by Mike Ratliff
Gimel. Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word. Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me! My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times. You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones, who wander from your commandments. Take away from me scorn and contempt, for I have kept your testimonies. Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes. Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors. (Psalms 119:17-24)
I am convinced most believer’s concept of God’s grace is not as high as it should be. Sadly, most of us walk through this life with the attitude we somehow deserve salvation and blessings. We treat God as if He is the interloper with His commands to live Holy and obedient lives. Why? Our focus is on self.
The first line is this stanza is, “Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word.” The psalmist did not have the fatal disease of self-focus. Instead we see in this verse he is petitioning the Lord to bless him bountifully, but not for personal gain or long life. Instead, we read he is asking to live so he may continue to be obedient to His Word. What a focus! His focus, intent, and purpose for living are all to live for His glory. Think back to our look at the Blood Covenant in Possessing the Treasure. Covenants have binding conditions on the parties in them. This covenant was initiated, through God’s Grace, by the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. His death instituted it.
For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, "This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you." And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. (Hebrews 9:16-22)
Christ’s death instituted this covenant that provides the way of salvation for Man. What an awesome and gracious thing for God to do for us! This is how Christ instituted the covenant. What is our part?
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)
How many believers do you know who live like this? Our post-modern society in the 21st Century is completely immersed into self-focus and self-gratification. The Church is not immune. In fact, it is just as devoted to the pursuit of self-gratification as the world. What is the standard for a life that glorifies the Lord? Only those whom Christ's love controls and have died to their old fleshly temperament live lives that glorify the Lord. These are the few. They will not be ashamed when they stand before the Lord in Heaven. Why? They live to please their Lord not themselves.
This stanza reveals that the psalmist understood this. He also proclaimed that all of this was by God’s Grace. Our living for His glory not for our self-gratification can become our norm only if God does His good regenerative work in our hearts.
The second line in this stanza is, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” There are two implications in this verse. What are they? The first is there are wondrous things in the Law of God. The second is God must open our eyes to see them. The Hebrew word that is translated “wondrous things” is usually used in description of God Himself. It can mean “extraordinary” or “astonishing.” This is a good place to make this statement. Never think or let anyone tell you the Law of God is no longer in effect or that it is not of value to the Christian.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Matthew 5:17)
Jesus made this statement immediately after He had presented the Beatitudes as part of His Sermon on the Mount. The Law is not done away with. Part of it has been fulfilled and is no longer needed—the ceremonial Law pointed to Christ for instance. However, the moral part of the Law is still very much in effect. Why? It reveals God’s nature, standards, and ways. We must learn it and love it. The “wondrous things” revealed in the Law, by God’s Grace, is God Himself. God never changes. His character and values are revealed in the moral Law and it is unchanging, immutable, just as He is.
The third line in this stanza is, “I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me!” This Earth is not the home of those in Christ. Where is our home? It is wherever Jesus is. In the Hall of Faith listed in Hebrews 11, the writer lists many Old Testament Saints who lived lives of faith even though they did not live to see the fulfillment of the object of their faith. They had one thing else in common.
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. (Hebrews 11:13)
They acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. This is what the truly converted believer does. Why? The regenerative work of the Holy Spirit brings about this gracious change in our hearts. We love our Lord more than our own life. This is by the Lord’s grace alone as the Holy Spirit does His work.
The second part of v19 says, “Hide not your commandments from me!” This request is actually a proclamation of his dire need for God’s guidance and leading in this strange and foreign place in which he lives. Heaven is home not this place full of non-believers in an anti-God society. This state of mind is not just a spiritual adage we can easily say then move on. No, it must become the core of our lives. Our part of the Blood Covenant states we must live for His glory. That means we must not live our lives like this planet is home. We must surrender to the molding and changing the Holy Spirit is doing to our heart. By-the-way, it is sin for one who has been regenerated to live as if this existence is home because that is contrary to our covenant agreement with Him because our focus must be on our Lord and His glory.
The fourth line in this stanza is, “My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.” The previous statements in this stanza have been pleas for knowledge and grace. Now He is stating that his hunger and thirst for God’s truth is constant. That means there is never a time or situation that he is not pursing God’s truth. This deep hunger and thirst for God’s Word is the result of God’s good and gracious work in our hearts. No one naturally pursues God or His righteousness. Only the regenerated hearts do this. Here is another example.
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalms 63:1)
The truly Born Again have the Holy Spirit living in their heart. He is constantly at work in the sanctification process in those hearts. When He circumcises our hearts, we are mightily changed. This results in a deep love for God and a deep hunger to know Him. We love the Lord so much we desire to see Him glorified in every part of our lives. He will also put within us this deep discontent with any circumstance where we cannot discern His presence. None of this is because of any quality in us. It is all by His grace.
The fifth line in this stanza is, “You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones, who wander from your commandments.” This statement is a contrast between the genuine believer who seeks after God, by His grace, and the unregenerate natural man who does not seek after God at all. In fact, the unregenerate wants nothing to do with God. They may want the benefits that God gives, but they do not have any desire for Him personally. This includes those who appear religious and even Christian, but are not genuine. They are only after the benefits of being “Christian,” but without any submission to His commandments. This false form of Christianity is Antinomianism. That means these "so-called Christians" are claiming salvation, but refuse to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Those who teach this reject any need for the Born Again to obey the moral law of the Old Testament. This type of teaching naturally leads to licentiousness of life. They are proud or insolent. They are the accursed ones. This describes the wretched character of wicked people. In their pride, they even elevate themselves above God. In their pride, they even demand God give them credit for their “works” as being sufficient for salvation. However, God’s response to them is His rebuke.
There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. (Proverbs 6:16-19)
Pride dominates these wicked people and they are under the curse. Only the regenerate believers are not under that curse. In v21, the psalmist says the wicked wander from God’s commandments. They not only do not follow the commandments they hate them. They want them gone and out of their sight. As I write this, there are several lawsuits in many states in the U.S. to force governments to remove displays of the Ten Commandments from public places. They use the excuse that it is a violation of the separation of Church and State. In fact, they just do not want the reminder of their lack of righteousness compared to God’s standards. Actually, that is one of the awesome functions of God’s Law. It shows the lost their lack of righteousness and their need for God. However, the wicked people who refuse to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in response the drawing of the Holy Spirit are simply wandering or walking away from God’s commandments. The Holy Spirit cleanses and baptizes into Christ the elect who respond to God’s effectual call. He also matures all genuine believers by His sanctifying work.
The sixth line in this stanza is, “Take away from me scorn and contempt, for I have kept your testimonies.” The psalmist is telling God his enemies are heaping reproach and contempt on him for no good reason. He has done nothing to deserve that treatment. He is asking God to vouch for Him or to rebuke those who are attacking him. This attack could have been disastrous for the psalmist if his enemies could make their charges stick, even if they were false. This is something all of us go through from time to time isn’t it? False accusers trying to manipulate the system to get ahead do this quite a bit. The psalmist is asking God to reveal his innocence through his apparent devotion to God. In other words, his devotion and service to God should make it clear to all he is not guilty of the charges brought against him.
Our tendency in this situation is to fight back. Mine sure is. However, the psalmist models the right way to “fight back.” We must let God do our fighting for us. We must not resort to using the world’s way of dealing with this.
You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:38-48)
This type of response would require us to be Spirit-led. In other words, we must be full of the grace of God. Only the Spirit-led can walk and not sin as he or she exercises their Free Will by God’s grace.
The seventh line in this stanza is, “Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes.” The accusers and attackers are now the nobles of the land. This is getting serious! However, what does the psalmist declare? He will not attack or fight back. Instead, he will remain in the mighty fortress of his hope and peace with God. He will stay in the Word of God and trust in no other than God to sustain him. This must have infuriated his attackers. However, this is the way God has willed for us to follow in our Spirit-led walk especially when we are falsely accused.
The eighth line in this stanza is, “Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.” Even after all of the false accusations against the psalmist he did not despair or hold grudges. Instead, he came through the trials edified along with a more solid faith and knowledge of God. God’s Word is his delight and his counselor. We must get this. We must see God’s grace as our sufficiency. No matter what our circumstances are like God knows all about them. He loves us and uses our trials to grow us in grace.
So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
This statement by the Apostle Paul is a goldmine of the ways of God’s grace. When I was an immature believer, I could not understand this passage. I was suffering as God was molding and shaping my heart, but I did not like it. I wanted it to stop. I would read this passage and wonder where God’s grace was. Of course, it is obvious to me now, but then I thought I had to endure the trials within my own strength. I could not do it and neither can anyone else. What is the secret to experiencing God’s grace when we are suffering?
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:6-10)
We must become truly humble before we can become Christ-like. God’s grace makes this whole process work. We must humble ourselves in the hour of our need. Then we must draw near unto God and He will draw near unto us. No matter what our circumstances are like if we approach the Lord this way, stay immersed in the Word of God and prayer the Lord will exalt us. That means we will rise above our circumstance. We may not get out or away from them, but we will rise up like an eagle that sees things from above the storm. That means we will see everything from His perspective instead of ours. We learn to wait on the Lord.
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:29-31)
This is all by God’s grace. Never think we can be godly without His grace permeating our hearts. We are saved through faith by His grace alone and we walk the Spirit-led Walk by His grace alone. When we grasp these nuggets of knowledge, we accumulate awesome godly treasure. We are no longer bound to the false doctrines that say that God’s grace is only part of our salvation and only part of our sanctification. God’s grace is our all in all. God's grace does not save us from certain death instead it brings us from death to life.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.