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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Melville
 Melville, Australia
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
Title:Duty becomes a delight when God's Word is hidden in your heart
Text:Psalms 119:9-16 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Songs from 2010 APV Book of Praise
Bible translation used: NKJV
note: the 6th in a series on Christian parenting.  Can be used on its own.

Psalm 9:1,4,5

Psalm 19:3,4

Psalm 1:1,2,3

Psalm 119:4,5,6

Psalm 19:5,6


Read:  Psalm 119:1-24

Text:  Psalm 119:9-16

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

How high do you need to build a fence in order to keep a two year old safe?  That would depend, I am sure, on who that two year old child is!  While the one child will happily stay just where you placed him or her, the other child is climbing six foot fences before he can even walk! 


How high do you need to build a fence in order to keep a twelve year old safe?  A physical fence, of course, will hardly work anymore but instead you will need rules and bedtimes and curfews.  And they will work but only to a point, because by twelve years of age a child has learned to be clever and when he is determined to do so, he will find a way to get around the boundaries you’ve put in place.


But how high do you need to build a fence in order to keep your eighteen year old son or daughter safe?  Many of your children at this age have phones and money and cars and friends and sometimes it may feel as though a wall eighteen feet high and eighteen feet thick will not keep them from doing what they want to do.  


But what if your 2 year old child understood that the fence was there to protect him from busy road and the cars that could kill him in an instant?  What if your 12 year old realized that the rules and the curfews are there to keep him safe, because the world out there is not as innocent and as good as he might think it is?  What if your 18 year old understood the shame, the danger and the heartache that comes with the poor choices she might otherwise be tempted to make and realizes that the rules she is expected to follow will make her happy?


You see, the problem does not lie with the fence, the rules: the problem lies with the person who rejects the fence!  Just as a cow always seems to think that the grass is greener on the other side, so our restless feet and wandering eyes are tempted to go after that which is not for us to have.  And so both we and our children need to see those fences, specifically the rules and the commandments of the LORD, as something that if good and beautiful and right. 



And yet there is a still greater reason to take delight in the law of the LORD.  For we do not love and obey God’s law because it is good for us in the first place, but we are to love and obey God’s law because that is how we are to live when we live for Him, as His children.  That is the way to bring glory to God.  As God’s children our greatest pleasure is to be found in belonging to Him and our greatest delight is to live for Him.  And as we and our children grow in understanding of this, then we will take even greater delight in those boundaries, those rules and commands that the LORD Himself has given us in His Word.  And so the way for a young man to keep his way pure is to take heed to the Word of God, to live out of it and to have it treasured or hidden in his heart.

I preach to you the Word of the LORD under the following theme:

Duty becomes delight when God’s Word is hidden in your heart.

1.    A pressing question.

2.    A new-found pleasure.

1. A pressing question.

At 176 verses, Psalm 119 is easily the longest psalm in the Bible.  It is also one of the most intricate, carefully-put-together psalms in the Bible.  This psalm is divided into 22 separate sections.  Each section has 8 verses and each verse of every section begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  So in the first section of Psalm 119, verse 1-8, each verse begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the letter aleph.  The next, verse 9-16 begins with the letter beth, then gimmel, daleth, he, vav and the rest of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. 

  What we should also notice with regards to Psalm 119 is that the entire psalm is about the Word of God, specifically the law of God.  And as we observe this, we wonder: how could this Psalm writer, whom many believe to be David, how could he do this?  What motivated him to write such a long and intricate psalm about the law of God?  Yes, of course it was the Holy Spirit who inspired him to write this psalm over the many hours or more likely days and weeks that the psalm writer put this psalm together.  But the Holy Spirit did not cause this psalm writer to write anything he didn’t feel in his heart.  And so this psalm must also have come from a heart that truly loved God’s law, that yearned and hungered for it more and more.  And indeed, Psalm 119 speaks about a love for God’s law in 12 separate verses. For example,

Psalm 119:47 (NKJV)

47         And I will delight myself in Your commandments,

            Which I love.

Psalm 119:97 (NKJV)

97         Oh, how I love Your law!

            It is my meditation all the day.

Psalm 119:127 (NKJV)

127        Therefore I love Your commandments

            More than gold, yes, than fine gold!

And this love for God’s law is so great that the Psalm writer is not satisfied with how well he knows it; he wants to know it better.  In another 8 verses he asks the LORD to teach him His law even better.  For example,

Psalm 119:12 (NKJV)

12         Blessed are You, O Lord!

            Teach me Your statutes.

Psalm 119:64 (NKJV)

64         The earth, O Lord, is full of Your mercy;

            Teach me Your statutes.

Psalm 119:108 (NKJV)

108        Accept, I pray, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord,

            And teach me Your judgments.

Psalm 119:124 (NKJV)

124        Deal with Your servant according to Your mercy,

            And teach me Your statutes.

Psalm 119:135 (NKJV)

135        Make Your face shine upon Your servant,

            And teach me Your statutes. 

In these ways the writer of Psalm 119 expresses both his great love as well as his hunger, his intense desire for the law of God.  Although he knew it well and was seeking to live according to it, he wanted God to open his eyes and his heart and to teach these things to him even more.


That sort of a desire for God’s Word is very deep.  I trust that you would agree with me that such a love, such a hunger for God’s law is not common.  Even for we who are God’s children, God’s law is often seen at best as something like a daily dose of olive-leaf extract or something else you might take to improve your health.  You know it is good for you, you like what it does, but to take it every day, particularly if the taste is not to your liking, is more of a chore than a joy.  And so when we get to Psalm 119 we might find ourselves ploughing through it and seeing this psalm more as something that is overly repetitive than a psalm that calls you to stop and to reflect and to meditate and to hunger for and to delight in God’s Word, in the law, the testimonies, the statutes of God!


But we should stop, we should reflect and meditate, we should hunger for and delight in the Word of God.  And we should do this not only when we come towards the end of our lives or when we finally find a little more time to sit and to meditate, but we should take the time to do this at every stage of our lives.  Yes, even in the days of our youth.  In fact we should actively begin to do this in the days of our youth so that we both begin and continue to live our lives out of the Word of the Lord.  And so verse 9 of Psalm 119 asks the question,

“How can a young man cleanse his way?”

Or, as the question is asked in other translations such as the NIV and the ESV,

“How can a young man keep his way pure?”


Now this is a very important question to be asking, a very important question for our children, our young men and young women, to be asking.  For the world does not ask this question.  The world thinks in terms of pleasure, not purity.  The world talks about fun, not fundamentals.  The world tells you to live it up when you are young, and to follow the desires of your heart – but not the desires of a heart set on God or a heart that seeks to live for God.

But the child of God asks, “How can I keep my way pure?  How can I live not for myself, nor have my heart set on the sinful pleasures of this world, but how can I live for God? 


Are you doing that?  Brothers and sisters, young and old, do you share that same love for God’s Word, that same hunger to have it hidden in your heart?  Are you able to pray with Psalm 119:10,

“With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from your commandments!”?


But how do you get to ask such a question in the first place?  What do our young men and women, our children, have to know and understand in order for them to be eager to ask “How can a young man cleanse his way?” – and to put the answer to this question into practice? 


It is not natural to have a love for God and His Word, to want to live according to His laws and His statutes.  To even ask the question “How can a young man keep his way pure?” with the intense desire to want to know its answer and to do it is not what our natural, sinful flesh will do.  It is the Holy Spirit whom you need to work this desire in you.  But the Holy Spirit does not work a love for God and His law in you in a vacuum: He works this desire, this hunger for holiness through His holy Word!  For it is through the Bible, through the revealed Word of God, that we and our children receive a right understanding of God, the world and ourselves!  From the Bible we can learn about who God is and what He is like.  From the Bible we know how He is righteous, how He is holy, and what it means that He is without sin.  From the Bible we can learn about this world and how He created it good, and from the Bible we learn how He created mankind good and in His image, that is, in true righteousness and holiness.  From the Bible we learn of God’s law and how His law is good, even how it reflects God’s own goodness.  And from the Bible we learn about sin, about the consequences of sin.  And through the Bible the Holy Spirit convicts us of our own sin and helps us to see our sin for what it really is.  For sin is not just making a mess of our lives – although it does that; sin is not just the cause of all misery and pain and grief in this world – although this is the truth; sin is not just a path of self-destruction that leads us all the way to hell, but sin is rebellion against God!  Sin is the opposite of living for whom you were created, the opposite of living for the glory of God!


And so we need to be saved from our sin!  We need to be turned away from the pathway that leads to destruction and instead have a love and a delight to walk in the pathway of life! 


Now the law can not do that.  The law can not save you and no one is able to be justified in God’s sight by means of keeping the law, because not one of us is able to keep it.  Instead, as the Holy Spirit teaches us God’s Commandments we become increasingly aware of our sin and of our guilt  And then we too will exclaim with the author of Psalm 119:5,6

“Oh, that my ways were directed to keep your statutes!  Then I would not be ashamed when I look into all Your commandments.”

But we are ashamed, because we have not kept and nor do we truly keep the law of the Lord.  And so, with the author of Psalm 119 we come to the same conclusion as he did in the last verse of this psalm, verse 172,

“I have gone astray like a lost sheep.”

And, as it says elsewhere, in Isaiah 53:6,

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way.”

And so God’s Word, His law, teaches us that we need to be saved and we need to be changed.  And what the law could never do, God has done by sending us His Son, Jesus Christ!  And we are saved not by keeping the law of God, but by trusting in the One who alone kept God’s law and who also fulfilled the law and in whom we might find the forgiveness of sins.  We are saved from our sin through Jesus Christ alone, the One upon whom the LORD has laid the iniquity of us all.


And that is what a young man and a young woman, what our children and what we need to know!  We need to know that you do not keep the law in order to be saved, because you can not!  Nor can you be accepted by God in any way on account of how well you have kept His law, because He is completely holy whereas even our best works are like filthy rags, a polluted garment in His sight.  But the law the drives us to Christ!  For it is in Christ alone that we receive the forgiveness of our sins and can therefore be accepted back into God’s favour. 


But when we are saved in Christ, when we are justified through His blood, then a change takes place inside each one of us.  Not only is our old nature put to death in Christ, but through His Spirit we receive a new nature, a new nature that answer 90 of the Heidelberg Catechism describes as

“a heartfelt joy in God through Christ, and a love and delight to live according to the will of God in all good works.”

And then we turn back to God’s Word, we go back to His law.  And we see His law as something beautiful, as something good.  And so we come to our second point,


2. A new-found pleasure.

Our children need fences, they need boundaries, they need rules and bedtimes and curfews.  And more than anything, our children need to be taught the rules and the laws of God and they, with us, must be taught to obey them.  And if they do not obey them, the warnings of Scripture are clear. 

Romans 6:23a.  For the wages of sin is death.


Ephesians 5:5.  For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.


Revelation 21:27 But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.


Nevertheless our children must be taught that the law is not the way to life but the way of life.  The way to life is in Jesus Christ alone.  But when we are saved in Christ then we are also renewed to a new life in Him by His Holy Spirit.  And it is then that we and our children will grow in a love for God’s law.  It is then that we will take delight in walking in His ways, to His glory.


And so what this means, parents, is that obedience in and of itself is not the goal of parenting.  Yes, our children must be taught to obey, but we want them to obey in the context of who they are in Jesus Christ!  And for as long as they do not understand that and live out of it, they will either obey because they have to or else they will try to obey in the false belief that this is the way to be saved.  And then they will either re-write God’s law to become something they think they can achieve or else they will see God’s law as a heavy burden, an impossible yoke.  And then it may be that they will look around, call every other person in the church a hypocrite, and eventually walk away from God and His Word. 

But when our children learn what it means to be saved in Christ and renewed by His Holy Spirit to live a new life for the glory of God, then they will learn to see God’s law as a delight.  And then we must encourage them and one another to love God’s Word, to treasure it, to hide it in our hearts and to joyfully live our lives according to its statutes and decrees.


And so let us seek God with our whole heart that we might not wander from His commandments.  Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will work in us and our children more and more so that we will want to seek after Him with our whole heart.  Let us take God’s Word and read it and study it and meditate on it and talk about it and treat it as the greatest treasure that we could ever hold in our hands.  Let us contemplate God’s ways and delight ourselves in His laws.  Let us pray that God might teach us His statutes, His commandments.  Let us hide God’s Word in our hearts so that we will never forget His Word.


Brothers and sisters, how is that with you and how is that with your children?  How do you see God’s law and what are you teaching your children?  The love that you have for God’s Word and the value that you place on keeping His law has everything to with your love for Jesus Christ and your understanding of what it means to be saved through Him.  As our Lord Jesus Christ Himself said in John 14:15,

“If you love Me, keep My commandments.”

And 1 John 5:2,3 says,

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.  And His commandments are not burdensome.”

And why aren’t they burdensome?  1 John 5:4,5

“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.  Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

Therefore turn to the Lord Jesus Christ so that believing in Him you might receive the forgiveness of sins by His blood and a new life through His Holy Spirit.  And then turn back to God’s Word and read it and study it and meditate on it and live your lives by it.  Hide God’s Word in your heart.  Treasure it above all else.  And then you too will find that your duty to Him will be a delight.  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2013, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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