Opening a Gift

Psalm 119:129-136

129 Your statutes are wonderful;
therefore I obey them.
130 The unfolding of your words gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.
131 I open my mouth and pant,
longing for your commands.
132 Turn to me and have mercy on me,
as you always do to those who love your name.
133 Direct my footsteps according to your word;
let no sin rule over me.
134 Redeem me from human oppression,
that I may obey your precepts.
135 Make your face shine on your servant
and teach me your decrees.
136 Streams of tears flow from my eyes,
for your law is not obeyed.

            {Prayer}

I love birthdays and Christmas and any other time where gifts are opened.  I’m not speaking for me personally because as those birthday years keep adding up, I’m dreading them more and more.  But when my kids or other little kids open presents, the look on their face and the excitement and joy which over take them is priceless.  This little guy here breaks my heart and even though I don’t know him, I was excited for him.  {Show video}

That is an example of what pure joy and thankfulness coming from the heart of a very appreciative little guy looks like.  As we get older, we don’t see that kind of joy when we open a gift all that often.  As a guy gets down on one knee he prays that he sees that joy and excitement in the eyes of the one he is proposing to.  You see that look of joy and excitement in the eyes of parents when they see their newborn child for the first time and maybe even more so when they have no clue what gender that child is until that moment of their birth.  You see it in the eyes of parents as their children go through things like graduation, getting married, when grandbabies are born, and other exciting life milestone moments.

In our small portion of Psalm 119 for this morning, the psalmist, the author of this psalm has the same level of excitement and joy as a little child opening a gift at their birthday party or early on Christmas morning.  He says that God, Your statutes, your testimonies are wonderful, they’re grrrrreat and because they are so awesome, because they come from You and not anyone else, I’m going to obey them, I’m going to keep them!

But when we look at the next line, “The unfolding of your words give light; it gives understanding to the simple,” I think we need to slow down a bit.  When a little kid gets excited about a gift, we as the adults, as the one who probably bought the gift and wrapped it know that the thing they are opening is not going to hurt them.  When we start unfolding or opening up the words of God … we need to be careful.  We need to be careful because we don’t want to mishandle God’s word and use them in a way which they aren’t meant to be used, we don’t want to take them out of their context.

When we start opening up the words of Scripture, we find that those words, that God’s words give light, they give understanding to those who are simple.  God’s word gives understanding to those, if you remember from one of my sermons a few weeks ago, who are gullible, easily persuaded, young and naïve.  A famous author has said: “The unfolding, the opening, of God’s Word offers more than all the discoveries of modern science, literature, art, music, and all sensual pleasures.”  All of these things – science, literature, art, music, and the sensual pleasures – all these things can be rather complicated and hard to understand.  And the same thing can be said about God’s word, however, the unfolding, the opening up of the Scriptures though is meant to be the exact opposite.  The opening up of God’s word is to bring understanding to what is not understandable.  The opening up of God’s word is to bring light to those who are in darkness.  The opening up of God’s word is to make it simple and straightforward, to help people like you and me understand the message contained within the pages of Scripture.

There is a story about a man named Robinson Crusoe who as a castaway on a remote tropical island was able to salvage a Bible from the wreckage of his beat up boat.  Even though he dragged the Bible ashore, he did not open it.  That is until he fell ill.  In his sickness, Robinson began to read from it.  While reading from it, the book took on a whole new meaning.  As he was reading, the Holy Spirit began to tear down the walls which were built up around his heart.  As he was reading the Bible, the Holy Spirit began to open up, began to unwrap his heart.  For the first time in 28 years on that remote desert island, Robinson got down on his knees and began to pray.

You and I, we have been given a great gift.  As great as a gift as our children, family, and friends are to us, they are really nothing compared to the amazing gift God gives us of His Word.   Through His Word we are comforted in times of distress, we are given peace in times of sorrow.  Through God’s Word we are constantly reminded of His eternal presence which goes with us wherever it is that we go.  God’s Word reminds us that as His dearly loved children, when we wrong Him and our neighbor and ask for forgiveness, He forgives us.  When we wander off into the utter darkness of sin, God’s Word shines ever so bright so that we may find our way back to Him.  And as we draw close, not only does He tell us, “welcome home,” but He welcome us back with open arms as if we did nothing wrong.

This morning, we are giving this precious gift of God’s word to our third graders.  And it is the prayer of every pastor, the prayer of every parent and grandparent that this gift is always being opened up.  That this amazing gift of God’s word is opened and that the bright light of God’s love shines forth through their lives.  Of all the different things which these young kids are going to experience, things which we can’t even possibly fathom today, the one thing which will remain the same is God’s written Word of Scripture and the living Word of Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

And this should be the prayer and desire for all of us really.  I absolutely love the imagery the psalmist gives us this morning as he opens the gift of God’s word.  He writes, “I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands” (Ps. 119:130).  I picture him like a baby bird asking its mom for more food.  Hungry as can be he leans back, opens his mouth as he waits for God to fill it up.  And like little baby birds, the writer keeps asking for more and more because he knows that God’s words are sweeter than even honey (Ps. 119:103).

As this author waits for God to fill him up with the sweet life giving Word, he prays.  Using different words, he prays a prayer we all know.  The psalmist prays, “Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name.  Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.  Redeem me from the oppression of men, that I may obey your precepts” (Ps. 119:132-134).  Essentially the psalmist prays, “lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil.”  Essentially the psalmist is praying the last part of the Lord’s Prayer.

At the end of this prayer, the psalmist asks of God, “Make your face shine upon your servant” (Ps. 119:135).  Again, the psalmist is essentially saying words we hear each week at the end of every church service.  “The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.  The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace.

What the psalmist is saying is that not only is God’s Word a gift which gives light and understanding to the simple, but so is worship.  We gather here to hear God’s Word.  We gather here to bear each other burdens.  We gather here to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly as we teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in our hearts to God (Col. 3:16).  As we do this, as we gather here and with the help of the Holy Spirit, the walls which sin has built up around our heart are torn down, our heart is opened up so that we may open our mouths and pant, longing for God’s commands, longing for God to feed us with His grace and mercy.  And God does just that.  He feeds us through His amazing word, through song, through the hugs and words of encouragement given by brothers and sisters in Christ.

Each day at home and each week here, God gives a gift to open.  A gift to you and me which is the best gift which can ever be given.  The gift of Christ, the light of the world, and the gifts of forgiveness and life everlasting given through the sacrificial death and resurrection of our Savior.  As you open these gifts from God each and every day, each and every week, do so with utter joy and excitement in your heart for these gifts are for you.  Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in the joy of the greatest gift ever given, Jesus Christ our Lord, now and forever.  Amen.