161 Princes persecute me without a cause,
But my heart stands in awe of Your word.
162 I rejoice at Your word
As one who finds great treasure.
163 I hate and abhor lying,
But I love Your law.
164 Seven times a day I praise You,
Because of Your righteous judgments.
165 Great peace have those who love Your law,
And nothing causes them to stumble.
166 LORD, I hope for Your salvation,
And I do Your commandments.
167 My soul keeps Your testimonies,
And I love them exceedingly.
168 I keep Your precepts and Your testimonies,
For all my ways are before You.
Yesterday, I overheard about half of a conversation between one of my co-workers and a customer. The gist of the conversation with this very happy fellow was that he was a “life coach” – i.e. someone who helps others get their lives together, who guides them out of chaos and into a more harmonious lifestyle. When the customer had left, my co-worker came over and asked if I’d heard what the man said.
“Maybe you could use a life coach,” she told me. I pointed upward and said, “I’ve already got a life coach.”
I will admit I’m not a great example of what God can do for one’s life. We all have our problems. But when it comes to the meaningful things, the important issues and problems, I always have the guidance and courage I need to face the day. The Bible may not help me organize my home or figure out my budget, nor is it likely to help me much with many physical, practical matters, but the Word of God does help me get my spiritual priorities straight, and it guides me in my relationships and helps keep me on a proper path in life.
When I look at the verses above from Psalms 119:161-168, I see the psalmist coming back to a recurring theme: how much he loves and keeps God’s Word. The psalmist tells the Lord he is in awe of His Word, that he rejoices at and loves it. “Seven times a day” he praises God for His holy Word. Can any of us say the same? The psalmist does God’s commandments, and he keeps God’s testimonies and precepts, because he knows that everything he does is known to the Lord.
But did you notice what is missing in these verses? He never once says he fears the Lord or His judgment. Quite the contrary, the psalmist hopes for salvation. He loves God’s Word so much that he isn’t afraid of what God might do to him. The key, of course, is in verse 165:
Great peace have those who love Your law,
And nothing causes them to stumble.
In other words, when we love God’s Word, there is only peace, and there is nothing that can then stand between us and God. When we cling to the hope of the gospel, when we desire the guidance of the Word of God, then we are taking a path that is smooth and straight, a way that is sure and true.
Of course, keeping God’s law and precepts means actually doing what they say. It means we have to read and understand His testimonies and judgments. It means we have to follow the WHOLE of the Word of God, not just the parts we like. That being the case, we will find that the Bible chafes at our modern sense of morality, the socially acceptable way of life that we so love. As C.S. Lewis said, Christianity is hard.
Following Christ means giving up our anger and unforgiveness, giving up our lust and greed, giving up our petty rivalries and common grudges. Becoming part of the body of Christ, we can no longer follow the rules of the world – which are, after all, merely catering to our flesh – but we are called to follow God’s commandments and precepts. Of course, we don’t follow the law with any intent that it will lead us to righteousness. Instead, we follow the law as a natural consequence of having been given the Holy Spirit to guide our conscience, as a natural “fruit” of our relationship with Christ and the righteousness He Himself has imputed to us through the Cross. We are free from the law only insofar as we return to the law because of Christ. What the Bible teaches us about sin and righteousness, we now can live out in our lives, turning from our weak flesh and embracing a life filled with the Holy Spirit of God.
The Word of God is truth, and if we “hate and abhor lying” like the psalmist, then we will seek God’s truth. The whole of the Bible was inspired by God, and as such it was written by the very same Holy Spirit who now abides in every believer. Why, then, would anyone say there is some part of the Bible that does NOT apply to the modern believer?
We who love God and love the Word of God, we can cling to what we find there – the hope of salvation, the assurance of peace – and we can praise our God for His righteousness and love. We may face persecution from “princes,” and even face lying and wickedness and oppression, but we can turn to the Word of God and find the truth and wisdom of our Father, the very Creator of the universe. And when chaos threatens to overwhelm our lives, we can come to the Bible and listen to the words of our Rock and our Redeemer, the one and only, original Life Coach:
28 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Lord God in Heaven, thank You for Your Holy Bible, Your very Word set down for us to read and know and cherish. Thank You for guiding my life and teaching me Your way, Your truth, Your life. Continue to guide my steps, Father God, and lead me only in ways that bring You glory. All praise and honor are Yours alone. Amen.