Category Archives: Bible – OT – Psalms

Putting words in my mouth (Ps 119:13)

It’s often frowned on—putting words in someone else’s mouth. The barrister will be reprimanded for “leading the witness” by the presiding judge in a trial. We complain bitterly, “you’re putting words in my mouth” when we’re accused of saying something we certainly didn’t mean at all.

But is it ever a good thing? What if you were scheduled to meet a celebrity, a hero, royalty? Or perhaps if you were to meet an estranged relative for the first time in a long time? Many’s the person in such circumstances has been heard to ask, “What shall I say?” Not this time the complaint, “How dare you put words in to my mouth?” but, rather, the plea, “Can someone please put some words in my mouth!”

And when it comes to addressing Almighty God? What words shall we use? The psalmist knew exactly what to say.

With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. (Psalm 119:13)

He had learned that God is the great teacher (Psalm 119:12) and had already done what the disciples had done when they asked Jesus, “teach us to pray”—put some words in our mouths!

It may well be that the psalmist is declaring God’s word to others, perhaps unbelievers (as in Psalm 119:46). But if he relies on God to supply words for his witness, surely he dare not rely on himself to worship God. Is this what he is driving at when he tells us that God’s word is the subject of his songs, presumably of worship (Psalm 119:54)? His praise to God is comprised of God’s own words and addressed to God.

The psalmist’s constant meditation is not simply him thinking his own thoughts on his own. Is he not going over things in his mind before God himself? And who, in the presence of God, would sit and mumble and mutter to themselves alone? One would not do it in the presence of royalty or important people. Christian meditation involves my mind and my God. What I say when I’m meditating I don’t simply say to myself, or simply in God’s presence, but to God himself.

So what words will I use to speak to the one whose very word created all that is? How delightful that God has put his words in my mouth. He has not left my tongue-tied in his presence. He doesn’t delight to see my squirm before him, desperately seeking the words with which to address him. We have a Psalter full of praises and prayers from which to draw. We have an entire Bible to aid us speak to God in appropriate language. Shall we do better than he in discovering that precise turn of phrase that most adequately expresses out thoughts, and most glorifies him?

If the psalmist considered storing God’s word in his heart as a preventative measure against sin (Psalm 119:11), surely another great benefit of Scripture stored in the heart is its ability to supply those words we desperately need to pray to and praise God. If the psalmist shows us that learning God’s word will unleash in us heartfelt praise (Psalm 119:7), he also shows us that learning God’s word will supply the very words we need to praise God as we ought.

How shall we then praise? By using the words he has put in our mouths and on our lips.

The Torah Tardis (Ps 119:45,32)

One popular and widespread opinion of Christians is that they are narrow-minded people with blinkered vision. They travel a narrow, difficult and lonely road that bypasses all the wonderful attractions this world has to offer.

It’s like a totally urban person who thinks the fell walker is a person deprived of pleasure. Why would anyone subject themselves to the rigorous of climbing hills and mountains, equipping themselves with special clothing and footwear and carrying food and shelter with them? Why suffer the win, the rain, the cold and the heat, and forsake the comforts of AC, refrigeration and the wonderful life indoors? Only a fanatic would travel those narrow paths, and fail to see the beauties of the wide urban avenues with their comforting high-rise glass and concrete structures, such a panoramic view of which is available from the latest SUV!

You mightn’t have the boots, the wet gear, or the inclination to join our intrepid fell walker, but I’m sure we can all see the follow of such notions. They couldn’t be further from the truth. The walker may follow a lonely, narrow and winding path, but they walk through wide open spaces! Forget the wide open urban thoroughfares, gridlocked and reeking of automobile fumes. Who has the better view?

And the narrow-minded Christian walking a lonely, difficult path? The psalmist knows that through the path is narrow, he walks “in a wide place” (45). While God’s law constrains, it does not constrain half so much as sin (breaking God’s law). If anything blinkers the mind it is sin and rebellion against God’s law.

Keeping God’s law, living according to it, enlarges the heart (32)—not the physical organ, nor even the emotions, but in Hebrew thought the intellect and the emotions. Far from opening the mind, sin closes it. Sin locks God out of my thinking (Rm 1), and blocks God from my vision (2Co 4). Instead of seeing a whole universe, I see only my little corner. And living, as I do, in the dark kingdom (Col 1:14), my spirit is affected. Just an n physical darkness I see less clearly, so too in the spiritual realm, I see with less clarity. I grope intellectually, bumping into things I can’t see, and can never make sense of, just as I would if I were physically abandoned in a dark, cluttered room.

My freedom has become a prison, I know there is more to life, if only I could see it, if only I had the capacity to understand it. I’m the victim of the same cruel deception that befell our first parents in the Garden (Gn 3)—I’m blinded by one who would deny me the very sight I need (2Co 4:4). Living in such a cramped world where even the intellectual are so limited as to be insufficient to give my heart the exercise it so desperately needs, I need my heart enlarged. This is precisely what the Gospel of Jesus Christ has done. The same God who created the physical light from the primeval darkness, that aided the explosion of life on the young earth, is prepared to do the same in my dark benighted mind. I can have an enlarged heart, if only I will but open myself to the light that he has shone in the hearts of so many Christian believers—“the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2Co 4:6).

Then how will I walk? Where will life take me after that glorious sunrise in my soul? Along a narrow, difficult track? Yes, most certainly, “for the gate is narrow, and the way is hard that leads to life” (Mt 7:14). But this narrow, difficult track will let me walk in a wide place (Ps 119:45), just a s the narrow mountain track leads through the wide open spaces of unspoilt beauty and grandeur. Who would want to grope blindly in a dark room when the vast expanse of God’s universe is available to them> Who would want to retain the dismal man-made intellectually crippling, spiritually suffocating world of rebellion against God, when the glorious, heart-enlarging, mind-expanding, spiritually invigorating universe of the great God of eternity lies before them!

How shall I achieve this liberation? By throwing off all restraint? By bursting the bonds and casting away the cords (cf Ps 2:6)?

No! But by bowing to the constraints of Almighty God. By turning from my way to his way. By bowing my knee (Php 2:10) and my heart, and will, and pride in contrite repentance and absolute submission to the king God has set on his holy hill (Ps 2:6), the Lord of heaven and hearth, the Lord Jesus Christ, When I confess him my Lord (Php 2:11) I will experience what Charles Wesley experienced:

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

God’s law, which from the outside looks like the greatest restraint on my freedom, turns out from the inside to be the most expansive place to walk I will ever know. The Torah (the law of God) turns out to be a tardis!

Riches for a pure man (Ps 119:9-16)

A pure way comes from a guarded heart.

A heart that seeks God in everything (10)
This is the antidote to wandering away from God.

A heart filled with the Word of God (11)
Here is a storehouse, which can produce treasures old and new.

A heart that declares the Word of God (13)
This is not as some external standard, repeated by mere rote, but as an internalised standard. In the New Covenant we have the law written on our hearts and minds (Jr 31; Heb 8). It is by constant meditation that I make God’s standards my own.

A heart that meditates on the Word of God (15)
If I would keep myself from sin I must view sin as God views it. Learning his law will help me remember it, meditating on it will help me delight in it (15,16).

Constant contemplation of sin will foster in me a delight in it, and a longing for it. A child of God will want to contemplate God’s word through which the God who is “of purer eyes than to see evil” (Hab 2:13) communicates his purity to us. “The commandment of the LORD is pure” (Ps 19:8).

The Key to Godly Living
Here is the key to godly living – what is in my heart. With the Word in my heart my feet will be directed in the right direction (10), my lips will speak the right things (13) and my eyes will be focused on the right way (15). But this will not be achieved by superior will power and rigorous discipline alone. That will certainly be required if I am to seek God with my whole heart (10). It will be achieved by humble dependence on God, as I let him teach me (13).

And it will result in sheer delight (14,16). Delight for me, and for God himself! This delight may be compared to the delight of pleasing a close friend, a wife or husband, or a family member, by doing something that specially pleases them. But the wonder of this delight is that when we come to the place of delight in God’s law and his will, it delights the very heart of God.

Christ did always and only those things which pleased his Father. So when the Father could contain himself no longer, he declared from heaven itself, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17). Why was God so specially pleased with his Son at this moment? Was it not something to do with Jesus’ reply to John – “thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness” (Mt 3:15). Here was the Messiah doing everything the law demanded, right from the start of his earthly ministry to the very end, when he declared, “[I have] accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (Jn 17:4).

What is the response of God to those who keep his commandments, who walk in his ways and delight in his statutes? Is it not the same? See righteous Abel receiving the commendation of God as he depended on a sacrifice (Heb 11:4). See Enoch whose 300-year walk with God received the commendation “as having pleased God” (Heb 11:5). Hear the condemnation against the one who shrinks back – “my soul has no pleasure in him” (Heb 10:38). The way to live is in righteousness, not a righteousness that comes from me or the law, but that comes by faith (Heb 10:38; Rom 3:21; etc).

The man or woman who pleases God keeps God’s rules, not out of mere duty, but out of sheer delight. That delight springs from being taught by God (12), and is developed through constant meditation on God’s Word (15).

Would I know the riches of God’s blessing (1-2)? Then I must value God’s Word, just as I value the earthly wealth I possess (14).

God’s fingerwork

I was reading Isaiah 17, where it says:

7 In that day man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will look on the Holy One of Israel.
8 He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands, and he will not look on what his own fingers have made, either the Asherim or the altars of incense. (ESV)

It got me to thinking about Psalm 8:3 where we read that the work of God’s fingers are the heavens. Here is a look that puts the work of our fingers into perspective. Nothing compares to God’s fingerwork, and nothing compares to God himself. However, rather than making us feel small, it should make us feel how big God is. Our God is a great and majestic God.