This post is adapted from a chapter entitled “How to Know God: Meditate on His Word” by Mark Dever in The Inerrant Word: Biblical, Historical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspectives edited by John MacArthur.
Living and Active
Since the Bible is the Word of the all-powerful God, we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that it is active and accomplishes much. Perhaps it is better to say that God does much with it and through it.
Generally, what God’s Word does is bless. We read in Psalm 119:1–2: “How blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord. How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, who seek Him with all their heart.” Also, note the kind of Aaronic benediction found in verse 135: “Make Your face shine upon Your servant.”
How does God do that? “Teach me Your statutes.” As Psalm 119 makes clear, God’s Word blesses individuals in five specific ways:
For Those Who Believe the Bible
God’s Word inspires awe. We see in Psalm 119:161, “My heart stands in awe of Your words.” And in the context of that verse, Your is emphasized. The psalmist is awed by God’s words as opposed to those of a persecuting prince.
Even when the psalmist could be preoccupied by other things—such as staying alive—he writes in verse 164, “Seven times a day I praise You, because of Your righteous ordinances.” And verse 171 reads, “Let my lips utter praise, for You teach me Your statutes.” God’s Word inspires awe and causes us to pray and to praise him. It brings us into a relationship with him.
For Those Who Care about God and Others
God’s Word causes us to grieve over sin. Verse 136 says, “My eyes shed streams of water, because they do not keep Your law.” Verse 53 reads, “Burning indignation has seized me because of the wicked, who forsake Your law.”
Studying God’s Word does not make us morally indifferent; instead, it educates our consciences, sharpens our minds, and causes us to see this world and the people in it more as God does.
For Those in Temptation
God’s Word also helps us stay pure. Verse 9 is well known: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your Word.” We read in verse 11, “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” Do you have any doubt that God’s Word encourages holiness? Look at verse 101: “I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word.”
Remember how the Lord Jesus met temptation in the day of his flesh? He quoted the Bible to Satan. Why would you think that you stand in less need of knowing and using the Bible to help you with temptation than Jesus did? The Word of God is a storehouse of very practical helps for us as Christians.
For Those in Various Kinds of Need
Through his Word, God gives hope to the hopeless. Again and again, the psalmist writes, “I hope in Your Word” (vv. 43, 49, 81, 114, 147). To the afflicted, the Lord gives comfort (vv. 50, 52, 76), and to those undergoing trials, he gives joy. I’m encouraged by verse 111: “I have inherited Your testimonies forever, for they are the joy of my heart.” And verse 162: “I rejoice at Your Word, as one who finds great spoil.”
To those enduring trials, he gives peace through his Word: “Those who love Your law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble” (v. 165). To the young who read the Bible, he gives wisdom (v. 98) and understanding (vv. 99–100). We read in verse 104, “From Your precepts I get understanding.” This is why it makes sense to equate the Bible to a light: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (v. 105). Also, “The unfolding of Your words gives light” (v. 130).
For Those in Trouble
God promises to delivers us. The psalmist knew what it meant to be in trouble. So if you’re in trouble today, God’s Word promises deliverance (v. 170) and gives help (v. 175), strength (v. 28), protection (v. 165), and even salvation (v. 41). The Lord shows us so much about himself through his Word. What we see in Psalm 119 is just some of what God’s Word does.
The Source of Spiritual Life
Friend, why would you not spend your life getting to know the Bible better than you do today? I love how the psalmist puts it in verse 24: “Your testimonies also are my delight; they are my counselors.” Is the Bible your counselor in your decisions and questions in life?
It’s significant that throughout this psalm, the psalmist both trusts God and asks God to help him trust even more. Would you listen to God if he spoke? He’s speaking to us in his Word. In fact, the most amazing thing God gives us through his Word is life! “Your word has revived me” (v. 50).
My Christian friend, how else could you have come to be interested in God’s Word? It is only by God’s grace! And his Word is the means he uses to give us spiritual life.
Mark Dever (PhD, Cambridge University) is senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, and pastor of 9Marks Ministries. Dever has authored over a dozen books, including the best-selling Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, and speaks at conferences nationwide.