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As we are reading though this Psalm this week with our ‘Disciple’ books, a few headlines about the Psalm might be helpful in understanding what we are reading.
It is pretty obvious just from looking at it that it is pretty long! It is in fact the longest Psalm, the longest chapter in the Bible, and at 176 verses it weighs in with a higher verse-count than 14 entire books in the Old Testement and 17 in the New!
The Psalm is actually an acrostic poem. Each verse, or stanza begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet in which it was originally composed.
Like most other Psalms, it is attributed traditionally to King David, and many of the themes he speaks of in other Psalms appear in this one. David’s life (which you can read about in the books of Kings and Samuel) was pretty crazy. He was a simple shepherd boy from a rural family who surprises everyone by slaying a giant warrior with a slingshot and is anointed by the prophet Samuel as a king of Israel.
His ascent to the throne is not easy though, and he spends years on the run, fearing for his life as he is pursued by a jealous and violent King Saul. Once crowned King though, he does pretty well. He unifies the divided nation, conquers new territories and begins the process of building a temple in his new capital city of Jerusalem.
Then disaster strikes, much of his own doing. In a moment of madness, David gets the wife of one of his best friends pregnant. Rather than apologise and try to make it right, David has his mate murdered so as not to face any awkward questions. The child is born months later but soon dies, piling a lot of understandable guilt and sorrow on the Kings head.
The feelings you might expect someone who lived this life to have, come flooding from his en as he pens the psalms, and 119 is no exception. Mixed up in this prayer are feelings of worship, thankfulness to God for his favour, fear and stress, please for help and rescue, cries for suffering to be calmed and enemies avenged. David, like most of us who want to be faithful, struggles with a strong desire for more of God, a longing to worship him fully and a recognition of his own frailty and need for help.
This honesty and a commitment to the Word of God, (what we would know as the Bible) are a great model to us all…honesty, desire to be faithful, certainty that dedicated following of God’s ways is the best way and cries of worship throughout the highs and lows of life.
Allow it to sink in, instruct you, inspire you and challenge you to turn back to the riches of the Bible for strength and inspiration day and night. Let it inspire you towards honest prayers, whatever is going on around you.