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).

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.

Sunday Worship Preparation: Psalm 119u (Schin)

Psalm119uOur passage for worship preparation this Lord’s Day is the twenty-first section of Psalm 119, made up of verses 161-168 and headed by the word “Schin”, which indicates the Hebrew letter with which each of these verses begins (comparable to our “sh” sound). As we get ready to enter the Lord’s courts of praise and prayer, this is the Word of God that guides our thoughts, our desires, and our actions:

SCHIN.

161 Princes have persecuted me without a cause: but my heart standeth in awe of thy word.

162 I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil.

163 I hate and abhor lying: but thy law do I love.

164 Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy righteous judgments.

165 Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.

166 Lord, I have hoped for thy salvation, and done thy commandments.

167 My soul hath kept thy testimonies; and I love them exceedingly.

168 I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies: for all my ways are before thee.

What is it that guides our worship of the Lord? Our feelings? Rules and regulations we could can come up with? The latest worship trends in the church world? No, it is God’s law and Word. There God Himself tells us what our worship ought to be. There He informs us what pleases and praises Him.

In Psalm 119 the psalmist is constantly expressing his love for that law and for the God of that law. And that love is the heartbeat of all true worship. For we all know how easy it is to go through the motions of worship, to honor God with our lips while our heart is far from Him (Matt.15:7-8). We may do everything right in a formal way but if we do not love the Lord and His Word we have not worshiped Him rightly. Love from a sincere heart is what God chiefly requires of us in worship.

And it is in this that Psalm 119 guides us. Not only for worship but also for all of life. Not merely for what we do on Sunday but also for what we do on Monday through Saturday.

Now, in that light look at this section of Psalm 119 again. How shall we begin this week in worship of our God? How shall we properly come into His presence and praise Him? And then too, how shall we continue to live throughout this week? This way:

  • by standing in awe of His Word – even when princes are persecuting, v.161.
  • by rejoicing at God’s Word, as one who discovers a precious treasure, v.162.
  • by loving the law – even exceedingly, vss.163, 167
  • by praising God for His righteous judgments – seven times a day! v.164
  • by hoping for God’s salvation – that is, for Christ! v.166
  • by keeping God’s commandments – with the soul as well has with the body, vss.166,167,168

When we list it this way, our calling becomes overwhelming. How can we possibly do this – in worship today and in life in this week ahead? We cannot of or by ourselves. But by grace we can and will! That’s what hoping for God’s salvation means (v.166). In Christ we have received the grace of forgiveness for sins past and present (and still to come). In Christ we have received grace to come into God’s presence. In Christ we have received grace to be grateful and to give thanks to the Lord. In Christ we have received grace to praise God and pray to Him. In Christ we have received grace to love God, to love His law, and to love doing His commandments. In Christ we stand! In Christ we continue! So let us walk by faith in Christ today and in this week! And we will be able to (begin to) live the way the psalmist states here.

And then we will have a precious fruit too. Look at v.165. Who doesn’t want and need peace in their lives? In the midst of all the troubles, all the unrest, all the pain, all the burdens, all the sin. To those who love Him and  love His law God promises not only peace but great peace. The peace of the justified sinner. The peace of the sanctified saint. The peace of the completely-satisfied-in-Christ child of God. Is that you? Is that I? By grace it is. Let us love our Lord and find anew today and this week that great peace.

If you wish to meditate on this part of Psalm 119 through the music of the Psalter, we point you to this page on the PRC website. Here are the lyrics that match these verses. At the link you will also find piano accompaniment so that you may sing along and meditate on God’s Word in this way.

1. Though mighty foes assail me, Lord,
I fear not them, but Thee;
As boundless wealth and priceless spoil,
Thy word rejoices me.

2. Deceit and falsehood I abhor,
But in Thy law delight;
Throughout the day I praise Thy Name,
For all Thy ways are right.

3. Great peace has he who loves Thy law,
Unmoved, he safely stands;
For Thy salvation I have hoped
And followed Thy commands.

4. Thy testimonies I have kept,
They are my chief delight;
Observant of Thy law and truth,
I walk before Thy sight.

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 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.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 119r (Tzaddi)

Psalm119rOn this final Lord’s Day of October we focus on the eighteenth section of Psalm 119 (vss.137-144). This stanza is headed by the word “Tzaddi” (or “Tzadde”) because all the lines begin with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet (comparable to our “ts” sound, as in “pots“).

As we reflect on this special section of God’s Word, let us consciously use it to prepare for worship in the Lord’s house of praise and prayer. May we remember that even as Psalm 119 extols God’s law as our guide in life, so God also guides us by that law in the worship that is pleasing to Him because it is according to His will and not our own. Here, then, is God’s Word in this section:

TZADDE.

137 Righteous art thou, O Lord, and upright are thy judgments.

138 Thy testimonies that thou hast commanded are righteous and very faithful.

139 My zeal hath consumed me, because mine enemies have forgotten thy words.

140 Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.

141 I am small and despised: yet do not I forget thy precepts.

142 Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth.

143 Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me: yet thy commandments are my delights.

144 The righteousness of thy testimonies is everlasting: give me understanding, and I shall live.

We note here how the inspired psalmist praises God and His law in line after line. Over and over he calls attention to the beautiful attributes of both the Lord and His Word. As God is righteous, so are His judgments, even everlastingly so (vss.137,138,142,144). Because God is faithful, so are His testimonies (v.138). As God is true, so is His law (v.142). As the Lord is very pure (perfectly!), so is His Word (v.140).

These truths about God and His Word have implications for our worship. It means among other things that we ascribe these truths to God and His Word when we worship Him. We may certainly take the psalmist’s words as our own when we come into the Lord’s house for worship. Filled with thoughts of God and consumed with His glory, we should praise Him according to His attributes, pointing them out specifically as the psalmist does. That also helps us remember what our worship is about – not ourselves, our feelings, how we look, etc. – but God and His glory. That must be our focus. Shall we not keep that before us today?

And if we truly believe that God’s law and Word have the same attributes as God Himself, we will treat it with reverence and obedience. When His law is read, we will bow before it, confessing our sins, fleeing to Christ for forgiveness and righteousness, and proclaiming our gratitude with lip and life. When God’s Word is read and proclaimed, we will fall down before it, seeing and savoring the beauty and glory of God and His Son revealed in it. We will gladly receive the gospel of grace made known to us and willingly submit ourselves to the way of righteousness and purity set forth in it.

We will also note in this section of Psalm 119 that once again the psalmist speaks of his suffering. That suffering was primarily the suffering of persecution at the hands of cruel, oppressing enemies, as we have seen many times before. Yet here he does not point out their actions against him as much as he does his response to their attitude to God and His law. He is not discouraged and paralyzed by their hatred of God and himself. Their sin troubles and grieves him (v.143), makes him feel small and despised (v.141); but it also fills him with greater zeal for God and His law. It makes him love God’s Word all the more (v.140), helps him not forget God’s precepts (v.141) and gives him with deeper delight for His commandments (v.143). Can we say the same when we see the sin of the wicked about us and feel their pressure to conform to them? May God by His grace and Spirit work these things in our hearts today.

If you wish to reflect on this section of Psalm 119 through the music of the Psalter, you may use this versification. On this page you will also find piano accompaniment so that you may sing along. Here are the lyrics as found in Psalter #338:

1. O Lord, Thy perfect righteousness
Is in Thy judgment shown;
In Thy unchanging faithfulness
Thy truth Thou hast made known.

2. Because Thy foes forget Thy law
My soul is greatly stirred;
Thy servant loves the purity
Of Thy most holy word.

3. Though I am humble and despised
I strive Thy will to do;
Eternal is Thy righteousness,
And all Thy law is true.

4. Delight amid distress and pain
Do Thy commandments give;
Thy word is righteous evermore,
Teach me that I may live.

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.

Sunday Worship Preparation: Psalm 119(o)

Psalm119oFor our Sunday worship preparation this Lord’s Day, we consider the fifteenth stanza of Psalm 119, titled “Samech” after the Hebrew letter with which each verse begins (comparable to our “s”). Once more we are faced with the beautiful testimony of the inspired psalmist as he expresses his love for the Lord and for His holy law, by which he means the entire Word of his God.

As we meditate on this section today, let us apply it specifically to our worship, though it also has application to our entire week of work.  Here is the Word of God for us today:

SAMECH.

113 I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love.

114 Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word.

115 Depart from me, ye evildoers: for I will keep the commandments of my God.

116 Uphold me according unto thy word, that I may live: and let me not be ashamed of my hope.

117 Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe: and I will have respect unto thy statutes continually.

118 Thou hast trodden down all them that err from thy statutes: for their deceit is falsehood.

119 Thou puttest away all the wicked of the earth like dross: therefore I love thy testimonies.

120 My flesh trembleth for fear of thee; and I am afraid of thy judgments.

There are familiar themes in these eight verses of Psalm 119. We hear the psalmist state outright his love for God’s law (vss.113, 119) and his resolve to keep them faithfully (vss.115, 117). He once again makes reference to his enemies and to the wicked about him (vss.118, 119) – even speaking directly to them, v.115.

But notice that he also calmly places himself in the hands of His sovereign Lord and seeks His aid, vss.114, 116, 117). As we have seen before, even with his strong and confident testimony the psalmist never puts his trust in himself and walks on his own through life. Always he is hoping in his God and in His sure Word. Constantly he is praying to the One Who holds him up and keeps him safe. Is it the same with us? If we are sure of our stand on God’s Word, is it because we are so sure of our standing on the Lord? If we are faithful in our commitment to keep God’s law, is it because our faith in wholly resting on God and His grace? Confident we ought to be, but never self-confident. Let our confidence with regard to our calling arise alone from our trust in the One Who has called us.

The verse which stands out in this stanza, however, is the last one, v.120. Read it again, carefully. Let it sink in deeply into our souls. Apply it to our calling to worship the Lord today. Dare we say it? Can we say it? Is our love for the Lord the love that inspires godly fear of Him? Do we so love our God that we stand in awe of Him, with quaking bodies and trembling hearts? And do we so fear the Lord that we also are afraid of (i.e., honor, revere, and respect) His judgments? Or have we too become so casual and careless in our worship, that there is no fear of God before our eyes and no trembling in His august presence? How do we act when His law is read? How do we respond when a portion of His Scripture is read? Stubborn ears, obstinate wills, wandering minds, vain thoughts, and trampling feet (as in walking all over God’s Word)? Shame on us!

Let the psalmist’s testimony convict us – and lead us to conversion! Let his words drive us to the Word, Jesus Christ! And for Christ’s sake let us seek the God of mercy for forgiveness and the God of grace for the fear we need to come into His presence properly and to treat His Word the way it ought to be treated. Yes, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Ps.111:10).

Have a rich and prosperous day of rest in the fellowship of the Lord and His people.

For a musical meditation on this section of Psalm 119, you may find this versification in the Psalter used in the PRC (#335). Visit the link to find the piano accompaniment to these lyrics:

1. Deceit and falsehood I abhor,
But love Thy law, Thy truth revealed;
My steadfast hope is in Thy word;
Thou art my refuge and my shield;
The paths of sin I have not trod,
But kept the precepts of my God.

2. According to Thy gracious word
Uphold me, Lord, deliver me;
O do not let me be ashamed
Of patient hope and trust in Thee;
O hold Thou me, and I shall stand
And ever follow Thy command.

3. The froward Thou hast set at nought
Who vainly wander from the right;
The wicked Thou dost count as dross;
Thy just decrees are my delight;
For fear of Thee I stand in awe
And reverence Thy most holy law.

Sunday Worship Preparation: Psalm 119n (Nun)

Psalm119nContinuing to make our way through the book of Psalms, and particularly Psalm 119 at present, we come to the 14th stanza of Ps.119, titled “Nun” because each of the eight verses begins with this Hebrew letter (comparable to our letter “n”, remembering that Psalm 119 is an acrostic psalm).

We are taking this trek through the Psalms as a guide in helping us prepare for our worship on the Lord’s Day. And even though Psalm 119, with its emphasis on love for the Lord expressed in love for His law, may not at first seem to be conducive for worship, we are discovering that in fact it is. From many points of view it is, but perhaps most clearly from this point of view, that just as God’s law reveals His will for our lives in all areas, so it does for worship too. Not our will but God’s will is sovereign and wise, and therefore, best – in worship too. And so, if we love the Lord, we love His law for the way it guides us in every aspect of our lives, including worship.

With this in mind, we meditate on this next section of Psalm 119. Here is the Word of God:

NUN.

105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

106 I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments.

107 I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O Lord, according unto thy word.

108 Accept, I beseech thee, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord, and teach me thy judgments.

109 My soul is continually in my hand: yet do I not forget thy law.

110 The wicked have laid a snare for me: yet I erred not from thy precepts.

111 Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart.

112 I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes alway, even unto the end.

In many ways that opening line along with v.111 express the theme of this psalm. God’s Word (law) is the lamp and light on our path through life. It guides us sovereignly, because it is the revelation of God’s sovereign will for our lives. And it guides us perfectly (both without failure and without error), because it is the revelation of God’s unchanging truth and righteousness. And because we have been redeemed by Christ’s blood and Spirit from our bondage to rebellion and disobedience, and have been set free to love and serve God – according to this very law, we have taken God’s testimonies as our heritage forever and find that they fill our hearts with rejoicing.

Can we say that this morning? Can we say that as we prepare to worship our great and holy God? Do we have God’s Word as our guide as we enter His sacred courts of praise and prayer? And are we rejoicing in that divine guidance, such that we are thankful we are not left to devise our own path for worship? Let us be, for this is the worship that is pleasing to the Lord! Not our will-worship (See Col.2:16ff.), but the Lord’s will-worship!

And if we confess that God’s Word is our guide and the rejoicing of our hearts, then we are fully committed to keeping it in our lives. We have seen many times already how the psalmist gives expression to this, and here it is again in this section. He has even sworn with an oath that he will keep God’s judgments (v.106). He is determined to walk in obedience to his Lord with steadfast perseverance – “alway”, “even unto the end” (v.112). And even though he is afflicted very much (v.107) and has wicked enemies laying snares for him (v.110), he has not strayed from God’s precepts. What a witness to the power of God’s grace! What a testimony to his love for the Lord! Is this our commitment too as we stand at the beginning of a new week? Will we show forth the Lord’s grace in our hearts and lives with such perseverance?

This testimony does not mean that the psalmist is without weakness and sin. Notice that in the midst of his affliction he asks God to make him alive (“quicken me”) according to His Word (v.107). Notice that he seeks God’s acceptance of the offering of his mouth and prays to be further taught God’s judgments (v.108). These requests demonstrate the humility of the psalm-writer and tell us that he was deeply conscious of his sin and weakness. He knew he was not perfect in his desire and in his deeds, and needed the grace of God to enable him to stay on the lamp-lit path of God.

Are we also conscious of this need in our own lives? Even as we are committed to obeying the Lord out of love for Him, are we also committed to praying to Him for the grace to do what He requires us to do? May we learn again from the testimony of this man of God.

May God bless our worship this day. May He for Christ’s sake receive the free will offerings of our mouths. And may we, in and through Christ, freely praise Him for His abundant mercy to us sinners.

You may also meditate on this stanza of Psalm 119 through this versification of it found in the Psalter used for public worship in the PRC. Visit the page to listen to the piano accompaniment as well. Here are the lyrics as found in Psalter #334:

1. Thy word sheds light upon my path;
A shining light, it guides my feet;
Thy righteous judgments to observe
My solemn vow I now repeat.

2. In my distress I plead with Thee,
Send help according To Thy word;
Accept my sacrifice of praise
And make me know Thy judgments, Lord.

3. In danger oft and nigh to death,
Thy law remembered is my aid;
The wicked seek my overthrow,
Yet from Thy truth I have not strayed.

4. Thy precepts are my heritage,
For daily they my heart rejoice;
To keep Thy statutes faithfully
Shall ever be my willing choice.