Grace and Peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Psalm 119 was written in a very specific form of Hebrew poetry. In the Hebrew, the first eight verses begin with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, “aleph”. The second set of eight verses all begin with the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, “bet”. The third set of eight verses all begin with the third letter, and so on all the way through the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
Since there are 22 sets of 8 verses, Psalm 119 has a total of 176 verses. It is the longest chapter in the Bible. It takes about seventeen minutes to read aloud.
Some Psalms tells us who wrote them right away, but Psalm 119 does not. For this reason, scholars like to argue about who wrote it. Some say it sounds like King David’s pen. Others point to a different follower of God.
It is difficult to determine without a doubt who the Writer was. But, we know without a doubt that the Holy Spirit was the author. God’s Holy Spirit used someone’s personality, experience and emotions, to express the truths of God in just the right way. And while we might not be able to put a name tag on Psalm 119, the Holy Spirit did leave us some details about the person who penned it.
From the very first verses it is clear that the Writer is a follower of Jehovah God. He calls himself the LORD’s “servant” who is waiting for the LORD to save him (v38-42).
He is in great need of saving for he is being oppressed and persecuted by people who hate God’s word. Some of these people are powerful government officials (v23,46, 161).
In one verse the Writer says that he has been tied up by his enemies (v61). The fact that he speaks of being bound and oppressed by government officials who hate the LORD has led some to believe that Psalm 119 was written from inside a prison. To support this thought, in verse 109 the Writer expresses his fear that his life could be extinguished at any moment (v109).
Some have assumed that Psalm 119 must have been written by an old and experienced follower of God. But, the Psalm suggests the opposite. In verses 99-100 we read,
“I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts” (Psalm 119:99-100 NIV).
It would appear that the Writer is a relatively young man.
A number of times the Writer asks God to deliver him because he is dedicated to the LORD and does what is right (v59, 121).
But the Writer also confesses that he has not always kept the LORD’s commands. He confesses that he has sinfully wandered away from the LORD and still needs the Shepherd of souls to seek out and save him (v67,176).
Throughout his Psalm, the Writer repeatedly says that the source of his hope is God’s promise.
“May your unfailing love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise;” (Psalm 119:41 NIV).
“Remember your word to your servant,
for you have given me hope.
My comfort in my suffering is this:
Your promise preserves my life” (Psalm 119:49-50 NIV).
The Writer looks forward to serving God in joy after he has been rescued from his current oppression (v117). But, throughout the Psalm he makes it clear that he will not delay, but will do God’s commands now, as he waits for God’s deliverance.
“I wait for your salvation, O LORD,
and I follow your commands” (Psalm 119:166 NIV).
Psalm 119 is a Psalm about dedication to the LORD. It is about trusting that the LORD will keep His promise to save, even when times are dark. It is about doing what the LORD says to do, even when human reason suggests a different course of action is better. It is about the follower of God separating himself from Satan and all evil ways so that he can serve the LORD with all his heart, soul and mind.
When meditate on Psalm 119, we find that there is only one thing that produces a dedication like the one it describes.
Our theme for today’s meditation is: Love produces dedication.
Old Testament............. Psalm 119:113-128 (NIV)
113I hate double-minded men,
but I love your law.
114You are my refuge and my shield;
I have put my hope in your word.
115Away from me, you evildoers,
that I may keep the commands of my God!
116Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live;
do not let my hopes be dashed.
117Uphold me, and I will be delivered;
I will always have regard for your decrees.
118You reject all who stray from your decrees,
for their deceitfulness is in vain.
119All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross;
therefore I love your statutes.
120My flesh trembles in fear of you;
I stand in awe of your laws.
121I have done what is righteous and just;
do not leave me to my oppressors.
122Ensure your servant’s well-being;
let not the arrogant oppress me.
123My eyes fail, looking for your salvation,
looking for your righteous promise.
124Deal with your servant according to your love
and teach me your decrees.
125I am your servant; give me discernment
that I may understand your statutes.
126It is time for you to act, O LORD;
your law is being broken.
127Because I love your commands
more than gold, more than pure gold,
128and because I consider all your precepts right,
I hate every wrong path.
These are the words given by the Holy Spirit, through a fellow believer, to us. They are given to build up our faith, to teach us and to comfort us as we also wait for the LORD’s salvation. We pray, teach us your decrees also, O Lord, according to your love. Amen.
Maybe you’ve sold beauty products from Mary Kay. Perhaps Candle-Lite candles. Maybe waterless cookware, Encyclopedias or something else. Being a good salesperson doesn’t come easy and it isn’t for everyone. Especially if your ability to sell directly impacts your take home pay.
I’ve never been a salesman. But I think that if I ever was, I would have to sell a product that I thought every person really needed. I product that I felt was so good that it would sell itself.
If everybody else in the world really needed what I was selling, then I’d find some way to get it to them. I’d find the right words to convince them. I’d work hard to help them see that they really couldn’t live without my product.
Love of my product would produce dedication to selling it.
In the same way, Jehovah God’s love for sinners is what creates our love of Him. And in turn, with that love comes dedication to Him.
Throughout Psalm 119, the Writer expresses that he has hope for the future because God has promised to save him. Today, you and I have hope for the future because God has not only promised to save us, God has done it through Jesus the Messiah.
God’s Garden of Eden promise, which the Old Testament prophets describe, has come to realization in Jesus of Nazareth. In the person of Christ, God’s Son became truly human, like you and I.
Because He was sinless, He had room on His soul to take up our every despicable deed. Our every evil thought. Our every shameful action. And out of love for our broken souls, He did take up our sins, every one.
While He hung crucified, all our sin and guilt hung on Him. The eternal condemnation for our sins was poured out on Him in time. Our uncountable individual punishments were inflicted on Him instead of on us. This isn’t poetry or imagination, the physical and spiritual suffering of the man Jesus is historical fact.
In the last verse of Psalm 119 the Writer prays to the LORD,
“I have strayed like a lost sheep.
Seek your servant…” (Psalm 119:176 NIV).
When we feel guilt over our sins, let this be our prayer also. God will respond to our confession with love. For, as apostle Peter wrote,
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:24-25 NIV).
God is our refuge and our shield. He has sheltered us from His anger over sin by covering us with His sinless Son. He still shields us from the evil forces of this world by His educating Word.
The Good News of Jesus shows us that God loves us dearly. His love produces faith in our hearts and with that faith comes dedication Him.
Like a potted plant, our dedication to God grows the more we sit in the light of His Word and the more we drink in the water of His Word.
One of the most remarkable things about Psalm 119 is the amount of times that it refers to the words of God. The Writer refers to what God says with many synonyms.
He calls it : The Word. The Law. His Statutes. His Precepts. His Commandments. His Ordinances. His Decrees. His Promises.
Almost every verse of Psalm 119’s 176 verses has one of these terms for God’s Word in it. There are only a handful of verses that make no reference to God’s Word. Maybe around five.
It kinda makes you think the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us something here. Maybe that God’s Word is precious?
We love Jehovah God and we love His Word too. Because the LORD’s Word is what reveals who God is. Yes, God could appear visibly and have a discussion with us. But, in His loving wisdom He has chosen not to reveal Himself to most sinners in this way. Instead, He has chosen to reveal Himself to mankind through His living Words which are recorded in the Bible.
In those Words we find a specific God described. A God who is unlike any created being. He is single being with three persons. He is not a concept, or some ethereal energy. God is not a impersonal power that we can harness if we just, “learn the ways of the force”.
The LORD is a personal God, and He does not change who He is to match what sinners imagine Him to be like. There are characteristics that He has, and does not have. There are things that He does and does not do. And in all that He is and does, He is utter goodness. He is absolutely just. As the Bible describes Him,
“God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5 NKJV).
God is good.
God’s Word expresses who He is. God’s Word expresses His will. What He wants done. How He wants us to live so His will is done.
Because God is utterly good, we can be sure that what God commands is also utterly good, and always beneficial to follow.
The Writer of Psalm 119 says,
“I will speak of your statutes before kings
and will not be put to shame,
for I delight in your commands
because I love them” (Psalm 119:46-47 NIV).
“Though rulers sit together and slander me,
your servant will meditate on your decrees.
Your statutes are my delight;
they are my counselors.” (Psalm 119:23-24 NIV).
The Writer does not care if the world mocks him for following God’s direction. He will follow the will of God, because He trusts that God really is good. He also knows that God will not fail to bless those who walk in His ways.
It’s true, sometimes the good fruits of following God’s commands don’t show themselves right away. But they will with patience.
In verses 123-125 the Writer says,
“My eyes fail, looking for your salvation,
looking for your righteous promise.
Deal with your servant according to your love
and teach me your decrees.
I am your servant; give me discernment
that I may understand your statutes” (Psalm 119:123-125 NIV).
The Writer has been waiting for the LORD to rescue him for so long that he can’t stay awake. His eyes grow tired waiting for the promise of God to be kept. For His rescue to come. But what does He do? Does he abandon the LORD and seek help from somewhere else? No! He prays that God would teach Him how to better understand God’s Word, so that He might continue to wait faithfully for God’s sure promises to be kept.
Listen to some of the lover’s words which the Writer directs to the LORD:
“I delight in your decrees…” (v16)
“My soul is consumed with longing
for your laws at all times” (v20).
“I run in the path of your commands,
for you have set my heart free” (v32).
“Your decrees are the theme of my song
wherever I lodge” (v54).
“How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (v103)
“…I love your commands
more than gold, more than pure gold,” (v127).
“… I love your law” (v113).
What makes this believer so dedicated to the LORD?
Love for God. Love for all that God is and says.
Love for God created by God’s love for Him.
Love produces dedication. Dedication then creates separation.
In verse 113 and 115 the Psalmist writes,
“I hate double-minded men,
but I love your law” (v113).
“Away from me, you evildoers,
that I may keep the commands of my God!” (v115)
The Writer’s opposition to God’s enemies is a product of his union with God. Remember what Jesus said?
“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other…” (Matthew 6:24).
You can’t play on both teams. You can only serve one Master. Long before Jesus ever said these words, the Writer of Psalm 119 understood. So, he separated himself from those who oppose God, out of loving devotion to God.
In the same way we modern day Christians cannot allow ourselves to be goaded into serving Satan by doing things his way. If it isn’t the LORD’s way, it isn’t right, and it isn’t beneficial. If you feel guilty doing it, then for your own good you better stop and pray. Don’t allow yourself to be fooled into serving the King of Darkness.
Instead, separate yourself from those who think sin is of little consequence. Separate yourself by your words. Separate yourself by your actions. Draw a circle around yourself by declaring Jesus to be your King in every area of your life.
When we separate ourselves from the sinful world by walking in the commands of God, we show everyone that we follow the LORD, not just with our mouths, but with our hearts.
When we tell others how Jesus’ love has made us His own, then Satan loses. Through our simple speaking of the Good News of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is put into action, and eyes are opened to God’s love.
I pray that our dedication to Christ’s message might bring separation between many sinners and Satan. I pray that we will take Jesus with us when we leave today, and share Him with one person this week.
In verse 121 the Writer says,
“I have done what is righteous and just;
do not leave me to my oppressors” (v121).
Do you feel that confident? Have you been so dedicated to God that you can say, “LORD, I’ve followed your way, so come and help me now!”
I don’t feel that dedicated to God.
But, I know where to get more dedication.
My dedication comes from my love of God. My love of God comes from God’s love for me. So that’s where I need to go when I feel like a failure. I need to go back to God and see His love for me. I need to go back to the clearest presentation of God’s love for me. I need to go back to the foot of the cross. I need to see again the bleeding, suffering Jesus, whose every pain was a labor of love for my sake.
That love cleanses my sin. And that love feeds my soul. In His love for me, my dedication takes root and grows up. In His love for me, I live. As the Writer prayed in Psalm 119,
“May your unfailing love be my comfort,
according to your promise to your servant.
Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight” (Psalm 119:76-77 NIV).
May all that our LORD says be your delight, and your comfort, and your peace, and your life.
I’d like to close our sermon meditation today with the responsive reading of Psalm 31.
The peace which comes from God, which far exceeds all our understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.