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God’s Most Life-Shaping Chapter



Ezra faced a worldly congregation, soaked in all the worldly ways of Babylon and Persia.
What was his plan to bring about lasting change in those he served?
He started with his own life.
He learned to point his heart frequently toward doing God’s Will.
God’s Word Transformed Ezra’s Distraction-Surrounded Life
Ezra was called to leave the glittering distractions and allurements of Babylon, and take the final 7,000 of the over 50,000 of God’s people returning from Exile.
Ezra had been called by God to go and serve Him in the stark, difficult, un-glittering land of Israel; but he had to serve people who had been immersed in 70 years of distractions in Babylon.
God was far from their hearts, minds, schedules, and lifestyles.
How do you reach people who live immersed in distractions?
How do you keep from also getting immersed with them in distractions?
How do you keep from losing your focus on God, when most others have?
That is the immense challenge that Ezra faced.
From Ezra’s life, we get perhaps the longest treatment on the power of the Word of God.
Here’s how God’s Word transformed Ezra—Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel (Ezra 7:10).
God's Most Life-Shaping Chapter
Here are links to the 52 Greatest Chapters Bible Study Resources we are using:
1. The MacArthur Study Bible I use: https://amzn.to/33vqwsm
2. Grudem Systematic Theology: https://amzn.to/3y1M1iu
3. The Larger Moleskin Notebook I use: https://amzn.to/3biMwLh
4. The Smaller Moleskin Notebook I use: https://amzn.to/33vTNmN
“As an Amazon Associate, I earn income to support us in ministry from qualifying purchases.”


What a blessing to greet you today. John Barnett here. If I was to tell you what would be the most life shaping chapter in my Bible, it would be this lesson that I’m giving you today. I want to share with you how the 119th Psalm, basically the middle of the Bible, and the longest chapter in the book, how that chapter God has used to shape my life. Open your Bibles to the 119th Psalm and let’s begin our journey.

We’re on week 17, as you see here on the slides, Psalm 119. I’ve titled, what I’ve shared with you, the most life shaping chapter in my Bible. My prayer is that it will be in yours too.

Bonnie and I are coming to you from along the road. We’re on a missions trip for four weeks. We’re at the halfway point right now. We’re primarily teaching English speaking students. The class, three classes a day that I’m teaching, are being sent to students both in formal settings as well as small group settings to mostly the countries of the Commonwealth. If you know anything about the British, it’s the United Kingdom, Scotland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, all around the English speaking world, Bonnie and me.

I shared with our board members (the board of Discover the Book Ministry, that are the oversight body. The group that watches us in ministry and supports, helps us, and holds us accountable.) as they were asking me yesterday. Two of the board members they said, tell us how you’re doing on the road, on this mission trip. I said, Bonnie and I are going from dark to dark. We are working from dawn to dark and we are tired, but having the time of our lives. I want to thank all of you because you are what I call my small group.

I’m imagining that I’m sitting here with my Bible, explaining to you why this chapter has changed my life. We’re in a small coffee shop, Starbucks, having lunch at Panera, or eating at Chipotle. Somewhere where we can sit across the table, and I can share with you what I think are the 52 most important passages of scripture in the whole Bible. That was what I did for years, I was a local church pastor. Then, when I got out here on the road for the last four years, Bonnie and I have actually deeply missed that closeness. I said, honey, I’m just going to start a group online. If you’re watching this and you don’t know what this is, you are jumping into a year-long study, and I hope you enjoy it.

For all of you that know what this is, please pray for us. We are seeing some of the greatest times we’ve ever had teaching God’s word. It’s getting so bad that last night while I was closing in prayer with Bonnie, I fell asleep during my prayer. That’s how long the days are. If you can fall asleep praying, that’s a long day.

Psalm 119, this life shaping chapter. I just shot pictures, looking down at my Bible. Here’s the first picture I just wanted to show you and I’m going to explain all this. This is what I’m writing. I’ve been studying the resolves, the habits, and the prayers that are in the 119th Psalm.

I’ll explain this to you. Actually, can you tell, I’ve been having a big time. These green ones here are, see the green right there, those are the prayers. Then, I have the yellow and red. It doesn’t show up very well in in this picture.

Now, you can see the colors a little bit better. The habits are an orange. “I entreated,” “I thought,” “I made haste,” “I have not forgotten.” I called those the habits of the psalmist. Then, the resolves are the ones that are in yellow. “I will consider,” that’s a resolve. “I will keep,” that’s a resolve. Right here in verse 69, “I will keep.” Verse 46, “I will speak.”

I want to show you one more thing. I not only am I looking for patterns in the text, but I’m looking for huge theological topics. I’m going to share all these, but look at them, you can see them. “I will meditate,” I drew a line. “I will meditate,” and I drew a line. “I will meditate,” I drew a line. “I will meditate,” I drew a line. It goes over to verse 148. Meditate, meditate, meditate, meditate.

This is a theology of suffering or affliction. The 119th Psalm has totally changed how I look at life, how I look at the Lord, how I look at problems in my life, how I look at the scriptures transforming my mind through meditation. Look down here at affliction, verse 50. “My affliction,” then I put a little line to verse 67, afflicted. Verse 71, afflicted. Then, up here to verse 75, afflicted. Down here to verse 92, afflicted. Over here to verse 107, afflicted. On the other page, verse 153. It really makes the page busy, but you know what? This chapter, whenever I see those lines in those colors and all those different notes I’ve written, it instantly brings back the discovery of those truths. That’s what I’m praying this week’s study will do for you.

Remember, the pattern is this; you take your Bible and your notebook, and you spend this week in the 119th Psalm. I’m just introducing it. We’re sitting, having coffee or lunch, and I’m saying if you want to have the most life transforming study possible spend all week long reading this. It takes 15 minutes, let me write that, 15 minutes to read out loud. The longest chapter in the Bible. I have read this thing through every day that I’ve been studying. By the way, I spent a whole year studying this chapter and teaching it when I was a pastor in the year 2003. Some of you listeners weren’t even with us in 2003, but you understand that was a tremendous in-depth study. In that study I read this chapter a hundred times. I read it through twice a week for a whole year and studied.

Let’s jump into it. Here’s a summary. This is how this chapter has most deeply impacted my life. I learned how God wants to keep me pure. That’s verses 9- 11, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanses way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word.” (KJV) “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”

Number two. How does God want to encourage me when I’m deeply troubled, struggling, and just feeling crushed? That’s verse 25 of the 119th Psalm. It says, “My soul clings to the dust.” In other words, I’m laying face down in the dirt. The next word, “Quicken me.” That’s one of the prayers of this beautiful chapter. “Quicken me.” You can find the prayers because it’s usually some action and then me. It’s addressed to God. In this verse it’s, “Quicken me.” I want You, God, to bring life to me. It works. You can be in the deepest, darkest hole and if you just by faith reach a hand up and say, quicken me, instantly you aren’t out of the pit but the light comes on. The Lord’s presence you begin to acknowledge, and He begins bringing life. As the old hymn writer says, there’s life for a look at the savior. How do you look at the savior? “Quicken me according to Your word.” That’s what the Lord wants to do.

Why does God send so many emotional and physical struggles in life? Let me just show you what I mean by emotional and physical. Look in your Bible, Psalm 119 verse 50, this is the blessing of Study Bibles and the resources recommended. If you look at lesson zero it’s where I explain the mechanics of this study. It’s also on that sheet that I always tell about and encourage you. This sheet on our Facebook page, you can go to our Facebook page, which is called the 52 Greatest Chapters of the Bible. Right there in the downloads, the listing of the 52 Greatest Chapters and the course plan, how you do this study. As you go through that first lesson zero, as I call it, I explained to you that there’s a way to go online and do Greek and Hebrew word studies. Then one of your biggest helps is the MacArthur Study Bible. When you use those resources, you find you can differentiate between emotional and physical affliction. Let me show you what I mean.

Verse 50, “This is my comfort in my affliction.” The Hebrew word that is used there is not for the physical affliction. See my Band-Aid? I cut myself. Bonnie and I were teaching at mission studios, we’re living in mission housing’s, we’re driving a mission car, and we were cooking our own food here in this place. I was trying to be the good husband, and I was helping Bonnie. I said, oh, let me help you cut that up. I ended up cutting my finger and was bleeding. Certainly, it wouldn’t have been an OSHA clean kitchen, so I got all fixed up. Did you know, you can tell whether in verse 50 that was a physical, painful affliction or any emotional one. The Hebrew word in verse 50 is, this is my comfort in my emotional affliction. Look at verse 67, “Before I was afflicted,” And that’s the word in Hebrew for actually physical pain; like getting hit, or getting cut, or hurt, or it’s used for being in chains, being in prison. The physical affliction.

Why does God send and actually explain emotional and physical struggles? I did a word study and found out everything that God said was any emotional affliction and everything that God said was a physical affliction. Just for an example, do you remember Hagar? The second wife of Abraham? Remember, Abraham had Sarah, then when Sarah couldn’t have children, he picks up Hagar in Egypt. Did you know that Sara’s dislike of Hagar, the rivalry between the two wives, is called by God an emotional affliction? Do you remember Samuel’s mother Hannah? Hannah’s husband had another wife, her name was Peninnah or Penina. Do you remember the rivalry between those two? Did you know that God called the unkindness in a rivalrous, jealous relationship an emotional affliction? That’s the benefit of Bible word study.

Look at all the affliction verses, I showed them to you. Verse 50. Verse 67, “Before I was afflicted I went astray,” verse 67 says, “But now I keep Your word.” There’s a benefit. I saw why God sends so many emotional struggles and physical. It’s to change us into being more useful for the Lord.

How do I deepen my walk? All those meditation verses, I’m going to show you. I’m actually going to daisy chain them in my Bible for you.

Here’s the best one. What is the daily life, of a servant of God, that He can use, look like? It’s in Ezra’s diary.

What is Ezra’s diary? Let’s look, we’re in week 17, this is the seventh of eight weeks in a row of looking at the Psalms. There are some of the most important foundational chapters in the Bible right here in the middle of your Bible. By the way, we’re teaching Bibliology for two weeks and we’re actually transitioning to two weeks of teaching theology. Next week, Lord willing, I can’t wait for you to join us after you’ve had a whole week in the 119th Psalm. Do you know what next week is? I’m actually doing the doctrine of God. Look at this, in Psalm 139 do you know what it says? It says, where can I get away from you, God? “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea.” “If I make my bed in hell…” no matter where I go, what? “You are there.” That’s called the ever presence, omnipresence of God. We’re going to look at the theology of God, His attributes, His character, and how God sees us… see there on that chart… always and every. That culminates, by the way, in the book of Revelation. He says, I’m the God who is ever present, who sees you, and who’s guiding all the events of this world.

In the next slide, remember every day of the week you read this passage. How long does it take to read the 119th Psalm? 15 minutes. You’ve got to commit. This is the longest chapter in the Bible, so every other assignment we have is less. This is huge. Just to read the 119th Psalm it takes 15 minutes, but every time you read it you look for something. Why don’t you do what I did. I looked for all the me’s and I put them in green. I can read them to you instantly. It says, “let me not wander,” “open my eyes,” “revived me,” “strengthen me,” verse 37, “turn away my eyes,” “revive me,” “revived me,”” teach me,” “teach me.” I can instantly pick all these out. There are 48 of them. Do whatever works. I used highlighters to get all the me’s, resolves, habits, and prayers.

You don’t have to mark in your Bible. If it’s a distraction to you, don’t do it. But if you want to deepen your understanding every day of this week, read the passage in your Bible and mark anything, take notes, or whatever works for you. Then, check all the background material you can. One great place to start is in the Study Bible that I highly recommend to you.

What does that do? In the MacArthur Study Bible, as well as even in this Bible, see there are all these maps that are in the back of the Bible. You learn about sacred geography, everything happens somewhere. The Bible is always putting in these locations. By the way, every week, I have another small group where we’re actually taking a group of pilgrims on, for some of them, their very first journey to the holy land. I call it, The Land of the Book. It’s a virtual study tour and we’re going all around right there, the Holy Land. We do a lesson a week.

Here in our study, everything happens somewhere. This chapter actually is from a wider area. I’m going to show you that. Here is the Holy Land. Do you remember the children of Israel, in their history, were carried off first to Assyria and then a second time they were deported to Babylon. When Babylon was conquered, they were carried off into the Medo-Persian empire. Basically, Iran, Iraq, and Syria are where they were carried through and to. Right here is the capital, the Medo-Persian empire, Susa. Here’s the Babylonian capital, Babylon. The Bible, the Old Testament, was carried with them to Babylon. Have you ever thought of that? Geographically, this book has been surviving a lot of wars and a lot of being dragged around by God’s chosen people, the Jews, who were the custodians of His word. That’s a little of the geography.

Here’s the history. The Psalms are primarily written from the period of 1 & 2 Samuel. Basically, the life of David and Solomon. That whole time period is when the Psalms, basically, are from. This psalm is from this period when Israel was taken into captivity. On this side of the captivity Ezra, the Lord’s servant, the priest in sacred history, discovered something had happened. Let me show you what had happened.

It all surrounds this question, who wrote the 119th Psalm? If you look in your Study Bible they’ll say possibly David, possibly Daniel, possibly Ezra. That’s what our Study Bible says. I went beyond that and because I love to teach in the Holy Land and on the Holy Land, I looked in the Jewish encyclopedia. In America, or in the English speaking world, we have the Encyclopedia Britannica. You don’t hear that anymore; we have the internet. It used to be, when I was little, in the library of every school and every city they had this massive wall of huge volumes called Encyclopedia Britannica. It was the British empire’s annals of all their discoveries of the world, and world history, and science. It was the greatest resource on global knowledge. It was the whole internet in books, basically. The Jews have their own, only they don’t call it Encyclopedia Britannica. They call it Encyclopedia Judaica for the Jewish people, Yehuda, Yehudim, Jews. Do you know what their encyclopedia says

It says, Psalm 119 was written by Ezra. They call him the spiritual giant next to Moses, the most revered person to the Jewish people. Let me show you why.

Moses here, the most revered, in about 1500 BC wrote under the inspiration of God, everything from creation through the Exodus. Moses writes all that. Where did Moses go to school? Egypt. A Hebrew speaking boy first learned to speak Egyptian. Then, he was schooled by his mother that he was actually, as she raised him part of that time, that he was actually Jewish. So, he got Hebrew in there. He was bilingual. The children of Israel, slaves in Egypt, were primarily raised in Egypt. Moses wrote the first five books it’s called the, penta… for five, …teuch. The five volumes, the five scrolls, Pentateuch.

The next era of Jewish history is the time of David and Isaiah. That’s when the Psalms primarily were written and most of the prophets. Of course, the wisdom literature and all that. Moses had an Egyptian flavored Hebrew. David and the prophets had what we would call a Phoenician influence. The language of Phoenicia. Remember Hiram, king of Tyre that floated the logs down to David? Solomon used him to build the temple in Jerusalem. Jonah sailed on a Phoenician ship to the furthest end of the Mediterranean. The most influential traders of the day, and the language of the world was the Phoenician language, just like the Egyptian language was while they were in Egypt. The Bible, when the children of Israel were in captivity, was mostly unreadable to most of them. They were living in Assyria, Babylon, and Persia. They were surrounded by Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian speaking. Most of them hadn’t, by the time of the captivity being over, most of them had never lived in Israel. Most of them were forgetting and not knowing Hebrew. Ezra was the tool God used to develop what we call modern Hebrew, the block writing that you see Hebrew written in, the characters, and to translate all of the Egyptian kind of Hebrew, and Phoenician kind of Hebrew into modern Hebrew. It’s still modern Hebrew. What Ezra designed is still the language of the nation of Israel.

This happened one more time. Did you know, by the time of Christ, many of the Jews couldn’t read Hebrew anymore. The Septuagint in Greek became what Jesus memorized. Jesus in His ministry mostly quoted, not from the Hebrew Old Testament, but from the Greek New Testament translation of the Hebrew called the Septuagint. I know that’s a little too much history for some of you.

Here’s what I’m saying, Ezra launched the Jewish Synagogues, because the temple was inaccessible for most of them. He launched a group of people called the Scribes. You see them, even in the New Testament. Remember the Scribes, the Pharisee’s, and all that? These were the ones that copied the scrolls. As the scrolls got old and wore out, they would copy them. And they were very meticulous. You’ve heard of the Masoretic texts. It was the whole idea that they counted every word, and wrote everyone, and we’re very reverent. Ezra started those scribes. Ezra updated the Old Testament so it was readable in modern Hebrew. The Jewish people say Ezra wrote, Ezra and Nehemiah, which used to be one book. Ezra wrote 1 & 2 Chronicles, which used to be one book in the Bible, the Old Testament Bible. Then they said, when he got all done copying and translating the whole Bible, the Old Testament into what we call modern Hebrew, he wrote a testimony about the power of the word of God which we know as the 119th Psalm. By the way, I just happen to believe most likely Ezra wrote the 119th Psalm and launched what we would know as the Old Testament.

This is what it looked like. There are basically three parts of the Old Testament. Jesus talked about that. The law, the prophets, and the writings. The law. The Prophets. The writings. Jesus, in Luke 24, acknowledge the three parts of Ezra’s Old Testament that he copied, assembled into what we know as the Hebrew Old Testament. Something interesting, Ezra designed it in a way that helps you understand history.

There are five major books of history. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy called the Pentateuch.

There are nine history books… Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles… that were written before the exile, before the Babylonian captivity.

The next three books Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther were written after. Did you know, you immediately can become a Bible historian if you just realize the number five major, nine pre-exilic, and three post-exilic. You say, that’s complicated. Let’s learn it by repeating.

Look at the prophecy books. There are five major prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel.

There are nine Prophets, by the way they’re in order. It’s in the order of the books of the Bible, the Old Testament. Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah were written before the exile, before the Babylonians. The Assyrians came to the north. The Babylonians came to the south and destroyed Jerusalem, and hauled them all into captivity.

Three prophets were written after the exile. Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Look at this, 3…3, 9…9, 5…5. Look at the structure there. There are these 17 history books. 5, 9, 3. There are these 17 prophecy books. 5, 9, 3.

Then, the rooftop over them are these wisdom books. Job, a theology of suffering. Psalms, a theology of godly worship. Proverbs, a theology of practical living. Ecclesiastes, a theology of the godly life. Song of Solomon, the theology of love. Five wisdom books sandwiched between the 17 and 17. Won’t wear you out, but that’s the design Ezra put together. I know most people don’t like history, but I love the details. God is orchestrating all of this to help us be more useful to Him.

Let’s look at the 119th Psalm. The longest chapter in God’s word. It takes 15 minutes to read out loud. God is mentioned 176 times and there are only 176 verses. God is figured in preeminently. His word is mentioned even more than His name, 182 times. Prayers are modeled 48 times with 70 specific little phrases. Suffering is described 66 times.

Ezra, here’s why I called his diary, there are 325 different details about his spiritual life in this chapter. It is a goldmine.

We could say Psalm 119 is Ezra’s spiritual diary and Ezra was a man God used greatly. Did you know, to this day, the portion of scripture that is read in every synagogue in the world still follows the plan that Ezra instituted. Did you know, that when Jesus used to go to the Nazareth synagogue and they would hand Him the scroll and then He would read from the scroll, did you know the passage of scripture that everyone in all of Nazareth, and Israel, and all of Israel spread all over the world, Jesus followed the synagogue schedule Ezra designed. They still follow it to this day. We know what psalm they read on Sunday. What psalm they read on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday on the Shabbat, everything. We know that Ezra designed it and they still follow it. He’s a giant.

How would you like to have a life, that what you do touches people, many people right now and continues to touch people for centuries? That’s what Ezra’s diary shows us, a life God can use. Do you see why this is the most impactful chapter? It’s longer than many New Testament books, 176 verses. It’s longer than James. It’s longer than Philippians. It’s longer than Ephesians. It’s longer than Colossians. It’s longer than all those books, but do you see why the 119th Psalm has influenced me? I’m praying influences you. I hope you have an amazing week in the 119th Psalm.

Here’s the backdrop. If you go back to Ezra… pre or post exilic, which is it? 5, 9, 3. Ah, it was written after the exile. Ezra chapter 2, verse 64 it says, “The whole assembly together was 42,360.” Then it says, “Their horses,” in verse 66, “were 736.” You read all those details, what is this talking about? This is talking about the group that Ezra took from Babylon back to Jerusalem. Ezra led a group of people back to the land. Ezra ministered to them after leaving Babylon and going back to Israel.

I called that Ezra’s distraction surrounded life. How would you like to be responsible for 42,000 people that were leaving what was comfortable to them, Babylon, and going to somewhere uncomfortable to them, getting back in tune with God? Going to the temple. All that tithing, and sacrificing, and building. It was rough. God’s word transformed Ezra’s distraction surrounded life. Doesn’t that sound like our lives? I am going to grab my cell phone. We live in the most distraction surrounded world. You can’t go anywhere without distractions. In fact, Bonnie and I, when we were overseas, we were on several subways. The Shanghai subway in China, I looked around our car, packed in were over 100 Chinese people. We were the only non-Chinese people at that moment on that subway car, 100 people surrounding us. 99 of them were just like this, staring at their devices, the entire time we were on the subway. They had their earbuds in. They were either listening, or playing, or typing, or gaming, or something. There was one person on the subway car who did not have a device and they were totally distracted by the devices. That person was approximately a 99 year old woman. Either her eyesight was so bad, or she was too poor to afford a phone. Everyone else was totally absorbed. That to me became a snapshot of the world. You can look at that everywhere you go, anywhere you want to go, and you’ll see the vast majority of the people are absorbed into electronica. How can God transform your life? If you’re living in a distraction surrounded world.

Listen to this, as he was called to leave the glittering distractions and allurements of Babylon. Did you know Babylon is synonymous with distraction? Even in the book of Revelation, Babylon is the word for the global system of all distractions. Materialism, religion, entertainment, and everything’s called Babylon. Ezra was called by God to leave all the glittering distractions and allurements to take the final 7,000 of the over 50,000. He took 7,000 and merged them with the 42,000. He had 50,000 returnees in Jerusalem. He had been called by God to go and serve Him in the stark, difficult, and un-glittering land of Israel. He had to serve people who had been immersed in 70 years of distractions in Babylon.

How do you get people to look away from their phones and into the word? Or better yet, how do you get them to look away from the world and toward God? That’s what the 119th Psalm is all about. Do you see why it is so life changing? Wow.

God was far from their hearts, far from their minds, far from their schedules, far from their lifestyles. How do you reach people who live immersed in distractions? That is a 21st century question for all of us. By the way, if we were sitting at the coffee shop, I would be leaning forward and I would be talking to you and showing you that there’s a great way that you can illustrate this. Here’s your phone, here’s your Bible. I would say, which is more important. I would say that. I would ask you and I ask you now. I don’t know what time it is where you’re watching this. It’s the end of our day, but I don’t know what time you’re watching this. Have you had any time yet today for prayer and feeding your soul on the word of God? Have you had time to Tweet, and Facebook, and Snap, and Instagram, and play games, and text, and call, and email, check the financials?

How do you reach people who are immersed in distractions? How do you keep also from getting immersed with them in distractions? You know what I’m seeing? Each new generation of young people have a higher percentage of their free time invested in gaming, and movie-ing and Netflix bingeing. They know all the Avengers; They know every series and numbers. They know every word of every song, Grammy winners, and whatever the newest or whoever the latest is. They haven’t memorized very many verses, if any.

Number three, how do you keep from losing your focus on God when most others have? That’s why I want to talk to you. If you’re even watching this far, I’m not sure what minute we’re on right now. My wonderful wife is in the studio. What minute are we on? We’re at minute 37, wow. Thank you for filming. I hope any of you that aren’t married yet. I hope you’ll ask God to give you the woman He has chosen for you, if you’re a man. Or the man that He has chosen for you, if you’re a woman. I hope that you wait for His choice, because God gives the best to those that wait for Him. Bonnie reminded me that I need to get to the point. How do you keep from losing your focus when most others have? Since you’re watching this, the 37 minute mark, you’re probably serious. You need to discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness. You need to decide, it only takes 72 hours to read the whole Bible, you’re going to read the whole Bible. You’re going to need to decide that it’s time for you to memorize scripture. You need to decide that you’re going to start building your sword of the Spirit, you’re going to need to decide that. God says that He collects our prayers. You’re going to need to decide to learn about prayer and start praying often. You’re going to need to realize that God says you gain eternal rewards by taking people with you to Heaven and sending your treasures ahead. You’re going to need to decide to give God the first portion of all your income.

When Bonnie and I earn our first dollar of every week, all that we earn, we give a minimum of the first portion to the Lord. We support our local church. We support missionaries. We support ministry. We sacrifice. When we first got married in California, I was on staff with John MacArthur at Grace Community Church. I asked John, I said John, how do you give? He was my pastor, and I was on staff with him. He said, I don’t want to be legalistic. He said, Patricia and I started our giving lives, giving 11% to the Lord. The first 11%. Do you know how much most Christians give? 1%, that’s the average for Christians. 99% for me, 1% for God. Actually, it’s 100% God’s, how much does He want me to live on? I don’t want a meddle.

How do you keep from losing your focus when most others have? You focus on the word.

What’s the 119th Psalm about? Look at the next paragraph. Those three questions were the immense challenge Ezra faced. From Ezra’s life we get perhaps the longest treatment on the power of the word of God to change my life. We saw how God’s word protected Ezra in Ezra 7:10. This is as we’ve studied him, leading up to this, when I talked about Old Testament history. I want to remind you. Look at verse 10. “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD.” Do you remember the theme verse for our study? Jeremiah 15:16, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.” “Thy word was found.” I have to seek out God’s truth and His word, but not just to know it, to do it. Not just to know it and do it, but to share it. To teach statutes and ordinances. That’s exactly what we’re doing in this class every week. Seek the Lord through each day, as you’re going into this study and do the application prayer. That’s the doing it part, right there, that’s the application. Then, do you know what I say at the end of every class? Share it with someone, teach it to someone else.

I have some points that I’ve found this week. Number one, Psalm 119 is an inspired description of what God calls the sword of the Spirit.

Look at Psalm 119:1-9. “Blessed are the undefiled in the way,” by the way, that’s one of the synonyms I’m going to show you. God calls His word the way, it’s the pathway He wants us to walk. “Who walk in the law of the LORD!” That’s the teachings of the divine teacher. The law is not the speed limit or all the congressional HR1 things in the Bible. The law is what the divine teacher tells us to do. It changes the way you look at the Bible. When I read the Bible, I hear God speaking to me and I say, speak Lord, your servant is listening, I want to do it.

Verse 2 of Psalm 119. “Blessed are those who keep His testimonies.” There’s another synonym, it’s God’s witness about truth. Did you know God testifies about everything? He testifies about creation. He testifies about the end of the universe. He testifies about marriage, and family, and personal lives, and finance, and how we’re supposed to talk, how we’re supposed to live. “His testimonies, who seek Him with a whole heart!”

Verse 3, “They also do no iniquity; they walk in His ways.” God has a way He wants us to walk.

Verse 4, “You have command us to keep your precepts diligently.” What are precepts in the scriptures? They are God’s directions for our lives. Bonnie and I were laughing the other day about when her dad, Grandpa Jim, sent our firstborn son his gift when he was, I think, one year old, or a year and a half, or two. I don’t know, but it was a tricycle. That tricycle came in a box about this big and I had to put it together. Being a normal man, I emptied the box on the floor, spread it all out and figured out how to put it together. When I got all done, there was a little pile of stuff that didn’t fit and some directions that I failed to look at. For the next five years, our son would peddle, and his little tricycle would just wiggle, and waggle, and everything. I always told Bonnie, that must have been those parts I couldn’t figure out where they fit that made it wiggly. If you don’t put something together according to the directions, it doesn’t work very well just as if you try and live life not according to the directions. Your precepts, I want to keep life the way your directions say.

Verse 5. “Oh, that my ways were directed to keep your statutes!” That’s God’s plans for our lives, not just directions, His plans. “Then I will not be ashamed, when I look into all your commandments.” That’s God’s absolutes. God says these are absolute.

Verse 7. “I will praise You with uprightness of heart, when I learn Your righteous judgements.” There’s another synonym you’ll see all the way through this week as you’re reading. Those are God’s unchanging decisions. Those are called His mishpat, His judgements. “I will keep Your statutes,” God’s plans for our lives. “Oh, do not forsake me utterly! How can a young men cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word?” That’s God’s voice.

This morning, I got up when it was still dark. I opened the Bible. I heard the voice of God. Not audibly, but in my heart I heard Him talk. That’s how we keep our way pure.

Number two. Here’s God’s summary of the Bible.

This is what God thinks of the Bible. It’s the path that He wants us to walk. That word way, dereḵ, occurs in this Psalm 13 times. You say, you’re going too fast. Then pause and take a screenshot. We’ll never get through this; I can’t wait for you to copy this down.

The teachings of the law, tôrâh, is from yārâh, to project. That word occurs 25 times, his divine teachings.

Number three, another synonym, your testimonies, ‘eduth. That occurs 23 times in the 119th Psalm. These are all synonyms for the way God describes His word.

His precepts, pikkûḏîm, occurred 21 times. I’m doing the word study for you.

His plans, hukka, is from hakak. The statutes of the Lord, 22 times He uses that synonym.

His commandments, mizvah, is used 22 times.

Number seven, the unchanging decisions of God, His judgments, mishpat. From shaphat, which means upright, to set up right and occurs 23 times in this psalm.

God has all these amazing synonyms and the last one, His word. God’s voice, His written word, dabar. His spoken word, imrah. That’s 24 times and 19 times.

Why I’m telling you that is, and here’s the chart. God has a path He wants us to walk. A teaching He wants us to learn, His law His way. He has a witness He wants us to trust, his testimonies. He has directions He wants us to follow, his precepts. He has plans He wants us to use, His statutes. He has absolutes He wants us to obey, He calls them His commandments. He has unchanging decisions He wants us to know, called His judgements. He has His voice He wants us to hear, which He calls His word. That’s what God calls this book, that you can trust, that can most transform your life.

Number three, God’s desire for a life filled with scripture responses is reflected in the 119th Psalm by this little device. Ezra says, “I have.”

I’ll just show you a few of them. Psalm 119 in verse 10, “With my whole heart I have sought You.” Wow. How about verse 11? “Your word I have hidden in my heart.”

Those were the ways that he says that he has worked. His beautiful choices that he made. God’s desires filled with these resolves. He marks them with, I will.

“I will praise You,” verse 7. “I will keep Your statutes;” verse 8. 15, “I will meditate.” 16, “I will delight.” 32, “I will run.” 45, “I will walk.” 46, “I will speak.” “I will delight,” 47. 48, “I will lift up.” It’s interesting, literally the form of this verse it says, in my hands I will carry your word. It was like he was saying, my life is going to be a mobile kind of delivery service of your word. Everywhere I go I’m going to talk about you. I’m going to have your word that I lift up in my life for others to see and take it with me. Wow. That’s why his life was so useful to the Lord.

Number five, the fifth lesson I want you to learn, God’s desire for a life filled with scriptural choices. Ezra wanted God to change his life. He allowed the word to transform his life one little choice at a time. I’ll just show you a few of these. You should see how many slides I cut out so we wouldn’t go too far over time.

First choice, he chose to turn his life toward God. Verse 59, “I thought about my ways, and turned my feet to Your testimonies.” Like a person who hears something or see’s something and it stops them, and they turn and go that direction. Like they heard a sound, or a cry, or noise. Ezra exams his life, looks at God’s word, and goes the way the Lord wants him to.

Number two, he chose to avoid evil in any form. Verse 101, “I have restrained my feet from every evil way.” Why? “That I may keep Your word.” What do you restrain yourself from? Are there Netflix shows you won’t watch because it offends God to look at nakedness. Did you know that offends God? Did you know, gratuitous bloodshed, it says in the word of God offends God? Did you know occultic practices offend God? What I just described, just those three things, gratuitous bloodshed, partial and complete nudity, and immorality, and occult basically fills most gaming and most movies. He chose to avoid evil in any form. Do you? Do I? Are we applying the word of God to our lives?

Number three, he chose to lean God’s way by obedience. Look at verse 112. See how this has changed my life? “I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes forever, to the very end.” That word inclined means, I’ve leaned towards. When I’m talking to you and I’m thinking you’re right there, I lean toward you. That means I really interested in this. What are you really interested in? What do you lean toward? Your phone? Your games? Your music? Or God, His word, His truth?

Number six. What was Ezra’s secret? Ezra invited God into every part of his life.

Those are reflected in those 48 prayers, those quick cries to God. I’ll read you a few more of them. Remember, they’re all in green in my Bible so they jump off the page at me. “Teach me good judgment,” verse 66. Verse 88, “Revive me according to your lovingkindness.” Verse 107, “Revive me, O LORD, according to Your word.” Verse 108, “Teach me Your judgements.” Do you see it’s an action, me. I want you to act upon me. That’s what prayer is. It’s not, give me, I want this. It’s God changed me, revive me, teach me, lead me, make your face shine on me, teach me, revived me, teach me, revived me, deliver me, redeem me. Wow. Wow. That was his secret.

Then what do I do? I record all these things in my journal. I don’t just record them; I actually write down truths that are changing my life.

Here’s mine. I typed out everything I learned this week. First you give it a title. The Glory and Power of God’s Word. The Greatest Chapter of the Greatest Book’s Power to Change Me. Those were two of my titles this week. Week 17. Psalm 119.

This is interesting, I didn’t even tell you this. Ezra crafted under the Spirit’s inspiration a message using every letter of the Hebrew alphabet. There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet and the number for new beginnings. Now think about it, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Do you see? Every eighth number is a repeat of the week. When you see on the eighth day in the Bible, it means that you’re repeating the week, it is starting over again. All of a sudden, the week, the seven days of the week, whenever the Bible says on the eighth day to the Hebrew mind it meant a new beginning. When they would say on the eighth day, they’d say, oh the week has started over again. All of a sudden to the Jewish mindset, the number eight began to mean a new beginning.

Look at this, there are 22 letters in the alphabet and eight is the number of new beginnings. That’s how many verses there are in the 119th Psalm. Ezra writes a message using every letter of the Hebrew alphabet and the number of verses for a new beginning. They are in little eight verse stances making 176 verses on the endless life of new beginnings we have from God. I already told you that.

Ezra states, I will. Remember his resolves? I’ve already shown you those. There they are. Ezra stated, I have. Those are his spiritual habits. He records his prayers, there are 48 of them. He asks the Lord to do something to me. I’ve already gone through those with you.

The chapter starts out “Blessed.” Do you see what it says in verse 1 here? “Blessed are the undefiled.” I wrote life with God is a blessing. Then, he uses those eight synonyms. I already went through those with you. He was asking God to teach him God’s way. He was explaining how to be cleansed.

Then, he uses this long study on meditation. Let me show you what I did in my Bible. Here are all the times he says it. This is an eight verse stanza. It’s every letter. Aleph is 1-8. 9-16 is Beth. Gimel 17-24. He goes through the whole alphabet. Verse15, “I will meditate.” Then, in my Bible I circled verse 23, “Your servant meditates.” I go like this in my Bible. Then, I go to where it shows up again. It shows up again in this stanza, verse 27. “Shall I meditate.” “I will meditate on Your statutes,” verse 48. “I will meditate on your precepts,” verse 78. Boom, boom, boom. Here there are. See, I’m showing you what it would look like in my Bible. “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation,” verse 97, so I circled that in here. I drew a daisy chain showing each time.

If you study these verses Ezra, relating God’s truth teaches you the byproducts of meditation. You want your whole mind transformed? You know what happened when I was meditating on the word of God? I found out that I didn’t have to have things in my mind that constantly cause me pain. God can make you forget, not have spiritual amnesia. What He does is, he takes the pain out of some of those memories we have, or some of those things we’ve done, or seen, or had happened to us. It’s amazing what happens when we meditate. Mark all those meditate words in your Bible and that’s part of this week study.

The sixth thing in my journal, God wants to open our eyes to the wonders of His word.

Then here’s the big study I did on affliction. Affliction, emotional, pushes us into God’s word. That’s what it says right there in verse 50. In verse 67, physical affliction pushes us back onto God’s path. Like the rumble strips when you’re driving, and you jerk back. Sometimes physical, painful things make us say, oh God, I want to follow you. That’s what it says, verse 71, physical affliction chisels God’s word into our life. When you really get sick nothing matters but God. Verse 75 affliction, physical, teaches us God is faithful. He’s always with us. Emotional affliction in verse 92 keeps us focused on our teacher. When you’re really going through it, you look to the Lord as your only hope. Verse 107, physical affliction makes us test God’s promises. Then, I love this, it says deliver me in verse 153, emotional affliction brings God to our doorstep, like Amazon prime, or door dash or whatever, the driver brings it right to us. That’s what affliction does. It delivers God right into our life. Amazing.

Then, those life choices. I already went through them with you on a slide.

Here’s my prayer. Before we go, this is what I wrote after studying this week. Lord, I come to Your word and seek You today. You are offering me an endless life of new beginnings. You show me how to meditate on Your truth for life transformation. You show me why You are orchestrating all the emotional and physical afflictions in my life for Your glory. I’m asking like Ezra that You Lord would keep me from wandering, that you would teach me Your plans, that You open my eyes to Your truth, and that You would give me the overflowing life you promise when my emotions cleaved to the dust. Teach me your ways. In all of this day may I please You by my habits and resolves. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.

Two final challenges. Find someone you can share this with. Actually say to them, hey, I’m in this course and I want to share with you…

Number two, hide God’s word in your heart. You could try this; I grabbed the most valuable space in my pocket. I put verses on the back of my smartphone.

Pray for us. There’s my wonderful wife. In the studio, right now, we’re teaching English speaking classes in the UK. We’re teaching Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders, even hearing from Singapore classes. Many English speaking, next generation students. We’re going through Bibliology and Theology proper. I can’t wait, Lord willing next week, to go through the attributes of God with you as we go into the 139th Psalm. Until then, Psalm 119. Spend a week in the word, and I hope it will become the most life transforming chapter in your life. Like it’s been in my life.

God bless you. Have a great week in the word.


Check Out All The Sermons In The Series

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