You never abandon us but keep on sticking close to us, even when we are fickle.
When we go through silent and stubborn phases you keep on persevering with us, communicating with us in ways we can understand. You soften our defences and melt away our excuses. So now, pour your Holy Spirit into us we pray as we open our ears and our hearts to you, to receive with joy your Word of power and hope. May my words come only from you, and our thoughts reflect your moving in our hearts,
We pray in the strong name of Jesus our Saviour,
Let’s be honest with each other now. Do you ever, in spite of your best efforts to stay focused on the work you need to accomplish on your computer or any device, allow yourself to be distracted by those ridiculous yet strangely compelling time wasters lurking on your home screen, just waiting to entice you – see what your favourite child stars look like now, or 18 hilarious true camping disasters, or the truth about Trump’s hair and other trumpisms.
These and other more subtle distractions camp in our mind and threaten to deviate our attention and devotion from the Word of God which fills us with true wisdom. Our dwelling in God’s Word today, from the Psalm which of all psalms most glorifies the Word of God, Psalm 119, and from Jesus’ practical story of the wise and foolish builders found in Matthew chapter 7, encourages us to run from fleeting pleasures and instead to saturate ourselves in the strong and stable Word of God, where wisdom abounds.
Bible Readings – Psalm 119: 97 – 104 & Matthew 7: 24 – 29, read by Claire
Believe it or not, I do try to combat my tendency to be easily distracted. I hope I’m not alone in fact, in needing to harness multiple thoughts which come tumbling in to my mind all at once, or needing to learn to calmly proceed from one task to another without being overwhelmed by the whole range of jobs to be done.
My latest tool in trying to focus my energies and make the main thing the main thing at any given time is to write the words of Jesus to Martha in Luke 10 ,which we explored in term 1, on my heart. Remember how this slice of life unfolded. Jesus and his disciples were walking along the way when they came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’
‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’
Understanding the urgency of Jesus’ message to Martha, and the subsequent untold blessings of sitting at Jesus’ feet and learning from Him alone, I’ve personalised these words for myself, and stuck them on our fridge “Rachel, Rachel, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Focus only on me, and the Kingdom of God.”
Hey, before you judge my playing around with Holy Scripture remember the practical adage “desperate times call for desperate measures!” The stakes are high – deep intimacy with our Father God, or playing in the shallows, risking and gaining nothing of any lasting value.
Psalm 119, described by the Old Testament scholar Derek Kidner as a giant among the Psalms, is a paean of praise of God’s wisdom, an absolute antidote to the pervasive foolishness which masquerades as the norm in our media and milieu. Psalm 119 exalts the Law of the Lord, which has been exalted already right from the beginning of the Psalms in the first two verses of psalm 1.
“Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;
but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.”
Or as the recent modern paraphrase of the Bible, The Voice, published only four years ago, expresses praise for God’s law:
God’s blessings follow you and await you at every turn:
when you don’t follow the advice of those who delight in wicked schemes,
When you avoid sin’s highway,
when judgment and sarcasm beckon you, but you refuse.”
In other words we rise up, as the final words of Isaiah 40 express it, on wings like eagles, when we depend on and immerse ourselves in the all-encompassing wisdom of God’s Law.
On the other hand, when we look only to ourselves or those around us for guidance we easily fall down into foolishness.
Derek Kidner makes the observation that within Psalm 119 of which we’ve read only eight verses of its total 176 verses, there are eight Hebrew words used to describe Scripture, each highlighting a different nuance of God’s Word. In the eight verses we’re looking at this morning we’ve come across four of them:
Law (the term most commonly used in the Psalms for Scripture)
- Commands and
Law, or Torah in Hebrew, comes from a verb meaning to teach or direct. This term can be used both to describe a whole body of law, especially the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, or of the whole of Scripture.
This term ‘law’ reminds us that above all Scripture is to be obeyed, not just enjoyed. It also speaks of the personal, learning relationship with the Law-maker that underpins our obedience as seen in verse 102 “I have not turned aside from your laws (ordinances) for you yourself have taught me.”
The Word (davar) is the most general term used for Scripture meaning all and any of God’s truths, while ‘commands’ emphasise God’s authority stemming from God’s identity as law-giver and life changer. This transformative power of Scripture is demonstrated in verse 98 “your commandments make me wiser then my enemies.”
‘Promises’ is similar to the Word, and comes from the Hebrew verb ‘to say’. This expression for God’s Word speaks to us of God’s faithfulness, and delight in giving joy to those who trust in Him.
The mouth-watering simile in verse 103 compares God’s promises to the taste of honey and honey comes off second best – ‘how sweet are your promises to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
To continue the food imagery, the proof of the pudding is in the eating! How we put God’s promises, law, commands, precepts, Word into practice in our daily lives, how much we trust God for everything, is reflected in our daily lives.
We have the confidence and strength in God not to fall down into foolishness but to rise up on God’s wisdom when we are steeped in Scripture and sure of God’s promises, even when troubles come.
It’s not enough to mouth the right words Jesus tells us in Matthew chapter 7. Christians who thrive in Jesus are recognised by their fruit. So Jesus tells the story of the wise man who naturally put his living words into practice, reminding us also that those who only hear God’s words without letting them become part of our characters and daily lives are in for a crash like a house built on sand.
This life style of practical obedience and embedded godly wisdom is what we want to live out daily in our own lives, but what we also want to demonstrate and pass on to those around us, especially those who are younger so that they too may see the fruit of their faith in Jesus. We want to pass on the good news of Jesus so that lives are radically transformed. The Bible Society helps us do just that, and in this month each year they challenge us to be passers-on of God’s living wisdom so that others may rise and not fall.
Bible Society DVD – ‘Pass it on’
Prayer of Response