Reading: Psalm 147
He strengthens the bars of your gates
and blesses your people within you.
He grants peace to your borders
and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.
He sends his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
He spreads the snow like wool
and scatters the frost like ashes.
He hurls down his hail like pebbles.
Who can withstand his icy blast?
He sends his word and melts them;
he stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow (NIV).*
What does a swiftly running word look like? Does it have legs on the bottom of each letter so it can run along, somewhat like a scurrying centipede? Or maybe when words run, they flow like a babbling stream rushing around and over rocks? How do you visualize running words?
Here in Psalm 147, the psalmist uses this metaphor to describe God’s word in action. He [the LORD] sends his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.
We can be sure of one thing. When the word of the LORD is sent forth, it accomplishes its purpose. The prophet Isaiah wrote of that unchanging truth. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:10-11).
God’s word brings blessing. That’s the picture that the psalmist paints. Isaiah uses different brush strokes, but in essence he paints a similar picture. The outpouring of the word of God onto His people brings a bountiful blessing. He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your people within you. He grants peace to your borders and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.
Wherever God’s word reaches, it brings new life and fullness to life. Yes, it often brings conviction of sins, but those are the dead limbs that need to be cut off so new growth can flourish. God’s word reorients my life from a path that leads to death to the way everlasting.
The inner peace and security that I need are found in the presence of the LORD. I need a constant flow of God’s word into my heart and my mind. True prosperity, healing and strength are found in the swiftly running words of God. I want to be immersed in those running words.
Response: LORD God, I treasure your commands and your words. I want your word to be active within me, cutting off those sins and habits that are unproductive, and then bringing forth new life and the fruits of righteousness, peace and joy. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you allow God’s word to run and play in your mind? Has a Bible verse changed your life?
*New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica.
Reading: Psalm 119
I call with all my heart; answer me, LORD,
and I will obey your decrees.
I call out to you; save me
and I will keep your statutes.
I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I have put my hope in your word.
My eyes stay open through the watches of the night,
that I may meditate on your promises.
Hear my voice in accordance with your love;
preserve my life, LORD, according to your laws.
Those who devise wicked schemes are near,
but they are far from your law.
Yet you are near, LORD,
and all your commands are true.
Long ago I learned from your statutes
that you established them to last forever (NIV).
Meditation. It seems everyone is doing it. Have you taken up meditation? Even the Bible encourages us to meditate.
Ah, but there are some fundamental differences between transcendental meditation and the meditation that is described in the Bible. Eastern meditation, which springs from the Hindu religion, calls on the practitioner to relax and empty his or her mind.
Biblical meditation is not an emptying of the mind, or a disengagement with the thought process. Instead, it is active, concentrated thought on a topic, word or Bible verse. On an intellectual level, it has been compared to rumination—a cow chewing her cud. It involves getting the most out of what God has said—digesting His word—so it is fully incorporated into the life of the believer.
Today’s reading sheds light on the psalmist’s practice of biblical meditation: I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.
The psalmist is thoroughly engaged with God. He is crying out to Him. He is focused on the word of God and His promises: I have put my hope in your word.
In the rush of life, do we stop and meditate on God’s word? Is Bible reading just a box to check off as we speed through our day? It’s the LORD who calls us aside to spend time with Him.
Response: LORD God, with all the distractions around me, I want to get in the habit of meditating on your word. Help me to focus my attention and thoughts on your promises. You are good to me. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you easily distracted from God’s word? Do you take it with you through the day?
Reading: Psalm 119
You are righteous, LORD,
and your laws are right.
The statutes you have laid down are righteous;
they are fully trustworthy.
My zeal wears me out,
for my enemies ignore your words.
Your promises have been thoroughly tested,
and your servant loves them.
Though I am lowly and despised,
I do not forget your precepts.
Your righteousness is everlasting
and your law is true.
Trouble and distress have come upon me,
but your commands give me delight.
Your statutes are always righteous;
give me understanding that I may live (NIV).
In the spring of 2015 my son bought his first new car. He was understandably proud of his purchase. The vehicle boasted great handling, exceptional fuel economy and almost zero harmful emissions. What’s not to like about a diesel-powered car like that? Volkswagen engineering was ranked among the best in the world.
Less than a year later, the illusion of zero harmful emissions came crashing down. Volkswagen had installed specially designed software to make sure its vehicles passed emissions tests, but real world, on-the-road results were totally different. The thorough testing that consumers rely on had been subverted.
Fortunately, God’s laws cannot be subverted. Humans may try, but the judge of all the earth knows all; He sees all. We can never pull a fast one on God. Today’s reading from Psalm 119 makes that perfectly clear. You are righteous, LORD, and your laws are right. The statutes you have laid down are righteous; they are fully trustworthy. The psalmist then goes on to make this assertion: Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them.
God’s word and His promises have been road tested by us, His people. They stand up in real life situations. The Bible—God’s word is designed to be applied. It doesn’t just work in the test lab. It works in the laboratory of life—day-to-day life, where it really counts. That’s why spending time in God’s word is so important. It becomes the road-map for life—an abundant life—the life Jesus promised to his followers.
Response: Father God, your word and your promises stand true for all eternity. Help me to believe and live each day through the wise application of your word. Give me understanding that I may live. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you tested God’s word? Did it work for you in real life situations?
Reading: Psalm 119
I hate double-minded people,
but I love your law.
You are my refuge and my shield;
I have put my hope in your word.
Away from me, you evildoers,
that I may keep the commands of my God!
Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live;
do not let my hopes be dashed.
Uphold me, and I will be delivered;
I will always have regard for your decrees.
You reject all who stray from your decrees,
for their delusions come to nothing.
All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross;
therefore I love your statutes.
My flesh trembles in fear of you;
I stand in awe of your laws (NIV).
Our reading today from Psalm 119 begins with a rather harsh statement: I hate double-minded people, but I love your law.
You never know where you stand with a double-minded person. His opinions and his views on various topics shift, depending on who he is with or what is currently in vogue. Everything is relative, so what is wrong today might be right tomorrow depending on the circumstances of course. This fluid, shifting perspective, accurately reflects the moral tenor of our times. There is no certainty. There are no absolutes.
Psalm 119 is a direct contradiction of this world view. The author rejoices in the word of God. He exalts the LORD’s commands. My flesh trembles in fear of you; I stand in awe of your laws.
But where does that leave me? I live in a world that is trying to bend me—to distort me—so I fit into its mold. It takes real determination to resist. If I compromise my faith, I quickly become a double-minded person, unfit for the Lord’s service. I need the mind of Christ.
James has this advice for us: If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (James 1:5-8, NKJV).
Response: Father God, I need your wisdom to live right in this world. I want to escape the corruption that is in the world by drawing close to you and obeying your holy word. Holy Spirit, I call on you for help. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you suffer from double-mindedness? Where is your anchor?
Reading: Psalm 119
Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.
I have taken an oath and confirmed it,
that I will follow your righteous laws.
I have suffered much;
preserve my life, LORD, according to your word.
Accept, LORD, the willing praise of my mouth,
and teach me your laws.
Though I constantly take my life in my hands,
I will not forget your law.
The wicked have set a snare for me,
but I have not strayed from your precepts.
Your statutes are my heritage forever;
they are the joy of my heart.
My heart is set on keeping your decrees
to the very end (NIV).
Some stories that you read are memorable. They stick with you. You identify with the character or the event, and as a result, on a certain level their experience becomes your own.
Several years back, I read a story in Guideposts Magazine about a boy in Florida who went rambling through a field on his grandparent’s farm. On this adventurous excursion, he jumped across an irrigation ditch only to land on a deadly snake—a water moccasin—which instantly bit him. It was only through the miraculous intervention of God that this young fellow made it back to the farm house and survived. In this situation the old proverb, look before you leap, definitely applied.
We too are pilgrims traveling through a field—a dark and dangerous world. That’s why we need the light of God’s word. The psalmist says it best. Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
We need a light—the light of God’s word—on our path because there are venomous snakes in the grass. Actually, the psalmist uses a different analogy; he speaks of snares. But the net result is the same. On this path we are walking, our very life is in grave danger. We must see clearly to avoid disaster. The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts.
We need to know the precepts—the principles of God’s word—if we are going to walk in His ways. This goes beyond a fixed set of rules. It involves an understanding of the reason for God’s commands. For this we need the Spirit and the mind of Christ. We are not just walking to avoid pitfalls; we are walking toward a goal. That goal is Christ Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2, NKJV).
Response: LORD God, shine the light of your word on the path of life you have ordained for me to walk. I am not on this path by accident, but through your will and purpose. Guide me home. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you encountered snares or snakes in the grass? Are you on the right path?
Reading: Psalm 119
Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies.
I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.
I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.
I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path (NIV).
Here’s a question for you. How do you take a bone away from a hungry dog?
Answer: You offer him a steak.
In many respects humans respond just like dogs. We won’t give up our filthy habits unless we are offered something much better. Many years back I remember a conversation with a drug addict—a former drug addict. I asked him if he found it difficult to give up his drug habit.
“No it was easy. Once I experienced the love of God—the real love of Jesus for me on the cross—it was easy. I found something so much better,” he said with a huge grin on his face.
These words from today’s reading reflect the same concept: I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
It’s not hard to walk the straight and narrow when you are walking that path with the Lord—when He Himself is teaching you—when your heart is burning within you as the resurrected Jesus opens the eyes of your understanding. There is a closeness in the Spirit that has no equal. Those are the moments that change you forever because you are fully with God. His word is rich. It’s nourishment to your famished soul. His love is the air you breathe.
Who here wants a dirty chewed up bone when there’s steak on offer?
Response: Father God, renew my first love for you. I want to fall in love with you again. Fill me with delight for your word. Completely change my affections. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you too content with your bone? Have you experienced the nearness of Jesus?
Reading: Psalm 119
Do good to your servant
according to your word, LORD.
Teach me knowledge and good judgment,
for I trust your commands.
Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I obey your word.
You are good, and what you do is good;
teach me your decrees.
Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies,
I keep your precepts with all my heart.
Their hearts are callous and unfeeling,
but I delight in your law.
It was good for me to be afflicted
so that I might learn your decrees.
The law from your mouth is more precious to me
than thousands of pieces of silver and gold (NIV).
Two Christmases ago my wife gave me a 99.99% pure silver coin. The coin commemorates the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation. It’s a beautiful coin that honors in precious metal the history of a beautiful country. Unlike many other gifts, this piece of pure silver will appreciate in value with the passage of time.
In today’s reading from Psalm 119, we are challenged to consider what we truly value. The psalmist writes, “The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.”
What do you value in this life? What is precious to you? We need to continually assess what is dear to us because from that assessment we determine the course of our actions and the outcome of our life. An accurate assessment depends on sound judgment, so earlier in this psalm the author makes this request: Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands.
We live in a world that chases after wealth and material goods. Apparently, that’s where the value is, or so it would seem. But the psalmist reaches a far different conclusion. He values God and His word above all else.
Such thinking is heresy according to the wizards of Wall Street. But silver and gold can’t keep you warm at night. It might buy you sex, but it can’t buy you love. You see real value isn’t found in the gift; it’s found in the giver. My wife is much more valuable to me than thousands of gold coins. As for God, He’s the ultimate Giver—the Giver of all things. We receive true value when we receive Him.
Response: LORD God, I want right values. That starts with loving you with all my heart, soul and strength. Let my actions reflect your values. You value people. That’s why your Son bled and died. Amen.
Your Turn: What do you value in life? Do your actions reflect your values?
Reading: Psalm 119
You are my portion, LORD;
I have promised to obey your words.
I have sought your face with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
I have considered my ways
and have turned my steps to your statutes.
I will hasten and not delay
to obey your commands.
Though the wicked bind me with ropes,
I will not forget your law.
At midnight I rise to give you thanks
for your righteous laws.
I am a friend to all who fear you,
to all who follow your precepts.
The earth is filled with your love, LORD;
teach me your decrees (NIV).
I just got a phone call from a friend that left me rather embarrassed. I was embarrassed because I had promised to call this friend, but I didn’t follow through. I can think of a half dozen excuses I could offer, but none of them hold much water. I can claim that I’m too busy, but I find time for what I consider important. To make matters worse, this forgetting to call is a recurring problem. To put it bluntly, this friendship is in jeopardy because I have repeatedly failed to keep my word.
My relationship with God also suffers when I make promises to the LORD, and then fail to deliver. I have wonderful intentions to pray—to seek God’s face—to read my Bible. But follow through? Not so much. There’s often a big gap between what we promise and what we actually deliver. The shortfall is often enormous. Of course we have our excuses—a flimsy fig leaf to cover our shame.
Today’s reading from Psalm 119 also begins with a promise: You are my portion, LORD; I have promised to obey your words.
If I were to speak those words, in the back of my mind I can hear a voice saying, “Yeah, Yeah. I’ve heard you say that before. When are you going to deliver?”
The brutal truth is I can’t deliver. On my own I cannot obey God’s word. I’ve tried and it’s impossible. I desperately need the Holy Spirit to help me day by day and moment by moment. St. Paul gives us this reminder: it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose (Philippians 2:13).
Response: Father God, help me. I want to obey your word. I want to live out the words of this psalm. I can only succeed by your grace, so give me the will to do your will. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you promised more than you can deliver? Who will help you keep your promises?
Reading: Psalm 119
May your unfailing love come to me, LORD,
your salvation, according to your promise;
then I can answer anyone who taunts me,
for I trust in your word.
Never take your word of truth from my mouth,
for I have put my hope in your laws.
I will always obey your law,
for ever and ever.
I will walk about in freedom,
for I have sought out your precepts.
I will speak of your statutes before kings
and will not be put to shame,
for I delight in your commands
because I love them.
I reach out for your commands, which I love,
that I may meditate on your decrees (NIV).
We live in uncertain times. I am sure people have been saying words to that effect for generations, but it’s true. Developments in technology have been driving change at an ever increasing tempo. With major political and economic changes on the horizon, there seems to be more uncertainty than ever. The only thing that seems certain is that change will certainly happen.
In times like this, we need certainty. This world can’t offer us certainty, but God’s word can. Isaiah reminds us of the permanence of God’s word. “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever” (Isaiah 40:8).
Jesus offers us the same assurance. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19).
Jesus fully endorsed a reverence for God’s holy word. This is the reverence that we see expressed here in Psalm 119. We can place our trust in God’s word because it’s not changing with the times. It stands eternal. In uncertain times, we need God’s word in our minds and on our lips more than ever. May this be our prayer: Never take your word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope in your laws.
Response: Father God, help me grow in my love for your word. Help me to read, meditate and apply it to my daily life. I reach out for your commands, which I love, that I may meditate on your decrees. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you spending time daily in God’s word? Has it become as essential for you as your daily food? Do see God’s word as nourishment for your soul?