Matching God’s Voice and Pace
We are now just a few days from the start of this year’s season of Lent. The time each year we celebrate the suffering of Jesus, which ultimately included His death as the sacrifice for our sins.
Jesus’ death was the ultimate example of suffering. However, there are other examples of Jesus suffering. Some of those other examples will be presented in the Lenten sermons coming up.
Before that - last Sunday and today - a consideration of the importance of God’s word.
As stated in last week’s message, reading God’s word is critical because it helps us keep our ways pure, it is profitable for us in teaching, reproof, correction, and righteousness, it helps us be equipped for good works, and it provides light so our lives can be.
For all those reasons, we are instructed in the Bible to chew on God’s word, which involves more than reading the Bible. Chewing on God’s word also involves thinking about it and applying it.
Today, another message on the importance of making God’s word part of our lives. We will begin with a devotional.
According to the devotional, there is or was a well-known broadcaster on British Broadcasting Company radio named Paul Arnold. I have not heard of him, and I could not find any information about him online, but he apparently is known in BBC circles.
Paul’s first job in radio broadcasting was not speaking. Instead, he was part of the background sounds crew. Specifically, he was responsible for making walking sounds for radio dramas. While an actor read from a script during a walking scene - while the actor stayed in one place - Paul was responsible for making sounds with his feet to make it seem the character being portrayed really was walking.
That sounds simple. Just clop on the floor. However, the sounds of walking had to match the pace of the actor’s voice. The key challenge was yielding to the actor reading the story so the two - the actor and the walking - were working together.
You of course know where this is going. The responsibility we have as Christians is to yield to God, matching His voice and His pace, so He and we can work together. On BBC radio, the actor was the one in charge. Paul Arnold had to follow the lead of the actor with whom he was working. Spiritually, God is in charge. We are called upon to follow God’s lead.
One place in the Bible that is taught is the first verse of Psalm 119.
Last week, when we considered the importance of chewing on God’s word, Psalm 119 was referred to a couple times. In verses 9 and 11 is the reminder that God’s word - knowing it and obeying it - is how our ways can be pure. It is knowing and obeying God’s word that helps us avoid sinning. In verse 105, God’s word is described as light.
For today, let’s first consider verse 1 of Psalm 119. “Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD.”
Blameless. Not able to be accused of wrongdoing before people or before God. Wow. What a goal that is. One we can never attain on our own, but one that is possible with God’s help. Help that comes as we walk in His law - in His teachings and His standards.
I might add there are not many people in the Bible described as blameless. I mention that as an encouragement so if you - or I - do not feel perfect in every way, we are not alone. However, many Bible characters lived lives of striving to be blameless. Striving is to be our goal as well, hopefully becoming more and more perfect as we continue our spiritual lives.
As written, the key is to walk in God’s law. Walk as happened on the BBC radio stage. Us matching God’s pace. Us yielding to God. Which is the only way for us to work well with Him.
Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD. What are some of the blessings we will have when we follow God’s lead?
Again, some were mentioned last week. Our way can be pure, we can be kept from sinning, we will have light for our lives.
Let’s consider some more blessings. Blessings in two categories. Being able to rise above bad things in life. There are three for today. And being able to have some good things in life. There are two of those for today.
One of the bad things we can rise above as we walk according to God’s lead is in verse 22 0f Psalm 119. It is the ability to overcome people’s scorn and contempt. In this context, the scorn and contempt of those who do not join us in following God.
Verse 22 is in a paragraph that begins with the request that God help in observing His word. David, the author of the Psalm, asks for open spiritual eyes to help him see God’s word. He claims a deep interest in walking in God’s way.
One benefit of that is - verse 22 - “take away from me the scorn and contempt of others.”
The paragraph continues with David sharing there were people plotting against him. However, by walking with God, he would be able to rise above the plotters.
Does that have relevance today? It seems so. For instance, there are some laws in effect, and others being talked about, that promise to allow and condone and require actions and behaviors that are contrary to teachings in the Bible. There are or will be penalties for any who disobey such laws.
That is a scary prospect. However, we can rise above it. We can at least survive it. How? By following God’s lead. By walking according to His pace.
We know from many other Psalms that life was not easy for David. Walking with God did not make his life one of comfort. However, David made the promise to follow God anyway. To walk in God’s way. We are to do the same. As we do, we can rise above the scorn and contempt of those who do not follow God as we do.
Scorn and contempt are bad things in life we can overcome. Another bad thing is greed which, I think, just about everyone is susceptible to. Those who are poor might be tempted to be greedy, wishing they could be as well off as those who are rich. Those who are rich might be tempted to be greedy.
There is a familiar story about John D. Rockefeller, a big oilman of a hundred years or so ago. He had enough money from oil for several lifetimes. When asked when he would have enough money, he answered, “Just a little more,” which was his constant response as he kept being asked that question as he became richer and richer.
The verse dealing with greed is verse 36. Before that, David asked God to keep teaching Him. To keep challenging him to know and follow God’s way. “Teach me,” he wrote. “Lead me” was his request of God
Then verse 36. “Incline my heart to Your testimonies, God.” To God’s teachings. To His way. “Incline my heart [to You], and not to gain.”
As far as I know, there is nothing wrong with being rich. That is one way God blesses. However, wanting wealth, as in having that as the main goal of life, as in doing things contrary to God’s teachings to get more and more of the things of the world, is wrong. It is what David asked God to keep him from. Something he would be able to rise above as he strove to be blameless. As he dedicated himself to walk in the ways of God.
Overcoming scorn and contempt. Rising above greed. Next on the list of bad things we can avoid when we walk with God is in verse 61, which is the ability to escape the snare of sinners.
Consider the paragraph verse 61 is in. David again claimed to be very interested in God’s word. Interest not only during the days, but also at night, presumably when he could not sleep. David again asked for help to maintain that interest and devotion.
Then, in verse 61, he claimed a special promise. The ability to remember God’s laws, even when “the cords of the wicked ensnared” him. When those against God tried to trap David into doing wrong, David knew he could rely on God to help him escape the snares.
We need to remember that one of the things David is known for are two sins he committed. Adultery and the subsequent murder of the woman’s husband. In those two cases, David was anything but blameless.
However, when his sins were brought to his attention, he immediately repented. After receiving God’s forgiveness, he once again took steps toward being blameless, doing so from that point on. That was so much that case that, in verse 61, David claimed the ability - the ability with God with him - to remember God’s way even when under temptation by the wicked.
Knowing that, David ended the paragraph by praising God. “The earth, O LORD, is full of Your steadfast love.” And then making a request. “O God, teach me Your statutes.” What an interesting reminder that no matter where we are on our spiritual journey, we can still keep learning.
Walk with God. Match His pace. Yield to His voice. Doing so will help us overcome scorn and contempt, escape greed, and resist the snares of sin cast by those who are wicked. It is good to know that by following God, we can avoid the bad things of life.
And there are some good things we can have by following God.
One is the ability to have godly friends. For that, verse 63.
Just two verses before that verse is David’s claim of being able to avoid the snares of the wicked. In verse 63 he gave the positive opposite of the wicked. He wrote, “I am a companion of all who fear You, God.” A companion of those who keep God’s precepts - God’s laws and way.
I was recently involved in an online class through Church of God Ministries called How to Effectively Reach Your Community.
One of the points presented in the class is to be willing to reach beyond the walls of the church, which we do as a congregation, even though that means we run into those who are not Christians - not yet Christians.
A question asked in the class was, “When was the last time we as a congregation prayed for sinners to attend?” Hmm. Good question.
Inside and outside church, we might run into non-Christians. That, in fact, is a good thing because how can they learn from us the love of Jesus if we never have any contact with people unlike us?
However, the call earlier was to avoid being trapped by scorn, contempt, greed, or other sins. One way to do that is to have, as a base, other Christians. To have as our main companions others who fear God. Others who highly respect God. Others who strive to follow God’s way and thereby join us in being blessed.
Having godly friends is a blessing promised to those who walk in God’s way. Another promise is in verse 111.
The paragraph that includes verse 111 begins with the idea that God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light for our paths. Lamps keep us safe inside our homes. Light for our paths keeps us on the proper road. In the context of Psalm 119, the roads of walking in God’s way.
Later in the paragraph is the acknowledgement that sometimes life is difficult. Even when blessed in the ways discussed last week and today, life can be difficult. David wrote that he was “sorely afflicted.” He asked God for continued life and he promised to remain true to God’s word for as long as he lived.
The result? Verse 111. Despite the problems he faced, David would still “find joy in his heart.”
Joy. Not happiness, which is dependent on how things happen around us. We can be happy only when everything goes well for us and with us.
In verse 111, not happiness. As mentioned, life was still not always easy for David, so he might not have been happy. But he could have - he did have - joy. Joy that came from confidence in his relationship with God. That God would continue to bless him, including giving him the desire and the strength to walk with God in God’s ways, David yielding to God’s will. Joy that we, too, can have as we walk in God’s way.
Verse 133. That and a commentary about it.
“Keep steady my steps according to Your promise, O God, and let no iniquity [no immorality, no sin, no steps away from God] get dominion over me.”
The commentary. When I take a step into the world, let me ask if it is ordered in God’s word, which shows Christ as my perfect example.
That is another way of asking, before we do - or say - anything, are we walking in the way of God, yielding to His pace and His voice? Are we thereby striving to be blameless? What important questions? How critical to make sure the answer is “yes,” for then we will be blessed in many ways as we overcome scorn and contempt and avoid greed and escape the snares of sinners and as we have godly friends to help us as we deal with the rest of the world and yes, as we are joyful.
So a prayer. Dear God, order my steps according to Your word. Help me to yield to You, so that I may walk like You. Amen.
The closing song for today is the hymn Be Thou My Vision. It is a prayer that God will provide the vision we need for life so His way will be our way.
Be Thou my vision, O God of my heart;
Nought be all else to me, save that Thou art -
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father and true Friend to me;
Thou in me dwelling, and I join with Thee.
Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise,
Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven's joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.
Blessed are those who strive to be blameless. Blessed are those who walk in the law of God. How good to be able to overcome scorn and contempt, avoid greed, and escape the snares of sinners. How good that we can have godly friends and joy. All that is available wherever we happen to be. Amen.