Let me share some Bible trivia with you this morning.
What is the shortest chapter in the Bible?
What is the longest chapter in the bible?
Which chapter is in the center of the Bible?
What verse is in the center of the Bible?
What does this verse say?
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.
If we want to make this verse the center of our faith and lives, then we need to learn what it means to take refuge in God and trust in God and the answer to this can be found in Psalm 119.
Psalm 119 is not only the longest chapter in the Bible with 176 verses, it was also written in Hebrew as an acrostic, which means that each stanza followed the Hebrew alphabet from Aleph – Taw or as we might say from A-Z. Each stanza is 8 verses long and each verse begins with a word that begins with the letter of that stanza. We don’t really see this in our English translations, but look at what part of Psalm 119 looks like in Hebrew.
So the first stanza is letter aleph and each of the 8 verses begins with a word that starts with that letter. Why all of this is important is because the structure of the psalm would have made it easier for people to learn and remember. People didn’t learn God’s word by reading as much by hearing and repeating it so this type of writing would have helped people remember and learn God’s word.
From beginning to end, Psalm 119 is all about the word of God. The psalm talks about how good God’s word, how true and holy and perfect and powerful God’s word is. The psalm shows us that taking refuge in God means trusting in, listening to and living out God’s word. So the center of God’s word is Psalm 118:8, It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man and the answer of how we take refuge in God is found in the following chapter which is all about how God’s word needs to be the light and foundation of our lives. Today we are going to look at the first stanza which would have probably been the most familiar to the people and contains for us the key to taking refuge in God – Psalm 119:1-8.
Taking refuge in the Lord means this – keeping God’s word. Not only will this bring us God’s protection and power, it will also make us happy. Our lives will be blessed and full of joy if we will keep God’s word. Keeping God’s word means more than reading it – it means following it and living it out. In every stanza of this psalm we are told in some way or another to obey God’s word: walk according to the law, keep God’s statutes, walk in God’s way, fully obey, consider God’s commands, learn God’s law, obey decrees.
God doesn’t want us to just read and listen to it, God wants us to follow it and the reason God wants us to follow isn’t because God is demanding and wants His own way. God wants us to follow his word because God knows that when we do we will experience the most lasting peace and joy. When we follow God’s word our lives our better and blessed. When we keep God’s word we will be happy because we will be living the way God intended us to live. Look at Psalm 119:73- Your hands made me and formed me, give me understand to learn your commands. Because God is the one who made us God knows how we should live and how we can find the greatest joy and peace in life. If we follow God’s word – we will be happy.
We see this principle at work in the 10 Commandments. Some people have said that the 10 Commandments are really just boundaries on our behavior that protect the bonds of relationships. We will have the strongest relationships with God, our family, friends and neighbors when we live within the boundaries God has set for us – or when we keep God’s word. When we worship God alone – our relationship with God is strengthened and we feel God’s love and power. When we honor our father and mother we experience the fulfillment of family and the blessing of a long and joyful life. When we do not murder, lie or steal we experience the power of living in community.
So God doesn’t tell us to keep his word out of some arbitrary desire to have us obey him – he tells us to keep his word because it is these guidelines and decrees that will bring a happy and full life. The more we follow God’s word, the more we are walking with God which means experiencing God’s presence, power and live which makes us happy.
This all sounds good and we want to do this, but let’s be honest, we are not able to fully obey God’s word – we will struggle and fail. God’s word even tells us that we will fail. Look at Romans 3:10-12 and 1 John 1:8 Since we are all going to fail, keeping God’s word and finding the happiness that comes with it must be something more than complete obedience and Psalm 119 tells us that it is. Look at some of the words God uses in the first 8 verses we read.
• Walk according to the law
• Seek him with all their heart
• Consider all your commands
• Learn your righteous laws
What if keeping God’s word had more to do with walking, seeking, considering and learning God’s word and not just obeying it? What these words reflect is a growth and process in being open to, understanding and then following God’s word. Happiness and blessing doesn’t come when we have mastered every part of God’s word; it comes as we enter into a life of learning God’s word and learning how to make God’s word our own word and striving to follow it in our lives.
As we walk with God, God helps us see the truth of His word. God helps us understand why the word is important, why it is truth and needs to be followed. Walking with God does mean we will fall behind at times, or even fall down, but God waits for us and helps us and invites us to get up and keep walking with him.
To seek God means always knowing that there is more to read and learn and experience. Seeking God means knowing that we haven’t gotten it all down perfectly but that there is more of God for us. To seek God means knowing that doors of new insight and truth are always available and that these doors lead to need ideas and new ways of living. To seek God means knowing that God’s word is somehow active and alive and can always speak to our world and to our lives. To seek God implies that we are on a journey and not that we have arrived at our destination. So happiness is not found when we get it all right but as we seek out what is right.
The word consider means thinking carefully about something before we make a decision so the word itself implies that we aren’t living it all out yet because we are stilling learning and making decisions on how to make God’s word our own. To consider God’s word means we are giving God time to speak to our lives and allowing that word to help shape our choices and actions. The same is true of the word learn. Learning God’s word means we are still hearing new truth and deciding how, when and where to live out these principles.
While the idea of obeying God’s word is clear throughout this psalm, we need to understand that the happiness and blessing that God promises isn’t found when we perfectly follow God’s word as much as it is found in the process of learning, seeking and considering God’s word for our lives. The journey of walking with God is what needs to be our focus, not the end result. It is our life with God and the process of walking with God that brings happiness. It is the process that brings peace and joy and blessing.
Many people say that the happiest time of their lives has been when they first become a follower of Jesus because everything was new and fresh and they were walking with God and seeking God in all things. I know this was true for me. Learning and considering all of God’s ways was a joy and blessing and while I didn’t have it all figured out and I certainly wasn’t obeying it all, keeping God’s word was a joy and it brought real happiness into my life.
So let me give close with 5 words which will remind us of what it means to keep God’s word and find happiness. Since Psalm 119 used an acrostic to help people remember, I decide to use something similar. Happiness is found in keeping God’s word and keeping God’s word means
Happiness comes when we begin seeking the truth of God in His word. Happiness comes in reading God’s word and allowing this living word to speak to our lives. Reading leads to questions, so questioning God’s word helps us find truth and meaning. But before we can start living out the word, we need to pray, because on our own we will fail. On our own, we will not be able to fully obey God’s word so we need to pray for wisdom and strength. It has never been easy to follow God’s word because it often goes against the ways of the world which means praying for courage and strength is important And then there is obedience. We have to get to that place in life where we will step out and follow God’s word in our lives.
The happiness that comes with keeping God’s word is found by seeking, reading, questioning, praying and finally obeying God’s word. Did you noticed something about those particular words? It is part of our alphabet in reverse. S-R-Q-P-O / O-P-Q-R-S
Maybe just a helpful reminder of what it means to keep God’s word. It’s not living out the word of God to perfection, it is a journey and process of seeking, reading, questioning, praying and obeying. This is the life God honors and blesses and this is the life that brings happiness. Keep God’s word and be happy.
Happy are those who keep God’s word
The shortest chapter of the Bible _____
The longest chapter of the Bible _____
The center chapter of the Bible _____
The center verse of the Bible _____
Write out this verse and memorize it this week:
Keeping God’s word means:
• Seeking the truth of God in God’s word
• Reading the Bible alone and with others
• Questioning God’s word to find answers
• Praying for strength to live out God’s word
• Obeying God’s word and following God’s will
Identify one thing you can do this week to “keep” God’s word.
Write out Psalm 119:33-40 and use it as a prayer this week