Revive Me According to Your Word (Psalm 119)The Gospel in Psalm 119
Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss says, “Religion is about humans trying to find their way back to God, but the gospel is about something else.”
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We can’t find our way back. God must seek us. God must restore us. And the good news of the gospel is that He has come to seek and to save the lost.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, January 13.
Nancy is continuing in a series called, Revive Me According to Your Word.
Nancy: I want to talk in this session, this closing session of this series, about the gospel in Psalm 119—how we see Christ and how we see the gospel. Let me just start with the first paragraph. I’ll read it and then let’s just talk about how the gospel shows up here.
Psalm 119, verses 1-4:
Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.
Now the starting place where I see the gospel first start to unfold in Psalm 119 is in the setting up of the standard. God’s holy righteous standard for us is what? Holiness! Perfection! It talks about being blameless, keep His testimonies, seeking Him with a whole heart, doing no wrong, obeying His Word diligently. Perfection. It reminds me of Matthew 5, verse 48 in the Sermon on the Mount where it says, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
And so we read this great opening, “Blessed are those . . .” We think, “Wow! I want to be blessed. How can I be blessed?” “Blessed are those who way is blameless.” Well, that doesn’t sound like a good news gospel, but it is important that you can’t really get the gospel until you realize what God’s standard is, and God’s standard is perfection.
Throughout Psalm 119 we see that God’s standard, His law, is righteous. It is not unfair that He should say you have to have to be perfect. His law is perfect. Verse 137, “Righteous are you O LORD, and right are your rules.” Not only does God have this standard of perfection for our lives, for the life of every human being, but His standard is just. It is right.
Now, here is the problem. There is no way we can keep the standard. It is impossible. Think about just that first paragraph we just read. “Blessed are the blameless.” The problem is, according to God’s Word and according to our own experience (we know it’s true), all have sinned. So who can be blessed? Nobody. Not by this standard. Blessed are those who walk in the law of the Lord. The problem is, we don’t walk in the law of the Lord. We have gone our own way; we have gone astray. “Blessed are they who keep his testimonies.”
The problem is we are all lawbreakers; we don’t keep His testimonies. “Blessed are those who seek him with their whole heart.” You think, “Wow, these great men of God in the Scripture, they sought Him with their whole heart.” Well, the Scripture says, “No one seeks after God unless God turns His heart to seek after you.”
So there is none righteous, no, not one. There is none who seeks after God. There is none who knows God. We are all gone astray. Well, that is a problem. We can’t keep God’s standard; it’s impossible. Then we realize that making resolutions is not sufficient to meet the standard. You can make resolutions—New Year’s resolutions, Old Year’s resolutions, January resolutions, February resolutions, 2012 resolutions, 2011 resolutions, 2013 resolutions. You can make resolutions forever and still not keep God’s Word. "I will obey, I will obey, I will obey." We can’t keep His standard. We are bent on disobeying God’s Word.
Throughout this passage we see the psalmist saying, “I will keep your statutes” (v. 8) is one of those resolutions. He says, "I’m resolved." What he’s saying is, “I want to keep your statutes.” But the problem we learn through Scripture is that we can’t keep them. Let me give you a couple of illustrations from other passages.
Remember that last chapter in the book of Joshua, Joshua 24, beginning at verse 14, Joshua says to the Children of Israel as they are getting ready to go into the Promised Land, God’s covenant people, he says,
Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. . . . Then the people answered, "Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods, for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God."
But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. . . ." And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the LORD.” (vv. 14, 16, 18, 19, 21)
They were resolved at that moment. Just like I am resolved at this moment not to sin in some of the patterns that I have in my life, but what happens to that resolve tomorrow when I’m tired, I’m vulnerable, I’m weak, I’m not fixing my eyes on God’s Word? My resolve goes out the window.
Some of you made New Year’s resolutions less than two weeks ago, and you’ve blown them already. Including, maybe, reading the Bible every day. I’ve been challenging you to do that every day and maybe you already blew that. You resolved, you meant it, you were intentional, you intended to keep God’s law—to love it, to obey it, to meditate on it. But as Joshua said, “You are not able.” That is a problem. Making resolutions is not sufficient to meet the standard.
The apostle Paul understood that in Romans 7 beginning at verse 15.
For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. . . . For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, [that is evidence of being a child of God] but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. . . .
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. [Anybody relating to this? I do.] For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, [sounds like Psalm 119 doesn’t it?] but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (vv. 15, 18, 19, 21-24)
And death is the wage for sin. We can’t keep God’s law.
His law is holy and good and righteous; it is pure, but we can’t keep it. Even when we make resolutions, we can’t keep it. We don’t keep it. We can’t. We’re not able to serve the Lord. We are failures, and that comes out in Psalm 119. It talks about those who are far from Your law. Verse 155,
Salvation is far from the wicked for they do not seek Your statutes.
We’re failures. And to make the bad news even worse . . . I’m going to get to the good news, that’s the gospel, the good news. But first you have to hear the bad news. Here is more bad news.
You know how it said at the beginning of Psalm 119, “Blessed are those whose way is blameless”? That is good news, except if you can’t be blameless, that is bad news. Here is worse news. If you’re not blameless, not only do you not get blessed, but you are cursed. The wages of sin is death. And so not only can we not keep God’s law, but we are cursed. So this psalm that started off saying blessed are those who are blameless, what good is that? How can we be blessed because we are not blameless, we don’t keep His law, we don’t walk in His ways.
Verse 21 of Psalm 119 says,
You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones, who wander from your commandments.
Sin has consequences, and those consequences include separation from God now and for all of eternity—being rebuked by God.
Well, what we need to remember is that Christ is the only one who is blameless, He perfectly fulfilled God’s law. So as we read these wonderful verses in Psalm 119 about being blameless, about walking in God’s laws and His ways, we’re really seeing glimpses of Christ. We’re seeing hints. Now, the psalmist didn’t know Christ. Christ had not come to earth yet. But by faith these Old Testament writers looked ahead to Christ and to His cross, and they saw that God would make a provision for man’s sinfulness.
An eternity passed, God already had this plan in mind, and He was unfolding that. But part of the purpose of the Old Testament era was for people, including us, to realize how very lost they were apart from Christ. How very helpless they were, how very desperately they needed a Savior. Christ is the only one who can fulfill God’s law.
Hebrews 1 says,
But of the Son, he says, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions. (vv. 8-9)
We need the divine, enabling and power of Jesus. He is our righteousness, He is the only one who has fulfilled God’s law.
Let me take just a little parenthesis there before I wrap up the gospel in Psalm 119. As I was meditating on this passage in the last twenty-four hours in Psalm 119, I read through it looking for every verse that I could find that is a description of Christ. There are many, many of them, but just let me read some of them to you, because there are some verses in Psalm 119 that really could not be fully true of anyone other than Jesus.
So I want you to just see this portrait of Christ in Psalm 119. He perfectly fulfilled every resolution. The psalmist made all these resolutions: I will obey you, I will keep Your law. Jesus fulfilled them and in that we see a portrait of Him.
But there is more than that. Does it remind you of an incident in Jesus’ childhood when you read verse 99 that says, “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.” Does that remind you of Jesus at the temple at age twelve confounding the teachers of the law?
Then we see many verses in Psalm 119 that I think are a portrait of the perfect obedience of Christ.
I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me. (v. 30)
I will keep you law continually forever and ever. (v. 44)
I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. (v. 47)
I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments. (v. 60)
I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words. (v. 147)
Does that remind you of something in the life of Christ? Mark 1, verse 35, after a long day of ministry, "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, and went to a quiet place and prayed." He was seeking His father. “Rise before dawn and cry for help.” It is a picture of Christ.
My eyes shed streams of tears because people do not keep your law. (v. 136)
Remember Jesus weeping over Jerusalem? Weeping over the tomb of Lazarus, seeing the consequences of sin and death. "My eyes shed streams of tears." When I read that I think, “I don’t have that kind of heart, but Jesus does.” That is why I need Him.
My zeal consumes me because my foes forget your words. (v. 139)
Does that bring to mind a picture seen in Jesus’ life? The cleansing of the temple, throwing out the money changers. “My zeal, zeal for my father’s house has consumed me.”
It is time for the Lord to act for your law has been broken. (v. 126)
Do you think Jesus was maybe even reciting that scripture to himself as he cleansed the temple? I don’t have that kind of zeal for God but Jesus does.
Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning. I remember your name in the night O LORD, and keep your law. (vv. 54-55)
Can you think of a night when Jesus sang? The night of the Last Supper, the night in which He was betrayed. So as they were heading to Gethsemane, they sang a hymn. Do you think that is significant? Why did God inspire the writing of that little detail? Because Jesus was fulfilling the old covenant. “Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning."
Then think of the betrayal of the Son of God when you read this in Psalm 119.
The insolent have dug pitfalls for me. They do not live according to Your law. (v. 85)
And then think of the passion of Christ, the trial of Christ, when you read these verses in Psalm 119,
Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your law. (v. 61)
The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts.” (v. 69)
The wicked lie in wait to destroy me, but I consider your testimonies. (v. 95)
Many are my persecutors and my adversaries, but I do not swerve from your testimonies. (v. 157)
And even this verse in Psalm 119,
It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. (v. 71)
Does that apply to Christ? How about Hebrews 5, verse 8 that tells us the Son of God "learned obedience by the things which He suffered." Ladies, this is a picture, a portrait in many senses of Christ.
All Your commandments are sure; they persecute me with falsehood; help me! (v. 88)
Could he not have spoken or recited those words on the cross?
I have done what is just and right; do not leave me to my oppressors. (v. 121)
My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me? (Mark 15:34)
Trouble and anguis have found me out, but your commandments are my delight. (v. 143)
In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.(v.88)
Could that be anticipating the resurrection?
Let those who fear you turn to me, that they may know your testimonies. (v. 79)
Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice because I have hoped in your word. (v. 74)
Has that not been fulfilled in Christ?
Well, Christ is the only who fully fulfilled the law of God and perfectly obeyed God’s Word. We see His portrait here, and we are reminded as we get these glimpses of how desperately we need Him.
Then in this psalm we see that God has great mercy and compassion. The word for mercy and compassion in this psalm,
Let your mercy come to me that I may live. (v. 77)
Great is your mercy, O LORD, give me life. (v. 156)
That is a word that in the Old Testament Hebrew is connected with the word for womb. It has to do with a safe place, a protected place, a sheltered place. God has great mercy and compassion on fallen sinners. That is why He sent Christ to this earth.
We know that at the cross something the psalmist had no way of knowing but we can look back now and see that at the cross Jesus bore the curse that we deserved for breaking God’s law. He was forsaken by the Father so that we would not have to be. Could Jesus have prayed verse 8, “I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me.” He kept God’s statutes, but God forsook Him in that moment on the cross as Jesus took the place of lawbreakers. He took my sin and yours. It is amazing grace!
And then more amazing yet, perhaps, those who are in Christ have been made blameless before a holy God. Blessed are those whose way is blameless. We can’t be blessed because our way is not blameless. Jesus was blameless. He was blessed. He is blameless, but He took the place of the sinful ones. He took our curse so that we could have His blamelessness, so we could be blessed.
So we’ve been made blameless now. Ephesians 1 tells us,
He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. (v. 4)
Amazing grace. Psalm 119 points us to all of that.
As we close this series, I want to just point your attention to the last verse of the psalm, verse 176.
I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant.
I can hardly read that verse without feeling a pang of need and conviction in my own heart because I just think of the many ways that I have gone astray, like a lost sheep. The verb there is one of not of just past wandering, but that we are prone to wander, we’re bent toward wandering, we keep wandering off. I’ve gone astray; I keep going astray like a lost sheep. Seek your servant.
It is an acknowledgement of the true heart condition, of humility. It's a confession of sin and a confession of helplessness. "I can’t save myself. I need You to seek me; I need You to save me." We can’t rescue ourselves; we can’t restore ourselves.
Sheep, unlike dogs . . . You know dogs will eventually come back, but sheep don’t. They just keep wandering off. A shepherd has to bring them back. We cannot find our way back on our own. By the way, that is what religion is all about. It is man’s best efforts to find his own way back. We can’t find our way back. God must seek us; God must restore us. The good news of the gospel is that He has come to seek and to save the lost. Aren’t you glad for a Good Shepherd, a Great Shepherd, who goes out to bring in lost and wandering sheep?
“I’ve gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant for I do not forget your commandments.” (v. 176) It is a reminder that God comes to us and He seeks us through His Word.
Now, I am sure there are some listening to the sound of my voice today who are wandering. You’ve gone astray like a lost sheep. You have never come into a relationship with Christ. Could I say to you today that the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that the Shepherd has given His life to save your life. Today is a day that you can repent of your sin, come to Him in faith, and say, “Lord, I have wandered like a lost sheep. I’ve gone astray. Seek your servant.”
But I know I am also speaking to many who have been rescued by Christ; you do have relationship with Him, but your heart is in a wandering place right now. God will use His Word to seek your heart, to draw you back, to restore you, to bring you back to a safe place, back to the Shepherd, back to the fold, back to Christ.
Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing us the gospel in Psalm 119. That message is part of a series called Revive Me According to Your Word, based on Psalm 119. We’ve chosen this series on the value of God’s Word to air at the beginning of 2012 for a specific reason. Nancy wants you to consider an important challenge. As we wrap up this series, she’s back to describe the challenge again.
Nancy: Yes. As you’ve been hearing throughout this series, we’re asking you to commit to one habit that I believe could make this year different from perhaps any other year you’ve ever experienced. It is a simple commitment to read God’s Word every day in 2012. This isn’t a vow. If you miss a day, just keep going and pick it back up.
But I want to ask you to make a decision: I won’t put my head on my pillow at night each day this year, until I have read something from God’s Word. Now, you may already have this habit, or you may have already taken this challenge and said, “Yes, I want to do that.”
Let me encourage you to look around and see who else you know who might want to take the same challenge. They can be an encouragement to you; you can be an encouragement to them. You can grow together in your love for God’s Word as you read the Bible every day in 2012.
You can sign up for this challenge as can your friends at ReviveOurHearts.com. When you sign up, when you say, “Yes, I want to take that challenge,” what we’ll do to help you is to send you an email twice a month to encourage you to keep up with the challenge. I know how easy it is to forget, to get busy, to get distracted. So we want to help you succeed at this challenge by emailing you twice a month, just a short reminder of the Daily Bible Reading Challenge and some encouragement to continue in that.
You’ll also find at ReviveOurHearts.com a link to some of the music that you’ve heard during this series. For example, the CD called Psalm 119 in Song. If you’re interested in memorizing Psalm 119 (that is a huge challenge), but if you’d like to do that it can be made much easier by doing it with this CD. That resource is available on our website as are other resources. And, you’ll also find a forum on the website that will let you share and interact with others who are taking the same challenge.
Now, we’d like to send you a resource to help you document this journey and all that you’re learning along the way. It’s called, “My Personal Bible Reading Journal.” When you support Revive Our Hearts with a much needed donation, regardless of the size of your gift, we’ll send this journal to you. We’ll also include the CD, Psalms from the Heart where I read some of my favorite psalms set to music. Ask for Psalms from the Heart and "My Personal Bible Reading Journal" when you call to make your gift. The number is 1-800-569-5959, or make your donation on line at ReviveOurHearts.com.
Now today wraps up the series Revive Me According to Your Word, but we’re not done talking about this challenge or the value and the necessity of reading God’s Word. Now this is going to be a year-long emphasis here at Revive Our Hearts, so expect to hear some more series on getting into God’s Word as we revisit this subject over the coming months.
Next week you’ll hear the moving story of Jennifer Smith. At age sixteen she gave a speech at school denouncing abortion, yet a few years later she chose to abort her own child. Jennifer will tell a story of loss and hope next week. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.
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