Great Peace → Perseverance
Psalms 119:165 Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.
Here in the second half of the Sin and Shinn octave, we encounter a great truth: that a love for God’s law brings peace to the soul. Like aloe on a burn or cool water on a hot, dry throat, love for God’s Word is the anointing oil that relieves our woes and anxieties. To love God’s law is to love the God of the law and all those who trust in Him he will not put to shame (1 Peter 2:6).
In this sin-cursed world, you will have tribulation. God has promised us that we will be hated and suffer for His name (Philippians 1:29; 1 John 3:13). So how is anyone to find peace in the storm? It is through a loving devotion to our Savior and meditation on His Word that peace is found. And notice the degree of peace that is promised: great peace. Jesus said he came to give us life and to give it abundantly (John 10:10). For such a rich and great God as He, there is no other way. Our cup overflows because the Good Shepherd’s fountain is unendingly flowing. Thus, believers experience great peace through Christ who strengthens them (Philippians 4:13).
Now, dear believer, having your eyes fixed on your Savior and taking every thought captive to obey Christ (Hebrews 12:2; 2 Corinthians 10:5), you are now poised to persevere to the end. Nothing shall make your foot slip; though the wicked’s foot will slip in due time (Deuteronomy 32:35). Your God will keep you by His power, and steady growth in grace will encourage you along the way.
Jude 1:24-25 ESV Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Salvation → Works
Psalms 119:166 I hope for your salvation, O Yahweh, and I do your commandments.
It has been said that there are two religions in the world: the religion of grace and the religion of works. A distinguishing characteristic of the religion of works is that somehow the good deeds a man does are what pleases his deity. This is true whether that religion sees man as inherently good or as innately sinful. Since this is an affront to the gospel of grace, our Scriptures go to great lengths to destroy any hope men can have to save themselves by proclaiming the gospel of grace (Romans 3:24,25; Ephesians 2:8, 9). But wicked men will always twist good religion to their own ends and many a man has proclaimed the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ apart from works as a license to sin.
The logic goes, “If we cannot contribute to our own salvation, then we can do anything. And if sin increases, then grace shall be magnified. Thus, we will continue in sin that grace may abound.” It is here that we echo the Apostle Paul and proclaim, “Certainly not!” (Romans 6:2) We have already seen in the previous verse that great peace is available to those who love God’s law. How can we continue in sin after considering the great cost Christ paid to redeem us from it (1 Corinthians 6:20)? So it is fitting that we follow in the steps of David who hoped for the salvation of Yahweh and did his commandments. In other words, as Christians, we believe in doing good words. We simply do them as the result of the grace we’ve been given and the salvation that’s already promised, rather than to procure that grace.
And who is our ever-present example in all these things? Jesus Christ is the Ultimate Psalmist. It is Jesus who looked forward to the ultimate deliverance and with his eyes fixed on the joy set before him endured the shame, never once breaking a commandment of God (Hebrews 12:2). Look to Him!
Our Love → Our Actions
Psalms 119:167 My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly.
The soul that sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:20). But whoever has the Son has life (1 John 5:12)! When we speak of the human condition, we understand that we have a soul and a body—a spirit and a flesh. Our body and soul are corrupt from birth by the sin of Adam. It has not only been imputed to us, but we suffer its consequences. That is, we are rendered wholly unable to do any good. And it is not only our outward actions that fail to meet God’s standards. In fact, many of those do seemingly align with His law prior to our conversion. But it is our soul itself that sins against its Creator and rebels. The damage is so pervasive that we even do the things found in God’s law so that we may seem righteous, but for our own glory and not for God’s glory (Isaiah 64:6). But God the Holy Spirit has regenerated us and made us new—thus our soul not only keeps His testimonies but loves them exceedingly.
Through the washing of regeneration and renewing of our minds which were once ensnared in darkness, we have become able to do good. Adam was able to do good and he failed (as each of us would have), bringing a curse on all of humanity. All his posterity are found to be unable to do good or only able to do evil. This is the sad reality of our fallen state and we would do good to meditate upon it frequently as a reminder of God’s goodness to us. Because when the lovingkindness and mercy of our Savior appeared (Titus 3:4), he changed us and made us once again able to do good. This means that God washed our hearts and circumcised our hearts of stone and gave us hearts of flesh. Now we can say with the psalmist that we love God’s testimonies exceedingly. Our actions that flow from our heart may not be good, even though we keep the corrupt nature of the flesh until our final deliverance when Jesus will transform our lowly bodies to be like his glorious body (Philippians 3:21).
And again, lest we forget that the scriptures testify of Jesus Christ (John 5:39), let us bring our gaze back to the Psalmist who kept God’s testimonies in all ways. Yes, Jesus perfectly fulfills this scripture. While Adam received blessing and brought us a curse, Jesus suffered the curse to bring us a blessing. While Adam failed to keep God’s testimonies, Jesus kept them with His whole heart (Psalm 119:2,3). And while Adam failed to guard his heart, Jesus loved God’s law exceedingly and out of the abundance of that pure heart his mouth spoke! We live in a world of hyperbole. Everything is awesome—from game-winning shots to pizza to our BAE to the next viral video. We need to redirect our thinking to that which is truly exceedingly awesome: Jesus’ own love for His testimonies and follow in his example (Ephesians 5:1,2; 1 Peter 2:21).
Awareness of God → Right Living
Psalms 119:168 I keep your precepts and testimonies, for all my ways are before you.
In the previous verse, the psalmist declares that his soul keeps God’s testimonies out of his love for God. Now we view this diamond that is God’s Word from a different angle. Here we see that we keep God’s precepts AND his testimonies because God is omniscient. Every verse of Psalm 119 is perfect and inspired by God. While phrases repeat, there are no two verses alike in this perfect prose. One of the things that is striking is that most of the verses refer to God’s commandments, law, word, precepts, testimonies, ways, or rules but very few verses refer to more than one of these ideas in the same phrase. Here we see an emphasis on the keeping of God’s precepts as well as His testimonies while living in His sight (Psalm 19:14).
One of the ways God helps us to walk in his ways while we strive to imitate Christ is by granting us awareness of His immanence. Nothing can be hidden from the anthropomorphic eyes of God. For the heathen, this truth is blatantly denied as they fancy themselves into thinking they will escape judgment. It’s not always because men think they are good that they shall escape judgment, but sometimes it is that they think no one knows of their crimes. The child of God whose heart has been quickened earnestly desires obedience to God’s precepts and adherence to God’s testimonies, yet he or she still finds it difficult to obey. The spirit and flesh are opposed to each other and the battle rages, and sometimes the flesh wins.
But God has given us a way to escape every temptation and one of our practical weapons is reminding ourselves that *God is watching. Even Christians find their way into the dark, deceiving themselves into thinking they can hide their sin. “Would you watch that TV show or look at that picture if Jesus was peering over your shoulder?” we ask. And we respond by reminding our brother that whether incarnate or glorified, He is looking over your shoulder and even into your heart. Nothing is hidden from God (Proverbs 15:3). This is a death sentence to the fallen, but to those who have been redeemed, this is a gracious gift whereby God uses His Son and His Word to bring conviction to our souls that we might repent and be forgiven (Psalm 14:5; Hebrews 4:12,13;1 John 1:9).
*Coram Deo is the Latin phrase for this. Coram Deo is a Latin phrase translated “in the presence of God” from Christian theology which summarizes the idea of Christians living in the presence of, under the authority of, and to the honor and glory of God. From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coram_Deo
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