Practical Application of the Word of God
In the current iteration of the COG organizations, the general movement – there are exceptions in every one of the church of God organizations, so this is not true of everybody – has been, not only away from the word of God to the word of humans (dead and alive), but also, very subtly, away from the Old Testament.
It’s not uncommon to hear, in response to a declarative statement or a questioning comment that is in the Old Testament, “Oh, that’s in the Old Testament, isn’t it?” The response is tinged with dismissiveness and disdain, which is quite disheartening, because the Old Testament is as relevant to you and me individually and the body of Christ collectively today as it ever was.
God and Jesus Christ change not. Scriptures are the word of God. It changes not.
Sadly, in spite of clear warnings by God Himself, we, in the ekklesia, find ourselves in an environment where we see, at times, scripture taken away or added to, and unless we are continually and diligently in the word of God as our authoritative source against which everything else we read, hear, or even think ourselves must be proven or disproven, we may be blind to what’s right in front of us.
Psalm 119 is quite revealing when you study it and meditate on each of the sections. David’s wholehearted devotion and commitment, paralleling with Psalm 51, to God, His word, His law is extant throughout Psalm 119. This a from-the-heart psalm from David to God.
At Passover, we often refer to renewing our commitment to God.
But what does that commitment look like in practical terms, in the ups and downs of our day-to-day lives, and in the current place where the ekklesia often finds itself, having to discern right from wrong, good from evil, truth from almost-truth or partial truth, or pulled-out-of-thin-air ideas for which there is absolutely no scriptural basis, evidence, or support, and then choose to either turn to God and His word as our foundation or to trust in the sandy foundations of human beings who are so convinced they have it all figured out, wrapped in nice neat little packages, and they’re right about everything that there’s nothing that God can teach them, even though His word is living and there is no way we do or can know even a fraction of a fraction of anything compared to God and Jesus Christ?
For me, Psalm 119 is what my commitment to God, to Jesus Christ, to His kingdom and the laws that govern it, and to His way looks like in a taking-one-foot-and-putting-it-in-front-of-another way. And that is why this psalm should be something we spend time with God about. David certainly did, and he was a man after God’s own heart. I certainly want to be after God’s own heart and I can’t imagine any of my spiritual brothers and sisters wanting anything different.
As I was studying Psalm 119 – I actually wrote out each section at a time and thought about with regard to my life, took it to God, and I asked Him for wisdom and the understanding to not only do, but to be (this is the godly and humble mindset that we are all struggling toward and striving for) – I realized some things that I’d never really thought about before and some overarching realizations about the Old Testament in general.
When David speaks of the entirety of Your word, what is he referring to? Other than Psalm 90, which he may or may not have had, David is referring to Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, and Judges. That’s all he had of scripture – of God’s word.
We should let that sink in. And, yet, despite what I and others have heard that nobody in the Old Testament really understood salvation, the Messiah as Redeemer and Atonement for our sins, and the resurrection, David did. Job did. Daniel did (and he had what David had).
Everything David needed to know about God, about Jesus Christ, about repentance, salvation, redemption, atonement, and the resurrections is contained within these seven books of the Old Testament. How, then, can any of us be dismissive of the word of God that David wrote a copy of, kept with him, and read all the days of his life?
This led me to another thought about the Old Testament as a whole, and I don’t think we often remember or really consider this. Even though Jesus Christ is the Word of God, what did he have as scripture? How about the apostles (Paul is in here – interesting note about apostles: there are only 13 apostles named in the New Testament and they all had a single and unique thing in common in that they had extended one-on-one and extensive face-to-face interaction with and teaching from Jesus Christ)? How about the ekklesia? What were the Bereans studying? What were the writers of the New Testament books referring to when they referred to God’s word?
The Old Testament! There was no New Testament! So, how then, can we subtly dismiss the Old Testament and favor the New Testament instead? All of scripture is the word of God and if we are really studying God’s word daily and in-depth, we will, by the power of God’s spirit, see where the testaments connect, intersect, and mirror each other.
We cannot afford not to do this as members of the body of Christ and children of Almighty God. We have been given much, and our Father expects much from us in return. How are we going to teach God’s word, God’s way, and God’s laws as part of citizenship in His kingdom if we don’t know any of this ourselves? Teaching, by the way, must be from the word of God, not what somebody else – including me – says about the word of God.
I don’t know less than a fraction of what God knows. I don’t understand many, many things. I don’t have a clue about a lot of things. I have been, I am, and I will be wrong about a lot of things pertaining to God, to Jesus Christ, and to God’s word. I’m merely a little dirt and water that God has called and chosen now and given His spirit to as the seal of adoption, and my limitations in comparison with the unlimitedness of my Father and my Older Brother are bigger than even I comprehend.
All flesh has these same limitations. Yes, we’re given understanding according to God’s will. Not all of us understand the same things, nor do we understand things the same way. But there are places in God’s word where we have no excuse, because God Himself plainly tells us what He requires of us. And it’s based on what David talks about in Psalm 119.
One of the things that strikes me about Psalm 119 is the intimacy that David has with God. He’s a son, a servant, a sheep, a friend and God is his everything. Not once does David talk about “Samuel said” or “Samuel’s words” or “Nathan said” or “Nathan’s words.” Samuel was the high priest who anointed David as king as God had directed him to. Nathan is the prophet we see most often who interacts with David at God’s direction.
But David understood that as godly as these two human beings were in the flesh (and they weren’t perfect and had the same sinful nature and flaws that we battle), their words were nothing compared to the words of God. And that was David’s focus, foundation, and life.
The same should be true for us. We should have the same devotion to the word of God and nothing – absolutely nothing – should be put above or put in place of the word of God in what we believe, what we think, and what we obey.
Because God’s word is the standard that each of us will give account for when we stand before our Lord and King, Jesus Christ. “So-and-so said” or “the church said” isn’t going to cut it, because our Savior is going to look at us with those fiery eyes that John describes in Revelation (and I suspect there was a hint of that look when Jesus met Peter’s eyes after the rooster crowed the third time) and say, “But what did I say?”
How important was what God said to David? Let’s do a quick survey of Psalm 119 (I urge each of you to do an in-depth study of Psalm 119 with these things in mind – I can’t possibly give all the scriptures, but they are there – if you want a list, send an email and I will email you the list). All of these are in context of God and the things of God.
“Your word” occurs 39 times in Psalm 119. “Law” appears 21 times. “Commanded,” “commandments,” and “command” occur 24 times.
The word “way” as a direction in life or an action appears 15 times. The majority of these refer to God’s way, but David gets that our way and God’s way aren’t always the same, even when we’re committed to that for life.
“Your testimonies” and “testimony” occur 23 times. “Your statutes” appears 19 times. And “Your precepts” occurs 21 times.
“Your judgments” appears 16 times. And “Your ordinances” occurs twice.
It is a very interesting study to look at the Hebrew words for “testimony,” “precept,” “statute,” “ordinance,” and “judgment,” because you get a much better sense of the depths of God’s word that David is talking with God about, both in pleading for understanding, direction, and obedience, and in how much of God’s word is implanted in him.
God’s word was the bottom line for David. God’s laws and God’s way were the laws and way David was determined to obey and go. God Himself, alone, was who David was devoted to, committed to, and loyal to.
The same should be true for us.