Summary: Psalm 119 is all about God's Word, but is the Word an instruction manual with every detail of life enumerated for us, or is it more a character sketch of the most beautiful and wonderful being ever?
Psalm 119 has been called the Mt. Everest of the Psalms. It is the longest psalm and the longest chapter in the Bible. What I love about it is that it is all about God’s Word. And that’s what we are about here at Calvary Chapel: teaching God’s Word. I’ve heard a slur about this distinctive lately: that Calvary Chapel believes in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Scriptures. This makes it sound as if we worship the Bible. This simply isn’t so. Jesus said in John 5:39 “You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me.” It isn’t the Scriptures we worship, it is He which the Scriptures point to.
Psalm 119 is also a literary masterpiece. The 176 verses are broken up into 8 stanzas. Each line of each stanza starts with a subsequent letter of the Hebrew alphabet. So the first word of each of the first 8 verses starts with the letter Alef, and so on until the last 8 verses which all start with Tav. In literary terms this is called an acrostic.
Nearly every verse in the psalm contains one of the 8 words for God’s revelation to man: instruction, decree, precept, statute, command, judgment, promise, and word.
This psalm may have been written Ezra the Scribe. I’m reminded of Ezra’s love for God’s Word in Nehemiah 8:1 “They asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses that the Lord had given Israel. On the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women, and all who could listen with understanding…He read out of it from daybreak until noon before the men…”
There a number of hidden gems in this psalm, and we’re going to just take it stanza by stanza and see how far we get.
1 – 8
This first stanza should remind us of Psalm 1:
Psalm 1:1 How happy is the man
who does not follow the advice of the wicked
or take the path of sinners
or join a group of mockers!
2 Instead, his delight is in the LORD’s instruction,
and he meditates on it day and night.
Clearly, the way to happiness is by seeing how God lives from His Word and mirroring that in our lives. Although it sounds like in the first verses that this man has it all together, he admits in verse 5 “if only…” Though we fall short constantly, our aim should always be to fully follow God’s ways as revealed in His Word. And believe it or not, if you have a relationship with Jesus, God looks at you as if you are already doing it!
2 Corinthians 5:21 “He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Verses 5 and 6 also remind us of the “mirror” quality of God’s Word.
James 1:22 “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his own face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but one who does good works—this person will be blessed in what he does.”
But even if our conscience bothers us, it is only God reminding us that He is transforming us from the inside out—and that we aren’t there yet.
I love verse 7 because even though the psalmist knows he isn’t perfect, he knows his heart is sincere. He really wants to follow God’s commands with this whole heart!
His aim is to always keep God’s statutes and thus always be in relationship with God. Maybe you are in a place like that—where you want to be good but constantly fall short, or maybe only occasionally fall short but it really bugs you and you feel inadequate. If you are in relationship with Jesus, then that’s actually a good place to be: but don’t be discouraged, just keep seeking Him and know that God is working and you will get there by His power!
9 – 16
This is one of those power-packed sections. As a young person, often as we develop our own personality and ways of understanding ourselves and our place in the word—we abandon the wisdom afforded us from those that are older. “Trust no one over 30” was the cry of the 1960s. Of course, every one of those “young” people is now well over 30!