33 Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes,
And I shall keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law;
Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
35 Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
For I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to Your testimonies,
And not to covetousness.
37 Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things,
And revive me in Your way.
38 Establish Your word to Your servant,
Who is devoted to fearing You.
39 Turn away my reproach which I dread,
For Your judgments are good.
40 Behold, I long for Your precepts;
Revive me in Your righteousness.
I was reading a news article last night and I came across a very astounding statement from a pastor:
“We reach an understanding of the Bible not just by studying God’s word, but by studying his world. If you think he’s the author of both, they both inform each other.”
There are several problems with this statement. It is true that God created this world and put man in it to have dominion over it. The record of Genesis chapter 2 is quite clear on that. So, if we were to study the Bible in conjunction with studying the garden of Eden, then, yes, they would “both inform each other.” We would indeed learn about God’s loving plan for humanity by seeing His perfect Creation, His flora and fauna as He intended them to be.
But Eden is NOT the world we live in today. God’s plan did not include sickness, decay, and death. God’s plan did not include sin, rebellion, pride, and evil. Because Adam made a choice to follow his pride and to ignore God’s utterly simple and clear commandment, we now live in a world radically different from Eden.
17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:
“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
18 “Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
19 “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.”
Toil, sweat, death. Does that sound like a perfect world? Does that sound like the same world where God said to Adam “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat”? On the contrary, God has set this world on its current path because of our sinfulness, and the brokenness of our world reflects the broken state of our souls. How, then, can this broken world teach us about the will of our perfect, holy, and Almighty God?
In today’s verses from the 119th Psalm, the psalmist is asking the Lord God for instruction in His Word. Look at the language and the intent, which is repeated in each verse:
• Teach me, O LORD…
• Give me understanding…
• Make me walk…
• Incline my heart…
• Turn away my eyes… revive me…
• Establish Your word…
• Turn away my reproach…
• Revive me…
The psalmist, as much as he loves God’s law and commandments, does not understand them all and he wants more instruction. He wants to keep God’s statutes, we wants to observe God’s law with his whole heart. He delights in God’s commandments, he does not want to be covetous nor look upon “worthless things” (translated elsewhere as “idols”). The psalmist tells God he is devoted to fearing Him, and that he seeks only God’s righteous judgments, not the reproachful judgments of men. And twice the psalmist says, “revive me”:
• Verse 37: “And revive me in Your way.”
• Verse 40: “Revive me in Your righteousness.”
He is literally saying “Give me life.” Did he not have life before? Yes, the psalmist was living, but like all sinners, he was doomed to die. He came to the Lord for the words that would give him eternal life.
66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.
67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”
68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
69 “Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Where else can we get “the words of eternal life” but through Christ Jesus our Lord? Will we seek eternal life in the teachings of men? Will we seek eternal life in the instruction of a world cursed because of our sin? Will we follow our base and sinful nature and call that “holy,” when the clear teaching of Scripture is that God alone is holy and good?
The psalmist recorded this prayer for all to read. Like the directions say on many cleaning products, “Repeat as necessary.” We need to come back to this prayer – and to ALL of the Bible – as often as necessary, so that we can be taught by the One who wrote it. The prince of this world – Satan – would LOVE for us to seek instruction from him, but we cannot trust what is given to us by this world. All instruction in holiness, righteousness, and LOVE must line up with the Word of God which has been handed down to us for thousands of years. The Bible is the God-inspired Word we NEED, not the human-created word we WANT. As we see from those verses from the Gospel of John, God’s treachings are not easy and many would rather turn away that face them. But we who decide to stay must go against our flesh and repent, and believe in the gospel of Christ. If we reject His teaching – reject His Word and follow the teachings of human “justice” – then we will reap what we sow: confusion, rebellion, and death.
Do we long for God Himself to teach us? Do we seek His instruction through His holy Word? Do we know His Son, Emmanuel, through half-remembered folk tales and “Christmas songs,” or do we know our Savior through reading the Gospels ourselves? Do we understand that God’s standards are higher than our own, or do we think His laws are based on our own pitiful and ever-changing sense of “justice”?
Remember those thorns and thistles Adam brought to the world through his sin? Do you know what happens when we seek the Lord and understand His thoughts and His Word? Take a moment right now and read chapter 55 of the book of Isaiah. In my Bible, that chapter is 110 pages after today’s verses from Psalms 119. Go ahead, it’s a short chapter. Read your Bible…
Brothers and sisters, seek God’s instruction. As the Lord said through Isaiah:
“Listen carefully to Me,
And eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.”
Seek the abundant wisdom of the Word of God. Come back to the Bible again and again, repeating as necessary. You will never exhaust its resources, nor will His Word ever return void from your life. Do not be fooled by men who teach only what itching ears want to hear. (2 Timothy 4:3-4) Do not be taught by the world! Be instructed by the Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe. Be revived by the Word of the living God.
Lord God my Father, I repeat today what Your prophets wrote so long ago, that I long for Your instruction. Teach me, shape me, use me, O Lord. Do not let me be misled by the idolatry and the sinful nature of this broken world. Let me be led by Your Word, Your judgments, Your statutes. Help me to understand love and justice and forgiveness as You embody them. Revive me, for I repent, and I believe in Your gospel. Amen.