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Psalm 119:33-119:48
Key Verse: 119:44

Psalmist lived in a very ungodly environment. What he saw through day to day life was corruption, apart from God. He was scorned due to his faith. But he was delighted in the words of God. Through this passage, may we learn how to overcome worldly influence and live a victorious life in God.

Part I. Teach me, Give me understanding, Direct me. (V33-35)

Let’s read verse 33 and 34. “[33] Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. [34] Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.” Verse 33b and 34b show Psalmist’s strong desire to obey God’s word. He said “I will keep them to the end / I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart” what do you think about this decision and attitude? This decision means that “I will keep the commands at any cost.” “your commands are more precious than my life” “I am ready to sacrifice anything in order to keep your commands.” This is his great attitude toward God’s word. He is ready to practice the words of God and keep them to the end. He had fervent desire for the words of God. And God’s reward follows for those people. In the book of Revelation, Jesus complimented Philadelphia church because they kept his command to endure patiently although they have a little strength” (Revelation 3:10). At that time, people did not follow the words of God sincerely. When ungodly atmosphere prevails, it doesn’t seem that man of full obedience influences others. To ordinary eyes, one man’s dedicated life to the words of God can be seen as strange. As a result, faithful people who obey God’s words can be persecuted. But to the eyes of God, it is truly beautiful. He can continue his work through the obedience of a man like Noah who obeyed God’s command to the end. Our Lord Jesus obeyed to God to the point of death. Our to-the-end obedient spirit is the best attitude toward God’s command.

Looking around the world, people give their hearts and whole life to the end to earn something or to become somebody. In order to become successful in a certain area, they have to go through a series of learning periods. Without learning, there is no good result in the end. Here, psalmist wanted to devote himself to the words of God. In order to do so, first he wanted to become a good learner. Verse 33a and 34a. “Teach me to follow the decrees. Give me understanding” With his great learning attitude, he asked God for giving him a deep understanding to his words. Like him, we may continue to explore the words of God and have deeper understanding with obedient heart.

Verse 35 “Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.” Here path refers to narrow way different from broad way many people take. Psalmist knew that the path truly can lead him to life while the other to destruction. So, life leading by the words of God is truly delightful because it is the way of life and truth. Psalmist had inmost joy when he walked on God’s way.

We could see Psalmist earnest desire for living by God’s word. We all may want to live a life like him. However, we also come to realize that we have enemies inside and outside to hinder our relationship with God .

Part II. Turn my heart toward your statues and not toward selfish gain (KJV: not to covetousness)

Let’s read verse 36 and 37 together. “[36] Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. [37] Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.” “Turn my heart, turn my eyes” Our hearts and view needs direction change. Our hearts easily follow selfish gain since it is our inborn sinful nature. Selfish gain is in other words greed and covetousness. The Bible underlines that all kinds of corruption start from our greed. Out of covetousness, first man disobeyed God’s command. The root of Cain’s jealous and first homicide in human history was his greed. We can easily find many other examples in the bible and consequences of such sins; Achan’s sin of hiding spoils during conquering Jericho against God’s direction, Balaam’s sin out of love for money, the King Saul’s corruption, David’s sin to Bathsheba, Judah’s betrayal to Jesus, religious leader’s rejection to Jesus, Ananias and Sapphira’s dishonest sin etc. Man’s greed is fundamental problem. Jesus said "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." Paul also said “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10)

So the end of greed is misery and life away from God. There is a saying “greed and happiness never met and they can’t be friend” Greed is the first enemy we should fight first. There is a story about the Great King Alexdander. One day, he and his army went to war against Persia troop. However, on the way he felt that something was wrong with the march of his soldiers. They walked slow and hard without vital marching spirit. Then he found that they carried many spoils from previous wars. So, he ordered the soldiers to collect and burn all the spoils. The soldiers complained about it, but their march was successful in the end and they won the battle.

To the Psalmist, the world he lived was like a jungle with many greedy wolves. But he also saw that the wolf was in his heart as well. If he feeds the wolf, it will grow and stronger and take his life. So, he prayed “turn my heart not toward selfish gain”. One must be watchful to even small greed so that he can truly keep his heart pure and right before God. He also prayed “Turn my eyes away from worthless things” Worthless things are the objects of our covetousness. It could be money, position, recognition, and pleasure-seeking life, anything that is placed in our first place.

In our days, money seems a standard measurement of most of all our activities. When somebody talks about their occupation, if they say their work worthy of how much, it can be understood better about the quality of the work. Recently I went to Pet store and looked around fish. All fish looked similar to me. But I saw that the price widely varied. 25$ fish looked better than $3 one. Likewise, in people’s mind, money is a standard of all our activity and influences our value system in decision-making. But, according to the Psalmist and other reference in the bible, money is also worthless. I believe that the Psalmist found way better one than money or other things which people valued so much. For example, when we grow older we no longer cherish something as much as we did in our younger age because we find better ones and our view also changes.

So, what is a perfect and better one which is worthy of putting all our hearts for gain? It is Jesus Christ. When St Paul knew that Jesus is his Savior, he made this confession (Philippians 3:7-10) “[7] But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. [8] What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ [9] and be found in him .. [10] I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” In his confession, we see that knowing Jesus Christ has surpassing greatness over anything.. He is a wonderful thing described in the words of God.

Jesus is the true object of our gain. He also changes our heart direction. “[36] Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. [37] Turn my eyes away from worthless things” Who can truly turn our heart to the right place? He is Jesus. Jesus directed hearts of the sinners for the worthless thing to him. Jesus said to a tax collector and called him “Follow me”. He also called fisher men. “Follow me” His calling made them turn their hearts and eyes from their selfish gain to him. In order to turn our hearts to God, one must personally hear his calling through the words of God continually. Meditating and writing testimonies help us to turn our hearts to God while we are living in the world which promotes us to seek selfish gain. Psalmist lived in the time when ungodly value system was dominant. He might be in great peer pressure and temptation of yielding to compromise. But he continued to ask God for adjusting his view and heart to him, through the words of God.

Look at verse 38-40 “[38] Fulfill (establish, confirm, affirm, reassure) your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared. [39] Take away the disgrace I dread, for your laws are good. [40] How I long for your precepts! Preserve my life in your righteousness.” This also showed his great anguish as he lived as a man of faith in ungodly environment. He eagerly wanted God’s promise to be fulfilled so that he can be feared. He asked God for revealing to the ungodly people that he is a living God to fulfill his promise.

Part III. I will always obey your law, for ever and ever.

Look at verse 41. “May your unfailing love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise” “then I will answer the one who taunts me, for I trust in your word.’ At that time, ungodly people mocked him. “Where is God? Can your God save you?” God’s work looked so stagnant and Psalmist’s life in ungodly environment was distressful. Here he asks God for two things. First, he asked God for showing his unfailing love and salvation. In the trouble, he requested God’s unfailing love. It is true that when the unfailing love of God captures our hearts, we are greatly encouraged. It is the power of love. God’s love also motivates us to continue to bear hardship in him.

There is a story about Missionary in China Hudson Taylor. One day, he had an interview with missionary candidates. He asked “why do you want to become a missionary?” One candidate said “it is because of Jesus’ command and I want to go” The other candidate said “there are so many people dying outside Jesus.” Hudson Taylor said “those motivations are good but can’t save you from great trouble and hardship even the death. Just one thing can help you to endure your sufferings. That is Christ’ love” St. Paul also experienced so many difficulties while he served gospel work. Whenever he went, his enemies followed him like wild dog and hindered the ministry and persecuted. But when he thought the love of Christ, it was so compelling and enabled him to keep engaging in the battle. (2Co 5:13-14) The climax of God’s unfailing love is the love of Jesus Christ to serve sinners and finally give his life.

Second, he prayed God not to lose his words in his mouth. Verse 43 “Do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth for I have put my hope in your laws” He probably saw many corrupted things in his days. Publically, the voice of ungodly people gained a power and made political law and social regulation against God’s law. There was no godly teaching in school. Historically, we learn how those things affect whole nation. For example, 50 years ago, USA outlawed prayer and bible reading in public school. A prayer commonly used in schools up until 1962 was like this. "Almighty God we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our Country." But what happened in USA after the ban started? The whole moral climate changed. Pregnancies of teenager sharply increased. Divorce rate and single parent rate went up. SAT score declined sharply. School violence increased. Drug use, illiteracy, alcohol use increased. This is the consequence of following humanistic idea rather than acknowledging God’s authority. Canadian educational system and moral climate is not much different from the case. It is not difficult to meet young men on campus, saying “I am an atheist and agnostic.” Mass media, education and social policies go against God’s truth. However, in this spiritual crisis, Psalmist’ prayer gives clear direction. “Do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth for I have put my hope in your laws” “I put my hope in your laws” His personal decision show that the word of God is our hope and our mouth must be the instrument of the word of the truth. Why? The word of truth reveals the power of God. Hebrew 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” In the book of Ephesians 6:11, St Paul described the full armor of God and the sword of the Spirit is the word of God. It is only attacking weapon in spiritual battle. He also asked others to pray for him. “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,” When he went to Corinth, he was afraid because of severe moral corruption and persecution. But, Lord spoke to him “do not be afraid, keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city” In that way, Corinthian church was pioneered. In 2 Corinthians 3-5, he said about how strong our weapon “3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Indeed, the word of truth is our strong weapon destroying Satan’s stronghold in our days.

When we think about Psalmist’s two requests together, God’s unfailing love and the word of truth, they can truly enable us to embrace lost souls and help them to return to God. We may have Jesus’ compelling love and sharpen the word of the truth and serve UofT students this fall. This is my prayer; may God help me to have a heart of God and be a bible teacher for freshman.

Now, Psalmist’ heart was full of new decisions. From verse 44 to 48 “[44] I will always obey your law, for ever and ever. [45] I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. [46] I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame, [47] for I delight in your commands because I love them. [48] I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and I meditate on your decrees.”

“I will always obey your law, for ever and ever” This word sounds to me like marriage vow. Bride and groom are asked at the wedding. “do you love your bride until your hair become grey?” “do you love your bridegroom even when he does not speak much and you feel uncomfortable?” “do you love your bride even when she doesn’t cook well?” Psalmist confessed to the words of God, “I truly love you” (V 47-48) The word of God is his perfect bridegroom and the words of God also see him as perfect and beautiful bride. Obeying God’s words is not burden. It is delight and joy living with perfect bridegroom. Amen! When Psalmist had a deep and strong love relationship with the words of God, he became truly free from the mockery of his enemies. He freely obeyed the words of God. He spoke before kings because he had no shame and fear. He was so happy with God’s words. What a perfect love relationship he made with the words of God. In our lives, we must have such beautiful relationship with the words of God. We can confess like Psalmist “I will always obey your law, for ever and ever”

Written by David Kim

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