Today we begin a study of the longest chapter in the whole Bible, Psalm 119. There are 176 verses in this psalm and it’s all focused on one topic, praise of God’s word. Now, you may ask, “Why in the world is there so much in praise of the word of God?” Well, interestingly enough, there is something special about this psalm; it’s an acrostic poem with the Hebrew alphabet being the acrostic foundation. That is to say that in the original Hebrew text the first 8 verses all start with the Hebrew version of A, aleph. The second 8 verses (9-16) all start with the letter beit, the Hebrew version of our letter B — and so forth all the way to their version of Z, tav. Why? Because it makes this psalm more memorable — like rhyme in English. And why would this poem be important to remember? Well, why spoil the thrill of discovery? But let me tease just a little, if you’re serious about doing God will, about being obedient, about showing God your love, this is a great psalm to help sharpen your appetite for knowing the Scripture.
Having said all that, let’s take a look at verses 1-24 today.
Oh, that my ways may be established (Psalm 119:5,6) — …to keep Your commandments. To have one’s ways established means essentially to create habits, thus habits to keep God’s commandments. Habits can be our best friends or our worst enemies. They are patterns of behavior that we don’t have to think about. That’s good if they are innocent or good patterns of behavior. On the other hand, if we develop a bad habits (over-eating, drunkenness, drugs, swearing, etc.), they are hard to break, and once broken are devilishly easy to return to. That’s why the psalmist prays that his ways might be established (habits be ingrained) to keep God’s commands. Sadly, sometimes folks think godly habits to be old-fashioned, moss-backed, and goody-two-shoes and resist them. Are you establishing your ways (developing habits) to keep the Lord’s commands? Church on Sunday? Bible reading? Regular prayer? How you conduct yourself with the opposite sex? The way you parent? The way you talk? How you handle your emotions? These and much more are all habits, established ways. Establish your ways to keep God’s commands.
What’s your treasure? (Psalm 119:11) — So much of whether we’ll ever try to establish your ways according to God’s commands will depend on whether or not we treasure God’s word. God’s word can be seen in a number of ways: as a set of rules, as a list of requirements, as a burden, or as a treasure, something truly valuable. The other ways of looking at God’s word are regrettably all too common and are directly from Satan — remember this line in early Genesis? “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:5, NASB. Such a view of the Scripture will make us only resent God’s word; we’ll see them as arbitrary boundaries that don’t really help us, just unwelcome interference, barriers God has set up. But if we see God’s word as a treasure, a blessing, real help, well that’s different. Which is it for you?
Open my eyes to wonderful things (Psalms 119:18) — Have you experienced this yet in our year-long trek through the Scripture? There are wonderful things here. I’ve tried to highlight a few of them, but doubtlessly you run across many yourself. But here’s a great prayer to offer to the Lord before we even begin reading, “Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law.” Psalms 119:18, NAS95.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.