In Psalm 119, we read about the subject of the Word of God revealed to man, and how this psalmist bases his life upon it—how it is the composition of his soul. Charles Spurgeon describes this Psalm as:
- “expansive,” having “dimension” and “depth”
- “like a vast, rolling prairie, to which I could see no bound”
- “a great sea of holy teaching, moving, in its many verses, wave upon wave”
- “an ocean”; he writes, “Other psalms have been mere lakes, but this is the main ocean.”
- “a continent of sacred thought, every inch of which is fertile as the garden of the Lord”
- having “an amazing level of abundance, a mighty stretch of harvest fields”
The marvelous nature of this Psalm is attested to in at least three ways—its composition, its nuance of thought, and its placement in the psalter. Today, we’ll cover one of these ways—composition. Two more will follow in coming weeks.
Our “Spiritual DNA”
Psalm 119 is an acrostic of the Hebrew alphabet. There are eight lines in each stanza, and the first letter of each line starts with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet, as it successively works down through the alphabet. How involved to compose such a poem! Imagine the level of thought needed to develop a poem on one subject that starts with the same letter for eight stanzas. We have 22 of those before us in Psalm 119. There is purpose to this composition; the psalmist was intent on using form to communicate.
To better understand that, we can consider another biblical passage that references the beginning and end of the alphabet, Revelation 21:6. God is Alpha and Omega. John Piper writes,
In Revelation 21:6, God identifies himself as “Alpha and Omega.” Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and omega is the last letter of the alphabet. In other words God is “the beginning and the end.”
But God isn't speaking about alphabets. He is speaking of reality. God is absolutely the beginning and absolutely the end. Everything that is originates ultimately in him. And everything will somehow end with him.
Isaiah puts it like this: “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god” (44:6). In other words, since everything comes from God and nothing will outlast God, therefore God has no final competitors. “Besides me there is no god!” God has the first word and the last word in history. All other attempts to have the last word will fail. The pottery has no beginning apart from the Potter, and in the end it will all serve the purposes of the Potter.
This is who God is—and now I think about this reality of God in terms of Psalm 119, the Psalm about God's Word. His Word is the first and final say for the soul. It is, as Dr. Peter Lillback indicates, “the DNA” for a life lived unto the Lord.
The Word of God is sufficient; it tells us how to face our trials with peace, wisdom, security, strength, closeness with God, and in a way that honors Him in response to knowing Christ. His Word is the “alepth” to “taw” for our prayers, thoughts, decisions, and hearts' meditations.
All He Is to Holy Hearts
Psalm 119:2 says: “Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with their whole heart.” When seeking God with the whole heart, I aim to become submissive and find Him sufficient. I seek Him according to the truth of how He has said He is to be found. As Alpha and Omega, He all-glorious, beginning and end in authority. And as One who has chosen to reveal Himself in the Word, He has welcomed me to have Him as my God through humble dependence upon Christ.
I seek Him with all my heart by
1. placing myself as subject to Him, submitting to His Word with all of my life, and
2. finding myself in Him, receiving His Word as sufficient for all of my life.
I mention both submitting and seeing His sufficiency because both are characteristic of how we first came into God's family. We submitted ourselves to Jesus' way for the forgiveness of our sins and received our new King. And we declared Him sufficient for all of who we are by deciding to forsake sin and the world so that we could be made holy for God through faith.
Spurgeon wrote: “Seeking after God signifies a desire to commune with him more closely, to follow him more fully, to enter into more perfect union with his mind and will, to promote his glory, and to realize completely all that he is to holy hearts. The blessed man has God already, and for this reason he seeks him. This may seem a contradiction: it is only a paradox.”
Psalm 119 demonstrates that we have all we need in Scripture, and we seek all we have—in order more fully receive and adopt “all He is to holy hearts.”
Next week, we’ll discuss Psalm 119’s vocabulary and nuance of thought.