Merciful Lord (Part One)

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September 10, 2017

Psalm 119

Allen Burns

Scripture Reading: Psalm 119:169-176 Sermon Title: Merciful Lord Sermon Text: Psalm 119 Memory Verse: Psalm 119:169 MAIN IDEA: Pray that the Lord mercifully establishes us in His Word so that we may be blessed.   NOTE: “Scripture quotations are from the NASB." This manuscript is provided as a courtesy and is not intended for publication. The audio and video message differs from the manuscript. Thanks for understanding.  

Know the purpose of Psalm 119

Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm in the Bible. The format of Psalm 119 is an acrostic of the Hebrew alphabet. We miss this in our English translation. There are 22 letters in the Hebrew Alphabet and 22 stanzas in Psalm 119. The original manuscript of Hebrew has each line of the stanza, of which there are eight, begins with the same letter. This makes the Psalm easier to memorize. Psalm 119 is known for speaking about the Word of God in every verse. The psalmist speaks of God’s ways, law, testimonies, precepts, statues, commandments, judgments, ordinances and His Word. Together, these convey the comprehensive way in which the Lord communicates to us. If we get lost in the beauty of the acrostic or in the ways in which the Psalm speaks of the Word of God, we will miss the main teaching of the psalm altogether. The psalm is about a man in deep trouble who is calling upon God to show him mercy and favor. The Psalm is a lesson on prayer. It provides guidance for our prayers when we are being oppressed and afflicted unjustly. The main teaching of the psalm is this: Pray that the Lord mercifully establishes us in His Word so that we may be blessed. We will look at the Psalm this morning and next week. This week, our goal is for us to see the relationship between God’s Word and our prayer. For our prayers to be effective, we must be established in God’s Word and we must pray according to God’s Word. Therefore, we are to pray the that Lord establishes us in His Word so our prayers may be answered.

Situation Overview - The Afflicted Servant

We do not know for sure who wrote Psalm 119. The writer refers to himself as the Lord’s servant thirteen times in the Psalm. (Therefore, we will refer to him as “servant.”) Servant speaks fondly of his Master. He loves his Master and he loves obeying his Lord’s commands because he knows the commands are for his good. The servant needs his Master’s help. Twenty times he speaks of how others seek his harm. There are not just a few, by there are many persecutors and adversaries (v. 157). It seems the plan to destroy the servant is widespread where even men in important position, princes, are involved in the conspiracy (v. 23, 161). He is being persecuted with a lie (v. 86). He is being held in reproach (v. 39, 42, 51) by the wicked and the arrogant who lay a snare, encircle him, and are waiting to destroy him (v. 51, 61, 95, 110, 150). Affliction, trouble and anguish have come upon him (v. 67, 71, 143, 153). His situation makes his heart sick. His soul cleaves to the dust (v. 25) and weeps with grief (v. 28). He feels as a wineskin in the smoke (v. 83). A wineskin in the smoke becomes dried out and brittle, making it a useless vessel. The servant claims innocence before God, declaring what he has done is just and righteousness and he is asking God not to allow him to fall into the hands of his oppressors (v. 121).

Help for the Servant

The servant is a man who needs help. He possesses what he believes holds the answer to his situation; the Word of God. In his prayer, the servant praises God for His Word. He speaks to God of the wonderful things in the law (v.18). He God is the Author and the Word is ordained (v.4), settled in heaven (v.89) and founded forever (v.152). Every one of God’s righteous ordinances is everlasting (v.160). All the Lord’s commandments are truth (v.151); in fact, the sum of God’s Word is truth (v.160). It is pure (v.140) and righteous forever (v.144). The servant sees God’s Word worthy of his trust; it shall come to pass. The Word tells him God helps those who are in need. God is loving and merciful to those who walk according to the law. The servant claims God’s Word is a lamp unto his feet and the light for his path (v. 105). He walks according to the Word, and because of that, the Word promises liberty (v. 45), deliverance (v. 170) and comfort (50, 52). Because the Word makes these promises, the servant cries out, “when will You comfort me?” (v. 82). He places his trust in God being faithful to do what He says in His Word. It is in God’s Word he places his hope, and he is holding God accountable. He says, “Sustain me according to Your Word, that I may live; and do not let me be ashamed of my hope” (v. 116). Let my supplication (my request) come before You; deliver me according to Your word (v. 170). In other words, he is telling God, “I read Your Word, and Your Word promises deliverance to those who fear You. I fear You. Your Word says You are a God of mercy and Your Word is truth. Therefore, I trust You, Lord, to deliver me. I place my hope in what Your Word reveals about You. Please, don’t destroy my hope by not following through on Your promises.”

Reason for the Lord to help

The servant gives the Lord reason, according to the Word, as to why God should help. God rescues those who obey Him and are committed to serve God. And, God opposes those who don’t obey His Word. Based on this, the servant calls upon the Lord to consider those who oppose him and how they don’t regard God’s Word and compare their actions to how he cherishes the Word. Listen to how he compares his oppressors to himself. The arrogant utterly deride him while he seeks to abide by the law (v. 51). The wicked forsake God’s law and the servant hates them for doing so (v. 53). The heart of the wicked is covered with fat, which means they are self-indulgent and seeking their own gain, while he delights in the law (v. 70). The wicked are arrogant liars, disregarding God’s command to not bear false witness, and he meditates and delights upon God’s precepts (v. 78). The arrogant have dug pits for him. Clearly, this is not walking in accordance with God’s law (v. 85). His pleas to the Lord may be summed up in this statement, “May Your compassion come to me that I may live, for Your law is my delight” (v. 77). While making his case, the servant makes a bold statement to the Lord, “It is time for the Lord to act, for they have broken Your law” (v. 126). The bottom line of the situation is one of God’s servants is being unjustly afflicted and oppressed by ungodly men who disregard God’s law. He is calling upon God to deliver him and the basis of the deliverance is that God is just according to His Word. God shows mercy to His servants according to His Word. The servant is saying, “Help me God, because I love Your Word and they are enemies of Your Word. Your Word promises me deliverance.”

Application for our lives

Let’s think of how what the servant in the Psalm is saying and make application in our lives. The Psalm is a lesson on prayer. There are over 75 specific prayer requests in Psalm 119. Some of the requests are repeated (such as revive me, which is asked 9 times). We will touch on the requests made in the Psalm in another message. In this message, our goal is to see the connection between God’s Word and prayer. We have afflictions and difficulties and we desire the Lord to help. All of us pray and bring requests to God. When we pray, and ask the Lord for help in our time of need, may we be as bold as the psalmist? May we make the same claims to the Lord when we call out to Him to help us? May we say, “Lord, hear our cry because we love Your commandments above gold, yes, above fine gold”?  In other words, do we truly love God’s Word? Does God look at our life and determine we love God’s Word as the psalmist loves His Word? Five truths to apply:

1-Know what it means to Love God’s Word

Let’s be clear on what it means to love God’s Word. The servant of the Lord doesn’t love God’s Word because it is a great novel or because it has the world’s best poetry. The servant of God doesn’t love God’s Word because he is a history buff interested in past events or because he is intrigued with prophecy or enjoys reading about covenants and legal documents. The servant of the Lord loves the Word of God because it reveals God and all of God’s wonders (v. 27). We live in a material house and the Word of God is a window allowing us to see the spiritual realm. The window allows us to see a perfect and holy God. The window shows us great beauty. The Bible teaches us a great deal about the God which we would not know just by looking at creation. The Bible teaches God is Creator and creation did not happen by chance. We know God is eternal and a Spirit, living outside of time and matter. We know God is providentially and sovereignly over all things. We look into the window of God’s Word and we see God is not evil, but good. The psalmist says, “You are good and do good” (v. 68). God’s Word tells us God has an evil, wicked enemy and His enemy is our enemy. In the Scripture, we see that God is working out a purpose and a plan to overcome the enemy. Above all, the Word of God reveals God is intimate and loving. God is not distant, but very personal. God is holy and perfect and judge over all His Creation, but God is also forgiving and merciful. God’s Word reveals to us a personal Creator Who listens and responds. God is the great “I AM.” He is JEHOVAH, Lord. He is a God who chooses people, and chooses to be called the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God associates with men. The psalmist expresses great love for God’s Word because he loves the God who the Word reveals. He marvels that he is made and fashioned by God’s hands (v. 73). Think about for a moment about God making us with His hands. God is worthy of worship; blessed are You, O Lord (v. 12). The servant of Psalm 119 seeks God with all his heart (v. 2) and he knows, it is the very Word of God which brings him into the presence of the Almighty, Creator God.

2-Seek God’s Word to Seek God

God identifies with His Word. To disregard God’s Word is to disregard God. The Apostle John begins his gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The psalmist equates seeking God’s Word as being the same as seeking God. He never separates the two. How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, who seek Him with all their heart (v. 2). The psalmist knows to not keep God’s Word places his relationship with God in jeopardy. So, he says, “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You” (v. 10). He knows seeking a relationship with God’s Word is directly related to seeking a relationship with God. The closer he is to God’s Word the closer he is to God. Conversely, the psalmist knows God rebukes the arrogant, the cursed, who wander from His commandments (v. 21). We may measure our love for God by how much we treasure His Word. Treasuring God’s Word is not about enjoying words on a page or having devotionals in the morning, then putting the Bible down and going about our day. Show me a person seeking God and I will show you a person who is diligently seeking and meditating in the Holy Scriptures. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you are seeking God if you seldom open your Bible.

3-Be obedient to God’s Word

The reason for meditating on God’s Word is so we will obey God’s Word and know what to do when situations arise.  We are to cherish the Word of God, hiding it in our heart that we may not sin against God (v 11). We read God’s Word day and night and meditate on the statutes (v. 23), because they tell us how we are to live and be closer to God. The Word of God is our counselor (v. 24) and teaches us to think rightly. We don’t get our instructions and counsel from Disney movies, Simon & Garfunkel songs, CNN, Fox News, Harvard, or politicians. Our counsel is God’s Word. We cannot say God’s Word is our counselor when we don’t obey its counsel. When we treasure God’s Word, we place His ordinances before us (v. 30) and we don’t delay, but with haste, turn our feet to obey God (v. 59-60). Those who love God’s Word love it all the time. Their meditation and obedience of the Word occurs in the night watches (v. 148), in the dawn (v. 147), and all the day long (v. 97). When we love God’s Word, as the servant of Psalm 119 loves God’s Word, it is our delight. The commands, law, precepts, and statues of God are not bitter or burdensome. Instead, the Word of the Lord is sweet to our taste, sweeter than honey (v. 103). The command of being generous is like eating honey. When we love God’s Word and we are given the command to love our neighbor, it is as if we are given a piece of gold. The law is a joy to our heart, so that we incline our heart to obey the Lord’s statutes forever, even to the end (v. 111-112). In our quest for obedience, we will fail. The servant is not without sin as he makes confession in the psalm (v. 36). His sin causes his eyes to shed streams of water (v. 136). Though he may sin, he knows with confidence that he strives to obey God’s Word. He knows God will look with favor upon him for his heart for the Word of the Lord. When we love God’s Word, our transgression brings tears and we repent and cry out to the Lord for forgiveness. May we say that we esteem right all of God’s precepts concerning everything and that we hate every false way? (v. 127-128). Is God’s Word a lamp to our feet and a light to our path causing us to swear allegiance to keep the law (v. 105-106)? Our disobedience to God’s Word ought to brings us tears of sorrow because, when we transgress the commandments of God, God turns His face away (Ps. 66:18, Is. 59:2). Why? Because, disobedience reveals the value we place on doing our will instead of God’s will. Our love of God is measured by our love for His Word. In the same way, our commitment to God is measured by our commitment to obey and follow what His Word says.

4-Learn God’s purpose and plan

The writer of Psalm 119 is claiming allegiance to God’s will. Therefore, he repeatedly expresses his commitment to follow and obey God’s Word. He is presenting evidence as to why God should help him. He sees himself as part of God’s plan. He refers to himself as a servant wanting to do God’s bidding. We pray for God’s will to be done and for God’s Kingdom to come. We seek to be useful to God and obey Him. He says, let my soul live so I may praise You (v. 175). Help me, because I keep Your precepts and testimonies, You can see this is true because my ways are before You (v. 168). When this is our attitude and commitment, then we may call upon the Lord with great confidence. The reason we may have confidence is the integrity of our prayer is shown by our commitment to God’s Word. When God’s Word is foremost, we pray seeking His Kingdom. But, when we pray to God When we bring a request to the Lord, is it because we desire His Kingdom to increase and ours to decrease? Is our prayer for the completion of our plan or are we truly seeking God’s will, purpose, and plan to be accomplished? As James says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

5-Be confident in prayer

Will God answer the prayer of the psalmist? We believe God will answer. The servant gives good reason as to why God should. He approaches God’s throne boldly, bringing over 75 requests because he knows what he is doing and he knows the God he’s asking. He knows what he asks is according to God’s will. The accomplishment of God’s purpose and plans written in His Word is the aim of his prayer. His prayer seeks God’s Kingdom and for God’s will to be done. He asks for comfort, but comfort according to God’s Word. He is asking for help, but help which is in line with God’s Word. He is not seeking personal comfort and convenience as much as he is seeking God’s glory. When we know God’s will, we will pray confidently according to God’s Word. When we prove to be God’s faithful servant by loving His Word, loving Him, obeying His commands, and seeking His will, we may know God is on our side. Pray that the Lord mercifully establishes us in His Word so that we may be blessed.