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Loving a love poem, learning about the Bible

"Loving a love poem, learning about the Bible" Continued...

What Should I Believe about the Word of God?

In Psalm 119 we see at least three essential, irreducible characteristics we should believe about God’s word.

First, God’s word says what is true. Like the psalmist, we can trust in the word (v. 42), knowing that it is altogether true (v. 142). We can’t trust everything we read on the Internet. We can’t trust everything we hear from our professors. We certainly can’t trust all the facts given by our politicians. We can’t even trust the fact-checkers who check those facts! Statistics can be manipulated. Photographs can be faked. Magazine covers can be airbrushed. Our teachers, our friends, our science, our studies, even our eyes can deceive us. But the word of God is entirely true and always true:

  • God’s word is firmly fixed in the heavens (v. 89); it doesn’t change.
  • There is no limit to its perfection (v. 96); it contains nothing corrupt.
  • All God’s righteous rules endure forever (v. 160); they never get old and never wear out.

If you ever think to yourself, “I need to know what is true—what is true about me, true about people, true about the world, true about the future, true about the past, true about the good life, and true about God,” then come to God’s word. It teaches only what is true: “Sanctify them in the truth,” Jesus said; “your word is truth” (John 17:17).

Second, God’s word demands what is right. The psalmist gladly acknowledges God’s right to issue commands and humbly accepts that all these commands are right. “I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous,” he says (Ps. 119:75). All God’s commandments are sure (v. 86). All his precepts are right (v. 128). I sometimes hear Christians admit that they don’t like what the Bible says, but since it’s the Bible they have to obey it. On one level, this is an admirable example of submitting oneself to the word of God. And yet, we should go one step further and learn to see the goodness and rightness in all that God commands. We should love what God loves and delight in whatever he says. God does not lay down arbitrary rules. He does not give orders so that we might be restricted and miserable. He never requires what is impure, unloving, or unwise. His demands are always noble, always just, and always righteous.

Third, God’s word provides what is good. According to Psalm 119, the word of God is the way of happiness (vv. 1–2), the way to avoid shame (v. 6), the way of safety (v. 9), and the way of good counsel (v. 24). The word gives us strength (v. 28) and hope (v. 43). It provides wisdom (vv. 98–100, 130) and shows us the way we should go (v. 105). God’s verbal revelation, whether in spoken form in redemptive history or in the covenantal documents of redemptive history (i.e., the Bible), is unfailingly perfect. As the people of God, we believe the word of God can be trusted in every way to speak what is true, command what is right, and provide us with what is good.

What Should I Feel about the Word of God?

Too often, Christians reflect on only what they should believe about the word of God. But Psalm 119 will not let us stop there. This love poem forces us to consider how we feel about the word of God. We see that the psalmist has three fundamental affections for God’s word.

First, he delights in it. Testimonies, commandments, law—they are all his delight (vv. 14, 24, 47, 70, 77, 143, 174). The psalmist can’t help but speak of God’s word in the deepest emotive language. The words of Scripture are sweet like honey (v. 103), the joy of his heart (v. 111), and positively wonderful (v. 129). “My soul keeps your testimonies,” writes the psalmist; “I love them exceedingly” (v. 167).

But some people say, “I will never love the word of God like this. I’m not an intellectual. I don’t listen to sermons all day. I don’t read all the time. I’m not the sort of person who delights in words.” That may be true as a general rule, but I’ll bet there are times you get passionate about words on a page. We all pay attention when the words we are hearing or reading are of great benefit to us, like a will or an acceptance letter. We can read carefully when the text before us warns of great danger, like instructions on an electrical panel. We delight to read stories about us and about those we love. We love to read about greatness, beauty, and power. Do you see how I’ve just described the Bible? It’s a book with great benefit to us, and one with grave warnings. It is a book about us and those we love. And most of all, it’s a book that brings us face-to-face with One who possesses all greatness, beauty, and power. To be sure, the Bible can feel dull at times, but taken as a whole it is the greatest story ever told, and those who know it best are usually those who delight in it most.

Notes

1. Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible by any definition (if we care to look at chapters, which, we should remember, aren’t inspired divisions). Determining the longest book of the Bible is a little trickier. Psalms is the longest book of the Bible if you count chapters or verses. It also takes up the most pages in our English Bibles. But since chapters, verses, and page numbers are not a part of the original manuscripts, scholars have come up with other ways to determine the length of an individual book. Depending on the means of calculation, Jeremiah, Genesis, and Ezekiel may be longer than Psalms.

2. J.I. Packer, “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1958), 76.

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