The Basis of Strength
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles to Psalm 119, that portion of the Word of God which we are studying together at this particular hour. May we remind you that we are studying this Psalm because it is particularly the Psalm of the Word of God. Every paragraph in the Psalm has some special teaching concerning the practical application of the Word of God in the believer's life. Each paragraph is presented under one letter of the Hebrew alphabet because the lines in the original text in that particular paragraph begin with that particular Hebrew letter.

We have already looked at the first paragraph presented to us under the Hebrew letter Aleph , and we have found that the Word of God is the basis of blessing for the believer. There is no other basis. If your life is built on anything save the Word of God, then there can be no real blessing in your life.

We discovered under the Hebrew letter Beth , in the second paragraph, that the Word of God is the basis for cleansing, and we pointed out to you that the emphasis is based upon keeping clean.

In the third paragraph, presented under the Hebrew letter Gimel , we discovered that the Word of God is the basis for all joy. If your life is rightly aligned with the Word of God, then you will know what real joy is.

We now come to the consideration of the paragraph presented under the Hebrew letter Daleth , which begins with verse 25. I trust that we will be able to see before we are through with the discussion of this paragraph that it represents the Word of God as being the basis for strength in the midst of weakness. Notice, beginning with verse 25, where we read:

Psalm 119:

25 My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy word.
26 I have declared my ways, and thou heardest me: teach me thy statutes.
27 Make me to understand the way of thy precepts: so shall I talk of thy wondrous works.
28 My soul melteth for heaviness: strengthen thou me according unto thy word.
29 Remove from me the way of lying: and grant me thy law graciously.
30 I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid before me.
31 I have stuck unto thy testimonies: O LORD, put me not to shame.
32 I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.

Weakness of the Psalmist

As we examine this particular paragraph, I would like for you to notice with me the Psalmist's weakness. That he was in a state of weakness is indicated by three statements in this particular paragraph. Two of them are related to depression. One of them is related to deception, but all three of them emphasize how weak he was at this particular time.

Glance with me at verse 25:

Psalm 119:

25 My soul cleaveth unto the dust…

That is the first phrase that indicates the depression through which the Psalmist was going: “My soul cleaveth unto the dust…” That is about as low as you can get. We might say today, “I'm down in the dumps.” He said, “I'm down in the dust.” The Paraphrased Translation of this particular statement presents the words: “I am completely discouraged. I lie in the dust.”

However you want to express it, you must recognize that the Psalmist was about as low as he could get. If you doubt that, glance down at verse 28, where you read:

Psalm 119:

28 My soul melteth for heaviness…

In one verse he said, “My soul cleaveth unto the dust; in this verse he says, “My soul melteth from heaviness.” The word melteth comes from the Hebrew word dalaph which elsewhere in your Bible is translated by the words weep or weeping. The word heaviness is translated elsewhere in the Scripture by the word grief or sorrow , so you might well read this statement: “I am weeping because of my grief. I am weeping because of my sorrow.” He said, “I am down in the dust and I am weeping because of the sorrow through which I am going.”

We do not know specifically the sorrow through which he was going. We do not know specifically the heaviness which he bore, but it might be related to the other reason for his condition of weakness to which I referred a moment ago—namely, deception, which is presented to us in verse 29:

Psalm 119:

29 Remove from me the way of lying: and grant me thy law graciously.

The first part of the statement is of interest to us: “Remove from me the way of lying…” This word remove is a significant word. It is a word that describes a removal that is final and as definite as death. The idea is: “I have had all I can take of every kind of error and deception,” because the word from which the English word lying comes, here, is not a word which describes simply a lie which we might tell with our lips, but it is a reference to every kind of error and every kind of deception.

Perchance you have never had any disappointments. Perhaps you have never been deceived. Perhaps no one has ever let you down. Perhaps no one has ever let the confidence you had in them turn to dust and ashes. Perhaps you have never experienced having a love for someone and having that love turn into the cruelest thing that could ever have happened in your life. Many people have had such experiences, and I think the Psalmist must have felt something like this. That is the reason I call to your attention his weakness, so that when you understand the other thing about him, you will be able to see a representation in his life of something in your own life.

Oftentimes when people have to go through misfortunes, oftentimes when people have to endure grief, we are all too willing to say that it serves them right. They brought it on themselves. If they had done differently, this particular thing would not have happened.

I would caution you on passing judgment on anybody. I would remind you that the Word of God tells us that we should judge nothing until the day comes when the hidden things will be brought to life and the motives of the heart will be revealed, and God says that in the light of that, every man will have praise of God. When that day occurs, I think a lot of us are going to have to eat crow. We have been so sure that everything we have said has been so right about the people whom we have criticized. When the motives of hearts are revealed, perhaps we will realize that we had no real thing for which to criticize them. Oftentimes when trouble comes, people say, “It serves him right. He ought to have lived differently.”

Behavior of the Psalmist

They could not have said that about the Psalmist, and I think that you will agree with me if you take the time to examine with me the Psalmist's way. I am using that word in the same sense it is used in this Psalm. I am using it in the sense of his behavior, but for the sake of alliteration, I am using the word way . We have looked at the Psalmist's weakness, Now let's look at the way of the Psalmist, the behavior of the Psalmist.

I say that the Psalmist was in a state of depression at this particular time because there was something wrong with his life. He was doing all that he knew how to do. May I suggest to you that is true when I say to you that his way was marked by confession. Look at verse 26:

Psalm 119:

26 I have declared my ways, and thou heardest me: teach me thy statutes.

Notice the first part: “I have declared my ways, and thou heardest me…” The word declared , here, is from the Hebrew word caphar , which means “to enumerate,” or more accurately, “to confess.” As the Psalmist looked into his own heart at this particular time of trial, evidently he saw something there that needed to be made right, so he said, “I have confessed my way to you, Lord.” We know that that confession was acceptable, because he added to the statement, “…and thou heardest me.” The word heardest comes from the Hebrew word anah , which elsewhere in the Scripture is translated by the word answer . He said, “I have confessed my way and You have answered me. I know that You heard me.”

We know from the Scripture that when a man confesses his sins to the Lord, he does not need to wait in agony of soul wondering if he is going to be forgiven. He does not need to do a certain amount of penance before he is forgiven. We know from I John, chapter 1, verse 9, that the moment we confess our sin, the moment we are heard, that moment sin is forgiven. If we question forgiveness, then we question the faithfulness of God because the Scripture says, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.”

Glance down at verse 30, as I suggest to you that the way of the Psalmist was marked by the right choice:

Psalm 119:

30 I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid before me.

We recognize that some of the problems we face, we face because we make the wrong choice, but the Psalmist said, “I have made the right choice. Lying, deception is all about me. I have chosen the way of God's judgment. I have decided that I am going to live not by my decisions, but by God's decisions,” for that is the meaning of the word judgment , which you find in this particular verse. Notice what he said about those judgments. He said, “Thy judgments have I laid before me.” Notice that the words before me are in italics. That indicates they are not in the original text. It is the translators' way of showing you that they feel that that is what the writer had in mind when he wrote the words. There is nothing wrong with that translation, but I do not believe that it presents the whole truth, for the word laid comes from the Hebrew word shavah , which means “to level,” “to equalize,” or “to adjust.” I would suggest to you that one thing the Psalmist had in mind was that when he chose the right way, he adjusted his way (Notice carefully what I am saying.) to coincide with the judgments of God.

Quite often we say that we are going to choose the right way and if what we are doing does not coincide with the right way, we change the right way to coincide with our manner of doing things. Oh, there are many ways that it can be done. It can be done for some people by a very adequate system of rationalization, and you feel that God makes some particular exception in your case though He has made it in none other. You rationalize your way in relation to God's way, lowering God's way to meet yours. The Psalmist didn't do that. He said, “I chose the right way, and I adjusted my ways to coincide with God's way.”

The Wishes of the Psalmist

There is a third thing I would like for you to notice about the way of the Psalmist, which should certainly indicate to us that the Psalmist was not in the condition he was in because of something wrong with him. Look at verse 31:

Psalm 119:

31 I have stuck unto thy testimonies: O LORD, put me not to shame.

Notice the first statement. This word stuck , in verse 31, comes from the same Hebrew word as does the word cleave in verse 25, so what the Psalmist is saying is: “I am cleaving to your testimony.”

My, that is a good example for us, isn't it, if you compare the two verses? While you are stuck in the dust, stick to the Word of God. While you cleave to the dust, cleave to the Word of God. How many of us get stuck in the dust and we get so discouraged that we forsake the Word of God? The thing that the Psalmist says to us is: “I am stuck in the dust, but while I am stuck in the dust I am sticking to God's Word. I will not swerve. I will do what the Word of God tells me to do.”

What did he plan to do? That is indicated to us in what we might refer to as “the wish of the Psalmist.” We have looked at his weakness and we have examined his way, now we want to listen to him as he wishes for God's best in his life. Look at verse 25 and notice the last statement:

Psalm 119:

25 …quicken thou me according to thy word.

“Lord, I am weak. I have no strength. Quicken me according to your word.” This word quicken comes from the Hebrew word chayah , which elsewhere in the Bible is translated by the word revive , and by the word restore . It speaks of revival. It speaks of restoration. “Lord, I am weak. I am down in the dust, but I need you. I want you, Lord, to quicken me, to restore me, to revive me, for I need restoration. I need revival.”

Notice the conscientiousness of the wish: “…only according to thy word.” You know, sometimes we have a burden and we would like for the burden to be lifted, no matter what—just get rid of it. But some conscientious Christian only wants to get rid of the burden if it is according to the Word, and the revelation of the will of God would lead us to say, “Only if it is in accordance with the will of God.”

That is the reason, if you are enduring something that is particularly distressing and a neighbor, who may not be enlightened along the things of God, comes along and says, “Just get rid of it. You know God doesn't want this to be in your life. Do something about it,” you may not be able to say anything to them; but you know in your heart of hearts you can't do anything about it unless God is pleased to do something about it because your will and your way is surrendered to His will and way, and you find yourself praying with the Psalmist, “…quicken me according to thy Word.”

He makes another wish, which is in verse 26. It follows close upon the heels of this one:

Psalm 119:

26 …teach me thy statutes.

We have seen this word teach before. We have seen it in verse 7; we have seen it in verse 12. We have learned that it comes from the Hebrew word lamad , which speaks of a skillfulness that is obtained through experience, and you can see what his wish is. “Lord, I am down here in the dust, and I would like for you to get me out, only according to your Word. But, Lord, let me profit by this experience. Teach me thy statues while I am down here in the dust. Let me learn something from it because there will be no purpose in it if I don't learn something from it.”

You see, if you are called upon to go through a trial for the trial's sake, nothing is accomplished. God doesn't love to put His thumb upon you and make you squirm. He doesn't permit things to come into your life that are of an unlovely nature because He enjoys torturing you. He wants you to learn, and that is the reason why you need to pray and I need to pray as the Psalmist prayed: “Teach me thy statutes.”

Notice another wish down in verse 27, which is closely related to this:

Psalm 119:

27 Make me to understand the way of thy precepts…

Have you ever prayed that prayer: “Lord, help me to understand.”? If you are human, you have because you have gone through certain things and you wanted to understand, but I don't know what you were expecting when you prayed that prayer, do you? Were you expecting to see some revelation from Heaven that would help you to understand? Were you expecting something unusual to happen that would cause you to understand? I don't suppose you could answer that question. I don't believe I could. If someone were to say to me, “Well, you say you want to understand. How do you expect to understand it? What do you expect to happen?” I don't know that I could understand it, but I will tell you what the Psalmist meant when he said, “Make me to understand,” for this word understand comes from the Hebrew word biyn , and it means “to take things and separate them in your own mind.” It means “to distinguish one thing from another.” When he was saying, “Make me to understand,” he was saying, “Lord, help me to think clearly about this experience. Help me to think clearly. Help me to distinguish in it what You want me to know. Help me, Lord, to see thine hand in it. Help me to distinguish, in accordance with Thy Word, that which I need to do in relation to this particular situation.”

I wish we would all accept that because it gives us something definite upon which we can rest, something tangible. We can ask God to order our thoughts out of all the confusion that will help us to see and will help us to understand.

He had another wish. It is in verse 28:

Psalm 119:

28 My soul melteth for heaviness: strengthen thou me according unto thy word.

It is very similar to what you find in verse 25, but this word strengthen comes from the Hebrew word qeten , which is translated elsewhere in the Old Testament by the words “lift up,” by the words “make to stand up.” You see, even though there was a stirring of restoration and revival in his heart, he didn't have the strength to stand. He is saying, “Lord, give me the strength to stand up. I have been down here in the dust long enough. Lift me up and make me to stand.”

How often, when the Lord Jesus Christ was here on the earth and found individuals sick of body, He reached out His hand and lifted them up and then they went on their way. All too many people are trying to stand up in their own strength. They need to pray, “Strengthen me, Lord. According to thy Word, lift me up and make me to stand up.”

He had one other wish and it is down in verse 29:

Psalm 119:

29 Remove from me the way of lying: and grant me thy law graciously.

Notice the last statement:

Psalm 119:

29 …grant me thy law graciously.

This phrase, grant graciously , comes from one Hebrew word chanan , which speaks of mercy, which speaks of pity. What he is saying was, “Lord, I have asked you to deal with me according to your Word, but I want to add a postscript to that. I want to ask You to have mercy on me. I want to ask You to deal with me graciously. I want to ask You to take pity on me.”

I have met individuals through the course of my life who didn't feel that they needed mercy. They sometimes alarmed me the way they talked to God, as though they were on an equal footing with Him. I want you to know that I need mercy, and I am not ashamed to admit it. I want you to know that though it is the desire of my heart for God to deal with me according to His Word, I want Him to deal with me in mercy because if He deals with me according to His Word, and He doesn't deal with me in mercy, there is so much wrong in my life that I am afraid I would be asking for judgment, and I don't want judgment. I want mercy. That is the reason the Psalmist said, “…grant me thy law graciously.”

It would be wise for us, before we pass on from the wishing of the Psalmist, to recognize that this wish was not a selfish one. Notice verse 27:

Psalm 119:

27 Make me to understand the way of thy precepts: so shall I talk of thy wondrous works.

“Lord, if I can get out of the dust, I'll talk of all thy wondrous works.” Did you notice the phrase, wondrous works ? It comes from the very same Hebrew word as does the phrase, wondrous things , in verse 18. You will remember when we looked at that, we read:

Psalm 119:

18 Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.

We have no reason but to believe that God heard him when he prayed that prayer, and we do believe that he did behold wondrous things, but he wasn't able to talk about them because he was so far down in the dust. Have you had such an experience? Have you seen wonderful things in the Word? Has God dealt with you in such a marvelous fashion that you had much to talk about, but you weren't able to talk about it because you were so far down in the dust?

People say that we should not pray selfishly. We should always pray for the glory of God. I agree with you that we should not pray selfishly, but don't be mislead into thinking that that means you cannot ask for anything for yourself; you can. But we should be interested in the glory of God and the Psalmist was, if you will notice in verse 31:

Psalm 119:

31 I have stuck unto thy testimonies: O LORD, put me not to shame.

The Psalmist so closely related his life to the life of God that for him to be put to shame would bring God to shame. I am not so sure, in this particular day, that we are so concerned. I am not so sure that we feel that when we are put to shame, God is brought to shame, but we ought to feel that way. Every time a Christian fails, we ought to be grieved, because it is that much glory taken from God. We ought not to say, “Oh, well, what difference does it make?” God's glory is at stake, and that is the reason we should be so concerned about our individual lives.

You see, his request about being lifted up out of the dust and finding in the Word of God the strength for his weakness was not related to something selfish. It was related to the glory of God.

Wisdom Manifested by the Psalmist

One last thing I would say to you: The Psalmist's wisdom was evident in all of this. We have talked about his weakness; we have talked about his way; we have talked about his wish. We don't want to leave this Psalm without taking a brief glance at the wisdom which he manifested. Yes, he was down there in the dust, but he was a wise man. Yes, he was interested in the glory of God, but he was wise enough to know that there was only one way that glory could be brought to God. Look at verse 32:

Psalm 119:

32 I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.

Notice: “I will run the way of thy commandments…” It isn't evident in our English translation, but the Hebrew word that is used for run here is a word that is always used in contrast to walking. It presents the picture of an individual just walking, just poking along at a slow pace, not much interested in anything. Then suddenly he begins to run just as rapidly as he can. Something has happened to him. A spurt of energy has come that has caused him to run, to move at a rapid pace. That is the meaning of the word run here. He said:

Psalm 119:

32 I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.

An enlarged heart can physically sometimes be a handicap, but an enlarged heart spiritually is a blessing. He said, “Lord, if you will just enlarge my heart, I'll run in the way of thy commandments.” This word enlarged speaks of a freedom from care. It describes a sense of joy. You see what he is saying. “Lord, if You will just lift this burden, if You will just lift this burden that has gotten me down here in the dust, then I will run in the way of thy commandments.”

Conclusion

In this is seen the wisdom of the Psalmist because, Beloved, you cannot do for God what you need to do if you are burdened about something. That is the reason the Scripture says to cast your burdens, your cares, upon the Lord, for He cares for you. You can't do your best for God if you are worried about something. That is the reason the Scripture says, “Worry about nothing, but in everything with prayer and thanksgiving, let your request be made known unto God.”

It is a wise thing to have God free your heart from the burden that is weighing you down so you can run in His commandments. The Word of God is the basis for strength. Find your life coinciding with God's Word, ask God to deal with you according to His Word, and you will find yourself renewed, restored and running for the glory of God.


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