The Lord's Day Evening
March 31, 2013
Not by Bread Alone
“My Soul Longs for Your Salvation”
The Reverend Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III
If you have your Bibles, I'd invite you to turn with me to Psalm 119. We’re going to be in verses 81 to 88 tonight. Spurgeon says of this passage, “This portion of the gigantic psalm sees the psalmist in extremis. He is in great need. His enemies have brought him to the lowest condition of anguish and depression, yet he is faithful to the law and trustful in his God.” Spurgeon goes on to say, “This octave is the midnight of the psalm, and very dark and black it is. Stars, however, shine out, and the last verse gives promise of the dawn.” And then he gives this word of devotional application. “This passage of Psalm 119 should minister comfort to us to see so imminent a servant of God so hardly used by the ungodly. Evidently in our own persecution, no strange thing has happened to us.” Davidson, a Scottish commentator on the Psalms, adds this, to give you further background of the passage that we're going to study tonight:
“The mood of this psalm of lament comes strongly to the fore in this section. The psalmist is struggling to come to terms with a crisis in his life. He has cried out to God but the answer is, ‘Not yet.’ He is near the end of his tether, exhausted, waiting, uncertain of whether the Lord's comfort will come. Like Job, he can think of no justification for what is happening to him. He is the Lord's faithful servant, persecuted without cause, by the arrogant who thinks nothing of the Lord's Word and who are out to trap him. All he can do is hold on, believing that the faithfulness of the Lord, which he associates with His Word, stands in contrast to the falsehood of his persecutors.”
And David Dickson, an older, Scottish commentator, says this. “In the first four verses of this section, we see how deep the persecuted servant of God may draw in his affliction before God gives him comfort. And in the last four, we see how he should behave himself in that sad condition.” So that's what this section of Psalm 119 is about. It's about a believer in trials and affliction, even persecution, and his soul is longing for the Lord. He's waiting for deliverance, but he's languishing and he feels dried up and worn out. Have you ever felt like that? Once again, God, in His Word, is waiting for you. Let's look to Him in prayer.
Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your Word. We thank You for its timeliness. We ask that You would speak this Word into our hearts by Your Spirit. We want, just like Sam taught the children tonight, we want to glorify You in our afflictions, even as we seek humbly in petition for You to answer to our needs and wants. So teach us that in this psalm tonight and get all the praise and glory for it, in Jesus' name, amen.
This is the Word of God. Hear it in Psalm 119 verse 81:
“My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word. My eyes long for your promise; I ask, ‘When will you comfort me?’ For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I have not forgotten your statutes. How long must your servant endure? When will you judge those who persecute me? The insolent have dug pitfalls for me; they do not live according to your law. All your commandments are sure; they persecute me with falsehood; help me! They have almost made an end of me on earth, but I have not forsaken your precepts. In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.”
Amen, and thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.
This psalm and this section of Psalm 119 is about submission to God in the time of trial and affliction and even persecution. And as such, it goes perfectly with one of the things that we learned from Hebrews 5 this morning. Let me ask you to turn back, or forward, to Hebrews 5 and look at verse 7, because one of the things that we learned this morning is that Jesus, our sympathetic Savior, also understands what it means to submit to God. And we commented that in these words of Hebrews 5:7, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence,” we noted that in the very words, “to him who was able to save him from death,” we see something of Jesus’ submission to God's will. We see that submission to God's will in the Garden of Gethsemane and we see that submission to God's will on the cross. In the Garden of Gethsemane He cried, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me.” And of course, the answer is, “No.” On the cross, He prays, “My God, My God! Why have You forsaken Me?” and there is no answer at all. And in both those things and in all those things, Jesus submitted Himself to God.
And we said this morning that submission to God is one of the secrets of the Christian life. Now you may have been asking yourself this morning, “Okay, if it's one of the secrets of the Christian life, how do I do it? How do you submit yourself to God?” Psalm 119 verses 81 to 88 is here to help us. And there are four things in particular that I want you to see. If you’ll turn back with me now to Psalm 119 verses 81 to 88.
LOOK FOR DELIVERANCE TO GOD’S SALVATION ONLY
And the first thing is this. If we are submit to God in affliction, in trial, and in persecution, then we must look for deliverance to God for His salvation only. If we are to submit ourselves to God in affliction, in trial, and even persecution, then we must look for deliverance to God's salvation only. Look at verse 81. “My soul longs for your salvation.” What the psalmist wants is the deliverance that God has for him. The psalmist is not trying to find some way, any way, out of his fix, out of his predicament. You know, if you had said to the psalmist, “I can get you out of this predicament if you’ll sin,” he would have said to you, “Well then I'd rather stay in this predicament.” The psalmist isn't just looking for any way out of his circumstance; he wants God's deliverance. And my friends, that's one of the first great aspects of submission to God. Haven't you encountered it before in your own heart or seen it in the heart of friends? They’re in a hard place and they've come to the point where they've decided that the place that they’re in is so hard that any escape will do. Anything they have to do to get out of the hard place they find themselves in they’re willing to do. And sometimes they take faithful steps out of the frying pan and into the fire. Why? Because they have not submitted themselves to God.
And the psalmist anchors himself here so that he won't do that. He says, “Lord, what my soul longs for is not any old deliverance, not my deliverance of myself, it's Your deliverance, it's Your salvation. That's what I want, Lord. That's what my soul longs for. I want the deliverance that You have for me. However long I have to wait for it. I'm not going to manufacture this. I'm not going to go in the way of sin to get it. I'm going to wait for Your deliverance.” And of course, ultimately, ultimately the salvation of every believer transcends anything and everything that we experience in this life. The salvation that is awaiting us, Orrin spoke of in his prayer tonight. There are some things that we will never be delivered from in this life. If our ultimate goal is the deliverance of ourselves from those things in this life, we will either be disappointed or we’ll sin to try and get rid of them. But fixing your eyes on God's salvation, that's the way of submission to God.
And think of Jesus again. Let's move a few verses or a few chapters forward in the book of Hebrews. “He endured the cross, despising the shame” — how? “For the joy set before him.” The salvation the Lord had for Him. The salvation the Lord was going to give through Him. The salvation of millions upon millions who would believe in Him. It was that joy that He set His eyes upon. His soul longed for that salvation and therefore He endured the cross, despising the shame. There's the first way of submission to God — looking for deliverance in God's salvation only. David Dickson says this. “A believer in God, however sore afflicted he be, seeks not to be delivered, but in a way allowed by God.” And this psalmist says, “Lord, deliver me, but only deliver me in Your way. Give me Your salvation.”
HOPE IN GOD’S WORD ONLY
Second, if we are to submit ourselves to God in the afflictions and the trials and even the persecutions of this life, we must hope in God's Word only. We must hope in God's Word only. Look again at verse 81. “My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word.” And I want you to see the contrast that the psalmist draws between God's Word and the words of his persecutors. Look at verse 85. “The insolent have dug pitfalls for me.” Verse 86 — “They persecute me with falsehood.” But what is God's Word like in contrast to the insolent who persecute him with falsehood? Look at verse 86. “All your commandments are sure.” God's Word is true and sure and faithful. His persecutors words are false. And he pins his flag to the mast in verse 81. “I hope in Your Word, not in their word, not in any other word. I hope in Your word.” If we're going to submit ourselves to God in affliction and trial and even persecution, we must hope in God's Word only.
PRAY AND TRUST IN GOD’S PROMISES
Third, if we're going to submit ourselves to God in trial and affliction, we must pray and trust in God's promises. Look at verse 82. “My eyes long for your promise.” His soul's eyes are fixed on one thing and what are they? What is that one thing? The promise of God. His faith is on God's promise. His prayers are pleading God's promises. His trust is in God's promise. How do you submit yourself to God when circumstances are all wrong? When affliction and trial abound? You focus on His promises. Many of you use C.H. Spurgeon's Checkbook of the Bank of Faith, which is a collection of Bible promises to believers. You use it as a devotion; that's a good thing. I would commend to you building your own collection of promises. As you read through the Scriptures, write out for yourself in your own notebook the Bible promises you encounter; promises that are made to every believer as you read through the Word. And go back to them frequently and meditate upon them and recite and memorize them. And then, focus on believing them and pray them back to God. When God says to you, “I will never leave you or forsake you,” pray to Him, “Lord, don't leave me or forsake me!”
You know, every believer in the Christian life somewhere, and sometimes often, has near escapes. And in those times of near escapes, you pray, “Lord, don't leave me or forsake me,” and He’ll always hear that prayer because He's made that promise. So how do you submit yourself to God when circumstances are filled with affliction and trial? By trusting in God's promises; by praying God's promise back to Him. And the psalmist says here, “My eyes long for Your promise. The eyes of faith, my voice of prayer is lifted up to You, Lord, with Your promise.”
And last, how do you submit yourself to God in affliction and trial? You look for life only in God's lovingkindness. You look for life only in God's lovingkindness. Again, look at verse 88. “In your steadfast love, give me life.” “In your lovingkindness, give me life.” You see what the psalmist is doing there? He's saying, “You know, Lord, Your lovingkindness is better than anything else in life and I don't want to accept anything less than the experience of Your lovingkindness. That's my goal; that's what I want. I want to know Your lovingkindness.” C.S. Lewis somewhere said something like this; this is a paraphrase. Don't hold him to it; this is just from memory. He said something like this. “Nine-tenths of the happiness of life is the experience of affection.” Nine-tenths of the happiness of life is the experience of affection. And I think we can relate to what Professor Lewis is saying in those words.
And the psalmist understands that spiritually. Here's what he understands. There is nothing in this world that can compare to the love and friendship of God. There is nothing in this world. Testify to that to your young people. They will be told by this world that there are thousands of delights that outstrip anything that they can find in the Bible and God if they will just drink this world to the full. Testify to them that there is nothing like the love and friendship of God, that in all of your life you have never breathed life into your lungs like you've breathed it when you are tasting and seeing that the Lord Himself is good. That's what the psalmist is saying here. He's saying, “In Your steadfast love, in Your lovingkindness, O God, give me life. That's what I want. That's what I need. I don't want any trinket in its place. I don't want any substitute offer. I don't want any temporary band-aid that's not going to give what only Your lovingkindness can give.” And he submits himself to God.
Now he's in a hard spot. Just look back at the psalm. His soul is longing, his eyes are longing. Have you ever longed so much that your eyes grew tired with tears? He feels, verse 83, “like a wineskin in the smoke.” Isn't that a graphic picture? “Lord, I'm all dried up and shriveled.” He feels like he can't endure — verse 84. He feels like there are pits around him everywhere — verse 85. He's persecuted — verse 86. He's almost come to an end of his life — verse 87. But he looks into the deliverance of God's salvation and he hopes in God's Word only and he prays and he trusts God's promises and he looks for life only in God's lovingkindness and he hangs on. How do you submit to God in the afflictions and trials of life? That's how. Let's pray.
Our heavenly Father, we so thank You for the submission of Jesus to Your will and we thank You for the instruction of Your Word on how we too may submit ourselves in those hard places in life. Lord, I pray for every believer here that they would know and experience the love and the friendship of God and that they would so experience it even in their trials and afflictions that they would be able to say, ‘I wouldn't have it any other way because I have known the Lord.’ Lord, help everyone here tonight under such a burden and affliction. Give them faith, give them hope, and give them Your love, in Jesus' name, amen.
Would you stand for God's blessing?
Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, until the daybreak and the shadows flee away. Amen.