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Psalm 119:1-119:176
Key Verse: 119:1-2

Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. This psalm has 22 stanzas and each stanza is named after a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The first letter of the eight verses in each stanza has the same Hebrew alphabet. The main theme of this psalm is about the word of God. The words of God is expressed in different terms such as laws, decrees, promises, commands, precepts, statutes, The psalmist sang the beauty of the words of God and his attitude toward them. Through this message, we may learn right attitude toward the words of God.

Part I. The wonderful nature of the words of God.

Psalm 119 starts declaring who the blessed people are. In the first stanza, the psalmist wanted to proclaim true blessing in the sight of God. We like blessing. We want to be blessed people. It is easy to think that blessed people are like those who gain great successes and achievements. However, verse 1-2 show true blessing that you and I should pursue. “Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD. Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart” Here, the psalmist addressed that the word of God is the key to the blessed life. “Blessed are they” is in other translation “Happy are they” When do you feel happy? People are happy when they have good food, good marks, and enough possession. But the psalmist said that he is happy when he walks in the word of God. Though he underwent many difficult times in his suffering and affliction, he still declared that he is happy and a blessed person.

In this passage, the psalmist reveals what blessings he and we can have through the words of God. Blameless life before God (1), have upright heart (7), keep our way pure (9), help us not sin against God (11), preserve (revive) our life (25, 50), save our life (41), make us thankful person to God (62), not to be shameful person (80), make us wise (98 99), light and great peace in us (105,165). Overall, we can have right relationship with God and live under his protection and care. Our life is secured in God’s word. God’s amazing blessings come to us in a full package when we have his words.

In verse 1-3, the subject was “they”. However, from verse 4 to the end, he used “I” and “You” showing his personal relationship with God. All verses show his personal experience, request, and confession to God. Through his experience and understanding, he described the various characteristics of God’s word. What is the very nature of the words of God that he spoke about?

The most repeated word he used to describe the words of God is “righteous (or right)” (7, 62, 75, 106, 123, 137, 138, 160, 164, 172) and true (142, 151,160), truth (43), and trustworthy (86, 138), and eternal (89,160). Simply speaking, the word of God is forever right and true in the past, present and the future. There is no flaw in the words of God. It is perfect and right. There are no perfect and right words that last forever in this fallen and deceptive world. According to a statistical result, humans are lied to as many as 200 times a day, two to three lies in a ten-minute conversation. Most common lies people tell include “I Have Read & Agreed to the Above Terms and Conditions” “I am fine” “I will there in 5 min”. “I need 5 minutes of your time” How about the word of God? God promised Abraham a child although he was not able to have. There are many examples. Why is the word of God right and true? It is because it came from the mouth of God who is holy, faithful, and eternal. “(V13) I recount all the laws that come from your mouth.” “(V72) The law from your mouth” According to verse 140, God’s promises have been thoroughly tested, showing that it is proved true and right. V 89 says “Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” We are basically ruled under the word God, which is our supreme law.

Another nature of God’s word is its divine power. It purifies us and guards us from our sins. “(9) How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.” People like pure things since pollution has increased around us. It should also be our concern how to make our life pure in this sin sick world. “(11) I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” “(133) Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me. Sin is not a mere matter to holy God. It also destroys one’s life. There is no other way that we can keep our life pure from our sins. But the words of God clean our heart and protect us. Jesus said to his disciples “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3)

The word of God can help all kinds of our problems. The psalmist confessed. “(24) they are my counselors.” “(28) Strengthen me according to your word.” “(32) I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” “(52) I remember your ancient laws, O LORD, and I find comfort in them” “(98) Your commands make me wiser than my enemies”. “(105) Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” “(114) You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.” “(165) Great peace have they who love your law”. These characteristics show how powerful instrument the word of God is. The word of God gives us counseling, strength, comfort, freedom, wisdom, light, protection, and great peace.

As we know, we have faced various kinds of problems. In our own troubles and problems, we become helpless. This is man’s limitation. Since the world went astray from God’s truth, it has become ungodly, deceptive, dark, bitter, insecure, chaotic, and foolish. But the word of God is righteous, trustworthy, enlightening, eternal, boundless, full of wisdom, sweet, protecting, and peace-giving. It changes one’s life from ungodly to godly, from hopeless to hopeful, from depressed to cheerful, and from despaired to victorious. It is so important to have God’s word in us.

In V 18 and 129, he praised that the word of God is wonderful. “(18) Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” “(129) Your statutes are wonderful. The power and contents of the words of God is wonderful. It answers to our fundamental questions such as who God is, who we are, his power and love, man’s sin and destination, life, death, eternality, etc. It shows God’s redemptive plan and completion to save us from our sins through his son Jesus. The psalmist show how such wonderful words of God beautifully worked in his life. As we read verse 9, the words of God purified him. He might suffer because of his hidden sins. He was purified and then hid the words of God in his heart to resist sins (11). He has deep grace of God upon his new life. V 73 “Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands.” He encountered the one who created him and learned the words of God. His relationship with God went deeper. “You are my portion, O LORD” (57) “I may keep the commands of my God!” (115). “With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth.” (13). He confidently said “God is my portion and he is my God.” He personally accepted the words of God as he speaks to him.

When he had the words of God, he had great joy. “(14) I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.” He has a very genuine joy coming from God’s word. People are normally happy in paydays. Small rich increases our joy. I remember when I did my first part time job in Canada. When the owner increased my hourly pay 25 cents more, it made me feel happy. How much more it would be if we have great riches. The psalmist has great joy in the words of God. That shows how he valued the words of God. His value system has changed in the words of God. “(72) The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.” “(127) Because I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold,”.

At the same time, he was also watchful of deceptive things in this world because he knew the nature of things in this world. He said “(36-37) Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things (vanity)” He also confessed that his life in this world is temporal. “(19) I am a stranger on earth”. Thus, he sought the words of God which lasts forever. While living in this ungodly environment where people do not fear God, he feared him. “(120) My flesh trembles in fear of you; I stand in awe of your laws.” When the word of God was rejected, his heart was burned with anger. “(53) Indignation grips me because of the wicked, who have forsaken your law.” He hated the evil and falsehood. “(104) I hate every wrong path” “(113) I hate double-minded men” “(163) I hate and abhor falsehood” That was his godly anger and hatred. He could discern what is valuable and worthless, what to love and hate. The words of God became the standard of his life. In his many choices of life, he considered the words of God. “(59) I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes.”

He also grew in faith through sufferings. He suffered much. He viewed his difficulties in the sight of God. He said “(75) in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” “(67) Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.” This shows that he accepted his suffering as God’s humble training. When he went wrong, he repented and came back to God like King David, a man after God’s own heart, who made heavy sins before God but humbly returned to him. Affliction is also another expression of God’s divine love and care for us. He also learned God’s heart. “(136) Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed.” He had broken heart for the world.

In the words of God, he learned his true identity, nature of this world, preciousness of God’s word and the true source of joy. The words of God nurtured him to grow as a godly man. We can understand that the words of God can change a sinner into a godly man. It reminds us of 2Ti 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Part II. I obey your word.

We just surveyed the psalmist’s beautiful attitude toward the words of God. What is the important relationship between God and man? It is love. In this passage, he mentioned two times about God’s unfailing love (41,76). God loves us so much without fail. We also need to love him back as he desires. Loving God is practiced through loving his words. The psalmist made confession of love to him ten times. “(47) for I delight in your commands because I love them.” “(97) Oh, how I love your law! “(119) I love statues”. “(127) Because I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold,” “ (159) See how I love your precepts” “ (167) I love them greatly.”

What did he do out of love for God’s word? V20 and 131 show his love and zeal for the words of God very well. He said “(20) My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.” “(131) I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands.” In addition, he repeatedly made this expression “teach me” (26 times). It shows he wanted to know the words of God. He was ready to hear his words and wanted to have more so that he may have discernment and follow him.

After hearing his words, what did he do? He meditated on them to have deep understanding. The word “meditate” is written eight times in this psalm while in whole psalm, it is used 12 times. “(15) I meditate on your precepts” “(48)I meditate on your decrees” “(97) I meditate on it all day long” “(148) My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises” “(95) The wicked are waiting to destroy me, but I will ponder your statutes.” Meditation helped him to go deeper into the meaning of the words of God and clearly understand God’s will in his own situation. He could know God clearly and personally. Meditating on the words of God is God’s direction. God told Joshua when he became a new leader after Moses “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” (Joshua 1:8) When the psalmist meditated the words of God, his heart became so delighted. He repeatedly said “(111) your statutes are the joy of my heart” “(143) your commands are my delight” “(174) your law is my delight”

More than that, the psalmist’s love for God’s word is expressed in his obedience. “Obey” is very frequently used in this psalm (20 times), keep (9 times). Obedience is the very right response to God’s words for those who love him. 1Jn 5:3 says “This is love for God: to obey his commands.” Jesus said “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.” (John 14:23) V4 says “You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed.” God gave us his words as objective of our obedience. God’s will and plan is fulfilled through our obedience. When God created men, he desired them to be obedient out of love for him. Man’s obedience was to keep all the blessings of God in this world. Disobedience brought all curses into this world. So, God commanded Joshua “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:8) Another example, Mary, the mother of Jesus was also obedient. She was an ordinary girl but when she heard God’s plan and message that she would be the mother of Jesus, she responded “I am the Lord’s servant, May it be to me as you have said”

The psalmist in this passage also showed his best response to God. “(8) I will obey your decrees” “(33) I will keep them to the end.” “(34) I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart” “(44) I will always obey your law, for ever and ever.” “(56) This has been my practice: I obey your precepts.” “(57) I have promised to obey your words.” “(60) I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands.”

Obedience to the words of God was the main direction in his life. That was his deep love for the words of God. His humble obedience made his life truly blessed and meaningful. Life of obedience however, was not easy for him as we see all his afflictions in this passage. He was challenged because of affliction in ungodly environment. His obedience to God and love for his words were despised and threatened. He received scorn and contempt by the arrogant who do not acknowledge God (22). Rulers sit down and slandered him (23). He was laid low in the dust (25), In other translation, he was about to die (New Century Version). His soul was weary with sorrow (28). He was lowly and despised (141) and bounded with ropes (61). He became like a wineskin in the smoke (83) which means “he cannot hold good things in his heart due to his distress, anguish, and sorrow in his hardship”. Wicked set a snare for him (110) and the arrogant dig pitfalls for him (85). They almost wiped me from the earth (87). Trouble and distress had come upon him (143). He was in great difficulties and suffered emotionally, physically, and mentally. Despite all such hard situation, however, the psalmist focused on the words of God which gave him strength and hope. The word of God was his comfort, weapon, delight and hope. He did not compromise with the ungodly. He followed God’s way. He did not neglect the obedience to God.

His life of obedience is truly beautiful. It reminds us of Jesus who bore his suffering to fulfill God’s plan. He sought God’s will through his words. In his boyhood, he had a great zeal for knowing the words of God. During a family trip to Jerusalem, he stayed in the temple for three days to learn the words of God through listening and asking questions. After he came back to home, he was obedient to his human parents. In his public ministry, he obeyed the word of God to fulfill his will to the point of his death on the cross. Hebrew 5:8 says “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered” He suffered to obey God. He also commanded his disciples before he ascended to heaven “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (MT 20:19-20). God wants all his people to grow in obedience to him. God may help you and me to love his words and have an obedient heart to overcome this world and carry out his will for us.

Briefly, let’s think about the meaning of suffering described in this psalm. Suffering is inevitable for those who believe in God and it has a godly purpose. 2 Tim 3:12 says “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,”. Romans says “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Roman 5:3-4). In process of suffering, one’s faith grew and godly characters forms. Likewise, the psalmist also showed his patience and hope while waiting for God’s salvation. “(84) How long must your servant wait?” “ (166) I wait for your salvation, O LORD” “ (81) My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word.” He put his hope that God will judge the wicked and redeem him. Suffering itself is not pleasant but it helps us to grow in true hope. In his suffering, he continued to learn that the word of God is true solution. “(92) If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction” “(143) Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands are my delight.”

Thank and praise God for giving us precious words of God to make our life truly blessed. Who are the blessed? They are obedient people in the words of God. I pray that we all may bear this blessing through meditating and obeying the word of God in all circumstances.

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