5th May 2019 – No Sermon recording available
Preaching: Gary Moore
Psalm 119:105-112, Matthew 5:17-20
Mission & The Reliability of Scripture
The Yawos are a people group in Southern Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. Their history with the rest of the tribes of that area is quite complex. In the era of the slave trade they sided with the Arab slave traders and profited off the suffering of thousands. They took on the religion of the benefactors, the Muslims and so they are now marginalised and looked down upon by the rest of the tribes of Malawi. Global Interaction identified them many years ago as a least reached people group because of these factors. Tim and Mel Downes have been in southern Malawi over ten years. Lets hear part of his story with the Yawos
Video – Yawos
I have heard that video clip a dozens of time but it still thrills my heart. This young Mum has seen the difference Jesus has made in her life. Although the spirit world is still very real to her she knows the one who is greater than fears and is greater than the evil spirits that control the lives of many of her fellow Yawos.
For us in the Christian faith the essential nature of following Jesus is about a better hope for today and a hope for the future. At the heart of the Christian faith is the understanding that God has made us to be in relationship with Him. Following God and his ways is best done in through following his word. This is found in scripture. God’s word guiding and directing us through life is at the heart of our faith. It is also at the heart of this beautiful psalm that we are looking at today.
It is indeed a great privilege to speak on this Psalm and in particular Psalm 119: 105
Your word is a lamp for my foot,
a light along my track
I remember learning this verse here many years ago as a boy. It meant something then but means so much more now, intellectually and spiritually. I pray that as we journey through this passage this morning we will all be reminded of this central truth in life and in Mission.
1/ Psalms 119 and Wisdom (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
To understand these beautiful words more fully it is helpful to understand the Psalms and Wisdom literature from which they are a part of. The Psalms themselves are acknowledged as the most read and used part of scripture. Whether it as a call to worship or a few words for a song or sometimes the words become our prayers of desperation, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me? The Psalms impact the modern Church in many profound and diverse ways.
For me the words from Psalm 42, “As the deer pants for the water”, still evoke that desire of a closer relationship with God to this day.
Psalm 119 is one of the most carefully constructed of all the Psalms as it is an acrostic with the 22 divisions being based on the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. But just as significant for us to consider is it is also classified as a wisdom Psalm. Its purpose is to remind us about the centrality of God’s Torah to life and faith. The 176 verses of the Psalm celebrate the usefulness of God’s instruction and guidance for our lives. Although there are various words used in the Psalm for Torah, I personally prefer to use the Hebrew word Torah because it better reflects the nature of Torah. We often use the English word law to talk about the first 5 books of the OT – Genesis to Deuteronomy. The term law often evokes the do’s and the don’ts of the 10 commandments and similar sets of instructions that we see in the first 5 books of the Bible. Yet we learn so much more from these books through the stories of God’s people like Abraham and Moses through their journeys – through the highs and the lows of life. Indeed we are taught – we are instructed and encouraged through these stories. These stories of people of faith instruct and assist us in our journey as we seek God’s guidance today.
Likewise the very essence of Psalm 119 is as a wisdom Psalm. The wisdom books are not so much a set of God’s promises as a set of principles – in that sense the best way to do life. Probably best summed up at the conclusion of Ecclesiastes12:13
Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
The verse here is probably best understood as not so much cringing before almighty God as giving him his rightful place in our life and in his world. In that sense God’s as our maker knows how to get the best out of life and the very meaning of life itself.
The Bible itself has been described as a user manual and that is quite helpful way to think about not only this Psalm but the journey that the Psalmist takes us on in the 150 psalms that are in our cannon of scripture. The Psalmist praises God but is also able to argue with God when things don’t seem to be panning out as expected.
How Long, How Long O Lord Psalm 13
2/ Torah: God’s Righteous Instructions for Us Ps 119:105
But right at the heart of the Psalmist thinking is this overarching premise in Psalm 119 –
Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.
God’s word is meant to be our guiding principles in our life and in our faith. After living in Wellington for nearly 20 years we have seen lives & families ruined through drug abuse. We have seen dysfunctional families and the devastation they cause. We have seen kids going without food so parents can have their vices. The world uses all manner of labels to describe the causes of such tragedies but when we turn our back on God’s word and his way what else should we expect.
God’s word is indeed trustworthy, reliable and dependable. The Church for over two thousand years has believed in scripture and the principles it expounds so much that it is not only worth living for but also dying for. We know those men that Jesus called to follow him all possibly but the Apostle John died as martyrs. That is how central and reliable they saw the words of God.
3/ God’s Word enlightens us & save us. Ps 119:107
I have suffered much; preserve my life, LORD, according to your word. (NIV)
Once again we have the cry of real faith as the Psalmist tries to see God’s hand at work in the middle of the struggles of life. We are not told what the nature of the problem is but in that sense it makes the words far more generic and therefore applicable to us all in our circumstances in life.
The cry of the person of faith in real life is one of the great privileges of pastoral ministry. Sitting alongside God’s people as they experience those Job like occasions, challenges but deepens my own faith. The psalmist often argues with God, cries out to him and often seems his hand of comfort, support and resolution.
You see at the heart of our faith is not just a set of dos and don’ts but the lord of Creation wanting to be in relationship with us in the best and the worst of life. He preserves us through what life throws at us and carries us into eternity.
That God wants to change your life and mine. He wants to guide and direct you and I. But you know what he still wants to transform and change lives right around the world.
Talk about the Akim’s fathers death
Psalm 119 has reminded us again of the centrality and the reliability of Scripture to guide and lead us through life.
Real Men and Women need that instruction manual for life as God intended it. Are you willing to share that with your family and friends. Are you willing to share that with you local communities here in Canberra.
As we head to Malawi as the Lord brings you to mind we will pray for you and your mission. Will you pray for us and our students and the work of college as they too want to see the difference Jesus makes in the lives of their people in Malawi.