Psalm 119:1–16comment (0)
November 26, 2009
By Douglas Wilson
Related Scripture: Psalm 119:1–16
Explore the Bible
Associate Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
OBEY GOD’S WORD
We close out this study of the Psalms remembering how and why we live in harmony with God. It is through God’s Word we learn of His attributes, the heights of His glory, the depths of our sin, the hope found in Jesus and the responsibility we have to pass on His special revelation to succeeding generations and people of every tribe, tongue and nation.
By way of review, you might recall the Hebrews used acrostics to aid in memorizing songs like Psalm 112. This practice was a poetic innovation unknown in other cultures of the time. This week’s song, Psalm 119, is the most expansive acrostic and the longest chapter in Scripture. It consists of 22 sections following the pattern of the Hebrew alphabet, with each stanza containing eight verses.
Live God’s Word (1–8)
As you look in your Bible, you will note the term “alef” or “aleph” above verse 1. An odd foreign character may accompany the word. You also will find similar unfamiliar words and characters before verses 9, 17 and so on. These are Hebrew consonants and each verse under that heading begins with that letter.
Seven terms are employed to point to God’s Word: law, decrees, ways, precepts, statutes, commands and judgments. Not surprisingly, the “law of the Lord” is mentioned first. There is little doubt this refers to the Torah, the five books of Moses. As in Psalm 1, there is a direct correlation between living “according to the law” and being happy and blessed.
Not only are the terms significant but also our responses to God’s Word are essential. According to verses 1–8, these responses include living, keeping, seeking, following, thinking, praising and learning. We are called to act, know and do God’s will. We cannot do so without knowledge of His special revelation. Read, study, memorize, live and share the Word. Live as people of the Book.
Treasure God’s Word (9–11)
These three verses begin with the letter “bet”; “how,” “with all” and “in my heart” are the first words in the original. While they may seem insignificant, they are essential to the message of these verses. “How can a young man keep his way pure?” We want to know. “I have sought You with all my heart.” Is this not what God commands us to do? “I have treasured Your word in my heart.” In the depth of my being, I hide the Scriptures.
During the week of Vacation Bible School each summer, members and visitors gather to make new friends, learn lessons from the Bible, make crafts, sing new songs, participate in recreation and hear the message of the gospel. They pledge to hide God’s Word in their heart and learn Scripture through music, stories and activities. The Holman Christian Standard Bible uses the verb “treasure” to convey the value of Scripture, rather than to “hide” in the sense of shame or embarrassment.
Believers who have experienced intense persecution for Christ understand this in ways we cannot imagine. Our brothers and sisters face martyrdom in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. They endure torture in North Korean labor camps, kidnapping in Indonesia and confiscation of Bibles and other possessions by communists. Without Bibles in hand, persecuted believers treasure God’s Word that they have previously committed to memory. What will it take for us to treasure His truth like that?
Study God’s Word (12–16)
Each verse in this passage also begins with bet, since together with verses 9–11 it is part of the second section. “Be praised,” “with my lips,” “in the way,” “on Your precepts” and “in Your statutes” are the first words of these verses in Hebrew. Why is this important? The artistry of the composer is part of the majesty of this great work of praise to God.
Verses 12–16 are a personal commitment to faithful study of God’s Word. Intimate interaction between the believer and the Lord takes place. First, there is a call for God to teach him or her His will. Second, there is a commitment to proclaim God’s Word. Third, there is a celebration of God’s way. Fourth, there is contemplation about God’s works. Finally, there are comfort and confidence found in God’s words.