Posted On February 17, 2015

James Boice - The Law: Living by the Book 1

Have you ever noticed how novelists describe the way a person walks to highlight his or her character? Proud men walk with their heads held high. Beautiful women glide or float. Evil villains slouch, sneak, creep, or swagger. The need to describe different ways of walking has enriched our language. The Oxford Thesaurus lists dozens of synonyms for walk: trek, shuffle, ramble, march, roam, wander, and others. But English is not the best of the worlds languages in this respect. According to Eugene A. Nida of the American Bible Society, the Zulu language has at least 120 words for walking: to walk pompously, to walk with a swagger, to walk crouched down as when hunting a wild animal, to walk in tight clothes, and so on.

How should Christians walk? The Bible tells us to walk worthy of our “vocation” (Ephesians. 4:1 KJV), “uprightly” (Isaiah 57:2), and “in the light” (1 John 1:7). Micah 6:8 says, “What does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” In the section of Psalm 119 to which we come now (the samekh and ay’m stanzas, verses. 113-28) the writer is concerned with his walk, and the burden of his concern is that it be according to God’s Word. This important theme was actually introduced a stanza before this, with the nun stanza (verses. 105-12), beginning with the words: ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (verse 105). We looked at those words in terms of the Bible’s clarity. Yet they also have to do with walking along a right path. This is the theme that continues through verse 128, which wraps up this line of thought by stating, “I hate every wrong path.”

Seeing the Right Path Clearly

In regard to the believer’s walk, the point of stanza fourteen is that if we are to walk as God wants us to walk, we must be able to see the right way clearly. We will never be able to see it by ourselves because this is a dark world, we have no natural light in ourselves, and there are deviating paths. We can only see the right path if the Word of God shines on it and lights it up for us. The Bible does this. It teaches us the way we should go and actually enables us to walk in it,

This stanza has two ideas in regard to walking, one positive and the other negative. As far as the positive idea is concerned, the psalmist says that he has taken an oath to “follow your righteous laws (verse. 106). That is, he has determined to obey the Bible’s teaching. The Bible shows him the right path to follow.

The negative idea is in verse 110: “The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts.” I think here of the apostle Paul’s instruction to Timothy, In 2 Timothy chapter three he warns Timothy of “terrible times in the last days,” noting that the world will be filled with vices. “People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” This is an apt description of the kind of world we live in. But what is even worse is that these vices will be in the church, for they will exist in those who have “a form of godliness” but deny “its power” (verses. 1-5).

What is Timothy to do in such terrible times? How can he keep to the right path and avoid falling into the snares that will beset for him by the wicked? He must continue in what he has learned from the Bible. The Bible is not like other books. It is God’s book, and it alone will make His way plain. Paul explains it like this. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (verses. 16-17).

There are those positive and negative points again, both of which are necessary. Teaching and training are the positive terms. Rebuking and correcting are the negatives. We need both if we are to walk in the right path and avoid the wrong ones.

Choosing Right and Rejecting Wrong

Choosing the right path and avoiding wrong ones brings us to the second stanza (verses. 113-20) in which the writer speaks particularly about right and wrong paths. The last stanza taught that the Bible alone enables us to see the right way clearly. This stanza teaches that there are many contrary paths and much opposition and if we are to walk as God wants us to walk, we must have determination.

Alexander Maclaren wrote that “this section is mainly the expression of firm resolve to cleave to the Law.” He saw a meaningful outline in it. Verses 113-15 “breathe love and determination.” This passes in verses 116 and 117 into “prayer in view of the psalmist’s weakness and the strength of temptation.”

Finally, in verses 118-20 “the fate of the despisers of the Law intensifies the psalmist’s clinging grasp of awe-struck love.” It will be helpful to follow Maclarens outline.

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