Tuesday, 11 October 2016 10:45

Guidance For Being Wise

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98, 99, 100? Wow! Are those the grades you are getting on your tests and exams at school?  No?  Maybe it's your car getting up to speed on the highway.  Or maybe someone's counting while everyone hides and waits to be found.  No, dear hearers, these numbers, 98,99, and 100 are not now about grades at school, or how fast one is driving, or a game, but these are verses in Psalm 119, the longest psalm in the Bible.  These three verses together are about learning yes, and in fact, they give God-inspired guidance for becoming and being most wise.  One study Bible even describes the whole eight verse segment where all the verses begin with the letter M in the Hebrew, Mem, are out to teach us: Meditation on God’s law yields the highest wisdom.

98 Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. 99 I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.

Think what is being said here by the psalmist.  He has found a way to be wiser, more with it, than his enemies. He has more understanding or insight and discernment than all his teachers. And he has a better grasp and grip on life than the older people or oldest ones around, “the ancients” as stated in the King James Version.  Now these are quite the statements, don’t you think? What's in view with "enemies" are those not fearing nor submitting to God’s word and will. All the teachers mentioned here refer very clearly in this context to all unbelieving and ungodly teachers, those who would instruct others while themselves not confessing God and His word as the primary authority in life. The elderly as well that really are not showing true wisdom and understanding are all those who live and die old, without ever being converted and submitting to God and His word.

Important to understand here is that the psalmist is not boasting here about how much he himself knows. He is not telling us here just how very smart he is over against all his ignorant enemies, and foolish teachers and the unwise elderly ones. No, instead, what is the clear emphasis in each of the three verses?  It is how being led and guided by God’s word gives the psalmist true insight and understanding and discernment that just can’t be found otherwise, anywhere by anyone.  Psalm 119 is all about the worth and value and treasure that the inspired Holy Bible is for us, when blessed to us by the Holy Spirit.  And when the psalmist here speaks of God's commandments, testimonies, and precepts, those are just three of eight different words in the whole psalm referring to God's precious word.  Each time he is highlighting the value and blessing of God's whole word.  Very specifically, God’s commandments followed make us wiser than our enemies. God’s testimonies studied and followed make us have more understanding than all those around us, even more than the smartest leaders in the world who live without God and His word. And God’s precepts, His instructions in all the details of life when lived by, make us more insightful and discerning than all the elderly with all their life experiences apart from God. You see, vs.98, 99, and 100, speaking here of God's commandments and testimonies and precepts, are not about the score on tests or the speedometer reading when driving or someone counting for hide and seek. They are teaching us from God the way of true wisdom and most profitable education and ultimate understanding of all things for you and for me.  

In thinking through this more, let us focus on three questions. 

1. Why is this the case? What makes the BIBLE such a special book above every other book in all the world?  The answer is, the Bible is God’s holy Word given to us. It is God’s Spirit-breathed inspired, inerrant, infallible word, revealing to us all-important truths which otherwise we never ever could or would know and understand.  The Bible is not a book from a false idol god of man’s own making.  It is not at all like the Koran, or the Book of Mormons, or the Sikh holy book, or the Jewish Talmud. No, the Bible is, as expressed in the Belgic Confession, Article 3, not sent, nor delivered by the will of man”, but it is from God above to us and for us, supernaturally provided and preserved for us by God from a special care which he has for us and our salvation. The Holy Spirit led writings from Moses to the apostle John, from the Old Testament books beginning with Genesis to the last of the New Testament books, Revelation, in all 66 books is unique “For, the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved [carried along, and directed] by the Holy Ghost.” [II Peter 1:21].

What a book the Bible is!  Consequently no volume has had so much impact and effect and influence in the whole history of the world as the Holy Bible. Amazingly it remains the best-selling book in all the world year after year, even in our modern day world.  It is only fools who despise God’s word as given to us in the Bible, and only the blind spiritually and the corrupt and wicked morally refuse to consider it and submit to it.

 Think further concerning the specific teaching of the Bible. Only the Bible tells us truths from the eternal past we could never otherwise know. Only the Bible tells us about the creation of the world, and the special creation of man when God made Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and breathed life into them as His image bearers, made with special divine delight and precious everlasting purpose. It is from the Bible only that we learn about man’s fall into sin and how devastating and deplorable that was and is. And at the same time only and most wonderfully it is from the Bible that we learn about God’s promise to send a Saviour to save sinners like us. Likewise, so beautifully and gloriously it is from the Bible that we learn about God’s astounding faithfulness to all His gospel promises, giving His own beloved Son as crucified and risen Saviour even for the redemption of sinners and the perfect renewal one day of this whole sin-cursed world and universe.  And finally and specially, it is from the Bible that we learn the gospel way of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Don't we have to say, the Bible, and the Bible alone, gives us true and everlasting perspective on all the main issues of life and death for body and soul, for now and eternity?  Likewise, the Bible gives holy direction and insight on all the lesser matters of life, even to the finest detail in regards to everything and everyone, everywhere, and in every time. This is why it is so correct what someone has said: Education is useless without the Bible.  Thinking of that, how sad and tragic when people want to pursue more studies and learning, all the while ignoring and despising the Holy Bible.  How foolish that is! 

Of course we say that especially and ultimately because the Bible testifies and teaches specifically and magnificently, and so helpfully too, about the Lord Jesus Christ.  Remember when Jesus said in John 5:39, "the scriptures testify of me"; and in Luke 24 the risen Saviour Himself explains how all the Scriptures are concerning Himself as crucified and risen Saviour, and the desperate need of Him, the blessed Saviour, for all who trust and follow Him and His gospel word. This same is what we confess too in the Heidelberg Catechism Q&A19.  How do we come to know about the only God-sent Mediator between God and us that we each and all need for abundant life and fullness of life and eternal life?  Where do we learn about Jesus who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemptionFrom where do you know this? Answer: From the holy gospel, which God Himself revealed in Paradise, and afterwards published by the patriarchs and prophets, and represented by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law; and lastly, has fulfilled it by His only begotten Son.

We know, in fact, from the gospel of John, chapter 1 that Jesus is the Word made flesh. That is teaching us all the Scriptures declare about the only Saviour of sinners, we find confirmed in the Person and work of Christ Jesus as crucified and risen Redeemer.  Writing about the Saviour, Paul declares of Him in Colossians 2:3, “In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” In other words, no true knowledge worth anything or wisdom that stands forever can ever be found outside of Christ or apart from Him and His holy Word. Isn’t this why also reformer John Calvin said hundreds of years ago: To search for wisdom apart from Christ means not simply foolhardiness but utter insanity.

  What's more, doesn’t this explain too why Paul, again as one inspired by God the Holy Spirit, so exhorts Timothy as he does in II Timothy 3:14-4:5. 14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; 15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.  I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick [living] and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

Do you see then with me why these verses, 98,99, and 100, are so all important for us, giving guidance for becoming most wise?  We read in Luke 2 about Jesus Himself growing up as a child and youth being “filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him….And [as the years went by] Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” How did that happen but by Jesus Himself taking God’s word most seriously and having the word serve as a lamp to His feet and a light upon His path?  Following the wisest Man that ever lived, Christ, the only Saviour of sinners, means living in and by and out of and under and with God’s word as your treasure and confidence and hope and comfort in all your ways. Is that how it is in your life and mine? Is that what you desire and pursue sincerely and increasingly even?

Asking about these matters leads us now to our second question.

2. How do we experience God’s word to be so all important?  How does it happen that the Bible really speaks to you and me and has practical impact and blessed influence in your and my life?  Here again let us go back to the text for answering this crucial question.  Notice with me just from our three verses what the believing psalmist does with God’s word. In vs.98 we learn he has God’s commandments ever with him and with that he means he desires always God’s word and will to direct him in all his paths. In vs.99 we learn the psalmist meditates and reflects on God’s word in prayer and care that God bless it to his mind and heart truly and constantly. “Thy testimonies are my meditation” he says, meaning “it is my matter of study and care and prayer and exercise”. He didn’t just read the word or leave the word on the shelf between its covers or scrolls but he so desired and delighted in it being in his mind and heart, and he prayed God to bless his reading and reflection on it.  In vs.100 he lets us know he keeps God’s word.  He doesn't read it and forget it, or doubt it, or scorn it. He loves it, and lives it. 

Now we can’t fully grasp the meaning and instruction of these three verses without thinking of all of Psalm 119. This whole psalm altogether in its 22 sections and 176 verses is the psalmist’s Holy Spirit- inspired psalm and prayer of praise for God’s word. Over and over he tells of the everlasting riches and reliability of God’s word and over and over he prays for God to open the word to him and to open his mind and heart to the word. Repeatedly you hear him pray: Teach me, teach me, teach me. He would wholly submit to all God’s inspired word and he desired, by God’s grace and Spirit, wholeheartedly to understand and live by it. The believing psalmist knew and experienced in humble reliance on God that His word is full of endless treasures of wisdom and knowledge, guidance and salvation, hope and help for soul and body, through life and death and for eternity. He read and meditated on God’s word with prayer and expectation, anticipation and humility, and love before God and his neighbor.  He learned early, and became convinced more and more as the years went by, that everything in life must be viewed through the grid of Scripture or we would see things wrongly and go far astray.   

Is this your and my conviction and confession, by God’s grace? Won’t you also then acknowledge as expressed in a poem called A Student’s Prayer by J. Peterson. 

 

God, the all wise, and Creator Of the human intellect,

Guide our search for truth and knowledge, All our thoughts and ways direct,

Help us build the tow’rs of learning --That would make us wise, astute,

On the rock of Holy Scripture: Truth revealed and absolute.

 

O how vast the shores of learning---There are still uncharted seas,

And they call to bold adventure—Those who turn from sloth and ease.

But we need Thy hand to guide us-- In our studies we pursue,

And the presence of Thy Spirit—To illumine all we do.

 

May the things we learn, so meager, Never lift our hearts in pride

Till in foolish self-reliance—We would wander from Thy side.

Let them only bind us closer, Lord, to Thee, in Whom we find—

Very fountain-head of wisdom, Light and life of all mankind.”

 

Doesn’t this prayer reflect, as with the psalmist, humble realization of our sin and folly by nature as fallen sinners? Doesn’t it reflect, again as with the psalmist, faith in God and His Word as ‘all’ important and most needful?  Doesn’t this prayer reflect, as with the psalmist, desire ever to be led by God’s Spirit and word in all our ways?  Can you say now that so it is in your life as well not of your own doing, but by God’s renewing grace and mercy and love in your life, for Jesus’ sake?

For sure it is the case that this is what we long for and pray for and aim for in all the Christian gospel ministry at home, and school, and church, that we and our children come to know the LORD in spirit and truth. And that such be demonstrated and proven especially in the way of love and zeal for the Bible in reading it and knowing it, loving it and living it, and promoting it.  For it is in and from this Book only, blessed by God’s Spirit to us, that you and I begin to learn, and increase in learning, following the letters of the English alphabet:

The way of amazing acceptance with God rather than awful alienation from God;

The way of belief in Christ rather than boasting of self and this world;

The way of clarity rather than confusion;

The way of devotion instead of distraction;

The way of expectation rather than emptiness;

The way of faithful friendship rather than of foolish foes;

The way of grace instead of guilt;

The way of help instead of hurt;

The way of integrity instead of iniquity;

The way of joyfulness instead of joylessness;

The way of kindness instead of killing;

The way of life eternal rather than loss forever;

The way of mercy instead of misery;

The way of nobleness rather than nothingness;

The way of obedience instead of obstinacy;

The way of peace as opposed to perverseness;

The way of quietude rather than quivering;

The way of reconciliation instead of rebellion;

The way of salvation instead of sinfulness;

The way of truth and trust rather than tension and turmoil;

The way of usefulness instead of uselessness;

The way of value rather than vanity;

The way of wisdom instead of war and wrath;

The way most excellent instead of endlessly exhausting;

The way of youthfulness eternal rather than yelling agonizingly forever;

The way of zeal for God and good forevermore, instead of life being a hopeless zilch and zero for now and forever.

This all and so much more is gained when believing and delighting in God’s word and its gospel revelation to us, prayerfully asking God to make it more and more known and treasured by us.  I followed the letters of the alphabet just to reflect a little the beauty of the amazing acrostic of the whole of Psalm 119 in teaching and driving home the preciousness of God’s word for all who take it to heart. 

What will you find all through Bible history, world history, and church history? Those who live fruitful and God-honoring, thankful, blessed lives in their generation and with benefit for the generations following were those who loved God’s word and lived by it. On the other hand, all who rejected God’s word, so living and dying, rather than being blessed and a blessing in their generation and to those following were the opposite.  Not to walk in wisdom’s way as revealed in the Bible and in Christ as only Saviour and Lord is utter folly not to mention wicked disobedience also.  Oh, may God lead and keep us all from the way of folly and lead us in wisdom’s way instead. 

We need at this point to answer our third question.

3.  So, what now?  Becoming practical, let me ask these questions for each of us to take home.

A. Are you reading the Bible regularly and prayerfully?  Or does the Bible hardly get opened by you, especially not by you alone?  Oh, but will you not have God teach you personally by His word and Spirit also in the way of individual devotions? How many church people in general seldom open the Bible except on Sundays?  Could that be true of you?

B. Do you read your Bible carefully or carelessly?  Let me give here the illustration someone gave of reading the Bible either like the beautiful butterfly or the working bumblebee.  The butterfly dances from flower to flower hardly long stopping at any, but the bumblebee digs deep wherever it lands, and gathers nectar at almost all its stops before going on to another. What kind of Bible reader are you and I - more like the butterfly or the bumblebee?  Which should it be and may it be with also the promise of great reward?

C. A third question related to this all is in relation to your local church: Do you do all you can to participate and be involved and learning and growing in the teaching and study of the Bible and all things related to the Bible?

D. With that do you pray regularly for God by His Spirit to bless the reading and study and ministry of His word? 

E. One more question, and that is, should we not see it as sin and a sign of backsliding or not being converted at all yet if we have no priority interest and hunger for God’s word? Didn’t Jesus Himself say that sitting at His feet under His word is, time and again, the one thing needful?  Be alarmed and ashamed when you are bored with God’s word and all gospel truth and all things related to the Christian church and kingdom of God.  Ask God to change you and convert you before you become hardened in the way of sin and unbelief and blinded in and with the attractions and distractions of this world, leading people mindlessly to the place of everlasting punishment and eternal doom. 

Here let me remind you of what we read in Revelation 1:3. “Blessed is he [or she] that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.”  Didn’t Jesus say the same at the end of the Sermon on the Mount with the story of the wise man building his house on the rock unlike the foolish man who built his house on the sand? The wise man is the one who hears God’s word and lives accordingly while the foolish man hears and just goes his own way still.

May God bless us, each and all, that we be truly wise and most blessed and such a blessing also to others before God and in our generation and for the generations following.  98, 99, 100. No, it's not about test marks or the speed you're traveling or a game of hide and seek, but these are Scripture verses telling of the way of wisdom over against all our spiritual enemies. Wisdom more than all our ungodly teachers, thinking today of those who falsely promote evolutionary propaganda, moral compromise, and abysmal confusion on so many fronts and calling evil good and good evil. Wisdom over against people putting their own miserable sinful experience above the living lasting absolute truth of the one only Triune God as revealed ultimately and climactically in Christ Jesus, the one and only Saviour of sinners. 

Guidance for becoming most wise! Let's not scorn it, but prize it; not skim it, but treasure it; not hide it but promote it; not minimize it but maximize it, God helping us and blessing us time and again, also with this 98,99, and 100.  May it be our prayer and our life: Lord,98Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. 99 I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.  100 I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts."  Amen

  Hans Overduin, Radio Pastor

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