What Makes God’s Word So Wonderful (Ps 119:129-136)
Preached by Pastor Phil Layton at Gold Country Baptist Church on February 22, 2009
What makes God’s Word wonderful is the ultimate Author who inspired the human writers, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is called the Word (John 1) and His name is “Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). His Word is also wonderful, and our counselor, and so much more.
Someone has described the wonders of this book this way:
The Bible is God’s wonderful library … To the weary pilgrim, The Bible is a good strong staff. To the one who sits in gloom, The Bible is a glorious light. To those who stoop beneath heavy burden, The Bible is sweet rest. To him who has lost his way, The Bible is a safe guide. To those who have been hurt by sin, The Bible is healing balm. To the discouraged, it whispers glad messages of hope. To those who are distressed by the storms of life, The Bible is an anchor. To those who suffer in lonely solitude, The Bible is a cool, soft hand resting on a fevered brow … to best defend it, just use it! If you have not yet discovered [and become lost in wonder, love and praise for] the Bible, it’s time you did.
Psalm 119:129-136 (NASB95) 129 Your testimonies are wonderful; Therefore my soul observes them. 130 The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple. 131 I opened my mouth wide and panted, For I longed for Your commandments. 132 Turn to me and be gracious to me, After Your manner with those who love Your name. 133 Establish my footsteps in Your word, And do not let any iniquity have dominion over me. 134 Redeem me from the oppression of man, That I may keep Your precepts. 135 Make Your face shine upon Your servant, And teach me Your statutes. 136 My eyes shed streams of water, Because they do not keep Your law.
Verse 129 is the summary sentence that the rest of the verses really expand and expound: Your testimonies are wonderful; Therefore my soul observes them (other translations have “keep” or “obey.”) If we truly believe deep within us that God’s Word is as wonderful as this Psalm says it is, there is no other response imaginable. If you do not find your heart resonating with this text about how wondrous and desirous the Scriptures are to your soul, it’s not because of anything wrong with the Bible, there’s something wrong with you, with your spiritual eyesight and affections. If you have any spiritual life or desire at all, pray the prayer of v. 18: Open my eyes that I may see the wondrous things from Your law.
We need eyes to see and ears to hear and appreciate the wonders of God’s Word, and we must pray for God’s help to do so, as v. 27 also does: Make me understand the way of Your precepts, So shall I meditate on Your wonderful works (NKJV), or wonders (NASB).
Psalm 139:6 speaks of the teaching of God’s Word about God’s attributes, and David says there “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it.”
Exodus 15 is a song written by the Israelites after God delivered them from the Egyptians through the Red Sea by signs and wonders and miracle-working power, true “shock and awe”:
11 “Who is like You among the gods, O Lord? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praises, working wonders? …
Psalm 77 (NASB95) 11 I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old … 14 You are the God who works wonders; You have made known Your strength among the peoples.
This is the word for “wonderful” we see in v. 129 which speaks of the wonderful Word of our God of Wonders beyond our galaxy.
Spurgeon said on this verse that God’s testimonies and truths are ‘wonderful in their effects, as instructing, elevating, strengthening, and comforting the soul … Those who know them best wonder at them most. It is wonderful that God should have borne testimony at all to sinful men, and more wonderful still that his testimony should be of so heavenly a character, so clear, so full, so gracious, so mighty.’
What Makes God’s Word So Wonderful? What It Makes in Us
5 Wonderful Blessings the Word Produces:
1. More Light to the Soul (v. 130, 135)
130 The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.
The translation “unfolding of Your Word” brings to mind the image of the unfolding of the scroll of Scripture in OT times, as they would do in the Synagogue services. As the scroll unfolded, the idea was light of God’s truth would go forth. Like when drapes are folded back in a home or blinds are pulled open, the light of the Sun comes in. In the same way, the light of Scripture comes in as the Word is unfolded and opened up, which I trust will take place even this morning as I seek to unfold and open this passage to you, with the illuminating light-giving help of God.
That is really a good picture of what biblical preaching is, opening up God’s Word to make it clear to the hearer, as the second half of this verse says “it gives understanding.” The goal of a sermon should not be to entertain sinners, or impress scholars, but to give understanding to the simple as this verse says by opening up the Scriptures so that young and old can understand, all who recognize themselves as simple and who in childlike faith depend on and look to the Word of their Father. But those who are proud and think themselves wise and not in great need of it will have its truths concealed to them as Jesus said.
This beginning of this verse is also translated “the entrance” or perhaps better, “the opening of Your words gives light,” like light that comes through an entry way of a house, which in ancient Israel was often the main or only place light came into a home. As you would open a scroll in the middle, or in our day open your Bible with both hands to the middle to Psalm 119, the image is like opening 2 swinging doors to let light in, opening the Bible shines light to us. This psalm already said a similar thing in verse 105: “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” How foolish it is to put that light under a bushel, or let Satan or anyone blow it out, we need to let it shine! God’s Word is the light that shows us where to go, either by direct command or by principles.
How does the Bible give light and guidance for our decisions where the Scripture does not explicitly tell us what to do, Steve Lawson asked (ex: what college to attend or job to take)? His answer: ‘What we do find [in God’s Word] is God’s will, first revealed to us regarding what kind of person we ought to be, and then second, we find in the Scriptures, the priorities I am to have in my life … God is more interested in who you are than in what you do.
God is more concerned about your character than about your career. He is more concerned about where your heart is than about where your job is. He is more concerned about your spiritual growth and your spiritual maturity than anything else in your life … Who should you marry? Someone who loves the Bible … Where should you work? You need to find a town in which to work where there is an expository pulpit and where there is the preaching of the Word of God … [Lawson says to his own] children, “let’s talk about where to go to college, but here’s qualification # 1: In whatever town or whatever city it is this college is in that we will be discussing, there needs to be a pulpit with an open Bible and a pastor who is passionate with a high view of God and will preach verse-by-verse through the Word of God, that is God’s will for your life where to go to college.”
This type of light-giving Scripture-opening teaching is what Jesus modeled after His resurrection on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:
- He opened up the OT to them it says, explaining, expounding and enlightening them to its message
- it was an expository message not just of one text but of how beginning in Moses and through the prophets and psalms (where we are today), Jesus brought light to the text as He explained to them the things concerning the Messiah in all the Scriptures, declaring how the whole counsel of God is Christ-centered
- Their spiritual eyes were opened to truths of the Word they had read but never really seen before
- Then later their physical eyes were also opened to recognize they were talking to Christ, the Word who became flesh, the ultimate Author of all Scripture.
- Afterwards, the disciples said to one another “Did not our hearts burn within us while He … opened the Scriptures to us?”
- Explaining or expounding the Scriptures (expository preaching) is the pattern we see also in the Apostles
Acts 17:2-3 (NKJV) 2 Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining [lit. opening] and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.”
That was the custom or manner of the Apostles, not to reason from man’s culture or man’s cleverness or man’s consumer preferences or man’s carnal worldliness, but to reason from the Scriptures, to open the Scriptures and explain what they say – that’s what is truly relevant and powerful and life-changing and light-giving.
Paul knew this as well as anyone from his own conversion experience. The man once known as Saul of Tarsus had his eyes closed to Christ because of his self-righteous self-religion practices like many today (probably some in this room). While he was yet a sinner and in spiritual darkness, at midday a light from heaven far brighter than the sun shone in his face as God’s Word came audibly from heaven, as if to illustrate this truth indelibly on his eyeballs that the coming of God’s Word is with light. And then God chose to blind Saul for three days after that light and audible Word he heard, and Acts 26:18 explains that God was sending him to the Gentiles “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God …”
That was the mission of the man who would change his name to Paul and become the human instrument to write almost half of the books in the New Testament, bringing the Word with much light to the dark world of our ethnic ancestors. This image of light from darkness became a favorite image of Paul, an unforgettable metaphor for a man blind for 3 days, whose eyes were opened again to light as Ananias spoke the Word of God to him, and light again flooded into his eyes. The same can happen today as we open and explain this book and I pray it might even cause the scales to fall off your eyes today to behold its wonders.
Robinson Crusoe was able to salvage a Bible from the wreckage he had dragged ashore. But he did not open it till he fell ill. Then he read from it, and it suddenly took on meaning. Or, could we say, the Holy Spirit “unfolded” its meaning to him? … for the first time since he had put foot on the island he knelt down and prayed.
135 Make Your face shine upon Your servant, And teach me Your statutes.
This is a personalized prayer of the classic OT benediction:
Numbers 6:22-26 (NASB95) 22 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: 24 The Lord bless you, and keep you; 25 The Lord make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; 26 The Lord lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’
Notice the light of God’s face or favor, His blessing, is paralleled in v. 135 with the light of the teaching we receive. If we want to pray for God’s blessing, notice it is directly tied to the teaching of God’s Word. If we want God to bless us more, we need to hear His Word more. We can sing “God bless America” all we want, but God blesses those who allow God’s truth to be taught. We can wish God’s blessing on others (“God bless you”), but if we wish to receive His blessings, v. 135 says we must receive His teaching.
Ps 67: God be gracious to us and bless us, And cause His face to shine upon us. That Your way may be known on the earth, Your salvation among all nations.
When God’s ways are known on the earth, and His gospel has been taught and embraced in a nation, that’s the truest and greatest blessing. What a great way to pray, and not be centered on our nation, but be praying for all nations as that psalm goes on to say:
3 Let the peoples praise You, O God; Let all the peoples praise You. 4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy … 5 Let the peoples praise You, O God; Let all the peoples praise You. 6 The earth has yielded its produce; God, our God, blesses us. 7 God blesses us, That all the ends of the earth may fear Him.
If God blesses us, it’s so His gospel will bless others through us. God’s Wonderful Word makes more light to the soul (point #1).
2. More Longing for the Word (v. 131)
3. More Love in the Gracious God (v. 132)
More Liberation from Sin and Sinners (v. 133-134)
More Love of the Lost (v. 136)
J. C. Philpot, a godly man from past centuries, wrote:
What wonderful things does God sometimes shew us in his word! How our eyes sometimes seem to be anointed with eyesalve "to behold wondrous things out of God's law!" (Ps 119:18.) Sometimes in reading a chapter we see such beauty, such fulness, such sweetness, such glory in it, that it seems, as it were, to fill our very hearts … when my heart is brought to lie at the footstool of mercy, this seems to be the panting and breathing of my soul—to know experimentally and spiritually the blessed truths that my eyes see in the word of God, to have them opened up to my understanding, brought into my heart, grafted into my soul, applied to my conscience, and revealed with such supernatural and heavenly power that the truth as it is in Jesus may be in me a solemn and saving reality, that it may bring with it such a divine blessing as to fill me with grace, enlarge my heart into the enjoyment of the gospel, gird up my loins with spiritual strength, give and increase faith, communicate and encourage hope, shed abroad and draw forth love, and fill me with joy and peace in believing.
AMG Bible Illustrations. Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2000.
 Spurgeon, Treasury of David, PAGE #?
Knight, G. A. F. (2001, c1982). Psalms : Volume 2. The Daily study Bible series (253). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.
Philpot, J. Ears from Harvested Sheaves, or Daily Portions. << Publisher Name >>, p. 108-109.