In Praise of God's Word
How well do you know God’s Word? How often do you read it? Do you ever meditate on specific verses, phrases, or events? Have you memorized portions of it? Do you listen to good teaching about it?
How do you feel about God’s Word? Do you enjoy reading and studying it? Does it refresh your soul or encourage you? Does it convict you? Are you intrigued by it or bored?
For those of us who do love the Bible and want to learn more from it, Psalm 119 is a joy to read. First, it has some unique structural characteristics:
· With 176 verses, it is the longest chapter in the Bible.
· It is composed of 22 eight-verse segments or pericopes.
· Each pericope begins with one letter of the 22-letter Hebrew alphabet and, because of that, the psalm is defined as an acrostic.
· Every verse refers to the Bible in some way, using many synonyms such as precepts, decrees, utterance, word, commandments, statutes, and law.
The psalmist tells us why the Bible is important to us as its readers:
It helps us live righteously:
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (vv.9-11)
It counsels and teaches us:
Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors. (v. 24)
The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. (v. 130)
It gives joy, hope, and peace:
Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart. (v. 111)
I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words. (v. 147)
Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble. (v. 165)
The writer of this psalm tells us how he feels about God’s Word:
He delights in it:
In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. (v. 14)
Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight. (v. 143)
He desires it:
I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me! My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times. (vv. 19-20)
He loves it:
Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. (v. 97)
. . . I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold. (v.127)
The writer of this psalm is a great example to us in his devotion to knowing and interacting with God’s Word. Let’s think for a moment about how we can learn to read, study, and live the Word of God like he did.
The goal of reading the Bible is rarely just to learn about the stories and history it contains. For most of us, reading it is a personal journey as we seek to know God, his plan for this world, and his purposes for our individual lives.
What we really want is to know is what God is communicating to us. In that process, we not only read the passages, but interact with them. Many years ago, I was taught to ask three questions about the biblical passages I read. Those three questions are What? What? and So what?* Easy to remember, right?
What? What does the text say? And how did the original audience understand the story, passage, or teaching?
What? What does it mean? What is God’s message?
So what? Why does it matter? Will what I just read make a difference in my life? Am I willing to let its message change me?
Let's never stop reading the Bible, meditating on its words, and taking them into our heart for comfort, direction, and growth. Effective interaction with God through his word is a lifelong journey and one with great rewards. The writer of Psalm 119 says so!
And Jesus said so, too.
He said God’s words are our life:
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” – Matthew 4:4
He said the Law would last until everything in it is accomplished:
For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. – Matthew 5:18
He was the living Word:
One of the most amazing statements ever said about Jesus is that he is the Word of God in human form:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.- John 1:14
If we want to know Jesus as the living Word, we need to know the message given in the written Word. May we grow to know, love, and live it as the psalmist did!
*From teacher, author, and pastor, Erwin Lutzer