God’s Word for You
Psalm 119:14 The path of your testimonies
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, April 15, 2023
14 I rejoice in the path of your testimonies,
as one rejoices in great wealth.
Here our poet compares the path of God’s word with great wealth. Consider what he means! What would the godly benefits of great wealth be? First, security. One who achieves wealth in some way can set aside worries about basic needs for as long as it lasts.
Second, one who has wealth suddenly has an opportunity to help his friends and family. When this is done without hardship, a Christian can be generous when necessary. Of course, God is pleased when we care for each other even with hardship to ourselves, but he also blesses us in many unseen ways (2 Corinthians 4:18).
A side effect of this is often found among the homeless and the destitute in our time who suddenly come upon a windfall of riches. They have lived in a culture where everyone naturally shares with their family and friends. The unspoken motto is, “We keep each other alive.” So, when one person in this group finds some cash on the street, or has a small windfall in the lottery, he or she really doesn’t benefit from it much, because they automatically share with their group. A thousand dollars melts into a couple of twenties in no time. Such a person doesn’t dare hide their good fortune, because the hard times will come again soon after, and the rule will be: You cut us out, and now we will cut you out. Therefore wealth is shared in a miniature and absolutely necessary form of idealism, which some might think of as a form of communism, because that is what they need to survive. They keep the guiding verse always at heart: “No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had” (Acts 4:32).
A third blessing of wealth is the ability to give to the church in new and unexpected ways. One’s own church or school may benefit directly from this, but one’s synod and its schools may benefit as well. A caution to remember here is that the giver should not dictate conditions about how a gift should be used, or else they may place the church into a dangerous position on account of a whole host of unforeseeable things.
But wealth is easily misused, abused, and too quickly becomes a false god in a man’s heart. The young women of our time look more and more to men only for their money and nothing else. They desire neither love nor companionship nor chastity nor children—in short, they too often desire none of the blessings God offers. For the finest of husbands might well have said in his younger days, “All the wealth I had ran in my veins.” Solomon warns: “Whoever trusts in his riches will fail, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf” (Proverbs 11:28). And again, “Riches do not last forever” (Proverbs 27:24). And James says: “Come now, you rich, weep and howl about the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will testify against you, and they will eat your flesh like fire” (James 5:1-3).
But let’s return to the poet’s point, which compares the benefits of wealth, not its temptations. The benefits of wealth are compared with knowing and traveling the path of God’s perfect testimonies.
Like wealth to a godly man, the word of God gives confidence. This is the confidence of knowing that we walk in God’s way, with God’s approval, with God’s delight, and with God’s help. What a joy and a blessing to be able to say, “What I am doing is not sinful at all, but exactly what God would have me do! Let me do it to his glory, and in the peace of knowing that my Lord wills me to do it.” For “Riches and strength lift up the heart, but the fear of the Lord is better than both.” This is the kind of wealth that Paul calls, “all the wealth of the certainty of understanding… the mystery of God, namely, Christ” (Colossians 2:2).
This is also the kind of wealth that benefits family and friends better than any money, and which benefits the church in lasting and beautiful ways. A good Christian with a deep understanding of the word of God is an anchor in a storm, the best blanket on a cold night, a tireless horse for a long journey.
The path of God’s testimonies is the only path. As Jesus said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). This, of course, is the path of knowing and believing that forgiveness and the grace of God come only by faith in Christ. “Whoever trusts that he merits grace by works despises the merit and grace of Christ and seeks a way to God without Christ, by human strength” (Augsburg Confession XX:10), “for what is more certain in the church than that the forgiveness of sins is given freely for Christ’s sake, that not our works but Christ is the propitiation for sin? As Peter says (Acts 10:43): ‘To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name’” (Apology XX:2).
It can be a blessing to be wealthy in riches, if they are given by God to the righteous (Isaiah 61:6), and it can be a blessing of another kind to say, “I am wealthy in my friends.” But to know the wealth of the word of God, to treasure it, and to possess it, is truly to have the pearl of great value that Jesus described (Matthew 13:45-46). Store it up for this world and for the next, and realize the paradox of this true wealth: The more you give it away, the more you truly have for yourself.
Pastor Timothy Smith