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Psalm 119  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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This section of Psalm 119 addresses the only two approaches to God's Word



There are only two responses to God’s Word. We either believe it, and accept it as it is, the Word of God. Or, we can disbelieve it, and count it as a good collection of stories, historical accounts, or mythological meanderings.
Like a man standing at the altar being asked, “Do you take so and so to be your lawfully wedded wife?” He can respond in the affirmative or the negative. There are no half-way options. That may be popular in our present society, but biblically speaking there are only two options.
You see, how you treat the Scriptures goes hand in hand with how you treat the Author of the Scriptures. That is, when you value the Word of God you demonstrate that you value the God of the Word. Likewise, when you treat the Word of God with contempt, you treat the God of the Word with contempt.
We are reminded of the words of the London Baptist Confession of Faith,
“The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the author thereof; therefore it is to be received because it is the Word of God.” LBCF I:4
This portion of Psalm 119, which focuses almost exclusively on God’s Word (exceptions are verses 84, 90, 121, 122, and 132), describes two responses to God’s Word: the believer’s response and the unbeliever’s response. One of these two responses describes every single human being who has had the ability and the privilege of reading and hearing of the Scriptures.
You and I demonstrate one of these two responses to God’s Word as well. In fact, each Sunday (and Wednesday, if you attend) have the opportunity to respond in one of these two ways. With that understanding, let us pray that God will enable us to respond as believers.
I. THE BELIEVER’S RESPONSE- selected Scriptures
II. THE UNBELIEVER’S RESPONSE- selected Scriptures

I. THE BELIEVER’S RESPONSE- selected Scriptures

The believer is one who has been “born again” (John 3:3, 7). The results of believing come through faith in the work of Jesus Christ. As we read from the Confession, “By this faith a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word for the authority of God Himself” (LBCF XIV:2). We could on, but we want to spend our time examining how the believer responds to God’s Word.


Notice the contrast of emotions between believers and unbelievers. Unbelievers hate God’s Word, while believers love God’s Word.
Do you love God’s Word? Do you wake up each day with a desire to read and study it, for the purpose of knowing God and being more like Him?
You see, the believer responds with love. The believer loves the Word of God when it is preached. The believer loves the Word of God when it is sung. The believer loves the Word of God when it is seen (i.e., baptism and the Lord’s Supper).
When we are believers love the Word of God, they respond accordingly:
“yielding obedience to the commands”
“trembling at the threatenings”
“embracing the promises of God for this life and that which is to come”
These are ways in which we respond to the different passages of Scripture in love. When we love the Word of God we respond with obedience to the commands. When we love the Word of God we respond with trembling at the threatenings. When we love the word of God we respond by embracing the promises of God for this life and that which is to come.


The psalmist refers to God as both his “hiding place” and his “shield.” The basic concept is protection. A hiding place removed one out of sight of the danger, while the shield protected against attacks. The believer, hoping in God’s Word, finds God to be His hope against all danger.
When believers’ respond to God’s Word, they turn to God’s Word for hope. This is the primary thought of Hebrews 11. Those believers had faith (in God’s Word), and it was the faith in God’s Word that provided the hope they enjoyed. One particular verse that is helpful is Hebrews 11:13,
Hebrews 11:13 ESV
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
When you are facing battles, or dangers, or difficulties, to do turn to God’s Word? Do you hope in the Word as it displays the glorious God whom we serve? A believer does. But a believer also avoids unbelievers for the purpose of keeping God’s Word.
Additionally, believers avoid shame by trusting God’s Word. Remember one of the ways we respond to the Word? “Embracing the promises of God for this life and that which is to come,” applies to this very passage. The psalmist relies on the promise of God for his life and follows with the desire to be free from the shame.
Likewise, we read a very similar thought in verse 117. He prays that God would hold him up (a prayer of hope, by the way), in order that he might be safe and have regard for God’s statutes continually. In other words, he hopes that God will deliver him in order to him to be able to continue to keep and practice God’s Word.


The believer responds to God’s Word with separating-purpose. By separating purpose we capture the desire to avoid the evil-doers as well as the desire to keep God’s Word.
First, when the psalmist discusses the evil doer, it is in this Old Testament covenant-context. God made a covenant with Israel, that if they kept His Word, He would bless, but if they failed to keep it, God would bring punishment (Deut. 28-30). And in this psalm that focuses on God’s Word it is important to remember that the evil doers, the arrogant, and those who wicked disbelieve God’s Word.
The believer is to preach the gospel and live a righteous life in order to bring God glory and evangelize the lost. This mindset is what Paul discusses in 1 Corinthians 5: 9-13. While the believer associates with unbelievers, they are to avoid those who have the Scriptures and refuse to accept and believe them.
We avoid those relationships because they can affect our own love for the Scripture, as well as prevent us from “keeping” God’s Word.


These last two verses describing the believer’s response to God’s Word focuses on careful attention. This is represented, first, in the believer’s notice of the unbeliever.
He realizes that, ultimately, the unbeliever will face the divine wrath of the almighty God. Dross, the refuse or worthless material, is discarded. In fact, when working with metal, the crafter works to remove dross. Unbelievers are, according to the psalmist, like dross. They will be discarded (i.e., Rev. 20:11-15). And it is because of this the psalmist intends to love God’s testimonies (i.e., Word). These individuals are those of whom Christ speaks about in Matthew 7:21-23.
In the Old Testament, the constant refrain “be careful” or “take heed” also demonstrates the care which believers should take with reference to God’s Word. It is easy, according to Scripture, to deceive one’s self into thinking they are a believer when they are not.
The psalmist also discusses his careful attention through his fear. This is, I believe, a missing ingredient in many churches and believers. There is no fear, no healthy reverence for God or His Word.
While believers fear is different than unbelievers, there is a healthy fear which should be kept. I have worked for many people in my life, and some of my bosses have been really friendly. Others have been standoffish. There have been bosses that I have had that are friendly but maintain that distinction that they are still my boss. While I did not fear them like I would had I done something wrong, I had a healthy respect for them.
That is what we referred to previously as “trembling at the threatenings.” We must maintain a healthy fear of the Triune God, as we believe the Word. Those are the responses of a believer. But how does the unbeliever respond? It quite the opposite way!

II. THE UNBELIEVER’S RESPONSE- selected Scriptures

While believers cherish and obey the Word of God, the unbelievers have the exact opposite reaction. They treat the Word of God like black licorice.


The psalmist calls the unbeliever “double-minded.” They are unstable, they will not make a decision. This harkens our minds back to Elijah’s charge of the people of Israel in 1 Kings 18:21,
1 Kings 18:21 ESV
And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.
The unbeliever stands aloof, going back and forth between God and the World, never committing to either, always attempting to ride the fence. There are many like this in the Church at large. Individuals who faithfully attend church but who’s lives have no distinction between the world.
The unbeliever, when confronted with a command or prohibition in Scripture, simply sits at the proverbial fork in the road.


The second way unbelievers respond is with disdain. Notice the connection with the psalmist’s desire to keep God’s Word. He is contrasted with the evildoers, those who do not keep the Word. Rather than keeping the Word of God (or guarding), they disdain it.
The unbeliever treats it without the respect it is due. These individuals are like Esau, who despising his birth right, treated it with contempt (Gen. 25:29-34). These individuals disdain the Word of God, treating it like any other book or worse.
These individuals follow Richard Dawkins, who wrote,
“To be fair, much of the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird, as you would expect of a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed and ‘improved’ by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, unknown to us and mostly unknown to each other, spanning nine centuries.”—Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, 237
They treat the Scriptures with disdain. But they also respond to the Word of God with dismissal.


The unbeliever also dismisses the Word of God. He or she does not even believe it. They “go astray,” or leave the Word of God. They simply do not care about it, like Pharoah they say, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go?” Who is the Lord, that I should live differently? Who is the Lord, that I should use my money for others? Who is the Lord, that I should submit to His Word?
Do you see how often this can be observed all over the world? We could look at almost any industry, and the conducts and philosophies will all echo Pharaoh’s question, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice?”


This final point is the result of the unbeliever’s response to God’s Word. Rejection, dismissal, disdain, instability, all end with the unbeliever’s submission to God’s Word of judgment.
The word picture of being discarded like dross is ultimately fulfilled in Revelation 20:11-15, a passage to which we have already referred. It is a submission, a forced submission, when those who have rejected the Word of God finally bow before Him (Phil. 2:9-11).
These two responses have two results, which will function as our application.
When we believe God’s Word, we enjoy comfort, security, hope, life, and a healthy relationship with God
When we disbelieve God’s Word, we fall under His just judgment, fall under His righteous wrath, and experience ultimate fear.
Each sermon you hear, each time you open God’s Word, each devotional you use, is an opportunity to respond as a believer to the Word or an unbeliever. You can accept the Word, as it is indeed the Word of God, or you can reject it. Which will it be? The Two Responses to God’s Word.
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