It Is All about Him

“The sacred page is not meant to be the end, but only the means to the end, which is knowing God Himself.” — A. W. Tozer

INTRODUCTION:  Sin is the failure to love and desire God above all things.  It is possible to study the Bible and sin in doing so.  It is possible to seek the gifts that God offers to us and sin in doing so.  The Pharisees loved to study the Bible but still sinned.  “Health and wealth” preachers focus upon God’s gifts and still sin.  Both groups do so when they elevate God’s writings and God’s gifts above God.  God’s Word is designed to bring us to Himself in worship.  God’s gifts are designed to bring us to Himself in thanksgiving.  Psalm 119:57 reveals the heartbeat of the psalmist.  Yes, he does delight and love the Word.  Yes, he enjoys the gifts God provides.  But he does so for one reason:  The Word and His gifts reveal God.  So, he declares, “You are my portion, O Lord.”  As we meditate upon this passage, keep this truth central, that the greatest gift God gives to us is not health, or wealth, or long life, but Himself.

You are my portion, O LORD;
I have promised to obey your words. 
58 I have sought your face with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise. 
59 I have considered my ways
and have turned my steps to your statutes. 
60 I will hasten and not delay
to obey your commands. 
61 Though the wicked bind me with ropes,
I will not forget your law. 
62 At midnight I rise to give you thanks
for your righteous laws. 
63 I am a friend to all who fear you,
to all who follow your precepts. 
64 The earth is filled with your love, O LORD;
teach me your decrees. 
Psalm 119:57-64
MEDITATION:  We come back to the central theme of creation and salvation:  God’s glory.  All God does is designed to reveal His glory.  He creates to declare His glory (Psalm 19:1).  He saves sinners for His glory (Ephesians 1:6).  All we do is to be for His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).  But this is not a loss for us, for we were made to know and rejoice in His glory.  Seeing Him and savoring Him is what satisfies the deepest longings of our soul.  “You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they are found in Thee” (Augustine).  So the Psalmist writes, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).  Paul writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).  And, that is why Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). 

Verse 57:  The psalmist has discovered this awesome truth.  That is why he says, “You are my portion, O Lord.” The word “portion” may have reference to Moses’ dividing the land as an inheritance to the twelve tribes of Israel.  God gave each tribe its own plot of land.  But Joshua wrote of the Levites:  “Moses had given no inheritance; the LORD, the God of Israel, is their inheritance, as he promised them” (Joshua 13:33).  I take that to mean that in the privilege of coming before God and serving Him in the Tabernacle they would enjoy a “special” blessing, for nothing — no body of land, no earthly kingdom — could compare to having God Himself.  To possess God is to have all things.  To have all things and not have God is nothing. 

Here is Augustine’s own testimony of His conversion as a triumph of God’s beauty over the offerings of this world. 

“How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had feared to lose …!  You drove them from me, you who are the true, the sovereign joy.  You drove them from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure, though not of flesh and blood, you who outshine all light, yet are hidden deeper than any secret of our hearts, you who surpass all honor, though not in the eyes of men who see all honor in themselves.…  O Lord my God, my Light, my Wealth, and my Salvation.”

Verse 58:  But, as beautiful and glorious God is, even after our conversion we still will struggle with that old sinful nature.  It will constantly raise its ugly head trying to turn our eyes and heart toward lesser things.  We will battle this old nature until we are glorified.  The things of this world will aggressively seek to turn our hearts away from the glory of God (Romans 1:21-22).  That on-going battle was why Augustine regretfully added the following confession: 

I was astonished that although I now loved you … I did not persist in enjoyment of my God.  Your beauty drew me to you, but soon I was dragged away from you by my own weight and in dismay I plunged again into the fare but was not yet able to eat it.
We cannot, we will not, see God and enjoy God left to ourselves.  Our sinful nature is too strong.  That is why we need God to change our hearts.  With God all things are possible (Mark 10:27).  We need His Word in our heads and hearts so that we can see the beauty of God and the deceitfulness of sin.  We need the work of the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and soften our hearts so that we not only see His glory, but want His glory.  So, we must pray, “Open my eyes so that I may see the wonderful things in your law” (Psalm 119:18).  And, we must pray “teach me your decrees” (Psalm 119:12).  It is in understanding God’s teaching that we are enabled to meditate upon His wonders (Psalm 119:27).  It is in obeying God’s Word that we stay on the path to “joy in His presence and eternal pleasures at His right hand” (Psalm 16:11).

Verse 59:  It is God then, who gives us the desire and the power to “work out” what God has worked into us.  But we cannot remain passive.  We are commanded to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:13).  Paul makes this confession: 

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him” (Philippians 3:7-9).

The psalmist says it like this:  “I have sought you with all my heart.”

When you discover life’s most satisfying treasure, you will certainly want to make it yours.  You will pursue it with all your mind, soul, heart, and strength.  That was the point of Jesus’ parable of the buried treasure: 

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.  When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field (Matthew 13:44).
It is joy that motivates us to seek.  It is the joy that motivates us to dig.  It is joy that motivates us to sell all.  So, it is joy that motivates us to follow God’s statutes.”

Blaise Pascal, the brilliant French philosopher and devout Christian, loved Psalm 119.  He also memorized this psalm and called this verse (59) “the turning point of man’s character and destiny.”  He meant that every life hung on the decision of whether it would live by the ways of the world or the ways of God’s Word.  Disappointment, depression, and despair would be the end of the ways of the world.  Delight, joy, and eternal pleasure would be the end of the ways of the Word.

Verse 60:  The natural and right decision for him was obedience.  To love God means that we trust God.  He is both great and He is good.  He is the Lord over all so that it is necessary and right to obey Him.  That is why Jesus said, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?”

Verse 61:  The psalmist was a realist.  He knew that this life would be filled with enemies of God and so enemies of God’s children.  Following God brings us into the light but it also leads us into times of darkness.  Circumstances and enemies of Christ will come against us.  The lion will continue to prowl around us seeking to devour our faith.  In this world we will have troubles.  There will be times when it feels like the enemy is winning.  But the psalmist has prepared.  The battle is won not in the day of battle but in the days of preparation for battle.  The psalmist has put the Word of God in his heart.  What good is the Sword of the Spirit if it lies unknown and unavailable to us when we are under attack?  The psalmist has the Word ready and waiting to beat back the fiery darts of the enemy in the day of evil.  He is ready because he has memorized an arsenal of fighting verses.  Shouldn’t we do the same? 

Verse 62:  Have you noticed how often the psalmist makes reference to the importance of the Word of God in the night time?  I think I have discovered why.  I am regularly awakened in the night.  Some may see that as some kind of curse, but I have seen it as a blessing.  Psalm 63:6 records, “On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.”  I think he is saying that he does not see being awakened in the night as an intrusion but as an invitation.  In the middle of the night things seem to stop and go quiet.  Our mind can turn to anxious things or awesome things.  What I am trying to say is that I think the psalmist sees walking with God and His laws as one continuous blessing. 

Following God is not a drag.  It is a delight.  He thanks God for His laws.  His mind naturally flows to God’s Word in the nighttime hours.  I have found that in the middle of the night God often speaks specifically to the needs of my life and He does that through the Words I am memorizing and meditating upon in my disciplines.  So, the next time you are awakened, welcome those moments as an opportunity to hear God speak.  You may even look forward to such moments.  Hey, all things are possible with God, aren’t they?  

Verse 63:  One of the great blessings of walking with God is the rich fellowship that we find in God’s army.  There is something mysterious and deep that unites a people who are following hard after God.  I have been a part of churches that are content to play church and have found the fellowship shallow and the commitments brittle.  I have also been a part of churches where the love for God was radical and total.  When you are going in the same direction and waging war together, friendships deepen.  The ones who are radical disciples have become my best friends.  Some I have had for forty years.  I think that is something of what Jesus meant when He said:

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers , sisters, mothers, children and fields — and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life”  [Mark 10:29-30].

I thank God for the family God has given me who have stood with me in ministry, in trouble, and in celebration.  I tell you, you can’t beat God giving.  Persecutions and troubles come but they only come to reveal the awesome treasures that we have in our God. 

Verse 64:  Finally, the psalmist ends this stanza of joy by declaring that God’s love is seen everywhere we go.  It is amazing how a right perspective on God gives you a right perspective on life.  For those who do not see the glory of God and who have not received the grace of God, life is one disappointment after another.  How easily we chronicle life’s failure to give us what we “deserve.”  But when we see ourselves in the light of the awesome holiness of God, how amazed and grateful we are for the mercy and grace we have received through Christ’s death on the cross.  We are now glad we don’t receive what we deserve.  We celebrate at all times that amazing grace that saved wretches and worms like you and me.  Behind all of life is a God who works out all things for our good and His glory.  By giving His most precious gift, His Son, we are now assured that He will give us all things.  God is good.  God is great.  And we thank Him for every ounce of love that He has poured into our lives.

“The fundamental reason that the Word of God is essential to joy in God is that God reveals himself mainly by His Word.  And seeing this revelation of God is the foundation of our joy.” — John Pipe