Standing on the Rock | Psalm 119:89-96

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  • Standing on the Rock | Psalm 119:89-96
  • In the previous three stanzas of Psalm 119, the psalmist is overwhelmed by a fierce storm of affliction. Verses 81-88 is the low point of the psalm. The storm nearly wiped out his faith. In this section, the psalmist is coming through the storm. He is anchored to the sovereignty of God. He is standing on the rock.

    Verses 89-96 record the psalmist’s faith-filled testimony about the permanence, power, and perfection of God’s word. It is good news for all who trust and obey the word of God. God’s word is a solid rock upon which you can stand.

    • It will not always make sense to you. 
    • It will not always give you what you want. 
    • It will not always keep you out of storms. 

    Add this to the list of things the word of God will not do: It will never let you down!

    How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, 
    Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word! 
    What more can He can say than to you He hath said, 
    To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled? 

    God’s word is a rock upon which you can stand. J.C. Ryle wrote: “Give me the plenary, verbal theory of biblical inspiration with all its difficulties, rather than the doubt. I accept the difficulties and humbly wait for the resolution. But while I wait, I am standing on the rock.” Psalm 119:89-96 gives three reasons you can stand firm on the unfailing word of God. 

    The Word of God is Permanent.

    As the year 2000 approached, Ray Pritchard and the Calvary Memorial Church of Oak Park, Illinois, commemorated the new millennium with a Bible reading marathon from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. At 6 AM on December 28, they began an unbroken reading of God’s word until midnight, December 31. Pritchard responded to media inquiries by explaining they did it to proclaim their confidence that God’s word is true, and every part deserves to be read and believed. They also wanted the world to know the message that carried the church for 2000 years will take us into the future.

    Psalm 119 declares the sufficiency of scripture. This stanza declares the sufficient of scripture is permanent. Only the word of God and the souls of men will outlast this world. Billy Sunday testified: “I am a Christian because God says so, and I did what he told me to do, and I stand on God’s Word, and if the Book goes down, I’ll go with it.”

    Heavenly Permanence. Verse 89 says, “Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.” When pillars are set during a construction project, they are put there to stay. If the pillars are moved, the building will collapse. The word of God is the pillar that upholds the world. It is firmly fixed. It stands firm. It is settled. We say, “God said it. I believe it. And that settles it.” But when God says it, that settles it – whether you believe it or not.

    Verse 89 says, “Your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.” The word is transcendent. It is above and beyond us. It is infinitely outside the reach of human opposition on earth and spiritual opposition in the heavenly places. Voltaire held up a copy of the Bible and declared, “In fifty years the Bible shall be no more.” In fifty years, Voltaire was dead. The Geneva Bible Society bought his house and used it to store and copy Bibles. You don’t bury the Bible. It buries you! The word of God is firmly fixed “forever.” Nothing else in the world is firmly fixed, much less firmly fixed forever. The word of God is firmly fixed forever. The Bible is not the book of the week, the book of the month, or the book of the year. It is the book of the ages. Isaiah 40:8 says: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”

    Earthly Permanence. Verse 90 is the second verse of Psalm 119 that does not directly mention the word of God. But there is an indirect reference to scripture in verse 90: “Your faithfulness endures to all generations…” Psalm 100:5says: “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” You can trust the word of God because the God of the word is faithful. Verse 89 points to heaven to affirm the trustworthiness of God’s word. Verse 90 points to earth to affirm it: “Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.” God created the earth ex nihilo – out of nothing. It stands fast, because God is faithful. 

    • The earth is close enough to the sun that we don’t freeze and far enough that we don’t burn because God is faithful. 
    • The sun continues to rise in the east and go down in the west because God is faithful.  
    • The flowers keep budding, blooming, fading, and falling because God is faithful. 

    The faithfulness of God’s word is seen by looking up and by looking around. Verse 91 says: “By your appointment they stand to this day.” Heaven and earth do not stand on their own. God sustains them. Verse 91b explains why: “for all things are your servants.” There is not one rebellious molecule in the universe. God controls everything. In Mark 4:41, the disciples asked, “Who is then, that even wind and sea obey him?” This is the confidence we have in Christ. Everything obeys his voice. 

    The word of God is Powerful.

                As with satellite technology, the psalmist zooms in on the trustworthiness of God’s word as the stanza progresses. 

    • Verse 89 tells us God’s word is settled in the heavens. 
    • Verses 90-91 tell us God’s word stands on earth. 
    • Verses 92-95 tell us God’s word is sufficient for the believer. 

    Delight in God’s Word. Verse 67 says, “Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I keep your word.” Verse 71 says, “it is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” Verse 75 says, “I know, O Lord, that all your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” Verse 92 says, “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.” Devotion to God does not exempt you from affliction. The psalmist almost perished. Trouble almost wiped him out – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But the word of God held him fast in the midst of this raging storm.

    Verse 92 says, “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.” Rescuing grace was experienced by a proper attitude toward God’s word. The power of scripture is assumed. Delight in scripture activated it. John Phillips writes: “The word of God helped the psalmist keep his sanity; it gave him something to hang onto when the world was falling apart. It was a rock, an anchor. He was able to get his feet on the solid rock when surrounded by the quicksand of mincing circumstances. He was able to throw out his anchor and feel the cable hold his drifting boat against the rising wind and perilous reef.” If you delight in God’s word, it will keep you when you cannot keep yourself. 

    Remember God’s word. Verse 93 says, “I will never forget your precepts.” “Forget” is not about mental recollection. It is a matter of the will more than the mind. To remember God’s word is to do it. James 1:25 says: “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” “I will never forget your precepts” is a pledge of obedience. Charles Bridges wrote: “This resolution is the language of sincerity, not of perfection.” Godliness is not perfection. It is determination to please God.  

    The psalmist says, “I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life.” At the point of death, God’s word gave him life. This is the power of God’s word. It can put you back on your feet again. Charles Bridges: “The leaves of the word of God are the leaves of the tree of life, as well as of the tree of knowledge.” The psalmist does not pledge obedience to receive the life-giving power of God’s word. Because the word gave him life, he determined to remember it. Obedience is not a legalistic strategy for winning the divine favor. New life in Christ makes you a beneficiary of future grace that enables you to remember God’s word. 

    Seek God’s word. Verse 94 begins with a statement of devotion: “I am yours.” The word of God is a means to an end. True devotion does not say, “I know the Bible.” It says, “I belong to God.” Can you say to God, “I am yours”? You do not belong to God if you do not believe in Jesus. John 14:6 says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

    The psalmist prays, “I am yours, save me.” This prayer is not about forgiveness of sins. It is about deliverance from affliction. Prayer is not about making long, eloquent speeches to God. James 5:16b says: “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” If your heart belongs to God, “Save me”is enough to move the hand of God. The psalmist gave a reason why the Lord should save him: “for I have sought your precepts.” He belonged to God. But he was not perfect. Yet he did not use his lack of perfection as an excuse for a life of rebellion. He was able to say, “I have sought your precepts.” 

    The help of God is not contingent upon the perfection of your life. If so, we are all doomed. But God is looking at the direction of your life. You don’t have any legitimate reason to expect God to help you if you are not willing to do will. James 4:2says: “You do not have, because you do not ask.” Then James 4:3 says: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” But God saves those who seek him. Matthew 6:33says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”

    Consider God’s word. Verse 95 says: “The wicked lie in wait to destroy me, but I consider your testimonies.” This verse reminds us again that godly people are not immune from trouble. William McDonald wrote: “The only way to avoid the attacks of the wicked is to lead a petty, inconsequential life. As long as our lives are effective for Him, we can expect opposition.” There will be times when the wicked oppose you. Their tactics will expose them. They will not fight with conventional means. They will use guerilla warfare. Verse 95 says, “The wicked lie in wait to destroy me.” This is why you cannot fight ungodly people on their terms. The do not fight fair. They lie in wait to destroy. 

    Verse 95 says, “The wicked lie in wait to destroy me, but I consider your testimonies.” There may come a time when your devotion to the God’s word will cause ungodly people to come against you. When that happens, consider God’s word. Do not allow what people do to change your devotion to the word of God. 

    Daniel was a man of prayer. To bring him down, his enemies manipulated the king to sign a decree that said no one in the kingdom could pray to anyone but him for a month. Daniel 6:10 says: “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.” Dare to be Daniel. Live in such a way that when wicked people rise against you; you don’t have to figure out what to do. You can keep doing what you have been doing. 

    The Word of God is Perfect.  

    Verse 96 says: “I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad.” This verse is difficult to translate, but easy to interpret. It contends that even the best things in this world are limited, finite, and tainted. Nothing in this world is perfect. There are no perfect people, locations, moments, experiences, or achievements. The Hebrew word translated perfection, used only here in the Old Testament, speaks of the intended end or completion of a thing. Everything in this world is inadequate, incomplete, or insufficient. Derek Kidner comments: “This verse could well be a summary of Ecclesiastes, where every earthly enterprise has its day and comes to nothing, and where only in God and his commandments do we get beyond these frustrating limits.”

    Verse 96 draws a contrast: “I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad.” This is a poetic way of saying the word of God perfect, complete, sufficient, limitless, and undefeatable. This the average person views the Bible to be a narrow book. But the psalmist says the Bible is exceedingly broad. It is sufficient to meet you at the point of your need. Some think we must add to scripture to reach people where they are.  But there is not place a person can be where scripture cannot reach them. The word of God is exceedingly broad. 

    • Only God’s word can give hope to the lost person who is facing an uncertain eternity. 
    • Only God’s word can give joy to the sick person who is suffering the pain of chronic sickness or disease. 
    • Only God’s word can give comfort to the grieving person who is standing over the remains of a loved-one who has died. 
    • Only God’s word can give peace to the anxious person who is facing a severe financial crisis. 
    • Only God’s word can give strength to the troubled person who is enduring family discord. 
    • Only God’s word can give guidance to the confused person who is wrestling with a difficult decision. 

    The novelist, Lloyd C. Douglas, lived in a boarding house during his college days. A retired music teacher lived on the first floor. And they shared a daily ritual. Douglas would come down the steps, open the old man’s door and ask, “Well, what’s the good news?” The man would pick up his tuning fork; tap it on the side of his wheelchair, and say, “That middle C. It was middle C yesterday; it will be middle C tomorrow; it will be middle C a thousand years from now. The tenor upstairs sings flat, the piano across the hall is out of tune, but, my friend, that is middle C.” The Lord Jesus Christ is the believer’s Middle C!


    H.B. Charles Jr.

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