Psalm 119:33-40 (Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany—Series A)
“Teach Me. Give Me. Lead Me.”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
February 19, 2017
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Psalm appointed for the day, Psalm 119:33-40. If you wish to follow along, the text is printed on the handout you received with your worship folder.
33Teach me, O Yahweh, the way of your statutes and I will keep it to the end. 34Cause me to understand and I will keep your Torah (Instruction). I will keep watch over it with all my heart. 35Cause me to walk in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. 36Cause my heart to turn to your testimonies and not to unjust gain. 37Cause my eyes to turn away from seeing what is worthless. Keep me alive in your way. 38Establish your word to your servant that you may be feared. 39Cause my reproach to turn away from me which I am afraid of, for your judgments are good. 40Behold, I long for your precepts. In your righteousness, keep me alive.
A businessman was on the train from Washington, D.C. to New York City. He had an early afternoon meeting in the Big Apple. He rummaged through his laptop bag and found a small pocket Bible that his sister had given him for his recent birthday. He started flipping through it and started reading. He soon had a confused look on his face. He turned some more pages and started reading again. Not realizing that he was reading out loud, a passenger on the way to the café car stopped next to his seat and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The businessman looked up, surprised, and said, “How can I unless someone guides me?” (based on Acts 8:30-31).
Have you ever had a thought similar to this businessman? You are reading the Bible and it seems like you just can’t make any sense out of it. Some verses in the Bible are definitely easier to read and to understand than others. The good news is that the overall message of Scripture is clear and understandable by even the very young among us—God created a perfect world. Adam and Eve disobeyed God and fell into sin. Sin brought the punishment of death and hell to all people. God promised to send a Savior. At the right time, the Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer and to die on a cross to save the whole world from sin and death. Jesus rose again from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. He will come again at the Last Day and take all who believe in Him into eternal life in a new creation.
Yet, as clear as the message is, Christians desire to know the holy Scriptures more deeply. We long for more than just head-knowledge. We crave heart-knowledge. As the Collect for the Word prays, “Blessed Lord, You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning. Grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that, by the patience and comfort of Your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life.” It is our desire as Christians to be preserved in the Word, to be kept living in the Word, being both hearers and doers (James 1:22).
The only way this can happen is that if someone guides us. And the only One who is able to guide us into God’s Word is God Himself. As a consequence of the Fall into sin, human beings no long perfectly know God as His wishes to be known. People lost the ability to live by faith in God and to live in perfect love toward one another (Explanation of the Small Catechism Field Test Edition). Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14 ESV). This means that because of our fallen, sinful nature, no one is capable of understanding spiritual things. They seem like foolishness. “Much less will [a person] truly believe the Gospel or agree with it and regard it as truth. For the mind that is set on the flesh [or the mind of the natural man] is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot (Romans 8:7). In a word, what God’s Son says remains eternally true, ‘For apart from Me you can do nothing’ [John 15:5]. Paul says, ‘For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure’ [Philippians 2:13]” (FC:SD II) 
God must teach people His statutes, His commandments, His Instruction. He must reveal to sinners His Word of Law in order to make known their sins. Sinners are unable to receive the Good News of the Gospel if they do not understand their sinful condition and their need for a Savior. Who needs a Savior if there is nothing that they need to be saved from? The purpose of God’s Law is to show us our sins and our dire need to be saved from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil. The purpose of God’s Gospel is to reveal our Savior and to actually give us the forgiveness of sins through that Gospel Word. As Isaiah promised and Christ Himself confirmed, “They will all be taught by God” (John 6:45).
The need for sinful human beings, including all of us here today, to be taught by God, has been met. Our need to be given understanding of His Word of Law and Gospel has been met. By His grace, God has caused us to walk in the paths of His commandments. He has caused our hearts to turn to His written Word. Our eyes have been turned away from worthless things to the saving Gospel of forgiveness and eternal life. The One-of-a-kind Son of God took on human flesh so that He might remove the reproach of our sins from us. The sins of thought, desire, word, and deed that the Law accuses us of have been forgiven by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for us on the cross. Again, as Isaiah prophesied, “The Lord Yahweh will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for Yahweh has spoken” (Isa. 25:8).
God the Son, Jesus Christ, took the sins and guilt of all people upon Himself. He suffered the God-forsakenness of hell on the cross as He shed His holy, precious blood to purchase complete forgiveness for the sins of the world. Christ has taken away your sins. Christ has removed your guilt. You are forgiven. You are clothed with the righteousness of Jesus which preserves you in body and soul to eternal life.
“Neither you nor I could ever know anything about Christ, or believe on Him, and have Him for our Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel [1 Corinthians 12:3; Galatians 4:6]. The work of redemption is done and accomplished [John 19:30]. Christ has acquired and gained the treasure for us by His suffering, death, resurrection, and so on [Colossians 2:3]. But if the work remained concealed so that no one knew about it, then it would be useless and lost. So that this treasure might not stay buried, but be received and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to go forth and be proclaimed. In the Word He has the Holy Spirit bring this treasure home and make it our own. Therefore, sanctifying is just bringing us to Christ so we receive this good, which we could not get ourselves [1 Peter 3:18]” (Large Catechism).
And so it is that the Word of God was written for our instruction (Rom. 15:4). “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16 ESV). By the power of the Gospel Word, God the Holy Spirit has called us to saving faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord. As the redeemed people of God in Christ, we pray in the power and grace of the Holy Spirit as did the Psalmist in our text, “Teach me, O Yahweh, the way of your statutes and I will keep it to the end.” And He teaches us through His Spirit in the Word. He guides us into the truth of the Word, teaching us the commandments of God while empowering us also to do them.
As Christians, we also pray with the Psalmist, “Cause me to understand and I will keep your Instruction. I will keep watch over it with all my heart.” In Baptism, the Holy Spirit has been given to us, “the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD” (Isa. 11:2 ESV). The Spirit opens the Scriptures to us and gives us His wisdom and understanding to discern those things that are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14). He turns our hearts and eyes toward Christ and the forgiveness of sins and the life everlasting. As the Psalmist prayed, “Establish your word to your servant that you may be feared.” And so “[t]hrough the Word [the Spirit] reveals and preaches, He illumines and enkindles hearts, so that they understand, accept, cling to, and persevere in the Word” (Large Catechism).
God the Father through the saving work of Jesus Christ and in the power and grace of the Holy Spirit has met your every need in order that you might be preserved by the Word in saving faith unto life everlasting. God the Holy Spirit Himself is your guide in order that you might come to understand the truth of the Holy Scriptures. He teaches you the ways of God’s commandments, revealing your sins. He turns your hearts and eyes through the gift of saving faith to look to the cross and to trust in the work of salvation Jesus accomplished there for you. Through the Word of the Gospel, you receive forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. In the righteousness of your Lord Jesus, you live by grace through faith as both hearers and doers of the Word. And it is in the power of this Word that you hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life. Amen.
 Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 522–523.
 Ibid., 403.
 Ibid., 404.