THE JOY OF BEING RIGHT
The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. [Psalm 19:8]
“Give yourself to prayer, to reading and meditation on divine truths: strive to penetrate to the bottom of them and never be content with a superficial knowledge.” David Brainerd.
Introduction: David Brainerd was a young man who gave his life to evangelizing the Indians of New York in the early eighteenth century. He was a very godly man whose prayer diary inspired many of the world’s greatest missionaries to go to the ends of the earth for the joy of seeing Jesus Christ glorified among all peoples. Tuberculosis wracked his body and he died at the young age of 29. Shortly before he died he called several of his friends to his bedside. His last words to them summed up the driving force of his life:
“My heaven is to please God, and glorify Him, and to give all to Him, and to be wholly devoted to His glory. That is the heaven I long for; that is my religion and that is my happiness….I do not go to heaven to be advanced, but to give honor to God….All my desire is to glorify God….I see nothing else that can yield any satisfaction except living to God, pleasing Him, and doing His whole will.”
David Brainerd had a passion that controlled everything he did. He had found something so true, so satisfying, that even an early and painful death could not rob him of his joy. He had seen the glory of God in the face of Christ. His happiness had one life dominating focus: to know and honor God. That is what I think he meant when he wrote: “Give yourself to prayer, to reading and meditation on divine truths: strive to penetrate to the bottom of them and never be content with a superficial knowledge.” The place that David Brainerd “saw” Christ was in God’s Word. Jesus Christ spoke to him through the written Word. That is why Brainerd gave himself to prayer, reading and meditation. The divine truths that transformed his life were uncovered as he strove to “penetrate to the bottom of them” and “refused to be content with a superficial knowledge.”
The psalmist discovered the same kind of joy. In Psalm 19, he describes a God who speaks and reveals his glory through what he has made and written. In creation he reveals the work of His hands. In the written law He reveals the will of His heart. The psalmist has discovered that the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; trustworthy, making wise the simple. Now, he declares that the “precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.”
The enemy of our soul would have us to believe that the Bible is too hard for us to understand and too boring for us to even try, that it is dry and without transforming power. Those are lies designed to keep us from hearing God’s voice and finding the joy in obedience to his commandments. Let us pray that we will hear God speaking to us now as we spend a few moments reflecting on these words from the Lord.
Exposition: “The precepts of the Lord are right”: Precepts are affirmations of truth. They come from the mind of God. When He makes a declaration in His Word, we are exposed to ultimate reality. What God says is right. That is, It is reliable and unchanging and real. What God says today will not be overturned by the musing of philosophers or the latest discoveries of the scientists. When we apply what God has declared to our lives, we will live a life that is “right.” Our life will be on the pathway of fruitfulness and satisfaction. We will have the assurance that our life will not end in disappointment and despair. So, we can give all of our energy to living in confidence and freedom. We can join the psalmist and say: “Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.” [Ps 119:111]
“Giving joy to the heart.” What gives you joy? Is it the stock market? Sports? Celebrities? Are you banking on something that can be taken away? Have you ever heard of someone on their death bed asking for the Wall Street Journal; or Sports Illustrated; or Peoples Magazine? No, they want to hear something that will carry them beyond the darkness of death through a doorway that leads to delight and eternal joy. The reason Brainerd could die with hope was because He had penetrated to the bottom of divine things and found them “right.” They were not only “right” for this life but “right” for the next. He could joyfully sing with the psalmist in Psalm 16:11: “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
I challenge you to search the annals of faith to find one disciple of Jesus Christ who based all of their lives upon the promises and commands of God, who at the end of their lives expressed regret having done so. You won’t find them. But if you look at such notables as Fredrick Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell and Paul Sartre, who at one time claimed to find freedom without God, you will discover men who are filled with disappointment, depression and despair.
One of the greatest minds that America has produced was Jonathon Edwards. Early in his life, he wrote down several resolutions that he determined would be the guiding principles of his life on earth. Resolution 22 stated: “Resolved: To endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power, might, and vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.” Resolution 28 declared: “Resolved: to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and so that I can find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.” And, Resolution 6 affirmed: “Resolved: to live with all my might, while I do live.”
I conclude that Jonathon Edwards and his dear friend David Brainerd discovered the same source of truth and joy. In God’s Word they encountered the One who claimed to be “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” We can commune with the same Truth as we pick up the scriptures. We will hear and see not only what is right, we will be face to face with the One who brings us joy. It will be that awesome revelation that compels us to hold nothing back in pursuit of more of that joy. It is the “rightness” of what we find there that will give us boldness to leave all other things so we can have the one thing that really matters. And because the precepts are right, and because they are the pathway to joy, we can, like Brainerd and Edwards, “live with all my might, while I do live.”
By God’s grace let us resolve to start each day by pursuing our joy in the truth that is found only in the words of Jesus Christ. Let us seek to remain in his love by knowing and obeying his commandments. He is there in his Word, speaking his loving words to us so that his joy will be in us and that it will be full. Let us join the psalmist in this prayer to God and say at the start of every day, “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” Ps 90:14
“Never doth a soul know what solid joy and substantial pleasure is till, once being weary of itself, it renounces all property and gives itself up to the Author of its being.
The worth and excellency of a soul is determined by the object of his love.” Henry Scougal
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