Summary: Lengthy and loaded. Confrontational and convicting. All reasons we very seldom (but need to) spend time in the One One Nine!
119 - Pt. 3
It is long. It is lengthy. It is passed over by those who prefer brevity. It is neglected by those who prefer short and sweet. It is shunned by the Reader's Digest crowd. However, in its great length is also has great depth. Multifaceted. It is rich. It is worth the time it takes to explore. It is the 119. It is the longest chapter in the entire Bible. And before we dig into it, it is important to understand some background. It is comprised of 22 stanzas each being 8 verses long and each verse is two lines long. Each stanza sequentially begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. So there was structure to David's verbosity. He wasn't just shooting off at the mouth. This is thought out and developed. In fact, there is a tradition in the Eastern Orthodox Church that King David used this psalm to teach his son Solomon both the Hebrew alphabet and the “alphabet of the spiritual life.”
When we started I mentioned that the 119 has at least 3 major themes that run throughout its landscape. The first that we dug into was David's emphasis on the Word. He teaches us that without the Word you can't walk, weather, or war. The Word is absolutely essential and if you have a deficiency of Word you will stumble, surrender and find yourself surrounded. Then last week we dealt with David's instructions on prayer. So I am praying that you have been praying the 3 prayers he said to pray. Teach me! Has He taught you anything this week? Bless me! I don't need to ask you if prayed that because we all have no problem praying that. Protect me! I need God to watch over me and protect me from me and my enemy! I don't want to squander my blessing so I need knowledge and protection!
Just as pervasive as God's Word and prayer is in 119 there is one final theme that I can see so clearly. This shouldn't surprise us since we know who the author is. However, just because he is known for this teaching doesn't diminish the incredible insight and instruction he is able to give us. If anything the fact that he is known for this teaching should cause us to sit up and listen closer. The 3rd major theme that the Psalmist . . . the worshipper . . . the singer/song writer/harpist dealt with was praise! David can't help himself if he is in fact teaching his son what is important in life, then he has to deal with praise!
Let's dive in and see what David says about praise. I must warn you that although we normally like what David has to say about praise . . . with my whole heart, I sing your praise, with my lips, etc. . . in the 119 his teaching on praise is hard to handle and have an edge to them that may hurt a little before they help!
In the 119 David deals directly with:
A. The "when" of our praise!
Though the wicked bind me with ropes, I will not forget your law. At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws.
The wicked hemmed me in—there was no way out—but not for a minute did I forget your plan for me.
David is saying I am bound with ropes, I am surrounded by midnight but I know that deep praise comes from and is perfected/purified by deep pain. Praise in spite of requires a deep understanding that my praise and His worthiness is not and cannot be based on my physical, current, natural surroundings.
Midnight is the darkest time; it is in the middle of the night. Midnight is PM and AM all at the same time. In other words he says he is intentionally praising right in the middle of things . . . in between bad and good . . . in between the moment when the sun set and when it will rise again. I praise you if my sun is setting. I praise you if I see light coming. Some of us are waiting to praise until we see change. Some of us quit praising when we see the sun going down. We see a job coming to an end and we pout rather than praise. We see a relationship crumbling and we allow hands that were raised begin to wring in worry.
David was like forget that! In between. I can't tell if it is the end of a thing or the beginning of a thing. I can't tell if we have changed from night to day but I am going to choose to praise. We can watch some of you and tell that you think the sun is setting! You used to worship when we worshipped but now you facebook. You used to dance while everyone else stood and stared. We can watch others of you and tell that you are seeing light. Cause you used to be the one facebooking and staring but now you are shouting and spinning! I get it but David is trying to teach us that that is surface level praise. That is immature praise. I want us to be a group of people who praise regardless of what season we may be in. I am looking for us to be a church of "in between" praisers. You can't tell if my world is falling apart or if everything I touch is turning to gold because my praise really isn't about me it is about HIM! I am not telling you to fake it . . . I am just saying that we have to put the focus where it belongs and darkness doesn't diminish His light. And good days don't cause me to overlook or take for granted His goodness! Do I have anybody that can praise Him in the middle of the night? We want to hold onto our praise until we experience freedom. We want to withhold our praise until we see daybreak! We want to praise once things change . . . but what are you going to do if you are just in the middle of things? David says praise!