*Psalm 119 (Introduction) - The Grand Canyon of Scripture’s Greatness and Sufficiency*
/Preached by Pastor Phil Layton at Gold Country Baptist Church on September 14, 2008/
I am eager and excited about our next verse-by-verse study that has been brewing for a while and is building in my heart an earnest desire for all of us, including myself, to grow in our passion and love of God’s Word.
The study we begin today has the potential to be a soul-stirring life-changing heart-strengthening spiritually revitalizing and refreshing study that God might use to revive us as a church and as individuals.
I hope and pray that God will do that for my own heart and for all of your hearts as well.
So I want to invite you to please take God’s Word and turn with me to the very middle - the book of Psalms - the very center of Scripture, the heart of the Holy Bible, the 119th Psalm.
In the actual text of scripture, many Bibles have this Psalm near the very middle, if not the middle page itself.
My preaching Bible ends in Revelation at page 1268, and its exact middle page (634) lands in Psalm 119.
Right before it, is Psalm 117, which if you count by chapters in our English Bible, would be technically the exact center chapter in the Bible (594 chapters before and after Psalm 117, contrary to one email going around that says Psalm 118 is the center chapter).
If you count by verses, the two center verses in the KJV would be Psalm 118:8-9, but we don’t want to put too much significance on numbers since the chapters and verses were not part of the original scrolls, but were added in the centuries that scripture was being translated into English (12th-16th century).
Still, it is fitting that right here, near the very heart of God’s Word we find Psalm 119, the psalm of a man’s passionate /heart/ /for God’s Word.
/Near the actual center of Scripture, we find a psalm that elevates and uplifts the centrality of Scripture in all of life.
We’re told when ‘the Protestant Reformation took place in the sixteenth century and the truths of the Bible, which had long been obscured by the traditions of the medieval church, again became known, there was an immediate *elevation* of the Scriptures in Protestant services.
John Calvin in particular carried this out with thoroughness, ordering that the altars (long the *center* of the Latin mass) be removed from the churches and that a pulpit with a Bible upon it be placed *in the center* of the building.
This was not to be on one side of the room, but *at the center*, where every line of the architecture would carry the gaze of the [people] to that Book.’
This psalm calls for Scripture alone to have the central place and pre-eminent focus in all our hearts, in all we do, in all our lives.
This psalm epitomizes the Reformation motto “sola Scriptura” (Scripture alone is sufficient for salvation and all of life) and it was
- the /Scripture/ alone, not a /style of service/, that drew true seekers of God to church in those days in church history
- It was always the /Word/ being proclaimed, not a /worship/ preference or innovation or the latest program or fad
- It was not /performances/ that drew people, it was the /preaching/ of the whole counsel of God, the way God wrote it, verse-by-verse, book-by-book, that truly changed lives
- It was not about /entertainment/, it was about the /exposition/ of Scripture – nothing is more relevant in any age.
This book is more up-to-date than tomorrow’s newspaper.
- We don’t need to /make /the Bible relevant, it /is /relevant (we may be out of touch with /it/).
Any attempts to improve or upgrade God’s message will quickly make us /irrelevant/!
- The grass of culture withers, and the flower of our fads soon fade away, but the Word of our God abides forever.
Man’s nature has not changed since Bible times, and man’s need has not changed either.
Man’s true need is always this book.
- This was true in the days of the prophet Hosea, who wrote “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge … you have forgotten the law of your God” (Hosea 4:6)
- This was also a great need addressed in Amos 8:11 which prophesies of a time of “famine, not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but /a famine/ of hearing the Word of God”
- This was the great need in the day of Nehemiah 8, at the great moment in Israel’s history, one of the great spiritual moments of a nation in world history when after returning to their land they also returned to the Law of the Lord, and they called Ezra to “Bring the Book” (and revival came)
- Look at Psalm 119:25 - This was also the great spiritual need of individuals in the day of the psalmist, even for godly men: v. 25b “Revive me according to your Word”
- This was the great need in the days of the New Testament, where Paul calls Timothy and us to “preach the Word”
- Man’s problem is always the same (sin) and the solution is always the same (to know and love God and His Word)
This is what I personally desperately need, which is one of the reasons I’m looking forward to this study for my own soul.
This is what we all need - having a high view of God and His Word must remain at the center of everything in our church, families, and lives.
I pray our great God will be honored as we seek to honor His great Word in this study of this great psalm for His great glory
*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 You have ordained Your precepts,
That we should keep /them /diligently.
5 Oh that my ways may be established
To keep Your statutes!
6 Then I shall not be ashamed
When I look upon all Your commandments.
7 I shall give thanks to You with uprightness of heart,
When I learn Your righteous judgments.
8 I shall keep Your statutes;
Do not forsake me utterly!
*9* How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping /it /according to Your word.
10 With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
11 Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.
My plan is to just introduce this psalm today, and then each week to seek to preach each stanza of 8 verses at a time (the stanzas you see broken up in your Bible with different headings, ex: v. 1-8 next week, and v. 9-16 the following week and so on) to keep up with the pace and structure of the original.
Today I hope to whet your appetite for this feast of Scripture that I pray will fill our souls through the end of this year and the beginning of next year, as I can think of no better way to end a year or to start a new year.
The simple outline for our introduction to this Psalm will be:
2. Its Structure
3. Its Size
4. Its Significance
5. Its Setting
*/First, Its Subject/*
This is one of the few times were every single commentator agrees that the main subject, the theme, the focus of this psalm is the Word of God.
Certainly there are other sub-themes that flow out of that, but the Scripture is indisputably the main subject, being mentioned in some way nearly 180x in all, in nearly every verse
*1b* … the *law* of the Lord.
2 How blessed are those who observe His *testimonies* …
3b … They walk in His *ways*.
4 You have ordained Your *precepts* …
5b … Your *statutes*!
6b … Your *commandments*.
7b … Your righteous *judgments*.
8 I shall keep Your *statutes*;
9b … Your *word*.
10b … Your *commandments*.
11 Your *word* [/different Heb.
Word than v. 9/] I have treasured in my heart,
There are 8 basic synonyms that the Psalmist uses 175x in 176 vss
1. *“law” *(/torah/; v. 1), 25x; ‘Direction, instruction, law … [in] its consistent usage in Psalm 119, “law” should be understood as also demonstrating a biblically documented wider connotation of “an immanent or underlying principle of life and action” rather than merely a narrowly and legalistically perceived code of mandates.
Consequently, /torah /in such contexts refers to “Scripture as a whole”
/Torah /is “Yahweh’s communication of moral truth and demonstration of his grace and guidance.”
The “‘law’ which the poet describes in Ps. 119 is not a yoke which ‘neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear’ (Ac.
To the Psalmist the /torah /is a gift of God, which was both preceded and followed by divine grace.”
It ‘depicts God’s special revelation as a gracious gift which points out or /shows the way /through life’s twisted highways and byways … “Biblical law and the gospel of God’s grace are not archrivals but twin mercies given by the same gracious Lord who did not wish his people in any age to be impoverished but to enjoy life to the fullest”
*“testimonies” *(/‘edut/, /‘edot/; v. 2), 23x.
‘“the law of God is His testimony, because it is His own affirmation concerning His nature, attributes, and consequent demands.”
‘The Word of God as “testimonies” emphasizes both the authority of their source in the LORD and the accountability of their reception by men.’
*“precepts” *(/piqqudim/, v. 4), 21x.
This is the word that one type of inductive Bible study is named after – Precepts Bible Study – which seeks to draw God’s precepts out from His Word the way He wrote it, as one passage says “precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little.”
Verse-by-verse study should be our main spiritual diet.
The Heb word emphasized ‘oral or written declarations as to what he expects of man.
The original meaning carries the idea of fix, appoint, designate … it is obvious that Yahweh had the right and power to make such declarations and statements regarding man’s obligations toward him … man must submit to … the “precepts,” “orders,” or “charges” which flow from man’s Master.’
*“statutes” *(/huqqim/, /huqqot/; v. 5, feminine in v. 16), 22x.
‘This word comes from a root which means to hew, cut in, engrave, inscribe; and so comes to mean what is ordained, decreed, prescribed, enacted …to cut, because, it is said, statutes were engraved on tablets of stone or metal.’
‘The common denominator is revelational and applicational indelibility; these “statutes” have been “written down and preserved for permanent observance.”