Today we will consider Psalm 119. As we approach the end of our walk through the Old Testament, it is a good time to reflect on the nature of God’s Word. For us on this side of the cross, we tend to think of God’s Word as the New Testament. And while everything we read in this Psalm applies to the New Testament, when it was written, this Psalm referred to only to those parts of the Old Testament that were then written. Even in the New Testament, the overwhelming majority of the references to God’s Word or the Scriptures refer only to the Old Testament. So here, in this Psalm, what God’s Word does for us and to us, the Old Testament does.
This Psalm is the longest chapter in the Bible. It is an acrostic Psalm, which means it follows the Hebrew alphabet. Each of the eight verses in each of the stanzas begin with the same letter, with each of the 22 stanzas moving us through to the next letter of the alphabet (with stanza 21 combining two consecutive and similar letters). Words like “law,” “precepts,” “commands,” “rules,” etc. are all ways to describe God’s Word.
In the first stanza (119:1-8) we are told that blessing results from obedience to God’s Word, which He expects will be followed diligently. God’s presence and preservation are with those who live according to His Word, and we in turn praise God more as we know His Word more. Also note that knowing and learning God’s Word is likened to seeking Him.
In stanza 2, we see that purity comes from obedience to God’s Word. We seek God in His Word with our whole heart so that His Word will take root in our heart, leading us to obedience. Once we know His Word, and we have it in our heart, we also speak His Word. Twice we are told that true delight is found in God’s Word. Delighting in His Word keeps it in our hearts and minds and on our lips.
Stanza 3 prays for God’s blessing so that we can obey Him. It also prays that God would open our spiritual eyes to understand His Word. Knowing His Word convince us that we are not of this world, and implicit is that living of the world will obscure God’s Word from our spiritual eyes. Those of the world are rebuked by God, and even through they make us their enemies, still our delight and counsel is found only in God’s Word.
Stanza 4 calls God’s Word life-giving. God will answer prayers and repentance through His revealed Word. We again see that God must give us understanding of His Word. His Word provides strength and knowledge and frees the heart up to love God and His Word. Note that choosing faithfulness means seeking God in His Word and clinging to His revelation.
Stanza 5 deepens the Psalmist’s reliance on God for the Word to work in him. God has to teach His Word and give understanding in order for one to obey. God leads us into obedience through His Word. God inclines our heart to His Word, turns our eyes from worthless things to His Word, and gives life through His Word. It provides assurance to the believer and leads Him to fear the Lord. It turns away reproach and, once again, gives life.
In stanza 6, we see that God’s love and salvation come through His Word. It will also give us an answer to those who come against us if we trust it (see 1 Pet 3:15). It provides words of truth, which we are to speak. We again see that the Psalmist’s delight is in the Word of God, through which he prays, and on which he meditates.
Stanza 7 tells us that the Word provides comfort and assures us that God will keep His promises. Wickedness is equated with not obeying God’s Word. Such wickedness fills the Psalmist with scorn. Even while a wanderer this world, and even in the darkness of this world, God’s Word is the source of blessing for him.
In stanza 8, the Psalmist again prays according to God’s Word. The Psalmist considers his own ways and knows that he needs God’s Word to guide him. When surrounded by wickedness, he focuses on God’s Word. He praises God for His Word at all times. Note that companionship for those who obey God is found only in others who do the same.
Stanza 9 recognizes that God has kept His promises according to His Word. Knowing that God has already kept His promises allows us to believe His Word all the more. We want to know God’s Word because He is good and does only good – so His Word is only good! God’s Word is truth (see John 17:17) in a world full of lies and hearts devoid of God. The heart that has God, though, delights in His Word; His truth. God’s Word is more precious than gold and silver.
In stanza 10, the Psalmist knows that he was made to know and obey God’s Word. Because he knows God’s Word, the Psalmist knows that even his afflictions are due to God’s faithfulness, and he is comforted by God’s Word through those afflictions. Once again, God’s Word is contrasted with the lies of the worldly. So God’s Word needs to be taught.
Stanza 11 again recognizes that God’s Word brings salvation. Even as we wait for God to complete our salvation and endure the persecution of the world who do not know God or His Word, and even though it may even seem to come close to destroying us, still God’s Word provide life. And through the life God gives us, we are to obey His Word.
Stanza 12 says that God’s Word is unchangeable, eternal, and immovable. Since we delight in His Word, we are also immovable, and have eternal life and salvation. Even when the wicked come against us, we still need to turn to God’s Word. It is our help in time of trouble
In stanza 13, the Psalmist expresses love for God’s Word. He then extols the benefits of the Word. It gives wisdom that cannot be taken away. It offers understanding. It restrains us from evil and inspired obedience. It teaches us, keeping our path straight. It gives us hate for falsehood. God’s Word is sweeter than honey!
Stanza 14 tells us that God’s Word provides illumination to keep us on the right path. In affliction, the Word provides life. The offering of the Psalmist is given to God that He may teach him through His Word. Through the trials of life, he clings to God’s Word. He describes God’s Word as his “heritage” (or “inheritance”) and the joy of his heart.
Stanza 15 contrasts double-mindedness with God’s Word. God is not double-minded! God is our refuge when we hope in His Word. His Word causes us to separate ourselves from the wicked. It holes us up and preserves us, because straying from God’s Word is done in vain. The wicked are contrasted with those who love God’s Word and fear Him.
In stanza 16 we again see the longing of the Psalmist for God to fulfill His promise of final salvation. God’s hesed love is communicated through giving us an understanding of His Word. Once again the wicked (who will be judged) are contrasted with those who love God’s Word. Loving His Word means considering them right, and every other way false.
Stanza 17 extolls the wonderfulness of God’s Word and obedience to it. His Word gives understanding. It is to be greatly desired. It communicates grace and keeps us from sin. It preserves that so that we may obey it, and we obey it that it may preserve us.
Stanza 18 tells us that God is just, and His Word is moral. True morality and righteousness consist of conformity to God’s just Word. The Psalmist says his experiences have proven the veracity of the Word, and therefore he loves it. God’s righteousness is eternal, and His Word’s truth is eternal. It gives understanding leading to life.
In stanza 19, we again see that God’s answer to prayer can be found in His Word. The salvation His Word brings leads to obedience. The Psalmist prays (talks to God) and seeks Him in His Word (hears from God through His Word) at all times. God is near to His people through His eternal Word.
Stanza 20 tells us that God delivers those who have His Word in their hearts, while salvation eludes those who do not seek God’s Word. This is because God gives life through His Word, and through obedience to it and love for it. For God’s Word is truth and it endured forever.
In stanza 21, the Psalmist says that even though he is persecuted by worldly powers, his heart is awed only by God’s Word, and not those worldly powers. God’s Word brings joy to him and causes him to praise God. God’s Word brings peace and helps those who love it stand strong. The Psalmist loves God’s Word and obeying it. He obeys it because all of his ways are known to God.
The final stanza is a final prayer for God to help the Psalmist understand the Word. It is a prayer for salvation through the Word. The Psalmist praises God because of His Word and their truth. He prays that God would be His help because he has obeyed His Word. He seeks salvation in God’s Word. The Psalm ends with a beautiful truth: those who seek God in His Word are those sought by God.