Friday: Trials on the Way

Friday: Trials on the Way

Written on 01/10/2020
James Boice

By James Boice

Theme: Living a Godly Life

In this week’s lessons, we look at various trials that befall Christians when we try to live a godly life, and also what our response ought to be as we come before God in prayer.

Scripture: Psalm 119:17-32

As we have already noted, the psalmist prays for four things in order to enable him to live by God's law. In yesterday's study we looked at the prayers to “open my eyes” and to “teach me your decrees.” Today we continue with two more petitions. 

3. "Let me understand the teaching" (v. 27). What does the writer mean when he adds to the petition “Teach me your decrees” in verse 26 the additional words “Let me understand the teaching of your precepts” in verse 27? This could be only one more case of the parallelism that is so major a feature of Hebrew poetry. But it is probably more than this, since the second verse also goes on to speak of meditating on the Bible's wonders. 

In other words, it is concerned with a deep understanding, one that goes beyond a mere understanding of the words to a profound understanding of what they reveal about the nature of God, the gospel and God's ways. 

4. “Keep me from deceitful ways” (v. 29). The last of the psalmist's four requests is that he might be kept from sin, which is what he has been thinking about all along. How? It is by the grace of God, of course. But the verse is more specific than this. It is by the grace of God exercising itself through the written word. Verse 29 makes this point more strongly in the Hebrew text than in English, since the verb translated “be gracious” in our text actually has the sense of “graciously teach," a single word. The full thought is this: If we are to be kept from sin, it must be by the grace of God exercised through the teaching of his Word. “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word” (v. 9). 

We have already seen in the third stanza that although God must be our teacher, there are nevertheless things we need to do: “long for" God's laws (v. 20), “meditate” on his decrees (v. 23), and "delight” in his statutes (v. 24). It is the same as we come to the end of stanza four. Here, in the last three verses, the psalmist indicates by three powerful verbs what else is required if we are to live a godly life. 

1. We must choose the right way (v. 30). Nobody ever just stumbles onto the right path. We can stumble away from it. But if we are going to live for God by learning and obeying his Word, the Bible, we must choose to do so and apply ourselves firmly to the task. The psalmist indicates the nature of his choice when he says, 

I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws. 

2. We must hold God's statutes fast (v. 31). “Hold” is the same word as “laid low" in verse 25. Literally it means to "cleave." In verse 25 the psalmist said he was cleaving to the dust, so great was his humiliation; here he is found cleaving to God's Word. Would this were the case with each of us, that is, that the result of our being greatly abased is that we would likewise be greatly committed to God's Word. We may be struck down, but in our abasement we need to hold the Word high. Indeed, what else is there to do? In times of acute distress there is nothing to cleave to but God and his testimonies. It was said of Moses that he spent forty years in the wilderness learning to be nothing so that he might spend the next forty years proving God to be everything. 

3. We must run the course set before us (v. 32). This fourth stanza began by the psalmist being “laid low.” But here it ends with him running vigorously and freely in God's way. 

Do you see your Christian life as a race to be won? Or do you regard it merely as a casual stroll and follow your Lord apathetically and at a distance? Hebrews 12:1 urges, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Likewise, the Apostle Paul declared, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7,8). 

Study Questions: 

  1. What does the psalmist pray to understand? 
  2. How can the psalmist be kept from sinful ways? 
  3. What does the fourth stanza tell us is required to live a godly life?

Prayer: Pray for a profound understanding of the nature of God. How does knowing better who God is affect both how you think and treat others? 

Key Point: If we are to be kept from sin, it must be by the grace of God exercised through the teaching of his Word. 

For Further Study: To learn about how God’s law produces thankfulness, download for free and listen to John Tweeddale’s message, “The Law Guides Us in Gratitude.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)


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Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.