Psalm 119:97-104

H. B. Charles, Jr. serves as Senior Pastor at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida.  He spoke in TMC’s chapel on Monday morning to launch us out on our annual Outreach Week, focusing on Psalm 119:97-104.  I have realized over the years how blessed I am to gather together regularly with a Christian college community and to hear sound, clear, passionate preaching from God’s Word.  I thought this particular text and Pastor Charles’ comments were worth sharing here.

97 Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
for it is ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the aged,
for I keep your precepts.
101 I hold back my feet from every evil way,
in order to keep your word.
102 I do not turn aside from your rules,
for you have taught me.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through your precepts I get understanding;
therefore I hate every false way.

INTRODUCTION

  • Psalm 119:97-104 is part of a prayer.  Each verse addresses God directly.  But there’s no petition; only adoration and personal testimony.
  • The theme is immediately clear in v. 97 — “Oh how I love your law!”
  • The psalmist declares his “love” for God’s law.  He does not say, “I read your law,” or “I know your law,” or “I believe your law,” or even “I obey your law.”  He speaks of something deeper: “I love your law.”
  • His “love” for God’s law is present tense.  Not past tense, as though he is speaking of some sweet period of his life in the past that has now faded, and not future tense, as though he is making some promise to love God’s law in the future, with certain conditions.  No, the psalmist continually loves God’s law, in real time, in the present.
  • He explains in vv. 98-104 three reasons why he loves God’s law.

THREE REASONS WHY THE PSALMIST LOVES GOD’S LAW

1.  The Word of God will make you wise (vv. 98-100)

     a.  God’s Word will make you wiser than your enemies (v. 98).

  • The rest of Psalm 119 reveals that the psalmist has enemies — insolent enemies (v. 51), slanderous enemies (v. 69), determined enemies (v. 110), oppressive enemies (v. 121), disobedient enemies (v. 150) — and lots of them (v. 157).
  • However, even these oppressive human enemies are not our worst enemies.  We have spiritual enemies who are much more threatening (Ephesians 6:12).
  • Yet if Jesus overcame the devil’s temptation by leaning on three verses from Deuteronomy (Matthew 4:1-11), how much more should we be able to overcome the temptations of the world with the sixty-six books of inspired revelation!

     b.  God’s Word will make you wiser than your teachers (v. 99).

  • Is the psalmist speaking out of youthful arrogance here?  No — he is not saying that he has more knowledge or information than his teachers, but that he can have deep insight and understanding into God’s ways and God’s wisdom.
  • How can this be?  Through meditation on God’s Word.  God is the source and giver of wisdom (James 1:5).

     c.  God’s Word will make you wiser than your elders (v. 100).

  • Age and wisdom do not always go together.  Time doesn’t fix everything.  Experience isn’t infallible.
  • Someone may say, “I have twenty-five years of experience,” but this could just be one year of experience repeated twenty-four times because he has never learned from his experiences and mistakes.
  • Wisdom doesn’t automatically come with the passing of time.
  • This is because wisdom is not as much about what you know; it’s about what you do.  “I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts” (v. 100).

2.  The Word of God will keep you from sin (vv. 101-102).

  • The assumption of v. 101a (“I hold back my feet from every evil way”) is that there is an “evil way.”  This goes against the relativistic spirit of the age.  The kids in my neighborhood in Jacksonville like to say, “It’s all good.”  That’s good slang but bad theology.
  • This clearly implies that there are situations and people and temptations that you should stay away from.
  • But our problem is not just evil on the outside, but evil on the inside.  This is why I must “hold back my feet.”  You must restrain yourself from evil.
  • The psalmist guards himself against “every evil way,” which means no small compromises.
  • Portia Nelson writes an autobiography in five short chapters (paraphrased):

ONE
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost and helpless.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

TWO
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I’m in the same place.
Again, it takes me a long time to get out.

THREE
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it, and I still fall in.
It’s a habit.
I know where I am, and I climb out immediately.

FOUR
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I tiptoe around it.

FIVE
I walk down another street.

3.  The Word of God will bring you joy (vv. 103-104).

  • In ancient Israel, “honey” was one of the sweetest things the psalmist had ever tasted.
  • He is not talking about someone else’s appetite or perspective.  This is personal: “my taste” and “my mouth.”
  • The Word of God will bring you both a satisfying joy (v. 103) and a sanctifying joy (v. 104).
  • I was saved at the age of six, began preaching at the age of eleven, and became a pastor at the age of seventeen.  I tell young people my story and they ask, “Don’t you feel like you missed out?”  Absolutely not!  Knowing and preaching the Word of God is the most satisfying thing I could do.  The world doesn’t have anything to offer in comparison.  I don’t feel like I’ve missed a thing.
  • The psalmist doesn’t just hate the consequences of the “false way,” but the false way itself (v. 104).

CONCLUSION

There was once a military man who married his bride and then took off for war.  To keep the fires of romance burning, he regularly wrote her love letters.  One of them was lost, and he didn’t know that his wife never received it.  Eventually he came home from war.  Several decades later, his town was tearing down the old post office, and they discovered an old envelope in the paneling.  They used old records to track down the intended recipient, and sent it to her.  When she opened it and read her husband’s decades-old love letter, she said, “It was good to know that you loved me then, but it is even better to know that you still love me now.”

God has written a love letter to the world, and it is our great privilege and opportunity and responsibility to tell the world about this letter, and about this Savior.


3 thoughts on “Psalm 119:97-104

  1. Thank you for writing this . Just last night I was telling a friend from my church that this is the season in my life when God seems to be silent and I missed the times that when I open the Bible I could immediately grasp what He wants to convey to me. I told her that right now I just go with the flow of reading because I felt that as a Christian I must do it . Thank you for making me realized that even though God is silent His Word keep me away from doing things that would dishonor His name and it continually helped me making the right choices in my life because I have in my consciousness the Word of God that is planted in my heart.

    I am thankful that my new friend Joy shared me this article because now I know God is not actually silent it is me who keeps on talking and sometimes I fail to hear from him because my world has becomes so noisy and busy that causes me to hurry on God and demanded from God an immediate conversation when in fact there are times that God just wants me to be still and waits on Him.
    Once again thank you and God bless you.

  2. I am wonderfully Blessed by reading this as my devotion is on Psalm 119: 97-104. I thank the HOLY SPIRIT for leading me to your page. Thank GOD for you!

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