Summary: Lengthy and loaded. Confrontational and convicting. All reasons we very seldom (but need to) spend time in the One One Nine!
119 - Pt. 5
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 in week 2 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! Then we dealt with the theme of praise found in the 119. We discussed the "when" of our praise and said that even if it is midnight we should be praising. We need to get the ratio right 7 to 1! We talked about the "why" of praise. We praise because it is what we are created to do. We praise as an overflow of our life. Your mouth will not overflow with praise if your life doesn't overflow with praise. Finally we dealt with the "how" we praise. We should be willing praisers. Then last week we dealt with affliction. David had suffered much and yet he teaches us that it is affliction that causes us to obey. So affliction is part of discipline. He stated that affliction was good for us. We must learn that all things work together for our good. He says that affliction is an indication of God’s faithfulness. He promised that we would have many afflictions but the Lord would deliver us out of everyone and that they would not break us!
So let’s try to wrap this thing up this morning.
As I have spent time reading and rereading the 119 I have noticed a particularly poignant section that gives us a glimpse into a situation that many of us can either relate to or currently find ourselves.
81My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word. 82 My eyes fail, looking for your promise; I say, “When will you comfort me?” 83 Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget your decrees.
My eyes grow heavy watching for some sign of your promise; how long must I wait for your comfort? How long do I have to put up with all this?
84 How long must your servant wait? When will you punish my persecutors?
How long till you haul my tormentors into court?
The stanza of verses 81-88 has been called “The Midnight” of this Psalm. The depth of his midnight is revealed in verse 83. He uses a metaphor to show how dark it is. He says, “I am like a wineskin in the smoke.” He uses the practice of the day was to hang empty wineskins in their tents to reveal how dismal it is. They would hang the empty wineskins in their tents and since they had large wood fires and no chimneys, the wineskins became smoke-dried, shriveled, and unfit for use. They became soot covered and blackened. He is saying I have waited until the all the moisture, all hope, all joy, all the life is burned out of me. I am covered with the ash of yesterday. I am covered with the soot of sorrow.
It is from this dark place that we see that David struggles with the “When” question. The “how long” question. He is battling the “I have a promise, I have stood for right, I have done what you have asked . . . now when are you going to come through, when is your Word going to work, where are you when I need you God, I am tired of waiting” feeling. David is right in the middle of a waiting game. Ever been there? Are you there right now?