Reformed Baptist Fellowship

The Blessedness of Bible Lovers (Psa 119.165)

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on August 20, 2011 at 8:17 am

Great peace have they which love thy law:

And nothing shall offend them.

.

In this world’s present misery and our natural fear of future misery through a consciousness of our sins and guilt, the Lord makes promises whose full benefits are in some measure postponed, but which become the basis for a believer’s solid hope. This hope inspires us to pursue him doggedly throughout our lives with the full expectation that our persevering spiritual chase will finally be amply rewarded.

God holds before us both the threat of hell and the prospect of heaven as dual motivators toward righteousness. The latter is a most necessary positive for us, since the person who is restrained from sin through fear alone offers at best only a grudging service to the sovereign Judge. Such a service is unacceptable to him, because this sacrifice of the wicked is completely lacking the salt of love (Lev 2.13; cf. 1 Cor 13.1-3).

We say this while completely affirming the legitimacy of spiritual restraint due to fear of bad consequences, but a true saint, that is, a sincere Christian believer, is drawn to glory by the cords of love after catching a glimpse of the beatific vision.[1] “Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb 11.6). And the gracious reward is the Lord himself, for all true and lasting blessedness is found in him alone (Gen 15.1; Psa 16.5, 11). We think of heaven as God’s gift to us, but is it not more profoundly true that God is heaven’s gift? God himself is the blessedness of heaven.

Countless are the biblical texts which draw us through promise of future blessing to stimulate our hope. This is the essential nature of all pronouncements of blessing, or benedictions, upon believers. The classic Old Testament example is that given to the sons of Aaron for use in ministry to Israel, found in Numbers 6.22-27. This Lord prescribed this to his priests:

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.

The drift of this benediction is interesting, setting a pattern for all others upon believers, for it contains elements of prayer, promise, and prophecy. The priests petitioned the Lord to bless Israel, and they assured Israel she would be blessed, and they predicted the full realization of the divine intention to save his people to the uttermost. Note well the forward-looking direction of these words. They are not merely a pronouncement of current blessing, but that God’s people shall be blessed hereafter. The Lord himself speaks about his chosen ones in response to his obedient priests: “I will bless them” (future tense). All the biblical prophecies of the Lord God arising for the ultimate deliverance of his elect are encompassed in that blessed divine promise.

THE BENEDICTION RESTING UPON THEM

Scripture equates blessedness with salvation, and the Hebrew has no more significant word to represent that most desirable state of being than the word “shalom” (Heb. šālôm) or peace.

The general meaning . . . is of completion and fulfillment—of entering into a state of wholeness and unity, a restored relationship. . . . [This word and its cognates] are among the most important theological words in the OT. . . . šālôm is the result of God’s activity in covenant, and is the result of righteousness (Isa 32.17). In nearly two-thirds of its occurrences, šālôm describes the state of fulfillment which is the result of God’s presence.[2]

Psalm 119.165 not only pronounces this blessed peace upon a certain class of people, but it adds an adjective for intensification. It is “great peace,” with connotations of much, plentiful, abundant, abounding, and vast (lexicons).

Upon whose brow does this exquisite, heaven-bejeweled crown of eternal life rest? The original could be translated, “Great peace to the lovers of thy law,” that is, to “torah,” the divine instruction which is contained within and equated with the Holy Scriptures of Yahweh, the God of Israel.

Now there are many verbs that describe the relationship between God’s people and God’s written word. We hear it. We receive it. We believe it. We practice it. We proclaim it. We exult in it. But the word chosen here, that beautiful spiritual trait created by the Holy Spirit in the soul of every heaven-bound person, is love. They are all together, and each one separately, characterized by God as Bible-lovers. Not that they love the Bible without loving God, which is not really possible, despite the appearance of an attachment to that holy Book which some mere hypocrites, sometimes cold seminary scholars, seem to display. This is more akin to the counterfeit virtue of supposed Bible experts known as the Pharisees, and none were more vigorously exposed as wicked by our blessed Savior. True saints truly love the Word just because it is the word of their beloved God.

And this God-given grace of love for Scripture is itself the harbinger of greater blessedness that the Lord intends to grant to his dear children. He does not awaken a love for him in our hearts unless he intends to gratify that holy desire. The Groom of Israel is resolved to fulfill his role as her Husband after the wedding.

It was God-incarnate who promised his disciples, in words that can be so much more appreciated by those who are familiar with Jewish wedding customs:

I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also  (John 14.2-3).

This is the culmination of the bride’s fondest hope—to dwell with her husband in exclusive covenantal bonds, unceasingly experiencing his love for herself. And he has no higher delight than to be her all in all. “Great peace have they which love thy law.”

THE PRESERVATION GUARANTEED TO THEM

In the customary fashion of Hebrew poetic parallelism, the second line builds upon the first, this time with a negation: “And nothing shall offend them.” And what does “offend” mean? Even a modern English dictionary lists several senses, among which are “to cause pain or hurt.” But the archaic sense was evidently the original intent of the AV translators: “to cause to sin or fall,”[3] for this is the nearest to the Hebrew word, “a stumbling, means or occasion of stumbling,”[4] “a cause of failure of an event, . . . downfall.”[5]

In this context, the meaning is clear. “Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble” (ESV). Immediately we may wonder, “But do not real Christians stumble? Do not we sin—many times, and sometimes even very grievously?” Yes, we do, but we who are truly saved never stumble spiritually so badly that we lose the blessedness coming to us in Christ. “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief” (Prov 24.16). True faith perseveres through everything, even temporary setbacks on account of sin, until it attains final salvation.

Matthew Henry’s explanation of this second line is very sound and precious:

No event of providence shall be either an invincible temptation or an intolerable affliction to them, but their love to the word of God shall enable them both to hold fast their integrity and to preserve their tranquility. They will make the best of that which is, and not quarrel with any thing that God does (in loc.).

If you find within a God-given love for Scripture because it is God’s Word, then you have every warrant to count yourself among the blessed, and to rest assured that come what may, there is “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,” and that you are sure to be “kept by the power of God through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet 1.4-5). Such is the blessedness for all true Bible-lovers! Let us rejoice and press on! Amen.

D. Scott Meadows, Pastor
Calvary Baptist Church
Exeter, New Hampshire
.

[1] “1639: the direct knowledge of God enjoyed by the blessed in heaven” (MWCD, cf. Matt 5.8). See Spurgeon, NPSP #61, “The Beatific Vision.”

[2] TWOT #2401a.

[3] All from MWCD, in loc.

[4] BDB #506.1.

[5] DBLSD #4842.


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