The Basis of Wisdom
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to Psalm 119. We have discovered in our study of Psalm 119 that it is particularly the Psalm of the Word of God; that is, it is dedicated to a discussion of the Word of God. We have found that each of the twenty-two paragraphs in the Psalm present some particular application of the Word of God to the believer's life.

We have noticed in our study of the Psalm that each paragraph is introduced by a strange looking symbol and a foreign looking word. That strange looking symbol is a letter in the Hebrew alphabet, and the word alongside of it is the name of that letter.

We have found a twofold significance in relation to that. One is that in the original text, each line in that particular paragraph, begins with that particular letter; but in most cases, we have found an even more significant thing, and that is that the name of the Hebrew letter suggests the theme of the paragraph which we will be discussing.

Today we are going to discuss the paragraph which is introduced to us with verse 129, under the Hebrew letter PE , which means “mouth, an open mouth, a mouth that is open, ready to receive something that it is really going to enjoy.” That leads me to suggest that you look at verse 131, which is the theme of the entire paragraph:

Psalm 119:

131 I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for thy commandments.

The word pe , which you find at the beginning of the paragraph, is the Hebrew word which is translated by the English word mouth, which you find in verse 131. The Psalmist was expressing a deep desire for the Word of God because of what it would do for him.

I am going to suggest to you what he says it will do, and then we will notice it as we go along. He says it will throw a light on the inside so you will know what is actually needed. As I suggest that to you, if you are thinking, you may say, “Isn't there something else in this Psalm about the Word of God's being light?”

Yes, there is. Look back at verse 105 and you will read the words:

Psalm 119:

105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

You say, “Is the Psalmist repeating himself? Is he saying something over again?” No, he is talking about two different things. In verse 105, he says: “The Word of God spreads the light, shines the light, on an exterior path,” but in the paragraph at which we are looking, he says, “The Word of God is a light to light up the inside, not the outside.” A lot of folk have no trouble with light on the outside, but they do have trouble with light on the inside. That is why the Lord Jesus Christ found it necessary to say to a group of people, “You are white as sepulchers. On the outside, you are painted pretty; but on the inside, you are full of dead men's bones.”

Let's read the paragraph, beginning with verse 129:

Psalm 119:

129 Thy testimonies are wonderful: therefore doth my soul keep them.
130 The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.
131 I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for thy commandments.
132 Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name.
133 Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.
134 Deliver me from the oppression of man: so will I keep thy precepts.
135 Make thy face to shine upon thy servant; and teach me thy statutes.
136 Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law.

The Word of God is a Miracle

As we examine the paragraph, let me suggest to you that it begins with an exclamation of the Psalmist related to the Word of God, and that exclamation is found in verse 129. Look at it again:

Psalm 119:

129 Thy testimonies are wonderful…

That is a real exclamation coming from the heart of an individual who is familiar with the Word of God, for the word testimonies here is just another word for the Word of God. Listen to him as he exclaims: “Oh God, your Word is wonderful.” Any person who has been very closely associated with the Word can join him in that exclamation.

What did he mean when he said, “Your Word is wonderful.”? It might help us if we kept in mind that the English word wonderful is a translation of the Hebrew word pele , which is translated other places in the Bible by the word miracle , so you see he was not just speaking empty words. He said, “Lord, thy Word is a miracle. Thy Word has a miraculous effect and a miraculous influence.”

I can't help but recognize that this word wonderful , coming from the Hebrew word pele , is the very same word Isaiah used when he was talking about the Lord Jesus Christ. He said in Isaiah, chapter 9, verse 6:

Isaiah 9:

6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

“His name shall be called Wonderful. His name shall be called Miracle.” I don't need to emphasize to you that our Lord Jesus Christ, while He was upon this earth, was a miracle-working Christ. The interesting thing to me is that the Spirit of God would relate the written Word to the Living Word. I remind you today that what miracles are wrought in our age will be wrought on the basis of the Word of God, for it in itself is a miracle, and Isaiah emphasized that fact in the prophecy that bears his name in chapter 25, verse 1, when he said:

Isaiah 25:

1 O Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.

The word wonderful here is the very same word. “Oh God, thou hast done miraculous things. Thy Word is wonderful,” declared the Psalmist.

Go back to Psalm 119, as I suggest to you that one of the miracles about which the Psalmist exclaimed in relation to the Word of God was the effect of the Word of God through entrance into his life, for if you will look at verse 130, he said:

Psalm 119:

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

There was a time when the Word of God entered the life of the Psalmist. The author of Psalm 119, in all probability, was Ezra. You will remember that Ezra was the man who completed the Old Testament in the form that we have it today. He was the one who gathered all the separate books and put them together in the form that we have today. There was a time when the Word of God was hidden; nobody knew where it was. They found it under a lot of dust and rubble in the Temple. Perhaps Ezra had that in mind when he said, “The entrance of thy words giveth light.” There was a time when the Word of God entered his life. There was a time when the Word of God entered my life, and when it entered my life, it changed my whole method of preaching. There was a time when the Word of God entered your life, and when it did, it changed your whole approach to spiritual things.

Opening of the Word Gives Life

There is an ample lesson related to that comment in relation to the words, “The entrance of thy words giveth light,” but really the basic meaning of the word is not exactly that, for this word entrance comes from the Hebrew word pethach , which is translated by the word open , so you might read this verse: “The opening of Thy Word giveth light.”

You could carry a little New Testament around in your pocket with you for the rest of your days and still be as ignorant of spiritual things as many people are now, or you could buy a real pretty Bible with a pretty cover and put it on the coffee table in your living room or in your den and still be horribly ignorant. It isn't the presence of the Word; it is the opening of the Word that gives light.

In the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 28, verse 12, God used this very word when He said to the nation of Israel, concerning the Word of God, “I am going to open up My good treasures for you.” Isn't it refreshing when you are able to go to church and have the Word opened to you so that you can enjoy what the Word of God actually says? Isn't it good when you are able to get alone with the Lord and your Bible and the Holy Spirit and let the Holy Spirit open the Word to you? It is then that the Word gives light.

This word that we are thinking about at the moment is not only translated by the word open , but it is translated by the word plow . If you are going to get what you need out of the Word of God, you are going to have to do a little plowing in it. You are going to have to dig it up and dig it out. You are going to have to tear it out, so to speak. This business of thinking that all you have to do is be in contact with it isn't going to work. It needs to be dug out so that you can enjoy what there is in it.

This word that is translated open and plow is also translated by our English word disclose , so what is it that Ezra was saying? He is saying, “The disclosing of Thy Word gives light.” Oh, Friend, that is what we need today—the opening of the Word of God so that it will give light in our lives.

Effect of the Word

I said that the Psalmist was exclaiming concerning the miraculous power of the Word because when it did enter his life, it had a very definite effect in his life, and I would like for us to think for a moment about the effect that it had. What effect did the Word of God have on Ezra? What effect does it have on you?

I love this first effect that is mentioned. We have already read the verse. We said that it was the key verse of the entire paragraph and it is. It is verse 131. Let me suggest to you that when the Word of God was opened up to Ezra, it created in him a spirit of excitement. He said:

Psalm 119:

131 I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for thy commandments.

This phrase, “opened my mouth, and panted,” is a phrase often used in the Orient to describe an individual who couldn't wait to get what was there for him. He was just out of breath, so anxious to have it all. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we all felt that way about the Word of God? You wouldn't need any programs to get people out to church.

Permit another portion of a conversation that I had with a preacher who had never heard of the Bible Church, as far as what it does is concerned. He asked questions about it and then he said, “What do you do to keep folk coming? If you don't have this and you don't have that, what do you do to keep them coming?” I said, “Nothing. We don't offer anything but the Word of God.” He said, “You mean it keeps them coming?” I said, “Well, it keeps some of them coming. I don't know that it keeps all of them coming, but it keeps some of them coming.”

Why did I say that and why am I using this illustration? To emphasize to you, Beloved, that some of you have an open mind and pant after the Word of God; and I would love for everybody to do that—to be excited about it, to get a thrill out of it. You know, you will not ever do that by reading a chapter a day because you feel like you have to. You will never do that. The only way that you will ever get real excitement out of the Word of God is for the Holy Spirit to open the Word of God to you and let it shine into your inner life. When it does that, it will have another effect on you.

A Spirit of Earnestness

Let me suggest that we notice the effect that it had on the Psalmist. It not only created a spirit of excitement, but it created a spirit of earnestness—a spirit of earnestness as seen in connection with himself and a spirit of earnestness as seen in his connection with others. When the Word of God was opened to the Psalmist and it illuminated his inner life, it created in him a concern for himself that was evidenced in a number of ways.

First, in verse 132, when the Word was opened, it shined into his heart. He found himself crying out for mercy. Look at verse 132:

Psalm 119:

132 Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name.

And the phrase, “as thou usest to do,” is another way of expressing “as is always the custom.” He was saying, “Lord, look thou upon me and be merciful unto me as is your custom.”

Judgment, the Bible tells us, is a strange work with God, but His mercy is a thing that continues on and on and on. Are you listening? When the Word of God turns its light into your inner life, you will find a cry in your heart for mercy because you will find you are not the lovely person that you try to make people think you are, not the lovely person you would like to convince yourself you are, but you will find yourself a sinner who needs the grace of God. Any person who has had the Word of God shining into his inner life ceases to talk about deeds and begins to talk about mercy. He ceases to talk about how great he is; he knows how bad he is. He ceases to talk about whether he by his own deeds is going to be accepted in Heaven, and he recognizes that unless somebody intervenes, he will go to Hell. This is what the Word of God will do. If it shines into your inner life, there will be a deep desire for mercy on your part; but look at the first part of verse 133, and you will see another effect that the Word of God had on the Psalmist, for there he said:

Psalm 119:

133 Order my steps in thy word…

Once the Word of God is opened and its inner light begins to shine into your life, you realize how very little you know. You realize how dangerous the road is you are traveling, and you cry out to God, “Order my steps, Lord.” I know you will say what Jeremiah said: “It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps,” and you will say, “Lord, I can't move another moment unless You order my steps.”

God loves to do that. James said that nobody should say that today and tomorrow they are going into such and such a city and buy and sell and get gain; rather, they should say, “if the Lord will.” Once the Word of God shines into your heart, you quit making decisions on your own. Once the Word of God shines into your heart, you quit making snap judgments. If anybody wants to know what you are going to do about something, if the Word has shined into your heart, you will have to say to them, “I don't know right now. I will have to let you know later.” If they know what you are talking about, you can say, “I will have to pray about it;” but if they don't know what you are talking about, you might as well keep quiet because they will think you are nuts and you won't have any influence or testimony with them. If you tell them, “I can't tell you right now, but I will later,” and they say, “Why can't you tell me right now,” then you have an opportunity for testimony. The Psalmist said, “Lord, order my steps.”

This word order comes from the Hebrew word kuwn , which elsewhere is translated by the word established . As a matter of fact, in this very Psalm, if you will glance back at verse 90, you will see:

Psalm 119:

90 Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: thou hast established the earth, and it abideth.

The word establish and the word order both come from this same Hebrew word kuwn , so when Ezra was saying, “Lord, order my steps,” he could just as well have been saying, “Lord, establish my steps.”

Do you have trouble walking straight? Do you waver when you walk? Maybe you haven't, but I have; and I am so glad that when the road is rough and the trail uncertain, on the basis of the Word of God, I can bow my head and my heart before the Lord, and say, “Lord, order my steps. Don't only show me the right direction, but establish my steps. I have weak ankles, Lord. I have a tendency to turn my ankle every now and then. I have a tendency to stumble and fall, so establish my steps.”

The Lord always does because He has given a precious promise that is found in Psalm 37, verses 23-24, in which this same word order is used. There David said:

Psalm 37:

23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.
24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.

Though he stumbles, he will not fall clear down to the ground. Why not? Because the Lord will hold him up. This, Beloved, is a desire that comes when the Word of God really shines in the innermost parts of your life.

Look at the second part of verse 133:

Psalm 119:

133 Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.

Ah, Friend, when the Word of God shines into your life, you not only recognize a need for mercy, but you find another prayer coming out of your heart. You see, that is why the Word is so important. It isn't that you just accumulate as much knowledge of the Word as you can, but the Word ought to drive you to your knees. If you don't find yourself on your knees when you come across truth in the Word of God, then you are getting a head knowledge of it and not a heart knowledge of it. The Psalmist said, “When the Word of God shined in my heart, I found another desire. I found another concern, and I expressed it this way: Lord, don't let iniquity have dominion over me.”

Let me ask you something. Don't you get awfully tired of sinning? I do. I get tired of sinning. You say, “I thought you were a Christian. Oh, you are one of those folk who believe you can sin all you want to and still go to Heaven.”

No, I am one of those people who believes that I sin more than I want to, and I know I'm going to Heaven. There is a big difference. Yes, I find myself saying, “Lord, don't let this sin have dominion over me.” I do not pray a defeated prayer because I rest on the promise of the Word of God that sin shall not have dominion over me; but the more the light shines in my heart, I find myself saying, “Lord, give me the victory.” I have discovered that God does not want me, as a Christian, to live a defeated Christian life. He wants me to be victorious, and He reminds me in His Word that I can, for if I walk in the Spirit, then I shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. He reminds me that it is my responsibility to be continuously controlled by the Holy Spirit day by day that this very thing about which I am praying will become a reality.

Look down at verse 134. He is still concerned about himself because the Word of God has been shining into his life and so he prays about something else. In verse 134, he said:

Psalm 119:

134 Deliver me from the oppression of man: so will I keep thy precepts.

The sense of the verse is, “Lord, deliver me from the oppression of men in order that I might keep thy precepts. Lord, I want to keep Thy Word, so deliver me from these deterrents that keep me from keeping Thy Word.”

If you have trouble observing the Word of God, and you can relate that to some of your associates, it might be good to ask God to deliver you from them. If you have trouble keeping the Word of God and you can relate that trouble to business that is too demanding, you might need to ask God to deliver you from that business because that is what the Psalmist was saying. “Lord, I want to keep your Word, but these things are keeping me from it, so deliver me from it.” You know, it is only when the Word of God is open that you're conscious of the fact that you are not keeping the Word of God as you should.

In verse 135, the last thing I want to say to you in relation to his concern for himself which was developed by the opening of the Word of God, he said:

Psalm 119:

135 Make thy face to shine upon thy servant; and teach me thy statutes.

The more you know of the Word, the more desirous you are of having God smile in approval on you. The more you know of the Word of God, the more anxious you are for that immortal benediction which you have quoted, I suppose, any number of times without really realizing the purpose of it, as it is recorded in Numbers, chapter 6, the more that benediction becomes a vital part of your heart and your life. Turn to Numbers, chapter 6, verses 24-26, and read:

Numbers 6:

24 The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
25 The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
26 The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.

This is the first time this expression was used in the Bible, and Ezra said, “Lord, I want your face to shine upon me just like you said that Moses could tell the people it would if we obeyed the Word of God.” The Lord make his face to shine upon thee.

One other thing that I would suggest to you if you will go back to Psalm 119. The Word of God created an effect in the life of the Psalmist, not only in relation to himself, but in relation to others, for did you notice the last verse of the paragraph? Notice verse 136:

Psalm 119:

136 Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law.

What is this? The Psalmist said, “When the Word of God was opened to me and it really shown down deep into my life, I became concerned not only about myself, but I became concerned about others who don't know the Word of God, about others who are disobeying the Word of God.”

He wasn't afraid to say that he cried. He didn't only say that he cried, he said that rivers of water ran down his eyes when he thought about them. I am sure that he had in mind the lost, those who don't know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior; and if you know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, you ought to be vitally concerned about every person who doesn't know Him, but I don't think that was what he was talking about here. I think he was talking about those who did not have the Word of God. They were Christians, but they did not have the Word of God.

Conclusion

I want to suggest to you today that there is an awful famine of the Word of God in our land. Churches are filled, but it isn't the Word of God that is being ministered to them; and if you are privileged to sit under God's Word, wherever it might be, then rivers of water ought to be running down your eyes for the people who do not have the Word of God, and you should be concerned enough to do something about it.

Ezra said, “Thy Word, Lord, is wonderful,” and I hope you feel that way about it.


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