Theme: Living by the Bible
In this first stanza of Psalm 119, we are told of the importance of loving and obeying God’s Word.
Scripture: Psalm 119:1-8
In yesterday’s study we looked at the examples of John Ruskin, William Wilberforce, Henry Martyn, and David Livingstone—men with a great knowledge of the Bible who also achieved a great deal for God. I think also of Derrick Bingham, a powerful Irish lay preacher whom I had the privilege of meeting in the summer of 1986 when I was in England taking part in the great Keswick convention. He told how he was called to the ministry through his mother. Every Irishman has a deathbed story about his dying mother, it seems, and Derrick is no exception. He told me that as his mother was dying, she said to him, “Derrick, my boy, you have the gift of gab. But you don’t know the Word. If you’d learn the Word, the Lord might be able to use you.” Derrick took that to heart, determined to study the Bible, and within three weeks of his mother’s death he was preaching
We are not all called to be preachers, of course. But I am sure we could accomplish a great deal more of spiritual value than we do if we would only determine to get to know the Bible as John Ruskin, William Wilberforce, Henry Martyn, David Livingstone and Derrick Bingham did. But we don’t. We allow ourselves to be taken captive by the patterns of this world and fill our heads with its passing idle pleasures and fantasies instead.
But maybe I have said too much about knowing the Bible. That is where we must start, as I said. But as I also said earlier, the point of the opening verses of Psalm 119 is not merely that we must know the Bible, but that we must determine to live by it or, as we can also say, to keep it or obey it. This has already been stated in verses 1 and 2; but it is made even stronger in verses 3 and 4:
They do nothing wrong;they walk in his ways.You have laid down preceptsthat are to be fully obeyed.
The reason we are not happy is that we sin, and the main reason we sin as much as we do is that we do not know the Bible well enough. These verses tell us that the happy people are those who “do nothing wrong.” However, if we ask how they have learned not to do wrong, the answer surely is that they have learned to “walk in [God’s] ways” and “obey” his precepts.
The great Lutheran commentator on the psalms, H. C. Leupold, asks us to “note throughout [the psalm] how the law is sought for the very purpose of being kept, not for the sake of attaining a theoretical knowledge of it.”1 This is a truth taught elsewhere in the Bible, of course. But it is very apparent in Psalm 119. Notice the words referring to human response and responsibility in just this one stanza: walk, keep, obey and learn. We will see them again, as well as other similar terms, as we go on.
1H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1969), p. 824.
What should naturally follow knowing the Bible?
Identify the main reason we fall into sin.
List the action words that teach us how to live by the Word of God.
For what reason does the psalmist seek ways to know God’s precepts?
Reflection: How can you learn not to do wrong?
Key Point: The reason we are not happy is that we sin, and the main reason we sin as much as we do is that we do not know the Bible well enough.