Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Nine Ways to Respond to God’s Word

Leslie Basham: Psalm 119 mentions the importance of keeping God’s Word.  In fact, it mentions it twenty-nine times. Nancy Leigh DeMoss says that means we need to pay attention.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Do you think if God says it twenty-nine times in one chapter that we need to keep His Word, obey His word? It makes me wonder, how many things do I know about God’s Word that I’m not doing.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, January 10.
 
Here’s Nancy in the series Revive Me According to Your Word, reflections on Psalm 119.

Nancy: I came across a blog post not too long ago by my friend Randy Alcorn. You probably know that name. He is a fabulous author and has just such a great heart for the Lord. I want to read you a rather lengthy segment from that post because it reflects something that is really on my heart as we’re extending this Daily Bible Reading Challenge to people at the beginning of 2012. Randy said,

We live in a culture that is saturated with entertainment options. Young men are growing up being consumed with video games and other media outlets that have become substitutes for reading. There is a functional illiteracy rate in our culture, meaning these young people can read, but they don’t—they read Facebook but don’t read anything serious.

I’m concerned that there are many young people growing up—and particularly many young men—who, because they are not readers, will not be readers of God’s Word. One day they will be leading our churches, and many of them will not know the Scriptures.

Now I’m going to keep going but let me just say I know there aren’t a lot of young men listening to this program, but there are a lot of moms and grandmoms who have sons and daughters. I just want to encourage you to get your kids reading, reading. God gave His Word; it is to be read. If people don’t enjoy reading, they’re not going to enjoy reading God’s Word. So just a real encouragement there for those of you who have young ones in your home.

Now, Randy goes on to say,

I would say my own home church, which we started back in 1977, would probably score in the 90th percentile of Bible-teaching churches when it comes to  biblical literacy. I know we would be much better than average. Yet the level of biblical knowledge among our church body has, in these 33 years, steadily declined.

That is a source of great concern for me, and I think this problem is reflected in the way people live, and certainly in the way that they think. At the beginning of our church, a Christian worldview was much better established in many people’s minds than it is in the mind of the average attendee today. Sadly, that is the case.  

And I would just say, "Amen and Amen!" It is so grievous to me to think of how even in our best churches so few people really know God’s Word, and that is reflected in the way that they think about everything: about politics, about business, about careers, about education, about relationships, about marriage. It is reflected in the way they think and in the way that they live that they are not moored in a biblical worldview.

Randy concludes this post by saying,

There are still people who are studying and hungering for God’s word. That’s encouraging and good. [And that’s why many of you are here today.] But there are also a lot of people who are not studying and reading. That is certainly discouraging. 

And that is why we’re doing this Daily Bible Reading Challenge in 2012. If you’re tired of hearing me talk about it, I am sorry to say I am going to keep talking about it because it is something that is so much on my heart just to get people reading the Scriptures.  

So, read the Bible everyday. That is why we’re talking about Psalm 119 in this opening series of 2012. It's a great, massive psalm on the glories and splendors of God’s Word.

Now, as we look at Psalm 119 today, I want to attempt the impossible, which is to have nine points in the time we having remaining. Some of you who have been around awhile know that I could stretch those nine points into nine whole programs or longer. But I want to talk about Psalm 119 from nine different ways to respond to God’s Word.  

We’ve talked about the blessings that come when we read God’s Word. Now I want to talk about different ways we can respond to the Word of God, ways that we should respond to the Word of God. I’m going to mention most of these just very briefly, and then I’ll spend a little more time on one or two of them.

The first one is we need to learn the Word of God. This appears several times:

I will praise you with an upright heart when I learn your righteous rules. (v. 7)

It was good for me that I was afflicted that I might learn your statues. (v. 71)

Give me understanding that I may learn your commandments. (v. 73)

I am your servant; give me understanding, that I may know your testimonies! (v. 125)

To learn God’s Word, to know it.  

Listen, you can’t obey or apply what you don’t know. So this is a starting place. This is one of the reasons why so many people don’t obey God’s Word because they don’t know God’s Word. I wish I could show you some of the correspondence we get here at Revive Our Hearts from people whose lives are hopelessly enmeshed in all kinds of behaviors and patterns and sins and challenges because they don’t know God’s Word.  

Now, we’re going to see that knowing God’s Word isn’t enough, but it is certainly a starting place. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. You can’t believe, you can’t act on what you don’t know. So that is one of the reasons.

I’m not saying this year to master God’s Word; I’m just saying read it! Read it! Get to know it. If you’ve never read Numbers and Deuteronomy before, you’re going to be amazed. It’s great stuff in there and even the stuff you can’t understand or you don’t get, it’s still great. And it will be feeding and nourishing your soul. Learn it. Know it.

Number two: seek the Word of God. Seek God who is the author His Word.  

With my whole heart I seek you.  Let me not wander from your commandments! (v. 10)

I shall walk in a wide place for I have sought your precepts. (v. 45)

I won’t go into a whole session on what it means to seek the Lord and His Word, but it certainly implies something intentional; that you’re being proactive about this.

Number three: choose the ways of God. Choose His truth or set your heart on His ways. You find both of these going together in Psalm 119.  Verse 34 for example,

I have chosen the way of truth. I have set my heart on your laws. (NASB

Again, we see an intentionality about choosing God’s ways.

Let your hand be ready to help me for I have chosen your precepts. (v. 173)  

We are to choose God’s Word.

Number four: remember God’s Word. And the other side of that coin, which I will keep all of this under number four, don’t forget God’s Word. You see both of these throughout the psalm.  

LORD, I remember your judgments from long ago and find comfort. (v. 52 HCSB)

That word remember means "to recollect, to bring it back to mind, to reflect upon it." I remember your judgments. And then conversely, verse 16,

I will delight in your statutes.  I will not forget your word.

I have to just tell you, I’ve been trying to memorize portions of Psalm 119 because I want to remember God’s Word. I don’t know what it is, but sometimes when I come to verse 16 over and over again, I can’t remember verse 16. And it says, “I will not forget your word.” And I just kind of laugh at myself and say, “Oh yeah, it’s that one about remembering God’s Word.”  

I will never forget your precepts for by them you have given me life. (v. 93)  

I am small and despised yet I do not forget your precepts. (v. 141) 

When we talk about remembering God’s Word, it’s a good place to mention Scripture memory. We have a Scripture memory here at Revive Our Hearts. We have an easier track and more challenging track if you’d like to know more about that go to ReviveOurHearts.com. But you want to remember God’s Word, remember it.

Number five: another response is that we are to turn toward God’s Word rather than away from it. Listen to these verses:  

The arrogant constantly ridicule me,  but I do not turn away from Your instruction. (v. 51 HCSB)

I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me. (v. 102)  

The wicked have laid a snare for me but I do not stray or wander from your precepts. (v. 110) [So I don’t turn away from your law.]

I’ve thought about my ways and turned my steps back to your decrees. (v. 59 HCSB

As we said in the last session that is a verse talking about repentance. Thinking about my ways and then turning my steps toward God’s decrees. If I’ve been going in the other direction, I turn around and go in God’s direction.  So turn towards God’s ways rather than away from them.

Number six: sing!

Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning. (v. 54)

When I read that verse I think of two New Testament characters in two New Testament accounts. The first is Paul and Silas in Acts 16 singing in that Philippian jail. They were singing hymns to God at midnight when they’d been beaten and persecuted and tortured for their faith. They are singing hymns, “Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.”  

And then I think of that scene at the end of the Last Supper when Jesus was en route to Gethsemane and then from there to the cross. The Scripture tells us that they sang a hymn and then went out. They probably sang a hymn from the psalms. “Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.”

My tongue will sing of your word for all your commandments are right. (v. 172)

I came across not too long ago a neat resource, and it is available through our Daily Bible Reading Challenge page on our website.  A woman wanted to memorize Psalm 119 with her two youngest children. She is a musician, and she has written a song for each of the twenty-two eight-verse stanzas of Psalm 119. 

They are catchy tunes. It’s a way to memorize the translation. They used the King James translation and that resource is available, both the printed music and a sing-along CD. It is just word-for- word Psalm 119. She used this to help her children memorize Psalm 119. You’ve heard the phrase perhaps, “What’s learned in song is remembered long.” Now, you don’t have to sing Psalm 119, but sing songs that bring to mind the Word of God, the ways of God. Sing His Word for all His commandments are right.

Number seven: another response to God’s Word is to meditate on God’s Word. Now, I’m just going to mention that one here because I want to spend the better part of a session in our next program talking about meditation. But just a couple of verses:

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. (v 15)  

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. (v. 97)  

We’re going to come back to that because it is such a key way that we respond to God’s Word.

Number eight: I really want to park on this one for a little bit here. We are to keep the Word of God. I think it is twenty-nine times if I counted correctly that Psalm 119 talks about keeping the Word of God. Not just knowing it, but keeping it, obedience. It is the idea of keeping a covenant. We are in a covenant relationship with God. He keeps His covenant with us, and He calls us to keep that covenant with Him. Look at verse 2 for example,

Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek Him with their whole heart. (v. 2)

You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. (v. 4)  

Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!” (v. 5)

I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me! (v. 8)

Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep  it to the end. (v. 33)

Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. (v 34)

I remember your name in the night, O LORD, and keep your law. (v. 55)  

This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept your precepts. (v. 56)

The LORD is my portion; I promise to keep your words. (v. 57)

I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments. (v 60)

I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts. (v. 63)

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep  your word. (v. 67)

The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep  your precepts. (v. 69)  

My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly. (v. 167)

I keep your precepts and testimonies, for all my ways are before you. (v. 168)  

Now maybe you’re thinking, "Couldn’t you have just read one of those and made the same point? Why read all of those?" Well, I didn’t read all twenty-nine. But you need to read all twenty-nine. You think if God says it twenty-nine times in one chapter that we need to keep His Word? Obey His Word? It makes me wonder how many things do I know about God’s Word that I’m not doing. How many broken relationships do I have that I’ve not taken initiative to restore? I know God’s Word says to forgive. Where am I holding bitterness in my heart? I know God’s Word; am I keeping it? Am I keeping it? It is not enough to just know it.

Having a heart to obey God’s Word is an evidence that we belong to Him. For a child of God, obedience is not a burden, it is a delight. And notice that we’re not just talking about behavior here. We’re talking about obeying God with our whole heart. Heart obedience; having an upright heart. We read that seven times in Psalm 119. 

Our commitment to keep God’s covenant; remember this: It is a response to His covenant-keeping character. Remember Exodus 34? If you’ve read Exodus, if you haven’t you’ll be reading it this year I’m sure. It says, “He is a God who keeps steadfast love for thousands.” He is a covenant keeper. When He enters into a covenant relationship with us, one of the marks that we are in that covenant with Him is that we have a heart to keep His Word.

But let me remind you, and I’ve tried to say this repeatedly through this series because we’re focusing a lot on the Old Testament law here, we need the bigger context of the whole of Scripture which reminds us that only Christ was able to perfectly keep God’s law. And that is why we need His saving grace and the power of His holy Spirit to enable us to do that which we cannot do apart from His power.  

We cannot keep God’s Word, we can’t obey this, we can’t do what Psalm 119 says twenty-nine times. We can’t keep God’s Word unless God keeps us. And thank God He does keep us! Jude 24, “To him who is able to keep you from folly . . .”  He keeps us so we can keep His Word.

Jesus prayed in Psalm 17,

Holy Father, keep them in your name . . . I have guarded them . . . Keep them from the evil one. (vv. 11, 12, 15)  

He keeps us, He lives in us, and that is why we can keep His law.

And then one more, number nine is our response to God’s Word. Number nine: we are to share it with others.  

With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. (v. 13)

I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame. (v. 46)  

Psalm 119 is a very personal psalm. It is a psalmist who uses the word “I” over and over again. "I will keep," "I will obey," "I will . . ." It is between he and God. This is a prayer so it is his soul’s conversation with God. It is an individual walk with God which by the way is a reminder that you can walk with God and with His Word even if no one else around you does.  

But there is also a corporate sense, a corporate dimension that comes out a few times in Psalm 119. I just want to close by pointing three of those verses out to you.  

I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts. (v. 63)  

This is not just an individual walk; it is that, but it is also a walk with other like-minded, like-hearted believers. The psalmist was mindful of others who like him had a heart to keep God’s Word. It is a reminder that we’re not alone on this journey. You may sometimes feel that you’re alone. You may be the only believer in your family or in your work place. You may feel like you are the only person in your church who has a serious heart to follow God and His Word, but remember there are others. There are others who are with you on this journey who are seeking Him, who are walking the same path. You are part of that community of faith. We need each other. True followers of Christ, "I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts."

True followers of Christ are marked by fear of the Lord, by a heart for His Word, and by an obedient walk. We have those things in common however many other differences we may have, and we’re drawn to others who are like-minded and like-hearted.

Now look at verse 74,

Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice because I have hoped in your word.

When you obey God’s Word, it is not just you who gets blessed, but other believers who see you take God’s Word seriously are encouraged, and they are challenged. They see the fruit of God’s Word in your life and their life will be blessed as a result. "Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice because I have hoped in your Word." Whose life will be encouraged this year because you have taken God’s Word seriously, because you have hoped in God’s Word.  And then verse 79,

Let those who fear you turn to me, that they may know your testimonies.  

I think that suggests that our lives can make others hungry for God’s Word. Who wants to know God better because they’ve been around you? And that is why, by the way, why I just want to encourage you to go to ReviveOurHearts.com, go to the Daily Bible Reading Challenge and look for the forum. It's a place where you can interact with others and share what God is teaching you; others who fear the Lord, who love  His Word. You can engage with them, you can share what you’re learning. You can share the challenges.

When I did this past summer a 90-day Bible Reading Challenge, I had a small Facebook group of people doing it with me. We asked each other questions. I remember when one lady got to one particular passage that was really hard to understand, she said, “What’s up with this? What does this mean?” And we were able to interact with each other. Those who love the Lord spoke often of Him to each other, Malachi says. So we’ve provided a forum where you can do that.  You can interact with others and share what He is teaching you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lord, for Your Word. Wow! It is so precious! And we want to be women who seek Your word, who know it, how to memorize it, who meditate on it, turn toward it, who remember it, who sing it, who chose it and set our hearts on it. We want to be women who keep Your Word and share out of the overflow with others.

Just think of all the things we talk about when we get together. Wouldn’t it be an incredible thing if Your Word was a core part of what we were sharing in our social networking? Wouldn’t it be great if we were doing that around Your Word? So Lord, help us not to wait for others to do it but to lead the way, to set the course. May our lives lead others to become hungry for You. I pray in Jesus name, Amen.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss in the series Revive Me According to Your Word. The series is based on Psalm 119. Nancy, you mentioned the forum that women can join at ReviveOurHearts.com, and that is not the only resource we’re making available as we encourage women to read God’s Word in 2012.

Nancy: That’s right Leslie. We want to do everything we can to encourage people in this Bible Reading Challenge. I feel so passionate about this thing of encouraging people to read the Bible every day in 2012. So at ReviveOurHearts.com you’ll find a whole selection of Bible reading plans that you can take a look at, find the one that best suits your needs, and then you can use it to follow throughout the course of this year. You’ll also find the forum that Leslie just mentioned, and I hope that you’ll take a moment to sign up for the Bible Reading Challenge. Let us know that you’re taking that challenge, and when you do, we’ll send you twice a month an email to encourage you in that journey.

Now when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size, we’d like to send you a CD we’ve produced called Psalms from the Heart. I was asked to chose some of my favorite psalms and record them. Then our team added a musical background, some familiar hymns and choruses.  

You may want to put on this CD while you’re tackling various tasks throughout the day, or you may want to have it playing as one of my sisters does for her five children as she plays this kind of music to put her children to sleep at night. However you use it, you’ll be keeping God’s Word on your mind and perhaps in the minds of others that you love as well.

In addition to the Psalms CD, we’d also like to send you another resource called “My Personal Bible Reading Journal.” This journal is designed to last you for a year, and it gives you a chance to record what you’re reading and how God is speaking to you through His Word. With just a few lines for each day, so you don’t have to write a lot. But I believe this journal will become a meaningful record of your journey in God’s Word this year.

So we’ll send you “My Personal Bible Reading Journal” and the Psalms from the Heart CD when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Just visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com, or ask for those two resources when you call us at 1-800-569-5959. [For a two-week page of the journal to get you started, click here.] 

Leslie: As you aim to read the Bible more in 2012, you don’t necessarily need more will power. What do you need instead? Well Nancy will talk about it tomorrow on 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.

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