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God’s Word for You

Psalm 119:40 Part 2

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Sunday, June 18, 2023

40 How I long for your precepts!
    Preserve my life in your righteousness.

We are exploring how one might long for God’s word and precepts.

2, I long to know more about your word.

The difference between knowing God’s word and knowing about God’s word is that knowing about it means knowing the context of the word, the different forms in which the word is presented, and most especially understanding the difference between the two chief teachings of the word: law and gospel.

The context of the word means especially the time and circumstances for each book:

  • The five books of Moses (Genesis-Deuteronomy) were written by Moses during the exodus from Egypt (1446-1406 BC). They include Genesis, the beginning of God’s saving history of the created world from the Garden of Eden and, some generations later, the great flood, down to the time of the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai and the journey to Canaan.
  • The books (Job, Joshua, Judges, and Ruth) about God’s people before the coming of the kings in about 1100 BC.
  • The books written about the united kingdom under Saul, David, and Solomon, and their poetry and wisdom (1-2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 1 Chronicles, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon).
  • The books written about the divided kingdom and the prophets who wrote to guide God’s people to repentance and faith up until the Babylonian captivity (2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the Minor Prophets up through Zephaniah).
  • The books written about the captivity in Babylon and the return from Babylon (Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Ezekiel, Lamentations, Daniel, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi).
  • The Gospels, which teach us about the life of Jesus Christ (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).
  • Acts, which continues the account after Jesus’ ascension through the early years of the church.
  • Paul’s letters (Romans-Philemon) about sin and grace.
  • A sermon called Hebrews, which might be by Paul but which is anonymous.
  • Other letters about faith and forgiveness by James, Peter, John and Jude.
  • Revelation, a symbolic book describing the time from Christ’s first coming until his second coming from several different points of view, with many warnings about the loss of faith and the coming of enemies of the church before the Last Judgment.

The different forms of God’s word are important to know. Moses and the other historical writers present the actual history of the world and especially the people of Israel. It’s important to remember that Jesus and his Apostles accepted Moses’ words as perfectly true (Mark 12:26; Luke 24:27; John 7:19-23). There are no myths in the Bible; no fairy-tales or legends. From the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1:27-31) to John’s exile on Patmos (Revelation 1:9), the accounts of Scripture are perfectly true, just as they are written. So when Moses says that the world was created in seven days, he means seven ordinary days, the kind with “evening and morning” (Genesis 1:5), not geological epochs.

Poetry in the Bible uses parallel lines, repetitions for the sake of clarity or to complete a thought. The poetry of the Bible is as much a source of doctrine as the other books. For example, David proclaims: “Certainly I was guilty (sinful) when I was born. I was sinful when my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5 EHV). This is one of the proof passages about our original sin and the way is it passed along from parents to children.

The Old Testament prophets only rarely predict the future in the sense of being “prophetic” as we think of it. Rather, they proclaimed and preached God’s word to God’s people with warnings and blessings. They constantly point ahead to the coming of Jesus. This passage is typical: “He will have compassion on us again. He will overcome our guilty deeds. You will throw all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19).

Like the books of Moses, the Gospels present the account of Christ’s life in four parallel accounts, each of which has a slightly different perspective or audience. John’s Gospel tends to fill in the gaps with accounts that are not in the other three. The important points of the Gospels are restated for us in the Creeds.

The Epistles are letters written to churches or to individuals, usually correcting an error or giving advice about Christian living. Because of their format, the writers of these letters are able to put together doctrines based on passages from very different parts of the Bible that nevertheless teach us the same spiritual truths. For example, in Romans 3:10-18, Paul pulls together seven or eight verses from the Psalms, Ecclesiastes and the prophet Isaiah to teach the sinfulness of man and our need for a Savior.

One last item about God’s word is the matter of chronology. There isn’t any list of chronological events in any one book of the Bible, but there are many references that help us understand when things happened, and especially that all this means that the events of the Scriptures are true, historical accounts. Since Solomon’s temple was dedicated 480 years after the giving of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai (1 Kings 6:1), we are helped to understand that Moses was at Sinai in 1446 BC (480 years before the temple was completed in 966 BC).

That the Bible is filled with true accounts is part of the reason that our poet says, “Preserve my life in your righteousness.” The promises and assurances of God throughout the Bible are not just the opinions or high hopes of the writers and poets who handed the Scriptures down to us. The Bible is the true and authentic account of what God did and of what God said and says to us. Therefore when we remember that all of it is true, we are assured that the promises about our individual sins and God’s grace to us is true, too. Therefore, when we recite in the Creed that Jesus “suffered under Pontius Pilate,” this is not just a line that helps us to find the passages in the Gospels about the torture and crucifixion of our Lord. It’s a reminder that this is a true account: Jesus suffered and died at that moment in history when Pontius Pilate was the governor of Judea. The true moment in time is a testimony to the truth of what our Savior did for us. “You were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth,” Paul says (Ephesians 1:13). And James preaches: “He chose to give us birth (he means life out of dead unbelief) through the word of truth” (James 1:17). And Jesus so simply put it in his great prayer: “Sanctify them with your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). This is the word we long to know more about.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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