Previous Issue - Next Issue - Aspects Home

ASPECTS

a monthly devotional journal
by David Lampel
Issue No. 51
February 1995

SONG OF THE HUNGERING SERVANT


In this issue:

Deal bountifully with Thy servant,
That I may live and keep Thy word.
Open my eyes, that I may behold
Wonderful things from Thy law.
I am a stranger in the earth;
Do not hide Thy commandments from me.
My soul is crushed with longing
After Thine ordinances at all times.

Psalm 119:17-20 NASB

I once attended, by invitation, a Men's Bible Study/Breakfast. Meeting at 6:45 every Wednesday morning, this group of around 100 guys listens to and discusses a topical curriculum (with ties to James Dobson's Focus On The Family) on becoming "the kind of man God wants us to be." It is an interdenominational study to which--at least on the day I attended--I was the only one who brought an actual Bible. In fact, the recitation of the quote in the sentence above was the one and only time God was even mentioned; Scripture was never cited--much less used as a source. Allowing for the obligatory time of chatting over coffee and doughnuts, the "study" consisted of about 20 minutes of talk from the leader, followed by about 15 minutes of small group discussion.

This Study/Breakfast was surely a profitable time for many in attendance; I have heard more than one person sing its praise. But we shouldn't call it anything but what it was: a time for essentially decent men to gather together to encourage each other to be better husbands and fathers.

For me, the Spiritual blandness of this episode is illustrative of how we can allow ourselves to be lulled into a comfortable complacency. It comes dangerously close to the lie that "people are basically good and God is a loving god who wishes only the best for people; just live a good, generous life of not hurting others and He will conduct you safely into heaven."


Jesus called us to be salt, not insipid.

He hates tepid faith.

Life is too short to waste our time with a mediocre faith. Mediocrity is the same as standing still--and a faith that is standing still, in this society, is losing. Live your life--your life in Christ--to its fullest.


We (the corporate "we," of which you are a part) are surrounded by mediocrity: a pervasive ordinariness with which we must continually do battle to prevent it seeping into our pores. Too many churches--mainstream and fringe denominations alike--skip lightly and conveniently over the convicting truth of Scripture. Weekly they meet to shake hands and share a contented joviality, sing a handful of familiar hymns, and daydream through a sermon until 12:00 noon rouses them for pot roast and an afternoon nap.

The "Reagan" era lulled us into accepting "wholesomeness" over real Spirituality. Our fortieth President is widely credited for a return to wholesome, apple-pie American--even Christian--values. Yet when asked once if he were a born-again Christian, he only mumbled something about his parents always sending him to Sunday School. George Bush and Dan Quayle continued the call for wholesome family values over fatherless video pregnancies. Wonderful. We need it. Wholesomeness is surely a good thing. But these good and wholesome practices have only an extrinsic relationship with the things of God and the living of a life according to His word--a life that has a hunger for God and His word.

Perspective 1
G E N E R O U S   G O D,
O B E D I E N T   S E R V A N T

Deal bountifully with Thy servant,
That I may live and keep Thy word.

Psalm 119:17 NASB

Psalm 119:17-20 is a pleading, hungering cry to know more of the things of a righteous and holy God. Yet it does not stop with simple knowledge; it is also a song of commitment to live a life according to that knowledge.

In a day when bland mediocrity is the accepted norm, we find here the words of someone for whom mediocrity would be an unthinkable compromise.


"Deal bountifully" means to reward or bestow some benefit; to grant.[1] The word translated "live" would describe a life lived to its fullest; a whole life, fully realized.[2]

The heart tuned to God and His ways understands that such a statement can indeed be made in all humility. It is not the demanding tone of the spoiled brat, saying: "Gimme everything I want!", but the quiet assurance of the penitent who knows that his master meets out grace according to His standards.

That same heart tuned to the things of God understands that what God gives us--whether it be the bounty of reward or the bounty of trials--still belongs to Him, and is to be lived or used for His glory.

A paraphrase of 119:17 might read: "Be generous with Your blessings, for I will use them to sing Your praise and do Your work."

In verse 17, David[4] is saying to God: "Fill my life with your righteousness, your wisdom--your Spirit! I am your servant; give me my orders. I will only have a rich, complete life as long as I live it according to your word."


In this portion of the Psalm there is also the echo of David's earlier, Psalm 51, wherein he vents his passionate repentance over his misspent passions with Bathsheba.

Here the bounty requested is the bounty of forgiveness. Just like the passage in 119:17, however, it is a fairly balanced request--a request with a promise.

These are the words of someone who understands the give-and-take of a life lived with a personal God.

David knew that you don't just ask--you ask expecting to receive; you don't just receive--you receive with gratitude and thanksgiving; and you're not just thankful--you express your gratitude by offering up praise, and making yourself available to be used by a loving and generous God.

Into the Word

Deut. 12:18             ________________________________
1 Samuel 2:1            ________________________________
2 Chron. 7:10           ________________________________
Neh. 8:12               ________________________________
Neh. 12:43              ________________________________
Job 22:21-26            ________________________________
Psalm 2:11              ________________________________
Psalm 4:7               ________________________________
Psalm 5:11              ________________________________
Psalm 16:8-9            ________________________________
Eccles. 2:26            ________________________________
Romans 15:13            ________________________________
2 Cor. 1:12             ________________________________
Philip. 4:4             ________________________________
Col. 1:10-12            ________________________________
James 1:2               ________________________________

 

Digging Deeper--Moving Higher

Fill All My Vision

Fill all my vision, Saviour, I pray,
Let me see only Jesus today;
Though thro' the valley Thou leadest me,
Thy fadeless glory encompasseth me.

Refrain:

Fill all my vision, Saviour divine,
Till with Thy glory my spirit shall shine.
Fill all my vision, that all may see
Thy holy Image reflected in me.

Fill all my vision, every desire
Keep for Thy glory; my soul inspire
With Thy perfection, Thy holy love
Flooding my pathway with light from above.

Fill all my vision, let naught of sin
Shadow the brightness shining within.
Let me see only Thy blessed face,
Feasting my soul on Thy infinite grace.
[5]


Making It Personal

Anyone calling God Father and Jesus Christ Lord has a life filled with "bounty." Take some time to list some of what God has brought into your life.

How is your life more "whole," more "fully realized" in Christ?

How does "keep Thy word" involve more than simply obeying the Ten Commandments?

Into the Word

Verse 17 suggests that it is actually possible (not just a desire) to "keep [God's] word." Do you think this is true? Some believe that people will never be able to obey God completely as long as they inhabit this temporal form. Others believe that it is, indeed, possible to obey God completely. What do you think? Use Scripture to back up your answer.

Perspective 2
2 0 / 2 0   V I S I O N

Open my eyes, that I may behold
Wonderful things from Thy law.

Psalm 119:18 NASB

This verse is a true companion to the previous. If we are to "... live and keep Thy word," then we must be able to read and digest that word through the eyes of God.


As a writer, I often wish that people who read what I write could do so complete with the thoughts and intentions--even sounds and pictures--I had when writing the words. When I write a new play or musical, and it goes into rehearsals, I often wish that the actors could see their characters with the same vision and passions I had while creating them.

But when it comes to the book written by God, we certainly can know the mind of the author, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.


How often have I said something like: "I just don't get much out of this passage," or "This verse seems to be repeating what was already said in the previous verse." In those times it is always my eyesight that has been dimmed, not the "wonderful things" in Scripture.


There is an important difference between our physical eyesight and the Spiritual comprehension spoken of here. Without corrective surgery or accoutrements such as eyeglasses or contact lenses, we are pretty much born with whatever physical eyesight we have--and that eyesight usually degenerates with time and use. Stare at a computer screen all day and by the end of the day your eyes will be quite tired.

Our Spiritual "eyesight," however, only improves as we use it. Every hour spent poring over the words written by God serves only to sharpen our sight and improve our understanding of His mind.


Into the Word

Neh. 8:3                ________________________________
Psalm 1:2               ________________________________
Psalm 119:97-104        ________________________________
Romans 3:1-2            ________________________________
Ephes. 6:17-18          ________________________________
Col. 3:16               ________________________________
2 Tim. 3:14-15          ________________________________
Hebrews 6:4-6           ________________________________
James 1:18              ________________________________
James 1:22-25           ________________________________
1 Peter 2:2-3           ________________________________
1 Peter 4:11            ________________________________

 

Digging Deeper--Moving Higher

The Divine Gift

O God of Light, Thy Word, a lamp unfailing, Shines through the darkness of our earthly way, O'er fear and doubt, o'er black despair prevailing, Guiding our steps to Thine eternal day.

From days of old, through swiftly rolling ages, Thou hast revealed Thy will to mortal men, Speaking to saints, to prophets, kings, and sages, Who wrote the message with immortal pen.

Undimmed by time, the Word is still revealing To sinful men Thy justice and Thy grace; And questing hearts that long for peace and healing See Thy compassion in the Saviour's face.

To all the world the message Thou art sending, To every land, to every race and clan; And myriad tongues, in one great anthem blending, Acclaim with joy Thy wondrous gift to man.[9]


 

Open My Eyes, That I May See

Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key,
That shall unclasp and set me free.

Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready, my God, Thy will to see;
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Open my ears, that I may hear
Voices of truth Thou sendest clear;
And while the wavenotes fall on my ear,
Ev'rything false will disappear.

Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready, my God, Thy will to see;
Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Open my mouth, and let it bear
Gladly the warm truth ev'rywhere;
Open my heart, and let me prepare
Love with Thy children thus to share.

Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready, my God, Thy will to see;
Open my heart, illumine me, Spirit divine! Amen.
[10]

Making It Personal

List some ways God can open--or has opened--your eyes to behold "wonderful things" from His word.

How do we acquire God's perspective for reading His word?

Select a smaller epistle from the New Testament, such as Colossians or Galatians, and make a list of "wonderful things" you discover there.

Into the Word

Consider three possible ways to read God's word: 1) without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; 2) with the Spirit's indwelling, but with dulled eyesight; 3) with a quickened Spirit that is sharpening the eyesight.

Select a familiar passage of Scripture and try to interpret it from each of these three perspectives. What differences do you find between the three?

Perspective 1
B A N Q U E T

I am a stranger in the earth;
Do not hide Thy commandments from me.
My soul is crushed with longing
After Thine ordinances at all times.

Psalm 119:19-20 NASB

In one of His final earthly acts of mercy, Jesus knelt before His Father on behalf of His disciples.

Jesus, better than anyone, knew what it was to be a stranger in a strange land. After the purity of heaven, this earth and its people could only have been, at best, a curious and awkward environment for the Son of God. Curious people doing curious things--their impact on Him relieved only by the advantage of their being His own creation. No surprises.

But out of Jesus' compassionate heart flowed the understanding that we, too, as His followers, would be subjected to that same homesickness for the halls of glory. As brothers and sisters, joint heirs, Jesus knew that we, like Him, would feel like people set out of time and out of place.

The word translated "stranger" in this passage[11] is also used in 1 Chronicles 29:15.


But the Lord does not leave us empty-handed. In our possession is His very word. Spurgeon reminds us of its power for our lives.


If we feel the stranger on this earth, the remedy for our discomfort will not be found in anything of this earth. Our solace, our peace, will be found in the things of God--those things which not only instruct and counsel, but envelop us in His love and protection.

God's word reminds us of His ongoing commitment to us, of His justice, grace and mercy. His word describes the righteousness and holiness of our heavenly Father, bringing conviction as well as comfort. His word will answer the questions that nag at us from those who have no portion of His grace. His word will enlighten, encourage, and strengthen.

Do you hunger for it? Is your "soul crushed with longing" for God's word?


Into the Word

Genesis 17:8            ________________________________
Genesis 23:3-6          ________________________________
1 Chron. 29:13-16       ________________________________
Psalm 39:12             ________________________________
Psalm 51:1-19           ________________________________
Psalm 119:30-40         ________________________________
Psalm 119:45-48         ________________________________
Psalm 119:65-66         ________________________________
Psalm 119:73-74         ________________________________
Jeremiah 14:8           ________________________________
John 17:1-26            ________________________________
Hebrews 11:9            ________________________________

 

Digging Deeper--Moving Higher

My Soul, Be On Thy Guard

My soul, be on thy guard, ten thousand foes arise; The hosts of sin are pressing hard to draw thee from the skies.

O watch, and fight, and pray, the battle ne'er give o'er; Renew it boldly every day, and help divine implore.

Ne'er think the victory won, nor lay thine armor down; The work of faith will not be done, till thou obtain the crown.

Fight on, my soul, till death shall bring thee to thy God; He'll take thee, at thy parting breath, to His divine abode.[13]



 

Thy Word is Like a Garden, Lord

Thy Word is like a garden, Lord, With flowers bright and fair; And everyone who seeks may pluck a lovely cluster there. Thy Word is like a deep, deep mine; And jewels rich and rare Are hidden in its mighty depths for every searcher there.

O may I love Thy precious Word, May I explore the mine, May I its fragrant flowers glean, may light upon me shine. O may I find my armor there, Thy Word my trusty sword; I'll learn to fight with every foe the battle of the Lord.[15]

Making It Personal

Time to be honest: Do you hunger for God's word? Is your soul crushed with longing after His ordinances? We're not necessarily taking about "making time" here; we're not talking about juggling your busy schedule to force a little Bible reading into the mix. What we're talking about is having a passion for it. In your hand you hold God's word! His timeless, personal, precious voice. Why don't you hunger for it?

What can you do to nurture in yourself the kind of hunger for God's word expressed by David?

Into the Word

Read all of Psalm 119, making note of David's response to God's word--and how you can have that same response.


NOTES, COPYRIGHT & SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION

Previous Issue - Next Issue - Aspects Home

Issue No. 51
February 1995

NOTES

[1.] 1 Gamal, gaw-mal', Hebrew Stg 1580; a primitive root; to treat a person (well or ill), i.e. benefit or requite; by implication (of toil) to ripen, i.e. (specific) to wean :- bestow on, deal bountifully, do (good), recompense, requite, reward, ripen, + serve, mean, yield. (return to footnote 1)

[2.] Chayah, khaw-yaw', Hebrew Stg 2421; a primitive root [compare Hebrew 2331 (chavah), Hebrew 2421 (chayah)]; to live, whether literal or figurative; causative to revive :- keep (leave, make) alive, x certainly, give (promise) life, (let, suffer to) live, nourish up, preserve (alive), quicken, recover, repair, restore (to life), revive, (x God) save (alive, life, lives), x surely, be whole. (return to footnote 2)

[3.] William Cowper in The Treasury of David. (return to footnote 3)

[4.] While the name of the author of Psalm 119 may never be conclusively known, most (but not all) scholars believe it to be the work of David. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, that great 19th Century preacher and author of The Treasury of David (devotional commentary on every Psalm), believes it to be David: "We believe that David wrote this Psalm. It is Davidic in tone and expression, and it tallies with David's experience in many interesting points. In our youth our teacher called it 'David's pocket book,' and we incline to the opinion then expressed that here we have the royal diary written at various times throughout a long life. If David did not write it, there must have lived another believer of exactly the same order of mind as David, and he must have addicted himself to psalmody with equal ardor, and have been an equally hearty lover of Holy Writ." (return to footnote 4)

[5.] Avis B. Christiansen (b.1895).. (return to footnote 5)

[6.] C.H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David. (return to footnote 6)

[7.] William Cowper in The Treasury of David. (return to footnote 7)

[8.] C.H. Spurgeon, Ibid. (return to footnote 8)

[9.] Sarah E. Taylor (1883-1954).. (return to footnote 9)

[10.] Clara H. Scott (1841-1897). (return to footnote 10)

[11.] Ger, gare, Hebrew Stg 1616; or (fully) geyr, gare; from Hebrew 1481 (guwr); properly a guest; by implication a foreigner :- alien, sojourner, stranger. (return to footnote 11)

[12.] C.H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David. (return to footnote 12)

[13.] George Heath (1750-1822). (return to footnote 13)

[14.] C.H. Spurgeon. (return to footnote 14)

[15.] Edwin Hodder (1837-1904). (return to footnote 15)

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

All original material in Aspects is Copyright © 1995 David S. Lampel. This data file is the sole property of David S. Lampel. It may not be altered or edited in any way. It may be reproduced only in its entirety for circulation as "freeware," without charge. All reproductions of this data file must contain the copyright notice (i.e., "Copyright (C) 1995 David S. Lampel."). This data file may not be used without the permission of David S. Lampel for resale or the enhancement of any other product sold. This includes all of its content. Brief quotations not to exceed more than 500 words may be used, with the appropriate copyright notice, to enhance or supplement personal or church devotions, newsletters, journals, or spoken messages.

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture is from the New International Version. NIV quotations are from the Holy Bible: New International Version, Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society. Used by permission. NASB quotations are from the New American Standard Bible © 1960, 1962,1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 by The Lockman Foundation.

SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION


Aspects is published monthly in both printed and e-mail editions. For a free subscription to either edition, contact us by one of the following methods:
Phone: 515-462-1971
Postal address: 2444 195th Trail,
Winterset, IA 50273-8172.
Internet address: dlampel@dlampel.com


Back issues of Aspects are archived on the World Wide Web; go to http://dlampel.com and click on "Aspects".


Aspects is distributed free-of-charge. If, however, you wish to contribute financially toward this ministry, then we want you to know that your contribution will be an encouragement to us, and will be applied toward the expenses of postage and materials.