Perfection of the Word of God
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles to Psalm 119 so that you can look at the Word of God as we talk about it. We have come to the very last paragraph of the Psalm. This is the last of twenty-two. For our study today, notice verse 169:

Psalm 119:

169 Let my cry come near before thee, O LORD: give me understanding according to thy word.
170 Let my supplication come before thee: deliver me according to thy word.
171 My lips shall utter praise, when thou hast taught me thy statutes.
172 My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness.
173 Let thine hand help me; for I have chosen thy precepts.
174 I have longed for thy salvation, O LORD; and thy law is my delight.
175 Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me.
176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.

Those of you who have been able to be with us for at least twenty-one messages in this particular Psalm will keep in mind that it is the Psalm of the Word of God, and every paragraph in the Psalm has something to say about the Word of God as it is practically applied to the believer's life. We have seen twenty-one applications of the Word of God to the life of the believer.

This last paragraph introduces to us the twenty-second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which is tau , which means “the mark.” The mark of the whole Psalm is what most Bible scholars look upon as an appendix, sort of a summary of everything that has gone before, a tying together of all of the loose ends of this particular Psalm.

This paragraph represents a problem to some Bible scholars because they say it seems that the Psalm should have ended with the verse before, but I am glad God added it. I believe He did add it as an appendix. I believe it contains a summary of everything that has been in the Psalm.

You remember I said to you that there was one thing we learned about this Psalmist, whether it was Ezra, whether it was David, whether it was Nehemiah. Nobody can speak dogmatically. The Holy Spirit was the author and that is all that matters. There is one thing about this man; he was a praying man. Do you remember we told you that in each of these twenty-two paragraphs, with the exception of two, the Psalmist was praying, so it is only natural for us to find him summarizing his petitions. All of the petitions can be summarized in two suggestions that he makes in the Psalm itself, one of them related to the inner man and one related to the outer man. Notice verse 169:

Psalm 119:

169 Let my cry come near before thee, O LORD: [this is the petition] give me understanding according to thy word.

The Need for Understanding

Of all the different petitions that he prayed, certain ones of them could be put under the heading of, “Lord, I need understanding. I need to know the difference among things if I am going to grow as I ought to grow.”

This word understanding comes from a Hebrew word which should be an old friend to you by this time because it has been used over and over again in this Psalm. It is the Hebrew word biyn. We learned it meant to mentally distinguish, to separate, to see the difference in things. That is what he is saying here: “Give me, Lord, the ability to see the difference in things, to see the difference between the material and the spiritual, to see the difference between the natural and the spiritual.”

I would like to suggest to you that this is not a request that the Psalmist made. It was not a need that he alone recognized. It is consistent with the truth of the Scripture. Turn to I Corinthians, chapter 2, and notice how the Holy Spirit of God, through the pen of the Apostle Paul emphasized this same truth. The Apostle Paul said in verse 14:

I Corinthians 2:

14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things…

Then notice down in the next chapter, verse 1:

I Corinthians 3:

1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.

The Apostle is saying two things here. First, he is saying that the unsaved man cannot understand spiritual things. That is why he thinks you are nuts. He can't understand how God can move the hearts of men. That is why he thinks you are a fanatic if you believe that He does. You have got to be spiritual to understand that.

Then the Apostle mentioned that a born-again believer who is still living according to the flesh will not be able to understand the things of the Spirit of God. That is why you find some Christians who might think you are fanatical if you talk about spiritual things. Don't be alarmed by it. Don't be discouraged. Just recognize that what they need is understanding and guard against yourself ever slipping into a state like that by praying this prayer that the Psalmist prayed, “Lord, give me understanding.”

The Need for Deliverance

Go back to Psalm 119 and notice verse 170, as the Psalmist said:

Psalm 119:

170 Let my supplication come before thee: [He is praying again, you see, and this is his petition.] deliver me according to thy word.

This is the second petition. The first one was, “Give me understanding,” and it was related to the inner man. This one is, “Deliver me,” and it is related to the outer man. In this particular petition, he was recognizing that it was possible for him to face a great many dangers of life, and we notice some of those dangers as we have studied this particular Psalm. He knew that these dangers would always be and so he is saying, “Lord, deliver me.”

This is the first time he has used this Hebrew word for deliver in Psalm 119. He uses three words, but this is the first and only time that he has used this one. I think that it is interesting to recognize that this particular word for deliver is the Hebrew word natsal , which means “to snatch away.” You see, he didn't know what was going to be ahead of him. He didn't know how many dangers he might face, and he was doing here what I am pleased to call a little “anticipatory praying.” He said, “Lord, I may not have time to pray when the danger actually hits me, so stand ready to snatch me away when the danger comes.”

This particular word natsal can also be translated by the phrase, “deliver me without fail. Don't fail me, Lord, in that needed moment. Right then deliver me.” The Psalmist sums up all of his petitions in this Psalm with these two: “Give me understanding, Lord. I always need it.”, and, “Deliver me, Lord. There will be time and time again when I will need You to snatch me away and I am going to count on You to do it.”

Praise for Answered Prayer

When we speak of prayer which is effective, we inevitably speak of praise. There is no way to do otherwise because if God answers prayer, we have something to praise Him for and we ought to praise Him. We find the Psalmist in this summary speaking of praise. For example, in verse 171, he said:

Psalm 119:

171 My lips shall utter praise, when thou hast taught me thy statutes.
172 My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness.

Then down in verse 175, we read:

Psalm 119:

175 Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee…

You see, he is talking about praise, isn't he? He re-emphasizes some very vital points that we need to keep in mind. He re-emphasizes that all true praise is based upon experience. You can't praise the Lord if you have never had the experience. You can't thank God for saving you if you have never been saved. You can't thank God for delivering you if you have never been in a place where you needed deliverance. You can't thank God for meeting your needs if you have never been in a place where you had needs. The Psalmist said in verse 171:

Psalm 119:

171 My lips shall utter praise, when thou hast taught me thy statutes.

“Only when you have taught me.” This word taught is a familiar word. It comes from the Hebrew word lamad , which we have learned means “to teach by experience.” Some of these words are presented by pictures, and actually the picture here is a picture of a goad, a pointed stick, that was used to prod the oxen along the way. The goads don't feel good, do they? We don't like that pricking in the side, but God sometimes uses the goad. He uses those unpleasant experiences sometimes that He might give us something for which to praise Him.

The Psalmist said: “I will praise You, Lord, when I have experiences about which to praise you.” He then emphasized something else that we dare not forget, and that is that praise should always be based upon the Word of God. You have heard of wildfire in the religious world. You have heard of fanaticism. There is never any fanaticism, there is never any wildfire, if the praise is based upon the Word of God; so you will notice in verse 172, the Psalmist said:

Psalm 119:

172 My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness.

He said, “I'm not going to be telling you what I think. When I stand up before the people to praise the Lord, it is going to be based upon the Word of God. My lips shall utter praise. My tongue shall speak of Thy Word, for all of thy commandments are righteous.”

It is only when you are able to relate your experience to the Word of God that it becomes effective praise, for if you have the experience just by itself and it isn't related to the Word of God, you might endanger someone because they might have the idea that before they can please the Lord, they have to have an experience just like you had. They get all alarmed and say, “I didn't have that kind of experience.”

Beloved, it is not necessary for you to have that kind of experience. The experience is but an illustration of the Word. What is important is for the Word to work in your life. If it works in your life, then it can work within the framework of your personality. I have seen people come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I have seen them cry. That was a part of their personality. I have seen people come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior, and I have heard them laugh. It was a holy laughter. The joy of the Lord was there.

I have seen people come to Jesus Christ and when they would get up off their knees almost inaudibly they would say, “Thank you.” No emotion, no crying, no laughter, no noise. What I am trying to say to you is they had the experience based upon the Word of God, and the framework of the experience was related to their personality. That is why it is so important for praise to have its roots in the Word of God. Then individuals will recognize the Word and rest on it and not the experience by itself.

There is one other thing that he says about praise and this always puts me under conviction when I read this verse and like verses. Notice verse 175, where he said:

Psalm 119:

175 Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee…

I read a book one time that said the chief occupation of the redeemed in glory is to praise the Lord. That is right. Folk will be praising the Lord in glory, but I beg to suggest to you that the chief occupation of the redeemed upon the earth ought to be praising the Lord. The Psalmist said, “Lord, let me live.”, and God said, “What do you want to live for?” He said, “I want to praise You. That is the only reason I want to live. I want to praise You.” That ought to be the idea behind the desire for life for every one of us. All these other things are incidental. It is praise that is important.

The Source of Provision

Let me suggest the third thing to you which the Psalmist offered by way of summary in this paragraph because he has spoken about it throughout the Psalm. Notice verse 173, where he said:

Psalm 119:

173 Let thine hand help me; for I have chosen thy precepts.
174 I have longed for thy salvation, O LORD; and thy law is my delight.

For the sake of alliteration, let's use the word provision . We have had the word petition . We have had the word praise , and now we use the word provision . In this paragraph, he sums up the fact that God and His Word is the source of provision, the source of the meeting of every need that he has. At the moment when he writes these words, he doesn't know exactly what his need will be, but he knows that he is going to be needy.

The reason I suggest that is not as evident in our English text as it might be. For example, in verse 173, we read: “Let thine hand help me…” That does not convey the full meaning of the original text. There are several translations that have tried to capture the full meaning, and they have done very well in a sense. The Berekley Translation of the Scripture translates verse 173: “Lest thy hand be ready to help me…” It is saying, “I don't know, Lord, just when I will need You and I don't know exactly what I will need, but, Lord, have your hand reached out ready to help me when I need it.”

The Paraphrased picks up the same idea. It says, “Stand ready to help me, Lord,” sort of like the lifeguard standing on the bank. He doesn't jump in every time the water splashes, but he is there; and when you need him, he can save you, he can deliver you, he can meet your needs.

It is important to recognize that the Psalmist wasn't asking for a perpetual handout. There are a lot of charity patients in the spiritual realm, people who are just looking for a perpetual handout because it is easier to do that than it is to use the God-given ability that they have to meet some of their own needs and to grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There are a lot of folk who say, “Oh, I wish I knew the Word of God,” and they put out their hand. What they need to do is open their Bible and get their nose in it. You see, he wasn't asking for a perpetual handout. He was just saying, “Lord, I want to be sure that You are there when I need you. Stand ready to help me.” Then he went on just as rapidly as he needed to, but when he reached that insurmountable obstacle and that unmoveable barrier, he wasn't discouraged. He said, “Lord, give me a hand. I need it now,” and He was right there ready to make provision. How gracious God is to provide for us!

A Perpetual Problem

He closes the Psalm with a verse that is related to a perpetual problem. If you have done much work in higher criticism, you know that this verse is a problem to the critics, even a problem to some Bible scholars. They will say, “Well, it is there and I don't know why it is there.” The higher critics say, “You see, that proves the Bible isn't inspired. He has completely forgotten what he has been talking about. He is supposed to be ending on a note of praise. Who threw this verse in?” That is what is said. “Somebody just came along and pitched it in there. God didn't watch over His Word.”

That is not it at all. The Holy Spirit wrote it because He was dealing with a perpetual problem. Look at the verse. He said:

Psalm 119:

176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.

I say that he is dealing with a perpetual problem, the problem of Christians going astray. You see, he said, “Lord, I have gone astray before, and I am afraid that I might again. If I do, Lord, seek me, because remember this: I will always remember the Word.”

That is the reason that he put it in there. He was summing up everything in the Psalm and he had been talking about his tendency to wander away from the Lord. He was talking about his ability to fail and now as he is tying all of the loose ends together, he says, “Lord, I don't want to fail. I might. I probably will, but don't leave me.”

What better illustration could he have used than a sheep that wanders off. You see, he is not talking about presumptuous sin. That is not the danger of a well-taught Christian. That is not the danger of the person who walks at the direction of the Holy Spirit. The danger is wandering away, to be over the cliff because you've got your nose close to the ground, before you know the cliff is there. That is the danger.

He said, “Lord, it might happen, and if it does, I want You to do something for me. I want You to seek me.” I like this word seek . It is a very interesting word and it conveys far more than most individuals think it does. It comes from the Hebrew word baqash , which means “to search for.” It means that, but it also means “to demand that which you find after you search for it.” You see, the sheep might wander into another pasture, and the owner goes to find them and the neighbor says, “What are you doing here?” “I'm looking for my sheep.” “Well, it's not your sheep any more. It came over here.” “Well, I want him. He's mine.” “Well, you just try to get him.”

I say this reverently, Beloved, but get it: Some of God's dear children wander into the Devil's territory. The Lord Jesus Christ searches them out, and the Devil says, “You can't have him. He came over here and that is all there is to it.”

The Psalmist said, “Lord, when that happens, don't You believe the old Devil. I really don't belong to him. You demand me. Don't leave me over there in his power.”

Of course, we know that the Savior does. The Savior doesn't hesitate to demand that property which is His, so when He enters into the Devil's territory to find His lost sheep, He never comes back without the sheep on His shoulder; and the Psalmist said, “That is what I want to happen. I don't want You to leave me there.”, because—and this is what I want you to get—“I will never forget Thy Word. I will always remember it.”

You know, that is one encouraging thing about the Word of God. That is why I am so interested in young people memorizing the Word of God. The reason that I am so interested in the Word of God being hidden away in their hearts is if they wander away—and I hope they don't, but if they do—they won't get away from the Word. It will be there and it will be pricking them and it will be nudging them and it will make them miserable and it will stir up that longing in their heart to come back to God.

I want to say something to you. Don't you think you and I have taken things lying down? Don't you think you and I ought to get busy in the name of the Lord and demand from the Devil some of God's sheep that have wandered over there into his territory? They are still God's sheep. Remember that.

Think with me a few seconds. Do you know somebody who at one time had a glowing testimony for the Lord? Think now. Do you know somebody like that? You know how thrilled you were about them. What a blessing they were to you! Now, think. Where are they right now? You say, “Well, that is a sad story. They don't even think about the Lord any more as far as anyone knows.” That's it. As far as anybody knows, they don't think about Him; but they do, for the Word of God will not return unto Him void.

This is what I want to know. Have you done anything about that? Have you just said, “It is sad they do not live for the Lord any more.”, or have you gone to the throne of grace and, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, gone into the Devil's territory and demanded that sheep for the Lord?

I leave you with this thought. I am afraid that all too many of us fail in not demanding what belongs to the Lord. We have no right to let the Devil have them. I wonder if eternity will not reveal that the Devil won the victory in a great many lives because you and I as Christians refused to seek them, to seek them with the idea of going and finding them and demanding that the Devil return them to their rightful owner.

Conclusion

This is the summary: Learn to pray. Learn to look to God for the provision of every need, for He does provide. Learn that the solution to the perpetual problem that we all have is the power of our God.


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