How Long Must Your Servant Wait? - Psalm 119k - Kaph

Sunday, June 27. 2010
Psalm 119

81 My soul faints with longing for Your salvation,
- but I have put my hope in Your Word.
82 My eyes fail looking for Your promise;
- I say, “When will You comfort me?”
83 Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke,
- I do not forget Your decrees.
84 How long must Your servant wait?
- When will You punish those who persecute me?
85 The arrogant dig pitfalls for me,
- contrary to Your law.
86 All Your commands are worthy of trust;
- help me, for men persecute me without cause.
87 They almost wiped me from the earth,
- but I have not forsaken Your precepts.
88 Preserve my life according to Your love,
- and I will obey the statutes of Your mouth.

My soul faints with longing for Your salvation - There will be times when it seems that our soul seems to suffocate. These will occur even if (or perhaps especially if...) we are steadfastly looking for manifestations of the Lord's Kingdom on this earth. That kind of "looking" is good and was encouraged by the Lord Jesus when He taught us to pray saying, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven." When we come up against the contradictions, whether within ourselves or without, that resistance sucks the "air" out of our present hopes, and our soul faints. At times like these we are dependent on the true resurrection life of our Lord coming into us to raise us up.

But I have put my hope in Your Word -  On the day that Jesus was crucified, the adoring crowds and devoted disciples were gone. His own Father had turned Him over to the evil desires of sinful men who were thinking that they were doing God a service. No one and no thing from this realm below could deliver Him from the things He was suffering. His body and His soul were fainting, succumbing to death. Nevertheless, right before Jesus died, he cried out, "Into Thy hands I commend My Spirit." With no visible evidence  (or otherwise sensory) of any kind to support it, Jesus was still entertaining hope in His Father's faithfulness to every Word He had ever spoken.
My eyes fail, looking for Your promise.
I say, “When will You comfort me?” - When Jesus died, even His most dedicated disciples were despondent and crushed. They had invested everything they had in full persuasion that Jesus was the One whom God had promised to restore Israel. Despite the teachings of Jesus concerning his sufferings and death, they underestimated the nature and depth of the deliverance that Jesus came to bring about for Israel and the nations, and were blindsided by His arrest, trial and crucifixion. For two days and two nights they suffered the loss of all things. They were collapsing in despair.

Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke... The two disciples on the road to Emmaus complained to Jesus (before they recognized Him) - "What is more, it is the third day since all this took place." In other words, they had remembered the words of Jesus that He would be raised again on the third day (I do not forget Your decrees); but now it was well into the third day and they had grown weary waiting for a manifestation of the promise. They had stopped hoping. If "He" had been the Messiah, surely He would have come by now. How long must Your servant wait? When will You punish those who persecute me? Jesus paid the full penalty of our sin. He left no bill to our charge. He has conquered every foe. He has even poured out on us His very own Spirit. So what is up with His patience for the opposition that we still face? Psalm 59:11 says "Slay them not lest my people forget." The Lord desires to have a people that know Him in the heights... and in the depths (Eph 3:18). To accomplish this, He even puts hooks in the jaws of our enemies (Ezk 38:4) and brings them against us so that we might have need to discover those depths. The wicked think that these schemes are their own idea to undermine God's design. The arrogant dig pitfalls for me, contrary to Your law. However, as soon as His purpose in us is accomplished (though not a moment before) He will destroy them by the brightness of His coming (2Thes 2:8).

All Your commands are worthy of trust; help me, for men persecute me without cause.
Job says, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." Abraham trusted God to keep His promises concerning Isaac even if it meant raising him from the dead. These things are written for our admonition, so that we (upon whom the ends of the world have come) would not be overthrown in the wilderness of our trials. He has commanded that we suffer, but His command is tempered with hope that we will lay hold of all that He is. May the Lord help us to trust Him until the end.

They almost wiped me from the earth, but I have not forsaken Your precepts.
It may seem to our flesh and soul that God has forsaken us, but He is a master craftsman who is fashioning pure vessels of hope. In our hour of temptation, when all seems lost, may we say with this Psalmist, "but I have not forsaken Your precepts."

Preserve my life according to Your love, and I will obey the statutes of Your mouth.
  I love this line. The Psalmist is asking LARGE. Is there any greater attribute of God than His love that one could appeal to? I think not. Though seemingly cast off and left for dead, he has cast himself upon the "I will's" of God (see Ez 37 & 38) and has found those words of God coming forth out of his own mouth. Of course, Jesus is our great forerunner and anchor in all of this. He who tasted death for every man is with us at this very moment, bring these exceedingly great and precious promises close at hand.

It Was Good For Me To Be Afflicted - Psalm 119i Teth

Sunday, August 23. 2009
Psalm 119
65 Do good to Your servant
- according to Your Word, O Lord.
66 Teach me knowledge and good judgment,
- for I believe in Your commands.
67 Before I was afflicted — I went astray,
- but now I obey Your Word.
68 You are good, and what You do is good;
- teach me Your decrees.
69 Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies,
- I keep Your precepts with all my heart.
70 Their hearts are callous and unfeeling,
- but I delight in Your law.
71 It was good for me to be afflicted
- that I might learn Your decrees.
72 The law from Your mouth is more precious to me
- than thousands of pieces of silver and of gold.

Do good to Your servant, according to Your Word...  THAT is a mouthful, especially if you believe as we Christians believe, that Jesus was and is "The Word". "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word WAS God... The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:1,14). I see similarities to Paul's prayer for believers in his epistle to the Ephesians:

I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Eph 3:14-19

So there it is. The first verse of this section of Psalm 119 is asking for nothing less than to be filled to the measure of ALL the fullness of God. It is building upon the theme of the previous section ("You are my portion") and it sets the tone for the verses that follow.

Teach me knowledge and good judgement for I believe in Your commands. The Psalmist has already heard and believes in the commands of the Lord. He has no controversy with them. But because he believes he is constrained to ask for instruction in them. A mental affirmation is not enough and could be likened to the Law being written on tablets of stone. The Word of the Lord is to become flesh in it's hearers.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit IN you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Ezekiel 36:26-27

When we have only a mental grasp of the Scriptures (even if it is doctrinally correct) we are dead.
You search the Scriptures for you think that in THEM you have eternal life. These are they that testify about Me and yet you refuse to come to Me for life. John 5:38-40

Before I was afflicted I went astray... As Psalm 14 says, "There is none that seeks God, no NOT EVEN one." So the great Shepherd of our souls came looking for us and found us in our devastated condition. He paid an awful price to not only draw near to you but to BE your life, in your current condition, no matter how dire and whether you can feel His presence or not. To those who are broken and in need this is good news. If we are rich and increased with goods and in need of nothing, we feel no need of Him and the Word is in danger of being choked out as Jesus said "by the deceitfulness of riches." James exhorts the rich man to take pride in his LOW position because the sun will rise with scorching heat and he will wither like a flower, even while he is going about his business.

But now I obey Your Word - If we are His sons we can expect His discipline to bring us into the place of receiving and dispensing His mercy. As Psalm 30 says, "But when You hid Your face from me, THEN I was dismayed. To You LORD I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy." He wants us to know, in our deeps, that any good thing that we have came from Him as a gift.

You are good and what You do is good... When the rich young ruler called Jesus "good teacher," Jesus asked, "Why do you call me good? None but God is good." There is no middle ground of a goodness independent of God's own life working in you. If we are identified with His death and His resurrection, we can say in truth, "It is no longer I that live but Christ that lives within me," and "the life that I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loves me and gave Himself for me."

Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies... Claiming the life of God in Christ would seem to be presumption, but it is actually the humility of agreement with God. The moment we venture out into these waters, the threats and lies of God's enemies become directed at us. Jesus was accused of healing and casting out demons by the power of the Satan. He was accused of blasphemy by calling Himself the Son of God, but He would have been lying to say that He wasn't. ... I keep Your precepts with all my heart. Will you hold fast to your testimony when it begins to draw the ire of the powers that be?

Their hearts are callous and unfeeling, but I delight in Your law. Persecution arises from our identification with the life of God, but then it actually causes us to discover His life in depths that otherwise we would not have known.

It was GOOD for me to be afflicted that I might learn Your decrees. Even as Christ was rejected by the chief priests and elders, and abandoned by His closest friends, He was demonstrating the fullness of the depths of the love of God that had previously been hidden (though hinted at in the types and shadows of the "Old" Testament).

The Law from Your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold. Jesus is the only One who has given God the reverence and honor that is His due. He reckoned His Father's will to be more valuable than anything, even His own precious life. This is the attitude that He gives us when we receive the gift of His Holy Spirit.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!

If this is not our attitude then it is not the life of Jesus working within us.

You Are My Portion O Lord - Psalm 119h - Heth

Saturday, May 23. 2009
Psalm 119

57 You are my portion, O LORD;
— I have promised to obey Your words.

I have sought your face
with all my heart;
— be gracious to me

according to your promise.
I have considered my ways and
I have turned my steps

toward your statutes.
I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands.
Though the wicked bind me with ropes, I will not forget your law.
At midnight I will arise to give you thanks for your righteous laws.
I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts.
The earth is filled with your love, O LORD; teach me your decrees.

"I am His, and He is mine." Song of Solomon

You are my portion O LORD is perhaps the central and most important theme of Psalm 119. Without the indwelling Spirit of the living God, the declarations, sentiments and prayers of Psalm 119 are unutterable by any mortal man. I don't think it an accident that this same promise was given to Abraham, the father of faith, when God told him, "I am your exceeding great reward." Additionally, when Israel was moving into the promised land and it was being divided among the twelve tribes, the tribe of Levi was not given a specific portion. Rather, it was said,

That is why the Levites have no share or inheritance among their brothers; the LORD is their inheritance... Deut 10:9

I have promised to obey Your words... This promise is only worth its salt because of the statement that preceded it. Unless the Lord is our portion... unless the Lord Himself indwells us and makes that commitment to obey through us then the promise is empty and vain. Israel made this same promise after hearing the Law at Mount Sinai for the first time:

The people all responded together, "We will do everything the LORD has said." Exodus 19:8

Though that promise has not been kept by Israel, even up to this day, both Jeremiah and Ezekiel saw a fulfillment of the promise they made in the last days because of a new covenant that the LORD would be making with Israel:

"This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Jeremiah 31

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit IN you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Ezekiel 36:26-27

Saul of Tarsus (Paul) is a kind of first fruits example of the fulfillment of this promise. Before he met the Lord, he was certain that he was pursuing God with all his heart, and he was full of his own brand of "law-keeping" zeal. He was working feverishly to stamp out some new strain of heresy that claimed that Jesus of Nazareth had risen from the dead. That is, until he had his own encounter with the risen Jesus: "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?" 

In the light of that confrontation, Saul was able to consider his ways and turn his steps toward the Lord's statutes. In an instant, his entire view of God and the world died a sudden and horrible death. As with Goliath, the Living Stone (Jesus), struck Saul right between the eyes, sunk into his skull, and laid him low in the dust. He was a dead man, and may not have even had time to consider that he was passing from the ranks of the persecutor to the persecuted. Everything he "knew" about God was transformed into dung.

Many of the themes of the great Epistles of the New Testament were written on Paul's heart that day:

"We know that our old self was crucified with Him... " Romans 6
"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galations 2:20
"But now a righteousness from God, apart from the Law, has been made known..." Romans 3:21

I will hasten and not delay, to obey Your commands - Mere days after Ananias prayed for Paul and the scales fell from his eyes, scripture says: "At once, he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God." Acts 9:20 You might think that being made guilty of the shedding the Lord's blood would paralyze one with guilt and shame, but in actuality it a necessary qualification for receiving the Gift of the Holy Spirit. It is the straight and narrow gate that leads to Eternal Life. Paul went through that narrow gate and came out a NEW kind of man. "Behold! Old things are passed away and all things are become new." By faith Paul was already living in that city where there is no need of the sun "because the Lamb is the light thereof..." Revelation 21:23

At midnight I will arise to give you thanks - Living by the light and life of the Lamb is why Paul and Silas were able to sing hymns at midnight after being severely flogged. That demonstration of the life of God (in the face of harsh persecution) shook the foundations of the earth then, and it will do the same now. Because of what Jesus did at the cross, His resurrection life, which is the gift of the Holy Spirit, is available to anyone who will receive it. "The Word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart".

The earth is FILLED with Your love O Lord! - Jesus did not leave a single sin unpaid for. He tasted death for every man. (Hebrews 2:9) Teach me your decrees. - What remains for us is to be instructed of these truths in every circumstance; to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ and the power of His resurrection.

Your Decrees Are The Theme of My Song - Psalm 119 - Zayin

Saturday, April 11. 2009
Psalm 119

49 Remember Your Word to Your servant,
- for You have given me hope.

My comfort in my suffering is this:
- Your promise has given me life.

The arrogant mock me without restraint,
- but I do not turn from Your law.

I remember Your ancient laws, O LORD,
- and I find comfort in them.

Indignation grips me because of the wicked,
- who have forsaken Your law.

Your decrees are the theme of my song
- wherever I lodge.

In the night I remember Your name, O LORD,
- and I will keep your law.

This has been my practice; - I obey your precepts.

Remember Your Word to Your servant.  - Is it ever necessary to bring God into remembrance of something He has spoken? As another section of this Psalm starts out, "Your Word O Lord is eternal." The heavens and the earth might pass away but God's Word will never pass away. So how is it that this prayer is legitimate? Are there cases where it seems that God has forgotten His Word?

The most striking example of this must be Jesus when He entered into the last days of His earthly ministry: the garden of Gethsemane, the betrayal and desertion of His disciples, the mocking and the merciless beatings and scourgings, and of course the final hours hanging on a cross. Here was the man (the only man) who has truly meditated perfectly on the Word of God day and night and he is suffering as only a pure and innocent man can suffer in the presence of evil.

Your decrees are the theme of my song wherever I lodge. There is another Psalm that says, "though I make my bed in hell, Thou art there." We have taken the wrong road that leads to destruction, and God (in Christ Jesus) has run ahead to intercept us and turn us back toward Himself. Scripture says that He tasted death for every man. He has tasted the bitterness of where you and I might be at this very moment. He endured the shame of it for the hope and promise that were set before Him. His hope and prayer is that we might be one with Him, even as He is one (in every way) with His Father.

In the night I remember Your Name O LORD. In the darkest hour, when in anguish He cried, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?", God the Father was in Him reconciling the world unto Himself. There was absolutely no evidence of God's nearness to His flesh or His soul, and yet His purity still trusted in the goodness of His Father. "Into Thy hands I commit my Spirit."

This has been my practice. Jesus had prepared Himself for that moment His whole life. He understood that He was the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. From being born in the dwelling place of animals, to His submission to Mary and Joseph, when He returned to Nazareth with them for 18 years of obscurity, He was practicing for this ultimate hour when, in order to win everything, he had to lose everything.

So, God has not forgotten His Word. He has actually fulfilled it in the midst of allowing the very worst to come to pass to Himself. The real question is what we will do with a God who has committed Himself so utterly and completely to us.

May Your Unfailing Love Come To Me - Psalm 119 - Vav

Monday, November 24. 2008
Psalm 119

41 May Your unfailing love
- come to me, O LORD,

Your salvation
- according to Your promise;
then I will answer
- the one who taunts me,
- for I trust in Your word.

Do not take the word of truth
- from my mouth,
- for I have put my hope in Your laws.

I will always obey Your Law, for ever and ever.
I will walk about in Your freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.
I will talk about Your statutes before kings and I will not be put to shame,
for I delight in your commands because I love them.
I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and I meditate on Your decrees.

I find the first line of this section compelling. Why is it that we must ask for the unfailing love of God to come to us? Immediately the words of Jesus come to mind: "Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find..." There is the treasure of God's love that is always available to any of us, no matter what our circumstances, but we must still ask. "Give us this day our daily bread..." Like the manna of old, we may not gather up extra "unfailing love" for tomorrow lest it rot.

I think this is because we are so prone to forget about our Heavenly Father when we feel His favor and find success in anything. God has established a mechanism in each day that is a safeguard to us falling into the temptation of the devil (which is to exalt ourselves above the Most High). It is he (the devil) who taunts us with accusations that we are not worthy to receive the love and salvation of God. Of course this is true and we must quickly agree with our adversary, but our worthiness is not at all a factor in whether or not the unfailing love and salvation of our God come to us. HE has guaranteed its availability in the person and work of His Son Jesus (specifically His death on the Cross). As we become more convinced and more trusting in the surety of this kind of salvation that has nothing to do with our own merits and everything to do with the merits of God's Holy One Jesus, THEN we will answer the one who taunts us.

In verses 43 & 44 we find another interesting contrast. In v. 43 the Psalmist is asking the Lord to help him keep the Word of Truth in his own mouth. There seems to be a concern that he is vulnerable to losing that Word that he confesses. But he has invested everything he has in that Word and in the Laws of God. That Law includes the sacrificial Lamb. It includes the account of Abraham, (the father of believing and trusting) offering up his son of promise as a sacrifice only to be told that God will provide HIMSELF as the Lamb of sacrifice. It is the Law that condemns us to the death of our own abilities, but then gives us the life of God Himself in exchange. So in v. 44 the Psalmist makes this amazing vow to keep the Law of God forever. That kind of vow can only be made in the light of the unfailing love of God coming to him in his deepest uncertainties of his own Law-keeping ability and assuring him that God will move in and be the Keeper in him.

At that revelation the Psalmist bursts forth in praise and begins to exalt in the freedom of who God is. We tend to think of the Law as a constraint, but not him. He has suffered through "the straight and narrow path" and has now found the glorious liberty of the sons of God. He seems to know that he is seated in heavenly places with God, and that he will actually testify to the reality of those heavenly places and even instruct the kings of the earthly.

He has said with Job, "Though He slay me, YET will I trust Him." He now loves the Law that put him to death because it released him into the realm of the very resurrection life of God that will endure for ever and not disappoint.

Listen to the music of Psalm 119f - Vav - May Your Unfailing Love Come To Me

Turn My Eyes Away From Worthless Things - Psalm 119e - Heh

Sunday, November 2. 2008
Psalm 119

33 Teach me, O LORD, to follow Your decrees;
- then I will keep them to the end.

Give me understanding,
- and I will keep Your law
- and I'll obey with all my heart.

Direct me in the path of Your commands,
- for there I find delight.

Turn my heart toward Your statutes
- and not toward selfish gain.

Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
- preserve my life according to Your Word.

Fulfill Your promise to Your servant, - so that You may be feared.
Take away the disgrace I dread, - for your laws are good.
How I long for your precepts! - Preserve my life in your righteousness.

This portion of Psalm 119 is one long cry for help:

Teach me to follow...
Give me understanding...
Direct me in the path...
Turn my heart toward...
Turn my eyes away...
Fulfill Your promise...
Take away the disgrace...
Preserve my life...

And yet there is a quality about the asking that we often lack in our own prayers to God. I am reminded of Solomon's prayer for wisdom.

7"Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8Your servant is here among the people You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9So give Your servant a discerning heart to govern Your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of Yours?"

10The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11So God said to him, "Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your
enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.

The kind of prayer that pleases God must actually be born of God, for nothing short of His own character and glory can give Him pleasure. Solomon gave voice to the heart of God when he prayed for wisdom to lead Israel. And like Solomon, this Psalmist prays not for himself, but for the words and purposes of God to be wrought in his life.

Such utter dependence upon God is expressed here in all these stanzas. There is a clear implication that unless the LORD teaches him His decrees, he will NOT keep them to the end. If the LORD doesn't give him understanding, he will NOT be able to keep His commands or obey with all his heart. If the LORD were not to intervene and turn the psalmist's eyes away from worthless things or turn them toward His statutes, then he would be a helpless slave to those worthless things and would never behold the statutes of the LORD.

In verse 37, the title verse, "Turn my eyes away from worthless things", I am reminded of the New Testament admonition to "Set your affections on things above, NOT on things of the earth... for you are DEAD... and your LIFE is hidden with Christ in God." This kind of talk is totally foreign and incomprehensible to the natural man who only reckons something good if it brings direct benefit to himself here and now.

In verse 38, the writer wants the LORD to fulfill His promise to him because it will bring benefit to GOD, so that healthy fear and respect may come to HIM - "so that YOU may be feared." His prayer might bring benefit to himself, but that is not why he is asking it. And what kind of promise could cause those observing to be moved to the fear and respect of the Lord? The first thing that comes to my mind is the Ten Commandments viewed as the Ten Promises: Thou shalt have no other Gods before me... Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother... Thou shalt not covet... etc. As Ezekiel prophesied, "I will give you MY Spirit and I will write MY Laws upon your hearts." When the lost see another worthless sinner living the life of God, expressing His nature, and delighting to do His will despite the cost, they will know that there is a God who can demand accountability because He has accomplished His will in this lowly vessel.

Finally comes the cry for God to save his life... in God's righteousness. "Preserve my life, in YOUR righteousness." There is no other salvation than God's own righteousness being imparted to the inner being of those who are otherwise lost in the darkness of self. And there is no other way to gaining this impartation other than through the resurrection life of Jesus, who is the express image of God in bodily form. And there is no other way to that resurrection life than through His suffering and death at the Cross. Ultimately, THIS is where the understanding of God's Laws is gained. THIS is where God reveals His great love and the fullness of His statutes and commandments. "A new command I give you: Love one another as I have loved you." THIS is where He removes the disgrace we dread, as PERFECT love (displayed in Jesus at the Cross) casts out all fear.

Listen to the music of Psalm 119 - Heh - Turn My Eyes Away From Worthless Things

I Am Laid Low In The Dust - Psalm 119 - Daleth

Monday, July 28. 2008
Psalm 119

25 I am laid low in the dust;
- preserve my life
- according to Your Word.
26 I recounted my ways
- and You answered me;
- teach me Your decrees.
27 Let me understand
- the teaching of Your precepts;
- then I will meditate on Your wonders.
28 My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to Your Word.
29 Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through Your law.
30 I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on Your laws.
31 I hold fast to Your statutes, O LORD; do not let me be put to shame.
32 I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.

"I am laid low in the dust..." could be the statement of rebellious man reaping the consequences of the tragic decision to doubt the character and integrity of God. However, here we have one who boldly asks God to preserve His life. On top of that, the reason he gives God to consider the request is that God might be faithful to His own Word. That is remarkable considering that it is God's Word that declares:

Cursed is the man who does not uphold the words of this Law by carrying them out. Deuteronomy 27:26

These words actually explain why the unrighteous AND the righteous must suffer. It was for the sins of Israel that the lives of innocent lambs were required in sacrifice day after day, year after year. Those holy prophets of God, whose purity allowed them to see into the purposes and character of God, suffered great persecution from the very people they were sent to warn.

New Testament Scripture says that Jesus was "the Lamb slain, before the foundations of the world." Before He said, "Let there be light!" God had counted the cost of creating a universe in which the crowning glory of His work -- mankind -- would have the ability to say "Yes" or "No" to any Word that came from His own mouth. In His foreknowledge, He knew that men would yield to the temptation and that He Himself would be the only hope for redeeming us from the deadly consequences of the "NO" that was to come.

HE was wounded for OUR transgressions,
HE was bruised for OUR iniquities,
Surely HE bore OUR sorrows,
And by HIS stripes WE were healed. Isaiah 53

So our Psalmist appears to be one who is on the path of righteousness. He is measuring his life according to the standard of God's Word - "I recounted all my ways..." and he is aware that mere knowledge of the Word is not sufficient, as he is pleading for the Lord to teach him and cause him to understand.

That God given revelation initially brings distress - "My soul is weary with sorrow..." - Remember Isaiah (Is. 6) when he had a vision of the Lord high and lifted up and was moved to cry out "Woe is me! I am a man of unclean lips amidst a people of unclean lips." Or the yet-to-be-fulfilled vision of Zechariah:

They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great... Zech 12:10-11

"My soul is weary with sorrow... strengthen me according to Your Word." The marvelous and wonderful thing about coming to God on His terms is that after we recognize our pitiful condition we can freely receive that Everlasting Life that is actually the life of the LORD.

"Be gracious to me through Your Law." - We don't often think of the Law of God as a source of unmerited favor, but it is hidden there, in the sacrifice of the innocent for the guilty. "Come let us reason together - though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow." Is 1

This favor is meant not simply to cover our sin, but to energize us for life, and you can see that in the conclusion of this section of Psalm 119.

"I have chosen...
I have set...
I hold fast...
I run in the path..."

The Psalmist is full of resolution and strength to do the commands of God, and the reason he gives for it is entirely to God's credit:

"For YOU have set my heart free."

This is all about the altar where God's Anointed One laid down His life. It is here and here alone that the wondrous exchange takes place: His life for our death; His righteousness for our sin; His clean garments for our filthy rags; His strength for our weakness.

This is an offer that is almost too good to be true, and it explains the harsh sounding statement: "if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins." John 8:24

Listen to the music of Psalm 119 - Daleth - I Am Laid Low In the Dust

I Am A Stranger On Earth - Psalm 119c - Gimel

Tuesday, July 8. 2008
Psalm 119

17 Do good to your servant,
- and I will live;
- I will obey your word.
18 Open my eyes that I may see
- wonderful things in your law.
19 I am a stranger on earth;
- do not hide
- your commands from me.
20 My soul is consumed
- with longing for your laws at all times.
21 You rebuke the arrogant, who are cursed and who stray from your commands.
22 Remove from me scorn and contempt, for I keep your statutes.
23 Though rulers sit together and slander me,
- your servant will meditate on your decrees.
24 Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.

"Do good to Your servant and I will live." The implication of this statement is that if the Lord does NOT do good, we will NOT live. We are utterly dependent upon His goodness, His mercy, His unmerited favor for any life that we have. You might even say that without the intervention of God's goodness we would remain in a state of death like those in Ezekiel's Valley of Dry Bones.

"Open my eyes that I might see wonderful things in Your Law." Wonderful things in the Law? Is there something besides stuffy legalism to be found there? We Christians have almost made the word "Law" into a dirty word, but seen in the right light, interpreted by the Holy Spirit of the God who inspired it, the Law contains mysteries of the Lord's character and person. Wonderful mysteries. Precious eternal truths that we will be living by throughout the ages. But approach the Law with the attitude that it is something that can be fulfilled by natural human effort and it becomes a curse.

"I am a stranger on earth, do not hide your commands from me." The truth must be revealed to us from God Himself. It is hidden to the natural mind. As Jesus told Peter, "Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father which is in heaven," after Peter confessed that he believed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Once we have been shown something from the heavenly viewpoint, immediately we become strangers and pilgrims in the earth like our predecessors in the faith as described in the book of Hebrews. Through Christ we have crucified to the world and the world to us.

The Psalmist cries out for the removal of scorn and contempt, which could be read two ways. Most obviously, it implies the desire for deliverance from those who express scorn and contempt toward us. But there is a second reading that is perhaps more important and that is for the removal of those attributes from within us. Remove from ME scorn and contempt! I am believing You for it.

The principalities and powers will mock and ridicule us for even
entertaining the thought that we might obey the laws and statutes of
the Living God. We are to be perfect, even as He is perfect, and it is
through His spoken Word that it is going to take place. He speaks into
the nothingness of our being and something creative happens. The
mockers try to get us to look at our nothingness rather than the power
and faithfulness of God. It is a last ditch effort to keep us in
bondage to the things of this earth.

This Psalmist, by the Spirit of the Lord, delights in the testimonies and statutes of the Lord. This is only possible by the power of God, because the Law first and foremost testifies against us declaring that we deserve to be cut off from God and the Israel of God. But if we receive His testimony against us and acknowledge that He has taken our death penalty upon Himself in Christ, then that same Law becomes sweetness and delight, and that new Spirit that He has deposited within begins to council us as to what the Law is truly requiring of us.

(Listen to the music of Psalm 119 Gimel - I Am A Stranger On Earth.)

How Can a Young Man Keep His Way Pure? - Psalm 119b - Beth

Saturday, July 5. 2008
Psalm 119

9 How can a young man
keep his way pure?
By living according to your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray
from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
12 Praise be to you, O LORD;
teach me your decrees.
13 With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth.
14 I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.
15 I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.
16 I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.

Who has kept Himself pure and undefiled but the Lord Himself? I can almost see Jesus as a young man, or perhaps even a boy, sifting through the Scriptures, meditating on them so that He might discover His identity there and find God's purpose for His life. According to our view, the Scriptures are written about Jesus and by Him, through Moses and the Prophets. The Gospels clarify that Jesus IS, in fact, the Word made flesh. Would it be a stretch to add that the Scriptures were also in place FOR Him, so that He might have a witness in the earth to the Spirit of the Father in Him?

From the Gospels we can sense the regard that Jesus has for the Scriptures. When He was tempted by Satan, He responded, "It is written... It is written... It is written..." The things stored up there are more real to Him than what His senses tell Him. We can tell that He "knows" Abraham and Moses, David and Solomon. Through the eternal Spirit, He has had fellowship with them.

Only HE has kept Himself pure, but now God has given us His own Spirit through Jesus when He raised Him from the dead. So now we can look for our identity in Him as WE search through the Bible. "How can a young man keep his way pure?" By living according to His Word of course. But then the Psalmist qualifies this effort a cry to God for help. Even though he seeks with ALL his heart, he does not but his trust in the seeking, as he cries out "don't let me stray from Your commands," and "teach me Your decrees."

Without the Spirit of God, even our efforts to seek God are tainted with sin and subject to feeding pride. Thankfully, as Romans 5 declares, while we were still sinners and powerless to please Him, Christ died for us (the ungodly). And if He did this for us when we were still His enemies, now that we belong to Him will He not freely give us everything we need to fulfill His desire in us?

Only He is pure and yet, if WE have been born from above then GOD's Holy Spirit is living in us, and we will have this reverence and hunger for the Scriptures in OUR own heart. "Be YE holy as I am holy." This section of Psalm 119 indicates that there should even be a "delight" in His decrees. Jesus says, "I delight to do Thy will" even though the Father's will is to send Him to a horrible death for the sins of the world. What is it that delights you? What is your top priority in life right now? If it isn't in fulfilling God's Word, then may I recommend the parable of the sower to you.

A number of years ago I was considering the statement that some would bear 30 times, some 60 and some 100 times what had been sown in their lives and I was wondering where I fell in these groups. It had not occurred to me that I might not even BE among those bearing fruit, as there ARE other options in the parable. And the Lord spoke to me, as clearly as I have heard anything from Him, that His Word in me was being choked out by the CARES of this world. After the initial sting, those words sparked something in me to seek Him with a renewed intensity, and by His grace I have been ever since that time.

I am not saying this to condemn (as "there is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus), but perhaps to be a catalyst to cause you to re-evaluate whether you are walking in His Spirit. His grace is not a license to sin, but is rather a liberating force to strengthen us to walk in the wonderful freedom of who God is.

May we give the Spirit of God something to feed on besides the half-truths and full-fledged lies that bombard us from the world system around us. May His Spirit in us give us the determination NOT to neglect His Word.

(Listen to the music of Psalm 119 Beth - How Can A Young Man Keep Himself Pure?)

Blessed Are They Whose Ways Are Blameless - Psalm 119a - Aleph

Saturday, June 28. 2008
Psalm 119

1 Blessed are they whose ways
are blameless, who walk according
to the law of the LORD.
2 Blessed are they who keep
his statutes and seek him
with all their heart.
3 They do nothing wrong;
they walk in his ways.
4 You have laid down precepts
that are to be fully obeyed.
5 Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!
6 Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands.
7 I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.
8 I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me.

In many of the Psalms you will run into phrases like, "Blessed is the one who fears the Lord," or "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly." When I encounter that kind of speech, I immediately think of that one with a capital "O" and that man a capital "M" - Blessed is the One..." and "Blessed is the Man..." for in another Psalm it is said, "There is none righteous, no, not one." So that righteous man must in fact BE the Lord.

But here in Psalm 119, it starts out immediately with a declaration of a company of the righteous. "Blessed are THEY, whose ways are BLAMELESS..."

How can both of these statements be true:
1) All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. Ps 14:3
2) Blessed are THEY whose ways are blameless. Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.

What a contrast and contradiction.

When asked, "Who can be saved?", Jesus once said, "With man it is impossible, but with God ALL things are possible." And that is where we are in these first verses of Psalm 119. We have God declaring (directly into the face of the impossible to resolve contradiction) that there WILL be a generation of the righteous. This verse comes to mind: "He who knew no sin became sin so that WE [who knew no righteousness] might become the righteousness of God IN Christ Jesus."

"They do NOTHING wrong, they walk in His ways." And so this Psalm becomes even more absurd to the natural mind. I doubt that this group will even perceive themselves righteous, except in brief moments of encouragement, but rather will feel themselves small and despised. God will be the judge of this righteousness, and I am convinced that it has more to do with believing in God until the end than in some outward display that will impress onlookers. Psalm 22's cry, "I am a worm and no man!" comes to mind. Or, "He was despised and rejected of men..."

"You have laid down precepts to be fully obeyed." Jesus' declaration: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I
tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest
letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from
the Law until everything is accomplished."

Full obedience requires everything we have and is impossible without the enabling power of the Spirit of Christ in us. "Christ in YOU the hope of glory."

When seen in this light, it is not surprising that this section of Psalm 119 ends with the words, "Do not utterly forsake me." When I hear these words I immediately think again of Psalm 22 (which Jesus quoted in His dying gasp): "My God, My God why hast Thou forsaken Me?"

He WAS forsaken for one eternally horrible moment, and yet because of His clean hands and pure heart, God was able to raise Him up out of the ashes tranforming that utter forsakeness into the fountain, by which, this company of the blessed shall make themselves clean and blameless.

(Listen to the music of Psalm 119 Aleph)