We are on a journey to expand on some of the practical applications of God’s word to our life. In a previous post (read it here), I listed eight:
· The word gives us good counsel, and brings us joy.
· The word revives and strengthens us when we are discouraged.
· The word produces a reverence for God.
· The word makes us wise.
· The word gives us direction for life.
· The word gives us peace.
As you can see, some of these benefits overlap. For example, if someone gives you good counsel, they will urge you to stay away from sin. Following that same counsel, you may gain direction for your life, and be encouraged and strengthened to face difficult circumstances. God’s Word is the ultimate counsel. In this post, let’s explore the psalmist’s claim that God’s word always gives us good counsel, and in turn, brings us joy.
Our focus verses are Psalm 119:23-24, but to set the context, let’s read the entire eight verses in this section.
Psalm 119:17-24 – Deal bountifully with Your servant, that I may live and keep Your word. Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law. I am a stranger in the earth; do not hide Your commandments from me. My soul is crushed with longing after Your ordinances at all times. You rebuke the arrogant, the cursed, who wander from Your commandments. Take away reproach and contempt from me, for I observe Your testimonies. Even though princes sit and talk against me, Your servant meditates on Your statutes. Your testimonies also are my delight; they are my counselors.
What do we learn about the psalmist?
First, he describes himself as a stranger in the earth. Strangerhere is the Hebrew word ger, and means one who is an alien, a soujourner. It is a temporary inhabitant, or a newcomer who lacks inherent rights. The word means foreigner. The psalmist recognized that he was not in his natural habitat, or home. He was out of place.
Second, his soul longed for God’s ordinances. The laws and customs of the place he lived did not fit his true nature. In his inner man, his soul, he knew there was a higher law, a greater pull on his life.
Third, he felt at odds with the people he lived among. He uses the words “arrogant” and “cursed” to describe them – for they were a people who rejected the commandments of his God. He felt their reproach and contempt because he chose to live his life according to a different set of laws. He knew they spoke against him and about him, gossiping, pointing fingers, and mocking.
What role did God’s word play in the life of the psalmist, in his current situation?
In verse 24, he refers to God’s testimonies as his delightand his counselors.
To counsel is to advise, to give opinion or instruction in directing the judgment or conduct of another. When do we usually seek counsel? When things aren’t going very well for us! If life is good, and we are happy, we don’t usually ask for other people’s opinions, do we? We are confident in our own decisions, as long as life goes smoothly. It is when the road gets bumpy and we are in difficulty, that we turn to others for counsel.
The psalmist, however, had learned the secret of livingby the good counsel of God’s Word. He recognized that his current culture, the world he lived in, was opposed to him, and therefore, he sought out the truth from God as a way of life:
Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from your law. (v. 18) – He recognized that God’s counsel would be outside his normal way of thinking, so He asked for God to open his eyes to see it.
He desired to live and keep Your word. (v. 17) – He intended to listen to the counsel of God, and obey it.
He longed for the law of God to be imposed on his life. (v. 20) – In his inner man, he knew that God’s law would bring him life and joy. Living in wicked and unfriendly circumstances caused a greater desire for the purity and pleasantness of a society that lived by God’s laws.
He meditated on God’s word. (v. 23) – Right in the midst of the unfriendly culture and arrogant people who surrounded him, instead of focusing on what everyone else was doing wrong, he meditated and pondered on what was good and right.
Does this sound practical for us?
I don’t have to point out that the life the psalmist is describing could easily describe the world we live in today. If you are determined to live by the principles of God’s word, holding dear the commands of morality, purity, and Christ-centered theology, you will suffer the rejection of this culture. We see it increasing dramatically every day.
The reality is we are strangers…foreigners! We are not home, but only temporary sojourners, aliens.
Our heart does hunger and long for the things of God. We have a higher call on our soul.
And we are at odds with the world. The counsel we receive from God’s word is not going to make us popular.
But in the midst of it, there is delight.
The word delight means enjoyment, and pleasure. If you are a true believer, living in obedience to God, you know it to be true…there is no higher pleasure or delight than walking with God.
To have our eyes opened to the work He is doing;
…to be filled with God’s love for our brothers and sisters;
…to be consumed with compassion for those who do not know Him;
…to know that we are freely forgiven, accepted and adopted in the family of God;
…to be heirs with Christ, sons and daughters of the Father;
…to realize that God’s Spirit indwell us, empowering us and leading us;
…to have clear instructions from God’s word on how to live, how to speak, how to respond, how to act;
…these are the things which bring us true delight.
Where do we find the source of this delight?
In the counsel of God’s word.
How do we respond to the hostility directed at us by an unfriendly culture?
By the counsel of God’s word.
We love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48)
We pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48)
We do good works so that God’s glory is revealed (Matthew 5:16)
We correct in gentleness, asking God to grant them repentance (2 Timothy 2:25)
We remain humble, remembering that at one time we also were the “unfriendly” (1 Corinthians 6:11)
We tell them the truth by sharing the gospel (Matthew 28:19-20)
By letting the good counsel of God’s word guide us, we can respond to a sinful foreign culture as His ambassadors and ministers of reconciliation (Ephesians 6:20, 2 Corinthians 5:18). What great delight – to have orders from heaven to serve at the King’s pleasure in this foreign land!
By obeying the good counsel of God’s word we can delight in the blessed life, the abundant life that Jesus came to bring, even in the midst of a hostile world (John 10:10).
I urge you not to dwell on the condition of the world today. Honestly, if I kept up with the news, I would stay angry and fearful! But remember…
We are not of this world.
We are ambassadors in a foreign land.
As believers, we must stop trying to fit into this culture, as if we still belonged to it! And we must stop expecting those who hate God and reject His word to conform to Christian principles.
Instead, we have the opportunity to live in the delight of God’s word. Embrace the fact that God has graciously rescued you out of this hostile world, and by faith has brought you into the kingdom of light! Immerse yourself in the “handbook” of your new citizenship. Learn its language and its customs, and its laws.
Recognize that your heavenly Father delights in you, and will only and always give you good counsel!