Psalm 119

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Devotional Word for Thursday, June 18, 2020

Have you ever thought about how the Bible has changed for you, even as it has changed you, over the years? This morning Pat and I, as part of the texts assigned for our daily devotional schedule, read the first 48 verses of Psalm 119. That caused me to reflect on my perceptions of that chapter of the Bible over the past 48 years that I’ve been a Christian. 

My first perception was that it wasn’t hard to find, that is, it wasn’t like Obadiah or Titus or whatever. I knew Psalms was right in the middle of the Bible, and I knew that Psalm 119 was big enough that I could locate it easily. After all, it had umpteen zillion verses! 

One of my early perceptions was that Psalm 119 was not easy reading. I especially liked the narrative portions of the Bible, that is, the ones describing the actions of Abraham, or the ups and downs and ins and outs of David’s life, or heart-rending events of Joseph’s life. You get the picture. Psalm 119, not so much.

In 1975 I was called to be the Pastor of Kingman Community Church, a small church in west central Indiana. One morning early in my pastorate there I can remember standing in the Fellowship Hall where I had an office area. I had a podium, the kind you put on a table to speak from. I put my Bible on it and purposed to read all 176 verses [by then I knew it didn’t really have umpteen zillion verses!] of Psalm 119 out loud, just to see how long it took. If I recollect correctly, it took about 15 minutes or so. The point was, I was now willing to engage Psalm 119.

Over the years I found Psalm 119 contains a number of individual verses that are quite familiar to many Christians, though they don’t always know where they come from. Let me read some to you and see if you don’t think, “Oh yes, I know that verse.” 

How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. [v.9]

Here’s one: Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law. [v.18] This one is known to lots of folk: Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path. [v.105] Another favorite is, The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. [v.130] And here is a very precious verse: Your word is very pure, therefore Your servant loves it. [v. 140]

Psalm 119 has changed for me. It’s no longer just a long, long Psalm of disconnected verses. I began to find insights and teachings that shaped me, that molded how I approach the Bible. Verses 89 and 97 and 160 are embedded in my soul: Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven. [v. 89] Because such is the case, O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. [v. 97] As I do so I find, The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting. [v. 160] 

Not only has Psalm 119 changed for me, it has changed me. Perhaps the change is best explained by the first four verses of the Psalm. Verses 1-3 refer to God in the third person singular: Him or His. Beginning in verse 4, however, the pronoun used for God changes to the second person singular: You. It becomes very personal between the reader of Psalm 119 and God. Each verse is a personal prayer directed to the Lord, and He is right there hearing it! I find Psalm 119 is a vivifying launch pad for personal interaction with the Lord. It expresses my heart to Him. It clarifies my desires; through it the Holy Spirit speaks to me. 

The point for today is that faithful reading of the Bible, consistently, regularly, day-by-day, for many years, is life-changing. Our perceptions of the Bible and its various portions change, and we are changed by it. God’s people have always been a people of the Word. It is the richest resource God has given to His people. We are impoverished – and spiritually enfeebled – if we ignore or neglect it. 

I want to encourage you to read the Bible every day. Read it in huge chunks, read it in small chunks, but read it. Read it consistently. Read it consecutively. Read it reflectively. Read it expectantly. But read it. Ask the Holy Spirit to make it fruitful in your life. He will.

Tomorrow, we will end the week with some examples of how Psalm119 is a gold mine for us. 

Let us pray: Lord God, our Father, we thank You that You are a God who speaks. You speak to us through Your Word, the Scriptures. Give us a love for Your Word. Help us be faithful in reading Your Word. Use it to shape, direct, correct, inform, and bless our lives. May Your Word richly dwell within us and bring forth Your fruit in our lives. We pray this in the name of the Lord Jesus, who with You and the Holy Spirit, reign as one God forever and ever. Amen.