God’s Multifaceted Word: reflecting on Psalm 119

In my own daily times of Scripture reading and prayer, I’ve been meditating on Psalm 119. Psalm 119 is the longest of the Psalms by far with 176 verses. This psalm is an extended reflection on the delight and power of God’s word, structured as an acrostic poem with one stanza for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

The psalm offers an expansive catalog of the diverse characteristics of God’s word that is impressive. When I read through Psalm 119, I feel like I am getting a multifaceted look at the word of God that is enlightening, stretching, and encouraging.

This past weekend at Eastbrook, I preached on Ephesians 6:10-24 in a message entitled “A Crash Course in Spiritual Conflict.” In this well-known passage, we encounter Paul delineating the armor of God. The only offensive piece of that armor comes last: “and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17b). The Word of God is powerful and a vital piece of our armor in the spiritual conflict we face daily as God’s people. As the writer of Hebrews says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Here is a brief list of some of the facets of God’s word outlined within Psalm 119. I’d encourage you to read through the list and, when one statement jumps out at you, to open your Bible to Psalm 119, read that verse, and then meditate on those words for the day. There is so much here in each verse to grow and deepen us with God.

God’s word is:

  • to be fully obeyed (4)
  • righteous (7, 61, 106, 123, 137, 144, 164, 172)
  • a guide for purity of life (9)
  • a way to keep from sin (11)
  • from the Lord’s mouth (13, 88)
  • full of wonderful things (18)
  • a delight (24, 35, 70, 77, 143, 162, 174)
  • a counselor (24)
  • a revelation of God’s wonderful deeds (27)
  • a picture of the way of faithfulness (30)
  • good (39, 68)
  • a revelation of God’s salvation promises (41)
  • a bringer of freedom (45)
  • a promise to preserve our life (50)
  • ancient (52)
  • a comforter (52)
  • precious (72)
  • a pathway away from shame (80)
  • completely trustworthy (86, 138)
  • eternal (89, 152, 160)
  • firm in the heavens (89)
  • boundless in its perfection (90)
  • what makes us wiser than our enemies and our teachers (98, 99, 100)
  • sweet like honey (103)
  • a lamp and light for our path (105, 130)
  • the joy of our heart (111)
  • wonderful (129)
  • thoroughly tested (140)
  • true (142, 151, 160)
  • a bringer of peace (165)
  • sustenance (175)

Set Free to Run

I run in the path of Your commands
For You have set my heart free.
– Psalm 119:32

Psalm 119 is one of those daunting pieces of Scripture that some people avoid. One-hundred seventy-six verses lovingly give attention to having our hearts set on God’s ways. The psalm is filled with urges by the writer to meditate upon, consider, obey, live according to, and keep God’s law or commands.

But I love this image in Psalm 119, verse 32. Here we find a vivid metaphor of what that looks like. God’s law creates a path or way in which we can travel. It sets the terrain and the boundaries of the run. It creates the heights and depths of the way.

Whereas there are times when it would be fitting to walk or hike a path, the psalmist says the God-given way is to run.

Why run?

Because God has set us free at the very core of our being.

Grace in the Law

Take from me the way of lying; let me find grace through your law. – Psalm 119:29

When I normally think of God’s law, I think of the rules that I need to keep. I think of the Ten Commandments with the “thou shalts…” and “thou shalt nots…” I think of commands and strict parenting. I think of punishment.

But here in this verse we encounter the wonderful grace of God’s’ law. The law is a pathway to grace. First, we find grace in God’s law as it shows us God’s willingness to speak to us. Apart from God’s voice in our lives we would have no knowledge of the truth. Apart from God revealing the way of right living, we would have no guide for our life. God’s voice speaking the words of truth in the law are a gift of grace to us.

We also find grace in God’s law when it reveals our sinfulness. We tend to avoid the topic of our sinfulness. In reality, however, we encounter it everyday, both in ourselves and in others. As the psalmist writes elsewhere: “there is no one who does good” (Psalm 53:1). When God speaks His law and, in doing so, reveals our sin, it is grace. Why? Because apart from that revelation of who we truly are, we would be truly lost.  It is grace of God that reveals our sin.

Lastly (at least for my purposes here), we find grace in God’s law because it leads us to the Savior, Jesus. When we encounter God’s truth (the grace of His voice speaking) and our sinfulness (the grace of His truth about us), we known we need someone to save us. The ultimate grace that we find through the law is that there is One who has perfectly kept that law and yet taken the punishment of our sinfulness upon Himself. Jesus heard, accepted and fulfilled the law in Himself. It is this ultimate grace that we encounter in the law via the righteousness of Christ. “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

May we each find grace in God’s law today.