This is the theme of Psalm 1191152 where we read,Concerning Thy testimonies, I have known of old that Thou hast founded them forever. Here we have, I. Principle Truth, II. Permanent Foundation, and III. Personal Experience. These words appear in the nineteenth of the twenty-two octrains of Psalm 119, that section in which each of its eight verses begins with the Hebrew letter qÅ쳌th. This octave may be entitled, “Prayer Memories,” as over and over the suppliant’s cry, voice, and meditation are evident throughout. First, he states how he prayed: I cried with my whole heart. Heart cries are the very essence of prayer. Second, he tells what he prayed for: Save me! Third, when he prayed: in the dawning of the morning. Fourth, How long he prayed: through the watches of the whole day; not merely of the night. Fifth, what he pleaded: Thy lovingkindness. Sixth, what happened: his enemies threateningly drew near. Seventh, how he was rescued: Thou art near, O Lord. God is nearer than his enemies. Eighth, what was his conviction and conclusion of the whole matter: I have known of old from Thy testimonies that Thou hast founded them for ever.
Testimonies are the declaration of God’s mind and will to man; that is, divine revelation, the whole standard and rule of truth. The term is an amplification of v. 151b, all Thy commandments are truth. The ark of the covenant was also called the ark of testimonies, for there were kept the two tables of the law, or the tables of testimony. The tabernacle itself was called the tabernacle of testimony, all this testifying to the great, glorious fact that the God of truth dwells among His people.
God could speak His testimonies immediately and directly. In fact, He did, on occasion, even calling the men He spoke to by name, as in Abraham, Abraham! (Cp. Moses, Moses! and Samuel! Samuel!). Not once, but twice, at our Lord’s baptism and at His transfiguration, the Father spoke in an audible voice directly from Heaven. This heavenly testimony was well-attested by no fewer than six witnesses. But we have a more sure word of prophecy in the scripture (2 Pet. 1:17-21). We are on much surer ground with scripture than we would be with a voice from heaven. The Lord no longer guides by such a voice, but by the testimonies of holy scripture. Voices from the blue? We have a more sure word! Visions? We have a more sure word! Dreams? Who needs them? We have a more sure word! The breviary? We have a more sure word! Golden plates? We have a much more sane and sure word! Ecclesiastical traditions? Religious opinions? All tossing winds of doctrine which sweep away in deception only the child-mentality of the present age (Eph. 4:14). Hindu Puranas? the Koran? or Mormon book? All the devil’s imitations, counterfeits and deceptions. Canonical scripture alone provides unerring certainty.
How may we be sure where God speaks? Look into and read the standing authentic record. To the law and to the testimony! if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them (Isa. 8:20). We must always go back to the testimonies of scripture. For it is “from Thy testimonies that I know” anything. “Concerning Thy testimonies” is literally “from Thy testimonies,” indicating the source of all wisdom. Here we have: (1) the testimony of the Spirit, who testifies of Christ, and bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and (2) the testimony of Jesus. Search the scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of Me. (Jn. 5:39).
Thy testimonies — Thou hast founded them for ever. Thou hast ordained (same word as in Hab.1:12) them for ever, or established them forever. God’s testimonies are, to get to the root meaning, established in “a sitting together in council” and covenant. The picture is that of the Lord and His bride on a love seat sitting together in the secret intimacy of His covenant friendship. God’s word then rests on the foundation of His covenant of His covenant love.
God’s testimonies are founded to eternity. So they will remain firm and unshakable through all ages. All the doctrine of Scripture, found expressed in our Reformed confessions were ordained and settled before the world began. Forever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven. This 89th verse of Psalm 119 might be rendered, Forever Thou art, O Lord! Thy word is settled in heaven. God’s word is more unalterable than the law of the Medes and Persians and mountains of brass. Christ Himself was foreordained before the foundation of the world. All the people of God were chosen in Him before the foundation of the universe. Every event in history, every circumstance in the church is fixed in God’s preordination of whatsoever comes to pass. All things were taken into account and settled, not on second thought in the fleeting seconds of time, but in the decrees of eternity. Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away. Nothing of God’s word has ever changed. Impossible it is that His word should ever change. For God’s word is as His mind, immutable, unshakable (Job 23:13), grounded and laid as a foundation on solid rock, forever established. He states, I change not. Therefore our prayer memories are dotted, like diamond stars on the velvet of night, with confidence in Jehovah, the Ancient of Days, the Rock of Ages.
Never mind the new school philosophies, or the new thought schools. Our stand is on the old theology. Like fizzling Roman candles, the latest pretended neology rockets up brightly for a moment to suddenly expire and merge with its proper origin and end, the world’s darkness. Those of the modern church come out with their new light, which Jesus said, as compared to the old light, is as darkness (Matt. 6:23). So there are old lights and new lights. But the new lights are doomed to disappointment if they imagine the new light will extinguish the old light. There is the old side church and the new side church. The old side church is of the party of God, on His side, and is no new party or new side over against Him and His side. The new side church has a new slant on things, having invented an effeminate god, a womanish “Christ” who offended none, except the sensibilities of the manly. The old side church is as old as the hills, more solid than Gibraltar, fixed as the eternal mountains. Canaries could peck down Gibraltar sooner than the Word of God could be undermined. The things which are eternally established on the impregnable rock of holy scripture are the delight (v. 143) of true saints. The wicked world blasphemously and thoughtlessly sings, When the “saints” go marching in! But the “saints” (those “saved” in their sins, not from their sins) shallnever go marching in. The saints (not the “saints”) go marching in! For they have not been chasing bubbles, but seek first the kingdom of God, the only solid and substantial reality with a rock bottom foundation whose Layer and Builder is God.
David said, and that when he was well on in years, I have known of old, from Thy testimonies, that Thou hast founded them forever. Paul also knew this to be true of Timothy: From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures. What a life-enduring blessing to have been raised in a Christian home where family worship prevailed and where the sound doctrine grounded in eternity found a repository and was firmly established in our hearts and lives! In our early days, one of our ministers habitually prayed that God would write the eternal truth of His word in our hearts. God’s word is grounded and founded to eternity. By grace He has founded it in our hearts. An old seminary professor, nearly four decades ago, gave me a Bible in which he had written the words, Hide thou in thine heart His word lest thou sin against Him. A treasured Bible is so because its contents are heart-treasure. David in his advanced years looked back to his childhood saying, I have known of old that Thy word is the eternal foundation of all things. This is to him familiar truth; he knew it long ago. He knew it ever since he was able to memorize a sentence of scripture. It was not an old truth lately discovered. He knew this great truth since the time that he had learned anything about God. David proved this truth over and over, not by one or two sensational experiences, which are no test of truth. But he made proof of the eternal truth of God’s word not only in recent, but in old and time-tested experiences. David’s place on the truth and immutability of the Word was one of long standing. David saw that the covenant was in the line of his ancestors, including his parents. He rejoices that he was born of a covenant mother. From infancy to old age David experienced the firmness of God’s covenant, the certainty and comfort of His providence and the blessedness of His salvation. Thou art He that took me out of the womb; Thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breast; I was cast upon Thee from the womb; Thou art my God from my mother’s belly (Ps. 22:9-10). Indeed, what David always knew, learned from childhood, and was also always known throughout the generations of his fathers before him. He knew the experience of the truth that goes back to his father, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers. So we possess psalters, confessions, and liturgies passed on down to us from these former generations. We, too, can say, Our fathers trusted in Thee; they trusted and Thou didst deliver them; they cried to thee and were delivered; they trusted in Thee, and were not confounded. (Ps. 22:4-5). To you are given exceeding exceeding great and precious promises. Do you possess these spiritual and eternal riches? Do you greatly esteem them? Or are you so attached to this present world that your philosophy is, A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, meaning that which is to come is all conjecture and uncertainty? Or do you believe with the certainty of true faith that, Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies, and so surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever?