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The Bible is not like any other book. It was written by human authors, but at the same time is the result of the miraculous work of God (2 Timothy 3:16). The Holy Spirit guided the authors in their work. The result is that the Bible is the Word of God. We must always approach the Bible in this frame of mind, and particularly with prayer. We consider such a prayer in Psalm 119:18 Open my eyes.
1. The need for divine teaching
The prayer ‘Open’ indicates that our eyes are closed. Scripture often uses the language of blindness to express the spiritual condition of people. That is true before conversion – we are unable to understand the truth revealed in Scripture. Regarding the things of God, we ‘cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned’ (1 Corinthians 2:14). It can also apply after conversion – we remain limited (2 Peter 3:16) and our sin clouds our understanding, hindering our engagement with the Word. We need divine teaching.
2. The agent of divine teaching
The very fact this is a prayer shows the agent of instruction is the Lord. From the wider context of Scripture we can say that it is particularly the role of the Holy Spirit, as the channel of revelation. He gave the revelation (2 Peter 1:21) and because of our limits and sins we need him as our Illuminator. The promise of John 16:13 ‘he will guide you into all truth’ applies to the apostles but in a secondary sense to all believers. We need a divine teacher:
Only God fully understands the ‘wonderful things’ (1 Corinthians 2:11)
Only God can apply truth to the heart. He graciously enables understanding and an appropriate response of faith, repentance, awe and rejoicing, beyond human power.
3. The nature of divine teaching
The Spirit’s ministry relates to the written revelation, ‘your law’, covering the entirety of the Scriptures. The Spirit illumines the word he has already given, enabling us to understand and submit to God’s truth. When Psalm 119 was written, much of God’s Word was still to be given. The apostles were the final channels of God’s revelation. With their passing, the age of new revelation has passed and we are not to seek fresh revelations, but to give ourselves to the study of the Word given. The result of the Spirit’s work is love for the Word (v97).
4. The content of divine teaching
What are the ‘wonderful things’ we seek to see in ‘your law’?
- Concerning God: God’s law is primarily a revelation of himself. He tells us the kind of God he is – sovereign, holy, gracious, compassionate, a Trinity.
- Concerning ourselves: we need a proper understanding of humanity as created, fallen, deserving judgment, capable of a new life of obedience by God’s grace.
- Concerning salvation: a gracious God provides salvation, foretold in the Old Testament and fully revealed in the New, salvation through the work of God’s Son incarnate.