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On Being a Student of One Truth (Psalm 119:103)

October 18, 2020 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: Take Your Temperature

Topic: One Truth: Your Word is Truth Passage: Psalm 119:103

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I. A “Post-Truth” Age?

Just a few days ago, the Gospel Coalition's editorial director, Collin Hansen, began an e-mail to subscribers with these words:

It’s hard to know what to trust anymore. Almost everything you read, watch, or listen to—even from traditionally reliable news sources—feels tainted by bias, driven by partisan agendas, or undermined by too-hasty commentary and unsubstantiated claims. Where can we look for truth in the “post-truth” digital age?

Whether Hansen is correct about the current landscape, he is most certainly giving voice to how many, many people, and a diversity of people, are presently feeling. But how would you answer that question? “Where can we look for truth in the “post-truth” digital age?” Well, I'm not here this morning to recommend trustworthy websites, publications, or media outlets. But I am here to encourage you in the same way Collin Hansen encouraged his readers in that e-mail: in regard to (as he put it), “God’s Word and the unchanging truth of the gospel.”

With that goal in mind, let's look together at Psalm 119. Not only is Psalm 119 the longest psalm in the Psalter, but it could also be called the longest chapter in the Bible, clocking in at a staggering 176 verses! But what should really distinguish this psalm in both your mind and your heart is its incredible emphasis on the word of God.

Why the emphasis on God's word this morning? Well, you may remember that we've been talking this month about what it means to 'take your temperature', spiritually, that is. If we are Christians, if we are followers of Jesus, how can you or I know if we are spiritually healthy? Well, as we've talked about in the past two lessons, it is God's word that can serve as a spiritual 'thermometer' of sorts. It alone reveals what spiritual healthiness (and therefore, spiritual unhealthiness) looks like for a Christian.

As Way of Grace, we talk about those biblical metrics by way of “Four Essentials”. In our first lesson, we talked about what our orientation toward God reveals about our spiritual health. In our second lesson, we talked about what our orientation toward God's people reveals about our spiritual health. This morning, in an attempt to honestly assess your spiritual health, I'd like you to think with me about your orientation toward God's word.


II. The Passage: “How Sweet are Your Words” (v. 103)

I'm guessing that many people, when thinking about a healthy relationship with God's word, would begin with questions like, “Is time in God's word a regular discipline for you?” or “How much time do you spend daily or weekly reading the Bible?” or maybe “How much do you know about the Bible? What is your Scriptural IQ?”

Now all those questions are important and certainly have their place, but I don't think any of those are the most important question to ask about God's word and your spiritual health. So... what should we ask? What question should you use to 'take your temperature' this morning? Let me suggest a question based on Psalm 119:103. Look there. The psalmist writes...

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

The question is simple: is this how you think about the words of God? Does this give voice to how you feel personally about God's revelation in Scripture? Let me read it again...

And it's important to note, this isn't the only place where we hear the writer making this kind of assessment. Listen to how he uses money instead of honey to make the same point:

Psalm 119:14: In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.

Verse 72: The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

Verse 127: ….I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold.

Verse 162: I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.

In verse 54 we read, “Your statutes have been my songs”, and in verse 172 he declares, “My tongue will sing of your word”. And there are numerous other confessions throughout this psalm that express this same exact assessment, that same exact appraisal, confessions that are straightforward, unabashed, and passionate:

Psalm 119:20: My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.

Verse 40: Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!

Verse 111: Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.

Verse 159: Consider how I love your precepts! Give me life according to your steadfast love.

Verse 167: My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly.

Again, the question is simple: is this how you think about the words of God? Do you treasure God's word? Do you long for it like this writer longs for it? To better understand his attitude toward God's revelation, I think we need to ask “why”? Why are the words of God so sweet to this psalmist? I think he answer that in the context of our main verse. Look back at verse 97...

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. [98] Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. [99] I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. [100] I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts. [101] I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word. [102] I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me. [103] How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! [104] Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. [105] Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

It's important to note that for the ancient writer here (as you've probably already noticed), the word of God, Scripture, was primarily the Law of Moses, both the commands it contains, and the accounts of how it was given (think Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy).

But like all Scripture, these commandments, these precepts, these testimonies, these rules, these words revealed the person and purposes of God himself. And as you just heard, the psalmist delighted in and longed for and loved these words because they provide understanding and guidance and hope in a very dark and dangerous world. Listen to how he goes on in verses 129 to 131 to affirm both these ideas, longing for and light from God's word:

Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them. [130] The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. [131] I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments.

This is a man who recognizes how lost and helpless he is on his own. This is a man who understands the moral darkness of the world, and the spiritual and physical dangers that flow from the sinner's heart; even his own heart. This is a man hungry for wisdom... for truth.

But we also hear in such verses, not simply the heart of someone who is looking for light, but someone who truly is a servant of One Lord. Listen to the second verse of this psalm:

Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart...

Therefore, the writer declares in verse 10,

With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!

A similar confession is made in verse 57:

The LORD is my portion; I promise to keep your words.

Do you understand why the psalmist writes: How sweet are your words to my taste...? It's because they are God's own words, AND because this writer is so spiritually hungry. Brothers and sisters, friends, I don't know about you, but when it comes to a person's orientation toward, a person's relationship with, God's word, this sounds incredibly healthy.

But there's more. It's also important to hear what this writer tells us about the prayers and practices that this orientation inspires; this 'honey and money' kind of appraisal; this longing and love for God's word. Here are just a few of the prayers we discover in this chapter:

Psalm 119:18... Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.

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

Verse 35: Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.

Verse 36: Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!

Verse 144: Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live. (a prayer we also find in verses 27, 34, 73, 125, and 169)

And related to those word-oriented prayers we find also read about these word-oriented practices and commitments:

Psalm 119:11... I have stored up your word in my heart.... V. 31: I cling to your testimonies, O LORD... Verse 32... I will run in the way of your commandments... Verse 57... I promise to keep your words.... Verse 114... I hope in your word (a confession we hear repeated in verses 43, 49, 81, 116, 147)... Verse 157... I do not swerve from your testimonies. And in verses 15, 23, 27, 48, 78, 97, 99, and 148 we hear this vow... I will meditate on your precepts.


III. The Word and Your Healthiness

So think about what God has revealed to us this morning through this mammoth but meaningful psalm. We've learned that healthiness in this area begins with a love for and a longing for the word (or words) of God. Remember this writer's appraisal of God's word: sweeter than honey and better than money. Remember the picture painted in verse 131: I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments. Wow.

We also learned that this healthy love and longing for God's word, not surprisingly, inspires certain kinds of prayers and practices; certain kinds of commitments. I say “not surprisingly” because we expect to see this kind of influence in someone who sincerely loves and longs for something. So let me try to distill this down into a few, brief points of application:

First, think carefully and regularly about your deepest and most frequent needs, and how God's word speaks powerfully to such needs. Remember what we said about the psalmist: he was a man who recognized how lost and helpless he was on his own... a man hungry for wisdom... for truth. God's word gives you both the clearest view of your desperate condition and the greatest news about God's incomparable guidance and grace.

Second, like this psalmist, pray regularly and ask God to deepen both your spiritual understanding of the word and your spiritual commitment to the word. You could begin with the prayers we heard in this psalm: Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things... Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes... Lead me in the path of your commandments... Incline my heart to your testimonies... and give me understanding.

Third, ask God to help you form habits that are shaped by a sincere love and longing for the word (habits that will help anchor you when other things seem sweeter; when other things seem more valuable; when we look for guiding lights outside the word). To be a student of One Truth most certainly requires devotion and discipline. Healthy routines. Healthy habits. But ultimately, we learn and grow as students because we hunger for God and his word.

Will you, in this “post-truth” age, take your temperature this morning in regard to this One Truth; in regard to God's precious and powerful word, that word preserved in sacred Scripture? Is that word “sweet” to your taste? Sweeter than honey to your mouth?

Why is that the metric; the measure? Because it's the first healthy impulse of the Christian life: to recognize one's desperate need and then respond with faith in light of the sweetness of God's word to you in the gospel (the Good News) of grace: that Christ died for word-rejecters and word-replacers like us. As the first healthy impulse, it is the foundational impulse that should continue to drive us forward in a healthy relationship with God AND his word.