Psalms – Prayers of Honesty and Praise
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there was a younger lady who cuddled up in her bed after her kids had gone to bed to study for finals. She was meticulously going over classroom notes once more for her Masters program finals in four classes. She had a little light on so that her husband could sleep. After teaching first graders all day then hurry to another town for classes at the University, this was when studying had to happen.
Around midnight, praying I would do well, God spoke to my heart and gave me new insight about my life. With piles of classroom notes and textbooks on my lap, the words I heard God say were, “What if you studied my Word and ways as hard as you study for the world’s expectations of you?” Wow. I will never forget this eye-opening experience with God. I put down the textbooks and opened His Word to our next Psalm that educates us about the stewardship of our lives.
Psalm 119 is long with much to be learned. But, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Someone told me that once. After I got passed the picture of me eating an elephant, I got it! So this is how we will learn and grow together…one morsel of truth at a time, a mouthful to chew on, until we understand and mature from it’s implications and application to our lives. Ready?
Psalm 119, The Message
1-8 You’re blessed when you stay on course,
walking steadily on the road revealed by God.
You’re blessed when you follow his directions,
doing your best to find him.
That’s right—you don’t go off on your own;
you walk straight along the road he set.
You, God, prescribed the right way to live;
now you expect us to live it.
Oh, that my steps might be steady,
keeping to the course you set;
Then I’d never have any regrets
in comparing my life with your counsel.
I thank you for speaking straight from your heart;
I learn the pattern of your righteous ways.
I’m going to do what you tell me to do;
don’t ever walk off and leave me.
DID YOU KNOW???
The emphasis is on the vital ministry of the Word of God in the inner spiritual life of God’s children. It describes how the Word enables us to grow in holiness and handle the persecutions and pressures that always accompany an obedient walk of faith.
The psalm is an acrostic with eight lines in each section, and the successive sections follow the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. In Hebrew, each of the eight lines of 1-8 begins with the Hebrew letter aleph, the lines in 9-16 begin with beth, in 17-24 with gimel, and so on.
In various translations you will see that the unknown author used eight different words for the Scriptures: law (Torah), testimony, precept, statute, commandment, judgment (in the sense of “a rule for living”), word (of God), and promise. Since we do not know who wrote the psalm, we cannot know for certain when it was written, but our ignorance need not hinder us from learning from this magnificent psalm.
Whoever the author was, he is a good example for us to follow, for he had an intense hunger for holiness and a passionate desire to understand God’s Word in a deeper way. In all but fourteen verses, he addresses his words to the Lord personally, so this psalm is basically a combination of worship, prayer, praise, and admonition.
In the psalm, there are no references to a sanctuary, to sacrifices, or to a priestly ministry. The cast of characters includes the Lord God, a remnant of godly people in the nation, the psalmist, and the ungodly people who despised him, persecuted him, and wanted to destroy him. The psalmist referred to them as “the proud” or “the arrogant”. They were people who were born into the covenant but did not value the spiritual riches of that relationship. They hated the law and openly disobeyed it.
One of my favorite commentators, Warren Wiersbe, teaches an interesting thought, “Whether right or wrong, I have often thought that the prophet Jeremiah might have been the author of Psalm 119 and that he wrote it to teach and encourage his young disciples (v. 9) after the destruction of the temple. Many of the statements in the psalm could be applied to Jeremiah. He spoke with kings, five of them in fact, and bore reproach because he faithfully served the Lord. He was surrounded by critics and enemies who did not seek God’s law but wanted to get rid of the prophet. Jeremiah was definitely the prophet of God’s Word in the heart (Jer. 31:31-34), and this is an emphasis in Psalm 119.”
The basic theme of Psalm 119 is the practical use of the Word of God in the life of the believer. When you consider that the writer probably did not have a complete Old Testament, let alone a complete Bible, this emphasis is both remarkable and important.
Christian believers today own complete Bibles, yet how many of them say that they love God’s Word and get up at night or early in the morning to read it and meditate on it. NOW, do you see the significance of God’s word to me in the middle of the night? I tremble and rejoice at the awakening God gave to me that night long ago, bringing me, heart, mind and soul, to draw near to Him! I haven’t stopped studying His Word since that moment in time.
You’re blessed indeed when you study God’s Word and actually live what it says for us to do. God helps us. When we misstep and see a path we are not meant to be on, God’s Holy Spirit pulls us back on course.
“Oh that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set; then I’d never have any regrets…”
Dear Heavenly Father,
We pray the prayer of the Psalmist today…”I thank you for speaking straight from your heart; I learn the pattern of your righteous ways. I’m going to do what you tell me to do; don’t ever walk off and leave me.” I know you will answer this prayer because you have so many times before. Help me to be a great steward of the life you have given to me that I give back to you. May your glory be seen in me. Thank you for teaching this eager learning that night long ago and all the days of my life since that time. Thank you for Your Word that clearly tells us what to do and how to be. No regrets…just blessed!
In Jesus Name, Amen