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The Believer and the Bible (3): The Psalmist and the Scriptures

G Hutchinson, Belfast

"This sacred ode is a little Bible, the Scriptures condensed" (C H Spurgeon on Psalm 119)

In understanding the importance of the Bible for believers today, it is useful to consider its value to those who lived in an earlier generation. Consider the Psalmist and Psalm 119.

SOURCE OF SCRIPTURE

The Psalmist is clear on the divine origin of Scripture (see vv.1,72,176). For the Psalmist, the Bible is:

Authoritative: The truth of God’s Word is essential for daily living. The Scriptures contain ordinances and precepts that must be obeyed (eg vv.91,93).

Accurate: Divine in origin, the Psalmist confirms the Scriptures to be completely inerrant (vv.30,43,140,142,151,160). Regarding v.160, the Psalmist believed the sum of the Scriptures to be truth.

Ageless: The eternal nature of Scripture was a particular delight to the Psalmist (v.89).

Divine truth cannot perish or decay as it abides in heaven.

Assorted: The introductory names used to describe the Scriptures - law v.1, testimonies v.2; ways v.3; precepts v.4; statutes v.5; commandments v.6; judgments v.7; word v.9 - all point to its varied teaching. The Bible contains history and prophecy; births and deaths; poetry and prose, and much else besides!

Accessible: The Psalmist wrote about the Scriptures because he was able to read them! When it comes to understanding God (v.66), we are not left to imagination — He has revealed Himself in His Word!

STRUCTURE OF SCRIPTURE

The Psalm reflects a general characteristic of Scripture — it is not the collection of haphazard sayings but rather a structured unfolding of One who is Himself marked by order (1 Cor 14.33).

Dimensions: Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm and the only one that is 100% absorbed with teaching on the Scriptures. Today we have the complete canon, but is our appreciation of the Word as deep as that of the Psalmist?

Divisions: An acrostic Psalm, composed of twenty-two sections each containing eight lines. The opening line of each section starts with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet and continues until all twenty-two letters are used. Thus the structure is not easily forgotten (see v.61).

Details: Each section can be studied independently of the rest. Consider the last section (vv.169-176). Here we learn that perception comes alone from God (v.169); prayer and the Scriptures go together (v.170); praise will be richer as we read the Word (v.171); proclamation of the truth is our responsibility (v.172); precepts are found in the Word (v.173); pleasure is derived from reading Scripture (v.174); protection ("help" meaning aid or succour) comes from God’s judgments (v.175); and it has power to restore us to the divine Shepherd (v.176).

STUDY OF SCRIPTURE

The Psalmist is a "role-model" for us as we seek to grasp divine truth. Like him, we need to understand the following:

Affection: The Psalmist had a deep and abiding love for God’s Word. There are repeated references to "love", with the more prominent expressions found in v.97 and v.167.

Blessing: The first word of the Psalm, "blessed" (compare Ps 1 and Ps 32), reveals a person who knew, from experience, the inner joy that comes from meditating on the Word (vv.1-2).

Commitment: The Psalmist was not an irregular reader, dipping into Scripture now and again. "Night and Day" the Scriptures were before him (read v.148 then v.97).

Duty: Time and again the Psalmist reminds the Lord that his desire was not only to read Scripture but also to keep its truths (see, for example, v.2). Furthermore, the Scriptures were a treasure-chest (v.162) that provided endless joy and enrichment.

Enlightenment: Divine truth requires divine revelation (John the Baptist was conscious of this, Jn 1.32-33). Time and again the Psalmist asked Jehovah to reveal nuggets of truth (for example, consider vv.26-27). Divine wisdom, when imparted to the believer through the Bible, is the best form of education (vv.98-99).

Fascination: The Psalmist maintained a sense of awe when reading the Scriptures (vv.18,161). We too must retain a sense of excitement as we turn to the Bible.

Goodness: The Word of God brings wholesome goodness to the reader (v.66), not least because the God of the Word is good (v.68)!

Heart: The students of Scripture must be "whole-hearted" in their reading (vv.2,10); "clean-hearted" in their worship and walk (vv.7,9,11); and "open or large hearted" as they absorb the precepts from the Lord (v.32).

STRENGTH OF SCRIPTURE

A key word in the Psalm is "quicken" which means to enliven or revive (compare Heb 4.12). Consider, for example, how the Scriptures have power to promote:

Faithfulness: The Psalmist’s desire was to remain true to God and His Word (v.25,37,107).

Righteousness: The inerrant Word is the only source of morality and truth for the believer as we live in a godless world (vv.40,49,156).

Lovingkindness: God is love and the believer should read the Scriptures in order to display the same attribute (vv.88,159).

SATISFACTION OF SCRIPTURE

The complete Psalm is a testimony to the blessing of Scripture. Consider:

Memorability: The poetry of the Psalm ensures that it, and Scriptures generally, are kept in remembrance (vv.16,52,93,109).

Meditation: The Psalmist regularly refers to his habit of pausing and reflecting on the teaching of Scripture (eg v.15). This is pertinent ministry for the action-fuelled world of the 21st century!

Manifestation: The Psalm reflects a general principle, namely that the Bible reveals the character of God (vv.7,68,75,90,114,119,137,151).

Ministry: The Word is uniquely able to bring joy (vv.111,162), peace (v.165), longsuffering (vv.28,75), goodness (vv.39, 66) and faith (v.42).

Metaphors: The Psalm contains a well-known metaphor to describe Scripture — a lamp/light (v.105). May its truth be our guide day by day.

To be continued.

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