ETL.024: Some Things You Probably Didn’t Know, But Should, About One of the Most Popular Psalms—119

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Psalm 119 is well known, but for an oddity rather than for what it should be known.  This Psalm is commonly recognized as not only the longest of the 150 Psalms, but also the longest chapter in the Bible.  It is 176 verses long.  But there is a reason a very specific reason for its length.  The structure of this Psalm makes it a literary marvel.

But not only is the structure of the Psalm an incredible fete, its message is delivered in a remarkable fashion as well.  Employing both repetition and variation, this Psalm essentially says the same thing 176 times and in 176 different ways.  Beginning with, “Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!” this lengthy Psalm goes on to extoll the virtues of God’s word; it’s beauty, value, importance, and desirability.  Seven primary synonymous terms are used to refer to Scripture. These are law, testimonies, ways, precepts, statutes, commandments, and rules.  Two others are also used, but much more sparsely: promises and faithfulness.

 

Some of the best known and beloved statements from Psalm 119:

  • “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (11).
  • “Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors” (24).
  • “The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (72).
  • “Forever, O Lord, you world is firmly fixed in the heavens” (89).
  • “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (103).
  • “Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way” (104).
  • “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (105).
  • “Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold.  Therefore I consider all your precepts to be right; I hate every false way”  (127-128).

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Is God Talking to Me? (3)

Here’s a guaranteed way to save lots of money on your grocery bill: only buy every third item on your grocery list.  Would that save money?   Yes.  Would it be practical?  No. You would end up not having two-thirds of the things you need.

What if you only heard every third word of a conversation?  (Ever had cell phone reception like that?)  It’s impossible to get the message.  As God speaks to us, we want to be sure we get the whole message.

You’ve likely noticed by the title that this is the third post in a series.  It all has to do with God speaking to us. Here’s a very quick recap:

  • God is speaking to us in His Son, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2) [see this post]
  • To hear Jesus, we must focus on the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) in the New Testament. [see this post].
  • Jesus also directs our attention to the remainder of the New Testament.  To hear His message we must go there too. [see this post]

But now the question is, What about the rest of the Bible? What about the Old Testament?  Isn’t it important too?

Absolutely yes!  Of course it is.  As a matter of fact, we cannot fully understand Jesus apart from the Old Testament.

So how does that work?

The Old Gives Way to the New

The Old and New Testaments of the Bible are connected to the two primary covenants between God and man.  A covenant is an agreement or an arrangement that allows for a relationship to exist.  They were quite common among people in biblical times, but these two are between God and men.

In the Old Testament we learn about the covenant God made with the people of Israel through Moses at Mt. Sinai.  It involved the law of Moses, the 10 commandments, the priesthood, sacrifices, and so on.

God never intended for this covenant to be a permanent system.  It was to be replaced by another one – a better one.  God explains this in Jeremiah 31:31-34 (also see Hebrews 8:6-13).

The New Testament shows us the new covenant. This one is made through Jesus Christ.

The Old is Necessary for the New

The covenant God made through Moses plays an extremely important role in preparing man for the coming of Jesus and the relationship we are able to have with God through Him.   As a matter of fact, the old is said to have served the purpose of being our “tutor to lead us to Christ” (Gal. 3:24; NASB).

To say it another way, the things associated with the old covenant were “a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col. 2:17).

That does not render the Old Testament useless to us.  Far from it.  Paul writes, “For whatever was written in former days [a reference to the Old Testament] was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4).

So, there is a reason an emphasis is given to the New Testament as it shows us how we are able to have a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  All the while the Old Testament remains very important because it helps us understand much of what the New has to say about Jesus (as a Priest, and as our sacrifice, and so on).  Not only that, but it gives us good instruction and encouragement as we read about God’s gracious and faithful dealing with man, which then strengthens our hope.

If we are going to hear Jesus, through whom God is speaking, we need to spend time in the entire Bible.

God is talking to me.

I need to hear Him.

I need to be in God’s word.

God bless,


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