As we preach through sections of Psalm 119 this month, we’ll discover a rich vocabulary describing the many ways our speaking God talks to us. Each sermon will provide a chance to unpack the eight different words that are used to describe God’s Word. Today I want to give you a preview of the first two of those words which Justin will cover on Sunday: law and testimonies.
It’s easy for us to miss this one. The gospel is the good news that law-breakers like us are rescued by Christ, who kept the law for us. We know that the law can’t save us, only by grace can we be saved. This can all leave us with a misunderstanding of God’s law.
Here in Psalm 119, law, simply means everything God has to say to us. The law is the way God makes himself known to us; it is everything God makes known to us, including his wisdom and grace and saving acts and commandments and how we are to live as his image-bearers. To live by God’s law means to be a person who is in a relationship with God and becoming more like him. No wonder the Psalmist writes, “Blessed are those…who walk in the law of the Lord!” (Psalm 119:1).
Here’s how Derek Kidner defines law in his commentary:
This is the chief term of all, and is heard most often. Its parent verb means ‘teach’ (verse 33) or ‘direct’; therefore coming from God it means both ‘law’ and ‘revelation’. It can be used of a single command or a whole body of law, especially the Pentateuch, or again of Scripture as a whole. It reminds us that revelation is not simply for interest but for obedience. Cf. James 1:25.
The second verse of Psalm 119 says, “Blessed are those who keep his testimonies.” Why? Think of testimony in a court. The witness speaks of what he or she observed and heard in the moment in question. A witness testifies about the way things are. Similarly, Scripture is God giving testimony about who he is, who we are, what is right and wrong in our world, how to be his people, and more.
Here’s how Derek Kidner defines testimonies in his commentary:
Israel was told to place the book of the law beside the ark of the covenant, ‘that it may be there for a witness (‘ēd) against you’ (Deut. 31:26). The outspokenness of Scripture, with its high standards and frank warnings (e.g. Deut. 8:19, using this root), is implied in this expression, but so too is its dependability, as the word of the ‘faithful and true witness’. Therefore ‘thy testimonies are my delight’ (24).
 Derek Kidner, Psalm 73-150 Commentary (Downers Grove: IV Press) 453.