The Law of God in Reformed Worship – Rev.C.Griess

StandardBearerAlso belonging to my Sunday reading was an article from the March 15, 2014 issue of The Standard Bearer, which tied in well with the other reading I did (See my previous post here.). This was another article in the fine series by Rev.Cory Griess, pastor of the Calvary PRC in Hull, IA, on Reformed worship. The full series is titled “O Come Let Us Worship” (from Psalm 95), while this article belonged to the sub-section titled “And God Spake All These Words”, treating the place of the law in the worship of the one, true God.

This specific article is titled “The Reading of the Law in Worship” (7b), being the second part on this subject. After defending the Reformed practice of reading the law in worship (something the PRC still consistently practices), Rev.Griess points to the practical significance of this for the Christian during his worship. From this section I quote today, trusting that it will edify you as it did me.

Is this conviction your and my experience when the Law is read? Is it read every week, and though it is not going to bring us to tears every time, do we realize what is happening when the Law of God is being read? God Himself is speaking. It is not the minister; it is God upon His mountain in all His holiness speaking to His people. This is an element of worship where, in the covenantal dialogue, God is speaking to us, declaring His sovereignty over us. He is placing upon us His holy Law in order that we might be humbled before Him. Do we use the reading of the Law this way?

Christians need to see their dependence upon Christ day by day, week after week. Part of the worship of God’s name is bringing our sins before the Lord and telling Him that we know He alone can forgive in Jesus Christ. Our worship is our dependence upon Him, and seeking His mercy. In Reformed churches that still preach through the Heidelberg Catechism regularly, God’s people hear the Ten Commandments expounded every year or two so that they might understand God’s laws and their implications for our lives. In the reading of the Law we are to put those sermons to continued spiritual use. We ought to be running the past week through our minds, seeing our sin exposed to us before the face of God in His law (277).

The Place of the Law in the New Covenant – Guy Waters

The Place of the Law by Guy Waters | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-May2014As I continue to make my way through the May issue of Tabletalk on the theme of the new covenant (“What’s So New About the New Covenant?”), I read the next main feature article yesterday. This was penned by Dr. Guy P. Waters, professor of NT at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS, and titled “The Place of the Law”.

In this article Waters presents the traditional Reformed understanding of how the law of God “fits in” with the age of God’s new covenant fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He shows what parts of the law are done away in Christ and therefore no longer binding on the NT church (its civil and ceremonial aspects), and which part continues to be in force, though with a fresh focus (the moral aspect).

Though not finding anything new as such, I appreciated Waters clear and concise presentation of this important aspect of the covenant of grace in the NT. Below is a portion of his article, taken from the very end of it. You are welcome to read all of it at the Ligonier link above.

Why, then, does the moral law carry over into the new covenant and not the ceremonial and civil laws? One reason is that, unlike the ceremonial and civil laws, the moral law predates the Mosaic covenant. The moral law, in fact, goes back to the creation. It is the standard to which God holds all human beings in all times and in all places. After indicting Gentiles in Romans 1:18–32 for what amounts to transgressions of the moral law, Paul goes on to underscore sinners’ moral accountability before God. Gentiles “by nature” may sometimes “do what the law requires” (Rom. 2:14). When they do this, they “show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness” (2:15). Humans may not like or properly keep the moral law, but they know it and they know that God holds them accountable to it.

There is another, and perhaps deeper, reason why the moral law carries over into the new covenant. It reflects the very character of our God and Savior. Therefore, the moral law is, in the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith, “a perfect rule of righteousness” (19.2). For those who have been justified by grace and adopted into God’s family as His sons, the moral law shows us how to be like our heavenly Father. It provides a template of what we will be on the day when we will be fully conformed to the image of Christ (1 John 3:1–2; see Col 3:10Eph 4:24).

Our old covenant brothers saw Christ as their Savior, but only in shadows. We see Him in daylight. With our eyes set on Christ, we new covenant believers gladly make the words of the old covenant psalmist our own: “Oh how I love your law!” (Ps. 119:97).

Sunday Worship Preparation: Psalm 119v (Tau)

Psalm119vToday for our Scripture passage guide in preparing for worship of our God and Father in Jesus Christ, we turn to the final section of Psalm 119. This is the twenty-second section of this magnificent and is headed by the words “Tau” because each of the eight verses begins with the last consonant of the Hebrew alphabet (comparable to our “t”). The theme of this psalm, as we have seen throughout, is love for God as the sovereign Law-Giver and love for His perfectly righteous and true commandments (Word).

As such this psalm is quite fitting for our worship preparation, since it is the sovereign God Who alone is to be worshiped and He alone Who determines what that worship is and how it is to be done. That He has made known to us in His holy Word, which is law for us as His redeemed and renewed people. And because of that redemption in Christ and renewal by the Holy Spirit, we gratefully and gladly follow that Word and obey that law, so that we may worship Him aright.

Now let us look at this final section of Psalm 119:

TAU.

169 Let my cry come near before thee, O Lord: give me understanding according to thy word.

170 Let my supplication come before thee: deliver me according to thy word.

171 My lips shall utter praise, when thou hast taught me thy statutes.

172 My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness.

173 Let thine hand help me; for I have chosen thy precepts.

174 I have longed for thy salvation, O Lord; and thy law is my delight.

175 Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me.

176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.

There are several things that make this last stanza especially fitting as the final part of this beautiful psalm. First, note once more the psalmist’s expressed love for God and His Word (law). Because God’s law is his delight (v.174), he wants to be taught His commandments and grow in his understanding of them all the more (vss.169, 171). He has chosen them as his own (v.173) and wants to be helped by them (v.175). Because God’s law reveals His grace and mercy in Christ, he longs for His salvation in them (v.174).

With this love goes praise for God’s Word and a desire to testify about it. This too the psalmist speaks of here (vss.171, 172, 176). He cannot keep still when God’s Word captivates his heart and shows him the way of life! His lips must tell of God’s greatness and goodness, of His truth and righteousness. His tongue must declare to others what God is and what He has done! This is the language of love for God and His Word.

And it is the language of all God’s saved people. This is the attitude we must have at all times in our lives, and especially when we enter the Lord’s house of worship. And this is the conduct we must have on the Lord’s Day and throughout the week. Shall not our lips also utter praise today out of love for God and His law?

Second, note the psalmist’s expressed dependence on the Lord for help in learning and keeping His commandments. Once again the element of prayer is strong. Eight times in this section alone the psalmist petitions God. This young man of God realizes his dependence on the Lord and His grace, and does not seek to live according to God’s law in his own power. Whether it be for understanding (v.169), or deliverance from sin and sinners (v.170), or quickening (v.175), or guidance (v.175), the psalmist beseeches God to bestow grace according to his need.

Such too is the behavior of all God’s children, young and old, weak and strong. We are all dependent on the Lord for grace to keep knowing His Word, to keep abiding in His Word, and to keep obeying His Word. Conscious of our own inability and of the power of the enemy (Satan, the world, and our own sinful nature), we dare not rely on self or rest on past victories. We rely on the Lord and rest in His grace in Christ alone. And so we pray. We live a life of petitioning, of crying and supplicating, to the God of our salvation. He alone is able to help us. He alone has grace sufficient for all our needs. Shall we not also start this week in such prayer, even as we praise God in our worship?

And finally, in light of the above, note how the psalmist ends this section and this entire psalm. He assumes the posture of a lost sheep and confesses his sinful strayings from God’s ways. He knows he has not perfectly remembered and walked in God’s commandments. He did forget at times to keep God’s law. He did wander like a foolish sheep into the paths of sin. When God desired truth, he chose falsehood. When God required righteousness, he chose crookedness. Yes, for all his love for God and His law, for all his desire to keep His precepts, for all his past obediences, still his sins rise up against him! Can we relate? If we are honest with ourselves, we can. If we let that law of God truly search us out, we can. As we take leave of this psalm, let us say it, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep!”

But that’s not the end. The end of Psalm 119 is a confession that God is our faithful Shepherd, Who for Christ’s sake shows us mercy and seeks us out, to bring us back to the safety of His fold. And so the psalmist confidently raises up one more petition: “seek thy servant”. Shall that not also be our prayer as we finish this psalm? “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Ps.23:1). “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep’ (Jn.10:11). Seek Him Who sought you and still seeks you in His sovereign grace.

If you wish to meditate on this last section of Psalm 119 through the music of the Psalter, I direct you to this page and this versification of the twenty-second stanza. May God and His Word be praised through our music and singing as well. Below are the lyrics; at the link you will also find piano accompaniment.

1. O let my supplicating cry
By Thee, my gracious Lord, be heard;
Give wisdom and deliver me
According to Thy faithful word.

2. Instructed in Thy holy law,
To praise Thy word I lift my voice;
O Lord, be Thou my present help,
For Thy commandments are my choice.

3. For Thy salvation I have longed,
And in Thy law is my delight;
Enrich my soul with life divine,
And help me by Thy judgments right.

4. Thy servant like a wandering sheep
Has lost the path and gone astray;
Restore my soul and lead me home,
For Thy commands I would obey.

J.Calvin on Psalm 119:157 – “…We rather begin to howl among the wolves.”

Calvin PreachingAlso for our meditation on Psalm 119:153-160 today we provide these comments of John Calvin on v.157, which provide us with much food for thought on this Lord’s Day of rest as well as throughout this coming week of work and spiritual battle in this world. May God use it for our spiritual encouragement.

157. My persecutors and oppressors are many.

The Psalmist here as in other places testifies, that although he had been provoked by many injuries, yet he had not departed from the right way; which, as I have elsewhere observed, was an evidence of great and singular constancy. It is an easy matter to act well when we are among the good; but if wicked men afflict us, if one man openly assault us by force, if another rob us of our property, if a third circumvent us by wiles, and a fourth attack us by calumnies, it is difficult for us to persevere in our integrity, and we rather begin to howl among the wolves. Besides, the license which is allowed them of doing what they please without the fear of being punished, is a powerful engine for shaking our faith, because, when God thus winks at the wicked, he seems to abandon us for a prey.

The Prophet therefore, by God’s testimonies, means not only the rule of holy and righteous living, but also the promises. Lord, as if he had said, I have not turned away from the path of integrity, although the conduct of the wicked has presented me with a temptation to do so; nor have I shaken off nay confidence in thy grace, but have waited patiently for thy succor. Both these are necessary. For although he who has suffered wrongs may contend against the malice of his enemies by his well — doing, and may refrain from every act of retaliation, yet, provided he does not depend wholly upon God, this uprightness will not be sufficient to save him.

Not that any man behaves himself in a manner so moderate, except he who leans upon God and waits upon him as his deliverer; but granting that such could be the ease, there would not be sufficient power in this half virtue to save him. The salvation of God is reserved for the faithful who ask it in the exercise of lively faith. And whoever, persuaded that God will be his deliverer, pillars and supports his mind on the divine promises, will endeavor also to overcome evil with good.

Sunday Worship Preparation: Psalm 119t (Resh)

Psalm119tFor our worship preparation this Lord’s Day we consider the next section (the twentieth) of Psalm 119, which consists of verses 153-160. This stanza in the psalmist’s love-song on the Law-Giver and His law is headed by the transliterated Hebrew word “Resh”, since the eight lines in this section all begin with this Hebrew letter (comparable to our “r”). As we meditate on this part of Psalm 119, may we consciously apply these words to our worship of our Triune God and Father this day. Here is the Word of God which we love in this place:

RESH.

153 Consider mine affliction, and deliver me: for I do not forget thy law.

154 Plead my cause, and deliver me: quicken me according to thy word.

155 Salvation is far from the wicked: for they seek not thy statutes.

156 Great are thy tender mercies, O Lord: quicken me according to thy judgments.

157 Many are my persecutors and mine enemies; yet do I not decline from thy testimonies.

158 I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved; because they kept not thy word.

159 Consider how I love thy precepts: quicken me, O Lord, according to thy lovingkindness.

160 Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.

What we notice at the outset here is that the psalmist’s suffering and persecution are on the foreground. He speaks of “his affliction” (misery, poverty), which we know at this point from the rest of the psalm is the pain of being pressed by wicked law-breakers, especially because he is a law-keeper (vss.153, 157, 159). Notice how in v.157 he states that these wicked persecutors and enemies are “many”! Not merely a handful were opposing him in his Christian life, but many were opposing him and seeking to bring him down. Many were trying to lead him out of his love and liberty of God’s law into the bondage of sin and enmity against God.

Do we also feel that pressure of the unbelieving world about us? Do we bear the reproach of Christ because we are law-abiding citizens in God’s kingdom?

But by the power of God’s grace he was resisting and holding firm to God and His way of life. The love of God for him was his strength in abiding in love for God and His Word. He had not forgotten God’s law (v.153). He had not declined from His testimonies (v.157). He knows how true and righteous God’s law is (v.160). God’s Word is reliable and faithful, and he has depended on it for all his needs. He even asks God to “consider” (see, perceive, inspect) his love for His precepts. And by the power of this divine love the psalmist even expressed love for his enemies (out of supreme love for God!). Note vss.155 and 158: as he beheld these transgressors, he realized that salvation was far from them because they did not seek God’s statutes; he was grieved deeply because they did not keep God’s Word. He had pity on them – and no doubt prayed for them!

Do we have the same attitude toward our enemies and God’s? Or do we simply turn our backs on them? That is easy to do, but it is not the way of love for God or our neighbor. Their rebellion and reproach should turn into our pity and prayers.

Finally. notice once again too the psalmist’s earnest prayers to the Lord. I count eight (8) petitions in these eight verses. That reveals that while he was committed to God and His way, he was also deeply conscious of the difficulty of that way. He knew well the power of the enemy and the weakness of his own flesh.Though faithful, he dared not trust himself.  Besides, he also knew the Lord’s tender mercies to him in Christ (v.156). And so he casts himself on the Lord. “Consider mine affliction, and deliver me! Plead my cause (as my defense Lawyer), and deliver me!” And three times he prays for quickening (making alive, renewal). Why that request so often? Because he knew the deadness of his sinful nature and sensed his spiritual life waning under the pressure of persecution. He needed and wanted the revival of his new life in Christ. “Quicken me!”

Are these also our petitions? Are we keenly aware of our own insufficiency to stand in this battle against law-breaking and for law-keeping? Or have we become too self-confident, too casual, too careless in the battle? Then we are destined to cave in to the wicked’s pressure. Then we will collapse spiritually and fail to love God and His Word as we ought. But let us realize the strength of the foe, the weakness of ourselves – and the God of our salvation – and pray to Him for grace to withstand and to stand! Then the psalmist’s testimony will be ours.

Psalter1912If you wish to reflect on the wisdom of this Word of God through music, you are encouraged to make use of our Psalter and this versification of this 20th stanza of Psalm 119. Here are the lyrics; you will find the piano accompaniment at the link provided.

1. Regard my grief and rescue me,
For I do not forget Thy laws;
As Thou hast promised, save me, Lord;
Redeem my soul, and plead my cause.

2. Far is salvation from the men
Who do not seek Thy statutes, Lord;
Great are Thy mercies, quicken me
According to Thy holy word.

3. I bear the spite of many foes,
Yet from Thy law I do not swerve;
I saw the faithless and was grieved,
For they Thy word do not observe.

4. Behold how I Thy precepts love!
In kindness, Lord, revive Thou me;
The sum of all Thy word is truth,
Thy word abides eternally.

J.Calvin on Psalm 119:145 – “…He directed all the affections of his heart exclusively to God.”

JCalvin1For our further meditation on Psalm 119:145-152 today we include these godly thoughts and words of John Calvin, as he reflects on the opening verses of this section. May these words too help us to see the connection between loving God’s law and the life of prayer that ought to mark us as God’s children in this world.

145 I have cried with my whole heart.

 …The Prophet then requests that God would hear him; and in token of his gratitude he promises to keep God’s commandments. He simply uses the indefinite term cry; and thus he does not express what the prayers were which he offered up to God, but only shows, that while the children of this world are distracted by a multiplicity of objects, he directed all the affections of his heart exclusively to God, because he depended solely on him. As the world is compelled to acknowledge that God is the author of all good things, many formal prayers proceed from that principle. It was the consideration of this which led David to affirm that he prayed with his whole heart.

When he shall have obtained his requests, he proposes to himself the glory of God as his end, resolving to devote himself with so much the more ardent affection to the work of serving him. Although God declares that he is served aright by the sacrifice of praise, yet David, to distinguish himself from hypocrites who profane the name of God by their cold and feigned praises, with good reason declares that he will give thanks by his life and works.

In the following verse he makes no new statement; but he speaks more expressly. In the first place, he says that he cried to God; and next he adds, that he commended his welfare to Him by prayer; thereby intimating that whether he was in safety, or whether imminent danger threatened him with death, he uniformly reposed upon God, being fully persuaded that the only way in which he could continue safe was by having him for the guardian and protector of his welfare.

Sunday Worship Preparation: Psalm 119s (Koph)

Ps119sOur Sunday worship preparation passage this first Lord’s Day in November is the nineteenth section of Psalm 119, comprised of verses 145-152 and headed by the word “Koph”, identifying the next Hebrew letter with which each of these verses begins (comparable to our “q”). In this stanza of the psalmist’s love song for the law of God (the theme of the whole of Psalm 119) the psalm-writer’s passion for the Word of God is again made plain.

Here is God’s inspired Word through this godly, young man in this section:

KOPH.

145 I cried with my whole heart; hear me, O Lord: I will keep thy statutes.

146 I cried unto thee; save me, and I shall keep thy testimonies.

147 I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried: I hoped in thy word.

148 Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word.

149 Hear my voice according unto thy lovingkindness: O Lord, quicken me according to thy judgment.

150 They draw nigh that follow after mischief: they are far from thy law.

151 Thou art near, O Lord; and all thy commandments are truth.

152 Concerning thy testimonies, I have known of old that thou hast founded them for ever.

As we consider this next section, we sense immediately the intensity and urgency of the psalmist. Three times in the opening lines he speaks of crying (“I cried”) – not so much in the sense of shedding tears because of sadness (Though there was that too, as we have seen.), but in the sense of crying out because of his need of the Lord’s gracious presence and power. Filled with passionate love for the Lord and His law (vss.147, 148), earnestly desiring to maintain a godly life of gratitude according to this law (vss.145, 146), and realizing the pressures of the lawless about him (v.150), the psalmist cries out to the Lord with a sense of urgency.

Hence, we also see how many petitions are raised to the Lord in these eight verses (I count four): “hear me”, “save me”, “hear my voice”, and “quicken me”. These brief but powerful prayers reveal a head and heart that know human weakness and insufficiency but also God’s mighty grace and all-sufficiency. The psalmist knows he cannot stand for a moment on his own, not only because the wicked are near but also because his own sin is near. He wants to abide in the holiness of God’s commandments, but he cannot on his own. Saved by grace, he can continue in sanctification only by grace. He will have God near Him by His grace and Spirit, for only then will he keep God’s law. That explains why he cries out in deep love and in deep need.

The psalmist’s passionate prayers prick our hearts, pointing us to where we need to be spiritually. Are we also in this place of love for God and His Word? Do we get up before dawn and cry out because we hope in God’s Word (v.147)? Do we anticipate the night by meditating on God’s Word before bed (v.148)? Do we ask the Lord daily to be heard according to His lovingkindness and to be made alive according to His judgment (v.149)? Do we realize the presence and power of the mischievous lawless (v.150)? But do we also confess the nearness of our God and the truthfulness of His commandments (v.151)? Then let us pray! With urgency and earnestness! So that we too by God’s potent grace might abide in His law with humble thanks, day by day. May God press this part of His Word on our hearts and mold us in this image of the godly law-lover.

Psalter1912If you wish to meditate on this portion of Scripture through our Psalter, we point you to this versification of it in that song book used in the PRC. Below are the lyrics for it. By clicking on this page, you may also find the piano accompaniment for it.

1. O Lord, my earnest cry
Thy listening ear has heard;
With Thy salvation answer me,
And I will keep Thy word.

2. At early dawn I prayed,
Thy promises my trust;
At night I thought upon Thy word,
Most holy and most just.

3. O hear me in Thy grace,
In mercy quicken me;
The wicked plan to do me harm,
But they are far from thee.

4. Thou, Lord, art near to me,
And true are Thy commands;
Of old Thy testimonies show
Thy truth eternal stands.

J.Calvin on Psalm 119:139,141 – “…We are too tender and delicate in bearing wrongs.”

JCalvin1As we meditate on our next section of Psalm 119 today (vss.137-144), we also point you to these comments of John Calvin on two verses, 139 and 141. May they also serve to instruct our minds and inflame our hearts with zeal for God and His law.

139. My zeal hath consumed me. 

The Psalmist speaks of his persecutors, by whom it is certain he had been subjected to much trouble. But although they were virulent and cruel towards him, he avows that it was not so much his own private wrongs which offended him as the violation of God’s law; yea rather, that he was so consumed with grief on that account as not to be affected at all with his own individual troubles.

This is an example from which much profit may be derived. We are too tender and delicate in bearing wrongs; and hence it is that if we are but touched with a finger, we are instantly inflamed with anger, whilst at the same time we are but coldly affected at the most grievous offenses committed against God. But if we are animated with the zeal that inspired the Prophet it will carry us away to another kind of sorrow, which will take entire possession of our souls.

141. I am, insignificant and despised.

The meaning is, that although he was tried with poverty and many other calamities, he steadily persevered in the exercise of true godliness, and in the observance of the law. On that account, as he states, he was despised by wicked men. Every man gives praise to God just in proportion as he is gorged with his benefits; and very few will be found applying their minds to the service of God, unless they have all their wishes gratified.

Hence it comes to pass that hypocrites, as long as they are pampered to the full, accumulate riches and increase in power, are very lavish in praising God. But let them be treated in some degree roughly, and immediately the blessed name of God is heard of no more.

Since then men are ordinarily mercenary in serving God, let us learn from the Prophet’s example that true godliness is disinterested, so that when under its influence we cease not to praise God, although he may afflict us with adversity and make us despised in the eyes of the world. These upbraiding words of Christ in John 6:26, ought, no doubt, to be carefully attended to,

“Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.” (John 6:26)

The persons then who serve God ingenuously and sincerely, are such as continue steadfast in his fear, although their condition in this world may be mean and despised; in short, they are such as seek not their reward on earth, but through heat and cold, poverty and danger, slanders and mockeries, persevere with unwearied steps in the course of their warfare.

Sunday Worship Preparation: Psalm 119q (Pe)

Psalm119qAs we come to another Lord’s Day on our pilgrim journey to the eternal rest, we are up to the seventeenth section of Psalm 119, comprising vss.129-136. Each of the lines in this stanza begin with the Hebrew letter “pe” (or “peh”), comparable to our “p” and “ph” sound.

Once again we are set face to face with a beautiful Word of God through the inspired psalmist. Let’s meditate on these lines as we prepare to worship today:

PE.

129 Thy testimonies are wonderful: therefore doth my soul keep them.

130 The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.

131 I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for thy commandments.

132 Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name.

133 Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.

134 Deliver me from the oppression of man: so will I keep thy precepts.

135 Make thy face to shine upon thy servant; and teach me thy statutes.

136 Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law.

Reflecting on this passage, we find several familiar strains: praise for and love of God’s holy law (vss.129, 131); desire for keeping God’s commandments and prayer for God’s grace to do so (vss.132, 133, 135); grief over the rebellion of men and prayer for strength in the face of their oppression (vss.134, 136).

Hearing these cords from the psalmist’s heart again, we are called to examine our own hearts and see whether we find the same in our hearts and in our mouths. Do we praise God’s law and love it? Do we want to walk in God’s precepts daily and do we seek our God for the grace to do so? And do we grieve over the lawlessness and rebellion about us, such that we too pray for strength to fight sin and be faithful servants of our Lord and Savior?

Preparing to enter the Lord’s house of worship, we well know our sin and shortcomings. “Our sins rise up against us, prevailing day by day”, we sing. Which makes the cry for mercy all the more necessary (v.132). Mercy in Jesus Christ, our perfect Law-Curse-Bearer, who shed his precious blood for us rebellious people. Mercy for Christ’s sake, our perfect Law-Keeper, who kept the law perfectly for us and imputes His flawless righteousness to us by faith alone. Mercy that makes us thankful and fills us with praise to the God of our salvation. So that we pray and praise, sing and praise, and give and praise. Let us then worship our sovereign King this day, according to the multitude of His mercy to us sinners.

If you desire to meditate on this section of Psalm 119 through music and wish to sing its lines, I direct you to this Psalter, where you will find this versification. At the bottom of this page you will find piano accompaniment:

1. Thy wondrous testimonies, Lord,
My soul will keep and greatly praise;
Thy word, by faithful lips proclaimed,
To simplest minds the truth conveys.

2. I thirst for Thy commandments, Lord,
And for Thy mercy press my claim;
O look on me, and show the grace
Displayed to all who love Thy Name.

3. Direct my footsteps in Thy word,
From sin’s dominion save my soul,
From man’s oppression set me free,
That I may yield to Thy control.

4. O make Thy face to shine on me,
And teach me all Thy laws to keep;
Because Thy statutes are despised,
With overwhelming grief I weep.

Sunday Worship Preparation: Psalm 119p (Ain)

Psalm119pAs we continue to use the books of Psalms, and specifically Psalm 119 at present, for our worship preparation on the Lord’s Days, we come to the sixteenth (16th) section of this precious psalm. This stanza, covering vss.121-128, is headed by the Hebrew letter “Ain” of “Ayin” (a silent sound, though formed in the back of the throat), because in this acrostic psalm each verse of this stanza begins with this letter. As we prepare to worship our sovereign King, let us meditate on these verses, hiding them in our hearts:

AIN.

121 I have done judgment and justice: leave me not to mine oppressors.

122 Be surety for thy servant for good: let not the proud oppress me.

123 Mine eyes fail for thy salvation, and for the word of thy righteousness.

124 Deal with thy servant according unto thy mercy, and teach me thy statutes.

125 I am thy servant; give me understanding, that I may know thy testimonies.

126 It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law.

127 Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold.

128 Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.

As we look at this Word of God through the inspired psalmist, we see immediately on the foreground the persecution he was facing. This time he refers to the wicked as “oppressors” (vss.121,122). They were pressing down on him, pressuring him to conform to their proud ways and follow the path of voiding (breaking) God’s law  (v.126). This is always the way of proud sinners. They  (we, by nature!) do not want God and His law to rule us, so we try to make it void. Proudly we break every commandment. And because such lawless sinners love company, they pressure other people to join us in breaking God’s precepts. We see this so plainly in our society today.

But God’s grace makes us different! Grace made this psalmist different from these proud oppressors. By grace alone he stood up to this pressure and stayed conformed to God and His law. He did judgment and justice (v.121); he loved God’s commandments above gold (and the favor of men, v.127); he esteemed God’s precepts to be right in every way and hated every way of falsehood (v.128). He was determined to stay faithful to his God and love Him and His testimonies through all the persecution. That is a strong faith. That is a powerful obedience. That is the mark of a child of God. That, my friends, is a testimony to the amazing work of God in His people. Do we know this work? Is it evident in our lives? Are we also so determined in the face of the pressure we feel day in and day out?

But we see again here a humble child of God. Full of love for his God; sure of his stand on God’s law; determined as ever to keep God’s ways. O, yes! But, not self-reliant. Not Mr. “I-can-do-this-alone-now-that-I-am-saved”. No, he is humble, acknowledging his reliance on God and His grace alone. Notice how he expresses this in this section. Immediately after pointing out the hardship of facing the world’s pressure he cries out, “Mine eyes fail for thy salvation!” (v.123). That’s simply another way of saying, “I need Thy grace, Lord!” Here is a God-centered, Christ-focused, grace-reliant child of God. Are you and am I, as we stand surrounded by proud sinners? Are we standing on self, or on God? We will not last very long in the battle for God’s law if we are standing on self. God and His grace are what we need.

And then too, note his humble prayers. Taking the position of a servant (vss.124,125), he seeks the Lord for mercy (he is a sinner yet in need of forgiveness) and for understanding to know God’s law in his own heart so as to be able to keep them in his own life. Prayer – what a simple yet powerful means to maintain our walk of faith and obedience! Have we sought the Lord at the throne of grace yet today? Will we before we enter His courts of praise and prayer? Are we conscious of the battle before us, even on this day of rest? The oppressors about us will not be stopping their pressure on us today. So, as God’s servants, we had better not stop fighting for God’s ways and praying for grace!

In that way we will also find rest for our souls. Christ, our Rest-Giver, is waiting for us to come to Him (Matt.11:28-30).

For those who wish to meditate on this section of Psalm 119 through music, I point you to this versification found in the Psalter used for worship in the PRC. The lyrics are posted below; piano accompaniment may be found at the link provided.

1. I have followed truth and justice;
Leave me not in deep distress;
Be my help and my protection,
Let the proud no more oppress.
For Thy word and Thy salvation,
Lord, my eyes with longing fail;
Teach Thy statutes to Thy servants,
Let Thy mercy now prevail.

2. I am Thine, O give me wisdom,
Make me know Thy truth, I pray;
Sinners have despised Thy statutes;
Now, O Lord, Thy power display.
Lord, I love Thy good commandments
And esteem them more than gold;
All Thy precepts are most righteous;
Hating sin, to these I hold.

And, for those who love the old Dutch psalms, I also include this video of a Dutch choir singing a versification based on three verses of Psalm 119.

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