27 September 2009

Discipleship: Psalm 119

Strange... it doesn't feel like I have been meeting with my elder for discipleship for over 18 weeks. How the time flies! The focus of this week's study was "Pe"... a passage that consists of verses 129-136.

"Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them. The unfolding of Your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. I open my mouth and pant, because I long for Your commandments. Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is Your way with those who love Your name. Keep steady my steps according to Your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me. Redeem me from man’s oppression, that I may keep your precepts. Make Your face shine upon Your servant, and teach me Your statutes. My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep Your law. (Psalm 119:129-136, ESV)

129 Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them.

Question: How many people agree with the Psalmist; that God's testimonies (i.e. His Word, the Bible, the Law, the Gospel, etc. etc.) are WONDERFUL? Furthermore... how many professing "believers" or self-proclaimed Christians echo his sentiments? If we are truly regenerate, we should have a hunger for God's testimonies. We should crave the precepts of the Lord. A Christian should have an appetite for Scripture; it should be pleasing to him or her. One should have a desire to delve into it for "reproof, correction, and training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16) amongst other things.

One constant problem I encounter amongst "evangelicals" is the erosion of inerrancy (borrowing the term from a G.K. Beale book that I look forward to reading; click for more information). There is an ongoing attack on the authority and inerrancy of Scripture and one of the most dangerous protagonists are cloak-and-dagger "evangelicals"... false believers who make God in their own culturally relative image. The fact that our sovereign God has magnified His name and His word above all things should make us tremble with reverence when we approach his wonderful testimonies.

For a reformed perspective, that is to say biblical orthodoxy... see the Westminster.

"the sublime and admirable wisdom which he found comprehended in the divine law led him to regard it with reverence... " (John Calvin)

"Its effects upon the consciences of men, both for conviction and comfort, are wonderful; and it is a sign that we are not acquainted with God's testimonies, or do not understand them, if we do not admire them." (Matthew Henry)

It should also be noted that it is not of our volition to delight in God's testimonies. A person can not "decide" to love Scripture... one can not voluntarily consider the Bible to be truly wonderful. The regenerative power of the Holy Spirit in "the new birth" (John 3), creating "a new being" (2 Corinthians 5:17) with "a new heart and spirit" (Ezekiel 36:26) causes us to walk in God's statutes, obey His commands (Ezekiel 36:27) ... and thus, consider His testimonies to be wonderful.

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12-13, ESV)

"it is impossible for any man to keep the law of God from the heart, unless he contemplate it with feelings of reverence: for reverence is the beginning of pure and right subjection. Accordingly, I have said that many despise God's Word, because they think it inferior to the acuteness of their own understandings. Yea, many are led to break forth more audaciously into this heaven-daring contempt, from the vanity of showing their own ingenuity. But, although worldly men may flatter themselves in that proud disdain of the divine law, yet the commendation which the Prophet pronounces upon it still holds true, that it comprehends mysteries which far transcend all the conceptions of the human mind." (John Calvin)

"Those that see God's word to be admirable will prize it highly and preserve it carefully, as that which they promise themselves great things from." (Matthew Henry)

"It is wonderful that God should have borne testimony at all to sinful men, and more wonderful still that his testimony should be of such a character, so clear, so full, so gracious, so mighty... Their wonderful character so impressed itself upon his mind that he kept them in his memory: their wonderful excellence so charmed his heart that he kept them in his life... his religion was soul work; not with head and hand alone did he keep the testimonies; but his soul, his truest and most real self, held fast to them." (Charles Spurgeon)

130 The unfolding [entrance] of Your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.

"If we begin at the beginning, and take it before us, we shall find that the very first verses of the Bible give us surprising and yet satisfying discoveries of the origin of the universe, about which, without that, the world is utterly in the dark. As soon as the word of God enters into us, and has a place in us, it enlightens us; we find we begin to see when we begin to study the word of God." (Matthew Henry)

"when the words of God enter into the chambers of the heart then light is scattered on all sides. The word finds no entrance into some minds because they are blocked up with self conceit, or prejudice, or indifference; but where due attention is given, divine illumination must surely follow upon a knowledge of the mind of God." (Charles Spurgeon)


"As soon as a man enters upon reading the Scriptures, if he has any degree of understanding of the things in them, they immediately throw light into his mind; or, however, as soon as ever the word has an entrance into the heart, and through the Spirit, power, and grace of God, makes its way and has a place there, that being opened by the Lord for that purpose, light arises in darkness." (John GIll)

"And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:3-4, ESV)

"This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5, ESV)

"In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it... The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him." (John 1:4-5, 9-10, ESV)

"Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12, ESV)

"For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Corinthians 4:6, ESV)

"The great use for which the word of God was intended, to give light, that is, to give understanding, to give us to understand that which will be of use to us in our travels through this world; and it is the outward and ordinary means by which the Spirit of God enlightens the understanding of all that are sanctified." (Matthew Henry)

"Christ by his Spirit opens their understandings, that they may understand the Scriptures; and by means of them gives them an understanding of himself, and of those things which make them wise unto salvation, and make for their spiritual peace and comfort, and their eternal welfare." (John Gill)

"The sincere and candid are the true disciples of the word. To such it gives not only knowledge, but understanding." (Charles Spurgeon)

"The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple" (Psalm 19:7, ESV)

"They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading." (Nehemiah 8:8, ESV)

131 I open my mouth and pant, because I long for Your commandments.

"Here the Holy Spirit teaches with what earnestness of soul the knowledge of divine truth is to be sought." (John Calvin)

"whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14, ESV) [see also
Isaiah 55)

"As a person out of breath does, through walking or running; he stops and pants, and opens his mouth, to draw in air to his relief: or as hungry and thirsty persons pant for food and drink, and open their mouths to receive it, before it can well be brought to them." (John Gill)

"As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for You, O God." (Psalm 42:1, ESV}

"My soul is consumed with longing for Your rules at all times." (Psalm 119:20, ESV)

132 Turn to [look upon] me and be gracious [merciful] to me, as is Your way with those who [are custom to] love Your name.

It is God who looks upon man and not the other way around... the Lord unconditionally grants mercy according to His will, and will continue to do so to those He has been gracious towards (both divine forbearance and redemption). The Psalmist recognizes that grace and mercy are of the Lord, much like justice... and he understands that the wrath of God is the result of justice for the payment of the sin debt (Romans 6:23), which he deserves. But God, being rich in mercy (see Ephesians 2), grants unmerited favor (and faith, love for His name, etc.) to those that he foreordained for salvation and was pleased to punish His Son, Jesus, the second Person of the triune God as a substitution for sinners.

"This, then, is the prayer of an afflicted man, who, when apparently destitute of all help, and unable to come to any other conclusion than that he is neglected and forsaken of God, yet reflects with himself, that, for God to forsake him, was foreign to his nature and to his usual manner of procedure... the Prophet's sole ground of confidence in asking this from God is his free goodness. Whence we gather that, although he was a man of eminent sanctity, yet the undeserved grace of God was his only refuge." (John Calvin)

"He asks not for the operations of God's hand... a good look is enough; and for that he does not plead merit, but implores mercy." (Matthew Henry)

"Not as in himself; a sinful creature will not bear looking upon by the Lord, especially with the strict eye of justice; but as in Christ, and clothed with his righteousness; and so not merely in a providential way, though that is a favour, but in a way of special grace and mercy... the Lord had turned from him, and had hid his face, which had given him trouble; and therefore he desires he would turn again to him, and show him his face and favour." (John Gill)

"Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted." (Psalm 25:16, ESV)

"If he looked in stern justice his eyes would not endure us, but looking in mercy he spares and blesses us." (Charles Spurgeon)

"The dealings of God with those that love him are such that a man needs not desire to be any better dealt with, for he will make them truly and eternally happy." (Matthew Henry)

Those who love God's name (see Psalm 138:2b) love His attributes (loving, sovereign, holy, righteous, etc.)

"...we must perceive the very clear testimonies by which he fortifies our faith, so that we need not doubt that all the godly are the objects of his regard; only we must endeavor to be among the number of those who love his name. By this title is meant genuine believers; for those who only slavishly fear God are not worthy of being reckoned among his servants. He requires a voluntary obedience from us, so that nothing may be more delightful to us than to follow whithersoever he calls us. It is, however, at the same time to be observed, that this love proceeds from faith; yea, the Prophet here commends the grand effect of faith, by separating the godly, who lean upon the grace of God, from worldly men, who, having given their hearts to the enticements of the world, never lift up their minds towards heaven." (John Calvin)

133 Keep steady [direct] my steps according to Your promise [by Your word], and let no iniquity get dominion over me.

"Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping [directed to keep] Your statutes!" (Psalm 119:5, ESV)

"Lead me in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it." (Psalm 119:35, ESV)

"...the only rule of living well is for men to regulate themselves wholly by the law of God... God deals bountifully with men, when he invites them to himself by his word and doctrine... all this is lifeless and unprofitable, until he govern by his Spirit those whom he has already taught by his word." (John Calvin)

"We ought to walk by rule; all the motions of the soul must not only be kept within the bounds prescribed by the word, so as not to transgress them, but carried out in the paths prescribed by the word, so as not to trifle in them. And therefore we must beg of God that by his good Spirit he would order our steps accordingly." (Matthew Henry)

"...it is not in the power of man to order and direct his steps: this is done by the Lord; and such who acknowledge him in their ways, and apply to him for direction, are and shall be thus favoured by him." (John Gill)

"I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps" (Jeremiah 10:23, ESV)

God can "prevent" people from sinning...

"Then God said to him [Abimelech] in the dream, 'Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against Me. Therefore I did not let you touch her [Abraham's wife, Sarah]." (Genesis 20:6, ESV)

"The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in His way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand." (Psalm 37:23-24, ESV)

"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV)

"The freedom of the godly consists solely in this—that they are governed by the Spirit of God, and thus preserved from succumbing to iniquity, although harassed with hard and painful conflicts." (John Calvin)

"The dominion of sin is to be dreaded and deprecated by every one of us; and, if in sincerity we pray against it, we may receive that promise as an answer to the prayer." (Matthew Henry)

"For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace." (Romans 6:14, ESV)

"It is a sad thing to be enslaved to any lust or sin, be it what it will: sin reigns over wicked men even unto death; and it oftentimes has great power over good men, puts them upon doing that which is evil, and hinders them from doing that which is good..." (John Gill)

"Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression." (Psalm 19:13, ESV)

134 Redeem me from man’s oppression, that I may keep your precepts.

Believers are redeemed (bought), out of slavery to sin, by the blood of Christ. The Psalmist is praying for God's redemption from external oppression (sinful men oppressing him) or internal oppression (his own sinful nature's oppressive bondage), so that he may better live according to God's will.

"When he was overwhelmed on all sides with injuries, he betook himself to God as his deliverer... We are taught from this passage, that when engaged in contest with the wicked, we ought not to suffer our minds to be actuated by malice, but that, however violently and unjustly they may assault us, we should rest; contented with the deliverance which God bestows, and with that alone; and again, that every instance in which we experience the grace of God in delivering us, should be a spur to incite us to follow after uprightness." (John We are taught from this passage, that when engaged in contest with the wicked, we ought not to suffer our minds to be actuated by malice, but that, however violently and unjustly they may assault us, we should rest; contented with the delivers. nee which God bestows, and with that alone; and again, that every instance in which we experience the grace of God in delivering us, should be a spur to incite us to follow after uprightness." (John Calvin)

"David prays that he might live a quiet and peaceable life, and might not be harassed and discomposed by those that studied to be vexatious... whom God can control, and whose power is limited." (Matthew Henry)

"Put them in fear, O LORD! Let the nations know that they are but men!" (Psalm 9:20, ESV)

"Some render it, 'from the oppression of Adam'... of the sin of Adam, and as a prayer to be delivered or redeemed from it; as the Lord's people are by the blood of Christ..." (John Gill)

"So he saved them from the hand of the foe and redeemed them from the power of the enemy." (Psalm 106:10, ESV)

"Give Your servant a pledge of good; let not the insolent oppress me." (Psalm 119:122, ESV)

"Depart from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commandments of my God." (Psalm 119:115, ESV)

"The LORD has taken away the judgments against you; He has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil." (Zephaniah 3:15, ESV)

"It is said that oppression makes a wise man mad, and no doubt it has made many a righteous man sinful. Oppression is in itself wicked, and it drives men to wickedness. We little know how much of our virtue is due to our liberty; if we had been in bonds under haughty tyrants we might have yielded to them, and instead of being confessors we might now have been apostates." (Charles Spurgeon)

135 Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes.

"he seeks to win the fatherly favor of God—for nothing is to be hoped for from Him unless we have an interest in his favor—but he at the same time, shows the greatness of the blessing." (John Calvin)

"He is very ambitious of his Master's favour, accounting that his happiness and chief good." (Matthew Henry)

"Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is Your way with those who love Your name." (Psalm 119:132, ESV)

"the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you" (Numbers 6:25, ESV)

"...he seeks for no favour from others, but only from his own Lord and Master." (Charles Spurgeon)

"...only when God illumines the minds of his believing people with the true knowledge of the law, that he delights them with the beams of his favor." (John Calvin)

"If God hides his face from us, it is because we have been careless in keeping his statutes; and therefore, that we may be qualified for the returns of his favour, we must pray for wisdom to do our duty." (Matthew Henry)

"The most favoured believer needs teaching; even when he walks in the light of God's countenance he has still to be taught the divine statutes or he will transgress." (Charles Spurgeon)

[see vv. 12, 26, 33, 73, 104, 124]

136 My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.

We should, as Christians, be sorrowful over sin. Sorrowful not merely due to our own transgressions; penitence for disobedience... but Christians should also grieve the sins of others; the ignorant, apathetic, and reprobate alike.

Please take a look at the Westminster Confession of Faith; Chapter 6

"You cannot be sorrowful for others' sins unless you be first sorrowful for your own sins... It is hypocrisy to pitch upon other men's sins and neglect your own ; as some will zealously declaim against public disorders, yet neglect their own hearts; as the crafty lapwing will go up and down fluttering and crying to draw the fowler from her own nest. We have a nest of sin of our own, and we are loath it should be rifled and exposed to public view... True zeal for injuries done to God would ease itself by tears rather than anger. True penitents will not satisfy themselves only with public humiliation, to which law, custom, and example may draw them; but will make conscience of this duty in their families, yea, in secret, where no eye seeth them but God's." (Thomas Manton)

"Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them." (Romans 1:32, ESV)

"...discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech, who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness, who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil, men whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways." (Proverbs 2:11-15, ESV)

[Thank you to Rev. James O'Brien for commending to me The Complete Works of Manton]

"Wherever the Spirit of God reigns, he excites this ardent zeal, which burns the hearts of the godly when they see the commandment of the Most High God accounted as a thing of nought. It is not enough that each of us endeavor to please God; we must also desire that his law may be held in estimation by all men." (John Calvin)

"He wept not for his troubles, though they were many, but for the dishonour done to God... The sins of sinners are the sorrows of saints. We must mourn for that which we cannot mend." (Matthew Henry)

"He wept in sympathy with God to see the holy law despised and broken. He wept in pity for men who were thus drawing down upon themselves the fiery wrath of God. His grief was such that he could scarcely give it vent; his tears were not mere drops of sorrow, but torrents of woe... None are so affected by heavenly things as those who are much in the study of the word, and are thereby taught the truth and essence of things." (Charles Spurgeon)

[See Matthew 23:37-39]


Reformed Forum (A reformed theology media network)

Sola Scriptura (A.A. Hodge; Outlines of Theology: Chapter 5)

The Sufficiency of the Word of God (a sermon by James Montgomery Boice)

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