Today’s reading winds up the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119, which holds 176 verses of praise for God’s word. It has been, I think you have seen, a tour de force of devotion, teaching, and prayer on the blessings of God’s word. These last 4 sections (remember that this chapter is sectioned off according to the Hebrew alphabet as an acrostic poem) hold important truths for our consideration, so let’s look.
Your testimonies are founded forever (Psalm 119:152) — Despite the constant modern drumbeat of repetition that the Bible is outdated for our 21st century world, there is really no foundation for such a claim — the truth of the matter is very different from the modern claims. The problems that 21st century men and women have are essentially the same that ancient people experienced; the temptations, the trials, the challenges, the lusts, and the general human nature all remain the same. Yes, yes, I’m familiar with some of the new ethical issues that we wrestle with: DNA, cloning, and a few reproductive issues. But even these issues are quite well addressed in principles found in the Bible. Right and wrong remain the same; truth remains the same.
But what about the differences between the Mosaic Law and Christianity. Doesn’t that prove that things have changed. No. The foundational matters of right and wrong and truth remain immutable, because they are founded on God Himself, who remains unchangeable. The changes referred to here are covenant changes — changes in the established agreements between God and His people. Ceremonial requirements, occasions, and commands are part of what did change between Judaism and Christianity — Judaism’s covenant was rendered obsolete (“When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.” Hebrews 8:13, NAS95.) by (1) Israel’s breaking of covenant with God, (2) Jesus’ once for all sacrifice on the cross, (3) and the establishment of a new covenant in Christ’s blood (“And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” Luke 22:20, NAS95.). But the essentials of righteousness and truth remain the same.
Indeed God’s precepts and testimonies and founded forever.
The sum of Your word is truth (Psalm 119:160) — It is not now, nor was it ever true, that the complete truth of God on any subject was expressed in one verse. There are plenty of folks that have proof-texted their doctrine over the years, by quoting one or even a few verses on a topic while conveniently ignoring others. Arriving at the truth comes by examining all the reliable information on the subject and then arriving at a conclusion. I’ve heard it put this way succinctly: We must use the SUM of the Scripture, not just SOME. The passage here reminds us that the sum of God’s word is truth. We must put it all together to arrive at the truth.
Peace to those who love God’s law (Psalm 119:164, 165) — Peace in Hebrew is “shalom” and it means more than merely absence of conflict (the English definition). It means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, and the absence of agitation or discord. So when Psalm 119:165 tells us that those who love God’s law have great “peace”, we know it is saying a mouth-full! And to those of who know God’s word well, not just through reading it but through experiencing it, we all say Amen! It does bring wholeness, rest, harmony, soundness, and all the rest! Do you have God’s shalom? Put His word into action.
The way back (Psalm 119:176) — This last verse of the psalm seems almost out of place. After all this lauding of the word of God, this writer finds himself lost like a straying sheep! He calls for God’s rescue. And then he says that he hasn’t forgotten God’s commands. How can this be? Well, it happens all the time. As the bumper sticker I’ve sometimes seen says, “Christians are perfect, just forgiven.” Despite the fact that we know how good life is when we follow God’s word, we all inexplicably fail to follow it sometimes. There’s a book by Robert Fulghum I’ve liked and read a number of times It Was On Fire, When I Lay Down On It.” It’s a funny title and first stunning story. Fulghum read a newspaper article about a fire department that had put out a fire that they had determined had started in a bed that a man was lying in. They rescued the man and later, questioning him about the origin of the fire, they asked him something like, “Did you fall asleep smoking?” “Oh no,” the man replied, “it was on fire when I lay down on it.” Huh? But as Fulghum points out, change the name and the story could be written of me and you. We often see the trouble and walk right into it anyway. But the major point here that I’d like to get to is that when we fall, there is a way back — it is the Scripture. Lost? Turn to God’s word and apply it. It is the road map to Heaven.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.