Psalm 119 Overview

Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  38:18
0 ratings


I want you to open your Bibles first this morning to Psalm 19:7-14. We will be looking at an overview of Psalm 119 in my sermon this morning but Psalm 119 is really an elaboration of these verses in Psalm 19:7-14.
Read Psalm 19:7-14
Martin Luther said, “I have made a covenant with God that he sends me neither visions, dreams, nor even angels. I am well satisfied with the gift of the Holy Scriptures, which give me abundant instruction and all that I need to know both for this life and for that which is to come.” Steven J. Lawson, Psalms 76–150, ed. Max Anders, vol. 12, Holman Old Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 2006), 234.
Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. It stands as the “Mt. Everest” of the Psalter. It joins Pss. 1 and Psalm 19 in exalting God’s Word. The author is unknown for certain, although David, Daniel, or Ezra have reasonably been suggested. Warren Wiersbe even suggests Jeremiah as the author. The psalmist apparently wrote while under some sort of serious duress (cf. vv. 23, 42, 51, 61, 67, 71, 78, 86–87, 95, 110, 121, 134, 139, 143, 146, 153, 154, 157, 161, 169). It is one of the acrostic psalms with 22 stanzas with eight verses each. Each stanza is represented by one of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The fact that it is an acrostic from A to Z indicates the truth that God’s written word is what we need to satisfy us from A to Z. Jesus Christ, the Living Word, taught this truth in Revelation 1:8, when He said, “I am the ALPHA and OMEGA.” These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Christ and His Word are our all in all. Our attitude and relationship with the Word of God will be an indication of our relationship with the Son of God. Rod Mattoon, Treasures from Treasured Psalms, Psalm 119, vol. 3, Treasures from Scripture Series (Springfield, IL: Rod Mattoon, 2010), 2.
1. God is mentioned in in all but about six verses of this psalm.
2. The author of this psalm refers to himself 325 times in this psalm (so it is a personal, and not a national, psalm).
3. The Psalmist indicates that he is undergoing affliction and persecution as he writes this psalm (around 65 verses reveal this fact).
4. The whole psalm is a prayer (except for the opening verses, verses 1–3).
5. The Psalmist makes around 70 prayer requests in his psalm.
1. “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?” “By taking heed thereto according to Thy Word,” 119:9.
2. “Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee,” 119:11.
3. “Open Thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law.” 119:18.
4. “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept Thy Word,” 119:67.
5. “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn Thy statutes,” 119:71.
6. “For ever, O Lord, Thy Word is settled in heaven,” 119:89.
7. “Thy faithfulness is unto all generations,” 119:90.
8. “Thou through Thy commandments hast made me wiser than my enemies,” 119:101.
9. “I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep Thy word,” 119:101.
10. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,” 119:105.
11. “The entrance of Thy word giveth light,” 119:130.
12. “Mine eyes prevent (anticipate) the night watches, that I might meditate in Thy word,” 119:148.
13. “Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy righteous judgments,” 119:164.
14. “Great peace have they which love thy law, and nothing shall offend them,” 119:165.
While this psalm deals with many aspects of the Word of God, two major themes emerge more forcefully than any others: why we should value the Word of God and how we show that we value the Word of God.
Let’s examine both of those themes.

I. Why We Should Value the Word of God

This Psalm gives us two major answers to this inquiry. It first tells us we are to value God’s Word ....

A. Because of What It Is

Various Names — This Psalm carries within it ten different Hebrew names for the Word of God. A mere glance at these words is sufficient to realize that God’s Word is more precious than words can convey. It is God himself speaking. It is God’s law for our lives. It is God testifying of himself. It is God providing guidance for our walk in this world. All of these things and more are conveyed by these ten names.
“Law” (tôrâh), occurring 25 times in the psalm, denotes direction or instruction. More often the word refers to a body of teaching, probably Deuteronomy and Leviticus, if not the whole Pentateuch.
Psalm 119:18 “Open my eyes so that I may contemplate wondrous things from your instruction.”
In fact in John 10:34 “Jesus answered them, “Isn’t it written in your law, I said, you are gods?” the corresponding Greek word for “Law” seems to include the entire Old Testament.
“Word” (dāḇār), occurs 20 times in the psalm.
Psalm 119:16 “I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.”
It is a general term for God’s revelation, but the “Ten Commandments” are called “Ten Words” Deut. 4:13 “He declared his covenant to you. He commanded you to follow the Ten Commandments, which he wrote on two stone tablets.”
“Saying” (’imrâh), occurs 19 times. It is often a poetical synonym for dāḇār.
Psalm 119:11 “I have treasured your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you.”
“Commandment” (miṣwâh) occurs 21 times in the plural and once in the singular collectively. It signifies a definite, authoritative command. It is frequently joined with the next two words.
Psalm 119:176 “I wander like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commands.
“Statutes” (ḥūqqîm) occurs 21 times. In the Psalms it is always in the plural. Literally it means “things inscribed.” So it refers to enacted Laws. It is a clear communicated prescription of what one should do.
Psalm 119:12 “Lord, may you be blessed; teach me your statutes.”
“Judgment” (mišpoṭ) occurs 19 times in the plural (often trans. “laws”), and 4 times in the singular. It represents a judicial decision that constitutes a precedence, a binding law. In the Pentateuch it referred to the laws after the Ten Commandments. The word can also mean God’s judgmental acts on the wicked.
Psalm 119:7 “I will praise you with an upright heart when I learn your righteous judgments.”
“Precepts” (piqqûḏîm) occurs 21 times. It is a poetical word for injunctions, found only in the Psalter (always in the pl.). The word suggests a mandate under which we are to move. It comes from the Hebrew word that means “to take oversight of,” or, “charge of.” It certainly is a blessed thing for a believer to step in under the precepts of God, and to realize that His Word is taking charge of him; showing him the way in which he should walk.
Psalm 119:159 “Consider how I love your precepts; Lord, give me life according to your faithful love.”
“Testimony” (‘ēḏâh) occurs 22 times in the plural and once in the singular. It is a solemn attestation, a declaration of the will of God. It is a general word for ordinances that became God’s standard of conduct.
Psalm 119:129 “Your decrees are wondrous; therefore I obey them.”
“Way” (derek), used five times in the plural and six times in the singular, is a metaphorical term describing the pattern of life marked out by God’s Law. It describes our going, our journeying, or the treading of our feet, the way we are to walk.
Psalm 119:3 “They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways.”
“Path” (’ōraḥ), used five times in Psalms, is parallel to “way.”
Psalm 119:15 “I will meditate on your precepts and think about your ways.”
( Allen P. Ross, “Psalms,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 879–880.)
Various Pictures — The importance of the Word of God is conveyed by several graphic pictures. The Psalmist likens the Word of God to:
WaterPsalm 119:9 “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping your word.”
A treasurePsalm 119:14 “I rejoice in the way revealed by your decrees as much as in all riches.” Psalm 119:72 “Instruction from your lips is better for me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.”
A companion and counsellor Psalm 119:24 “your decrees are my delight and my counselors.”
A song Psalm 119:54 “Your statutes are the theme of my song during my earthly life.”
HoneyPsalm 119:103 “How sweet your word is to my taste— sweeter than honey in my mouth.”
LightPsalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.”
A heritage Psalm 119:111 “I have your decrees as a heritage forever; indeed, they are the joy of my heart.”
How valuable are these things? What would life be without them? They are only a glimmer of the true value of the Word of God.
The Psalmist tells us that we should value the Word of God because of what it is, but also,

B. Because of What It Does

It Brings Happiness
Psalm 119:1-2 “How happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk according to the Lord’s instruction! Happy are those who keep his decrees and seek him with all their heart.”
The psalmist is, therefore, asserting something of strategic importance—our happiness is tied to valuing the Word of God! Tragically, the devil has succeeded in convincing most that the opposite is true. They see God’s commands as being detrimental to their happiness, but just the opposite is the case. The key to happiness is to live in God’s Word and to let his Word live in us.
It Produces Cleansing
Psalm 119:9-11 “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping your word. I have sought you with all my heart; don’t let me wander from your commands. I have treasured your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you.”
The Word of God is the agent the Spirit of God used to regenerate the hearts of all of us who are saved,
Ephesians 5:25-27 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless.”
and he continues to use that same cleansing power in our lives. By that Word, the Holy Spirit shows us what pleases God and what doesn’t and, in so doing, calls us away from sin and into purity of life.
It is noteworthy that the psalmist specifically relates the cleansing power of the Word of God to young men (v. 9). He knew the tendency of young men to fall into unclean living, and he wanted them to understand that devotion to the Word of God could preserve them from such living.
It Gives Liberty
Psalm 119:45 “I will walk freely in an open place because I study your precepts.”
Sin always promises to bring freedom, but it only creates bondage. 2 Peter 2:19 “They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption, since people are enslaved to whatever defeats them.”
It is the truth of God that brings true and lasting freedom. John 8:32 “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.””
It Provides Direction
Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.”
We live in a dark, perplexing world that offers us many paths. If we are careless about the paths we choose, we invite misery and ruin. The Word of God provides the direction we need. It is like a light shining in a dark place.
2 Peter 1:19 “We also have the prophetic word strongly confirmed, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”
It Produces Understanding
Psalm 119:130 “The revelation of your words brings light and gives understanding to the inexperienced.”
Our walking and understanding are inseparably linked. In addition to shedding light on our path, the Word of God enlightens our minds so we can discern what we ought to do.

II. How We Show We Value the Word of God

A second major emphasis in this psalm is this: how we show that we value the Word of God.
Studying it
Firstly, we will study it diligently. God’s purpose in giving his Word was to point us to himself. We are, therefore, to seek him through his Word (v. 2), and this seeking is to be done wholeheartedly (vv. 2–10). We are to ‘look’ into his Word (v. 6) and to learn its judgments (v. 7).
Here are some common unhelpful ways to read and study God's Word:
The Xanax Approach. Feel anxious? Read Philippians 4:6. Feel tired? Read Matthew 11:28. The Xanax Approach treats the Bible as if it exists to make us feel better. Bible study is about finding comfort for my issues. The problem with this approach is that I ask how the Bible can serve me, rather than how I can serve the God it proclaims.
The Pinball Approach. Lacking a reference or any guidance on what to read, I read whatever Scripture verse I happen to turn to next, ricocheting from one passage to the next. But the Pinball Approach gives no thought to the culture, history, authorship, or original intent of the passage.
The Magic 8 Ball Approach. Remember the Magic 8 Ball? You just shake it and wait until it provides a clear answer to your most difficult questions. But the Bible isn't magical and its primary function is to transform us rather than to answer our most pressing questions.
The Personal Shopper Approach. We don't actually study the Bible; rather, we shop around for Bible teachers or preachers who suit our tastes. This isn't all bad, but it can prevent us from taking ownership of Scripture. Much like the Pinball Approach, we ricochet from teacher to teacher and topic to topic without getting the tools to study God's Word for ourselves.
The Jack Sprat Approach. In the English nursery rhyme, the character Jack Sprat "could eat no fat." We take this approach when we're picky eaters who refuse to digest certain parts of the Bible. But all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable. We need a balanced diet to grow into maturity.
Source: Adapted from Jen Wilkin, Women of the Word (Crossway, 2014), pp. 38-44
Obeying it
Secondly, we will obey its commands. The duty of obedience is set forth in these verses in several ways: walking in the law of the Lord and in his ways (vv. 1, 3), keeping his testimonies (vv. 2, 129), and taking heed to our ways to make sure they correspond to the teachings of God’s Word (v. 9).
Storing it
Thirdly, we will hide it in our hearts. This means we are to store it in our minds and treasure it in our affections with the confidence that it will fortify us against sin (v. 11).
Psalm 119:11 “I have treasured your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you.”
When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Robert F. Kennedy was able to address a shocked nation promptly and off-the-cuff, quoting Aeschylus from memory: "In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God." I wonder which of today's public figures have such rich and resonant resources within them.
Declaring it
Fourthly, we will declare it to others (v. 13). Studying the Word of God will cause our hearts to burn within us (Luke 24:32) in such a way that we won’t be able to keep it to ourselves. We’ll be anxious to share its message of salvation with those who don’t know Christ and to discuss its teachings with fellow Christians.
Rejoicing over it
Finally, we will constantly rejoice over the Word of God and delight in it (vv. 14–16). We must not miss the connection the psalmist makes in these verses. The rejoicing of verse 14 and the delighting of verse 16 are connected by the meditating of verse 15. As we reflect on what the Word of God is and what it does, we will find the rejoicing and delighting to be inescapable. (Roger Ellsworth, Opening up Psalms, Opening Up Commentary (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2006), 23–27.)


Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.”
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more