“The Comforting Word”
December 27, 2015
I’m not sure who did the research, but someone came up with a list of “America’s Top 99 Problems.” A few samplings from the list (in increasing order of importance):
- Peeling paint
- Ugly clothes
- Nothing good to watch on TV
- Light pollution
- Airline delays
- Orbiting space pollution
- Credit card fraud
- Cultural snobbery
- Crying babies
- Student debt
- Rampant obesity
- Too many guns
- The misguided war on drugs
- Mass extinction of animals
- A loss of perspective on what is and is not important
- Heart disease
- Global warming
I get it. It’s a survey and it’s designed to stimulate discussion, but I think most of us have more pressing personal problems and concerns than most of those. We are concerned about:
- How to discipline a teenager who is suddenly out of control
- How to survive when a wife of 20 years has found another man and left
- How to make the next house and car payments
- What to do when a job was lost a week before Christmas and I’m too old to start another career and to young to retire
- Parents who are aging and remain resistant to the gospel
- Trying to live graciously and humbly with neighbors and family mocking us for our faith
- What the doctor will say at our next check up after a test revealed an anomaly
We all have events and circumstances in our lives that tempt us to lie awake at night in anxiety and entice us to find various kinds of escapes. Where will you turn with your problems? Now you are in church this morning and the answer is obviously self-evident. “I’ll go to God.” But really — where will you turn and what will be your comfort? What will calm your mind and ease your fears? What will enable you to continue to live with your problems but not be overcome with anxiousness and anger?
In the seventh stanza of Psalm 119, the psalmist reminds us that God has given us His Word for our comfort and hope. Our hope is not in escaping our problems. Our comfort is not being relieved of our troubles. Our comfort is in being faithful to the Word of God and finding God to be faithful to us in every one of our troubles.
The psalmist will exhort us in this stanza that —
When we are afflicted by trials, our only hope is God and His Word.
Let me remind you about Psalm 119. It is the longest Psalm (and chapter) in the Bible — 176 verses. It is made up of 22 8-verse stanzas — one stanza for each consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. And within each section, each line begins with that letter of the alphabet, as a means to help the hearers remember and memorize the psalm (that’s why many of your Bibles have words you may not know between each of these sections — those are the letters of the Hebrew alphabet).
We do not know who the author of this psalm is, but we do know that he understands the realities of trouble in life (we’ll see that this morning) and at the same time he has a deep love for the Word of God. The psalmist’s love for the Scriptures — and the God of the Scriptures — is paramount. One commentator says,
“He constantly cries out to God, retreats into his shadow, and finds solace in his strength. This is a psalm, not only of law, but of love, not only of statute, but of spiritual strength, not only of devotion to precept, but of loyalty to the way of the Lord.” [VanGemeren]
When you need comfort, seek it in God’s Word. Here are three circumstances in which we are troubled and three corresponding ways to be comforted by God and His Word:
- When Afflicted, Be Comforted by the Remembrance of God (vv. 49-50)
- When Mocked, Remember the Word of God (vv. 51-54)
- When Discouraged, Remember the God of the Word (vv. 55-56)
Download the rest of this sermon from Psalm 119:49-56.
The audio will be posted on the GBC website later today.