I have a confession to make today–I am a sweet freak. I can sit down with a tall glass of milk and a bag of Double Stuffed Oreo cookies and suddenly find myself in “Hog Heaven.” It’s not just Double Stuffed Oreos that capture my heart, I get the same euphoria from an oversized Hershey bar, M&M’s, Blue Bell Cookies and Cream, a big slice of chocolate pie, or anything that has chocolate as an ingredient.
I know that there’s not much benefit that comes from my habit of eating sweets. Truth is the benefit is momentary, the long term effect is that I have to watch what I eat and get as much exercise as I can or I’ll pack on the pounds.
There is another sweet that I find more than fulfilling, much more beneficial, and it is the Word of God. In Psalm 19, David wrote that God’s Word is “sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.” That’s not a cerebral statement, that’s a heartfelt, emotional statement coming from someone who has experienced the goodness of the Lord and the reliability of His Word. It comes from the same person who wrote,
8 Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8 NIVO)
There’s no doubt in my mind that most of us would totally and completely agree with David. We know how good the Lord is. We “know” how true, reliable, and relevant God’s Word is for those who are willing to take the time to listen, learn, and apply the counsel God provides for us through His Word. Time and time again studies have shown that most people own a Bible, but few people read and learn God’s Word.
George Barna, in his report “State of the Bible 2017,” found that 87% of people in America own a Bible. Half of Americans are what Barna calls “Bible users,” meaning half of us read or listen to the Bible at least 3-4 times a year. Three to four times a year? Would that really qualify as a “Bible user?” Thirty-three percent of adults say they never read or listen to the Bible, a five percent increase since 2016. Barna found that more than half, fifty-eight percent to be exact, of all adults wish they read the Bible more often. Those who said they wished they read the Bible more were also asked if their Bible reading had increased over the past year? Their answer was, “No,” it was about the same as it was one year ago. In a previous study conducted by the Barna Group they found that only 12% of adults read the Bible every day. Sixty-nine percent did not know that the expression, “God helps those who help themselves” is not in the Bible. Fifty-eight percent did not know who preached the Sermon on the Mount.
I don’t know about you, but those are some disturbing facts for me. They are disturbing for two reasons: One, I hear so many folks talk about their great love for the Lord and their desire to walk with Him and yet most are unwilling to sit at the table and feast upon His Word. Secondly, it is heartbreaking to me because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the people of our community and country today are frantically searching for meaning and purpose in life and yet we are looking in all the wrong places. We’re searching for meaning, but looking in all of the wrong places. We will devour faddish self-help books like they are life-giving manna from heaven. We are unwilling to pull up a chair with three, four, or ten other people who are seeking peace of mind and purpose of heart and dig into the Word of life given by the Author of life. We are willing to seek out every pop-fad-psycho-chic medium, soothsayer, and guru who has a following, but we are unwilling to allow the One who created us to show us the purpose for which He created us.
My greatest desire in all of the years I’ve been here is for each of us to come to know Jesus in an intimate and personal way. Once we come to know Jesus it is crucial for us to get to know the Word of God, to hunger for more and more of His Word. I want to spend our time this morning by focusing on the sweetness of God’s Word and its ability to bring purpose and meaning to each of our lives.
7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. 9 The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. 10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. (Psalm 19:7-10 NIVO)
Isn’t that beautiful?! The end of our search for significance and meaning in life is found in God’s Word. God has set the table with delicious, life-giving, and sustaining nourishment for our souls, but we must decide, we have to make a conscious decision to feast upon His Word. You can’t force feed someone God’s Word and expect them to gain anything from it, they have to desire God’s delicacies. We can and should invite others to sit down with us and study God’s Word, but we will never succeed at drawing anyone into the riches of God’s Word by trying to guilt them or force-feed them God’s Word.
For those who are hungry, for the next few minutes I invite you to dine at the King’s table. In verses 7-10, the Psalmist gives us one statement about how we are to approach God and five statements about the impact of God’s Word on those who will seek to learn and apply it to their lives. Let’s begin with our approach to God. In verse 9 we read,
9 The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. (Psalm 19:9 NIVO)
Most people read the phrase, “The fear of the Lord…” and immediately have a negative reaction. The English word “fear” is used to translate several Hebrew and Greek words. Understanding the “fear of the Lord” really involves two different elements. One, when a person experiences God, the presence of God, then we realize the contrast between us and God is so stark, so unmistakable, and so absolute that it shakes us at our core. In the Bible when folks encountered God they became overwhelmed with a sense of awe and fear. They responded to God’s presence by falling down on their faces or kneeling in reverence and worship, confessing their sin, and seeking God’s will. Isaiah is a great example of this.
Two, the awareness of the holiness and glory of God will translate into a trust in God that leads to a desire to live for God’s glory. The fear of the Lord, the reverence of God, changes people’s lives. The fear of the Lord is not to be confused with the fear a child has for an abusive parent, but it is the reverential awe that arises out of a recognition and submission to our holy God. When our lives are molded and shaped by our reverence and trust in God, and all that He is, then we will seek more than anything else to live as He desires for us to live. The fear of the Lord is rooted in God’s Word. How else are you going to come to know and understand just how holy, gracious, and majestic God is unless you allow God to reveal Himself to you?
Let’s go on to take a look at the benefits of God’s Word for those who will humble themselves before God and allow His Word to shape their lives. There are five different statements which are listed by the Psalmist in the verses we are looking at this morning. The five statements that can be learned and applied to every aspect of life to bring hope, direction, purpose, and meaning to all of life. In verse 7, the Psalmist writes,
7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. (Psalm 19:7 NIVO)
The Hebrew word that is translated “teachings,” the word, “torah,” can also mean, “direction or instruction.” God’s teachings and instruction is perfect. There are no faulty directions given by God. When God’s directions are followed there are no “Dead End” signs at the end of the road. His teachings are perfect.
Many years ago, when our kids were young, we went to Colorado on our summer vacation. I had heard about a huge maze people could try to navigate. The hedges were so tall you couldn’t see around the next corner. A person could have easily gotten lost for days. There was a really tall platform that hung over the maze for those who wanted to watch or help a friend navigate the maze.
Dan and Nate decided they wanted to go through the maze so Connie, Annie, and I went up on the platform. When the boys entered the maze we were standing where we could see where they needed to go and what turns they needed to make. They would look up at us and we would say, “Turn left, go back around that corner, now make a right.” We led Dan and Nate through the maze. Our direction was good. Our instruction helped the boys make it out of the maze in relatively little time when, if left on their own, they could have spent days in the huge outdoor maze.
As big as that maze was and as good as our intentions were in giving good instructions, sometimes we gave bad advice which led the boys into a dead end, or back to an area where they had already been before. As big and tough as the maze was it doesn’t even begin to compare to the this huge maze called life that each of us are trying to navigate. My friend, as smart as you are, as insightful as you may be, as intuitive as you are — you can’t navigate the maze of life on your own. As much as you may love your children, as much as you may love your husband, wife, mother, father, or next door neighbor — your advice, if it comes solely from your wit and wisdom, will sometimes lead them into dead-ends or worse. You would never mean to do that to those you love, but you don’t have God’s perspective on life and what is best for His people. God’s teachings, His instruction, is perfect and they will give you new strength when the maze of life messes with your mind and when others want to steer you in directions which they feel would be good for you, but which in reality would only lead to heartache and frustration.
The second statement the Psalmist gives us concerning the beauty and benefits of God’s Word for our lives is found in the end of verse 7, where he writes, “The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” (Psalm 19:7b NIVO) The Hebrew word which is translated “statutes” literally means “testimony” and it was used as a descriptive term for the Ten Commandments. God’s testimony to us is direction and guidance concerning how we should live. The Psalmist says that God’s testimony of how we should live can be trusted.
Trust is a big deal isn’t it? Because of trust a child will jump off of a diving board into the arms of his dad waiting in the water below. Because of trust people invested their life savings with Bernie Madoff and were taken to the cleaners. Because of trust husbands and wives pledge to love each other for the rest of their life. Because of trust people use credit to pay for what they desire and oftentimes those who provide the goods never receive what is due to them. Trust is a big deal. If I know that you are a person of your word, that what you say is true and right, just and righteous, then I know that I can take you at your word. On the other hand, if I have believed you in the past only to find out later that you took advantage of me, then I can’t trust what you have to say.
Trying to determine who to trust and who not to trust, what advice to trust and what advice to dismiss is tough isn’t it? I’ll tell you who you can trust for wise counsel, for sound advice, and for guidance which will lead you through life, you can trust God. God’s testimony of the way we should live can be trusted.
I love the last part of the sentence where the Psalmist says God’s Word has the ability to make the simple wise. The Hebrew word for “simple,” really means “simple-minded, lacking discernment and understanding.” The lack of discernment and understanding on the part of the person is made up by the wisdom and direction given by God.
I heard it said one time, “We are all ignorant, it is only a matter of which field.” That statement is so true. With the explosion of information on the internet it is becoming more and more apparent that we won’t be able to live long enough to learn all that there is to learn out there in this big, ol’ world. You may be an expert in the field of architecture, construction, medicine, child-rearing, education, or finance, but are you an expert in all of these areas? Even if you were an expert in all of these subjects, what about the thousands of fields I failed to mention? What do you know about astrophysics, music theory, archeology, zoology, linguistics, auto mechanics, electronics, computer engineering, agriculture, ethics, astronomy, etc? It’s a big, big world folks and I have a feeling the statement is absolutely right — “We are all ignorant, it is only a matter of which field.”
“The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” When it comes to pleasing God, to living an upright, righteous life of following the guidance God has set forth for us, brain cells don’t give us an inside track. God’s rules make plain, ordinary, everyday folks wiser than the resident philosopher in the university who thinks he understands all there is to know.
We see this truth demonstrated before our eyes every day. Whenever there is a moral question being debated in our society the media always rushes to some “pointy head” who has a Ph.D. in some related field for his or her “take” on the debate. Some of the things which come out of these folks mouths concerning what we should do or what we should believe is beyond me. “If your marriage is in trouble have an affair, it will add a new spark to your love life with your mate.” “If your six year old son wants to wear his sister’s dress or his mom’s heels, then you have to consider that he is suffering from gender dysphoria and you might want to consider hormone suppression treatments.” We seem to be having a new discussion every week about some new lifestyle that has suddenly grabbed the headlines. We see law professors discuss the constitutionality of the debates, we hear ethics professors speak of our “rights,” but I would love to have Rachel Maddow, Don Lemon, or Tucker Carlson go to Duncan, to some little church where there is a sweet grandma who has walked with God all her life and ask her the same questions. I have a feeling the godly wisdom of the little grandma would shine like a diamond in the sun! God’s guidance given through His teaching makes the simple wise. The third statement given by the Psalmist says,
8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. (Psalm 19:8 NIVO)
The word which is used in this verse for “precepts” is used in the context of an overseer appointing or assigning responsibilities to those under his charge. The assignments of the Lord are given to us to bless us and cause us to be a blessing to others. The Psalmist says that they are “right.”
If you and I will listen attentively, keep our hearts open to the Lord’s leadership, follow His orders, and seek to be obedient to His assignments given to us, we will find that our obedience will result in our maintaining a right relationship with God and with other people. We will speak the truth and we will live to the best of our ability by God’s standard of honesty, integrity, and grace.
Our following the Lord’s precepts will never leave us in the dark, searching for some kind of purpose or meaning in what we are doing. Following the Lord’s precepts and seeking to fulfill the assignments He gives to us, will, as one translator has said, “result in rejoicing in our hearts.”
We see lots of outer appearances of happiness or joy today. People gathered in crowds at parties or at social events with smiles and laughter filling the room, but what happens when they go home? Those get-togethers characterized by laughter and smiles, for many people, are momentary lapses from the despondency and depression they normally experience. Outer appearances don’t carry much weight do they? What God’s Word promises us is that if we will yield our lives to God’s assignments for our lives then we will experience something much deeper than momentary get-togethers filled with laughter; we will experience joy in the depths of our heart.
I am convinced that we as people are on a mission for meaning, to be able to feel like what we are doing and who we are really matters, but we don’t know where to find that kind of deep purpose. We search high and low, exploring every possible option offered by society, but none of them work for any amount of time. The reason they don’t work is because our meaning, purpose, and fulfillment rest in following God’s leadership and design for our lives, not what our hearts desire.
The fourth statement given to us by the Psalmist concerning the benefits of heeding God’s Word is, “The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes” (Psalm 19:8 NIVO). The Hebrew word translated, “radiant,” literally means, “pure, clear.” Following God’s commands given to us will never lead to our living an impure life. There is nothing impure or profane in God’s commands.
I love the last part of the phrase which tells us that God’s commands, “Giving light to the eyes.” I don’t believe that it is a stretch for us to be willing to admit that left to our own devices we can easily lose our way. We see examples of this type of living all around us. The young couple who was madly, deeply in love with one another, years later look upon their marriage with scorn, wondering what they were thinking when they said, “I do,” and thinking to themselves, while screaming at each other, –I can’t do this anymore!” The young person who leaves that period of life where things are relatively care-free and begins to have to make decisions about their life can be overwhelmed with the decisions that are before them. The corporate executive who nears retirement and wonders what he or she will do with the rest of their life. All of these folks need the light of God’s Word to illuminate their path and show them the way.
It is only the Word of God illuminated by the Spirit of God that can show us the way in life my friends. God’s “light” shining upon the darkness of our hearts and lighting our path is a constant theme throughout the Bible. Take a look at these illustrations of what I am talking about.
28 You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. (Psalm 18:28 NIVO)
3 Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell. (Psalm 43:3 NIVO)
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105 NIVO)
23 For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life, (Proverbs 6:23 NIVO)
There is nothing more scary than being caught in a situation where there is absolutely no light and our surroundings are totally unfamiliar to us. Where do we go? Which way do we turn? Your guess is as good as mine, but the bottom line is that we simply don’t know what to do. Life is much the same way. What are we to do? There are those that God has placed in our life who will point us in different directions, directions which they think will benefit us throughout life, but there is only one who will never lead us astray.
The fifth and final phrase which speaks to us of the benefits of God’s Word is found in verse 9 where the Psalmist writes, “The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous” (Psalm 19:9 NIVO). It was the job of the judges who exercised their office in Israel to decide controversies and to issue decisions which would bring justice in all areas of life for the society — religious and civil life. If you will study the Bible you will find that it was of special importance that the judges defend the powerless in society — the widows, orphans, strangers, and impoverished. When the judges exercised their official duties in the light of God’s judgments, seeking His counsel, their judgments were always true and right. The people may not have liked them or agreed with them, but their judgments were right and true in the sight of God.
We can easily see what happens when God’s judgments are cast aside and we are left to our own wisdom and intellect to judge between what is right and wrong when controversies and disagreements arise, when laws are broken and people are violated. In our society today justice often comes not from seeking the heart of God to determine what He would judge to be right and true, but justice is determined by who has the best, most prized attorney, who can persuade the jury, or who has the most money. The Psalmist says that God’s judgments are true, they are completely right. There is not a hint of partiality or prejudice in God’s judgments handed down to us.
How valuable are God’s teachings, commands, orders, instruction, and judgements to you and me? The Psalmist tells us, 10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. (Psalm 19:10 NIVO) The most precious metal in all of ancient Israel was gold, especially the finest, most refined gold. Pure, refined gold represented great wealth, and the power that went along with it. Our day is no different. The old saying, “He who holds the gold rules” still holds true in this life, but this life is not all there is my friend. The Psalmist was wise, much wiser than most of the so-called experts of our day, in that he understood that a person can own all of the gold in the world, even the purest gold, and yet be poverty-stricken when it came to knowing God.
The wealth of this world is much like the sweet delights we are so accustomed to feasting upon — it satisfies momentarily, but it holds no lasting value for our souls. The Psalmist says that God’s teaching, God’s Word is, “sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.” A person can have all the sweets their heart desires, and still starve to death for guidance which brings lasting purpose and meaning to their souls.
I would be doing you and me an injustice if I stopped at this point without asking, “What are you feeding upon?” Are you scurrying about trying to fill your life with all the material sweets this world has to offer or are you feasting daily on God’s good Word which will bring you life, abundant life, purpose for living, and meaning in the midst of madness. Are you so involved with lining your pockets with cash that you have no time to fill your heart with God’s Word? Are you taking the time to daily dine at the table of our King who invites you to feed upon His Word and reap the benefits of godly wisdom, holy counsel, and divine teaching?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
Oklahoma City, OK. 73114
September 2, 2018