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Psalms 119:0 Love for God’s word
This psalm is a lengthy meditation addressed to God on the excellencies of his law. The law here refers not to legal requirements such as in the law of Moses, but to the whole of God’s instruction for humankind in general. Therefore, God’s law is also called his word, commandments, sayings, judgments, statutes, ordinances, instructions, precepts, injunc tions, testimonies, promise, way and path. At least one of these words occurs in almost every verse of the psalm.
An acrostic in form, the psalm is divided into twenty-two sections, corresponding to the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Each section has eight verses, and all eight verses in any one section begin with the same letter. (For example, one might imagine an acrostic poem in English with the first eight lines all beginning with A, the second eight lines all beginning with B, and so on down to Z.)
Verses 1-16: In a confident opening statement the psalmist expresses the happiness enjoyed by those who live according to God’s word (1-3). The psalmist then addresses God, praying that he himself will understand God’s word and be obedient in following it (4-8). A good knowledge of God’s word is a safeguard against sin (9-11). This knowledge is obtained by asking God’s help in understanding his teaching, thinking it over and declaring it to others. Above all, the person must find pleasure in God’s word and have a desire to know it and practise it (12-16).
Verses 17-32: The psalmist knows that if he has this desire to be guided by God’s word, his life will be full of purpose and meaning. Though he may be unsure of his future (17-20), mocked by friends (21-22), or persecuted by rulers (23), he will always be loyal to God’s word (24). This gives him the confidence to trust in God when he is in distress. God’s word strengthens him (25-28). He therefore prays for increased understanding and greater inner strength to refuse what is evil and choose what is good (29-32).
Verses 33-48: For the psalmist, life is built around devotion to God’s word. He does not want to be sidetracked by trying to gain wealth or prestige (33-37). What he dreads most is to displease God. What he longs for is a life directed by God through his word (38-40). The word gives him assurance of salvation, which in turn gives him courage to answer those who mock him (41-43), confidence to live in the freedom God has given him (44-45), and boldness to speak about God to the nation’s rulers (46-48).
Verses 49-64: God’s word brings comfort to the suffering believer (49-52), but it also stirs up feelings of righteous anger against those who deliberately ignore God’s standards (53). However, the psalmist does not allow discouragement to overwhelm him. He gains renewed vigour from fresh meditation on God’s word (54-56). Love for the word leads to enjoyment of God himself (57-58). It produces a life of obedience and prayer. It brings hatred from the wicked, but the believer finds new friendship among those who share his love for God (59-64).
Verses 65-80: In a world of sin, an under standing of God’s word is essential to guide the godly in the way that is right (65-66). When they stray from God’s path, God may send afflictions to bring them back. The afflictions in the case of the psalmist are the lies with which the wicked slander him (67-72). But the God who made him is developing his character through these afflictions. By coming through his trial with a firmer faith in God, he has been an encouragement to others (73-76). He prays that if his enemies attack him again, they, not he, will be defeated. As a result the godly will be further encouraged (77-80).
Verses 81-96: During periods of suffering, the psalmist has at times wondered why God is slow to act in saving him as he promised. He feels as useless and lifeless as a dried-up wineskin (81-83). Yet he does not lose hope. He still trusts in the steadfast love of God to deliver him from the treachery of his persecutors (84-88). God and his word are lasting and unchangeable. His promises are sure (89-91). This encourages him to believe that God will save him through his trials (92-96).
Verses 97-112: When the psalmist is taught by God through studying and meditating on his word, he learns true wisdom. He is wiser than all the worldly-wise, in spite of their years of experience (97-100). The wisdom that comes from God’s word produces moral uprightness and sound judgment (101-104). It shows the psalmist how he should behave when he is afflicted (105-107), when he is praying or worshipping (108) and when he is in danger (109-110). It gives him constant and deep-seated joy (111-112).
Verses 113-128: Another result of loving God’s word is a hatred of all that is evil and all that hinders the pursuit of good (113-117). God will punish those who deliberately rebel against his word. This is all the more reason why people should fear God and obey him (118-120). In view of his own obedience and God’s promise, the psalmist asks God to save him from those who persecute him and break God’s law (121-124). His enemies despise God’s law, but he delights in it (125-128).
Verses 129-144: So wonderful is the instruction of God’s word that God’s loyal servant has a hunger to know more of it. He knows that by following God’s word he has victory over sin and temptation (129-134). He weeps to think that people would trample underfoot such noble teaching (135-136). Their irreverence causes him further sorrow, for they are cutting themselves off from the knowledge of God. Only through God’s word can people develop a true understanding of God’s justice, righteousness and faithfulness (137-140). As for the psalmist, he finds God’s word reliable and true, and a constant source of comfort, joy and instruction (141-144).
Verses 145-160: Obedience to God’s word brings confidence in prayer, but that does not lessen the need for self-discipline, whether in studying the word or in praying (145-148). Whatever the danger, God is always near those who are loyal to him (149-152). As the psalmist’s troubles increase, his pleas become more urgent. He reminds God that he has been loyal to the divinely given word, and asks God to save him (153-156). On the basis of God’s love, truth and justice, he pleads for God’s help (157-160).
Verses 161-176: Because he rejoices in God’s instruction, the psalmist is steadfast amid perse cution and consistent in his daily prayers (161-164). His life is one of inner peace and stability. In quiet confidence he waits for God to save him (165-168). The psalmist concludes his long meditation with a summary of his main requests: an understanding of God’s word (169), deliverance from affliction (170), boldness to proclaim the excellencies of God’s word (171-172), constant help from God because of his constant obedience to the word (173-175), and God’s correcting hand upon him when he strays from God’s path (176).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Psalms 119". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/