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Monday, May 30, 2011

Psalm 119 Study

I just did a quick study through Psalm 119. I was looking specifically for places that it would highlight how God's Word is more important than other things. I like the way David writes Psalms so personally - expressing his own feelings, desires, requests, hopes, beliefs, confidences or lack thereof. I hope to go through this study with our kids (writing it here will make me accountable I assume!). There are probably many more topics, but I came up with 14:

God's Word is More important to me than:

-Sin
I suppose that's obvious! But for those of us who are well acquainted with our struggles and personal failings, this is more than obvious - it is difficult. What I mean is, I feel God's Word is important to me - more than anything - at least that's what my heart would tell me. But when it comes to losing my temper, wasting time, or any other sin that trips me up... is God's Word, and obedience to it, more important to me? For my kids, is God's Word more important to them than the sin they are tempted in - taunting one's sibling, lording it over each other, provoking, slowness to obey...?
Vs. 11: I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.
Vs. 101: I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey Your Word.
Vs. 133: Direct my footsteps according to Your Word; let no sin rule over me.

-Desire for other things
I was surprised to find mention of this throughout the Psalm. Do I desire God's Word more than other things in life? This, admittedly, is broad and vague. Here are the verses that allude to this:
Vs. 20: My soul is consumed with longing for Your laws at all times.
Vs. 175: I long for Your salvation, O Lord, and Your law is my delight.

-Focussing on my own misery and rejection
Sometimes it is easy to wallow in our own misery. There are many Psalms where we can sort of see David doing this. These are desperate prayers to God for help, and rightly so! However, in this Psalm, he is dedicating his thoughts, his writings to God's Word. He is thinking of God's Word in every context he experiences, past, present and future. Instead of just dwelling on his own pain, he paints it all in the light of God's Word. How easy it is for me to slide down the slope of despair and forget to attend to the truths God gives me in His Word. How easy to dismiss God's Word and feel justified pondering, musing, worrying, mulling over and ruminating on all my own pain. This is the opposite of what David does in this Psalm:
Verses: 23, 69, 70, 75, 87, 95, 107, 108, 141, 143, 157, 161
I will only put a few here - you should read them all though to get a full picture!

23: Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servant will meditate on your decrees.
69: Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies, I keep your precepts with all my heart.
95: The wicked are waiting to destroy me, but I will ponder your statutes.
(Paraphrase: though people who are over me, who command my respect, who are esteemed in society, are nasty to me, I won't allow that to ruffle my feathers - I won't cry and bemoan my sad lot in life, no, I will remember firstly that I am your servant - not theirs, and I will discipline my mind to focus on your truth).

107-8: I have suffered much; preserve my life, O Lord, according to Your Word. Accept O Lord, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me Your laws.
(Paraphrase: I am miserable - I do know pain and difficulty in my life. I'm asking you to take hold of me, take the reins of my life - do this by teaching me the things in Your Word! Not by compulsion, or duty or by regimented discipline will I praise You - no, but with a willing heart - I will speak praise to You - and my heart is open, ready and willing to be taught by You.)

-Other Sources of Counsel
This is a hard one for me - because I love to read any and everything out there! I like to tackle my problems with the best of wisdom and insight from all the educated gurus this world can afford! David, on the other hand, makes it clear that God's Word is the best counsellor.
Vs. 24: Your statutes are my delight; they are my counsellors.

-Selfish Gain, Wealth, Money, Worthless Things
I guess I don't need to comment on this:
Verses: 36, 37, 72, 127, 162
"Turn my heart toward Your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to Your Word.
The law from Your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.
Because I love Your commands more than gold, more than pure gold, and because I consider all Your precepts right, I hate every wrong path.
I rejoice in Your promise like one who finds great spoil."

-Other uses of 'free time'
Ouch! This includes, time on the internet, time putzing around in the yard, time reading other things, time that is mine to use however I want!
Verses 55, 97, 164
"In the night I remember Your name, O Lord, and I will keep Your law.
Oh how I love Your law! I meditate on it all day long. (Paraphrase: when I'm sweeping, changing diapers, washing dishes, doing laundry, all day long Your thoughts are filling my mind).
Seven times a day I praise You for Your righteous laws."

-My miserable situation
Similar to the one above about misery and rejection.
Verses: 61, 69, 70, 75, 83, 143
"Though the wicked bind me with ropes, I will not forget Your law.
Their hearts are callous and unfeeling, but I delight in Your law.
I know, O Lord, that Your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness You have afflicted me.
Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget Your decrees.
Trouble and distress have come upon me, but Your commands are my delight."

-Sleep
Ouch, again! I can't say I have done much sleep deprivation in order to feed on God's Word. I'm not proposing we neglect the real needs of our bodies. I'm pointing out that David expresses his hunger for God's Word as meaning more to him than his need for sleep.
Verses: 62, 147, 148
"At midnight I rise to give You thanks for Your righteous laws.
I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in Your Word.
My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on Your Promises."

-My Choice of Friends
This will be a good one for our kids, as they grow and make friends and choose their companions.
Verses: 63, 74, 79, 113, 115, 139, 158
"I am a friend to all who fear You, to all who follow Your precepts.
May those who fear You rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in Your Word.
May those who fear You turn to me, those who understand Your statutes.
I hate double-minded men, but I love Your law.
Away from me, You evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God!
My zeal wears me out, for my enemies ignore Your words.
I look on the faithless with loathing, for they do not obey Your Word."

-Other sources of love
It is tempting to want to find love in relationships - marriage, children, friends etc. These, I believe are right, good and natural. At the same time, God's Word, His expression of love to us, should become increasingly treasured over all other sources of love. My heart should delight to be near Him and to receive the love He gives - more than all other sources of love!
Verses: 64, 76, 124
"The earth is filled with Your love, O Lord; teach me Your decrees.
May Your unfailing love be my comfort, according to Your promise to Your servant.
Deal with Your servant according to Your love and teach me Your decrees."

-My comfort
Just admit it: we live cushy lives. I appreciate the cushiness of my life actually. I love that we have air-conditioning, soft beds, hospitals with anaesthesia, cars to take us places, gardens to grow food and flowers in, electricity and running (clean) water. The list is endless of all our creature comforts. At the same time, we do, on occasion, or more regularly for some, experience affliction - discomfort - pain, suffering - and even at the hand of God.
Now let's see what David said about his own comfort:
Verses: 67, 71, 75
"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your Word.
It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn Your decrees.
I know, O Lord, that Your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness You have afflicted me."

-Other sources of wisdom
Again, a rebuke to me when I seek wisdom in every place but the Bible. Understand I am not knocking the pursuit of wisdom and insight from those God gives His great wisdom to (and that includes those who don't know Him!) I guess it is just tempting to run to the self-help books and minimize the truths of Scripture.
Verses: 98,99, 100, 125, 130, 144, 169
"Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. 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."

-Good Food (!)
Verse 103: How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

-Family Heritage/Loyalty
Verse 111: Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.


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