It is time for You to act, O Lord, for they have regarded Your law as void. -- Psalm 119:126 (NKJV)
Opening Prayer: Heavenly Father, I understand the love and grace that you offer me. But many of my friends and neighbors just aren't interested. Please show me how to reach them with the Good News of Your plan for their lives.
A Different Perspective
Our first lesson on Psalm 119 covered verses 1-88 and described the Christian life on a personal level. If you have already applied that lesson in your life, you have submitted your heart to the Lord. Through prayer and diligent study of Scripture, you have learned to seek Him in every situation. You have experienced the joy and peace that transcend your circumstances. You have experienced personal revival in the Lord. You have now become strong in the Lord, unshakeable in your faith. You have learned how to survive and thrive through persecution.
If you have not read and applied that lesson yet, I suggest that you at least read through it before continuing. Click here to read it.
Assuming you have read and applied that lesson, you are a different person now. But the world around you hasn't changed much. You've led a few friends and family members to the Lord. But most of the world doesn't know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; furthermore, they don't want to submit their hearts to the Lord.
Now what do you do? As before, we turn to Psalm 119 for advice.
Lamed: Absolute Truth89Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven.
90Your faithfulness endures to all generations; You established the earth, and it abides.
91They continue this day according to Your ordinances, For all are Your servants.
God's word is not like words that I speak. When God speaks, it is eternally true. As verse 89 says, "Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven." Nobody else's opinion matters.
God speaks the truth, establishing both rules and promises that will enrich our lives. If we base our lives on His truth, we will obey His rules and enjoy the results of His promises. God is faithful to His promises: "Your faithfulness endures to all generations" (verse 90).
God's word has power. He spoke and the universe came into being. His word keeps the heavens and earth in existence, as we see in the second part of verse 90 and verse 91:You established the earth, and it abides. They continue this day according to Your ordinances, for all are your servants.
God's word is perfect. God's word is absolute truth.
Christians and observant Jews are very comfortable with the concept of absolute truth. We also accept the logical consequence of absolute truth: that we should live in accordance with it. We usually come short of perfection (see Romans 3:23-24), because our fleshly desires pull us in the wrong direction. Nevertheless, we bow our hearts to God and say, "Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven."
Many of our friends and family can't accept the concept of absolute truth. They profess to see "shades of gray" on issues of morality. They are willing to believe the lies of the enemy of God, repeated through many voices on the TV networks and newspapers.
Those who rebel against God speak lots of hateful words. They have many loud voices but no staying power. Their broadcast words stop when you turn off the radio or television. Their printed words stop when you pitch the newspaper into the Recycle bin. Their words are untrue, and they will perish with the speakers. God's word is absolute truth, and it abides forever.
Sometimes, unfortunately, my human nature loses perspective on the matter of God's word versus the hateful words of the rebels. My Irish temper wants to be enraged by these attacks on my core values. The advocates of "tolerance" and "equality" are shoving their values into the lenses of the TV cameras every night.
The next verse of Psalm 119 speaks on this matter:92Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction.
You and I must keep an eternal perspective and delight in God's word. Otherwise we're no better than the misguided folks heading for Hell. We must meditate on His faithfulness, or our hearts will be led astray by this "affliction."
Furthermore, we must seek to discover God's will in our circumstances:93I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have given me life.
94I am Yours, save me; for I have sought Your precepts.
I must "never forget Your precepts," the truths of Scripture that "have given me life" (verse 93). I must remember that only God's power can change this world for the better. Like the Psalmist, I must cry out: "I am Yours, save me, for I have sought Your precepts" (verse 94).
God understands my circumstances in advance, and knows how much evil is in the world. But why does God allow evil to be so rampant in this world? Peter writes about this very subject:9The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
Amazing as it sounds, "any" includes the people writing hateful words against God's people. God doesn't want them to perish. He wants them to know Him and love Him like we do. God loves every human on earth, enough to send His Son to suffer unbearable agony for our sakes.
How can God love these people? And how can Jesus command us to love our enemies? Consider these words in Matthew 5 verses 43-47:43“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?"
For a scientific experiment, please re-read the above passage and count how many times you find the words "tolerate" and "love." Jesus commands, "But I say to you, love your enemies." God is not "tolerant." He is loving, "for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." Jesus commands us to be like Him.
Can you do this in your own strength? Neither can I. So when we feel our values are under attack, we are in danger of disobeying a command of Jesus by experiencing fleshly anger. We need to pray for God to help us.
He wants us to pray to Him so that the Holy Spirit can teach our hearts to love the unloveable as much as He loves them. He wants our hearts to break that our dear friends and our attackers are missing out on the joy of abiding in Christ.
With this perspective, we read verses 95-96:95The wicked wait for me to destroy me, but I will consider Your testimonies.
96I have seen the consummation of all perfection, but Your commandment is exceedingly broad.
Now we understand the truest test of mature Christianity: loving the wicked as Christ loves them. We can only do this with changed hearts.
Don't expect the wicked to change anytime soon; they still want to destroy you (verse 95). The change must come in you. The results are in God's hands.
We must look to Jesus, "the consummation of all perfection" (verse 96), who told us in Matthew 5:17“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled."
Jesus came to perfectly fulfill all the requirements of the law, and to personify the heart of God Who wrote the Law. We must abide in Jesus, as we shall see in the next section.
The take-home message for this section is verse 89:89Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven.
Mem: Abiding in Jesus
97Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.
98You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; for they are ever with me.
This passage makes an amazing claim: that you and I can actually enjoy meditating on Scriptures throughout the day (verse 97). If you are an attorney, contrast verse 97 with your feelings for most earthly law books. Can you honestly claim to love reading the penal codes or the Congressional Record? God's word is different from your legal reference books.
God's word is different from college textbooks. As a student, I would intensely study a set of books for a semester, then sell most of them back and buy another set for next semester. A few core books in my major were worth keeping for reference in other courses. But since college, I've rarely used them. By contrast, God's word has valuable information I can use every day.
The Bible is more than a book of stories. It tells us about God manifested in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Since Adam and Eve, God has encouraged us to have active fellowship with Him. Since God's word is settled forever (verse 89), He hasn't changed His mind. He still wants us to have active fellowship with Him.
At the Last Supper, Jesus gave His final instructions to the disciples. The most-remarkable part is recorded in the Gospel of John, chapter 15:5“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
9“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love."
Jesus wants us to be connected to Him, like a branch to a grape vine (verse 5). He wants to bear fruit (character change) through us, by the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. When our hearts are fully changed (verse 7), we will want what Jesus wants; therefore we will ask in prayer for what He wants, 100% confident that our request is in accordance with God's will.
When we abide in Jesus and in His love (verse 9), our hearts will be transformed, enabled to love as He loves. Then, and only then, will be be able to obey the command of Jesus to love our enemies.
That is our key lesson for Psalm 119, verse 97: "Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day." As we seek the Lord through prayer and Scripture study, we learn to abide in Christ. And we learn to love as He loves.
Remember verse 98 also: "You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me." The gods of my enemies inspire them to hate me. My God inspires me to love them in return. Truly love is a wiser choice.
The Scriptures teach me to love, making me wiser than my enemies. And there's more:99I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation.
100I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts.
In Biblical days, communication was face-to-face. You learned from the teachers (verse 99) and the elders (verse 100) in your area. If you were an observant Jew and travelled to Jerusalem for Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of Booths each year, you could also learn from the teachers (rabbis) in Jerusalem.
A century ago, in the United States, most communication was still face-to-face. You learned from your parents, teachers and pastors in your area. The Bible was in every classroom, used as a reading textbook. Generations of Americans learned to read with a Bible in hand.
These days, the process has been badly warped. The teaching profession, especially at the college level, is dominated by people who work strenuously to keep the Bible out of the classroom. The "teachers" of our children are television programs populated by sugar-coated cartoon characters. The "teachers" of our adult population are the network newscasters. The "ancients" are musicians who were popular in the 1950s and 1960s.
We need to nourish our children on Scripture, to give them "more understanding than all my teachers" (verse 99). We ourselves need to meditate on Scripture and live by its rules (verse 100), so we can be wise teachers to our children and friends.
When our children and friends see us respond in love to the attacks of our enemies, they see living proof of the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit. My parents loved God, and I chose to have values like theirs. Whose values will your children choose?
If the Holy Spirit is changing our hearts, it will affect our behavior:101I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word.
102I have not departed from Your judgments, for You Yourself have taught me.
When you abide in Jesus, you are making a quality decision to walk in His love. When you hear the spiteful words of people who hate God, you choose to not retaliate (verse 101). You choose to walk in the love that Jesus demonstrated in His life, "for You Yourself have taught me" (verse 102).
We have been touched by the recent movie, "Passion of the Christ," because we understand the torture that Jesus endured on our behalf. Jesus did not retaliate against His tormentors, because He loved them. Many of His enemies later came to trust in Him, because their hard hearts were touched by His love. Years later, Jesus even reached out to Saul of Tarsus -- not so much to lessen the persecution of the church as to enable Saul to learn the truth of God's grace. We must likewise learn, from Jesus, how to love in a meaningful way.
Good choices bring us joy, despite the fallen world around us:103How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
The words of Scripture are sweet and gracious (verse 103). They are very different from the poisonous words of God's enemies. As we mature in our knowledge of Scripture, we gain discernment (a gift of the Holy Spirit) in recognizing the enemies' words, even when masked with artificial sweeteners.
As we discern the difference between false ways and God's ways, we choose to trust God and follow Jesus. Therefore our take-home message is verse 101:101I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word.
Nun: Intercessory Prayer105Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
106I have sworn and confirmed that I will keep Your righteous judgments.
Verse 105 is the key to your eternal survival. Without Scripture, all roads look alike with one exception: the roads to Hell sometimes appear more comfortable. Scripture shines a light that reveals just one road as truly straight; the other roads are exposed as leading to Hell.
We must keep the lamp of Scripture burning continually, lest we go astray. If we try to coast on what we remember from last week or last year, our light will get dimmer and the path will get confusing.
That's why we must resolve (verse 106) to be faithful in our Scripture study and faithful to live by what we see there.
At times, the lamp of Scripture will lead us to a place of intercessory prayer. The English word "intercessor" comes from two Latin words meaning "go between." Jesus, of course, is our Intercessor, as we see in 1 Timothy chapter 2:5For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
The ultimate act of intercession was when Jesus offered Himself on the cross at Calvary, to pay the price for your sins and mine. On a lesser scale, Moses interceded with God on behalf of the Israelites in the wilderness, imploring God to spare them from the full consequences of their sins, as we see in Exodus 32:30Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. So now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! 32Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.”
Moses had an intercessor's heart. He felt the sin of the people as if it was his own. Furthermore, he was willing to bear the punishment himself if it would spare the people from immediate destruction.
You must be willing, as a believer, to intercede with God on behalf of your enemies. You must allow the Holy Spirit to change your heart to love your enemies as He loves them. Not only must you love them, you must be willing for your love to cost you something.
At a minimum, it will deprive you of the spiteful pleasure that comes from striking back at those who attack you. It will also cost you hours of grief, as you pour out your heart before God on behalf of people who don't seem to care about God or the judgment they face.
Unlike the 30-minute TV comedies, your problems won't always have timely solutions:107I am afflicted very much; revive me, O LORD, according to Your word.
108Accept, I pray, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O LORD, and teach me Your judgments.
God allows you to be afflicted (verse 107) to remind you that you've entered "praying ground." You can easily recognize "praying ground" territory: it's wherever you observe that your circumstances appear to contradict the promises of Scripture.
As you follow the lamp of Scripture (verse 105), your enemies try to stop you. God wants you to continue, but there's a huge problem in front of you. You haven't got enough strength to push the obstacle aside, and you can't move forward without deviating from the path of Scripture. You are on "praying ground." It is holy ground. God is very near. Take off your shoes, bow your face to the ground, and worship your Lord.
The Psalmist prayed, "Revive me, O Lord, according to Your word." (verse 107). You must pray likewise. God has brought you here for a purpose that only He can understand. God has allowed you to confront a problem that only He can solve. God wants you to reach out and touch His willingness to work a miracle on your behalf. God wants you to be revived in your faith.
When you enter "praying ground," your first step must always be to praise God, as we see in verse 108: "Accept, I pray, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord, and teach me Your judgments." Praising God in the right way can change your life, as we saw in an earlier lesson in the Transformed Life series.
You must praise God in direct proportion to the gravity of the problem. The worse the problem, the greater the deliverance that God intends to work on your behalf.
When you praise God, several wonderful things happen:
- You remind yourself of God's love and faithfulness toward you.
- You remind yourself of God's power, which created the universe and keeps it in existence.
- You remind yourself that your human strength is inadequate to sustain your walk of faith. You cannot follow Jesus in your own strength. You must allow the Holy Spirit to change you into His image, and to empower your every breath.
- Your praise informs the devil that he can't win. In these last days, the devil has raised up a vast army of human terrorists who perform random acts of violence. The terrorists were able to "win" in Spain, exploding trains and killing civilians in an attempt to get a Socialist government elected. Your praise makes it clear that terror tactics won't stop you from following Jesus.
- Your praise makes the devil flee the room. He cannot tolerate hearing you praise God for allowing such devilish mischief into your life.
- Praise brings you into the presence of God, as we learn from Psalm 100 verse 4:Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
- When you praise God and enter into His presence, He calms your fears and gives you insight, as we see in the second half of verse 108: "...teach me Your judgments." When He teaches you, you understand His will for your situation, and you understand exactly how to pray in accordance with His will.
Praising God, therefore, enables you to begin the process of intercessory prayer, as described in the epistle of 1 John chapter 5:14Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
Praising God is the surest way of entering into the presence of God Himself, that you might be taught a portion of His will and directed to pray for specific things. When this happens, you must be obedient and pray, confident that God will hear and answer your prayers. When this happens, you must persist in prayer until you receive an answer from the Lord. This is intercessory prayer.
You cannot enter intercessory prayer at the request of an e-mail forwarded by your cousin Susie. You can only enter intercessory prayer at the direction of the Holy Spirit. He must place the burden on your heart. Then you must be obedient and pray until He Himself lifts the burden from your heart. This is what Jesus meant at the Last Supper when He said (John 15:7):If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.
You must abide in Scripture ("...My words...") and worship. Then the Holy Spirit Himself will place in your heart a strong desire to pray in accordance with His will. You are then enabled to pray in complete faith, confident that the power of God Himself is going to accomplish His will.
Intercessory prayer is not a "happy-face" activity, to be performed in front of a TV camera. Intercessory prayer often is an agonizing process. Verses 109 and 110 of Psalm 119 give us an insight into that process:109My life is continually in my hand, yet I do not forget Your law.
110The wicked have laid a snare for me, yet I have not strayed from Your precepts.
Your enemy (the devil) is not a nice person. He wants to see you dead, and he wants you to be miserable until he has an opportunity to kill you. That's why the Psalmist says, "My life is continually in my hand (verse 109)." Nevertheless, you and I must stay focused on God and His word.
Today, it is very easy to discern who the wicked folk are. Some of them make headlines by raging against Israel and the United States, inciting their fellow lunatics to acts of violence. Other wicked folk make headlines by raging against President Bush, telling unsubstantiated lies and trying to halt his strong program to eradicate terrorists.
Nevertheless, you and I cannot waste time being angry at the wicked, despite the traps they lay in our path (verse 110). We must abide in Jesus, imploring Him to guide our prayers.
Are you spending quality time abiding in Jesus? Consider this:111Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart.
112I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes forever, to the very end.
You will never find enough time to pray. You must make time. You must treasure your time with God as the key to your eternal heritage (verse 111), rejoicing and praising God for the truth of His testimonies. You must incline your heart (verse 112) to follow the lamp of Scripture while there's still time.
Our take-home message for this section is verse 105:Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Samek: Spiritual Warfare
The more time we spend abiding in Christ, the more we appreciate His love and faithfulness. Jesus did not merely speak the truth; He is the truth, as we see in John 14:6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Jesus paid the price for our sins on Calvary, that all who trust in Him could receive salvation as a free gift. What could be simpler or easier for us? The only alternative is to lead a perfect, sinless life (as He did) to merit heaven.
This truth is very simple. It is freely available. But our enemy has an army of noisy sympathizers who hate the truth and attack us on every side. The Psalmist experienced this in his day also:113I hate the double-minded, but I love Your law.
114You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word.
115Depart from me, you evildoers, for I will keep the commandments of my God!
Those who attack your beliefs and freedoms are not just "following an alternative belief system." They actively despise the truth, because the truth exposes their hearts as evil. God describes them as "double-minded" (verse 113), but in the same verse encourages us to abide in His law and His love.
Verse 114 reinforces this principle, as the Psalmist says, "You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word." We might be physically surrounded by the granola people (flakes and nuts), but our hearts can take refuge in Jesus and be safe behind His shield. Our joy will be full, despite the persecution. From our hiding place in Jesus, we can push back our enemies in prayer (verse 115).
We cannot do this by trusting in mere human intelligence and courage. We must abide in Jesus to maintain our strength:116Uphold me according to Your word, that I may live; and do not let me be ashamed of my hope.
117Hold me up, and I shall be safe, and I shall observe Your statutes continually.
Our enemies are brutal, and their attacks seem endless. But God's word promises life and hope (verse 116). If we abide in Jesus, we shall be safe (verse 117) and shall delight in following Jesus.
Our enemies will complain and describe us as prejudiced and narrow-minded. But the opposite is true. Those who hate you never read the Bible or devotional books. On the other hand, Christians have no choice but to read newspapers that promote the anti-God agenda, since most daily newspapers do. Likewise the three major TV networks rarely deviate from their "liberal" bias; a recent poll showed that 89% of TV reporters covering Washington DC vote Democrat.
The enemies of God in the media don't view their positions as liberal or anti-God; they view their political and religious beliefs as "reasonable," since everybody they know believes the same thing. After the election in 2000, the most-common lament was, "How could Bush win? I don't know anybody who voted for him." They have chosen to be blind to truth that does not fit their preconceptions. Paul described this in 2 Corinthians 4 verses 3-4:3But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.
You and I understand that spritual warfare is raging all around us. The devil, the head terrorist, is trying to destroy anything Christian or Jewish and drag as many souls as possible with him down to Hell. The Lord wants us to fight back in the Spirit, to make the light of the Gospel available to these same souls.
The anti-God propagandists believe they are only fighting for political power. They choose not to believe that you and I don't really care about political power. Our goal is fulfill the prayer that Jesus taught us: "...Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done."
Our enemies fight with printed and televised words, seeking to win their battle at the ballot box. You and I must fight on our knees, abiding in Christ, being transformed into His image, and being directed by the Holy Spirit to battle in prayer as He directs.
Don't be fooled by outward appearances. The anti-God forces might win at the ballot box, but the real battle is for the hearts and souls of your friends and family. Remember Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 4 verses 7-11:7But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 8We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—10always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
Don't be fooled by outward appearances, or distracted by what appear to be losses or setbacks in the courts or elections. We must keep our focus on Jesus and Scripture, and let the Holy Spirit give us the accurate battle reports.
Sometimes it's hard to see current events from God's perspective, but we must remember that only His opinion matters, as we return to Psalm 119 and read verses 118 through 120:118You reject all those who stray from Your statutes, for their deceit is falsehood.
119You put away all the wicked of the earth like dross; therefore I love Your testimonies.
120My flesh trembles for fear of You, and I am afraid of Your judgments.
In a few short years, the devil's game will be stopped in its tracks. Jesus will return to this earth and "reject all those who stray from" His statutes, "for their deceit is falsehood" (verse 118). At His return, He will "put away all the wicked of the earth like dross," (verse 119) beginning with several million fools assembled to fight at Armageddon.
After Jesus returns, the devil will be banished to the lowest place in the bottomless pit for a thousand years. During that thousand years, he will endure torment -- including taunts and curses from the wicked folk that he deceived. Isaiah chapter 14 describes this "homecoming" in detail:9“Hell from beneath is excited about you,
To meet you at your coming;
It stirs up the dead for you,
All the chief ones of the earth;
It has raised up from their thrones
All the kings of the nations.
10They all shall speak and say to you:
‘Have you also become as weak as we?
Have you become like us?
11 Your pomp is brought down to Sheol,
And the sound of your stringed instruments;
The maggot is spread under you,
And worms cover you.’
12“How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!
13For you have said in your heart:
‘I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;
14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.’
15Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol,
To the lowest depths of the Pit.
16“Those who see you will gaze at you,
And consider you, saying:
‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble,
Who shook kingdoms,
17Who made the world as a wilderness
And destroyed its cities,
Who did not open the house of his prisoners?’
There will be a lot of politicians and journalists already in residence down there to observe the event, but nobody on earth will see or hear their comments. You and I will be listening to Jesus -- "the Way, the Truth and the Life."
Since we know the Hero and Winner of this story, we must live in healthy respect of Him. The Psalmist makes this point in verse 120 of Psalm 119:120My flesh trembles for fear of You, and I am afraid of Your judgments.
This echoes the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:28And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
The warfare is getting increasingly ugly in these last days, but we can be safe in the knowledge that God loves us and will reward us for our faithfulness.
Our take-home message for this section is verse 114:114You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word.
Ayin: The Battle Continues
Don't be distracted by details of the battle. Our primary assignment is to follow Jesus. He commands us to follow Him and abide in Him. He expects us to be His disciples, allowing the Holy Spirit to transform us into His image.
Jesus taught love, forgiveness and eternal life. His enemies rewarded Him with hatred, torture and physical death. If we truly follow Jesus, we must expect to encounter attacks from our enemy. And we must respond as Jesus responded: "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing." (Luke 23:34) Even in His death, Jesus led many soldiers (and one of the criminals on a nearby cross) to eternal life.
If your heart is troubled and angry by the attacks against you, your family or your friends, stop immediately and seek forgiveness from Jesus. He has a plan of action that might surprise you, and your fleshly anger won't help matters. Instead, we must again turn to Psalm 119 and read verses 121 and 122:121I have done justice and righteousness; do not leave me to my oppressors.
122Be surety for Your servant for good; do not let the proud oppress me.
Like Jesus, we must follow the Scriptures to walk in "justice and righteousness" (verse 121). This will inevitably infuriate our oppressors (verse 121). We must trust in God to protect us from their attacks (verse 122).
You will know that the Holy Spirit has changed your heart when you find yourself able to weep for your attackers. Our Lord Himself wept for the religious elite of Jerusalem shortly after His triumphal entry, as we see in Matthew 23:37“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!"
The Psalmist also wept and prayed to understand God's will, as we see in verses 123 and 124:123My eyes fail from seeking Your salvation and Your righteous word.
124Deal with Your servant according to Your mercy, and teach me Your statutes.
The Lord has sometimes led me to pray for friends who were walking far from God. There were many times of weeping as I prayed for their salvation (verse 123). Each time, the Lord was gracious to me and taught me (verse 124) fresh insights from Scripture. He wants to do the same for you.
When you encounter these terrible situations, where your heart is torn by inner and outer conflict, push more intensely into God through prayer, praise and Scripture study. The Lord has a wonderful reward for you, as we see in verses 125 and 126:125I am Your servant; give me understanding, that I may know Your testimonies.
126It is time for You to act, O LORD, for they have regarded Your law as void.
When the time is right, the Lord will do a mighty work. When you have wept and sought the heart of God, the Holy Spirit will direct you to action. It might be a small or great act of obedience, and it might appear completely illogical. If you have truly been touched and instructed by God, He will speak truth to you, and you must act -- in faith -- at His command.
During November of 2000, the Lord commanded many saints to pray in secret for His will to be done on Election Day. Then, when the election appeared to hang in balance in Florida, the Lord again repeated His command to pray for His will to be done. The Lord wanted His intercessors to fully grasp the importance of their prayer. If God allowed Mr. Gore to prevail, then Christians were to accept that as God's will, and that His judgment would begin to fall on the entire world in short order. If God allowed Mr. Bush to prevail, then Christians were to understand that God was giving this nation one more chance to repent and pray for revival. God allowed the prayers (and the political circus) to play out for several days, making it clear that He alone controlled the outcome.
A few months after the election, on September 11, God allowed the nation to experience a small taste of the devil's agenda. For a few weeks afterwards, Christians rallied to prayer and this country appeared to turn back to God. You could sense the character and maturity of Americans as they felt their grief and vowed to fight back against the enemy. Unfortunately, the majority of Americans soon returned to their pre-9/11 habits and politics.
Now we face another election, and again the Lord will show His will in a mighty way (verse 126). The enemies of God have launched a savage series of attacks on President Bush and everyone who dares to be an outspoken supporter of the war on terror.
At the same time, there has been a savage attack on everything Christian. Witness the months of hysterical attacks on Mel Gibson for daring to produce "The Passion of Christ." Witness the months of ugly civil disobedience and moral degeneracy by the advocates of gay marriage.
And in case you've forgotten, the nation Israel continues to be the target of frothing hatred by radical Islam. The Lord will soon make Israel the very center of world politics, as we enter the final few days and weeks of human history.
Now is not the time to be angry. Now is the time to be in prayer, studying God's Scriptures and awaiting precious instruction from the Holy Spirit. Now is the time to praise God, as we see in verses 127 and 128:127Therefore I love Your commandments more than gold, yes, than fine gold!
128Therefore all Your precepts concerning all things I consider to be right; I hate every false way.
God's ways are a delight to our hearts (verse 127). God loves and cherishes us, and teaches us to be like Himself (verse 128). Therefore we hate the false ways (verse 128), but we agonize in prayer on behalf of the foolish sinners that follow those false ways. By His grace and through our prayers, a few of these lost sheep might be rescued and come to a saving knowledge of our Great Shepherd.
We must also intercede in prayer for our President and other elected leaders at all levels. If the enemies of God are allowed to win the 2004 election, the Lord's judgment on the entire world will begin soon thereafter.
Our take-home message for this section is verse 126:126It is time for You to act, O LORD, for they have regarded Your law as void.
Pe: Waiting for God's Voice
At times, I must cry out, "Lord, forgive me. I just can't help feeling angry at the liars and murderers that are trying to destroy this great country. I know I should love those evil creeps, but it's really hard to even listen to their vile words. What can I do, Lord?"
As usual, the Lord leads me back to Scripture, to tune my heart to His voice:129Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them.
130The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.
131I opened my mouth and panted, for I longed for Your commandments.
Verse 129 isn't too difficult to understand. Anyone can read Scripture, and the commands are not unreasonable.
Verse 130 is slightly tougher. Sometimes I pray for light and understanding, but don't immediately get an answer. There is no simple formula for entering into God's presence. As we saw earlier, heart-felt praise helps us get into the gate (Psalm 100). But sometimes it seems like the courts of heaven are empty. God doesn't always greet us at the gate.
What can we do when we hunger for an answer from God (verse 131) but can't immediately hear His voice? Verses 132-134 give us a clue:132Look upon me and be merciful to me, as Your custom is toward those who love Your name.
133Direct my steps by Your word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me.
134Redeem me from the oppression of man, that I may keep Your precepts.
Although we don't always hear from God in prayer, we know that He sees and hears us (verse 132). Furthermore, we have the testimony of Scripture that He is faithful to his promises. Unlike us, our God never gets weary of being Himself. He keeps His word.
Verse 133 is assurance that His word will guide our steps, and that God will "deliver us from evil." We already saw (verse 105) that the Scripture is a miraculous lamp that reveals God's path to heaven -- among a host of alternative roads that veer off to Hell.
The path to heaven crosses straight over many well-worn paths to Hell. These paths, which usually call themselves the only true form of Christianity (or Judaism), will touch the true path at many points of Scripture but will inevitably deviate in key places before turning straight to Hell.
Without the direction of Scripture (verse 133), it would be easy to drift over onto one of these deviant paths at a place where they touch the true path. That's why we must have a rock-solid foundation in the Bible, to guide us at times when the Lord chooses not to give us special instruction.
You will surely be attacked (verse 134) by people on the deviant paths, when they figure out that you won't be seduced by their Christian-sounding doctrines. The attacks will become especially oppressive if you try to help them escape from the path to Hell.
Be joyful when this happens, because they did the same thing to Jesus. Our Lord was delivered unto death by religious fanatics who had hijacked the external priesthood of Judaism. These religious leaders were distracting people from the purity of Jewish Scripture, and were horrified when Jesus shone the light of truth upon their evil path.
The lamp of Scripture still illuminates the straight path and exposes the phonies that want to oppress you and keep you from obeying God (verse 134).
Scripture will guide you through times when you don't hear God's voice, but you must never stop seeking the Lord's face:135Make Your face shine upon Your servant, and teach me Your statutes.
136Rivers of water run down from my eyes, because men do not keep Your law.
Verse 135 reminds us of Moses' face-to-face encounter with God on Mount Sinai as God gave him the Ten Commandments. We read about this in Exodus 34:29Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses’ hand when he came down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him. 30So when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him.
You must understand this truth: God did not call Moses up the mountain because Moses had a shiny face. Moses' face glowed after his encounter with the Lord of the universe.
You do not need to become a leader like Moses before God calls you into His presence. Instead, if you make the effort to seek God's face, God will transform you into a mighty man or woman of God. If you abide in Jesus, and seek to enter the Lord's presence, the Holy Spirit will transform you to be more like Him. Your face will shine because His face shines.
As you become more like Jesus, your heart will be changed. You will experience the truth of Psalm 119, verse 136, as you learn to weep for lost sinners. When you learn to love the unloveable, it will break your heart to see them suffer on the road to Hell. We will learn more about this type of love in our next section.
Our take-home message for this section is verse 136:136Rivers of water run down from my eyes, because men do not keep Your law.
Tsadde: Learning True Love
People who don't know God can't possibly understand verses 137-138:137Righteous are You, O LORD, and upright are Your judgments.
138Your testimonies, which You have commanded, are righteous and very faithful.
Verse 137 is especially troubling to non-believers. Their rational minds don't understand what it means to walk uprightly. Righteous behavior looks wrong to them. The commandments of God seem harsh and oppressive to them. Actually, the opposite is true.
God's commands are an expression of His love for us. They tell us how He would behave -- and how Jesus did behave -- on this earth.
Jesus gave this concise summary of God's commandments in Matthew 22:37Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
The essence of God's law is love, and love requires faith. It takes faith to love a Person that you can't experience with your natural senses. It takes faith to read the Scripture and discern the character of the God we serve.
It also takes faith to look at your worldly enemies and love them as you love yourself. You cannot possibly do this in your own strength. You must have faith that God will change you and empower you to love hateful people.
By faith, we finally grasp the truth of Psalm 119, verse 138: "Your testimonies, which You have commanded are righteous and very faithful." By faith, we grasp that God loved us before we loved Him, and that God's commandments were righteous even before we could agree with them.
By faith, we finally realize why a righteous God has withheld His judgment upon this evil world: He loves sinners too much to let them perish in their sins. He is allowing enough time for them to be touched by the truth of the Gospel message. And God expects you to be the instrument of making the love of Jesus Christ real to lost souls.
A pastor friend recited this poem to describe how Christians can be self-centered:To live above, with saints we love,
Will be a time of glory.
To live below, with saints we know,
Is quite a different story.
Now we're ready to read Psalm 119, verse 139:139My zeal has consumed me, because my enemies have forgotten Your words.
You must confess your fleshly zeal, which will lead you to resentment and anger. You must learn God's own zeal, which is a passon for lost sinners.
The zeal of God will touch your heart on behalf of people who now are your enemies. The more you follow Jesus, the more you will love your enemies.
If you have not yet experienced this love, then your Christian experience is incomplete. If you cannot weep for people who hate God, then maybe you are one of the hypocrites that they despise.
Fortunately, we know God's will here: He wants you to love like He loves. That means you can pray for God to change your heart, and you can be sure that He will answer your prayer.
Friends, this is also the secret of a healthy marriage. God wants you to love your mate, even though he/she might be a real stinker. So confess your inability to love perfectly, and pray for Him to change your heart. If you are willing to be changed, God is able to do the miracle.
When God answers your prayer and changes your heart, you will see the world differently. The lamp of Scripture will shine more brightly for you. You will see the straight path more clearly, and discern how the dark paths of "diversity" swerve away from the truth.
Even Scripture will look different to you:140Your word is very pure; therefore Your servant loves it.
141I am small and despised, yet I do not forget Your precepts.
142Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law is truth.
"Pure" (verse 140) is a peculiar word, translating the Hebrew word tsaraph which means refined or purified. Nothing in nature is discovered in a "refined" state. Even diamonds must be cleaned and cut to showcase their potential.
Likewise human beings are born unrefined and undeveloped. Any parent can tell you that children fight strenuously against the process of becoming refined. One of the hardest struggles is refining our spoken and written language, because our toxic culture has such a corrupting effect. But Scripture, written by God in human language through the agency of human authors, is miraculously refined. And a changed heart, taught to love, recognizes the purity of Scripture (verse 140).
When confronted by God's purity and power, we recognize our own frailty and weakness. We see how we come short of God's glory (verse 141), and cling by faith to our hiding place in Jesus. By faith, we accept the righteousness (verse 142) that Jesus purchased on Calvary and look forward to spending eternity with Him.
Then your attention returns to your circumstances:143Trouble and anguish have overtaken me, yet Your commandments are my delights.
144The righteousness of Your testimonies is everlasting; give me understanding, and I shall live.
God's unlovely enemies are causing you trouble and anguish (verse 143). Their unrefined behavior is grieving your heart and testing your new-found capacity to love. Encouraged by the Scriptures, however, we recover our sensibilities. "O Lord, help me to love these liars and to shine the light of Your love and truth on their behavior."
Be aware, however, that your storehouse of love is like manna. You must seek the Lord in prayer and Scripture every morning, to receive fresh understanding and hope (verse 144). More on this subject in the next section.
Our take-home message for this section is verse 139:139My zeal has consumed me, because my enemies have forgotten Your words.
Qoph: Early Morning Worship
Some mornings, I just can't get up early enough to spend quality time with God. I push the "snooze" button on the alarm clock, hoping that nine more minutes of rest will make my body more responsive. Eventually I arise with barely enough time to read a few verses from Proverbs or Psalms before jumping in the shower and zooming away to work.
Some days, the Lord is gracious and allows me to get away with this slothfulness. Other days, I find myself echoing the words of Psalm 119 verses 145-146:145I cry out with my whole heart; hear me, O LORD! I will keep Your statutes.
146I cry out to You; save me, and I will keep Your testimonies.
Some days, the flaming arrows hit me right in the heart. My shield of faith would have stopped the arrows, but I had forgotten about the demonic terrorists and wandered away from the shield. Likewise, the breastplate of rightousness would have stopped the arrows -- if I had taken the time to put it on before leaving the house.
Wounded, I cry out to the Lord for help (verse 145). I promise the Lord that if He will just get me through this crisis, I will put on the whole armor of God every morning (verse 146).
With the Lord's help, I learn the truth of verse 147:147I rise before the dawning of the morning, and cry for help; I hope in Your word.
On "normal" days, I arise early enough to spend time with the Lord before breakfast. But in times of crisis or when writing important lessons, I receive a personal wake-up call from the Lord.
For example, it is 4:30 am as I type these words. The Lord woke me up at 3:00 am and called me into the study to pray and write. In a few minutes, I'll return to bed and get some sleep before the alarm sounds.
As usual, our Lord Himself sets the example for effective prayer. Notice this passage from Luke 6:12Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. 13And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles.
Remember that Jesus willingly set aside His power and glory to enter a human body. Then He obtained power and wisdom in exactly the way He expects us to do so: by fervent prayer to God our Father. For crucial times, like selecting His twelve apostles or preparing to meet His death, Jesus would pray through the night.
Even our Lord's daily prayer life was rigorous, as we see in Mark 1:35Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.
Maybe you think you don't need much prayer, because you're a spiritual Superman or Wonder Woman. But if Jesus Himself felt that early prayer -- long prayer -- was important, that's good enough for me.
Early morning prayer was also a hallmark of King David, as we see in Psalm 63:1O God, You are my God; early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.
2So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.
Notice how King David starts out seeking God. He is not just talking at the ceiling. David starts out actively seeking to come into the presence of God.
If you have never experienced the presence of the Holy God, let me encourage you to seek Him fervently. However, if you have experienced that wonderful peace and joy, you know just what I mean. The experience can fill you with courage (to overcome the enemy) and compassion (to help your fellow pilgrims).
Notice when King David starts out: "...early will I seek You." There's something very special about our first hour of consciousness. If you're like me, it's a vulnerable time. Maybe later in the day I can feel alert, athletic and self-assured. But before daybreak, your teacher is none of those things. It is an act of faith to praise God early in the morning. And I'm very aware of how much I need God's help, protection and guidance.
Notice also the context. At the time David was writing this, he and his men were under enemy attack. Instead of complaining about the unfairness of life, David chose to seek and to honor the Author of life. Seeking God was an essential part of David's armament and preparation for battle. We should do likewise to prepare for our daily challenges.
Verses 3 and 4 of Psalm 63 talk about our experiences after our morning devotions:3Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips shall praise You.
4Thus I will bless You while I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
Once we've established that precious contact in the early morning, we are more aware of the Lord's working in our lives. We sense His protection and wise advice when the enemy attacks. We sense His graciousness and kindness in the beauty of creation. We sense His forgiveness when we stumble and repent. We're more aware of His loving hand, everywhere.
How will we feel at the end of the day? Verses 5-7 give a clue:5My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness;
And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips: 6When I remember You upon my bed,
And meditate on You in the night watches. 7Because You have been my help,
Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice.
Let's continue with Psalm 119:148My eyes are awake through the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word.
149Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness; O LORD, revive me according to Your justice.
As mentioned earlier, "wakeup calls" are rare but very special. The Lord gives us a special time with Him and special grace to understand His word (verse 148).
Sensitized to His lovingkindness, we cry out for revival (verse 149). We implore the Lord to make His love contagious, and to make us the "vectors" to spread His love throughout our community.
In the process of sharing God's love, we are amazed by the contrast between God's love and the enemy's deadly hatred:150They draw near who follow after wickedness; they are far from Your law.
151You are near, O LORD, and all Your commandments are truth.
152Concerning your testimonies, I have known of old that You have founded them.
Our enemies draw physically near, but their hearts are far from God (verse 150). The good news is that while they are physically near, you can share God's love with them. They won't listen to a sermon from you, but you can bring the love of Jesus near to them (verse 151). Your heart will be a living testimony of the eternal truth of God's word (verse 152).
Early morning prayer prepares your heart for these encounters. Early morning prayer makes the love of Jesus real for you. By His grace, He can make His love real for your enemies as well.
The take-home message for this section is verse 147:147I rise before the dawning of the morning, and cry for help; I hope in Your word.
Resh: Revival in the Church
To this point, most of your enemies have been professed enemies of God. Now you must engage a more subtle enemy: the walking dead sitting next to you in church.
Until now, God has allowed you to focus inward (personal revival) and outward (praying for those outside the church). Now you must become sensitized to the religious phonies that Jesus described in Matthew 7:15“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit."
Remember that religious phonies, pretending to be observant Jews, delivered Jesus to be crucified. Christians don't blame Jews for crucifying Jesus; we blame religious phonies.
If you are really learning from this lesson and bearing fruit in the Lord, people in your local church fellowship will notice. Not all of the attention will be favorable, as we read in Psalm 119, verses 153 and 154:153Consider my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget Your law.
154Plead my cause and redeem me; revive me according to Your word.
If you have never experienced the affliction of a blind-side attack (verse 153), don't worry; it will happen, and it will be a surprise. You will find yourself hurt and praying to the Lord for redemption (verse 154) and healing.
Remember that the whole armor of God (the Greek word is panoply) faces forward, toward the attacking enemy. Your enemies in the church will sucker-punch you from behind.
To understand the problem, remember the parable that Jesus relates in Matthew 13:3Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. 5Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. 6But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. 7And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. 8But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty."
The different types of ground represent the four types of people to be found in all church denominations:
- Some are like the hard-packed dirt of "the wayside:" the seed of the word just bounces off their ears and never takes root. They hear the words of the Gospel every Sunday but the truth never penetrates their hearts.
- Some are like a thin layer of topsoil on rocky ground: they respond enthusiastically to the Gospel at some point, but they wither away almost as quickly. Their bodies are alive but their hearts are beating faintly, if at all.
- The third group is the saddest. Many of these are the "someday" people, who "someday" will get a clue and get serious about a deeper relationship with Jesus. Others are the "yesterday" people, who have achieved great things for God but who have gradually drifted into a comfortable religious stupor. Now their best efforts are expended on behalf of worldly pursuits.
- The fourth group is the rarest. These are the fruitful people who earnestly seek God. They spend quality time abiding in Christ, allowing the Holy Spirit to produce fruit in their hearts.
All four types of people are bearing fruit of some sort, but only the fourth group is bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit -- that blessed character change that the Holy Spirit creates in a submitted heart. The other three groups produce bad fruit -- the character of an unchanged heart.
Jesus warned us (Matthew 7:1) not to judge others, i.e. to sit in judgment about whether people are saved or not. However, He expects us to exercise discernment (a gift of the Holy Spirit) by observing the fruit of their lives.
The point is that all three types of problem folks can bear bad fruit and attack you. Your responsibility is to discern the fruit without making a rash judgment about their salvation. We must heed Psalm 119 and earnestly pray for all three types of potential enemies:155Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek Your statutes.
156Great are Your tender mercies, O LORD; revive me according to Your judgments.
157Many are my persecutors and my enemies, yet I do not turn from Your testimonies.
158I see the treacherous, and am disgusted, because they do not keep Your word.
If our attackers are unsaved (verse 155), we must fervently pray for them to repent and seek God. Our human nature cries out for revenge, but we must cry out for God's mercy (verse 156) on their behalf.
Verse 157 hints at a different problem: the "nice" people who don't attack us directly. However, they effectively block the movement of the Holy Spirit by passively resisting. When your pastor calls for prayer and fasting to support our nation in its war on terror, they nod and smile. When the Wednesday night Bible teacher implores them to seek God, they nod and smile. The pastor and teacher are following Jesus, but the "nice" folks are motionless or moving the other way.
The world calls them "nice" people, but God calls them treacherous and is disgusted with them (verse 158). Jesus warned church people about being "nice" in Revelation 3:15“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth."
Be very careful here. All of us have good days and bad days in the Lord. Any one of us can be hot, cold or lukewarm on any given Tuesday. Any one of us can be "treacherous" or "disgusting" if we drift away from our place of abiding in Jesus.
That's why we must quickly repent of our initial anger following a treacherous attack. We must learn to feel the Lord's own heart for our attackers and pray earnestly for them:159Consider how I love Your precepts; revive me, O LORD, according to Your lovingkindness.
160The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.
God is love, and we must fervently pray for the Holy Spirit to bear the fruit of love (verse 159) in our hearts every day, that we may be like Him. In fact, we also should pray for the Holy Spirit to teach us to be fervent -- passionate about the God we claim to love. Without passion, we run the risk of drifting backwards into the lukewarm rut of carnality.
Passion requires my entire person: body, soul and spirit. Passion is fed by cover-to-cover study of Scripture (verse 160), which gives me truth I can enthusiastically follow forever.
If you seek the Lord passionately, you will become like Him. And you will learn to be passionate in prayer for those who attack you.
You can't do this in your own strength. That's why our take-home message for this section is verse 159:159Consider how I love Your precepts; revive me, O LORD, according to Your lovingkindness.
Shin: Perfect Peace
As you pray for others, a change takes place in your heart. You discover that your place of abiding in Jesus has become a safe haven for you. To your amazement, you discover that the enemy's attacks cannot disturb your peace as before:161Princes persecute me without a cause, but my heart stands in awe of Your word.
162I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure.
When you have daily contact with the God, Creator of the universe, you feel very impressed by Him (verse 161). You rejoice in the knowledge that God loves you, despite your shortcomings (verse 162). By comparison, the presecution that "princes" wage against you seems insignificant. The "princes" come in all shapes and sizes: foreign terrorists, foreign politicians, our own politicians, criminals or even TV news commentators with anti-Christian or anti-Israel biases.
This peace described by the Psalmist is not some hypnotic, religious stupor. You are still very conscious of your enemies:163I hate and abhor lying, but I love Your law.
164Seven times a day I praise You, because of Your righteous judgments.
You are very aware that your enemies tell lies about you (verse 163), but you have grown secure in your walk with Jesus. You find yourself praising Jesus several times per day (verse 164) that He is your Advocate, representing you before His Father's throne (verse 164). The politicians' lies might fool your neighbors, but they won't fool God.
When you know that you are saved by faith in Jesus' perfect sacrifice, your conscience is clear before God:165Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble.
Your peace is based on God, and not on your circumstances:
- You have learned that God loves you, and that God has ultimate authority in your life.
- You have learned that only God can be trusted, and that even other believers can be temporarily hijacked for your enemy's purposes.
- You have learned that Scripture can be trusted (verse 165), even when your circumstances are painful.
With the Scripture serving as a lamp unto our feet, we can walk -- without stumbling -- even through difficult times:166LORD, I hope for Your salvation, and I do Your commandments.
167My soul keeps Your testimonies, and I love them exceedingly.
168I keep Your precepts and Your testimonies, for all my ways are before You.
The mature believer will experience trials, but will never lose hope (verse 166). The mature believer loves to walk according to the light of Scripture (verse 167). The mature believer does not allow peer pressure to pull him/her away from God's word, because the believer answers to God, the Ultimate Authority (verse 168).
Pilots initially learn to fly according to "Visual Flight Rules" (VFR), meaning they can use their physical eyes to identify landmarks on the ground and to get visual clues about their circumstances.
Commercial pilots, however, must get their "Instrument" rating. By diligent practice, they learn to operate the aircraft using nothing but their cockpit instruments and controls. This means they can perform takeoffs and landings even in the darkest, stormiest weather. They can navigate between any two points relying solely upon their instruments.
Any licensed pilot can fly during "VFR conditions" -- clear skies, plenty of daylight. Only pilots with Instrument ratings are permitted to fly at night in bad weather.
The same applies to our Christian walk. We can all behave OK in a Sunday-morning church service. But how well do we function when our lives are attacked by lawsuits, liars and severe illness? Would we lose faith in God if we lost a loved one to a car accident? Can we stay true to the "instruments" of Scripture when our eyes see no comfort in our circumstances?
You will never find peace in your worldly circumstances. You can never trust your human emotions. Your fleshly appetites will never be satisfied. Your children cannot be sheltered enough. Your job will never be secure enough.
God calls you to fly by the instruments of Scripture. Your peace must be based on your daily relationship with God.
That's why our take-home message for this section is verse 165:165Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble.
Tau: The Final Deliverance
In these final days before the Lord's return, there is an astonishing contrast between good and evil. When I was a kid, it seemed like a few people were really good, a few were really bad, and most folks muddled along somewhere in the middle. These days, the right and wrong are getting farther apart, while the muddled moderates are still lost in space somewhere.
Those of us who know and love Scripture understand what is happening. Because God loves us so much, He's making it very easy to see the difference between right and wrong. God and Scripture haven't changed, but God is allowing the wrong to become more extreme.
The rabid, senseless violence of the terrorists is only a symptom of the underlying evil forces at work. Terrorism is also exposing the difference between strong political leaders -- those who favor decisive military action against terrorists -- and the weak ones who only want to attack our strong leaders.
By now, you know exactly what to do in response to the nightly news broadcasts: get on your knees and pray for wisdom. Our Psalmist is doing exactly that:169Let my cry come before You, O LORD; give me understanding according to Your word.
170Let my supplication come before You; deliver me according to Your word.
Verse 169 is a plea for understanding. "O Lord, why are people so crazy these days? And what can I do to reach out with the Gospel to these lost folk?"
The Lord has been preparing you for this moment. He has allowed your own schemes to fail often enough to make you humble and dependent on the Holy Spirit for guidance. He has allowed you to learn the truth of Scripture. He has allowed you to experience Himself, as you have learned to spend quality time alone with Him each morning.
Now you pray for a different type of deliverance (verse 170). You pray for wisdom and discernment in your daily life, that you might make the truth of Scripture real for a lost soul. You pray for the Great Physician to heal the wounded heart of a co-worker, tormented by the lies of the enemy. You pray for the Holy Spirit to transform your character into the image of Jesus, that others may come to trust Him more completely than ever. In essence, you pray to be delivered from your carnal nature, that your friends and family can see Jesus and be delivered from their sins.
This insight causes you to burst forth in praise to God:171My lips shall utter praise, for You teach me Your statutes.
172My tongue shall speak of Your word, for all Your commandments are righteousness.
173Let Your hand become my help, for I have chosen Your precepts.
When you were younger, you thought it was punishment to study the Bible. Now (verse 171), you rejoice to learn God's word. You rejoice that the Holy Spirit gives you insights to share with others (verse 172), to help them understand the truth of Scripture.
You pray to God for even greater insight. You pray for the Holy Spirit to lead you into situations where He might direct you to pray for a miracle of healing or deliverance. You pray and renew your commitment (verse 173) to trust in God and His word completely. You are ready to be salt and light in a very dark and unsavory world.
One dear friend of mine is very distressed about the evil in this world. She is anxiously awaiting the first Rapture event because she is weary of the world and eager to go live with Jesus. The Psalmist speaks for her heart when he says:174I long for Your salvation, O LORD, and Your law is my delight.
175Let my soul live, and it shall praise You; and let Your judgments help me.
176I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commandments.
Like my friend, I long for the day when our Lord comes for us (verse 174). In the meantime, I plead with the Lord to help me reach just one more lost soul with His Gospel (verse 175). Jesus was gracious enough to save me when I was lost (verse 176). Now I pray for Him to use me to help save others.
I pray for the Lord to touch your heart and make His life-changing power real in your life.
Our take-home message for this section is verse 173:173Let Your hand become my help, for I have chosen Your precepts.
Here is a summary of our take-home messages from the first half of Psalm 119, which dealt with beginning our Christian walk and learning to survive adversity:2"...seek Him with the whole heart."
11Your word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.
18Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law.
25My soul clings to the dust; revive me according to Your word. 32I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart.
37Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way.
45And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts.
50This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life.
59I thought about my ways, and turned my feet to Your testimonies.
67Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word. 71It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.
76Let, I pray, Your merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to Your word to Your servant.
88Revive me according to Your lovingkindness, so that I may keep the testimony of Your mouth.
Now that we have achieved our own place of grace and peace, we must seek revival in the Church, that we may help others achieve peace with God. Our take-home messages from this lesson are:89Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven.
101I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word.
105Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
114You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word.
126It is time for You to act, O LORD, for they have regarded Your law as void.
136Rivers of water run down from my eyes, because men do not keep Your law.
139My zeal has consumed me, because my enemies have forgotten Your words.
147I rise before the dawning of the morning, and cry for help; I hope in Your word.
159Consider how I love Your precepts; revive me, O LORD, according to Your lovingkindness.
165Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble.
173Let Your hand become my help, for I have chosen Your precepts.
These Scriptures are merely words until you choose to trust the God who inspired them. Will you make a quality commitment this day to follow the Lord wherever He leads? If the Lord is touching your heart and you'd like to discuss it, click the "mail-to" link at the bottom of the page. We will answer as soon as we can, assuming the first Rapture event hasn't already happened.
Closing prayer: Father, thank you for giving us such a wealth of timeless truth in Your Scriptures. Thank you for allowing me to discover this truth and learn how it applies to my life. Let Your Holy Spirit come into my heart and begin transforming me into the image of Your Son Jesus. Then let me be a vessel to share Your message of peace and hope in these terrible last days. Amen.
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