The Middle Verse of the Bible
by Timothy Cross
It has been calculated that the Bible contains 31,173 verses. Of these 31,173 verses, Psalm 118:8 has been calculated to be the exact middle verse—the exact center verse of the Bible. Psalm 118:8 reads:
It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in man.
Here is a verse which almost encapsulates the message of the whole Bible, for the thrust of the Bible’s message is that we put our trust in God alone—His grace, His providence and His promises—for trust in anyone or anything else will ultimately let us down.
Negatively, Psalm 118:8 is a warning against having a false confidence in any created being. Fallen human beings will let us down, because—as the late Bishop JC Ryle used to say—“the best of men are men at best.” It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in man. Other Scriptures contain a similar warning. Isaiah 2:22, for instance, reads Turn away from man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he? Jeremiah 17:5 is more forceful still, for it states Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his arm, whose heart turns away from the LORD.
Biblical history reveals the glaring faults, foibles and frailties of even great and godly men: Abraham lied; Jacob cheated; Moses could not control his temper; David could not control his lust; Simon Peter had his notorious moment of cowardice, etc. Recent history has shaken the confidence of many in man. Here in the UK we have lived through a parliamentary expenses scandal which has revealed that the politicians we voted into office have not always been characterized by integrity. Many are now disillusioned with politics. Then almost every day we hear about the failings of celebrities—film stars, pop stars, and sports stars—who had been put on a pedestal. They are not immune from temptation and not immune from giving in to temptation and making a shipwreck of their lives. And, truth be told, we cannot really rely on ourselves. Who knows what tomorrow may bring? We can be at ease and full of confidence one day, and then illness, accident or redundancy cuts us down to size, and makes us realize our frailty and vulnerability. God can knock all the human props away from us in a moment. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in man. The next verse is a little stronger in emphasis, for it states It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in princes (Psalm 118:9), that is, to put confidence in the best of men. Psalm 146:3,4 explains: Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no help. When his breath departs he returns to his earth; on that very day his plans perish. The folly of trusting in mortal man!
Positively, Psalm 118:8—the middle verse of the Bible—is an exhortation to put our trust in God—specifically, in “the LORD” —the One Who has revealed Himself in the Bible as the God of creation, the God of the covenant, and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in man. Again, many Scriptures amplify this point. Jeremiah 17:7 states Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. And Psalm 34 ends by affirming that none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.
Trusting in the Grace of God
The Bible exhorts us to take refuge in God’s grace for our eternal salvation. How is a sinner saved? By trusting in God’s grace; by availing him/herself of God’s gracious provision in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Faith of the Bible is distinguished by the fact that salvation is God’s work for us and in us, and not what we do ourselves: To one who does not work but trusts Him Who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness (Romans 4:5). Martin Luther said,
When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: “I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means. For I know One Who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where He is, there I shall be also.”
Trusting in the Providence of God
The Bible also exhorts God’s children to take refuge in God’s providence. Our God is on the throne. He is at the helm of our lives. The circumstances of our lives are not accidental but providential—divinely ordained. We can trust in God’s providence— the providence of God and the God of providence—for He is all-wise, all-loving, and all-righteous. God knows best! This God—His way is perfect (Psalm 18:30). Hence We know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him who are called according to His purpose.
The Christian then abandons and abhors all human confidence. Our strong refuge—our place of eternal safety—is in God Himself. He cannot fail. He does not disappoint, for “His love is as great as His power, and knows neither measure nor end.” He is Almighty God, our refuge from both earthly and eternal danger. As the middle verse of the Bible puts it: It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in man (Psalm 118:8):
All my hope on God is founded
He doth still my trust renew
Me through change and chance He guideth
Only good and only true
Calls my heart to be His own
Pride of man and earthly glory
Sword and crown betray his trust
What with care and toil he buildeth
Tower and temple turn to dust
But God’s power
Hour by hour
Is my temple and my tower.
Last Update: 2013-08-12 16:41