God’s Essential Word

Psalm 119:17-24
Deal bountifully with Your servant,
That I may live and keep Your word.
Open my eyes, that I may see
Wondrous things from Your law.
I am a stranger in the earth;
Do not hide Your commandments from me.
My soul breaks with longing
For Your judgments at all times.
You rebuke the proud—the cursed,
Who stray from Your commandments.
Remove from me reproach and contempt,
For I have kept Your testimonies.
Princes also sit and speak against me,
But Your servant meditates on Your statutes.
Your testimonies also are my delight
And my counselors.

Have you ever wondered about how your life would be different if God hadn’t ever revealed himself through Scripture? It is easy to take God’s Word for granted, either by thinking you are entitled to it or that you do not need it. The Psalmist challenges both of these attitudes in the third stanza of Psalm 119, demonstrating the humility and submission that ought to characterize our approach to the Bible.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he said that we as human beings enjoy certain inalienable rights including “…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Whatever his original intent, these rights have been interpreted by modern Americans as entitlements, things we are due by virtue of our being human, yet the Psalmist expresses another perspective. We are not entitled to life, but we live according to God’s continuing mercy, as the prophet Jeremiah expressed, “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed.” And as much as we might think we have a right to have and know God’s Word, in truth we are like blind men who need our eyes opened, and like foreigners in God’s world rather than citizens. Understanding that we have no right to God and his Word produces a reverence and a thirst, which the Psalmist describes as a constant, soul-crushing desire. When we understand our own place in God’s world, we can truly understand just how precious and priceless it is that God has revealed himself through his Word.

How well could you get by without God’s Word? According to the Psalmist, the arrogant man wanders drunkenly through life without regard for the Lord’s commands, bringing a curse upon himself and becoming disgraced and shameful. In contrast, the man who humbles himself and considers himself nothing more than God’s servant, finds comfort and strength in God’s Word, even in the face of trial and opposition. Scripture is a source of great wisdom, which brings pleasure to the one who finds it, for who does not want to know God’s will? Like the Psalmist, we must abase ourselves before God, seeking to have our eyes opened and our sins forgiven by his grace. Only then will we find our hearts filled with a thirst for God’s Word and the wherewithal to walk in light of his commands, delighting in the wisdom which illuminates our pathway.

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