The author of Psalm 119 is unknown, but there is a Jewish tradition that King David wrote it to teach his son, Solomon, the Hebrew alphabet. (Remember that Psalm 119 consists of 22 stanzas -- one stanza for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and within each stanza, each of the eight verses begins with that letter.) No one knows for sure who wrote the psalm, but we do know that all of Psalm 119 is a wonderful exaltation of God’s Word. It not only teaches the alphabet of Hebrew letters, it teaches the alphabet of the spiritual life.
Last time we looked at the first stanza where each verse begins with the Hebrew letter “aleph”, and we saw how important it is to always obey God’s Word. In the second stanza (using the Hebrew letter “beth”), we learn that those who read and obey God’s Word will be delighted in His Word. Here’s what the psalmist wrote.
9. How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word.
10. With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
11. Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.
12. Blessed are You, O Lord;
Teach me Your statutes.
13. With my lips I have told of
All the ordinances of Your mouth.
14. I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
As much as in all riches.
15. I will meditate on Your precepts
And regard Your ways.
16. I shall delight in Your statutes;
I shall not forget Your word.
In this stanza, the psalmist asks how it is possible to live a pure life -- a relevant question for our day and age, although it seems that few have interest in finding an answer. But if you want the answer, and I hope you do, the answer is right here in Psalm 119:9-16. A person lives a pure life by living according to the Word of God. The psalmist goes on to tell us how he, personally, has practiced living according to God’s Word: he has sought God with all his heart, meditated on His Word, shared His Word with others, and found joy in living by the Word of God. To the psalmist, God’s Word is a treasure. He takes delight in God’s Word, and stores it in his heart because he is determined not to forget it. He has high regard for God, His Word, and His ways.
Here, in a nutshell, is the secret to living the Christian life. Exalt God’s Word in your life. Have a high regard for God’s Word and what you learn from it. Joyfully take God’s Word as the rule of your life and feed on it every day. If you see God’s Word as the treasure it is, you will want to keep it in your mind -- mull it over -- memorize it. You will take such delight in God’s Word (His commandments, statutes, precepts, ordinances, and testimonies) that you will be eager to share it with others.
May I ask, what is the greatest treasure in your life? That would be the thing you delight in most, the thing you talk about most, the thing that is always on your mind. The psalmist begs God, Do not let me wander from your commandments. Perhaps that should be our prayer every morning as we wake up and begin our day. That heartfelt prayer, along with a bit of time spent in God’s Word at the start of the day, could make a huge difference in the way we live and relate to God and others throughout the day. As we make His Word our priority and live by what it says, we will be delighted in God’s Word and we will treasure it. And the psalmist has shown that those who delight in His Word live pure lives in His sight.
May you find delight in His Word,
Over the summer, I’ve been sharing with you some of my favorite Psalms, pointing out what they teach about God, and what they call us to do in response. Now I would like to spend some time on Psalm 119, the longest of all the psalms. Psalm 119 consists of twenty-two stanzas, corresponding to the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet and all eight lines of each stanza begin with the same Hebrew letter.
The subject of the entire psalm is God’s word. It contains the psalmist’s prayers and meditations upon God’s word, expressing his love for God’s word and his desire to remember and live by God’s word. The psalmist uses ten different Hebrew words to refer to the Word of God:
word: a general term for God’s revelations (The 10 commandments are the “Ten Words.”)
law: God’s method of instruction and guidance
testimonies: direct revelations of God’s will, expressing His standard for conduct
way: the path of life marked out by God’s law
precept: poetical word expressing God’s commands
statute: written words of the law
commandment: a definite, authoritative command of God
judgment: a judicial decision of God -- a binding ordinance
ordinance: a regulation for living
saying: a reference to God’s promises or general word
Carefully reading Psalm 119 gives us the opportunity to learn more about God by learning about His word. Lets take just one stanza at a time, that will be a stanza every other week, and see what we learn about God and His Word.
We will begin with the first stanza, verses 1-8. These verses each begin with the Hebrew letter Aleph. I have entitled this stanza, Always Obey God
1. How blessed are those whose way is blameless,
Who walk in the law of the Lord.
2. How blessed are those who observe His testimonies,
Who seek Him with all their heart.
3. They also do no unrighteousness;
They walk in His ways.
4. You have ordained Your precepts,
That we should keep them diligently.
5. Oh that my ways may be established
To keep Your statutes!
6. Then I shall not be ashamed
When I look upon all Your commandments.
7. I shall give thanks to You with uprightness of heart,
When I learn Your righteous judgments.
8. I shall keep Your statutes;
Do not forsake me utterly!
This stanza speaks of the blessing of keeping God’s perfect law. Verses 1 and 2 tell us God blesses those who obey His law and testimonies. In fact, the reason God has revealed His will to mankind through His Word is so we might obey (119:4) and be blessed (119:1-2). Notice that we have responsibility toward God’s Word if we expect to receive His blessing -- we must obey.
God has given us his law (119:1), testimonies (119:2), ways (119:3), precepts (119:4), statutes (119:5,8), commandments (119:6) and righteous judgments (119:7) to meet our basic human needs. He has given us the whole counsel of His Word for our own good and has created us with a need for His Word. We need it so we may know His will, obey, and receive His blessings. Read Psalm 119:1-8 again and notice the words which reveal our responsibility toward God’s Word. Which of these describe attitudes or actions that are already yours? Do you walk in the law of the Lord and observe His testimonies? Do you seek Him with all your heart and walk in His ways? Do you keep His statutes? Do you read His commandments carefully? Do you learn them and thank Him from your heart?
How can any of us learn and obey God’s Word and be blessed if we do not take the time to read, study, and treasure it in our hearts? I know we live in a busy and stressful world that is full of distractions. But as Christians we cannot risk neglecting God’s Word. It is as important as the air we breathe and the food we eat. God’s Word is the sustenance of our spiritual lives. There can be no spiritual life without the Word. Sadly, I do not believe that it is a natural human urge to seek the Lord and His Word with all our heart. I believe we all have a "yearning disability" when it comes to seeking God with all our hearts. But as we take tentative steps to get to know Him, He blesses us with hearts that long for more....and more.
When I first gave my life to the Lord I was a young mom with three small children. The only way I could be sure I would have time in the Word every day was to get up early, in the dark, and tiptoe out to the living room with my Bible. It wasn't easy, but I did it anyway. One of the first blessings God bestowed on me was a fire in the fireplace on cold winter mornings. My husband, who was not yet a believer, began to build a fire for me every night so all I had to do was light a match and enjoy as I spent precious time with the Lord. It was my first lesson of a light in the darkness. It was a parable of what God would do for me as I remained faithful in His Word. It made me want to be more faithful! As I look back on my life, I treasure those early mornings alone with my Lord And Savior. That time with Him, in His Word, helped me through many rough days and added joy to even more.
I hope you are opening opportunities for God to bless your life through searching His Word daily and striving to obey. If not, He invites you to begin now, "Let us rise early and go to the vineyards; let us see whether the vine has budded and its blossoms have opened, and whether the pomegranates have bloomed. And there I will give you My Love" (Song of Solomon 7:12).
I have been involved in Disciplers since 1987, as a discussion leader, teacher, writer, and now as director. I am profoundly committed to the stewardship of this ministry which God has entrusted to me for a time. God’s word is the chief joy of my life. I cherish my personal time in the word, and I am filled with gratitude to be able to share His word with you, my fellow disciples in Christ.