Entertainment and Worship – July 2017 “Tabletalk”

The July 2017 issue of Tabletalk takes for its theme “Entertainment,” and though I am just getting started with the articles in it, I have profited from what I have read so far about this complex and difficult subject.

In his editorial “Discerning Entertainment” Burk Parsons touches on the proper place of entertainment as well the dangers of it for the Christian:

Entertainment of all sorts can be a wonderful way to rest and recuperate from the busyness, noise, and struggles of life. Entertainment allows our imaginations to travel the world and explore the universe, to go on adventures with hobbits and knights in shining armor, to go back in time and experience history, and to better understand people and our culture. But we must always guard our eyes and our hearts. For we cannot even begin to understand all the ways that Hollywood has affected us. Entertainment affects our minds, our homes, our culture, and our churches. Consequently, we must be vigilant as we use discernment in how we enjoy entertainment—looking to the light of God’s Word to guide us and inform our consciences.

In Joe Thorn’s article linked here for the rubric “Pastor’s Perspective,” he addresses the danger of bringing entertainment into our worship of God.

Below is part of what he has to say about the current trends found in the church today and what our focus ought to be when we enter the Lord’s presence:

The encroachment of entertainment into our worship is not a matter of style but of substance. Entertainment is a good thing, but its purpose is the refreshment of the mind and body, not the transformation of the mind or the edification of the spirit. The danger of entertainment in worship is not about which musical instruments are permitted or what era of hymns the church should sing. The danger is found in what the church is aiming at. Entertainment has a different aim than worship. Entertainment is something offered to people for their amusement. Yet worship has a different focus and produces a different result.

The focus of worship is God, not man, which immediately pits it against entertainment. We offer ourselves to the Lord individually and collectively on Sunday morning. The church ascribes honor to God in the reading, preaching, singing, and praying of His Word. True worship is inherently God-centered and God-directed. What is done when the church is gathered is to be done according to God’s will and for His pleasure. This stands in opposition to entertainment, which is a spiritually powerless work directed at the people.

To read the rest, visit the Ligonier link below.

Source: Entertainment and Worship by Joe Thorn

I might also add that the daily devotionals this month are on the Reformed-biblical view of the law, or as the issue has it in its introduction to the devotions, “The Right Use of God’s Law.”

Overcoming Legalism – Sean M. Lucas

TT-June-2016You will recall that legalism is the theme of the June Tabletalk (the subtitle says it all: “the delusion of man-made religion”). In the last full-featured article on the subject, Dr. Sean M. Lucas addresses how to overcome legalism, with the revealing subtitle – “Let No One Disqualify You.”

His answer to the sin of legalism is really simple: the gospel of Jesus Christ – the good news of who Christ is for us, what He has done for us, and what we are in Him.

Here is a part of what he has to say (worth your time reading the rest of his article too):

Pilgrim’s Progress

This gospel formation means that Christianity really isn’t about rule-keeping. To be sure, a Christian obeys God’s Word, but the way to obedience is not by focusing on keeping the rules, flying right, and doing better. At the heart of what Jesus does in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 is to explode the notion that righteousness is about external obedience to the law. When He says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20), He tells us that the way to righteousness is not through mere external obedience. Instead, the way to a righteous life is the Spirit’s inside-out transformation as we progress in living into the gospel. As we use the means of grace—including corporate worship that centers on the Word, sacraments, prayer, and fellowship, as well as private worship—God meets us, drives the gospel into our hearts, confronts our patterns of sinful thoughts, words, and deeds, and makes us new.

But this sort of gospel transformation takes time. We progress in it as we are formed and shaped and molded by the Spirit’s work. As we go further up and farther in, we see more sin, confront more deception, believe more gospel, receive more divine comfort. We learn by experience and gain wisdom and insight as we turn from folly to reverence and love the Lord.

And here’s the thing: as we live in step with the Spirit, we actually live in ways that “keep the rules.” Those who bear the Spirit-fruit of love will be those who keep the two tables of the Ten Commandments. Those who bear joy will know the strength to say no to sin and yes to righteousness. Those who bear peace will be whole and wholesome, not restless or anxious. And so forth. We keep the rules, not by focusing on them as merely deeds that must be done, but by focusing our hearts on Jesus, who He is, what He has done, and what He is doing by the Spirit in us to make us fulfill the law.

Source: Overcoming Legalism by Sean Michael Lucas

Legalism and the Grace of God in Christ – Nicholas Batzig

TT-June-2016This month’s Tabletalk addresses a serious error into which the church of Christ and Christians can easily fall – that of legalism.  Legalism goes hand in hand with other sins as well – pride, self-righteousness, Phariseeism, and judgmentalism to name but a few.

Editor Burk Parsons introduces this subject in his editorial “Legalism vs. Gospel Religion.” The first main featured article, “Legalism Defined: Taken Captive by Empty Deceit,” is by Rev. Nick Batzig, and it is from this one that we quote today.

In an early paragraph, Batzig defines legalism this way:

Legalism is, by definition, an attempt to add anything to the finished work of Christ. It is to trust in anything other than Christ and His finished work for one’s standing before God. The New Testament refutation of legalism is primarily a response to perversions of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. The majority of the Savior’s opponents were those who believed that they were righteous in and of themselves, based on their zeal for and commitment to the law of God. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes exemplified, by their words and deeds, doctrinal legalism in the days of Christ and the Apostles. While they made occasional appeals to grace, they self-righteously truncated and twisted the Scriptural meaning of grace. The Apostle Paul summed up the nature of Jewish legalism when he wrote: “For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:3–4).

But then he also shows how a proper understanding of justification by faith alone in Christ alone keeps us on the right path:

Understanding the relationship between the law and the gospel for our justification is paramount to learning how to avoid doctrinal legalism. The Scriptures teach that we are justified by the Savior’s works—not our own. The last Adam came to do all that the first Adam failed to do (Rom. 5:12–21; 1 Cor. 15:47–49). He was “born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law” (Gal. 4:4–5). He came to be our representative in order to fulfill the legal demands of God’s covenant—namely, to render to God perfect, personal, and continual obedience on behalf of His people. Jesus merited perfect righteousness for all those whom the Father had given Him. We, through faith-union with Him, receive a righteous status by virtue of the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. In Christ, God provides what He demands. The good works for which God has redeemed believers, that we might walk in them, do not in any way whatsoever play into our justification. They are merely the necessary evidence that God has forgiven and accepted us in Christ.

Finally, after pointing out how legalism can creep into our hearts and lives in practical ways too, he ends by showing that the only cure for this error is the pure grace of God:

The grace of God in the gospel is the only cure for doctrinal and practical legalism. When we recognize doctrinal or practical legalism in our lives, we must flee to Christ crucified. As we do, we will again begin to grow in our love for the One who died to heal us of our propensity to trust in our own works or achievements. On a daily basis, we need to be reminded of the grace that has covered all of our sins, provided us with righteousness from outside of ourselves and freed us from the power of sin. Only then will we joyfully pursue holiness. Only then will we love God’s law without attempting to keep it for our justification before Him.

Source: Legalism Defined by Nicholas Batzig

Note to Self: Preach the Law to Yourself

     So in one sense, the law functions like a window opening up the truth of God’s will for us, but, it also works like a mirror reflecting our own failure and corruption back to us. The plain truth is, we do not, and cannot, keep God’s law [here the author quotes Romans 7:7].

The law, in showing us what is right, immediately shows us what is wrong – we are lawbreakers. This is it second purpose, to expose our sin and unbelief and make known our condemnation. But the law’s work is not done in showing us our own failure. By showing us what’s wrong, it also shows us what’s desperately needed.

In this next section, then, Thorn connects the law with the gospel:

     In exposing our own corruption, the law of God leaves us guilty and points us to our need for redemption. We are lawbreakers and need forgiveness, cleansing, and restoration. In this sense the law serves as a guide in leading us to the gospel. It fits us for it, prepares us for it. The law, while being ‘holy and righteous and good,’ is itself not good news. It is the bad news that makes the good news of the gospel so relevant. In this way, the law prepares us for the gospel by showing us our need of it.

And so he concludes with these words:

     In preaching the law to ourselves we see and admire God’s will and way, while exposing and confessing our sinfulness. This leads us toward the gospel where we find our only hope of redemption and restoration. Preaching the law to ourselves breaks our pride, leads to humility, and calls us to cry out to God and depend on his mercy (pp.26-27).

I would only add that the law does not by any power in itself, nor by any ability in ourselves, but by the GRACE of God alone!

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011). For the previous post, visit this page.

Remembering the Sabbath, to Keep It Holy ~ Sean M. Lucas

Remember the Sabbath, to Keep It Holy by Sean Michael Lucas | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-June 2015This month’s issue of Tabletalk (Ligonier Ministries devotional magazine) is devoted to the theme of keeping the law of God (ten commandments).

The fourth featured article by Dr. Sean M. Lucas (linked above) treats the fourth commandment, which is part of the first table of the law, defining our relationship of love to our loving, redeeming Father in Christ Jesus. In this fourth word to us, His redeemed and renewed people, God calls us to keep the sabbath day holy – for His glory and for our good.

What follows is a part of how Dr. Lucas explains this commandment, specifically joining it to its fulfillment in our Lord Jesus Christ, so that we may truly find rest for our weary souls. Find the full article at the Ligonier link above.

Jesus does these things [worships in the synagogue and heals the sick] because He is the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:23–28). He is the giver of the Sabbath as the Creator. He is the One about whom the Sabbath testifies. And, as Redeemer, He has started time anew through the resurrection. Indeed, on the Sunday of His resurrection, time began again; the first day of the new creation started. The Sabbath rest secures its meaning on Resurrection Sunday, setting the day for Christian worship (1 Cor. 16:2Rev. 1:10). We remember this day to the Lord’s service in worship and mercy, in response to God’s good command and Christ’s gracious gift.

We who trust in Jesus not only find rest for our souls Sunday by Sunday, but we also have the promise of entering into the final Sabbath rest (Heb. 4:9–10). We testify each week that we have rested from our works—from our attempts to placate God or earn His favor, even in how we “remember the Sabbath.” Instead, we “rest in and receive” Jesus. In Him, we find rest for our souls (Matt. 11:28–30).

That’s why the Sabbath day brings real rest and refreshment. We aren’t in a frenzy trying to earn God’s favor. Rather, the Lord of the Sabbath Himself has raised us and will raise us from the dead (Eph. 2:4–6).

Because I did not as yet introduce this June issue of Tabletalk, I include here the introduction to the theme of God’s law as found in Editor Burk Parsons’ opening article “Gospel Religion” (please read the entire article – brief and profitable).

Christianity is not a religion of moralism, it is a gospel religion of grace. It is a religion established on a relationship. It’s not either/or, it’s both—a relationship and a religion. They are not mutually exclusive, and we do well not to pit one against the other. Our gospel relationship with Jesus Christ, by grace alone through faith alone, is the foundation for our all-of-life-encompassing gospel religion. Our relationship with Christ naturally leads to pure and undefiled religion (James 1:26-27). Religionis a helpful word we use to describe our Christian faith, which encompasses every aspect of our Christian lives, rooted in and flowing out of our spiritually regenerated new hearts and minds, and founded on the relationship that God has established with us by uniting us to Christ.

Our religion is established on Jesus Christ, who did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17). Christ fulfilled all the righteous demands of the law in His life so that His death would be a perfect atonement for our sins. Indeed, we are justified by works—His works, not ours. Christ perfectly kept His Father’s list of do’s and don’ts for us. And He did so not so that we might ignore God’s commands, but so that we might no longer be slaves of sin but slaves of righteousness. Christ frees us by faith that we might bear fruit. To be sure, we are saved by faith, not fruit, but we won’t be saved by fruitless faith. God’s grace enables us and His Spirit sustains us, helping us in our weakness to pursue holiness as we rest in the holiness of Jesus Christ. For, as Martin Luther said, “Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing.”

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:


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:


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.