Reading Time: 8 Minutes
My friend, Shane Kampe, has numerous tattoos. I have teased Shane on many occasions and said that he ought to have his friend, Whispering Danny, tattoo the entire 119th Psalm in Hebrew on his ribs. So far, his answer has been “No!”
In case you’re wondering, there are 176 verses in this Psalm. Maybe, that is why Shane has declined my suggestion.
How To Appreciate The Psalm
The sheer length and apparent repetition of Psalm 119 may discourage readers. Let’s remember that mining for gold takes energy and patience, but the reward is abundant.
If you mine for the gold of Psalm 119, you will be enriched in both mind and heart. As you dig for the gold of this Psalm, here are some thoughts to consider.
(1) Psalm 119 is truly the composition of a Biblical artist. For example, there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. The Psalm has 22 sections, one for each letter of the alphabet.
Each of the 22 sections is composed of 8 lines. Each line has one of the 8 terms that comprise the theme of this Psalm.
The 8 terms are: law, decrees, statutes, commandments, ordinances, word, precepts, and promise.
I have asked Rudy Ross to comment on the importance of the number “8” in Biblical thought. He has written a book on the subject. Please read his comment, when you get a chance.
(2) A common saying about preaching is, “A good sermon says the same thing three times. The preacher first tells the congregation what he is going to say. Then, he says it. Third, he tells the people what he has said.”
The writer of Psalm 119 must have know the inherent value of repetition, because he said basically the same thing 176 different ways.
The recommended way to read this Psalm is to read it out loud with an attitude of concentration and contemplation. You may want to prayerfully read 8 lines a day as part of your time alone with God.
The Eight Terms of Psalm 119
As we read the Psalm, it will help to understand the 8 terms that are frequently mentioned.
(1) Law – Most people think of the Ten Commandments when the word “law” arises. Clearly, the Ten Commandments are the Law. A more complete understanding of “law” is to see it as God’s instruction or teaching.
Every way that God gives direction and guidance for life can be categorized as “law.”
(2) Decrees, Statutes, Commandments, Ordinances, Precepts – These terms usually refer to the requirements and prohibitions found in the Books of Exodus and Deuteronomy.
(3) Word, Promise – They describe a saying from God that often comes from the prophets.
(4) Ways and Paths – These terms are occasionally used to point out that all of God’s instruction is intended to function as a guide to the best life possible.
All of the 8 terms reveal something about God’s willingness to communicate with us. He is not some impersonal “force” somewhere in space. He is a personal God, who communicates his very best wisdom to the people he loves.
Selected Verses from Psalm 119
Almost as an echo of Psalm 1, this Psalm begins with words that describe a blessed person. If you ask God who is blessed, his answer can be found in the first verses of this Psalm.
— Verses 2-3 – Happy are those who keep his decrees,
who seek him with their whole heart,
who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways.
If we follow God’s guidance, we will walk in the direction he gives us. In addition, we will seek him with our whole heart.
— Verse 11 – I treasure your word in my heart,
so that I may not sin against you.
Dallas Willard recommends memorizing large portions of the Bible, such as the Sermon on the Mount. Memorizing is difficult for me, but the continual reading of key Bible passages over the years has ingrained their principles in my life.
Don’t settle for YouTube videos and Facebook quotes to nourish your inner life. Go to the source, God’s word, and allow it to sink into your heart every day.
— Verse 18 – Open my eyes, so that I may behold
wondrous things out of your law.
This is an excellent prayer to use at the beginning of your Bible reading and prayer time. Ask God to open your eyes to the insights in his teaching and guidance.
— Verse 27 – Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
As we ask God to help us understand his direction for life, we can be confident that he will do just that.
— Verse 36 – Turn my heart to your decrees,
and not to selfish gain.
This is an excellent prayer to use as we combat self-centered and pleasure-seeking temptation. It puts the first things first.
— Verse 45 – I shall walk at liberty,
for I have sought your precepts.
How do we find freedom from the obsession to always have our own way and everything that goes along with it? We seek God’s direction by knowing and doing his will.
— Verse 50 – This is my comfort in my distress,
that your promise gives me life.
The year 2020 has caused great distress. The promises of God that we learn by reading his word will give us support in difficult times.
— Verses 59-60 – When I think of your ways,
I turn my feet to your decrees;
I hurry and do not delay
to keep your commandments.
When we remember God’s direction, a quick response of obedience is the best response. We use our feet both to run away from temptation and to run toward an encounter with God.
— Verse 68 – You are good and do good;
teach me your statutes.
Why do we follow God’s direction? Because he is good and all of his activity on our behalf is good.
— Verse 71 – It is good for me that I was humbled,
so that I might learn your statutes.
The hardest person to teach is someone who knows it all. Hitting rock bottom will drive us to God to learn a better way of living besides our own best thinking.
— Verse 89 – The Lord exists forever;
your word is firmly fixed in heaven.
We learn and follow God’s word, because it is only what is permanent in life.
— Verse 105 – Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
God’s word shines a light and illuminates our path in a very dark world.
— Verse 133 – Keep my steps steady according to your promise,
and never let iniquity have dominion over me.
By God’s grace, we are free from the domination of sin, transgression and iniquity.
— Verse 160 – The sum of your word is truth;
and every one of your righteous ordinances endures forever.
This verse summarizes the Psalm. We learn what is really real, God’s truth, by prayerfully reading and re-reading his word. We connect ourselves with the eternal and ultimate reality when we do so.
May We Pray for You?
Maywood Baptist Church’s prayer team is honored to pray for you. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. I will pray for you and ask the team to pray, too.