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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
April 19, 1998
The Bible: God’s Revelation for Living
Psalm 19 & Psalm 73
Yesterday I turned 40 and someone gave me a mug that said something to the effect: “At My Age I have seen everything, heard everything and done everything – I just can’t remember everything.” I would quote the mug for you exactly – but I don’t remember exactly what it says. At least now I have an excuse for when my mind slips away somewhere while I am talking.
On a more serious note, my heartfelt thank you to those who found out about my birthday and were very gracious in giving me some gifts including some humorous ones. I appreciate those tokens of love very much. Those of you who did not know about it – don’t worry about it, I did not want to know about it either!
Next Sunday marks the conclusion of my 7th year of preaching here at Faith Bible Church. In recognition of that, this morning I want to share with you some things on my heart much as I did last year on my anniversary date. I want to let you know what drives me and guides me. I want to tell you something about the focus of my own heart.
This morning I want to speak to you about the Bible itself, God’s Revelation for Living. The Bible is not some book for academic study, but is rather a love letter from our Creator that we might know Him and how He wants us to live. The Bible is the foundation of truth and it is upon truth that we must base our lives lest we get to the end of them and find we have wasted them following lies and deceptions. What great tragedy that so many get to the end of their lives and find exactly that.
The theme verse I put in the bulletin this morning is John 17:17 where Jesus said, “Sanctify them in the truth; Thy Word Is Truth.” It would seem to be pretty self evident the importance of living according to the truth, yet, I know from experience and observation that humans can easily twist the truth by their emotions and their own selfish desires. It does not take much for the emotions of the human heart to twist the truth to the point that it will rebel against the very Word of God and defend that action in the name of “compassion” and “love.” It does not take long for the desires of the human heart to set aside Biblical principles and precepts in the pursuit of some thing – even some ministry, and then defend those actions by saying it was done for God.
Such was the mind-set of those in Matthew 7 – saying, “Lord, Lord, did we not do all these marvelous works in your name?” and Jesus says to them, “depart from me, I never knew you, you workers of lawlessness.” Lawlessness – things done apart from the way God has said to do them is lawlessness. The end does not justify the means. The only way to avoid such self-deceived lawlessness is to be so familiar with the truth that any deviation from it is quickly realized.
Today, I want us to again consider the importance of knowing and living according to the Scriptures. I want to lay down again this basic foundation of Truth. The Bible is the Word of God. We want to know what it does – how it is to affect our lives.
Turn to Psalm 19:7-14. We will begin there by looking at what the Word of God is and then see how David responds to it.
In the first part of this Psalm, David tells us of the revelation of God’s glory and handiwork as seen in the Creation. Paul says in Rom. 1:20 that creation itself reveals “God’s invisible attributes – His divine nature and eternal power.” David spends the first part of this Psalm explaining some of the ways creation does reveal God’s invisible attributes – His divine nature and eternal power.
Then, beginning in verse 7, David tells of God’s attributes as they are demonstrated in Scripture. God has revealed Himself to men in a general way through Creation, but in a specific way by His word to men. David explains here the value of the Scriptures for true worshipers.
This section, Vs. 7-11 forms a brief but instructive Hexapla containing 6 descriptive titles of the word, 6 characteristics of the word, and 6 divine effects or qualities of the word. This hexapla is followed by a recognition of the supreme value of the Scriptures.
The law of the LORD is perfect converting the soul
The testimony of the LORD is sure making wise the simple
The statutes of the LORD are right rejoicing the heart
The commandments of the LORD are pure enlightening the eyes
The fear of the LORD is clean enduring forever
The judgments of the LORD are true they are righteous altogether
They are to be desired more than Gold, yea, than much fine Gold; They are sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover by them is Thy servant warned, and in keeping of them there is great reward.
There are six titles or functions of the word given: it is law, testimony, statutes, commandments, fear, and judgments. There are six characteristics qualities of the word given: it is perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, and true. And there are six summary statements given which tell of a divine effect or quality of the word – it converts or restores the soul, makes wise the simple, rejoices the heart, enlightens the eye, endures forever, and they are righteous. To this we can add that Scripture is a warning to God’s servants which brings about great reward when it is heeded.
But notice that the key characteristic of this section is the repetition of the phrase “of the LORD.” David changes the name he uses for God in this section. In the first part of the Psalm when David was talking about creation, He used the name “El” to refer to God – El; the creator God. In this section he uses Yahweh – the covenant keeping God. The God that has revealed Himself to men through special revelation of His word. The emphasis is not upon Scripture itself, but on the LORD who has given Scripture to man.
Let us examine each one of these statements more closely
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul.
Scripture is the law of God. Law in the sense of “torah” – instruction. In specific it is a set of regulations made of statutes, ordinances, precepts, commandments and testimonies. It is the general word for Scripture under which the specifics given in the rest of the Psalm fall. It is the revelation of His will. This is a picturesque word describing Yahweh pointing out the road to life. This is the path I want you to walk – these are the instructions – the road map of how to recognize the path, how to know if you are off the path, and how to get back on it if you get off. The law is the road map to a Godly life.
This law is perfect, complete, whole, literally “all sided.” Nothing needs to be added, and nothing should be taken away. If you add to the Law, you add the foolishness of men. If you take away from the Law, you remove part of God’s direction. This Law is perfect – you cannot improve it – only follow it. If you do follow it, then it will have its effect upon you. If you disregard it or disobey it there are also consequences.
The effect of the law is to convert or restore the soul. This word is used to signify repentance (Josh. 224:23, Jer. 4:4,14 and Hos. 10:12), and while it does not necessarily mean conversion in the sense we use that term within Christianity, it does speak of a beneficial reviving effect that permeates the very life and soul of a child of God. It speaks as much or more to those already saved as to those still lost. The Law of God puts you on God’s path and keeps you there, and should you stray off the path, careful examination of it can bring you back.
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
The root meaning of testimony is “to bear witness” and it is used as a synonym for “law” in Psalm 119 nine times (vs. 14,31,36,88,99,11,124,144,157). The law of God is His testimony because it is His own affirmation relative to His very person and purpose. The testimony of the Lord is God’s authentication / confirmation of the Law.
This testimony is sure, absolutely certain. There is no variation. When God wanted to show the sureness of His covenant with Abraham he swore by Himself (Heb. 6:13 – “For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, ‘I will surely Bless you, and I will surely multiply you.‘”). This is the firm foundation upon which you can build your life.
This testimony makes the simple wise. Simple does not mean foolish, but “open.” The simple are those who are ignorant – uneducated. These are those who will heed the advice of Proverbs and give attention to wisdom and incline their ears to understanding. The simple, the “open” will listen and learn. In contrast, Proverbs 17:28 says, “A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind. “ The testimony of the LORD will give Godly wisdom to the one who is open to receiving it. The foolish will receive no such instruction.
The Statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart.
Statutes or precepts is a general term for the responsibility that God places on His people by the authority of His uttered word (used 24 times – all but 3 in Ps 119). These are the general principles by which the LORD wants us to live. General commands such as the Ten Commandments that were given to Moses. Each commandment covered a wide area.
These statutes are right, moral, fitting, proper, etc. They are founded upon the righteousness of God and not on the vain philosophies and wisdom of men. They map out a straight course for a man to be guided by.
Is it any wonder then that they cause the heart to rejoice. (Have you ever found yourself lost in trying to get to a destination. Remember the frustration of that moment. Contrast that with the joy of finding and following correct directions to some wonderful destination. That is the joy in the heart of a man using the statutes/precepts/principles of scripture in guiding his life).
The commandments of the LORD are pure, enlightening the eyes.
Commandments are the specifics of God’s word. His statutes are the general principles and His commandments are the specific ways of carrying out those principles. For example, one of the Ten Commandments was that they were not to covet – lust after – that which belongs to someone else. Much of the Levitical code specifies what was off limits. Specific things they were not to do. Don’t take your neighbor’s wife, kids, house, animals, etc. – if you find your neighbor’s ox straying – return it to him, etc. The commandments are the specifics of the general principles contained in the statutes/precepts of the Lord.
These commandments are pure, without defilement, no mixture of error, no sin stain pollutes it. The NIV translates it as “radiant” in trying to express this purity. So pure it shines.
The effect of it is an enlightenment of the eyes. Ever been on one of those cave tours were they turn off all the lights and it is totally black? Visual perception is difficult when light levels are low and impossible if there is no light. The same is true spiritually. Spiritual perception is diminished or non existent when it is surrounded by the darkness of sin. But the commandments of the LORD bring light to the subject so that you can see clearly. The LORD’s commands impart freshness and joy to the very looks of the eye.
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever.
Proverbs says that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom and understanding, and it is a fountain of life (Prov. 1:7, 14:27). The fear of the LORD is wholesome reverence for the will of the LORD. It is a response of submission to God’s authority and majesty.
This is a proper fear and it is clean. The Hebrew word for clean here is similar to the word for purity except that this one refers to purified metals, and that is what the fear of the LORD does in our lives – it purifies us from the dross (impurities) of life. Every place in Scripture where someone has a vision of God, there is a corresponding purifying effect on their life. Daniel fell before the angel of the Lord. Isaiah had his mouth cleansed by a coal from the altar. John is found weeping in his vision of heaven. Ezekiel fell on his face. When a man or woman is confronted by the Lord, there is a proper fear that will purify.
The fear of the LORD is clean – and it endures forever because its value never diminishes and it imparts life. For believers, there will always be a proper fear of the Lord – a proper reverence for Him. For unbelievers, the fear of the Lord will come from the punishment they endure for eternity in Hell. In either case, the fear of the Lord endures forever.
The Judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
There is no corruption in this court, for the judgments of the LORD are true. To judge in this sense is to decide between right and wrong and pronounce guilt or innocence. No evidence is overlooked. Everything is examined.
There is a strong emphasis in this passage upon this word “true” because it is the only noun among the corresponding adjectives and it implies utter dependability. God is judge over the lives of men and the verdicts He gives are true. Rev.20:12 says that God will judge from the things written in the books, according to their deeds. God’s pronouncements are always accurate. Man will receive what he deserves – Gal. 6:7 “do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life.”
All of these together are summarized as righteous. They are correct, holy. There can be no claim of injustice laid against God. He has given the Scriptures so that we might know Him and the path He wants us to walk. He has given us general principles and specific commandments. These things are to change our lives. To cause us to repent, to make us wise, to bring joy to our hearts, to enlighten our eyes and bring us into a personal relationship with forever. God is righteous. His Word is righteous. And David saw the Word of God as something uniquely valuable.
Vs. 10 They are more to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold. Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honey comb. Moreover by them is Thy servant warned, in keeping them there is great reward.
The word of God was precious to David, more precious than gold or any other material thing. Mark 8:36 asks the question “What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul? The answer of course is nothing, and David recognized the worth of the Scriptures to be above all else. David also found the Word to be sweet as honey. Remember that they did not have Nutra-Sweet, Saccharin, or even processed sugar. The sweetest, most pleasant food that could be mentioned was honey and especially that honey which dripped from the honeycomb. It had no impurities in it and so was the sweetest. That is how David regarded the Scriptures. He knew that they were a warning to him of how God wanted him to live and the dangers of going down his own path, and so he also knew that by keeping the Scriptures – hiding them in his heart and obeying them there would be great rewards. David said this again in Psalm 119:9,11 ““How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Thy Word. With all my heart I have sought Thee. Do not let me wander from Thy commandments. Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.”
David did not view Scripture as just some set of rules and regulations to follow or some great literary work that should be studied for its intellectual content. David loved the Word because it reveals God – His attributes and His love for man. I Sam. 13:14 says that the LORD had searched out for Himself a man after His own heart, and that man was David, and David’s heart after God is revealed to us most clearly in his love for the things God had set forth in Scripture. If we want our relationship with God renewed, if we want to be people who truly seek after God, then part of that is approaching Scripture in the manner David did. We must develop a love for the Word because it reveals God to us and that changes us.
We see the effect of the Word on David’s life in the next section of the Psalm.
II. David’s response. Vs. 12-14
David asks, “Who can discern his errors?” Jeremiah would echo this some years later saying, “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick: Who can understand it?” Because David had been confronted with the reality of God, he recognized his true position and state. The revelation of God in creation reminded him that he was only a creature made by an awesome and marvelous God. His study of Scripture told him even more of this wonderful God and how that God wanted him to live. David recognized his own sin and requested mercy from the LORD. He asks God to “Acquit me of hidden faults.” He prays for pardon for those sins he has done in ignorance.
But David does not stop there, he goes on knowing that he could fall into other types of sin as well, so he prays, “Also keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.” David wants the Lord to keep him from falling into sins of pride and arrogance that result in willful sin. Such willful defiant sin is mentioned in Num. 15:30 and the penalty is being cut off from the congregation. This type of sin would be the great transgression. David wants to be kept far from such wickedness. He desires to be blameless.
But David goes on. He does not just want to be prevented from sinning and have forgiveness for sins he may commit in ignorance, but he also desires to have an ongoing relationship with God and this is brought out in verse 14. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Thy sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer. David has a relationship with God, for He calls Him his rock and Redeemer. David wants to be pleasing to the LORD in every way including the words of his mouth and the meditations and thoughts of his heart.
David recognized his own sin and sought God for cleansing. David was not content with just an outward appearance of righteousness, but sought to be holy in his inner being as well. As David observed part of God’s wonderful work of creation, he recognized his own place in relation to God as one of His creatures. This restored that proper fear of God – that reverence that is part of true worship. David also realized the worth or value of God’s word – the effect that scripture would have in his life. He knew that the Bible was God’s revelation of Himself and would help David develop a closer relationship with God and live a life pleasing to God. This is why David had such a love for the Word. David was a true worshiper of God. This is why God called David a man after His own heart.
This is the effect Scripture is to have on us. But the only way it will have that effect is if we know what it says, believe it and commit ourselves to doing it. If we are to call ourselves Christians – “Christ ones” – then we have no option but to follow Scripture. We cannot allow our emotions or our own foolish desires to disrupt our commitment to follow the Word. Either I bend my will to what God says in the Bible – or I had better quit claiming to follow Him. That is my prayer for my own life and the people of this church – that each and every one of us will bend our wills to God’s and live our lives according to His Word – not according to our own thoughts, emotions and desires.
That is my passion, the driving force in my life and the focus of my attention. Should that not be true I would need to be defrocked and return to chasing insects. This is also my great desire for this church as well. The word “Bible” is in the center of our name for a purpose, and I hope it will always stay there. But if the commitment of this church to following the Scriptures slackens, then the doors ought to be closed – or at least the name changed to reflect the real heart of the church otherwise we would be rightly judged as great hypocrites.
I want to challenge each of you to take some time this afternoon and examine yourself in light of this message I have preached and consider where you may have compromised with the Scriptures. Then humbly seek the Lord’s forgiveness while resolving to develop a heart like that of David. Then I would like you to return this evening for a time of special prayer as we humbly seek the Lord’s face and plead for His mercy and guidance. We will begin the time with confession and repentance followed by our petitions to God.
I am going to close the service with some selected readings from Psalm 119. I will then pray and then dismiss you asking you to please refrain from talking, but to leave prayerfully in contemplation of how well your heart matches the heart of the psalmist.
119:1 How blessed are those whose way is blameless, Who walk in the law of the Lord. 2 How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, Who seek Him with all [their] heart. 3 They also do no unrighteousness; They walk in His ways. 4 Thou hast ordained Thy precepts, That we should keep [them] diligently. 5 Oh that my ways may be established To keep Thy statutes! 6 Then I shall not be ashamed When I look upon all Thy commandments. 7 I shall give thanks to Thee with uprightness of heart, When I learn Thy righteous judgments. 8 I shall keep Thy statutes; Do not forsake me utterly!
9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping [it] according to Thy word. 10 With all my heart I have sought Thee; Do not let me wander from Thy commandments. 11 Thy word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against Thee. 12 Blessed art Thou, O Lord; Teach me Thy statutes. 13 With my lips I have told of All the ordinances of Thy mouth. 14 I have rejoiced in the way of Thy testimonies, As much as in all riches. 15 I will meditate on Thy precepts, And regard Thy ways. 16 I shall delight in Thy statutes; I shall not forget Thy word.
33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of Thy statutes, And I shall observe it to the end. 34 Give me understanding, that I may observe Thy law, And keep it with all [my] heart. 35 Make me walk in the path of Thy commandments, For I delight in it. 36 Incline my heart to Thy testimonies, And not to [dishonest] gain. 37 Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, And revive me in Thy ways. 38 Establish Thy word to Thy servant, As that which produces reverence for Thee. 39 Turn away my reproach which I dread, For Thine ordinances are good. 40 Behold, I long for Thy precepts; Revive me through Thy righteousness.
57 The Lord is my portion; I have promised to keep Thy words. 58 I entreated Thy favor with all [my] heart; Be gracious to me according to Thy word. 59 I considered my ways, And turned my feet to Thy testimonies. 60 I hastened and did not delay To keep Thy commandments. 61 The cords of the wicked have encircled me, [But] I have not forgotten Thy law. 62 At midnight I shall rise to give thanks to Thee Because of Thy righteous ordinances. 63 I am a companion of all those who fear Thee, And of those who keep Thy precepts. 64 The earth is full of Thy lovingkindness, O Lord; Teach me Thy statutes.
65 Thou hast dealt well with Thy servant, O Lord, according to Thy word. 66 Teach me good discernment and knowledge, For I believe in Thy commandments. 67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Thy word. 68 Thou art good and doest good; Teach me Thy statutes. 69 The arrogant have forged a lie against me; With all [my] heart I will observe Thy precepts. 70 Their heart is covered with fat, [But] I delight in Thy law. 71 It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Thy statutes. 72 The law of Thy mouth is better to me Than thousands of gold and silver [pieces].
97 O how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day. 98 Thy commandments make me wiser than my enemies, For they are ever mine. 99 I have more insight than all my teachers, For Thy testimonies are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the aged, Because I have observed Thy precepts. 101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way, That I may keep Thy word. 102 I have not turned aside from Thine ordinances, For Thou Thyself hast taught me. 103 How sweet are Thy words to my taste! [Yes, sweeter] than honey to my mouth! 104 From Thy precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.
129 Thy testimonies are wonderful; Therefore my soul observes them. 130 The unfolding of Thy words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple. 131 I opened my mouth wide and panted, For I longed for Thy commandments. 132 Turn to me and be gracious to me, After Thy manner with those who love Thy name. 133 Establish my footsteps in Thy word, And do not let any iniquity have dominion over me. 134 Redeem me from the oppression of man, That I may keep Thy precepts. 135 Make Thy face shine upon Thy servant, And teach me Thy statutes. 136 My eyes shed streams of water, Because they do not keep Thy law.
169 Let my cry come before Thee, O Lord; Give me understanding according to Thy word. 170 Let my supplication come before Thee; Deliver me according to Thy word. 171 Let my lips utter praise, For Thou dost teach me Thy statutes. 172 Let my tongue sing of Thy word, For all Thy commandments are righteousness. 173 Let Thy hand be ready to help me, For I have chosen Thy precepts. 174 I long for Thy salvation, O Lord, And Thy law is my delight. 175 Let my soul live that it may praise Thee, And let Thine ordinances help me. 176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Thy servant, For I do not forget Thy commandments.
Father, we cry out to you as the Psalmist did so long ago. May we be found like him in love with your word because he was in love with you and desired to do your will. Thank you that you have revealed yourself not only in all that you have created, but even more so in your Word that we might know you more intimately and know how we can bring glory to your name by how we live.
We cry out to you this morning seeking to be first and foremost humble before you that we might be your fitting servants. We cry out for your mercy to the thousands and thousands of people in the community in which we live that do not know you and have not heard the gospel message of Jesus Christ. Lord, change us into whatever we need to be that we might be effective messengers of your grace to them, that they might know that you are willing to forgive their sins and that you might be glorified by them.
Father, grant your mercy and your grace upon this church that we might work through the present crises in such a way that you will be glorified for it. Father, work within us that we might be a fellowship of people that love you above all else and will therefore conform ourselves to your Word.
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