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God’s Word for You

Psalm 119:40 Part 5

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, June 21, 2023

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

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

5, I long to understand the true nature of the gospel in your word.

The strangest precept in all of the Holy Scriptures is the doctrine of the gospel. The gospel is both an act and a message. The act of the gospel is Christ’s victory over the devil and the sinful fallen world and even over the sinful human nature within each of us. The message is the proclamation of this victory that the devil is overthrown.

“In short,” Luther says, “his (the devil’s) prisoners are transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light and liberty.” “He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Colossians 1:13).

The message is the message of peace; an end to the wrath of God upon the sins of mankind. “He will proclaim peace to the nations” (Zechariah 9:10). Sometimes this confuses Christians. They think that having peace with God means no more trouble in this lifetime; no worries, no problems, and so on. The devil is not an opponent who will remain down on the mat. He will keep fighting, even as his kingdom is collapsing all around him. He spits out his rage as he loses the war. He hurts God’s people as the Day of his judgment draws closer and closer.

The peace we have is the release from the burden of our sins and their guilt. “You will again have compassion on us. You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). This is what brings us to rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4).

The word of God, his precepts, shows us that all of the worries we have over long past sins, old sins from youth, from years long gone by that have troubled us and tormented us for our whole lives, are the very sins we should be certain are covered by the blood of Christ. Baptism is not selective in the sins it washes away. When the Holy Spirit raised you to spiritual life through the washing of regeneration, he did not leave one of your hands or feet dead in sin. He raised all of you. God’s forgiveness is not a blanket that is too short to cover your toes on a cold night. God’s forgiveness covers over all of your sins. This is the glory of the gospel.

“Preserve my life” could be said in a number of ways in Hebrew. Throughout this Psalm, the poet chooses to use a certain kind of verb, the piel stem, which is often an intensifying way of speaking. In each of these cases (there are nine here in Psalm 119), the speaker is praying. So while the use of the piel stem in these verses could be to show aim or result (such as in Obadiah 1:1, where an envoy has been sent with the aim of proclaiming [piel verb] God’s judgment on Edom), I think it would suit the context better to say that this is a case of the piel showing respect, because the speaker has an inferior status, and the piel in such a circumstance adds what we would think of as a polite entreaty (“please”) to the statement. Compare Abraham’s servant respectfully asking Laban, “Send me (piel verb) on my way to my master” (Genesis 24:54).

“In your righteousness” reminds us and teaches us that we rely on the righteousness Christ supplies, and not anything that we accomplish. If a man tries to claim a role in his own salvation, he is doing the theological equivalent of multiplying by zero. He takes everything in his equation: the grace of God, the active and passive obedience of Christ, the resurrection, and all of the blessings of the Holy Spirit, and he makes them equal nothing for him. All of the work that Christ accomplished and was declared on the cross to be finished (John 19:30) is handed back to him; the whole burden of his guilt is once again on his own shoulders, for to reject Christ is an act of unbelief, and as an unbeliever he stands condemned. “In your righteousness” is the joyful prayer of the believer. We cannot comprehend the vastness of what Christ has done. The peace of God through Jesus “transcends our understanding” (Philippians 4:7). But that doesn’t keep the gospel from being our salvation. Through Jesus, we have everlasting life. This is the joy and the thrill of searching, learning, and longing for God’s precepts.

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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