This study was originally presented over a five day period in July 1995 as a series of radio talks by Pastor Keith Graham. The material will be more profitable if digested in its five separate sessions, of which this is the fifth.
This is the final session of a five part study of Psalm 119, that true pearl of great price. TRUE pearl of great price because one of the major cults of today has a supposedly Divine book by that name. However, there is no substitute for the Holy Bible, the inspired, inerrant and fully authoritative Word of God. And there is perhaps no passage of the Bible more powerful to "enlarge our hearts", as Psalm 119:32 says...no spiritual food more nutritious to build strong, vibrant walks of faith, enlightened minds, and renewed affections, than this Psalm. Our method of studying Psalm 119 has not been verse by verse exposition. Although that is also an excellent way to delve into this precious part of God's Word, the method used in this study allows for a broader overview.
Within the first ten verses of the Psalm, the Holy Spirit has introduced several terms which refer to the written Word of God. These terms recur again and again throughout the 176 verses of Psalm 119. These terms are not mere synonyms, like box and carton or gift and present. Rather, each term speaks of a different dimension of the Lord's Holy Word. The four Divinely inspired gospels are like four facets of one great gem - the earthly ministry, substitutionary death, and bodily resurrection of Jesus. Even so, the various terms used by the inspired author of Psalm 119 show us why it is true that "man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." Even as our bodies need air, water, food, and clothing, so our inward beings need the Word of God as it comes to us in its various forms.
So far we have considered the Word of God coming to us as Law, Testimony, Precept, Statute, and Commandment. The Law of God expresses His perfect moral standard for man. The testimonies of God speak to us of God's own truthfulness and His majestic holiness. The precepts of the Lord remind us that His will for us includes every detail, and that when everything in our lives serves Him, we experience a happy freedom. The statutes of the Lord are "God's traditions", handed down to generation after generation in the Holy Bible, and the commandments of the Lord emphasize that He alone is our King.
The Psalmist's sixth term is JUDGMENTS. if you didn't miss any of them when you noted occurences of it throughout the Psalm, you will have found the term in at least 19 places. Should you be using the NASB, you may have found only 5 occurences of the English word JUDGMENTS. That is because the word in the original language is sometimes translated "ordinances" in that version. The same may be true of other translations.
Again we must ask ourselves, what does the Psalmist mean by the JUDGMENTS of the Lord? What dimension of the Word of God is in his mind when he uses the term?
In Deuteronomy 17, we have a usage of the Hebrew word translated "judgments" in Psalm 119. Beginning in verse 8 of Deuteronomy 17, we read: "If any case is too difficult for you to decide, between one kind of homicide or another, between one kind of lawsuit or another, and between one kind of assault or another, being cases of dispute in your courts, then you shall arise and go up to the place which the Lord your God chooses. So you shall come to the Levitical priest or the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall inquire of them, and they will declare to you the verdict in the case". The word "verdict" in this passage is the same word translated judgments or ordinances in Psalm 119, and by the term LAWS, plural, in the NIV.
The sense of the term the JUDGMENTS of the Lord is this: The God of all wisdom is the ultimate arbiter between man and man. God is the One Who has established the rules for the marriage relationship, the parent-child relationship, the relationship between siblings, the relationship between friends, between the governed and the governor, between master and servant, between neighbors, and in any other lawful human relationship there may be.
In 1 Samuel 10 we have the beginning of the Israelite monarchy. Samuel anoints Saul king, and in verse 25 we read: "Then Samuel told the people the ordinances of the kingdom, and wrote them in the book and placed it before the Lord. And Samuel sent all the people away, each one to his house." The word translated ordinances there is our Psalm 119 word "judgments". Another ordinance of the kingdom, another judgment of the Lord is found in 1 Corinthianas 6. In that chapter, Paul admonishes the Corinthians concerning the horrible situation of one Christian suing another. In verse 7 of 1 Corinthians 6, Paul writes: "Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?" Here is the judgment God has handed down to us through His inspired apostle.
We Christians are in the world but not of it; we belong to another kingdom. Our mission here on earth is to walk as sons of light, bearing a unified testimony. Jesus said they would know we were His disciples by our love, not our litigation! So God says, if you find yourself defrauded by a brother, humbly accept it rather than go to law before unbelievers! God's righteous judgment about this human situation is that the stuff of this world is not worth tarnishing the reputation of the Kingdom of which His people are the representatives.
Verse seven is where the Psalmist first introduces the term judgments. There, he writes: "I shall give thanks to Thee with uprightness of heart, When I learn Thy righteous judgments." Are we really prepared to give thanks for a JUDGMENT of the Lord like this one, if we are in the position of the one being defrauded? We spoke in an earlier session of this study about God's Word as PRECEPT. Are we willing to take the precepts of the judgment handed down in 1 Corinthians 6? Will you and I seek to resolve matters within the church, or if even that fails, determine to be willing to be defrauded by a fellow believer? Or will we go along with our society and its obsession with lawsuits?
The Psalmist wrote: "I have chosen the faithful way; I have placed Your judgments before me."
Thus we have looked at six terms in Psalm 119 which explore the richness of God's Word. There are others...two distinct Hebrew words are translated with the English term "Word". The Psalmist also writes of God's ways, and only three verses of the Psalm's 176 verses do not have a direct reference to God's written Word.
Knowing the high value which God assigns to His Word is not enough. Each time the Psalmist mentions it, under whichever of the several terms he uses, it is in the context of how it is vitally connected with his life. He cries out earnestly in prayer for understanding of the Word. Do you and I cry out to God in that way, or are we complacent in our ignorance? The Psalmist affirms that he will meditate on the Word and treasure it in his heart. What fills our minds and hearts during the routine affairs of the day?
The Psalmist finds in His relationship with God through His Word that the great needs of his heart are met. We have mentioned the liberty which whole-hearted service to God is. Real direction and purpose in life become the Psalmist's through God's Word - it is light to his path. A life that is satisfying and has stability, even through hard times of persecution and adversity, belong to the one who knows, loves, and lives God's Word.
If you have caught just a glimpse of how the human soul is to interact with the Word of God at every turn, in every chamber of the heart, with respect to every faculty and gift, every circumstance and situation, then this study has been profitable. I urge you to go on from here in your own study of Psalm 119. God's Word is inexhaustible for teaching, reproof, correction and training in the ways of righteousnss. It is passages like this that the apostles had in mind when they wrote words like this:
"For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope", (Romans 15:4). May God be pleased to motivate us all to be absorbed with His Word that we may be able to proclaim -
"O how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day. Thy testimonies also are my delight; they are my counselors. This has become mine, that I observe Thy precepts. Thy statutes are my songs in the house of my pilgrimage. I shall run the way of Thy commandments, for Thou wilt enlarge my heart. Righteous art Thou, O Lord, And upright are Thy judgments."
In concluding this study in Psalm 119 you are invited to pray as follows, according to the words of another Psalm, the 19th Psalm:
"Lord, you law is perfect, restoring the soul;
Lord, your testimony is sure, making wise the simple.
Lord, your precepts are right, rejoicing the heart;
Lord, your commandment is pure, enlightening the eyes.
Lord, your judgments are true; they are righteous altogether.
Lord, your words are more desirable than gold, yes, than much
fine gold; they are sweeter also than honey and the drippings
of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them Thy servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward." (Psalm 19:7-11)
LAW, verses in Psalm 119:
1, 18, 29, 34, 44, 51, 53, 55, 61, 70,7 2, 77 ,85, 92, 97, 109, 113, 126, 136, 142, 150, 153, 163, 165, 174
TESTIMONY, verses in Psalm 119:
2, 14, 22, 24, 31, 36, 46, 59, 79, 95, 99, 111, 119, 125, 129, 138, 144, 146, 152, 157, 167, 168
PRECEPTS, verses in Psalm 119:
4, 15, 27, 40, 45 ,56 ,63, 69 ,78, 87, 93, 94, 100, 104, 110, 128, 134, 141, 159, 168, 173
STATUTES, verses in Psalm 119:
5, 8, 12,16, 23, 26, 33, 48, 54, 64, 68, 71, 80, 83, 112, 117, 118, 124, 135, 145, 155, 171
COMMANDMENTS, verses in Psalm 119:
6, 10, 19, 21, 32, 35, 47, 48, 60, 66, 73, 86, 98, 115, 127, 131, 143, 151, 166, 172, 176
JUDGMENTS, verses in Psalm 119:
7, 13, 20, 30, 39, 43, 52, 62, 84, 91, 102, 106, 108, 120, 137, 149, 156, 160, 164,175
Go to First Session - Bible Study on Psalm 119
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