The Word and Me
Rev. Toh Nee Lim | On 19, Jan 2016
Scripture Reading Psalms 119:1-8
“How blessed are those whose actions are blameless, who obey the law of the Lord. How blessed are those who observe his rules, and seek him with all their heart, who, moreover, do no wrong, but follow in his footsteps. You demand that your precepts be carefully kept. If only I were predisposed to keep your statutes! Then I would not be ashamed, if I were focused on all your commands. I will give you sincere thanks, when I learn your just regulations. I will keep your statutes. Do not completely abandon me!”
In the Great Reformation, the battle cry of the Reformers was Sola Scriptura, Latin for ‘Scripture Only.’ By this bold assertion, the Reformers were staunchly committing themselves to the absolute, exclusive authority of Scripture over every church tradition and ecclesiastical council. Regardless of whatever man may say, it is only what God declares in his Word that is binding. This became known as the regulatory principle. Everything in the church and Christian living must be regulated by Scripture, that is, by Scripture alone. When Martin Luther was summoned to appear before the church authorities, with the Holy Roman Empire Emperor Charles V presiding, Luther’s was asked two simple questions: Are these your writings? Do you recant?’ Luther replied, ‘I am bound to the Scriptures I have quoted, and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise, here I stand. God help me. Amen.’ With these courageous words, the tide of history turned. A torch had been ignited and the Reformation flames spread like wildfire. No Church tradition was to take pre-eminence over the infallible Word of God. Everything must bow to Scripture. The entire life of the church must come under the divine authority of Scripture. The Holy Word is sufficient, believing it is living and powerful, able to perform all that God intends in a person’s life. The church has been awakened from the Dark Ages and the growth of millions of churches in the next 500 years till today has been traced to the Great Reformation. It all started because a man is bound to the Word of God and his conscience is captive to the Word of God. That is what the Psalmist is to the Word of God in Psalms 119.
We know that Psalms 119 is the longest psalms and the longest chapter and it is about God’s word. But as I was reading it in my devotion, I realised it is more than just God’s word. David suffered serious difficulties in his life. In Psalms 119 he reflects that in the descriptions of plots, slanders, and taunts against him, coupled with persecutions, and afflictions. The persecution and affliction of the man (and woman) of God is a major theme of Psalm 119. I realised that David’s attitude is similar to that of Martin Luther. He is bound to the Scriptures and his conscience is captive to the Word of God. Like Martin Luther, David was going through the darkest hour in his life. And he has turned to YHWH’s word that sustain him, and his only trust and solace is in the Word of God. David reminded God what His Word promise him. He says in Psalms 119:38 ‘Confirm to your servant your promise, which you made to the one who honours you.’ Actually he even ask YHWH to remember his word in Psalms 119:49 ‘Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. This one Psalms which is longer than 30 entire books in the Bible is about Sola Scriptura; Scripture Only. In every generation, those who have most treasured God’s Word have been those most mightily used by God. King David and Martin Luther are prime examples of such people. Having a passionate devotion to His word and being a powerful force for God are inseparably bound together. What can we learn from this portion of scripture?
1. The Objective nature of Revelation
Psalms 119 stresses the objective nature of revelation; by that I mean the Rhema, the words that jumps out of the scripture that is meant for you alone. What we have this morning is the bible; the written word of God. But Psalms 119 is about the revealed word of God; what God told you. Our living God is the YHWH who speaks. He stands behind His written word and He speaks. And because it is YHWH who has revealed Himself, this word is true to you and Me.; there is no gap standing between us and YHWH when it comes to the revealed word. God’s revelation and God’s person are merged into one. To know God’s revelation is to know Him. Nobody can question it. No authority can refute it. No power can prevent it. Psalms 119 teaches a high view of revelation. In the Word of God the standard is given by which we can know the will of God. We are not left to wallow in our own subjectivity; pertaining to the characteristics of an individual, placing excessive emphasis on one’s own moods, attitudes and opinion; but rather what YHWH has spoken. Brother and Sisters, we have just started our fasting month. One of the emphasis during this fasting month is 15 minutes of meditation. Let YHWH who speaks illuminate our hearts so that we can hear His speech. Psalms 119:18 says ‘Open my eyes, that I may see wonderful things from your law.’
2. The Word of God is linked to your current faith relationship with God
Also we have to understand David’s station of life at that time. The Word of God is totally related to our station of life. It seems that David was in a foreign land. Psalms 119:19, ‘I am like a foreigner in this land.’ We know that there was one time David had to flee to the land of the Philistines because of the pursuit of King Saul. Also we learn from Scripture that Ziklag, the place he stayed in the land of the Philistines was ransacked and his wives and children were taken. 600 of his soldiers were thinking of stoning him. He was put to disgrace and dishonour. Psalms 119:22 says ‘Spare me shame and humiliation.’ He was in deep angst. Psalms 119:28, ‘I collapse from grief.’ There was a lot of emotional manifestation to the point of resentment. Psalms 119:53. ‘Rage takes hold of me because of the wicked, those who reject your law.’ He even confessed his own sins. Psalms 119:67, ‘Before I was afflicted I used to stray off. Maybe you are going through a very emotional and trying time because you have strayed off from God and am now afflicted. Many of our problems has to do with people and it is no different from David. Psalms 119:78 ‘May the arrogant be humiliated, for they have slandered me’. Psalms 119:95, ‘The wicked prepare to kill me.’ Oh David was suffering intolerably. Psalms 119:107, ‘I am suffering terribly, O LORD.’ Finally he acknowledged that he is a worm and loathed. Psalms 119:141, ‘I am insignificant and despised.’ So I would say that Psalms 119 is not just the Word of God but what the Word of God meant to an individual in that station of life. We need to see the importance of the Word of God in your current faith relationship with God. Actually the last verse of Psalms 119 comes as a shock, because there is nothing quite like it anywhere else in the psalm – a confession that, in spite of all that has gone before, he has now backslidden and gone astray. Psalms 119:176 says ‘I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant, for I do not forget thy commandment.’ The truth about our experience even in our faith relationship with God, is that we can fail to live at the level of holiness that we know is fitting for a follower of Christ. We see the same reality of imperfection; backsliding turns up even among God’s saints in scripture like David. Note though, David gives God the tribute of having power to rescue him. He does not fault God for his backsliding. God is not guilty that we are prone to wander. Yet a true backsliding saint cannot erase the law that has been written in his heart by the Spirit of God. The spiritual taste for God cannot be wholly obliterated in the heart of the backsliding saint. Saints not only call on God to seek them, they seek God through His Word. ‘Not forgetting’ is a phrase repeated constantly in this Psalms. It means to really remember and call to mind the word of God.
In 1920 John Sung was sent to America for his higher education. He studied at Ohio Wesleyan University and Ohio State University. A brilliant student, he earned a doctorate in chemistry in five years. His chemistry essays and research documents can still be seen in the University library today. He did so well in his doctorate that his face appeared in the National Newspaper of America. After a few years in America, sitting under a steady diet of worldly philosophy and liberal theology, John Sung found himself backslidden and doubting everything that his father, a respected Methodist Minister, had taught him. He turned to the ancient religions of the East-Buddhism and Taoism–and delved into mysticism. Yet every morning as was his custom, he would have his quiet time and reading the Word of God. He learned this from his father. In China his father, a man of prayer, would climb a hill to his place of private prayer. Young John Sung would follow his father to his trysting place (a place for meeting, especially a secret meeting place between him and YHWH). And it deeply impacted John Sung and he would not forsake this habit. It took John Sung some years of testing. One of his testing was God confined him in an insane asylum, where he stayed for 193 days. Despite this period of isolation, John Sung set himself to read the Bible. It was during this stay that he read through the entire bible 40 times and soon became very familiar and well versed in his teaching. This period of scriptural reading and spiritual renewal prepared him for one of the major revivals of the 20th Century.
David’s current station of life was trouble. Psalms 119:143 says ‘trouble and anguish have taken hold of me, yet thy commandments are my delights’. The word ‘trouble’ here, may imply outward trials, and the difficulties and straits he was in. Anguish infers inward afflictions. The other expression has also to be taken note of, and that is, ‘have taken hold of me’. In Hebrew it means trouble has found me. In Latin it means trouble has come upon me. Sometimes we are said to find trouble and other times trouble finds us. It is said that there are those who are highly in favour with God, yet they have their share of troubles as well as others. Consider the church, the people of God in our collective body and community. Isaiah 54:11 gave the church this description, ‘Oh thou afflicted, and tossed with tempest.’ From the beginning of the world, the church had always been bred up under troubles and toughened to the discipline of the cross. Look at the individual in the church. Psalms 129:1 ‘Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth.’ As to particular individuals, we have our share in the world’s miseries and domestic cross are common to us. The world hated us more than others, and God loved us more than others. The world hated us because we are so good, and God corrected us because we are no better. More trimming is necessary for a vine than a bramble bush. Because God will not let us perish with the world. This is what Psalms 119 is all about. It is not just the Word of God but rather the Word of God is linked to our current faith relationship with YHWH.
3. There is resurrection for those who hope in the Word of God
But whatever David faced, he turned to the Word of God. Psalms 119 has 176 verses, and every verse (with the exception of two verses), the Word of God is mentioned; thus the profound truth in Psalms 119 is the Word of God. When his life is in continual danger, he says, ‘My life is in continual danger, but I do not forget your law. The wicked lay a trap for me, but I do not wander from your precepts.’ When he suffers, he says ‘I am suffering terribly. O LORD, revive me with your word.’ Yes he is a nobody but he says ‘I am insignificant and despised, yet I do not forget your precepts. Yes he has wandered off, yet he says ‘I have wandered off like a lost sheep. Come looking for your servant, for I do not forget your commands. We have to follow the example of David. He says ‘Spare me shame and humiliation, for I observe your rules. Though rulers plot and slander me, your servant meditates on your statutes’. There are bible students who feel that numbers in the Bible are very significant. I would like you to know that it is interesting to note that eight is the key number in this psalms. Because under each letter of the Hebrew Alphabet (there are 22 Hebrew Alphabets) there are eight verses. The format of Psalm 119 is an alphabetic acrostic, meaning that the first letters of each line in Hebrew follow through the alphabet, 8 lines per letter, thus 8 lines x 22 letters in Hebrew = 176 lines For instance, under the first Hebrew Alphabet, Aleph, there are eight verses. Under the second Hebrew Alphabet Beth, there are eight verses and so on. The number eight in Scripture is said to be the number of resurrection. It was on the eight day that our Lord came back from the dead. He was dead on the seventh day, the Sabbath, and on the eight day, the first day of the week, He was resurrected. God will resurrect you when you place your hope in the Word of God. He will bring you back to life again. He will bring you back into usefulness again. He will cause you to be practical and effective again. 8 also represents a New Beginning. The world is 6000 years old. The millennium is the 7000th year. After the 7000th year, Satan will be loosed again and gather an army that no man can number to challenge God. Then God would destroyed him and cast Satan into the Lake of Fire. Then on the 8000th year is a New Beginning. God created the world in six days; He rested on the 7th day and on the 8th day it is a New Day again. Whatever troubles or backsliding you are in right now in the present station of life, if you hold on to the Word of God, YHWH is able to bring you back to life again. Many people will think that God is through with you, but He is not through with you. God would in a very special way save you. Charles Spurgeon used to say, ‘God is going to win. There will be more saved than there will be lost.’ I believe that with all my heart, although as I look around me today I don’t see that happening. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. We are begotten by the Word of God that reveals Jesus Christ. God’s Word will bring life to you again, it will bring liberty to you, it will bring joy to you, and it will bring blessing to you. The late John Ruskin wrote, ‘It is strange that of all the pieces of the Bible which my mother taught me, that which cost me the most to learn, and which was to my childish mind most repulsive – the 119th Psalm – has become of all the most precious to me.’ I prepare this psalms because, I was able to see something that I have never seen before. Actually I told Pastor Lily that she has lived out Psalms 119. I also saw that I have lived out Psalms 119. I realize that it was YHWH’s word that sustain us. In our darkest hour we turned to the precepts and they sustained us. All of it was written in Psalms 119.
I am like a foreigner in this land. Do not hide your commands from me (119:19)
Spare me shame and humiliation, for I observe your rules (119:22)
I collapse in the dirt. Revive me with your Word (119:25)
I collapse from grief. Sustain me by your word (119:28)
Confirm to your servant your promise, which you made to the one who honours you. Take away the insults that I dread! Indeed your regulations are good. (119:38-39)
Then I will have a reply for the one who insults me, for I trust in your word. Do not completely deprive me of a truthful testimony, for I await your justice (119:42-43)
I seek your favour with all my heart. Have mercy on me as you promised! (119:58)
I am a friend to all your loyal followers and to those who keep your precepts (119:63)
Arrogant people smear my reputation with lies, but I observe your precepts with all my heart. (119:69)
Though I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget your statues (119:83. This is an unusual and rare idiom. It seems to mean ‘burnt’ and ‘brittle’. Smoke could also mean blindness. Though my life is burnt, I have become brittle and I am blind to what is ahead of me, I do not forget your statues.
If I had not found encouragement in your law, I would have died in my sorrow. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have revived me. (119:92-93
I hate people with divided loyalties, but I love your law (119:112)
It is time for the LORD to act – they break your law! (119:126)
4. Doing great exploit because of the Word of God
Luther replied, ‘I am bound to the Scriptures I have quoted, and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise, here I stand. God help me. Amen.’ The Great Reformation started because a man is bound to the Word of God and his conscience is captive to the Word of God. For 193 days, John Sung set himself to read the Bible. It was during this stay that he read through the entire bible 40 times and soon became very familiar and well versed in his teaching. This period of scriptural reading and spiritual renewal laid the foundations for one of the major revivals of the 20th Century. It is said that in China there are three most powerful men of God and John Sung is one of them. Smith Wigglesworth learned to read after he married his wife Polly. And she taught him the bible. He often stated that it was the only book he ever read. He said this, ‘some people like to read the bible in Hebrew, and some like to read in Greek. I like to read it in the Holy Spirit. His ministry is based on these principles: read the word of God, consume the word of God until it consumes you. Believe the word and act on the Word.’ In his lifetime it is said that Smith Wigglesworth raised 20 dead people to life. Cancer and all kinds of incurable diseases were healed as a result of his ministry. He was considered one of the most influential spirit filled Pentecostal preachers on the 20th Century. Let’s look at Jesus. During his ministry, he would travel around to various places and teach. And one place where he regularly went was to the synagogue. Now the temple in Jerusalem was the place for the nation as a whole to worship, and all the Jews would go there several times a year. But the synagogue was the local place of worship, right in their own town, and the Jews would go there every week on the Sabbath. They went to the synagogue to hear the word of God. They would sing psalms, hear readings from the Scriptures, and listen to the rabbi expound on some point from the Law or the Prophets.
And so it was that Jesus went to the synagogue in Capernaum, on the Sabbath, and he began to teach. But there was something different about this man and his teaching. It says the people were “astonished” at his teaching, because “he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.” The astonishing thing about the teaching of this rabbi, the thing that was so different from what they were used to, was, in a word, his “authority.” Jesus “taught them as one who had authority.” What kind of authority is this? Where does his authority come from? It is divine authority, coming from God himself. Of Jesus, He is highly favoured among God and Man. He founded the Christian Church. God has highly exalted him because His ministry was the Word.
Is your Bible valuable to you? Do you read it, study it, do it and teach it to others. This takes time, effort, commitment and scheduling. The church needs a man like Jesus who teaches in the church and people are astonished at his teaching because he taught the church people as one who had authority, not as the rest.
The bible is forbidden in school in America. In Europe, a man distributing pamphlet approached Jan and ask? Have you read the bible and Jan replied, ‘YES’. He was stunned because nobody had said yes to him. Any deviation from the clear guidelines of God’s word brings problems. America is suffering under massacre in school and terrorist attack by the ISIS. Europe doesn’t seemed to be able to stop the terrorists from propping out and killing indiscriminately innocent citizens on the streets. Just in Europe, during the New Year Celebration, especially in Cologne, Germany, German women by the hundreds were groped, molested, raped by groups mostly from Middle Eastern men by the thousands. These men were migrants totally against Christianity. The German politicians don’t know what to do with these people. Why? Because they do not have clear guidelines from the Word of God. But the Word of God is very clear. In the Old Testament it seems that godly people are calling down wrath on their enemies but in actual reality they are calling on God to be faithful to His precious word. An example is Psalms 119:158 ‘I beheld the transgressors, and I was grieved; because they kept not thy word.’ The wrath is deserved because the sin is intentional, and purposeful disobedience. Sin and rebellion have consequences both in this life and in eternity.
We need a man and a woman who is bound to the scripture and whose conscience is captive to the word of God. No man has known and seen what God can do through such a person.