August 4, 2013

Needing More

Psalm 119:1–8

Interesting word, enthusiasm. It's derived from two Greek terms, en (meaning "in") and theos (meaning "God"), carrying the idea of being inspired. In the original sense of the word, a person was so overtaken with the presence of God, he or she could barely contain the excitement. That makes sense. The truth of God applied to our circumstances brings a burst of enthusiasm nothing else can provide.

New homes, boats, cars, and clothes give us a temporary "high"—until the payments grind on. A new job is exciting, but that dries up in a few months. A new marriage partner makes us feel "up," until the daily grind begins to erode the fun memories of a fantasy honeymoon. All those things may eventually leave us feeling responsible or disappointed or disillusioned, sometimes even a little bored. We need something more than what the world can provide, something more substantial. We need "God in."

Psalm 119—the longest song in the ancient hymnal—is a song that is full of "God in" kind of statements. Over and over it affirms the value of having God's Word in our lives. It keeps pounding away on that theme with a heavy, powerful beat to the music. There is one statement after another announcing the joys, the fresh motivation, the unique benefits of God's Book in our lives. Let's get a grasp of the whole song.

The Passage and Its Pattern

This is the longest song. Not only that, it is the longest chapter in the whole Bible, comprised of 176 verses. No other chapter even comes close in length.

The song has an unusual feature that can only be appreciated in Hebrew. Most Bibles follow the original structure of the song by dividing it into twenty-two sections, eight verses each. Each section has a title, such as "Aleph," "Beth," "Gimel," etc. These words are really not words at all, but the letters that comprise the Hebrew alphabet. There are twenty-two letters in all, which explains the song's composition in twenty-two sections. Within each section of this ancient hymn, each verse begins with the same Hebrew letter. In other words, all eight verses in the "Aleph" section of the psalm begin with the letter "Aleph." This poetical structure called "acrostic" made the song easier to memorize.

The psalm carries the Word of God as its theme. I have found only a very few verses that fail to mention the Scriptures. The composer employs several synonyms for Scripture throughout the song. Some are:

  • Word
  • Testimonies
  • Law
  • Judgments
  • Ways
  • Statutes
  • Paths
  • Commandments
  • Precepts
  • Ordinances

The purpose of the psalm is to give praise to God for His Word, and then demonstrate how we are to behave in relation to Scripture. An old German version of the Bible places the following description at the head of Psalm 119: "This is the Christian's Golden ABCs of the praise, love, power, and use of the Word of God."

Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Living the Psalms: Encouragement for the Daily Grind (Brentwood, Tenn.: Worthy Publishing, a division of Worthy Media, Inc., 2012). Copyright © 2013 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved. Used by permission.