Psalm one hundred and nineteen has been called the ABC of faith. Faith not so much as to the objective truth as such, but the active faith and its experience. This same psalm, like all the others psalms, has been referred to as the expression of faith from a practical point of view. Now it is hard to say what is meant by practical. As a rule it signifies the absence of deep and systematic thinking. It is considered more or less superficial and it does not produce food for thought. We hear people speak of practical sermons and practical remarks. Thus considered, we are tempted to consider the book of Psalms more or less fit for the plain or common people, hence, for those who do not have time or the ability or both to study the deeper things of Scripture. Consequently, such Bible books were given just for that class of people we mentioned. However, we do not think it fit to apply such statements to Holy Writ. The Bible is one organic whole. Not a single book, although it must be distinguished from the others, stands by itself, but is related to all the other books.
In the second place, we should not be too hasty in our evaluation of the different books of our Bible. Seemingly there are more or less practical books, the Psalms differ from the Epistle to the Romans yet it will never do to consider the one dogmatical and the other of a more practical nature. Besides, what is often considered to be practical, is in reality not practical but personal. It is here neither the proper place nor do 1 have time to show the difference between these two words (practical and personal), nor is it my purpose to bring out the relation between them. When I speak to you about this word of Psalm 119 it is my purpose to bring to you as young people the Word of God fitting your particular needs as young people. I know and you ought to feel it, that it is rather difficult to speak on a subject or theme that has been assigned in advance and must be conformed to the speech you have just heard and which was based on “Seeking our Creator NOW”. Psalm 119 has been divided into as many sections as there are letters or characters in the Hebrew alphabet. Each section presents one main idea and is followed through all the verses, thereby controlling them. In this section we find an expression of the wonderful perfection of the Word of God, so that the poet marvels at it.
Now we notice that this Word of God is used with variation. Sometimes it is called the Law or the ordinances of God, again it is presented as His statutes or promises. And whatever he may call that Word, he will never forget it, for the precepts of the Lord have quickened him. We must take note of the fact that throughout this psalm we find a personal element. This man speaks of the Word of God not as such but in close connection with himself. He will not forget, because that Word has quickened him. In other words, that Word made more than an impression upon him. To him that Word is a power, he knows it by experience, because he was made alive by the Lord with the Word.
Placing ourselves before the question what does the word precepts signify, here we answer, sometimes it means a promise. For the Word of God is the promise to His people. He promises salvation and life eternal to His people in and through the promised One, Jesus Christ. Again that Word as a precept is the commandment or mandate, that is God’s will in regard to our lives. What we should be to Him, how our conduct should be in the midst of a thorough sin darkened world. And always it implies the one principle idea that we must love the Lord our God with all our mind and will and heart. That we must conduct ourselves in harmony with His Word.
It is a little difficult to say what the poet means when he says I will never forget thy precepts. On the face of it we would say he means to take the oath of allegiance in regard to the Word of God. That of course, is in harmony with Scripture as well as with the desire of the heart of God’s people. Thus we could explain these words to mean, it is my intention never to forget, that is, I will always remember and not depart from thy precepts. However, if we consider the second part of these words, “for with them thou hast quickened me” the idea of an oath is a little out of place. There may be another interpretation.
With them hast thou quickened me, is the same when we would say, With Thy Word, O Lord! thou hast made me alive, or hast made me to live. Thou made me alive, may therefore mean, thou hast given me the rebirth from death or, thou hast made me conscious of the fact that now I live. The one does not exclude, but rather implies the other. It is the Lord at all times who makes us to live. To live when the irresistible power of God’s Spirit enters the heart of the sinner, dead in sin and trespasses. That is the horrible truth in re our natural birth. Our whole nature is perverse, we are filled with enmity toward God, darkened in our mind and we indulge in the lie. We live contrary to God’s will and we are perverse in all our desires and the inclination of the heart is to seek self, the world and all that is of darkness. The only change from this horrible state is possible when God’s Spirit takes hold of us and operates in us. In the second place, with the poet it is a question of experience. He is what is often called a man of faith. The quickening operation of God’s Spirit is to him a reality. When the Lord speaks to him through His precepts they speak to the new life that is in him—a life that shall never disappear. And it is from that point of view that the poet does not take an oath, does not make a promise, but he relies upon the faithfulness of Jehovah. Jehovah has quickened him in the past, he is sure of it, with a view to the future, that same covenant God shall make him to live. Hence, this man of God means to say whereas God has never failed in His promises and whereas I have the experience of being quickened, I feel fully assured that my God shall remain the same with a view to the future. And the personal touch is expressed in the exclamation of the first part of the text “To eternity I will not forget Thy precepts” or as I remarked, I will always remember them.
In remembering the Lord’s precepts the question presents itself, what is the remembering of the precepts of the Lord? Does it mean perhaps, I learned to know them in my youth and growing older I am now able to recite then)? Is it a question of intellect? There are some people who seem to have a certain dislike of knowing the Word of God. They say, all that knowledge of Scripture may and often does result in pride. They, so they say, live by inspiration. And they prefer a minister, who speaks through the Spirit. The study of God’s Word does not help. The Word is dead and does not make the sinner to live. There is an element of truth in the statement that the Word does not make alive. Even our text does not say that. It says, thou, with or through the Word has made me alive. Beware for the following mistake and be not afraid to tell such people, God does not quicken you without, but through His Word. After all, without the precepts of the Lord, there is nothing but death. Without the Word is without spiritual experience. And when any one makes the claim to have rich spiritual experiences he must be able to find them recorded in God’s Word. Every experience that cannot stand the challenge of the Word is the result of imagination.
However, we must be careful and guard ourselves for another evil. Natural man also knows the Word of God and often prides himself with that knowledge. People who have a good memory will be able to retain past experiences they learned in their youth concerning the Scriptures and will never forget their instructions received in their youth. And let me add to it, that a good memory is a tremendous help. But the remembering of the precepts of the Lord, without anything else, does not give us assurance.
Yet, the poet speaks of being made alive and this personal experience is based upon and flows from the love of God in his heart. The object of his life is God. Is God’s will, His precepts, His commandments, His promises, His law. With Him it became first of all an issue of life. His life is determined by God’s Word. Therefore, he meditates upon them, he searches the Scriptures. He applies the precepts of the Lord in his daily life. The love of God resulted in the love he has for God and for His Word.
You, Protestant young people, come in contact daily with this Word. The strength of our Churches is, as it always has been, the Word of God. If you ask me what is the cause of having our own churches? my answer is: the sincere and intense study of God’s Word by our leaders. Their love for the truth of that same Word. The rich knowledge and the spiritual ability to stand over against those who departed from the doctrine of absolute predestination and reprobation.
In that respect, the first requisite is the unfailing love for God and His Word. And that love will increase in the same measure we study the Word. Your society life depends upon your earnest study of Scripture, without it your society is bound to fail.
In the second place, it has been pointed out to you that you must remember your Creator now in the days of your youth. A young man and young woman who do not sincerely study the Word will never become a strong member in the Church of Jesus Christ, nor will they be able to stand over against those who corrupt the truth. Besides the study of the Word brings with it a glorious reward.
In the third place, the Lord does not quicken without, but with the Word. This implies we must walk in the way of that Word. Without the knowledge of the precepts of the Word there cannot possibly be personal spiritual experience. The Lord simply does not speak to us in any other way, but through His precepts. The knowledge and the study of His Word is the ordained way of the Lord and we cannot change it without spiritual loss.
Finally, remember Him, your Creator now. The springtime of life is given for the same purpose as the springtime in nature. Springtime means preparation and hard consistent labor. There will be no harvest following if the field was not prepared in early season. In the sweat of his brow the farmer looked forward to the time of the harvest. Thus labor, while yours is the strength and the vigor of youth.
Remember thy Creator now in the days of your youth and let the answer be: “I will never forget thy precepts: for with them thou hast quickened me.” (Part of speech spoken at the first field day of the Western League of the Protestant Reformed Churches of Iowa and Minnesota.)