We are continuing 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 makes us wise.
The word gives us direction for life.
The word gives us peace.
The word makes us wise.
That is such a simple statement, you might wonder why we even need a blog post about it! It’s been interesting going back through this list of eight. Sometimes I think, “Now why did I choose those verses? How am I going to expand on that truth when it seems so obvious!” Of course God’s word makes us wise – God is so much wiser and more knowledgeable than us; what else is there to understand!?
But that’s why I believe God’s word is a “treasure trove” as I said in the original post that started all this! We read something in the word and think, “Okay, I’ve got it” but the reality is there is always more to learn as we study, read, ponder, meditate, and apply it.
Here are the original verses I quoted, to support my statement that the word makes us wise:
Psalm 119:98-99 – Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation.
Psalm 119:130 – The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.
In this blog, we will consider just the first phrase. Let’s ask questions of the scripture and see what we can learn!
Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are mine.
For a New Testament believer, what are the commandments?
Who is our enemy?
What does it mean “they are mine”?
Let’s look at the context, the perspective of the psalmist first. For him, the Law included not only the Ten Commandments, but all of the sacrificial, ceremonial and civil laws which God had given to Moses. At the time of the writing of this Psalm, they were still “under the Law,” since Christ had not yet fulfilled it. In fact, in verse 97, which starts this 8-verse segment of Psalm 119, he clearly states, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.”
His enemies included the ungodly, heathen nations surrounding him. They did not have a set of sacrificial laws by which they could be in relationship with the God who created them. They operated by the philosophy of “if I want it, I take it” and “if I’m stronger than you, I will kill you if I need to.” They offered sacrifices, but they were to a statue of wood, or gold. Their sacrifices did nothing to ease their conscience, or assure them that the guilt they felt was taken away.
The phrase “they are mine” is better translated as “they are ever with me” in the KJV. The words “for they are ever” are actually one Hebrew word, owlam, and refers to time in two directions – past and future. The word means ancient time, long time (of past), and forever, always, continuous existence, perpetual, everlasting, indefinite or unending future, eternity (of future).
Considering all of this, the psalmist seems to be telling us that he has wisdom that his enemies do not. He has a standard for his behavior (the ten commandments), and a solution for his sin when his behavior falls short of the commandments (the sacrificial system). He has civil laws to govern how he relates to others, whether it be his family, his friends, or his enemies. And those laws do not change on the whim of his culture – they are ever with him, they were good and practical and effective yesterday, and today, and would still be so when he woke up tomorrow. He had confidence in His relationship with God, because he knew what God expected of him. He had fellowship and peace with God, because he was following what God had set out as the requirements for that relationship.
This was in total contrast to his enemies, who were governed by their emotions, their lusts, and their fallen human nature. They were confused about God. They were wrong about relationships. They were held captive in their sinful choices and desires.
Is this applicable to us today?
We can look at the psalmist’s perspective and easily see the same circumstances and benefits in our own life. But there’s even more to consider, as New Testament believers!
What is God’s law for us? Jesus gives us the answer in His sermon on the mount, in Matthew 5. Consider just a few of those verses:
Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20)
Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are mine.
Jesus said that the Law was not abolished, but fulfilled. He met every requirement of the sacrificial laws which Moses had set in place for a relationship with God. He was the perfect Day of Atonement lamb, covering the sins of the whole world. So as we are in Christ, we have already met every requirement of the Law. It’s hard to believe, but this includes the ten commandments! As the Father sees us hidden in Christ, it as though we have never broken one law. We are perfect in Christ.
So what commandments are we to follow in day to day life? Jesus says in verse 19 above we are to keep the commandments, and teach others to do the same. He says our righteousness is to surpass the scribes and Pharisees!
The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was an outward righteousness. Jesus called them “white-washed tombs.” They talked a lot about God, and did a lot of showy, outward acts of righteousness, but their hearts were unclean. Jesus didn’t want their outward obedience; He wanted their hearts to change. This is why He expands the law that we are to follow to heart issues, rather than activities of temple sacrifice. (Read Matthew 5-7).
Something like this…
The law says do not commit murder, but Jesus said don’t even be angry.
The law says do not commit adultery, but Jesus said don’t even lust.
The law says an eye for an eye, but Jesus says turn the other cheek.
The law says love your neighbor and hate your enemy, but Jesus said love your enemies and pray for them.
The law says you are allowed to divorce, but Jesus said hold onto your marriage at all costs.
How does the “law of Jesus” fit into the statement “they are mine” or “they are ever with me?”
The first Law was written on tablets of stone, and then copied onto countless scrolls. It was first read to the people in the Tabernacle, by Aaron and the priests which followed him. By the time of the New Testament, the scrolls would be read in the Temple, a regular part of the people’s worship of God.
But God had a different plan all along. He intended that the law would be placed within us, and written on our hearts!
Jeremiah 31:31-33 – “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
This promise was fulfilled when Christ came and made sacrifice for all sin, once for all, on the cross. (Hebrews 8-10) This opened the way for the Holy Spirit to indwell us, so God’s law literally is within us, and written on our hearts. He is ever with us. He is ours forever!
Because God’s Spirit lives in us, we have the living law of God dwelling in us, convicting us, teaching us, directing us. Jesus is the Word of God (John 1) and through the Spirit of God, indwells us. We are never without Him.
How does this make us wiser than our enemies?
First of all, who is our enemy?
A believer has two enemies: Satan (and his demonic army), and the world (the culture we live in). I do not believe that unbelievers are our enemy. They may act like our enemy; we may be persecuted, we may be hated, we may be mocked…we may be martyred…but just as we are moved by the Spirit of God who lives in us, they are moved by the spirit of evil which dwells in them. Evil is our enemy – not the person. That is why Jesus instructed us to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44); we pray that God will save them!
We are wiser than our enemy Satan, because we know the truth about him. He is already defeated. He has no power that is not under the watchful eye of our Father. He has a limited time to exist and his end is already determined. He is an enemy worth recognizing because we are easily deceived and can be led astray. But he has no power over us unless we give him that power.
We are wiser than our cultural enemy, the world, because the law of God resides in our heart, and we have discernment from the Holy Spirit who indwells us. We are able to navigate this life’s journey with wisdom that keeps us from being consumed and deceived. We have the ability to make wise choices – choices that are “anti-cultural” and may seem strange to our friends and family who do not know God.
God’s Word does make us wise. But remember – wisdom is knowledge applied. You can know all about God, and read the Bible and go to church and hang around other believers, but unless you put the Word of God to practice in your life you are not wise. If you choose to ignore the wisdom of God’s word, by failing to obey it and make it the supreme “law” in your life, you will only become a knowledgeable fool.
Here’s your homework. Why don’t you take the next two phrases and see what you can discover? I’ll give you a head start:
I have more insight than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation.
· What is insight?
· Who are my teachers?
· What are Your testimonies?
· What does it mean to meditate, and why do I need to?
The unfolding of Your words gives light, it gives understanding to the simple.
· What does it mean to unfold Your words?
· How does this give light?
· What is understanding?
· Who are the simple?
See what you can discover, and then you will be wise!