The Basis for Understanding
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Please turn in your Bibles to Psalm 119, that portion of the Word of God which we are studying together. We are going to think with you about the paragraph which begins with verse 97 and concludes with verse 104. The paragraph is introduced to us under the Hebrew letter MEM .

We have suggested to you that Psalm 119 is particularly the Psalm of the Word of God because each paragraph of the twenty-two are related to the Word of God. Each paragraph is presented to us under one of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet because in the original text, the lines in that particular paragraph begin with that particular letter, and then the letters themselves have a specific significance related to the theme of the particular paragraph at which we look. We have found each paragraph represents the basis for a practical application for the Word of God in the believer's life.

This paragraph presents the Word of God as the only basis for understanding. Follow, please, as we read:

Psalm 119:

97 O how I love thy law! it is my meditation all the day.
98 Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.
101 I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word.
102 I have not departed from thy judgments: for thou hast taught me.
103 How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.

We have considered the preceding paragraph and had presented to us the faithfulness of God's Word, the assurance that we have in our hearts that God's Word is real. One of the reasons that we noticed that the Word of God was real and dependable was given in verse 96:

Psalm 119:

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

We suggested to you that that presented to us the thought that the Word of God is scopeless. There is not anything that it does not include. It is as broad as broad can be. Therefore, we are not at all surprised to find that in the next paragraph, the Psalmist is emphasizing that the Word of God can equip him with an understanding that is second to none. He has repeatedly emphasized how he feels about the Word of God, so we are not at all surprised to hear him uttering a declaration of praise in this Psalm—a declaration of praise at the beginning and a declaration of praise at the end. In verse 97, he said:

Psalm 119:

97 O how I love thy law! it is my meditation all the day.

Then down in verse 103, he said:

Psalm 119:

103 How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

The first is a declaration of sentiment. He said, “O how I love thy law!” Love is a sentiment and if we were to examine the word for love in this particular verse, we would discover that it speaks of that love that an individual has for a very close friend.

This is a new thought in relation to the Word of God to many of us because oftentimes the Word of God has been presented to us as a sword, and it is. It is a sharp knife that can divide us asunder with a keenness that no other knife can. Sometimes the Word has been presented to us as a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces, and it is that. Sometimes the Word of God has been presented to us as a fire that burns within our very bones, and it is that; but how good it is to be so acquainted with the Word of God, to have it so very much a part of our lives that we can speak of it as a friend.

The Psalmist said: O how I love thy law!…” The word law , we have learned, is another term for the Word of God. The Psalmist said, “O how I love thy law! It is my friend.” Certainly that takes the Word of God out of the category of worship to which many people ascribe, those who say that the Word of God is exceedingly important. No, we do not worship the Word of God, but we have found, because of our acquaintance with it, a warmth of companionship that is not found with anything else.

A Declaration of Satisfaction

The Psalmist, in his praise, does not only make a declaration of sentiments, but he makes the declaration of satisfaction as well. Look again at verse 103:

Psalm 119:

103 How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

This isn't the first time that he has said something like this. If you go back to Psalm 19, you will remember that he said something that is very much akin to this, expressing how the Word of God actually satisfies his heart, for in Psalm 19, verse 9, he said:

Psalm 19:

9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

Here again the word judgments is used as another term for the Word of God. He said, “The judgments of the LORD, how important they are. They are more to be desired than gold and sweeter than honey in the honeycomb.” He said, “God's decisions are always satisfying.”

Perhaps some of you are saying, “I don't know where you are getting that word satisfaction . I don't know where you are getting the word satisfy . I don't see it in any of those verses.” When we see a word or a term used as a symbol of the Word of God or of anything else, we have to have a reason for it. Honey is used as a symbol of satisfaction in the Word of God. If you will turn to the Song of Solomon, chapter 5, you will notice that that point is emphasized. The writer of the Song of Solomon is speaking of fellowship with the one he loved in the terms:

Song of Solomon 5:

1 I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.

“Find the same satisfaction I have found and then all will be well.” There is why the Word of God provides the satisfaction of which we speak, and that is brought to our attention in the book of Proverbs, chapter 16, verse 24:

Proverbs 16:

24 Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.

The pleasant words that the wise man in the book of Proverbs had in mind were not the idle words that one friend might utter to another, but the pleasant words of the Word of God. The pleasant words of the Word of God are a satisfaction because they are sweet to the soul and they are health to the bones. The whole man is provided for.

The Provision of Understanding

I am not at all surprised to hear the Psalmist uttering this declaration of praise in view of the word provision along the lines that we suggested to you when we read the paragraph. Go back to Psalm 119 with me again as I remind you that the Word of God produces and provides many things in the believer's life. I do not know of anything any more needed in the life of the believer than the provision which is brought to our attention in this paragraph. Look at verse 104 again:

Psalm 119:

104 Through thy precepts I get understanding…

“I get understanding from the Word of God.” In verse 130, he makes it even more pointed that that understanding is related to the Word of God because he said:

Psalm 119:

130 The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.

The individual who may not know anything about ordinary things has a unique understanding because the Word of God has entered into his life in the fashion that it has.

You will recall that the deep desire of the Psalmist in Psalm 119 is that he might have this understanding. Glance at verse 27, and listen to him as he utters the request:

Psalm 119:

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

Then again in verse 34, we read:

Psalm 119:

34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.

Again in verse 73, we read:

Psalm 119:

73 Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments.

The Psalmist gives testimony that this request for understanding is answered by the time you reach the paragraph which we are considering together. Every person ought to find this deep desire for understanding that the Psalmist had, especially in the days in which we live. If ever there was a day when spiritual perception is needed, if ever there was a day when understanding, based upon the Word of God, is the need of human hearts, it is today.

You are familiar with the prophecy of the Holy Spirit concerning the day in which we live. That prophecy is recorded in Paul's first letter to Timothy, chapter 4. The very days in which we live, the Apostle Paul said would necessitate this scriptural understanding of which we speak. Notice in I Timothy, chapter 4, verses 1-2:

I Timothy 4:

1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

What is this the Spirit of God is saying? “This day in which we live some will depart from the faith giving heed to seducing spirits and to doctrines of demons.”

Some may say, “But why do intelligent people fall for that sort of thing?” The answer is that they do not have the discernment, they do not have the understanding, to obey the scriptural injunction in I John, chapter 4, verse 1, where we are told:

I John 4:

1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

Many false prophets are abroad today. Many spirits are speaking through many different channels, and believers need to have the understanding of which I speak, that they might be able to try the spirits, that they might be able to discern them and know whether they be of God.

As you go back to Psalm 119, may I remind you that this word understanding , which we have had in our study before, comes from the Hebrew word biyn, which means “to distinguish,” “to separate mentally,” so when the Psalmist is saying, “Give me understanding,” he is saying, “Lord, give me that ability to distinguish between things. Give me that ability to separate in my mind that which needs my attention and that which is unworthy of my attention.”

In the paragraph which we have before us, we hear him giving testimony of the Word's provision along this line, for he mentions that the Word of God has provided understanding for him in three specific areas which he emphasizes by way of comparison. He says that understanding has been provided in the realm of his enemy; understanding is provided for him in the realm of education; understanding is provided for him in the realm of experience. Look at verse 98, as he said:

Psalm 119:

98 Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies…

The spiritual man has a great many enemies, and they are always about to trip him up and bring about his downfall. If you have not already learned, you will learn that you are no match for them in your own strength because the weapons you usually use are carnal weapons, fleshly weapons, material weapons, and they do not affect these enemies that are constantly about you. That is why the Spirit of God reminded us that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the bringing down of strongholds. When you learn the Word, it teaches you that you can't fight your enemies the way unsaved people fight one another; but you can have an experience of understanding through the Word of God that will make you wiser than they are; and you will be able to defeat them, not by getting even in the ordinary way, but by using the tremendous weapon God has placed in your hand known as all prayer . When the Word of God makes this clear to you and you learn to handle your enemies in this fashion, you will have won the victory. You will learn from the Word of God something that your enemies don't know. You will learn that when your ways please the Lord, God is able to make even your enemies be at peace with you.

They don't know why suddenly they have no more desire to fight you. They don't know why suddenly they decided to leave you alone. One of the reasons is that you have learned from the Word of God that when you are in fellowship with Him, they might as well let you alone because they are not going to get anywhere any how. Pursue that thought in your own private meditation and realize how much wiser you can be than your enemies.

Understanding the Realm of Education

Glance at verse 99:

Psalm 119:

99 I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.

I said this is in the realm of education, but be careful how you read the verse in the light of my making that statement. I did not say that you have any right to say, “I have more education than all of my teachers.” You young people in particular, in the course of your preparation for life, in all probability will be taught by individuals who have more education than you have at the moment, and perhaps more education than you will ever have the time to attain. For whatever reason, that may be and you should always have open ears to profit by what others have learned, but then you should be very much on your guard. You should recognize that you as a believer, familiar with the Word of God, have more understanding than the most educated teacher under whom you will sit if that educated teacher is not familiar with the Word of God.

I would emphasize that today because since many folk are bowing down at the shrine of intellectualism, it is thought that because a person is well educated, every pronouncement that he makes is something that should be believed and followed. We would remind you that a well-educated person is an authority only in the field in which he is educated, and you do not need to believe everything that he says just because he has an education.

On the other hand, he may not be an authority in which he is educated if he is not a child of God familiar with the Word of God. If you are, then you have more understanding than any teacher under whom you will ever sit. That does not mean that you should ever be smart-alecky and flaunt your spiritual progress. It does mean that you can sit with perfect aplomb under the tutelage of any individual who may be saying everything in the world that you know to be false. You can say to yourself, “You may think that is true, but I know better. I know what the Word of God has to say.” Anchored deep in the Word of God, you can weather any storm of heresy through which you might be called upon to go. The secret is not to hide yourself away from such things as that, but to hide the Word of God in your heart so that the understanding related to the Word of God will be your protector, and you will be able to ride through any wave of doubt or criticism you may hear.

Understanding the Realm of Experience

Look at verse 100, as I suggest to you that the Word of God provides for understanding in another realm, for there we hear the Psalmist say:

Psalm 119:

100 I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.

It would be better to change the word ancient to elder ly people or experienced people because that is what the word actually means. There is every reason to believe that the Psalmist who wrote Psalm 119 was a young man. Is this egotism when he declares, is it boasting when he declares, “I know more than old people know.”? If some young people said that, it would be foolishness. If some young people said that, it would be sheer smart-alecness and nothing else, but he isn't being a smart-alec and he isn't boasting, and he isn't drawing attention to himself. He simply said, “Because of my companionship with the Word of God, I have more understanding than some people who have lived a long time.”

I revere age because the Bible does. “The hoary head,” the Bible said, “is a crown of gold,” and it grieves me very, very much to see the light way in which older people are treated, shoved off as if they were of no more value to anybody. Profit from every elder person with whom you come in contact. Rever them; offer them the respect which is their due; but if that elderly person should not know the Lord Jesus Christ, do not assume that because they have lived longer than you, they can know more than you do in relation to spiritual things. It doesn't necessarily follow, for if you have the Word of God, then you have more understanding than your elders if your elders have not embued themselves with the Word of God in its fullness.

This is God's provision. You do not need to go about, as in Psalm 32 the Psalmist said he hoped he never would, as a mule or a horse who needed a bridle because he was without understanding. You know, God does have to place bits and bridles in the mouth of many Christians because they haven't spent enough time with the Word of God and they are as stubborn as an ass, and the only way that God can do anything with them is to put the bit in their mouths and pull on the rein.

The Realm of the Heart

It isn't necessary. God will give you the understanding that you need so that you don't have to be controlled in that fashion, if you follow the practice of the Psalmist, and this is the last thing I want to share with you today. You remember that the Lord Jesus Christ said in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 22, verse 37 that if you loved Him, He wanted you to love Him with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind. He wanted you to love Him with all of you, and when the Psalmist is speaking of the Word of God providing this understanding in his life, he said: “It has provided me with this understanding because I have incorporated the Word of God into every phase of my being. I have considered the Word of God as it is related to my heart. I have considered the Word of God as it is related to my soul. I have considered the Word of God as it is related my mind.”

A great many believers are rather lopsided on the subject. They don't deal with the Word of God in relation to the whole man. It is only partial with some, but not with the Psalmist. Look at verse 100, as we hear the Psalmist say:

Psalm 119:

100 I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.

Notice the phrase: “…I keep thy precepts.” This is the realm of the heart because the heart, in the passage of Scripture to which I have already referred, is in the realm of the will. He said, “I keep thy precepts.” He willed to obey the Word of God, and if you will notice in verse 102, he said:

Psalm 119:

102 I have not departed from thy judgments: for thou hast taught me.

“I keep the Word of God, and I have not departed from the Word of God.” Don't think for a moment that he didn't have plenty of opportunity to depart, and don't think for a moment that it wasn't difficult for him to keep the Word of God, but he made a resolution that he would not depart from God's Word, no matter what. He emphasizes that in verse 101, when he said:

Psalm 119:

101 I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word.

“I am so determined to keep the Word of God that I am holding back my feet from every evil way.” Much could be said about this. The reason many of us find it difficult to keep the Word of God is that we are keeping the wrong company, and the Psalmist said, “I am not going to keep the wrong company because I am going to keep the Word of God.”

The reason some of us find it difficult to keep the Word of God is that we enter into the wrong kind of contract, business and socially. The Psalmist said, “I am not going to do that. I am refraining my feet from every evil way.” Pursue that thought. Much could be said about it.

The Realm of the Soul

Notice verse 97, where the Psalmist is dealing with the soul because the soul is the seat of the emotions. In verse 97, he said:

Psalm 119:

97 O how I love thy law! [notice] it is my meditation all the day.

Then down in verse 99 we read:

Psalm 119:

99 I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.

We have examined this word meditation in other sessions, and you will recall it is related to prayer, related to thinking upon the Word of God; and we find in the realm of the soul that which is spiritual, that which is related to spiritual growth, the soul for which Christ died, the soul that is eternal. He cultivates it by using the Word of God for meditation and spending time with the Word.

I do not ask you a question to which I expect an audible answer, but I do ask you a question that I trust the Holy Spirit will minister to your hearts, and that is, how much time do you spend with the Word of God? Someday chart your day, not with any special aim in mind, just chart it the way you have always lived it, and notice how much time you spend with the radio, how much time you spend with television, how much time you spend with secular reading. Be honest and put down how much time you spend with the Word and that which is related to it. You will be amazed at the little amount of time you spend, and then you need not be surprised at the course that your appetites take. If you are constantly feeding upon certain things, there is no reason why you wouldn't love those things. The reason the Psalmist loved the Word was because he cultivated his soul in relation to the Word.

The Realm of the Mind

One last thing is the area of the mind, for the Lord Jesus Christ said, “If you love Me, I don't want any half-love. I want you to love Me with your whole spirit, soul and mind.” Likewise, if the Word of God is to provide the understanding of which we speak, then it must be the full-orbed man who participates in the Word. Look at verse 98. He said:

Psalm 119:

98 Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me.

This phrase, “…for they are ever with me,” is not referring to his enemies. Of course, it could have been because it does look like our enemies are always with us, but that is not what he is talking about. He was talking about the Word of God always in his mind.

What do you think about when you don't have any special problem on your mind, you don't have any special burden, you don't have any special pressing thing that demands your attention. What goes through your mind? Are you thinking about the latest television show that you saw, and saying to yourself, “If I had been that fellow, I would have done it this way. If I had done it that way, it wouldn't have happened this way.”? Don't tell me you don't do that. If you spend very much time before the tube, you know you do. You find any number of ways of figuring out what is going to happen in the next installment of the drama at which you looked.

What a difference it would make in our lives if when we had those periods of idle time mentally, the thing that would go through our minds would be some precious promise from the Word of God. Then we would be exercising our minds in the manner that would indicate that the Word of God indeed was our constant companion. Look down at verse 104:

Psalm 119:

104 Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.

Here is an area of the mind which needs to be developed on the part of every Christian. So few of us have any principles. Did you realize that? So few of us have any principles. To most of us, it is all right as long as we don't get caught, whatever it is. Oh, I am not talking about some great, big sin. I am not talking about some social thing that all society frowns upon, but I am talking about those areas which need a sad improvement on the part of Christians. We are so, so neglectful in relation to that which is completely honest. What did the Psalmist say? “Because the Word of God has occupied my mind, I have reached the place where I hate everything that is false. I have reached the place where I feel strongly about that which is not true.”

Conclusion

How many of us do? You have the answer, and perhaps as you measure your intensity of feeling in relation to that which is false, your tolerance of that which is false, your seeming unconcern about that which is false, you will have an indication as to how much the Word of God is a part of your life. It will give you understanding if you will permit it to.


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