Friday, March 31, 2017

Reading Through the Psalms #9 (119)

Psalms volume 2We continue in the fifth and final book of the Psalms today accompanied by Psalms, vol. 2, The College Press NIV Commentary, by S. Edward Tesh and Walter D. Zorn. We will focus on the longest Psalm, 119 which brings out almost every theme of the whole book. I am posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

Psalm 119 is a wisdom psalm that teaches the absolute necessity of understanding and applying the torah to one's life if one wants live successfully, happily and productively here on earth. It is important to understand that torah does not mean "law" in a legal sense but "a manner of life, not a legal “system” that assures salvation. Only in this sense could torah be the object of such joy, devotion, and acclaim as shown for it in Psalm 119. Torah, then, is a general term indicating “instruction,” whose basic idea is “pointing the way.” (373) 119 is an acrostic poem with each section having 8 verses beginning with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Each section brings out a different aspect of the beauty, results and inexhaustibility of the torah. The first half of the psalm (1-88) mentions guidance, direction, help, perseverance, knowledge, steadfastness, courage, safety, ability to serve and preservation of quality of life.

The author of Psalm 119 was one who had tested the word of God even as he himself was being tested severely in the crucible of life. He found that word to be sure and steadfast, an unfailing light for life’s journey, illuminating the pathway of true joy and genuine happiness. This is the theme of his song. Psalm 119, 377

The question is, “How may one avoid the sins and the pitfalls of this world? How can he keep himself pure and blameless?” And the answer, by giving heed to God’s word (v. 9)...However, it is not by God’s word in one’s head. Only as the word is in the heart and in the life does it work its transforming power. It is hid in the heart. Psalm 119.9-16, 378–379

If the LORD will continue to teach him the way, he will let that be his way (v. 33). This is no boast, nor even an assertion of self-confidence. It is an appeal for God’s help. He dares to believe that if God reveals the way for man, he will also enable one to walk in that way, whatever the circumstances may be. Psalm 119,33-40, 380

Psalm 119 continues to describe the amazing and inexhaustible benefits of studying, knowing, obeying and living out torah. It preserves life. It gives wisdom and knowledge for living beyond our experience. It keeps us moving in the right direction. It keeps us within the safe boundaries for successful living. We can recognize the follies of the world around us and not be drawn into them. Our lives our short. Why would we want live apart from torah and make it harder?

Since life is preserved through God’s word according to the psalmist, he concludes with what amounts to a proverb: To all perfection I see a limit; but your commands are boundless (v. 96). Psalm 119.89-96, 385

Many young preachers and teachers can testify that an earnest study of God’s word can give one much wisdom beyond one’s years, even though he or she may be spurned, rejected, or ignored simply for being young. But it is not just knowledge of the word of God that counts, it is obedience. Psalm 119.97-104, 386

The psalmist knows that it is not just God’s word or words with which we must deal, it is God himself. He will either be our judge or our hiding place—our refuge and our shield! Psalm 119.113-120, 387

Psalm 119 closes with the psalmist's outpouring of love for God and His word. He sees himself as God's servant who receives his instruction from the torah. He is indignant that, despite the availability of God's word, many people are ignorant of it. Sometimes he wonders why God feels so far away even though he is immersed in torah. Yet he knows that God's word will preserve his life and he pledges to study and worship "seven times a day." He knows his capacity for straying and asks God to continue to seek him out and for God's words to keep him on the right path.

“We live in an age of enlightenment shrouded.” There are so many Bible helps and tools for the study of God’s word today but so few who use them effectively. Biblical illiteracy is so prevalent in the churches that the true Bible student should be totally burdened by righteous indignation, the same as our psalmist. Psalm 119.137-144, 389

His praise is directed toward God alone. He knows the difference between the Scripture, God’s word, and God himself. The psalmist will not be accused of bibliolatry (turning the Scripture into an object of worship!). Such love and devotion to God, demonstrated through regular prayer and praise, lead to great peace. Psalm 119.161-168, 392

The psalmist is acutely aware not only of his potential for straying (v. 10) but also the fact that he had strayed away at one point in the past (v. 67). And now, in spite of his great devotion to God’s word and his commitment to obey it, he feels like a “perishing” sheep who has lost its way on the “journey of life.” Psalm 119.169-176, 392

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