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The Scriptorium

Law and Salvation

No contradictions here. Psalm 119.41, 42

Psalm 119: Introduction (2)

Pray Psalm 119.41, 42.
Let Your mercies come also to me, O LORD—
Your salvation according to Your word.
So shall I have an answer for him who reproaches me,
For I trust in Your word.

Sing Psalm 119.41, 42.
(Dix: For the Beauty of the Earth)
Let Your mercies come to me, Your salvation by Your Word.
From reproaches set me free, for I trust in You, O Lord.
Let my life an answer be for those who may question me.

Read and meditate on Psalm 119.41, 42 and Psalm 119.81-83.

Preparation

1. Of what use did the psalmist find the Law of God?

2. What was his attitude toward the Law?

Meditation
In Romans 2 and 3 the apostle Paul put a torch to the notion that anyone could be saved by Law. In the process he cited numerous Old Testament passages to underpin his argument. People who are sinful by nature cannot overcome that condition and save themselves by keeping the Law of God. At the same time, Paul insisted, the Law of God is not abolished for those who are saved; rather, it is established (Rom. 3.31).

Paul reached that conclusion through His study of the Word, searching the Scriptures diligently and resisting those who reproached him for his views. He was merely expressing in Gospel terms what the writer of Psalm 119 consistently expressed: We are not saved by the Law, but we are not saved without it.

Psalm 119 frequently links the Law and salvation in a single idea (cf. Ps. 119. 41; 123; 146; 155; 166). The Law is an aid to salvation, but not the means of it. All who are truly saved will hunger and thirst for the Law, that they might follow it as the path of salvation to ever greater blessings from God. Salvation is by the mercy of God (v. 41), not by our works. But, as we trust in the Law and all God’s Word, our lives become an effective apologetic for our faith (v. 42). Thus, our souls cry out for more of God’s salvation, looking to His Word to guide us more deeply into it (vv. 81, 82). The righteousness that comes with God’s salvation awaits us in His Word; we should wear out our eyes seeking it from Him there (v. 123). They who are truly saved will keep the Law and testimonies of God (v. 146). They will find God’s Law a delight, not a burden (v. 174). Only the wicked reject God’s Law and set it far from them (v. 155). If we hope to know more of God’s great salvation – exceedingly abundantly more than we’ve ever dared to ask or think (Eph. 3.20) – we will discover it by obeying His commandments and all His Word (v. 166).

Thus the psalmist condensed the Old Testament teaching about the Law of God and how it relates to His salvation. And in so doing, he laid a foundation for us to build on in going deeper and with greater delight, joy, and fruitfulness into the merciful and gracious salvation of our God.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Keeping the Law doesn’t save us. It is a good thing, too, because it is impossible for us to do. If that was the way to salvation, no one would ever be saved.

We are saved one way, and one way only. As Jesus so plainly told us, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn. 14.6). It is only through Him. And then Paul expanded on this thought: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2.8, 9). A gift for which we are eternally thankful.

With that settled, what do we then do with the Law? Again, Jesus tells us where it fits in: “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jn. 14.15). And “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (Jn. 15.14).

A yarn that Jesus spun for the chief priests and the elders sums it up pretty well: “But what do you think?” He asked them. “A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” (Matt. 21.28-31)

Even they got the gist of the story. It was the first son who did the will of his father. (Matt. 21.31) By doing the will of his father.

Moses’ words about the Law are striking: “For it is not a futile thing for you, because it is your life, and by this word you shall prolong your days…” (Deut. 32.47).

Psalm 119 teaches us how to utilize and love and obey this Word of God. The Law leads us to salvation by showing us our wretchedness. And God gives us Jesus Christ, Who did keep the Law perfectly, to cover the fact that we cannot. We accept this gift. And then we go on to live our lives, daily being sanctified to be more and more pleasing to our heavenly Father Who does delight in His obedient children (Prov. 15.8, 9).

All our hope is written in the Word. (Ps. 119.81)

For reflection

1. Explain what it means to say that we’re not saved by the Law of God, but we’re not saved without it.

2. What’s the best way for you to learn the Law of God, so that you realize more of His great salvation (Ps. 1)?

3. Whom will you encourage today to walk more consistently in the Law of God?

There is an eternal salvation all the saints long for, and therefore they pray that God would help their way to it. Let thy judgments help me; let all ordinances and all providences, (both are God’s judgments,) further me in glorifying God; let them help me for that work. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Psalm 119.176

Pray Psalm 119.81-83.
Give thanks for the safety and comfort of your salvation and for the Word of God. Call on Him to show you, by His Word, the way to deliverance from any trials or troubles. Express your hope and confidence in Him and His Word.

Sing Psalm 119.81-83.
(Ripley: Hallelujah! Praise Jehovah, O My Soul)
My soul faints for Your salvation – but my hope is in Your Word!
I have searched Your Word with patience seeking comfort from You, Lord.
Like a wineskin, Lord, You test me; I am withered with despair!
Let Your statutes my sweet rest be as I call on You in prayer.

T. M. and Susie Moore

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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