Summary: How do you experience God’s way in life?
This is the time of year when as we travel, we see people wearing bright orange vests, standing on or near the roads that we travel on. In their hands are poles, also stripped in bright orange, some of which are on tripods surrounded by cones of orange, and special devices they look through. What are they doing? Are they looking for something that has been lost?
No, they are surveying property for a project of some kind - highway reconstruction or construction, a new housing development, or a new business. They are looking for boundaries. They are attempting to determine where one property line ends and another begins.
In the past 10 years other kinds of boundaries have been written about. Boundaries between people. Two such books are Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend and Margin by Swenson. All three men are Christian counselors and physicians who basically say that part of spiritual health and maturity is learning how to be responsible for your own life by having healthy and responsible boundaries in your life that make healthy and responsible relationships possible.
A third book speaks of boundaries in a slightly different way. The best selling book, The Prayer of Jabez, written by Bruce Wilkinson, is based on I Chronicles 4:10, that is the record of Jabez’s prayer in which he asks God to "enlarge his territory." As Wilkinson writes, "the word territory can also be translated coast or borders." Might we also say "boundaries?"
Now, the boundaries or the borders for which Jabez prays to God to enlarge deal with a larger influence for God through his life. Wilkinson calls it "living large for God."
It is this third idea of boundaries that I wish to have us keep in mind this day as we come to our text in Psalm 119 and this question: How do you experience God’s ways in life? How do we identify and stay within the boundaries of life that God has put in place?
Last week it was suggested that Ezra wrote Psalm 119 and if he did, we need to also remember that the Jewish refugees in Jerusalem to whom he went after the God-imposed exile of 70 years was completed were people who needed to rediscover and reapply the boundaries of their faith. Ezra, I would remind us, went to restore the practice of worship and obedience to God to the refugees. However, as we read the story of Ezra’s mission in the Old Testament book by his name, we are also reminded that many leaders had exceeded the boundaries set by God in the law because of intermarriage and public confession and repentance was required.
Today we are going to look a segment of Psalm 119 that describes the boundaries of God’s way, verses 33-35.
I am going to read it a second time this morning to keep it fresh in our thinking:
Teach me, O Lord to follow every one of your principles. Give me understanding and I will obey your law; I will put it into practice with all my heart. Make me walk along the path of your commands, for that is where my happiness is found. "
We learn to live within the boundaries of God’s way when we:
Follow every one of God’s principles.
Understand and obey God’s law by putting it wholeheartedly into practice.
Walk along the path of God’s commands.
The boundaries of God’s way are to help us live like Jabez prayed and the first way we learn to live this way is by following every one of God’s principles. As I prepared this sermon, I spent some time looking up the nouns and verbs of this segment to have a clearer understanding of it. The first word I studied was follow that appears in verse 33.
An interesting definition of follow is "to engage in as a way of life." And if we use this definition of follow then what the Psalmist is saying in these verses is, "I want to engage in your way of life, God. I want to do what I need to do to live life your way."
To follow someone or something implies loyalty to that someone or something. For example, what would you say two explosives experts are loyal to when their motto is, “If you see us running, you had better catch up?” What are they loyal to? LIVING!!!
As we examine verse 33 we notice that the way of engagement (the way of loyalty?) for the Psalmist is through following not just a few, but every one of God’s principles. Now, what are principles? What does it mean to follow principles?
Someone has written that when a man says he approves of something in principle, it means that he hasn’t the slightest intention of putting it into practice. Is this what principles means in this verse?