Guarding the Word

I. This stanza (Psalm 119:57-64) speaks strongly about guarding the Word.

A. The focus throughout Psalm 119 is the Word of God.

1. The Psalm uses eight (8) different Hebrew words to provide a composite picture of the many aspects of God’s revelation.

2. The eighth stanza (CHETH) is one of three stanzas that use all eight words within the same stanza (JOD – 73-80; CAPH – 81-88).

3. The clear focus of this stanza is on the responsibility to “keep” every aspect of God’s Word.

4. The command to “keep” the Word of God is frequent in Psalm 119.

a. The word is used 21 times in this Psalm – 30% of the verses
b. The word is used 3 times in the 8 verses of this stanza – 37%
c. The object of the verb is always some aspect of God’s Word.

B. The Hebrew word translated “keep” is SHAMAR.

1. The basic connotation is -- “trying hard to understand.”

a. Proverbs 19:8 -- He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul: he that keepeth understanding shall find good.

2. The frequent application is ‘’be carful to obey”

 a. Genesis 18:19 -- For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.

3. The frequent emphasis is – “to guard; to take care of”

a. Genesis 2:15 -- And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. 
b. Genesis 3:24 -- So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

4. The good summary of the spiritual application

a. Deuteronomy 4:2 -- Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
b. Deuteronomy 5:29 -- O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!

C. The Psalmist has decided that the LORD is his “payment.”

1. Psalm 16:5 -- The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot.

2. Psalm 73:26 -- My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

II. This promise to keep the Word is the result of conscious deliberations.

A. He has entreated the Lord for favour and mercy (119:58)

1. The word choices are strong and poignant.

a. “Intreate” is frequently translated “sick” or “wounded.”
b. Daniel 8:27 -- And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up, and did the king’s business; and I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it.

2. The word for “favour” is PANIYM – usually translated “before”

a. PANIYM is usually connected to the “face” of something – as in “before the face” of God.
b. PANIYM is in the First Commandment – “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).  Literally: “Put no other gods before (in front of) my face.”  Colloquial: “Don’t let any other god get between your face and My face.”

3. The image for this phrase in verse 58 could be something like this:

a. “I became weakened (while praying with my whole heart) to see your face: be merciful…”

B. He as asked for mercy – “according to thy word.”

1. “Mercy” usually conveys the withholding of judgment; a postponement of the consequences of wrong decisions or actions.

a. Psalm 51:1, 4 -- Have mercy upon me….Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
b. Psalm 27:7-9 -- Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.  When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.  Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.

2. “According to thy Word” is the strong qualifier.  All the actions of God are subject to His holiness – and His Word displays those actions.

a. This phrase is used eight (8) times in Psalm 119; three times elsewhere in the Old Testament, and only two times in the New Testament.
b. The clear emphasis is that nothing should be done unless it is “according to” God’s word.

C. He has “planned” his life and “turned” his activity to suit God’s word.

1. The word translated “thought” emphasises planning or counting.

2. The “conclusion” of that planning was to make corrections.

a. He “turned” his feet to the testimonies of God.
b. 2 Kings 22:1-2 -- Josiah … did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.
c. Hebrews 12:11-13 -- No chastening … seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness … Wherefore … make straight paths for your feet.

3. The “plans,” once confirmed, were speedily executed.

a. He “hastens” to action like an eagle “that hasteth to eat” (Habakkuk 1:8)
b. He does not “delay” like Lot “lingered” (Genesis 19:16).

III. The promise made also entails consequences felt.

A. He is constantly surrounded with the snares of the wicked (119:61).

1. The Hebrew phrase is difficult to translate.

a. The “bands” might best be translated “cords” or “snares”
b. The wicked have “encircled” (by implication, robbed)

2. The emphasis is that “the wicked” are a constant threat – but he has “not forgotten” the Law.

a. The proud have hid a snare for me, and cords; they have spread a net by the wayside; they have set gins for me. (Psalm 140:5)
b. My soul is continually in my hand: yet do I not forget thy law (Psalm 119:109)
c. Consider mine affliction, and deliver me: for I do not forget thy law (Psalm 119:153)

3. The “Law” gives assurance that God will not permit the wicked to win.

a. Proverbs 17:15 -- He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.
b. Psalm 37:20 -- But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.

B. He is awakened at midnight in thanksgiving for God’s work (119:62).

1. The “righteous judgments” of God are as sure as God’s Word.

a. Psalm 119:160 -- Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.
b. Psalm 119:164 -- Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy righteous judgments.

2. The delay of “righteous judgments” does not mean judgment forgotten.

a. Proverbs 24:16 -- For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.
b. Psalm 37:7-9 -- Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.

C. He insures that his “companions” are focused on righteousness (119:63)

1. Close friendship is the focus of this instruction.

a. David and Jonathan – And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. (1 Samuel 18:1)
b. Daniel and his three friends – Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: that they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. (Daniel 2:17-18)

2. Close friendship is a precious relationship.

a. Proverbs 18:24 -- A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
b. Proverbs 27:9 -- Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.

3. Close friendship has consequences

a. Proverbs 27:6 -- Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
b. Proverbs 22:24  Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go:
c. 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 -- Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?  And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?  And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
d. James 4:4 -- Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

4. Biblical friendship is directly related to biblical obedience

a. John 15:14 -- Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
b. Psalm 119:63 -- I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts.

D. He is committed to learning the “statutes” of God (119:64)

1. Psalm 25:4 -- Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.

2. Psalm 86:11 -- Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.

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