Psalm 119: 176 Reasons to Love God's Word

August 16, 2009 Series: Songs of Summer | A Study of Psalms

Topic: Old Testament Passage: Psalm 119:1–119:3

Psalm 119

August 16, 2009

Sam Ford

 

Psalm 119

As we continue our Songs of Summer series, we’re going to look at Psalm 119..  This is the Psalm that many of us begin to read only to realize that as they turn the page three times it has 22 sections and 176 verses.   Psalm 118 is the shortest Psalm and chapter in the Bible, while Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm and longest chapter in the Bible.  As many poems do, this song as has a unique structure too it, it is a Hebrew acrostic where each consecutive line begins with the same Hebrew alphabet letter.  Though it doesn’t translate as such into English, the Song consists of 22 different sections (one for each letter) with eight verses each for a grand total of 176.  This Song was not only intended to be heard and experienced, it was intended to be read and memorized. 

 

The History

The writer is unnamed and many, perhaps by default, attribute the Psalm to David who wrote no less than 73 (of the 150) different Psalms that are attributed to him.   Another option, however, is to attribute it to a scribe named Ezra.  After the death of King Solomon, David’sSon,Israelwas divided into a Northern (Israel) and a Southern Kingdom (Judah).  After a series of bad kings, the nation ofAssyriaconquered the northern kingdom and took Jews into exile.   Eventually, the southern kingdom was also conquered by a Babylonian king named Nebuchadnezzar.  Over time,BabylondestroyedJerusalemand the temple, the center of worship for the Jews.  Most ofJudeawas then colonized by non-Jews. 

 

Cyrus, king of Persia, then conquered Babylon.  The book of Ezra records a fulfillment of a prophesy in Isaiah when they were under Assyria that said, “ who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose’; saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’  Cyrus decided to rebuild the temple and began to send Jews back to do just, only to stop the building when the locals sent him a nasty letter trying to scare him.  The next King arose, Darius, found the original decree and finished the temple after him.  The next King of Persia, Artaxerxes, contacted a scribe named Ezra who was as the Bible describes, “a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the LORD the God of Israel had given…” Ezra was a Bible scholar, preacher, teacher, and all around Bible Thumper.  And Artaxerxes wanted to send him back to rebuild Jewish culture and to teach those who didn’t know.  

 

Nehemiah 

A few years later, Artaxerxes sends Nehemiah, his Jewish cupbearer, to rebuild the walls of the city ofJerusalem of which the temple is the center of.  He met intense opposition from non-Jew and from the Jews but completed the rebuilding. 

 

After the completion of the wall, Nehemiah brought in Ezra tin order to read the Law of Moses (Sctipure) aloud to the people.  It is, perhaps, the first place where we see anyone speaking from a pulpit.  Nehemiah 8.4-8  4 And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand, and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand. 5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. 6 And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 7 Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. 8 They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. (Basically, he preaches a sermon and a bunch of priests make sure everyone understands what was said in small groups).

 

Ezra

Although we don’t really know, it is probable that Ezra penned Psalm 119 (if he did) around this time.   Though the King David is described as a man after God’s own heart, and though he wrote some amazing songs, Ezra is described as a man of God’s Word, a man who loved God’s word, studied God’s word, and aimed to teach God’s Word—and he experienced blessing because of it.  Ezra 7.9-10, 8 And Ezra came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. 9 For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. 10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.  

 

God’s Word as Identity

This man, who loved God’s Word, wrote the longest Psalm, and longest chapter in the Bible with ONE theme: God’s Word.  He mentions God’s Word in nearly every verse in this Psalm.  And as he leads Israel in reestablishing its identity, after years of captivity, he writes a song that comprehensively expresses the difference between someone who worships God and those who don’t.  God’s Word shapes not only our actions, it also gives us words to speak, governs our responses, takes captive our thoughts, restrains our emotions, clarifies our perceptions, demands our trust, and even commands our attitudes.

 

 

God’s Word & Sin

Is that how you approach God’s Word?  I doubt it. We don’t take the Scriptures seriously enough and, as a result, we’re overwhelmed by a culture of chaos, living in communities that are confused about their identities, surrounded by families without guidelines, amongst individuals (of which some of us are) without a clear sense of how to make decisions. 

 

But ignoring God’s Word, disbelieving parts of God’s Word, or flat out rejecting God’s Word is more than just a bad decision—it is Sin.  We want to define sin many other ways, as various destructive behaviors, certain indulgences, or even ‘selfishness”.  But it is probably better to define sin in the way Scripture does—lawlessness…or rejection of God’s Law, his Word, his precepts, his testimonies, his commandments, his way. That is what happen in the garden of Eden: 

 

  • God’s Word said you will die.  Satan’s Word said, “you will not die.”   What is true?  Both Adam and Eve decided to doubt the truthfulness of God’s Word and conduct an experiment of sorts.

 

  • God’s Word said, it was morally right for Adam and Eve not to eat from the fruit of that one tree (Gen. 2:17).  Satan’s Word said that it would be right to eat of the fruit.  What is right?  Adam and Eve trusted their own evaluation of what was right, good, and just rather than accepting God’s definitions of right and wrong.  

 

  • God’s Word said I am creator, your are creation, and you need me.  Satan said, you can define yourself apart from God.  “Who am I?”  Adam and Even succumbed to the temptation to “be like God” (Gen. 3:5).

 

A Warning

Here is my prayer—that we will believe God’s Word,  that we will choose God’s Word, that we will trust God’s Word, that we will dwell in God’s Word, that we will meditate on God’s Word, not out of duty, selfish grain, for men’s approval, but out of need, out of desire, out of a hunger that is only satisfied as we feast on God’s Word

 

Here is my warning—My sermon isn’t going to be real complicated, I am going to simply go through Psalm 119—176 verses in 30 minutes or less.  We must be careful reading this and thinking…I’m don’t feel that way…I can’t be like that.  Let us read this and be stirred by Ezra’s desire, not his arrival.  Let us imitate him as if it depends on us but trusting we are made sufficient by Jesus…because we suck.

 

Psalm 119

v. 1-3 MY WALK

       Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!

     2     Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart,

3          who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways!  What does your walk look like?  I always hated that question because I didn’t know how to answer it.  Perhaps a better question is who are you walking WITH, God, someone else, alone? Are you walking IN the way of the World or in the WAY of God? Did you know there was a difference?  

 

v. 9-11 MY PROTECTION

9     How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.

     10     With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!

     11     I have stored up your word in my heart,  that I might not sin against you.

How do you guard your purity?  What does it mean to store up the word of God?

 

v. 24   MY WISDOM

     24     Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.  Daleth

Is the Bible the first or last place you turn to in making decisions?

 

v.  30-32  MY CHOICE

     30     I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me.

     31     I cling to your testimonies, O Lord; let me not be put to shame!

     32     I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!

Look at the verbs—there is a volitional choice involved in godly living.

 

v. 36-37 MY REPENTANCE

36     Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!

 37     Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.

Repentance is not just stopping a behavior, it is turning from perversion to purity.

 

v. 47-48 MY LOVE

47     for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love.

48     I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.

Do you love Scripture?  Do you delight in Scripture? When was the last time you meditated on his Word?

 

v. 53 MY ANGER

     53     Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your law. Heth

Does the rebellion of the world bother you?

 

v. 63 MY FRIENDS

      63     I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts.

Who do you spend your time with?  Do you ever talk about spiritual things with them? Can you? Does the Word of God, do the ways of God ever come up in conversation?  Why not?

 

v. 67-71 MY SUFFERING

     67     Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.

     71     It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. YodH

What if suffering is simply a way of leaning God’s Words and ways…of knowing God?  Do you want God enough to embrace affliction as a means to get him?

 

v. 73 MY IDENITY – as Creation dependent on God

     73     Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.

 

v. 81 MY HOPE

81     My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word.

 

v. 89 MY TRUST

     89     Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. Mem

Do you accept that God’s Word is timeless, that is isn’t an archaic book meant for previous cultures but not relevant for today? Is the Word of God living or dead?

 

v. 98-100 MY UNDERSTANDING

98     Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.

     99     I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.

     100     I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.

 

v. 105 MY DIRECTION

105     Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.  Samekh

We either walk in darkness or walk in light.  Many of us would rather walk in darkness for fear of our sin being found out.  But, as a result, we never find our way out.

 

v. 120 MY FEAR

120     My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments. Ayin

God’s Word has mean promises, but it also has many condemnations.  Why should I fear anything in this world above God?

 

v. 127 MY MONEY

127     Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold.

Money, perhaps more than anything, cause people to wander away from God’s Word.

 

v. 136 MY EMOTIONS

     136    My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law. Tsadhe

 

v. 140 MY PRACTICE

     140     Your promise is well tried, and your servant loves it.

 

v. 147, 148, 167 MY COMMITMENT

     147     I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.

     148     My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.      Resh

164     Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules.

 

v. 160 MY REALITY (despite how I feel or think)

     160     The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever. Sin and Shin

Does God’s Word dictate my reality regardless of what I feel, think, or experience?

 

v. 161 MY AWE

     161     Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of your words.

 

How can we get there?

We read and hear these words and realize that we don’t feel the same as Ezra.  The only verse that sounds a bit like me is the first part of the last verse: I havegone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant.  How can Scripture become my delight?  We try to make this way too complicated as a means of avoiding doing what we know is DIFFICULT but RIGHT.  The fact is, we CHOOSE to delight ourselves in many things—not just sinful.  We choose to spend our time, we choose to meditate on certain things, we choose to seek enjoyment in food, television, sports, recreation, whatever.  But the Bible says, Psalm 37 4 Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.  I can certainly commit to doing some practical things (like a technology fast), but I cannot generate a feeling that isn’t there, I cannot understand something I just can’t understand, I can’t change my heart. 

 

I agree, only Jesus can change a heart.  Ezra also understood that he could not love, delight, or even desire God’s Word, unless God worked in him first.  Though there are some practical commitments, This not about how minutes of your day you spend reading the Bible, it’s not about having no delights outside of reading the Bible, its about moving past our PASSIVE lives with Jesus as Savior only, and seeing how the Christian Life is ACTIVE with Jesus as Lord, as the living Word of God who shapes and reshapes our actions, our words, our responses, our emotions, our thoughts, our perceptions, and our attitudes because we are walking so close to him.

 

 

Closing Prayer from Psalm 119 (5,18,19, 36,108, 124,135,145,146)

  • Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!
  • Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
  • Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.  
  • Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!  
  • Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O Lord, and teach me your rules.  
  • Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love, and teach me your statutes.  
  • Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes.  
  • With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord! I will keep your statutes.
  • I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies.

More in Songs of Summer | A Study of Psalms

September 6, 2009

Psalm 46

August 30, 2009

Psalm 127: Builders and Building

August 23, 2009

Psalm 20