Theme: Seeing God in Scripture
In this section of Psalm 119, we learn of the wonder of God’s Word, and of the obedience that is a proper response to it.
Scripture: Psalm 119:129-144
To repeat a point made in Tuesday’s study, these stanzas offer seven reasons why God’s words are wonderful, and the first is because they give understanding to the simple. The second reason is that we find the mercy of God in them. The third reason the psalmist finds the words of God to be wonderful is something we have noticed many times already. It is because they give right guidance for his life. They give direction for his footsteps, victory over sin, and salvation from those who have been trying to destroy him (vv. 133, 134). What is new in these verses is the emphasis upon obedience, which, I have already pointed out, occurs throughout the pe stanza. It is by obeying God’s Word that the writer finds direction, victory and deliverance. Yet the reverse is also true. It is because he has found direction, victory and deliverance from God’s Word that he determines to obey it.
The fourth reason the psalmist finds the Scriptures to be wonderful is because God himself is in them and because he reveals himself to the one who studies them. “Make your face shine upon your servant,” he says (v. 135). This verse is a conscious echo of the great Old Testament benediction, known as the Aaronic blessing: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Num. 6:24-26).
What was the great longing and aspiration of the Old Testament saints, the greatest blessing they could possibly conceive? It was to see the face of God. That is why Moses asked to see God in that poignant exchange found in Exodus 33. Moses wanted to see the face of God. God told him that he could not grant this request, because “no one may see me and live” (v. 20). Nevertheless, God placed Moses in a cleft of the mountains, covered him with his hand and passed by exclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin” (Exod. 34:6, 7). In that way Moses did indeed “see” him.
That is how we see God too, not in some imaginary, direct, unmediated revelation of God to souls, but in the Bible. It is there alone that we see God. Jesus told the disciples, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9), but it is in the Bible that we see Jesus.
Verse 136 is the third of the verses in this stanza that contain the idea of obedience. But here the writer’s concern is that God’s law is “not obeyed.” This brings tears to his eyes. Why? Because of the dishonor it is to God, of course. But also because of the misery and harm it brings to those who are guilty of disobedience.
We need to learn from this today. Instead of weeping over people who disobey and even flaunt God’s laws, many Christians in our time get angry with such persons and fight them verbally. Matthew Henry said, “The sins of sinners are the sorrows of saints.” Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). Paul said that he had “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” in his heart because of the widespread unbelief of Israel (Rom. 9:1-4). Tears show compassion, and compassion wins others far more effectively than belligerent arguments and certainly more than anger. Do we weep for others, sorrowing over the pain we know their unbelief and disobedience bring?
What are the third and fourth reasons the psalmist finds the words of God to be wonderful?
How are direction and obedience linked?
Why did Old Testament figures want to see the face of God? Why couldn’t they? How do we see God?
What brings the psalmist to tears? Why?
Reflection: Do you know people who react with violence to the sins of others? What is a more appropriate response? What was Jesus’ response?
Prayer: Ask God to give you a heart that is tender for those who do not know him.
Application: Write down the Aaronic blessing on a notecard so you can reflect on it over the coming days.
Key Point: It is by obeying God’s Word that the writer finds direction, victory and deliverance. Yet the reverse is also true. It is because he has found direction, victory and deliverance from God’s Word that he determines to obey it.