In this feature lesson we will begin considering the longest chapter in the Bible--Psalm 119. Because of its length there is much that could be said about it. Charles Spurgeon's commentary on this psalm, for example, is over 300 pages long! It is not our intent to analyze the psalm to that depth but to read it together and endeavor to understand its major points. We will consider the first half of the psalm in this lesson.
It should be understood that the book of Psalms, in general, is filled with praise and prayer. Psalm 119 concentrates on the perfection of God's law. This psalm proclaims the magnificence of God's word in nearly every verse! The overall theme seems to be a prayer for steadfastness and deliverance--through God's word--from struggles and the ungodly.
Psalm 119 is the clearest example of an acrostic psalm. The structure for this psalm is directly based upon the 22-letter Hebrew alphabet. There are 22 eight-verse-groupings in this psalm and each Hebrew letter is used once to begin its own section. When I read the text below, I will also read the corresponding Hebrew letter that begins each paragraph.
It should also be observed that there are certain terms that are used with great frequency in this psalm (and I have marked them in bold in the text for emphasis). For example, "word," "law," "testimonies," "commandments," "judgments," "precepts," and "statutes" are each used over twenty times in this psalm (approximately once or more per paragraph). These terms are used as synonyms in this psalm in order to place great emphasis (in almost every verse) upon God's revealed word.
ALEPH - Psalm 119:1-8:
"Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD! Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart! They also do no iniquity; they walk in His ways. You have commanded us to keep Your precepts diligently. Oh, that my ways were directed to keep Your statutes! Then I would not be ashamed, when I look into all Your commandments. I will praise You with uprightness of heart, when I learn Your righteous judgments. I will keep Your statutes; oh, do not forsake me utterly!"
BETH - Psalm 119:9-16:
"How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. Blessed are You, O LORD! Teach me Your statutes. With my lips I have declared all the judgments of Your mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts, and contemplate Your ways. I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word."
GIMEL - Psalm 119:17-24:
"Deal bountifully with Your servant, that I may live and keep Your word. Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law. I am a stranger in the earth; do not hide Your commandments from me. My soul breaks with longing for Your judgments at all times. You rebuke the proud--the cursed, who stray from Your commandments. Remove from me reproach and contempt, for I have kept Your testimonies. Princes also sit and speak against me, but Your servant meditates on Your statutes. Your testimonies also are my delight and my counselors."
DALETH - Psalm 119:25-32:
"My soul clings to the dust; revive me according to Your word. I have declared my ways, and You answered me; teach me Your statutes. Make me understand the way of Your precepts; so shall I meditate on Your wonderful works. My soul melts from heaviness; strengthen me according to Your word. Remove from me the way of lying, and grant me Your law graciously. I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments I have laid before me. I cling to Your testimonies; O LORD, do not put me to shame! I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart."
HE - Psalm 119:33-40:
"Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to covetousness. Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way. Establish Your word to Your servant, who is devoted to fearing you. Turn away my reproach which I dread, for Your judgments are good. Behold, I long for Your precepts; revive me in Your righteousness."
WAW - Psalm 119:41-48:
"Let Your mercies come also to me, O LORD--Your salvation according to Your word. So shall I have an answer for him who reproaches me, for I trust in Your word. And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for I have hoped in Your ordinances. So shall I keep Your law continually, forever and ever. And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts. I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed. And I will delight myself in Your commandments, which I love. My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on Your statutes."
ZAYIN - Psalm 119:49-56:
"Remember the word to Your servant, upon which You have caused me to hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life. The proud have me in great derision, yet I do not turn aside from Your law. I remembered Your judgments of old, O LORD, and have comforted myself. Indignation has taken hold of me because of the wicked who forsake Your law. Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage. I remember Your name in the night, O LORD, and I keep your law. This has become mine, because I kept Your precepts."
HETH - Psalm 119:57-64:
"You are my portion, O LORD; I have said that I would keep Your words. I entreated Your favor with my whole heart; be merciful to me according to Your word. I thought about my ways, and turned my feet to Your testimonies. I made haste, and did not delay to keep Your commandments. The cords of the wicked have bound me, but I have not forgotten Your law. At midnight I will rise to give thanks to You, because of Your righteous judgments. I am a companion of all who fear You, and of those who keep Your precepts. The earth, O LORD, is full of Your mercy; teach me Your statutes."
TETH - Psalm 119:65-72:
"You have dealt well with Your servant, O LORD, according to Your word. Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe Your commandments. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word. You are good, and do good; teach me Your statutes. The proud have forged a lie against me, but I will keep Your precepts with my whole heart. Their heart is as fat as grease, but I delight in Your law. It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes. The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver."
YOD - Psalm 119:73-80:
"Your hands have made me and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn Your commandments. Those who fear You will be glad when they see me, because I have hoped in Your word. I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. Let, I pray, Your merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to Your word to Your servant. Let Your tender mercies come to me, that I may live; for Your law is my delight. Let the proud be ashamed, for they treated me wrongfully with falsehood; but I will meditate on Your precepts. Let those who fear You turn to me, those who know Your testimonies. Let my heart be blameless regarding Your statutes, that I may not be ashamed."
KAPH - Psalm 119:81-88:
"My soul faints for Your salvation, but I hope in Your word. My eyes fail from searching Your word, saying, 'When will You comfort me?' For I have become like a wineskin in smoke, yet I do not forget Your statutes. How many are the days of Your servant? When will You execute judgment on those who persecute me? The proud have dug pits for me, which is not according to Your law. All Your commandments are faithful; they persecute me wrongfully; help me! They almost made an end of me on earth, but I did not forsake Your precepts. Revive me according to Your lovingkindness, so that I may keep the testimony of Your mouth."
So, what have we seen thus far in this great psalm about the word of God? The first eleven sections can be summarized as follows:
Well Stephen, why is this psalm important? Friends, I believe the answer is simple: The Psalmist's perspective on God and His word is the perspective we need to have today!
We will consider the second half of this great psalm in our next feature lesson. Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.