Studies in Psalm 119: The Protection of the Word

Sin is subtle and yet destructive. This combination can make for serious trouble in the life of the follower of God. The author of Psalm 119 urges us to look to the Word of God for protection, it’s the place he looked. The Word of God provides protection for the follower of God.

First, Psalm 119 teaches us that the Word is protective when follow the commands of Scripture. The Psalmist argues for this reality by starting with a simple equation. In verse 9 he writes:

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.

Purity and faithfulness to follow God are hard lifestyles to practice. There is temptation all around us, and weakness in us. Our desire for sin is sometimes strong, and our fears and failures sometimes overpowering. We need more help than our own willpower to fight for purity and faithfulness. That power, that protection comes from the guarding of the Word of God, according to the Psalmist. So, he states down in verse 105, that the Word is like a lamp and a light to our path. It directs our steps so that we don’t fall off the path, it shines a light on the right, healthiest, and safest course to take. When we consult the Scriptures and follow their directives we can walk in purity.

A man’s “way” refers to the course of his life. We can keep the path of our life on the trail of purity when we heed the guard rails of Scripture, when we apply the principles of God’s instruction to our daily choices and manner of living. The New Testament, for example, is full of commands about the way in which Christians are to live. When we seek to follow those commands we can guard our “way.” Adherence to the commands of Scripture will protect us from sin. Obey the Word, live according to its principles and boundaries, and you will find that Scriptures serve to protect the way of your life.

This Word of God provides general protection for us simply in our submission to it and practice of its commands. This is true for all men, even those who are far from God can find, in general, that if they follow the commands of Scripture they will be protected from much destruction. But there is more that we should uncover with regard to the protective power of the Word. It is not simply compliance that is asked of us. The psalmist indicates that we should love the Word of God, not simply obey it.

Protection comes, then, as we love the Word of God. The psalmist says as much in verse 11:

I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.

How do we resist the temptation to sin against God? By treating the Scriptures like they are resources to be stored up, hoarded in our barns, to be used at will. We resist sin when we have so amassed an arsenal of Scriptural truths to fight back against sin. This involves memorizing the truths of Scripture so that we may draw on them at will, but it also involves loving this word, treasuring it. We store it up so that it can be used as a protective tool when temptation strikes.

Ultimately our help comes from God. He is our true protector and provider, the director of our steps (Ps. 37:23). Yet, throughout the Bible there is a strong correlation between God and His Word. So the Psalm has no problem saying, then, that God is his protector and because of that he hopes in God’s Word. In verse 114 he states:

You are my hiding place and my shield;
I hope in your word.

God is a place of refuge and safety, He is a shield against the enemy’s attacks. Yet, it is the Word of God that the Psalmist hopes in. God has ordained that His Word work powerfully as a protective agent in our lives. God works through His Word for our good.

Consider, then, how you read the Bible. Do you read it with a sense of duty and obligation? Do you read it with a sense of interest at the stories and characters? Do you read it in order to teach others about it? Do you read it to find some encouraging memory verse or thoughtful saying? Or do you read the Bible with a sense that if you don’t know the Word of God you are sure to fall into sin? Do you read the Scriptures with a sense that they serve to protect us from sin when we apply them and love them? How do you read the Bible?

It’s not true, of course, that simply reading the Bible every morning will automatically keep you from sin. Our hearts are “deceitfully wicked” (Jer. 17:9). Reading the Bible doesn’t guarantee anything. But reading the Word, cultivating a love for it that compels us to store it up – to savor it and meditate upon it – that is empowering in our fight against sin. Reading the Word and living according to it, that is a shield against the enemies attack. We will still face temptation, and the fight will sometimes still be hard, but God promises us that He will never let us face any temptation without also providing a way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13). We can find that way of escape when we know God’s Word. His Word is a protection to the faithful follower of God. Read it with that sense of desperation and need, because we all need the protection of the Word of God.

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