PSALM 119:1-8 & 169-176
1 Blessed are those whose ways are blameless,
who walk according to the law of the Lord.
2 Blessed are those who keep his statutes
and seek him with all their heart—
3 they do no wrong
but follow his ways.
4 You have laid down precepts
that are to be fully obeyed.
5 Oh, that my ways were steadfast
in obeying your decrees!
6 Then I would not be put to shame
when I consider all your commands.
7 I will praise you with an upright heart
as I learn your righteous laws.
8 I will obey your decrees;
do not utterly forsake me.
169 May my cry come before you, Lord;
give me understanding according to your word.
170 May my supplication come before you;
deliver me according to your promise.
171 May my lips overflow with praise,
for you teach me your decrees.
172 May my tongue sing of your word,
for all your commands are righteous.
173 May your hand be ready to help me,
for I have chosen your precepts.
174 I long for your salvation, Lord,
and your law gives me delight.
175 Let me live that I may praise you,
and may your laws sustain me.
176 I have strayed like a lost sheep.
Seek your servant,
for I have not forgotten your commands.
If you want to read the whole of Psalm 119, bear in mind that a twenty minute bus ride might not be long enough. It’s massive! At 176 verses long, it’s not only the longest Psalm but the longest chapter in the Bible. Just like the careful examination by a jeweller of a many-sided diamond, this is a many-sided reflection upon the wonders of the Scriptures. It’s an ‘acrostic’ Psalm – ordered by the Hebrew alphabet – with each letter taking its turn to introduce eight more verses of wonder at God’s Word.
The Psalmist uses many descriptions for the Scriptures as he explores their wonders: laws, testimonies, precepts, statutes, commandments, ordinances, Word and promises. He wonders at the benefits the Scriptures bring: liberation, light, life and stability. Reading this Psalm in the light of Jesus we have even more reason to wonder at the Scriptures, in the fullness of their revelation.
For all the thoroughness of the Psalmist’s exploration of the wonders of the Scriptures, he finishes the Psalm on a note of incompleteness: “I have strayed like a lost sheep”. For all its 176 verses, for all the wonders of the Old Testament revelation, it is God’s ultimate revelation of himself in Jesus that answers the closing cry of this Psalm.
The Apostle Peter celebrates what it took to bring stray sheep home: ‘“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls’ (1 Peter 2:24-25). Peter is quoting Isaiah 53 but we are right to also call to mind the concluding cry of Psalm 119, answered here at the cross of Jesus. Imagine how long Psalm 119 would have been if the Psalmist had seen that wonder!
Head: What have you learnt about Jesus from Psalm 119? What have you learnt about yourself?
Heart: How does it make you feel that you were like a stray sheep and Jesus died as your great Shepherd to bring you home?
Hands: The Psalmist wondered at God’s Old Testament revelation of himself, craving that his life would be centred on the Scriptures. Yet in Jesus we have received the ultimate revelation of God’s love and mercy: how much more should you crave a life centred on him?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the ultimate revelation of liberation, light, life and stability in the cross of Jesus. Please by your Spirit deepen my craving, my hunger for your Word, so that I might live life always close to my loving Shepherd. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.