Psalm 119

Pleading for God and His Word

May 1, 2011 Series: Scripture: Psalm 119:73-80 by Chris Strevel

73   JOD. Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments.

74   They that fear thee will be glad when they see me; because I have hoped in thy word.

75   I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.

76   Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant.

77   Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live: for thy law is my delight.

78   Let the proud be ashamed; for they dealt perversely with me without a cause: but I will meditate in thy precepts.

79   Let those that fear thee turn unto me, and those that have known thy testimonies.

80   Let my heart be sound in thy statutes; that I be not ashamed.

As the Purpose of our Existence (v. 73)

An overwhelming sense of need best describes David’s condition as he wrote this section. All the godly sometimes feel perplexed, even to the point of not knowing which way to turn. This may be due to our sinfulness, which always haunts us, by a sudden desolation from the hand of the Lord, as in horrible storms, earthquakes, wars, or diseases, or through the attacks of Satan and his wicked hordes. It is very necessary for us to feel how much our safety and security lies in God’s hands, or we shall never appreciate David’s pleading here. At the beginning, however, David lays hold of the sure claim he has upon God’s goodness. He recognizes that he does not belong to himself, that God has lovingly and wisely made him. Therefore, whatever he is facing, he is not facing it alone, as if he was adrift on a sea of chance and fortune, with no help but that which he can give himself or others may provide. No, he is of God’s making. And since God has made him, he may call upon his God and Maker with absolute confidence that the Lord will not forsake him. Now, it is true that God sometimes devastates his creation and destroys men. He can do what he pleases with his own, which is not a capricious declaration but a realization of the goodness, wisdom, holiness, and sovereignty of his purposes, which are far beyond our puny ability to comprehend (Rom. 9:20-21). It will do no good, therefore, to complain that since we see so much devastation in the world, so much misery and death, that God turns a deaf ear to his creatures, and that David is a fool at worst, or at best speaking as all men do when faced with adversity, calling upon “some God out there, if he is there.” This is the frustrated, guilty reflex of those who do not like to retain God in their knowledge but cannot shake God’s indelible inner witness that they are his image-bearers. Against this, we learn here that if we will have God for our helper, we must humbly recognize that we are not our own (2 Cor. 6:19-20), that we belong to him, that our only good lies in walking with him. Only then can we expect him to be kind to us and to help us. He loves us, but can we expect him to act toward us as a faithful, concerned, and generous Father if we ignore him, spurn his word, or live as we please until adversity comes? No, if we are wayward, if we do not recognize that the whole purpose of our creation is that we might give ourselves completely to him, if we call upon him only when times are tough, then he may justly say: “Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord” (Prov. 1:28-29).

We see here upon what basis we may have confidence that God will speedily hear and answer us when we are in trouble. It is when the knowledge of him as our Maker leads us to recognize the purpose of our creation: to know him and obey his word. We have seen this remarkable and very personal truth throughout this Psalm. Whenever David feels his great need, he does not immediately begin telling the Lord all he his wants or presume to lay out for the living God all the ways he thinks help would be best given. No, he begins by recognizing that his greatest need is for the Lord to hold him on the course of obedience, whatever his outward circumstances may be. It is as if David prayed: “Lord, I am in trouble; help me to obey you. Lord, I am besieged; help me to believe your promises. Lord, I am uncertain; give me your word.” You see, we shall always be frustrated, for life is filled with tests, hardships, and troubles, unless we recognize, first, that God is our only help. Then, we do not seek his help only to be relieved from our misery but so that we can obey him more fully, delight in him more deeply, and cling to him more unswervingly. If this is our heart, we truly recognize the purpose of our creation. It is so that we may understand the living God as he reveals and gives himself to us in his word, that in understanding him, we may love his word, hold fast to it whatever we see with our eyes, and desire, whenever troubles and testing come, to follow him more closely. It is our failure to appeal to God on this basis and with this assurance that robs us of the satisfaction that is ours if we cheerfully embrace our only purpose in life: “to know thee, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3-4). When many call upon him, it is only out of a slavish sense of dread, superstition, or like a genie in a bottle, as if we can ignore God most of the time and demand him to be there for us when we finally reach the end of our own supposed wisdom and normal human helps. If we would have God for our sure helper, if we would be armed with great confidence in his faithfulness and love, if we would have him come to our aid in our hour of need, we must be ever seeking him as our Maker, our only good, and our only deliverer. Then, we shall pray as David did: “Lord, what I really want in this time of trouble is to walk with you more closely and obey you more devotedly.” The Lord will always hear such prayers and bring aid to us that is far beyond our ability to conceive.

Because It Brings Joy to the Godly (vv. 74,79)

Twice in this short span of verses David shows that his pleading for God and his word is not simply for his own personal relief. He desires to be a blessing to the godly (v. 74) and to receive blessing from them (v. 79). This intimate relationship between the people of God is worthy of careful attention, for it is Paul’s own model for the mutual affection and blessing we ought to have and seek from one another (Rom. 1:10-12). On the one hand, David feels strongly that his hope in God’s word will be affirmed when God helps him, gives him understanding, and guides his steps. This will give great joy to those who fear the Lord, for they share in one another’s joys. All their delight is in “God’s excellent ones” (Ps. 16:3). We seek the Lord, therefore, not simply for our own good, which can be a very narrow and selfish consideration, but so that when God answers us and comes to our aid, the faith of our brothers and sisters may be greatly encouraged. After all, we live and die for each other. We mourn and rejoice with one another. There are no legitimate individualists within the body of Christ. Beyond this, what we love in each other is “Christ in you,” for when we see one another walking righteously and desiring him, what an exhilarating blessing this is! We see in them more of the loveliness of our Savior, more of his marvelous grace and power. God’s goodness to our brothers and sisters motivates us to seek him with the hope that he will be good to us also. And when we see a believer sorely tested and afflicted, as God upholds and delivers him, our own faith soars to heaven on the wings of hope and assurance of divine love. If a tempted brother overcomes, we are steeled for the conflict. If a straying believer is restored, not only does heaven rejoice but also our own hearts are filled with gratitude to God.

Thus, should not we who have been saved by God’s grace, joined to Jesus Christ, and invited to plead with God to be our good and shield, endeavor to live in such a way that when another believer sees us, his heart leaps with joy? How sad it is when those who should make us glad are the occasions of our discouragement, and even worse, when we ourselves are the cause why fellow-believers grieve, lose hope, and grow weary of the conflict. Each one of us should ask: “Are other believers glad when they see me? Are they encouraged because they see me hoping in God’s word even in the midst of adversity?” If not, we are doing serious harm to the body of Christ and robbing ourselves of great good, for how can others then serve the Lord with vigor, have their hope and faith in his word realized and confirmed as it might be, and in turn encourage me if when they see me, they are tempted to despair? Nothing ought to be more joyous to us on earth than the sight of a godly man walking toward us; in turn, each of us should aspire to be that godly man, so that the whole body may increase, rejoice, and be encouraged. But this will be us only if we hope in God’s word. This hope will never be disappointed. Whatever specific need we have, God’s word will meet it. However grievous our troubles, God’s word will quicken us (Ps. 119:50). And the fruit of this will be grace, mercy, and peace spreading throughout the whole body and our greater motivation to persevere in adversity and in our conflict with the world. Do you see, then, how bound we are to each other, that godliness is not simply important for my own state before God but also for the strength of the whole church? Thus, however humble may be our personal circumstances, however slightly gifted we may think ourselves to be, each one of us has, by virtue of union with Jesus Christ and his mighty working in us (Col. 1:29), a fountain of grace unto holiness that will be a rich blessing to the entire congregation. When they hear of us, see us, or talk with us, they will be blessed, encouraged, and relieved, as if God himself came down and spoke encouragement to our weary souls. Christ Jesus our Lord will bless them through us; we shall be blessed by his sustaining grace in them. May we so hope in God’s word alone, so give ourselves to it, that our lives, afflictions, and perseverance will encourage those who fear God! This is our duty and our privilege. It is also a great need, for young and old alike. Do you, Christian young man, bring joy to your parents, or are you a grief and burden? Does your modesty, industry, and faith, young daughter of the King, encourage us all with the beauty of the church, the transforming power of grace, and the insuperable power of God’s word? What of you, husband, and you, wife? Is your spouse glad when he sees you? Does your hope in God’s word stimulate his hope? We are so vitally connected to each other because we are thus joined together in Christ our Head.

This is no pious platitude or wishful thinking that David here expresses. Since we are so joined together in Christ that the hope, joy, and suffering of one are the common possession of all, without helping one another in this way, we shall surely faint, grow weak, and despair. After speaking of his afflictions, David then expresses the other side of this: that he feels acutely his need of encouragement from those who fear the Lord (v. 79). This is a humbling thought: that David, godly man that he was, pleads with God to send him the fellowship and assistance of godly men. And yet we often live as if our only thought is of our own situation, and perhaps that of our family. We do not enter into the sufferings of others as we should, or give only shallow moralisms to those who are struggling. They do not need our dismissive, passive, or pious sounding words. They need the encouragement of like-minded, compassionate, and God-fearing brothers and sisters. When we see others struggling, if we have any love in our hearts, are touched with any sense of his goodness to us, we must turn to one another with all the “bowels of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:8); the very seat of our affections, compassion, and sympathy must be poured out to them. But this will never be unless we hope in God’s word alone and have learned that God’s promises are our only safety and joy. Then, having known this in our own hearts, having “tasted that the Lord is good,” we shall be able to minister to our brothers and sisters sincerely, meaningfully, and hopefully. How do you feel toward those you know who are being sifted by the Lord, tested by sin, and allured by the world? Toward the weak and wandering? Do you stand at a distance, waiting until they are as holy as you think you are before you will accept and help them? Or do you run toward them, knowing that you have been similarly tested by the Lord, and that as your hope in God’s word has not been disappointed but confirmed time and again, you will be a joy and consolation to them in their struggles? This casts a totally different light upon our need to hope in God’s word, the reason we plead with him, and the way we relate to one another. Our blessings in our God are mutual. Our sufferings are shared. Our deliverances are corporate. Our hope is one. Let us fear God and run to one another, offering the assistance of our common faith in God’s word, our unified experience of his faithfulness in adversity, and our mutual dependence upon his power in our weakness.

So that I May Embrace God’s Judgments and Afflictions (v. 75)

After confessing his utter dependence upon the God who made him, David then admits to the Lord that his judgments and afflictions are right and faithful. The former is inescapable; the latter is truly a work of grace. We may confess that whatever chastening the Lord has brought upon us is deserved. How can we argue with this, since we know that the “Judge of all the earth will do right” (Gen. 18:25)? We can never legitimately question that his blessings far outnumber his judgments, that we always deserve more afflictions than we receive (Lam. 3:39). But more is required than simply a passive acceptance of the inevitability and righteousness of God’s afflictions. If we would humbly plead rather than bitterly complain against God, we must go on to confess that his afflictions are “faithful.” That is, “Lord, I stand self-condemned before you. I admit not only that your judgments are just but that you were faithful in giving them. Whether I would have confessed it before or not, I need for you to chasten me. I bow myself before you. If you think it good, wise, and just, please, chasten me more.” The godly pleader with the Lord recognizes that the Lord is like a skillful surgeon who cuts deeply to remove all our filthy pride, self-reliance, and lifeless idols. Before even asking for help and deliverance, which David turns to in the next line, we must bow before the righteousness of God’s afflictions and humbly receive his faithfulness in acting toward us as a loving Father.

How few of us confess both of these? We brace up before the idea of righteousness, then immediately crumble under the thought of faithfulness. Yet, if we are to benefit from our afflictions, if we are to be prepared to receive our Father’s mercy and love in them, our faith must see both. I deserve and need these afflictions. God is both righteousness and faithful in giving them to me. If he thinks it best for me, give me more adversity, suffering, even death. Like Job, though he slays me, yet will I trust in him (Job 13:15). How we must seek from the Lord such a heart! David could never have made this confession unless he had yielded to God’s ownership of him (v. 73), indeed, unless he had already established his complete happiness in God, so much so that he desired to be treated as God’s son, with all the affliction and chastening required for him to be more like his Father and hope more fully in his word. Then, he had to be persuaded that all God’s purposes toward him are good (Jer. 29:11), even the difficult providences under which we tend to wilt, fret, and complain. If this “I know” is to become our confession, we must learn to think less of ourselves, indeed, to deny, repudiate, and renounce ourselves, especially our self-love and worldliness (Matt. 16:24-25). Our lives are not our own to live. “Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:8). If we are to save our lives, we must lose them – for Christ, in Christ, unto Christ. This is really the difference between the child of the world and the child of God: the former may be forced to recognize justice, but the latter adores faithfulness. The former knows God as a terrible judge; the latter as chastening, loving Father. The former does not hope in God’s word and chafes against him for the very judgments that would bring temporal and eternal good to him; the latter receives them as evidences of the love of a Father who is his good in life and death, good and evil, peace and calamity. May the Lord help us to plead with him as humble confessors of his faithfulness, not simply when all is going well but when all his waves and billows roll over us. Then, he will hide us under the protection of his wings, cover us with the pavilion of his covenant, and give himself to us as our good.

Because His Mercy and Pity Alone Bring Comfort and Life (vv. 76,77)

As important as it is for us to feel and confess our bond with God based upon his creation of us in his image, it is even more necessary to move beyond this to his covenant of grace. Without assurance of his fatherly love and goodness to us, life is unbearable. Yet the natural ties between God and us are irreparably torn because of our sins, so much so that nature reveals only his wrath (Rom. 1:18). This is the reason there is no comfort in notions of “God in general,” providence without covenant, or natural theology. It is one thing for theologians, philosophers, and politicians to prate about such an unknown God when life is going well, but let adversity strike, devastation and death hound us, then all these dreams evaporate before the dark uncertainty of affliction. Our only hope and comfort in such times is God’s covenanted, sworn love, and upon this David falls headlong in the midst of his own troubles. This is the reason he pleads: “Let they merciful kindness be for my comfort.” God’s merciful kindness is his goodness, kindness, and mercy to those who seek his face. It is a strong word: hesed (ds,xñ,). It is God’s promised love to all that fear him, repent of their sins before him, and seek his grace and truth. The word is often paralleled with “covenant” to teach us that God’s covenant and his kindness to us in Jesus Christ are one and the same thing (Deut. 7:9; 1 Kings 8:23; Neh. 1:5); he promises to be good and kind to us. God’s kindness to his people is frequently grouped with his other attributes (e.g. Ex. 34:6) that we can only tremble and rejoice that God would so extend himself to us, for in giving us his kindness, he gives us himself. It is for this reason that we must praise his loving-kindness and depend upon it, for it is promised to thousands of generations (Ps. 107:8,15,21,31): but only to those who love him and keep his commandments. We can have no experience of God’s kindness, no hope in his goodness, and no expectation of his faithfulness unless we, in overwhelmed, humbled response to his love and mercy to us, love him in return, trust in him alone, and look to him as our only helper. This is true at all times, but we feel it more deeply in dark ones. Thus we plead: “Lord, please extend your covenanted goodness to me; you have promised; I deserve nothing from you, but look upon the face of your Anointed, Jesus Christ (Ps. 84:9). Since you have made all these promises to me in him (2 Cor. 1:20), be kind to me, bless me, and help me for his sake. You love me immovably because he is your Beloved. This is your word to me; I have no other hope, desire, or rock.” This must be our cry when we feel our Father’s afflictions: “Father, remember your word to your servant, upon which thou has caused me to hope” (Ps. 119:49). He will never refuse such faith, and his heart is so open to us in Jesus Christ that he will give this faith to us if we diligently seek him, for he is abundant in mercy.

And we must, for our need of God’s goodness, his kindness and love, is inestimable. It surrounds us at all times, of course, for every healthy, fed, and safe day we have ever enjoyed has come from his hand. His goodness is the only true and lasting delight of every child of God. Every instance of faith in his gospel, victory over sin, and perseverance in believing his truth is evidence of his kindly affection to us through his Spirit of light and grace. Let his chastisements and afflictions descend upon us, however, let all the wind be taken from our sails, so to speak, and we will learn more that his kindness alone sustains our hope – that he, the living God, will not forsake us; that he hears our cries and gathers all our tears in his bottle, knows our soul in adversity, and watches over us with eternal vigilance. How pitiable is that man or nation that knows trouble without knowing the God of covenant love! How miserable, tasteless, and worthless is life without a firm and certain knowledge of God’s mercy and goodness in the depths of our soul! But to call us with indescribable fervency to cast ourselves upon our God’s love, David adds the idea of “tender mercy.” This is God’s compassion, his tender heart toward us. We may have earthly fathers and husbands whom we know love us, but yet they are not very tender, speak gruffly at times, and are prickly or uncomfortable when we try to get close to them. We know that they will help us as much as they can, would perhaps even die for us, but there is little feeling of warmth or sympathy in them. Perhaps they never experienced such themselves, or their own burdens, while not preventing them from loving and trying to encourage us, hinder them from really entering into our struggles and grief. Not so the Lord of tenderness: he is both the Father of love and the God of compassion. In our affliction, he is afflicted; he redeems us in love and pity (Isa. 63:9). And is this not even more wondrously true since the Son of God took upon himself our flesh, was tempted in every way as we have been, and became the Man of Sorrows because sin had sunk us so very low? Because we are flesh and blood, we need to know that our God and Father enters into our sufferings with us; he does so through Jesus Christ, the Lover of our soul. We need to know that he pities us in our struggles, sympathizes with us in our weaknesses, and groans with us in our groaning; he does so through the intercession of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit (Heb. 5:8-9; Rom. 8:26). So necessary is it for us to know God’s tenderness, David pleads: “Lord, let your tender mercies come to me, that I may live. My redeemed yet afflicted soul cries from the deeps to your deeps, the depths of your compassion for me (Ps. 42:7). I can endure anything if I know you are sympathizing and upholding me by your power, wisdom, and goodness. I will live if I feel your tender love for me.” And let me live “because your law is my delight.” Again, David pleads for tenderness from the Lord because he loves his word and would love and obey it more.

Modern views of God, even in the church, simply will not suffice. They are either giddy, as if God is a cheerleader or master therapist, or cold, like Europe’s empty cathedrals of stone. Such a God does not exist. He has made us for himself. He has given us his Son to be our Head and has so joined us to him that we are crucified and raised together with him. It is no longer we who live, but Christ himself, by his Spirit, who lives in us. He is full of tender mercy; his arms are open to us. His compassion is not empty words but eternal power and faithfulness joined with wisdom and goodness. His love is not the ever-changing feelings of the religious enthusiast but the steady, sworn, and vigilant affection of his own heart for us. His tenderness is our life. And he will so work that we will feel this to be the case. We can hardly learn this, so chained to the earth are our affections, unless he gradually, though sometimes with greater energy and rapidity, removes all the artificial props and vain trifles upon which we waste so much time and attention. He will have us love him supremely, to know the height, width, depth, and breadth of his love for us in Jesus Christ. He will have us feel how much we need his pity and kindness, for we are his dependents, created and redeemed to know that he is our life. We are also his friends and servants, and he will have us both know the privilege of having him for our reward and devote ourselves cheerfully to his service. Often, as we see here, troubles are his best rod of correction, for through them he testifies to his love for us, that his intent is our reformation, not destruction, that our destiny is to be with him forever, enjoying his goodness and kindness in heaven. Receive afflictions, then, child of God, and when they come, plead his kindness and pity. Our redeemed souls were made over in Christ to be filled with them, to taste and see his goodness, and to be satisfied with him as our portion, even when the seas of life are raging around us, Satan fumes, and the proud mock our simple faith.

For Relief from the Proud (v. 78)

And mock they will. David’s afflictions commonly involved the lies and schemes of proud men, whom we have already encountered in this Psalm. Proud men hate humbled men. Indeed, if we wish to fight God’s battles and serve him truly, the best way to enlist under his banner is to be humbled before him and to make his goodness our only joy and strength. Then, we shall certainly call forth the ridicule of the world and find much opportunity to stand for the Lord’s truth and serve as his soldiers. How do proud men respond to calamity? They speak of recovery after disaster, but no repentance. They pour forth money to help “victims,” but no tears for their sins. They try and build a better Babel but would pull down Zion. They loathe those who speak of God’s judgments. When anyone humbly testifies to God’s goodness in preserving them through trouble, they shut their ears tightly, move quickly to a man of pride who speaks of his own fortitude and luck, and would, if God allowed them, blot out the memory of God-fearers from the face of the earth. Satan tolerates no reminders that troubles are God’s handiwork, that disasters are his judgments, that misery should lead us to him as our only refuge. But he is stymied, for the righteous know the Lord of goodness and tenderness. They plead with him: “Let the proud be ashamed; they deal wickedly; Lord, they hate us for no other reason than our faith in you and love for your word.” This plea, when the church makes it in faith, is the doom of arrogant men. It was our Savior’s plea: “All they that see me laugh me to scorn; be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help” (Ps. 22:7,11). By it he cast out Satan and is now spoiling his house (Luke 11:20; John 12:29-31).

God’s goodness and pity upon us have purposes far beyond simply giving us comfort in our sorrows and helping us in our weakness. His afflictions and preservations are part of a broader work in which he brings his people very low at times so that the power of Christ may rest upon them. He will use the weak to bring down the high and mighty (1 Cor. 1:27-28). He uses humble, gospel preaching to overthrow his self-willed despisers. So, when we are brought low by pain and trouble, when we are so reduced that our only comfort is God’s promises, it is so that, humbled by our sins and led to cast ourselves upon his covenanted love and tenderness, he might raise us up, high above our enemies. Thus, we must “possess our souls in patience,” for God is waging a continual war against human pride. It will be exposed as chaff, overthrown, and cast into everlasting hell. As we watch and wait, and sometimes suffer for righteousness’ sake, we must “meditate upon God’s precepts.” This is not passive, isolationist spirituality. God’s precepts guide us as we seek to serve God in this battle. They encourage us that Christ, not man, is King. They lead us to God’s promises as our sure rock and refuge. They will never be disappointed. The hope of the wicked, however, will perish (Job 8:13; Prov. 10:28; 11:7), as will their arrogance and torments against the righteous. But those who build their lives upon God’s precepts, upon the words of Jesus Christ, will sometimes be battered by all God’s storms, but they will stand, shining forever as the sun in the kingdom of God (Matt. 13:43; Phil. 2:15). How this hope must light our way, encourage us in suffering, and fill us with courage in withstanding evil men! We must plead with God to destroy the pride of man and bring all to see their absolute dependence upon God, their need of his love and compassion.

That I May be Whole and Confident (v. 80)

When we turn to the Lord in our hardships, along with desiring his goodness and compassion, in addition to desiring for him to overturn the schemes of the proud in heart, we must plead with him to give us a heart that is sound in his word. “Soundness” is moral wholeness, integrity, a profession that is consistent with the true condition of the heart. Afflictions reveal whether our heart is sound or not: do we turn more to God’s word and away from our own thoughts? Or do afflictions reveal our hypocrisy, inconstancy, and bitterness? Heavenly fires, for so we must consider all our troubles to be, are like a smelting furnace that separates the pure metal from the impure dross. David feels his weakness. It is easy to complain when our house burns down. Many will take disease as an opportunity to “become a survivor.” Very few are humbled before God in the face of hardship. This is because we are not single-minded, or, as our Savior said, “Our eye is not whole” (Matt. 6:22-23). Our faith is not fixed upon God and his promises. The single desire of our lives is not that God may be glorified and that we may enjoy him, whatever may happen to us. Then, when adversity comes, our impurities rise to the surface. Perhaps it is an underlying pride. It may be covetousness, bitterness, or anger. This prayer for “soundness” must become more of our beating heart for the Lord. “Lord, give me singleness of desire for you; make your word the very core of my affections, thinking, and habits; so work in me that I may be a man or woman of integrity.” If this is our prayer in affliction, we shall never be put to shame, either before our Father or before men. We may be brought very low. We may feel like Jonah in the depths of the sea, there for our own folly. We may be drowning, like Peter who was sinking because he took his eyes off the Lord. All God’s waves and billows will go over us at times. He would not be a faithful and true Father if they did not. If our plea is for integrity of heart, however, if his afflictions bring us to our senses, our hope shall never be disappointed. He loves us and has brought adversity upon us for this very reason: that we may know that he is our Rock, stand amazed before his love and mercy, and depend upon his word as an unassailable foundation.

All Our Good in God's Word

April 10, 2011 Series: Scripture: Psalm 119:65-72 by Chris Strevel

65   TETH. Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O LORD, according unto thy word.

66   Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments.

67   Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.

68   Thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes.

69   The proud have forged a lie against me: but I will keep thy precepts with my whole heart.

70   Their heart is as fat as grease; but I delight in thy law.

71   It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.

72   The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.

In His Dealings with Us (v. 65)

We ought never to doubt the Lord’s faithfulness to us, for he has been good to us all our lives. There is never a time we have called upon him without receiving a better, wiser, and more satisfying answer than anything we could ever have asked or imagined (Eph. 3:20). Never has a temptation assailed us, a fear overwhelmed us, a doubt troubled us, a burden weighed upon us or a need arisen that, when we have sought him, he has not proven himself to be our loving Father. He is always willing to help us. His ear is always open to our cries. He is armed with unconquerable omnipotence on the one hand, and loving faithfulness to us on the other. It is true that we may not have known what we truly needed, thus leading him to do something very different from our request. We may have waited a long time for him to answer, but even in this he showed his goodness and wisdom, for the chief benefit of prayer lies not so much in receiving what we need but in seeking and finding him. Thus, even if, like with Paul, he says to us that he wants us to continue carrying a particular burden, to suffer with a disease, and or to face such pressing need that we must seek our daily bread moment by moment from his hand to our mouth, he then comes to us with something better than an easier load, better health, or earthly plenty. He gives us himself. He says through his Son: “My grace is sufficient for thee; my strength is made perfect in thy weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9-10). Thus, cannot we also say with David, “Thou hast dealt well with thy servant?” Has he ever been unfaithful or unkind? Stingy? Hard? Indifferent? No, his goodness and mercy have followed us all the days of our lives (Ps. 23:6), even in times when we did not seek him as we should, sinned against his love, and took his goodness for granted. This is true for all of us, yet our gratitude should be especially pointed if he saved us later in life, drawing us to himself out of our blindness and hardness, or, having saved us early, recovered us after a period of wandering and rebellion. Our common testimony is and will ever be: “Great is thy faithfulness” (Lam. 3:23).

But unless we are persuaded of his goodness to us, assured of his love, and humbled by his faithfulness, we shall never call upon him with confidence. As Paul wrote: “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). The very reason we call upon our God and Father is because he possesses in abundance what we lack, whatever it may be. Even more, we believe that he will hear and answer us, supplying what we lack from his liberality. And when we call to mind how his goodness has hounded us all our days – and, O, how we ought to call to mind each new day and throughout the day the specific, numerous instances of his love and faithfulness – each new need, trial, and conflict must be met by calling upon him in faith and confidence. All his past goodness is his pledge to be good to us in the present and future, for he does not change. His goodness can never be exhausted. In fact, his goodness and grace increase continually to those who call upon him (Ps. 84:7; John 1:16). We might say that his all-sufficient love is progressively unfolded to us the more we believe his promises, make it the settled habit of our lives to call upon him, and never undertake anything without setting our hearts to seek him. Then, we shall never lack proof of his abundant goodness to us, for he delights in showing himself generous, merciful, and faithful to his people (Mic. 7:18).

Lest our expectation be presumptuous, David grounds his confidence in God’s goodness upon his word. First, God has made many precious promises to us. He made these promises without any regard to our worth or worthlessness; the former is his grace, the latter his mercy. He has made promises because goodness is his nature. This cuts off any thought that we can enjoy his goodness on our own terms, that his goodness is a blank check for us to satisfy our fleshly cravings (James 4:3), or that we may expect it because we somehow deserve it. No, his is a revealed goodness, and we must learn of it in Scripture, for in our sinfulness, we are blind to God’s mercy and goodness that are truly “over all his works” (Ps. 145:9). We will never know God’s goodness – what it truly is, how he shows it, why it is certain – unless we are taught by his word. Then, in that David is speaking of his personal experience of God’s goodness, by adding “according to thy word” he directs our attention to God’s faithfulness. He has made promises to us. His goodness is sworn, covenanted, pledged. So in celebrating God’s goodness, David is not sitting back in some kind of self-contented posture, as if he is saying to his soul: “Take thy ease” (Luke 12:19). On the contrary, by remembering God’s former goodness to him, he is stirring himself up to seek his only good in God, thanking the Lord for his many benefits, and resting joyfully in God’s promises. Whatever his present need may be – and our need is always far greater than we can know – he knows that the same God who has done so much good to him in the past will continue to be faithful. By this we are taught to seek not only our personal good in God but also every specific blessing we need. Moreover, David’s expectation of receiving God’s goodness is tied inseparably to his commitment to serve the Lord, however hard his path may be. That is, we have no legitimate expectation of his goodness – though since he is good to us despite our unfaithfulness, we ought to be even more humbled before him – unless we are devoted to his word and seek his goodness so that we may be able to walk with him more faithfully, contentedly, and usefully.

Each one of us must think often of the Lord’s goodness to us, especially since our Lord Jesus Christ has now come and since we see clearly that it is through his blood and righteousness that all of God’s promises are secured to us (2 Cor. 1:20). Not a day, even a portion of a day must pass, without some heartfelt praise and gratitude that our Savior, by bearing our curse and being numbered among the transgressors for us, has lavished our Father’s favor upon us, securing heaven itself for us by his intercession. And since the Father has given us his Son, “Shall he not with him also freely give us all things” (Rom. 8:32)? In giving us his Son, our Father pledges to give us all everything else we need for life and godliness. And seeing how well he has dealt with us according to his word, should we not give ourselves to him, desire him above all, and esteem his word beyond all ability of words to express it? He has kept his word; he has saved us from our sins, laying them upon his beloved Son, crucifying him rather than tormenting us in hell forever. He will certainly deal well with us, show us continued good by “lifting up the light of his countenance upon us” (Ps. 4:6), hearing our cries through his Son (1 John 2:1-2), and following us all our days with his goodness and mercy. This is the glorious substance of our confidence: that our God and Father delights in treating us with kindness. Should we not be humbled by our sins, turn from them, and walk with the Lord more closely? Must we not devote our lives to his pleasure, serving him, confessing him, and sharing with all that the Lord has had compassion upon us? Then, as his rejoicing, thankful servants, we may stand assured, whatever befalls us, that our Father will continue to deal well with us, “supplying all our needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

Our First Desire (v. 66)

Here we see why David began this section by confessing God’s goodness to him. He desires above all to have God for his teacher. This seems to be the plea that unites these verses. It is not enough for us to receive God’s gifts and enjoy them. If our hearts are humbled before him as they should be, his goodness leads us to desire him more. The more we taste of his goodness, the more we want our hearts to look to him as our only good and for him to take us by the hand and lead us in his service. In other words, our gratitude for his goodness must be expressed; our praise and glorying in the Lord will not be silent (Ps. 30:12). The way we express our joy in the Lord is by placing ourselves under his authority, as joyful sons and faithful servants. We want “good judgment” so that we may understand the way we are to live in our individual circumstances, our domestic and public duties, and our specific callings. We feel deeply that we shall soon go astray into crooked paths unless he gives us wisdom and understanding. We also desire “knowledge,” so that we may know him better, which is eternal life (John 17:3), contend earnestly for his word (Jude 3), and grow in knowledge of his word (2 Pet. 3:18). The dynamic here is glorious. If we know God’s goodness savingly, if, instead of his gifts making us fat with self-contentedness and used only to satisfy our covetousness (Deut. 32:15), they instead humble us, fill us with thankfulness, and inspire us to love and serve him more, our first desires tend toward devoting ourselves more to knowing him. Who is our God? Why has he been so good to me when I have been so unthankful and wicked? How can I know more of his love? What is his will for my life so that I may devote myself more fully to him? Though “I am small and despised,” how can I serve him more, even if it is with one small talent (Ps. 119:141)? But I need for him to teach me, to give me judgment and knowledge as his choicest gifts. I would not remain ignorant, as many do who are characterized more by religious “heat” than a settled understanding of his word. They quickly go astray, for religious fervor without solid knowledge is useless zeal that quickly dissipates before Satan’s assaults and the world’s temptations. I want him to keep my feet on the right path. His goodness, therefore, always leads to the assurance that he will teach us (Ps. 25:10). He gave us his Son not simply to save us from hell but so that we may be “filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Col. 1:9).

And notice that David makes his request from a heart that has “believed thy commandments.” This is an odd saying, for while we can understand “believing God’s promises,” to substitute “commandments” for “promises” seems an unlikely switch. Part of this is resolved if we recognize that “commandments” here likely stands for the whole of God’s revealed will, whether summarized in the Ten Commandments or found throughout Scripture. Yet we should also recognize that God’s commandments are not given to us simply to obey as automatons but to be believed and adored as setting forth the path of blessedness. In other words, our faith extends to all that God has said. We know that his commands show us the way to please him and find true joy in him. The more we taste of God’s kindness to us, the more we confess with our Savior and Head: “My meat is to do the will of him who sent me” (John 4:34). Obeying God is what feeds us, satisfies us, and increases our joy (John 15:8-10). Obeying God is our life. The world says otherwise: obeying God is restrictive, harsh, boring, for old ladies. Faith says: “No matter what others tell me, no matter how much happiness they seem to find in living as they please, I believe, Father, that your commandments are the only way of joy and peace. I want to obey you. This is my only good, my first desire, now that I have tasted something of your goodness to me in Jesus Christ.”

Now, it is the desire of all who are united to Jesus Christ to grow both in sound judgment and in knowledge. A living union with the eternal word will manifest itself in the desire for understanding. We cannot be joined to him, the eternal Word, have his life in us, and be sealed with his Spirit without at the same time being taught by him and having some desire to grow in wisdom and knowledge. It is more than a duty; it is an objective and organic reality secured by his life in us, that it is not “we who live, but Christ who lives in us.” Such judgment and knowledge are more than intellectual comprehension, though it is certainly included. Few things are more deplorable in the church than the scanty knowledge most professing believers have of God’s revealed will. Ignorance is no virtue, though for many, heightened emotions are preferable. This is because we tend to view the Christian faith romantically; it is not what you know, but how you feel; not how you live but that you live according to your own dreams and desires without anyone ever calling anything you do into question. We see what such willful ignorance has produced: loss of our doctrinal heritage and confessions, confusion respecting even the most basic revealed truths, compromise with the world’s systems of thought and life, and general inability to “contend earnestly for the faith once for all given to the saints.” How can we contend for what we do not know or understand? For what should I fight except for my right to indulge my feelings and express myself as I wish? Who are you to tell me otherwise? Ignorance, therefore, is a bane to the people of God. He needs no ignorant servants, for whom a verse or two is the only light they possess, who have not exercised themselves upon God’s precious word, and who are far more knowledgeable about the latest styles and trends in pop culture and the headlines of the city of man than they are of Scripture. Such a state is the reason for the disunity of the church; how can there be unity without understanding, when people gather together into bodies not because of unity in the truth but in feeling, preference for musical styles, and any number of other consumer preferences that have no warrant in Scripture? At a more individual level, how can we serve God, understand our times, and speak efficaciously of our Savior unless our whole selves are saturated with his word, believing his word, and desiring his word above all? If we have tasted of God’s goodness, we will seek for him to be our only teacher. As his teaching is never ineffectual but is the “light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ,” if we are seeking him as our good, we will necessarily grow in understanding and knowledge. We will put unnecessary and useless things aside that we may grow in the knowledge of him. His goodness leads us to him, to his word, to maturity in judgment and knowledge, that Spirit-wrought comprehension of the will of God, delight in God’s truth, and wisdom in his service.

Afflicted for Our Good (vv. 67,72)

Very few will choose this path on their own. We are easily distracted anyway, but how much more when distraction is practically considered a cultural birthright? Truly disciplining ourselves in God’s word will encounter much opposition from the flesh, from the world, and from the devil. Other things, worldly things, transitory things push their way forward for our consideration; we think we cannot live without them. They become our first desire. The Lord knows this, which is the reason he brings all his children through the school of affliction. Afflictions come in different shapes and sizes. Great or small, life-threatening or merely troubling, they are always perfectly suited to topple the individual and collective idols of our hearts. The more we know ourselves truly, the more we sense our need of correction. In fact, we thank God, as David does twice in this small span, for the adversities he sends into our lives. We know that we will never feel God’s goodness as we should and never believe his commandments as we ought unless the dross in our lives is purged away, unless the Lord does what is necessary to bring us to see and hold him as our highest good and joy. This we cannot do until our stubbornness is corrected, for we never let go of our idols willingly. David admits this. Before affliction, he was straying from the Lord. Now, this does not mean that the course of his life was willful, presumptuous sinning, for we know what God’s grace had made of David. Even so, he honestly recognizes a tendency to walk contrary to the Lord’s commands. Thus, the Lord showed great goodness to David by afflicting him in various ways, for the intent of affliction is not to crush him forever or drown him in sorrow and bitterness but to purify him and lead him to see that God’s word was his greatest good.

Faith sees this goal in God’s afflictions. Behind the trouble and sorrow of the moment, and God’s afflictions are never a matter for levity or stoicism, for we shall feel them deeply, David discerned God’s smiling face and love working great good in him. There can be no greater good for us, after all, than, being emptied of ourselves and having our folly and worldliness exposed, for us to be brought to cling to God’s word alone. If afflictions are seen for what they in fact are, God’s chastening hand, we learn to “keep God’s word” in exactly those areas in which before we were willful. We learn not only that sin displeases God, but also that it is the source of our misery. Too often we think and live as if not having what we want is what makes us unhappy and discontent. No, since the Lord has made us for himself and redeemed us to be filled with his Spirit and be governed by him unto our joy, disobeying him is our greatest misery. Of course the world laughs at this, for it almost always defines misery as being deprived of some earthly good, whether wealth, health, or relationships. This is only because the world is blind to its true plight and thinks its highest good is to be found in people, possessions, or pleasures. No, whether we recognize it or not, and we rarely do at the time God sends afflictions, misery is not possessing and enjoying him as our highest good. When he brings afflictions, he corrects our waywardness and our blindness, casts down all our delusions, and leads us gently as our merciful Father to find in him our joy, peace, and happiness. In fact, we cannot otherwise know the certainty or feel the preciousness and power of God’s word unless he brings afflictions upon us to such an extent that we are reduced to calling upon him as our only hope (Ps. 50:15). Can we know what a wondrous Shepherd he is unless we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death?” Will we ever truly feel him to be our provider and guide unless all earthly helps fail us, and we are led to cast ourselves upon him? Will we ever see how bad we are, how much we are in need of his mercy, and how good he is without feeling his fatherly strokes, which we deserve and in which at the same time he mercifully preserves us, exposes our vanity, and shows himself our strength and security?

Yet, we must be even more pointed in trying to understand the afflictions our Father brings into our lives, whether individual or corporate chastisement for our sins or the refining fire by which he purifies the meek so that we might be conformed to the image of his Son. Afflictions must always, will always lead us back to God’s word. We cannot truly call affliction “good” unless we yield to the purpose for which our Father brings it. His intent is not simply to toughen us up at bit. Nor does he intend to make us morose, inwardly focused, or condemning of others who may be weaker because they have not yet been purified in the furnace of affliction as we feel we have been. Affliction is certainly no badge of honor if we are merely being chastened for our faults (1 Pet. 2:20). We profit from affliction only if it leads us back to God’s word as our life. In practical terms, this means that after a season of affliction, we love God’s word more than we did before. We mediate upon it more fervently, pray it more consistently, and cling to it more forcefully as our only anchor and refuge in the world. If after a season of affliction, we say: “Well, I am glad that is over; let me now get on with my life,” we have not profited from our afflictions at all. Worse ones may come, at least if we truly belong to the Lord, until we feel our pride rebuffed and reduced, our love for the world broken, and our desire for God to lead us by his word greatly intensified. The Lord chastens us for this ultimate purpose: to make his word our joy and delight, that we might give ourselves to it and make our first desire to be taught and led by him. This is the reason that we look differently, talk and feel differently, and relate to others differently after the Lord has afflicted us, at least if we have responded to his hand rightly. We do not complain, for we recognize his afflictions as good. We do not boast that we made it through, for he has become even more our only boast. We do not hide our sins as much, love our sins as much, or find delight in the world as much. Why? We are more like David: “Lord, you have greatly afflicted me, but now I love your word more. I am a broken but wiser man because you have thus dealt with me. I love you more for discipling me as your son. I more clearly see now that before I was not delighting in your word as I should have. I loved the world too much, myself too much. What I really want now is to be more crucified with Christ and have his life in me. I want him to dwell in me by his word.” Then, we have profited from our afflictions, and his word becomes our joy, strength, and song.

God’s Own Goodness, and Our Response (v. 68)

Especially through affliction, then, we confess to the Lord: “Thou art good.” It is as if we say, “Lord, I know now how much I need you to confront my sins, chasten me, and draw me to yourself as my good. Thank you for treating me as your child, helping me to see that many of my loves were misplaced and wasted upon things that cannot satisfy. I humbly received your fatherly rod as your protective, jealous attack against the false loves of my life. Continue to do good to me, to teach me that you are my only good.” God is good in himself, of course. He is not good as measured against a higher standard of goodness but defines goodness. Whatever he does is good exactly because he does it, for his goodness is self-defined and controlled by his own righteousness and holy character. God’s goodness is especially seen in his treatment of sinners. He is good to the undeserving, good to those who deserve his wrath, good to the rebellious and stubborn. He is good in that he is always performing and fulfilling his promises to us. He is good in that he blesses us with good things; he is supremely good in that he blesses us with himself. He is active in his goodness, energetic in his goodness, and constant in his goodness. How cold we are toward him when our hearts should be melted! He has fed us every day, forgiven all our sins through his Son’s sacrifice, promised us heaven, walks with us and guides us, and specifically watches over us with unceasing vigilance. We cannot recount his goodness. His thoughts toward us are too many, too high to comprehend, too wonderful to praise him sufficiently (Ps. 40:5). His goodness and constant doing of goodness must sustain our faith in seasons of affliction. However it may be going with us, we must always be rehearsing his goodness to us, hoping in his goodness, and praising him for his goodness (Ps. 107:8,15,21,31).

In the light of his goodness, we must ask him to teach us his statutes, to put his word in our hearts so that we may obey him. One reason he is good to us is so that we might be “led to repentance” (Rom. 2:4). We are to be so struck by his undeserved goodness that our rebellion, ingratitude, and disobedience are broken, that we are reduced to repentance before him and submission to him. We have not truly learned his goodness – and we cannot, unless he shows it to us by enlightening us through his word and Spirit – unless we are brought to this point: that my only response to his faithfulness, love, and kindness is for me to turn to him with all my heart and soul, forsake my sins, and devote myself to serving him. But we will know God’s goodness in this way only as he becomes our teacher. We would like to think of God’s gifts as being somehow deserved. When we do not have everything we would like or when life does not go the way we want, we blame him and impute stingy hardness to him. Our ingratitude and blindness take many forms, but the poison fountain from which they all flow is a failure to recognize that we deserve nothing from his hand but misery and judgment. We have forfeited all claims upon his goodness, not only by our treason in Adam but also and compounded by our actual transgressions, individually and corporately, familially and nationally. All the misery in the world is deserved; all the murders, diseases, starvations, and atrocities men have experienced are self-inflicted as well as divinely inflicted, and therefore just. When we receive any of his goodness, any happiness or health, provision or guidance, when he is patient and longsuffering with us, how our hearts should be overwhelmed that the holy, offended God has been good to this treasonous, vile sinner! Even the smallest token of his kindness should be enough to wed our hearts to him in love and fidelity forever. But he is not satisfied with mere drops of goodness; he inundates us with his kindness, supremely in Jesus Christ, in whom the headwaters of his eternal love, grace, and mercy flow in unending, rushing torrents of goodness. Should we not then ask him to be our teacher, to lead us in the paths of righteousness, and to conform our hearts and steps to his word? Thus alone do we truly and savingly know something of his goodness: when we confess his goodness in rebuking our rebellion, exposing our pettiness, selfishness, and pride, and making us loathe ourselves, our waywardness, and our sins. Then only are we led to praise him for his goodness and to be led by him as our greatest joy and good.

In the Face of Satan’s Lying Schemes (vv. 69-70)

But this kind of thinking is not the material of pleasant stories and idyllic lives. One way the Lord is pleased to afflict his people and create longing within our souls for his word is to bring great discomfort to us in the world. The proud, of course, will not admit God’s goodness. All they have, they think deserved; all they lack, they think unfair. Their heart is fat, for they have their portion in this life, but it is not satisfied. If they have much, they worry and fret; if they have little, they grumble and curse. And their wrath, like Satan’s, the father of lies, turns inevitably to those who rejoice in God’s grace and are patient in tribulation. The proud hate and persecute the righteous because their submission to God is a constant reminder of their rebellion against him. Their hatred and ridicule are a reflection of their inner guilt and sense of alienation from God, though they cannot see and will never admit this. The righteous are the light of the world; proud men hate the light. It exposes their true darkness, their lives of darkness, their destiny of darkness. Their lies against the righteous – that they are ignorant, bigoted, enemies of humanity, dangerous agents of outdated religious propaganda – are inspired by Satan. Cast out of heaven, bound in his power and activity, he still does all in his power to vex and hound us as we seek to follow God’s truth. So how are we to respond to the world’s malicious lies, ridicule, and opposition? As David frequently confesses in this Psalm, we are to be the more determined “to keep his precepts with our whole heart, to delight in his law.” The more the world harasses, embarrasses, and slanders, the more we are to “commit our souls to him that judges righteously” (1 Pet. 2:23). The Lord is collecting all our tears in his bottle (Ps. 56:8), which is not said to make us passive sufferers but active confessors of the Lord and ardent devotees of his word. He knows what we suffer for his name. O, that it might be truly for his name and not for our folly, that the animosity of the proud does not justly fall upon us but that our lives are testimonies to our commitment to God and his word! Let us not be surprised then, or think it strange, if the world hate us, for it hated and hates our Lord. Rather, let us prepare ourselves ahead of time that our enjoyment of God’s goodness does not mean we shall have problem-free lives or that the world will receive us with open arms. It had better not, or we have no part in Jesus Christ. We shall overcome the world because our Savior did, and we shall overcome it in exactly the same way as he: by being humbled before God, making obedience to him the satisfying meat of our lives, and by establishing our complete happiness in him, so that however the world treats us, his goodness overwhelms us, delights us, and unites our hearts to love and keep his word.

Our Incomparable Treasure (v. 72)

All of this – God’s good dealing with us, his refining afflictions, his love in Christ – are so that we might consider his word to be our treasure. And not just any treasure, for his word is without exaggeration said to be here “better unto us than thousands of gold and silver.” In other words, if our hearts are struck with God’s goodness as they should be, we will hold his word to be worth more than anything else: one page, one line, one promise worth more than all the treasures in the world. Affliction teaches us this, for then we cling to God’s word like a shipwreck survivor clinging to a fragment of wood in the middle of the ocean. Being humbled by God’s goodness teaches us this, for then we see how faithful he is to his promises, even though we are poor, miserable sinners. Knowing God’s goodness, we must understand, is more than an occasional sense of being blessed. We truly know his goodness when we are led back to his word as our only and incomparable treasure. Yet how many in the church today have numerous Bibles lying nearby but are starved skeletons? God did not give us the law of his mouth or now provide for its copious printing and wide distribution, for any other reason than that we might devote our lives to its study, meditation, and obedience. Do we hold God’s word in such high honor? If we are humbled by his goodness, we shall – or at least we will give it more than passing lip-service. We shall hold every line in high esteem. We shall honor the memory of those who labored and died to hand on this treasure to us. In the face of Satan’s lies against God’s word, even though many of his lies against the Bible originate among its professing friends, the many wolves that maraud through Christ’s camp to make disciples for themselves, we shall confess it without embarrassment, apology, or hesitation. This word has saved me, for through it God himself has saved me. He has given me himself through his word. He has given me his Son through the word of his promise. All of the Scriptures are now gathered, fulfilled, and realized in him. To have God and his goodness, I must have Jesus Christ. To have him, I must have his word. This is my single treasure. I cannot think of one without the other. Even in heaven, where we think printed copies of Scriptures unnecessary, will not the law of his mouth, heard more immediately and in complete agreement with his written word, be my greatest joy and delight – for him to speak to me, teach me, and guide me forever? Did he not keep a copy of his law in the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of his presence? Did not our Savior, the living word, know these very Scriptures, fight off Satan with them, and go to the cross in full assurance that God’s word must be fulfilled? Have not the martyrs laid down their lives because they had “the faith of Jesus and kept the commandments of God?” Glory of glories, God has given us this treasure, placed it in our very hands, and preserved it against all of Satan’s lies. His goodness continually leads us back to it, as do the afflictions that expose and throw down our false hopes and vanities. He pledges to be our teacher. Will we, will not the church, give herself again to his treasure? Will we read and re-read it, lovingly meditate and pray over every line, defend this blood-sealed treasure with our lives? Should God’s word not become our chief, consuming interest? When we are humbled by his goodness to us in Jesus Christ, it will become so.

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