PSALMS 119:1–176 and EPHESIANS 4:1–32
The longest of the Psalms has one of the most potent of messages. It has been such an inspiration to me through the years ever since the Psalms were taught in our church back in 1983-84. This Psalm stood out more than most others not because it is the longest but rather for a most unusual reason. My pastor opened the teaching of Psalm 119 by asking the following question. Which of the 176 verses does not have at least one of the following words mentioned in them? He then went on to list 10 words which are synonymous. They are as follows:
9. Righteousness and
My good friend Clay Bannister randomly picked a number and said vs 122. He was right and he was only guessing. There are many other reasons why I find this Psalm so appealing. It more than likely was penned by Ezra the priest, my all-time favourite Bible Character. Ezra was a priest who was schooled in God’s Law and had an ability to teach the law with power and conviction. I feel he typifies the manner of man and ministry that needs to emerge and come forth in our day. Perhaps the best way to approach this long Psalm is to break it down into its 22 stanzas. Each stanza has 8 verses and each one of the stanzas carries its own theme. You will quickly discover the great love that the presumed writer (Ezra) had for the Law and commandments of God.
1) vs 1-8 The first stanza speaks of the blessing that comes upon those who keep the commandments of the Lord. There is no defilement among this group which can be likened to Daniel and his friends (Dan 1:8). The first two verses serves as a great foundation in the going forth of studying this Psalm. It is to those who walk in the Law of the Lord. It is to those who seek Him with their whole heart. This of course was reflective of David in his walk with God. If this is our pattern we will steer clear of those who do iniquity. It will keep us clear from people who could lead us astray (vs 3). There is a diligence required in keeping God’s precepts. It needs to be intentional and not something passive. This was the way Ezra fashioned his ministry.
Ezr 7:10 For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.
In verse 7 the Psalmist puts an emphasis on worshipping the Lord with uprightness of heart. It is not enough to have anointed music it is critical to have a heart that worships in spirit and truth. He goes on to declare that he will determine to keep the Lord’s statutes.
2) vs 9-16 The question is asked; how can a young man cleanse his way or to be preserved in an evil environment? The answer is threaded in the next several verses of this stanza. It is the keeping of God’s law and having it established upon the heart. This is another example of the new Covenant. It is God’s intention that His law be written upon the tables of our heart.
3) vs 17-24 We see an appeal here for the hidden manna, the hidden truths of God. It is a prayer where the eyes of the people are opened. God gives revelation in accordance with the love people have for truth. We all want to have prophetic gifting’s for the purpose of speaking into lives as well as seeing events through the eyes of God. This is natural and it is to be pursued. The question is whether one has a love for truth. How do they respond to truth? We tend to be short-sighted in our approach to God; we want to serve Him on our terms and not pay the price for true revelation. The Law of God, if embraced helps to pave the way for the Spirit of God to impart more truth. The Word of God helps to bring enlightenment and counsel to those who seek after it. The invitation is afforded to all who seek to come into the holiest of all and partake of the treasure of hidden manna
4) vs 25-32 The psalmist here is going through great struggles and spiritual opposition. If this is Ezra he certainly would have known such battles. The enemy hates the message of Restoration and he will greatly oppose anyone who seeks to bear its message. It takes a person of character and inner grace to stand against such a foe. Ezra was such a man; his preparation of heart and love for truth not only sustained him but enabled him to continue marching forward. Notice the approach the teacher takes in verse 29 in seeking to have any elements of lying ways removed from him. He then balances his request to God by being granted the Law graciously. He openly declares that he has chosen the way of His truth and judgment. This helps him to stand strong in the midst of great opposition. How would we fare in such a battle? We live in a day where there is no longer any room for middle ground. Let us be like the Psalmist by choosing this day whom we will serve (Jos 24:15).
5) vs 33-40 There is a concern on being drawn and enticed with worldly vanities. To prevent this from happening the Psalmist cries out for the ability to be kept in straight paths (vs 35). In addition, he cries out for the establishing of God’s Word within him. Do we truly appreciate the power that resides in God’s Word? It has the ability as a sharp two-edged sword to get to the core of our being. It is a decision that only we can make. It again comes down to what we do with Truth. The psalmist had a cry to be delivered and set free from reproach. He concludes this portion by reminding the Lord in how he has longed after His precepts. He longs to be filled with His righteousness.
6) vs 41-48 One of the key verses in this portion is verse 46. The Psalmist speaks of sharing his testimony before kings. Ezra did this before King Artaxerxes and in doing so came into great favor. This is the blessing of the Lord. The Lord seems to allow favor to come upon His own before powerfully based secular leaders. The two primary restorers (Ezra and Nehemiah) both found favor with God and man and in their case it was with a king. This king (Artaxerxes) helped to facilitate the work of God. I do feel this will be one of the anointing’s that will characterize the last day church. Let’s believe for the Lord’s blessing and favor.
7) vs 49-56 Here again the Psalmist is going through a time of difficulty but he speaks of the comfort the Lord is able to bring in his season of affliction. One of the areas of testing will be from the proud and arrogant ones (vs 51). Still, he holds steady and magnifies the Law throughout. This sounds much like David as he went through his years of fleeing from Saul. He also resorted to the Law and its ability to forgive and heal after his sin. David loved the Law of God and saw it as something far more precious than gold (Psa 19:7-10).
8) vs 57-64 There are times when the saints of God will go through tribulations. At such times we need to cry out for the mercies of the Lord (vs 58). The Psalmist responded quickly when God spoke; he did not delay or miss opportunities. This is one of the keys to the success of Abraham and why he came to be known as the father of the faith. He heard and obeyed; the result was the giving of many great promises in addition to the establishment of the covenant. In verse 61 we see God’s own being robbed and abused yet still being able to hold steady. This is where many people give up or allow room for bitterness to creep in. The keeping of God’s Law and statutes help to bring a true perspective to our situations. It shines a light on the tactics of the enemy which them helps us in being more effective with our prayers. The enemy is strong when hidden and not easily discerned; the Law of God helps to shine the light.
9) vs 65-72 The psalmist shares something similar to what David said in Psalm 19. He had a love for the Law of the Lord more than for gold or silver. This is an area that all priests of God seem to get tested on. Which is more valuable; the riches of this world or the riches of God’s truth and Law? We know the theological answer but what is the reality. The man bestowed with wisdom above all others opted for the vanities of the world. Ezra, the presumed psalmist would no doubt be aware of this and sought to not fall into the same trap. It is a trap that many still fall into today. Do we really want to reign as kings? Perhaps then we should revisit the law for kings that the Lord gave to Moses long before Israel had their first one.
Deu 17:14 When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me;
Deu 17:15 Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.
Deu 17:16 But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.
Deu 17:17 Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.
Deu 17:18 And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites:
Deu 17:19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:
The above is a rather long scripture passage but it is worth reading and rereading. I somehow sense that Ezra, as a lawgiver was well acquainted with these words. He understood the blessing of being afflicted seeing that it helped to keep him humble and in check.
10) vs 73-80 The righteous will rejoice when the work of the Lord is accomplished in one’s life. This series of verses could certainly apply to someone like Joseph who endured many years in prison due to being falsely accused. Such a person has the ability to see God as being sovereign; to trust that God is somehow working good through a most difficult trial. The Psalmist knew and understood that the judgements of the Lord were right. It again reflects what David prayed in Psalm 19:7-10. David was not just echoing the blessings of the Law in those verses but he also touted God’s statutes, His judgements, His commandments, His testimonies and the Fear of the Lord. Since the Psalmist had ability in delighting in the Law of the Lord he then came to know of His mercies in a greater way. It is a choice and one that the Lord highly esteems.
11) vs 81-88 There are times when our battles seem to go on indefinitely. How do we manage during such periods? How does a saint endure? There are times when it seems as if God is silent and not to be found. There are those who love God and His ways yet face a period of barrenness. This only intensifies ones hunger for God and they press on with more fervency. The Psalmist then utters similar words to those words written in Psalm 73. He too wondered why the wicked seemed to prevail. He came to understand and see the big picture when he entered into the sanctuary (Psa 73:17). The proud and wicked here seem to have the ascendancy with impunity. How difficult it is to witness such things while trying to live an upright life. The Psalmist continually declared God’s ability through His Law and precepts to uphold him no matter how consuming the enemy became. He closes with a quick prayer for a quickening which will help him to keep and maintain His commandments.
12) vs 89-96 We see the power of creation in this opening verse. It is the Word of God that framed the worlds and it’s His Word that upholds it. His Word is not limited by the earthy seeing that it originates from heaven. He sees God as faithful throughout all generations. What an attribute “faithfulness” truly is. It is a quality we in turn should seek to emulate. We see the order of creation in verse 91 and how all of it obeys Him. In fact, His creation is servant to God. If this is true of His creation it can be then said of us as well. What sustains the psalmist in verse 92? It is his delight in the Law of God; His law helps to bring perspective and allow him to not give up. One of the strengths of Ezra was his ability to revert back to the Law of Moses and meditate upon it. Do we spend time studying and looking into His Word? It proved to be a resource that Ezra was able to continually draw from. Today, it needs to be our daily meat.
13) vs 97-104 There is a lesson concerning how a student may one day surpass his or her teacher in things relating to the kingdom. This is a true concept with God. It should be the goal of any good teacher to desire that his students surpass them. Are we secured enough for this or do we look wearily upon the young people allowing for an invisible barrier or wall to exist. The first verse of this 13th stanza goes a long way in defining fruitfulness. It in ever increasing love for God’s Word and His Law being written upon the fleshy tables of our heart. Each generation should seek to build upon the previous one. An up and coming generation should be pursuing all that God has for them. How can such generations even think to excel and surpass their older counterparts? It is to learn from the mistakes of those who have gone before them. If we can learn some of the lessons that we and our fathers have made it would prove so helpful to the younger ones. They can by-pass certain judgements by taking note from their father’s example. In verse 103 we get a sense and taste of the Goodness of God’s Word. It is likened to honey in the mouth and words to the taste. The Book of Revelation also adds that when it is assimilated into the belly it can become bitter. In vs 104 the Psalmist makes the statement that through the precepts of God he received understanding. This is the fruit of embracing God’s law, his Truth and ways. It also helps to create a disdain for lies and corruption.
14) vs 105-112 One of the most recognized of all scriptures in found in verse 105. The Word of God is to serve like a lamp that shines upon the path in which we walk. So many today, even people of older age do not really know where they are going. They oftentimes struggle with identity issues just as many younger people do. This verse can be likened to Pro 4:18 that speaks about the path of the just being as it were a shining light. Oftentimes, the immediate steps before us are unclear and murky. As we embrace and study the Word we soon find light coming into the picture. It is the light that shine on one’s path or a light that can shine within one’s life. The Word, the Law and the Truth can allow for a viewpoint not often seen. In the time of great despair the Psalmist still does not forget the Lord. There are several recurring statements throughout this Psalm but you can see how rich he is in his writing and how he reflects on that which truly matters. In verse 112 he speaks of having a hearing heart; one that is tender before the Lord which will help ensure that we be not a Demas type believer that forsakes the way in the end due to his attachment to the world (2 Tim 4:10).
15) vs 113-120 The thought life is brought to light in this particular stanza. We need to be well aware of the enemy’s ability to attack in this area of our life. It requires a discipline to keep our minds focused and harnessed towards the things of God. The thoughts we think and meditate upon will determine the kind of person we become. If we can learn to think upon the good things, the Laws and the commandments of God it will help to ensure stability and strength. In verse 117 we see the intensity of the battle increasing; it appears that the legs are about to go out from under the warrior. It is at such times when we need to cry out to the Lord for His help and sustaining power. He is there! There is then the sobering warning of departing off the path and giving ears to other doctrines (vs 118). This helps to produce a reverence and holy fear within the writer. This is consistent with a person who constantly exults the Laws, ways and statutes of God.
16) vs 121-128 The Psalmist is asking of the Lord for understanding from his Word. There will be storms in our life and it’s so important to have a rudder that can effectively navigate through those great waters. Understanding can be defined as knowing the “why” of a matter. It is a tremendous strength because it helps us to see and know why certain things are happening. In verse 126 we see a deteriorating condition where the Law of God is forsaken and removed. The result is a state of lawlessness that seems to give the enemy the upper hand. It is often at such times when God begins to stir afresh. It is often accompanied by a people who persist in prayer. This group of people are those who come to love the things that God loves and hates that which He hates (vs 128, Psa 45:7).
17) vs 129-136 If we walk in the light as He is in the light… is an appropriate opening to this stanza (1 John 1:7). The Word of God when appropriated and received allows for light to radiate within and without. Just think about turning on a flashlight in the midst of darkness. The darkness is immediately dispelled. This really gives the picture of what happens when the light of God’s Word shines forth. We want to allow for an abundant entrance of His Word. If so we better get ready for some revelation of what might lurk within us. This is often the reason why the Word of God is shunned or diminished. We do not like to have to deal with Truth (Rom 1:28). There is a beautiful prayer seen in verse 133 where the Psalmist asks the Lord to order His steps. This is a worthy prayer since it helps to keep iniquity at bay. We are putting our trust in the Lord as opposed to ourselves. God honours such a prayer and we would do well to pray accordingly.
18) vs 137-144 In the last days we see two streams emerging from the church. One is a bit murky that only gets more unclean. There is another stream that is righteous which then becomes even more righteous (Rev 22:11). This is the stream that makes glad the city of God. Jesus spoke this as a Beatitude where he mentions that we are to hunger and thirst after righteousness. What is the result? We are filled and satisfied with His goodness. What do we have an appetite for? Is it for the things of God or for the things of the world? There is a clear contrast in this stanza between the righteous and those who have forgotten these treasures of God. This contrast can be likened to the two groups of congregations in the days of Moses. You have Aaron’s congregation who established their church on man’s terms as opposed to Moses and His ministry which was based on God and His Laws. The two streams exist today.
19) vs 145-152 The Psalmist is putting forth a whole hearted prayer that God would help him to keep His commandments. This prayer of desperation is healthy because it keeps our reliance upon His grace and enabling power of the Holy Spirit. We are in great danger if we somehow feel to be immune from the wiles of the devil. It takes the grace of God to fulfil his Laws and have them etched upon our heart. Let us not be overwhelmed to the standards that God is calling us to keep but let us rather be those who trust in God’s ability to keep and to fulfil His law.
20) vs 153-160 There will be great persecutions in the church. Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Tim 3:12 that this would be the case. There is an enemy who hates the things of God as well as hating those who serve on His behalf. This must be understood and prepared for. We must also be aware that God is well able to deliver those who are in such places. The battles are going to greatly intensify as the last days draw closer and we better be prepared for it. In the midst of these great battles we are to never forget the tender mercies of the Lord. In fact, we should continually sing of them every morning. Let it be a habit that becomes part and parcel of who we are. It is a conditioning that strengthens and prepares us to not only survive but to thrive in the day of adversity.
21) vs 161-168 One of the verses we taught our orphan girls in our India years was Pro 4:23. If you were to ask any of them today to answer the question as to what verse we emphasized they would all know the answer. We are to guard our heart with all diligence. We need to be like Jeremiah who came to the place of not trusting his own heart (Jer 17:9). This would only make sense in seeing that God is looking for us to be New Covenant Believers. The power of the New Covenant is its ability to get to the root of where all sin originates. May we learn to give and yield our whole heart to the Lord as David did; to do as Ezra did in preparing his heart to seek the Law of the Lord (Ezr 7:10). He not only sought it but he taught it and did it. This is why it seems clear that he is the author of this beautiful Psalm.
22) vs 169-176 In this last stanza we see the Psalmist sharing a verse where he has gone astray from following the Lord. In fact this is the last verse but it serves as a reminder how prone man is to turn aside. Several of the great men of God in the Old Testament had it happen to them. I feel it is good to link the Law of Kings from Deu 17:14-19 to this Psalm because it almost seems like that is what Ezra was doing. He was not about to make the same mistakes that all the others made. It is also important for us to understand that we are called to become kings and priests. In order to effectively reign as a king we must be well acquainted with the priestly attributes of the Lord. This is the problem in much of Christianity today. Everyone wants to be a king without the qualifications and realities of the cost of being a priest. In the millennium to come we see that it is the priest that helps set the stage for millennial rule.
Rev 20:6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
Ezra was a priest and in this Psalm he is providing many insights and keys that helps to prepare the church of the last days; the days that we are about to enter into.
Paul goes back to the theme of knowing who we are in Christ. The balance of this letter will now focus on the practical side of Christianity; how to live as Christ would desire us to live. He also states his position as a prisoner of the Lord, not of Rome. This was a message he wanted to get across to all his hearers. God is sovereign and is above all things. He recognized that it was the will of God for him to be in a prison; something that the rational mind has difficulty reconciling. He then speaks of the power of doing so with “lowliness of mind, meekness, longsuffering and forbearance.” He speaks the same message to the Colossian Church in Col 3:12-15. He likens these attributes to garments that can be put on in a “practical” sense. Does this measure up with the way the world would do things? What is lowliness and what is its benefit to a believer? It is to know who we are in Christ, to have our identity in Him. In doing so we esteem others more than ourselves. It is an attitude that results in humility. The fruit of meekness is the ability to see God at work in all situations. It requires a yielding of our rights and not always trying to vindicate or justify ourselves. The fruits of long-suffering and forbearance help to identify with the needs of others much of which Paul was doing over the church of Ephesus. A person who is meek for example is one who has control over his own spirit; the ability to project a correct attitude in every situation.
In verse 3 Paul speaks to the thought of endeavouring to keep and promote the unity of the Spirit. This is not an easy thing to do but it is essential. A person who has this quality oftentimes has to stand in between two opposing entities. That person gets crushed in trying to maintain a semblance of harmony between the parties. Jesus is our peace offering that has broken down every wall of partition that has separated God from man. These are costly qualities but ever so needful ones.
One of the primary themes emerging from this chapter is the thought of unity. There is a unity of the brethren where all men dwell together in oneness under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (Psa 133). There is also a unity of the faith that brings all believers together as one. Paul highlights seven of these aspects in verses 4-6 (One body, One Spirit, One Hope, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God and father of all). It is God who has given the gift of Christ to all men. There is a measure of grace that God has apportioned to each and every man as a result of his dying and rising from the dead. As we endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit we come to know who we are in Christ. This sense of identity will be accompanied by grace that enables us to flow in the purposes of God. Remember, it begins with lowliness, meekness forbearance and long-suffering. These qualities do not make allowance for the flesh nor is it self-serving. These qualities help pave the way for the Spirit of God to flow in His fullness. The foundation has now been laid for the introduction of the next important subject.
The subject of the 5-fold ministry is now presented in verse 11. These are ministry gifts that cannot be claimed or presumed. Sadly, this is exactly what is happening in much of today’s church world. The titles of prophets, teachers and apostles are given out at random. This is unfortunate because it only serves to diminish their true function to the body of Christ. It also cheapens the cost and price that such an office entails. Paul had to deal with this on a consistent basis. He claimed himself to be an apostle not for the purpose of boasting but to contrast himself with those who were making similar claims. He knew his calling and he knew the price involved for making such a claim. We saw this in his approach to the Galatian church. He was not looking to prop himself up but rather expose the danger of the Judaizers and their teaching. What is the purpose of the 5-fold ministry? It is for the perfecting of the saints, the working of the ministry and for the edifying of the Body of Christ. God is calling the church to perfection. Paul was looking for the church to come to maturity and to maximize its potential. It is accomplished when the Spirit of God has free reign to work within a body of believers.
Paul is laying a systematic approach in chapter 4. It began with a mind-set of lowliness of mind and other godly attributes. This paved the way for the Holy Spirit to begin to work in His fullness. It is then when the 5-fold ministry gifts come into effect. Once the 5-fold ministry offices are in order the church is positioned to go onward towards perfection. It does not happen by presuming an office; it is God appointed. These office gifts require qualifications and a price that needs to be paid. A true prophet pays a very high price in order to be a clear channel of God’s voice, yet how many glibly make the claim today of calling themselves prophets?
The flow continues in verse 13 when Paul speaks on the unity of the faith. The key here is that the Holy Spirit has to be the one leading in order to come into the unity of the faith. If He is leading then we can be assured we are of the same doctrine, something that we have yet to see in these last days. Isaiah spoke of a time when the watchmen and ministers will see eye to eye (Isa 52:8). It is a last day truth and something we need to be looking forward to. We have yet to see the true emergence of the 5-fold ministry gifts but it is coming. There is also an unfolding revelation of the knowledge of God. Daniel mentions about knowledge increasing in the last days; it is a worthy pursuit but it requires a willingness to embrace the truth and knowledge about ourselves. Sadly, many will reject the knowledge of God and find it offensive (Rom 1:28).
Paul does not want the Ephesian church nor any church to be so easily swayed by false doctrine. This is one of the primary dangers to the church in the last days (2 Tim 4:3). Man will pursue doctrine based on what is truly in his heart. In verse 16 Paul makes clear that every part of the body of Christ is essential and it is needed. It is important that we come into true discovery as to who we really are. It is then important to flow and function in our related calling and gifting so as to strengthen and benefit the body of Christ.
Paul then speaks concerning the pathway to holiness. It is a theme that will be carried over into chapter 5. The Ephesians were delivered from the rudiments of the world and now had the opportunity to grow in holiness. Holiness is defined in a 2 part way. It is a separation from the world the flesh and the devil. This is what Paul was addressing in the earlier portions of this letter. The 2nd portion of the definition of holiness is a separation unto God. This is where Paul is now heading as he continues in his letter. The subject of holiness is a controversial one in today’s church. It should not be because it is a requirement, not an option. The problem is that many people choose not to go this road because of its cost. There needs to be a putting off of the old man and its nature (vs 22). This can only be done as we learn to die to the flesh and its desires. It requires a choosing to die. Holiness is a “choosing” to be holy. How is this accomplished? It begins in the mind and the thoughts that we think upon (vs 23). Our minds must be renewed. It begins with our thought life and the things that we think upon. We must never underestimate the power of the thought life.
Prov 23:7 For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:
The key is to learn to meditate upon the Lord and his Word. This is what helps to cultivate a proper inner life. This is what helps in our ability in putting on the new man (vs 24). First there is the putting off of the old man and then the putting on of the new man. This is only accomplished by the grace of God. Our part is to choose to allow the process to take place. This process is enabled to the extent that we allow the Holy Spirit to work within us. The fruits will be seen in the way we act and live out our life. The fruit will be seen in the way we treat one another. The fruit is one person looking out for the welfare and being of the other. It is in this environment where the Holy Spirit can move and flow effectively. This was seen at Pentecost at the birthing of the early church. This is what Paul is seeking to implement amongst the Ephesian church and it is what the Lord will yet do in greater measure in the last day church. The theme of holiness will be continued in chapter 5.