An Ancient Word for the New Year

Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

Psalms 119:9-16 | December 31 - Sunday Morning,

Sunday Morning,
December 31
An Ancient Word for the New Year | Psalms 119:9-16
Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

O Lord, as we have just sung, and as we will read in just a moment, that, too, is our prayer, that we would not forget Your Word, that we would delight in Your statutes and that You now would delight to speak to us. In Jesus we pray. Amen.

This sermon has one big idea, and it’s very simple and it’s very straightforward. My prayer is that this sermon would help you and would help me to be committed and excited to read our Bibles in 2024. Very simple, very straightforward. Many of you already have that as a pattern in your life but you need your arms strengthened, you need some new excitement. Some of you used to have that as a pattern and if you’re honest with yourself, it’s fallen by the wayside for lots of different reasons. Then there are others here, you’ve never really established that as a reliable rhythm in your life.

I remember it was when I was in high school that I first started to have what we call a “quiet time.” I think I shared this before. It was initially not for really altruistic reasons. I had the very lofty goal that by my sophomore year I might be all-county JV cross-country, so I resolved that I would pray every day toward that end, a very noble prayer which the Lord did answer. I don’t have the gold chain and the medals for all-county JV, but I prayed.

So sometimes the Lord gets you started for reasons that are a little bit selfish maybe and yet beginning in high school I prayed, I didn’t know where to start so I started at Romans and just prayed a chapter a day, and eventually started with a devotional book. I had these friends, I went to a big public high school, but I had these strange Baptist friends. No jokes, that’s strange and Baptist, they don’t always go together, folks. But these wonderful Baptists, they had this thing and they would be there in the public school cafeteria and I was, you know, grew up Reformed in a great family, but you know sort of trying to prove myself with my friends. I don’t know if this is the case at all anymore, but it was when I was in high school – you had to sort of prove that you were with it, you had to come to school on Monday knowing what had happened on Saturday Night Live on that Saturday before.

Well, I could rarely stay up that late because I had church in the morning, so I had to try to piece things together on the bus or somewhere to sort of figure it out. I met these friends who seemed wonderfully unconcerned about some of the things that I had become concerned about. They were there and they would talk about what they were reading in their Bibles and talk about their prayers and talk about things that it was a time for me to sort of have the lights go on, and say, well, what am I doing?

It’s never too late and never too early for you to be committed and excited to read your Bible.

Now I know some of you hate New Year’s resolutions. You hate them because they seem impossible, they seem legalistic, they’re arbitrary, just a turn of the page. They seem overwhelming and they can be overwhelming. If I kept track of every book or article I’ve read that instructed me “if you would just do this for only 15 minutes a day,” I wouldn’t get through those exercises 15 minutes a day until the afternoon: If you would just stretch 15 minutes a day, just do grip exercises, if you would just floss 15 minutes a day, if you would write a handwritten note of encouragement, you could learn a language, practice an instrument, you could read through Shakespeare, you could do deep knee bends, just 15 minutes a day.

So I know it’s all very overwhelming. There’s lots of studies out there. People don’t keep their New Year’s resolutions, yeah, I know all of the bad news. The worst time to go to the gym is January 1 or January 2. Where have you all been? Everyone’s starting out.

It’s true. We often don’t keep those very good resolutions. But I like, I actually like new goals for the New Year. I appreciate having a new start, getting to reset the calendar, having something to aim for, even if more often than not I don’t fully hit what I’ve aimed for. But try a new routine, attempt some better habits, even if I rarely make them all work.

So today, December 31, is a great day for you, whatever age you are, 100 years old or 5 years old and just learning your alphabet, today’s a great day to think and to plan and dream about what you might do in the new year relative to God’s Word. There is no habit in your life more important than reading your Bible.

I said no habit more important. You could certainly say prayer is equally as important, but we could put those two tied. There is no habit. Yes, good eating, good exercise, good sleep, we want lots of good habits. There is no more important habit than that you and I would be committed and excited, so not just committed, not just an act of the will, but excited to read our Bibles in 2024. If you leave this sermon just with the commitment, that will last maybe a couple of weeks. But you also need an excitement, not just a have to, all right, another new year’s read my Bible sermon, but a get to, I can be in the Word.

Our text this morning is from Psalm 119, the second stanza, verses 9 through 16. This is the longest chapter in the Bible. We’re just going to read one of these sections. As you may know, Psalm 119 is an acrostic poem. You can see in your Bibles it has the heading “Aleph, Beth, Gimel, Daleth.” Those are the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, 22 letters. So each of these in eight verses repeats each of those letters in that stanza.

So verse 1 begins with Aleph, verse 2 begins with Aleph, verse 9 begins with Beth, 10, 11, Beth, Beth, Beth, and so forth. 22 stanzas, each with eight verses, each that repeat that letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

The theme in this chapter is the all-surpassing importance of the Word of God. There are at least eight overlapping words for Scripture in this chapter. They’re used each around 20 to 25 times. You have “the law,” in reference to the Mosaic covenant, the Pentateuch, but all of Scripture; testimonies, speaking to the witness of Scripture; precepts, detailed instructions; statutes, binding rules; commandments, those authoritative obligations from God; ordinances, His judgments; promises, what He guarantees; and then over-arching them all, the Word, God’s truth and all of its forms.

You have in virtually every verse, all 176 of them, one or more of these words for the Word of God because that is the point and that’s the big idea.

So follow along as we read Beth, verse 9.

“How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to Your Word.
With my whole heart I seek You;
let me not wander from Your commandments!
I have stored up Your Word in my heart,
that I might not sin against You.
Blessed are You, O Lord;
teach me Your statutes!
With my lips I declare
all the rules of Your mouth.
In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on Your precepts
and fix my eyes on Your ways.
I will delight in Your statutes;
I will not forget Your Word.”

Once again the big idea is that you and I would be committed and excited to read our Bibles in 2024. That’s what this message is about, that’s what I hope you feel and resolve to do by the end of this sermon.

But let’s trace the argument the psalmist makes in this second section. Three points. We’ll see what the psalmist wants, second what he will do to get what he wants, and third why he wants what he wants.

So here’s the first section – what the psalmist wants. Notice the desire of the psalmist’s heart. He says in verse 10, “With my whole heart I seek You.” So he wants to know God. He wants a relationship with God. He wants to be near God. He wants to experience the favor of God and in particular in this psalm he wants to obey God. He says in the second half of verse 10, “Let me not wander from Your commandments,” the second half of verse 11, “That I might not sin against You.” That’s what the psalmist wants.

We see it most clearly in the first verse of this stanza as the psalmist asks the famous question, “How can a young man,” or we could put in there a young woman, “How can a young man keep his way pure?”

Now you can go through this whole chapter and realize there are hardly any questions. It’s all statements, it’s all matters of indicatives or exhortations. There are hardly any questions, and the other questions tend to be rhetorical questions, questions of lament, when will You comfort me or when will You judge those who persecute me. So it says something that one of the very few questions in this psalm is this particular question.

I wonder as you head into 2024, what questions are you asking in your head? How can a young man get ahead in life? Maybe that’s a question in your brain. How can a young woman find the man of her dreams? How can I get into the school that I want? How can I meet my academic or athletic or vocational goals? Maybe very practically, how can I afford my groceries? How can I find the job I’ve always wanted? How can I get into a better house?

You may be asking those questions. They’re not bad questions, some of them are very good questions. This doesn’t tell us that you can’t think about life’s many questions.

But it is worth asking yourself, and I ask myself, is verse 9 a question that even enters my head coming into the new year? Of all the things you’re concerned about, all the things you care about, all the questions you have when your mind is wandering and rumbling around in the car or in the shower, do you ever think this question? God, how am I going to be pure? How can I keep my way pure?

Now when we hear the word “pure” we think purity and we think sexual purity in particular. That’s part of it, but it’s certainly broader than that. The beginning of the second stanza in Psalm 119 is likely saying the very same thing as the beginning of the first stanza.

Look at verse 1 – “Blessed are those whose way is blameless.” Then verse 9 – “How can I keep my way pure?”

So don’t hear “pure” and just think, well, this is a message about sexual immorality. That’s part of it, but it’s much bigger than that. It is likely meaning the very same thing as he says in verse 1. He’s asking the question not just, okay, how can I get my internet habits under control, but how can I walk blameless?

That word “blameless” in the Old Testament might trip you up. It doesn’t mean sinless perfection. Nobody does that, nobody did that except for the Lord Jesus. But blames, rather, means how can I walk in a reliable pattern of faithfulness and obedience such that when I sin, I repent and I receive forgiveness and I turn around and I walk in the right direction. How can I walk in a way that is obedient, blameless, and pure?

One way to think about purity is to think about the various parts of your body. What do you do with your hands? Where do you go with your feet? What do you see with your eyes? What do you think about in your head? What do you feel in your heart? That’s what the psalmist means. How can I keep my hands, my feet, my eyes, my head, my heart, pure before You?

Notice the language – How can a young man, or a young woman. Now to be sure the struggles of purity, of obedience, of blamelessness, these are not struggles that end in youth.

I remember one time when I was in college on a college retreat and the pastor who was speaking was speaking on sexual purity and he was quite a bit older. He seemed very old at the time, when you’re a college student anybody who’s 25 or older seems, you might as well be 100, but he seemed much older anyway and at least twice our age. I remember students asking him, it was just a section with the men, and he was talking on sexual purity and asking how when does all of this get easier? When does it, kind of these struggles, go away? Just hoping he’d say that, look, when you turn 40 none of it matters anymore. He said, well, some things you get more mature and hormones change, but he said, “I’m telling you these struggles for purity of our whole body are going to last your whole life.” It was sort of encouraging and sort of, oh, we were hoping for just a secret answer, some quick fix.

So, no, this is not something that only affects the young. It’s not just those in high school or college. It affects your mom, your career, even in your retirement. But there is something about youth that makes purity especially difficult.

You remember what Paul told Timothy – “Flee youthful passions, pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” There are certain passions, certain kinds of maybe fits of anger or sexual energies, that are particularly associated with youth. So though this doesn’t end whenever you leave “young,” but it is particularly for those who are young. So I hope you’re listening this morning.

Why especially the young? Well, you have hormones. Perhaps more susceptible to peer pressure, not because adults in this room grow out of the fear of man or the love of the praise of man, but young people, you tend to have more people around you all the time and you’re still struggling a bit with your identity and who you’re going to be. Youth is the season of life most given to ambition, which can be good but also can be vain. You’re trying to find yourself. You’re determining which way to go. When you’re young there are all sorts of paths open to you. In fact, it looks like for most of you who are young, there’s almost no path and place you couldn’t go.

Calvin puts it well – Youth puts men where two ways meet, or youth puts women where two ways meet. And not just two but maybe 200 ways.

So all of you who are young in particular, you ought to consider, do you want what the psalmist wants?

Now here’s a little bit of good news. If you don’t want it, C.S. Lewis in one of his famous essays, you don’t even have to say “famous” because it’s C.S. Lewis so they’re all famous, but he’s talking about desire and he says to want to want the right thing is a right desire.

So you may say I’m not sure I want this, but I sure want to want it. Well, you’re heading in the right direction. If at least you say, “I can’t say that this is the pulse of my heart yet but I hear it and I think that would be good if I felt what the psalmist feels,” you’re heading in the right path.

Do you and I want what the psalmist wants? His focus is how can I walk in a way that is pure before the Lord. That’s uppermost in his mind. Yes, you’ve got to eat, yes, you want to marry, yes, you want to raise your kids. You’ve got a lot of other concerns. But the psalmist says here’s what I’m thinking about – I want to be blameless, I want to be pure.

Second section then. If that’s what the psalmist wants, notice what he will do, what he purposes to do to get what he wants. Look at all that the psalmist is doing or resolves to do.

Verse 9 – He says in effect I will guard my way according to Your Word.

Verse 11 – I will store up Your Word in my heart.

Verse 13 – I will declare all the rules of Your mouth.

Verse 15 – I will meditate on Your precepts, I will fix my eyes on Your ways.

Verse 16 – I will delight in Your statutes. I will not forget Your Word.

I count there at least seven things that the psalmist is committing to do, all of which have to do with the place and the privilege of the Word of God in his life.

The big idea could not be any clearer. You don’t need to know Hebrew, you don’t need sophisticated learning. Everyone can understand what this is about. It’s about being a man or a woman of the Book. All of these commitments, all of these “I will” statements, are ways of getting at the same point with slightly different shades of meaning.

So he says, for example, in verse 10, “Let me not wander from Your commandments.” That’s what often happens. We don’t even mean to but we wander. All of us who are parents have had the frightening experience of some child, and you can talk later around the dinner table which child is particularly prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, to get lost in the grocery store, lost in the park. They wander around and they may not even mean to, may have just got their head turned around, they may have seen a squirrel and just walked in some other direction.

It happens to us as God’s people sometimes. We didn’t wake up one morning and say I want to be disobedient, but we wandered.

The psalmist says, “Let me not wander,” would You bring me back, let me seek You, let me be undivided. The psalmist says, “I will declare,” verse 13, “declare with my lips.” Because it’s not enough, friends, it’s not enough that you just have somewhere in the attic of your mind a nice statement of faith, or you say, “Of course, yeah, I believe things about Jesus. Of course, yeah. I can sign that. I can say the Apostles’ Creed without crossing my fingers. I can even say the Nicene Creed a little bit more without crossing my fingers now.”

No, it’s more than that. Can you declare it? Will you speak it? All of us speak about the things we love. You easily talk about foods you love, restaurants you love, sports and teams, or did you see this movie, or I just binge watched this show, or would you look at this funny clip, or can you check out this wallpaper. We all talk about things that we love. Do you talk about the Lord? Do you talk about His Word?

If you say, well, “I’m not sure that I do because I’m not sure that I love it.” Well, it goes both ways. Start talking about it and you’ll start loving it more.

“I will meditate,” verse 15, “meditate on Your precepts.” So a slow rumination, to chew on it, to mull over it, to think about it, to pray through it. This means to chew the Word of God not like a cat but like a cow.

I’ve told you before that just about the first thing I do in the morning is feed our cats. First I think, why do we have two cats? But then I feed the cats, because I’m the first one up and I get them their tin of this gravy sauce pate and they’re just loving it, then I give them a little back rub, have a little devotional time there with them. But they go, now I’ll give the cats credit for this, they do, they are hungry, so they fit in with the psalmist’s description in that way, they’re hungry. But they get to that dish and it’s, I won’t do my cat impression, but if you’ve ever seen it, it’s just [sound effect], just devour it, just all over. Big fat one nudges the little skinny one out of the way, just goes to it and 10 seconds later it’s gone and you’re not getting that special treat until the next morning. Don’t be a cat.

Be a cow. You know you’ve seen a cow. Because they’ve got all those stomachs. They’ve got the grass and it’s just chewing, no hurry, slow, enjoying whatever clover is in its mouth. Just taking its lovely time.

Think about that tomorrow. You will. You won’t remember anything else about this sermon. You’ll open your Bible and you’ll think, “I’m a cow, I’m a cow.” You slowly chew it, ruminate it.

He says, “I have stored up Your Word in my heart.” If ever this is a verse, 11, that encourages and requires Bible memorization, this is it. The idea is not to be quizmasters but to have the Word deep in us to transform us, to shape us, because you don’t know when you’re going to need that Word. It’s amazing the times that hit you. You think, “I didn’t know I needed that verse, I didn’t know that that verse was going to apply in 10 different ways this week, but once I got the verse, it’s there.”

You know what? You’re going to forget a lot of the verses. For a long time that would always trip me up. Well, I know, but I’m going to memorize 10 verses and then I’m going to forget them. Well, you’ll be surprised how much comes back, especially what you memorize when you’re young. It’s much easier. There’s lots of science on this. Much easier to memorize things when you’re young. Now’s the time when your brains a sponge, before it becomes sandpaper. You want to absorb this.

So you’ll remember more than you think. But even the things you don’t remember, you know what memorization does? It forces you to be a cow. It forces you to slow down. Maybe write out the verse by hand. Whatever it takes to slow down… So even if you forgot the verse that you memorize tomorrow and by March you don’t have it like this anymore, the discipline of slowing down, saying it 10 times out loud, is part of meditating. It’s part of storing it up.

You and I, if we are going to be committed to reading the Bible, need to have a plan. Now thankfully it has never been easier to find a good plan. You can go, don’t do it now, if you don’t have a plan for tomorrow, you can put it in Google “Bible reading plan.” I think probably the first one that comes up is from Ligonier and you can go, they’ve got about 15 different plans. You can even plug in “make your own plan.” You can say I want to read the New Testament in 100 days, here it is, and they’ll map it all out for you. You can go to Crossway’s site and they have umpteen different plans. So find a plan.

You say, well, I’m going to miss it. I’m not going to stick to all of it. Yeah, that’ll probably happen. Just keep going and you’ll miss a day and you might even have to skip it and just keep going, but it’s a lot easier to do something even if you don’t make the plan than to do nothing because you made no plan at all.

There’s lots of practical advice out there, sanctified common sense. Some of you may have read the book, it’s a bestseller by now, millions of copies, by James Clear, Atomic Habits. It’s not a Christian book in any way. It doesn’t have the Gospel in it. But there’s some common sense. He talks about the four laws of behavior change. How do you get better habits? Four things he says – make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy, make it satisfying.

So if you want to read the Bible, make it obvious. Maybe that means you put out your Bible on your table, on your desk, on your dresser, so it’s right there in the morning. You can’t miss it. Make it obvious.

Make it attractive. So maybe you’ve got a chair that’s comfortable. You pour yourself a cup of coffee. You get something that makes it desirable.

Make it easy. So that means a goal that you can actually do. It would be much better to set a small goal of reading your Bible a little bit every day and you do it every day than it would be to say okay, that was a good sermon. You know what I’m going to do? I’m reading the Bible. Good. This year? No, this month. Okay, you could do it. More power to you, but probably for most people you’re not going to make that. So it’d be better to have a little bit, even if starting out for you is 5 minutes, is one chapter, is half a page, something. Make it a goal that can be accomplished.

Then make it satisfying. So you learn something. You passed it on. You met a goal. Maybe you share with somebody else at the end of each week the verse you memorized or the chapters that you read, some sense of satisfaction.

Again, those are just common sense, how to develop habits. I find that reading out loud often helps my mind from wandering away. Some of you will listen to the Bible, and that can be a very good way. I’ve listened to lots of Scripture. The caution here is that it doesn’t become just another multi-tasking but it’s great, listen to the Bible when you’re in the car, when you’re doing the dishes, when you’re folding laundry. It counts. I think there’s something particularly effective about having a physical book out in front of you. Read it aloud. Read it with others. Speak it to others. Get in the Word.

Now there’s no way around it no matter how many good habits, no matter how many good procedures and plans, it’s just going to take some time.

Calvin said, “We are aware that the majority of mankind are so much involved in the cares of the world as to leave no time or leisure for meditating upon the doctrine of God.”

Now think about that. So that’s almost 500 years ago. So this is not a 21st century problem. Oh, man, we’re so busy, crazy busy. Trademark – I get a quarter every time anybody says it, “crazy busy.”

Calvin said 500 years ago, you know what people felt like? Ah, no time to read the Bible.

Now you and I might think, what do you mean you didn’t have time to read the Bible back then? You didn’t have to fill out insurance forms, you didn’t have to commute through traffic to work, you didn’t have soccer games for the kids, you didn’t have to travel for work, you didn’t have TV or movies to distract you, you didn’t have the phone or the internet. Man, you must have had a lot of time.

You know what they would probably say? Wow, you can go anywhere on cars and planes and you have machines that wash your clothes and ovens and microwaves and you can just go to a store and buy all the food you could possibly want and your houses heat and cool themselves and most of you don’t have to go work in the field and you don’t have to wonder when your lights are going to turn on. Why don’t you have time?

The point is that people are always busy. It’s true 500 years ago, if the Lord tarries it will be true 500 years from now. You have 24 hours in a day. So it will take some time.

I’ve said this before, to paraphrase John Piper, maybe God invented Facebook and Twitter and Instagram to remind us that we really do have time to read our Bibles every day.

That’s a little convicting, as it should be.

This is what the psalmist is determined to do to get what he wants. He wants to be pure. What he will do is meditate on the Word.

Finally, why does he want what he wants? There’s lots of reasons all throughout the Bible. You could say, well, he wants to glorify God. That’s certainly true. Jesus says, “If you love Me,” what? “If you love Me you will have wonderful, ecstatic experiences.” No, He doesn’t say that. Those are good. “If you love Me, you’ll have praise music on in the car. If you love Me, you’ll have a lot of Christian books on your nightstand.”

Well, all of those are good, but you know what Jesus said: If you love Me, you will obey My commandments.

The child says to a parent, “I love you so much. I just got all these great feelings for you, but I just can’t listen to anything you say. It’s a very complicated emotion, Mom.”

We try saying that to the Lord. No, if you love Me, you keep My commandments.

So surely one of the reasons he wants what he wants is because he wants to glorify God, to please God.

But also because this life is good for him. To walk in God’s ways is not just willpower, I’m going to do it because God wants it and here it is: This is actually the best way for you to live.

Proverbs 2 – For wisdom will come into your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul, discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil.

That’s what the Word of God does in your life.

In his commentary on this chapter, Derek Kidner highlights four benefits of Scripture: Liberation, light, life, and stability.

I tried to come up with another “L” word, “lastingness” is the closest I could find.

So the Word of God is liberating. It sets you free from sin. It gives you light, it’s the antidote for darkness. It gives you life, deliverance from death and misery. And it gives you stability, that is hope and certainty instead of confusion and despair.

Over and over in this psalm we read that the Word of God is the psalmist’s delight. God’s not asking you to read Ikea instructions. You say you don’t read them. I know, that’s why I never can figure it out. He’s not asking you to fix everything in your life with an Allen wrench. He’s giving you something better than microwave instructions. He’s giving you the Word of God which is delightful.

Is it delightful to you? If you were reading a letter from someone and that letter talked about the most massive, glorious, beautiful thing in the whole world, you’d be interested in it. If that letter was all about you and your life, you’d be interested in it. If that letter was there to help you be better at helping the people around you, you’d read it. If that letter were there to help you be free from all your guilt and shame and to give you the path to live forever, you’d say, “I want to read that letter.”

Well, that’s what the Word of God does and more. It’s delightful. There’s good news here. In it we meet God. In it we grow and learn. It’s a light to our path. C.S. Lewis says the law of the Lord is our delight as one would delight in firmness after taking a shortcut that went awry and you find yourself knee deep in muck and mire and you realize this shortcut is a terrible mistake and then you come out on the other side and you’ve got pavement, you’ve got solid ground. That’s the delight in the law of the Lord.

It’s good for you. It’s good for others.

Colossians 3:16 – let the Word of God dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.

This Word in your heart will help you be wise. There’s nothing that’s going to help you be a better husband, wife, parent, friend, church leader, doctor, nurse, plumber, police officer, because you’ll be wise.

Finally, he wants what he wants because he understands that the Word of God is to be central in the life of the believer and central in the life of God’s people.

I wonder if you’ve ever seen this before with Psalm 119. Some of you have done Bible studies on this, some of you know it’s right here in the middle of the Bible. If your Bible opens, there’s a good chance it opens somewhere close to Psalm 119. You know it’s the longest chapter in the psalter, you know it’s the longest chapter in the Bible, and it’s all about the Word. But what we’re apt to do with the Psalms is we just sort of think of it like the hymnal. You just kind of turn and just putting hymns together and you don’t realize that there is something of a structure and a pattern here. How Psalm 119 is placed tells us something hugely important about the role of God’s Word in your life and among God’s people.

So just look at this. Turn back to Psalm 107. You say, “Pastor’s getting wound up when I thought he was winding down.” No, trust me, this is the end. Notice Psalm 107, book five. So there are different books, different collections of these songs in the psalter and this is book five. There’s a pattern here. So book five, at least the first half of it, is putting God’s people in a spiritual frame of mind to in a spiritual way recapitulate and re-embrace the steps of their redemptive history.

What do I mean? Well, Psalm 107 is about returning from exile. Look at verse 2: Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, who He has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, some wander.

So 107. They’re wandering. He’s bringing them in from exile.

Look at Psalm 108. It’s about the conquest, be exalted, my heart is steadfast. Verse 10 – Who will bring me to the fortified city?

So Psalm 107 is, I want you to think about you’re coming back from exile. Psalm 108 you’re coming back in to the city and you’re going to conquer, but Psalm 109 there’s opposition. There’s a wicked man, verse 6, against me. There’s a rebellion. So this rebellion as you try to retake over the city has to be conquered, which leads to Psalm 110.

Psalm 110 is the most quoted passage in the New Testament from the Old Testament. : “The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”” It’s a messianic Psalm.

So you’re wandering, you’re exiles, you come to the land, there’s opponents in the land. What do you need to inherit the land? You need the Messiah to come. You need the Lord in His temple to come. The future King of Zion.

Which leads to Psalm 111 and 112 – Praise the Lord, praise the Lord! Because what do you say when the Messiah has come to His city, has conquered your enemies, has given you a home once again? You praise the Lord.

Continuing, 113 through 118. Praise the Lord! Sometimes called the Egyptian Hallel. Hallel means praise, hallelujah means praise, Yahweh, praise the Lord. It’s likely that this is what they sang, Jesus and the disciples on the night of His betrayal, the Egyptian Hallel because it’s these hallelujah songs that have to do with their deliverance from Egypt.

So 110, the Messiah’s enthroned. Hallelujah, 111, 112. Egyptian hallelujah, 113 to 118.

Then, skip ahead, 120 begins the Psalms of Ascent. So those are the pilgrims now who are going to go up to Jerusalem. Why? Because there in Jerusalem the King dwells and we praise Him.

So what’s right in the middle? The longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119. Do you see the pattern? We’ve returned from exile. We’ve conquered the land. We’ve overcome our enemies because the Messiah has been enthroned. We sing His praises. We sojourn to His temple and what has primacy of place there in this new Zion, in this redeemed city where Christ the Messiah dwells? It’s obvious. That’s the place where the Word is central.

What represents the establishment of Christ’s holy reign and rule? It’s obvious. It is the unfailing, inerrant, immovable Word of God. That’s what this church and this pulpit has been about for more than 40 years. We pray it will be so until Jesus returns. Unapologetically, absolutely central. You say, well, shouldn’t you make Jesus central? Well, of course, Jesus is central, but here in the psalter when Jesus is enthroned as king, He puts the Word of God right in front of us.

The Scripture is how Jesus rules His Church. The Scripture is how Jesus means to rule in your heart. If you want more of Jesus, if you want to follow Jesus, you need His book. If you want more of Christ in your life, more of Christ in our church, then you will be committed and excited to read your Bible in 2024. Give it the place that Jesus Himself means for it to have, first, last, everything in between.

Let’s pray. Gracious heavenly Father, we thank You for Your Word. You have blessed us so richly. We have resources and Bibles and language we can understand. You have so privileged us that You would give us this book. So may each of us, whether we’re just learning to read or we’ve read through the Bible yearly for decades, would You give to us in the new year a new commitment and a new excitement to be in this book. In Jesus’ name. Amen.