God’s Word is your Treasure

“God’s Word is Your Treasure”

Psalm 119:161-168

Those who treasure God’s Word are strengthened to endure all circumstances with grace.

Provides Strength to Endure       (119:161-164)

Provides Wisdom for Life              (119:165-168)

Provides Strength to Endure

Psalm 119:161-164, NKJV

161 Princes persecute me without a cause,

But my heart stands in awe of Your word.

162 I rejoice at Your word

As one who finds great treasure.

163 I hate and abhor lying,

But I love Your law.

164 Seven times a day I praise You,

Because of Your righteous judgments. 

            Psalm 119 is an outpouring of praise to God and love for His Word. There are eight Hebrews words used which are translated into English as Law, Testimonies, Precepts, Statutes, Commandments, Judgments, Word, and Ordinances. At least six of the eight are used in each of the eight verses beginning with each of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

            This portion of Psalm 119 begins each verse in the Hebrew X in the original text which contained no vowels. When the vowels were added to the text to help with pronunciation of the letter it was distinguished with a dot over the right-hand corner v (s) or a dot over the left-hand corner Xo (sh) of the letter. The time spent pondering and writing this poetic acrostic praising God and proclaiming the love and benefit of God’s Word to mankind is something only an enraptured person would attempt to do. The time invested in thought, longing, and desire to express such love and praise for anything is rare in the present age.

            The fact that this Hebrew letter can take on a soft or hard sound describes the comfort the Word of God supplies to those who love the Lord, as well as the harshness God’s Word speaks about for those who reject Him and His Word. The proclamations about God’s Word and praise for having received it in these eight verses reveal two things Scripture provides to those who treasure what God has said. It must also be remembered that much of what has been revealed in confirmation over time was still unknown to the writer of this psalm.

            The Bible contains sixty-six inspired books that tell of the history of how God has interacted with His creation and worked to bring about reconciliation between Himself and sinful mankind through His Son, Jesus the Christ, who is God Incarnate. The psalmist certainly did not have the complete history of all that God had done at that time. Yet, what was had was the history up to that point in time and the faithful promises of God was going to have come to pass. This partial history was enough to know the power and benefit of all that God had said and also revealed about Himself to lovingly write in this inspired manner to encourage all who would read these words.

            Obedience to God always brings persecution from those who are not living in obedience to God. Christ warned those who followed Him, “33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33 NKJV). The Apostle Paul later would confirm this in his inspired letter to a young pastor, “12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12, NKJV). Apostle Peter also gives encouragement on how to respond to this conflict when he said, “19 Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19, NKJV).

            The more the psalmist loved and obeyed God the more the princes persecuted him even though he had not wronged them to bring on such persecution. Persecution is the result of a heart that is in awe of God’s Word. The idea behind the Hebrew word translated awe in English is páchad  meaning to be startled, be afraid, stand in awe, fear, make to shake. Standing in awe of the commandments and revelation of God is recognizing the value God has so graciously given to people so they would know His heart and character.

            There is so much in the world that is seen, heard, and done that would lead people to believe that God is something other than what He is in reality. The stance of the writer refuses to accept that God is less than Almighty or to be persuaded to turn away from obedience to the commandments of God. This is evidenced in the way the psalmist rejoiced in God’s Word.

            There are many things that people rejoice in throughout the world. These things can be generalized as anything that brings meaning and joy to the life of a person. Those who are living for themselves rather than God find these things temporarily at best in self-gratification often times at the expense of others. The princes who persecuted the psalmist would have enjoyed his suffering for what they thought was worthless. These persecutors were willing to suffer for the sin they treasured in their hearts. The one who is held in the bondage of sin will suffer the consequences of their sin because they treasure their own satisfaction. People will also sacrifice for, be willing to suffer for, and be strengthened by whatever it is they are treasuring in their life.

            Treasure of life can be something physical like a trophy given in recognition of an achievement, relationship with someone believed to be honorable, or anything that gives a person pleasure or makes them feel secure. God knows this about people since He created them. In mankind’s rebellion against the Lord people have exchanged the physical, spiritual, and emotional satisfaction found only in obedience to Him for temporal and selfish things that bring momentary pleasure.

            Treasuring the things of earth instead of God has been a struggle for those who claim to be God’s people as well as those who outright reject God’s authority over their life.

13 Yet the Lord testified against Israel and against Judah, by all of His prophets, every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets.” 14 Nevertheless they would not hear, but stiffened their necks, like the necks of their fathers, who did not believe in the Lord their God. 15 And they rejected His statutes and His covenant that He had made with their fathers, and His testimonies which He had testified against them; they followed idols, became idolaters, and went after the nations who were all around them, concerning whom the Lord had charged them that they should not do like them. (2 Kings 17:13-15, NKJV)

            There must be a conscious decision made to treasure the Word of God as the highest authority in life or something else that is of far lesser value and greatly diminished worth will become the treasure of the heart. Allowing God’s Word to be the greatest treasure of life in the heart and mind will bring about clarity in life that helps a person to avoid the devastation caused by subtle temptation.

            The writer proclaims his detest of lies due to his love for God’s laws. The truth God’s Word reveals does more than help people discern the difference between true and false; it also allows them to see how deadly the slightest of lies are to the one being told a lie and the liar themselves. Once a person understands the horrible consequences lies bring about it causes lies to be more repulsive even if lying brings peace momentarily by hiding the truth.

            Lying is more than telling something that is false. Lying is withholding the truth and allowing a person to think or believe something that is not true based upon actions or the lack of information presented. Abraham lied to the Pharaoh by allowing him to believe Sarai was only his sister, which technically was true since she was his step-sister.

17 But the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 And Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’? I might have taken her as my wife. Now therefore, here is your wife; take her and go your way.” (Genesis 12:17-19, NKJV)

            Abram lied to protect himself, but injured others by lying to them. God’s Word reveals the danger lies have on the lives of other people and to the one who tells the lie. The reality of sin’s deadly effects remain hidden until truth is discovered in developing love for God’s Word which is truth personified in the person of Jesus, the Son of God. There are many things people love and hate, but for all the wrong reasons.

            God’s Word becomes more radiant and lovely as people begin to recognize its trustworthiness and the strength it provides to handle anything a person will encounter in life. The focus of the person who loves God’s Word is upon praising God for His presence, control, and guidance He reveals rather than hatred for things God’s Word exposes. The writer expresses this as he was inspired to write, “Seven times a day I praise You…

            How often, and for what reasons does God receive praise from people throughout the course of a day? An honest response would be only whenever pleasant things happen, and not nearly enough. Seven is considered the number of perfection according to Jewish tradition based on seven days of creation and seven feasts in the Jewish year: Passover,  Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Weeks (Pentecost), Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:4-44). The writer is poetically proclaiming he strives to praise God perfectly in the course of each day simply for how God has revealed Himself to the writer through His Word. This has given the writer strength and encouragement to endure the harshness of life sin has brought about in the world.

Provides Wisdom for Life

Psalm 119:165-168, NKJV

165 Great peace have those who love Your law,

And nothing causes them to stumble.

166 Lord, I hope for Your salvation,

And I do Your commandments.

167 My soul keeps Your testimonies,

And I love them exceedingly.

168 I keep Your precepts and Your testimonies,

For all my ways are before You.     

            The strength God’s Word supplies to endure the hardships of living in this sin-tainted world would be reason enough to treasure the Word of God. There is another reason to treasure God’s Word. The wisdom the Lord gives through His commands, precepts, laws, and instruction allows a person to display His character and glory in spite of all hindrances of sin in the world.

            There are four things in the second half of this section which show the direction God’s Word provides for those who treasure it in their hearts and minds: 1) Peace in God’s Law, 2) Hope in God’s Commandments, 3) Love expressed in God’s Testimonies, and 4) Guidance in God’s Precepts. These four things God provides through His Word is what causes the psalmist to rejoice daily in all that God has provided for the protection of those who turn in surrender to the authority of God.

            The peace found in God’s law is more than simply to keep civil rest within a community as man-made laws are designed to do. The writer proclaims there is “Great peace…” for those who love God’s law. The peace described here is between God and the person rather than civil rest among people. Sin causes people to stumble in their obedience to God. The law of God provides the boundaries which help a person to know and avoid behaviors and attitudes that lead to disobedience to God.

            God had given His people many laws pertaining to morality, sexuality, and religious practice of which many are recorded in Leviticus 11:1 – 19:37. These laws outlined for the people of God a code of conduct that would set them apart from all the other nations around them. The great peace for the psalmist was in the laws clear identification of what was expected of the people of God in any given situation or circumstance they would encounter. Obedience to God’s law would help them to navigate through life among people who were in full rebellion to the Creator and provide a clear picture of the only true living God among all lifeless idols nations around them had chosen to worship.

            Obedience to God’s law will bring peace to the one who follows it, even though it brings momentary conflict with those who are in rebellion to God. Apostle Peter explained the purpose of God’s law for those in Christ, “11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11-12, NKJV).

            Living out the law of God is about revealing the character of God in submission to what He has legislated, rather than legalistically holding to laws that have no acquaintance with grace and mercy. God gave His law to provide people with healthy boundaries which would protect people from the deadly consequences of sin while helping them to discover the righteousness and holiness of God.

            The psalmist goes on to proclaim the hope found in the commandments of God which bring salvation to the soul. The commands of God point people to the hope of salvation God extends to all who will receive. These commandments form the foundation upon which the laws of God exist; they are co-dependent upon one another rather than independent of each other.

            Christ identified the foundation of all the laws of God in His response to a lawyer who questioned Him concerning the greatest of all the commandments the Lord had given. “37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40, NKJV). The greatest command that Jesus identifies He recites from Deuteronomy 6:5. The second greatest commandment Jesus quotes is from Leviticus 19:18. These two commandments are practically explained in the Ten Commandments with the first four having to do with how to love God properly and the last six dealing with how to properly express love of self and others.

            The psalmist follows God’s commandments because in them are revealed the way of salvation. It must be remembered that at the time this was written the Messiah was a prophecy waiting fulfillment, not a reality that could be physically proclaimed as it is presently. God revealed His salvation through adherence to God’s commandments throughout the history of His people. The exodus of Israel from the land of Egypt was one such memorable historical fact which clearly showed God’s ability to save and protect those who submit to His commands.

12 ‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. 13 Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt…

50 Thus all the children of Israel did; as the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did. 51 And it came to pass, on that very same day, that the Lord brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt according to their armies. (Exodus 12:12-13, 50-51, NKJV)

            The Passover was commanded by God to be a perpetual feast from generation to generation (Exodus 13:3-10; Deuteronomy 16:1). The commandment was a law for the people of God to observe. It caused them to vividly remember God’s salvation regardless of how far removed those celebrating God’s deeds were from personally experiencing it themselves. The things God commands are non-negotiable; they are laws to be obeyed rather than suggestions God would prefer people to choose to do.

            The writer then proclaims his exceeding love for God’s testimonies which he keeps in the core of his being, “My soul keeps Your testimonies, And I love them exceedingly” (Psalm 119:167, NKJV). God’s testimonies are the ways in which He reveals His character to mankind through creation and the way He moves in people’s lives daily.

            God testified to His power and superiority over the gods of Egypt by pouring out plagues upon Egypt (Exodus 7:14-12:42). The Lord testified to His ability to fight off any enemy who would choose to harm His people by destroying the entire army of the Egyptians (Exodus 14:4). Many times God gave instruction that testified to His character as well. The Ten Commandments testify to the heart of God especially in observing the Sabbath and keeping it holy. This commandment testifies to the heart of God while instructing people who desire to express their love to God in obedience to do so.

8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:8-11, NKJV)

             God prefaces this commandment to observe a day of rest because He has set an example for people to follow, “11 …in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:11, NKJV). The Lord is proclaiming an expectation in this commandment which testifies to God’s desire for His people to be at work, “9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work…” (Exodus 20:9-10, NKJV).

            These are testimonies that the writer of Psalm 119 can keep in his soul to help him to function in life in a manner that gives clarity and understanding in all that he encounters daily. The person with an abundance of possessions and the one with no material possessions will find themselves satisfied only when there is purpose and meaning in their life which come from loving the testimonies of God through His commandments that provide the foundation for all the laws God has given for the benefit and joy of His people.

            Lastly, there is guidance in God’s precepts. These are specific things God has given a procedure to follow or an order of doing something. This would include but not be limited to passages like Deuteronomy 23:12-14, “12 Also you shall have a place outside the camp, where you may go out; 13 and you shall have an implement among your equipment, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and turn and cover your refuse. 14 For the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and give your enemies over to you; therefore your camp shall be holy, that He may see no unclean thing among you, and turn away from you” (NKJV).

            The precepts of God are to manage how the people of God live in private as well as in public. God is walking among His people daily because He is omnipresent (everywhere at once). This is the kind of precept that the psalmist would have been able to connect with and find the benefit of in his life.

            There are only minor subtleties that separate the understanding of God’s laws, commands, testimonies, and precepts. In all of their differences and similarities one thing is always clear to those who love God and His Word – the full joy, strength, and satisfaction that can only be enjoyed when a person treasures God and His Word in their hearts and minds. The world’s lies and allure are then recognized for what they truly are, and rejected for that which is ultimately better with God.

            Treasure the living Word of God who is Jesus Christ and know today the peace and joy that only He can provide.

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