Psalm 119.97-104 (5)
Pray Psalm 119.100.
I understand more than the ancients,
Because I keep Your precepts.
Psalm 119.99, 100.
(Truro: Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns)
Your Word is with me ever more; it fills my soul and guides my hand.
More than all those who’ve gone before Your holy Law I understand.
Read Psalm 119.97-104; meditate on verse 100.
1. How did the psalmist assess his understanding?
2. What was the source of this?
The psalmist is stretching out a parallelism that began in the preceding verse and is identified by the phrase translated “more than” in NKJV. He understood “more than” his teachers by clinging to the Law of God. That’s quite an achievement. Or perhaps not. As we saw in our previous installment, it all depends on the teachers to whom you submit, whether they are good teachers or poor.
But even to excel good teachers is no mean achievement, and it tells us how much deeper, vaster, and more powerful and transforming the precepts of God are.
But to excel “the ancients” – all the great teachers, elders, prophets, theologians, and writers – of the past, now that is truly significant. The psalmist was not talking so much about himself as he was about the Word of God. Because he had the Word, loved it, read and meditated in it, delighted in and kept it, he was plugged into a resource for life that exceeds all the wisdom and understanding of all those who had gone before.
The works of writers just from the period of the early Church (to about 500 AD) is available in three collections. In hardback, they are in 8½ by 11 volumes, printed in two columns in 8-point type and run to 38 volumes of around 300 pages each. Add to these the writings of the medieval period, the Reformation, and the modern era, as well as all the books and journals and web articles published by all Christian writers every year, in every language, and you have perhaps thousands of times more literature than the early Church.
That’s a lot to master. But the Bible is more. And we – mystery of mysteries! – have the Spirit to lead us into the depths of Scripture and refresh us from its many pools and rivulets. And there’s no end to it. It’s just water of life without end. Focus on mastering the Scriptures and you’ll be surprised how much more you will understand about everything.
Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
The Word gives understanding. Being filled with the Holy Spirit makes the Word even clearer. And through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can understand what we must do to please the Father. That is essential for our understanding and our obedience.
Jesus’ words about the powerful messenger John the Baptist shed some light on the meaning of Psalm 119:100: “For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Lk. 7.28). We are recipients of the power of the risen Christ’s Spirit and the Kingdom of God. This is an awesome gift but comes with great obligations. John the Baptist was the greatest of the ancients, filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb (Lk. 1.15); and yet, there is something even greater about the life we can live through the power of the risen Savior and His indwelling, Kingdom-bringing Spirit. Daily being in the Word, daily taking up our cross, and daily following of Jesus—keeping God’s precepts unto holiness—is the only way to know this life.
Elihu, a friend of Job’s, said to him: “I am young in years, and you are very old; therefore I was afraid, and dared not declare my opinion to you. I said, ‘Age should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom.’ But there is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding. Great men are not always wise, nor do the aged always understand justice” (Job 32.6-9). The difference will be found in the one, young or old, who is steeped in the power of the Word.
We, too, can be a source of this understanding for those in our Personal Mission Field. But we must be immersed in the Word, like a tea bag is hot water, so that we are flavorful and strong, not lukewarm and weak (Rev. 3.16).
Like our psalmist, “Because he had the Word, loved it, read and meditated in it, delighted in and kept it, he was plugged into a resource for life that exceeds all the wisdom and understanding of all those who had gone before.”
We can do this as well, because we have the Helper (Jn. 14.16 17; 15.26, 27).
1. Why do we need the Spirit of God to help us understand and obey God’s Law?
2. What does the Spirit do in us that we cannot do on our own? Why does this make daily time in God’s Word so very important?
3. Whom will you encourage today with what the Lord has taught you in His Word? What has the Lord taught you in His Word?
… he means to affirm, that whoever yields himself with docility to God, keeps his thoughts in subjection to his word, and exercises himself diligently in meditating upon the Law, will thence derive wisdom sufficient for enabling him to consult his own safety in opposition to the stratagems of his enemies, to exercise circumspection requisite for escaping their deceits; and, finally, to match with the most eminent masters through the whole course of his life. John Calvin (1509-1564), Commentary on Psalm 119.95
Pray Psalm 119.97, 98, 103, 104.
Thank God for His Word and the protection it affords against false teaching, temptation, and the attacks of spiritual foes. Savor your time in God’s Word today. Ask Him to set His Word deep into your soul, and let it grow there.
Psalm 119.97, 98, 103, 104.
(Truro: Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns)
O, how I love Your Law, O Lord! I ponder it throughout the day.
The wisdom of Your holy Word keeps all my fiercest foes at bay.
Your words are sweet unto my taste, the sweetest taste that e’er could be!
I hate and loathe all evil ways; give understanding, Lord, to me.
T. M. and Susie Moore
You can listen to a summary of last week’s Scriptorium study by going to our website, www.ailbe.org, and clicking the Scriptorium tab for last Sunday. You can download any or all the studies in this series on Psalm 119 by clicking here.
What is the Law of God and how should we learn and obey it? Two books can help. The Law of God arranges the statutes and precepts of God’s Law under their appropriate number of the Ten Commandments. This book is an excellent tool for meditating on God’s Law and thinking about its application in our time. The Ground for Christian Ethics, on the other hand, explains why the Law matters and how we are to use it. You can order free copies of each of these here and here.
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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.