Doorway To Delight
Open my eyes that I may see the wonderful things in Your law. Psalm 119:18
BACKGROUND: When most people think of Psalm 119, they do not think of delight; duty maybe, but not delight. After all, it is the longest chapter in the Bible. And, how can you get excited about law, word, precepts, commandments, testimony, statutes and decrees? It seems so impersonal and laborious. It may be exciting for a legalist or a lawyer, but not an ordinary struggler who is just trying to find a little joy while beating back the daily attacks of a hateful and powerful enemy.
But, dig a little deeper. It is true that in every one of the 176 verses there is a reference to God’s word in its various forms. But, for every time you see one of those “impersonal” references you will see four personal usages of “you,” “your,” “my,” or “I.” In other words, Psalm 119 is a very personal engagement between a man and his God. The only time the law and God is referred to in the third person is found in the first three verses of the Psalm:
“Blessed are those whose ways are blameless
and whose walk is according to the Law of the Lord.
Blessed are they who keep His statutes
and seek Him with all their heart.
They do nothing wrong and walk in His ways.”
Like Psalm 1, he begins Psalm 119 by laying down the overarching truth that guides and empowers his life and this work. The person who builds his life on God’s words will be blessed. Then he opens his heart to God and to us in order to show us in very personal and intimate ways how it works. In other words, this is not about a man trying to convince you by argument to delight in God’s Word. It is about a man of faith who influences you to delight in God’s Word by his own purposeful, personal, powerful, practical, and painful pursuit of joy.
Of course, there is an obvious structure to the psalm. It is written in twenty-two stanzas consisting of eight lines, each stanza structured around a letter in the Hebrew alphabet. So, in verses 1-8, each of its eight lines begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Aleph. The next stanza [9-17] structures its content around the second letter in the Hebrew alphabet, Beth, and so on. So, the psalmist has put a lot of thought and creativity into the writing of this delightful work. I would suggest to you that in order for us to enter into that same joy we will have to work hard with him. The Spirit of God inspired this writing and used the psalmist’s gifts to hide precious treasure that is only found by those “who seek the Lord with all their heart” (119:3).
This psalm is about God’s Word and its centrality to all of life. The psalmist makes reference to God’s law in every single one of the 176 verses. It is through God speaking to men in His Word that we come to see Him, savor Him, show Him, and share Him. God’s law is not a load of legalism but a door to delight. Yes, there are commandments, but those commandments are the ways of God that lead to blessing and satisfaction. Yes, those commandments go against our natural fallen selves, but in the end, they bring “righteousness, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 10:17).
READING: Slowly and carefully read Psalm 119:1-8. Before you do, ask the Lord to open your eyes so that you can see the wonderful treasure He has hidden there.
EXPOSITION: As you faithfully and regularly go to Psalm 119, I believe that God Himself will speak to you just as personally and powerfully as He did to the author of the psalm. My comments about the text are only an attempt to use the gifts and experience God has given me to help you in your own pursuit of delight. Because our eyes have been darkened and our hearts have been hardened by the seductive and deceptive nature of indwelling sin, let us join the psalmist and ask God for the miracle of enlightenment. Then we will discover and delight in what God is saying to us today in His Word. “Lord, open our eyes that we may see the wonderful things in Your law” (Psalm 119:18).
The Psalmist begins by laying down the foundational truth of His life: We were made to know and enjoy our God. The only way we can fulfill that soul-satisfying pleasure is to build our lives on the truth that is found in God’s Word. So, he declares,
1Blessed are they whose ways are blameless,
who walk according to the law of the LORD.
2Blessed are they who keep his statutes
and seek him with all their heart.
3They do nothing wrong;
they walk in his ways. (NIV)
At the very beginning the Psalmist declares an awesome truth that is often missed: God’s plan for His people is to bring them joy. To be blessed is to be whole, satisfied, and even happy. The Westminster Confession asks: “What is the chief end of man?” The answer: “To glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.” We are made for eternal joy. That joy is found in our discovering the infinite riches that are in Jesus Christ. The Spirit of God opens the eyes of our hearts so that we can “see” or “understand” that God is real. But that is not enough, even demons see and understand that God is real. We need the work of the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of our hearts so that we not only see that He is God, but that He is a God worthy of our total and unreserved devotion. In other words, we need not only to see Him with our minds but come to love Him with our hearts. That will take a miracle!
Our ways are not God’s ways. All of us have turned from the worship of God to worship the glory of created things. Our faith is in our selves. Our greatest value is our selves. Our great passion is to please our selves. That is why we need a miracle. Jesus came to free us from the deadly cul-de-sac of self-worship. Jesus came to earth to open our eyes and our hearts so we could see what was truly valuable and worthy of our worship. Paul said it like this:
“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:5-6)
As we open God’s Book and read those words we are hearing God speak. When God speaks, His words create life in our dead hearts and bring light to our blind eyes. We do not just see laws and commandments. We see and hear a glorious and satisfying God speak personally and powerfully to us.
Did you notice the change in verse 4? It is no longer a general statement but a personal address. “You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed.” The precepts are not separated from the Person. God is not just interested in us obeying His commands but is determined to conform us to the image of His Son. This is personal. Jesus was the most satisfied and delightful person that ever lived, and His one passion was to do the will of the Father (John 4:34). As you read Psalm 119, you will catch something of the same passion. Although the author struggles and falls, there is one thing that he wants to do above all things: obey the Word of God (119:16).
Because he is a struggler and because he is honest, he knows that he cannot do what God commands with out help. That is why Psalm 119 is filled with prayers. When I began a daily reading of the psalm that was the first thing that jumped out at me. I always thought of the psalm as an impersonal exposition on the value of God’s Word. But, I soon saw prayer was so entwined in the psalm that you could not separate God speaking from man praying. Which is another way of saying that Psalm 119 is not a monologue but a dialogue. It is not mere communication but communion. So, in desperation he cries out, “5Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! 6Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands.”
Living life God’s way brings great peace. We are living life the way our Creator intended. We are set free from deceitful, self- defeating, self-destructive, sinful passions. But, it is more than a delivery from, it is a freedom too. Here is how the Psalmist expressed it: “7I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.” The ultimate goal of man, indeed the ultimate goal of all creation is to get caught up in the joy of perceiving and praising the glory of God. Praise is not some religious duty that we do on Sunday morning, but the joyous end of being the children of God. The joy of discovery is not complete until it is given expression. Throughout the Psalm you will see the great hope of the saint, even in the midst of great pain and suffering, is the assurance that he will yet enjoy the all satisfying and eternal delight of praising God (Psalm 42).
That is why we pray, “Open my eyes that I may see [now] the wonderful things in your law.” One day we will enjoy eternal and unrestricted “joy in His presence and eternal pleasures at His right hand for evermore” (Psalm 16:11). But now, because of sin and lack of faith, we stumble. So, we need God to do a miracle in our heart, even now. The pages will remain boring and repetitious and laborious without the work of the Spirit opening our eyes. So, we pray.
And because we see the infinite delight that is promised us in His Word we make this commitment before the real Author of this psalm: “8I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me.”
COMMITMENT: There is so much more I could have written about these first eight verses. But it isn’t about me and my perspectives. It is about your hearing God’s perspectives. I am praying that God would use this devotional of this awesome passage to make His word come alive in your heart like never before. I pray that this year will be the year God totally transformed your life by speaking to you in His Word. In order for that to happen, may I close this study by suggesting to you some helpful disciplines. I would encourage you to make these resolutions:
1. To read Psalm 119 each day for the next 22 weeks. You will be amazed at what the Spirit will bring to your attention as you make this a daily practice. It will only take you about twenty to forty minutes to read it (and what is that when you are digging for treasure?) [A Suggestion: You may break it up and do it two or three different times in the day.)
2. To [don’t faint] memorize Psalm 119 in the next 22 weeks. Everywhere I have traveled around the world one of things that stirs up the most interest and hope is this discipline of Bible memorization. I think that is because most have not experienced the joy and victory that the Bible promises. In the seminars they see the link between their lack of joy and their failure to “hide the word of God in their hearts.” It is possible. I am approaching the mellow age of 63 and have memorized the first eight verses in the first three days of this week. So, you can do it too. In the next study I will share some of the “secrets” I believe God gave me to build this discipline into my life. But until then, just start. You can’t do the whole thing. Just the thought of memorizing 176 verses scares me. But just start on the first verse, in faith, and inch by inch, by God’s grace, it will be a cinch!
3. To keep a written diary of what God is saying to you and what you are praying to Him. Although I have not done this every day, I have written diaries that go back to 1983 that speak of the personal and painful and powerful ways God has been speaking to me these many years.
4. To share with me (or others) the wonderful things God is showing you as you dig for delight in the decrees of God.
CONCLUSION: Well, that is it. This is my first effort to persuade you join me in my pursuit of the delight to be found in Christ in Psalm 119. I would appreciate your prayers and your response. This will be an evolving project as we seek to become more effective in “proclaiming the excellency of Christ and the sufficiency of His Word to the extremities of the earth.” My purpose is not only to encourage you in a your pursuit of joy in Psalm 119, I want to be able to share this material with leaders around the world. You can help me accomplish this by your prayers and insights. Thanks again for your partnership in pursuing our joy in glorifying Christ
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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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