God’s Word for You
Psalm 119:23-24 My delight
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Sunday, April 30, 2023
23 Even though princes sit and plot against me,
your servant will meditate on your statutes.
24 Yes, your testimonies are my delight,
they are my counselors.
The poet begins with a curious comparison. Princes (Hebrew sarim) can sit and talk about him, even plotting against him, but he will only talk about God’s word. He flips around the word David used in Psalm 69 when he said, “Those who sit at the gate mock me” (69:12), since siach can mean to speak (Proverbs 6:22), to meditate (even “muse,” 119:27, 48), or complain about someone or something.
Taken by itself, verse 23 reads like a prophecy of every interaction between Jesus Christ and the Jewish leaders, or even of the temptations that the devil laid before him. No matter what the devil tried, Jesus was meditating on the statues of the Lord: “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4; Deuteronomy 8:3). When the Pharisees questioned him about fasting, he quoted Hosea 6:6, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” When they asked him to prove himself with a miraculous sign, he said the only sign they would be given was the sign of Jonah: “For as Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40; Jonah 1:17). And when they accused him of breaking the traditions of the elders, he accused them of breaking the Fourth Commandment (Matthew 15:4), invoking Isaiah 29:13: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”
The ”princes” of verse 23 could be any rulers or officials (Esther 1:16), but it fits the life of David to take sarim as “princes” as we usually do (Numbers 21:18; Daniel 10:13; Zephaniah 1:8). Saul and his court certainly qualify as high members of the nobility, as did the judges in the generations before (Judges 5:15; 1 Samuel 2:8).
When the wicked plot against God’s people, we do best to run to the word of God instead of any human arguments. Logic, rhetoric, and reason, can all be useful tools, but the word of God is certain. It is flawless. It comes from the mouth of God and has the power of God.
Therefore in verse 24 our poet calls the word of God his delight. God’s testimonies are his “counselors,” better than any king’s princes. Just as a ruler might sit with his most trusted advisors in a ring all around him, the Christian gathers all of the Word of God in a cluster before his eyes and in his heart. His advisors are Moses and the Prophets, the Apostles and the Evangelists. His Counselor is the one promised by Jesus: the Holy Spirit. “The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26).
The finest counsel from God, which Christ demonstrates everywhere, is that those who hear him are convinced of our sins and of his forgiveness. The preaching about sin is called God’s “strange work” by the prophet, to convince the world of sin and to rebuke us, until he comes to his own work, comforting and preaching about God’s grace. Luther says: “Everything that preaches about our sin and the wrath of God, no matter how or when it happens, is the proclamation of the law. On the other hand, the Gospel is a proclamation that shows and gives nothing but grace and forgiveness in Christ.”
When a Christian must hide to survive for the sake of those he must care for, then he should run and hide. When a Christian must take a stand for the sake of the gospel, then he should take a stand. But beware taking a stand for the wrong reason, for many have fallen when they see what the opposition is capable of doing in its fury over the deity of Christ; do not ever seek to become a martyr, as the one who recorded Polycarp’s death warned: “Brothers, we do not praise those who come forward of their own free will (to be put to death for the gospel), for that is not the teaching of the Gospel” (Martyrdom of Polycarp 4:1). Paul’s friends also begged him “not to venture into the arena” (Acts 19:31) for the sake of preserving his life to further preach the gospel. They had likewise sent him away from Berea when his life was threatened (Acts 17:14).
The most delightful of all of God’s testimonies is the gospel. The gospel is the free promise of the forgiveness of sins, of righteousness, and of eternal life for the sake of Christ. Sin is the result of the fall of our first parents Adam and Eve, and it is passed along to all mankind. “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Therefore the assurance of sin’s forgiveness is glorious and excellent news, done on the cross by the blood of Jesus for us all (Colossians 1:20). The righteousness given to us through Christ is the same righteousness that was lost in the fall, but which is ours once again by putting our faith in Christ (Genesis 15:6), for the righteous will live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17).
And our further delight is that God’s promise of eternal life does not depend on our deeds or worthiness, but on the deeds and worthiness of Christ on our behalf. Let this be our goal, the thought we have when we set our mind to every task: I’m but a stranger here; heaven is my home.
Pastor Timothy Smith