Psalm 119: A Psalm of Torah

Do me a favor and please read Psalm 119.

Psalm 119 is MASSIVE. It has twenty-two stanzas that are each eight verses long and all of it is arranged in an “acrostic” style that was meant to be memorized by the beloved follower of God. But not only is it acrostic it is also alphabetic with the beginning of each stanza starting with that same letter of the alphabet (and in order too). So, verses 1-8 make up the first collection/poem and each of those verses begin with the first Hebrew letter. Verses 9-16 then follow suit with each line beginning with the second Hebrew letter. Obviously this is lost in our English translations but not in Hebrew. This style, this way of writing, would have made it easier for the student to memorize this VERY LONG poem/text.

So what is this psalm, this poem, conveying? Well, while we see all 22 stanzas as one giant psalm (this is the longest psalm we have as it has a total of 176 verses) it really is all about the Law of God (or the Torah). This poem is about knowing the law, following the law, obeying the law, and loving the law (this word “law” is stated 25 times – more than any other).

So why is this done? On one hand it’s written this way because it would simply be easier to memorize but on the other the law is everything. It shows us how our relationship SHOULD work while revealing how it’s broken by us. The Law challenges us to live as Godly people, and yet it also reveals God’s truth, love, grace, and hope for his people.

So let me ask: Do you love the law?

Maybe that’s hard to answer. Maybe you don’t know HOW to answer that. Maybe we, as Believers, have failed to remember just how important the Law is to us. We think of it as an “old” thing that good Jewish boys and girls read and follow but that that is where it stops. And since I’m not Jewish I don’t need to know it, love it, or follow it?

Maybe.

Maybe, if that’s our thinking, then maybe…just maybe we’re wrong.

So maybe we need a little “Torah 101” to help us.

  • The Torah points to Jesus. In John 1:45 we hear Philip and Nathanael proclaim that when they saw and met Jesus they realized that he was the one that Moses spoke of and the Torah proclaims. Then in John 5:46-47 we have Jesus proclaiming that if we know and believe in Moses then we should know and believe in Jesus because Moses spoke of him. So we have hints of Jesus, proclamations of his coming, and hints of God’s work through him (as seen in texts like Ex 15:2).
  • We need to stop thinking that the Law (Torah) is something separate from scripture. The Law is part of our scripture – and all of scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, instruction, and equipping” of people to do good work. (2 Tim 3:16-17) This is why we don’t simply read the NT but we read the OT too. This is also why preachers must preach the OT and NT in their sermons.
  • The Torah convicts our hearts and draws us closer to God because it reveals the truth of his law, his commands, and his ways of living in this world with him and others. (Deut 5:29)
  • JESUS KEPT AND TAUGHT THE TORAH! If it was good enough for Jesus to follow, abide in, teach, and read…then don’t you think it would be good enough for you and I? Yeah – probably. Oh, and you know what “Christian” means? It means “follower of Christ” – so…we should probably follow the one we’re called to follow. Just a thought.  (1 John 2:6 is a good one there).
  • Jesus proclaimed in Matthew 5:17-19 that the while he came to fulfill it he doesn’t abolish it. Torah still exists and is to be followed until His second coming takes place (Rev 21:1-4).
  • What do we think the Holy Spirit does? All the convicting, challenging, lifting up, encouraging, love, and work that the Holy Spirit does and imparts upon us IS SO THAT WE COULD KEEP THE LAW AND ABIDE BY GOD. We need to see that as Christians we are called to walk in God’s light, abide in his Word, follow his commands, love him and love others, serve him and serve others and that ALL OF THAT is part of the Law. And if the Holy Spirit, the 3rd in the Trinity, is here to empower us, challenge us, and feel God’s presence then he does so in a way that draws us TO HIS LAW. Romans 8:5-7 proclaims that our sinful ways are hostile towards God and that when we live according to the Spirit we set things upon the mind of God. So following his Law means we draw closer to him as we love, serve, and think like he does.
  • Lastly, but not leastly (not a word but it fits), JESUS CAME BECAUSE OF THE LAW AND TO FULFILL THE REQUIREMENT OF IT. Romans 8:3-4 remind us that the Law was, and is, still in place and yet Christ comes to die on our behalf in order to fulfill the law.

Let us not neglect the law, disregard the law, or tuck it away thinking that it has nothing to do with us because in truth it has EVERYTHING to do with us. The Law is what we need in order to know God, abide by him, and love him. It is through his Law that our eyes are opened to our sins. The big difference from today from yesterday (New Testament VS Old Testament) is that by Jesus we are saved. As one author writes, “We don’t keep Torah to be saved; we keep it because we’re saved!

The Torah? Yeah…kind of a big deal. No wonder people sang it, memorized it, and loved it.

But do you?

2 thoughts on “Psalm 119: A Psalm of Torah

  1. Every verse except one, I seem to remember, has a synonym for the word “law”—statute, commandment, testimony, word, etc.

    I once heard a sermon on Psalm 119 that suggested substituting the name of Jesus for that synonym when reading. Seems appropriate if Jesus is the Word made flesh. Doing this really brings out the Christ centeredness of the passage

    I appreciate your words here. Sometimes, because we can’t follow God’s ways (His Law) perfectly we neglect them or put them in a bad light. But the Psalmist sees life, goodness, refreshment, and joy in living devoted to God and His ways.

    Have you ever sung the old metrical version? “Oh, how love I Thy Law, … it is my meditation all the day.”

    Liked by 1 person

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