Obedience, The Key To Peace

A brief study of Psalm 119:161-168, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 4 April 2014


We are looking at the penultimate strophe of the 119th psalm. This strophe is demarcated by the letter shin (v). If you look at the Hebrew, you will see that it looks like “W” or an E lying with its legs up. There is a dot on one of the legs. If the dot is on the right most leg (v), it is known as a shin and pronounced like the English “sh.” If the dot is on the left most leg (c), it is known as a sin,  and is pronounced like the English “s”, which is the same as the Hebrew samech. We may think of it as one letter with two different pronunciations. Indeed, in our text, the first, second and sixth lines begin with a c (sin), whereas the rest begins with a v (shin).

The most prominent word in this stanza would be the word shalowm (µwl¿v;) which is found in verse 165. This is a familiar word to many of us. It means “peace.” In verse 165, we are given to sing—

Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.

From this verse we may also derive a theme of this song, namely, “Obedience, the Key to Peace.” But this song is not only about peace, but also confidence, joy, love, praise and hope.

It is a song which reflects our Saviour’s high esteem for the Word of God. Though the words were inspired by the Spirit of Christ, the man Christ Jesus was in need of encouragement by it too. And so do we. And so He has given us this song to sing with Him to encourage one another through the changing scenes of life.

We may draw out seven thoughts from this song. Let’s look at them briefly.

1. The Word of God 
Establishes Confidence

161 Princes have persecuted me without a cause: but my heart standeth in awe of thy word.

Princes refer to leaders or powerful men. Our Lord was persecuted by the Chief Priests and the Scribes and Pharisees. They pursued Him without a righteous cause. They were enraged by His preaching and jealous about His popularity. So they sought to tear him down. But He stood firm. His heart continued to reverence God’s Word. Where does He get His confidence? No doubt from the Word itself. “Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me,  I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart” says our Saviour (Ps 40:7-8; Heb 10:7).

As our Saviour stood, so let us stand, and let us encourage another to do so when we face persecutions and trials in the spiritual battles we are called to engage in.

2. The Word of God 
Endows Joy

162 I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil.

Great spoil is a great plunder or booty. If you find great spoil, you have found a significant treasure. A hunter or a warrior who finds great spoil unexpectedly will be filled with delight and will probably express it with a shout of joy or mastery (cf. Ezr 3:13, Ex 32:18).

Such is the joy that the Word of God enriches us with as we search it as one searches for silver and gold.

If Christ, the Word of God, would have such delight in His own Word, how much more should we who are the beneficiaries of His Word? How much more should we find joy in it day by day?

3. The Word of God 
Evokes Love

163 I hate and abhor lying: but thy law do I love.

God our Father hates and abhors falsehood. God our Saviour hates the same. But He loves God’s law. As those united to Him and indwelt with His Spirit, and invited to sing with Him, we ought to have the same hatred and affection as He has. We ought to hate the lies of this world, such as false religions, the theory of evolution, and godless humanism. We ought to love the truth of God as found in His Word.

How can we not love God’s law? How can we not love God’s word when it is given to us to give us life. “O how love I thy law!  it is my meditation all the day” (Ps 119:97). May this be our heartfelt cry! May we love God’s word, desire to hear it, and seek to obey it out of love for God?


4. The Word of God 
Elicits Praise

164 Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy righteous judgments.

God’s judgements here refer, no doubt, to God’s testimony of right and wrong recorded in His Word. When we meditate on God’s judgements, especially when we are overwhelmed by unfair treatment and unjust opinions all around, then our hearts are filled with praise.

Why seven times? Well, the word seven is used here partly because it begins with the letter shin ([b'v,, sheba), and partly because seven is the number of perfection. It is not to say that we must pray seven times a day, but rather that those who love the Word of God will find themselves praising the Lord constantly. Yes, we should have set times of prayer. In another Psalm, David speaks of praying “evening, and morning, and at noon” (Ps 55:17). But, no, set times of prayer are not sufficient to give expression to grateful hearts where praise is elicited by God’s Word.

5. The Word of God 
Engenders Peace

165 Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.

Not only does the Word of God establishes confidence, endows joy, evokes love and elicits praise. The Word of God also engenders peace. It engenders a peace in our heart that the world does not understand. How does it engender peace?

It does so by giving us the assurance that God is working all things together for the good of His children. It does so also by teaching us how to walk in safety towards our heavenly home. Those who love God and His Word, keep His commandments. Those who keep his commandments know that God is please with them and will see to it that no evil will overtake them. There may be lions in the path, but the lions have chains. They may roar very loudly, but as long as we walk in the narrow path, not turning to the right or to the left, they cannot hurt us. So we may have peace in the midst of turmoil.

 6. The Word of God 
Enkindles Hope

166 LORD, I have hoped for thy salvation, and done thy commandments.

Our Saviour did not vindicate himself nor fret when things did not go as He desired, humanly speaking. He waited for the Father’s deliverance. As He waited and hoped He continued to do God’s will. The psalmist says: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Ps 66:18). Our Saviour who inspires the same words understood the principle. Only those who do the will of the Father by keeping His commandments can expect to be heard and delivered.

This must also be our confession. If we are to have assurance of hope for God’s deliverance out of trials of this life or of the pains of the life to come, we must today walk according to God’s commandments.

No, no; we are not saved by our works. Not even by our obedience. Not even by our repentance and act of believing. Our salvation is in Christ and Christ alone. But unless we walk with Christ out of gratitude, we can have no hope in God.

Thus, we are given to conclude that…

7. The Word of God 
Enjoins Obedience

167 My soul hath kept thy testimonies; and I love them exceedingly. 168 I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies: for all my ways are before thee.

The word translated “kept” is the Hebrew rm'v; (shamar). This word is repeat in verse 167 and 168. Our Saviour kept the testimonies of the Lord both out of love (v. 167) and out of duty (v. 168).

We must do likewise. We live before the face of God. Our ways are always before God. Therefore, as He has revealed to us what duties are required with us, so we must do them. But let us do them out of love for Him and for His word.

In other words, if we would imitate our Saviour, let us see to it that our obedience is loving obedience.

Conclusion

This is the 21st song of Psalm 119. The Christian life that is purchased by the Lord Jesus Christ is a abundantly life full of peace, love, and hope. But this life can only be enjoyed by those who know and believe God and His Son; and love Him enough to keep His commandments.

The apostle John says: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous” (1 Jn 5:3). Those who love the Lord and His Law will keep His commandments. Those who do so can expect great peace in their life today and can hope for a glorious day to come. This we must affirm. This we must testify in union with Christ for all to hear. Amen.