August 25, 2016
Psalm 119 is the largest chapter in the Bible at 178 verses, each section representing a Hebrew letter forming an alphabetic acrostic. Ironically, the psalm’s subject is very specific: God’s word. This is signified by the usage of terms like “law,” “testimonies,” “precepts,” “statutes,” “commandments,” “rules,” “word,” and “promises.” And although the psalmist is referring specifically to the Torah (the first five books of the Bible), these statements apply to all of God’s inspired Word. This psalm acts as both a declaration of the blessings that follow those who keep the Word of God and also as a plea to God for the kind of delight in his Word that will lead to faith and glad obedience.
One of the central themes of this psalm is that a genuine delight in God’s commandments might be given to the psalmist. This psalm recognizes that because of who God is, his words have infinite value—in fact, there’s nothing more important to read in the entire universe than the Bible. Humanity’s biggest problem, therefore, when it comes to Scripture, is seeing it for what it really is, looking beyond the words and sentences and grammar to see the glory intrinsic in the message God is communicating. That kind of glory, when it is encountered rightly, produces a delight and love for Scripture and its Author, leading to glad obedience. The key to obeying God’s rules isn’t white-knuckling it because ‘we’re supposed to obey,’ but rather seeing them as they truly are—wise, good, and loving—and embracing that God’s ways are, in fact, better than anything that we could possibly imagine.
When God makes a statement, it is always true—including when he tells us what it means to be alive and what will lead us to ultimate joy. Some of the words in Scripture are certainly aphoristic in nature, basic principles which generally lead to human flourishing in this life; yet everything in the Word, because of its inherent truthfulness, points to God’s perfect nature and his unchanging promises—whether explicitly or implicitly. Our pursuit of these truths about God leads to eternal life (John 17:3) and Psalm 119 is ferocious about the certainty of God’s words and the faithfulness of his promises. Lives which are constantly steeped in Scripture are lives which are anchored in God’s truthfulness and a life-giving knowledge of his character.
Obedience and love for God’s rules are not an end in themselves, they are simply means which serve a purpose. Repeatedly, Psalm 119 presents powerful motivations behind our obedience, whether it be to remove shame or reproach or to simply experience real hope, love, and life from God. On the other side of obedience—even in the midst of affliction—is a joy set before us, one that is embodied in a relationship with the living God: “Turn to me and be gracious to me… make your face shine upon me.” The joy that comes from experiencing God in his Word is a joy that culminates in praise and worship. It is the kind of joy that our hearts were made for.
There are two very important things Psalm 119 lays out for the follower of Jesus: (1) the importance of the Bible and (2) the way we should approach it. If all Scripture is inspired by God as we believe it is (2 Timothy 3:16), then—at an eternal level—it is the main reason God gave us the ability to read. He could have revealed himself any number of ways, yet he chose a book. Therefore, seeking him out in the Bible is one of the most important things we can do.
Secondly, the psalmist’s constant pleas help us understand our reliance on God to see and enjoy his truth. Without God’s gracious opening of our eyes, we will be blind to the wonder and the glory in his book. We should constantly be praying to see him in Scripture—even using the very words of Psalm 119 to do this. We should pray that God would help us delight in what we see.
Make the Bible the most urgent thing you read everyday—knowing that it has eternal significance—and use the very prayers God gave us in the Bible to ask for more of him.