Psalm 119Â (or Psalm 118 in the Septuagint) is the longest psalm in the Psalter. It is also the longest chapter in the Bible. This psalm is a prayer that rejoices in the life in and instructed by the Law. Psalm 119 is a Hebrew alphabetic acrostic. Its 176 verses are divided into twenty-two stanzas of eight lines each. Each of its stanzas starts with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet, with each line in each stanza beginning with that same letter. This psalm is a sort of alphabetic soup for the soul.
Today’s passage contains three Stanzas corresponding to the Hebrew letters Yodh, Kaph, and Lamedh. The Revised Standard Version entitled these stanzas as “Confidence in the law,” “A longing for comfort,” and “God’s unchangeable law.” The part of this reading that spoke to me was from the Lamedh stanza (verses 89-96), “Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.” (NRSV) Here, we hear the psalmist proclaiming that God will always be interested in us and as Christ said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (NRSV) I especially like the way the Living Bible combines verses 90 and 91, “Your faithfulness extends to every generation, like the earth you created; it endures by your decree, for everything serves your plans.” So, does this mean that whether we like it or not we function in some capacity for God’s kingdom?
I love this psalm. In this psalm we are presented with an option to today’s understanding of reality. In our modern self-centered world, happiness and worth revolve around us enjoying ourselves or on our attainment of our desires. In this psalm happiness and worth are found in the teachings of God. The psalmist tells us that happiness and true value are to be found in praising God. As many of us were taught in the Shorter Catechism, our chief end is to enjoy God and to praise God forever. I guess an appropriate question for us then, as we prepare for the night, is, “Have we used this day to praise God?”
For me the best line in this psalm is in the first half of verse two, “O thou who hearest prayer!” (RSV) At times I become overwhelmed by my own personal needs, the needs of my family, and the needs of the people in our church. What helps me continue day after day is the assumption that this verse is true. God hears us. For this, I am grateful.