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SUSTAIN ME ACCORDING TO YOUR PROMISE

Psalm 119:113-119:128
Key Verse: 119:116

Thank God for giving us his words of Psalm 119. Psalm 119 consists of 176 verses and the longest single chapter in the whole bible. We’ve studied this chapter 16 verses each time and my first message was in 2012. I want to remind you of the feature of this chapter. The main feature of this chapter is alphabetic acrostic structure. The 176 verses are divided into 22 stanzas with eight verses per each stanza and one stanza for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In each stanza of eight verses, it begins with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Today we will study 15th and 16th stanza with respective Hebrew letters Samekh and Ayin. These sections show the inner struggling of the psalmist to live a life of faith in his difficulties. His sole desire was to continue to live according to the words of God. May God help us to learn of his life of faith in the word of God through this study.

Part I. Sustain me according to your promise

The section from v 113 to 120 is the section of the fifteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet “Samekh”. This alphabet has a meaning of “to support” “uphold” or “shield”, which is the main theme of this passage. Look at verse 113. “I hate double-minded men but I love your law” The psalmist’s single desire was to live by the word of God whom he loved. However, he suffered as he kept his faith living in an ungodly environment. His enemies sometimes scolded and offended him. They insulted him for his dedication to God. This passage shows two different kinds of believers; double-minded men and single-minded men. Double-minded men are people who try to serve God and something in the world at the same time. They call God “Lord, Lord” but they do not live as God desires. Their divided heart causes their life constantly in doubting of God’s word and promise, rather than in full devotion.

The double-minded is not a true believer. When person becomes double-minded, the life becomes hypocritical and fruitless. We are familiar with a story “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”. The same person had two different minds and lived a completely two different life. He ended his life so miserably. Recently, one former police officer has been charged with impaired driving. What made people more surprised was that he is a chapter president of an organization named Mothers Against Drunk Driving. So, people consider the case more seriously. Double-mindedness is a serious matter since God hates. Double-minded men compromise their faith to earn worldly possessions and security. In the Bible, Lot and Saul are typical examples. Lot was Abraham’s nephew. He started his life in God together with Abraham. However, Lot did not end his life like Abraham who became a father of many nations. It was because he loved material abundance than God’s promise and chose to settle down in Sodom where people were wicked and sinned against God greatly. In order to pursue material abundance, he deserted God’s promise. He eventually lost everything he earned and bore shameful fruits. King Saul is another example. God raised him as a king in Israel. However, he loved people’s recognition and honor more than God and his glory. He lived before people not before God. As a result, he lived a pitiful life being tortured by evil spirits and ended his life miserably. In the days of Elijah, Israelites worshipped Baal and Ashera which were considered as idols of material abundance and pleasures. At the same time, they also called God. Elijah challenged them to turn their hearts fully to the LORD, saying "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him."

Double-mindedness is the crucial enemy in our life of faith. God wants our single-mindedness to him. So he commanded in Deuteronomy 6:[5] “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Jesus also said “you can’t serve God and money.” However, our enemy Satan always tempts people to live a double-minded life. The devil tried to tempt Jesus through showing all the kingdoms of the world and said, “if you worship me, it will all be yours." But, Jesus answered with his undivided heart "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'" In the book of Revelation, Jesus also warned the Laodicea church which was in complacency due to their richness. He rebuked their lukewarm attitude. “[15]I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! [16]So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

In contrast, the bible also shows the good example of overcoming the double-mindedness. Moses, the prince of Eygpt overcame temptation of living a double-minded life. He made a clear decision to live by faith as we see in Hebrews 11:[24] “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. [25]He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. [26]He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” To serve God, one must have a single-mindedness. Double-mindedness must be alert and repented (James 4:8)

Look at verse 113-114 “[113]I hate double-minded men, but I love your law. [114]You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.” With single heart, he fully loved the words of God. In his affliction, he did not depend on other things but God who is his refuge and shield. He did not compromise with the wicked. He put his hope in the word of God. God is our protection. Looking around our lives, we all need protection. Even small mobile phones have good covers to protect them. The psalmist trusted the words of God as his shield so he could secure safety in God in the midst of many difficulties.

Look at verse 115 “Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God!” His enemies sometimes persecuted and also tried to cajole him into their wicked ways. In his affliction, he could have been tempted to compromise and live a double-minded life. However, he sternly fought back against such temptation and decided to keep God-centered life. It shows how much he struggled to live by faith. But he knew that his decision itself is not enough for him to continue to keep his faith. So, he prayed in v116-117. “[116] Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed. [117] Uphold me, and I will be delivered; I will always have regard for your decrees.” We may experience the moments of great weariness in our lives which none can help. The bible shows that without God’s help, men can’t be sustained. “[Ps 54:4] Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me. [Ps 55:22]” “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” In contrast, the bible also says that when people do not hear the word of God, even the lovely young women and strong young men will faint (Amos 8:13). It is easy to be drained in the agony of our life and become like dead man. However, God strengthens and sustains us to continue to live a life of faith. God’s care restores and sustains our life. For example, God helped Israelites during their 40 years of life in desert. He sustained them in the desert so they did not lack anything. Their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen (Nehemiah 9:21). M. Joseph Chun who came from Washington D.C and attended our worship last week told me about his life. In his early 20th, he had a disease which made him so weak and helpless that he used to take rest every 10 steps. However, later his conditions became better. Then he received the letter that he must join the army service. Though his body was not fully restored, he joined hoping that he could be sent back home during the camp training which was held before formal military service. He thought he would not bear the hard military training. However, whenever he felt the hardest moment, out of nowhere new strength came and he could finish the camp training and also completed his term of service fully. I was moved by his story realizing how God has led him to bear all his mission life despite his weakness. I realize that it is God who truly sustains him to live a life of faith. The bible shows that God sustains our life in our sickness (Psalm 41:3), burden (Psalm 55:22), and adversity. In his sustaining power, we are healed and strengthened. King David even confessed that he could have sound sleep in his difficult times because God sustained him (Psalm 3:5). Particularly, God sustains us through his words. Isaiah confessed [Isa 50:4] “The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.” [Heb 1:3] also says about the word of Jesus “The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”

Likewise, having the words of God in our hearts is like putting down an anchor so that we may not be drifted away in our troubles. The psalmist put his hope in the words of God. He also made a decision that he would bear God’s grace of deliverance through faithful respect to the words of God. Men are weak in nature and vulnerable to sins while our enemy looks strong. God’s words, however can sustain us in any situation. So Jesus helped people to listen to him. One time, Jesus met a father who came and asked him for healing of his dying daughter. On the way to his home, he heard that his daughter just died. It was the moment of give-up with great sorrow and hopelessness. However, Jesus sustained his soul through his words “Don’t be afraid, just believe!” As he said, Jesus went his home and raised his daughter from the dead. Thank and praise God for giving us his wonderful words that sustain our souls. We may come to God and hear his words.

V 118-119 shows the end of life of the double-minded people. [118]You reject all who stray from your decrees, for their deceitfulness is in vain. [119]All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross; therefore I love your statutes. Those who trust something other than God alone will be rejected and discarded like dross. God alone is our secure place. V 120 says “My flesh trembles in fear of you; I stand in awe of your laws.” The psalmist also has flesh desire. However, he feared God and his words so that he could newly decide to keep his heart before him. Let us pray that God may sustain us with his words in our hardship. We may love and respect his words all the more.

Part II. I love your commands more than gold

Verse 121-128 section is the chapter of Ayin, Hebrew’s 16th alphabet. Ayin means “eye”, “to see” and by extension “understand” and “obey”. The psalmist sang about his view on the words of God contrary to that of the wicked. Look at verse 121-122 “[121]I have done what is righteous and just; do not leave me to my oppressors. [122]Ensure your servant's well-being; let not the arrogant oppress me.” The psalmist lived before God’s eyes. The word of God was the standard of his life. However, he was oppressed by the wicked who despised and ignored the law of God. In the time of persecution, he looked up at God and prayed for his rescue. In the book of Esther, Haman, the arrogant planned to annihilate God’s people. However, when they humbly prayed, God indeed delivered them from the enemies. God hears the prayer of those who honor his words. Psalm 121 says “[1] I lift up my eyes to the hills--where does my help come from? [2]My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Look at verse 123 “[123]My eyes fail, looking for your salvation, looking for your righteous promise” This shows the psalmist’s agony in the midst of his affliction. He saw many ungodly and corrupted things and unchanging hardship. He desperately wanted to see God’s salvation and his promise. Sometimes, God’s answer does not come in a time as we expected. We should remember that God never fails to answer the prayer of his people. So we must be patient. For example, when Jesus was born, he was shown to Simeon who had been waiting for Israel’s consolation. When he saw the baby Jesus, he praised God as in Luke 2:[29] “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. [30]For my eyes have seen your salvation, [31]which you have prepared in the sight of all people,” There is a time that our eyes become tired and weary but there is also a time that God hears and indeed answers our prayer.

Look at verse 124-125. [124]Deal with your servant according to your love and teach me your decrees. [125]I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes. He viewed himself as God’s servant. He asked God to teach him his words and let him understand them. He did not focus on his suffering itself. Instead, he wanted to have discernment and understanding of the words of God. It was because he could be strengthened to overcome his difficulties and he could understand better about what is right and wrong. When he understood his words, he could have a right view on his suffering and problems. In this way, he wanted to resolve his troubles with the words of God.

Look at verse 126 “It is time for you to act, O LORD; your law is being broken.” The words of God gave him discernment to see the fundamental problem of the world. “Your law is broken.” Problems in this world can be diagnosed in various ways such as poverty, terrors, crimes, pollution, etc. However, the fundamental issue is that God’s law is broken. Since God created this world, he set his law as a supreme one in the universe. The law of God protects us from evilness and enables us to have a right relationship with him. Think about the role of God’s law given to the first man in the Garden of Eden. Through his words, men could be safe from the evil. So, as long as the law of God was kept, men’s happiness was secured through having right relationship with God. However, the law of God was broken through disobedience. These days, one of people’s major concerns is the large hole in the ozone layer surrounding the earth which protects the life on the planet from the harmful UV rays. Due to the broken layer, people, plants, and animals can be harmed. Similarly, when the antivirus scanner is removed from our computer, we are vulnerable to all kinds of harmful information. Since the law of God was broken, people have suffered because of broken relationship with God and growing evilness in the world. The wicked has put humanistic regulations over God’s law. The marriage and family concepts have been broken. The wicked despised God’s law and suppressed the truth, the supreme law of this world. As a consequence, their thinking is futile and heart is foolish and they serve created things than the Creator. Moreover, due to shameful lusts, people exchanged natural things over unnatural ones. When God’s law is broken, all kinds of evil tendency and moral corruptions have surged.

Who can fix this corrupted world which is unjust and unrighteous? So the psalmist asked God to act. This action refers to his judgment and salvation. Through the history, God has acted to judge such evilness as we see in the flood in Noah’s day, destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Israelites’ Babylon captivity. God is patient but not silent to the end. He acts to reveal who he is. He is the living God. God’s action also means sending the promised messiah to save his people. In this regard, the climax of act of God was to send his son Jesus to this world. God’s act of judgment and salvation is revealed through Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. None is righteous before God’s eyes and all are law-breakers. But Jesus died to save law-breakers and transformed them to live a law-upholding kingdom of priest and holy nation. The gospel of Jesus is the powerful action of God to change sinners to people of God. So, in our times, we also pray that God may continue to work for this generation through the gospel of Jesus.

Look at verse 127-128. “[127] Because I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold, [128] and because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path.” It is his beautiful confession of love. He loved God’s commands more than pure gold. Gold has great value throughout history. In our days, people love gold. Even iphone with golden cover has different value. Gold is good, precious, and valuable. It is also considered as means of security. However, even pure gold has impurity while God’s command is perfect, pure and trustworthy. The gold is also the symbol of victory. Think about the gold-medalists. However, any glorious victory in this world cannot be compared to God’s victory revealed in the words of God. I saw a book named “more than gold”. It was about John’s gospel. I could understand why the author entitled the book as “more than gold”. The author says that this gospel brings the life of sinner to victory because of what Jesus has done for us not because what we have done. Gold cannot give us true victory. But the words of God give us victory. So the psalmist confessed I love your commands more than gold.

The psalmist is greatly strengthened through God’s words and had confidence in living a victorious life of faith. So he confessed I hate every wrong path. He was sure of God’s protection and victory so that he could keep his faith without compromise. God may sustain our life to continue to live a life of faith in this corrupted world.

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