Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for January 8, 2017

Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for January 8, 2017

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

Samford University and Brookwood Baptist Church, Mountain Brook

God’s Word is Truth 

Psalm 119:153–160

God’s Word points to our salvation. (153–155)

The ongoing basis of the psalmist’s plea for deliverance from the oppression of his insolent adversaries is threefold: The Lord’s unchanging love, his own devotion to the Lord (which results in love for the Lord’s instruction) and the enemy’s disregard of His revelations. The latter places the opponents under the Lord’s judgment.

This stanza of Psalm 119 begins with and is dominated by petition. Like all the psalmists, when trouble comes he runs to God in prayer not from Him in rebellion. Three times the poet prays, “Give me life,” appealing in turn to God’s “promise” (the will of God), God’s “justice” (God’s decisions) and God’s “steadfast love” (the heart of God). As affirmed throughout, God’s justice ultimately takes the form of merciful love and is carried out only as He deems fit.

God’s “law” is not to be interpreted as a legal code, as the Torah or as the tradition of the scribes. It is the Lord who teaches the law and all of it points back to Him and His will. By keeping the law one is seeking the Lord and therefore a faithful disciple.

The law is not kept simply by human determination but through prayer and God’s help (see vv. 10, 18, 25, 36). Contrary to a worldly perspective obedience to the law becomes not a burden but a source of unfailing joy (see vv. 24, 35, 77, 92).

God’s Word points to His love. (156–159)

The psalmist affirms the Lord’s bountiful mercy and compassion. God’s Word has its beginning in honesty and His judgment is forever just. With these assurances the poet vows not to turn away from the Lord’s precepts despite the number of those who oppress him. He loves the Lord’s commandments and will not swerve from God’s will.

As for the wicked persons who attack the writer they make no effort to learn or cherish the Lord’s “statutes.” The poet knows deliverance is far from them.

We can be sure God’s Word is true. (160)

As in earlier passages verse 160 highlights God’s faithfulness, declaring the “sum” of His Word is “true” or “truth.” Again this attribute of reliable truth is regularly associated with God’s mercy and love (see Ex. 34:6–7) and with God’s righteousness (see vv. 75, 142). Only the Lord knows the perfect balance by which mercy and righteousness are meted out. Thankfully God is love and His unconditional love extends to many of us who do not deserve it.

The “sum” here literally means “the head” and its use here is equivalent to the “census” in Exodus 30:12 and Numbers 1:2. Just as God’s census demanded every member of Israel be accounted for, here the word declares every part of God’s Word is true. An appropriate rendering would be “God’s Word in its entirety is true.”

As this study comes to a close it is worth noting that many scholars look upon Psalm 119 and especially its later stanzas as an introduction to the Psalms of Ascent that were sung on pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem (Pss. 129–134). Pilgrims often passed through hostile territory (119:81–88) and were grateful at the end (vv. 89–96). The sojourners would pray during their stay in Jerusalem (vv. 97–128) and before departure from the Holy City (vv. 129–136). They would reflect on God’s Word during the return journey (vv. 137–160) and upon arrival home (vv. 161–176).

As fellow travelers on this journey of faith, likewise may we sing and live our faithfulness to God’s Word which is true in its entirety.