Psalm 119 is an amazing Psalm. Not only is it the longest Psalm (176 verses!), but it is also the Psalm that deals the most directly with the topic of Scripture. Virtually every verse, in one way or another, refers to God’s Word.
David (who is most likely the author) uses a variety of terminology to describe God’s Word: commandments, law, statutes, precepts, ordinances, rules, words, testimonies, etc. These all refer to the Scriptures as they existed in David’s day (essentially the Pentateuch).
Thus, Psalm 119 is one of the best examples of Scripture speaking about Scripture. It is the Word about the Word.
And in it, we find David interacting with the Word of God in five ways that should be paradigmatic for all believers:
1. Trusting the Word of God. Time and time again, David expresses his belief that the Scriptures are true (v. 151). He believes in them (v. 66). He trusts in their reliability (v. 42). He states: “The sum of your word is truth” (v. 160).
This first step is key. If a believer doesn’t really regard the Word of God as being fully and entirely trustworthy, then none of the other steps below will follow. This is why the church needs to be quick to deal with the repeated criticisms of the Bible that so often permeate our culture.
2. Studying the Word of God. David doesn’t just believe the Word, he is a student of the Word. He learns it (v. 73), he seeks it (v. 155), he has memorized it (v. 153), and regularly meditates on it.
This step ought to naturally follow from the first one. If God’s Word really is true, then we ought to commit ourselves to being diligent studiers of the Word. We need to embrace it with our minds, as well as our hearts.
3. Using the Word of God. It’s one thing to believe and know the Word. It is another thing to rely on it. To look to it as a guide during the difficulties and challenges of life. To lean on it for encouragement and hope.
David repeatedly affirms that he uses the Word of God as a “counselor” (v. 24), to give “strength” (v. 28), and to bring “comfort in affliction” (v. 50). He states, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (v. 105). In short, the Word of God is the very source of life for David (v. 156).
This reminds us a very important attribute of God’s Word: it is alive. It is powerful and active. When we talk about the attributes of Scripture we must remember that it is more than just a true book (encyclopedias can be true). It is also a living book. It is the place where the God of the universe meets us and manifests himself.
4. Delighting in the Word of God. What is amazing is that David takes things one step further than we might expect. It’s not just that he trusts, studies, and uses the Word of God. He actually has affection for it. He has a deep emotional affinity towards it.
He “loves” God’s Word (v. 159), he “rejoices” at his Word (v. 162), the Word is “wondrous” (v. 18), it is “better than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (v. 72), and “sweeter than honey to my mouth” (v. 103).
I am convinced that this is the missing piece for most believers today. For many, the Bible is viewed almost in a utilitarian fashion–it is a mechanical, sterile tool that Christians are supposed to use. It’s like taking your medicine.
In contrast, David has passion, zeal, and excitement for the law and commandments of God. And the reason for this is not hard to find. David loves God’s law not because he is a closet legalist. He loves God’s law because the law reflects God’s own nature and character. He loves God’s law because he loves God–and who God is and what he is like.
Any Christian who says they love God but then despises God’s law is living a life of contradiction. Indeed, they are living a life that is the opposite of Psalm 119. To love God is to love his law.
5. Obeying the Word of God. Not surprisingly, the prior four characteristics naturally lead to this last one. David repeatedly expresses his desire to actually obey God’s law. He wants to follow it, keep it, and fulfill it.
In our world today, the concept of “obeying the law” is not a popular one. Many see this as contrary to grace. However, two things should be kept in mind. One, David is not keeping the law in order to earn salvation–he is obeying out of love for God. He is obeying out of a heart of faith.
Second, we should remember that Jesus himself was very much about “obeying the law.” Before we too quickly despise the concept of law-keeping, we should remember that Jesus delighted in keeping his Father’s law. And he kept it absolutely perfectly–for us. He obeyed on our behalf, and his righteous status is imputed to us by faith.
Indeed, Jesus embodies all five of these characteristics. He trusted, studied, used, delighted in, and obeyed God’s Word. In fact, he did all these things even more than the first David. One greater than David has come. And he loved God’s Word.
Enrico Pasquini says
Great article, Dr. Kruger. May the Lord continue to guide and keep you. I was able to translate it to Portuguese-BR and bless many pastor friends of mine with it. Thank you, again.
Walter Schroedter says
Thank-you for this good and helpful article. I am currently reading through Ps 119 in my devotional reading in the mornings and instead of reading it in one session, I am reading a section at a time. This has helped me to pay closer attention to each verse. For David the word has a tangible, objective reality it seems; it was not merely a revelatory encounter with God that might or might not happen when reading Scripture. In contrast to the neo-orthodox approach.
Christopher Scott says
Great reminders, thanks for sharing. I love Psalm 119. A NT guy writing about the OT, I love it! Thanks!
Art Vandelay says
Beautiful, brief, resonating with my soul. Thank you.
Ricky Sibby says
Cindy Dawson says
I love Psalm 119. It’s the most highlighted pages in my Bible! I’m thankful that the Lord gave me a hunger and love for His Word. Thank you for a great article. Blessings, Dr. Kruger!
Ronnie Hall says
Can you keep it coming to [email protected] ,Thanks
What really is amazing to me is: David has this great love for God’s word, yet it wasn’t the 66 books we have. He didn’t have the gospels, or the book of Acts, or any other NT book, or even many OT books!
Jeff Rickel says
Something about David, His one love and Desire was for God, and this cannot be separated from God’s word.
The Psalmist praise of God’s Word is even more understandable when we realize how confusing and hopeless pagan religions of the time were, because they had no idea how to please their gods.
They had no holy works telling them how to live or how to make amends. It was completely guess work. And the priests often prescribed insane rituals.
Contrast that with the kindness of the One true God, who stoops down to commune with His creation through His word! We’ve forgotten what an incredible thing we hold in our hands. May God empower us to teach the next generation how wonderful His Word truly is!
Really Sarah? “And the priests often prescribed insane rituals.” have you ever read the old testament?
The very book you speak of testifies against what you just wrote.
Bruce Symons says
Elias, I trust you realise by now that you had misunderstood what Sarah wrote
No, I understand full well what Sarah stated. Perhaps you might want re read what Sarah wrote, go read the Old Testament and then you might have some understanding of my comment.
Sarah Witenhafer says
Elias, I’m not sure why you think I’m disparaging the Bible. My comment is about pagan priests during the time of the Old Testament, not Israelites.
Pagans during that time had no Scriptures, still don’t actually. Imagine how horrible it would be to have to guess what your god wanted! That’s my point.
I love the Word of God. Blessings friend.
doug sayers says
Wonderful article. This is why the Gideons (and others) want everyone to have a copy and/or the app on their mobile devices.
They currently distribute over 80 million copies a year. Over 2 billion since 1908. The appetite for the Word is enormous in many parts of the world.
Pastors, please say yes to the Gideons in your churches.
Thank You Michael
Days, nights, are not complete without reading God’s Holy Words. Psalms 119 is an amazing Psalm. Thank you for a great rendering of its Truths.
If one does not stay in God’s Word constantly, how would one be able to separate out all the apostate, heretical, teaching going on today? Please continue in your commentaries, articles…enjoyed it.
I liked the fact that it was pointed out at the beginning of the article that David only had a limited number of the books currently in the Bible available to him. ( He had none of the New testament, none of the Prophets, nor could he have had Samuel, Chronicles or Kings, any book relating to the Exile, or any book attributed to Solomon or indeed the Book of Psalms itself. What this leaves is Torah, Joshua, Judges and at most one or two other books (Job? Ruth? maybe). Given that he repeatedly refers to God’s law, rules, regulations, precepts etc. in virtually all of the subdivisions of the Psalm, David was almost certainly referring specifically to the comfort, joy and wisdom he gained from studying Torah rather than what Christians would call Scripture. I’m sure our Jewish brothers would agree with me.
So by all means study Torah with the zeal of David. But don’t read into the Psalm what isn’t there. It does violence to the text to interpret it in a way that could never have entered the mind of the one who wrote it.
Andrew KERR says
Enjoyed article on Psalm 119. Great to get a condensation of such a big psalm in short scope. Many will benefit from it.
Just by way of supplement to last point (I think) I remember in college being told by our prof that “hearing” in Hebrew always implies doing as Deuteronomy bears out – the idea of faith without works in relation to the law (for the justified believer) is a total distortion & disjunction.
If you love me, keep my commandments.
I have read just a tiny portion of your published works. But want to ask, do you believe that Jesus saves us IN our sins or FROM our sin. Does God “cover” our sin or “remove” (cleanse us) from it?