8 Prayers for God’s Word (Psalm 119:33-40)

Last night I preached through Psalm 119:33-40 in our church. I have been working through this psalm since I began in December. It is a remarkable psalm, exclusively focusing on God’s Word.

As I studied this particular passage, I was impressed with the psalmist’s desire to see God work in his life. There are eight different prayers offered by the psalmist, all showing a desire to know God through His Word better.

I am reproducing my sermon notes here without editing them for grammar or structure. I would encourage you to work through these prayers in your own private reading of Scripture, as well as your corporate consumption of Scripture. And, as always, to God be the glory.


We approach our next passage of Psalm 119, verses 33-40, and we see the continued love for and dependence on God’s Word.
The Psalmist is teaching is through song, that God’s Word is completely sufficient for our doctrine (what we believe) and our lives (how we live). By this I mean that God’s Word always provide the right answer to every question, every problem, every crisis, and every issue we as believers face today. We must understand and believe this, for this is the very teaching of Psalm 119.
Our section this evening, then, focuses on eight prayers. That is, these are eight positions to take when dealing with God’s Word. So often we focus on our own personal study and devotional time. That is, we tend to view God’s Word from a very individualistic perspective. I certainly do not mean to demean that, or to say that these prayers do not address personal Bible consumption. However, I think it is important that we broaden our views of these eight prayers to include corporate worship as well. That is, how can I apply these verses to my church’s life, my brother’s and sister’s life, in a way that reflects the Psalmist’s desire to bring every aspect of his life under the authority of God’s Word.
I. Prayer for Practical Understanding- vs. 33
The first prayer the Psalmist offers is a prayer for practical understanding. He asks God to “teach me.” He asked God to teach Him, to order God’s Word in a way that he would understand and be able to keep it to the end.
One of our prayers as we approach the private and corporate consumption of Scripture is for practical understanding. Sometimes we have a hard time connecting God’s Word to daily life, do we not? I know that I have to work at it. I remember growing up and reading through the Bible and thinking, “What does this have to do with my life?” However, the Psalmist prays for practical understanding. He does not simply want to know the background, the wording, etc., he wants to know how it applies to his life so he can live it all the way to the end. He wants to “keep” it, guarding it like walls and towers protect the city. He wanted God’s Word to protect his life and doctrine all the way to the end, to the reward.
We must pray for practical understanding. Due to our own intellectual limitations, our own struggles and blindness from sin, and the disconnect between life in the Ancient Near East and life today, we desperately need God’s help for understanding the practical applications of God’s Word.
This is the child asking the parent, “Why?” For those of you with children, you know that are incredible at asking questions. “What is that daddy?” “Well, that is a guardrail.” “What does it do?” “Well, it keeps cars from running off the road.” “Why?” The questions go on and on, but children think in concrete terms, they want to know why things work. They want practical application. And we should follow their example, and pray for practical understanding.
II. Prayer for Discernment in Understanding- vs. 34
The second prayer the Psalmist offers concerns discernment in understanding. The Psalmist wants to understand the details of God’s Word. This prayer focuses on a perceptiveness, a skill at understanding.
Think about the difference between a mechanic and a do-it-yourself guy. My first car was a 1994 Toyota Tercel (ironically, another small car). I learned to change my oil, my brake pads, my alternator, and a few other items. I could rotate my tires and I even took apart the stereo system (with the help of my brother). However, there is a vast difference between my understanding of cars and my friend Jeremy’s understanding. That guy could listen to the car and tell you exactly what was wrong with it.
The Psalmist is desiring that type of discernment. He wants to look at God’s Word and know exactly what is going on and how to apply it. He always connects doctrine (understanding of Scripture) with life (“Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart”).
One way that we can help further our own discernment in Scripture is simply learning the backgrounds and times of the books. Understanding the time in which certain letters were given (or prophecies preached) will greatly enhance your discernment of Scripture. We want discernment to know how to apply the Scriptures to our lives, and our goal is to observe it with our whole heart. That is, guard it, a term that is used consistently in connection with God’s Word.
III. Prayer for Desire to Understand- vs. 35
The word translated “make me walk” gives the idea of a pattern of desire. That is, grant me a consistent desire to follow Your Word.
This is a prayer for desire. There are times in which we need increased desire. While we have been changed, we are still being changed. Consider 2 Corinthians 3:18. We are being transformed. That is, there are still vestiges of sin in our lives. We are freed from the power of sin but not the presence of sin. Thus, there are times in which we do not desire to know and follow God’s Word.
Think of the song Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. The third verse gives us the Psalmist’s desire, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love, Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.”
As we approach God’s Word, we need to consistently pray that God will increase our desire to know and follow His Word. And as God answers that prayer, we will delight in it. That is, we will find great pleasure, delight, and satisfaction in it.
IV. Prayer for Direction toward God’s Truth- vs. 36
The next prayer focuses on direction. He says, “Incline my heart.” That is, change the direction of my heart. Now, this is very similar to the idea found in the last verse. The Psalmist prays for a pattern of desire. Now, he is asking God to turn his path to God’s testimonies.
The second phrase helps us understand the prayer better, because the Psalmist connects a turning to God’s Word as a turning away from covetousness. There is always a remove the old and put on the new idea found in the Scriptures. In the Old Testament it was always forsake the false idols and worship the true God. In the New Testament, particularly the epistles, we see the encouragement to remove the ways of the flesh and to put on the ways of the Spirit.
This desire involves a change in direction. I don’t know if many of you remember the cheap dollar store toys with the little marble and the goal is to get it from point a to point b. Though the marble was enclosed in a small glass or plastic case, you could still move it by tilting the toy. That is the idea behind this prayer. God, tilt me toward Your testimonies and away from covetousness, away from sin.
V. Prayer for Priority in Values- vs. 37
I say this is a prayer for priority because, the Psalmist calls for God’s help in avoiding looking at worthless things. He wanted his priorities to change, to be kept according to God’s Word.
We all have things that we enjoy, that we focus on. Perhaps it is a sports team, a hobby, a genre of literature. However, there are some pointless things we get involved in that are not directly related to sin but are, as the Scriptures state, worthless. They are vain. I won’t attempt to make assertions from this specifically, however, the Psalmist prayers for priority in values. He wants to make sure that his life is not focused on worthless, vain things. Christians today desperately need this prayer for priority. I look at my own life and the use of my time and I wonder at the grace of God.
VI. Prayer for a Foundation in God’s Word- vs. 38
The word used for establish gives the impression of completeness, of a foundation, something upon which structures or people can stand. It is solid, unwavering.
We need to pray for a solid foundation in God’s Word. That is, God’s Word needs to shape how we think, how we speak, and how we live. That is all connected with the phrase “who is devoted to fearing you.” When you fear God you believe the right things, say the right things, and do the right things. It is a solid foundation from which the believer can live a God-glorifying life.
VII. Prayer for Sovereign Protection- vs. 39
The seventh prayer from the Psalmist concerns His concern about how his lifestyle will affect the testimony of God. I love the way Matthew Henry puts it, “David prays against reproach, as before, v. 22. David was conscious to himself that he had done that which might give occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, which would blemish his own reputation and turn to the dishonour [sic] of his family; now he prays that God, would has all men’s hearts and tongues in his hands, would be pleased to prevent this…” [Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary On the Whole Bible Volume 3: Job to Song of Solomon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1991), 567.]
As we read Scripture and seek to apply it to our lives, we know we will fail. We have already mentioned that. However, one prayer we can say together is that God would sovereign protect us. This is no different than the Lord’s Prayer when Christ prays, “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13)
VIII. Prayer for Revival- vs. 40
This verse is different than the rest. Up to this point, all the prayers are at the beginning of the verse. However, as we come to a close on this section, we find the prayer at the second half of the verse.
The psalmist is basing his prayer for revival on his love for God’s precepts. The word for long is only used twice in the Bible, and it gives the idea for an ever increasing love.
I think one of the best ways to picture this is the love between a husband and wife. It grows throughout the years. Or the love between a child and parents. It increases as the child grows into maturity.
And as the love increases, it intensifies. Returning to Matthew Henry, he says “Tastes of the sweetness of God’s precepts will but set us a longing after a more intimate acquaintance with them.” That is, the more we long for God’s truth the sweeter and more desirable it will be. Because the Psalmist has this ever-increasing desire, he prays for revival, for life.
These eight prayers are excellent prayers to pray routinely, not only for our own private time with God, but also in our corporate time together. That is, we can pray for those in our church these very prayers.

Jesus is Better: A Series through the Book of Hebrews

(Image courtesy of Riverside Community Church, http://www.riversideconnect.com/sermons/sermon/2012-03-25/hebrews-12 Accessed 25 January 2017)


This morning marked the beginning of my series through the book of Hebrews. We have a mid-week service at 11 in the morning on Wednesday. I get to preach about every three weeks, which enables me ample preparation time. I began praying about which direction to take, and since I follow a more topical approach in our student ministry, I chose to work my way through a book.

I love Judaism and the Jewish faith. As a Christian, I honestly do not understand how one could not love it. The entire Christian faith is built on a Jewish Nazarene. The pictures presented throughout most of the New Testament are ripe with Judaism. Following my love for the Jewish context of Scripture, I chose the book of Hebrews.

Rather than load all of my study notes, I am going to present my sermon notes as I take them to the pulpit. Please forgive the grammar as I typically attempt to write the way I will speak. I hope that as you work through it and the Scripture that you will fall in love with Jesus. He truly is better.


25 January 2017 Hebrews Sermon Number One

Jesus is Better

Introduction to the book of Hebrews

The book of Hebrews is one of the most fascinating books in the New Testament. The beautiful pictures painted of the exquisite religion of Abraham, Moses, the priests, the sacrifices, the covenants, deck the halls of its corridors. The highs and lows rival that of the most majestic of Bach’s or Beethoven’s musical compositions. Mystery surrounds the book, much like a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle case of Sherlock Holmes. The author is unknown, and while some information can help piece together a snapshot, it does not yield any conclusive evidence. We remain ignorant of the recipients, while most assuredly are Jewish, in regards to their location: Are they from Rome? Are they from Jerusalem?

But the mystery of what we do not know should not rob us of what we do know (an oft recited quote from one of my former pastors). We do know that the author of Hebrews was very familiar with the rituals, sacrifices, and rules of the Jewish faith. He was also familiar with the struggles that the recipients were faced with: accept a new religion or what looked like a new, an outlawed religion, or remain and return to the legal religion of Judaism. “Is Jesus really worth it?” They may ask. And with a resounding YES! the author of Hebrews gives reason after reason, matched with sober warning after sober warning, of why Jesus is better. You see, the Jewish people felt safe in their religion. It was legal, respectable in the esteem of their friends and colleagues. It cost them nothing to remain in the religion of their fathers. Judaism, though certainly not loved by the Romans, at the very least was tolerated by them. And in contrast Jesus is seen as a risk. Here this Nazarene was rejected by both Jews and Romans. He was, in the eyes of the Romans and Jewish people, a complete and utter failure. But to the disciples who witnessed His resurrection, He was Lord, God himself wrapped in human flesh. But what were they to do?

It cost them nothing to remain in the religion of their fathers.

So the writer was aiming at two groups: completed Jewish people, or Hebrew Christians; and Jewish people who were riding the fence on whether to accept Jesus as their Messiah. The author of this letter sought to encourage the Jewish people who accepted Jesus as their Messiah to stay faithful. He or she borrows many stories found within the Old Testament of how the people of Israel oft failed in their faithfulness to God. Each story is accompanied with the disastrous results of that failure. The writer also seeks to illustrate how Jesus is better than the reasons many sought to remain in Judaism. And to the individuals who were on the fence, so to speak, the author presents a very stark contrast. Over and over again we find warnings of the severest kind.

At first glance this book may seem to be for others, not for us. We don’t have the background and baggage of Judaism to battle with Christ. We have never been to Temple, never observed the sacrifices or engaged in the many feasts. We never celebrated Passover with our forbearers rejoicing in our freedom from Egyptian slavery. But oh how pertinent it is to our lives! For you see, you and I are in a constant battle every day of whether Jesus is better, or whether Jesus is worth it. Is that piece of gossip more appealing than truth that is found in Jesus? Is that impure thought, that negative word, that harsh action worth leaving for Jesus? Are friendships worth keeping? Is my financial situation bigger than Jesus? You see, in our lives we may not have to battle against returning to Judaism, to Abraham, or to Moses. But we are struggling with returning to our previous, sin-darkened lives. We are burdened of leaving Jesus over…you fill in the blank. That is why the author writes today. It was a present battle for the Jewish people; it is a present battle for us.

Overview of the book of Hebrews

The book of Hebrews is a fascinating book filled with types from the Old Testament. It is a testament to the many contributions to both the Jewish and Christian faith. The author mentions the prophets (1.1) as being the spokesmen for God, calling his people to repentance and sole allegiance to him. But he also mentions that Jesus is better, because Jesus is the express or exact image (representation of God) (1.3). He mentions the angels (1.5), those who carried out the will of God on numerous occasions. Our time could be filled this morning looking at all of the service rendered by the angelic hands and feet of God. But Jesus is better, he is the Son, not merely a messenger (1.4). And while the angels are ministers for us (1.14), Jesus is better, in that he calls us his brothers and sisters (2.11-12).

The author of Hebrews then moves on to the religious history, focusing specifically on the sacrificial system. He mentions perhaps the greatest man in Hebrew history, Moses (3.1-2). One rabbi speaks of Moses in glowing terms when he writes, “Along with God, it is the figure of Moses (Moshe) who dominates the Torah. Acting at God’s behest, it is he who leads the Jews out of slavery, unleashes the Ten Plagues against Egypt, guides the freed slaves for forty years in the wilderness, carries down the law from Mount Sinai, and prepares the Jews to enter the land of Canaan. Without Moses, there would be little apart from laws to write about in the last four books of the Torah.” [Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know About the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History (San Francisco: William Morrow, 2001), 28] It is a mistake to underscore Moses’s importance to the development of both Judaism and Christianity. As the writers of Hebrews describes him, “Moses indeed was faithful in all his house as a servant…” (3.5) But Jesus is better, and “counted worthy of more glory than Moses” (3.3). John 9.28-29 addresses how the Jewish people revered Moses. The Pharisees are arguing the Jesus has broken the Sabbath by healing a man of his blindness. And they say to the man born blind, “You are his disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where he is from.” (John 9.28-29, NKJV)

We are then taken to view the High Priest, the only one who only once a year could enter the Most Holy Place (9.7). He had to offer sacrifices for his own sins and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus is better, he is infinitely aware of our weaknesses (4.15). And because Jesus never sinned, his sacrifice provided salvation for everyone who would believe (5.9).

We see Abraham, that Great Patriarch, is presented in the book (6.13). The “three founding fathers of Judaism are Abraham, his son Isaac, and Isaac’s son Jacob.” [Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know About the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History (San Francisco: William Morrow, 2001), 11] As with Moses, the importance of Abraham to the Jewish people is insurmountable. We have a glimpse of how revered Abraham was in the interchange between Jesus and the Pharisees. (Read John 8.33-59) Jesus is greater than Abraham, because he has provided “an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” (6.19).

The priesthood, the way Israel knew God and offered to him praise and sacrifice, is brought up (7.11-19). These who knew the law and the intricacies attached to the sacrificial system were essential to the Jewish faith. But Jesus is better, because whereas “the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.” (7.19) Jesus was better, because death prevented other priests, especially the high priest, but “He continues forever” (7.24). “Therefore, he is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him” (7.25).

The covenant, that Mosaic covenant upon which the entire religious system of Israel is built, is brought up by the writer (8.1-5). The significance of the covenant is described by a Jewish Bible scholar, “Because God’s commands cover both ritual and ethical spheres, ‘any crime committed is against God, whether it be ritual or civil.” [Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know About the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History (San Francisco: William Morrow, 2001), 39] But Jesus is better, because unlike the first covenant that failed due to the inability of the people to keep it, this new covenant will be a complete and awesome work of grace. (8.7-13, quoted from Jeremiah 31.31-34).

The sacrifices, meant to atone for the sins of the people (see Leviticus 1.4; 4.20, 26, 31, 35; 5.6, 10, 13, 16, 18; 6.7; 7.7; 8.34; 9.7 x2; 10.17; 12.8; 14.18, 19, 20, 21, 29, 31, 53; 15.15,30; 16.6, 10, 11, 16, 17 x2, 18, 24, 27, 30, 32, 33 x3, 34; 17.11 x2; 19.22; 23.27, 28 x2; and 25.9). But the author of Hebrews reminds us how limited the atonement offered by the sacrifices are (9.12-14) and how Jesus is better than those sacrifices, because his sacrifice was made once and for all for all who believe.

The author moves toward the ‘hall of faith’ where character after character of Hebrew history is brought to describe the amazing benefits of simply faith in God. But even in the midst of that, Jesus is better, because we look to him who is “the author and finisher of our faith” (12.2).

The ending section again reminds us that Jesus is the Great Shepherd of the sheep, who makes us complete in every good deed and at the same time is the power through which we do it (13.20-21).


My hope and prayer as we journey together through this incredible book is that we leave no doubt that Jesus is better. It is my goal, as we enter the halls of Hebrew history, that we see the perfect picture of Jesus and relish in our footing. I want our love for Jesus to explode as we gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the Messiah.