Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet

“Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.” (Jeremiah 42:6, ESV)

It is a sad reality that people will sometime gather to hear the proclamation of the Word not truly to be instructed by the Lord, but instead to have their own desires confirmed. They come saying they want to obey, but in reality they have set themselves up in the place of God and instead want God to echo what their own heart wants. An when that doesn’t happen, then they reject both message and messenger.

This isn’t new. When Jeremiah was called to speak his words of prophecy, many spoke of their sincerity to obey whatever it was that the Lord said. But after his words were revealed, the ugliness of man’s heart was also revealed.

There are some churches that say they want expository preaching. They say they want to hear the Word of God explained and then applied. But then, when the Word is delivered, and particularly when their own pet sins are exposed, they reject both message and messenger.

Sometimes the teaching of Scripture is like lemon juice on a cut. Sometimes it is like a deep stab to the heart. Sometimes it is sweet as honey. May God’s people come to receive the Word from the Lord—good or bad—so that they can obey it. And may the messengers of the Lord not be afraid of what man may do to us. May we be faithful to deliver the message whether popular and well received or not, both in good or bad times.

Men, It’s Time to Man Up

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

(1 Corinthians 14:33–35, ESV)

Right now in American evangelical churches a war is raging regarding the place of women in ministry. For me, passages such as the one above and 1 Timothy 2:12 make it clear that there are definitely limitations to the roles women can hold in regard to teaching in the Church.

First Corinthians 14:25 is Paul’s response to the women in the Church of Corinth who were disrupting the worship of the church with questions, introducing confusion. His solution? Ask your husband at home.

But here is the rub. In many Christian homes, the husband couldn’t answer many of his wife’s questions because he knows less Bible and theology than she does. Many men are not readers, and even less study–unless it’s sport’s scores. Traditionally, many men have left the “religious instruction” of children to their wife, and the largest sector of church attendance across almost all denominations is female.

So, as we think about the battle of the sexes in church, and how those of us that are complimentarian desire to follow the instructions of male leadership we believe the New Testament teaches, we need to work on beefing up ministry to men and expect more from them. We need Christian men to man up. Men who will open their Bibles and read them. Men who will dig deep. Men who are working to be equipped to defend the faith. Men who are willing to sit down with their wife and children and teach them from Scriptures–and not be fearful of those hard questions our wife might bring to us.

Men, our wives and children deserve better. Our churches deserve better. The Lord deserves better.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

(1 Corinthians 13:11, ESV)

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

(1 Corinthians 16:13, ESV)

The Trustworthy Word of God

Righteous are you, O Lord, and right are your rules. You have appointed your testimonies in righteousness and in all faithfulness. My zeal consumes me, because my foes forget your words. Your promise is well tried, and your servant loves it. I am small and despised, yet I do not forget your precepts. Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your law is true. Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight. Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live.

(Psalm 119:137–144, ESV)

No Matter How People Respond, God’s Word Is Trustworthy (vv. 137-139)

The perfect name of the LORD, is rarely used in this psalm, and so it’s appearance stands out when it does. The LORD, Yahweh, is righteous. This is who he is. He does not exhibit righteousness, but is always in every way righteous.

Spurgeon says, “God is always right, and he is always actively right, that is, righteous. This quality is bound up in our very idea of God. We cannot imagine an unrighteous God.[1]

And just as the divine Author is righteous, so too his word and works are all righteous as well.

In the next verse (v. 138), the psalmist states that as God, all his testimonies are commanded in righteousness. He does not suggest, but commands as the King. Such commands are all given in faithfulness because the King is both righteous and faithful.

Because of these traits which describe the Word of God, in v. 139, the psalmist says that he is passionate about the Scriptures, so that he describes himself as a man who is consumed with zeal for the Word of God.

But not everybody feels this way. God’s Word is righteous and his commands are faithful, but there are many of his creatures who couldn’t care less. They are described as “forget[ting] your Words.” How tragic that the creature would forget the Words of the Great King and Creator of the Universe and all Galaxies!

Isaiah 1:2-3 it says, “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.”” (Isaiah 1:2–3, ESV) 

Little children, and even less intelligent animals such as ox and donkeys know those who have raised and cared for them. If a donkey isn’t fed, or a child doesn’t get his afternoon snack, does he forget his owner or mother? No, in fact, he or she will cry out even more! But there are some who forget the God who has made them and gives them everything. And they do not care about his Word. It is not because his Words fail, nor are not true. They are righteous and faithful. But wicked men do not want God!

Brothers and sisters, it doesn’t matter how other people respond to the Word. His Words are righteous and true! His commands are not for us to consider whether we would like to obey or not. He is our Lord, and we will grow in zeal for his Word when we pursue him in it. So, no matter how other people respond to the Scriptures, we should set our hearts to follow our Lord to the very end.

No Matter How People Treat You, God’s Word Is Trustworthy (vv. 140-141)

 Like gold that has been refined and had all the impurities removed, the Word of God is pure, refined, and trustworthy. It will not fail you once every 10,000 times. It is pure.

Psalm 12:6 says, “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.” (Psalm 12:6, ESV) 

The child of God loves the pure Word. He has put it to the test in life over and over again. He has walked in the light of the Word and it has never led him astray. He has grown over time to place his trust in this Book and he has grown to love it because it has revealed the heart of God to him.

But unlike what he said in v. 139, the foes of the psalmist do forget the Word. These enemies looked down upon him and they despised him. He is nothing to them. But his concern is not that he would become acceptable to them, seeking their approval.

The righteous man or woman of God desires to please the Lord first and foremost above all others. He does not want to join those that are the enemies of God. Instead he desires to stay humble and close to the Word.

Have you “tested” the Word of God and proven to yourself that it is very pure? It is one thing to read what the Bible claims for itself, but have you proven it by the way you have placed your trust in the Lord in challenging situations? 

In 1Pet 1:6-7 it says, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6–7, ESV) 

How are you responding to trials? Is it by faith or by the flesh? Are you leaning on the everlasting arms or are you leaning on your own understanding? Don’t worry about what others think or say. God’s Word is trustworthy, even if people think you are foolish for taking God at his Word.

No Matter How You Feel, God’s Word Is Trustworthy (vv. 142-143)

Speaking directly to God, the psalmist declares in verse 142 that the righteousness of God and his Word are timeless and unchanging. The Word of God is not time-sensitive, and outdated. Some people say that the Bible is old and we need a fresh word from God. The Scriptures are a fresh Word from God. They are more relevant than the morning news.

And unlike the news, the Word of God is true, and this goes farther than just containing truth. The news may contain truth, but the Word of God is truth. Just as God is righteousness, so too his Word is truth (Jn 17:17). Jesus is the truth (John 14:6) and the Spirit is truth (1Jn 5:6). 

This attribute of God should be comforting to us. He cannot and will not lie. Not a shade. We have “grey areas” and “little white lies” but God has truth and that is all.

Verse 143 demonstrates where the comfort of God is needed. We are not told what the trouble and anguish are in the life of the psalmist, but it appears that they are internal and external troubles. He has trouble that may come from his foes, and internally he is in anguish. But the pain is not all there is. There is so much more. He does not allow his trials to consume him but instead he finds “delight” in God’s Word.

As Christians, we can still find joy from the Word of God in the midst of his pain. God has given us the capacity to feel pain. That is a God-given gift. Can you imagine if you couldn’t feel pain? Those who lose feelings in their bodies often unknowingly destroy their limbs because they can’t feel when they hurt themselves so they will stop it. And God has given us pain to drive us to him and his Word as well.

The foolish and the unbeliever act similarly in this way—they refuse to go to God. But in doing so, they remove from themselves the blessing of pain, which is to drive them to prayer and instead it drives them to a darker place where they will find neither answers nor joy.

No matter how you feel, the Word of God is trustworthy. 

No Matter How Long You Might Live, God’s Word Is Trustworthy (vv. 144)

The testimonies of God are never ending in their righteousness. His words are eternal Words. When you and I speak, our words are like vapor. They come and go. We do not know most of the words spoken by most men of all ages. But God’s Words, every one of them, never cease in their power and effect.

The sun, moon, and stars will continue going as long as the Word of God spoken in the beginning is not rescinded with another command. God’s Word will not fail and it will never cease.

Because of this, the psalmist prays that his desire might be fulfilled, that he could cling to those eternal words of life and be given understanding of them. He wants wisdom and knowledge, and he wants to obey, but most he wants to know the righteous God who spoke them. This is where he will find life.

Of course, he is alive, but true life and true living can only occur through knowledge of the living God. To not know God as revealed in his Word is to be dead, even while you live.

The oldest person ever whose age has been verified is Jeanne Calment (1875–1997) of France, who died at the age of 122 years, 164 days.[2] For a human being, that is an amazing lifespan. Now, I don’t know if this person knew Christ, but I do know that the Word of God is righteous forever, and that included all the living days of Ms. Calment.

When the old Christian Polycarp in 167 AD, was asked to deny Christ or be put to death, his answer is so sweet. He said, “Eighty and six years I have served Him, and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior?”[3] 

We don’t know if Polycarp was 86 years old or he was converted 86 years before, but the fact remains, Polycarp was an old man and he found the Word of God, and the God of the Word trustworthy for as long as he lived.

Polycarp was burned at the stake and then pierced through with a spear because he refused to offer incense to Caesar. Caesar is not lord, Jesus is Lord. He would not deny his Master.

No matter how long you live, cling to the Word of God, for he is trustworthy. While you have life, seek to understand the Word of God so that while alive, you might live life to the fullest in Christ Jesus.

As I have prepared sermons, there have been many occasions when I have tried to find the source of a quote that I want to use. On many occasions, I find out that many books may use a quote, but nobody can seem to find out where that quote came from. Many times people will say that Abraham Lincoln, Henry Ford, D.L. Moody, Charles Spurgeon, or Jonathan Edwards said or wrote something that simply cannot be trusted as their actual words.

The other day I wanted to use a great quote I found supposedly from Albert Einstein, but nobody knew where or when Einstein said it. The saying was untrustworthy, and for all I know, Einstein may have never written or spoken those words.

But the Bible is always trustworthy. Satan and his workers may try to twist it for their own uses, but interpreted properly, it is trustworthy and perfect. It is trustworthy no matter what others do, or what they say, or feel or however long you live. The Word of Life is eternal. Do not substitute anything for it.


[1] Treasury of David, 5:390.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_verified_oldest_people

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polycarp