I love high, rugged mountains, large bodies of water with white-capped waves and roses! I love my family and love being with them. I love chicken salad piled high on whole grain bread. Have my loves triggered your mind's list of your loves? Did the Bible make the list? Unfortunately, it is not always the first thing we think of when we list the people and things we love. If God has the proper place in our lives, we should be able to say with the Psalmist, "Oh, how I love your law! I mediate on it all day long" (Psalm 119:97).
Actually, all of the verses of Psalm 119 extol God's word and God's laws and explain why we should love it. Let's look a bit at some facts about Psalm 119 and what it says about loving God's word and laws.
You may know that Psalm 119 is the longest chapter of the Bible. It is an acrostic of the Hebrew alphabet and contains 22 sections with 8 verses in each section. Yet these 176 verses take only about 10 minutes to read through.
During Jesus time, it was the first Psalm that children memorized. In the early centuries of some churches, those who wished leadership positions such as elders or deacons, were required to have memorized all 150 psalms, not just 119. David Livingston, a missionary explorer, memorized 119 when he was 9 years old. Wilber Wilberforce who was key in leading England to abolish slavery (before it was abolished in America and without a civil war) enjoyed praying this Psalm to God from memory. The movie "Amazing Grace" gives you a glimpse into the struggle Wilberforce faced and shows why he needed scriptural guidance.
Psalm 119 has some popular verses recognized around the globe. Verse 89 is a popular Nigerian praise song. "Your word lasts forever, O Lord; as firmly planted as the heavens." More familiar to Americans would be verse 105 which was set to music by Amy Grant. "Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path."
Because this chapter has had such importance through time, it would seem valuable for us to spend some time studying it. Make titles across the top of a paper and go through the chapter looking for things such as: What is the purpose of God's laws? Begin with verses 5, 6 and 9. How does the writer feel about God's word and laws? Look at verse 14 and 20. How should we approach God's laws? Consider verses 24, 26 and 32. What requests does the Psalmist make regarding God's laws? Consider verses 12, 16 and 17. Read through all of it again as a prayer. You may find additional or different ways to title your columns and different insights but the point is to make an effort to dig information from the chapter and learn more of God.
Charles Spurgeon said, "Those who have never studied it (God's word) may pronounce it common place and complain of its reputation but to the thoughtful student it is great, deep and full, so as to never be measured and varied so as never to weary the eye." Let us begin this New Year as thoughtful students of God's word.
Helen McCormack writes the Reflections column every six weeks. She and her husband, David, are serving with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Germany.