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Worship in Light of God's Good Word | Psalm 119:41-48

As preached by Timothy O'Day.

"What you worship is going to determine what you do."

God's good word reveals the root of true worship and tells us the fruit of true worship.

1) Worship springs from a right grasp of God & salvation (41).

2) Worship springs forth in words (42-43).

3) Worship springs forth in freedom (44-45).

4) Worship springs forth in delight for God's glory and word (46-48).

Worship in Light of God’s Good Word

Psalm 119:41-48

March 3, 2024

The history of the world is a history of worship. Whether you look at history as given in Scripture, which is God’s authoritative witness of what is real, or you look at history as humans try to piece it together, all of it is a history of worship. By this, I mean that by necessity people are created to worship and they act on principles of worship, which is to say that they act on principles of delight and desire. 

Worship is delight in another and the acts of worship depend on the object of your delight, the central figure of your worship. Worship Molech, and you will place your children in the fire; worship your girlfriend, and you will ignore your parents and perform to her whims; worship money and you will be a miser. And the list could go on.

Worship is a non-negotiable reality because everyone everywhere delights in someone or something. Worship is not about mere activity; it is ultimately about inner delight, desire, and direction toward something else. 

Every culture in the history of the world has worshiped. Romans 1 makes sense of this ubiquitous manifestation of worship by pointing out that in creation God has made himself known. Or, as Psalm 19 puts it, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.” You are predisposed to worship because you were created to delight in another, and creation makes the glory of God plain to all. Therefore, all people worship. 

But right worship requires right seeing, and right seeing requires new eyes. Creation is a scribbled note about God’s glory in comparison to what we have in Scripture. Creation makes the reality of God known; Scripture makes who God is known. 

Therefore, if you want to move toward proper worship, which is proper and full delight, you need God’s word. Through God’s word, you get new eyes that can apprehend who God is. That’s what verse 41 is telling us. This verse opens up the first line of a prayer of the psalmist that reveals what we must apprehend in order to move toward true worship.

So Psalm 119:41-48 shows us the root of true worship of God and what will issue forth as we delight in him. In short, engaging God’s word leads to true worship. Let’s spend the rest of our time seeing how that is the case. 

  1. Worship springs from the right apprehension of God and Salvation (41)

As I said, this verse begins the psalmist's prayer for God to act in accord with his word. There are two things revealed in God’s word that are necessary for us to draw our worship: God’s steadfast love and his promise of salvation. In this verse, he asks for two related things: “Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise.” What is he talking about here? 

God’s Covenant Love

The phrase “steadfast love” has a meaningful context in Scripture. It doesn’t simply mean an enduring love. While that is true, the meaning is deeper than that. Instead, God’s steadfast love refers to his covenant love for his people. In making a covenant with his people, God has promised to love them. What is so amazing about the steadfast love of God, though, is that he does not bestow it on his people because they are worthy. In fact, Scripture reveals a powerful argument that not one of God’s covenant partners has ever earned this love. Moreover, they have always spurned it. When God calls Abram and covenants with him to give him the promised land, Abram believes God but struggles to show him full confidence. The same can be said of Isaac and Jacob. After God redeems Israel from slavery, Israel complains in the wilderness that God has not really rescued them but cursed them. Then, after receiving the law, they quickly turn their backs on God and create an idol. After entering the promised land, Israel does not do much better as they conform to the ways of the Canaanites. 

What does all of this communicate? That salvation comes from God and not man. God, in his kindness, meets the needs of broken sinners like you and me. His love does not come to people because they are lovely. It comes because he is love. This is why the psalmist says, “Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD, your salvation…” Salvation must come from the Lord and it must come because he is love because it cannot come from us, and it will not come because we are lovely and worth it. 

Apprehending this reality is the first step to seeing God as good and gracious, which then draws out our delight in him. 

God’s Promise of Salvation

God’s love is what led him to make the promise of salvation. After the Fall, God would not have been unjust to wipe out all of creation. But he did not. Instead, he made a promise that one would come from the woman who would crush the head of the serpent that originally deceived Eve. A child would be born who would destroy sin, Satan, and death under his feet. Throughout Scripture, this promise develops and is refined. We see in Genesis that one would come from the line of Abraham who would bless the world; this promise is passed down to Isaac, Jacob, and then Judah. Eventually, King David comes from the line of Judah and he receives a promise that one of his sons will have an eternal throne, and David, speaking as a prophet, recognizes that this is not a promise merely for him but for the whole world (2 Sam 7:19). Then, as you come to the New Testament, you see this promise of salvation fulfilled. God the Son is born of a woman, in the line of David, lives a life of perfect obedience, which makes him the perfect substitute to die for sinners in their place. And, because he is sinless, God vindicates him by raising him from the dead, which means that he crushed sin, Satan, and death by means of his perfect life, substitutionary death, and resurrection from the grave. He is the fulfillment of all of God’s promises and the means by which anyone who comes to him in faith may be saved. 

Apprehending the promise of God’s salvation is the next step of seeing God as great and glorious, which draws out delight in him. 

Have You Seen the Good, Gracious, Great, and Glorious God?

Do you struggle to delight in God? If so, it is because you struggle to behold the good, gracious, great, and glorious God who is revealed in Scripture. And you do not behold him because you are not in his word. 

Worship happens when we see God as he is revealed in Scripture and then apprehend what we see by faith. 

Consider this question: have you seen him? And, if you have, do you continue to behold him? 

When I was in High School, I was told by a teacher that I needed to get my eyes checked. So I did. After the exam, I immediately got glasses. I was 16 years old and had no idea I needed them. Poor vision came upon me so gradually that I didn’t know what proper sight was until I sat in the optometrist’s chair and he said, “Which is better, #1 or #2?” At that moment I thought, “Now I can really see.” Yet, I didn’t know that I couldn’t see before. 

Has that happened to you? Would you say right now that you behold God rightly yet your heart feels cold toward him? If that is you, then your sight needs correction, which comes by righty apprehending God’s word through faith. If you have never given your life to Christ by confessing your sin, trusting in his finished work, and declaring that trust through baptism, then that is where you need to begin. 

But even if you have trusted Christ already, your eyes may need an adjustment. You need to keep yourself in God’s word so that he can continue to adjust your sight to see his goodness, graciousness, greatness, and glory in his work of salvation for you. 

Once you do see him as he is, the psalmist shows us that worship springs forth in various ways. Let’s turn our attention to that next.

  1. Worship springs forth in words (42-43)

Proper sight leads to proper proclamation. By seeing and savoring the fact that the Lord saves you, a sinner, because he is gracious and loving, gives you words to say. The psalmist says in verse 42 that the result of receiving God’s salvation will be that he has an answer to give to his enemies, which is another way of saying that salvation gives him the ability to correct what is wrong and false. There are two ways that God’s salvation leads us to give an answer that counts as worship.

First, salvation provides an answer to mockery. The psalmist says in verse 42 that he will have an answer for the one who taunts him for I trust in your word. By trusting in God’s word, holding the promise and sureness of salvation before his eyes, he will have an answer to the one who mocks him and goads him. His enemy is one who insults him because he continues to trust in God and taunts him to the end to get him to doubt God’s promise. This is what leads the Psalmist to cry out in verse 41 that he wants to experience God’s covenant love and see the promise fulfilled. If God does this, then he will have an answer for this enemy. As of now, he can look at God’s word and see the promise therein but also trust the promise because, in looking at God’s word, he sees his past faithfulness. 

Christian, as you take up the word, you see God’s fulfilled promise of salvation and the manifestation of God’s steadfast love for you in Jesus Christ. Presently, you have an answer to speak to those who call you to doubt that God can really deliver you as he promised. Christians are taunted because we say no to sin and yes to righteousness. In the eyes of the world, this is sometimes perceived as foolish and other times condemned as hateful. It is foolish because we are missing out; and hateful because people feel judged. But just as the psalmist pointed to the promise of the coming of the Messiah and felt sure because of God’s past faithfulness, we can point to the return of Christ and feel sure because of God’s past faithfulness. 

But if you are not in the word of God, then the jeers of the world might gain sway in your thinking over the sure promises of God. Likewise, the jeers of the devil, saying that you are condemned, may become dominant. What is the cure? Fill your heart with God’s words so that you may have an answer to the jeers of the world and of the devil. 

Second, salvation provides an explanation of your hope. Verse 43 is a plea that God would give him words so that he would be able to instruct others. “Take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth” is a way of saying, “Don’t let my mouth open and have nothing to say.” And what is the grounds of this request? “For my hope is in your rules.” He is pleading that God would provide the right words, but he trusts that the right words will be supplied because he is taking God’s word into himself since it is in God’s word that he hopes. 

Your eyes will stay fixed on the source of your hope. 

What the psalmist is essentially asking in this verse is what Peter exhorts us to be prepared to do in 1 Peter 3:15, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” The psalmist is pleading that God would make him prepared as he dives into and places his hope in God’s word. 

So worship leads us to dive into God’s word for hope and an explanation of that God to those who ask. 

What Words Do You Need Most? 

Where do you struggle most right now? Do you struggle with guilt and questioning if God loves you as you come to him in Christ? Then you need to take up God’s word with this particular question and say, “God, speak to this concern of mine!” And please, don’t make Google the one you ask for help! Look around this room! There are so many people here who would weep if you told them this struggle and asked them to help you search in God’s word to speak to it. You are part of a church full of brothers and sisters who are eager to love you, give them this opportunity!

Or do you struggle to know how to give an answer for the hope that is in you? Then take up and ask God’s word this question: why should I have hope even in the midst of ill health? Shattered plans? Broken dreams? Persecution? Job loss? Why do I pick these questions? Because someone is only going to be surprised by your hope when they think you should have none. When the world says you should be broken, that’s when you want and need the words to give this answer to those who ask. So prepare your heart to answer by looking into God’s word for the way his promises are greater than anything this world has to offer. 

  1. Worship springs forth in Freedom (purity) (44-45)

Verses 44-45 combat a thought prevalent throughout humanity: God’s commands are slavery, sin is freedom. This lie crept in at the very beginning and has stayed with us. After God created humanity and placed them in paradise, Satan crept into the Garden of Eden in the form of a serpent and asked Eve if God really said they could not eat the fruit of any tree in the garden. Of course, Eve answered, this was not true. God allowed them to eat the fruit of every tree in the garden save one, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If they ate from that one, said Eve, they would die. 

Then the serpent simply denied what God had said, by saying “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:4-5). Do you see the insinuation? God is not good and gracious, he is greedy and keeping you from your full potential. His commands are holding you back!

And so we continue to think today. The lie of sin is that if you obey, then you will miss out. But the truth is the opposite: if you sin, you will miss out! This is the argument of the psalmist in verses 44-45:

“I will keep your law continually, forever and ever, and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts.” 

This statement of keeping the law continually and, by doing this, finding himself walking in a wide place, is not talking about perfection in order to be justified by works. The law was never meant to be something that was used in order to be justified, that is to misuse it. The psalmist knows that he cannot be justified by his works which is why he has begun this stanza by pleading in prayer that the Lord would deliver his steadfast love and bring salvation. 

Obedience is the fruit of salvation, not the root of it. It isn’t fear of missing out on salvation that leads him to want to obey the Lord, it is love that God has promised, earned, and guaranteed salvation for him that drives his obedience. 

So this is talking about obedience that springs from love, not obedience that springs from fear and guilt. It is similar to what Jesus says to his disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” (John 14:15) which is not a guilt-laden ultimatum from Jesus. He is saying that obedience from the heart springs forth from love for him, and love for him will be fueled by his love for them. Therefore, rightly apprehend God’s love and you will desire obedience. But how do you rightly apprehend this love? By seeing God and his work of salvation in his word.

The psalmist wants to obey God because it is a joy to do so. If you love God, you will love his rule; if you love his rule, you will love his commands. In beholding God’s steadfast love and promise, we move from seeing him as withholding to seeing him as generous, which completely transforms his commands from burdens to joys. 

But What If I Don’t Desire to Obey?

But you may ask, “What if I am a Christian and still desire sin?” First, let me just tell you that means you are an honest person. Until you are completely glorified at the return of Christ, you will experience the desires of the flesh. But even now, by the power of the Spirit, under the instruction of God’s word, you can experience freedom from sin.

While sin promises freedom, it always enslaves. Sin is slavery, for whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 

Once you are in Christ, you are free from the bondage of sin. You can actually change. You can grow in righteousness. Freedom in Christ is not freedom to sin, it is freedom from the bondage of sin. You will find yourself walking in a wide place as you submit to his words. 

This transformation in thinking, feeling, and acting happens as the Spirit of God leads us to behold God’s written word. If your faith is in Christ, then you are a new creation, and God’s word is written on your heart. Yet, you must work out what God has worked into you by the power of the Spirit. This is what Paul means when he writes in Philippians 2:12-13, saying “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Since God is working in you, your labors are not truly your own. As you approach God’s word, written by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit in you draws your heart to desire it all the more. As you encounter God’s word, the Spirit of God draws your heart to desire what is written and to move toward obedience. Don’t get me wrong; this is a fight! But the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world because he has overcome the world (1 John 4:4). As you move toward obedience, you are not operating in your own strength but in the desire and will of God himself. So put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires (Rom 13:14). 

As you do this, your delights will change. 

  1. Worship springs forth in delight for God’s glory and Word (46-48)

These closing verses finish our view of worship that springs from delight in the goodness, graciousness, greatness, and gloriousness of God. As you delight in God, worship will look like two additional things according to these three verses. 

First, delight in God leads to delight in his glory. This is clear in verse 46. Here the psalmist says, “I will speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame.” That is to say, he will not be embarrassed by any of God’s words no matter to whom he speaks. If he will not shrink back from speaking plainly of God to a king, then he will speak plainly to anyone. His concern, then, is that God would be known for who he is. He does not wish to conform God to the preferences of others.

Think about that for a moment. Aren’t we all tempted to conform God to the preferences of others around us? Someone thinks God is too judgmental? Then you avoid talking about that. Worried that someone won’t like his view of righteousness? Then we won’t focus on that part of the Bible at all. 

Do you do this? Then let’s be clear: you don’t do this because you are afraid people won’t like God; you do it because you are afraid people won’t like you. In other words, you are ashamed of your God because he reflects poorly on you. 

But who do you really want to please? Who has your attention? That’s important to know because the one you need to please will control your speech; the one whose attention you desire will command your actions; the one in whom you delight and the one whom you aim to please will direct you.

This is perfectly illustrated in the lives of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were given some pretty straightforward rules: when you hear the music, bow down and worship the statue of Nebuchadnezzar. If you don’t, then you will be thrown into a fiery furnace. The music played, but they did not bow. They were brought before Nebuchadnezzar and given one more chance. All they had to do was to be ashamed of God’s commandment to have no other gods before him and they could live. What did they say? Daniel 3:16-18 captures it for us, 

“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. But if not, be it known to you, o king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” 

Who do you think held their attention? Who do you think they aimed to please? Your actions will be shaped by what you delight in and your actions reveal what you delight in. Based on that, take time to ponder today: in what do you delight?

Second, delight in God leads to delight in his word (47-48). The reason the psalmist says he will have no shame in speaking before kings is because he simply loves God’s commands. They aren’t just seen as good; he delights in them as good for him. And because he loves God’s commands, he will reach out for them and he will meditate on them. This is his way of saying that he will seek to apply God’s word by thinking on God’s word. He will use his energy to understand and live in what God says because what God says is so very good. 

Delight in God leads to delight in what he has to say. When Haley and I were much younger, we wrote to each other a lot. I still have those notes that she gave me and, if I am not mistaken, she still has the ones I wrote her. I remember getting those notes and reading them very carefully. I delighted in what she said because I delighted in her. I wanted to think through her words carefully, make sure I understood her meaning, and then write back in a manner appropriate. 

As you delight in God, you will grow to delight in his words to you. What does this look like practically? It looks like meditating on his word toward the end of applying his word to your life. It is to hear, digest, and respond. 

Meditation and Application

When we think about application, we tend to view it as modifying our behavior, but that is not always the case. Application is not always behavior, it can also be thought and desire. You may need to change something you are doing outwardly, but you may also need to rebuke and put off a desire in order to put on right desires 

Take discontentment as an example. Discontentment is an attitude that springs up for many reasons, but one of the primary ones is not apprehending the promises of God. I have a friend who works as a garbage man. This was not his first career choice, but for various reasons, it is where he ended up. One day on his route he stopped and cleaned up some trash that had spilled over. The owner of the can came out and thanked him for being a hard worker and she mentioned that she could tell he was an excellent man. His response was, “I am just a garbage man.” Her reply was, “And so what? My greatest love is a garbage man. Jesus Christ has taken the garbage of my heart, all of my sin, and made me clean and perfect in God’s sight. Don’t you dare speak ill of being a garbage man.” 

As he drove away, he was struck not by this reality: he wasn’t discontent because he wasn’t revered; he was discontent because he didn’t properly revere and rejoice in the salvation provided by God in the promise of Jesus Christ. 

His worship was hindered because his sight of Christ was blurred. As he took up God’s word to meditate on who God is and what he has done, his sight was restored. Meditation on God’s promises led to him applying a different view of himself. He was not defined as a garbage man. He was defined as a beloved child of God. 

Can You See? 

This world is full of blinding influences that can turn your eyes from Jesus. Sin calls for your attention, suffering acts as a blindfold, and daily tasks can act as fleeting distractions from what really matters. Perhaps this morning you have noticed that your heart toward God is cold and you know it is because your eyes have drifted away from seeing his great gift of salvation to desperate sinners like us. If that is the case, don’t despair. Instead, silence all other distractions, throw off every sinful hindrance, and take up his word that you may see the treasure that Christ has provided that is beyond compare to anything this world has to offer. 

My mere words cannot induce you to this. So I will pray that God would move your heart toward this end. May you grow today ever more eager to stretch out your hands for his word. As you do, you will be able to say with the psalmist in Psalm 119:103, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” 

As we come to the table now, we actually get to taste the delightful provision of Christ for us. Let us pray and turn our attention to him there now. 


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