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Psalm 119:1-56: The Word: The Hope for my Heart Print E-mail
Psalms
Sunday, 04 January 2015

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We often think about reading the Bible this time of year.  We want to forget the failures of last year, embrace the promise of a new year, and have a plan to be more faithful in our Bible reading for the year.  Yet, there is a nagging voice in the back of our head that says: ĎYou donít want to read the Bible this year.  Why even try?  Youíll give up around March or April, so what is the point of even starting?  Besides, its boring and hard to understand, so why spend time on it?í  The truth is that we have all had those thoughts as we think about reading the Bible.  So I want to start this year by encouraging you to not listen to that voice.  We are going to spend the month of January working through Psalm 119 and my prayer is that the words found in this Psalm will inspire us and give us a true hunger and desire to meditate on Godís Word.

The Psalm is by far the longest chapter in the Bible, having 176 verses.  It is divided into 22 sections containing 8 verses each.  Every section begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet and each verse in the section begins with the corresponding letter.  So then, verses 1-8 all begin with the letter aleph, the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet.  This would help people learn and even memorize this Psalm.  The main theme of the Psalm is the Word of God. 

The psalmist uses eight different ways to describe the Word and only four verses of the entire psalm do not contain one of those words.  The psalmist is simply describing all the various attributes of Godís Word.  But he is not a ĎWord worshipper.í  No, the psalmist delights in the Word, the Law, because it is from God.  It is His Word and His Law and His Commands.  The psalmist delights in knowing God through His Word.  There are various themes that run throughout the Psalm and they are not organized in a systematic way.  Rather, like Proverbs, they are simply repeated again and again in various ways throughout the Psalm.  Thus, my preaching, although I will break it up into three sections (v. 1-56, v. 57-112, v. 113-176), will be thematic to some degree, as we consider certain themes that are brought out in each section.  The theme for this morning is that only through understanding Godís Word can we be pure in heart and we can only understand His Word through His help.  I want us to trace this theme throughout the seven sections that we are looking at this morning.  So then, letís consider them briefly.

Blessed are those who walk in your ways (v. 1-8)

The psalmist begins with the blessing of keeping Godís Word.  Look at verses 1-3.  Many of the different themes are brought out in this first section: the longing to obey the Law, the promise of not being put to shame, the commitment to keep all Godís statutes.  Look at verses 4-8.  He even brings up the hope that he can have an upright heart to praise God with.  In order to have that, he must learn your righteous rules.  Through the Word, our hearts can be made right to worship God.  We see this theme again in the next section.

How can a young man be pure (v. 9-16)

The wisdom literature in the Bible was written for instruction to the young, so that they could grow in the wisdom and the knowledge of the Lord, and so they could be pure before Him.  So how do they do that?  Look at verse 9.  The heart can be pure by guarding it according to your word.  We can only be pure by hearing God through His Word and ultimately by believing in the Word who became flesh.  Through belief in Jesus, belief in the Word, a young man can be pure.  The psalmist continues to meditate on this in verses 10-16.  Look at those with me.  We see here the affection that the writer has for Godís Word.  He wants to be pure so he looks to the Word.

Help me understand your Word (v. 17-24)

Another theme is emphasized at the beginning of the third section, namely our need for Godís help to understand the Word.  Look at verses 17-20.  He longs to know and understand Godís Word and he knows that He needs Godís help to do that.  So he asks God to open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.  He cries out for Godís help.  And he knows what happens to those who do not keep the Word.  Look at verses 21-24.  He does not want to become one who ignores the Word, even in the face of his enemies.

The way of faithfulness (v. 25-32)

One of the themes that has surprised me a bit in studying Psalm 119 is that of affliction, which will be our focus next week.  We see it in our fourth section this morning.  Look at verses 25-32.  Notice the emphasis on finding the way of faithfulness in the midst of difficulty and suffering.  It is found when we run (donít walk) in the way of your commandments.  The way of faithfulness is found in meditating on the Word of God.

Give me understanding (v. 33-40)

This fifth section is a great example of prayer for us.  The psalmist is just crying out to God for help in understanding and obeying His Word.  Notice the beginning of each verse: Teach me...give me...lead me...incline my heart...turn my eyes...confirm...turn away.  The psalmist is admitting his complete desperation for God to do a work.  He cannot do this on his own.  Unless the Lord grants him understanding, he will never have it.  Man is completely dependent upon Godís sovereign goodness.  But this does not mean that the psalmist is going to just sit around and do nothing.  No, he prays and cries out to God for help.  And notice what he says he is going to do in the second part of the verses: I will keep it...observe it with my whole heart...delight in it.  And look at verse 40.  He will continue to meditate and study and pray, knowing and trusting that God will lead Him through His Word.  Sovereignty is never an excuse for laziness.

My hope is in your rules (v. 41-48)

Another theme that has already been seen is the psalmist longing for victory over his enemies and to not be put to shame.  We see that theme in the sixth section.  Look at verses 41-48.  The psalmist speaks of those who taunt him.  But he will not fear them because his hope is in your rules.  The Word of God is not just a bunch of commands or laws to the psalmist.  It is Godís promise of salvation and deliverance from all enemies.  So when those enemies mock and scoff, the people of God put their hope in His Word and His promise to protect.  This is one of the many reasons why the psalmist can say: I find my delight in your commandments, which I love.  We will come back to this theme in a few weeks.

The blessing to keep the Word (v. 49-56)

Our final section this morning echoes some of the same truths that we saw in the first section.  Look at verses 49-56.  The psalmist views the Word of God as his comfort in my affliction, which will be our theme next week.  The wicked continue to deride Godís people and forsake His Word, but not those who fear the Lord.  We remember His name in the night and look to His Word knowing the blessings that come from being able to understand it and keep it.

CONCLUSION:
As you can see, Psalm 119 is a meditation on the Word of God.  It is repetitive because it keeps returning to certain themes about Godís Word again and again.  One theme that we can see from our passage this morning is that of our need for understanding.  If we want to be pure in 2015, if we want to walk in the way of righteousness, if we want to know God and fear Him alone, then we must understand His Word.  Our hearts are desperate for knowledge of His Word.  You may not feel that way this morning, but it is true nonetheless.  More than anything else, your heart needs to be encouraged by the Word of God.  I know there are times when the Word can seem dry and difficult, but donít listen to the voice that tells you to give up.  Keep reading.  Keep meditating.  Keep crying out for understanding.  We are desperate for understanding so that we can keep our way pure and such understanding can only come through Godís grace.  Again, this is not an excuse for laziness.  Rather, it is just the opposite.  Godís sovereignty should fuel our desire to study and meditate on the Word.  It is His sovereignty which grounds our trust in the Word and promises that it contains.  We have seen that so clearly in the season of Advent that we have just observed. God promised to send us salvation through the Suffering Servant and He kept that promise by sending us Christ.  The Word promised us a Savior and that promise was fulfilled in Jesus, the Word who became flesh.  The Word tells us that He is coming back for all of those who repent of their sins and believe in His death and resurrection.  He is our sure foundation and He is revealed through Godís Word.  So take up and read.  Find hope for your heart in the Word of God.  Let our prayer be for this year: Teach me, give me understanding, lead me in the path, incline my heart, turn my eyes from evil, through the power of your Word and the Word who became flesh.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Saturday, 24 January 2015 )

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