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Psalm 119

Psalm 119

In 1776, our nation’s forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence, establishing our freedom from Britain. 

Actual freedom did not happen at the signing of the document. There was a long, difficult war that followed. Even then, there were struggles until, several years later, the United States Constitution was established. 

The writing of the Constitution was completed in September of 1787. It had to be ratified by nine of the 13 states in the new union. Five did so soon after the writing, but others would not until the assurance of amendments guaranteeing specific rights for individuals and states.

That promise persuaded four more states, in June of 1788, to ratify the document. That was sufficient to announce the start of the new government would be March 4, 1789. Shortly after that, two more states ratified the Constitution.

The new government included a Congress, which adopted ten amendments, known as the Bill of Rights. That led the last two states to ratify the document, the last one finally doing so in 1790.

Our nation’s Constitution describes how our government is designed. It is a design that continues to this day. It is a document that also establishes a list of basic rights.

We know what those rights are. They are, among other things, freedom of speech, press, religion, and peaceful assembly, the right to keep and bear arms, protection against unreasonable searches and seizures of personal property, the right, if accused of a crime, to a speedy and public trial, during which the defendant cannot be forced to testify against himself or herself, and protection against excessive bail, excessive fines, and cruel and unusual punishment.

It seems there are times, even now, when any or all of those freedoms, rights, and protections are under attack and therefore threatened. However, they still describe our United States of America. We are still the envy of the world with the freedoms we enjoy. We still have so very many reasons to celebrate. And no, I will not be shooting off fireworks on Wednesday to express my celebrating. I will most likely be hunkered down inside at home, where the noise will only be excessive. But hopefully I will speak a prayer of thanks to God for the freedoms we enjoy.

Our national freedom is amazing. It is worth celebrating. It is worth thanking God for, which is why this message has started with a bit of a history lesson. But of course, there is another kind of freedom we have. Spiritual freedom. A freedom established, not back in the 1700s, but 2000 years ago. Established when Jesus did some amazing things. He allowed Himself to be crucified, making Him the perfect sacrifice for sin. On the third day after that, He rose from the grave, proving His victory over death.

The promise is that all who believe in the Lord’s death and resurrection will have spiritual freedom - freedom from the penalty of sin and freedom to live righteously, thereby pleasing God.

All this week, including on Wednesday, which is July 4th, let’s celebrate our national freedom, which, as will be mentioned again at the end of today’s message, is a God-given freedom. Let’s also celebrate the spiritual freedom we, who accept Jesus as Savior, have.

And you know what? Spiritual freedom was talked and written about even before Jesus, including in a portion of an Old Testament Psalm we are going to talk about for the next few moments. Psalm 119:41-48. It is a passage that reminds us how to not only have, but feel, the spiritual freedom we have in Jesus, and what to do because of our freedom.

Psalm 119 is very long. It is the longest chapter in the Bible. It contains 176 verses, divided into 22 groups of eight verses.

To set the stage, here is brief synopsis of the sections before verses 41 through 48. 

Verses 1 through 8. Blessed are those whose ways are blameless because they walk with the LORD. That requires, first of all, knowing God’s teachings.

Verses 9 through 16. The way to stay pure is to live according to God’s word. God’s word is to be the delight of our lives as we know that what God teaches is for our good.

In verses 17 through 24 there is a plea for protection from enemies. Protection is needed so we can continue to live righteously.

In verse 25 through 32 there is another reference to troubled times. What a reminder that is that being followers of God does not guarantee non-stop good times. Even Christians have problems, at least from time to time, but the call is to ask for God’s help when troubles come. That is needed so we can continue to understand and obey His teachings.
Verses 33 through 40. Teach me, O LORD, Your way. Give me understanding. Lead me in the path of Your commands, O God. Turn my eyes to You. Help me to continue to long for You, LORD.

The challenge, over and over again in Psalm 119, is to know God, learn God’s teachings, and use God’s strength and guidance to obey Him. 

That brings us to verses 41 through 48, and remember the purpose is celebrating our spiritual freedom. As we consider each of the verses in today’s passage, let’s look for reasons to celebrate and how we can celebrate.

Verse 41. “O LORD, let Thy steadfast love come to me.” A reason to celebrate? God’s steadfast love. Steadfast means never changing, always present, always to be relied upon.

What a gift God’s steadfast love is, knowing how often we can fail to live up to God’s standards. David, the presumed author of this Psalm, often failed. So do we. According to a verse in the New Testament, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, yet God’s love is steadfast. That is that David wanted to feel. It is what should cause us to celebrate as we think of spiritual freedom.

Verses 41 and 42. “Give me, LORD, Thy salvation, according to Your promise.” The promise for us is that those who accept Jesus as Savior have salvation from their sins. “Then shall I have an answer for those who taunt me,” which is a clue as to how we can celebrate. We can celebrate by answering those who are against us, our answer being the greatness of God.

As mentioned earlier, accepting Jesus, thereby gaining spiritual freedom, is not a guarantee of non-stop good times. Enemies of Jesus become our enemies, which can lead at least to taunting - teasing, demeaning, and criticizing. But with God’s help, He will give us words to say to defend ourselves and Him. 

We need to trust in God’s word. That is also in verse 42. But those of us who are God’s people through acceptance of Jesus do have and will have the Lord’s love and salvation to proclaim. Love and salvation are reasons to celebrate spiritual freedom. Proclaiming those things is how to celebrate.

Verses 43 and 44. David asks for the LORD’s help in proclaiming Him. “Take not the word of truth out of my mouth.” He then gives a reason for the request. “For my hope is in Thy ordinances.” 

Then another example of how to celebrate. “I will keep Thy law continually, forever and ever.” That requires having the discipline to read, study, learn, and then obey God’s law, but doing all that is how we can keep God’s law. As it is worded in a New Testament passage, we must not grow weary of well-doing. As it is also taught in the New Testament, we are to avoid backsliding away from our faith in Jesus.

Verses 43 and 44 also give another reason for celebrating. It is “hope.” Do we see it? It is in God’s law that we can have hope. The hope that following what God teaches, starting and ending with His teaching to accept His Son Jesus as Savior, will give us blessings now and Heaven later.

Verse 45. As I - as we - enjoy and proclaim God’s love, salvation, and hope and as we seek His precepts so we can follow them and proclaim them, we will have liberty. Spiritual freedom.

 We will “walk in liberty,” meaning we will make spiritual freedom the main part of every day and every night, affecting - saturating - everything we do, so that all the time we will be able to know what it means to be free. Free to walk away from sin. Free to do what is pleasing to God. Free to know that what is pleasing to God is beneficial for us, His people.

Another way to celebrate is in verse 46. “I will also speak of Thy testimonies, O LORD, before kings.” Earlier there was joy expressed that God’s love and salvation could be proclaimed to enemies. Now the promise is that His love and salvation can also be expressed to kings - leaders and other important people.

Of course, David was a king himself, so he would have found it easy to talk to other leaders. Me, not so much. Most of us, not so much. But we can pray for leaders. We can let it be known we are praying for leaders. We can pray for them to know and live by and rule by God’s love and salvation and hope.

“I will speak of Thy testimonies, O God, before kings. I shall not be put to shame.” There may be some who will criticize us for praying for leaders, either because the criticizers do not want us to try to force our religion on others or because they might not think of a leader as being worthy of prayer, but God will not shame us for talking about Him with leaders, or to God about leaders.

Verses 47 and 48. Three more examples of how to celebrate spiritual freedom. “For I find my delight in Thy commandments, which I love.” It takes discipline, to love what God teaches. To love His teachings enough to do them. “I revere [I respect, admire, fear] Your commandments, God, which I love.” And “I will meditate on Thy statutes.”

*       *       *       *       *

Psalm 119 continues. There are 128 more verses in 16 more eight-verse sections. Among the teachings that follow are a prayer by David that God will remember him, the assurance that God is the one who made David, and more expressions of love and appreciation for God’s law. David also in the Psalm asked for God’s blessings and for answers to his prayers as he continued to face enemies.

But the thought from Psalm 119 for today is that David expressed reasons to celebrate and how to celebrate spiritual freedom. As he worded it, we can celebrate the privilege of walking in spiritual liberty, doing so day by day.

One more thought for this message. 

As discussed earlier, in 1776 this nation’s Declaration of Independence was signed. There were 56 men who signed the document. From history we know that, despite the wonderful result for this country, at least most of the signers men suffered greatly because of what they did. Some lost businesses. Some were killed, including a few who were arrested by the British, charged with treason, and executed. Some had family members killed in the war that followed the Declaration.

As mentioned, then came the writing and the adoption of our nation’s Constitution. There were 39 men who formed that document. Listen. Of those 39 men, most were Protestants. A couple were Catholic. Which means there were hardly any of the writers who did not profess faith in Jesus.

We know what that means. It means our Founding Fathers, true to the Christian faith of most of them, inscribed God's truths into the foundation of our country. They did that because they believed God's providential hand was guiding them throughout the creation of the United States.

The challenge for us? Let’s not waste what they did for our national freedom.

And let’s not waste what Jesus did for our spiritual freedom. Let’s do what we can to continue to know and abide by the basis of both our national and spiritual freedom, which is God and His love, salvation, and hope.

Let’s be like David and also find delight in God’s commandments. Like David, let’s proclaim that delight to others, sharing our faith with them so they, too, can be led to spiritual freedom.

As Jesus said in Matthew 28, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

As Paul wrote in Galatians 5, “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” 

We are to show the wonder of freedom to others. The freedom to do what is right, spiritually and applying that nationally. Like David, let’s know, show, and tell the privilege of walking in liberty.

For today’s closing, two songs, one celebrating our national freedom, the other celebrating our spiritual freedom. God Bless America, followed by Victory in Jesus.

God bless America, land that I love,

Stand beside her and guide her

Through the night with a light from above.

From the mountains, to the prairies,

To the oceans white with foam,

God bless America,

My home sweet home.

God bless America,

My home sweet home.

I heard an old, old story,

How a Savior came from glory,

How He gave His life on Calvary

To save a wretch like me;

I heard about His groaning,

Of His precious blood's atoning,

Then I repented of my sins

And won the victory.

O victory in Jesus, 

My Savior, forever.

He sought me and bought me

With His redeeming blood;

He loved me ere I knew Him

And all my love is due Him,

He plunged me to victory,

Beneath the cleansing flood.

I heard about His healing,

Of His cleansing pow'r revealing.

How He made the lame to walk again

And caused the blind to see;

And then I cried, "Dear Jesus,

Come and heal my broken spirit,"

And somehow Jesus came and bro't

To me the victory.

O victory in Jesus, 

My Savior, forever.

He sought me and bought me

With His redeeming blood;

He loved me ere I knew Him

And all my love is due Him,

He plunged me to victory,

Beneath the cleansing flood.

I heard about a mansion

He has built for me in glory.

And I heard about the streets of gold

Beyond the crystal sea;

About the angels singing,

And the old redemption story,

And some sweet day I'll sing up there

O victory in Jesus, 

My Savior, forever.

He sought me and bought me

With His redeeming blood;

He loved me ere I knew Him

And all my love is due Him,

He plunged me to victory,

Beneath the cleansing flood.

Lord, thank You for the national freedom You have bestowed on our nation. Help us to never take our liberty for granted, but to be good citizens and to pray for our country. Both those things will be our part of helping our national freedom to continue.

And thank You for the spiritual freedom You give to all who accept You as Savior. Help us to be thankful for Your love, Your salvation, Your hope. Help us to respond by knowing and delighting in Your commandments and by being willing to proclaim You to others.

Thank You for the victory we can have in You, Lord. Amen.

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