“God never pursues his glory at the expense of the good of his people, nor does he ever seek our good at the expense of his glory. He has designed His eternal purpose so that His glory and our good are inextricably bound together.” — Gerry Bridges
INTRODUCTION: We live in a dangerous world. Read the papers or listen to the news and you will be reminded of just how evil and unpredictable it is. Consequently, many people are gripped with fear. They plan their days in order to avoid any circumstance that might be dangerous. However, all their schemes will not insulate them from the threats of this life. Jesus said it like this: “In this world you will have tribulations …” No matter how hard you try to protect yourself, you will not escape the dangers of life. It is this way in all places and at all times. Here is how Augustine expressed it in the 4th century:
“What disasters are suffered by those who travel by land and sea! What man can go out of his own house without being exposed on all hands to unforeseen accidents? Returning home sound in limb, he slips on his own doorstep, breaks his leg, and never recovers. What can seem safer than a man sitting in his chair? Eli the priest fell from his, and broke his neck.”
“You can hide from the dangers of the streets and slip on a bar of soap, slip and die of an injury in your own bathtub!”
Given the inevitability of living in a dangerous and even hostile world, what resources do we have to enable us not only to survive, but do so with confidence and boldness? There is only one place to build such a hope. Our hope is established upon the work and words of Jesus Christ. He did say, “In this world you will have tribulation,” but then He added, “But take heart. I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Jesus took upon Himself every apparent “accident,” every tragic circumstance, every deliberate mass murder and robbed them of their ultimate victory. In what appeared to be the most hostile, evil, injustice of all time, God the Father was ruling behind the scenes and fully in charge of the crucifixion of His Son (Acts 2:22-24). In the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, we are safe. We are at peace. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God that is found in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28-39). His victory over sin and death has delivered us into the indestructible kingdom of God’s Son (Colossians 1:13).
How can I make this “Great Peace” my own? Answer: By prayerfully meditating upon God’s Word. It makes no matter what your situation is. God’s Word is sufficient for your particular struggle. But you will not know that if you do not turn to God’s source for hope and help:
“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:3-4).
The “everything” in God’s Word includes everything in your life. So, with this in mind, let us return to Psalm 119 to see how the pressured psalmist applied God’s truth to his life.
161 Rulers persecute me without cause,
but my heart trembles at your word.
162 I rejoice in your promise
like one who finds great spoil.
163 I hate and abhor falsehood
but I love your law.
164 Seven times a day I praise you
for your righteous laws.
165 Great peace have they who love your law,
and nothing can make them stumble.
166 I wait for your salvation, O Lord,
and I follow your commands.
167 I obey your statutes,
for I love them greatly.
168 I obey your precepts and your statutes,
for all my ways are known to you.
Verse 161: “Rulers persecute me without cause, but my heart trembles at your word.” — There is an appropriate place for fear. Fear keeps us from doing destructive things. We are told, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10). It is wisdom 101 to stand in awe of God’s holiness and power. Jesus added, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). But, He doesn’t leave it there. Jesus says that as children of the Father, we are precious in His sight. “So,” He declares, “don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31). Our understanding of God must move from fear to love. That is what Jesus is teaching. Both are essential to a healthy life of discipleship.
The psalmist has enemies that are attacking him with no apparent reason. But rather than let their hostility and their evil intentions rob him of his joy, he focuses upon what really matters: God’s Word. When we “tremble” over being obedient to God’s Word more than we tremble over evil intentions of men, we will dwell in peace and confidence. Our most important task is to please the Lord. In doing that we may stir up persecution, but in that we rejoice, knowing that God will bless us (Matthew 5:11-12). He may bless us by deliverance or He may bless us through persecution. Either way, we are at peace because He blesses those who obey His Word.
Verse 162: “I rejoice in your promise like one who finds great spoil.” — We now come back to a reoccurring theme that is seen not only in Psalm 119, but throughout the Bible. Psalm 19:9-11 says it like this:
The ordinances of the LORD are sure
and altogether righteous.
They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.
By them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
In God’s promises we find pure treasure! Away with the thought that loving and obeying God’s commands are a sacrifice. When we love God they are a joy. John agrees and writes: “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2-3). That does not mean they are without cost. But, they are the ultimate treasure and provide consummate taste. They are precious because they keep us from destruction and assure us of rich delights. “My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods” (Psalm 63:5). All of the energy and discipline we employ to uncover and apply God’s promises to our lives are worth it. In His promises we find a peace that the world cannot give and a peace that the world cannot take away.
Verse 163 “I hate and abhor falsehood but I love your law.” — Why is God’s law so valuable? It is truth! There is no greater danger than to build your life upon the theories of men. Why? They use the language of medicine and claim the reliability of science, but in the end they are only theories. They may make you feel comfortable for awhile. They relieve the symptoms for a season. But when the storms come, when the winds blow, when the tragedy hits, they will be sand. Only what God says and promises us really matters. Knowing and doing the words of Christ will give us real peace built on the foundation that will not crumble.
Charles Spurgeon stated it like this:
“The ungodly are false, but God’s Word is true … God’s Word has been true from the first moment in which it was spoken, true throughout the whole of history, true to us from the instant in which we believed in it, true before we were true to it …. The Scriptures are as true in Genesis as in Revelation and the five books of Moses are as inspired as the four gospels. Neither in the book of revelation nor of providence will there be any need to put a single note of errata (error). The Lord has nothing to regret or to retract, nothing to amend or to reverse.”
Verse 164 “Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.” — Here the psalmist reveals his love for the Word. Seven is a term of completion or fullness. It means that all day long he celebrates the presence of God’s Word in his head and in his heart. There never is a moment when he is left to himself to handle the choices and decisions that he needs to face during the day.
I am not sure that we should take his “seven times a day” literally. In the same way, I do not believe we are commanded to be praying consciously every moment (1 Thessalonians 5:17) of our day. Who could do that? In both cases, I think it is a statement of our continual dependence upon a life in the Word and prayer. The psalmist reminds us that as children of God our daily bread comes from “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). And Paul is reminding us that prayer is essential because without Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5). So, as God’s people, prayer and the Word are our daily necessities and joy. (I do think that it could be a good spiritual discipline to design a day or series of days where you intentionally select seven times where you literally give thanks to God for His Word; or consciously and intentionally do the same kind of thing in prayer. I believe God would bless such a practice with this one caution: be careful that your practice of devotion does not turn into a ritualistic form, devoid of a heart of devotion.)
Verse 165 “Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.” — Here is the centerpiece of this stanza. It is one of my favorite passages in all of the Bible. What a declaration! Great peace is for those who love God’s law. What is great peace? Alexander Maclaren describes it as, “a restful heart … a submitted will … an obedient life … (and) freedom from temptations.” I would describe it as an inward confidence, anchored in the love and grace of God that guards my mind and heart in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:4-8). In other words, in God’s law, He speaks His living words of hope and grace to me so that I come to rest upon this promise: nothing that is happening on the outside of me can ever destroy that which is in control of the inside of me. Great peace means that even though I am martyred and my body is burned at the stake, I lose absolutely nothing. I get to live eternally in the awesome presence of the One who lived and died for me. That is Great Peace. It is life transforming. It is the kind of peace that would cause a young Jim Elliot to write: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Verse 166 “I wait for your salvation, O LORD, and I follow your commands.” — The great test to our peace is not the circumstances that we are in but their length. When the struggle goes on day after day there is a very real possibility that we will become restless and bitter. To continue to be obedient when things are not going our way is a great test. That is why we need great peace. Great peace not only fortifies our soul for a day, it fortifies our soul day after day. That is why Romans 15:4 uses the term “endurance.”
“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
The encouragement of Scriptures gives us the hope to endure and persevere. The way we persevere is to return again and again to the Scriptures to find our hope afresh for each day. Just committing to memory or just praying a promise does not solve the problem for all time. Memory puts the Scripture in our arsenal of hope. We go there and load up every time our peace is threatened. Waiting on God is not a passive thing. It is reloading with the ammunition of God’s Word and firing away everyday in an aggressive response to our enemies. I know what I am talking about. Psalm 27:14 has been a constant and powerful weapon in my arsenal for several years now: Psalm 27:14: “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Being a soldier of God often means preaching to ourselves what God has written. I am still waiting for God to answer some of my most precious prayers, but I am doing so while fighting for faith and peace.
Verse 167 “I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly.” — The secret of possessing a radical peace is found in a “love for the law.” If we really love God’s law, we will devour it. It is to have such a passion for Christ that we eat up everything He says because it is in His words that we come to know Him in an intimate way. The more we know, the more we will love, and the more we know, the more peace we will have. Simply stated, if we do not love the law of God enough to devour it, we will never have the great peace that Christ offers us. The strength of our life is found in Jesus and that strength is made alive when we abide in Him and His words abide in us (John 15:1-5). So, let us ask God for a new hunger, a new passion for Christ and a new love for His Word. Then start feasting.
Verse 168 I obey your precepts and your statutes, for all my ways are known to you. — Finally, the obedience of the psalmist is motivated by the love God has for him. It is often asserted in some quarters that the God of the Old Testament is hard and cranky but the God of the New Testament is soft and loving. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here is just one example of a God who is slow to anger and abounding in love. When God creates us He personally forms us into just the kind of person He desires. Here is how David expressed this wonderful truth:
“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be”
Great peace is ours because we have a great and good God. He is personally involved in our lives. His glory is eternally linked with our salvation. We are His children and every little detail of our lives is important to Him. He has even set the length of our days so that no tragedy or accident can end our days prematurely. That is why the missionary could go to the white man’s grave called Africa and boldly claim: “I am immortal until I have completed God’s will for my life.” That is why Karen Watson could say, “To obey was my objective, to suffer was expected, His glory my reward, His glory my reward.” If you have the same kind of passion, God’s Word will be your source for Great Peace!
Conclusion: Peace doesn’t just happen. We must fight for it. Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” Second Tim 2:22 commands, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace.” Letting the peace of God rule and pursuing the peace of Christ are a call to battle. May you establish your life on a foundation of peace that comes as we know and love and trust God’s promise to us in Christ Jesus. Paul’s words are a good place to end our devotion: He writes, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9).
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Dr. Gary Rieben. © Give Me That Book. Email: Grieben@aol.com. Website: www.GiveMeThatBook.org. Postal: GMTB | P.O. Box 1045| La Quinta, CA 92247 USA | 619.829.2390
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