Wednesday, February 17, 2010

So, you want to read Psalm 119… (Part One)

Looking forward to starting Psalm 119, I jotted a few ideas down...

“Where do we start?”

That is the question that was going through my mind when I saw our church’s parking lot piled with more inches of snow than many Delawareans could remember seeing for a long time. Eventually, with the help of snow blowers, snow plows, shovels, ice-melt, backhoes, and tractors, our property was inhabitable again. But, the point is we had to start somewhere. You may feel like that when you look at Psalm 119. Where do I start? I want to share some ideas that have helped me in answering that question for myself. Not all of these ideas are original (I don’t have too many original ideas), but all have been personally valuable. They will inform my teaching and preaching over the next several weeks, and so I felt that it might be useful to share.

See God’s Word as a revelation of God Himself – I think one of the greatest helps in reading the Bible is to remind yourself that Scripture is a pathway to God. It is a pathway because in it God reveals Himself. We see who He is and what He is like. We see how He treats His people, and how He cares for the needy. We see what He requires and desires. We are not simply reading for information, or even inspiration. We are reading to know God in a deeper way, and He has promised to make Himself known through His Spirit by His Word.

Appreciate the nuances – I think that it is so vital to understand what the writer of the psalm is pushing for in using so many synonyms for God’s Word. He uses words like precepts, law, judgments, testimonies, rules, commandments, statutes, and some others. If you tune out the subtleties of each word used, I think you miss an ocean’s worth of spiritual benefit. So, dig deep into what a testimony or a statute really is. Think through the magnitude of the reality that God wants your heart and mind to dwell on them and enjoy them.

Appreciate the intricacies – We often forget that the psalms are poems. Hebrew poetry is different than our run of the mill rhyme schemes, but it is no less intricate than any poetry we may know. In addition, each section (of 8 verses) is known by a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This is because each of the verses in that particular section begins with the same letter. Imagine, 8 thoughts beginning with the letter ‘A ,’ and then 8 thoughts beginning with the letter ‘B.’ That is not something you trot out overnight. There is detail and precision given to each line. It ends up being a masterpiece.