The Basis for Fellowship
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

We have been studying Psalm 119, as it is basically the Psalm of the Word of God, reminding you that each of the twenty-two paragraphs in Psalm 119 is presented under one of the Hebrew letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Each paragraph presents some specific thing about the Word of God as it is practically used in the believer's life.

Today we are going to notice the paragraph which is presented to us under the Hebrew letter CHETH , and begins with verse 57. I am going to suggest to you that this paragraph will reveal that the Word of God is the basis of our fellowship. As we read the passage together, try to notice those indications which would suggest the theme of the paragraph—the Word of God as the basis of fellowship. Beginning with verse 57, we read:

Psalm 119:

57 Thou art my portion, O LORD: I have said that I would keep thy words.
58 I intreated thy favour with my whole heart: be merciful unto me according to thy word.
59 I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.
60 I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.
61 The bands of the wicked have robbed me: but I have not forgotten thy law.
62 At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments.
63 I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts.
64 The earth, O LORD, is full of thy mercy: teach me thy statutes.

As we meditate upon this paragraph, I would like to suggest that I find the Psalmist in a threefold relation to fellowship. I want us to think about him as we find him in full fellowship with the Lord. Then I want to think about him as we find him in broken fellowship with the Lord. Then I want to think about him as we see him in restored fellowship, for this is what this paragraph is talking about—an individual who is in full fellowship, an individual who breaks that fellowship, and then an individual who is restored to that fellowship once again.

Full Fellowship

As we look at the Psalmist in full fellowship, may I suggest that you look at verse 57:

Psalm 119:

57 Thou art my portion, O LORD: I have said that I would keep thy words.

Then again at verse 63:

Psalm 119:

63 I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts.

Let's look together at verse 57 and notice what the Psalmist said: “Thou art my portion, O LORD…” Oh, how wonderful it is to realize such a relationship with the Lord. This is not the first time that he gave testimony to this relationship. Turn back to Psalm 73 and you will see that in the midst of a great trial of affliction when he was discouraged almost to the point of giving up, he gave this same testimony, for in Psalm 73, verse 26, he said:

Psalm 73:

26 My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

He said, “I am so weak that my flesh and my heart are at an end, but my strength lies in the fact that God is my portion.” Can you say that, recognizing that the Lord indeed is your allotment and your inheritance? If you will notice in Psalm 73, verse 25, the Psalmist said:

Psalm 73:

25 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.

This really is a testimony that God was the portion of the Psalmist. He was in full fellowship with Him.

I would ask you now to turn to the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 32, as I emphasize a phase of full fellowship that a great many folk are prone to ignore. This is a reciprocal matter. It is one thing for the Psalmist to say that the Lord is his portion; it is another thing for the Lord to say that the Psalmist is His portion. It is one thing for you to say that the Lord is your portion, the Lord is your inheritance; it is another thing for the Lord to say the same thing about you, for fellowship must be reciprocal.

In Deuteronomy, chapter 32, speaking primarily by interpretation of the nation of Israel, but by application of all those who belong to the Lord, you will notice in verse 9:

Deuteronomy 32:

9 For the LORD's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.

Not only does fellowship recognize that the Lord belongs to you, but that you belong to the Lord. True fellowship recognizes that not only is God important to you, but that you are important to God. It is this latter thing that we are prone to forget, and sometimes in the doldrums of despair, we feel that God has utterly forsaken us because an individual as insignificant as we couldn't possibly demand the attention of God. But remember, if you take courage in the fact by saying, “The Lord is my portion,” take additional courage in the fact that you are the Lord's portion. You mean as much to Him as He means to you.

Go back to Psalm 119 and notice the first part of verse 63:

Psalm 119:

63 I am a companion of all them that fear thee…

I suggest to you that the fellowship of the Psalmist was not only with the person of God, but with the people of God as well. I would like to suggest that this is the true description of full fellowship.

There are individuals who feel that they are in fellowship with God and they don't need the people of God; they can get along quite well without ever being around them. But that is not the fellowship of which the Bible speaks. The Bible declares not only is the Lord the portion of the believer, but the believer is a companion of all them that fear God.

You recognize that the word fear here is a word that describes reverence , a word that speaks of worship. It isn't a word that describes your going away and hiding in a corner because you fear that God might strike you dead or condemn you in some fashion, but everybody who worships God, everybody who loves Him, reveres Him. The Psalmist said, “I have fellowship with those people.”

What did he mean when he said, “I am a companion of all them that fear the Lord?” I suggest to you that the word companion is a translation of the Hebrew word chaber , which is translated literally by the phrase, “mix together.” Turn to the book of Judges, as I suggest to you that when the Psalmist said that he was a companion of all them that fear the Lord, he wasn't talking about an occasional acquaintance or a frequent but brief contact. He was speaking about a very close association. In chapter 20, there is the story of how all of Israel was going to go up against Gibeah because they dared to perform the horrible rite that is described in this particular chapter. When they were gathered together for this enterprise, it was not in a lackadaisical attitude. It was not in a disinterested attitude, but it was as if they were all one. Notice verse 11:

Judges 20:

11 So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, knit together as one man.

Notice those words “knit together.” They are the translation of the Hebrew word chaber , which is translated in Psalm 119 by the English word companion . So you see, if you are a companion of those who fear the Lord, your hearts are going to be knit with their hearts as one man. That is the reason the Apostle Paul emphasized in his first Corinthian letter that we are all members one of another, and if one member suffers, then all the members suffer with it. I don't know whether you experience that kind of fellowship with the people of God or not, but I would suggest that you cultivate it. It is true fellowship.

Going back to Psalm 119, notice the second part of verse 63:

Psalm 119:

63 I am a companion of all them that fear thee,[notice now] and of them that keep thy precepts.

We said to you that the Word of God was the basis of fellowship; and as we look at the Psalmist in full fellowship, we recognize that he was in fellowship not only with the person of God, not only with the people of God, but with the purpose of God as it is revealed in His Word, for unless fellowship is based upon the Word of God, it cannot be pleasing to the Lord. This is the safeguard that is needed in this day of ecumenical emphasis. Individuals who do not rightly understand the Word of God are aiding and abetting the ecumenical Movement on the basis of the fact that we ought to be companions of all them that fear God. You will notice the condition the Psalmist placed upon it. Notice again:

Psalm 119:

63 I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts.

Some people who are included in the ecumenical movement are not keeping the Word of God. Some who are included in the ecumenical movement are even holding to doctrines which deny the vital truths of the Word of God. God never intended that you should have that kind of fellowship, but we are speaking primarily of your individual fellowship with the Lord.

I want to ask you a question to which I do not want an audible answer. I ask it trusting that the Holy Spirit will minister it to your heart. Are you in fellowship with the Lord? Are you? Perhaps you can say, “Yes, I am, thank the Lord.” Perhaps you will have to say, “I am afraid I'm not.” If I were to ask you why, I wonder what kind of an answer I would be given.

Broken Fellowship

We wouldn't have the time to examine all of the things that break fellowship, so we will limit our remarks to what broke the fellowship of the Psalmist, for though we have seen him in full fellowship, he describes for us in the Psalm how his fellowship was broken. There was a time when he was out of fellowship with the Lord. I don't know how long. You know, you can be out of fellowship for sixty seconds and do a great deal of damage to your spiritual life. You can be back in in that length of time. Sometimes folk stay out of fellowship a long time. Since we are thinking about the book of Psalms, and we are thinking about David, although we do not know that he wrote Psalm 119, I would like to remind you there was a time when David was out of fellowship for two years. If you compare Psalm 51 with Psalm 32 and the time element involved, you will see that that is true. He stayed out of fellowship for two solid years, but he couldn't stand it any longer. He had to do something about it so he got back in fellowship.

What broke the Psalmist's fellowship in Psalm 119? Glance at verse 61 and listen to him as he said:

Psalm 119:

61 The bands of the wicked have robbed me…

That is what broke his fellowship. The bands of the wicked? What exactly did he have in mind when he said, “The bands of the wicked have robbed me…?” Let me suggest to you that the word bands is a translation of the Hebrew word chebel , which elsewhere in the Scripture is translated by the word snare .

Turn in your Bibles, please to the book of Job, chapter 18, for an illustration of what the Psalmist had in mind when he said, “The bands of the wicked have robbed me.” In Job, chapter 18, speaking of the man who walks in his own strength and not in the leadership of the Holy Spirit, we read in verse 8:

Job 18:

8 For he is cast into a net by his own feet, and he walketh upon a snare.

The word snare here is a translation of this Hebrew word chebel , which is translated by the English word bands . Glance at verse 10:

Job 18:

10 The snare is laid for him in the ground, and a trap for him in the way.

The Psalmist said, “I'll tell you what broke my fellowship. The snares of the wicked have robbed me.” That suggests to our thinking that the Psalmist was not out of fellowship because he planned it that way. He was not out of fellowship because he surveyed the situation and said, “I believe I will just go out and have a fling.” He wasn't out of fellowship for that reason. He was out of fellowship before he realized it. He was out of fellowship before he knew it. That is the sad, sad situation with so many Christians today. You know what a snare is. Think of a noose covered over with some leaves. You step in the noose, not even knowing it is there. The trap is sprung and you are hanging by your heels in the air. That is how quickly it can happen. You don't think about it. You don't know it and suddenly it has happened.

The sad thing about it is that folk who are broken in fellowship in this fashion are sometimes not even cognizant of it and they stay in a state of broken fellowship for an extended amount of time and wonder what is wrong with their lives, wondering why things are not going right, wondering why things are not what they ought to be. If they would only recognize that their fellowship has been broken, what a difference there would be.

Time will not permit us to dwell on the ways and the means of broken fellowship, but I would like to emphasize what the Psalmist said about it. He said, “The snares of the wicked have robbed me.” You see, he did not look upon broken fellowship as a light matter as many of us do. Many of us speak of broken fellowship today as though it is an immaterial thing. We say, “It happened this way and I have just grown cold and indifferent. I am not as close to the Lord as I need to be.” We don't seem to be concerned about it like we should, but the Psalmist was concerned about it. He said, “I have been robbed. I feel a very definite sense of loss. I feel like something is gone out of my life that I need again.”

What happened to him? Did he give up in despair? Did God take His hand off him? Did God say in so many words about him, “Well, he broke his fellowship with Me. He is on his own; let him get along the best way that he can.”? Sometimes we feel that way, but God's love never permits that. Look back at verse 61, and read again:

Psalm 119:

61 The bands of the wicked have robbed me: [notice] but I have not forgotten thy law.

When we look at the picture of the Psalmist in the midst of broken fellowship, we see him robbed. That is true, but we see him also remembering. That is what he said here: “I was robbed. I lost the fellowship. But in the midst of that broken fellowship, I remembered the Word of God.”

That is why it is so important to hide the Word of God away in your heart. That is the reason it is so important for folk to be under the sound of the Word of God. That is the reason, parents, you need to keep your children under the sound of the Word of God, whether they want to be or not, because when the fellowship is broken and when they are beyond your reach and there isn't anything that you can do but pray for them, the Word of God which has been hidden away in their hearts and in their minds, the Word of God which consciously they refuse, but which subconsciously they received, can begin to work. Their hearts can turn toward God. Just as the prodigal down yonder in the hog pen remembered his father's house, so individuals away from God remember His Word and turn back to the Lord.

Restored Fellowship

The Psalmist did, for you see, this remembering the Word was not an idle remembering; it was a remembering that produced results so that we are able to look at the Psalmist in restored fellowship. I never like to say that there are steps related to fellowship because that is misleading sometimes, for I believe you can be restored to fellowship quicker than it takes for me to say the word; but we might as well face the fact that there is a process. It may take a matter of two years, as it did in David's life; and it may take nearly a lifetime, as it does in some lives. It may take just a few seconds, but there is a process, and I think the process will be very much the same as it was in the life of the Psalmist. Look at verse 59, as I point out to you that the restoration of the Psalmist to fellowship began with a review of his ways. In verse 59, we hear him saying:

Psalm 119:

59 I thought on my ways…

I believe this is basic to restoration of fellowship: “I thought on my ways…”—a review of the ways of the Psalmist. Some people call it conviction, and that is a good word—when an individual, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit is convinced that he is headed in the wrong direction and there ought to be something done about it when the individual is made so miserable by a series of dealing on the part of God that he can stand it any longer and he thinks on his ways.

What did the Psalmist do when he thought on his ways? This word thought is from the Hebrew word chashab , which means “to evaluate.” It means “to compute.” It means “to take account.” The Psalmist sat down one day in the midst of his broken fellowship and he evaluated his manner of life. He said, “What is the point in it? I remember when I knew the Lord and I had all the joy of the Lord at my fingertips and the goodness of God was always about. What do I have now?” He evaluated his ways. He took account of the things that broke his fellowship initially and which had widened the gap continually. He computed his exact location in the spiritual circumference of man's relationship to God and, computing that exact location, he came to a realization. I would like to suggest to you that his review was followed by repentance, keeping in mind that the word repentance does not necessarily mean tears, though it may. It does not necessarily include a long agonizing before the Lord, though it can. Basically and simply, repentance means “turning about.” Repentance means “changing your way of action.” Repentance means “doing things differently from what you are doing now.”

Look again at Psalm 119, verse 59, and read:

Psalm 119:

59 I thought on my ways, [notice] and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.

This was the first step in his repentance: “…I turned my feet unto thy testimonies.” This word turned comes from the Hebrew word shuwb , which is translated by the English word convert in various verses in the Scripture. For example Psalm 19, verse 7, reminds us:

Psalm 19:

7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul…

That is actually what happened here. He was grounded in the Word of God and he began to review his ways and he computed that his relationship to God, on the basis of His Word, was not what it ought to be. So what did he do? He repented. How did he repent? He repented by turning toward the Word of God and letting the Word of God judge his life.

Sometimes when we see a person entering into a new relationship with the Lord, we wonder if they are sincere. We ask if they really mean it. Sometimes we ask ourselves the same question. I don't know why it is but so many Christian workers have fallen into the habit of thinking that if we see a tear or two, a person is more sincere than not. Sometimes we fall into the habit of thinking, “Well, we did have a little prayer together and he said he did come back to the Lord, but I don't know. He didn't cry or weep or anything, so I don't know whether he came back or not.”

Then there are other times we deal with an individual and we say that he had a wonderful experience with the Lord. He cried for five minutes. I don't know why we do that, but we do. We get mixed up sometimes with the coverings instead of the package inside. Look with me here at verse 60, as we notice another thing related to his repentance. He not only turned toward the Word of God, but in verse 60:

Psalm 119:

60 I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.

You see, he wasn't halfhearted about it. He said, “I made haste and delayed not to keep thy commandments.” This word haste does not mean that he accelerated his pace. Really, this word haste suggests another thought. It comes from the Hebrew word chuwsh , which literally translated is “to be eager with excitement.” He said, “When I computed my ways and I realized I was so far away from the Lord, I turned to His Word, and I got really excited about it. I got real eager about it. I couldn't wait to be back in fellowship with the Lord.”

Of course, this is always the thing that we like to see. He emphasized it doubly when he said, “I made haste and delayed not to keep His commandmants.” The word delayed is from the Hebrew word mahahh , which may be translated by the word question , and I rather like that. What he said was, “When I realized where I was and I knew what God's Word said, I became eager with the thought of going back to the Lord, and I didn't question anything about it.”

The reason that I want to emphasize that is that when so many of God's dear children have been out of fellowship with the Lord and they make things right, they find it difficult to believe in the forgiving power of God. They find it difficult to believe that God has really received them again, and they torture themselves with the idea of maybe not really meaning it when they turned toward Him. Maybe they didn't mean it when they acknowledged their sin. Maybe they didn't have faith enough. Maybe they weren't sincere.

I would like to remind you today that when you talk like that, you are doing an injustice to God. You are questioning His faithfulness because He says in the Word of God, “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). Beloved, if we turn toward God and then we question whether or not He has received us, we are doing an injustice toward Him. We are questioning His faithfulness.

I like the way the Paraphrased version translates these two verses. It groups the two together without indicating where one verse ends and the other verse begins. The translator says: “I thought about the wrong direction I was headed and turned around and came running back to You.”

I like that, don't you? “I thought about the wrong direction I was headed, and I turned around and came running back to you.” I wonder if some of you are heading in the wrong direction. Maybe you just started on that trail today. Maybe you headed in the wrong direction last week and you are still heading in the wrong direction. I wish you would think upon your ways. I wish you would turn around and come running back to God, for that is what the Psalmist did.

His repentance he emphasized further in verse 58, by saying:

Psalm 119:

58 I intreated thy favour with my whole heart…

There wasn't anything halfhearted about his desire. I said a bit earlier that sometimes repentance can be related to tears. Sometimes it can be related to pain. Oftentimes for individuals who are out of fellowship, it is related to pain because the severing of old connections isn't always easy. When we read here that he entreated the Lord with his whole heart, it would be good to remember that the word intreated comes from the Hebrew word chalah, which speaks of the experience a woman goes through when she travails in pain to bring a child into the world.

I leave that with you, emphasizing that we are not talking about a little prayer you find in a prayer book that the Psalmist prayed when he wanted his fellowship restored to the Lord. He was talking about something that went down deep and affected him much.

One other thing that I would emphasize to you in relation to his restoration and the sincerity of it. It is brought to our attention in verse 58. Look at it again:

Psalm 119:

58 I intreated thy favour with my whole heart: [This is what he said.] be merciful unto me according to thy word.

He didn't want God to do anything unjust. He didn't want God to do anything unrighteous. That is involved, but when you recognize that the word word here elsewhere in the Scripture is translated by the word promise , it suggests a word of encouragement for our hearts today. You see, he didn't say, “Oh, God, be merciful to me because I deserve it.” He said, “Be merciful to me because of Thy promise.”

We would like to remind you today that the true ground of our hope is not the prayers which we pray, but God's promise in His Word. You are not heard because you pray enough. You are not heard because you pray a whole lot. You are not heard because you pray a long time. You are heard because God keeps His promise. That is the only reason you are heard.

It is good to remember that because oftentimes we find our assurance based upon whether we prayed a lot or little. That has nothing to do with it. You are heard according to His promise.

The repentance of the Psalmist had yet another characteristic. It was related to a real resolve and that resolve is indicated down in verse 62:

Psalm 119:

62 At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments.

I think the reason the Psalmist said that he would get up at midnight and pray was not because there was any virtue in praying at midnight any more than there is in praying at two o'clock in the afternoon; but I think the Holy Spirit wanted to emphasize to us the resolve of the Psalmist by picking out this unusual time. You see, if the Psalmist's prayer life had been what it might have been, very possibly he would have never stumbled into that snare. Very possibly, he wouldn't have been caught up like he was. Perhaps he realized that and perhaps because he realized that, he said, “I will tell you one thing. God has accepted me into fellowship again. I have been restored, and I am making a resolution right now: I am going to be a man of prayer. I am going to rise at midnight and give thanks unto the Lord.”

I would like to ask you another question to provoke your thinking. When you have been restored to fellowship, has there been any difference? You have been out of fellowship. You have been restored. Do things look the same? I suggest to you that if you have been out of fellowship and restored, you would have to say, “No, they don't look the same. Everything looks different.” Even the people with whom you associate look different. Why, your wife looks prettier to you when you are back in fellowship after you have been out of fellowship for a while. Even the people with whom you work look better. You say, “I don't know what is wrong, but I thought old John was as mean as the devil, but, you know, he is one of the nicest fellows. I wonder what happened.”

Nothing happened to him. It happened to you. You see, there is a difference when you are out of fellowship. God says in His Word, “When a man's ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” You get along easier with people if you get along with God. The Psalmist said the same thing, for in verse 64, the restoration of the Psalmist was accompanied by all the things I have suggested, plus what I am going to term, for want of a better word, and for the sake of alliteration, plus renewal . Look at verse 64:

Psalm 119:

64 The earth, O LORD, is full of thy mercy: teach me thy statutes.

When he was out of fellowship, he didn't know for sure whether God would be merciful even to him or not, but now that he is back in fellowship, he says, “Lord, the earth is full of your mercy. The earth is full of your loving kindness. The earth is full of thy tender mercies.”

I never presume to judge the hearts of those to whom I speak. You and God alone know what is in your heart. But I would suggest to you, if you are out of fellowship, that you think on your ways and turn to God. I want you to think on your ways. Compute your place in the circumference or the very heart of one's relationship to God. If you find yourself out of fellowship, will you come back into fellowship right now?

You say, “Can I do it that quickly?” Yes, you can do it more quickly than it is even taking me the time to provoke your thinking. The very moment that you turn, you are back in fellowship. Don't continue out of fellowship with the Lord. The price isn't worth it. You need the joy of renewed fellowship.


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