abiding presence of God’s word, written in Scripture, living in Jesus Christ, and sanctifying in the Holy Spirit. Since these promises are infallibly held out to us if we delight in God’s word and meditate upon it, would we be robbed: by thinking the world’s thoughts, bringing ourselves under the influence of unbelievers, or simply content with our own narrow, selfish thoughts? May it never be!

We Are Wise and Meditate (vv. 98-100)
When the apostle wrote that “God has made foolish the wisdom of this world” (1 Cor. 1:20), he did not mean that all unbelievers are idiots or that believers are smarter than unbelievers. He did not mean to imply that reading unbelieving philosophy, history, or science is a waste of time. Something far deeper is intended. At the cross, God exposed the utter folly of all human wisdom, however articulate or enlightened, for all wisdom that is not built upon God’s word cannot lead us one inch toward the knowledge of God, which is the purpose of our creation. At the cross, God showed all men that sin and rebellion, not ignorance, are the bane of the human soul. He made clear that the only path of our recovery is through the propitiatory sacrifice of his Son, that our true and only wisdom is to die to ourselves, loathe our sins, and embrace to the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ. Then, other pursuits are recovered, though not as ends in themselves or fields in which men can achieve understanding by their own wisdom. They are useful only insofar as they illumine to us the glory of God – his majestic greatness, sovereignty, and wisdom – and lead us to him as our good. Thus, since fallen man does not pursue this course if left to himself, but goes from bad to worse (2 Tim. 3:13), only through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is man emptied of all trust in his own wisdom and strength, brought low before the throne of the holy God, and then raised in Jesus Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit in order to serve God. We must be persuaded of the foundational foolishness of unbelieving men and unbelieving thought, or we shall mistake David’s meaning here. Rather than further humbling us that we might continually drink from the river of God’s delightful word, we shall dismiss unbelieving thought out of hand, turn arrogant, and be unable to receive the comfort these words afford to every believing soul, however humble.

We have to do with many enemies in this life. We may not feel their presence directly, especially in the very atomistic and self-referential existence led by most Westerners. Nevertheless, the world is filled with those who hate God and his people. At the top of this miserable pyramid are Satan and his cabal. Those whom we might recognize as more earthly and nearby enemies – anti-Christian political leaders, educators, false prophets and apostate denominations, atheists and blasphemers, including those in our neighborhoods, and the usually despicable actor-celebrity class, are really animated by the “god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2). They are very clever in their own sphere, accumulate various arguments to support their particular agendas, and rarely reveal their governing principles, for Satan prefers to mask his blackness with a façade of light (2 Cor. 11:4). How can we fight such forces? Many insist that we must beat them at their own game, using their strategies, institutions, and systems in order to gain supremacy over them. David says otherwise. God’s commandments “make us wiser than our enemies” (v. 98). “Wiser” does not always equate with “smarter.” As God’s commandments are “ever with us,” as we depend upon them, look to them as our light, pray God to direct us through them, we shall not only survive the attacks of our enemies but turn them back. God’s enemies and ours may not be silenced; they will not admit defeat, any more than Satan, even though the cross of our Lord has crushed his hideous skull. But with God’s word as our guide, we shall not be ignorant of Satan’s unfolding strategies (2 Cor. 2:11). The more we know the truth, the easier it shall be to spot evil, even evil hiding as good. This applies to all areas of the conflict, from the believer wading through the media choices that daily present themselves to the statesman laboring to stand for principle when surrounded with the schemes of unbelieving man. This is our wisdom: to “choose the way of truth” and “stick to God’s testimonies” (Ps. 119:30,31). We learn this only by having God’s commandments ever before us, never swerving from them, seeking constant direction from them, and asking for the wisdom he has promised (James 1:5). Then, we shall be wiser than our enemies. With God’s word as our guide and shield, we shall see through their plots and escape them (Prov. 13:14). We shall be able to “cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:5). God will teach our hands to fight in his war (Ps. 144:1).

That God’s word gives us more wisdom than all our teachers (v. 99) may seem like an arrogant claim, like the one who has read a little but claims to know all. David, however, is simply recognizing that meditating upon God’s testimonies gives comprehension beyond the ability of any merely human teacher. This did not mean that David made “all A’s” in school, though all students will improve their intellectual capacity by a steady, consecrated diet of Scripture meditation. Rather, he is extolling the far superior understanding that Scripture gives – of every subject. For example, the young pupil who sees God’s beautiful handiwork in the butterfly has far greater wisdom than the man who understands the mechanisms of its flight and phases of its existence but is not thereby led to give glory to God. Understanding the “what” of any subject is far beneath the “why” and “who.” God’s word alone gives this wisdom, and it does so in every legitimate pursuit by leading us by the hand to God as all our good. This little verse also preserves us from treating God’s word as something of a private talisman or portal of hidden knowledge. It is and does no such thing. It gives concrete understanding, superior understanding in the real world of philosophy and science, political theory and human psychology. Thus, if we would be master craftsmen, useful teachers, intelligent farmers, and skilled businessmen, God’s word alone shows us the way. It gives wisdom in each of these areas that none of the children of this world can know. When will we learn to approach God’s word with a heart that says: “I need God’s word not only as my morning inspiration but as my moment-by-moment guide?” Humbled, word-filled believers would rise to places of true and lasting influence, not due to any intrinsic wisdom in them but because God’s word is “more foolish” than all the wisdom of man (1 Cor. 1:25). It cannot be overcome, refuted, defeated. If it will bring you to heaven, it will certainly cause you to triumph on earth. This will be our blessing only if we constantly meditate upon God’s testimonies and learn to feel deeply our constant need of God’s wisdom. Will you heed this call today – to give yourselves to God’s word? You are only wise if you come to God’s word as a humble student, asking God himself to be your teacher. He will hear and grant your desire, for our Savior purchased this privilege for us with his own blood (John 6:45).

Until recently, men tended to venerate opinions that could claim antiquity. If a theory or system was put forward by a reputed scholar or philosopher of the past, lineage and duration combined to give strong respect. David, however, recognizes that antiquity alone is no test of truth. Men can be wrong for a long time. The only lasting wisdom is God’s word. It is the benchmark against which all theories, old and new, must be tested. Notice that David’s claim to “understand more than the ancients” (v. 100) is because he “kept God’s testimonies.” It is insufficient to confess God’s word without practicing it. More deeply, God illumines the obedient. This is the ethical side of knowledge that most men today deny. There is a direct, spiritual relationship between obeying God’s word and possessing intellectual and moral understanding. To use today’s parlance, it is impossible to separate a man’s private from his public life, his moral from his intellectual life, his spiritual condition from his ability to pursue understanding in any legitimate sphere of human activity. Some city of man dwellers in the past tried to live out their systems, but, like Socrates, they were often persecuted for it. The closer common grace led a man to some shadowy reflection of moral or intellectual truth, even though he was still far from the kingdom of God, the more even that light, dim as it was, led him into conflict with the darkness around him. Most proponents of ethical and philosophical systems, however, and this is especially true since the Enlightenment, were living contradictions, holding to one thing and practicing the complete opposite. This is one fundamental reason that the past two centuries have been marked by such degradation in all philosophical, scientific, political, and moral discourse and practice. Men have said one thing and done another. This disconnect has made what they said ring hollow. It has darkened even what they did say, so that it moved farther, not closer, to the truth. Until we have arrived at the place where the average man treats both ancients and moderns with contempt and suspicion; every man feels himself authorized to determine reality for himself. Yet, if we truly love God’s word, we will seek all our wisdom therein. If we are young, we do not exalt ourselves because we are full of energy or love novelty. If we are old, we resist the tendency toward opinionated arrogance because “we have always thought this way.” When God’s word fills the young man, he overcomes the wicked one. When God’s word humbles the old, he learns of him “who was from the beginning” (1 John 2:12-14), so that he does not stubbornly cling to a particular view simply because he thinks he has some years of experience and reflection behind him. Compared to the “Ancient of Days,” he is but a new born child, naked and needy. Hence, each one of us must be persuaded that the only lasting wisdom is found in God’s word alone. We must set ourselves to keep it, for God shares the “secret of his covenant,” the heavenly wisdom, grace, and love of God, only with those who are led meekly by him (Ps. 25:9,14).

We Guard Against Evil (vv. 101-102)
God’s gift of wisdom to those who love and mediate upon his word does not protect us from having to face and fight off “evil ways.” Even David, whom the Lord had taught from his youth, not only recognized that they were a constant temptation to him but also that he had to resist them. There are many winding paths that lead us away from the narrow road of devotion to God. Some of these present themselves to us more forcibly and attractively. We must “exercise ourselves unto godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7), turn neither to the right nor to the left (Prov. 4:27), and ask our heavenly Father to “enlarge our steps under us that our feet may not slip” (Ps. 18:36). But why must we live with such vigilance? It is so much easier to go through life sound asleep, doing what we want, and allowing life simply to “happen” to us as it will. No, the more we love God’s word, the more it becomes our meditation and delight, the more carefully we will guard our steps. Our consciences become tenderer against sin, even the supposedly small sins that millions indulge with seemingly small hurt, even pleasure. We grow to “abhor evil” in every form (Rom. 12:9), “hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude 23). Falling into sin becomes a horror to us, the horror – more than any disease, calamity, or deprivation. When we see such a man as David, as singularly godly and inspired by God’s Spirit as he was, committing such a sin as he did, we realize that indescribable weakness dwells in us, even “no good thing,” as Paul wrote (Rom. 7:18). Were God to leave us to our own devices and deprive us of the influences of his word for the briefest season, we are capable of anything. And do not we recognize that we are always precariously poised on the precipice of rebellion – not because God fails to guard over us with eternal vigilance but because we are so weak in ourselves? This is the reason Scripture’s commands to “be sober, vigilant” and “watch” are never lost upon the lover of God’s word (1 Pet. 5:8; Mark 13:37). Knowing his weakness and feeling his neediness, he watches over his ways. He sees the evil coming, and hides himself (Prov. 22:3). He wants nothing to do with sin. Why is this? Is it because he is feels “holier than thou,” is afraid to have a little pleasure in the world, or is of a melancholy disposition? No, he wants to keep God’s word. His ardent desire is to walk in closer obedience to God – not just enough obedience, especially in lesser things, to keep his conscience quiet, but whole-soul obedience to God (Matt. 23:23). He esteems God’s word as holy, as a treasure. Obeying it is not a burden to him but a pleasure (1 John 5:4). But since we cannot have such desires unless our Lord “enlarges our heart that we might fear his name,” each one of us must seek from him the grace to love his word. We are wholly incapable of guarding our steps and wanting to keep his word. Our hearts are a cesspool of filth. The tickling of the flesh is ever with us. We want to sleep, not watch. Thus, we must seek from the Lord the desire for holiness, a sense of the holiness and beauty of his word. We will run toward what we desire. If our desires are for his word, we will watch, for the longing of our hearts is to keep it and delight in it, thus to walk with God in joyful presence, which is our highest good and pleasure (Ps. 16:11). And since many devious ways constantly present themselves to us, and we find “another law in our members,” what hope have we of keeping from the evil way? David declares that he has “not departed from thy judgments: for thou has taught me.” Our sure hope of preservation from evil is for God himself to take us in hand and make us his pupils. Do not think that some smattering of piety principles will ward off the evil one and keep you in check. All good feelings and intentions burn off like the morning dew. Even a constant diet of good reading and good associations, while necessary and useful, are insufficient to safeguard you from the evil way. God must take us in hand. He must humble our hearts, subduing them to teachableness by his Spirit. He must write his law upon our hearts, so that we know the law not as an external code of conduct, which it is, but as an internal rule of life. Only he can make us honestly say, “O, how I love thy law!” But how can we have God for our teacher? This must be considered the greatest of all possible blessings: to be taught by his precious mouth. Though we forfeited his love and goodness, our Father has in mercy restored us to his fellowship and given his illumination through the only Mediator, Jesus Christ. He alone exegetes, reveals the Father to us (John 1:18). He did this in his own person, work, and teaching, as well as supremely by offering himself for our sins so that we may learn the first lessons of piety: that God is offended and wrathful against all sin and sinners; that his justice against sin and sinners must be satisfied; that this was done once for all through the blood of his Son; that we are redeemed, reconciled, and ransomed only through faith in him. Believing this gospel, we are sealed with the Spirit of holiness and adoption (Eph. 1:13-14). His indwelling presence is the “anointing by which God teaches us all things” (1 John 2:20,27). And how does the Spirit effect this wondrous work of teaching all those who belong to God? He writes God’s law upon our hearts, giving us new natures and impulses to delight in it and keep it. He illumines us so that we may understand the “hope of our calling and the riches of his inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1:18). He enables us through new eyes to see God’s word for what it is, for what is was all the time, but what we in our stubborn blindness could not see: that it is God’s own precious word and sufficient for every good work (2 Tim. 3:17). To have God for our teacher then, is to have him teach our hard hearts the splendors of his word, reform our inner life and outward conduct by his holy precepts, and make all our delight to consist of walking with him in the fellowship of holiness. Now, as we shall surely stumble unless God is our teacher, every lover of God’s word must earnestly seek this as much as his daily bread. Pray: “Father, unless you take me in hand, with rods, if necessary, to reform me unto yourself, unless you open my blind eyes, unless you corral my wayward spirit, I shall soon go astray. I feel in myself the tugging of the flesh to live as I please and indulge my own sinful desires. In fact, I confess that I sometimes would be my own god, determining good and evil for myself. I hate this; I condemn myself; by your grace, I stand with you in judgment of myself. Now, Father, because you are good, teach this poor sinner in the way (Ps. 25:8; 119:66). Make me meek before you. Hold tightly to me. I love your word, Father, and would cling to it as manna from heaven. Deliver me from making excuses; deliver me from my spiritual slumbers. Shine upon me, Lord Jesus, for you are my only light, driving the darkness from every corner of my soul and shedding your wondrous light within me.” Pray in this way, asking the Lord to help you acutely feel your need for him to be your teacher. Believing that he has joined himself inseparably to his word, commit yourself to meditating upon it. Then, to the temporal preservation and eternal delight of your soul, God himself will be your teacher.

We Find It Sweeter than Honey (v. 103)
But to think, that though God offers himself to us to be our teacher, sending his Son as our Prophet and his Spirit as our Anointing, that he hereby invites us back into the Garden that we might walk and talk with him, in our madness, we run from the words of our God. They become distasteful to us, for they expose our waywardness and convict our consciences of treason against the God who saved us by his grace. Notice how personal this statement is: sweet “to my taste” and “honey to my mouth.” Taste varies widely from person to person: what one thinks delicious is to another unpleasant, even disgusting. To a man, sin has unified our taste buds in revulsion at the words of God’s mouth. Yet, in Christ our Lord, who has cast out the old man of sin from us and given us his own mind (1 Cor. 2:16), our taste buds are restored so that we again love our Father’s voice and want to hear it more than anything else in the world. When he reforms us by his Spirit, we cannot hear God’s words enough. Like the crowds that followed Jesus around Jewry, watching for when he might open his lips again – as new manna from heaven – so we shall feel toward God’s word: written or preached. Yet, since not one of us ever has the perfected taste buds of heaven restored to us in this life, we do well to guard against those things that dull them to God’s word. There are the cares of the world and deceitfulness of riches (Mark 4:19). Though our Savior here describes the unbelieving heart, do we not feel our heart languishing away from delight in God’s word when worldliness creeps back into our lives? The love of money similarly dulls us, for it tempts us to set our affections upon the things of this life, which cannot satisfy. God cannot be served if money and possessions are pursued as our highest good. Doubts created by unwise reading of unbelieving thought and regular exposure to the decadent ballads and literature of the city of man have a like effect. Then, if we allow the business of life to consume us so completely that no time or energy is left for delighting in God’s word, we shall soon find our taste for it dwindling. Finally, there is that tendency, even among God’s friends, to value the word of God so lowly that we do not think of it as the very glory of God in our midst. We do this by disconnecting having God for our teacher and having his written Bible, and that even though Paul says that the “word of faith” is the “gospel that we preach” (Rom. 10:8). That is, when we sit down before an open Bible, we are reading God’s own thoughts. They are living and powerful. They will change us right where we are. They will be light to our soul and healing to our bones. They are the balm of Gilead, for they give Jesus Christ to us. They humble us, for they proclaim “Christ, and him crucified” to us. Words fail to describe how sweet and precious the word of God truly is. Those who are taught of God know it, however, and will find it increasingly to be the case in their own lives, even heaven in the soul now. The sweetness of God’s words drives away the clouds of sorrow and guilt, even immediately: when we read or hear afresh of the sufficiency of our Savior’s sacrifice on the cross. The sweetness of God’s word drives away fear and anger: when we read or hear of God’s sovereignty over the affairs of men, that his purposes, not man’s, are being worked out. The sweetness of our Father’s voice sanctifies the character, the tongue, and the thoughts. His sweetness makes us useful in his service, tenderhearted, and like Jesus: “I am among you as he who serves.” Spend your life studying, reading, meditating upon God’s word, believer, and you will “eat unto the joy and rejoicing of your heart” (Jer. 15:16). It is the honey-manna from heaven by which Jesus breaks himself to us as the bread of life.

We Hate the False Way(v. 104)
We shall never know such good unless we separate ourselves from evil. Completely opposite is the thinking of the world. Sow your wild oats, is the common adage, then you can settle down in a peaceable and generally moral life. One even hears the abomination expressed that unless one is exposed to a little evil, then he cannot be well-adjusted. Satan never had better slogans. Was not his first lie on earth the temptation that you cannot really know good and evil unless you taste of evil, unless you trample God’s true ways under foot and launch out on your own? We see where this has gotten us. No, the good is to be found only in God’s word. It is for this reason that we must hate every false way. “Hate” is a strong word. It is opposed to the non-judgmentalism of our age. We have become so relativistic that nothing shocks us. Has any of this made us more inclined toward the good? Of course not; it has made us more tolerant of evil, filled our souls with apathy, and opened the door to unspeakable indulgence that sears consciences, destroys families, and establishes each man as a law unto himself. Reject this whole philosophy, child of God, as brewed in hell and set on fire by the very cunning of Satan. Knowledge of the good is not found in exposure to the bad. It is found in turning away from all evil. Now, it is true that when God draws us back to himself after a season of sin, our afflictions have taught us his righteous judgments (Ps. 119:67,71), but this is not because sin teaches us to love the good. Rather, God’s chastening breaks our hardheartedness and restores us to the paths of righteousness. If we would avoid his bruising judgments, let us learn that sin in every form is the path of misery. Within our own hearts, how this hating of every false way reminds us that our own falseness must be exposed and rooted out. What are commonly called besetting sins are really nothing but deep falseness in us. Can we love God’s word as we should where this falseness is allowed to remain? Must not we pray: “Lord, search me, know my heart, try me, and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23)?

When God puts love for his word in our hearts, when he takes us as his students, we are done hiding. Yes, there is much in us of which we are not aware, but the more we delight in his word and meditate upon it, he shows us our true selves, as well as all the lurking places of our pride, selfishness, and worldliness. We learn to hate the falseness in us. And, as we see here, one of the reasons we abhor all self-deception and falsehood is that they take us further away from God’s precepts. Love for God’s word cannot healthily, vitally coexist with holding on to our old ways. The more we are brought into the light, as he is in the light, the more our depravity is exposed. The more we turn from our sinful, crooked paths. And why? So that we may have more of God’s word, have more understanding through his precepts, delight more in the sweetness of God’s words. Thus, biblical religion has a very strong doctrine of hate. This is because it has a corresponding high doctrine of love: for God’s purity and holiness, for his love and grace, and for his wonderful word. Strong, mature faith, therefore, does not balk at the thought of hating false ways, for it has already applied the scalpel to its own heart. It does not stop there, however, content for the world to wander in its falseness, concluding that men must choose their own way. No, it hates every false path, whether in its own heart or in the world at large. It sees all falseness as an attack against God’s very throne, which is consummate truth, light, and purity. It speaks the truth, exposes the false, and calls the self-deceived into the light. Its reward is more understanding: of God, his word, and his covenant. Let us never forget that fleeing falseness in every form, especially self-deception, its most hideous and damning form, is the only way to obtain understanding, to have God for our teacher, and to confess sincerely: “O, how I love thy law!”

Pages