Summary: What is it about Psalm 119? Why is it so long? What is its message? How can it relater to us today?
Study of Psalm 119 – Intro to Study
What does reading the Bible mean to you as a believer today? How important is it for you to read your Bible? Is it something you do daily? Is your reading the Bible something you do out of obligation? Or is it out of joy and a desire to know God more?
On reading the Bible and the importance of Scripture:
Isaac Newton once said, ““We account the scriptures of God to be the most sublime philosophy. I find more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history whatsoever.”
The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard
When you read God's Word, you must constantly be saying to yourself, "It is talking to me, and about me."
God’s Word is the foundational element for all areas of the Christian’s walk in this life. It is given so that we can know God in a more intimate and close fellowship… but for it to influence our lives, we must read it, consume it and devour it on a daily basis!
Knowledge and intimacy with God is not something learned by osmosis, but only through our efforts in seeking Him and learning of Him through prayer, worship and the daily intake of His Word in our lives.
Psalm 119 is just that… a call to focus on and dwell IN the Word of God! While it is the longest chapter within our Bible, it remains one of the richest treasures of study and insight into God and His precepts for those who follow Him.
While most people attribute the bulk of the book of the Psalms to David, Solomon or Asaph the musician… there are actually very many psalms that are correctly attributed to later writers/composers of psalms. These were writers of what we call the Post-Exilic period for Israel. They were men of the exile who had returned to Jerusalem under the Persian King Darius, to rebuild the walls and the Temple.
It is believed that the leaders of Israel… Ezra, Nehemiah, Zerubbabel, Haggai and Zechariah are all contemporaries of the writers of these ‘new’ psalms and that this particular psalm was written during this period of return from the Jewish exile…and some even attribute the writing of Psalm 119 to Ezra, but there is no real or accurate scholarship in order to support such a claim… it is best to presume that the writer is unknown!
With that being said we believe that the 119th Psalm was written at or around the time of the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem AFTER the return of many of the Jewish exiles from their Babylonian turned Persian exile. If this belief is true (and many scholars agree and believe that it is) this would place the writing somewhere between 530BC-450BC but there is not a firm date that has ever been established.
However, for us to fully understand Psalm 119 we must fully understand the entire book of the Psalms and the context of these psalms… Psalms is a book of what we would today call Poems or Songs about life and God. The psalms reflect the heart and mind of the particular songwriter…and what they are dealing with in life and how God fits into their lives!
Some psalms are lamenting over the difficult times of life, some are rejoicing in the glory and provision of God in their life! The point of the book of the Psalms is that it is a reflection of the human heart in reaction to the difficulty of life and how God fits into the picture!
This particular psalm (Ps 119) is a psalm that is unique to all the Bible. It Is THE longest psalm in the Bible at 176 verses, but the construction of the psalm is one that helped the others to memorize this psalm… can you imagine memorizing 176 verses?
Well the psalm (as it is written in Hebrew) is a work that takes a set standard of eight lines of text and uses that in conjunction with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet… giving us 22 sections of 8 verses each… each dealing with God and our relationship with Him and with those around us in this world!
The 119th psalm mainly focuses on praise of God’s Word or ‘The Law’ and calls the people to read the Word/Law and have a reverence for it… it also calls the people to pray for the Law to have its proper influence on society and the hearts of the people. On a negative side, this psalm condemns the wicked who despise the Law of God…
Almost every verse of the 176 verses has some mention or reference to the Law… God’s Word… the only three that do not have some sort of God’s Law/Word reference are v. 90, v.122 and v.132… where the psalmist exalts God and calls for God’s gracious intervention into his life!