The Psalm of the Word (Part 7): Remembrance

The Psalm of the Word

Remember the word to Your servant,
In which You have made me hope.

This is my comfort in my affliction,
That Your word has revived me.

The arrogant utterly deride me,
Yet I do not turn aside from Your law.

I have remembered Your ordinances from of old, O Lord,
And comfort myself.

Burning indignation has seized me because of the wicked,
Who forsake Your law.

Your statutes are my songs
In the house of my pilgrimage.

O Lord, I remember Your name in the night,
And keep Your law.

This has become mine,
That I observe Your precepts.

(Psalm 119:49-56)

This lesson will address the importance of remembering God’s word. His word will not do us any good if we do not know it. Furthermore, God’s word will not help us if we forget it. So let us consider what the psalmist said about remembering God’s word – why to do it and how to do it.

Remembering God’s Word Gives Us Hope

Remember the word to Your servant, in which You have made me hope” (Psalm 119:49).

The Scriptures are intended to give us hope. Paul wrote, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). This is why we spend (or should spend) so much time studying the word.

Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. Of all the important topics that could be covered, the entire psalm is focused on the word of God. Why? It is because His word is the only way to know God, know how to please Him, and have hope. If God had decided to save man and made a plan by which man could be saved, but neglected to tell man what to do to take advantage of His grace, who could be saved? God’s grace is vitally important (Ephesians 2:8), but without His word to show us what to obey to take advantage of His grace (Hebrews 5:9), we would be hopelessly lost.

Why is hope important? Paul told the saints in Rome that hope saves us: “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it” (Romans 8:24-25). Hope saves us by giving us reason to continue and persevere. Earlier in the same letter, the apostle said, “We exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations,” as this leads to hope, “and hope does not disappoint” (Romans 5:2-5).

Humans are forgetful and need regular reminders, even of matters that are of great importance. Since God created us, He knew this. So He gave us ways in which we can be regularly reminded of what we must keep in mind. We partake of the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week (Acts 20:7) in order to remember the death of Christ on the cross (1 Corinthians 11:24-25). We need regular reminders of what we have already been taught so we do not forget. Peter said, “Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder” (2 Peter 1:12-13). Paul told Timothy he would be a “good minister” if he would “put the brethren in remembrance” of the things that were previously taught (1 Timothy 4:6, KJV). If we do not remember God’s word, the hope of salvation will fade from our minds and become nothing more than a wish or be forgotten altogether.

Remembering God’s Word Provides Comfort

This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your word has revived me” (Psalm 119:50).

I have remembered Your ordinances from of old, O Lord, and comfort myself” (Psalm 119:52).

All of us will face trouble in life. Job said, “Man, who is born of woman, is short-lived and full of turmoil” (Job 14:1). Yet God’s word is meant to provide comfort. How does it do this?

First, God’s word provides comfort by reviving or quickening us (Psalm 119:50). The world around us is filled with death and decay. Paul wrote, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope” (Romans 8:20). Yet the hope of life is found in God’s word. In writing of God’s purpose to save us, Paul told Timothy, “But now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). We can find comfort in God’s word as it provides life while the world only offers death.

Second, God’s word provides comfort as we remember God’s ordinances or judgments (Psalm 119:52). As we read through the pages of the Bible, we see that God’s judgments are fair (impartial), merciful (for the benefit of the faithful), and severe (against the wicked). Peter highlighted these three aspects of divine judgment: “If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:17-19). God “impartially judges” (He is fair), gives us cause to “fear” (He is severe), and He redeemed us with “the blood of Christ” (He is merciful).

Similarly, Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica: “For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-8). God will do what is “only just” (He is fair), deal out “retribution” to the wicked (He is severe), and “give relief” to the faithful (He is merciful). Despite the severity of God’s judgments against the wicked, because He judges impartially and has extended mercy toward us, we can be assured of the hope of salvation if we remain faithful.

Remember God’s Word in Song

Your statutes are my songs in the house of my pilgrimage” (Psalm 119:54).

God expects His people to sing. James wrote, “Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises” (James 5:13). In his letter to Ephesus, Paul said, “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19).

While it may be natural for us to enjoy singing, there are other important reasons why we sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. One of the reasons is because singing is instructive. Paul wrote, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…” (Colossians 3:16). These songs are meant to remind us of the truth that is contained in God’s word. Of course, for this to work, we must be sure that the words we are singing accurately reflect the truth (cf. 1 Peter 4:11). Most of the songs in our song books do this. But for some songs – or even certain verses – no amount of allowance for “poetic license” will make the lyrics to be in harmony with the Scriptures. As songs help us to remember the truth contained in God’s word, we must be careful that the words accurately represent the truth of God’s word.

One of the benefits of singing over regular teaching is that the music helps us to better remember the words that are used to convey the message. We often get songs “stuck” in our heads. When these are spiritual songs, we enjoy a repeated reminder of the truth contained in the lyrics of those songs. We must not neglect the importance of singing in our efforts to remember the word of God.

Remember God’s Word in the Night

O Lord, I remember Your name in the night, and keep Your law” (Psalm 119:55).

Though not explicitly stated, we generally read, study, and reflect upon God’s word during normal waking hours. As we go about our regular activities of the day, we might remember God’s word.

Yet what the psalmist mentioned in the above verse is different. “O Lord, I remember Your name” – which is explained to us in His word – “in the night” (Psalm 119:55). Later in this psalm, David wrote, “My eyes anticipate the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word” (Psalm 119:148). The “night watches” would have been a quiet time, free from distractions. David took advantage of this time to reflect upon God’s word. Elsewhere he wrote, “When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches” (Psalm 63:6). He specifically mentioned the time in which he would be lying down in his bed. We might typically use this time before we fall asleep to reflect upon the events of the day or mentally prepare ourselves for the tasks that await us the next day. There is nothing wrong with such thoughts. But we should also not neglect the opportunity to use this quiet time to meditate upon the word of God, as this will help us evaluate the day that has just ended and prepare for the day that will soon begin.

How can we “meditate on [God’s] word” while lying “on [our] bed” (Psalm 119:148; 63:6)? In the dark we will not be picking up a Bible and reading from it. Instead, this requires a good knowledge of God’s word – even to the point of having certain passages memorized. In order to know the word this well, we must be diligent in our study of it (2 Timothy 2:15).

Remember God’s Word Even Though Others Will Not

The arrogant utterly deride me, yet I do not turn aside from Your law” (Psalm 119:51).

Burning indignation has seized me because of the wicked, who forsake Your law” (Psalm 119:53).

This has become mine, that I observe Your precepts” (Psalm 119:56).

The psalmist said, “The arrogant utterly deride me” (Psalm 119:51). The arrogant are those who are in opposition to God (1 Peter 5:5). They will reject God and His word and, as a result, will hate and persecute those who follow the Lord (cf. John 15:18-20). But we must not be deterred. David was determined to remember and keep God’s law despite the opposition. We must have the same resolve.

David then described the wicked as those who “forsake [God’s] law” (Psalm 119:53). This caused David to be filled with “burning indignation.” Later in this psalm, he wrote, “From Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way” (Psalm 119:104). Devotion to God’s word should cause us to hate sin. As wickedness abounds, we should not allow ourselves to become desensitized to it. Instead, we must remember God’s word so that we will always be bothered by sin. This will help keep us from sin and will also help motivate us to help lead others out of sin.

Finally, the psalmist said that his life revolved around following God’s law: “This has become mine, that I observe Your precepts” (Psalm 119:56). Our lives must revolve around this as well. Paul said, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17). Elsewhere he said we must “present [our] bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God” (Romans 12:1). But we cannot hope to live lives that are wholly devoted to God if we allow ourselves to neglect the word of God and fill our minds with other things.

Conclusion

Why do we spend so much time focused on the Scriptures? It is so that we might remember them. If we remember them, we can practice them. If we practice them, we can be saved.


This entire series is available in paperback. Click on the link for more information – The Psalm of the Word: A Study of Psalm 119.


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