OAKRIDGE BIBLE CHAPEL

A Resolution To Walk in God’s Way (Psalm 119:1–8)

Psalm 119 is a celebration of God’s word, its nature and purpose, its power and perfection, its necessity, sufficiency, reliability, and veracity. The Hebrew word for law, torah, is used thirty-six times in the Psalms, twenty-five of which are found in this particular Psalm. Add to that the many synonyms the author employs—God’s word, ways, testimonies, precepts, statutes, commandments, and judgements—and God’s word is explicitly mentioned 178 times in its 176 verses.

And while one might expect that a passage about God’s word would include a call to obey God’s word, there isn’t one. Instead, readers are given a model to obey not a command to obey. The psalmist, throughout this lengthy acrostic poem, presents himself, not as one in grim, slavish obligation to God’s law, but as one who loves and delights in God’s law, inviting all of God’s people to join him in his resolution to walk in God’s way.

SERMON MANUSCRIPT 

Psalm 119 is a celebration of God’s word or, as the opening verse calls it, “the law of the Lord.” The Hebrew word for law, torah, is used thirty-six times in the book of Psalms, twenty-five of which are found in this particular Psalm. Add to that the many synonyms the author employs—God’s ways, testimonies, precepts, statutes, commandments, and judgements—and God’s word is explicitly mentioned 178 times in 176 verses. What the author wants to celebrate could not be more clear!

And while one might expect that a passage about God’s word would include a call to obey God’s word, there isn’t one. Instead, we find a model to obey not a command to obey. The psalmist, throughout this text, presents himself, not as one in grim, slavish obligation to God’s law, but as one who loves and delights in God’s law. [119:18, 35, 99, 111, 129, 135, 143]

Does that describe your relationship with God’s word? Do his commands make you jump for joy? Do his warnings and promises give you butterflies? Probably not but, why not? 

I think at least part of the reason reactions to God’s word like those described in Psalm 119 seem so foreign and unobtainable is that we lose sight of both the nature and the goal of God’s word, two realities the psalmist is crystal clear on, and two realities that clearly excite him.

THE NATURE OF GOD’S WORD

First, Psalm 119 celebrates the nature of God’s word, basically that it’s inseparable from God himself. Throughout this Psalm, characteristics of the Lord and his actions are ascribed to the law of the Lord.

Psalm 119 asks that God’s word not to be hidden and, instead, be set before God’s people, that God’s people are to cleave to the word, trust in the word, seek the word, lift our hands to the word, wait and hope in the word, love the word, fear the word, and believe in the word. Psalm 119 describes God’s word as life-giving, as righteous, and as our helper.

All of those requests and declarations are typically made to God and about God. Elsewhere in Scripture we’re to cleave to God, trust God, seek God, lift our hands to God, wait and hope in God, love God, fear God, and believe in God. God is the righteous giver of life and our ever-present help in times of need. The author of Psalm 119 sees virtually no distinction between God and his word.

Jesus, who called himself “the way, the truth, and the life,” knew this and that’s why he prayed for his disciples in John 17: “[Father] sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (v. 17). Paul understood this when he said, “All Scripture is inspired by God.” God’s word is not only inspired but, in a sense, expired, “breathed out” from within him and being consistent with him. 

If you’re like me, you can sometimes forget the nature of God’s word—that it’s an extension of his will and character. I don’t worship the word anymore than I love a photograph of my wife, but I honour it for what it is because of who it’s from and who it represents. The psalmist knows the nature of “the law of the Lord,” and it thrills him because he knows that, in it, he’s encountering the Lord himself. [119:38, 103] Psalm 119 celebrates the nature of God’s word.

THE GOAL OF GOD’S WORD

But it also celebrates the goal of God’s word. [119:105, 165; Tim 3:16–17] If God’s word is given to us to grow us, mature us, improve us, and bless us, then that prospect should excite us.

Consider an athlete with Olympic aspirations. If they’re serious about it, they’ll find a coach with a track record of producing Olympians and they’ll submit to that coach’s instruction, even when it seems outlandish, unnecessary, heavy-handed, or counterintuitive. Why? Because the coach is the expert. They’ve done this before and they know how to move an athlete from where they are to where they want to go.

If the athlete wants to reach their goal and if they trust their coach, then every workout they’re made to complete, every hardship they’re told to endure, every habit their encouraged to develop, and every sacrifice they’re asked to make is potentially exciting despite the unpleasantness and inconvenience. Why? Because it’s all contributing to who they want to be and what they want to do. Understanding isn’t always necessary. Compliance is.

Every child of God should want to be more like God and more useful to God. We want a blessed life that’s a blessing to others. That’s the top of the podium. That’s the goal. And we have the best Coach and, in his word, he’s given us “all we need for life and godliness” (2 Pet 1:3).

If we really want to be more godly, we’ll be willing to do, not do, and keep doing whatever our Coach tells us, trusting that every bit of it is moving us toward that goal. And, in that knowledge, we can respond with joy and anticipation, longing and thanksgiving, like the psalmist does: [119:11]. Notice the cause and effect—“I want to stop sinning so I love your word because it’s by your word that I can stop sinning.” [119:40; 68; 155]

The word of God was given to us, not only to show us God but to make us godly. It’s powerful and sufficient for that purpose, to help us accomplish that goal, and to aid us in reaching the prize of an abundant, useful, and blessed life. And when we understand that that’s what this book is for, we can move from being exposed to God’s word to being enthralled with God’s word, from duty to desire, from “I must obey” to “I get to obey.”

So, Psalm 119, as a whole, is a celebration of God’s word—its nature and goal, its power and perfection; its necessity, sufficiency, reliability, and veracity. 

And under that epic umbrella, the opening stanza announce a resolution to obey it. If God’s word is what it is and can do what it can do, then what’s left for God’s people but to strive to walk in God’s way?

THE RESULT OF OBEDIENCE

The first four verses describe the result of obedience. And, simply, it’s blessedness. It’s God’s favour. It’s divine happiness and satisfaction.

Right away, the psalmist declares the blessedness of those whose ways are upright or complete. [119:1a] “[Oh] the happiness of those who are blameless of way.” And we might say, “Well, good luck with that! Who can be blameless?” The second half of the verse tells us: [119:1b].

Those who live their lives according to God’s laws are happy, fulfilled, favoured. [119:2] To observe means to watch carefully and comply totally. It’s the way a mother observes her children on the top of a playground structure or the way a diabetic observes blood sugar. It’s with safety and health in mind that they carefully, meticulously, and eagerly pay attention. 

It’s the same for God’s people. [119:3] Notice the contrast: we can walk in God’s ways or walk in unrighteousness. [119:4] If God’s people want safety, blessing, spiritual vitality, and guiltlessness, they’re to watch God’s testimonies enthusiastically and walk in his ways excitedly because of what they are, who they came from, and what they promise. The result, ten times out of ten, is that obedience to God brings blessing from God.

As our culture has thrown off the “shackles” of God’s commands, his “oppressive” design for the home, his “stifling” restrictions on sexuality, the “repressiveness” of his divine morality, has it found more freedom and flourishing, more safety and security, more health and happiness? No! It has found what God says is found apart from his goodness and grace: bondage, confusion, self-loathing, darkness, and purposelessness.

The psalmist is celebrating that God doesn’t want that for his people and has made it possible, through his word, that we would have the opposite. Blessing awaits those who walk according to his ways, who observe his laws, who hear what the Coach says and, regardless of whether or not we fully understand his guidance or not, we listen because of who he is and where he’s leading.

And, let’s be honest, experiencing the blessings of God because of our submission to his word is one of the most intoxicating things in the Christian life. 

If you’ve been baptized you know, as you come up out of the water, there is a peace and joy that accompanies such obedience. If you’ve given sacrificially, entrusted your children to the Lord, shared your faith, confessed sin, yielded desires to God, given time to prayer, served the needy, held your tongue, committed to a local body of believers, or any other act of obedience that goes against our flesh and the our world, there is blessing, isn’t there? Peace, growth, friendship, purpose, contentment, love, joy, and even just the knowledge that my Creator is pleased with me!

RESOLUTION TO OBEDIENCE

I know that most of us have experienced that, and, as I said, it’s intoxicating. It’s almost addictive. I want more. And so did the author of Psalm 119. That’s why, in the next four verses, we find his  resolution to obedience. He says, “I know the result of obedience and, what can I say, I want more.” [119:5–6] Do you hear the yearning? He’s been blessed (v. 1), and he doesn’t want that tap closed. 

“Keep it pouring, God, by keeping me obedient! I don’t want to look at your word, your commands, your law, like the mirror it is, and see a disobedient reflection staring back at me. I don’t want to be ashamed. I want to go to your word with joy—not because I’m perfect, but because I have a willing, submissive, teachable, and obedient heart. Help me, God! Be it resolved! I want to walk in your ways!”

[119:7–8] The more the psalmist learns about God the more grateful he’s going to become for God and the more he understands that obedience is the conduit of God’s blessed presence in life.

Sometimes, even as God’s people, we can lose sight of what the Bible is and what it is for and, when we do that, our enthusiasm for it wanes. Psalm 119 is a corrective for that apathy as it’s a celebration of God’s word, its nature and its goal. When we understand, like the psalmist, what this book is and what it accomplishes in us by God’s power, then we will, like him, treasure it, love it, cling to it, inject it, chew on it, and honour it. 

OBEY GOD TO BE BLESSED BY GOD!

Ultimately, we will become a people who obey God to be blessed by God! Now, this will look different for different groups of people and I want to address four groups and give you a single verse from this Psalm to consider.

First, if you’re not a believer, [119:155]. Psalm 119 is calling for believers to obey God’s word. For those who do not yet belong to God there’s only one command you need to obey to experience the greatest blessing of all: “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” You can’t mature by obeying God’s word until you’re born again by obeying God’s call. If you’re here today and you’re not a Christian, to obey God so as to be blessed by God means to believe in Jesus—his person, work, and promise.

Second, if you’re a new believer, [119:105]. Again, this is a big book. But you’re being invited to get to know he who saved you and to live in a way worthy of the eternal life he’s given you. You can’t do that without God’s lamp. The Enemy of your soul has lost your soul and so he’ll settle for your maturity. Don’t let him. Get in the word and let it guide you. For you, to obey God so as to be blessed by God is to get to know God’s ways. Study with other believers. Let the word of God wash your mind, shape your convictions, and lead your feet.

Third, if you’re a worldly believer [119:104]. It’s time to make a stand. Do you read the world through the lens of God’s word or God’s word through the lens of the world? One leads to blessing, the other to disaster. For you, to obey God so as to be blessed by God is to listen to the Coach, regardless of what our culture says is right, proper, and good.

Fourth, if you’re a hurting believer, [119:107]. God’s blessing doesn’t ensure this life is affliction free. It ensures help through the affliction and an end to the affliction. If you’re hurting today, exceedingly burdened, cling to God’s word as one who a crutch, a railing, a lifeline. Honour the God of all comfort by running to him.

Finally, if you’re an obedient believer, [119:165] to obey God to be blessed by God is to just enjoy and share those blessings. 

Our Father in heaven, thank you for your word. We ask that you will give us the courage and strength to obey it today.

We thank you for the blessings that come to those who keep your ways and seek you with all their hearts. You have given each of us a pathway on which to walk, one that is safe and steady and sure. Forgive us when we selfishly turn to the left or right in search of our own direction. Thank you for reaching out to us with your holy right hand when we call. You have designed us and created us. You know what we need. Thank you for guiding us back to your perfect ways.

When we are confused or lacking in sound judgment, remind us that you have already given us instruction, filled with wisdom and direction. Let us write your precepts on our hearts so we have your counsel in our minds.

We praise you today that you are a God who has spoken. We thank you for the importance of your commands in our lives. Let us read, study and value it. Help us to honour, respect, and obey. For your ways lead to truth and peace. 

And, Father, we thank you for your grace, grace that is best displayed in Jesus, your Son and our Lord and Saviour. Thank you for the relationship you have designed that we might have with him, who is the Word made flesh. In him, we find our true worth. In him is life! He is the first and the last. The beginning and the end. We praise him who was, and is, and is to come again! We love you, our God, and we ask these things in Jesus’s name. Amen.

 



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Josiah has served the Oakridge Bible Chapel family as one of its elders and one of its pastoral staff members since September 2018, before which he ministered as an associate pastor to a local congregation in the Canadian prairies. Josiah's desire is to be used by God to help equip the church for ministry, both while gathered (edification) and while scattered (evangelization). He is married to Patricia, and together they have five children—Jonah, Henry, Nathaniel, Josephine, and Benjamin.

Josiah Boyd

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