Psalm 119 – 169-176

May my cry come before you, O Lord;

give me understanding according to your word.

This cry is the voice of the human spirit, now rising up to God whether things are good or bad – now I can remain in heartfelt communication with my Lord.  And my cry is – continue to teach me, so I can learn and grow in your Word – with Jesus, by the Spirit, with your word on my lips, speaking and living in your paths, righteous and sanctified and glad to act!

May my supplication come before you;

deliver me according to your promise.

My cry – my appeal – should repeatedly reach the throne of God, say simply ‘Sanctify me, save me, according to your promise, your word, your Son, the promised one, the living Lord Jesus!  Save me in him and in his spirit!’

May my lips overflow with praise,

for you teach me your decrees.

I want my mouth to be overfull and for words to pour out constantly, praising God for this, my prayer, is being answered now [sic.8.6.14, but also 7.11.16].  As I write this, as I read it again in the future, whether times are hard or easy, he is teaching me this pattern of life, his way of doing business.

May my tongue sing of your Word,

for all your commands are righteous.

I want to sing!  To be noisy in your word – for and through the Spirit of Jesus – because your way of ruling is proper, good, upright, effective and able to redeem your people.

May your hand be ready to help me,

for I have chosen your precepts.

I am going to need your help, Lord – but now I understand that to ask in the Spirit is to prophesy – to ‘speak into being’ – to ask with faith is to begin to receive.  We can’t have faith in the wrong things, because faith comes from the Spirit, so what we have been given holy faith to believe, we should pray wholeheartedly for and act upon.  This is to choose God’s precepts rather than our own way of living.

I long for your salvation, O lord,

and your law is my delight.

Being saved is so exciting!  I want to run on in it – because your words and ways fill me with gladness and excitement.

Let me live that I may praise you

and may your laws sustain me.

Yes – this is life to the full – to worship in Spirit and Truth – in understanding of the real state of affairs – and sustained by God’s living law, by the Spirit of Jesus living in us as his word, showing, explaining, drawing our attention.

I have strayed like a lost sheep.  Seek your servant

for I have not forgotten your commands.

And this is the power of God’s law – I strayed – I spent all this time trying to do it – but I have not forgotten your commands because they have continually acted upon me.  As long as God seeks me, holding me on the path through his law, through his Word, his command is to follow.  His command is impossible to resist – his command is the person of Jesus – his person is the greatest command, commanding us to know him by his very presence in the world he created.

Psalm 119 – 161-168

Rulers persecute me without cause,

but my heart trembles at your word.

Even those who would control our lives have no ground – they envy the power of the Word.  I tremble with bodily emotion – with a spiritual sense – of the power of God’s word.  What a thing to say, if you could say ‘There’s only one thing that scares me – God’s Word!’

I rejoice in your promise

like one who finds great spoil.

Yes!  In Jesus we have such cause to be glad.  Here is the treasure in the field, the pearl of great price, the only-real wealth – the true utterance of God, changing us to be more like his Son.

I hate and abhor falsehood

but I love your law.

This is the great spoil!  This is the characteristic of the changed worshipper, finding themselves in love with the law of God.

Seven times a day I praise you

for your righteous laws.

A perfect and complete pattern of life is to worship him for the perfection and goodness of what he has decreed.

Great peace have they that love your law

and nothing can make them stumble.

Our feet can stand strong and steady, our hearts can be certain that this way is the good way.

I wait for your salvation, O Lord,

and I follow your commands.

Now in faith and not impatience – and this waiting accompanies obedience.  This is sanctification – that we should have a heart to change and the willingness to wait or go and let him change us at his own timing.

I obey your statues,

for I love them greatly.

It has become very simple: we now obey out of love.

I obey your precepts and your statues

for all my ways are known to you.

This is all of my life – I’m only obeying your Word, not looking for a path of my own.  I walk along paths that God himself knows and is fond of.  Jesus likes this way, himself.  Amen!

Psalm 119 – 153-160

Look upon my suffering and deliver me,

for I have not forgotten your law.

God cares to look on us and our circumstances – and he doesn’t confuse them.  He knows what is being done to us and what state we are in.  The memory of God’s law is the doing of God’s law: real remembering is enacting, and recalling and meditating on it is doing it – being changed by God’s word.

Defend my cause and redeem me;

preserve my life according to your promise.

What is my cause?  The upright way – and in defending it and proving is, God redeems us.  Through Jesus (who is the absolute example of, and the living truth of, the cause of God) we are redeemed.  His promise has preserved our lives and has preserved my life.

Salvation is far from the wicked,

for they do not seek out your decrees.

How far we have to travel to be in daily salvation!  And how much further when we become lax or passive!  Seeking God’s decrees is vital.  Unless we seek his laws for the time, for our communities, his words for our life and our families and our friends, we will fall behind the running tide of God’s salvation.

Your compassion is great, O Lord;

preserve my life according to your laws.

God’s compassion dissolves this great distance between wicked people and salvation: his laws are alive in Jesus, who preserves life, whose name means Saviour.

Many are the foes who persecute me,

but I have not turned away from your statutes.

Constant prickles of temptation and worldliness are frequent, but tiny.  They alone cannot turn you from the path, the right way.  That comes with the decision to stop seeking.

I look upon the faithless with loathing,

for they do not obey your word.

To grow in faith is to do with obedience.  A faithful friend obeys his conscience, the Spirit, Jesus’ life – all of God’s Word.  So how natural that we will loathe the life of faithlessness.  How horrible to be without God’s presence in life, staying unadvised and unhelped.

See how I love your precepts;

preserve my life, O Lord, according to your love.

And I am amazed at myself!  Not boasting to God, but in amazement and wonder at the passion that arises inside me.  And now, for the third time, life comes from God’s love.  Jesus.

All your words are true;

all your righteous laws are eternal.

Yes – true and applicable, living, responsive, reactive, initial and prioritising.  This is the nature of righteous judgement – to go first, to live by the Spirit, to respond to different situations – and this is what is true about the Word.

Psalm 119 145-152

I call with all my heart; answer me , O Lord,

and I will obey your decrees.

Like Hannah, calling from her sorrow and the Lord speaking in sorrow to Samuel regarding Eli’s sons.  I call – you answer – because we are in a conversation.  This isn’t a deal – ‘I will do what you say if I can hear you say it’, but ‘I will obey your will because I have heard your voice and hearing it shows me how to respond.

I call out to you; save me

and I will keep your statutes.

My cries result in salvation – Romans 10:10 teaches that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, you will be saved – this is living the rich, full life and enjoying your daily salvation – continually confessing that Jesus, the saviour, is one with the Father, and that the Father is a saving God.  To do this is to be obedient in the greatest matter, keeping the first statute of all statutes.

I will rise before dawn and cry for help,

I have put my hope in your word.

My existing hope does not lead me to isolation – I cry for help regularly – daily – for the day to come.  Your word is living, so I can hope in it with my spirit as much as my mind – in fact, often my spirit should be better equipped to deal with a day than my mind, because even if I do not know what is coming, I have confident faith of my Father’s provision.

My eyes stay open through the watches of the night,

that I may meditate on your promises.

And my spiritual eyes even in sleep!  Chewing and digesting the goodness of this diet means sometimes staying awake to study, pray and experience God’s promises being fulfilled.

Hear my voice in accordance with your love;

preserve my life, O Lord, according to your laws.

Perfectly reciprocal relationship here: God longs to hear our voice – this is what he loves – and he desires to preserve us – his laws actually legislate for long and satisfying life.  So when we ask him for these, he will fulfill our requests.

Those who devise wicked schemes are near,

but they are far from your law.

It is distinct and plain, isn’t it?  Sometimes people planning wicked things – and there is not righteous thing outside God’s word and promise in Christ Jesus – are very near by us, in our family, or physically near, even encroaching on us.  But their distance from the correct path means that we shall always leave them behind as we continue on our walk to Jerusalem.  Their schemes are to preserve themselves or improve their lot: our call is to be changed by remaining in Christ’s company.

Yet you are near, O Lord,

and all your commands are true.

Staying close to his word is close to him and the words he says become more and more true as we try them and live them.  Amen!

Long ago I learned from your statutes

that you established them to last forever.

Yes – as a child I knew that your Word is eternal – and now I increasingly know with experience and am beginning to know that lasting forever is a joyous life you have prepared for me too.

Psalm 119 137-144

Righteous are you, O Lord,

and your laws are right.

God’s correctness, goodness and justice inevitably overflow into his spoken instructions – laws – which come from God’s heart, just as our words come from our heart.  The difference is that our heart is changeable, so our words are passing, but God’s heart is faithful and unchanging, so his words are laws, permanent descriptions of what has been, is and will be.

The statutes you have laid down are righteous;

they are fully trustworthy.

All God’s past utterances are equally valuable – he does not delete – and we can reap their benefits at any time, any year, on into the future, without fearing them, knowing all of scripture is God-breathed and good for teaching, rebuking, correcting and making us holy.  The laws to the Jews are like fine wines, laid down and stored, but still so good to drink.  Some might strike us as old-fashioned – but consider how well they stand up, even though they were brewed for very different tastes, written by God to a people far away in time and in a very different culture.  Yet these laws are only the impressions of his own speaking self – his heart – that Jesus summed up in another way – the command to love God and our neighbour without holding back.

My zeal wears me out,

for my enemies ignore your words.

It is exhausting to be zealous, and rightly so, for it should be a drawing out of the depths of ourselves, like exhaustion, seeking with a whole heart, because there are no examples in the world of righteousness and no easy answers.  We cannot simply rest on our brothers’ and sisters’ abilities to find God’s way but must each go direct to God to seek him and his law for our lives.  How does your unchanging character, O God, impress commands into my life and my culture and my daily life?  I have seen how your law pushed into the Jews’ world – now how about mine, today?  Exhausting work!  Zeal is travelling, seeking, walking.

Your promises have been thoroughly tested,

and your servant loves them.

We have only good testimony of God.  His utterance is tried, refined, purified, his Word was refined through the desert, his promises have no weakness or flaw: they are coherent, complete, proportionate, lovely, strong, living and have every appeal to a servant, for they are what we need – not orders but promises, principles rather than simply instructions, so we are free to act for ourselves with full conviction of purpose.

Though I am lowly and despised,

I do not forget your precepts.

No!  It is exactly then, when we do not enjoy the world’s recognition, that we can be most sure of the goodness of God’s word to us.  We are each lowly, despised by the worldly for having these principles, but forgetting them would be the despicable thing.  We must remember through action – by continuing to enact.

Your righteousness is everlasting

and your law is true.

The eternity of God’s character and nature gives integrity to his speech: he alone can claim such a thing.

Trouble and distress have come upon me,

but your commands are my delight.

Oh joy and celebration in trouble and worry – let this be in my life, Lord, for your commands are designed for these times – whether it is difficulty from someone else or our own inconsistent confidence, we can feast on God’s word and his place in our life.

Your statutes are for ever right,

give me understanding that I may live.

They hold the key to eternal and abundant life, and oh, understanding of God’s ways is life indeed!  Being changed by them is really living – a life that will continue beyond the grave.  Ah, Lord God, I long to live with real understanding of your word in me, knowledge of your Son, intimately.

Psalm 119 129-136

Your statutes are wonderful;

therefore I obey them.

God’s words are intended to provoke us to wonder: I say, what is this living voice, this guide, this life?  I cannot comprehend it with my mind, yet I love it – I love him!  I obey out of devoted wonder.  All of your laws are for my good – the prompting of the spirit will always bring good fruit, so do not fear it.

The unfolding of your words gives light,

it gives understanding to the simple.

The light of a clear day and joyful hope – all from an unfolded word.  But it is in unfolding – in the process – that at last I understand – not just knowing about God’s words, but knowing them, ‘gnawing’ them like Petersen, living them – and seeing them in Jesus in the Gospel.

I open my mouth and pant,

longing for your commands.

Yes Lord – the prompting of your spirit and the leading of other believers, I long for them.  Teach me to love your scriptures even more as well.

Turn to me and have mercy on me,

as you always do to those who call on your name.

Satisfy me, O Lord!  Give yourself to me!  I am hungry and I seek real bread.  I want to feast on you in my heart, Lord Jesus – to eat with rejoicing.

Direct my footsteps according to your word;

let no sin rule over me.

In every stepping place – every single footfall – I long to have your spirit close to me, empowering me, checking me, so that I am continually walking in your way.  Then let sin depart from my life, Lord, sanctified in you.

Redeem me from the oppression of men,

that I may obey your precepts.

Yes, God, you take nothing that is not already yours.  You made me, invented me, possessed me, so you can redeem me back.  I wouldn’t live in the worldliness of human culture, I’d rather be bought out placed somewhere I can obey.

Make your face shine upon your servant

and teach me your decrees.

This is the only way for me to learn, Lord – if I see you and experience you.  That is your teaching – the only real teaching – to expose yourself to us and to show us yourself.  Your servant is ready to look up during his labours when he hears his master’s voice.

Streams of tears fall from my eyes,

for your law is not obeyed.

Touch me, then Father, with sorrow for sin and ungodliness.  Let me have this full life that grieves deeply, hopes heartily and acts upon its intentions boldly and clearly.  Only you are God and in you is all life.  Amen.

Verses 121-128

I have done what is righteous and just;

do not leave me to my oppressors.

How can someone claim to be righteous?  Only by God’s indwelling: God cannot leave the new me because he is the new me – I am founded on him and his character.  My once-upon-a-time oppressors, I should pray to be delivered from returning to them.

Ensure your servant’s well-being;

let not the arrogant oppress me.

Well-being relates to our identity as servants of a good master.  We are free of the oppression of the arrogant particularly because the arrogant admit no authority other than themselves- they cannot assume authority over us because we are in a more direct, essential chain of command.

My eyes fail, looking for your salvation,

looking for your righteous promise.

It’s a full-time job, seeking God.  I seek your kingdom on Earth, Lord, your salvation for the people, until day fails and night falls.  If I spent the entirety of every day looking for the application of God’s promise to the day, I wouldn’t be wasting my time.

Deal with your servant according to your love

and teach me your decrees.

To do all this we must embrace the Father’s – the master’s – love for us and let him change us.  What a relief to be taught his will – that we do not have to invent a new way of living, but have a teacher ready and willing to explain to us how we must behave and to help us do it.

I am your servant; give me discernment

that I may understand your statues.

Like a servant entrusted with keys that can unlock his master’s wealth, discernment allows us to understand God’s statutes and then follow them, apply them around us, anticipating his justice, anticipating the natural consequences of people’s actions.  However, ‘no longer do I call you servants’ – John 15:15.  Jesus invited us into a place of understanding we inherit the keys ourselves.

It is time for you to act, O Lord;

your law is being broken.

A bold plea to God – but always relevant – like the inscription on the Clock at St Nick’s church in Nottingham – it is time to seek the Lord.  Always relevant.  Somewhere, in some heart, God’s law is always being broken, but he does desire for us to gain as much a hunger for justice as he has, and does desire for us to ask him to intervene wherever his law is being broken – including in my own self.

Because I love your commands more than gold,

more than pure gold,

This is the security against sin and unrighteousness that the Holy Spirit can give us: a desire for God’s word – a deep love and passion –  that jealously consumes all of our attention, so that there is no spare desire for sinfulness!  What a wonderful prospect – to grow in our desire for God and to become used to his justice until we, eventually, are freed from our pleasure in sin.  Like the hymn: ‘Take away our love of sinning, Alpha and Omega be, End of faith, as its beginning, Set our hearts at liberty.’

and because I consider all your precepts right,

I hate every wrong path.

This is exactly where the scriptures should lead us: a preference for one path, however difficult, is based on considering God’s instruction preferable to every other choice.


First forgive anyone

Mark 11:25 But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your father in heaven will forgive you your sins too.

This is Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ desire to work miracles. It is straightforward for him – grudges and dissatisfaction are obstacles to the expression of God’s power. However deeply buried, unforgiveness will always work out in lack of faith, because unforgiveness is rooted in a selfish world-view. Releasing others and ourselves from grudges is absolutely necessary for a continuing Christian walk, as well as the only way to see God’s power work through our lives.

In fact, it is so much the prioriry that Jesus has changed the conversation here from one about miracles in the world to being about the greatest miracle we can experience: forgiveness of our own sins and justification with God. It’s not in keeping with Jesus’ lessons of a good father or the Hebrew scriptures to launch from this verse into a validation theology – that our salvation is dependent upon our forgiveness of others – but it is fairly observable that unforgiveness presents an experiential obstacle to appreciating our salvation!

Taking Jesus at his simplest here and in the previous verses, all I can see is that he links our ability -or desire – to really believe in God with the degree of intimacy we have with him, and unforgiveness and grudges, regrets and other unhealthy emotions obstruct that intimacy, not because He is unable to surpass them but because we become preoccupied with them! How wonderful that one promised day, we will no longer have to fight to keep our attention on God – and that every believer is in the process of being changed into this place by God’s sanctifying Spirit.

It is our job while here on earth, through God’s Holy Spirit, to present ourselves as living sacrifices, blameless and acceptable – to work out our salvation by engaging with the process by which the Spirit of God changes us to resemble Jesus. So be free of anger and hold no grudges and see God’s power work through you.

Manna on the Ground

Last Sunday, 28th February, I preached this sermon at the 11:00 service at St Mary’s Church Islington, where I’ve been a member of the congregation for about three and a half years.  My theme and scriptures were set by the Ministry Team but I believe I was still obedient to the Father in preaching a message about our need for God, the value of His past blessings and how we can satisfy our spiritual hunger with a real relationship with Jesus.  With more time there’s lots more that I could have said!

You can listen below.  All responses happily received.

Very proud to sit under this man’s teaching today. Well done @martinnoutch

A photo posted by @chezadamos on


Isaiah 32 14-20

The fortress will be abandoned, the noisy city. deserted; citadel and watchtower will become a wasteland forever, the delight of donkeys, a pasture for flocks,

These words of Isaiah are concluding a section in which he promises, in God’s name, that things are going to change! He directly addresses complacency, warning that the very things we can delight in are the most liable to changing – but the rhythm of these chapters has a pattern of renewal, not destruction.  We all need renewal at stages in our life of faith, particularly when we have become too attached to the ‘pleasant fields and fruitful vines’ or have begun to trust in ‘citadel and watchtower’ instead of in the person of God.  Things can change in an instant!

till the Spirit is poured on us from on high, and the desert becomes like a fertile field and the fertile field seems like a forest.

Jesus’ ministry was the long pouring out of the Spirit of God.  Although he promised his disciples that the Helper would come ‘after’ him, he himself, ‘filled with God’s spirit’, had brought God near and their awakening faith – which is the gift only of God’s spirit – proved that they had begun to receive.  This also has the sense that times of renewal and over-turning will necessarily end in a pouring-out of God’s spirit upon us.

The Lord’s justice will dwell in the desert, his righteousness live in the fertile field.

Reading this today I saw the person of the Lord’s justice, Jesus, heading out into the desert to dwell there before his ministry and I heard a voice like is written so many times in the Gospel saying, ‘As it is written…’  I’m sure that as he went, consciously choosing to and unconsciously fulfilling all the prophecies made about him, Jesus would have had these words of Isaiah in his head. The desert is easy to recognise – where is the fertile field?  Well, Jesus loved to talk in the metaphors of a farmer.  He called himself a sower in a field.  Was he choosing to align his behaviour with an ancient prophecy?  That seems like inspired marketing to me.

The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.

Every cycle of disruption and calming does have permanent effects in our character, in the same way that every storm that bends the branches of a tree leaves that tree stronger in places, barer in others.  I’m increasingly aware of ‘renewal’ cycles, which I think happen constantly at different scales in our lives.  At this time of year I love to attend the Renewal conference in South London, where I personally challenge myself to accept disruption of my habits of sung worship – and danced worship – to receive a lasting confidence and quietness.  I can attribute significant changes in my character and my way of life to going to Renewal like this in the last few years and I can’t wait to be there on January 30th.


My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.  Though hail flattens the forest and the city is levelled completely, how blessed will you be, sowing your seed by every stream and letting your cattle and donkeys range free.

God does not want us to bind ourselves up in the ‘security’ of wealth, you see.  We are less able to sow, less able to care for our responsibilities – whether animals, the natural world, communities or individuals.  He will disrupt us.  We can accept that and grow to depend on him more or be left like those barren ruins.  I don’t think this a threat from the prophet – he is simply explaining a truth about the process of change.  His inspiration, his insight, as a gift from God, should prompt us to obedience and a keenness to live in reality, but with an insider’s knowledge of what is to come.  Roll on the new year!