Holy Desires (Part Two)

Psalm 1:1-3

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers (NIV).

Since the Lord desires our joy, he urges us to turn from every path that would ruin us. The Lord tells us that the happy person does not delight in close companionship with people that he describes as wickedsinnersmockers. People so described do not manifest love for God or godly people in their attitudes, words, and actions. They must be avoided as close friends, because close friends become our “counselors”. They advise us not only by their words, but also by their way of life that they want us to share with them.

The psalmist sings of the importance of the mind. The struggle for our lives begins with our minds. Let’s think a little about how our minds get “tied” up in things. Our minds meditate on various thoughts of differing degrees of truth and value. A running back for the Eagles needs to know the offensive playbook thoroughly; it would be a waste of time for me to learn it, if I could. No one needs to know how to tell a lie, because we all are supposed to tell the truth. However, everyone should know how to be right with God through faith in Jesus Christ. From our thoughts, we form ideas—about God, ourselves, morals, etc., which control our viewpoints on life. Out of our ideas come our feelings or emotions, whether love, fear, joy, hope, etc. Our ideas and emotions join to determine the decisions we make

Everyone is giving and taking advice from others through various channels, such as friendship, books, movies, magazines, TV and radio talk shows, web pages, blogs, social media, schools, churches, and so on. Have you ever mistakenly said to someone, “I’d like to lose a few pounds.” What do you instantly hear—a ton of advice about diets and exercise, especially if that person has actually been successful about losing some weight! Giving advice is okay. Christians are called to be counselors. I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another (Romans 15:14). However, be sure that the advice you give is true and workable.

The Lord warns us about evil counsel. Sinful advice will affect your life in three ways. First, it will provide you wrong ideas to think about (“counsel of the ungodly”). Second, it will shape your behavior (“the way of sinners”). And third, it will change whom you feel you belong to (“seat of mockers”). Your attitude toward people will change. Where you drop your anchor is where your boat is going to end up.

To consider this a slightly different way, the psalmist paints of a picture of what happens to a person. If you listen to ungodly advice, you will shift to an ungodly lifestyle, which will result in attitudes that are far from God. A mocker is a person farthest from the point of having a change of mind (repentance). Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character (1 Corinthians 15:33 NIV).

Grace and peace, David

Holy Desires (Part One)

Psalm 1:1-3

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers (NIV).

As I write, we are in the second week of preseason football. In our locality, that means the Philadelphia Eagles, and I’m sure that every Eagle’s fan has a great desire to see them win. There is certainly nothing wrong in becoming a little enthusiastic about a sporting event, provided that you don’t let that control your life! Hopefully, the Eagles will have a successful season, although they face determined opponents; if they do, we will celebrate their victory.

God has given us many desires. The desire for victory is just one of them. God has made us to enjoy many things—food, water, beauty, rest, and so on. Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17 NIV). Our problem is not that we want to enjoy what God has given us for our enjoyment, but it is that we have too narrow an interest in what we want to enjoy, and far too often, we want to enjoy forbidden pleasures—things and activities that distract from God’s glory and ruin us—what the Bible calls sin. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

In a few articles, I want to direct our attention to holy desires. I call them holy desires, not to give the impression that some good things and actions are sacred and others secular, but because this psalm presents a desire for what is good in contrast to what is wicked. The First Psalm provides a series of contrasts between those who follow the Lord by faith and those who reject him and live according to human wisdom. What we want to focus on is the contrast between the godly and the ungodly regarding counsel or advice.

God wants us to live happy lives. We need to give an important clarification. When I say that the Lord God wants us to live happy lives, I am far from suggesting that the worthiness of a thought, word, action, or thing is determined by whether or not it makes you and me happy. Worthiness and holiness is always determined by God’s holiness and glory, whether we happen to like something or not. We know what God’s glory and holiness is from the Bible, God’s message. I am sure that the apostles totally disliked the experience of being flogged, but they came to know a greater joy in suffering for the glory of Jesus Christ. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name (Acts 5:41 NIV).

The correct nature of this statement is revealed through the many times that God in the Scriptures marks out for us what a happy life is.

  • Many statements in the Psalms – 1:2; 2:12; 32:1-2; 34:8; 40:4; 41:1-2; 65:4; 84:4-5, 12; 89:15; 94:12; 106:3; 112:1; 119:1-2; 128:1
  • The teaching of Jesus – Mt 5:3-12; 16:17; Lk 6:20-23; 11:28

Do we have a correct understanding of God? He really wants what is for our good. God knows where human happiness can be found, since he knows everything, he designed us to rejoice in God’s glory, and he tells us how we can have happy lives. Will we believe God?

Grace and peace, David

Blessing and Encouragement (Part One)

Genesis 48:8-22

It is remarkable that at the end of his life, Jacob became a prophet. He still had important work to do for the Lord. The latter days of God’s servants can be their best. Moses served the Lord constantly in the last third of his life. Don’t moan your way to glory. Trust God for grace and strength to glorify and to serve him until your last day.

In our text, we first see some common matters of life. When Israel saw the sons of Joseph, he asked, “Who are these?” “They are the sons God has given me here,” Joseph said to his father. Then Israel said, “Bring them to me so I may bless them.” Now Israel’s eyes were failing because of old age, and he could hardly see. So Joseph brought his sons close to him, and his father kissed them and embraced them. Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.” (Genesis 48:8-11 NIV).

Jacob was blind because of his age. It is a weakness of our fallen race (Ecclesiastes 12:3). Everyone who lives by sight rather than by faith will eventually lose their guide. Old age has burdens along with its blessings. You can’t have one without the other. But you can rejoice in what the Lord does in your weakness (cf. Romans 8:26; 2 Corinthians 4:16-17). The eye of faith may be clear when the eye of the flesh is very cloudy. You can see the kingdom of God when you can’t see the kingdoms of this world. By faith like Abraham, look for the city that has foundations (Hebrews 11:10). This we ought to do, rather than groan about the weakness of our failing bodies.

Jacob was affectionate toward his grandsons. He thought he would never see Joseph again, but he had the joy of seeing Joseph’s sons. Older people often have a special affection for their grandchildren, perhaps even more than they had toward their children. Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers (Proverbs 17:6 ESV). In his providence, God often blesses his people beyond what they might expect. Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know (Jeremiah 33:3 CSB). “God is much better to us than our fears; yea, far better than our hopes” (Spurgeon).

Jacob and Joseph acknowledged God’s providence in their lives. Joseph praised God for the children he gave him. Jacob rejoiced that he could see Joseph and his sons after years of thinking Joseph was dead and sons had never been born to him. Every good thing we enjoy is sweetened when we see that all comes from the hand of a loving Father. Here is the way for the godly to talk. Neither father nor son praised the false goddess Luck, but the true GOD. For what five blessings are you thankful to God right now?

Grace and peace, David

Reunion

Genesis 46:28-30

Now Jacob sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to get directions to Goshen. When they arrived in the region of Goshen, Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel. As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time. Israel said to Joseph, “Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive” (NIV).

We have seen God’s power at work many times in the life of Joseph. God spoke to Joseph through dreams, enabled him to interpret dreams, protected him from death a couple times, and helped him to endure terrible suffering and the near loss of hope. God also raised him from slavery and imprisonment to become the second in command in the kingdom of Egypt. In this section, we see God at work in a different way.

This incident is one of those times in the Scriptures when faith became sight, when hope received its fulfillment. Events of this type are recorded in the Bible for our encouragement, in order that we may have hope. For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope (Romans 15:4 NIV). Another example would be when the disciples saw Jesus risen from the dead. Let us remember that all Scripture is useful for training in righteousness. Instead of running to the Psalms automatically in your troubles, it might be to your profit to meditate on the historical parts of the Scriptures when you are depressed or discouraged. Think on what God has done for his people in the past and what he is able to do for you.

Jacob and the son he thought was dead had a happy reunion. Here is the mutual love of a godly father and his son for each other. The Holy Spirit shows the reality of these people. They were not wind-up, super-spiritual dolls. They had strong affections just as we do. God approves of such displays of love. Think of the reception of the lost son (cf. Luke 15:20). It is very manly and good to express love for one’s family like they did. There is a strange idea that has been circulating for many years: “Big boys don’t cry.” Perhaps boys don’t, for big boys often have mistaken notions of maturity. But godly men cry when it is appropriate (John 11:35; Philippians 3:18; Psalm 126:5-6).

Jacob acquiesced to what God had done: “Now I am ready to die….” He had seen the fulfillment of a dream. His dearly loved son is alive! God’s word has been proved true! Consider Simeon’s joy at seeing the infant Messiah (Luke 2:28-32).

Yet again, Jacob was mistaken in a way. He was ready to die, but it was not yet his time. In fact, Jacob still had 17 years to live (cf. 47:28). Over the years of being a pastor, I have seen many people live much longer than what the medical professionals thought possible. It is good to be ready to face the Lord, but we cannot determine that any particular event (except salvation) makes us ready. So then, don’t quit too soon! You don’t know what job the Lord might yet have for you to do for him. Old age brings a decline in strength, but it adds the benefit of vast life experience. Use what God gives you for his glory.

Grace and peace, David

The Attributes of God (Part Twelve)

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain (Psalm 139:1-6 NIV).

Each of the “omni” attributes can be very unsettling to humans, and it is good to be disturbed, if this disruption leads us to draw near to God and to worship and trust him. God’s omniscience means that the Lord knows everything. He knows all that has happened, is happening, and will ever happen (Genesis 15:13-16; Isaiah 42:9; Daniel 2:22; Matthew 6:8) in the whole universe. God knows what could happen, though it does not (Genesis 20:6). God does not acquire knowledge; he does not need to be taught; in fact, he cannot learn because he already knows. Such knowledge is far beyond human experience, since we know so little and are always learning new information.

The classic passage setting forth God’s omniscience is Psalm 139:1-6, but God tells us that he is all knowing in many ways (1 Samuel 2:3). God has perfect knowledge (Job 37:16; Romans 11:33; Hebrews 4:13), and it is beyond our feeble understanding (Isaiah 40:28). God knows the hearts (inner personal beings) of all people (1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Kings 8:39; 2 Chronicles 16:9; Psalm 7:9; 94:11; Proverbs 15:11; Jeremiah 17:10; Ezekiel 11:5; Acts 1:24; 1 John 3:19-20; Revelation 2:23). He knows where we are (2 Kings 19:27; Job 23:10), what we do (Psalm 33:13-15; Proverbs 5:21; 15:3; Hosea 7:2), how we suffer (Exodus 3:7), and what we desire (Psalm 38:9). He fully understands what we do in secret (Psalm 90:8; Matthew 6:4, 18). He knows all about his creation (Matthew 6:8, 32; 10:29-30), including all that is beyond our discovery (Psalm 147:4-5). God’s has perfect knowledge of future events and so he can perfectly predict what will happen (Isaiah 44:7-8, 24-28). This all-knowledge is clearly related to God’s sovereign purpose (Isaiah 46:9-11)

“Neither the darkness of night, the closest curtains, nor the deepest dungeon can hide any sinner from the eyes of Omniscience. The trees of the garden were not able to conceal our first parents. No human eye beheld Cain murder his brother, but His Maker witnessed his crime. Sarah might laugh derisively in the seclusion of her tent, yet it was heard by Jehovah. Achan stole a wedge of gold and carefully hid it in the earth, but God brought it to light. David was at much pains to cover up his wickedness, but ere long the all-seeing God sent one of His servants to say to him, ‘Thou are the man!’ And to writer and reader is also said, ‘Be sure your sin will find you out’ (Numbers 32:23)” (Pink, Attributes of God, p. 14]

What about prayer? Should we pray if God knows everything? What reason do we have for prayer, if we are not informing God of our needs? To ask such questions is to misunderstand the nature of prayer. True prayer is a believer’s communication with God (Psalm 54:2; etc.). In prayer, we do not inform God, but we do express our needs and desires to him. Prayer is not an attempt to change the mind of the Omniscient One, but it is a true means through which God works his purposes.  In fact, “here is an encouragement to prayer. There is no cause for fearing that the petitions of the righteous will not be heard, or that their sighs and tears shall escape the notice of God since He knows the thoughts and intents of the heart. There is no danger of the individual saint being overlooked amidst the multitude of supplicants who daily and hourly present their various petitions, for an infinite Mind is as capable of paying the same attention to millions as if only one individual were seeking its attention” (Pink, p. 15).

At this point, we should say something about God’s foreknowledge. This word occurs only five times in reference to God (Acts 2:23; Romans 8:29; 11:2; 1 Peter 1:2, 20). In each case, it does not mean simple foresight, but it expresses the love or purpose of God in choosing his people or planning the work of salvation in Christ.

The doctrine of God’s knowledge should produce reasons for joy in God’s people (Boice, The Sovereign God, pp. 178-182, his emphasis).

  • “First, because God knows all things, he knows the worst about us and yet he has loved and saved us…”
  • “Second… he also knows the best about us, even though that best may be unknown to any other person.”
  • “Third, God knows what he is going to make of us…”
  • “Finally, we can be encouraged in difficulties… All that is needed is that we take these truths down off the high shelf of theology and put them to work as we live our daily lives.”

Grace and peace, David

The Attributes of God (Part Nine)

Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (Psalm 106:1 ESV)

God is Good. “In one aspect of this word, it is merely equivalent to holiness… On the other hand, the goodness of God may be spoken of as kindness, benevolence, or beneficence towards others, in which it is seen to terminate outside of himself. Thus we speak of him as being very good to us.” (Boyce, Abstract of Theology, p. 93). God wants to act for the benefit of others; he desires that others enthusiastically share in the joy and peace of all that he is (Exodus 33:19; 2 Chronicles 5:13; 30:18; Psalm 25:7-8; 31:19; 52:9; 100:5; 119:68; Nahum 1:7; Matthew 19:7). Out of this desire flows goodness toward his creation (Psalm 145:7, 9, 15-16; Lamentations 3:25; Acts 14:17; James 1:17). In fact, since the creation came by the power and will of the One who is good, all that God made was “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

God’s people should rejoice in his goodness (2 Chronicles 6:41; Psalm 106:1; 107:1; 118:1), and we should seek to experience the goodness of the Lord (Psalm 34:8). And we find that God in his goodness reaches out to his people (Psalm 73:1; Matthew 7:11; Romans 8:32; 2 Peter 1:3). God is “essentially good; not only good, but goodness itself: the creature’s good is a superadded quality, in God it is his essence. He is infinitely good; the creature’s good is but a drop, but in God there is an infinite ocean or gathering together of good. He is eternally and immutably good, for He cannot be less good than He is; as there can be no addition made to Him, so no subtraction from Him” (Manton, quoted by Pink, The Attributes of God, p. 65).

“When others behave badly to us, it should only stir us up the more heartily to give thanks unto the Lord, because He is good; and when we ourselves are conscious that we are far from being good, we should only the more reverently bless Him that He is good. We must never tolerate an instant’s unbelief as to the goodness of the Lord; whatever else may be questioned, this is absolutely certain, that Jehovah is good; His dispensations may vary, but His nature is always the same” (Spurgeon, quoted by Pink, p. 69).

God’s goodness motivates God’s people to act for the good of others. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone (Titus 3:8 NIV). Since we have experienced the goodness of God, we should act for the good and benefit of our neighbors. In this way, we are instruments of his goodness in the lives of all around us.

Grace and peace, David

Fill Them, Lord (Part Two)

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (NIV).

In our previous article on this text, we saw that the apostle Paul concluded the teaching part of the letter to the Romans with a prayer. He began the prayer with worship and then stated his request for his brothers and sisters in Christ in Rome. In this request, we discover what the Christian life should be like. Joy and peace are two substantial parts of God’s righteous kingdom. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval (Romans 14:17-18 NIV). Paul prayed that his readers would have a large amount of joy and peace. It would be a strange cake that lacked flour and sugar. It is even stranger to live as a follower of Christ and show only little peace and little joy.

Both joy in God and peace of conscience arise from a practical awareness of justification. (cf. Romans 5:1-2). Peace with God is the foundation for the peace of God in one’s life. There is still spiritual progress to be made from the time of justification, what Peter calls growth in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord (2 Peter 3:18). We cannot become more right with God, but we can have a richer experience of his great joy and peace.

Paul did not neglect the importance of faith in the Christian life. It is good to pray, but there must be more than prayer. We must pray in faith. Prayer without faith is a dead, meaningless ritual. Prayer with faith is living and dynamic. Consider prayer for the sick. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven (James 5:15 NIV). Faith must have the correct object: as you trust in him. We live as Christians when we take our eyes off ourselves and look on Christ (Ephesian 3:12). We need to live according to what someone called “Pioneer theology”. For example, do you view Christ as the sheriff who is out to get the settlers in town if they break the rules, or as the scout whom you gladly want to follow on the journey to heaven?

In the third part of the prayer, Paul declared his purpose. He wanted them to reflect the character of God. This is the goal of the new creation. Cf. Ephesians 4:24: and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (NIV). Let’s rid ourselves of small outlooks. Paul requested overflowing hope! Who would use an old, battered, sputtering push lawn mower if he had a new lawn tractor in the garage? Can you imagine the sweating fellow saying, “I console myself during my frustrations with the thoughts of the better one in the garage.” Silly guy! Use the new one!

The means is the ministry of the Holy Spirit. All progress in likeness to God is the result of the Spirit’s work within us. As we by his grace become confident of treasures in heaven, we will become better witnesses of Christ. His divine power is required in our growth in grace. He makes the new self that we are in Christ advance against the remnants of sin and conquer them. Some view the work of the Holy Spirit in the wrong way. They think his job is to make them feel comfortable with the status quo. But his goal is to stir us up so that we overcome the world by grace that is found in Jesus Christ.

Why do we need this hope? It will serve as an anchor to the soul, to keep it safe and steady, during life’s storms and tempests. To the degree that this prayer is answered in reference to any individual Christian, to that degree he or she will be holy, happy, useful, and full of love and good works. The same is true for a local church. As it is made up of people who are overflowing with hope, so it will grow and multiply. It will then be pure, peaceful and energetic “for promoting the glory of God and the happiness of mankind” (Brown).

Grace and peace, David

The Godly Person Looking at Life (Part Two)

Psalm 36:1-12

Next, David turns his attention to the character of God (36:5-9). When we think of all that God is, well we might say, “Here is a whole world to explore” (Kidner). David directs those who listen or read to three specific areas.

Consider the Lord’s immeasurable love and faithfulness (36:5). These two qualities of God are joined in various places (cf. Psalms 57:3; 61:7; 86:15; 89:14; 115:1; 138:2). How can you think of love apart from faithfulness? There is no need for uncertainty about God’s character. David wants us to fill our souls with the grandeur of God’s love and faithfulness. Go outside on a clear night; gaze upon the wonder of deep space; understand that God’s love and faithfulness reach beyond what you can see and comprehend.

Ponder God’s incalculable righteousness and justice (36:6a). We see these two joined in other places (Psalms 33:5; 89:14; 97:2). Have you ever seen the Rocky Mountains? Great mountains are “firm and unmoved, lofty and sublime” (Spurgeon). Mighty winds disturb them not, and so nothing affects God’s righteousness and justice. “Not even to save his elect would the Lord suffer his righteousness to be set aside. No awe inspired by mountain scenery can equal that which fills the soul when it beholds the Son of God slain as a victim to vindicate the justice of the Inflexible Lawgiver” (Spurgeon).

Survey the Almighty’s active involvement with his creatures (36:6b-9).

  • God preserves life. Since the fall, we pursue destruction, but God keeps life going, constantly providing and restoring the balances of nature.
  • His love is precious. Think of valuable coins and costly jewels. The regalia of a mighty emperor is a shabby rag compared to the love of God. The value of God’s love surpasses all! What can be compared to having the almighty, eternal, all-wise, everywhere present, Sovereign Lord fully committed to love and cherish you?
  • He provides secure shelter. We can hide under the shelter of his wings (cf. Ruth 2:12; Matthew 23:37) during life’s scariest times. Sometimes we all need a hiding place. We need to be kept safe until the storm passes by. Listen my friend; the Lord Jesus invites you to find refuge under his wings. Why will you tremble naked and defenseless before sin, condemnation, and death? Run to Jesus while you may!
  • He gives abundant joy. Since sinners are at war with God, they view him as sour and dour, as full of gloom and doom. But when we see God’s justice forever satisfied in the cross of Christ, we understand his kindness and sternness (Romans 11:22). God is good and joyful; at his right hand are eternal pleasures (Psalm 16:11). When we trust him, we may drink from his river of delights.
  • He is the source of life and light. God is self-existent, having life in himself. He chooses to give life to his creatures. To have life, we must connect with God himself. This happens when you turn from your sin and trust in Christ for salvation. In a world of darkness, God is light in the full biblical meaning of purity, clarity, truth and joy.

Life apart from the living God is very uncertain and troubled. But why continue in that path? You may have joy and peace as you trust in Jesus Christ!

This produces the response of prayer (36:10-12). This prayer flows out from the truth already presented. Three ideas in his prayer:

  • A request for love and justice (36:10). We need both. We were made to experience and to share the love of God. Our lives are empty apart from his love and sharing it with others. As we live forever with the Lord, we will know more and more of how infinite his love is. And we will share this with others loved by the Lord. It won’t just be “God and me”; it will be “God and us”. And we need his righteousness at work to put our world to right. So much is wrong now! This is like the days of Noah; violence fills the earth.
  • A request for protection from the wicked (36:11) – Since we are frail, we need God to protect us from those who would harm us. “Our best defense against violence is still prayer” (Leupold).
  • An affirmation of faith (36:12) – David concludes with a look to the future. He talks about the destiny of the wicked. Many times, it seems as if evil is sure to win. But this verse calls us to look to the end of God’s story. The Sovereign Lord will triumph, and we will share in his final victory!

Keep these two contrasts before your view: the wickedness of the sinner and the incredible goodness of God. The way of life is to turn from sin and trust the life and joy giving Savior. Call on him without delay. We need to share the God of faithful love and righteous justice with others. We will have many opportunities, if we are able to stir ourselves to action. Warmer weather is on the way. We can invite others over for dinner, to go for a walk together, to attend a ball game or an outdoor concert together, or perhaps to go on a day trip together. Go where people are gathering, like some of the new town centers or special evenings in the gardens.

Grace and peace, David

Psalm Nineteen (Part Six)

They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward (Psalm 19:10-11 NIV)

In verses ten and eleven David declares the value of the Scriptures and the great help he had obtained from them. Here we learn the tastes and felt needs of a godly person. They show that God the Spirit had used his word effectively in David’s heart, and help us understand why God called David “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22 NIV).

Leaving his pattern of the previous three verses, David closes his praise of the Holy Writings by telling of their “absolute desirability and sweetness” (Leupold). The Bible is truth that both enriches the soul and satisfies the heart. Notice how David uses two phrases to set forth the exceeding greatness of the Word. It is more precious than gold, but he cannot stop there, so he adds, “than much pure gold.” Let’s take a look inside the ‘Fort Knox’ of God’s revelation. What do you see? You see what surpasses piles of pure gold. The Lord invites you to lay claim to all of this treasure that you desire. But what good is money if you have nothing to eat? Well David says, “Look again here is something sweeter than honey,” and then he dangles the jar before your tongue and says, “than honey from the comb.”

“As spiritual treasure is more noble than mere material wealth, so should it be desired and sought after with greater eagerness. Men speak of solid gold, but what is so solid as solid truth? For love of gold pleasure is forsworn, ease renounced, and life endangered; shall we not be ready to do as much for love of truth? … Trapp says, ‘Old people are all for profit, the young for pleasure; here’s gold for the one, yea, the finest gold in great quantity; here’s honey for the other, yea, live honey dropping from the comb’” (Spurgeon). “Well then may we count those the sweetest hours which are spent in reading the holy Scriptures; well may we say with the prophet, Jer 15:16, ‘Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and they were the joy and rejoicing of my heart’” (Watson, A Body of Divinity, pp. 36-37).

The Scriptures are a means of God’s grace. “Gold is of the earth, earthly; but grace is the image of the heavenly. Gold is only for the body and the concerns of time; but grace is for the soul and the concerns of eternity” (Henry). So then, if we are wise, we do well to make substantial investments of our resources in what will be for our eternal good. The earthly market is destined to collapse. How much better to invest in the heavenly market that promises a certain, eternal return on all that you invest in it.

This section closes with a response to the Lord about the benefit that David had received from the Scriptures. The Hebrew text conveys the idea that David reviewed how the law of the Lord had affected him; that is, not only is this happening now, but in the past it has happened. David could speak from his own experience. The Word warns of the spiritual dangers we all face. The wise person takes it for his daily mentor and lifelong guide. The Lord does not leave people to wander without warning near the brink of woe. He has spoken; in fact, the Word shouts warnings to us! But the Scriptures not only warn; they also promise comfort. The idea, as has often been stated, is not that we should keep the Scriptures in order to gain reward in a legalistic manner. Many miscarry in this manner! Instead, the idea is that we find in keeping God’s word (not merely in memorizing it or knowing its content) that we do gain great reward. How much joy, peace and hope the Bible sets before us! And every believer knows in experience the reality of this reward, and we look forward to more! “If there be so much to be had in the wilderness, what then shall be had in paradise!” (Brooks)

Grace and peace, David

Psalm Nineteen (Part Five)

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward (Psalm 19:7-11 NIV).

In this section, David lifts up the Scriptures, God’s special, written revelation, to those who listen to his song. Remember that the Psalms were written to be sung. God loves art. He designed us to delight in music and to make music. David uses six predicate adjectives that tell us what the Scriptures are. Four of these are somewhat synonymous, which serves to emphasize the quality of God’s message. It is perfect, right, radiant and pure. The Bible covers all aspects of life about living in the presence of the living God, of knowing him and pleasing him, and of relating rightly to other people. There are no imperfections in the Bible, since it is the message of the perfect, righteous Lord. This is one of the foundations of the doctrine of the inerrancy of the Scriptures. God does not lie, and he is all-wise, making mistakes in his revelation impossible. Most of the supposed errors in the Bible are really failures by people to understand the text or stem from people’s disagreement with God about his ways. The rest are basically a lack of information about matters that we suppose the Lord should have told us more about! Many of these have “disappeared” over time as additional archaeological and historical investigation have constantly demonstrated the perfection of the Scriptures.

The other two predicate adjectives (trustworthy and sure) proclaim the reliability of God’s word. In a world of constant change and corruption, we have a dependable foundation for our faith and hope. All of these adjectives “move in a different world from the compromise, insincerity and half-truths of human intercourse” (Kidner).

Next, we observe that David uses six verbal phrases to set forth four ways the Scriptures affect people, and then he praises the word of God in two ways.

  • The Bible “revives” or “turns” the soul (the whole self or person). “Making the man to be returned or restored to the place from which sin had cast him” (Spurgeon).
  • God’s word “makes wise” those who need to be taught the right way to live and the correct attitudes to have (cf. 2 Timothy 3:15; Psalm 119:130). “The beginning of conversion, and so all along, the increase of all grace to the end, is expressed by wisdom entering into a man’s heart” (Goodwin).
  • The Scriptures “give joy” to the heart (the totality of our inner nature). God has a means for making us glad—the teaching of his word. As we reach his understanding of life and bow before him and his purposes, our emotional outlook is transformed. Notice the progression. When we are turned back to God and made wise, joy returns to the person. Joy is a by-product of God’s free grace. The tragedy of the human race is in seeking for joy in empty boxes.
  • God’s message also “gives light” to the eyes. Light in the Scriptures usually means either holiness or accurate knowledge. The eyes are “used to express knowledge, character, attitude, inclination, opinion, passion and response…a good barometer of the inner thoughts of a man” (TWOT). If we listen to God’s voice in his written word, our approach to living will be changed in an observable manner. If we look at the sun, our eyes will go blind, but if we gaze steadily at the light of God’s word, our spiritual sight grows stronger and clearer.
  • The Bible “endures forever.” When all else fails and passes away, a firm foundation remains (Matthew 24:35). The opinions of the wisest men of one generation are discarded as useless trash by the next. Each generation is in love with its own wisdom, only to be called fools by those who follow. How different is the Bible! Throughout the generations its accurate portrayal of life remains constant.
  • The last phrase, which is very difficult to put into English as a verb form, also is a praise of God’s word. Perhaps we can say it is “being righteous altogether.” In all its parts, each and everyone, it shines with being right; that is, it has the same character as God.

Please read the above verses from Psalm Nineteen over and over. Let their music permeate your heart. Think about them, rejoice in them, and choose the ways of God by them.

Grace and peace, David