Today: [Psalm 119] The Longest Chapter in the Bible. In Psalm 119 we now come to the longest chapter in the bible. It will take us fully 6 installments to get through this psalm expositionally. Being the longest chapter in the bible it must be special. It isn’t this remarkable without God saying something unique to us. What is its theme? The message of Psalm 119 is not emphasizing ritual or the temple, or some prophetic metaphor. It focuses in its entirely on the devotional life of the believer and his or her relationship to the written word of God.
[Psa 119:1-30 KJV] 1 ALEPH. Blessed [are] the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD. 2 Blessed [are] they that keep his testimonies, [and that] seek him with the whole heart. 3 They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways. 4 Thou hast commanded [us] to keep thy precepts diligently. 5 O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! 6 Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. 7 I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments. 8 I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly. 9 BETH. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed [thereto] according to thy word. 10 With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.
In Psalm 117 we saw the shortest chapter of the bible and the middle chapter of the bible (number 595). In Psalm 119 we come to the longest chapter in the bible and the longest chapter in the book of Psalms. In Hebrew it is referred to by the opening language “happy are those whose way is perfect”. The 119th psalm has more verses than 14 Old Testament books and 17 New Testament books. It is one of a score of alphabetic acrostic psalms in the bible. What is an acrostic. The dictionary tells us it is a poem, word puzzle, or other composition in which certain letters in each line form a word or words.
In almost every verse of Psalm 119 there is a synonym for the Torah. The chapter is written acrostically as an elaborate prayer. It includes elements of lament, praise, prayer for deliverance, declarations of blessing throughout its passages. The psalm is believed to originate with David toward the close of his life. The psalm is considered extraordinary partly because of its length and in part due to certain unique aspects of its content. It consists of 22 parts, it is alphabetical in the first words of each section no doubt aid in its memorization. There are writers who see in this psalm an eloquence surpassing that of the most well know poets of the classical world such as Cicero, Virgil or Demosthenes. Finally in its overall description we note that it is wholly devotional in nature having nothing of the tabernacle, temple rites or ritual worship mentioned in its verses. It is a total focus upon the word of God and the heart of the worshipper.
11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. 12 Blessed [art] thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes. 13 With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth. 14 I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as [much as] in all riches. 15 I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. 16 I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word. 17 GIMEL. Deal bountifully with thy servant, [that] I may live, and keep thy word. 18 Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. 19 I [am] a stranger in the earth: hide not thy commandments from me. 20 My soul breaketh for the longing [that it hath] unto thy judgments at all times.
In verse 11 we see the admonition to hide the word in your heart. This speaks to us of the value of the scriptures not just to the church as a whole but to the individual believer. There is so much competition for the attention span of the individual today. We are on information overload and too often the tinsel and confetti of popular culture crowds out the place of God’s word in our lives. As mentioned many times as a young pastor years ago I understood the need for the scriptures in our daily lives. I knew that the people who came to my church week by week needed to spend time in prayer and time in God’s word and not just on Sundays or mid-week bible study. It was grievous to me to stress this over and over again but not really see people make any changes in their schedules to push away from the TV set or other distractions to spend time in prayer with their families or in personal study of the word.
The lesson I learned from this is if I wanted to get people engaged in prayer I needed to pray with them. If I wanted people to give attention to the word of God I needed to read the bible with them. This profoundly changed my pulpit ministry and the conduct of the services that I was called upon to lead. Paul told Titus and Timothy to give attention to reading. It isn’t necessary that we understand all we read – but that we as believers simply learn to engage in the scriptures on a regular basis – both personally and with our families.
Sometimes the complaint comes about how dry and meaningless the effort to read God’s word can be. Pastors and ministers face this at times as well. Reading the word of God can at times be dry as toast – as boring as reading the obituaries or the dictionary. This may seem like an astonishing admission but no matter who the leader is they are being disingenuous if they did not admit that sometimes this is so. Does this mean there is no value to emotionless, pedantic plodding through the scriptures. I have found that these are some of the most valuable seasons of biblical inquiry you can engage in. During this time you will cover broad swaths of chapters and books that you won’t dig into when scrutinizing verse by verse in a revelatory way. Then later, God will take those dry passages and bring them up at a later time and breathe on them new life and they will often constitute absolute pillars of your faith when under fire from the enemy. Never despise or forsake the study of God’s word. Hide it deeply in your heart and it will serve you well in time to come.
21 Thou hast rebuked the proud [that are] cursed, which do err from thy commandments. 22 Remove from me reproach and contempt; for I have kept thy testimonies. 23 Princes also did sit [and] speak against me: [but] thy servant did meditate in thy statutes. 24 Thy testimonies also [are] my delight [and] my counsellors. 25 DALETH. My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy word. 26 I have declared my ways, and thou heardest me: teach me thy statutes. 27 Make me to understand the way of thy precepts: so shall I talk of thy wondrous works. 28 My soul melteth for heaviness: strengthen thou me according unto thy word. 29 Remove from me the way of lying: and grant me thy law graciously. 30 I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid [before me].
Verse 21 states that those who err from the statutes of God’s word are cursed. This is a very important point. Often when people (Christians or no) go through brutal circumstances theology suggests that it is God Himself that provoked the suffering. This verse clarifies that viewpoint and gives necessary correction. God has given us His word. When we live out our lives within the parameters of truth and guidance that we find there we should expect to live lives of consistent blessing. When we forsake the word, disobey the word or simply neglect the word – we stray into a template for life that is outside the parameters of blessing and favor and we suffer unnecessarily in spite of all God has done to provide for the opposite.
When you struggle is it always because of disobedience. Not always. Nonetheless when you are going through difficulty it would be completely derelict of us as believers not to take a cold hard look at our lives and ask that question. God, am I grieving you in some way. Are there areas of disobedience I have lapsed into? Is there some area of life or choices I am making that has made me vulnerable to the pattern of pressure and suffering I am going through? To simply assume that we are pure as the driven snow without taking one moment to examine our lives in the light of God’s word and His inner voice speaking is beyond arrogance. We must be correctable. We must assume that things are the way they are because of what we may be doing. If we want something different we must be willing to change – to act differently or think differently. Otherwise we are chained to circumstance without any avenue of escape. This is contrary to God’s promise. God’s word as verse 105 tells us is a light to our path and a lamp to our feet if we will just take advantage of it.
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