Rev. Smit is pastor of the Immanuel Protestant Reformed Church in Lacombe, Alberta, Canada.
Not only must the believing child of God possess a spiritually healthy reverence and fear towards God and His Word as Psalm 119:161 shows; but, according to the next verse in Psalm 119, he ought also to approach the Word of God with delight. This healthy joy is summarized by the psalmist’s confession in Psalm 119:161: “I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil.”
This beautiful attitude towards God’s Word is quite the opposite of the terrible attitude of King Jehoiakim king of Judah towards the Word, as recorded in Jeremiah 36. Jeremiah was commanded by Jehovah to write down all the words that Jehovah spoke to Jeremiah concerning Israel, Judah, and all the nations, from the beginning of Jeremiah’s ministry up until the day Jeremiah was commanded to write down the Word of God. This Jeremiah did through his scribe, Baruch. After the Word of God was infallibly written down by Baruch, Jeremiah delivered the scroll, containing the Word of God through Jeremiah, unto the King in his winter house. While sitting before the fire on the hearth in his winter house, the king listened to his servant, Jehudi, read the Word of God through Jeremiah. What was the king’s attitude towards the infallibly inspired and written Word of God?
And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth.
The king burned the scroll of the Word of God (Jer. 36:29, 32). Moreover, the king further demonstrated his disgust and rejection of the Word of Jehovah when he commanded his servants to capture and imprison Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet. However, Jehovah had hid them from the wicked king so that Jeremiah and Baruch could write down infallibly by divine inspiration a new copy of the Word of God, which we possess now in the book of Jeremiah (Jer. 36:32).
The wicked king of Judah showed utter contempt, hatred, and disgust toward the Word of Jehovah. He particularly objected to the prophecies of the judgments of God against his sin and the sins of Judah. He rejected the revelation of God’s righteousness and holiness and the just reward of God’s wrath upon the sinner. He rejected the holy Word of God.
We must understand that he rejected the Word of God. The Scriptures are not the word of men, but they are the Word of God. “Word” in the original Hebrew means the word that is spoken. God spoke His Word in the beginning when He made the heavens and the earth. God continued to speak His Word, especially of the gospel, inGenesis 3:15. He continued to speak His Word unto the patriarchs and prophets. That Word is essentially His only begotten Son, the Christ. He is the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us and in whom we see the glory of the Father. That revelation of the Word of God is given to us in the infallibly inspired Scriptures. Thus, when we hold in our hands our Bibles, we have there the complete, sufficient, allauthoritative, and unified Word of God. Through that Word, God speaks to us and tells us of His great and infinite glory in Jesus Christ.
That Word the world hates and becomes angry against it. When shown from the Word that immorality is sin, or that homosexuality is sin according to Romans 1:18-32, the world vents its rage against the faithful church who stands in awe of Jehovah’s Word. When shown that evolution is a lie and that the truth is that God is the Creator, the world dismisses the faithful saints as fools.
Even in the church world, the pure Word of God is met with coldness. The Word of Christ as our particular, complete, and sovereign Savior is shunned. The Word of double predestination and God’s absolute sovereignty, as historically confessed by the Reformed church, is rejected for new, false definitions of those teachings. The Word of justification by faith alone is despised and exchanged for essentially the old, deceitful heresies concerning our justification.
But let us beware of our own hearts and the attitudes of our own sinful natures to the Word of God. Do we rejoice at the Word of God when it points out our sins and those areas where we fall miserably short? Do we rejoice when the Word of God cuts down our idols and images of God and Christ? Do we rejoice when the Word of God demands of us more sacrifice, more self-denial, more cross-bearing, more submission, more obedience, more commitment, more suffering, more persecution, more of our all? By faith, we should.
However, we often dismiss the Word of God as something that does not apply to us. It is easy to be happy with God’s Word when the Word says what we like to hear; but, when it demolishes our Baals, our golden calves, or our evil altars, then we become irritated and angry at the sacred speech of God, His Word. And, like King Jehoiakim, we are quick to show our pride against the Word by attacking the messenger of that Word, which messenger may be a pastor, a spouse, a parent, a teacher, an elder, a church member, or a friend.
More often, however, our response to the Word of God is apathy. The Word to us is often unattractive and not very important. We lack the spiritual excitement and deep appreciation for the Word of God that we should have. Often we approach the Scriptures with very little zeal or attention, in contrast to our rapt attention to a newscast, a hockey game, or the daily newspaper.
Such are the responses of our unbelief, which cannot see and hear the Word. In fact, in our unbelief, we do not want to see and hear the Word because it condemns our sin, our pride, and the idols and images we by nature like to worship.
We need the wonder-working power of the grace and Spirit of God to work in us what the psalmist experienced. At the spiritual sights and sounds of the infallible Word of God, the psalmist rejoiced. God gives His people new hearts and prepares them by His Spirit. With that new, spiritual life in our hearts, we rejoice at the sights and sounds of the Word of God.
That joy is not itself earthly joy. When the psalmist rejoiced at God’s Word, he was being persecuted. He had been rejected by former friends, family, nobles, and princes. His joy was not earthly. His earthly circumstance was misery and sadness. Do not we experience similar troubles in this life? Our joy in the Word of God is often experienced in times of sadness and trial. Hence, our joy is spiritual, heavenly: the spiritual, transcendent joy of living in and out of the Word of God. In that way, there is joy at the voice of Jehovah in our troubles and delight in our covenant Friend-Sovereign. As a bride delights in the voice of her husband, so we rejoice in the voice of our Bridegroom, our Lord Jesus Christ, in His Word.
Does the Word of God make you rejoice? When you study the Bible or read the Bible at the table, do you rejoice in that Word of God to you? Do you rejoice in the good news of God’s Word in your life? Do you rejoice with a suffering fellow-saint in the Word of God that comforts them in their affliction?
The psalmist did.
In fact, he rejoiced “as one that findeth great spoil.”
The psalmist was like a man who finds unexpected and great spoil. “Spoil” refers to the treasures that an army captures from its defeated enemy. It is treasure for which the army has fought; and when they possess the spoil of their enemies, they enjoy it with a sense of triumph. The psalmist compares himself to one who had rejoiced in a great spoil; however, this is spoil for which he had not fought, but which he had simply found. He compares himself to a man who enjoys all the spoils of victory, triumph, and gladness for a war that he had not even fought.
That illustration pictures the intensity and quality of his attitude towards the Word of God in his life. His response to the Word of God was not a cold shrug of the shoulder, nor a hard heart and a stiff neck. His response was a rejoicing of the highest degree. He rejoiced greatly in the midst of his persecution and troubles at the humbling and comforting treasures of the Word of Jehovah.
That is our joy, too, by the grace of God. Our joy before the Word is great because the Word is an inexhaustible mine of treasures. For example, we may have read the same passage of Scripture fifty times, but in the fifty-first time we find the great treasure of a new perspective on the truth or a new depth of understanding of the passage that we had not enjoyed before. Our hearts rejoice that we have struck it rich!
That ought to be our attitude always before God’s Word in the Old Testament’s law, prophets, and psalms as well as the Word of the New Testament. For example, we must approach the Psalms with eager anticipation of finding new jewels of understanding. After we have worked hard and prayerfully in the studying of the Word, the Lord does reward us with the spoil for which we have not fought or labored, but which is freely given to us for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord is often pleased to work in us this good attitude of rejoicing at His Word through affliction. Is it not often true that when times are going well and life is easy, we develop a kind of spiritual earwax and spiritual cataracts? We do not hear the Word of God with eagerness and anticipation, nor do we see the Word of God so sharply. Our spiritual senses become dull. Then God sovereignly sends us affliction to clean out the earwax and remove the cataracts. In the hard struggles or sudden calamities, we approach the Word with eager anticipation. We wait and listen to what God will say. We expect longingly for Him to lay before us the great jewels and gold of the Word of Christ. When Jehovah speaks, we rejoice like a poor man who has found a gold mine in his backyard.
Understand, that joy does not come without work. Regularly we must study the Word of God in that spiritual joy and eager anticipation for more knowledge and understanding. Daily we must read our Bibles, wearing the pages out. Daily we must be busy with the Scriptures, like a farmer who plows his fields. We must plow through the Scriptures, expecting that the Lord by His Spirit will lead us into new hidden treasure chests below the surface.
In that way, then, the Scriptures will more and more become our chief delight.
They will become our chief joy, first of all, because in His Word Jehovah is speaking tous! That in itself is a reason to be joyful. The holy, invisible, triune God comes to us puny creatures and speaks His glorious Word. Then, when He speaks, we are not consumed, but we are saved and preserved. That God speaks to us with His Word of grace is in itself an amazing wonder at which to rejoice greatly.
That speech of our covenant God is a precious gem to God’s people, which they eagerly anticipate, especially in tribulation. That was true of God’s people in the Old Testament. When God spoke His Word of promise, His saints rejoiced. However, when God did not speak for a lengthy period of time, the saints were troubled and dismayed by the silence. But when He spoke His Word to them again, the people of God rejoiced in assurance and peace. That is similar to a flock of sheep in a storm. When the sheep are troubled by the storm, the sheep can be quickly calmed, even in the storm, by the shepherd simply speaking to them. His voice assures them that he is with them and will continue to care for them.
Is not that true of us? When we pass through troubles, we rejoice to hear the voice of our Great Shepherd in His Word. We rejoice in the knowledge that even in the storm Jehovah is with us, nigh unto us, and even within us by His sovereign grace and Spirit. We rejoice spiritually as though we have struck it rich!
And, really, we by faith have struck it rich, because that Word is the Word of our salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our salvation by His atoning death on the cross of Calvary and His triumphant resurrection. He has fought for us and obtained the spoils of victory over all the enemies of the kingdom of darkness. He has redeemed us from our death and total poverty. He speaks to us in the gospel the riches of His complete and glorious salvation.
When we hear that Word of God, we rejoice! By faith, we have struck it rich in Christ! We possess in Christ the pure gold of His everlasting righteousness, the solid diamonds of the love of God, and the glorious rubies of His unfailing mercies. In Christ alone, we have that great, undeserved, unmerited, graciously and sovereignly bestowed treasure.
Finally, we rejoice at and in the Word because it gives us great hope. That is never true of the word of man. What man says will not abide forever. What man says is powerless and hopeless. But the Word of God gives us blessed assurance and hope because the Word is the power of God unto our salvation. The Word is our hope for our full deliverance from our sin and the troubles of this life and our hope for our full glorification in the eternal joy of our Lord.
Do you rejoice at Jehovah’s Word as one that finds great spoil?
Only in faith we do.
May God grant us that faith so that, in our personal devotions, in our family devotions, in our Bible studies, and in our worship services in God’s house, the Word of God may evermore remain our chief delight.