*Increasing Your Hunger and Longing for God’s Word (Psalm 119:33-40)*
/Preached by Pastor Phil Layton at Gold Country Baptist Church on November 2, 2008/
About eleven years ago, I was at somewhat of a spiritual low.
Although I’d grown up in a great Christian home, gone to good Christian schools, graduated from one of the best Christian colleges, and attending one of the greatest teaching churches anywhere, church and devotions were just a boring chore and duty.
- I would still try and read the Bible during the week, but it was joyless, passionless; it was more drudgery than delight
- I was struggling with several sins and had little to no appetite for God’s Word and God’s glory, and not surprisingly I had little to no desire to be more involved at church or in any kind of ministry.
- It was a struggle but I didn’t want it to be that way.
- I don’t remember exactly what the turning point was, but I remember praying over and over for God’s help to love Him and His Word more.
I didn’t wait for the feelings to come first, I continued to try to obey what I knew God’s Word said, and as I prayed for my own spiritual state, my feelings and affections for God’s Word began to grow.
- At the same time, my wife and I began getting involved in a Bible study and began getting to know other Christians.
- I started reading good Christian books and began to develop a real appetite for Scripture.
Before long, I just couldn’t get enough – I would spend most of my waking hours in Biblical study, I was addicted to God-centered books and expository studies, and at the same time I was soon asked to teach a lunch-hour Bible study at my work.
- We started getting more involved at church and with different mission trips, and I discovered how thrilling it could be to learn from God’s Word and to teach others what I was learning.
It truly became a delight and passion.
- I was listening to tapes and the few good Christian radio programs, sometimes 10-20 or more sermons in a week.
And soon even that wasn’t enough and I wanted to enroll in Seminary because there was nothing more I’d rather do than spend my entire life mining the riches of God’s Word.
- How did God transform me from a complacent pew-sitter who was just going through the motions?
If you’re in the same boat today, if reading the Bible is a bore or at least a chore for you, and maybe has been for weeks or months or years, how can /you /get beyond that dullness or dryness or deadness?
How can God’s Word become more of a delight than a duty?
How can you increase your hunger and longing for God’s Word?
Psalm 119 has much help for us.
*Psalm 119:33-40 (NASB95) 33 **Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, And I shall observe it to the end.
34 **Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law And keep it with all /my /heart.
35 **Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, For I delight in it.
36 **Incline my heart to Your testimonies And not to /dishonest /gain.
37 **Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, And revive me in Your ways.
*38 **Establish Your word to Your servant, As that which produces reverence for You.
39 **Turn away my reproach which I dread, For Your ordinances are good.
40 **Behold, I long for Your precepts; Revive me through Your righteousness.*
As you know, this is a psalm all about God’s Word, with each verse referring to the Bible by one of many synonyms or titles (commandments, statutes, precepts, ways, ordinances, law, etc.).
In verse 40, the “behold” draws attention to the statement “I /long /for Your precepts.”
This is a psalm of loving and longing for Scripture
20 My soul is *crushed with* *longing* After Your ordinances *at all times.*
131 I opened my mouth wide and *panted*, For *I longed for* Your commandments.
174 I *long for* Your salvation, O Lord, And Your law is my *delight.*
/How did this writer have such a delight and longing for Scripture?
How can we?
Our text today, vs. 33-40, reveals and models 3 ways our hunger and desire for God’s Word can be increased.
Reading God’s Word with Utter Dependence in Prayer, v. 33*
33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes
It’s been suggested that this phrase is the theme of the entire psalm.
As he reads God’s Word he prays in utter dependence on God to teach him, again and again, or in the words of verse 18 to open his eyes to behold the wonderful things in God’s Word.
His love and longing for Scripture was fueled by how he prayed.
John Owen wrote that this psalm recognizes ‘we are not /able of ourselves /to discern [the wonderful things in God’s Word] without divine aid and assistance; for the psalmist, who was wiser than the wisest of us, and who had so earnest a desire after these things, yet would not trust unto his own reason, wisdom, ability, and diligence, for the understanding of them, but betakes himself unto God by prayer, acknowledging therein that it is the /especial work of God by his Spirit to enable us to understand his mind and will as revealed in the Scripture./’
So 10x in this psalm we read the phrase that he prays: “teach me”
12 Blessed are You, O Lord; *Teach me* Your statutes.
26 I have told of my ways, and You have answered me; *Teach me* Your statutes.
In the Hebrew, this utterly dependent prayer for teaching could be translated as “make me be taught” or “cause me to be taught.”
It’s called a causative verb, and the first seven verses of this stanza use causative verbs as the first word in each verse, praying:
37 “Teach me” – literally /Make me ~/ cause me to learn./
v. 34 “Give me understanding” - /Cause me to understand./
v. 35 “Make me walk” (NIV /direct me, /ESV /lead me/)
v. 36 “Incline my heart” - /Make my heart be inclined./
v. 37 “Turn away my eyes” - /Cause my eyes to turn./
Maybe you’ve heard it said that God doesn’t make us do things, won’t cause us to love Him or follow Him or walk after Him, but He wants us to do that of our own volition and will, so that our love will be spontaneous and self-caused and therefore genuine.
But the writer of this psalm trusted in God, not his own heart.
If God didn’t cause these, they wouldn’t happen.
The problem with “free will” of humans is that men freely and willfully choose sin by nature and are not inclined to good unless God’s will and God’s free grace first rescues us from ourselves.
Fallen humans are not as naturally free as they think they are, according to Jesus in John 8; all who sin are slaves to sin, and they’re not truly free, they need to truth to /set them free/, the Son to set them free to be truly free.
This writer wasn’t concerned with his free will being off limits to God’s intervention -- He knew divine intervention was his only hope.
If God didn’t make him walk in the right way (v.
35) his tendency would be to go his own way.
Does God’s causative grace mean we’re robots?
No, it recognizes we’re /rebellious/ at heart in need of changed hearts to be made willing to believe and read the Word.
If God didn’t cause his heart to be inclined, it never would be (v.
If God didn’t open his eyes, they would still be closed (v.
Even as believers we need to pray like this psalm if want to be like this psalmist and be growing in our desires for God’s Word.
In all there are 9 imperatives in 8 vs, which have been described as ‘as channels for passionate pleas, [which] spotlights the disciple’s acute awareness of his total dependence … the directional nature of the verbs and prepositions involved, identifies his consuming burden -- he is in desperate need of Divine guidance’
In honor of Reformation Sunday (and what Martin Luther did on Oct. 31, 1517) I think it’s appropriate to quote the words of Luther, as his theology and attitude was very similar to this psalm: ‘your first duty is to begin to pray, and to pray to this effect that if it please God to accomplish something for His glory—not for yours or any other person’s—He may very graciously grant you a true understanding of His words.
For no master of the divine words exists except the Author of these words, as He says: “They shall be all taught of God” (John 6:45).
You must, therefore, completely despair of your own industry and ability and rely solely on the [illuminating Holy] Spirit.’
And he pointed to Psalm 119:34-37
34 Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law …
35 Make me walk in the path of Your commandments …
36 Incline my heart to Your testimonies …
37 Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, And revive me …
Luther: ‘completely despair of your own [faculties], for by these you will not attain the goal … Rather kneel down in your private little room and with sincere humility and earnestness pray God, through His dear Son, graciously to grant you His Holy Spirit to enlighten and guide you and give you understanding.’
As one biographer summarized Luther’s view: ‘All our study is futile without the work of God overcoming our blindness and hardheartedness.
Luther and Augustine were one on this central issue of the Reformation.
At the heart of Luther’s theology was a total dependence on the freedom of God’s [all-powerful] grace rescuing powerless man from the bondage of the will.
Concerning free will Luther said, “Man has in his own power a freedom of the will to do or not to do external works, regulated by law and punishment [genuine choices made within his nature, but he cannot just change his nature by mere willpower] … On the other hand, man cannot by his own power purify his heart and bring forth godly gifts, such as true repentance of sins, a true, as over against an artificial, fear of God, true faith, sincere love, chastity.…”
In other words, the will is “free” to move our action, but beneath the will there is a bondage that can only be overcome by the free grace of God.
Luther saw this bondage of the will as the root issue in the fight with Rome and regarded this one book of his—/The Bondage of the Will/—as his “best theological book, and the only one in that class worthy of publication.”
… the powerlessness of man before God, not the indulgence controversy or purgatory, was the central question of the Christian faith.
Man is powerless to justify himself, powerless to sanctify himself, powerless to study as he ought ...
This is why prayer is the root of Luther’s approach to studying God’s Word.
Prayer is the echo of the freedom and sufficiency of God in the heart of powerless man … [these prayers in Ps 119 are] how we study, so that God gets the glory and we get the grace.
/It starts with first humbly recognizing our natural inability and #1 Reading Gods Word with Utter Dependence on God as v. 33 shows/
*#2 Heeding God’s Word with the Whole Person (v.
Another word for /heeding/ would be obeying ~/ keeping ~/ observing
33 … And I shall *observe* it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may *observe* Your law And *keep it* [NIV /obey/] with all /my /heart.
35 Make me *walk in the path of Your commandments* …
Praying in utter dependence is not trusting by being passive and inactive; true faith and prayer mobilizes action.
We trust /and /obey.
It’s not enough to be readers of the Word, or as James says, hearers of the Word only, we must be doers of the Word.
Praying is essential and recognizes God’s sovereignty, but our responsibility is equally balanced in this passage.