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Loving a love poem, learning about the Bible

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

Over and over, the psalmist professes his great love for the commands and testimonies of God (vv. 48, 97, 119, 127, 140). The flip side of this love is the anger he experiences when God’s word is not delighted in. Hot indignation seizes him because of the wicked, who forsake God’s law (v. 53). Zeal consumes him when his foes forget God’s words (v. 139). The faithless and disobedient he looks upon with disgust (v. 158). The language may sound harsh to us, but that’s an indication of how little we treasure the word of God. How do you feel when someone fails to see the beauty you see in your spouse? Or when people don’t see what makes your special-needs child so special? We are all righteously indignant when someone else holds in little esteem what we know to be precious. Extreme delight in someone or something naturally leads to extreme disgust when others consider that person or thing not worthy of their delight. No one who truly delights in God’s word will be indifferent to the disregarding of it.

Second, he desires it. I count at least six times where the psalmist expresses his longing to keep the commands of God (vv. 5, 10, 17, 20, 40, 131). I count at least fourteen times when he expresses a desire to know and understand the word of God (vv. 18, 19, 27, 29, 33, 34, 35, 64, 66, 73, 124, 125, 135, 169). It’s true for all of us: our lives are animated by desire. It’s what literally gets us up in the morning. Desire is what we dream about, what we pray about, and what we think about when we are free to think about whatever we want to think about. Most of us have strong desires related to marriage, children, grandchildren, jobs, promotions, houses, vacations, revenge, recognition, and on and on. Some desires are good; some are bad. But consider, in that jumble of longings and passions, how strong is your desire to know and to understand and to keep the word of God? The psalmist so desired the word of God that he considered suffering to be a blessing in his life if it helped him become more obedient to God’s commands (vv. 67–68, 71).

Third, he depends on it. The psalmist is constantly aware of his need for the word of God. “I cling to your testimonies,

O LORD; let me not be put to shame!” (v. 31). He is desper­ate for the encouragement found in God’s promise and rules (v. 50, 52). There are a lot of things we want in life, but there are few things we really need. The word of God is one of those things. In Amos’s day the most severe punishment to fall on the people of God was a “famine … of hearing the words of the LORD” (Amos 8:11). There is no calamity like the silence of God. We cannot know the truth or know ourselves or know God’s ways or savingly know God himself unless God speaks to us. Every true Christian should feel deep in his bones an utter dependence on God’s self-revelation in the Scriptures. Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4).

What we believe and feel about the word of God are ab­solutely crucial, if for no other reason than that they should mirror what we believe and feel about Jesus. As we’ll see, Jesus believed unequivocally all that was written in the Scriptures. If we are to be his disciples, we should believe the same. Just as importantly, the New Testament teaches that Jesus is the word made flesh, which means (among other things) that all the attributes of God’s verbal revelation (truth, righteousness, power, veracity, wisdom, omniscience) will be found in the person of Christ. All that the psalmist believed and felt about the words from God is all that we should feel and believe about the Word of God incarnate. Our desire, delight, and dependence on the words of Scripture do not grow inversely to our desire, delight, and dependence on Jesus Christ. The two must always rise together. The most mature Christians thrill to hear every love poem that speaks about the Word made flesh and every love poem that cel­ebrates the words of God.

What Should I Do with the Word of God?

The goal of this book is to get us believing what we should about the Bible, feeling what we should about the Bible, and to get us doing what we ought to do with the Bible. Given all that we’ve seen about the psalmist’s faith in the word and passion for the word, it’s no surprise that Psalm 119 is filled with action verbs illustrating the Spirit-prompted uses for the word:

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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