Friday, July 3, 2015

The Fellowship of True Worship

The tenth letter in the Hebrew alphabet is yodh. In this section of prayer, 119:73 – 80, the psalmist prays for fellowship with other worshipers. The first two lines set the theme of this prayer, “Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments. Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word.”

This prayer begins with a confession of creation and identity. God made and fashioned the first man from dust and the first woman from his rib bone. He made and fashioned you in the same way in your mother’s womb. You belong to God, who created you. When you were saved you were born from above, made and fashioned by the Father with the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Once God created Adam and Eve, He continued His creative work in their lives with His word. The same is true for you. God’s word continues what He has begun in you. This is the reason for the request, “…give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.” God’s word requires God’s understanding and wisdom to learn and grow. Just as food gives your body nourishment and growth, so God’s word, with the gift of His wisdom, gives your spirit and soul nourishment and growth. You are His creation, body, soul, and spirit, created for fellowship with Him and others like yourself.

The confession of “Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word.” identifies you with other worshipers who also see God as their Creator and Sustainer, according to His word. There is joy in fellowship with God and with His people, when worship is according to His word. The phrase those who fear you is repeated in verse seventy-nine, “Let those who fear you turn to me, that they may know your testimonies.” The phrase those who fear you is an expression of worship. The word “fear” is the Hebrew word yahrey, which means to be afraid, to be reverent, to have great awe and respect. When used in the context of worship it describes a person who recognizes the supreme power and authority of God and is humbled before Him.

When this phrase is linked with words describing God’s word, as in 119:74, 79, it provides a full definition of what it means to worship the Father in spirit and truth. God reveals the knowledge of Himself through His word. His Spirit and His word are inseparable; the two are one. Knowing Him in spirit and truth describes fellowship with His Spirit, according to His word. This is true worship. And true worship gathers true worshipers together in fellowship with one another as each one is in fellowship with God.  

This prayer also teaches that there is discipline and correction in this kind of fellowship and true worship. The third line is a confession of what the psalmist has learned, “I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” The request that follows is also a confession of what the psalmist has learned, “Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.” This request has been shaped by God’s love, faithfulness, and word. Worship, learning, and God’s word are a trinity that are one and cannot be separated.

The fellowship of true worshipers pleases the Father because He sees the image of His own Son, Jesus Christ, in their midst. God sees the fruit of His word in the obedience of their lives as they gather together to worship and to learn of Him. This pleases God. This is what it means to worship the Father in spirit and truth.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Learning the Hard Way is Still Learning

The ninth section of Psalm 119 is entitles teth, the ninth letter in the Hebrew alphabet. This section of prayer, 119:65 – 72, teaches the important lesson of praying the experiences of what you are learning, even when you learn the hard way.

The first line confesses the truth of the goodness of God, and for that reason is an expression of praise, “You have dealt well with your servant, O LORD, according to your word.” The phrase, “dealt well,” is made up of two Hebrew words, asah, which means to make or to accomplish, and tob, which means good. Both of these words are very common, used hundreds of times in the Old Testament. Both of these words are used in almost every verse in Genesis 1 – 2, the two chapters on creation, describing God’s creative activity of making and forming everything and seeing the goodness of Himself in His creation.

Following the expression of praise comes a request for learning. These two are always found following each other. “Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.” The word “judgment,” is the Hebrew word taham, which is from a root word for taste. It developed into the meaning of discernment from the understanding of distinguishing different flavors by tasting. It means learning by experience.

The second word, “knowledge,” echoes this word. It is the Hebrew word dahath, from a family of words based upon the Hebrew word yadah, used of the knowledge of God. Like taham, dahath is knowledge that can only come from a personal and intimate relationship with God. Together, these words taham and dahath point to a learning experience with God, of God, according to the word of God.

The next five lines describe how God uses painful situations in life to teach eternal truth. “Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I keep your word…It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” The word “afflicted,” is the Hebrew word, naham, which means to be humbled by a painful and distressing experience. Trauma is one of the teachers of God. No one welcomes difficulties and distress, and no one is immune to them, but very few recognize the blessings that result from them if a person is willing to turn to God’s word and be taught by God in the midst of them. The main lesson God teaches through difficulty is a total dependency upon Him and the nourishing strength from His word.

Also notice the present tense of “It is good for me…,” and the past tense of “…that I was afflicted…” For believers, suffering is temporary and blessings are now and eternal. For unbelievers, it is the opposite; blessings are temporary and suffering is eternal. The other thing to notice is the option, even for the believer, of learning, “…that I might learn your statutes.” Learning is not automatic. It is chosen. It is not easy, but it is simple, if you will turn to the Lord and ask for it.

The last line is a beautiful confession of the value of God’s word to a believer, “The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” One afternoon, the author was riding in his truck with his nine-year-old granddaughter. He reviewed this verse, Psalm 119:72 with her and said, “Emma, do you know what this verse means?” Emma turned and said, “I think I do. But tell me.” I said, “It means that if a pile of gold was before me, along side of a Bible, I would choose the Bible rather than the gold. What about you?” Emma kept looking straight ahead and said, “I would choose the gold, and then go out and buy Bibles for the people who do not have one!” AMEN!!! Thank you, Emma!

You can learn from the Bible, you can learn from your mistakes, you can learn from others, even from a nine-year-old, if you believe that God is good, all the time, and that all the time, His desire is for you to know Him more and more, through good things, as well as through difficult things; “God is at work in all things, working them together for good, for those who love Him, for those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Praise is a Learning Experience

The eighth section of Psalm 119 is entitled heth, 119:57 – 64. The first line reads, “The LORD is my portion; I promise to keep your words.” The Hebrew word khelek, is the first word in the first line and is translated as “portion.” It is used in the Old Testament to describe a portion or distribution of land, of food, of an inheritance, a reward, and of sharing fellowship with a particular group of people. In this verse it seems to encompass all of the above to indicate praise. Anytime you see the phrase, the LORD is…, God’s word is revealing something of the nature or character of God. This is for you to know Him and praise Him. As you read the rest of this section you can see that it emphasizes the activity of praise.

The second line is a request based upon the promise of God as well as His gracious character, “I entreat your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.” The word “favor” is the Hebrew word paneem, which is always plural and is built upon the root word for face. It means to turn to a person in order to be face to face with them. It is plural because of the many facial features that make a person recognizable to another. This is the heart of praise; to seek the face of God in order to know Him more and more rather than seeking His hand in order for Him to give more and more.

The third and fourth line reflects upon the role of repentance in praise, “When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies; I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments.” The word “turn” is the Hebrew word shoob, which means to repent, to turn away from sin and to turn in obedience to God’s word. When you consider how much time is spent in considering your plans, your health, your feelings, your looks, your reputation, and what you should do about all of that, you too will repent and turn to Someone more interesting, more powerful, more loving, more holy, more of everything good and perfect and pleasurable and kind, namely God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as revealed in His eternal word!

The fifth line reminds you of the opposition you face, especially when you turn seeking the face of God, “Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your law.” The weapons of the world, the flesh, and the devil are lies that trap, hinder, enslave, and cause God’s people to stumble. The psalmist recognizes these snares and the reality of being caught, but also of being set free by the deliverance of reflecting upon the instructions of God’s word. God’s instructions are preventative as well as redemptive in setting free the captive.

The last three lines list the different settings for praise. The first is when you are all alone, at midnight. The second is when you are in the company of God’s people. The third is when you surrounded by God’s creation. In each case, God’s word is essential in obeying, encouraging, and instructing in praise. Praise and instruction from God’s word are inseparable because God’s word reveals His character and nature. The only way to know God is for His Spirit to reveal the eternal and perfect truth of God for you to know. You don’t know about God in that moment, you know of Him in a personal and intimate relationship of faith and trust. Praise is the result of knowing Him more and more! Hallelujah!!!

Today, throughout the day, complete the sentence prayer, “O Lord, you are…,” with the request, “…teach me Your commandments.” As you do, you will be allowing God’s word to shape your praise with His desire to teach you in that setting. This is what it means to worship the Father in spirit and truth.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Remembering God's Word

The seventh section of Psalm 119 is entitled zayin, the seventh letter in the Hebrew alphabet. The theme of this section and prayer is remembering.  The first word in the first line is the Hebrew word, zekar, which means to remember, to recall, to recite, to meditate, to record. It has action built into it similar to the Hebrew word shema, which means to hear and obey. The Hebrew name Zechariah is from the word zekar. This is one of the most important words in the Old Testament for God’s covenant people.

All of the feasts of Israel were given to the nation so that they would not forget the mighty deeds of God and their covenant with Him. The feasts were celebrations to help them to remember and to recite the blessings and curses of the covenant; to help them remain faithful to God. Remembering brought the past into the present in order to move into the future in relationship with God.

When the word “remember” is applied to God, as it is in the first line of this section, 119:49 – 56, it is similar to praying the promises of God. God does not forget, especially His own word. When you, like the psalmist, pray, “Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope.” it is a reminder to you of what God has said to you. As you pray God’s word, you record God’s word in your memory. This is the key to Scripture memorization and meditation, praying your memory verses.

The blessings of this are listed in the rest of this section. You are strengthened to keep moving forward through difficulties, “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promises gives me life.” The word “comfort” is the Hebrew word nawkham, which literally means to breath deeply. It means to be consoled, to be strengthened in a time of great distress. God’s word comforts by reminding you of His presence with you and His plans for you.

The third line in this section talks about the lie of the world, the flesh, and the devil to mislead and to misguide God’s people. The struggle you have is not with flesh and blood, not with people, but with spiritual powers of wickedness and evil identified by the phrase, the world, the flesh, and the devil. This phrase is found in Ephesians 2:1, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience; among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath.” But God’s word cuts through the lie and shines brightly with the truth!

Singing God’s word is mentioned in 119:54, “Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.” Singing is the way you learn. You probably learned the alphabet with the song. Many have learned the books of the Bible with a song. Scripture songs are musical prayers. God gave us music for this purpose. He loves it when we sing His word in prayer to Him. And you learn the truth of God’s word more and more, His word becomes more and more interwoven into the fabric of your life. Next time you are faced with temptation, sing your way through it with a Scripture song!

Today, pray your memory verse for the day. It you don’t have one, memorize one from this section on remembering, and then pray it throughout the day.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Praying the Promises of God and Your Promises Too

The sixth section of Psalm 119 is about promises; praying the promises of God and your promises, too, 119:41 – 48. The first line teaches the important truth of praying the promises of God, “Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise.” One of the first lessons to learn when learning to pray is to ask God for what He has promised. This lesson is clearly seen in Psalm 2 when the Son, the King, tells of the decree in verse seven, “The LORD said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth you possession…’” Jesus asked the Father for what He promised. We learn from His example.

The word “steadfast love” is the Hebrew word hesed, which describes faithfulness to the covenant relationship between God and His people Israel. It is covenantal love. It is love that chooses and remains faithful to that choice. This is God’s love. It is conditional; conditioned by the response of the one God loves. The only way to respond to God’s love is to receive Him at His word, to believe Him. As you do, you will respond with a promise in the same way a man and a woman do at their wedding. A covenant marriage is based upon steadfast love, where faithfulness to the vows is the strength of the union. So it is, only more so, with God and the relationship He desires to have with you.

The prayer for what God has promised has a result, verse forty-two, “…then I shall have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your word.” The word “taunt” is the Hebrew word charaph, which means to defy, to blaspheme, to reproach, to condemn, and also means betrothed. Satan is all the above, including betrothed. He comes with a lie in order to wed and enslave and reproduce sin in a person’s life. But praying the promises of God answers his lie with the truth worth waiting for.
The next request is answered with the asking, “And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules.” In asking, you receive. Jesus promised this when He said, “Ask, and it will be given to you…” Luke 11:9. When you pray God’s word, the word of truth is in your mouth. The word of faith, of hope, is your request. This is not asking for what you want, it is asking for what God has promised, and then waiting in faith for God’s timing in giving it.

The rest of this section is full of vows, “I will keep your law…I will walk in a wide place…I will also speak of your testimonies before kings…I shall not be put to shame…I will lift up my hands toward your commandments…I will meditate on your statutes.” Why would a person be hesitant to make a promise to God? The answer: “Because I might not be able to keep it.” But if God has given you the promise in His word, then He will do it. His word carries in it the obedience He looks for, if you are willing to trust Him to do it in you, with you, through you, as you, before Him and the watching world around you.

Knowing and praying God’s promises is what it means to learn to pray. But you also must make promises to God and pray your promises. Make sure you shape your vows from God’s word, according to His promises. In a covenant relationship, faith is the strength of the relationship, faith in the promise that began the relationship. Your promise to God grows out of the faith from His word. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17. “He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24. When you pray the promises of God, it pleases Him. This is what it means to worship the Father in spirit and truth.