“How blessed are those whose actions are blameless, who obey the law of the Lord. How blessed are those who observe his rules, and seek him with all their heart, who, moreover, do no wrong, but follow in his footsteps” (Psalm 119:1-3 NET).
Psalm 119 lies almost in the center of our Bibles. The actual middle chapter is the two verse Psalm 117, which is also the shortest chapter in the Bible. Psalm 119 is the longest with 176 verses.
You might wonder why such a long psalm? His psalm was written to be one psalm. We know this from the structure. In Hebrew, this psalm is an acrostic poem. The Hebrew alphabet had 22 letters. This psalm is divided into 22 sections of 8 verses each (giving us a total of 176 verses). In the first section (verses 1-8) each verse begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet: alef. The next eight verses in Hebrew all begin with the second letter, bet. And on it goes through the entire alphabet.
This psalm also has a definite theme: it is talking about God’s word. Various words and phrases are used: “the law of the Lord,” “his rules,” “your precepts,” “your statutes,” “your commands,” “your just regulations”…and these are just the phrases used in the first eight verses in the NET Bible (Psalm 119:1-8). Almost every verse contains something about the importance of God’s word. Most of those who don’t contain something about his promises or his judgments.
What can we learn from this psalm? The need to know God’s word comes through over and over again. The psalmist asks God time and again to “Teach me, O Lord, the lifestyle prescribed by your statutes, so that I might observe it continually” (Psalm 119:33) – or simply, “Teach me your statutes!” In order to follow God’s commands we first need to know them.
Just reading the words of God’s law was not enough; the psalmist realized his need to “meditate” on them. “I will lift my hands to your commands, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes” (Psalm 119:48).
Meditation is not something most Christians spend enough time doing. This word means “focus one’s mind for a period of time for religious or spiritual purposes” and to “think deeply about (something)” (Oxford English Dictionary). Silence usually accompanies a time of meditation. We contemplate, in our minds, what God’s word means. Health practitioners today recognize the value of meditation to be part of a healthy lifestyle.
The psalmist states that he meditates on God’s word throughout both the day and the night, realizing the benefit of God’s word. “O how I love your law! All day long I meditate on it. Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for I am always aware of them. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your rules…My eyes anticipate the nighttime hours, so that I can meditate on your word” (Psalm 119:97-99, 148).
Perhaps the most known verse in this psalm is this: “Your word is a lamp to walk by, and a light to illumine my path” (Psalm 119:105). A companion one is this: “Your instructions are a doorway through which light shines. They give insight to the untrained” (Psalm 119:130).
If we want to walk in the light (1 John 1:7) we must be living by God’s word.
Readings for next week:
10 December – Psalm 115-116
11 December – Psalm 117-118, 121
12 December – Psalm 119
13 December – Psalm 122-127
14 December – Psalm 128-131, 133-134