For me, Psalm 119 is the psalm of psalms. Fearfully and wonderfully made. Like all of Scripture, knit together through the pen of the songwriter by the inspiration of the Spirit. Yet, this song is different. While, overall it has one grand theme, God’s word, it is divided into twenty-two sections, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Each section having eight verses. And every verse in every section beginning with the corresponding Hebrew letter. For example, in the stanza I’m reading this morning, each verse begins with Qoph. In tomorrow’s reading, Lord willing, I will encounter eight verses beginning with Resh. Spurgeon called Psalm 119 The Golden Alphabet.
And while no two verses in this 176 verse psalm say exactly the same thing, it’s not always clear to me on what a theme might be for a particular stanza. Some seem more Proverbs like with seemingly disassociated considerations brought together. But this morning, as I read the 19th stanza in the 119th psalm, a theme seems clear. Here the songwriter sings of the connection between problems, prayer, promises and God’s presence.
Repetition tells me it’s about prayer.
With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O LORD! I will keep Your statutes.
I call to You; save me, that I may observe Your testimonies.
I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in Your words.
My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on Your promise.
Hear my voice according to Your steadfast love; O LORD, according to Your justice give me life.
(Psalm 119:145-149 ESV)
A whole-hearted cry. A cry for help. 911, rescue needed! Sleepless nights. Up before dawn. Desperately appealing to God on the basis of who He is, and how He operates, as the compelling reason to “hear my voice.”
The cause of such prayer is clear.
They draw near who persecute me with evil purpose; they are far from Your law.
(Psalm 119:150 ESV)
Don’t know who they is, but know that they is in the songwriter’s face, and that they is up to no good. They are devising wicked schemes (NIV). Pursuing evil plans (CSB). Following the path of wickedness, they are coming closer and closer (MSG). The battle is real. The difficulty difficult. The pressure pressing. And so, the songwriter prays.
Now, praying in light of life’s pressures might be pretty intuitive. Crying out for help when you need help, kind of a no-brainer. But what grabs me is that, even as the psalmist cries out for salvation, he is ready to engage in the battle himself with the sword of the Spirit, “which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17).
Answer me O God, so that I might continue to obey Your statutes. Save me, so that I can keep on keepin’ on according to Your way. I pray in the wee hours of the morning because I have hope in Your words. Even when I can’t sleep, my meditation is on Your promises. So, hear my voice, O LORD.
The Word isn’t only to be read as some spiritual discipline, it is a lifeline. We don’t do devo’s just because, “if I don’t, my day doesn’t go very well.” The Bible isn’t some rabbits foot we make sure to rub every morning for good luck. It is our bold access into dynamic relationship with the living God of creation. The Bible on my desk a reminder of His presence in my life. The living and active word of God before me, the catalyst for the living and active Spirit of God to work in me. Not just some verses to check off my reading plan, but the words of life desperately needed as I face the world.
The songwriter prays when he is under pressure. And his prayer is fueled by God’s promises. From which He knows God’s presence.
But You are near, O LORD, and all Your commandments are true.
Long have I known from Your testimonies that You have founded them forever.
(Psalm 119:151-152 ESV)
More evidence of God’s abundant grace. More reason to give God everlasting glory.