A Prayer for Continued Instruction in God’s Truth
September 8, 1996 / No. 2800
It is the duty of the Christian church to instruct her children and young people in the truth of God’s Word. The risen Jesus Himself gave this duty when He said to Peter (and to the entire church) in John 21:15, “Feed my lambs.” There the Lord compared the church to a flock. That flock is composed not only of mature saints but also of lambs and small children. The duty was to feed them, nurture them with the first milk of the Word of God and, as they grow older, with the meat of God’s Word.
We must take this calling seriously. It is the will of the Lord Jesus Christ that the church feed her children with the truths of God’s Word. We must not wait until they come to the teenage years. We must not think that children can only be entertained up to that point and that the church should build gymnasiums or have other things for them until they are able to come to an age to understand. But it is the calling of the church to open and to explain the truth of the holy Scriptures to them in their earliest years.
So serious is this calling that it would be a sign of apostasy if the children and young people of a church were not being instructed. In Judges 2: 10 we read of a generation which knew not the Lord nor yet His works that He had done for Israel, and that they did evil in the sight of the Lord and served Baalim and forsook the Lord God of their fathers. For the church to neglect or to let slip or to substitute something in the place of sound instruction means that the church is slipping into apostasy and that a generation is going to arise which will forsake Jehovah God. Therefore we take such instruction very seriously, and we believe that children born to believers are to be instructed by the church in the truths of God’s Word.
But it is also the duty of Christian young people and children to receive the instruction which is given to them by the church. In the book of Proverbs we learn much of this. We have in this book, first of all, the yearning of a believing father to impart the living instruction of God’s truth to his child. “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother” (1:8). “Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life” (4:13). But it is also now the calling of a Christian young person and of a child to receive that instruction into their hearts.
In this light we turn to Psalm 119:33, where we have a prayer for receiving this instruction. “Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.” We need to be instructed to receive the teachings of God’s Word — to receive those teachings when we are young. We do not need to be instructed in the ways of sin. That comes very naturally. But we do need continual instruction, both older and younger, in the ways of Jehovah.
The petition in Psalm 119:33, “Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes,” centers in the word “teach.” The word “teach” refers to a pointed or sharp, definite instruction. The original word in the Hebrew has the idea of shooting an arrow, and it came to mean “to point out with the hand,” and to make very clear. The Israelite would aim his arrow very carefully. He did not simply let it fly in some direction, expecting that he would hit his target through a careless effort. When he aimed his arrow it was very carefully pointed and precise. So the petition is: teach me, O Lord. Do not give me some vague or speculative instruction. Today we hear much of that. We hear, “Well, we are simply going to give to our young people and children a few general lines of instruction, present the various options, and let them make their choices. We can’t be too sure of any doctrine or morality. Truth is really determined by what you feel, by what it seems like to you.” That is not the prayer of this Scripture. The prayer of this Scripture is: Point out to me, bring to me an instruction that zeros in upon the bulls-eye of the truth of God’s Word. Bring to me the unchanging truth of Thy Word aimed at my heart, O Jehovah, God of truth, whose Word alone is truth, bring to me that unchanging truth of thy Word. Teach me the way of Thy statutes.
Our way in life refers to the direction of our life. When the Scriptures use the word “way,” the way of Thy statutes, it points out to us that everyone’s life is pointed towards something. Nobody simply drifts aimlessly through this life. But the Scripture teaches that everyone is upon a way, is pointed towards something. And there are only two ways: God or the devil; heaven or hell; or, as Jesus said, the broad way that leads to destruction or the narrow way that leads to life eternal. The false way has many side-paths, deceiving and tempting, and alluring you to turn in to these paths: drugs, drunkenness, greed, parties, immorality, disobedience, and pleasures. The prayer of Psalm 119 is this: point out to me the way (or the path) of Thy statutes, the path that is marked by and defined by Thy statutes. The statutes of God are His laws. The psalmist would know the path of holiness: Give me to know the spirit and the tendency and the direction of a life of holiness. Give me to know that way of life which is characterized and marked clearly by the commandments of God as signposts pointing out to me the way in which I am to live, as I am to love the Lord my God, worship Him according to His truth, keep His name holy in all my life, observe the Sabbath day, honor all in authority, love my neighbor, be pure and clean sexually, live as a steward of God, speak the truth, and live in contentment. That is the prayer: Jehovah, point out to me that way of life which is characterized by obedience to Thy holy will, as Thy holy will is revealed in Thy commandments. The child of God is making a prayer to be directed in the way of holiness.
Why would that be so important? That is very important, first of all, because of ourselves. The prayer begins: Teach me, O Lord. There is a need for the instruction because we have a proneness to forget and to forsake and to wander foolishly away from that way. We read in II Peter 1 that Peter says that he will always put us in remembrance of these things, of the things of God’s Word. We do not have to be put in remembrance of evil. When you read about evil or hear it or see it, it is always there and able to pop up in a moment in your mind or dreams. But God’s ways and God’s truths — we need to be continually reminded of those ways for, by nature, we depart from those ways. Have you learned about that? Has the Word of God instructed you in the basics concerning yourself? Have you learned about your own sinful will and your own pride and your own selfishness? Do you understand why we need to pray: “Lord, faithfully point out to me the way of Thy statutes and commandments that I may walk in those statutes because, you see, I am very slow and dull. I am not slow and dull in the ways of sin. I catch on very quickly to those ways. But to walk in Thy way, O Lord, I need Thy continual instruction.”
There is another reason why we need to have this instruction, and that is because of the temptations of the world and of Satan. Whenever I look at children and young people in the church of Jesus Christ, I remember Jesus’ words to Simon Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan has desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee.” Oh, how he wants you as a young person or child. All of the world’s appeal, of immorality, of abortion, freedom of speech, the whole atmosphere of the world is geared to take you away, if possible, from the truth that is to be found in Jesus Christ. Make no mistake, young person in Jesus Christ, the devil wants to practice genocide, spiritual genocide. He wants the spiritual death of everyone who would confess the name of Jesus Christ.
So there are all kinds of sexual perversions which are accepted. It comes forth in music and in drinking. It is directed by Satan to seduce you and, if possible, to take you away from Christ. We read inRevelation 12:17 that the dragon was wroth with the woman (which refers to the church of Jesus Christ) and went to make war with the remnant of her seed (that is, her children and young people) which keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. And it is because the psalmist understood these things, understood himself and the temptations of the world and Satan which were directed against him, that he brings forth this heartfelt petition, this heartfelt prayer, “Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes.” “Faithfully, patiently, and in a fatherly way, point it out to me again, and again, and again, that I may learn that life which will adore Thy truth, which will show forth the beauty of the salvation that is mine in Jesus Christ.” Is that your prayer?
Along with that prayer, if God has given it to you to make this your prayer, will also be the promise: “And I shall keep it to the end.” That is also what the psalmist says: “Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.” You see, there is a promise there. Having received the instruction of Jehovah, having been given to feel a need for this instruction, there is also worked in the heart of the psalmist a promise to obey, to give a practical obedience, to show a visible obedience to God’s law in his life. He vows that he will keep it unto the end. He will keep it from all who would try to pull it away from him, to steal it. He will guard it from every subtle attempt to sell that word and truth. He will cherish it and guard it. The psalmist is promising perseverance, that he will maintain and hold to that teaching even unto the end.
Note with me that the point of his promise centers in the word “keep.” Not simply will he observe, but he will keep, he will do it, he will practice it. He is not simply saying, “Lord, give me to understand the truths of Thy Word, give me to understand what Thy commandments are, in order that I may store them in my mind for a later day, perhaps when I am a little older.” Oh no! But he is vowing that he will do them. The Lord Jesus Christ said it this way: “Happy are ye if ye do them.” The psalmist is not saying, “Yes, I want to be taught about the Christian way of life, but, you see, it is not really for me right now. There are other things more important in my life as a young person. Later on I will turn my attention to those things.” That is the lie of Satan. Jesus said, “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.” The psalmist is promising to observe, to do what the Lord teaches him.
So the question is: Will you devote your life to the truth of God, yes or no? Will you observe the Sabbath day, yes or no? Do you desire to live purely and honestly as the Lord teaches you in His Word, yes or no? Do you seek the kingdom of God in your life, yes or no? The psalmist is promising a diligent and faithful obedience that he will guard those things in his heart from all that would take it away and that he will faithfully observe it to the end. Note that: “and I shall keep it unto the end.” When someone keeps something to the very end, that is devotion, that is commitment. There are examples that we could use of such a devotion and commitment. It is sometimes seen in an old man who visits the rest home every day to feed his wife who cannot get out of bed or talk to him anymore and, mentally, everything is shut down in her mind and her eyes are vacant. Yet that man returns to his wife every day because, on his marriage day he said, “unto the end … I will love you unto the end.” Faithfulness motivated by true love. That is what the psalmist is vowing here. Lord, teach me, and I will keep it unto the end. To the end of my life, no matter what comes, no matter the personal cost, no matter the ridicule, no matter what I must lose in my life or the suffering that it may cause me. No matter that I might see many turn aside who once walked with me and made this same confession; many who once said, “Lord, teach me, and I will keep it,” but they do not keep it; but turn away from the church of Jesus Christ. No matter all of that. The promise is: I will faithfully obey and keep these statutes of Jehovah until my very last breath.
Is that your prayer? Speak from your heart, now, to God. Is that your prayer? Do you promise to keep the way of God even unto the end? Do you so love God that you say, Lord, teach me? I want to know that life that is pleasing to Thee. I do not want to live any longer unto myself but unto Thee. Lord, continually be teaching me out of Thy Word and I will keep it unto the end. You see, love for God is throbbing through the entire verse. The psalmist’s heart is opened up so that we might see what is inside. He is praying on his knees out of love to God, “Lord, teach me.” And then he is vowing a sacred oath that he will keep it unto the end.
Is that your prayer?
Perhaps we ask the question: How is that possible? Because, pastor, you spoke a moment ago about knowing ourselves and knowing our own weakness and knowing our own unfaithfulness. How is it possible for anyone to give such a vow that he will keep it to the end? The answer of the Scriptures is very plain. That is possible only by the wonderful working of God’s Holy Spirit in our hearts, the Holy Spirit who works through the holy Scriptures. And it is possible by a God-given faith that the Holy Spirit works in the heart — a faith which is rooted in God. Teach me, O Lord, the way of Thy statutes. The word “O LORD” is Jehovah. Jehovah means “I AM THAT I AM.” He is the faithful and almighty God. So the psalmist is looking upon God. He is not looking to himself but, by faith, he sees that God will be the source of his strength, and God will be the power whereby he is able to keep this promise and commitment to observe this way even unto the end. You see, he knows that he is indeed nothing. But he also knows that God is everything. And that is the truth. He is trusting God’s love and grace to keep him faithful to this vow.
Now, do you make that vow? Do you desire from your heart to drink in divine instruction so that you might hold fast to that truth of God and so that you might follow it in your life, follow it upon a pathway of obedience and righteousness before God? No matter what others may think of that, is that your deepest desire? And are you committed, resolved in your heart, to keep it unto the end?
This is the prayer which we must offer every day: “Lord. teach me the way of Thy statutes, and I shall keep it unto the end.” And in that way of humble prayer we shall also hear the Lord’s answer: Come, ye children, hearken unto Me. I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
God grant it.
Let us pray.
Our Father who art in heaven, both as young and old we need continual instruction from Thee. Wilt Thou make our hearts soft and pliable to receive that instruction and wilt Thou build in those hearts that commitment and vow to keep it even unto the end. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.