Victor Lyons, pastor
Second Memorial Baptist Church, Perry
Ancient Greek writings extoll courage as the greatest virtue. Nevertheless, Jewish and Christians writers saw the origin of courage not in and of itself but as a consequence of their faith. David’s courage before Goliath is revealed to King Saul: “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37 ESV). David’s courage is born of his faith.
The courage of Peter and John came from their faith in Christ as the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin discovered. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13 ESV).
A life dedicated to the principles of God’s Word demands moral courage. Brueggemann and Bellinger have called Psalm 119 an “alternative to self-destructive autonomy of today’s consumer society … a fast money-chasing society that has lost its way in brutality, vulgarity, and abuse” (Psalms, 2014, 521).
God’s Word keeps me focused when I don’t belong – Psalm 119:17-20
Verses 17-20 leads us deeper into the personal struggles of the Psalmist. Caught between two realities – that of God’s law and the lifestyle advocated and the hostility of the people around him, he feels a sense of estrangement, of not belonging (v.19). Like someone driven from their home, he is an exile, an alien, a foreigner, a stranger. Yet he is also God’s servant (v. 17), humble before his patron, God Himself. Later Paul would echo this sentiment as a “servant of Christ Jesus” (Rom. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Titus 1:1 servant of God).
Certainly Abraham understood the concept of being a stranger. Hebrews 11:8-10 details that experience as Abraham’s relationship with God entails his call to travel to “a land of promise.” Like Abraham, we are pilgrims and we look for “the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (ESV).
Peter, writing to the Jewish-Christian exiles, challenged them to a lifestyle consistent with Christ (1 Peter 1:17; 13-21; 2:11-12). Whether exile or citizen, the Christian may feel estranged from the culture, especially if it is hostile to moral standards. Certainly the call “You shall be holy, for I am holy!” has never been more relevant than today (1 Peter 1:16 ESV).
“Open my eyes, that I may perceive the wonders of Your teaching” (TANAKH, v. 18). Another says “miracle-wonders” (The Message). The Psalmist may be speaking of the “wonderful acts of Yahweh in judgment and redemption” (Briggs, 421.) God’s Word includes recounting Jewish deliverance from Egypt and how he sustained the Hebrews during the wilderness experience (John Goldingay, Psalms, Vol. 3, Psalms 90-150, 389-390).
The miraculous should not be shelved alongside of ancient languages no longer spoken or civilizations long since died out. When God’s Word is read and applied in the lives of a married couple, miracles begin to happen as they witness the nature of godly love and experience the positives of a life-time relationship.
When we say the word “miraculous” it is not a call to host a television program, speak of the odd, or highlight a holy elite with a secret connection to the Lord that can be of benefit to all those who send money – “sow a seed.” No doubt we should support biblically-sound Christian ministries. However, the miraculous cannot be monopolized by a few. It is in the words of Peter at Pentecost it is a gift to “your sons and your daughters … young men and old men. male servants and female servants” (Acts 2:17-18 ESV).
Freedom from a drug addiction, the reconciliation of a parent and child, and the opportunity of a job – all these and more can be God’s miraculous hand. The flamboyant is not necessarily the way of the miraculous. Paul told the Thessalonians to “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands” (1 Thess. 4:11); and Timothy to “lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim, 2:2; Rom. 12:18 “live peaceably with all”).
God’s Word keeps me focused when I face opposition – Psalm 119:21-22
Taunts, abuse, humiliations, even violence – these form part of the history of the Psalmist as it formed a part of Jewish history. We recall the hostility of the Pharaoh at the Red Sea, the hostility of Canaanite kings, and the hostility toward the exiles returning to rebuild the temple (Nehemiah 4).
“Reproach and contempt are conceived as garments clothing the Psalmist” (Briggs, 421).
Hostility is not confined to the Jews. In John’s gospel the word “love” jumps out from almost every page; however, we hear these honest words of Jesus: “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (17:14-17 ESV).
God’s Word keeps me focused on His perspective – Psalm 119:23-24
Where is your focus in life?
Clinical surveys have consistently shown that for most (1) being loved, (2) being healthy, and (3) having a high paying job are the most important wants of today.
Where does God’s Word fit in?
Live it Out
Reading God’s Word inspires us to let God work freely and miraculously in our lives.
Facing opposition to Christ is inevitable but we can be prepared for spiritual battle by having the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20).
Cultural warfare is not new but we know that Christ will ultimately be the victor!