Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for December 11, 2016

Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for December 11, 2016

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Bible Studies for Life By Jim Barnette, Ph.D.

Samford University and Brookwood Baptist Church, Mountain Brook

God’s Word Fills My Heart

Psalm 119:9–16

God’s word will keep us 

from sin. (9–11)

The second stanza of Psalm 119 is the only one to open with a question. The psalmist asks how a young person can stay on the path of purity. Some Jewish scholars translate “a young man” as “a lad,” and they see this term reflecting the similarities of this Psalm to Wisdom Literature. Often in Proverbs, a “lad” or innocent young man needing instruction in the ways of righteousness is introduced. From the heartfelt prayers of the surrounding verses, it would appear that the young man is the psalmist himself. If so, he is praying more than he is preaching or instructing.

The question is answered in the very next breath: one keeps on the path of purity by obeying God’s word. While “word” can refer to Scripture, here it also designates God’s communication to us beyond written words. Thus the psalmist encourages us to be open to both God’s past and future revelation. The psalmist confesses his wholehearted concentration on God’s word and prays that he not be allowed to stray from His commandments. The writer has hidden away in his heart what the Lord has said. In other words, he has memorized it so that he might not sin against the Lord.

Verse 11 is reminiscent of Jeremiah 31:33 where God promises to write “instruction on the people’s hearts.” Hence the blessing that God is willing to teach us directly and personally. We always have more to learn about God’s way, and what a grace to us that He is always willing to reveal more to us.

God guides us to understand 

His Word. (12–13)

The Psalmist is quite aware that obedience to the Word is entirely a gift of God, as indicated by the phrase “teach me Your statutes.” The word “statutes” refers to the binding force and permanence of Scripture, as of laws “engraved for the time to come as a witness forever” (Isa. 30:8). “Ordinances are better known in the Old Testament as “judgments,” that is, the decisions of the Righteous Judge about practical human situations. Scripture, then, provides the authoritative ethic by which humans interact and serve obediently.

The phrase “blessed are You, O Lord” appears at the exact center of the stanza. This word of gratitude sets the stage for the rejoicing found in the following verses. Indeed, “delighting” in Scripture is central to our spiritual growth.

Rejoice in what God teaches 

us in His Word. (14–16)

A persistent theme throughout this Psalm is the “delight” these sayings bring. The first reference to this occurs in verses 14 and 16, and they set the tone for much that will follow. Later Scripture is compared to riches it outshines, including silver and gold (vv. 72, 127 and 162). The word “testimonies” harkens back to when the Israelites placed the book of the law beside the Ark of the Covenant “that it may be there for a witness against you.” The testimony of Scripture holds us accountable, and it also is a faithful and true witness to God’s glory. Thus “Thy testimonies are my delight” (v. 24).

“Precepts” is a word drawn from the vocations of an officer or overseer, someone who is responsible to analyze a situation and take action. Reflective of the word “ordinances” in verse 13, “precepts” highlights the practical instructions the Lord bestows and commands. The word “meditate” in verse 15 connotes careful reflection on God’s Word. God’s law requires more than surface reading or rote memorization; it demands intentional contemplation. Such spiritual discipline is vital for our living up to the high expectations of Holy Scripture.