The Psalm of the Word (Part 16): Riches

The Psalm of the Word

I have done justice and righteousness;
Do not leave me to my oppressors.

Be surety for Your servant for good;
Do not let the arrogant oppress me.

My eyes fail with longing for Your salvation
And for Your righteous word.

Deal with Your servant according to Your lovingkindness
And teach me Your statutes.

I am Your servant; give me understanding,
That I may know Your testimonies.

It is time for the Lord to act,
For they have broken Your law.

Therefore I love Your commandments
Above gold, yes, above fine gold.

Therefore I esteem right all Your precepts concerning everything,
I hate every false way.

(Psalm 119:121-128)

The psalmist made a contrast between the commandments of God and gold. As we consider these verses, we can see why the riches of God’s word are so much more valuable than gold.

We Must Value God’s Commandments Over Gold

Therefore I love Your commandments above gold, yes, above fine gold” (Psalm 119:127).

The psalmist used gold as a point of comparison because it is universally valued. The first of the four rivers that flowed out of the Garden of Eden, Pishon, flowed around Havilah. This land was notable because “there [was] gold” (Genesis 2:11). The patriarch Abram was “rich…in gold” (Genesis 13:2). Even at the end of the Bible, when the Lord wanted to describe the richness of heaven, He showed it to John as a “city [of] pure gold” (Revelation 21:18, 21). Even today, this symbolism makes it easy for all men to see that heaven is a place we should value highly.

The Scriptures acknowledge the usefulness of gold, as well as riches in general.

  • Wealth provides a degree of protection against the troubles that we might face in life. “The rich man’s wealth is his fortress, the ruin of the poor is their poverty” (Proverbs 10:15).
  • The wise man also acknowledged that money is the answer for certain problems – at least partially and temporarily. “Money is the answer to everything” (Ecclesiastes 10:19).
  • Material riches also allow us to fulfill the various responsibilities that God has given us – providing for our families (1 Timothy 5:8), giving to the church (1 Corinthians 16:2), and helping those in need (Ephesians 4:28).

However, even though riches are valuable, God’s word is more valuable. This is why Solomon wrote, “Buy truth, and do not sell it” (Proverbs 23:23).

  • The wisdom that is found in God’s word has a “gain” that is “better than fine gold” (Proverbs 3:14-15; 16:16).
  • The benefit of material wealth is limited – both here and in eternity (Matthew 6:19-21; 16:26). The wise man said, “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death” (Proverbs 11:4).
  • Through “obedience to the truth” we are “born again” (1 Peter 1:22-23), which gives us hope of an eternal inheritance in heaven (1 Peter 1:3-4).

Sometimes being faithful will cost us riches in this life, but do not compromise! It is still worth it to fear God and obey Him. Solomon wrote, “Although a sinner does evil a hundred times and may lengthen his life, still I know that it will be well for those who fear God, who fear Him openly” (Ecclesiastes 8:12).

An Appeal to God in Times of Oppression

I have done justice and righteousness; do not leave me to my oppressors. Be surety for Your servant for good; do not let the arrogant oppress me” (Psalm 119:121-122).

David appealed to God for protection against oppressors. He was able to make this appeal because he practiced “justice and righteousness” (Psalm 119:121). He wrote elsewhere, “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears are open to their cry” (Psalm 34:15). God will not forsake His people (Hebrews 13:5); therefore, His people can approach Him in prayer during times of difficulty.

As he appealed to God, David asked the Lord to “be surety” for him (Psalm 119:22). This is similar to our practice of co-signing on a loan. It would be a pledge to help when one could not help himself. While we are warned against putting ourselves in this position with other men (Proverbs 11:15), the Lord is fully capable of providing the help that we need. Paul said, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). He told the saints in Rome, “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

What We Hope to Gain from God

My eyes fail with longing for Your salvation and for Your righteous word. Deal with Your servant according to Your lovingkindness and teach me Your statutes. I am Your servant; give me understanding, that I may know Your testimonies” (Psalm 119:123-125).

We typically think of gold and wealth as something that we gain (it is profitable). Yet there is a greater gain that comes by following God. Notice some of the things David mentioned that we hope to gain from God.

  • We hope for salvation (Psalm 119:123). The psalmist longed for this. When it comes to salvation, riches cannot help us. Again, “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death” (Proverbs 11:4). No matter how much wealth we are able to accumulate in this life, it will never be enough to “give in exchange for [our] soul” if we are lost (Matthew 16:26). However, we have hope because God is able to save us. David wrote, “Salvation belongs to the Lord” (Psalm 3:8). And just as David connected “salvation” with God’s “righteous word,” Paul made the same connection for us today: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith” (Romans 1:16-17). We can be saved by God if we obey the gospel that He has revealed to us.
  • We hope for God’s mercy (Psalm 119:124). Riches are a blessing, but they are not the thing that blesses. Everything that is good comes from God (James 1:17). We must remember this fact. Paul wrote, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). We have “a living hope” because of God’s “great mercy” (1 Peter 1:3). Therefore, we must place our hope in Him rather than in our riches.
  • We hope for understanding (Psalm 119:125). Wealth is not always an accurate indicator of wisdom. “The rich man is wise in his own eyes, but the poor who has understanding sees through him” (Proverbs 28:11). Riches can often cause one to become arrogant and, therefore, believe he is wise. It could also be the case – and often is – that wisdom lies with those who are not known for their wealth. Wisdom does not come from riches, but from the word of God. “From Your precepts I get understanding” (Psalm 119:104).

We Must Hate Every False Way

Therefore I esteem right all Your precepts concerning everything, I hate every false way” (Psalm 119:128).

We discussed this point in an earlier lesson. The psalmist wrote, “From Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way” (Psalm 119:104). Understanding the truth should cause us to hate what is false.

In this context, we should remember the value of God’s word – it is far more valuable than gold (Psalm 119:127). Because of this, we should understand that the ways that are contrary to God’s way are utterly worthless. Peter described false teaching as “arrogant words of vanity” (2 Peter 2:18). Paul told the brethren in Corinth that if he taught something different than the truth, then his “preaching [was] vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14-15). Error is not a different, yet comparable, message. It is completely worthless. Therefore, understanding the great worth of God’s word, we should avoid what is false and teach others to do the same.

God Will Punish Those Who Disregard His Law

It is time for the Lord to act, for they have broken Your law” (Psalm 119:126).

God is just. For this reason, He will punish the wicked. Paul reminded the brethren in Thessalonica of this: “This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment… 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 1:5-8).

When the time comes for God to execute punishment against the wicked, riches will not save us. This is why Jesus asked, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). No matter what we can obtain in terms of material wealth in this life, it will not spare us from God’s wrath (Proverbs 11:4).

Therefore, if we want to be delivered from judgment, we must be faithful to the Lord. Like David, we must practice “justice and righteousness” (Psalm 119:121). We must “love [His] commandments above gold” (Psalm 119:127). If we love the Lord’s commandments, then it is implied that we will obey His commandments. Earlier in this psalm, David wrote, “Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it” (Psalm 119:35). If we do not continue in the path of God’s word, we cannot rightly claim to love His commandments.

Conclusion

There are many benefits to having gold, but they are limited and only temporary. God’s word offers us an eternal benefit if we believe and obey it.


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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