Theme: God as Our Teacher
In this week’s lessons from Psalm 119, we learn from the Word of God how to live a pure life.
Scripture: Psalm 119:9-16
There is a fourth important teaching in this stanza: not only 1) that we must begin to live for God when we are young; 2) that we must hide God’s Word in our hearts, that is, that we must memorize it; and 3) that knowing the Bible is the only way to avoid sinning and live a pure life. The psalmist also teaches as a fourth truth that we cannot understand God’s Word by ourselves, and therefore we need God himself for our teacher. Verse 12 notes this by coupling a line of praise with a line of petition.
Praise be to you, O LORD; teach me your decrees.
The Protestant Reformers had an important way of talking about this truth, and it was by stressing the necessary link between God’s Word and God’s Spirit. These men—Martin Luther, John Calvin, and others—had a very strong trust in the Bible. They recognized that although God has revealed himself in a general way in creation so that people are without excuse if they fail to seek him out and thank him for life and its blessings, and although he has also revealed himself preeminently in Jesus Christ, the only place we have saving revelation and the only way we can know about Jesus is in the Bible. They understood that the only way we can get to know God is through God’s self-revelation in his written Word.
At the same time they were also aware of our need of the Holy Spirit to teach us if we are to understand and rightly apply the Bible. They thought of such verses as 1 John 5:6: “The Spirit … testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.” Or 1 Corinthians 2:12-14:
We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
When they thought of these verses and others which stress the work of the Holy Spirit, Luther, Calvin, and the others understood that although we have the Bible to study we must also have the Holy Spirit to teach us what is taught in it. They said that without the Spirit the Bible is a dead book. That is why the man “without the Spirit” cannot understand it. On the other hand, without the Word as an objective guide from God, claims to a special leading by the Holy Spirit lead to error, excess, or foolishness.
This means that when we study the Bible we must also pray, asking God to be our teacher. For it is God himself we are seeking after all, and his thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are his ways our ways (Isa. 55:8). Besides, we have sinful and deceitful hearts that will keep us from hearing and obeying God unless God himself breaks through to teach us.
What did the Protestant Reformers understand about the Bible? Why do you need God’s Word and God’s Spirit to work together? What happens if you have one without the other?
Why is prayer essential in studying the Bible?
Prayer: Each day before you begin your study, ask God to be your teacher.
Review: What are four teachings about Bible study in this stanza?
Key Point: We have sinful and deceitful hearts that will keep us from hearing and obeying God unless God himself breaks through to teach us.