Love and God’s Word

Open my eyes that I may see the wonderful things in Your law.  Psalm 119:18

“The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold on me.”  Martin Luther

INTRODUCTION:  Bruce Waltke is a world class theologian and Old Testament scholar.  He has written a book in which he tells of how early in his life he read the Bible for its academic merit, but never got anything out of it.  Then he heard a preacher say that it is necessary to ask God for enlightenment.  So, he began to pray, “Lord speak to me through your Word.”  He describes what happened as a result of that prayer: 

“Within three weeks of praying that prayer as I read, my heart began to burn within me.  I started to see new things in Scripture.  God began revealing to me how His Word should change my life.  I developed a love for His teaching.  God heard my prayer and began to speak to me through His Word.”

That is what we have been trying to say.  The Psalmist loves the law of God.  He is not motivated to know God’s Word out of duty.  It is sheer delight.  “I delight in your decrees.  I will not neglect your Word” (Psalm 119:16).  A survey of Psalm 119 would quickly reveal the importance of prayer to the Psalmist.  Again we see that God has ordained that prayer and the Word would be the two tracks we take to bring us a personal, progressive knowledge of God.  So, with the Psalmist we always begin our engagement with the Scriptures like this:  “Open my eyes that I may see the wonderful things in your law” (Psalm 119:18).  And, like Bruce Waltke, we can expect our hearts to be warmed as God begins to speak change in our hearts.

EXPOSITION:  It is not until the sixth stanza, that the subject of love is addressed by the psalmist.  But, it forms the outline of the stanza called waw.  In this stanza, the Psalmist will reveal God’s love for man, evidenced by God’s salvation; man’s love for God, evidenced by obedience to Him; and finally, man’s love for God’s Word, evidenced by his bold witness of God’s statutes.  I think most would agree it is very unusual to mention love in the context of written commands and statutes and laws.  Love is usually associated with relationships, not commands.  That is the beauty of God’s Word.  That is why the Word brings such delight.  God speaks to us in His law.  He speaks in His Word now, just as surely as He did when He inspired the authors of Scripture.  So, let us listen and pray and hear wonderful things in His law. 

May your unfailing love come to me, O LORD,
your salvation according to your promise;
then I will answer the one who taunts me,
for I trust in your word. 
Do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth,
for I have put my hope in your laws. 
I will always obey your law,
for ever and ever. 
I will walk about in freedom,
for I have sought out your precepts. 
I will speak of your statutes before kings
and will not be put to shame,
for I delight in your commands
because I love them. 
I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love,
and I meditate on your decrees. 
Psalm 119:41-48

God’s love for us:  God’s love for us does not arise out of sentimental feelings.  It arises out of His own sovereign plan to glorify Himself by redeeming rebels and sinners.  Here is how Paul wrote it:  “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).  Verse ten makes God’s action even more astounding:  “when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10).  So, Christ dies for the ungodly, sinners and rebels that we are.  He is not motivated by the goodness in us but the graciousness that is in Him.

We have heard well-meaning counselors try to increase the “self-esteem” of counselees by saying, “Don’t you know how valuable you are to God?  He died on the cross for you.”  But that kind of thinking stands the purpose of God on its head.  The death of Jesus on the cross does not show us how valuable we are, but how glorious our God is.  If anything, the cross should dash the last vestiges of self-esteem in us.  God’s wrath was rightly and justly due us because of our sins and rebellion.  We are saved because of God’s desire to glorify His grace before the world.  That is why Paul declares:  “He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will — to the praise of His glorious grace” (Ephesians 1:5-6).  When we look at the cross we should feel humility and gratitude not esteem.  We should praise His grace not our value. 

That is not to say we are to grovel in the dirt the rest of our days.  No, God’s love not only forgives us, it lifts us up and cleanses and ordains us.  It gives us not only freedom from sin and death but freedom to serve Christ and His people.  The love of God frees us from self pre-occupation and fear so that we can be bold and daring servants of the King.  That is why the psalmist can answer his critics.  His life is not about defending himself or worrying about his value but about declaring the value of his God.  The unmerited love of God does that in a sinner’s life. 

Now, don’t be mislead.  The reception of God’s blessings does not just happen to passive fatalists.  God’s promises are fulfilled in the lives of those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.  They come to those who ask.  So, the psalmist reminds God of His promises and prays:  “may your unfailing love come to me, your salvation according to your promise.”  God delights to be reminded of His promises for it is the sign of faith in the life of His followers.  Remember what Psalm 50:14 declares:  “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”  Problems come so that we will call out to God to do what He has promised.  When He delivers us we glorify Him, both by our faith and by our gratitude.

Our love for God:  We are in for another surprise.  When we talk of love we usually focus upon the feelings.  It is very natural and appropriate to respond with great emotion when we experience the undeserved love of God.  But there is an even more appropriate response to God’s love for us.  Jesus said it like this:  “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15).

This makes no sense to our world.  We are taught to challenge authority.  We are invited to go to a restaurant that has “no rules.”  Style is more important than character.  Truth is not an absolute but an individual preference.  We even have trouble understanding what the definition of is is.  Tolerance is the most honored characteristic of our culture and claiming ultimate truth the least honored.  But the psalmist has no such problem.  He does not see God’s commands as a chain of bondage but a chance for freedom.  God’s ways are not our ways but they are good ways. 

Sin has blinded the eyes and hardened the hearts of men.  We have turned away from God and His ways.  We think we know what is best for us.  Proverbs says it like this:  “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12).  Ted Turner’s comment is typical of the majority:  “Were living without molded rules.  The rules we’re living under are the Ten Commandments, and I bet nobody even pays attention to ’em, because they are too old.” 

Those who have been with Jesus have no such thoughts.  His commands are as alive today as when they were powerfully spoken 2000 years ago.  We too are fully aware of the great demands that Jesus makes upon us.  And, many “Christians” in turn run away from Jesus because they find the commands too narrow and restrictive.  But, to those whose eyes have been opened, His words are spirit and life.  When Jesus would ask us if we would leave too, we respond like Peter did.  “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69).  His words gave us life.  His words give us life.  We not only love His commands, like the psalmist we seek them out. 

Our love for His Word:  The last aspect is our love for the Word.  One of the most amazing phenomena of history is the durability of God’s Word.  It continues to be loved by millions of people in spite of persistent attacks by determined and committed foes.  One author expresses it this way: 

“A thousand times over, the death knell of the Bible has been sounded, the funeral procession formed, the inscription cut on the tombstone, and the committal read.  But somehow the corpse never stays put.  No other book has been so chopped, sliced, sifted, scrutinized, and vilified.  What book on philosophy or belles lettres of classical or modern times has been subject to such a mass attack as the Bible?  With such venom and skepticism?  With such thoroughness and erudition?  Upon every chapter, line and tenet?  The Bible is still loved by millions and studied by millions.”

The psalmist demonstrates his love for the Word of God be declaring:  “I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame, for I delight in your commands because I love them.”  One who loves God and His Word is not intimidated by rulers and powers.  She is not afraid to risk her for His Word.  William Tyndale left England and lived in exile for eleven years so he could give the English a Bible they could read for themselves.  When the King sent an emissary to coax him back to England, he had one condition.  The King must agree to allow an English translation of the Bible.  The king refused his request.  The king tried two more times to change Tyndale’s mind and get him to return to England.  The king’s representative wrote back to the king and explained Tyndale’s determination:  “Tyndale sings one note.” 

Tyndale was eventually sought out and arrested.  For eighteen months he was sequestered in a cold dungeon in Belgium.  He was harassed and confronted by clerical and secular officials day and night.  Finally, he was declared a heretic and defrocked as a priest.  Then in a public execution he was strangled and his body burned as a martyr.  But he never changed his “one note.”  England got her Bible and a people found a Savior through faith in Christ alone.  When you love God’s Word you will declare it, even if it costs you your life and you will do it with joy. 

“The Christians who have turned the world upside down have been men and women with a vision in their hearts and the Bible in their hands.”  T. B. Matso