The Word Makes a Difference

Decisions, decisions, decisions. Dr. Erik Klinger from the University of Minnesota did a study and determined that we make between 300 and 17,000 decisions every day. These decisions are big and small, range from routine to major, and affect personal and business matters.

Making decisions can be difficult. So we sometimes find ourselves making gut decisions, rash decisions, bad decisions, and uninformed decisions that we later regret. As Christians who have been touched by God’s grace in our lives through Jesus, we want our decisions instead to be prudent, wise, and God-pleasing.

Our text for today testifies that God helps us make decisions as we go through life as God’s people. Let’s have a look at it. It is a portion of a psalm that praises God for his law and his Word:

“Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all day long,” reads the first line. Love for the law? How can this be? Obviously the songwriter isn’t familiar with Paul’s letter to the Galatians that talks of living under the curse of the law (Galatians 3:10).

Whether you view the law as praiseworthy or as a curse depends on the angle from which you view the law. If you view it as a means to salvation, then it is going to be experienced as a curse as you try to earn your way into a saving relationship with God. You can’t do it! However, if you view the law as an expression of salvation, it is an entirely different story. Then your attitude toward the law is similar to when you love someone, or are grateful to someone who has done something for you, and you want to know what will please them so you can show your love and gratitude.

In this particular setting of our text, the psalmist is a member of God’s chosen people. He is one of the people of God’s covenant, made when Israel was saved from slavery in Egypt. This is a privilege! God said of them, laying down the law, “This is how my people will live . . .”

Another word for the law is Torah, which encompasses not only the commandments and ordinances by God to his chosen people, but also the history of what God has done for them.

The psalmist says, “I love your law,” your very Word, Lord, that tells me how much you have done for me and how I can live in your sight, for your good pleasure. He adds to that love statement: “It is my meditation all day long.” He studies it, ponders it as he reads it, and tucks it into the core of his being. He follows it in his decision-making, his relationships, and every facet of his life.

Let’s look at the rest of this passage and see why he loves God’s law.

“Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is always with me.

I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your decrees are my meditation.

I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.

I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word.

I do not turn away from your ordinances, for you have taught me.

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. “

Did you catch why he loves it so? He sounds like a satisfied customer. The law has made a positive difference in his decision-making life!

There are a couple points in the text that we should examine more closely.

First, when he writes, “Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,” it gives him an edge over his enemies Ð those who do not follow God’s ways. God knows what makes a life work best; he invented it, so he ought to know.

Next, notice the repetition of the word “understand.” He says he has “more understanding than the elders,” that he “gains understanding from your precepts.” Here in God’s Word, our songwriter says he has gained understanding. Understanding of what?

¥ Understanding of God. He made me, and he loves me; he wants to have a relationship with me and lead me through this life.

¥ Understanding of self. I need God, because without him leading me I make a mess of my life with my sinful, self-centered ways.

¥ Understanding of his will for my life as a follower. My ultimate goal in life is to glorify God with my ethics, my behavior, my attitude, my words, my witness, and my actions. That is God’s ultimate goal for your life and mine: to glorify him and enhance his reputation before a world that needs him badly.

By the way, the psalmist is not knocking teachers or the elderly in our text. He is simply pointing out the supremacy of God’s Word in a person’s life over that from all other sources.

Finally, the writer points out that the Word of GodÑthe lawÑkeeps him out of the trouble which he is prone to get into without it’s guidance. He writes, “I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me.” He is saying, What you have given me, Lord, is keeping me on the straight and narrowÑand I’m loving it!

Now the last statement: “Therefore I hate every wrong path.” What is he saying here? I’m sticking with your Word, Lord. I pledge allegiance to studying and keeping your Word in my life. In other words, he’s going to keep at it and let it be his compass for life.

A good question for us to ask is, Why did the Holy Spirit save these words all these centuries for us? For what purpose?

The purpose is to point the people of God toward the benefit of knowing God’s Word and submitting to it in our lives. It’s an encouragement to study and apply it in our daily decision-making.

Is this encouragement only an Old Testament teaching? Absolutely not! As Christians, we know and follow the Word made fleshÑJesus Christ!

The Bible tells us, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . The word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen his glory, glory as of a Father’s only Son full of grace and truth. . . From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace” (John 1:1, 14, 16).

Jesus Christ entered our world and died upon a cross to rescue us from sin and give us eternal life. Listen to his command for his followers: “If you continue in my Word, you are truly my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32). The key word is “continue.” Know it and hold onto it as your authority in life’s decisions.

Listen also to what he later said to his followers: “Those who love me will keep my Word. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23). This, too, illustrates how very important it is to keep and live by God’s Word.

Years later, an older Christian named Paul testified to a young Christian, whom he was encouraging, to stick with the Word of God: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Paul had learned the value of continuing in the Word of God.

Some of that enthusiasm for God’s Word has been lost in parts of Christendom today. Biblical illiteracy is a phrase sometimes used in describing the struggles in the church. People don’t know their Bible very well. Some of this stems, I suppose, from a skepticism regarding the Bible’s authority and its relevance for our lives. Another reason may be that people do make attempts to study the Bible, but find it is difficult. Indeed, it does take discipline and time to get at what God is telling us in the Bible.

Whatever the reason, many people are missing out on the wisdom and understanding that our psalmist describes for us today. The Word of God will make a big difference in the lives of those who will give themselves over to the endeavor of studying it and applying it to their decision-making. We need the Word in our lives!

Martin Luther wrote, “Nothing is more perilous than to be weary of the Word of God. Thinking they know enough, a person begins little by little to despise the Word until they have lost Christ and the Gospel.” Losing the Word means losing Christ entirely.

In another comment on the importance of God’s Word in our lives, Dr. Billy Graham was recently asked in an interview what he would do differently if he had his life to do over again. He replied, “One of my greatest regrets is that I have not studied enough. I wish I had studied more and preached less. People have pressured me into speaking, when I should have been studying and preparing.”

The psalmist was right. God’s Word makes all the difference!

You might ask, How do I get started becoming acquainted, or re-acquainted, with God’s Word?

Set aside time each day to read and study it. Read slowly, a little bit at a time. If it’s one of the New Testament letters, read a paragraph and then stop. If it is a story, read to the end of the narrative and stop. Think about it. Use some observation questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how? To slow you down as you ponder, ask yourself, What do I learn here about God and his will for me?

Use the tools that are available. Usually at the beginning of each book of the Bible you will find an introduction that will give you things to look for as you read. Bring a submissive attitudeÑnot just to submit to knowledge, but also to submit to God’s living Word and apply it to our lives.

If you do this, you will discover that God’s Word is wonderful! “Sweeter than honey to my mouth,” as the psalmist wrote. And it does make the difference in a life that is filled with decisions.