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Scriptural Delight 20

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Tsadhe

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G’day! Welcome to Partake and our continuing series “Scriptural Delights!” Here is our twentieth podcast going through the tapestry of wonder that is Psalm 119! Today we look at the eighteenth of its twenty-two letters, Tsadhe, and its verses 137 to 144.

137 Righteous are you, O LORD,

and your laws are right.

138 The statutes you have laid down are righteous;

they are fully trustworthy.

139 My zeal wears me out,

for my enemies ignore your words.

140 Your promises have been thoroughly tested,

and your servant loves them.

141 Though I am lowly and despised,

I do not forget your precepts.

142 Your righteousness is everlasting

and your law is true.

143 Trouble and distress have come upon me,

but your commands are my delight.

144 Your statutes are forever right;

give me understanding that I may live.

Thanks for reading, KD! – that was fabulous! The study tonight was written and recorded by my mentor and friend, Jim Harris. This is his 4th and last of his contribution to this series. Over to you, Jim!

Hello, and welcome to another study in Psalm 119. It covers verses 137-144 and each line in the Hebrew text starts with the letter ‘TSADHE’. The very first word in the NIV translation introduces the dominant theme in this stanza. It’s about God and things being ‘right’ or ‘righteous’. Cast your eyes over verses 137, 138, 142 and 144. Then, looking at them more closely, we get to see something like this.

v137. God is righteous. ‘Righteous are you, O Lord. This may be understood in terms of God’s relationship with his people. He keeps his promises. He provides for their needs. He is faithful in all his deeds and ways. He always does what is right, for God cannot deny himself; God cannot lie; God cannot break his word, once given. Verse 140 reads, ‘Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them.’ God is righteous. He’s consistent.

If that is true, then what flows from God is also righteous. Verse 137 again, ‘You are righteous, O Lord, and your laws are right.’ God gave his Law through Moses. The detailed laws within it were designed to shape the crowd of people who escaped from slavery in Egypt, into a coherent nation fit to live in the Promised Land, where they would show the rest of the world what the LORD was really like. At least, that was the intention, but its working out fell short of God’s wishes, because his people were not altogether co-operative.

v138 has a similarly high view of God’s statutes – another word describing the detail of God’s Law. ‘The statutes you have laid down are righteous; they are fully trustworthy.’ They flow from God, therefore they are as dependable and effective as God himself is. If God said it, then you can rely on it.

v144 suggests the permanence of what God has said. ‘Your statutes are for ever right; give me understanding that I may live.’ Most of what has occupied his thought in this Psalm was written well before he was born, some of it many centuries before, yet he sees it as still relevant to him, because it flows from the righteous God. In an earlier stanza, verses 89-90, he has already written, ‘Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations.’ The Lord isn’t fickle or capricious, saying one thing now and a totally different thing a little later. You can build your life on God’s word, just as Jesus spoke of the wise and foolish builders in Matthew chapter 7. Wise people always build on the truth that the Lord Jesus brought to us. And he, as Hebrews 13:8 tells us, ‘is the same yesterday and today and for ever.’

And, finally, in verse 142, he comes back to the Lord himself, commenting, ‘Your righteousness is everlasting and your law is true.’ It all starts with the Lord, filters down through his Law – his word for his People – which, in turn shapes them to demonstrate what kind of a God he is. Let’s remind ourselves once more, of 2 Timothy 3:16-17,

‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man (or woman) of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’

So, that is the thrust of this passage for those of us who have committed our lives to Christ and are listed among his people. We have the word of God to a much greater extent than the psalmist did, in that we have both Old and New Testaments. If we don’t have an appetite to read and hear it, ask the Holy Spirit to make us hungry for it. If our lives are being shaped mostly by influences drawn from this world in which we live, let’s open ourselves up to the Lord through Scripture, and ask the Holy Spirit to use it to make us more like the Lord himself, to whom we owe everything spiritually. If our reading of life’s negative experiences causes us to doubt the goodness and love of God, let’s soak our minds in the glorious truth of a passage like Romans chapter 8. If we have doubts about our salvation let’s give ourselves, this Easter, to reading in the Gospels the four accounts of Jesus death and resurrection.

And so the list could go on, but it’s time to close. I leave you with one of Scripture’s famous 3:16s – Colossians 3:16, ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.’ The Lord be with you.

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Scriptural Delight 19

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Pe

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G’day! Welcome to Partake and our continuing series “Scriptural Delights!” going through the wonder that is Psalm 119!  Here is our nineteenth podcast of the series!  Today we look at the seventeenth of its twenty-two letters, Pe, and its verses 129 to 136. The bible reading is done by Sharona.

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 the oppression of men,

that I may obey your precepts.

135 Make your face shine upon your servant

and teach me your decrees.

136 Streams of tears flow from my eyes,

for your law is not obeyed.

Thanks Sharona!  The study tonight was written and recorded by my mentor and friend, Jim Harris.  This is 3rd in this series and he has one more to do.

Greetings! This study in the section associated with the Hebrew letter ‘PE’ makes us consider the role of the word of God in bringing understanding to our minds, moral and spiritual direction to our lives, and heart satisfaction in our relationship with the Lord. To ease us into this, we look elsewhere in Scripture first. In Numbers 6:24-26, we read of the Aaronic Blessing. As the High Priest of the people of Israel, Aaron was instructed to bless them in the Name of the Lord.

‘The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face towards you and give you peace.’

 

It’s my feeling that this priestly blessing was in the psalmist’s mind when he wrote this stanza, PE. ‘Turn to me and be gracious to me’ (132).  The NIV reads ‘have mercy on me.’ Older translations use ‘be gracious’ but it amounts to the same, as both words imply acceptance, forgiveness and peace with God. Then, in verse 135, he says, ‘Make your face shine upon your servant’. So, asking God to turn towards him, to be gracious to him, to make his face shine upon him? I’m sure you can see the connection between this Psalm and that Blessing.

How is the Christian equivalent of that blessing conferred upon us today? It’s done by the Holy Spirit through the word of God, the words of Scripture. Many church services include or conclude with these very words of Scripture, spoken as a ‘benediction’ or ‘announcement of blessing from the Lord’ upon his people. It also happens in our personal lives. As we read, believe, and respond to the wonderful words of God, we receive a rich blessing upon ourselves. The very first verse picks this up, ‘Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them.’ The last verse takes a different but related line, ‘Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed.’ Here’s a man who really does understand the way in which the Lord confers his blessing upon his believing people, and grieves that there are those who profess to belong to the Lord but refuse to obey his word. Let’s make sure that isn’t true of any of us!

Now let’s see how God’s word brings his blessing, as we explore these verses.

It begins by bringing understanding. Verse 130, ‘The unfolding of you words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.’ By ‘simple’ he is not describing those with what we would call ‘learning difficulties’, but those whose understanding has not yet matured enough for them to be fully aware of God’s will and ways. Where there’s a willingness to learn about spiritual matters, the word of God will bring what the psalmist calls ‘light’. This is a process which combines insight and wisdom. We gain further insight into the Lord and his ways with humankind; into the realm of spiritual realities and experience; into the whole meaning of Jesus and his work of redemption; into  what it means to live by the Spirit, and so on. We also receive the gift of wisdom, which enables us to apply what we know through insight to our lives in this world. That way we can live to the praise and glory of God.

Scripture also gives us direction. It shows us the right way to live, morally and spiritually. That affects our attitudes towards other people and our relationships with them. We live by the combination of the grace and truth that was evident in the Lord Jesus. God’s word also helps us pick our way through the moral maze life of the 21st – what to avoid and what to be involved with. Verse 133, ‘Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.’

 

Finally, Scripture also enables us to enjoy heart-satisfaction in our relationship with the Lord. In verse 131 he is ‘longing for (the Lord’s) commands’ and describes himself ‘panting’ like a thirsty animal. In 134 he wishes to be free from the force of human opinions and pressure, so that he can respond fully to the Lord. In 135 he is looking for a shining sense of God’s presence, as he responds to what the Lord shows him in his word. This is the language of a truly devotional life; a servant of God who wants to walk closely with the Lord and to enjoy his presence.

To see a New Testament example of how all this fits together, read Luke 24:13-35 when you can, and see how what’s written there can be true for us, as we walk through life in close fellowship with our risen Lord Jesus. Take note of verse 32, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’

 

The LORD bless you and keep you!

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Scriptural Delight 18

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Ayin

 

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G’day! Welcome to Partake and our continuing series “Scriptural Delights!” Here is our eighteenth podcast going through the wonder that is Psalm 119! Today we look at the sixteenth of its twenty-two letters, Ayin, and its verses 121 to 128.

 

121 I have done what is righteous and just;

do not leave me to my oppressors.

122 Ensure your servant’s well-being;

let not the arrogant oppress me.

123 My eyes fail, looking for your salvation,

looking for your righteous promise.

124 Deal with your servant according to your love

and teach me your decrees.

125 I am your servant; give me discernment

that I may understand your statutes.

126 It is time for you to act, O LORD;

your law is being broken.

127 Because I love your commands

more than gold, more than pure gold,

128 and because I consider all your precepts right,

I hate every wrong path.

 

Hi there! This is Jim Harris sharing some ideas with you from the 16th section of Psalm 119, in which all the verses begin with the Hebrew letter ‘AYIN’. Three times in these 8 verses you’ll find the words ‘your servant’. They are in verses 122, 124 and 125. That gives a flavour to this section of the psalm. He knows that he has been called in his personal life and, probably, in a public role to serve the Lord. He feels the cost of doing that and appeals to the Lord for help in various ways. All true believers in Jesus today are called to serve the Lord. It begins with simply the way we live. That means that our lifestyle, our priorities and our values about what is right and wrong, will often bring us into conflict with people living and working around us. Should the Lord call us into a specific role in serving Him, in our local church perhaps, or in the wider world through a Christian mission or agency, the pressure will come in a different way, from those who object to the work we are doing in the name of Christ. Like the psalmist we, too, must turn to the Lord for his comfort and strengthening in the situation.

 

In the first two verses here, he is concerned for his own well-being. ‘I have done what is righteous and just; do not leave me to my oppressors. Ensure your servant’s well-being; let not the arrogant oppress me.’ He is suffering from ‘people-pressure’ and he’s not too keen on it. But we take note of the fact that he’s not engaging with them in a war of words but, rather, he’s turned to the Lord with an urgent plea for His help. He’s resorted to prayer, rather than to disputation, as the best way of dealing with the problem. That’s a good example to follow. Our arguments will tend to harden people in their opposition. Sometimes it will even give them some satisfaction to know that they’ve got to us. Like Jesus before his enemies, we will find that being silent before them but verbal towards God is usually the best way of handling the matter. After all, the Spirit of God can reach those parts in people that none of us can get to!

 

As we move on, it’s clear that he is being called to endure, to keep going, while the Lord is actually handling the situation for him. God’s timing and the servant’s wishes do not coincide. The Lord seems to be hanging about – why doesn’t He get on with it? ‘My eyes fail, looking for your salvation.’ And, in verse 126, a wake-up call to the Lord, ‘It is time for you to act, O Lord!’ His impatience, on the one hand, is due to his humanity. He’s sharing with us the stress we all feel when our prayers are not being answered with the degree of urgency we feel the case merits. On the other hand, he has a genuine concern, that those who profess to be God’s people are actually flouting – breaking – His Law. Now, whatever happens, or doesn’t happen to him personally, surely that situation needs to be addressed! So, in verses 127-128 we read, ‘Because I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold, and because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path.’ That kind of love for the Lord and his word runs through the whole of this challenging psalm. In fact, it will be found everywhere in Scripture. Devotion to the Lord is expressed by a desire to live His way and to please Him. The Apostle Paul prayed for the Christians at Colosse that they might, ‘live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way.’ You’ll find that in Colossians 1:10.

 

Before we leave this servant of the Lord, let’s have a look at verse 124. ‘Deal with your servant according to your love.’ That’s a confident request, rooted in his experience of what God is like. To use a New Testament expression, he knows that ‘God is love’, therefore all His dealings with us spring from that love, are informed and shaped by that love, and are working towards the best possible end for us. At present, it seems He is working along a strange route and to a different timetable, but in the end, all will be well. Remember,

‘Nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’

 

Read Romans 5:1-8 when you can, and let the Holy Spirit bring home to your heart the tremendous truth of God’s love at work for you, even in the most difficult of circumstances.

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Scriptural Delight 17

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Samekh

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G’day! Welcome to Partake and our continuing series “Scriptural Delights!” Here is our seventeenth podcast going through the wonder that is Psalm 119! Today we look at the fifteenth of its twenty-two letters, Samekh, and its verses 113 to 120.

 

113 I hate double-minded men,

but I love your law.

114 You are my refuge and my shield;

I have put my hope in your word.

115 Away from me, you evildoers,

that I may keep the commands of my God!

116 Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live;

do not let my hopes be dashed.

117 Uphold me, and I will be delivered;

I will always have regard for your decrees.

118 You reject all who stray from your decrees,

for their deceitfulness is in vain.

119 All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross;

therefore I love your statutes.

120 My flesh trembles in fear of you;

I stand in awe of your laws.

 

Thanks again for reading, Sandy!

 

Just as he is single-minded regarding God, obeying God and keeping God’s law, so there are others who are unstable and are in two minds about how to act! The Psalmist compares the stability and reliability of God’s word with the instability and fluctuations of those who are unstable in their commitment to God and God alone. Even his own thoughts when he strays, are the product of a mind that is having wayward thoughts. The Psalmist knows that only God’s word and God’s wisdom can provide a solid basis for making decisions, whether moral, private or public. We get the sense that he is fighting a battle within himself, to control his thoughts and thinking patterns – that when his old ways of thinking habitually take over, he hates it. He goes on to cry out to God that God alone is his rescuer, refuge and protector! He cannot rely on his own intellect and man-made wisdom to do that for him, but rather, he relies on God’s word and God’s wisdom to reveal God as his protector and shelter!

 

Then in verse 115, we see that he has a battle not only within himself, but also those who would seek him harm. These people are taunting, tempting and seeking to destroy him. Perhaps they are mocking him for his belief in God’s words and wisdom, which is why he retorts by saying he wants to keep the commandments of his protecting God. With God at his side, the Psalmist knows that no harm can come to him. He has a personal relationship with this God and the Psalmist seeks to follow closely. The taunts of his enemies are nothing and the Psalmist takes refuge in the wisdom of His All-knowing God. His God has promised to sustain him, maintain his life! The Psalmist has put all his hopes in and on this great God whom he desires to know more and more. He knows God’s promises are true, unlike those made by his enemies. God will not forsake him, even when all other people do.

 

When he is in trouble, to whom does he turn? Does he turn to his enemies and surrender? Does he rely on his own wisdom and guile to escape the clutches of those who would do him harm? No! The Psalmist knows that God Himself will deliver him from the clutches of evil, and that by paying regard to God’s decrees and God’s wisdom, there will be an escape for him! He doesn’t want to obey mere man but rather be obedient to this great God whom he loves, cherishes, adores and has promised to deliver him from evil and those who do evil! Those who reject God and God’s ways, will be rejected by God Himself! They are living a life of deceit, double-mindedness and fluctuating morals – God will reject them because they have paid Him no heed. They have relied on their own wisdom and guile to survive – but not for much longer!

 

For the Psalmist knows that this God rules the earth and all those who do wicked and are not in relationship with Him, will be lost forever. The Psalmist knows that it is by his God’s twin actions of mercy and grace that he will be delivered and because he loves this God, he also loves all that God has commanded to be done. He is in fear of this awesome, all-powerful God and is in awe of the wisdom given in the laws and commandments of this God. Those that rely on their own wisdom, own imagination, own power will be as dust in the wind – but those that fear the Lord, accept His wisdom and commandments, will be delivered, rescued and be alive forever – just like the Psalmist says!

 

I don’t know about you, but I face a constant battle to be obedient to God and His wisdom. When we are tempted to sin, we are given two choices – either sin or not sin. We hop from one leg to the other, not knowing which leg to stand on. By continuing to ponder the temptation, we fall into a double-minded state. We can choose to either obey God or disobey Him. Our 3 enemies surround us: satan, the world and our old nature. We are to be over-comers of these enemies and not in our own strength, wisdom or guile. If we put our trust in anybody or anything but God the Holy Spirit to help us overcome the temptation to sin, we will fall into that trap of double-mindedness that the Psalmist talks about. We too will then be jumping from one leg to other, not knowing how to stand. We can overcome our enemies and temptations by asking God the Holy Spirit to help us escape the trap and by also having a reverent fear of God. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom cries the writer of Proverbs. It is a fear borne out of respect rather than dread. It is a fear borne from being in total awe! So lets go, not hopping from one leg to the other or from one thought to other, but rather get to know God’s word intimately, be stable in your thinking and in your fearful desire to please this awesome God of grace and mercy, who delivers, rescues, protects and shelters! And it is in this God, that I take rest in my new nature given to me when I became a Christian and letting Him fight the battles for me. Thank you.

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Scriptural Delight 25

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Conclusion

G’day! Welcome to Partake and the last in our series “Scriptural Delights!” As a way of concluding, let us take a look at what some people have said about this Psalm. We are going to engage with the minds of Augustine, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon and CS Lewis: and they will give us some insight into this magnificent Psalm.

Augustine – “You will not labour long in listening to it, nor will the labour you devote to practicing it be without fruit. As its title indicates, it is a “song of steps.” Steps are either of ascent or descent, but as used in these Psalms, steps signify an ascent. Let us understand them, therefore, as ascending steps, and let us not seek to ascend with our feet and in a carnal manner but as suggested in another Psalm: “He has prepared ascents in his heart, in this valley of tears, in the place which He has fixed” (Psalm 83:6-7). Where then are these ascents? In the heart. From what should we ascend? From the valley of tears. In designating the place, the human tongue somehow fails us; one knows not how to speak of it nor even to think of it. You have previously heard this passage of St. Paul, that “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, and that it has not entered into the heart of man” (1 Corinthians 2:9). If it has not entered into the heart of man, then the heart of man ascends to it. There- fore, if “eye has not seen, if ear has not heard, if it has not entered into the heart of man,” how are we to say where we should ascend? So in his powerlessness to say where, the Prophet says to us: “To the place fixed.”

John Calvin – “Two things which the prophet mainly aims at; the exhorting of the children of God to follow godliness and a holy life; and the prescribing of the rule, and pointing out the form of the true worship of God, so that the faithful may devote themselves wholly to the study of the Law. Along with these he frequently blends promises for the purpose of animating the worshippers of God to live more justly and piously; and, at the same time, he introduces complaints respecting the impious contempt of the Law, lest they should become tainted by bad examples.”

Charles Spurgeon – “This psalm is a wonderful composition. Its expressions are many as the waves, but its testimony is one as the sea. It deals all along with one subject only; but although it consists of a considerable number of verses, some of which are very similar to others, yet throughout its one hundred and seventy-six stanzas the self-same thought is not repeated: there is always a shade of difference, even when the color of the. thought appears to be the same”. He then goes on to say “I admire in this psalm the singular commingling of testimony, prayer, and praise. In one verse the Psalmist bears witness; in a second verse he praises; in a third verse he prays. It is an incense made up of many spices; but they are wonderfully compounded and worked together, so as to form one perfect sweetness. The blending greatly increases the value of the whole. You would not like to have one-third of the psalm composed of prayer – marked up to the sixtieth verse, for instance; and then another part made up exclusively of praise; and yet a third portion of unmixed testimony. It is best to have all these divinely-sweet ingredients intermixed, and wrought into a sacred unity, as you have them in this thrice-hallowed psalm. Its prayers bear testimony, and its testimonies are fragrant with praise.”

CS Lewis : “Everyone has probably noticed that from the literary or technical point of view, it is the most formal and elaborate of them all. The technique consists in taking a series of words which are all, for purposes of this poem, more or less synonyms, and ringing the changes on them through each of its eight-verse sections – which themselves correspond to the letter of the alphabet. In other words, this poem is not, and does not pretend to be, a sudden outpouring of the heart like, say, Psalm 18. It is a pattern, a thing done like embroidery, stitch by stitch, through long, quiet hours, for love of the subject and for the delight in leisurely, disciplined craftsmanship. Now this, in itself, seems to me very important because it lets us into the mind and mood of the poet. We can guess at once that he felt about the Law somewhat as he felt about his poetry; both involved exact and loving conformity to an intricate pattern.”

A friend of mine, Sharona, commented to me about Psalm 119! This is her memory of the great Psalm! Years ago, I gave my boss a Bible. He had been telling me that he had never owned anything but a KJV and didn’t understand it at all. I gave him a hardback NIV pew Bible. He put it in his desk drawer but never looked at it.

One day I went into his office to find him shuffling through the pages of the Bible, clearly looking for something. I asked if I could help and he told me he had been watching a football game and someone held up a sign that said “John 3:16” so he was trying to find out what it said. I helped him find the verse.

Then he closed the Bible, opened it at random and read aloud, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” and I said “Psalm 119:105 !”. He looked at me in shock, and with sheer admiration in his voice said, “Oh, you’re good!”.

Then he closed the Bible, opened it at random and said “Let’s try again!”. Then he read a verse I had no idea where it came from, but it sounded a bit like it could have been Isaiah. I said tentatively, “Isaiah?”. He said, “No, think bullfrog…” And I said “Oh, Jeremiah!” and we both had a laugh about that.

OK, it’s random, but I have a laugh about that every time I think of that happening, him thinking I was such a brilliant biblical scholar, because I knew a verse from Psalm 119.

Thanks for that, Sharona – terrific story!

So lets sum up what each of these witnesses for Psalm 119 offer us in the 21st century.

For Augustine, the Psalm is like a staircase for ascending to a fixed place where God reigns!

For Calvin, the Psalm encourages followers of God to follow godliness, live and study diligently what God has revealed. He also notes how the Psalmist frequently blends promises in order to animate worshippers of God to live more justly and humbly.

For Spurgeon, It is portrays a sacred unity, whereby prayers, testimony and praise intermingle, intermix and form a sweet incense! Psalm 119’s prayers bear testimony, and its testimonies are fragrant with praise.

For CS Lewis it was like an intricate embroidery, patterned, cunningly weaved and a labour of love for Almighty God and His Law.

What is it for you? Have you considered scripture as being like an elaborately intricate staircase to ascend, so that you can get to know your God more, in order to live a life worthy of him as your prayers bear testimony and your testimonies of God’s goodness bear the fruit of praise?

Hopefully as we are now at the end of these series of studies, you will have found a new delight in reading your Bible: all 66 books of it including perhaps some that you have never read before. Ask yourself how you view the Bible, how you read it, why you read it and do you listen to God speaking to you as you do so? Has your attitude and feelings changed towards the Bible as a whole? Do certain parts of the Bible now captivate you more than they did before?

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