Psalm 119:33-40

March 20, 2017

33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.

34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.

35 Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight.

36 Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.

37 Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.

38 Stablish thy word unto thy servant, who is devoted to thy fear.

39 Turn away my reproach which I fear: for thy judgments are good.

40 Behold, I have longed after thy precepts: quicken me in thy righteousness.

The Point: 

It is God who must train us to appreciate His Word and His Ways and wean us from the vanity of the world. 

How do we feel in the recitation of this Psalm? 

There is nothing more miserable than having to deal with the shame and guilt of our sin. There is also great vexation and frustration when we attempt to fulfill our deepest desires with the world’s vanities.  It is only when God takes away our shame and sets us in the way of His commandments that we find true joy and ultimate fulfillment. We must settle in our minds that there is no other way to be “happy in Jesus” than to walk in His commands. Therefore, we begin to hunger and thirst after the Word of God as we respond to the words of this Psalm. 

What does this Psalm say? 

Verses 33-35. 

The idea of keeping the commandments of God is similar to the idea of keeping or watching over a herd of sheep.  Should a shepherd ignore his sheep as they wander over the hills for a period of a month or two, eventually he will lose his entire herd.  In like manner, when a man ignores the commandments of God as an ethical standard for a period of a year or two, he will cease to call himself to account for taking God’s name in vain, or for stealing or dishonoring his parents. They bear no special relevance to him.  When he breaks the commandments, he doesn’t turn to God in repentance and seek forgiveness in Christ.  He does not want God’s law to govern his life, and so he will not keep the commandments of God ever before him.  According to these verses, the commandments of God will only hold sway over our lives if God the Holy Spirit teaches us their true meaning and relevance. For example, a child may claim to honor his parents in his outward mannerisms but still hold bitterness and dishonor in his heart toward them. Unless the Holy Spirit convicts him of his heart’s dishonor, there will be no true keeping of the commandments of God.  It is only when God gives us true understanding that we will gladly keep His commandments “with the whole heart.”

When we finally make our way into the path of God’s commandments, we will discover true delight.  All other paths are fraught with discontentment, internal conflicts, guilt, depression, and suicide. Running your life outside of God’s will is like trying to run a train over a sandy beach.  Trains are made to run on train tracks, and we are made to run our lives by to the commandments of God. 

Verses 36-37. 

These verses contrast God’s way of life with alternate sinful patterns of life. Some people will live their lives to obtain material things, and they will do practically anything to get wealth. Their eyes are swimming in greed, envy, and covetousness such that they will sacrifice their relationships and their integrity to get more “stuff.” How many families are disrupted by arguments over inheritance?  The love of money is the root of all kinds of miserable contention, loneliness, divorce, and even violence. Yet, if our lives were more aligned with  the values and priorities set by the truth of God’s Word, we would see money for what it really is.  It is only one tool in our toolbox whereby we may advance the Kingdom of God, and sometimes it is an inferior tool at that. In some cases, money is incapable of achieving what poverty, personal sacrifice of time, and love can achieve. 

The world continually presents the “best it can offer” on the front of the brochure in glitz and glamour.  It draws men to idolatry, fetishism, worthless pastimes, and sexual temptation, all of which displace and dilute their focus on and appreciation of the true and living God.  Of course, there is nothing to back up their promises but emptiness, frustration, and ultimately, God’s judgment.  At the very least, excessive emphasis on things like golf, computer games, movies, music, food, sexuality, material possessions, etc. can become distractions that obscure clear vision concerning that which is of importance. Once again, it is only the quickening work of the Holy Spirit of God that will “clarify” the vision for us and enable us to see what foolishness the world promotes.  

Verses 38-39. 

These verses contrast the fear of dread and the fear of awe.  First, the Psalmist testifies to his fear of God, and in the following verse he prays for God’s deliverance from the dread and torment of guilt. The world dwells in constant, petrifying dread of guilt, death, and judgment. If a man will fear God and accept His provision for salvation, he is no longer subject to the “spirit of bondage, again to fear” (Rom. 8:15). In the Day of Judgment, he will hear the heavenly Father consign many to the flames of hellfire forever.  He appreciates God’s judgments because he is not subject to condemnation in Christ (Rom. 8:1). 

The Psalmist prays that God will further establish him, rooting and grounding him in the truth of the Word. Shallow roots in rocky soil often yield poor long-term results (Matt. 13:20, 21).  Thus, the true believer is never satisfied with roots that only reach an inch or two into the ground.  He seeks a rooting and grounding in the faith (Col. 2:7) such that he will not be blown about with every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:14). 

Verse 40. 

Finally, the Psalmist prays for God’s continued regenerating and sanctifying work in his life.  Although he does manifest some longing for God’s commandments, and there is some indication of a renewed heart within him, he still prays for more regeneration in righteousness.  There isn’t always a clear- cut separation between regeneration and sanctification in biblical language (as we find it in modern theological systems).  Not only does the Psalmist pray for God’s deliverance from the guilt and shame of his sin, but he also desires that God would make him alive to righteousness, appreciative of the beauty of God’s righteousness, and the working of the standards of God’s righteous law in his own life. 

How do we apply this Psalm to our lives? 

Do you seek after the vain things of this world, and do these things distract you from true worship? Do they help you on to God, or do they cultivate a disinterest in the things of God?  Perhaps you have spent the last year or two watching more movies and listening to more secular music.  Does this really help your worship on Sunday or hinder it?  

How does this Psalm teach us to worship God? 

As the Spirit attends the preaching of the Word of God, the hearts of God’s people should be more sensitive to God’s righteous laws, more appreciative of Jesus’ blood that cleanses them from their sin, and more desirous to walk in God’s commandments.  If men don’t see the value, the relevance, and the need of God’s commandments, they will never receive God’s salvation and come alive in righteousness.  Many churches are wilting and dying because there is no quickening of the Spirit coming through the preaching of the Word.  This is the need of the day. 

Questions: 

1. What does it mean to “keep” the commandments of God? 

2. Why is it impossible to truly delight in breaking the commandments of God?  Is a train freer when it is running in sand or when it is running on the train tracks? 

3. How important is money to the true believer? How important is money to the unbeliever?  What will he do to get more material possessions?

4. What does the world present as the “best it can offer?” 

5. Why does the believer want his roots to dig deeper into the truth of God’s Word? 

Family Discussion Questions: 

1. Can you clearly see the vanity of the world’s “delights?”  Are you more interested in attending a movie theater on Saturday night or church worship on a Sunday morning? 

2. Should the Christian dread God’s judgment and sit around in guilt and shame all day long?  What is the difference between a dread of judgment and a healthy fear of God?