Sermon February 23, 2020

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1433

February 23, 2020 Psalm 119.41-48

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)


“To Love Commandments”


41Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise;
42then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your word.
43And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules.
44I will keep your law continually, forever and ever,
45and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts.
46I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame,
47for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love.
48I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.


For those of you who have not been able to attend worship here the last few Sundays, we have been spending the month of February in passages that speak on the Bible itself. Scripture speaks about Scripture in many places and we have been focused in the Psalms. Psalm 1 on the importance of meditation on the Word day and night and how it becomes a delight in our lives. Psalm 19 on the testimony of the Word that restores the soul and enlightens the eyes and last Sunday in Psalm 119 on how the Word of God gives us life. Other parts of Scripture speak of the God-breathed word, inspired, living and active. Jesus used Scripture to resist the temptations of the devil and he referred to Scripture all the time in His teaching and preaching. In our essential tenants of the faith we confess that the Bible is self-attesting. It testifies to its own authority and power, its own inspiration and life. Today we look at another stanza from Psalm 119 where we find more blessings when we engage deeply in the study and love of God’s Word.


  • Steadfast Love and Salvation (41-42)


This stanza begins with a plea for God’s love, 41Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord... This is quite possibly a desire for intimacy in this plea for God’s steadfast love. Love is intimate. It is the desire to love and be loved. Love means getting close and often getting close to God can raise resistance within us. We so desire to love and be loved by God, yet, at the same time, we are sometimes overwhelmed by the thought. Isn’t that how love works? We only give ourselves over so much. We still keep a little bit guarded deep within. Over time that resistance may indeed diminish, but especially at the beginning of a relationship we hold back a little. Maybe it is a lack of trust, maybe a little bit of fear, or perhaps we just don’t want to be that vulnerable yet. Making the connection with another, whether it be another person or a connection with God, is both something we yearn for and reject. After all, God is God, and depending on our view of who God is, His majesty, glory, otherness, it can be a daunting thought to consider a relationship with God. On the other hand, we have Jesus Christ, God the Son with whom we have come to know as both human and divine, fully God and fully human, and in that relatedness we might feel less intimidated, or maybe not!

Our struggle for love and acceptance is often guarded by an obstacle that says, “you can get close, but not too close.” A spiritual guide tells the story of a man named Bert who yearned for closeness to God and even asked for it, but he also feared it. She says, “My first task was to recognize this resistance to intimacy. His resistance took several of the many forms of inordinate busyness. He had no time for silence, no time to spend engaging in a [biblical] text or letting it touch him – even though he spends a great deal of time at ‘reciting’ prayers.”

Richard Foster has said that “superficiality is the curse of our age,” and I think he is right, but that superficiality is nurtured by our busyness. We, like Bert, claim to want to be Christians, to know Jesus, to be close to God, but we mask our fear of that intimacy by keeping ourselves so busy that we have no time to practice disciplines that would put us in a place to grow in God’s presence. In the Christian life we find the most deeply rewarding and satisfying experience of life and yet we avoid it!

But living in God’s steadfast love is not about fear or apprehension, because what we learn is that God’s love is everything we need for life. In His love is the grace and mercy and forgiveness that sets us free to be fully who we are created to be. This love is expressed in the second half of verse 41 and into verse 42, [Let] your salvation [come] according to your promise; 42then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your word.

Love has given us salvation in Jesus. Love gives us the answers to those who might taunt us, to those who make fun of Christianity in our time. The Psalmist then confirms how he has come to know God’s love and salvation, “for I trust in your Word”. The Word of God testifies to God’s great love and wonderful salvation. Trust is putting our faith in this Word as truth and life. It is our hope and our trust which leads us into our next point in this outline.


  • Trust and Hope (42-43)


Trust overcomes our fears. Hope overcomes resistance. Openness overcomes fear. But how do we increase trust or hope? One suggestion is to repeat the experiences that warrant trust and hope and consistency. What are those experiences? Two things come to mind for our busy lives:

  • We must wrestle with our daily commitments. We must examine the busyness of our lives and seek to find that which hinders our seeking closeness to God.

  • We must be willing to patiently and hopefully come into the presence of God in prayer, meditation, study, and silence. This takes patience and intentionality. It does not mean we totally abandon our other pursuits in life; nowhere in Psalm 119 are we told to abandon our current life, but sometimes the busyness prevents us from opening our lives and welcoming God.


It is like that verse we read in Ps 119.37, turn my eyes from looking at worthless things. We have a tendency to let empty tasks shape our lives. Superficiality becomes our guiding way of being. What we truly need in this life is to foster a deeper, closer, more intimate relationship with God.

I think this is something of what the Psalm is saying in trust and hope, “for I trust in your word. 43And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules.” This is the Word in which I trust and hope – don’t let that word ever escape my mouth, that is, let these words be ever forming and transforming my speech and my actions and my thoughts and prayers and dreams and hopes. This leads to the next series of saying in Psalm 119.44-48.


  • I Will…


44I will keep your law continually, forever and ever,
45I shall walk in a wide place,
46I will also speak of your testimonies
48I will lift up my hands toward your commandments,

I will meditate on your statutes.


One of the things Psalm 119 does is promote a Scripture-oriented life. When the Scriptures are engaged and we meditate on them, they become a life giving presence. The Word sticks with us! So the Psalmist is able to say with confidence, I will...keep, walk, speak, lift, and meditate. I will do all these things because the Word has given me life. For example, verse 45 speaks of walking in a wide place. I believe that means I am able to walk in freedom and liberty precisely because of seeking the precepts of God. It demonstrates that walking in commandment and living a Word-oriented life is a life of tremendous freedom. It is not a reduction of life as some people think. Having the Bible as our guide is not at all reduced to constricting rules and regulations, but it is a radical freedom only known through the radically free Word of God.

We find the freedom to live and the freedom to speak because what we are speaking is truth. In the Psalmist case it was a freedom to speak before kings. In our case, it is the freedom to speak truth in all circumstances, in all places, to all people. I will speak and I will walk and I will lift up my hands pointing to God’s Word because I know its truth, its life, and its power. And that is what brings us to love this Word.


  • To Love Commandments


47for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love.
48I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.


This stanza (41-48) ends with two phrases, “your commandments, which I love”. Psalm 119 is the primary source for expressing this love. Two times here in 47-48, and five more times in verses 97, 113, 127, 140, 159. I love Your Law. I love Your Commandments. I love Your Precepts. Psalm 119 uses many terms to speak of the Word. What the Psalm conveys throughout is a deep love for the Word. Now, when we trace the Word through Scripture we see some pretty amazing things like God spoke all things into existence through the Word. We see John 1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” There are reasons even beyond the Psalm to love the Word. This Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1.14),

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

I cannot help but conclude that if we are to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, then loving the Word is a part of that love. Certainly loving the Word means using our minds to love God by reading and studying and meditating, memorizing and becoming familiar with all that the Word offers us.

Even more, it is not just about saying we love the Word, it is also about loving what the Word says. We love that Jesus died and rose again. We love that God created all there is. We love that Revelation reveals the victory in Christ. We love everything we see and experience through this Word. We might even have particular verses we love above others. I love that Paul says the Word is not far from us that we have to ascend to heaven to get it. It is in our mouth and on our hearts (Rom 10.6-8). I love that the Word does something to our spirit when we read it and find precious wisdom from it. I love the excitement and questions and challenges it brings. I love that we have it as we do because not every generation has had the availability like we do.

Let us join with the Psalm and make our confession daily, for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. Amen.

  October 2020  
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