December 5, 2010 * Psalms 119, 72

Psalm 119 (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.


Psalm 119:1-24
contains three stanzas corresponding to the Hebrew letters Aleph, Beth, and Gimel. The Revised Standard Version entitled these stanzas as; “Keepers of God’s law are blessed” (Psalm 119:1-8), “Purity the fruit of the law” (Psalm 119:9-16), and “Eyes to see the truth of God’s law” (Psalm 119:17-24). The portion of this selection that spoke to me this morning was from the Beth stanza (Psalm 119:11), “I have laid up thy word in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.” There are of course several ways that this can be done. The first that comes to my mind is the memorization of Scripture. This is something that I did more of as a boy than I have done as an adult. The interesting thing is that many of the verses that I memorized as a boy still come easily to my mind. Is this something that we teach our children today? How might we encourage our children to hide the word in their hearts?


Psalm 72:1-20 is a Psalm for Solomon. While this psalm is a prayer for the king (Give the king your justice, O God) it is ultimately a call for the reign of God on earth. Christianity has used this psalm to undergird its eschatological understanding and to interpret the ministry of Jesus Christ. The psalm has four divisions, verses 1-7, 8-14, 15-17, and 18-20. The first section, verses 1-7, introduce the concepts of justice and righteousness. The second section, verses 8-14, describe the kings rule in terms of its dimensions and scope, “From the river to the ends of the earth” and “May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him!” The third section, verses 15-17, are a pray for long life for the king. It is also the section that lends itself to use in Christian services with the greatest ease, “May his name endure for ever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May men bless themselves by him, all nations call him blessed!” The fourth section, verses 18-20, serve as a reminder that God alone is truly sovereign. Verse 20 also marks the end of the Davidic Psalms, Psalms 51-72.


The part of this psalm that spoke to me was from the second section, verse 12, “For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper.” How can we as the church live this out in our communities?

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