Basis of Our Faith
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to Psalm 119 because that is the portion of the Word of God which we are studying together. We are going to study the portion of Psalm 119 which is introduced to us under the Hebrew letter LAMED and which begins with verse 89 and concludes with verse 96. Beginning with verse 89, we read:

Psalm 119:

89 For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.
90 Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: thou hast established the earth, and it abideth.
91 They continue [that is, the heavens and the earth]this day according to thine ordinances: for all are thy servants.
92 Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction.
93 I will never forget thy precepts: for with them thou hast quickened me.
94 I am thine, save me: for I have sought thy precepts.
95 The wicked have waited for me to destroy me: but I will consider thy testimonies.
96 I have seen an end of all perfection: but thy commandment is exceeding broad.

We have learned in our study of Psalm 119 that each one of these paragraphs presented to us under one of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet represents some basis for practical application of the Word of God in the life of the believer. As we have read the paragraph, it is evident that the basis of application in this paragraph is the faithfulness of the Word of God, for the paragraph begins with the words:

Psalm 119:

89 For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.

The basis of our faith is the Word of God. When I say, “the basis of our faith,” I am not suggesting faith as the general catalog of what we believe such as the Christian faith, though it might be included; but I am suggesting faith to our hearts as the activity, as the exercise, of our faith in relation to the things of God. The basis of the faith that we ought to exercise lies in the Word of God itself.

If you are an observant, regular listener to these messages, you will realize that we are passing over, as far as detailed comment is concerned, the paragraph which begins with verse 81 and concludes with verse 88, presented to us under the Hebrew letter CAPH . The reason we are not going to dwell upon that paragraph in detail is that it is very similar to a paragraph at which we have already looked—namely, the paragraph presented to us in verses 49-55. You will recall that in verses 49-55, we learned that the Word of God was the basis for comfort in time of distress.

We realize as we look at the paragraph beginning with verse 81 and concluding with verse 88 that we are looking at the Word of God as the basis for our confidence in times of darkness. You realize the similarity. In one paragraph, the Word of God is our basis for comfort in time of affliction. In another paragraph, the Word of God is our basis for confidence in times of darkness. The similarity between these two paragraphs will be evident if you glance at verse 50:

Psalm 119:

50 This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.

Then compare it with verse 81:

Psalm 119:

81 My soul fainteth for thy salvation: but I hope in thy word.

I repeat: The similarity of the two paragraphs does not demand that we consider the latter one in detail. However, though we will not consider it in detail, it is wise to recognize that out of the experience of darkness described in this paragraph comes the realization that the Word of God is the basis of our faith.

Glance with me at verse 81, as we read again:

Psalm 119:

81 My soul fainteth for thy salvation: but I hope in thy word.

“I'm running out of strength, LORD, but I am resting on Thy Word.” Now notice verse 82:

Psalm 119:

82 Mine eyes fail for thy word, saying, When wilt thou comfort me?

“Lord, my eyes are growing weak from looking for the promise to be fulfilled in my life. When are You going to answer my prayer? When are You going to keep your promise?”

In verse 83, he said:

Psalm 119:

83 For I am become like a bottle in the smoke; yet do I not forget thy statutes.

This has no particular meaning to us because we think of bottles in terms of glass or crockery of some sort, but the bottle that the Psalmist had in mind was made out of a goatskin. If it hung too close to the fire, it became black, darkened and cracked; and he said, “I feel that way. I am all dried out and dried up from the trials through which I am going. The darkness is more than I can stand, but I am not forgetting the Word of God.”

Then, in verse 84, he said:

Psalm 119:

84 How many are the days of thy servant? when wilt thou execute judgment on them that persecute me?

“The proud have digged pits for me which are not after thy law. Listen carefully for here is his affirmation of faith. All of thy commandments are faithful.” The word commandments , you will remember, is one of the nine, possibly ten, terms which are used to describe the Word of God in the Psalm. He said, “Lord, I may be faithless, but thy Word is faithful. Thy Word is faithful, Lord. Their very name is faithfulness.”

Someone might say to the Psalmist, “Well, that is all right for you to say, but how do you know that the Word of God is faithful?” So in the paragraph that we are going to consider somewhat in detail, the Psalmist gives his reason that he believes in the faithfulness of God's Word, why he can say, beyond all fear of contradiction, “Thy Word is faithful.”

He doesn't give this reason that I am going to suggest to you in a general way, but he does imply it by the selection of the Hebrew letter for the introduction of this paragraph. We pointed out to you when we began our discussion that the paragraphs in this Psalm are presented under the respective Hebrew letters because each sentence in the original text begins with that particular letter. For example, in the paragraph at which we are looking, beginning with verse 89, if we were reading this in the original text, we would discover that each sentence begins with a word which begins with the letter LAMED . That is one reason that the paragraphs are so introduced, but it is time for us to emphasize another truth, and that is each Hebrew letter is given a name which means something. For example, we use the letter A or the letter B, and the letter doesn't mean anything itself as such; but when we use the letter LAMED , we are using the word for experience . If we were to ask the Psalmist why he knew the Word of God was faithful, I am quite sure that he would say, “I know it because I have gone through the darkness and the Word of God was constantly by my side.”

So you see the reason we say that the faithfulness of the Word of God has grown out of the previous paragraph, but the Psalmist doesn't expect you, nor does he expect me, to rely wholly on the personal experience of another in relation to the faithfulness of the Word of God. Though experiences are certainly helpful, and you should never hesitate even in the slightest to give your experience of how God has worked in your life because it can be a great encouragement, the Psalmist doesn't expect us to depend upon his experience when he declares the faithfulness of God.

The Settled Word

He gives us several reasons in this paragraph why we can depend upon it. The first one that is brought to mind is in verse 89:

Psalm 119:

89 For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.

If we were to ask the Psalmist why he believes the Word of God is dependable, he would say, “Because it has been and will be forever settled in Heaven.” The settled Word is the reason it is dependable.

Now, look at the word forever in this paragraph. It comes from a very interesting Hebrew word, the word olam , which speaks of the point that you can see farthest in the distance. When the Psalmist wanted to tell us that the Word of God was settled in Heaven, he said, “Look out as far as you can see. The Word of God is settled forever.”

Of course, that expresses what he believed to be the meaning of the word forever —as far as you can see. That certainly is sufficient for the purposes of our discussion. What he exactly meant by the word forever he emphasized in one or two other verses in this same Psalm. Glance at verse 152, and you will hear the Psalmist saying:

Psalm 119:

152 Concerning thy testimonies, I have known of old that thou hast founded them for ever.

Then again in verse 160 we read:

Psalm 119:

160 Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.

There was no question in his mind about the fact that the Word of God was settled forever. He did not believe that God said something just for a period of time and did not intend the principle of it to be binding upon all men always.

Glance at the word settled again: “Thy Word is settled…” I remind you that it comes from the Hebrew word natsab , which means not only “established,” but means as well, “appointed and decreed.” When the Psalmist said, “The Word of God is settled,” he was not speaking of the fact that it was established and immovable, but the Word of God was uttered by appointment and by decree. That leads me to suggest to you, on the basis of what the Apostle Paul emphasizes in his letter to the Hebrews, that the Word of God was strong as the Throne of God itself because God said that when He could give assurance that He would keep His Word, He would swear by something greater than His Word, and He didn't know what it was unless it was He Himself, and so He swore by Himself.

I say to you, Beloved, that if you prove that this Bible which I hold in my hand this hour is not the Word of God, then you must prove that God Himself does not exist; and if you forgo your faith in the Word of God, then you will have to forgo your faith in God Himself, for if His Word is not true, then there is nothing true about God. You cannot separate faith in God's Word and faith in God Himself.

I would emphasize that because there are all too many people going about in our day saying that it doesn't matter whether the Word of God is the Word of God or not; God is the important one. It is how you feel about God. You don't have any basis for your feeling about God if you deny the fact that God's Word was appointed and decreed in the Heavens.

The Sustaining Word

As I suggest to you that the Word of God was appointed and decreed in Heaven, I am sure your minds are thinking about God's issuing His Word from His throne, and therefore it is settled. If you are thinking along that line, you are exactly right, for that did occur. However, as far as our immediate context is concerned, that is not what the Psalmist had in mind, as we will see as we go on a bit further; for when the Psalmist said, “Forever, O Lord, thy word is settled in Heaven,” he was saying, “Lord, thy Word is established by the very Heavens and by the very earth.” God's Word is not only the settled Word, it is the sustaining Word. The Word of God is sure because it is sustains God's creation. The Word of God is sure because it sustains God's creature. Get that fixed in your mind. The Word of God is sure because it sustains God's creation. The Word of God is sure because it sustains God's creature.

Notice in verse 90:

Psalm 119:

90 Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: thou hast established the earth, and it abideth.
91 They continue this day according to thine ordinances: for all are thy servants.
92 Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction.

We might suggest to you that the word faithfulness in verse 90 and the word word in verse 89 are used in apposition, verifying the fact that the Word of God has for another name, “the faithfulness of God.” In this paragraph at which we are looking, we see how the Word of God sustains God's creation and, in so doing, proves it's authenticity. Notice in the latter part of verse 90:

Psalm 119:

90 …thou hast established the earth, and it abideth.
91 They [the heavens and the earth] continue this day according to thine ordinances: for all [that is, all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth, all of Thy mighty, majestic creation] are thy servants [obeying Thy Word].

It is important to notice that the word abideth and the word continue come from the same Hebrew word, which suggests that the earth owes its existence, and not only its existence, but its orderly arrangement and its orderly operation, to the authenticity of the Word of God. If God's Word were not true, then when you awaken in the morning, you could find the sun rising in the west instead of in the east. If God's Word were not true, you would find the stars appearing in the daytime instead of in the nighttime. If God's Word were not true, then you would awaken to be breathing a dangerous gas instead of a life-giving element. The reason that you live securely on this globe is not due to the feats of science nor the accomplishments of men, but due to the reliability of the Word of God—that all creation obeys His Word.

Perhaps you need help accepting this, help from someone other than the Psalmist, so I am going to suggest that you turn in your Bibles to the book of Hebrews and notice two statements from this very interesting letter that will help us to see that what we are saying is true. Turn to chapter 11, the great chapter on faith, and you will notice, beginning in verse 1:

Hebrews 11:

1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.
3 [Notice verse 3 particularly.] Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

We will learn today that this word worlds may be translated “ages” as a secondary meaning, but this passage of Scripture, for the purpose of our present discussion, indicates that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, and the word worlds here includes more than our earth. Our earth plus all the other planets in space were framed by the Word of God, and this word framed suggests the idea of their being placed where they were placed and limited to that sphere of activity by the Word of the living God.

This becomes even more pointed if you turn back to Hebrews, chapter 1, and notice what the Apostle says concerning this very statement. Notice, beginning with verse 1:

Hebrews 1:

1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, [notice] by whom also he made the worlds;
3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high:

Fix your eyes upon the one statement in verse 3: “…upholding all things by the word of his power…” What things? The things which He had made. What are we learning? That the Lord Jesus Christ, by the Word of His power is upholding all things.

This word uphold comes from the Greek word phero , which means “to hold up.” There is no question about that, but it also means “to maintain something.” You see, some folk who think they know so much say that God, if He had anything to do with the creation of the world, molded the world and cast it into space; and now it is running under its own steam by its own momentum and God has nothing to do with it. Not according to the Word of God. God created this ball of mud upon which we live. He put it in its space and He is maintaining its operation by the Word of God. Beloved, it has been in operation for a long time. “If you want proof that the Word of God is true,” said the Psalmist, “then look all about you at creation and recognize that it is sustained by the Word of God.”

A verse of Scripture akin to these that we have been thinking about is found in Paul's letter to the Colossians, chapter 1, verse 17. Speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ, he said:

Colossians 1:

17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

He is before all things. The Lord Jesus Christ existed before anything was created, but by Him all things consist. This word consist , very literally translated, is “hold together.” The only reason in the world, Beloved, that you can walk on a round ball and not go dashing out into space is because the Lord Jesus Christ is holding you to this little ball of mud, for all things are held together. Scientists discovered that and called it the law of gravity , and that is all right with me for them to call it that. That is as good a name as any, but don't you think for a minute that it is an abstract law without the personality of Jesus Christ involved, because it isn't. It wouldn't be workable if it was not for His Word.

Back to Psalm 119. You say to the Psalmist, “You say the Word of God is dependable. How do you know?” He says, “Because it is settled in Heaven, and the fact that it is settled in Heaven is proven by the fact that the Word of God has sustained all of creation down to this very hour.”

If you are wondering today what the explanation is for some of the freaks of creation, if you are wondering what the explanation is for some of the so-called errors or mistakes, they are related to failures of men to obey God's Law. That's what makes the difference.

The Word of God is true and all of creation is His servant. How we wish that men could be obedient as is His creation, but the sustaining Word of God does not only prove the authenticity of the Word of God from the standpoint that it has sustained creation, but it is also proven by the fact that it has sustained His creatures, and many of you today could give testimony to that along with the Psalmist, for if you glance at verse 92, you hear him say:

Psalm 119:

92 Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction.

You see, he was talking about the darkness through which he was going and he said, “I tell you the way that I know the Word of God is true. I would have perished if the Word of God had not sustained me in my hour of trial.”

It would be wise for us to recognize that this word perish does not suggest only the idea of ceasing to exist, but it suggests the idea also of wandering. The Psalmist said, “In the midst of my afflictions, I would have wandered off and perhaps never come back if the Word of God had not sustained me.”

I do glory in the creation that is all about us. Though I have yet to view God's majestic glory in creation without being thrilled, I am glad that I can give even more definite testimony of the authenticity of the Word of God because I am one of His creatures whom it has sustained lo these fifty years. God's Word is true.

The Word of God is Scopeless

The Psalmist recognized the authenticity of the Word of God and not only because it was settled in Heaven, not only because it sustained the creature and the creation, but because the Word of God is a scopeless thing. It is settled, it is sustaining and it is scopeless. Look at verse 96 for a tremendous verse of Scripture. We read:

Psalm 119:

96 I have seen an end of all perfection: but thy commandment is exceeding broad.

What did he mean when he said, “I have seen an end of all perfection?” What he was saying is, “All things have their boundaries.” That is a very literal translation. It is a play on words really. Perfection means “completeness,” and that is the reason he said, “I have seen the boundary of every complete thing.” The word end means “boundary.” He was saying, “Take any subject that you want and if you have followed it through to completion, if you have discovered every facet of knowledge related to it, you must recognize that it has its boundaries. It can cover just so much.”

Medicine is a deep field, but it covers medicine. Zoology is a deep field, but it covers zoology. It has its boundaries and it does not include everything. “The Word of God,” said the Psalmist, “does include everything.” He expressed it by the phrase, “Thy commandment [The word commandment here refers to all of the Word of God, not just one of the Ten Commandments.] is exceeding broad.” Broad , means “large,” “wide,” “ deep”—any word that you want to use along that line to describe it. The lesson is in the word exceeding . I have pointed out to you that many Hebrew words are difficult to translate by one English word because they are picturesque words, so the translator selected the one that he felt best emphasized the truth. He selected the word exceeding here, but this word exceeding comes from the Hebrew word meod , which actually at one time was presented as a picture. Do you know what the picture was? It was of a rake that was used to rake in all the hot coals at the outer edge of the fire, so that not one coal was left off by itself. The rake was taken and everything was raked into the inside of the circle, and the Holy Spirit was pleased to take that word to say that the Word of God is scopeless in the sense that it can include everything.

Thank God today there is not a person whose need is not touched by God's Word—not one. Somebody may come along and say, “The Word of God does not apply to me.” Yes, it does. When they come along and say, “I have a problem that the Word of God has no answer for.” No, you haven't. “Thy commandment is exceeding broad. It encompasses the whole.”

The Word Should Be Studied

One last thing that I would say to you, because it will not do any good for me to repeat the words of the Psalmist and say to you that the Word of God is faithful, it is dependable, if you have never experienced its dependability. So the last thing that I want to say to you is that the Word of God is not only settled, it is not only sustaining, it is not only scopeless, but it should be studied. The Psalmist bears that testimony out in the paragraph at which we look today. Look at verse 94:

Psalm 119:

94 I am thine, save me: for I have sought thy precepts.
95 The wicked have waited for me to destroy me: but I will consider thy testimonies.

Notice the phrase, “I have sought thy precepts.” Precepts is another name for the Word of God. The word sought comes from a Hebrew word, which can be translated by our English word study . It wasn't only that he was seeking the Word of God like some of you have to hunt your Bible when you think the preacher might be coming, but he was studying the Word of God. He was seeking out its meaning. “I have sought the Word of God.” That is why he said, “I know it is dependable. I have studied it.”

The word consider comes from the Hebrew word which we have noticed several times over in our study of this Psalm, the Hebrew word biyn , which means “to distinguish,” “to separate mentally,” so when he said, “I am studying your Word,” he wasn't saying, “I pick it up and study any old thing,” but “I study with a purpose. I learn to distinguish. I learn to rightly divide the Word of Truth.” That is why he could speak with such authority that the Word of God was dependable.

Conclusion

Before you go around saying the Word of God is not dependable, you spend some time with it and find out if it is. Before you swallow hook, line and sinker some idiot's remark that the Word of God is not true, you ask him how much time he has spent with it. That makes the difference.


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