Scripture Reading: Psalm 119:33-40 Sermon Title: Merciful Lord (part 3) Sermon Text: Psalm 119 Memory Verse: Philippians 1:6 MAIN IDEA: Pray that the Lord mercifully establishes us in His Word so that we may be blessed.
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What do we really, really want?
Making the best choice
What is your deepest need? What do you really want in life? Let’s use the example of the genie in the bottle. What would you ask for if you are granted three wishes?
Perhaps you desire to be rich like Solomon, who had whatever he laid his eyes upon. Maybe you desire to have a fulfilling relationship with a special someone. Some people dream about living in an exotic location or of being a medical professional who helps to save lives. Others seek to be a famous writer or inventor. What do you ask for when the sky is the limit?
We’ve heard the saying, be careful about what you wish for. Would we desire great wealth if it meant suffering from great pain or losing friends? Quality of life is the better wish. Would we wish to live in an exotic location if it meant we had to live in jail? No, because freedom is the better request. Would we wish to be a successful inventor over wishing to spend time with our family? Some things are far more important than others. There are good things to wish for, and there are amazingly wonderful things which we might ask to have.
Whatever we ask for, no matter the request, the reason we ask is so that we will be happy. Without exception, every human on the planet seeks happiness. The founders of our nation knew this very well. They believed spilling blood in the Revolutionary War was a worthy price to pay so the people of the United States may seek happiness.
We are familiar with the famous line written in the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
We have license plates bearing the state of NH motto Live Free or Die, spoken by General John Stark.
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are important to the human spirit. They are what we call, intangible. We can’t touch or buy things which are intangible. We crave other intangibles as well, such as peace, righteousness, love, contentment, and satisfaction.
Praying for the best choice
The life of the writer of Psalm 119 is in peril. Men are setting a snare to destroy him. He could care less about his wealth, material possessions, the weather, or other insignificant aspects of life. He lacks liberty as he feels surrounded. He has no happiness because his soul cleaves to the dust and he is filled with despair. He wants freedom from his oppressors, and he wants his reputation restored.
The servant of the Lord prays to God. His prayer requests seek beyond his physical circumstances, and he prays for intangible spiritual outcomes. God desires for us to have eyes to see and to look beyond the physical realm and pray and ask God for our spiritual needs.
If we pay attention to the prayer requests of Psalm 119 and at what the writer of the psalm expects to happen because of his prayer, we will see why it is important to pray according to God’s word. Praying according to God’s word will have us ask for the best choice.
As we have seen in the past two messages on Psalm 119, the main idea of the Psalm is this: Pray that the Lord mercifully establishes us in His Word so that we may be blessed. There is great importance in knowing the relationship between God’s Word and prayer.
The psalmist prays to God because he wants to change his situation. The content of his prayer shows his faith in God’s goodness and mercy. The psalmist believes God will act according to God’s covenant word. He prays for an understanding of God’s Word, that God will incline his heart to obey God’s Word, that God will revive and strengthen him, and that God will bring justice to his situation.
What should we expect from our prayers
We’ve all heard instruction on how to pray, when to pray, and what to pray. But, how often do we think about why we pray? Why do we pray to God? We pray to give thanks, praise God, and to give Him glory. But, the primary reason we pray to God is because we want His help. We hope God will hear and answer our prayer request. We expect an outcome. We expect change because we believe God will step-in, do the things only God can do, and He will affect the change.
The weak expect God to make them strong. The unhappy expect God to make them happy. The discontent wants to be made content. Those who are stressed and anxious seek peace. The sick prays to be healthy. We pray hoping for our situation to be made better.
We may tell God what we expect as a result when pray. “God, I pray you help me not to be anxious then I shall have peace.” “God, I pray you help me not to sin so I may be righteous.”
In Psalm 119, we see what the psalmist expects as an outcome according to his prayer requests. He expresses the desired outcome in the future tense. He uses phrases such as, “I shall” and “I will” to forecast the outcome based on God’s response to his prayer.
Let’s look at an example in the first stanza. In verse 5, the psalmist asks God to establish his ways so that he may keep the statutes of God. 5 Oh that my ways may be established to keep Your statutes!
Then, the psalmist tells of two outcomes from having his way established to keep God’s statutes. 6 Then I shall not be ashamed when I look upon all Your commandments. 7 I shall give thanks to You with uprightness of heart, when I learn Your righteous judgments.
The psalm is filled with expected outcomes. (There is a supplemental handout listing the expected outcomes stated by the psalmist in the bulletin.) What does the psalmist expect as a future result because he knows the Lord God hears and answers prayer? There are three outcomes the psalmist expects.
1) Pray expecting to keep God’s word
The psalmist expects God will help him keep the word of the Lord. When the Bible speaks about keeping God’s word, it means to follow and obey, as in keeping the law. He is not speaking of keeping a Bible on his shelf or as a possession.
Expecting that he will keep God’s word is the most frequent of his expectations. Examples of this include: 17 Deal bountifully with Your servant, that I may live and keep Your word. 33-34 Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I shall observe it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law and keep it with all my heart. 88 Revive me according to Your lovingkindness, so that I may keep the testimony of Your mouth. 134 Redeem me from the oppression of man, that I may keep Your precepts. 145-146 I cried with all my heart; answer me, O Lord! I will observe Your statutes. I cried to You; save me and I shall keep Your testimonies.
He asks God to teach him and give him understanding so that he may keep the law of God with all his heart. He asks for strength and to be revived so that he may keep the words ordained by God to obey. He asks for deliverance from his oppressors, so that he may keep God’s precepts.
Do you want to know God’s plan for your life? God’s will for our life is that we conform to the image of Christ. Being conformed to Christ’s image is not physically looking like Jesus, but spiritually looking like Jesus. Spiritually looking like Jesus is keeping God’s commands. Jesus obeys God perfectly. God’s plan for our life is that we are like Christ and keep His word.
For the psalmist, keeping God’s commands means keeping the law of the Mosaic covenant. It also means the psalmist will love God and love his neighbor. For us, keeping God’s commands means keeping the New Covenant. We are to obey the law of Christ which is to love God and to love our neighbor. God desires for us to be like Christ by being selfless, generous, charitable, humble, kind, compassionate, and so forth. We are to be like Christ by putting to death the deeds of the flesh.
Praying with an expectation that God will make us into a person who keeps His word is to expect the best results! Praying to be holy and righteous is to pray for an intangible result. When we keep God’s word and live according to His will, we are people with great purpose and meaning. People who are living according to the will of God are people making a difference in the world. Living according to God’s word is to live with great importance, grand purpose, and ultimate significance.
A homemaker who keeps God’s word is more significant than a foreign ambassador who is not keeping God’s word. An auto mechanic who keeps God’s word is more significant than the movers and shakers of Wall Street who live in ignorance of the word. A child keeping God’s word is great and mighty in the eyes of God.
If you are sitting here today and you want to be happier in life because you want life to have purpose and meaning, then pray that God will conform you into the image of His Son.
If you are here this morning and you strive to keep God’s word, you may know in your heart of hearts that the Lord sees a life of great meaning and significance. The world may not judge your life as meaningful. You may not find your name written in history books or mentioned on the nightly news, but your name is written in God’s book; the history book that matters most.
The psalmist expresses great love for the laws and commands of God because they give his life purpose and meaning. Without the word of God, he is useless, and life is vain. With God’s laws, he lives with significance and joy. He lives with the purpose for which he is created.
Pray as the psalmist prays and find meaning to life, expecting God to help you keep His word.
2) Pray expecting to live with liberty
The second result the psalmist expects from his prayers is that he will have a life of liberty. He expresses it by saying he will live and not be ashamed and that he will walk with liberty. Examples include: 6 Then I shall not be ashamed when I look upon all Your commandments. 42 So I will have an answer for him who reproaches me, for I trust in Your word. 45 And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts. 46 I will also speak of Your testimonies before kings and shall not be ashamed. 144 Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live.
Living with shame is depressing. Shame comes from the painful feeling from having done something dishonorable, improper, or absurd. When we have shame, we try to hide and get away from the presence of others. We flinch when confronted, and we are shy and timid.
Living with shame is not a life of freedom. There is no freedom in being a coward and not having boldness. Who wants to live a life in hiding? Nobody wants to be embarrassed.
When we are unashamed, we are bold and confident. We walk with a spring in our step. When we know that we are right, we are brave and courageous. We may boldly proclaim the truth of God’s word. The Apostle Paul says he is unashamed of the gospel because it saves (Ro. 1:16). When we know the word of God, we have wisdom and knowledge beyond the world’s understanding. The psalmist pledges to unashamedly proclaim God’s word before kings. Do we seek the same boldness?
Christians need not cower in the public square. With humility and meekness, we may stand strong in the truth. There is no shame in proclaiming Christ and being called a child of God. We need to pray and ask for God’s help so that we no longer live a life of shame, fear and trepidation.
3) Pray expecting satisfying worship
Worship is to ascribe value. We worship those things we love, respect, and find valuable. Some people worship sports teams, rock bands, or movie stars, while others worship food. It doesn’t take long spending time with people before we may determine what they worship and find valuable.
Consider what is popular in our culture. Talent shows have high ratings because we like seeing amazing talent. National parks have high attendance because we enjoy seeing beautiful vistas. We go to art museums to enjoy beautiful paintings and concert halls to listen to music which brings delight to our heart. There is joy in watching athletic feats of Olympians who jump high, run fast, or show stunning strength. When we see these great wonders, we take pictures and video so we can relive the moment. We jump to our feet, applaud, and shout praise when we see a great act of skill. We sing praises and speak to others about those things that dazzle our mind, bring us joy, and that which we find satisfying.
Undeniably, the human heart craves to worship greatness. Which leads to the third expectation of the psalmist is that he will have a life of satisfying worship. 16 I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word. 18 Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law. 27 Make me understand the way of Your precepts, so I will meditate on Your wonders. (something to think about) 38 Establish Your word to Your servant, as that which produces reverence for You. (respect, and awe) 48 And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, which I love; and I will meditate on Your statutes. 171-172 Let my lips utter praise, for You teach me Your statutes. Let my tongue sing of Your word, for all Your commandments are righteousness.
We lift our hands to those things which bring us amusement and pleasure. We relish beholding beauty. We love to be amazed and dazzled. The problem with those things in the world which we worship is that they are temporary. That new car we find enjoy will ultimately bring disappointment. The athlete which brings excitement will grow old and fade away (even Tom Brady, lol). The things of this world will never bring lasting joy and pleasure.
God’s word opens our eyes to see the intangible. God’s word leads us to a place where we may find eternal joy and happiness. God’s word opens our eyes to behold wonderful things. When we understand God’s word, our hearts are turned to worship the sacrifice of our Savior. We sing of His love. We raise our hands to the beauty of His holiness. We meditate upon the truth of God’s promises. Once our eyes are opened, we find God to be the object of our worship, and He will never disappoint. We will always find complete satisfaction in God who is very good.
We began speaking about how the founders of our country truly believe the government will create an environment conducive to the citizens obtaining life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They put their fortunes and their lives at risk to establish a government so they may have a worthwhile outcome. Their efforts are valiant, but government is not a perfect solution. Government does not provide the fulfillment we need. A university education will not provide what we need. Money may not buy us what we need. Neither will our job, vacation, fame, or family give us what we need.
Unfortunately, most people, including Christians, do not understand how they may obtain the greatest gifts life may offer. Most do not realize God offers these gifts freely. When we have eyes to see spiritually, eyes that are enlightened, we realize how to obtain everlasting life, true freedom, exceeding joy, and complete satisfaction.
God stands ready to meet our greatest needs. When we look anywhere else but God to meet our needs, we are making idols. Politics is an idol when we believe it will bring us the joy only God may provide. Our family, job, hobby, sports team, material possessions, thrill-seeking adventures, and whatever we look to for our happiness, become idols when we put our hope in them for our satisfaction.
We hold in our hands the answer to perfect fulfillment. We need to put our complete faith and trust in the truth of God’s Word. God, the Almighty Creator, is the only source of life, freedom, and happiness.
The Bible promises perfect fulfillment, complete satisfaction, and joy forevermore. The writer of Psalm 119 looks to God for help. He knows that only God is capable of providing what we need. When we pray according to God’s Word, we acknowledge God is the source for all our needs. His grace, mercy, forgiveness is where joy and happiness are found. Obeying God and serving Him is where we find our fulfillment.
We can be surrounded by trouble on every side, but still, have satisfaction because we are a child of God. The Christian prisoner in North Korea is freer than the unbeliever hiking standing upon Everest. The one who fears God on a battlefield has more peace than the atheist who sits in a the quietest of places.
The world is looking for fulfillment. All around us people are pursuing happiness. Christians have the answer for what mankind seeks. There is nothing in this world which brings us what we truly need. Hollywood, Wall Street, government, and the media all make false promises.
We need to pray to God and ask Him to meet our needs. We need to look beyond the physical realm and ask for our spiritual needs to be met. Do we believe praying to God meets our greatest needs? Our faith in God as the source of our joy and fulfillment is demonstrated in our prayers.
The Bible claims God promises complete human fulfillment and satisfaction. The Bible says turning to God as our source of joy is the answer.
Pray, with faith, that the Lord mercifully establish us in His Word so that we may be blessed.