I have two posts in which I comment on each stanza as I read Psalm 119, now I'll take a second look via the NIV Chronological Bible side notes and my Wiersbe Commentary.
The NIV bible states that the acrostic is common in Biblical poetry, To aid in memorization. I wonder if I've only heard of it related to this psalm because of the size of the structure.
The emphasis...is on the vital ministry of the Word of God in the inner spiritual life of God's children. It enables us to grow in holiness and handle the persecutions and pressures that always accompany an obedient walk of faith.Warren Wiersbe, Be Exultant
Wiersbe explains that in vocabulary and message, the Psalm is rooted in Deuteronomy, the 2nd law. Moses' second declaration of the law. In contrast to Exodus, though, the emphasis is on the heart, not just the ritual.
- The psalmist loved the law and found the grace in it.
- The law is spiritual and can be used by the Spirit.
- No one is saved by the law; but it helps us to understand the character of God and the work of Christ.
- Circumstances change, as they did throughout Psalm 119; but the Word stays the same.
Aleph- Blessed and Blameless
Seeking God means much more than reading the Bible or even studying the Bible. It means hearing God's Voice in His Word, loving Him more, and wanting to delight His heart and please Him. It means wholehearted surrender to Him and an unwillingness to permit any rival love to enter.Warren Wiersbe, Be Exultant
Beth- Take Time to be Holy.
It's not our promises to the Lord but His promises to us that will give us victory over sin.Warren Wiersbe, Be Exultant
Gimel- We need God's Word.
We should pursue the Word because it instructs as God's:
Daleth- Down but not Out
We must be as watchful after the victory as before the battle. A concept often quoted by Wiersbe. The psalmist was flying high at the end of the Gimel stanza just t be face down and suffering at the start of this one.
So he prayed.
- Revive me.
- Teach me.
- Strengthen me
- Defend me
He- Ending Well
Ending well doesn't come from starting well but living well. This means:
On the fear issue:
We [Christians] live on promises not explanations.Warren Wiersbe, Be Exultant
Wow. That line really struck me. He wants faith and He says that he searches far and wide for it. It's not faith if we're following a step-by-step instruction manual. We get His promises and He tells us that those are "yes and amen!"
Vav v. 41-48
The Lord speaks to us through His Word. We can find the promises of His righteousness and salvation in HIs Word.
But the enemy also tries to use words. We have a choice of who we listen to. Verse 42 speaks of having an answer when the enemy attempts to reproach us.
I heard a story this weekend from a friend who works in a church office and received an angry call from a parishioner of 30 years. This woman had come here as a refugee 30 years ago and had attended this church the whole time. The woman had received her quarterly giving receipt for money she donated and notice the disclaimer at the bottom, "No goods or services were provided for this donation." The short version of the story is that she talked to multiple people on staff and no one could convince her that this was standard language for those documents. She was going to quit the church.
She then tells that she woke up and God had her focus on the word "services" and that made her look more closely at the word "goods". She looked it up in the dictionary and noted that it meant "merchandise". And it all clicked into place.
She had been reading it as "no good". And felt that the church was telling her that she was not giving enough. and no one could convince her otherwise. Even a friend she had known at the church for 30 years. Not even her time being there for 30 years. When she read "no good" the enemy convinced her to the point of leaving the church that that's what they thought of her. Likely, that what the enemy had been convincing her to think of herself all of these years as well.
We have God's worth as the truth. And we will, likely, continue to have an enemy whispering in our ear as long as we're on this side of heaven.
It doesn't seem like a tough choice.
Then why do so many of us spend our time and energy with door number 2?
Jayin v. 49-56
The psalmist was likely a priest or Levite and was required to know Deuteronomy, which translate to "second law". This was Moses trying to emphasize to these people, who were about to transform from nomads to settlers, God's laws.
Wiersbe tells us that Deuteronomy includes "remember" 15 times and "forget" 14 times. As a former school teacher I understand why repetition and reminders are so important to keeping one's attention and retaining information.
God remembers as well. Not as we do. His "forgetting" is a choice to remove it from sight. And His "remembering" is to offer a special regard, as we He did with Noah and Rachel and many others.
If we know His Name, we know who He has shown us to be. We know we have a Strong Tower to run to in times of help. The great I Am.
Heth v. 57-64
When we run to or try to rely on an idol, we're transmitting that we do not think God cares enough or is enough for our needs. Over and over Israel committed this sin and I know I do as well.
We have to keep leaning in more and more to know the Lord more and more until we rely alone on Him for our portion and defense.
However, it is equally important to remember that the benefit of this provision and protection is based in God's economy- blessings come from obedience. We are His servants and expected to obey all commands with pause or condition. Of course, He knows we even need substantial help with that through the Righteousness of our Savior Jesus Christ and His Spirit.
Teth v. 65-72
God is good all of the time.
Yodh v. 73-80
Knowing and Obeying God's word in all of life's requirements (Reading His instruction book.)
- He knows us and we learn about ourselves from our creator.
- In the time of need
Kaph v. 81-88
The psalmists is waiting to be delivered from the enemy. Trials produce patience when we cling to the Lord. He is bigger than our enemies. He knows our trial and has His sovereign hand on it all.
Lamedh v. 89-96
If you build your life on God's Word, then change, which so easily besets us, won't leave us blown in the wind. We can weather temporal change in the Light of God's Word.
The Bible isn't an escape from life; but a means of facing life as it is.
The bad news and the times were much worse for the first century Christians; but they lit up the world with God's light and Good News. What we're facing now scares us; but doesn't even come close to shaking the Unshakeable.
Mem v. 97-104
For many, the Bible is an academic endeavor. They understand and may even go to bible studies and listen to Christian influences; but the source of life is the Word, which is in the Bible itself.
It may seem like semantics, but it's not. in this moment in history we are past the U.S. presidential election of 2020 between President Donald Trump and former Vice-President Joe Biden. The election was a couple of weeks ago and it looks like it's going to Biden, but there are still court cases pending-leaving many conservatives and Christians hopeful that it might swing their way by a miracle of God.
The trouble is you cannot tell the Christians from the non-Christians on the right. The Christians seem to be as morose and obsessed as non believers. Don't misunderstand where I stand. I think Joe Biden has some late life diminished mental capacity and I think Kamala Harris is a socialist tyrant. But I also know that my redeemer lives and it appears that he has placed these two in leadership. My job is to trust Him, pray for them, and be vigilant looking for Christ to come.
All of this to say, your bible reading should inform your life. And it should become reflexive if you're doing it with your heart everyday.
This book is not silent on trials, losses, politics, and bad leaders. We have to lean into this book with our heart or when the world turns sideways on us, we act just like our non-believing counterparts. And then what good are we?
Wiersbe includes conditions we must meet to have a "heart knowledge" of the Word:
- We must love His word and meditate on it. My brain is always running and there's so much going on that I can have a thought and just a few seconds later it slips my mind. Crowded out with more of the detritus I have floating around up there. I really want to continue working on "taking ever thought captive" and when I find myself mentally ranting about some worldly, temporary topic (which is very frequently), I would stop and meditate on HIs word.
Right now, I want to memorize Hebrews 4:16. I'm going to try and focus on that whenever I find myself dreading or ranting about our current politics.
Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.Hebrews 4:16
- We must obey His Word.
- We must enjoy His Word.
Nun v. 105-112
Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path!Psalm 119:105
Even though this stanza starts out with one of the most recognized and encouraging verses, it goes on to show how that lamp is needed in darkness and affliction.
In the context of the time, the Jew would have understood that the lamp they carried were small dishes and only provided enough light for the next step, not the whole journey. We are dependent on the Lord for the next step, he'll show us more after that.
That's so inspiring and could be quite terrifying if we forget Who He is.
Wiersbe describes the Bible as a mine full of riches. Gold, gems, etc. However, you have to mine for it. It costs something to retrieve it. Spiritua; treasure! I really like that image. A surface level reading won't get us spiritual treasure.
Samekh v. 113-120
He loves the law
He hates bad people.
He asks God for good stuff and points out that God deals with those who ignore His word.
Wiersbe points out that we can have hope and faith to face our enemies that we would be Caleb and Joshua looking to God and not the 10 faithless spies who only looked to the enemy.
Ayin v. 121-128
Jesus is our blessed assurance. Our Surety for salvation.
Pe v. 129-136
He pants and thirsts for the Lord,
Tsadhe v. 137-144
God's Word is good. The psalmists loves it. His enemies are bad.
Give me understanding that I may live.Psalm 119:144b
Qoph v. 145-152
The psalmist is in trouble and crying out.
Wiersbe states that when we pray, we speak to the Father and when we read the Word, He speaks to us. It must be a balance.
Resh v. 153-160
I am afflicted. Your Word will save me. The wicked are far from your Word,
Shin v. 161-168
The psalmist loves the word and hates bad people.
Tav v. 169-176
Psalmist is seeking the Lord because he has sinned.
I often try and end with a "so what?" conclusion to bring the passage to practical application. For this, as you may have noticed in the final several stanzas, I was struggling.
I do love God's Word. And often recognized myself in the psalm, it just felt like a shotgun pattern of feelings, emotions, and insights. Even when I found parts that really resonated with me, the next verse seemed totally unrelated.
I'm glad I paused and I'm glad it was the wisdom psalms. I suspect there will be a different season of my life when I will return to the "companion books" for David and Solomon; but now is not that season. My primary goal in this reading of the Old Testament was to walk away with a mental timeline of the primary events. That's nit going to happen if I spend 4 years trudging through these books.
Again, I'm not running them down; I'm just saying that the narrative portion seems to be what God has brought to light for me this round.
On to the divided kingdom!