Session One - Bible Study on Psalm 119

This study was originally presented over a five day period in July 1995 as a series of radio talks by Pastor Keith Graham. The material will be more profitable if digested in its five separate sessions, of which this is the first.

The various major sections of Holy Scripture emphasize different aspects of godly knowledge and wisdom.

When we read the book of Genesis we see the Almighty power of God in creation, and in His thorough judgment of the world that was by the Flood. We learn about the origins of all things visible and invisible.

In the prophecies of Daniel we see revealed the absolute sovereignty of the God Who is Lord of all the nations, and Who deposes certain earthly kings and exalts others, all the while executing His plan for the establishment of His own everlasting kingdom.

We might turn to the gospel of John to gaze upon the wonder of this same God come to dwell among us in the flesh - Jesus Christ - Who stands in calm majesty before His opponents and says, "Before Abraham was, I AM!"

When it comes to the inward life and devotion to God, the PSALMS excel in building us up...and perhaps the very heart of their teaching the way of personal holiness and sanctification is the 119th Psalm. If you mightily desire to know the Lord and commune with Him, this Psalm will be a feast for you. If your heart pants for God as the deer pants for water, Psalm 119 is a living, bubbling brook. This Psalm will the subject of our five-part study.

Even as we can make distinctions in the parts of Scripture, a helpful way of looking at ourselves is as people who have minds, affections, and wills. We are rational beings, we think. We are also emotional; we feel happiness and sorrow, we have desires and dislikes. Finally, we have a voluntary nature...that is, we have a will. Based on input from our mental and emotional faculties, we determine our course of action; we make decisions.

The heart is that center of our being where these aspects of human nature - mind, affections, and will - come together.

The Bible's testimony about the heart is that by nature it is utterly corrupt. That is to say, the human mind has been darkened by sin. Our affections and desires have become foolish and vile. The natural human will is self-centered and bent on doing evil. When the Lord was about to judge the world by the Great Flood, He saw that "the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually". (from Gen 6:5)

However, when a person comes to faith in Christ, he is given a new heart! His mind is enlightened, his affections renewed, his will delivered from bondage to sin.

Nevertheless, we are not yet made perfect. In 1 John 1:8 we read: "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us." It is not until he or she is with the Lord that the Christian is fully delivered from "the sin which so easily entangles us", (Heb 12:1). The great struggle of the Christian is to walk according to that new nature...sowing to the Spirit and not to the flesh...hungering and thirsting for righteousness, as Jesus put it - "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." Do you have that hunger and thirst? I've described it as the "Kingdom passion". A true member of the kingdom of God is marked by this hunger and thirst. If you have it, you have great reason to hope in God that you will be satisfied according to Jesus' promise!

In Proverbs 4:23, Solomon said, "Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life." This is where God meets us with Psalm 119. This Psalm provides a strategic vantage point from which to watch over the heart. It is like a great searchlight that allows us to look into the deepest chambers of our hearts.

This is the first of a five-part study of Psalm 119. The goal of the study is to guide the student into this Biblical treasure house, where incalculable spiritual riches await. May those who are new to its wonders have their appetites whetted for a lifetime, and those who are more familiar with the ways of the Lord be reminded of its special profitableness.

Psalm 119 consists of 22 sections, one for each of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Some English Bibles will show these divisions and include the Hebrew characters. In theĀ original language, each line of each section begins with its appropriate letter. This made it easier to memorize the Psalm. Yes, memorize! Remember, in ancient times, personal ownership of a copy of the Scriptures was unheard of! The Word of God was certainly read in public and preached, but before the printing press, it could not easily be read in private, and at the reader's pleasure!

In 2 Timothy 3:15, Paul reminded his youthful pupil that from childhood he had known the sacred writings which are able to give the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. Timothy was more than acquainted with this Psalm; he was doubtless one young man who knew the truth of verses 9-11: "How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Thy word. With all my heart I have sought Thee; do not let me wander from Thy commandments. Thy word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against Thee."

Timothy had no Bible like you or I have today, yet he had devoted himself to digesting Scripture. How much more should you and I do the same, who take personal ownership of a Bible for granted?

Do you remember the account of King Solomon and the pillars of the temple? He named the two pillars after two of his illustrious relatives of old, Boaz and Jachin. The account can be read at 1 Kings 7:21 or at 2 Chronicles 3:17. Our devotional life has two pillars also. They hold up the entire structure of our personal Christian walks and therefore of our families and churches. Do you know what those two pillars are? Think of Solomon and his temple and it will be easy to remember the Boaz and Jachin of the temple of your devotional life. The B of the Boaz pillar is for Bible. The pillar named Jachin is for prayin' 'til your knees are achin'!

Without both pillars firmly in place, the temple cannot stand.

If we were to read through Psalm 119, we would immediately notice the terms Law, Testimony, Precepts, Statutes, Commandments, Judgments and others appearing again and again. These terms all refer to the Word of God. Yet, we would miss the deep richness of the Word of God if we were to consider them as nothing more than synonyms - just different words for THE WORD! Our method of delving into Psalm 119 will be to consider each of these aspects or dimensions of Scripture, and what they meant to the Psalmist.

The first of the terms is Law, and it appears in verse one of the Psalm: How blessed are those whose way is blameless, Who walk in the law of the Lord! The Hebrew word translated "Law" is not too unfamiliar, it is the word "Torah". The word is still used today, and refers primarily to the Books of Moses.

However, if we consider the words of the Lord Jesus in the gospel of John we can see that "Law" came to have a broader meaning than just the books of Moses. In John 15:25 we read: "But they have done this in order that the word may be fulfilled that is written in their Law, `They hated Me without a cause.' Jesus refers here not to a passage in the Books of Moses, but to another Psalm, Psalm 69. Jesus paraphrases the first part of verse four of the sixty-ninth Psalm, which reads: "Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head; those who would destroy me are powerful, being wrongfully my enemies...". Defending His claim to Deity in John 10:34, Jesus likewise cites Psalm 82:6, and refers to that passage as the Law.

When the Psalmist speaks of God's Word as "Law", he has in mind God's perfect moral standard for man. That standard is put in terms of specific injunctions through Moses, but is also displayed by other parts of Scripture. Perfect obedience to the Law is dazzlingly displayed in the life of the Lord Jesus, Who summarized the Law as: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself."

Here is a theological definition of the Law: "The moral law is the declaration of the will of God to mankind. It directs and binds every one to personally, perfectly, and perpetually conform to and obey it, in the whole being and behavior, soul and body. It requires the performance of all those duties of holiness and righteousness due to God and one's fellow man. The Law promises life upon the fulfilling of it, and threatens death upon the breaking of it."

In order to benefit from this study, some homework is going to be necessary. Please read through Psalm 119 and note occurences of the term law, as well as occurences of the term "testimonies". If you are using the New International Version of the Bible, look for "law" and "statutes".

In our next session, we will consider the Psalmist's attitude to the Law of God, and then move on to discuss God's testimonies.

Go to Session Two - Bible Study on Psalm 119

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