The Clarity of God’s Word
“I prayed for faith and thought that some day faith would come down and strike me like lightning. But faith did not seem to come. One day I read in the tenth chapter of Romans, ‘Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.’ I had up to this time closed my Bible and prayed for faith. I now opened my Bible and began to study, and faith has been growing ever since.” — Dwight L. Moody
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light for my path.
106 I have taken an oath and confirmed it,
that I will follow your righteous laws.
107 I have suffered much;
preserve my life, O LORD, according to your word.
108 Accept, O LORD, the willing praise of my mouth,
and teach me your laws.
109 Though I constantly take my life in my hands,
I will not forget your law.
110 The wicked have set a snare for me,
but I have not strayed from your precepts.
111 Your statutes are my heritage forever;
they are the joy of my heart.
112 My heart is set on keeping your decrees
to the very end.
INTRODUCTION: In the center of Bedford, England, stands a statue of John Bunyan carrying a tinker’s burden upon his back and a Bible in his hand. It marks the place where he spent 12 years in prison for the offense of preaching without proper state certification. Near the foot of the statue is a bronze plaque engraved with the words of the Lord Judge magistrate of Bedford, the spokesman at Bunyan’s sentencing in 1673. He said:
“At last we are done with this tinker and his cause. Never more will he plague us: for his name is locked away as surely as he, shall be forgotten, as surely as he is. Done we are, and all eternity with him.”
Wrong! Long after we have forgotten the name of the judge we still remember and honor the works of the man called John Bunyan. His book, Pilgrim’s Progress, written while in jail, is one of the best sellers of all time. His conception of life as a pilgrimage, faced with all kinds of enemies, but strengthened and protected by the weapons of God, has been an inspiration for countless believers for over three hundred years.
According to J. I. Packer, it was spiritual warfare that made the Pilgrims the spiritual giants that they were.
“They accepted conflict as their calling, seeing themselves as their Lord’s soldier-pilgrims, just as in Bunyan’s allegory, and not expecting to be able to advance a single step without opposition of one sort or another.”
Someone has said, “when you know life is hard it is not so hard anymore.” Every follower of Christ needs to know that when they follow Christ in this world they are entering a path of conflict. But what is even more important to know is that our Lord has purposed to use that conflict to bring Himself glory and His people joy.
That is the thrust of this stanza. The psalmist has found that darkness and deserts are part of our pilgrimage. God leads us in “the good fight of faith,” but we are not defenseless. He gives us His Word to be a light to our path and a lamp to our feet. It shows us where the pitfalls are and shows us how to avoid them. And, through battle and by grace, He leads us on a path that brings glory to God and joy to our souls. The world may forget our name and cast us aside, but by God’s sovereign grace He makes our lives into a testimony to the praise of His glorious grace.
Verse 105: The Word gives light for my path — The Bible is clear. It is also clarifying. We do not know how to live our lives. We are wrong inside. The world is wrong outside. And we have an enemy who seeks to trip us on all sides. “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Even after we become believers, he disguises himself as an angel of light seeking to confuse and seduce us into sin. But the Word of God shines light into our soul. The Spirit uses the Word of God to open our eyes so that we see the lies of the enemy. He softens our hearts so that we want the truth of God more than the promises of this world. It is constant and serious devotion to God’s Word that lights our path so that we can “live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10-11).
Verse 106: I will follow your righteous laws — We have all heard the horror stories of people who attempted to find guidance from the Lord by letting the wind blow on the pages of their Bible and then putting their finger on a passage for divine guidance. I think it goes without saying that this method is filled with danger and fails to grasp the very nature of God’s Word. The Bible is God’s communication to our minds. Words and sentences and paragraphs have coherent meanings. God intends for us to understand what He says and to respond to what He says in obedience. The Bible is not about magic or chance but about divine purposes and godly decisions.
So, the psalmist makes a commitment to follow God’s righteousness. It is a decision to discover and understand the principles of God’s Word that guide us into decisions that glorify Him. There are things that are white and black and most people can easily tell the difference by natural law. But there are other things that are not so obvious and gray. We are told that the devil comes into the church, not wearing black, not even wearing gray. He comes dressed in attractive white. What do we do then? If we are disciples of Christ, we are not confused nor intimidated. By prayerful meditation on His Word and by waiting on the Lord, in proper time God shines His light upon our situation. We are able to make the proper decision that honors Christ.
Verse 107: Preserve me in suffering — We have found that there are many reasons for suffering in our world. Sometimes it is caused simply because we live in a fallen world. Sometimes it is caused by sin and it comes as a corrective to wrong actions. Sometimes it is allowed by God to bring Him honor as in the case of the man born blind. Whatever the cause, God is there working His sovereign grace to work His good will into the life of the believer. God stands behind the pains using them to bring about His honor. The psalmist knows that it is through “losses and crosses” that God is glorified in his life. So, knowing the promises of God and trusting in the faithfulness of God, he cries, “preserve my life, O LORD, according to your word.” We can have the same kind of assurance if we will call out to God, for He promised, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15).
Verse 108: The Word leads to Worship — The natural flow of God’s Word revealed and preached and grasped is joyous praise of God. That is why we point out the dangers of building the church through worldly methods and strategies. We dishonor God by appealing to the lower “felt needs” of people rather than raising and leading them into the soul satisfying excellencies of Christ. George Grant describes the sad state of the church today in the following words:
“Today it is far better to be witty than to be weighty. We want soft-sell. We want relevance. We want acceptance. We want an upbeat, low-key, clever, motivational, friendly, informal, yuppiefied, and abbreviated faith. No ranting, no raving, no Bible-thumping; no heavy commitments, no strings attached. No muss; no fuss. We want the same salvation as in Old Time Religion — but with half the hassle and a third less guilt.
Deliver us from such a trivial pursuit! Give us theology, give us truth, give us the Word. Bring us into the holy presence of God. Cause us to tremble at His perfections, weep over our sins and cry out for mercy. Away with a shallow and weightless religion. Don’t stoop to our level. Raise us to His. May the weight of the glory of God anchor our souls so that our lives reflect the awesome worth of our infinite God.”
Verse 109: We will all face dangers — It is true that in this life we will have tribulations. We will be persecuted. But our greatest danger is not outside us. It is inside us. Every man is responsible for his actions and his reactions. When our kids would say, “You make me mad,” we would counter, “No you make yourself mad. No one can make you mad.” Likewise, no one can make you sin. We may not be responsible for what people do to us, but we are responsible for how we respond to them. When I was a young man I used to turn on the radio every Sunday night at 11 P.M. There I found the late night services of the First Church of Deliverance, broadcasting from Chicago’s south side. It had an awesome choir. But the church also had an awesome Pastor. Every service, Reverend Lawrence J. Cobb began with these words: “You can hate me but you can’t make me hate you.”
That is what the psalmist is saying here. There are great dangers in life, but the greatest danger is not in others but in ourselves. We are self-centered and seek our own glory, naturally. The psalmist knows this tendency, but in his heart he wants something far greater. He wants the life of holiness. He doesn’t want to waste his life. He knows that “Only one life will soon be past, only what is done for Christ will last.” So, he lives according to God’s Word, for only that book has the resources that keep him on the right path to joy in God.
Verse 110: The Word uncovers the traps — Our enemy is crafty (Genesis 3:1). He is a liar (John 8:44). He is a relentless lion who seeks out his prey (1 Peter 5:8). He is a schemer (Ephesians 6:11; 2 Corinthians 2:11). He is like an angel of light (2 Corinthians 2:14). He is a slick salesman who uses our own sinful passions to drag us away into destruction (James 1:15).
In the movie Patton, there is one scene where George C. Scott, who plays General Patton, is looking forward with confidence to his battle with the famous opposing commander, Third Reich Field Marshall Erwin Rommel. Almost with glee he gives the reason for his confidence: “Rommel,” he exclaims, “I read your book!” In other words, he studied his enemy’s tactics on making war and because of this, he believed he had a decided advantage. The book that reveals our enemy’s tactics and snares is the Bible. He would ambush us and entrap us at every turn if we did not have the light of God’s Word to reveal his tricks. So, as in every battle, the secret to success is in the preparation. If you want to defeat the enemy, you have to hide God’s Word in your head and heart. How valuable is the Bible to our success? Here is how Thomas Cuthrie answered that question:
“The Bible is an armory of heavenly weapons, a laboratory of infallible medicines, a mine of exhaustless wealth. It is a guidebook for every road, a chart for every sea, a medicine for every malady and a balm for every wound. Rob us of our Bible and our sky has lost its sun.”
Verse 111: The Word of God is our heritage — What is the one thing that will last even after this world disappears? Here is what Jesus said in Matthew 24:35: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” What is the one thing that will survive your death? It is the Word of God. To the extent that you have believed and applied God’s Word to your life, that part will live on into eternity. To the extent that you lived according to God’s Word on earth, that life will be a monument that points to the grace of God working in your life. Even now, I am thinking of the words that we will put on the tombstone of my precious mom. Here is my choice: “Dad’s dear friend; Our precious mom; God’s faithful servant.” There it is. Her heritage. Simple thoughts but a profound effect that outlives her earthly existence. And right at the center of her life, unseen on the stone but like a rock in her heart, was the Bible. The Word of God is her heritage and we praise God for it.
Verse 112: And so, the psalmist ends with this determination: “My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end.” May we have the wisdom and courage to make the same commitment. If we do, we will never lack for God’s light or love. Our life will not be a failure or a waste. We will have a heritage both in this life and the next.
“On the far side of every risk-even if it results in death — the love of God triumphs. This is the faith that frees us to risk for the cause of God. It is not heroism, or lust for adventure, or courageous self-reliance, or efforts to earn God’s favor. It is a childlike faith in the triumph of God’s love — that on the other side of all our risks, for the sake of righteousness, God will still be holding us. We will be eternally satisfied in Him. Nothing will have been wasted.” — John Piper
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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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