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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Wonderful Words of Life!
Text:Psalms 119:129-136 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Revelation of the Gospel
 
Preached:2018
Added:2020-09-01
Updated:2020-10-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Pastor Ted Gray
11/04/2018
“Wonderful Words of Life!”
Psalm 119:129-136
 
We have a friend who is the ultimate optimist. If you ask her how any given event was, she replies with an enthusiastic, “Wonderful, just wonderful!”
 
I’m thankful for her good attitude, but I know that the exclamation of “Wonderful” doesn’t always come from her heart. After all, the events of this life are always stained with sin. Our word “wonderful” is often used superficially. It is a word that can be used for something good, but ultimately only that which is associated with the Lord and His Word is truly and completely wonderful.
 
The Psalmist, inspired by the Holy Spirit, certainly understood the true concept of the word “wonderful”. He begins the stanza with wonder, “Your statutes are wonderful” (v. 129). And that is a theme the Psalmist has developed throughout this Psalm. In verse 18 he had prayed, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law.” And in verse 27 he prayed, “Let me understand the teaching of Your precepts; then I will meditate on Your wonders.”
 
Now in vs 129 he writes, “Your statutes are wonderful.” The word “statutes” can refer to specific parts of God’s law, but it can also be used in a general sense for all of God’s Word.  Other versions of the Bible, including the ESV, render this as “testimonies”, “Your testimonies are wonderful.”
 
Everything God has testified to us is wonderful! Consider His testimony regarding creation.  Genesis 1 describes the wonder of creation. By the power of God’s spoken word this world, the cosmos and everything in it, came into being. The testimony of creation leaves all humanity without excuse, since, as in the words of Romans 1: 19-20, “What can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
 
As a Christian, whether you use a microscope to look at the smallest cell, or a telescope to look at a distant planet, you cannot help but exclaim with David, in Psalm 8:
 
O LORD, our Lord,
     how majestic is Your name in all the earth!
You have set Your glory above the heavens.

 
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which You have set in place,
    what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
 
Or, in the words of Psalm 19, looking at the wonder of God’s majestic creation, we acknowledge with David that –
 
 The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of His hands.
 Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
   where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes into all the earth,
    their words to the end of the world.
 
You can certainly see that creation lies before us as a vivid picture of the power and majesty of our God. It is one of His testimonies showing us without doubt that He is the awesome God revealed in Scripture.  
 
Not only do we see that our Lord has created a wonderful world, which even under the stain of sin cannot hide His glory, but His Word also includes God’s testimony concerning Providence, how He governs the world and all that is in it. We have the clear, big, unmistakable wonders of providence such as God performed when He led Israel out of Egypt. But we also have the innumerable examples of His providence “behind the scenes” in everyday life.
 
I have been reading 2 Chronicles and have been noting the occurrences of events happening “at random.”  For example, when Micaiah prophesied that Ahab would be killed in battle by the Arameans, it looked as though his prophecy would not be fulfilled. Ahab disguised himself in battle and the Arameans went after King Jehoshaphat of Judah instead of King Ahab. 
 
But just when it seems that God’s plan will be thwarted 2 Chronicles 18:33 notes: “But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armor.”  It is amazing – truly wonderful – how God works in providence! Even events that seem to be "at random" are used in His providence for His purposes.
 
And then, of course, we see His wonders most clearly in Redemption. He who came to save us from our sin is named “Wonderful”: “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). You simply cannot look at the redeeming work of Jesus Christ without a sense of awe and wonder that “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).
 
It is that sense of awe and wonder that the Psalmist had for the Lord, and for the Lord’s testimonies. The Psalmist knew the testimonies in God’s Word are wonderful in many ways, including the revelation of God’s creative majesty, His redeeming love, and providential guidance. 
 
For instance, in verse 130 we read, The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” Who does the Lord give this understanding to?  “The simple.” We see the truth of this in a couple of different ways. The highly educated scribes and teachers of the law, who knew God’s statutes – His Word – intellectually but not in their heart, failed to comprehend Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasure of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3).
 
The same was true of the philosophers of Paul’s day. 1 Corinthians 1:18-24: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’”
 
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
 
In his commentary on Psalm 119, Charles Bridges points out that the proud cannot see their need for the Word, because the Word of God humbles us, and the proud refuse to be humbled. They don’t have the simple, child-like faith that Jesus tells us one must have to enter into His kingdom. Yet God, who is all-wise, the eternal Creator of the universe, reveals Himself in His Word to all who by His grace have a child-like faith. To all who say from the heart with the Psalmist, “Your statutes Your testimonies – are wonderful!”
 
And having revealed Himself in His word to the simple, the Lord uses His word to make the simple wise. Verse 130 assures us that God’s Word gives understanding to the simple”. And Psalm 19:7 verifies that The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple…”
 
Another reason that the Psalmist found God’s Word to be wonderful is that in His Word we see God’s mercy and grace. The Psalmist prays in verse 132, Turn to me and have mercy on me, as You always do to those who love Your name.”
 
We all stand in need of mercy. The late Rev. Billy Graham was once asked by a reporter what he would say to the Lord if the Lord were to ask him why He should allow him into heaven. The reporter expected Graham to mention all the evangelistic rallies he had held, all the people who professed to believe because of his ministry, or maybe, the number of baptisms he performed, or the works of service and mercy extended through the Billy Graham Association. But Graham surprised the reporter with this response. He simply said, “I will plead mercy.”
        
The prayer of the tax collector – the publican – recorded in Luke 18, is the prayer of every person who has been convicted of their sin and has received a glimpse of God’s perfect holiness: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
 
And it is in the Word of God that we see mercy revealed.  The whole Bible is the account of God’s mercy on undeserving sinners like you and me.  No wonder the Psalmist loved this book: It is a book about God’s mercy to fallen, fragile sinners!
 
A third reason recorded in this stanza why the Psalmist loved God’s Word, is that the Word of God directs our footsteps. In verse 133 he prays, “Direct my footsteps according to Your word.”  Earlier, in verse 105 the Psalmist had written: Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” ­­ God reveals His will for our lives through His Word. It directs us how we are to live. When we live according to God’s Word, then we begin to see His hand of providence in our lives and it gives us the direction that we need.
 
Because the Lord uses His Word to direct us, we can have great confidence about the future. As the old hymn puts it:
 
I don't worry o'er the future
For I know what Jesus said
And today I'll walk beside Him
For He knows what lies ahead.
 
Many things about tomorrow
I don't seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.

Or, as the author of Proverbs, inspired by the Holy Spirit, put it in Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”
 
And, as the Lord directs our paths by the light of His Word, He guards us from sin in answer to prayer. The last part of vs 133 contains a prayer, similar to the petition in the Lord’s prayer, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Here, in verse 133 the Psalmist writes, “…Let no sin rule over me.”
 
The Psalmist was keenly aware that there are sins we commit, sometimes without even realizing it. They are not done with forethought, but rather we slip into them, at times, unaware. And then there are the willful, pre-mediated, well thought out sins. He writes in Psalm 19:12-13, “Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep Your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.”
  
That same sentiment is here in verse 133(b), “Let no sin rule over me.” The Bible is like a double edged sword.  It will give you no peace, and it will give me no peace, if we try to accommodate sin in our lives. As the old saying goes: “The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.” The desire of the Psalmist was that God’s Word, applied by the Holy Spirit, would keep sin from having rule in his life. 
 
Our Response
 
How are we to respond to God’s Word, as we see how wonderful it truly is?  This passage points out that if we truly see the wonder of God’s word we will, first of all, strive to obey it. In verse 129 the Psalmist writes, “Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them.” And verse 134 adds, Redeem me from the oppression of men, that I may obey Your precepts.”
 
There is a lot of truth in that familiar hymn, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” In a sense that is also what the Psalmist has said at several points in this Psalm.  Walking in obedience to God’s Word brings great blessing and joy, even though that walk is filled with the hostility of the world and the snares of the evil one.
 
But when we disobey God, when those willful sins take over our life, we have none of the joy that comes with obedience.  If we are to find joy in our walk with the Lord there must always be that effort to walk in obedience to His Word.
 
Secondly, we are to long for His Word, desiring spiritual growth. We read of that in verse 131 where he writes, “I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands.” And we read of the desire for spiritual growth in verse 135, Make Your face shine on Your servant and teach me Your decrees.”
     
The imagery of panting with hunger and thirst for God’s Word is often repeated in Scripture: Psalm 42:1 “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.”  Or consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.”
 
Three separate writers of Scripture were told to eat the scroll of God’s Word: Ezekiel, Jeremiah and the Apostle John. Jeremiah writes, in Jeremiah 15:16, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by Your name, O Lord, God of hosts.”
   
But the Word of God, inwardly digested, can also cause the stomach to turn sour. In Revelation 10:8-11 John writes how he was commanded to take the scroll and eat it. The angel who gave him the command had said, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.”
 
The Apostle John writes: “And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”
 
Matthew Henry explains the passage this way: “When this book of prophecy was thoroughly digested by the apostle, the contents would be bitter; there were things so awful and terrible, such grievous persecutions of the people of God, such desolations in the earth, that the foresight and foreknowledge of them would be painful to his mind. …The sweetness of (God’s Word) will often be mingled with bitterness, while we compare the Scriptures with the state of the world and the church, or even with that of our own hearts.”
 
Which leads to a third response: We become grieved as we see God’s law flaunted. Verse 136, Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed. Streams of tears (hyperbole for intense grief) should flow from us when we see that we ourselves have flaunted God’s law, and we all have at many times. Consider Peter who denied the Lord three times before the rooster crowed. Luke describes how “he went outside and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:62)
 
And we also should have those streams of tears for those who are living apart from the Lord, flaunting His laws and refusing to submit to Him in repentance and faith. Just as Jesus wept over Jerusalem, we who are His followers should have deep concern for those who go about their daily lives without realizing their need to turn to the Lord in repentance and faith, striving to obey His law.
 
But our tears of grief are overshadowed by tears of joy. We know the day is coming when those who trust in Christ alone for salvation will be brought to glory with Him. And God will wipe every tear from our eyes and there will be no more suffering, or sorrow or tears. And that goes back to the opening verse of this stanza. The stanza begins with wonder, “Your statutes – Your testimonies – the truths of Your Word – are wonderful.” 
 
In our culture today, we have lost that sense of wonder. But may you and I never lose our sense of wonder and awe for God’s Word, for His testimonies.  May we, like the Psalmist of old, exclaim from the heart, “Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them,” and find great joy in this life, even as we anticipate far greater joy in the eternity yet to be revealed as we live and reign with Christ forever!  Amen. 
 
                         - bulletin outline -
 
Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them. - Psalm 119:129
 
                 “Wonderful Words of Life!”
                        Psalm 119:129-136
 
I. The Psalmist knew God’s Word is wonderful (129) because it:
    1) Gives understanding to the simple (130)
 
 
 
 
    2) Reveals God’s mercy and grace expressed in Christ (132)
 
 
 
 
    3) Directs our footsteps (133a)
 
 
 
 
    4) Reveals our sin and guards us from willful sin (133b; Psalm 19:12-13)
 
 
 
 
II. Our response:
    1) Obedience (129, 134)
 
 
 
    2) A longing for God’s Word (131) and for spiritual growth (135)
 
 
 
    3) Grief as we see God’s law flaunted (136)
 
 

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2018, Rev. Ted Gray

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