Sermons in this series
Passage - Psalm 19
If you've ever been on a diet you know that the things which are best for you have a tendency to taste the worst and the things which are bad for you have a tendency to taste the best. Furthermore, the things which are bad for you seem to be everywhere and are readily available, while the things which are good for you are not as easy to come across and have seem to cost you more.
There are many parallels to these truths in the spiritual realm. The things which are bad for you spiritually, which are bad for your soul, as sure as a Big Mac is bad for your body, these things seem to be everywhere. They are on television, on line, on the radio, at the water cooler and in the break room at your office. As sure as a Krispy Kreme doughnut appeals to you when you're on a diet, these things appeal to your fleshly appetites. And yet they are not good for you. In order to avoid those things which will be toxic to your spiritual health, and to take in those things which will make you a stronger and healthier Christian, you have to be intentional. You have to be disciplined.
This morning we're talking about what we eat, not physically but spiritually. We're talking about Bible intake, about absorbing God's word into our lives and allowing it to nourish us and to conform us to the image of Christ.
In approaching this topic the difficulty I had was in deciding on which passage to teach. Throughout scripture, from the early pages of the Pentateuch, through the last book of the bible, scripture is filled with admonition after admonition about reading and applying God's word.
In the beginning, God spoke and the world was created. God's word is so powerful that it can make something out of nothing. In the Garden of Eden, it was a violation of God's word which led to the fall of humanity. When Israel made its covenant with God, God told them to be diligent to do all the He had told them, and to teach His law to their children. David devotes entire Psalms to the word of God. When revival broke out in Israel in the time of Nehemiah, it was because Ezra read from the word of God. When Jesus was tempted in the desert, he rebuked the devil and said that man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds forth from the mouth of God. It is the Word of God that produces faith and leads us to salvation for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Nothing is as important in the spiritual growth of a believer as is the regular intake of Scripture.
It is to that end that I invite your attention this morning to Psalm 19. (read Psalm in entirety)
Psalm 19 is dedicated to God's revelation of Himself to humanity. We've all heard verse one, which says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handywork." The first six verses of this Psalm speak to us about the revelation of God in nature. God is always about the business of revealing Himself to man, His crowning creation. So that no one can stand before Him and claim they did not know there is a God. This is what scripture says in Romans 1:20 which says, "For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse."
From general revelation in the first six verses the Psalmist moves to written revelation in the last half of this Psalm. Along with Psalm one hundred and nineteen, this is one of the most important descriptive pieces of wisdom literature with respect to the word of God.
As we deal with Scripture intake this morning, as a spiritual discipline, we're going to begin by looking at what the Bible tells us about itself and the role it plays in the life of the believer. So we'll focus on verses 7-14.
Notice several things this text tells us about the word of God.
I. A description of the Word of God - Verses 7-9
"The Law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul."
1. It is perfect
That means it is without blemish, and is complete, lacking nothing. Perfection here speaks to wholeness, it has lost nothing and its perfection is the basis within which all of the other characteristics of God's word is found.
Within God's word we find everything we need to know about who God is and who we are. It tells us about the devastating effects of our sins and the perfect sacrifice of our Savior. It tells us all we need to know about eternity and about how we can come to be in fellowship with God. It is complete. We don't need another testimony, as the Mormons would try and tell us. We don't need a watered down witness, like that which the liberals have set forth. God's word is perfect, restoring the soul.
This word "restore," in the Hebrew can mean to revive, but it can also mean to return, as in repent. In fact, one of the more common uses of this verb is to describe human repentance and obedience to God and His word. In fact, the NKJV says, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul."
As God's word is perfect, its effect on the soul who reads it and applies it is that it calls us back into right relationship with God. It restores or returns us to God. It is God's means by which He draws us back into right relationship with Himself. This is a constant necessity in our spiritual life, to be drawn back into fellowship with God when we allow actions or attitudes to draw us away. This is one of the functions of God's word.
Secondly, "The Testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple."
The NIV says that the testimony of the Lord is "Trustworthy." We can rely upon it. When all around us there are conflicting messages as to what truth is, God's word does not change, it is sure, it is trustworthy,
The word "Simple," in the Hebrew is more aligned with naïve than it is to our English word "simpleton." It does not speak of one who is incapable of understanding knowledge, nor does it speak to one who is unwilling to receive knowledge, but simply of one who is lacking in knowledge.
The idea here is that for those who are truly looking for answers, who are coming to scripture with an open mind, God will reveal Himself in such a way through His word that it will make them wise. And of course, as Psalm 111:10 says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." The word of God is a sure and true witness, it will inculcate within the open minded reader a fear for God, which is where wisdom begins. And as that fear of God grows, we will grow in our understanding of who He is and how He works. This too is part of our spiritual development. God's word makes us wise, without it we will stumble around in the foolishness of our own thoughts and desires. Next he says that…..
"The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart."
A precept is a directive which, if followed, will lead one to the goal of faithful living. It carries with it the idea of orders or directions, like a marked line on a road map, which if followed allow you to go where you God wants you to go.
God's directions, His precepts are always right. They never mislead, they never take you down a dead end, and they are never out of date. They are always right. It is impossible to grow increasingly conformed to the image of Christ without His direction. As the old hymn says:
"He leadeth me, oh blessed thought, O words with heavenly comfort fraught. What e'r I do, where e'r I be, still tis God's hand that leadeth me."
And they rejoice the heart, or bring joy to the heart, not only because they save you from the heartbreak which invariably comes when we deviate from God's word but because they keep you on the paths of righteousness, God's precepts keep you in right relationship with God.
God's word may seem restrictive, but God never intended it to harm us, but rather to help us. He did not give us His word to be a burden to us but rather to be a blessing to us. You stop and think about it. If everyone in this world lived in accordance with the precepts of God's word this world would be a wonderful place. There would be no violence, no greed, no war, no murder, no hate, no selfishness and no rebellion. It is precisely because people have chosen to disregard God's word that the world is in such a mess. God's word gives us guidance and leads us into joy.
"The precepts of God are right, rejoicing the heart."
"The Commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes."
The word pure here, is often used to describe the purity and radiance of sunlight. In fact, the NIV translates this "The commands of the Lord are Radiant, giving light to the eyes."
This is in keeping with Psalm 119: 105 which says, "Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path." Proverbs 6:23 says, "For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light."
The apostle John, in John 1 describes Jesus as the Living Word of God who is the true light Who enlightens everyman in the world.
God's word sheds light on an otherwise dark pathway. Like the brilliance of the morning sun cutting through the darkness at dawn, God's word casts the darkness aside and enables us to see clearly. Through it He shows us where to step, how to walk, what to avoid and which way to go. It enlightens, illuminates or gives light to the eyes of our understanding. How else can we see, if not for the light of His word? "The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes."
"The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever."
The fear of the Lord is clean…the word fear here is used as a synonym for the word of God because, as we have seen, the fear of the Lord is one of the effects of God's word has upon the heart.
The fear of the Lord is clean, that is, it has a purifying effect on us and it endures forever. It does not change.
First Peter 1:24-25 assure us that, "All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the word which was preached to you."
You see, the purifying effect of God's word is that it shows us how to be in right relationship with God and that relationship is something which endures forever.
"The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever."
"The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether."
God's judgments are true. The word judgment here speaks to what God says ought to be, it is His judgment, His decision, His declaration about what should be and what should not be. And when God speaks it is always true.
As God reveals Himself to us in His word, He tells us the truth about things. He tells us the truth about sin, about forgiveness, about heaven and about hell. His word is true. It never misleads and is never ambiguous. It is true.
In the ancient near east the pagans worshiped gods which were malicious, tricky and capricious. They were always at odds with one another and in their pantheon, they could never be sure which god was really ruling and what he or she might demand from them. They could never be sure if they story their priests were telling them was true or not, their gods changed.
Contrast this to what David says about God's word. It is true. It is altogether righteous, that is, it shows us what righteousness looks like, in His word God describes righteousness. It gives us a true guide as to how God would have us live.
It is true and altogether righteous. In a world filled with such uncertainty, with so many competing opinions of right and wrong, God's word serves as an indispensable tool for the believer. In it we have a sure and certain word from God Himself. It is perfect, it is sure, it is right and it is pure, it is clean and it is righteous. What a description of the word of God.
But not only does this Psalm give us a description of the word of God, it speaks to us about a desire for the word of God. Look at verse 10
II. A desire for the Word of God - Verse 10
Look at what David says in verse 10 "They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb."
Notice that he talks about the desirability or value of God's word, within the context of both wealth and that which is sweet to the taste.
David says that God's word is sweeter than honey or the drippings from the honeycomb. Why? It all has to do with the person who reads it and the Person who wrote it.
The Bible is God's word and if we are in love with God, then His word is precious to us, like gold, and it is sweet to us, like honey. This truth came home to me this week when I went to the mailbox and received a letter from our son Joel, who is still in boot camp. Given his schedule he gets to write about one letter a week and if we get a letter from him it usually comes on Thursday.
This last Thursday I went to the mail box and there was no letter there. But remembering that Monday of last week had been a holiday I thought, perhaps it will come on Friday. Friday morning Diane and I got up and after leaving the house the first place we went was the post office. And there, in our little mail box was a letter from Joel. Now, he is my son. I love him more than my own life. I can promise you that as I read his words, about how God was working in his life, about how his prayers were being answered and about which one of his friends he wanted us to pray for, those words….that letter, was more precious to me than gold and it was sweeter than anything you could imagine. Why? Well, it all had to do with who wrote it and who received it. It had to do with the relationship between the two.
That's how we, as God's children, should love His word. It is desirable. But it is also discerning.
Look at verses 11-13.
III. The discernment of the Word of God - Verses11-13
It warns us - It warns us against sins which we commit inadvertently and of sins which we commit willfully and rewards us when we read it by helping us avoid falling into sin.
Verse 12 speaks of hidden faults, or those which we have a hard time discerning. All of us, because of our spiritual insensitivity, suffer from time to time with this malady. We do things, say things and approach things with the wrong attitude, not because we intentionally set out to do the wrong thing, but because we are spiritually insensitive. As we delve into God's word and allow it to dwell richly in us, God begins, through His word, to show us those things in our lives which we could in no other way see. These are hidden faults.
But secondly, in verse 13 it says that God's word reveals to us, or keeps us back, from presumptuous sins, sins which we willfully commit but presume we can get away with them or presume that because we have judged them to be insignificant, that they will somehow be insignificant in God's eyes.
These two areas, hidden faults, those sins of which we are unaware, and presumptuous sins, are two areas which set us back in our spiritual pilgrimage. They keep us from being all that God wants us to be. These two areas of sin, the unintentional and the presumptuous, cover every area of sin in our lives. Those which we do unconsciously and those which we commit willfully.
Only by regularly and intentionally reading God's word can we hope to gain the victory in these areas. One of the things we often forget is that God gave us His word, not primarily to fill our heads but to fill our hearts. His word is designed to make us holy, not merely smart.
Hebrews 4:12 promises us that, "the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart."
How desperately we need that! A tool to tell us the truth about our feelings, our thoughts and our intentions. It is easy for us to be fooled, and most often it is we who fool ourselves. God's word enables us to avoid being fooled because when we read it, God opens the eyes of our understanding and enables us to see the truth about ourselves. It is discerning.
The last part of verse 13 through verse 14 speak to the devotion of God's child. Here we find the attitude we should possess. As we read God's word. As we allow it to speak to our hearts, to direct us, to discern and show us our sins, our hearts desire should be that we are kept from sin and that we are pleasing in God's sight.
Look at these last few stanzas.
IV. The devotion of the child of God - Verse 14
David's desire is to be blameless, to stand before God in purity. The goal here is not sinless perfection but rather to avoid doing that which is displeasing to God.
Psalm 103 tells us that God knows our frame. He knows that we are but dust and He has compassion on us and pities us as a father pities his children. God knows we cannot be perfect, that's why He sent Jesus to die on the cross for us. But even though we cannot be perfect, we must still have a strong desire, a devotion that is evidenced as we seek to live lives that are pleasing and acceptable in God's eyes.
This is at the heart of how David wraps us this Psalm. He says, "I don't want sin to rule over me. I want to avoid that great transgression which will cause my life to be ruined. I want the very words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart to be acceptable in your sight."
How is this possible? Within the context it all has to do with hearing and obeying the word of the Lord. As Psalm 119 says, "Wherewithall shall a young man cleanse his ways, by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought Thee, oh let me not wander from Thy commandment, Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee."
Allow me to suggest five simple ways you can put this teaching into practice in your everyday life. Five practical steps to bible intake:
1. Read it
Get a plan, a through the bible in a year plan
Get a schedule - read it regularly
Get a version you understand - get a translation which is easy for you to read
2. Reflect upon it
a. Meditation means thinking about what God's word says, perhaps writing it down on a card so that you can go over it throughout the day will help you.
b. Ask yourself what God is saying to you about Himself through His word and what he wants you to do in response.
3. Remember it
a. Memorize it. Bible memorization is one of the most powerful tools in your discipleship toolbox. If you hid it in your heart, no one can take it from you and it will be there when you need it. God will bring it to your remembrance.
4. Recount it
a. Share it with someone. Tell others what God is saying to you through His word. You'd be amazed how hungry people are for spiritual truth. Share what you've learned with others.
5. Respond to it
a. Simply put, do it. Don't just be a hearer of the word, be a doer.