This week we prayed through Psalm 119:1-8, 8-16. If you haven’t done so yet, I encourage you to do that right now. Open to Psalm 119 and turn the words from the Psalmists into yours, one verse at a time. Don’t worry about doing it wrong, the Lord rejoices that we’re seeking Him!
I don’t know about you, but I often feel weak and broken – either physically, spiritually, or both. It can be hard to read from God’s Word at those times, but my mind needs to be fed with words of Truth rather than from my emotionally draining thoughts. These first sixteen verses do just that, containing great Truths that are fundamental to Christian joy and contentment.
This stanza opens with strong praise spoken through the benefits that come to those who seek the Lord. The author then shifts the focus to personal application, vowing obedience. The stanza ends with a powerful declaration and prayer. Let’s dig a little deeper.
Verses 1 and 2 both begin with the same word: joyful (other translations read blessed or happy). We all aim to be joyful and would love to feel blessed so what does this first stanza say about attaining it?
- people of integrity follow the instructions of the Lord (v. 1)
- joyfulness is found through obedience to the Lord (v. 2a)
- searching for the Lord with all our hearts is how we know what to obey (v. 2b)
- blessed people make no compromises with evil, which is anything that would lead them away from the Lord (v. 3)
Through these 4 points, it is obvious that the key to happiness – as prescribed by God, which began when He created us – is through dedication and diligence. Verse 5 reminds us that we are imperfect, however. The rosy points identified above aren’t always easy in everyday life. This is when we remember that we will not ever come to a point of completing these 4 points. Rather, they are a measure of how we are to gauge our lives. Verses 7 and 8 sum this up with words of determination and a plea for the Lord’s assistance:
This stanza opens with a question – one I often seek. The author is quick to answer and it seems his conviction gains in momentum as he writes. Let’s look at the first verse:
“How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word (Psalm 119:9, NLT).”
Its important to note the immediacy of the answer to the question – the Psalmist isn’t pleading for a revelation from God, he’s merely making a statement based on his own thought process. Its as if he’s saying, “How do I know what I know? Let me answer for you.”
In verse 10, the Psalmist continues his conviction:
“With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! (Psalm 119:10, ESV).”
By reading verses 9b-11, it is clear that the Psalmist is adamant about where to find purity, at any age: obedience to God’s word. The next several verses (vv. 12-16), identify ways to cement God’d word in our hearts:
- through praise (v. 12)
- through oral recitation (v. 13)
- through taking delight in God’s ways (v. 14 and 16)
- through study (v. 15)
While this list is not in a certain order, nor comprehensive, each item is essential to taking another step in the walk with God. In my worst moments, these steps seem extra daunting. Yet the Truth behind each item is precisely why its so important that I take a step. And, like the Psalmist, once I start re-ordering my thoughts, truth gains momentum and I regain my footing.
In looking at these first two stanzas of Psalm 119, we see that seeking God and dedication to His statutes is a way to add safety and security to our lives. Furthermore, by being fully committed to Him and immersed in His Word, it allows us to feel what God created us to seek: blessing, happiness, and joyfulness.
*Each stanza in Psalm 119 follows the letters of the Hebrew alphabet; within a stanza, each verse begins with the same Hebrew letter (ESV footnotes).