This Sunday we have the privilege of hearing from Dr. Gene Getz, Bruce’s mentor, author of over 80 books and founder of the “Fellowship Bible Church” movement. He composed the following study guide to prepare us for the message he will bring from God’s Word.
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The Word of God and The Will of God A Question to Think About To what extent do I appreciate the fact that I have available in my hands—the whole Bible? In my language?
The Bible is indeed a wonderful gift from God, enabling us to know his will. In fact, those of us who are alive today are greatly blessed with this gift. It’s something even those who lived in the early years of the 1900s did not have available as we do. Today we have the Bible in multiple translations—available as a printed book—but also accessible on our cell phones, iPads, and in audio recordings. The question is, what are we doing with this wonderful gift, in order to understand and live in the will of God? Even long before the New Testament was completed, the author of Psalm 119 devoted 176 verses (the longest chapter in the Bible) to help us appreciate God’s Word—and how it can impact our lives. To prepare for the message on “The Word of God and the Will of God,” take a careful look at this psalm.
Background Information • As previously stated, this is the longest chapter in the Bible: 176 verses • This psalm has one single focus: the Word of God • The author used eight synonyms to describe the Word of God: o “instruction” or “law”: 25 times o “word”: 24 times
o “judgments” or “ordinances”: 23 times o “decrees” or “testimonies”: 23 times o “commands”: 22 times o “statutes”: 21 times o “precepts” or “charges”: 21 times o “promise” or “word”: 19 times • In total, the psalmist made approximately 180 references to the Word of God in this one chapter in the Bible. • This is also the most elaborate acrostic psalm that comprises 22 stanzas that focus the letters in the Hebrew alphabet. For example: o The first eight verses in stanza 1 (119:1-8) each begin with the Hebrew letter ALEF. o The next eight verses in stanza 2 (119:9-16) each begin with the Hebrew letter BET. o The next eight verses in stanza 3 (119:17-24) each begin with the Hebrew letter GIMEL.
Principles to Live By Bible content is foundational in being able to live in the will of God, but what we learn in our heads must reach our hearts, and flow out into our daily living. Consequently, we’ll look at a number of Principles to Live By that come from the stanzas in this psalm. These principles indeed impact our lives if we allow the Spirit of God to convict us, motivate us and strengthen us to live out these enduring and dynamic biblical truths.
Day 1 Read Psalm 119:1–24 (Stanzas 1–3) Principles to Live By Stanza 1: True Fulfillment To experience true fulfillment, we must continually learn and apply the principles in the inspired Word of God.
In your own words, what does the psalmist say is the way to true fulfillment?
What does James say about true fulfillment in his letter in the New Testament (see James 1:25)?
Reflect and respond: How can we become persistent students of the Word of God, not only in terms of gaining head knowledge, but in terms of experiencing total life changes?
Stanza 2: Childhood Nurture To fulfill God’s ideal plan, we should begin to learn his Word as children so that we will seek to do his will throughout our lives. The Hebrew word for “young man” in verse 9 was used to refer to a boy from the age of infancy to adolescence. So the second stanza in this psalm emphasizes the importance of mentoring children early in life.
How does Paul’s second letter to Timothy—written from a Roman dungeon— illustrate the biblical principle in stanza 2 in Psalm 119?
Reflect and respond: How can we teach children (and even adults) the Word of God so that it equips them “for every good work”? (See Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
Stanza 3: Illumination and Discernment To clearly understand the Word of God, we are to rely on the divine Author, the Holy Spirit, to illumine our minds and hearts. In stanza 3, the psalmist was not asking for new revelations from God but the ability to understand and perceive clearly what God had already revealed (note particularly Psalm 119:18). This is a great verse to memorize and to recite each time you open the Word of God or listen to a message from the Scriptures.
Note Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians (Ephesians 1:17-19). How does this prayer correlate with the psalmist’s prayer?
Reflect and respond: What can happen when people tend to seek divine revelation (new truth) rather than divine illumination (understanding truth that God has already revealed) in the Holy Scriptures?
Day 2 Read Psalm 119:25–56 (Stanzas 4–7) Principles to Live By Stanza 4: Human Responsibility To live in God’s will, we must choose to follow and obey his Word (note particularly verses 30-32). When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he told them that they were “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that they should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). However, God has given us the freedom to choose to disobey what he planned. Paul therefore went on to exhort the believers “to walk worthy of the calling [we] have received” (Ephesians 4:1). The rest of the Ephesian letter focuses on our human responsibilities to carry out this exhortation.
How do Paul’s instructions to the Ephesians correlate with stanza 4 in Psalm 119?
Reflect and respond: Even though we are responsible to obey God, how can we avoid attempting to do this in our own strength (See Ephesians 6:10-18)?
Stanza 5 and 6: Sharing the Gospel To speak the Word of God boldly and yet sensitively to those who are unsaved, we must develop a deep appreciation for God’s love for us personally (note particularly Psalm 119:41-46).
How does Paul’s personal experience recorded in 1 Timothy 1:12-17 correlate with stanza 6 here in Psalm 119?
Reflect and respond: When we fail to share Christ with others, how do we determine if it is because we are afraid of something or because we are ashamed of Christ? Is there a difference?
Note: read Titus 2:11-14 to have a greater understanding of what should motivate us to share the gospel.
Stanza 7: Hope and Comfort To experience hope and comfort in the midst of difficult circumstances, we are to focus on God’s promises.
When Paul and Silas were in prison in Philippi, how did they make the words of this psalm a reality (See Acts 16:22-25)?
Reflect and respond: Though we may never suffer for our faith like Paul and Silas, what are some of the promises we can claim in order to be encouraged and comforted in the midst of our afflictions?
Day 3 Read Psalm 119:57–56, 65–96 (Stanzas 8–12) Principles to Live By Stanza 8: God’s Standard To have intimate fellowship with God and one another, we must use the teachings of Scripture to evaluate our attitudes and actions (note particularly Psalm 119:59-60).
How can we use the Word of God to evaluate our own lives in the light of God’s Word and adjust our attitudes and actions? (Note what Jesus taught in John 15:9-10).
Reflect and respond: Why is it sometimes difficult to purposely measure our behavior with the teachings of the Bible?
Stanzas 9-11: God’s Faithful Love When we walk out of God’s will, we should welcome God’s discipline that he has designed to restore our relationship with him. For some, suffering and affliction happens merely because we live in an imperfect world. We are simply victims of the evil that permeates our environment. For a few, suffering happens in order to bring glory to God, such as in the blind man’s story in the Gospel of John (John 9:3). In other situations, afflictions may not be particularly ordered by God but it can be constructive in our lives (Romans 5:3-4). These three stanzas (verses 65-68) introduce us to another reason for suffering. The psalmist said that before he was “afflicted” he “went astray.” Then, because of the affliction that God allowed in his life, he was once again walking in the will of God.
How does the author of Hebrews address this disciplinary process (See Hebrews 12:5-8)?
Reflect and respond: In what way may a Christian with a very sensitive conscience misapply this Principle to Live By?
Stanza 12: God’s Eternal Word Though everything around us may be changing, we are to put our faith in the Word of God, which will never change.
How does Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount correlate with this stanza in Psalm 119 (See Matthew 5:17-18; see also Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:35)?
Reflect and respond: How can this biblical truth help all of us to be encouraged in the midst of the changing values in our culture?
Day 4 Read Psalm 119:97–120 (Stanzas 13–15) Principles to Live By Stanza 13: Loving God’s Word To grow in wisdom and godliness, we should meditate on Scripture regularly.
In this stanza, the psalmist gives us five reasons why we should love God’s Word and meditate on it consistently. In your own words, list these reasons.
1. (verses 98-100)
2. (verse 101)
3. (verse 102)
4. (verse 103)
5. (verse 104)
Reflect and respond: What are some of the dynamics in our culture that keep the average Christian from meditating consistently on the truths in the Word of God?
Stanza 14: Wisdom from Above We should consult the Word of God for our perspective and guidance in all aspects of our lives. Note particularly verse 105 which talks about daily guidance from the Word of God and verse 112 which speaks of lifetime guidance from the Word of God. A biblical worldview evaluates everything from God’s viewpoint as revealed in Scripture. The Bible doesn’t give us answers to specific questions such as: What job should I take? Whom should I marry? Where will I live? However, it gives us wisdom that will help us make decisions that will be in harmony with his will for our lives.
Reflect and respond: How does God’s wisdom in Scripture help us answer the specific questions listed above? Here are some additional questions that will help you determine God’s will in these areas:
• Is there anything in Scripture that contradicts the decision I want to make?
• How do other mature Christians evaluate the decision I would like to make?
• What factors in my environment relate to this decision—both positive and negative?
• How do I feel about this decision?
Note: it’s important to note the sequence in these questions. Scripture is our absolute standard. Mature Christians can help us understand—but still it’s their opinion. A negative environment is not necessarily a reason not to proceed. Paul faced many obstacles in carrying out the Great Commission. How you feel about the decision should be last. Negative feelings are predictable when we’re trying to make a difficult decision. It doesn’t necessarily mean it is not God’s will.
Stanza 15: Our Awesome God When we study the Scriptures, we should be both comforted by God’s promises of protection and concerned when we disobey his commands.
How do we see both comfort and concern in this stanza?
How do Paul’s instructions to the Philippians in 2:12-13 correlate with the words of the psalmist in stanza 15?
Reflect and respond: Why do some Christians go to extremes in how they relate to God?
There are some Christians who misinterpret the concept of godly fear. In essence, they are afraid of God. On the other hand, there are some Christians who take God’s love and grace for granted. To stand in fear of God means we stand in awe of who he is. At the same time, we take great comfort that we are secure in his love.
Day 5 Read Psalm 119:121–144 (Stanzas 16–18) Principles to Live By Stanza 16: A Biblical Priority We are to love God’s Word and his will more than any of our earthly possessions.
How does the psalmist express his priorities in verses 127-128?
How do Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount correlate with the psalmist’s priorities (see Matthew 6:24)?
Reflect and respond: How can we meet our physical needs and even accumulate material things while not violating God’s will as stated by Jesus in Matthew 6:33?
Stanza 17: Demonstrating Compassion We are to show compassion to those who ignore the teachings of the Word of God.
There’s a place for righteous anger toward those who violate the will of God and take advantage of it (see Psalm 35). However, blended with this emotion should be a heart of compassion.
How does Jesus’ experience correlate with Psalm 119:136 as recorded by Luke in 19:41 and 13:34?
Paul also captured how Christians should view lost people who ignore God’s Word. (See Titus 3:1-5 and describe what Paul said in your own words.)
Reflect and respond: How can Christians show compassion toward unsaved people and, at the same time, reject their values and behavior that are out of harmony with God’s Word?
Stanza 18: The Inspired Word Because God’s Word is true and trustworthy, we should always evaluate all ideas and propositions in the light of Scripture.
In your own words, explain what the psalmist wrote, particularly in verses 137, 138, 140 and 142.
God’s Word gives us a true description of humanity. God has also enabled us to discover truth from sources other than the Bible—if it is true, it’s God’s truth. However, when we study the behavioral sciences (such as psychology and sociology), as well as the natural sciences (such as biology and chemistry), we must discipline ourselves to evaluate these ideas carefully in the light of the Word of God. This does not mean we should not study these subjects and study them diligently. Furthermore, it does not mean that we never need to evaluate our interpretations of Scripture in the light of what is true in the sciences. But it does mean we must use the Scriptures as our ultimate criteria for evaluating what is true.
Reflect and respond: What can happen when we focus on evaluating the trustworthiness of Scripture in the light of scientific findings rather than first and foremost evaluating scientific findings in the light of the Scriptures?
Note: there are three more stanzas in this psalm. They are developed in the Life Essentials Study Bible by Dr. Gene Getz. The principles in this daily study are adapted from this Study Bible and have been prepared specifically for Christ Fellowship by the author. Gene will be speaking Sunday on the subject “The Word of God and the Will of God.” You’ll also have an opportunity to take a look at the Life Essentials Study Bible.