God’s Word for You
Psalm 119:33 To throw and throw and throw
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, May 27, 2023
Verse 33 begins the fifth stanza of the Great Psalm. Each verse begins with the letter heh ( ה ). Rather than choose words that begin naturally with “h,” our poet has chosen seven words in the hifil stem, a verb form that naturally begins with heh and has a causative sense: “Cause me to do this, cause me to do that.” Only in the final line (verse 40) does he fall to a more typical h-word (hinnay, “behold!).
The stanza has a “let’s get back to the word of God” theme, the way one feels when true repentance has been worked by the Lord in our hearts. In this way, the believing poet shows that while he acknowledges his sinful ways, he wants to avoid the pitfalls of Israel in the days of the Judges. When the people in those days were saved from their enemies by a judge whom the Lord would raise up, they would soon return to their ways, “even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them” (Judges 2:19). Our poet leads us like a good shepherd to the response of true repentance to a love for the word of God.
33 Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes;
and I will guard them to the end.
In its ordinary form, the Hebrew verb yarah means to throw or shoot. Here the idea is to throw and throw and throw until the student catches. This is the true work of a good teacher. I knew a student once who suffered at the feet of a teacher who could not teach his lessons the way that most students are able to learn them. He was probably out of his depth, out of his element as teachers sometimes are, but the student was forced to take all of the information and rework the lessons, he hoped, in a way that he would be able to learn the material. This was a successful endeavor, but not on account of the abilities of the teacher in question. A good teacher should try to emulate what the Lord does. He throws and throws and throws until we catch. And if we can’t catch the lesson one way, he throws it to us another way, until we get it.
“To the end” is similar to when a soldier is ordered to hold his position “to the last.” The last what? The last man, the last drop of blood, the last bullet, the last moment of life, the last foot of ground. Such an order on the battlefield is usually given when there are reinforcements on the way, or the ground must not be given up, or while some other vital strike is being made elsewhere and the enemy must be delayed here “to the end” to give the other striking force fewer enemies to face. Such tactics might be used even as God sends his holy angels to wage wars unseen all around us. It may well be that one Christian is asked to stand up to a dire temptation or spiritual battle in order to siphon away some of the wicked angels while God’s hosts protect a more vulnerable Christian elsewhere. Angels and demons are quick, but they are not present everywhere all at once the way God is in his omnipresence.
“To the end” also means that the believer seeks to guard the word of God and even to act as a rearguard in some cases, making sure that none of God’s statements and doctrines falls by the wayside as the church moves forward in time. The commandments that numbered ten yesterday must still be the same ten in number tomorrow. The sixty-six books that were accepted as canonical by the early church must remain the same sixty-six for our children.
As we pass along God’s word from one generation to the next, it has been said that each generation must rediscover the important doctrines of the Scriptures for themselves. My generation is at the apex of that challenge even now. But while we do this, we are already throwing and throwing and throwing the truths of God’s word to the next generation that will follow us. Let us be faithful as we do this, “his called, chosen and faithful followers.” Those we teach are well worth the effort, more than worth the effort—for the kingdom under our care is at stake! Whether the teaching we do is traditional or innovative, whether the lessons are easily learned or battles painfully fought, we must do whatever we can as Christ’s servants and ambassadors, his apostles training new disciples with each passing year. Let us convey to them what our Lord means when he says: “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
Pastor Timothy Smith