Psalm 119 ~ The Golden Alphabet

Psalm 119

It is the longest chapter in the Bible with 176 verses. It is an acrostic poem formed by the Hebrew alphabet. I think we probably lose something of the poetic beauty in translation because each of the 22 sections is made up of 8 lines with each line beginning with the same letter of the alphabet. The consideration and work that went into this beautiful section of Scripture is mind boggling to me. Full confession…I think sometimes that my understanding of these men being inspired to write down Scripture is that it must have happened in some easy glowy the “pen” practically moved itself across the page kind of way. I’m not sure what the process looked like but as my appreciation and love for the book grows I am becoming more aware that it probably didn’t look like that.

The author is unknown but is generally thought to be either Ezra or possibly Nehemiah or even David. Tradition does say that David used it to teach his son Solomon the alphabet.

It has long been one of my favorite chapters to read regularly. The psalmist expresses such a deep love for the word of God and I want to tether myself with the same deep affection to the Scriptures. I want to love God’s ways with that same depth of devotion and the only way to have that is to feast on it every day.

CS Lewis said that Psalm 119 “…is not, and does not pretend to be, a sudden outpouring of the heart…it is a pattern, a thing done like embroidery, stitch by stitch, through long quiet hours for the love of the subject and for the delight in leisurely disciplined craftsmanship.”

Blessed are those whose way is blameless

Essentially, happy is the one who is so devoted to God’s word that his entire life is lived in obedience to it.

In his book, The Golden Alphabet, Spurgeon says that we must settle in our hearts the fact that “…holiness is happiness and that we are wise to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.”

He also went on to say that because of this great love and allegiance to God’s law that Christianity was not anything out of the ordinary but was rather just the everyday way of life to those who lived by it. It molded their public behavior as well as their private devotions.

One of the greatest tricks of the enemy has been to convince mankind that living according to God’s way is just not worth it. That it is somehow lacking in fun or boring. But while a life lived by following after God is not devoid of suffering or heartache, it is a life that does not have to experience such things without hope.

Who walk in the way of the Lord

It is not enough to just know what God’s way is, that knowledge must lead to right behaviors. When I was reading about this psalm I can across another quote by Charles Spurgeon that I just loved.

“To enjoy this beatitude a holy walking must become habitual. This sacred exercise is very different from sluggish piety. ‘Blessed are the undefiled in the way who walk in the law of the Lord.’ A man may sit down in the road without soiling his skin or fouling his apparel, but that is not enough. There must be progress – practical action – in the Christian life; and in order to experience blessedness we must be doing something for the Master.”

Jesus told us that the greatest commandment is to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind. And the second greatest is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

We can do neither of those things without a devotion to knowing God’s ways and for that knowledge to have a practical outworking in our lives toward other people.

We could spend hours and hours studying this beautiful chapter and never reach an end to the wisdom found inside it. The day we ladies met we just went over the first eight verses and still only skimmed the surface. One suggestion that is helpful is to read a section of this psalm everyday. Can you imagine the fatness of our souls if we did this over and over and over again?

CS Lewis also said “…the most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express the same delight in God which made David dance.”

May we live such delight and may our prayer be the same as found in verse five:

Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!

A Study of the Psalms

Each week I join a group of women to share a cup of coffee and talk about a specific Psalm. It has become a highlight of my week and a deep source of encouragement. We range in age from early twenties to almost fifty (that would be me…yikes!) and are all in different seasons of life. We cross over in church membership and the school our children attend. We all have different faith backgrounds and history.

But we find common ground delving into the beautiful and rich book of psalms that is at the center of the Scriptures.

It is here that we find story.

We find history.

We find revelation.

Here we find praise.

We find lament.

We find comfort.

We find declarations of the faithfulness of Yahweh.

We find instruction.

Wisdom is shared in verse and song. Indeed many, if not all, are meant to be sung or chanted by God’s people. My friends are an adventurous lot and as much as possible we end our time together by singing the weekly Psalm from our cantus. (The beautiful sound of the eight of us singing The King of Love (Psalm 23) almost brought me to tears.)

The writing of the book of Psalms spans centuries and has multiple authors including at least seven named writers with about fifty psalms that have no author attributed to them.

David is credited with writing seventy-three psalms for sure with the possibility of having written a dozen others.

There are 150 chapters all together and the order we know today is not chronological. Psalm 90, penned by Moses, is actually the oldest psalm.

The entire book can be broken down into five smaller books or collections.

Psalm 1-41 ~ these chapters focus on God beside us during times of trouble

Psalm 42-72 ~ the emphasis is on God going before us as rescuer and also as Judge

Psalm 73-89 ~ reminds us of God’s faithfulness and that He is all around us

Psalm 90-106 ~ we are directed to see God above us, as one who is worthy of our worship and praise

Psalm 107-150 ~ these final chapters are a call to thankfulness in response to God being among us

The psalms literally run the gamut of the entire human experience. No matter what our circumstance they declare that God not only hears His people but delights in answering them.

He is with us, He goes before us, He surrounds us, He reigns over us, and He dwells among us.

We know that all Scripture is inspired by God but the book of Psalms is interesting in that it is directed to God. It is a manual for us on how to speak to God and about God in every situation we could possibly find ourselves in.

What a gift!

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. ~ Psalm 32: 8

The time with these women each week with the focus on a single psalm has been very profitable and like sharing the recipe of a good meal with others I want to share some bits and pieces of conversation.

So grab a cup of coffee or tea and pull up a chair on Saturday mornings and contemplate with us the rich beauty of the psalms. I’d love to have your join us.

Do you have a favorite psalm?