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The Scriptorium

Structure and Terms

God calls us to be immersed in His Word. Psalm 119.17-19

Psalm 119: Introduction (1)

Pray Psalm 119.17-19.

Deal bountifully with Your servant,
That I may live and keep Your word.
Open my eyes, that I may see
Wondrous things from Your law.
I am a stranger in the earth;
Do not hide Your commandments from me.

Sing Psalm 119.17-19.
(Open My Eyes: Open My Eyes, That I May See)
Open my eyes, Lord, let me see wonderful truths to transform me.
I am a stranger here in the earth; hide not from me Your glorious worth.
Deal with your servant graciously that I may walk obediently.
Open my eyes, Lord, let me see glory divine!

Read and meditate on Psalm 119.17-19.

1. What does the writer want God to do?

2. What will that do for the writer?

Psalm 119 is obviously about the Law of God. Nearly every verse, in one way or another, seeks to lead us to deeper understanding, greater delight, more consistent obedience, and more complete blessing from the holy and righteous and good Law of God (Rom. 7.12). The anonymous writer of Psalm 119 uses a variety of terms to refer to the Law of God and all His Word. We may assume that, while the Law of God – given to Moses – is the foundation of this psalm, the intent of the writer was to include all the written revelation of God – prior to or coming after him – which is grounded in the Law, as part of his meditations.

The psalmist refers to the Word of God as His Law. This typically indicates the five books of Moses and the Law of God contained therein. He also pleads for God to explain His precepts to him. We might prefer to use the word doctrine rather than precepts, or teachings; either way, this indicates a combining of insights from all the Word of God to elaborate on various topics. Testimony, while its primary reference is to the Word written by God, may also refer to the example of great saints like Abraham or Moses or David, whose example of godliness is often cited. God’s justice and judgments refer to the application of His Word in wisdom for every area of life. And His commandments are obvious – all that God charges His people to fulfill as a holy people. And all these facets and aspects of the Word of God, which the psalmist so earnestly sought, lead us into the lovingkindness of God, and along the way or path that sees us drawing ever closer to our eternal home with the Lord.

Psalm 119 is an abecedarian psalm. Each stanza consists of 8 verses, each of which begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Here are two witnesses to Jesus, Who rose from the dead on the 8th day, the first day of the week, and Who is the A to Z, the Alpha and the Omega, the Aleph to Tau, of all things. The structure of Psalm 119 offers an aid to memory, but it also continuously reminds us to seek Jesus as the Word of God, in Whom all God’s Words find their meaning (Jn. 5.39).

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
“I am a stranger in the earth; do not hide Your commandments from me” (Ps. 119.19).

In the same way that the children of Israel were “strangers in the land of Egypt” (Ex. 22.21; 23.9; Lev. 19.34; Deut. 10.19), the author of Psalm 119 said he felt like a stranger in the earth. And this is exactly how we are supposed to feel. For we should not fit in with every godless thing that permeates our planet. We shouldn’t really feel at home here. More like strangers, truth be told.

The writer of the book of Hebrews supports this same line of thinking: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb. 11.13). And we, like they, “desire a better, that is, a heavenly country” (Heb. 11.16). A place where we feel more at home.

But while we are all living on the earth, as strangers, we need to know how to traverse our heavenly land of there and then, on earth here and now. And that is exactly what Psalm 119 sets out to help us do.

Our calling, while we are here, is to live always keeping His word (Ps. 119.17). Our aim, while we are here, is to pray that God will “open our eyes” (Ps. 119.18). Why? One reason: “that we may see wondrous things from [His] law” (Ps. 119.18).

It is all quite simple and straightforward. We are strangers on the earth, with one purpose. To feel at home in heaven, while we live on earth, serving our King Jesus. And to do this best, we are obedient to the words of instruction from Paul: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2.15).

And what is this Word of truth that we are to diligently study? It is the Word of God which is “living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4.12).

And how do we do this? We pray that God will not hide His commandments from us. We pray that He will open our eyes so that we may see the truth. We pray that He will show us wondrous things from His whole Word – law, precepts, testimonies, ways, commandments, judgments, statutes – as we study “precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little” (Is. 28.10).

Diligently and rightly.

For reflection

1. Why must we pray that God will open our eyes to see wondrous things from His Word?

2. What does it mean to seek Jesus everywhere in the Word of God? Why is this so important?

3. What goals would you like to set for our study of Psalm 119? What do you hope to learn?

God, by his Spirit, gives a right understanding. But the Spirit of revelation in the word will not suffice, unless we have the Spirit of wisdom in the heart. God puts his Spirit within us, causing us to walk in his statutes. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Psalms 119.33-40

Pray Psalm 119.33-35.
Pray that God will teach you His Word, deeper, more wondrously, and with more resulting power than you have ever known. Call on Him to help you walk His paths today.

Sing Psalm 119.33-35.

(Regent Square: Angels from the Realms of Glory)
Teach me, Lord, and help me follow in Your holy righteous way!
I will keep Your statutes gladly, all your holy Law obey.
Give me understanding, Jesus, guide me in Your path today!

Make me walk in Your commandments, let me keep Your holy part.
I will keep Your Law unfailing; from it let me ne’er depart.
For Your Word is my delight, Lord; help me keep it from the heart.

T. M. and Susie Moore

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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