Sweet Words of Truth

“Even today I live every moment with the Bible.  It is my constant companion.  As a believer for fifty-six years, I have tested God’s Word and found it true.  In more than five decades I have not encountered one situation in which I have not been able to turn to God’s Word for comfort, wisdom, guidance, joy, and blessing.  At eighty-one years of age, I would rather have the Bible on my shelf and in my heart than any other book written in history because it contains the message of God.  It is a love letter to me and to all other human beings who are created in His image.  Not only have I been enriched through the reading of the Bible, but I have also seen it change the lives of a multitude of people.” — Bill Bright, Founder of Campus Crusade

INTRODUCTION:  The psalmist has come to love the law.  Pretty strange thing to say, don’t you think?  Who loves the law?  Laws restrict and punish us.  Who would love that?  I think C. S. Lewis might help us here:

“The Order of the Divine mind, embodied in the Divine Law, is beautiful.  Therefore what should a man do but try to reproduce it, so far as possible, in his daily life?  His “delight” is in those statutes (16); to study them is like finding treasure (14); they affect him like music, are his “songs” (54); they taste like honey (103); they are better than silver and gold (72).  As one’s eyes are more and more opened, one sees more and more in them, and it excites wonder (18).  This is not priggery nor even scrupulosity; it is the language of a man ravished by a moral beauty.  If we cannot at all share his experience, we shall be the losers.” 

When we see the Golden Gate Bridge or the Taj Mahal or a space craft blasting off into space for the first time, we marvel at the sheer genius that lies behind such extraordinary accomplishments.  The artistry, the creativity, the symmetry, the coordination and logistics of accomplishing something so majestic is breathtaking.  The psalmist is experiencing some of the same kind of emotions.  Only he is not looking at a creation of man but a creation of God.  The creation he is enjoying is found within his very soul.  The Divine Mind, the essence of beauty, has touched him and brought that same kind of order to his life.  God has used His Law to build him into a temple of praise to the glory of God.  He is a man that has seen the ravishing moral beauty that is the holiness of God.  God is now creating in him that same kind of “moral beauty” for His glory and the psalmist’s joy.  That is why he loves God’s law.

Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long. 
98 Your commands make me wiser than my enemies,
for they are ever with me. 
99 I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes. 
100 I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts. 
101 I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word. 
102 I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me. 
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth! 
104 I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path. 
Psalm 119:97-104

Verse 97:  Love and meditation — In the Scriptures there is a direct link between love for God and His law and meditation.  The thought is that a love for God will inspire such a love of His words that you would naturally and joyfully spend unhurried time listening to Him speak.  In the same way a lover would want to be with and commune with her lover, so the child of God loves to spend time communicating with his loving Father.  But it is more than just communication.  It is transformation.  When we meditate on what God has written, and He is speaking by the Holy Spirit, we are “seeing” the glory of God.  The eyes of our hearts are being opened and we are beholding the glory of Christ.  And, beholding is a way of becoming.  The more we meditate upon the Scriptures the more we see the glory of Christ.

We tend to become like what we admire and enjoy.  So, 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”  When we meditate upon God’s law, we discover not only His ways but we also uncover His heart.  We are so satisfied in what He has written that we delight in the law of God and on His precepts we meditate day and night.  We become like a tree that is planted by streams of water that has a constant flow of grace and mercy.  No matter what we go through, we are prosperous (Psalm 1).  So, we come to love God’s law so much that we discipline our minds to memorize the Scriptures so we can “meditate upon it all day long.”

Verse 98:  Wiser than my enemies — The commands he receives from His Commander are not given so he can take advantage of his enemies.  It is a wisdom that enables him to see past the enemies’ hostile acts and intents.  Anyone can act like a Christian.  Only a true disciple of Christ will react like a Christian.  God’s children know that they have a Heavenly Father who watches over them at all times.  He will not allow any enemy to bring evil into our lives that He has not allowed for His loving purposes.  And, we know that He will turn those things around for our good because we are called by Him (Romans 8:28).  When we heed the commands of Jesus to, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you,” (Luke 6:27-28) we are living out a wisdom that will not only bring us great blessing, it will also give us great joy because we get to please our Lord in responding as He did. 

Verse 99:  More insight than my teachers — Knowledge is not the same as wisdom.  Knowledge is knowing a lot of details about a lot of things.  Wisdom is knowing how to use those details to bring purpose and blessing to our life.  If you stay in school long enough, you will find many examples of teachers who know a lot of things about life but do not know how to live.  I have had professors with all kinds of prestigious degrees to their name who didn’t have a clue as to what was ultimately important and eternally rewarding.  I am thinking of a little lady in our church in Muskegon Michigan.  We called her “Amen Johnson” because every time my preacher father would say anything she agreed with she would holler out “Amen!”  In my younger days I confess to have been more than a little embarrassed by her outbursts.  But as I grew into a teen, I came to deeply respect and love her.  She did not study in the halls of the university.  She did her study in the hurts of adversity.  But never would you meet a more precious, loving, satisfied and encouraging soul than “Amen Johnson.”  She came to me one day when I was teenager.  She saw beyond my faults and frailties and said, “Gary, someday you are going to be a preacher like your daddy.”  I have never forgotten her words nor her ways.  She had wisdom and I was blessed because of it. 

Verse 100:  More understandings than the elders — Being an elder does not mean that you have maturity.  If you stay around the church very long you will also discover that is a fact.  I have lived in the church all my life and seen men who impressed people by the way they talked in public, but in private they did not walk as they talked.  Length of life and prestigious position do not equate to understanding of God and His ways.  A man of God continually judges himself by God’s commands.  A man of understanding does not just hear the word but does the word.  He understands that man looks at the face but God looks at the heart.  He understands that what people think is not what really matters.  It is what Christ thinks.  A man of understanding knows that he may understand much about God, but he always and eternally will have more to discover about Him.  So he prays, “Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart” (Psalm 119:34).

Verse 101:  Obedience for the sake of obedience — Someone wisely wrote on the flyleaf of his Bible:  “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.”  The psalmist obeys so that he can be in God’s Word.  There is a link between doing God’s Word and being enabled to enjoy more of God’s Word.  Everyone knows the danger of toying with and tolerating a particular sin in our lives.  We may have been doing a lot of good in a lot of areas, but this one sin keeps us from advancing in the joy of obedience.  Someone has said, “Selected obedience is not obedience at all.  It is convenience.”  True.  If we do only what we want to do, or do only what we feel like doing, that is not obedience.  Obedience is doing when we don’t want to and don’t feel like it, yet, out of our loyalty to Jesus and our love for His glory, we obey anyway.  The psalmist keeps away from every evil path, not because he has to obey.  He gets to.  That is the kind of thing that Dietrich Bonhoeffer was trying to communicate when he wrote:

“Only the man who follows the command of Jesus single-mindedly, and unresistingly lets His yoke rest upon him, finds His burden easy, and under its gentle pressure receives power to persevere in the right way.  The command of Jesus is hard, unutterably hard, for those who try to resist it.  But for those who willingly submit, the yoke is easy and the burden is light.  His commandments are not grievous (1 John 5:3).  The commandment of Jesus is not a sort of shock spiritual treatment.  Jesus asks nothing of us without giving us the strength to perform it.  His commandment never seeks to destroy life, but to foster, strengthen and heal it.”  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, page 40)

Verse 102:  God is our Teacher — Puritan pastor and theologian, Thomas Watson said, “Think in every line that God is speaking to you.”  This is key.  If we really believe this, it would make all the difference in the world in our handling of the Word.  The joy and the power of the psalmist comes not just from keeping a written law.  The Pharisees kept the law, but Jesus said to them, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life.  These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39-40).  When we come to Scripture, we come to Christ.  In the Word, Christ is speaking to bring us to Himself.  His commands and promises are designed to bring us into an ever-deepening fellowship with God.  There is a direct and vital link between loving Jesus and obeying Jesus.  “Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.  My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.’ ” (John 14:23-24).  That is what gives the psalmist joy.  God, Himself, is personally teaching and applying the law to his heart so that he can know the joy of God making His home in his heart.

Verse 103:  Sweet and tasty words — The psalmist speaks of sweet promises, plural.  He is saying that it is in the details, in the individual promises of God, that he finds a sweetness to his taste.  One of the great failures of believers today is that they believe in the Bible but they don’t apply it to the daily problems of life.  They run to secular counselors the minute they feel the pressure, believing that they have some secret wisdom to cure their ills. 

Sadly, a Bible filled with powerful and precious promises lies unused on their coffee table.  Jesus said, “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (Matt 7:24-25).  Applying God’s words in the daily skirmishes of life prepare us for the stormy days ahead.  When the rains come down and the streams rise and the winds blow, we stand on the Rock and Christ is glorified. 

Verse 104:  Love that leads to hate — The psalmist began the stanza with love.  Now he ends the stanza with hate.  When you love the law of God you will hate the lies of the enemy.  What is the great deterrent for sin in our lives?  Loving Christ.  He is the pearl of great price that causes us to sell everything else so that we might have Him.  That is what Augustine meant when he described his conversion in the following testimony: 

“How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose …!  You drove them from me, you who are the true, the sovereign joy.  You drove from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure, though not to flesh and blood, you who outshines all light, yet are hidden deeper than any secret in 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, and my salvation.”

Let us pray that the Holy Spirit would open our eyes so that we would be enabled to see the wonderful glory of Christ that is revealed in His book.  When we see Him in all of His glory, the joy and satisfaction we find in Jesus will drive all lesser pleasures from our life.