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Psalm 119

A guest blog post from Ken Read:

Scripture for Reading: Psalm 119 (v.1-16,45,105,129-130)
Theme: Loving the Law
Song: “Trust and Obey”
“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” So begins the famous poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning describing romantic love. Psalm 119 is a similar love poem, celebrating mystic romance with the Word of God. For 22 stanzas, each with eight verses, and each line within the stanza beginning with the same Hebrew letter, the worshiper “counts the ways” that he loves the Law. Perhaps each of the lines represents the eight different words for the Law that are employed throughout. In each stanza, these words come in a different order.

Nothing less than the longest psalm, the longest chapter in the Book of books, could convey the magnitude of devotion to the Law of God that the psalmist feels. Indeed, the Word of God has been refined seven times. (Psalm 12:6) It is the whole alphabet, it is all the synonyms, it is poetry, and it deserves the highest expression of human words.

This is not a love poem to be read lightly and glossed over. It is devotional material meant to be studied, meditated on, and recited as prayer. But as you reflect, be prepared for the results: brokenness, righteousness, joy, painful stretching, maturity and more! If you are ready to experience an ever-deepening love for the Word of God, read on! Selah.

v Choose one verse from this Psalm, and write it down on a slip of paper to carry with you throughout the day, reviewing it as you have occasion. By the end of the day, see if it isn’t engrafted on your heart. Share your verse with your worship partner. Pray for each other to find joy and wisdom from meditating on the Word of God today.

For further reflection and study:

Aleph. The first three verses provide an introduction to the rest of the psalm. Blessings are promised to those who follow the law. Then the writer speaks to God personally (note the use of “I” and “you”).

Who among us has not fallen short of the glory of God as revealed in the Law? (see Romans 3:19-20) We will never be perfect; we know that. Yet the path of holiness (and of happiness) is one of giving no less than absolute obedience to the authority of the Word of God. This psalm celebrates the blessings promised to those whose hearts are fully set on following God'’ commands.

Did God give us the Ten Commandments to make us miserable? A common misconception is that God must have looked down on us to find out what we most enjoy doing, and then told us to cut it out, or else!

But in truth, obeying those commandments is the way to happiness and to guilt-free living. Sin provides a temporary pleasure (Titus 2:12; Hebrews 11:25), otherwise we would not be tempted to do it. But in reality, every sin is self-destructive.

Likewise, none of the commandments are bad for you, but they add to your physical, emotional and spiritual (eternal) health. If God made us (and he did), and he loves us (and he does), doesn’t it make sense that he knows how to make us happy? Upon that realization my heart cries out with the psalmist, “Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!” (v.5). God’s law does not lead to slavery, but to freedom (see v.45).

Beth. These verse are intended not so much to be analyzed or taken apart as they are to be celebrated and lived! When the Word is our delight we have true riches indeed, and when we have shaped our living by the laws of God, our ways become pure, with a self-control and power for living that is supernatural and wise.

Look at the psalmist’s secret to success. Look at his desire (I seek you with all my heart, v.10). Look at his wisdom (I have hidden your word in my heart, v.11). Look at his willingness to learn (teach me your decrees, v.12). Look at his disciplined speech (I recount all the laws, v.13). Look at his eternal values (I rejoice in your statutes, v.14). Look at his time management plan (I meditate on and consider your ways, v.15). Look at his delight (in God’s decrees) and his discipline (I will not neglect your word, v.16).

One of the most well-known verses in this psalm is v. 105: ”Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” I remember hearing about this verse all the way back in junior church. Imagine how dark it could get at night before the days of street lights. Trying to walk a rough path in the dark would be extremely difficult if you did not have a lamp. But those early lamps were not like high-beam headlights, illuminating the path for hundreds of feet down the road; they would give light for just the next step. I cannot know what the future will bring, and there are no promises for tomorrow. But I can obey today what I know to be right, based on the word of the Lord, and trust Him to illumine the next step when it comes. That is the adventure that we call the Christian life!


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