The Longest Psalm

In my NIV Study Bible, Psalm 119 takes up eight pages. In the original Hebrew, this Psalm is an alphabetic acrostic, with the verses of each stanza beginning with the same letter. It is believed to be written post-exile. The psalmist’s themes throughout include God’s goodness in spite of personal suffering and affliction. The psalmist even credits the suffering with granting the opportunity to learn of God’s decrees and promises. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (vs. 11). He sees the bigger picture. Over and over the psalmist expresses a deep longing as he searches for God’s promises. Though he is pursued and persecuted by enemies, he presses onward, trusting God to fulfill His word. He prays for understanding and deliverance. He overflows with praise at the righteousness of God’s commands. He delights in the law of the Lord. He longs for rescue and salvation. The psalmist is seeking after God with his whole heart, his whole being. The indication is the writer had a significant falling away and returned to the faith. His lapse taught him a greater appreciation. He declares: I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. (vs. 15-16). He repeatedly asks God for assistance to not stray again from the paths of righteousness. He takes comfort in earthly sufferings, remembering God’s promise to preserve life. He proclaims (paraphrase): Your decrees are my theme song! (vs. 54).

Perhaps one of the most well-known verses of this Psalm is verse 105: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Less well-known, a few verses later, he writes, “Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end.” (vs. 111-112). These verses jumped off the page at me. Is God’s Word the joy of my heart? Am I faithfully keeping His decrees to leave a legacy grounded in God’s statutes? Something for continued meditation, prayer, and spiritual discipline.

My final observation of this psalm comes from verse 136: Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed. Several weeks ago, the preacher used 2 Peter 3:9 as the basis for the sermon: The Lord is not slow to keep his promise. He is not slow in the way some people understand it. Instead, he is patient with you. He doesn’t want anyone to be destroyed. Instead, he wants all people to turn away from their sins. The preacher went on to say that as Christians, we also should not be willing for anyone to perish, and should be doing everything in our power to share the Gospel with everyone that crosses our path. We should be bold as Aquila and Priscilla with Apollos (Acts 18:24-26), to “teach the Way more adequately” when someone isn’t practicing true Christianity or following the Biblical plan of salvation. We should mourn, like the psalmist, those who refuse to obey the Word.


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