Theme: The Bible’s Approach to Righteousness, Suffering, and Worship
In this week’s lessons, this stanza of Psalm 119 tells us how we can shed light on the darkness of our lives.
Scripture: Psalm 119:105-112
The Bible is not only clear itself; it is clarifying, which means that we see other things clearly by its light. What things do we see clearly? We looked at the first item yesterday, which is the way we should go. Today we continue with three other answers to the question.
2. Righteous behavior (v. 106). Verse 106 is not talking about the righteousness of God that is imputed to us through faith in Jesus Christ. It is concerned with righteous actions, which is why it speaks of following God’s “righteous laws.” Why do we need the Bible to know what is right and wrong? Doesn’t the world have an intrinsic sense of right and wrong that enables it to enact good laws and even convicts it by supplying a bad conscience if a person acts badly? That is true to a point. There is such a thing as natural law, which provides a moral foundation common to human beings almost everywhere. Generally people know that it is wrong to kill, steal, lie and dishonor our parents, for instance.
But these are not the areas in which we have our greatest problems. If a choice is black and white, we know what to do. Unfortunately, the problems we face are usually not black and white but gray. We suspect we should do one thing, but there is another side to it. And if the situation does not seem gray to us immediately, if we talk to our friends, it becomes gray soon enough since everyone sees it from a different point of view. How are we to find our way through the gray landscape of life? There is only one way, and that is by studying, meditating upon and seeking to apply the Bible. The Bible is not gray. There are things in it we may not fully understand. I have already acknowledged that to be true. But when we do understand them, which is often enough, they are very clear.
Thus, the Bible is a light upon our moral path. The path is dark because the world is dark, but the Bible clarifies the issues and shows us how to walk through the darkness.
3. Suffering (v. 107). The next verse speaks of suffering. “I have suffered much,” says the psalmist. Does the Bible help here? Of course it does. One thing it does is explain the various reasons for suffering, which I did earlier when looking at verses 65-88. Nothing but God’s Word can show us that some suffering is merely common to man, some corrective, still other suffering constructive, Christ-glorifying, or even cosmic.
But that is not what the psalmist is talking about in this particular verse, for what follows is the prayer “renew my life … according to your word.” This means that in his suffering the writer had turned to the Bible and had found God to be present in its pages as well as promising a renewal of his life and spirit when he had gone through the hard times. It was God’s presence and God’s promises that kept him going. If ever there was a light on his dark path, it was then. If ever there was a light at the end of his dark tunnel, it was when he opened the Bible’s pages.
4. Right worship (v. 108). The next verse speaks of two things that go together: praising God with our mouth and being taught God’s laws. These belong together for they are what right worship and the practice of true religion are all about.
To put it another way, they are what ought to go on in church. What should happen when we come to church? First and most important, we should be taught the Bible. God has spoken in the Bible, and it is in the Bible that he continues to speak. There is nothing more important for Christian growth and the health of the church than sound Bible teaching. Yet sadly, serious Bible teaching is being widely neglected in our day, even in so-called evangelical churches. Instead of Bible teaching, people are being fed a diet of superficial pop-psychology, self-help therapy, feel-good stimulants, and entertainment, and the ignorance of the Bible in the churches is appalling. George Gallup has followed the rise of biblical illiteracy for decades, and he reports that although Americans revere the Bible highly—almost every home in America has a Bible, and most people say they believe it—only small percentages know who preached the Sermon on the Mount, are able to name the four gospels or recall even one of the Ten Commandments.
A few years ago, the staff of CURE (Christians United for Reformation) was at the National Christian Booksellers Convention and conducted an informal survey to determine if people there could name the Ten Commandments. Shane Rosenthal, the producer of their radio program, The White Horse Inn, asked 256 people if they could name the Ten Commandments just off the top of their heads. In that huge assembly, not of secular people but of evangelical staff persons and leaders, only one person could do it. And these are people who are lobbying to get the Ten Commandments restored to the walls of our courtrooms and the public schools!
The other element of religion mentioned in this verse is the “willing praise” of God with our mouths. We praise God whenever we speak of him gratefully, of course. But it is natural in this context to think of how we praise God by singing. Do we praise him? There is much emotional music and frequently repeated words and slogans. But one thing I notice as I travel around the country speaking in evangelical churches is the loss of the great hymns of Christianity. This might be all right if the church’s hymns were being replaced by better ones. But who can suppose that this is really the case. The new hymns are not better. They are usually trite, theologically vacuous, man-centered and often simply misleading.
All this goes along with our sad, pitiful ignorance of the Bible, and it will not be corrected until we recover some biblical depth. If we knew the Bible, it would expose our bad practices, enable us to correct them quickly and draw us to a true biblical worship of God again. We cannot even know what might please God in our worship unless we find it in Scripture.
According to verse 106, what does the Bible clarify?
How does the Bible help us with gray issues?
What did God do for the psalmist in his suffering, according to verse 107?
Explain right worship.
How do praising God and being taught his laws go together?
Are there gray issues in your life that cause you to struggle? Pray for guidance, and also be willing to talk to a friend who can offer sound spiritual counsel.
How would you rate your knowledge of Scripture? How would you gauge your church’s level of Bible teaching and worship?
Read Exodus 20:1-20. Write down the Ten Commandments and commit them to memory.
Key Point: The Bible is a light upon our moral path. The path is dark because the world is dark, but the Bible clarifies the issues and shows us how to walk through the darkness.