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I WILL PONDER YOUR STATUTES

Psalm 119:81-119:96
Key Verse: 119:95

Happy New Year! People like New Year so much. So they do New Tear countdown. I also did with my coworkers in our New Year Retreat. One missionary counted down but other missionary said “your watch is not correct”. But her clock was not accurate either. So, we did again and finally we said “Happy New Year”. Anyhow, why are we so excited about the New Year? We will have more grey hairs and wrinkles. There are some reasons but I guess that we want to let go unpleasant, bleak events and start again. We may want this year to go well. But every year, we undergo difficulties either small or big. Sufferings and hardships never end. Some may get in trouble with school study, job, and health, etc. Why do people suffer? Although suffering is not welcomed, it is obvious that there is no suffering free place in this world because man has lost a true paradise since Adam’s fall. Job in the bible said “men born to trouble” (Job 5:7). St Paul said “we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God" The famous writer and lay theologian C.S. Lewis said “God loves us that he makes us the gift of suffering. Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Suffering is not an optional but a mandatory course for us to take in our life. Since suffering is inevitable, it is wise to know how to win our suffering. Today’s passage will inspire us how to live a victorious life in our afflictions.

Part I. I have put my hope in your word.

Let’s read verse 81-82 “My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word” “My eyes fail, looking for your promise “I say, “when will you comfort me?” This psalmist was harshly persecuted by the wicked people. He struggled to live a life of faith in that situation. He was exhausted in his affliction and could not see God’s salvation and comfort yet. Nevertheless, he put his hope in God’s word. The hope sustained him to bear his suffering. Suffering tests us to find where we put our hope. Also, it leads us to know that the word of God is the true objective of our hope which never disappoints us. When we put our hope in the words of God, we can experience him who is merciful and faithful to his promise. The psalmist firmly believed that the word of God restores his life. He longed for God’s salvation. Like him, while living in this fallen world, God’s people longed for his salvation. In the Old Testament, we see full of God’s saving works for his people. God saved Noah from the floods and Israelites from Egypt. He saved them from enemies, drought, slavery, poverty, sickness, dangers, and evils. God never fails to save his people. In Luke’s gospel, God finally sent his son Jesus Christ as a Savior, as he promised. At that time, Simeon, a devout man of God, was waiting for the consolation of Israel. God blessed him to see Jesus and he said “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismissed your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people” God indeed gives his comfort and salvation to those who put his hope in his promise.

Let’s look at V 83a. “I am like a wineskin in the smoke” This portrayes the psalmist conditions. Probably, Israel people can immediately catch the meaning. But for us, it is not easy to grasp the meaning of this unique metaphor. Anyhow, it sounds like his condition was very critical. Wineskins are made from the skins of young goats. The rough goat hair provides insulation from both daytime heat and night time cold. The inside of the skin was very malleable and watertight. It was very useful in travelling for containing water or wine. But smoke damages softness of wineskin as it would do to any soft meat, turning it hard and crisp overtime. Under exposure to smoke, wineskins gradually lose their functions and become useless. My wife is very enthusiastically studying the Bible. One day, she googled about the implication of this metaphor and shared it with me. Later again, she said that she found another meaning. It means the extreme tiredness of life. She added more that “this exactly describes you”. Long affliction made this psalmist exhausted with feelings of distress, anxiety, grief, adversity, sorrow, anguish, discomfort and misery. We are also placed in such state due to difficult school study, job, family troubles, health problems, and unexpected incidents. Like the Psalmist, we also face hardships in ungodly environments. Jesus also received such sufferings and David’s psalm 22:15 prophetically described Jesus’ suffering “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth”. In the book of 1 Peter 4, Peter also said to his church brothers “do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you but rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” Thinking of me, it is true that my suffering is not a strange thing although I often feel that unnecessary. Reflecting my mission life, my suffering comes through bearing much stress through job, family situation, language matter, and uncertain future. These made me anxious, distressed, and despaired like a pathetic wineskin in the smoke. So last week, I said to my wife “I want to have some rests in the kingdom of heaven just for a week and come back” And I came to the church and meditated the words of God for this message. I could get comfort through the psalmist’ beautiful struggling with the words of God. When I received God’s grace, I felt like I was in the kingdom of God. I learned how precious the word of God is to me. The word of God is like Oasis in our desert-like life. The psalmist also knew this. What was his resolution? Look at verse 83b “Though I am like a wine skin in the smoke, I don’t forget your decrees.” The psalmist held onto God’s words which gave him life. God may help us to put our hope in his words when we are surrounded by troubles and difficulties. .

Let’s look at V84. “How long must your servant wait? When will you punish my persecutors?” In his prolonged suffering, he was anxiously waiting for God’s comfort. His enemies made plots to harm him. V85 “The arrogant dig pitfalls for him V86 “men persecute me without cause” V87 “They almost wiped him from the earth” His suffering came to him like Tsunami. He did not know what would happen to him next day. He desperately asked God for help. But it seemed long for him to receive God’s comfort. His patience was running out. We see that through suffering, God teaches us to learn patience. Roman 5:3 says “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” We don’t know how long the psalmist had waited for God’s help. Waiting is a part of God’s divine training. God trained Moses for 40 years in the desert. Moses was hot-blooded person but later became a very humble and meek person. God used him preciously to deliver his people from Egypt. David, a man after his own heart, also received God’s training for 17 years until he felt like a dead dog. He became a good shepherd and king for Israel. Abraham also received 25 years of faith training till he held Isaac – God’s covenant child in his arms. In such trainings, they could grow as spiritual man of God with his image. So, although it looks like that our sufferings do not end soon, we must believe that God is working for us. Through sufferings, the psalmist could deeply root his faith and hope in the words of God.

Look at verse V 86-88. In his suffering, he held onto the words of God “All your commands are trustworthy; help me, for men persecuted me without cause.” (86). I have not forsaken your precepts (87). I will obey the statutes of your mouth (88).” He put absolute trust in the words of God and entrusted his enemies into God’s hand. He did not depend on other things but the words of God. Although he was completely forsaken by people, he did not forsake the words of God and decided to obey them. He entrusted his life into God’s love “Preserve my life according to your love” (88a).

Part II. I will ponder your statutes.

God comforted the psalmist with his love. He helped him to understand the immense world of God’s words. Look at verse V 89. “Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens” (89) “Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures.” (90) The psalmist saw the greatness of the words of God. He praised the eternality of the words of God. Let’s read verse 89 again loudly “Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” The word of God has no beginning and no end. It is unchanging and far superior over all things because the words of God created all things. “The word of God stands firm in the heavens”.

However, men and demons have tried to shake the word of God and deny honoring his word. For examples, in this world many laws have existed and gone into the history. Especially, wicked people have changed laws to nullify God’s law, suppressed the truth of God, and persecuted his people. For examples, in Daniel’s days, the law of Babylonian King was absolute. Evil people made laws to harm Daniel. However, Daniel refused to follow their law because it was against God’s law forbidding idol worship. Daniel stood firm in his life threatening situation through depending on the eternal words of God. Indeed God protected Daniel even though he was thrown into a lion’s den. The wicked laws failed to harm the man of God. Similarly, in the book of Esther, in the days of Persian Kingdom, a wicked man, Haman changed laws to kill Jews. But God also saved them from the hands of their enemies. Today, we also live in the generation that ignores God’s law. In many places, homosexual marriage is protected by laws. In such atmosphere, young people are confused with their identity. Satan uses laws to persecute God’s people. We also know that secular teaching tries to deny the power of the words of God by proposing that Evolution is true. But in the long run, like every force that tried to undo the word of God, wicked laws and idea will fail. They cannot stand. But God’s law lasts forever!!! The word of God stands firm in the heavens and his laws endure to this day. (91) God’s laws are above all things in this universe until this day, January 12, 2014. God’s law is alive to carry out his will and protect his people. God’s truth never disappears. When we hold on the words of God, we can stand firm in adverse atmosphere like our ancestors of faith.

This word of God gave a great encouragement and joy to the psalmist. Let’s look at V 92 “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my afflictions.” (V 92) He felt secured under God’s law. Likewise, the words of God give us delight and enable us to bear the suffering. Verse 92 was the favorite of Martin Luther who reformed the church. He suffered for honoring the words of God. He said that he loved Psalm 119 so much that he would not take the whole world in exchange for one leaf of it. Four years before he died, he wrote in his Bible the verse 92. Such biblical truth empowered this spiritual leader and enabled him to persevere in his afflictions.

The psalmist was very encouraged by the greatness and truthfulness of the words of God. So, he confessed in verse 93. “I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life” (V93). It was his new decision to hold on to the words of God. He believed that the words of God would help him in his current situations just as they had done to him from previous afflictions. He also confessed to God that “I am yours”. In his prolonged suffering, he might felt that he was abandoned and became like an orphan. But his identity became firm in his words. He called out to him “Save me, for I am yours”

The psalmist had a clear inner direction in his affliction. V 95 “The wicked are waiting to destroy me, but I will ponder your statutes.” He did not hide or find other solutions to escape from his dangers. He was newly convinced that the words of God are the solution. “I will ponder your statutes.” This shows how deeply he trusted in God’s words in such circumstances and his spiritual strategy to deal with his life troubles. We are easily anxious about how to handle our difficult troubles with our efforts. But when we concentrate on our adverse situations, we easily become paralyzed with fear, discourage, and hopelessness. But when we ponder the words of God, we can have courage, faith, wisdom, and hope. Our inner soul is greatly strengthened through the words of God who stand form in the heaven. God may help us to give our full trust to the words of God so that we may concentrate on his words in our life difficulties.

Let’s read V 96 “To all perfection I see a limit; but your commands are boundless” When we deeply think of the words of God, we can find one important thing; the words of God are limitless. In this world, nothing is perfect; no perfect medicine, social systems, wealth, man and technology. Human being’s ability is also limited. Everything is temporal and imperfect no matter how great or excellent it is. But the words of Gods are limitless. With his commands, God parted the Red Sea for his people to cross over. He also destroyed the strong Jericho walls. God raised people from the dead. The Virgin could have a child according to God’s words. Jesus rose again from dead. The bible showed God’s boundless works through his words and revealed the power of his words. More than that, God made the way of salvation for people who suffered from their sins. Through believing in Jesus who shed his blood and rose again from the dead, paid all our debt of sins, we are saved. His words change people to be a man of God. The words of God saved me from my sins and fatalistic life to become his servant. His words have enabled me to overcome my limitations and live a life of faith till this day. I need to renew my vision in God’s words because I sit down in my despair and limitations. May God continue to help me to deeply pay attention to the words of God so that I may experience boundless work of his words.

We thank and praise God for giving us eternal words of God. Like the psalmist, we may see the greatness of God’s words and overcome our life sufferings. We may cherish and put our anchor of faith in God’s words.

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