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The Scriptorium

Life as Answer

Live it, speak it. Psalm 119.42

Psalm 119.41-48 (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 Psalm 119.41-48; meditate on verse 42.

1. What “answer” would the psalmist have?

2. To whom would he give that “answer”?

The writer of Hebrews reminds us that our salvation is made known to the world, in the first instance, by our good works and love: “But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Heb. 6.9, 10).

Those who know us to be followers of Jesus Christ may taunt or reproach us from time to time. We must make sure that when they do, their denunciations can be seen to be baseless, at least as far as our lives are concerned. This is what the psalmist prayed for in verse 42. In verse 41 he called upon the Lord for lovingkindness and increased salvation, according to the Word of the Lord. He knew that, if he could show more of the Lord’s salvation to the world, his life would be the best answer to anyone who might denounce him or make light of the Lord and His salvation.

Isn’t this what we see in Jesus? Very often, when His enemies were railing against Him, He would use some good work or word of grace to leave them speechless. We may not be quite as effective as that, and those who scorn or taunt us may continue to do so. But our answer to them must never be in kind: “So’s your old man!” Rather, we must demonstrate the salvation we have in Jesus Christ by loving and doing good even to those who despise us (cf. Matt. 5.45-48), trusting the Lord and His Word to do what He thinks is best. Thus we will be like our Father, showing lovingkindness and salvation at every opportunity.

If we’re faithful in living the hope we have in Jesus, some of those in our Personal Mission Field may ask a reason for our hopeful outlook and demeanor. Once they’ve seen our salvation, we’ll be in a better position to tell it to them (1 Pet. 3.15).

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Jesus’ life was the most beautifully lived life that ever graced the face of the earth. And in His beautiful life He had many occasions to answer those who reproached Him. We see in Him the perfection of Proverbs 26.4, 5:
“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.”

In Matthew 21.23-27 we read this account: As Jesus was teaching in the temple the elders confronted Him and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?” But Jesus answered them with questions of His own. He said, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?” And there were so many reasons they couldn’t answer this question that they finally just answered, “We do not know.” Instead of getting angry or putting them down for their rudeness and stupidity, Jesus merely asked them questions.

Mark 12.18-27 shows another way Jesus answered a reproach. The Sadducees, who don’t believe in the resurrection, came to Jesus with what they thought was a “tricky” question about the resurrection. After asking their prolonged, contrived and triangulated question Jesus merely answered them with this question:
“Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?”

In Mark 12.13-17 we read about the Pharisees and the Herodians trying to snare Him in a church and state question: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?” “But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why do you test Me?” And then He visually solved their query by showing them a piece of money and said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And this extraordinary display of wisdom earned Him their amazement.

The New Testament is full of the love and wisdom of Jesus. He showed throughout His life how not to answer, and how to answer those who reproached Him. He always did it with grace and the Word of God.

We also see His response against the ultimate enemy, and He handled him in the same way.
The devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread,” and
“If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down,” and then the affront of “worship me.” For each verbal assault Jesus responded with Scripture: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4.4). “You shall not tempt the LORD your God” (Matt. 4.7).
“You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve” (Matt. 4.10).|

We can trust in the Word of God just as Jesus did, because we have been given the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2.16).

Although Jesus’ wit and wisdom were adept and clever with those who reproached Him, that was not His aim, nor should it be ours. “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (Jms. 3.17).

Good questions asked well, along with grace, love, and wisdom provide good answers to the foolish.
But a life well-lived in Christ is the best response to reproach. “Life as answer.” Like Jesus.

For reflection
1. Why is a life lived for Jesus the best answer we can give anyone?

2. Should we expect to persuade all those who taunt or reproach us? Why not?

3. Asking questions of unbelievers is always a good way to help them come to the truth. Why is this so?

And when the salvation of the saints is completed, it will plainly appear that it was not in vain to trust in God’s word. We need to pray that we may never be afraid or ashamed to own God’s truths and ways before men. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Psalm 119.41-48

Pray Psalm 119.43-46.
Pray that the Lord will use your life today to show someone the reality of the Kingdom of God – righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Pray that He will give you words to speak should the opportunity arise.

Sing Psalm 119.43-46.
(Dix: For the Beauty of the Earth)
Let my words be Your words, Lord; strengthen me to keep Your Law.
All my hope is in Your Word, and I seek Your precepts all.
I will ever keep Your Word, for I trust in You, O Lord!

Lord, take not Your Word from me, for I trust it day by day.
I will walk in liberty as Your precepts I obey.
Let me speak Your truth, O Lord, for I hope in all Your Word.

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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