psalm-119

Numbers 10, Song of Songs 8, Psalm 119:97-120

Today’s readings are Numbers 10, Song of Songs 8, Psalm 119:97-120.

This devotional is about Psalm 119:118, 120: “You reject all who stray from your decrees, for their delusions come to nothing.... My flesh trembles in fear of you; I stand in awe of your laws.”

The songwriter described so many benefits from knowing, loving, and obeying God’s word throughout this Psalm. In verse 105 of today’s reading he made the well-known statement, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” which describes God’s truth as bringing clarity about decisions in his life.

But what about those who don’t know and love God’s word? What do they have to guide them through life? Verse 118 answers that question by saying, “their delusions come to nothing.” What unbelievers have, then, are delusions rather than truth. They make decisions based on their own deluded ideas rather than on absolute, God-revealed truth. They may have strong convictions but their convictions are based on nothing other than their own preferences or ways of looking at the world. This shows itself in our society daily. The crazy things people claim to be true, like that there are 57 genders or whatever, are symptoms of a deluded society.

Delusions can be really interesting, even very appealing. The human mind is capable of incredible, wild fantasies and, because they are only thoughts, they are not constrained by things like logic, physics, morality, or human laws. When people start to live as if their delusions are true, they will stumble into many absurd, wicked ways. As the Psalmist wrote in the last phrase of verse 118: “their delusions come to nothing.”

The preceding part of verse 118 tells us what will happen to those who live by their own delusions instead of God’s truth: “You reject all who stray from your decrees.” People may enjoy acting as if their distorted reality is true but after they die, they will find a holy God who has rejected them for rejecting his word.

This brings me to verse 120. Obeying God’s word is hard, right? Without the Holy Spirit’s regeneration and illumination, it is impossible. Even with those gifts of the Spirit, we believers have to grapple with our sin nature within. So what enables a person to reverence, receive, and obey God’s word? Verse 120 says, “My flesh trembles in fear of you....” It is the fear of God that causes people to obey his word. This is the work of the Spirit causing us to turn from our delusions about God, about life, about sin and believe that God exists and that we are accountable to him but also that he loves us and wants to redeem us from our delusions.

Any appetite we have for God’s word or any success we have in obeying it is only by the grace of God given to us by his Spirit. This is why we have nothing to be proud about. But we must always remember to rely on the Spirit, asking God to keep us humble and dependent on his grace. Otherwise, we will be tempted again by the “delusions [which] come to nothing.”

Numbers 9, Song of Songs 7, Psalm 119:73-96

Today we’re reading Numbers 9, Song of Songs 7, Psalm 119:73-96.

This devotional is about Psalm 119:73-96.

This Psalm is a long acrostic poem. Each stanza begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet in alphabetical order. It is also a love poem for God’s word. The Psalmist writes in every stanza words of praise and thanks to God for giving his law to Israel. He also claims throughout to love and live by God’s laws.

Like most Psalms, this songwriter had problems in life. Some of those problems, he felt, were afflictions from God (v. 75b). Others were persecutions (v. 84b) brought on by others. Or, perhaps, he had one major problem which he saw from two perspectives--(1) the persecutions of men (2) allowed by God’s sovereignty to afflict him for his own discipline and growth. Regardless, the Psalmist never claimed that his love for God’s word or his obedience to it gave him a trouble-free life. Instead, he found through his delight in God’s laws encouragement (v. 81b), comfort (v. 76) a basis for companionship with other godly people (v. 74, 79), guidance on how to live (v. 89, 93), and understanding about what is righteous and unrighteous in God’s sight (v. 85). Having benefited in all these ways from God’s word, he pleaded with God to rescue him according to the promises he’d read in God’s word (vv. 76b, 94) and to keep his heart faithful to obey God’s word (v. 80).

Scripture and prayer are God’s primary ways to minister grace to us while we live in this world and wait to be with Christ. We stray into sin when we stop looking for God’s help through prayer or stop looking to his word for our growth, guidance, and hope. It is possible--I know because I’ve done it--to be in God’s word each day and still have one’s heart grow cold to God’s word. This is why we should follow the Psalmist’s example and pray for God’s help to have insight to apply God’s word (v. 73), to think about God’s word (v. 95b), and to be tender to our own sinfulness so that we can be corrected by God’s word (v. 80).

I would encourage you to pray before reading these devotionals, before we worship together on Sunday, and anytime you are going to hear God’s word. Ask God to convict you, to give you insight into yourself, to give you understanding about what to do with his word once you understand it, and to give you courage to believe and obey it. This will help you keep from growing cold to the Lord and his truth.

Numbers 8, Song of Songs 6, Psalm 119:49-72

Here are today’s OT18 Bible readings: Numbers 8, Song of Songs 6, Psalm 119:49-72.

This devotional is about Psalm 119:72: “The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.”

Would you rather be wealthy or smart?

On one hand...

  • You might be tempted to choose “smart” if you think that superior intellect can be used in multiple ways, including to earn you wealth.
  • You might be tempted to choose “wealthy” if you think that money can buy you brains.

On the other hand...

  • If you’re wealthy but lack intelligence, someone smarter than you might swindle you out of all your money.
  • There is no guarantee that being smart will make you wealthy. I read somewhere once that really smart people are risk-averse because they can think of ways in which things might go wrong. Earning wealth often requires risk so people with very high I.Q.’s tend to take jobs instead of starting businesses because a job feels safer.

So, money or smarts? A good case can be made for either. Here in Psalm 119:72, the Psalmist knew the answer to a similar question. That question was, “Would you rather be wealthy or have God’s word?” His answer was, “God’s Word.” He put more value on God’s revelation than on a vast amount of wealth. Why?

One reason was that he had been “afflicted” (v. 67, 71a). This describes the discipline of the Lord in his life which corrected his disobedience and put him back on a righteous path. In that incident of discipline, the author of this song learned how valuable truth and obedience are. Wealth can make problems go away but only God’s word and God’s loving discipline can change your life. This is one reason why God’s word is more valuable than wealth.

Another reason is that money is temporary. Even if you inherit a large fortune and use skill to make it grow, you will die someday. After you die, your money will be useless to you and your eternity will be set. God’s word has saving power to create faith in your heart so that you can be redeemed from God’s wrath by his grace. That’s an eternal value that makes scripture more valuable than any human wealth.

What’s most valuable in your life? What would need to be true for you to value scripture above anything else?

Numbers 7, Song of Songs 5, Psalm 119:25-48

Today we’re reading Numbers 7, Song of Songs 5, Psalm 119:25-48.

This devotional is about Psalm 119:45: “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.”

Unbelievers sometimes complain that the Christian life is restrictive. You aren’t supposed to party and get drunk every weekend, you have to wait until you’re married to have sex, you are commanded to give to God’s work with your money, you’re supposed to worship in Sunday instead of going to the beach, and so on.

The Psalmist here in Psalm 119:45 thought that God’s commands were just the opposite of restrictive. He wrote, “I will walk about in freedom.” What kind of freedom did he have in mind? Verse 46 supplied one answer: “I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame.” That describes the ability to speak truth knowing that you won’t be refuted because God’s word is truth. Other freedoms that following God’s word gives you is the freedom from a nagging guilty conscience, freedom from the pain and consequences of sin, and freedom from the fear of death. I’m sure there are others but this is, to me, an attractive list of benefits that we receive for obedience to God’s word.

April is almost over so, if you’ve been reading these scriptures daily, you’ve had four months of regular, direct exposure to God’s word. I hope you’re thinking differently in some ways and finding some of the freedoms that are promised in scripture for those who believe and obey God’s word. But, keep it up! One day of healthy eating doesn’t make you a healthy person. One week of daily exercise doesn’t make you fit. Growing in Christ through God’s word is similar. It takes daily practice to unlock the growth benefits but they will come if you are consistent.

Numbers 6, Song of Songs 4, Psalm 119:1-24

Today we’re reading Numbers 6, Song of Songs 4, and Psalm 119:1-24.

This devotional is about Psalm 119:1-24.

Being blessed is something that happens to you. It is an aspect of God’s grace, the result of his choice to bring benefits into your life. You don’t earn blessings any more than you earn God’s forgiveness or eternal life. It is a gift and God bestows blessings when he wills, how much he wills, and to whom he wills according to the purpose of his will.

Nevertheless, our passage this morning described people who “are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord... who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart” as blessed. And other passages of scripture tell us that God blesses those who hear, meditate on, and obey his word (Josh 1:8, Jas 1:25). Doesn’t this indicate that if we “do” certain things we will get God’s blessings? In other words, don’t these passages that commend hearing and obeying God’s word in some sense refute what I wrote in the first paragraph about blessings being something that happens to you rather than what you earn?

No, because the very desire to know God’s word that compels you to learn and obey it is part of God’s gracious work in your life. In verse 10 the Psalmist cried out, “do not let me stray from your commands,” demonstrating that it was God’s work in the songwriter’s heart that gave him a desire to read, learn and follow God’s word. Furthermore, God’s word is one of the ways in which God gives grace to us. The desire to learn and practice God’s word is a gift of God. So is the word itself. With these gifts God has left promises that the one who lives by God’s word will find God’s blessings in his or her life.

Is there anywhere in your life where you are resisting obedience to God’s word? Has it ever occurred to you that you may be missing out on God’s blessing because of it?

Psalm 119:41-88

Today read Psalm 119:41-88.

Psalm 119 is the longest (by far) chapter in the Bible. It is also unusual because the entire thing is one massive love-poem to God’s law.

Many people think of laws as restrictive and oppressive. Human laws certainly can be. Our sin natures within certainly view God’s laws that way as well. The Psalmist, however, felt differently. In verse 45 he wrote, “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” God’s law--because of God’s spirit within him--made him free to become a holy man rather than enslaved by the sinful passions which reside in all of us.

Can you look at God’s word that way? Instead of seeing it as something that binds you and restricts your freedom, can you believe by faith that obedience to it, by the grace of God, will help you evade the consequences of sin and keep you from being enslaved?

Deuteronomy 30, Psalm 119:73–96, Isaiah 57, Matthew 5

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Deuteronomy 30, Psalm 119:73–96, Isaiah 57, Matthew 5. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Psalm 119:73-96.

It can feel pretty lonely out there at times. If you’re the only Christian in your workplace, your class, your neighborhood, or your family. You have a different way of looking at everything. You have different goals, different hopes, even different fears. It may feel at times like no one understands you. 

You may know other Christians, others who profess to worship and serve Jesus like we do; but maybe they too look at things differently and live for different things than you do. Imagine living in Israel. The stories of your culture are about God’s special blessing, special protection, and miraculous delivery from Egypt into the promised land. There are laws that regulate each week, what you can and cannot eat, what you wear, what holidays you observe and how you observe them. The Psalmist who wrote this song is immersed in a God-culture. Everyone he knew was Jewish and they all professed to be God’s worshippers. Yet he must have felt alone in his desire to know and obey God’s word because he wrote of “the arrogant” (v. 78, 85) and the wicked (v. 95). So how did he deal with this? Verse 74: “May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word.” It is so discouraging to see children from good families walk away from the faith. It is disheartening to see people we thought were strong Christians succumb to temptation or to unbelief. Here the Psalmist longs not only to know and to obey God’s word but to have his life so transformed by it that his hope in God’s word encouraged others who “fear you.” Yes, it’s tough to see wickedness in the world, worldliness among professing believers, and apostasy among those we treasured as brothers and sisters in Christ. But it is also encouraging to see growth in others. You and I may not be aware of how much good God is working into our lives through his word. Even this year as you’ve been reading through the Bible, God has been slowly planting godly seeds, watering them daily, and they are growing. Did it ever occur to you that your growth might just be the bolus of joy that other strong believers need as they try by the grace of God to walk with Christ daily? May your life and mine be cause those who fear God to rejoice when they see us because of our hope in God’s word. 

And, if you need a does of encouragement today, may the Lord bring into your life someone who is growing stronger in their faith who will bring you joy as well.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/calvarybiblechurch/. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Deuteronomy 28:20–68, Psalm 119:25–48, Isaiah 55, Matthew 3

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Deuteronomy 28:20–68, Psalm 119:25–48, Isaiah 55, Matthew 3. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Psalm 119:25–48.

Today’s passage in Deuteronomy spells out dire consequences from the Lord for Israel’s disobedience. Later generations experienced most of these consequences because God’s people repeatedly chose to disobey God’s word rather than do what God said and experience the blessings we read about yesterday. With such great promises for obedience and such painful promises for disobedience, it is surprising that God’s people did not simply follow his laws carefully. Well…, it is surprising until you consider human nature. People have a hard time with rules—even ones they agree with—because rules are incapable of changing human desires. Our hearts long for the freedom to do what we want; we are deceived and deceive ourselves into thinking that we can sin without consequences. We see God’s laws, then, not as lights to illumine our choices so that we know right from wrong, truth from error, or wisdom from folly; rather, we perceive God’s laws as fences that would seek to restrict our freedom to run. 

What does all this have to do with Psalm 119? Verse 32: “I run in the path of your commands, for you have broadened my understanding.” This lengthy Psalm is an acrostic poem. Each stanza begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet in alphabetical order. The subject of this poem is God’s law; someone once called it a “love letter to God’s law,” and that is a good description. Nobody in our culture writes 26 poetic verses—one for each letter of our alphabet—extolling the virtues of federal law but some inspired Psalmist did. Why? What made the difference between the vast number of Israelites who worshipped idols and disregarded God’s laws and its promised blessings? The answer is a changed heart. The Psalmist who wrote these lines had experienced the new birth we call salvation. He had received regeneration—the gift of spiritual life to someone who is spiritually dead. One result of that regeneration was a changed attitude toward God’s word. Instead of experiencing God’s commands as fences that restrict freedom, the believer now sees God’s laws as a flat, smooth footpath that provides moral and spiritual guidance. He can “run in the path of your commands” like a child runs across the backyard—free, happy, and secure. He can do this because “you have broadened my understanding” (v. 32b; see also verse 45). This is what God’s grace does; it teaches us to understand that God’s word is a blessing to be treasured, loved, and most importantly obeyed. A believer receives and obeys God’s word with joy because it frees him from the bondage of sin and its consequences. It also holds out the promise that, if the believer does what God says to do, there will be rewards. That’s faith—obey first to experience blessings later. 

This is not to say that the Psalmist never struggled with the sin nature any more. In verse 29, he begs the Lord to “keep my from deceitful ways.” In verses 36-37 he asks that Lord to turn his heart and his eyes away from sin and toward God’s word. Your struggles with obedience are proof that God has not completed his work of salvation. Salvation is a fact if you’re in Christ; it is certain because it is based on God’s promises but it won’t be completed until we are with Christ. Until then, we need God’s word to guide us and we need to continually ask the Lord to give us the desire to obey his word as he changes us within by its power. Some of you have been reading God’s word more faithfully than you ever have before this year. You’ve told me that; you’ve also mentioned how much it is doing in your Christian life. Keep showing up each day to read with me; much truth still awaits. But let’s be sure to do what the word tells us to do so that we can grow in our faith and be liberated to follow the Lord.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.