A Brief Introduction to Psalm 119

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The writer, considered to be King David or Ezra, communicates his delight in the Word of God. Psalm 119 is the single longest chapter in the Bible. It consists of twenty-two sections each of eight verses. Each of these twenty-two sections features a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. For instance, each of the eight verses in the first section begins with the Hebrew letter ‘Aleph’. Each of the verses in the next section begins with the Hebrew letter ‘Beth’. And so it goes through the entire Hebrew alphabet.

While Psalm 119 deals with many aspects of the Word of God, two major themes materialize more predominately than any others and they are:

·      Why we should value the Word of God and;

·      How we are to respond to the Word of God.

Why should we value the Word of God?

The psalm gives two major answers.

1.     We are to value the Word of God because of what it is.

This psalm uses ten names for the Word of God: word, law, saying, statutes, way, commandments, path, testimonies, precepts, and judgments.

These words should communicate to us at the very least that God’s Word is more precious than words can convey. It is God himself speaking. It is God’s law for our lives. It is God testifying of Himself. It is God providing guidance for our walk in this world.

Several illustrative images also communicate the importance of the Word of God to us. The psalmist compares the Word of God to water (v. 9), a treasure, (vv. 14, 72, 127, 162), a companion and counselor (v. 24), a song (v. 54), honey (v. 103), light (vv. 105, 130), and a heritage (v. 111).

How valuable are these things? What would life be like without them? They are meant to be a trailer attraction to the grand value of the Word of God!

2.     We are to value the Word of God because of what it does.

It gives us joy (vv. 1–2). The word ‘blessed’ means ‘happy’. The psalmist is, therefore, declaring something of significant importance and that is, our happiness is tied to valuing the Word of God!

Unfortunately, the devil has succeeded in convincing most of us that the opposite is true. We see God’s commands as being damaging to our happiness, but just the opposite is the case. The key to happiness is to dwell in God’s Word and to let His Word dwell in us.

The word of God produces cleansing (vv. 9, 11). The Word of God is the agent the Spirit of God uses to renew our hearts, which leads to Salvation (Ephesians 5:25–27), and He continues to use that same cleansing power in our lives. By that Word, the Holy Spirit shows us what pleases God and what doesn’t.

The Word of God gives us direction (v. 105). We live in a world that is broken and often dark, this leads to so many offers of paths that will promise a life of fullness and satisfaction, but these promises always under deliver and ultimatley leave us empty. If we are careless about the paths we choose, we will invite misery and ruin. The Word of God provides the direction we need. It is like a light shining in a dark place (2 Peter 1:19).

Lastly, the Word of God gives understanding (v. 130). Our walking and understanding are inseparably linked. In addition to giving light on our path, the Word of God enlightens our minds so we can discern what we ought to do that is pleasing to God and will ensure joy to the full.

How then should we respond to the Word of God?

Studying it

Firstly, we should study it diligently. God’s purpose in giving his Word to the world was to point us to Him. We are, therefore, to seek Him through his Word (v. 2), and this seeking is to be done wholeheartedly (vv. 2–10). We are to ‘look’ into his Word (v. 6) and to learn its judgments (v. 7).

Obeying it

Secondly, we should obey it. The duty of obedience is set forth in these verses in several ways: walking in the law of the Lord and in his ways (vv. 1, 3), keeping his testimonies (vv. 2, 129), and taking heed to our ways to make sure they correspond to the teachings of God’s Word (v. 9).

Keeping it

Thirdly, we will hide it in our hearts. This means we are to store it in our minds and treasure it in our affections with the confidence that it will strengthen us against sin (v. 11).

Declaring it

Fourthly, we will declare it to others (v. 13). Studying the Word of God will cause our hearts to burn within us for a passion for God and His Glory (Luke 24:32) in such a way that we won’t be able to keep it to ourselves. We will be compelled to share its message of salvation with those who don’t know Christ and to discuss its teachings with fellow Christians.

Rejoicing over it

Finally, we will constantly rejoice over the Word of God and delight in it (vv. 14–16). We must not miss the connection the psalmist makes in these verses. The rejoicing of verse 14 and the delighting of verse 16 are connected by the meditating of verse 15. As we reflect on what the Word of God is and what it does, we will find the rejoicing and delight to be inescapable.

Reflection –

·      Read Jeremiah 23:29, Hebrews 4:12 and James 1:21–25. What images are used in these verses  for the Word of God?

·      In what ways would you like to respond better to the Word of God?

 

Jolindi van der Merwe