Psalm 119:24 says, “Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.”
I was raised in churches that had “testimony” time. It usually consisted of people recounting their “love for the Lord” and “how much God had done for them”. Sometimes it was a flesh show and sometimes those stories were true testimonies of God’s grace.
When I read the Psalms, there are multiple places that talk about the testimonies of the Lord as being teachers, counselors etc. The people of the Lord had testimony time too!
This is huge. It’s huge because these “testimonies” are stories, historical recountings of God’s activity in people’s lives. Psalm 119:24 says that these testimonies are a delight and counselor. That means these stories of God’s grace bring joy and teach/instruct/guide.
The Psalmist must mean the stories of the Scriptures and perhaps other stories not in the Scriptures they have heard around the fire at night of how God had worked on someone’s behalf. I’m sure they all recall the Exodus and the crossing of the Jordan. I’m sure the testimonies of Jericho ring throughout the tents. I’d bet someone recounts how Achan stole, lied and God’s wrath came on the entire camp until justice was done and sin atoned for. What about the tragic testimony of Samson? What about the amazing story of Ehud? How about old Jeremiah’s faithfulness? What about the perseverance of Isaiah’s ministry of preaching destined to fall on deaf ears?
These stories are vital to our faith. Romans 15:4 says, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
These stories of Scripture and the stories of God’s grace in our friends and family’s lives serve to teach us how to act, persevere and hold out hope.
Something that can kill story and the hope that comes with it is “sound bite” and “life verse” thinking. Don’t misunderstand. There are single verses that minister great grace. I’m not knocking that. Psalm 84:11 is a foundation stone for me. What I mean is that I have to get past the verses and get the narrative into my soul. I have to read my bible as the story it is. It’s a true story. It’s a historical story. But it’s a story. The Lord is the best story teller. It’s in story that we have our imaginations captured and are drawn into the story of reality, the gospel.
The reason C.S. Lewis wrote stories in the Chronicles is because they capture us and instruct us in the whole not just a single verse.
In “The Silver Chair” Jill and Eustace miss the ruined city because they are too focused on their physical discomfort to see they were actually IN the ruined city. They had rather go to be eaten by giants because they let physical discomfort cloud Aslan’s instruction. If focused on “soundbites” I would miss the point of the narrative. That point is for me to see what they did and make the connection to me and my journey. Soundbites just don’t do that. Stories do.
If I focus on a “life verse”. I may miss the forest for the trees. I desperately need to see the entire forest of God’s great landscape of purpose. It helps me to locate my life in his narrative of the gospel. This produces great joy and great hope.
Let God’s testimonies counsel and instruct, and may they be the delight to your heart.
Imitate what you learn in the stories that is good and God honoring. Run from what you learn in the stories is poor and God dishonoring. Be captivated and moved by the stories and run your race with that captivated joy.
May the Lord’s testimonies bring you joy and great instruction.