Becoming a Faithful Witness | Psalm 119:41-48

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  • Becoming a Faithful Witness | Psalm 119:41-48
  • Matthew 28:18-20 records the Great Commission of Jesus Christ: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

    • The Lord has commissioned the church to make disciples.
    • Teaching is essential to the disciple-making process. 
    • Disciples think and live by the teaching of Christ.

    Who is qualified to teach others? It is those who have been taught. No one who does not have a teachable spirit should be allowed to teach in the church. Christian discipleship and Christian witness go together. C.H. Spurgeon said, “Our great object of glorifying God is to be mainly achieved by the winning of souls.” This is what Jesus teaches in the Great Commission. It is what the psalmist teaches in this section of Psalm 119. In the previous stanza, the psalmist desired the Lord to teach him. Now he desires to share God’s word with others. The two desires go together. Devotion to God’s word is marked by a desire to be a faithful witness.

    The 176 verses of Psalm 119 are arranged into an acrostic that uses every letter of the Hebrew alphabet in twenty-two sections, each eight verses long. This stanza is under the heading Waw, the sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This stanza must have tested the skill of the psalmist, for very few Hebrew words begin with the letter Waw. Grammatically, it is a conjunction most commonly translated “And.”

    In the original, most of the lines of this stanza begin with “and.” The psalmist did not do this arbitrarily to sustain his poetic structure. This is another expression of his desire to be a faithful witness. The psalmist faced opposition because of his devotion to God’s word. But he was determined to be a faithful witness for God. And he writes this stanza with holy defiance. It is as if the psalmist told those who tried to shut him up, “Take that, and that, and that!” Psalm 119:41-48 teaches two requirements for becoming a faithful witness of God’s word. 

    The Prayer of a Faithful Witness 

       When we connect prayer and evangelism, we often emphasize the salvation of the lost rather than the readiness of the witness. The psalmist understood the times and circumstances in which he lived. More importantly, he knew himself. He needed God to help him be a faithful witness. His prayer requests teach two things we need to be faithful witnesses for the Lord. 

      Ask God to strengthen your witness. Verse 41 prays, “Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord.” Steadfast love translates the Hebrew word hesed. The word is hard to translate. But it used to refer to the loyal love of God. The psalmist could not reach it. He could only receive it. He asked that God’s steadfast love would come to him. His reason is stated in the following clause: “Your salvation according to your promise.” “Salvation” here does not refer to the forgiveness of sins or the gift of eternal life. It refers here to rescue from trouble or deliverance from distress. The psalmist prayed the loyal love of God would save, rescue, or deliver him. When you face hard times, it is not a sign of weakness, disloyalty, or unbelief to ask God for deliverance. God wants you to come to him when you face trials.  

        Verse 41 says, “Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise.”Promise is a synonym for scripture. The psalmist prayed God’s love would deliver him according to the word. He was not looking for a miraculous touch, new revelation, or supernatural experience. He asked God to help him according to the promise of his word. This prayer affirms the sufficiency of God’s word to deliver from trouble. God does not have to make a special appearance to deliver you. In Luke 7:7, the centurion told Jesus, “But say the word, and met my servant be healed.”

         Verse 42 says, “Then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your word.” Taunts is the verb form of the term translated “reproach” in verse 39. The psalmist suffered verbal and emotional abuse because of the word. It warns us to expect devotion to invoke mistreatment. John 15:20 says, “A servant is no greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” We should not expect the world to treat us better than it treated Jesus. Be concerned about the authenticity and maturity of your devotion if you never face reproach for the sake of God’s word. Hugo Cardinalis said there are three blasphemers of the godly – devils, heretics, and slanderers. 

        • The devil is answered by the internal word of humility. 
        • The heretic is answered by the external word of wisdom. 
        • The slanderer is answered by the active word of a good life. 

        The psalmist responded to taunts by praying: “Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise; then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your word.” The word of God will give you an answer. The answer only marks if you trust the word. God’s word is worthy of your trust.  is trustworthy. You can trust God’s word. It will give you an answer in difficult times. 

        Ask God to sustain your witness. Verse 43 says, “And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules.”Though facing difficulty, the psalmist did not ask God to take him out of the situation. He asked God not to take the word of truth out of his mouth. This should also be our prayer. How does this happen?

        • Personal Sin. Transgression takes the word out of your mouth, for it is hard to be a witness when your walk contradicts your talk. 
        • Worldly Pressure. The reproach of hardhearted unbelievers or worldly-minded believers can pressure you to compromise your convictions.
        • Satanic attacks. If you do not trust the power of Christ, put on the whole armor of God, and stand your ground, the schemes of the devil will shut you up.       

        Charles Bridges wrote: “Oh! Let not the word of truth be taken utterly out of our mouth. If we cannot say all we want of, or for our Savior, let us say what we can. God’s servants are very sensible of the infinite value of the least atom of what belongs to him.  And a word spoken in weakness may be a word of Almighty power, and a present help to some fainting spirit.” Verse 43 says, “And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules.” If your witness is going to stand in hard times, you must hope in the word of God. To hope is to patiently wait. 

        • God’s word is true. 
        • God’s promises are sure. 
        • God’s judgments are unfailing. 

         But God does not always fulfill his word according to our schedule. If you are not careful, impatience will shut you up. There is a trust element and a time element to the promises of God. To be a faithful witness, wait on God to fulfill his word. 

        The Pledge of a Faithful Witness 

          Faithful witness begins with believing prayer. It is sustained by steadfast endurance. To be a faithful witness, kneel in prayer, stand for truth, and walk by faith. In verses 44-48, the psalmist vows to be an obedient, courageous, and devoted witness. 

          Be an obedient witness. Verses 44-45 address the life and liberty of obedience. 

             The Life of Obedience. Verse 44 says, “I will keep your law continually, forever and forever.” Note the two time references here. The psalmist vowed to obey continually. His was not a situational ethic that allowed his circumstances to determine his commitment. His was an internal resolve of total devotion. Allen C. Emery observed: “The utter obedience required in the military is accepted as necessary, even when one’s life may be the price of that obedience. Why does the Christian fail to practice the same obedience in spiritual matters?” The psalmist also vowed to obey eternally. Verse 44 says, “I will keep your law continually, forever and ever.” Many do not embrace the life of obedience because they do not have a heavenly perspective. 

            • We fully embrace the doctrine of justification that saves us. 
            • We embrace the doctrine of sanctification that matures us. 
            • We fail to embrace the doctrine of glorification that perfects us. 

            The psalmist understood this life is a dress rehearsal for eternity. Revelation 22:11 says, “Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” The faithful witness obeys presently, continually, and eternally. 

            The Liberty of Obedience. Verse 45 says: “And I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts.” “Wide place” is a Hebrew idiom for freedom. The picture is of one who is free from restrictions, confinements, and limitations. The psalmist expected to live a liberated life. This freedom was the result of obedience to the word of God. The ungodly think obedience to God is bondage. The godly know obedience to God is freedom. John 8:31-32 says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:34 says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” Sin is slavery. Obedience is freedom. Matthew Henry commented: “The service of sin is perfect slavery; the service of God is perfect liberty.” The one who seeks God’s precepts is able to walk in a wide place. 

            George Matheson wrote:  

            Make me captive, Lord, and then I shall be free.
            Force me to render up my sword, and I shall conqueror be.

            Be a courageous witness. Proverbs 28:1 declares: “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” The faithful witness must be a righteous person who is as bold as a lion. 

            You should be a bold witness. Verse 46 says, “I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame.” We do not know if kings are literal or metaphorical. Either way, the psalmist had enemies in high places. The psalmist would not allow the highest thrones of human authority to intimidate him. He was unafraid of the opinions of men. He would not be put to shame. 

            Daniel 3:16-18 reads: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.’” Holy boldness is essential to faithful witness. Romans 1:16 says: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believers, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

            You can be a bold witness. The holy boldness of verse 46 is explained by the spiritual devotion in verse 47: “For I find my delight in your commandments.” Delight in the word is a recurring theme in Psalm 119. He did not place his joy in material, temporary, and perishing things. He rejoiced in the word of God. His delight in God’s word enabled him to be a bold witness. The best advertisement for a company is a satisfied customer. The same is true with the gospel of Jesus Christ. A satisfied Christian makes a great witness. A faithful witness views God’s word as a loving delight, not a burdensome duty.

            Verse 47 says: “I find my delight in your commands, which I love.” Do you love the word of God? You cannot delight in it if you do not love it. It will eventually tell on you. Note the psalmist says he loves God’s commandments. He did not just love God’s word when it was saying what he wanted to hear. He loved God’s word when it got in his business and told him what to do. To love God’s word is to delight in it. Psalm 119:97 says, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.”

            Be a devoted witness. Verse 48 says, “I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.” There are two vows in this verse. 

            First, the psalmist vowed, “I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love.” In scripture, uplifted hands are associated with praise. Psalm 63:4 says, “So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.” Uplifted hands are also associated with prayer. 1 Timothy 2:8 says, “I desire then that in every place that men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling.” But the reference here is not about prayer or praise. It is an expression of devotion to God’s word.

            When police apprehend a suspect, their first command is, “Hands in the air!” Likewise, when a little child can walk no further, he stands in front of his mother and lifts his hands. Without a word, the child’s uplifted hands declare, “I need you to pick me up!” The psalmist lifted his hands to symbolize his surrender to God and his dependence upon God.

            Secondly, the psalmist vows, “I will meditate on your statutes.” Christian meditation is not the emptying of one’s mind. On the contrary, to “meditate” is to think about God’s word sincerely, seriously, and submissively. It is a matter of the head and the heart. Meditation expresses a desire to know God’s word and a willingness to do God’s word. It is to think deeply about God’s word to apply it to your life. Meaning and meditation go together. You should read, hear, and study God’s word. However, Bible intake will not be profitable if you do not meditate on how the word of God guides and governs how you live. 

            Psalm 119:15 says, “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.” To meditate on God’s word is to fix your eyes on God’s ways. It is the only way to the blessed life. Psalm 1:1-3 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord; and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by the streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”


            H.B. Charles Jr.

            Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida.