Friday, August 20, 2010

Psalm 119 Challenge

At a recent women’s ministry meeting it was decided that all of us in the group would spend some time studying Psalm 119. You may be familiar with this Psalm as it is the longest psalm as well as the longest chapter in the Bible. It is referred to in Hebrew by its opening words, "Ashrei temimei derech" ("happy are those whose way is perfect"). It is the prayer of one who delights in and lives by the Torah, the sacred law.

According to Wikipedia, Psalm 119 is one of about a dozen alphabetic acrostic poems in the Bible. Its 176 verses are divided into twenty-two stanzas of eight lines each, and in Hebrew forms an acrostic, with each stanza starting with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet (alef, bet, etc.). Employed in almost every verse of the psalm is a synonym for the Torah, such as dabar ("word, promise") and mishpatim ("rulings").

The acrostic form and the use of the Torah words constitute the framework for an elaborate prayer. The Torah is held up as a source of blessing and right conduct and the psalmist pledges to dedicate himself to the law. What makes Psalm 119 unique is the way that these requests are continually and explicitly grounded in the gift of the Torah and the psalmist's loyalty to it.

As I researched this background and began thinking about all the marvelous truths that are within this beautiful Psalm, I came to the realization that genuine spirituality and Godliness is always marked by a love for and a delight in God's truth. The two are really inseparable, aren’t they?

Even just a cursory reading of the Bible will quickly showcase this relationship of a believer and his/her love for God’s Word. I Peter 2:1-3 says, “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious." Jesus said in John 8, "He who is of God hears God's word," and in John chapter 14 he said, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.” Paul expressed a believer’s love for God's Word in Romans 7:22 "I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man." And Job said, "I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food."

So, it is no wonder that the longest chapter in the Bible deals with the believer and his relationship to God’s Word. It is the obedience to God’s Word that brings true happiness. This seems like a simple truth on the surface but I am always amazed at how quickly I fill my own life with things, often good things, which keep me from spending time in the Word.

The Bible is full of verses that speak of God’s faithfulness to us if we seek Him, “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9). In Revelation we read, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. (3:20). Clearly, God is keeping His half of the equation but sadly, we do not keep our end all too often.

Of course, we need to realize that it is a spiritual battle to be in the Word and second, we need to commit ourselves to the study of God’s Word. This requires much prayer and discipline as we need to strip away things that may be taking our time from the Lord.

For the next several weeks, I am committing to studying Psalm 119 and hope to blog about my findings. If you read this blog regularly, will you also commit to studying this great Psalm with me?

If you do not know where to begin, start by just reading the Psalm repetitively each day and then begin making a list of key words or themes that you see repeating. Kay Arthur has a wonderful method of studying the Bible called the inductive study method. We have used it in our women’s bible study and I highly recommend it. While her approach is quite intense, the tools she provides helps you to customize her method to your liking. You do not have to do everything she says, but doing even one thing, will help you with your study and keep you immersed in the Word.

If you decide to study Psalm 119 along with me, please comment and let me know what God is teaching you.

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