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God’s Word for You

Psalm 119:5-6 Statutes

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Sunday, March 5, 2023

5 Oh, that my ways were steady
  in obeying your statutes!

“Statutes” (huqqim) calls to mind the Word of God in its eternal permanence. David made a statute when the Lord gave his soldiers victory over the Amalekites beyond the Besor Ravine, and he made it a standing order (statute) that the men who guarded the supplies should have an equal share in the plunder as the men who fought in the battle (1 Samuel 30:23-25). Perhaps the word recalls the verb huqqah, “to carve, scratch out” something in stone (1 Kings 6:35), but our attention really needs to be on the use of the word here. As Malachi relates: “Remember the law of my servant Moses, which I commanded at Horeb to serve as statutes and judgments over all Israel” (Malachi 4:4). The Lord does not change his mind (Numbers 23:19), and the requirements of his laws do not change (Romans 2:26) and must not be set aside (Isaiah 24:5). So verse 5 preaches the law through the words of the speaker, whose desire is to comply with the eternal statutes of God. This is where we fall short. “Since the days of your fathers, you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them” (Malachi 3:7).

Just as “an evil tree produces evil fruits” (Matthew 7:17; Luke 6:43), as “poisoned waters also flow from a poisoned spring” (Jeremiah 6:7), and “as bitterness grows from a root of bitterness” into the branches on high (Hebrews 12:15), so also countless sins of every kind proceed from the innate corruption of the heart as from a poisoned spring and a very bitter root (Matthew 15:19), the very evil fruits of an evil tree.

So our need for a Savior from sin is exposed by these words, “Oh that my ways were steady!” Our ways are anything but steady. We totter like David’s leaning wall, the tottering fence (Psalm 62:3), ready to be pulled down by the Devil’s accusations. But our prayer is to be steady and firm. This means to have the right kind of foundation, solid, built on the rock (Matthew 7:24), like the temple worship when it was reestablished under King Hezekiah in the days of the prophet Isaiah (2 Chronicles 29:35). This isn’t accomplished by the individual. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in the human heart, and the response of this work is what our psalmist is talking about when he says, “Oh that my ways were steady!”

PSALM 119:6

6 Then I would not be put to shame
  when I consider all your commands.

This follows the previous verse in both thought and grammar.  The result of following God’s will as a sanctified believer is to ponder and learn from God’s law with an eye on Christian living as well as a heart filled with repentance. Certainly the law of God crushes us and brings shame along with it (Ezra 9:7; Jude 1:13), yet for those who put their faith in Christ, our guilt is lifted and our burden is removed, “for he who believes in him will not be put to shame” (1 Peter 2:6).  God’s judgment comes down from his holy courtroom: “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43).

Remember that it is our response to this wonderful salvation that is our theme for most of this Psalm, but it’s always good to remember this and to see it from the many facets that the Psalm presents. Here the image is of the believer, fully convinced of his salvation through Christ, who studies and ponders the Word of God and all his statutes and commands, and is not brought to doubt or shame because of the taunts and traps of the devil, but is guided to bear whatever crosses he must (Nehemiah 1:3) for the sake of Christ. For Christ will be attacked by the world. “The world not only does not receive him, but also becomes worse in its behavior; in addition it speaks against him and persecutes him most vehemently” (Luther, ‘Sermon’ [really a commentary] on Luke 2:33-40). But when the world turns our beauty into shame, we learn to trust in Christ all the more, “for there is a shame which brings sin, and there is a shame which is glory and favor” (Sirach 4:21), and any shame the world tries to hold over us on account of Christ is the latter, which brings glory to God. He sets on our heads “a crown of beauty instead of ashes and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:3).

In the Proverbs, we are told that the world trembles and cannot bear four things: A servant jumped up to be king, a fool who is a glutton, a married woman who is unloved, and a maid servant who displaces her mistress (Proverbs 30:21-23). When the world tries to displace Christ with anyone else, it is a servant being jumped up as a king. When the world revels in the creation and despises the creator, it is a gluttonous fool. When the world tries to claim that God does not love his people, they are pretending the wife is unloved, which we know not to be true (John 3:16; Song of Solomon 2:4). And when the world tries to claim that there are other paths to heaven apart from Christ, they are trying to displace the mistress with the serving girl. These things make all of God’s creation groan for release from the corruption and bondage of sin (Romans 8:22), and more than this, these things infuriate God our Lord, and he knows our troubles. He will comfort us and he will come to our aid. He topples their foolish claims with the foolishness of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:18), which is the power of God to us and for us and in us. May God bless you and fill you with his love and mercy as you consider all his commands, all of his gospel promises, and all of the guidance and the history of the saved in God’s holy Word.

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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