God’s Word for You
Psalm 119:40 Part 4
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, June 20, 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.
4, I long to understand the depths of myself (and my sin) through your word.
The pure doctrine of the Bible is in every passage. These are the precepts we long to hear, to know, and to understand.
We understand the depths of ourselves, the severity of our sins and even the roots of our faith, by studying the word of God. Yesterday we heard about the seriousness of the Law and the way that it exposes our sin. We must remember that sins are present in more than our deeds. There are sins in our very words, and sins in our very thoughts. Since we’ve explored sins in our actions and sins in our thoughts many times, let’s consider how we sin with our words (which come up out of our thoughts).
First, we sin when we swear needlessly or by long habit. This is a difficult pattern to break, and I have found in counseling repentant believers that two pathways can be considered. Some men need to quit swearing (and cursing) cold turkey, by learning never even to try to elaborate another sentence with some modification through swearing or foul language. Other men can be coached to use an intermediate nonsense term, which they will drop after a while. Rather than use a genuine oath or some obscene word, they can be urged to use a mild adjective like “silly” or “useless.” In time, they won’t see the point in using these words, either. Since the life of sanctification looks different in different people, there is no need to judge anyone based on which sanctified path they take. Both are from God.
Second, a man sins when he uses an oath in order to support a lie or to break a vow. Calling down God to be a witness to a lie is no act of worship.
Third, a man sins when he vows or swears to do evil, and to curse. The oath will bind him, and unless he truly seeks forgiveness, he will be held to his oath like Jephthah was (Judges 11:30-35). The mindless use of the most profane language falls here, because using the worst (and today, most common) foul language is, when taken at face value, expressing a curse on the listener to be violently raped against one’s will. For this reason, my public opinion is that this obscenity deserves to be a crime punishable like any other sexual crime. But I know that mankind would just find something else, something even fouler, to replace it, because sinful man is always looking for a loophole in God’s law, not for paths to obedience. My private opinion about this obscenity is that it makes the men and women who use it seem very small, very petty, and worth my pity. They will tire of hearing this sin of theirs repeatedly in their ears or in their memories in hell for all eternity.
Fourth, it is a terrible sin to tell silly stories about God or to carelessly misconstrue the Scriptures. The Bible should not be the butt of our jokes. Not that there are not funny moments in the Scriptures. Humor can make a point, as Jesus does about the man with a plank in his eye (Matthew 7:3), but see how quickly he turns the ridiculous into a serious condemnation by saying “You hypocrite!” to the same man (Matthew 7:5).
Sixth, it is a sin when we fail to call on God’s name in times of trouble or to praise him both in joy and in sorrow, in fortune or misfortune, in honor or dishonor (2 Corinthians 6:8). Here we have the good example of Job, who praised God even when he suffered terrible loss (Job 1:21).
Seventh, it is a sin to use piety or wisdom to seek praise from other men, or honor, or a reputation. Jesus said, “Be careful not to do your act of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).
Eighth, it is a dreadful sin to call upon God’s name falsely, as the heretics do. Their reward will be fire and worms.
It is also a sin when we do not restrain others from dishonoring God’s name (as Adam failed to do when he allowed Eve to sin, Genesis 3:6). And we sin (especially parents) when we do not restrain others from using God’s name wrongly or for evil purposes (that is, all the other items in this list). In this way, self-conceit, boasting, and spiritual pride belong here.
Now, God also tells us how he wants us to use his name properly. God wants each of us to use our words for truth and for his holy good. This means right teaching and preaching, and when we pray and invoke his holy name when there is trouble (Psalm 50:15), or when we praise him (Psalm 30:4), thank him (1 Chronicles 16:34), and ask for his help (Psalm 109:26) such as when we pray, “Let your holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me” (Luther’s morning and evening prayers).
We can’t leave this list of our sins and of God’s expectations and commands without remembering that Christ came to forgive all these sins in us. Be at peace today, be at peace in your soul. “Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God” (Psalm 42:5). The forgiven sinner can lift up his face and praise and thank God with his life, and ask the Holy Spirit to help him to turn away from sin. We understand the depth of our sin through God’s holy word. This is also why we long for his precepts.
Pastor Timothy Smith