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CRAVE the WORD!!!! – Part 1
1 Peter 2:1–3
1 Peter Lesson #055
July 7, 2016
“Father, as we come to You in prayer tonight we’re thankful for the way You’ve worked things out for National Capitol Bible Church even though the deal isn’t quite done. It’s very, very close and we’re very thankful that You worked in the thinking of the landlords and they were able to offer a deal that was acceptable and doable. Father, we continue to pray that You would provide for that congregation—provide in terms of personnel and also in terms of their financial resources.
Father, we pray for us, as well. We’re thankful we have this place to meet. We’re thankful for the way You provide for our finances and we look forward to just this continued testimony of how You support the teaching of Your Word.
Father, we’re thankful we can come to a church whose congregation focuses on the teaching of Your Word for that is the center of our spiritual life. It is the center of our worship for it is the way in which we learn about You. We learn how to live for You and glorify You and honor You.
Now tonight as we focus on Your Word we pray this will be used by God the Holy Spirit to strengthen us, edify us, and challenge us. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Almost weekly I start out with a bank of verses, which I repeat over and over again for everyone to remember. They come from a mix of Scriptures, mostly the psalms. “Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.” “How shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy Word.” “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” “Jesus prayed to the Father, ‘Sanctify them in truth. Thy Word is truth.’ ”
Now, why do I use that grouping of verses? I do it because it focuses us on the importance of the Word. It is the power of the Word. It is the Word that cleanses us. It is the Word that strengthens us.
It’s not the Word plus music. It’s not the Word plus fellowship. In fact, in most places today the entertainment and the stories and all the other things that come along almost drown the Word out.
In fact, recently someone was telling the story about going to church, going someplace on Sunday morning. The music was really good, but unfortunately, there was some guy who stood up and talked for about twenty minutes and just destroyed the whole mood.
The sad thing is that is what happens and passes for evangelical Christianity in too many places.
What we’re looking at this morning in one of my favorite passages. It’s a verse that many people memorize as a young Christian, 1 Peter 2:2, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word that you may grow thereby.”
That is part of a sentence that incorporates three verses actually in the text, 1 Peter 2:1–3. The point, the command that is embedded in the second verse … The way it is translated, it just doesn’t seem to come across with the oomph, with the power, and the command, the seriousness of the command that’s in the Greek. It’s an imperative mood verb.
Desire. It means to crave the Word, long for it, desire it. We need to look at this and as we continue in our progress in 1 Peter we’re going to need to embed this into the structure of 1 Peter, constantly thinking in terms of context.
Let me just remind you of where we’ve come from and where we’re going. In 1 Peter 1:1–2 I want you to pay attention. I’m going to bring out a little point but it’s an important point especially in the coming weeks. Peter addresses his readers saying this is to the pilgrims of the diaspora or dispersion. In Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.
It’s important because there’s been debate over the history of Christianity as to the recipients, those to whom Peter is writing. It’s important to understand that these words, the word translated “pilgrim”, the word translated “dispersion” or “diaspora” are technical terms used to describe the Jewish community which was no longer living in the land of Israel and Judea and Galilee. They were scattered.
Many of them had been outside the land for generations. Some since 722 BC, so over seven hundred years they had been living outside the land since the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been defeated by the Assyrians. The Southern Kingdom was defeated in 586 BC and they, too, were scattered.
Some went to Egypt. The vast majority went to Babylon. Some stayed in the area of Israel. Some went north into Turkey, the area we now know as Turkey. One of the regions we now know as the north central part of Turkey was Cappadocia. Galatia, Asia, and Bithynia were sort of in the middle of what we now know as Turkey. That’s where these recipients were living.
The important thing to note is that they were primarily Jewish-background believers. That will be very significant once we get into the next bank of verses in 1 Peter 2:4–11.
Now the introduction to the epistle is in verses 3–12. This is important because when you write any good piece of literature, usually you have some sort of introduction.
We just had the celebration of our Independence Day on the 4th of July and that is to commemorate the signing and the acceptance of the Declaration of Independence, the approval of the Declaration by the Continental Congress. It starts off with a preamble. That sets the tone and sets the theme of what is going to follow. That’s what an introduction does.
A lot of time when people pick up a book and see that there’s a preface or an introduction, they don’t read it. They just skip to chapter one. But in an introduction, the author is telling you why he’s writing what he’s writing and why it’s important and will indicate the kinds of things you need to pay attention to.
The introduction is very important. In fact, when I’m teaching students how to read, seminary students or college students or basically anyone needs to do this, read the introduction of a book and then read the conclusion. In the introduction the writer is going to tell you why he’s writing what he’s writing and why it’s important to pay attention to it.
Then you read the conclusion and he’s going to say that this is what he’s told you. Now you have a pretty general idea of what the book is all about. Then you can go in and read what’s in between the introduction and the conclusion. It’s going to probably make a little more sense to you than if you skip the introduction and just start reading in chapter one.
In a lot of the epistles, most of the epistles, because they’re good literature they begin with an introduction and end with a conclusion. In the introduction we’re introduced to the main ideas that Peter wants us to remember. He’s writing to an audience that’s going through persecution, tribulation, difficulties, and challenges.
A lot of it is because they’re Jewish but they’ve accepted Jesus as the Messiah. They’re facing different degrees of opposition and resentment and rejection even to the point of persecution by Jews in their community, in their families, among their friends, and in their synagogue that rejected Jesus as the Messiah.
He’s writing to encourage them how to stand fast as Christians and who they are in Christ, what their possessions are, what their privileges are, what God has provided for them, so that they can face the difficulties of life.
That applies to us even though we’re not Jewish, because we face many of the same kinds of problems in our world. We face difficulties, tribulations, and persecution. We live in a world where there is more and more sort of a rising opposition to biblical Christianity.
You may not be aware of this but a civil rights act was passed in Iowa in 2007. Part of that act included the statement that any place should provide proper facilities for the public. It didn’t define that. In a pamphlet to explain what that meant, the legislature explained that did not apply to religious institutions as long as the activities taking place were religious activities.
If they had a daycare center (I’m quoting this) or any public meeting or any meeting open to the public, then they would have to supply the appropriate facilities. That is a direct assault on the 1st Amendment because their interpretation of the act now is that because most churches have services on Sunday morning that are open to the public, then what they are saying is they must allow anyone who is transgender or gender confused to go use the other gender’s restroom. It is bad law. There is now a lawsuit against them that is now trying to engage in a preemptive strike before this is ever enforced.
My point is that like the believers Peter is writing to we’re going to face more and more opposition to enacting what we believe in the marketplace.
That’s what the 1st Amendment was supposed to guarantee, the practice of our religious belief in the market place. Liberals are saying that we can’t do this in the public marketplace but we’re free to practice what we believe in your church, inside those walls. Now what this Iowa law is saying is no, you’re not even free to practice it inside the four walls of your church. You have to still conform to what the world outside says the standards are. This is a direct attack on our freedoms.
That’s the kind of thing they were facing and the kind of thing that we’re facing. The point here is that we need to face these trials by living in light of eternity. That means we can rejoice no matter how difficult and uncomfortable the circumstances may be because our love for God enables us to focus on the glories to come.
That idea of glory is an idea that runs all through this epistle, that we focus on the future: that we’re to live today in light of eternity.
After we finish the introduction we worked our way through this first division in the book which begins in 1 Peter 1:13 and goes down through 1 Peter 2:12. The main idea there is really set forth in terms of the conduct. You see this word that comes up at the beginning and it’s going to be repeated in the last couple of verses, 1 Peter 2:11–12.
Again it refers to this idea of conduct. That’s the way a person lives.
This is organized in Peter’s thinking, if we think about the big picture here in terms of six commands. They don’t always come across, though, in English as commands. Sometimes other words, participles in the original Greek, are translated as commands which just lead to confusion because we don’t have a clear understanding of what the writer is saying.
Let’s review what we find. In 1 Peter 1:13–14, the command is to rest your hope fully on the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. When is the revelation of Jesus Christ? That’s when Jesus Christ returns at the Rapture, when He is revealed.
What happens right after that? We are evaluated in terms of our Christian life at the Judgment Seat of Christ. It’s not to determine whether we go to Heaven or the Lake of Fire. The Judgment Seat of Christ is for rewards to believers for service during this life.
So that first command is to rest your hope fully. It comes across the way it’s translated as “gird up the loins of your mind”. The way it’s expressed in the Greek is to stand firm and to rest your hope fully by the grace that is brought to you by girding up your loins, by being prepared. That’s what girding up the loins of your mind means. It means being disciplined in your thinking, organized, and focused.
The second command comes in 1 Peter 1:15–16, to be holy in all your conduct. It means to live in a way that sets you apart to serve God, so that you’re living in a way that is consistent with God’s thinking and God’s commands. You’re set apart to Him for His service. That’s in verses 15 and 16.
The word conduct is used in verse 15 but it’s picked up again in verse 17 to conduct yourselves in terms of your fear. So it returns this idea of how to live. In the second command it has to do with our conduct. In the third command it has to do with our conduct. That’s going to be stated again when we get to the conclusion.
Look for those kinds of repeated words to get the flow of what Peter is saying. He’s saying that the spiritual life has to do with how we live. It’s not just learning doctrine. It’s not just learning the Word. It’s working it out in terms of application, in what we say and in what we do.
The fourth command impacts what we do with others and that is to love one another with integrity. This is 1 Peter 1:22–25 which focuses on that. It starts off with a causal participle, because we have purified our souls. This happens when we trust Christ as Savior.
Salvation is based on faith alone in Christ alone. At that point we are cleansed positionally of all sins. We’re forgiven positionally of all sin and we are made new creatures in Christ.
We are born again. That’s the parallel in verse 23, having been born again. How is this accomplished? It’s accomplished by obeying the truth in verse 22 and this obedience to the truth is then connected to being born an incorruptible seed through the Word of God.
There’s a parallelism between the truth and the Word of God, which is then further developed as the gospel that’s preached to them. They responded to the gospel and through God the Holy Spirit were born again. We’re made a new person in Christ. We have a new life.
God changes us from the inside and gives us a new identity in Christ and gives us eternal life. Because of that we are to love one another fervently with a pure heart.
You can’t execute the command unless you understand your new identity. If you were given a contract to go play for the New York Yankees you would be told that now that you are a member of this ball club you’re going to conduct your life a certain way.
It’s like being a child. As you grow up your father or mother says that you’re a member of their family and other people may do this or that, they may look this way or look that way, but if you’re a member of this family, this is how you’re going to live.
In other words, we’re back to that same idea we saw in the second and third commands, which is how we conduct our lives. The specificity here is that it’s done through loving one another with integrity.
That brings us to the end of the first chapter. When you study the Bible, chapter and verse headings sometimes get in the way. It makes us think there’s a whole new section. It’s not. It’s just that the next point comes along and in verses 1–3 of chapter 2; the command is really in verse 2 which we’ll see. It’s to desire or crave the milk of the Word.
In some translations it makes it look as if the command is in 1 Peter 2:1, to put aside all malice. The ESV translates it that way. You’ll see in the New King James Version and the New American Standard Version there’s an “ing” on the end of the words “laying aside” and that tells us it’s a participle. It modifies a verb. We’ll get into that in a minute.
Now I want you to skip from the end of 1 Peter 2:3. We’re going to skip verses 4–10, which is almost like a secondary thought. He gets sidetracked on something important. He lays the groundwork for who these Jewish-background believers are. That’s why it’s important to understand that he’s writing to Jewish-background believers, because we have to properly understand verses 4–10.
When we come to 1 Peter 2:11 and 12 [I put verse 13 on the slide to show the difference] we see there’s a shift. This is really the concluding summary of this section. We know that from the grammar and from the words that are used.
Now the conclusion, Peter says, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims …” When we read that phrase that automatically takes us back to 1 Peter 1:1 where they’re addressed as pilgrims in the diaspora, in the dispersion. What he’s saying there is that in terms of who you are as Christians who are scattered, living in the midst of sometimes a hostile environment, you should, “Abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.”
Again, he’s talking about conduct, which is clear from the next verse where he says, “Having your conduct …” That’s the same word that he used back in 1 Peter 1:15 and 17 talking about the lifestyle, “Having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles.”
“Gentiles” isn’t a word for unbelievers here. Scripture uses the term “Gentiles” as just meaning non-Jews. It doesn’t mean unbelievers. He’s talking to them. They’re also living in the midst of a Gentile culture and maybe this is because as Jews who have accepted Jesus as Messiah, they’ve been kicked out of the synagogue, so now they’re having to live in a Gentile environment instead of in a more comfortable Jewish environment.
He says, “Conduct yourselves. Live your lives honorably among the Gentiles.” On the slide I’ve underlined, “That they may glorify God in the day of visitation.” That’s a Greek construction. It’s not an imperative in terms of its basic function, but its syntax is to function as an imperative. It’s a command. It’s not an imperatival verb, but it’s a word, a subjunctive, that’s used as a purpose clause. It’s another way of expressing a command. It concludes with this command that the reason we do all of this, summarizing the five commands and the sixth command, is that we’re to live a certain a way in front of the Gentiles so that they can glorify God.
Our life is to be a witness, a visible testimony to those around us. He’s going to come back to this idea when we get into 1 Peter 3:15. He’s going to say, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is within you.”
If you’re living a certain way in front of the Gentiles, then they’re going to ask why. You need to be ready to give an answer for that. Then it’s all targeted towards this idea of being a physical, spiritual testimony to those around us. Then when you get to 1 Peter 2:15 it says, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man.”
When we get there we’re going to see that from verse 13 on the topic changes. He starts talking about submitting to authority in different spheres of life and the importance of that and why it’s important to submit to authority. He always goes back to the example of Jesus.
Obviously when we get to verse 13 he shifts to a different subject matter than what he’s covered from 1 Peter 1:13 down to 2:12.
Now let’s pick up the end of chapter one which we talked about a little bit last time. He says in 1 Peter 1:22, “Because you purified your souls by obeying the truth through the Spirit …” That’s when they respond to the gospel. He talks about that response to the gospel message a couple of different ways.
In verse 23 he says you were born again or you have been born again not of corruptible seed but incorruptible through the Word of God which lives and abides forever. So he calls the Word of God that which lives and abides forever. He’s talking about the revelation that God has given.
Again this shows we should have an extremely high view of the Bible. The Bible is not man’s opinion about God. It’s not a record of man’s experiences with God. The Bible claims to be the unique thinking of God revealed to man, given to man in a way that is overseen by God and protected so that His Word is preserved to us. It has power.
Now notice. He calls it the Word of God, that’s the LOGOS. LOGOS is one of those words that has a lot of different shades of meaning. We see its remnants in words like biology, geology, and anthropology with that “logy” at the end, which means the learning, the memory, the study of something.
It also has the idea of logic. It has the idea of reason or rationality. I want you to notice something. Here in verse 23 the Word of God is called the LOGOS and then when you look at 1 Peter 2:2, desire the milk of the Word. The word there isn’t LOGOS. It’s LOGIKON. It’s emphasizing the rationality and the logic of the Scripture.
That’s one reason we take time to go through the Scripture this way, word-by-word, verse-by-verse is to thoroughly understand what God has said to us. So the Word of God lives and abides forever.
This should remind us of what Jesus said in Matthew 5:17–18 in talking about the Word. He said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the prophets.” The Old Testament was divided by the Jews into three sections: the Law or the Torah, which is the first five books of the Old Testament, then you had the prophets, which covered what we call the historical books. They referred to the early prophets and the later prophets. And then they had a third division that was just called the writings.
Often it was just the whole of the Old Testament, as we know it, the Hebrew Scriptures as Jews know it, that was just described as just the Law and the Prophets.
When Jesus said that, remember that the New Testament hadn’t been written yet. He said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets? I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly I say unto you that until heaven and earth passes away …” That’s just another way of saying until the universe is destroyed and He creates a new Heaven and a new Earth, but even then the Word of God is going to continue.
He said, “Until heaven or earth passes away not one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the Law until all is fulfilled.” He’s talking about the endurance and the eternality of the word, which is what Peter is talking about in 1 Peter 1:23.
“The Word of God lives and abides forever.” This indicates that dynamic.
Where we went from this in verses 24 and 25, Peter quotes from Isaiah 40:5–6. He’s quoting from this section that’s quoting from this section that talks about the permanence of God’s Word.
Wasn’t that interesting that two weeks ago when I finished this we got down to Isaiah 40:6 and I was going to continue on that. Then Jim Myers covered for me last week when I was on vacation and his plan was to go through Isaiah 40. That was important. I just let him teach Isaiah 40 and I’m moving on. I’m not going to go back over territory he covered last week. That fit together.
It’s almost like God has a plan, sometimes!
The connection is that the Jews in the Old Testament were facing a crisis. In the first part of Isaiah he’s predicting that the Babylonians are going to come and destroy the people. Then when that judgment came, Isaiah 40–66 is written to comfort the people that God hasn’t forgotten them. That God still has a plan for them and God is still going to restore them.
They were a people that were taken out of the land in the dispersion and were scattered among the Babylonians so they’re living in a hostile, pagan, and Gentile environment just as these recipients to the letter of 1 Peter are. I had this quote from Edward Selwyn in his commentary on 1 Peter, which summarizes this.
He says, “Every leading thought here [in Isaiah 40] fits with what our author of 1 Peter has been saying. He, too, is addressing readers who are exiled and oppressed; and he has the same message for them, the contrast between the perishability of mortal things …” Everything that we think is so important in our lives. We get all caught up with our houses and furniture and clothes and sports and business and making money and our jobs and all the details of life, but what Isaiah is saying and Peter is affirming is that all of that is extremely temporal. You may not even have it next week.
The Word of God is what abides forever. This quote is being used to reinforce the priority that it’s the Word of God that abides forever. When you lose your health. When you lose a loved one. When you lose your country. When you lose anything, the thing that stays with us forever and ever is going to be the Word of God.
What Selwyn says is the contrast is between the perishability of all mortal things and the incorruptibility of the Christian inheritance and hope. It’s the incorruptibility of the Word of God. So he quotes from this particular passage.
As I pointed out when we looked at this, it concludes by saying the Word of God endures forever and the last statement in 1 Peter 1:25, he says, “Now this is the word which by the gospel [good news] was preached [or proclaimed] to you.” It’s the priority of the Word. This is where Peter’s thinking is going. He’s telling people that if you really want to survive life and when it’s over with and you look back to when you were young and you got married and had children and you want to live a good life and be stable and provide for them, what’s going to anchor every detail in your life?
It’s going to be the Word of God. Nothing else can do it. Anything else will fall apart.
This is the emphasis all through Scripture. John 17:17 says, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” Who’s talking in John 17? Jesus is talking. Who is He talking to? He’s talking to God, the Father. He’s praying to the Father. John 17 is known as Jesus’ High Priestly prayer. It’s the real Lord’s Prayer.
This prayer is before He’s arrested at Gethsemane, before He goes to the Cross the next day. He’s praying to the Father to preserve and protect His disciples and followers, as they will be the nucleus of the new organism of the church, which is going to come into existence.
How are they sanctified? How are they going to grow spiritually? Sanctification is just a little more antiquated word for your spiritual life. How do you grow spiritually? It’s not by feeling good. It’s not by some sort of quiet reflection and meditation on nothing, which is how it is in Eastern mysticism.
It is through the Word. It’s not through music. It’s not through entertainment. It’s not through fellowship with friends. All of those things can be good in their place, but if they replace the Word of God then you’re going to fall apart. It’s the content of the Word of God that shapes our thinking.
Jesus prays, “Sanctify them by Your truth.” It’s not a relative concept of truth. It’s an absolute concept of truth. “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” That’s restated two verses later in John 17:19, “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself [Jesus said] that they also may be sanctified by the truth.”
Again, it comes back and reinforces that it’s the Word of God.
We see other verses in Scripture that support this. Ephesians 1:13. It’s the hearing of the Word of truth, the gospel of salvation that changed the Ephesians’ lives.
In Philippians 2:15 the Philippians held fast to the Word of life, that is the message, the content of the gospel. In Colossians 1:5, it’s the Word of the truth of the gospel.
What else does the Bible say about the Word of God? In Hebrews 4:12 the writer of Hebrews also talking to a Jewish-background audience that’s now become believers in Jesus as the Messiah says, “The Word of God is alive and powerful …”
This isn’t just like any other book. It’s not even like reading a religious book. It’s not reading a self-help book. It’s not reading a motivational book. This is a book that is written and has power to change our lives for the better because it’s truth.
Truth conforms to the thinking of God and the way God created the human race. “For the Word of God is alive and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword …”
If you look right down in front of me, there is a two-edged sword. That’s a MACHAIRA that’s being referred to here. That MACHAIRA is sharp. Several people have noted that we now have a piece of tape over the edge. That is because you can shave with it. We wanted to make sure that no little kids ran up and sliced off a digit or two.
It was primarily used not as a fencing sword or weapon, but as a weapon that would pierce into the armor. It would find a hole in the armor and they would pierce into a vital organ. That’s the imagery here. It pierces deep into the mentality of a person to a point where it can divide or distinguish between the soul and the spirit, the joints and the marrow and it’s a discerner.
It exposes what we’re thinking and the motivations of our thinking, that’s the phrase “the intents of the heart”, the motivation. We can’t fool God about anything. We can’t rationalize or justify any of our behavior. God sees to the very core of our thinking and it’s the Word of God that exposes it so that we can then apply it and change our lives.
In Isaiah 55:11, God says, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth.” It tells us that the Word of God originates with God. It doesn’t originate with man. It goes forth from God’s mouth. And it says, “It shall not return to me void.” That means that there’s a purpose for the Word. If you apply the Word, it will fulfill its purpose.
God says that He’s given us the Word and it’s not going to return to Him in emptiness. “It will accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
God’s Word is going to accomplish what God intended it to do.
Another passage is in Jeremiah 23:29, “ ‘Is not My word like a fire?’ says the Lord?” It’s compared to a sword and now it’s compared to fire. And then it’s compared to a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces.
These are strong, powerful images. A fire burns. It illuminates. It exposes. It destroys what’s on the outside to expose what’s on the inside.
A passage I want you to turn to is a passage that I want to reference a little bit or read through and hit some high points. It’s Psalm 119. This is the longest chapter in the Bible and its right next to the shortest chapter in the Bible. It’s 176 verses.
Psalm 119 is written in order to praise God’s Word. If you read through the psalm you’ll discover that every verse uses a word that is a synonym for the Word of God.
In verse one: “Blessed are the undefiled who walk in the Law of the Lord.” The Law of the Lord is another word for the Bible, for the Scriptures.
Verse two says, “Blessed are those who keep His testimonies.” That’s another word for the Bible.
Verse three: “They walk in His ways.” That’s also a term that’s used as a synonym for the Bible. The Bible teaches us God’s ways.
Verse four uses the word “precepts”. Verse five uses the word “statutes”. Verse six uses the word “commandments.” Verse seven uses the word “judgments”. Verse eight again uses the word “statutes”. Verse nine uses the word “Word”. So you see every verse takes us to say something of the value of God’s Word.
When you get out today in a lot of places people want to come up with good ideas about how they live their life based on what their peers say, based on what their friends say, based on what some comedienne says on TV, or whatever it may be. They look to all kinds of sources for the wisdom of life.
Often you find people going to psychologists. You find people going to counselors. You find them going to self-help gurus. In fact, 80% of pastors aren’t really teaching the Bible anymore. They’re just teaching motivational self-help theories from the pulpit.
They’re teaching psychology. They’re not teaching the Bible. Now they may say something about how important the Bible is, but are they going through the Bible like I’m going through the Bible? Are they really telling you what God says or are they just telling stories and going off in other directions?
Listen to what these psalms say.
Now, I’ve just highlighted a few verses. You can underline these. I encourage you to go read Psalm 119 several times over the next week just to point out what is said. Psalm 119:9 is a verse I quote all the time, “How can a young man cleanse his way?” How can you straighten out your life? “By taking heed according to Your word.”
Not by taking heed according to Maslow or Jung or Freud or any of the other love languages or theories that go around. It’s taking heed according to Your Word. It’s not listening to motivational speakers. Bradshaw is one. There are so many you can watch on TV.
Some of them have good ideas but if they’re good ideas, they just stole them from the Bible without giving it credit. How do you straighten up your life? You listen to God’s Word.
Psalm 119:11 says, “Your word have I hidden in my heart.” How do you hide God’s Word in your heart? You memorize it. You learn it. You work on memorizing it so you can repeat it to yourselves at different times to remind yourself of truth and absolutes. You hide the Word in your mind. That’s what heart means. It’s in your mind and in your thinking.
You hide it for a purpose. Not just because it’s an academic exercise. It’s so that you won’t sin. Not so you can recover from sin, but it’s that, too. It’s so you don’t sin in the first place.
“Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against You.”
Psalm 111:15–16, “I will meditate on Your precepts and contemplate Your ways.” That means that you’re going to take time to think about God’s Word.
There are a lot of tools available today. You’ve got tools you can use on your computer, on your iPad, on your iPhone, on your smart phones, and all kinds of different things. If you don’t have all of that, just have your Bible and a pad and a piece of paper. Start off with fifteen minutes. I bet you anything that if you really want to know the Word and you start off with fifteen minutes, before long it’s not enough time.
You want to take more time. You want to get up early. That’s what happened to me. I was always a late sleeper. Then I discovered that I was really a morning person. Who knew? I would get up at 5:30 because the only time I could study the Word before the whole day got busy was between 5:30 and 6:30.
First I got up at 6:00 and I had time from about 6:00 to 6:30 to read. Then that wasn’t enough time and I realized I had to get up at 5:30. You meditate. You think about it. You reflect on it. You write down your observations.
Go back and see the course that’s online about how to study the Bible. It’s on the Dean Bible Ministries website. Listen to that. A Bible Study Methods class isn’t so you can be a Bible teacher or a Sunday School teacher. It’s to help you learn the tools to think about what you’re reading in the Bible, so that it makes sense to you. So that you can read it at a basic level, identify promises, understand what they mean and write down what the Lord is teaching you through His Word.
So the psalmist says, “I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways. I will delight myself in Your statues.” What kind of word is delight? It means this isn’t drudgery. “Uh, I’ve got to go do my morning Bible reading.”
No, you get excited about it. You delight in it. It’s not legalism. It is joy because you’re learning about what God is going to do in your life and how to please God.
“I will delight myself in Your statues; I will not forget Your Word.” I’m not going to just do this in the morning, close my Bible, shut it off, go through life, and do whatever I want to do.
Psalm 119:28, says, “My soul melts from heaviness.” What’s he talking about there? I’m facing difficult times. I’m depressed. I’m discouraged. I’m unemployed. I can’t find a job. I can’t pay my bills. My kids are sick. I’m sick. My soul melts from heaviness.
“Strengthen me according to …” Some self-help techniques? Strengthen me with a good motivational preacher? Strengthen me with some good upbeat Christian choruses? That’s not what he says. He says that we’re strengthened according to God’s Word.
It’s the truth of God’s Word, the content that’s oriented to reality that gives us strength to face those difficult circumstances. Then in Psalm 119:31 it says, “I cling to Your testimonies.” Wonder if any one has any idea of what that Hebrew word for cling is? It’s the same word that’s used in describing a married couple who when they get married they are to leave their parents and to cleave to each other. It’s holding on to something for dear life. So “I cleave, I hold on to Your testimonies for dear life.”
“Oh, Lord, do not put me to shame.” “I’m going to bank everything on Your Word. I’m going to gamble my whole life upon Your Word. Lord, don’t disappoint me. I’m trusting in You and You alone.”
Then in Psalm 119:36–37 the prayer is to God, “Incline my heart to Your testimonies.” Sometimes we don’t get up in the morning and feel like reading the Bible. We don’t feel like going to Bible class at night. We don’t feel like sitting down when we really want to check our e-mail and see what happened in the news last night and all these other things. We need to pray that God will incline our hearts to His Word.
I remember a few times when I was a young Christian and I was a counselor at a Christian camp. Some people think that’s a lot of fun but it is tiring! I remember thinking a couple of times I would be lying in my bunk on a Sunday right after lunch and those kids would be getting there within the next hour or two and I really didn’t want to face any more kids. Towards the end of the summer you’re tired. I would just say, “Lord, I’m going to fall asleep and when I wake up my whole attitude will change.” It always did. I would wake up and I would be ready to face the week and go through the whole week.
We pray for these things: that the Lord will change our focus. “Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to covetousness.” That’s grasping after things like money and success and jobs; not that those are wrong in themselves, but when they supplant our relationship with God, they are.
He says, “Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things.” What are worthless things? The things we covet. They’re not going to last. “And revive me in Your way.”
In Psalm 119:42 he says, “So shall I have an answer for him who reproached me, for I trust in Your Word.” If someone is giving you a hard time, such as bullying you or your kids, making you or your kids feel intimidated, you can use this verse. Bullying doesn’t just take place with little kids. It takes place in a lot of corporate boardrooms.
A lot of people in this world will never quite get past whatever happened in junior high. They’re still trying to take over other people. The way to handle it is to trust in God’s Word, not through bitterness, resentment, or trying to get revenge, but by trusting in God’s Word and being an individual of integrity.
Psalm 119:105 says how we are to think. The psalmist says, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” The idea is that the Word gives me guidance so I can make decisions in life. I need to illuminate my life and the only way it gets illumination is from the truth of God’s Word.
Psalm 119:127 says, “Therefore I love Your commandments.” How? “More than gold, yes than fine gold.” It’s more than anything else. It’s better than success. It’s better than riches. It’s better than a big house. It’s better than a great car. It’s to be desired above everything.
Not that those things are wrong but they’re not going to supply what only the Word of God can supply.
Psalm 119:130 adds this idea of light. Light gives us information and truth. “The entrance of Your words give light; It gives understanding to the simple.”
I have seen so many people that I would classify as “simple”. They come out of home and they’re not real bright. They didn’t do well in school. They don’t look like they’re going to have much success. Maybe they don’t have a high I.Q. Maybe they have a lot of problems. Maybe they have mental problems, but I’ve seen some people who latch on to the Word of God and you’re just amazed at how someone who just has average talent and average ability, because they focus on the Word, it gives them a focal point in their thinking and they excel.
They’re like the tortoise and the hare. They’re like the tortoise. There are a lot of people with high I.Qs. and great backgrounds, lots of money, and education, but they don’t last. They blow it like the hare. They’re not like the tortoise. The person who just sticks with it and plugs it out day-in and day-out, those people are going to have success. Understanding goes to the simple from the Word of God and they will excel those who have greater education.
Psalm 119:176, “I’ve gone astray like a lost sheep …” I thought this was so interesting. What is the last verse in this long psalm? He shifts the focus. He’s praised the Word all the way through for 175 verses. Then at the last he says, “I’ve gone astray like a lost sheep.”
It’s confession—confession of sin. “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; Seek Your servant.” Bring me back. “For I do not forget Your commandments.”
It’s a reminder. It’s similar to the parable Jesus talks about the shepherd who loses one sheep. He leaves the 99 to go find the one. It’s forgiveness. You look at the episode of the parable of the prodigal son. It’s the forgiveness of God no matter what the circumstances are.
So this takes us back to what the gospel is. “The Word of the Lord endures forever.” It’s the only thing you can count on when everything else is gone.
The interesting thing here is the words that are used. Before I was talking about the LOGOS of God. Now it’s using this word RHEMA. RHEMA also means word, but often it has the idea of the spoken word, not the written word. It has a different significance.
It’s saying it’s the spoken Word of God that endures forever because God’s Word was meant to be read out loud. It was meant to be spoken; it was meant to be taught.
Now he says that the RHEMA which by the gospel was preached to you. There’s no word for preaching here. It’s just the word EUAGGELIZO. This is the word or the message which evangelized you. It’s referring back to the gospel that gave birth to them in terms of regeneration.
As we transition to the next section, what he’s mentioned already is that we are born again from this imperishable seed, which is the message of the gospel of grace. It results in our regeneration and a new life. That new life has to be nourished. It’s not going to be stillborn. It needs to be nourished and that’s going to come through growth.
If you don’t feed it with the Word then it will be stillborn. It doesn’t mean they’re not saved. It just means they’re not ever going to really grow and look like a saved person.
There are a lot of Christians who are stillborn because they’re born again, but they never get any feeding and they always look just like an unbeliever because they never get the truth of God’s Word in them. The only truth of God’s Word they get is the gospel. Thankfully, they’re going to be in Heaven, but they never had the opportunity to grow because no one ever taught them the Word.
This is where we’ve come in the first three verses of chapter two. Peter says, “Therefore, *laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” That means if you have responded to the gospel.
The reason I put an * there by “laying aside” is that some translations translate this as a command to “put aside these things”. That’s not what it is saying. In fact, it’s a really interesting structure in grammar that we find in a number of places.
So, if the command is to crave the Word, and we understand why we are to crave the Word from Psalm 119, and that means to make it a priority. When you wake up in the morning, now, some people don’t want to eat right away in the morning, they won’t eat breakfast until about 10:00, it doesn’t matter when you get in to the Word. You need to crave the Word every day. That’s the priority—to crave the Word.
“Father, we thank you for this opportunity to be reminded of the centrality of your Word in our life—that we can focus on it, and realize that it’s not an option, but it is that which makes the difference between a life well lived, and a life that is lived for our own personal pleasure.
Father, we know if we live our life as You would have us live it, then it will bring value and glory to You for eternity, and we can have stability in this life and surmount the difficulties and challenges of life, no matter what they might be.
Father, we pray that You challenge us with what we studied today, that we might have a renewed focus on making Your Word the priority, the focus, the center point of our life. And we pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”