The Power of Prayer
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles to Psalm 119. We are discussing this psalm, which is particularly the Psalm of the Word of God. We have discovered that every paragraph in Psalm 119 portrays some practical application of the Word of God to the believer's life.

Today we come to the paragraph which begins with verse 121 and is introduced to us by the Hebrew letter AIN . As you look at that Hebrew letter, may I remind you that it has a significance; it has a meaning. It means “to look with displeasure on what is happening.” We have suggested to you in many instances the paragraphs in this song are introduced by the letter that indicates the theme. The letter is placed where it is because in the Hebrew text, each line begins with that particular letter. I think we will be able to see in this paragraph why this letter was chosen, particularly if we notice the theme verse of the paragraph, which is verse 126:

Psalm 119:

126 It is time for thee, LORD, to work: for they have made void thy law.

Let me emphasize those words again because I want you to keep them fixed firmly in your mind as we read the paragraph in a second or two. Notice again:

Psalm 119:

126 It is time for thee, LORD, to work: for they have made void thy law.

Now read with me the paragraph which begins with verse 121:

Psalm 119:

121 I have done judgment and justice: leave me not to mine oppressors.
122 Be surety for thy servant for good: let not the proud oppress me.
123 Mine eyes fail for thy salvation, and for the word of thy righteousness.
124 Deal with thy servant according unto thy mercy, and teach me thy statutes.
125 I am thy servant; give me understanding, that I may know thy testimonies.
126 It is time for thee, LORD, to work: for they have made void thy law.
127 Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold.
128 Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.

I have said to you from time to time how that, in the providence of God, in a series the particular portion under discussion fits an immediate need. Oftentimes you have told me that. Oftentimes you have said, “This message this day was the very thing that I needed.” We are grateful for that, and I feel that way today because I believe if there was ever a time when the law has been made void, it is today. I believe if there was ever a time that God needs to work, it is today; and I believe that, in the providence of God, this paragraph is offered for our meditation that we might know exactly how we ought to feel in the light of the Word of God.

The Law Made Void

As we meditate together in the paragraph today, let me suggest that we notice the circumstances in which this particular Psalm is presented. We have emphasized it several times over already because we want you to get it. But we want you to look at it in detail. So as you look at verse 126, notice the phrase, “…they have made void thy law.” Let me suggest to you that the phrase, “made void,” comes from the Hebrew word parar , which speaks of an intent to defeat.

People who believe in the Word of God and the statues of righteousness are defeated in this hour in which we live because men have made void the law of God, by defeating its proper intent and purpose. If we had the time, we could turn to II Samuel, chapter 15, and in verse 34, we would read this word parar , translated by the English word defeat . Here in Psalm 119, it is, “made void.”

What do you mean by making void the law of God? Defeating its intent and its purpose, for in II Samuel, there is recorded the story of how one man said to another man, “Don't stay here with me. You can't do anything to help me at all, but you get into a place of leadership. You infiltrate into a place of authority, and then you will do me good because you will be able to defeat the purpose of the man who is supposed to be trusting you at this particular time.”

The circumstances in which this passage of Scripture came into being was a circumstance of defeatism on the part of those who stood for what was right, and if you will glance at verse 128, amplifying what I just said, there is recorded in the last part of the verse the words of the psalmist, “I hate every false way,” because it was not only a day of defeatism, it was a day of deceitfulness as well, for men on every hand were engaged in devious ways to accomplish their purposes, so that false ways became absolutely obnoxious to right thinking people.

Personal Condition of the Psalmist

The Psalmist looked upon the day in which he lived from a very personal standpoint and spoke of his own personal convictions. No thinking person can live in the day in which we live without being involved personally in things which are going on. As we examine the personal condition of the psalmist, may I suggest that you look at verse 121, where the Psalmist said:

Psalm 119:

121 I have done judgment and justice: leave me not to mine oppressors.

He was addressing God when he said in verse 122:

Psalm 119:

122 Be surety for thy servant for good: let not the proud oppress me.

Notice the words oppressors and oppress . That is exactly how he felt. He felt oppressed. He felt that he had done everything that was right in accordance with the Word of God and it looked as if it did not pay off. He was oppressed. He felt like men on every side had greater strength than he. This was not physical primarily, but it represented to him a relationship of feeling that he was defrauded of his rights through the false evaluations of things because if you will notice the word oppressed again, it comes from the Hebrew word ashaq , which means literally “to defraud.”

In Leviticus, chapter 6, verses 2 and 4, the very thing that God ruled against is the defrauding of one another of that which is their right. You may be thinking that I am lining myself up with individuals who believe that the minority has been defrauded of their rights. I refuse to line up with those individuals because I believe that in the present tenure of things and the present trend of things, it is not the minority that is being defrauded of their rights. I believe that the devil is back of all that is happening in defrauding all men of their rights because it is not a matter of defrauding some and giving to others; it is a matter of robbing all who stand on what is the Word of God.

In verse 123, the psalmist felt not only defrauded, not only depressed, but he felt discouraged to the point of giving up because in verse 123, he said:

Psalm 119:

123 Mine eyes fail for thy salvation, and for the word of thy righteousness.

We have pointed out to you before that when you find the word salvation in the Scripture, it does not always refer to the salvation of the soul. Sometimes the word salvation simply means “deliverance.” The Psalmist said, “In these circumstances of uncertainty, in this hour when I feel oppressed, this hour when I am depressed, I am depressed because my eyes are failing for looking for the deliverance for which I have longed and for which I have prayed.” It was just as though the psalmist was saying, “I'm tired. I'm tired of praying. I am tired of waiting. Oh God, when are you going to do something in relation to the Word of Thy righteousness?”

Perhaps you are among the number who have been burdened and disturbed about the sad condition existing in our world today. Perhaps you have spent time in prayer. Perhaps you have, like the psalmist, said, “My eyes fail for looking up.” Your eyes may grow tired with looking, but keep on looking, for the victory is available.

You may be, like the psalmist, a step further in the morass of despair, not only oppressed, not only depressed, but for want of a better term, nonplused, perplexed, not being able to understand the way things are going as they are going, for the psalmist was baffled out of all reason by the actions of men. He indicates that by what he says in verse 125:

Psalm 119:

125 I am thy servant; give me understanding, that I may know thy testimonies.

“Lord, I know that You are on the throne. I know that You are arranging things, but I do not understand. Lord, I am perplexed as to why things are going like they are going. I don't know what to do. Give me understanding that I might know.”

I think of another desire on the part of another individual for an understanding of the times. He was a ruler who needed help, and he prayed that God would surround him with people who would be of help to him. God began to make a list of the people with whom He would surround him, and in I Chronicles, chapter 12, verse 32, He said, “I am going to give you a certain group of people who will have an understanding of the times to know what to do.”

Beloved that is what we need. We need to have an understanding of the times to know what to do. The psalmist was oppressed. He was depressed. He was nonplused, and I am quite sure that some people would have said about him as some people say about me, that the psalmist was obsessed with the Word of God.

The Psalmist's Obsession with the Word

An individual said to me, “The Word of God has become an obsession with you. Everything you say or do, you try to relate it to the Word of God, and that is carrying things too far.” The psalmist did not think so. He was obsessed with the Word of God as was indicated in verse 127:

Psalm 119:

127 Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold.

Notice the word therefore . Why does he love the Word of God above fine gold? Because he knew that in the midst of all the perplexity about him, God was still in control of things. In verse 128, he emphasized the same thing, saying:

Psalm 119:

128 Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.

“I esteem Thy Word to be right about everything, not about some things.” I believe the Word of God says that all precepts of God are to be honored. I believe it is time for us to recognize what David recognized when he said, “I esteem all thy precepts to be right. I esteem all thy Word to be true, and I hate every false word.”

Because the psalmist was obsessed with the Word of God, he did what every individual ought to do, and as far as I am concerned, it is the only sure thing to do. He cried out to God, for the cry of the psalmist is evident in this passage of Scripture today, and I would suggest that if you are perplexed, if you are nonplused, if you do not know what to do, here is one thing you can do. You can pray because God said the psalmist did.

The Psalmist's Petitions

Notice in the paragraph again verse 121:

Psalm 119:

121 I have done judgment and justice: leave me not to mine oppressors.

This was the cry that he uttered to God: “God, don't leave me. Don't leave me in the hands of men who are defrauding me of everything that is right.” This word leave is an interesting word because it comes from the Hebrew word yaniym , which elsewhere in the Old Testament is translated by the word slumber . As a matter of fact, in Psalm 121, verse 3, the promise is given:

Psalm 121:

3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

What the psalmist was saying—and I say this reverently—was, “God, don't go to sleep at the switch.” I say this reverently, Beloved: Sometimes we wonder if that isn't true. We wonder if God hasn't gone to sleep at the switch. We wonder if He isn't forgetting what is going on down here, and the psalmist said, “God, don't leave me. Don't go to sleep at the switch.” Then he made another petition. In verse 122, he said:

Psalm 119:

122 Be surety for thy servant for good: let not the proud oppress me.

“Lord, You be my guarantee.” This word surety comes from the Hebrew word arab , which means “to intermix and to intermingle.” He was saying, “Lord, get involved with me. Here I am in the midst of a world that has no respect for law and order, no matter how much they mouth the phrase, and I cannot stay here by myself. You must be involved with me.”

Notice verse 124. This is the thing that we must not forget because all too often we can become so imbued with our own idea of what is right, we can become so imbued with how wrong everybody else is, that we put ourselves in the position of demanding that God be on our side instead of finding out where God is and getting where He is, so it is wise for us to remember what is recorded here in this verse of Scripture where the Psalmist said:

Psalm 119:

124 Deal with thy servant according unto thy mercy, and teach me thy statutes.

Beloved, if this land of ours needs anything at all today, it needs the mercy of God. We have not even done as much as the Psalmist has done, where we can say, “Lord, I have done what is right, so help me.” All we can do is say, “God, have mercy upon us.”

I want to say to you that if God does not have mercy upon us, you can expect this nation of ours to be bathed in blood, and it breaks my heart to think about it. There is a way out. The way out is prayer. Do anything else you want to do that your conviction will permit you to do, but for God's sake, don't forget to pray, for that is the thing that is needed, and that prayer can grow out of as firm a conviction as the Psalmist had, for the conviction of the Psalmist is evident in the key verse of the paragraph which I have already emphasized. Look at verse 126, again:

Psalm 119:

126 It is time for thee, LORD, to work: for they have made void thy law.

Not the laws of men, but the law of God. Men have made void the principles of justice. Because I am a minister of the Gospel, I must say this. As you know, those of you who know me know that I do not platform. I do not go around speaking in relation to this and speaking in relation to that because I believe my ministry is the Word of God; but when I am involved unwillingly in something, I must stand up and say, “Don't count me in with that crowd.”

I am amazed at the action of the ministers of the Word of God, so called, in this hour of uncertainty, and I do not want to be classed among them. I do not want to be regarded with ministers of the ilk who marched upon the mayor of Memphis, Tennessee, and shook fingers in his face and said, “It doesn't matter if you have to violate a law; you give those garbage strikers what they are asking for. It doesn't matter whether you violate a law or not.”

Conclusion

I say to you, Beloved, on the authority of God's Word, that all of God's precepts are true, and it is not right to violate one law to fulfill the demands of another. I refuse to be classed with those who make void the law of God, but I have the firm conviction that the Psalmist had when he looked up into the face of God and said, “God, it is time for thee to work. They have made void thy law,” because I believe all of the Word of God.

I believe that God is dealing with men on the basis of ages, and I believe this age is coming to a close. I recognize that certain things are going to have to be, whether I like them or not, but I can see God working in the midst of them. It is an interesting thing to my own heart to recognize that the word time , in this passage of Scripture, comes from the Hebrew word eth , which is translated “eventide.” It isn't just any time, but it is the eventide.

Time has about run out. It is as though the Psalmist said, “Oh God, the evening of the age is here. Time is almost gone. You must work,” and I say that, Beloved, if I did not have conviction in my own heart that we are dwelling in the eventide of the age, I might lose my head and become prey to unguarded emotions that make you deny even the very principles that you think you are upholding. God help us in the eventide of this age, and let us pray that God will work.


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