This week, we begin the third strophe of Psalm 119, Gimel. The psalmist begins this stanza with an accurate view of his place in relation to the God he serves, and the results that come along with it. You can see it for yourself in Psalm 119:17-20:
The psalmist begins by stating that it is only with God’s help and actions that we can exist. In verse 17, he asks God to do good to him, and in verse 18, he asks that God open his eyes. In both of these requests, the author knows that God is the only one who can provide the answers needed: life, in accordance to God’s Word, and sight, in order to see the wonderful things in God’s Word.
But living in accordance to God’s Word leads to the world hating us. And in verse 19, the psalmist sees some of this. This is the first of four consequences that we will see over the next couple of stanzas. In all actuality, these are not consequences as much as they are trials that come because of our commitment to God.
Jesus told us that the world would hate his disciples in John 15:18-25, and the writer of this psalm experienced that same thing. Righteousness for the sake of God will always cause the world to hate us.
This idea of being a stranger on the earth can be seen in a couple of different ways, both equally true. First of all, this is not our home to begin with, we are just passing through, and our lives are short. There is limited time available to us, and we should devote what we can to reading and studying God’s Word and spreading the Good News that is found there to others.
In the first half of this second strophe of Psalm 119, we saw the psalmist’s desire to study Scripture, and the joy it brings. In this week’s passage, we can see four practical ways to put this into practice. Take a look at Psalm 119:13-16:
Studying Scripture is a key aspect of developing a vibrant and growing spiritual life. This means more than just a simple reading through of God’s Word, although that is a great start. But it is when we take that Word and really dig into it, studying it and even memorizing it, that we begin to see the full effect it can have on our growth.
In the first half of this stanza, the psalmist shared his desire for God’s Word, and the joy it offers. In the second half, these four verses, he gives four practical ways to implement God’s Word into our lives.
While there is some debate about how old the psalmist may be as he wrote this, one idea that seems to be likely is that this psalm is a sort of spiritual journal for King David. As such, it contains aspects of his spiritual growth through different periods of his life. In that case, these strophes at the beginning may represent his younger life, while those towards the end could have been written later in his life. I do not know if this is the case, but it certainly fits with much of this psalm’s structure.
In light of this possibility, it seems as if the psalmist, probably David, is writing to encourage young readers, maybe because he is young himself at this point. As he does so, he gives four simple and practical applications to inserting God’s Word into every area of our lives.
Beth, the second strophe of Psalm 119, begins with a very well known and oft quoted verse. Take a look at it for yourself in Psalm 119:9-12:
The most dominant theme that comes through in this second stanza is one of joy and praise. In these four verses, the psalmist writes about holding fast to the Word of God, and then ends with an exclamation of praise in verse 11. And where does this delight and joy find its source? In God’s Word.
This passage starts off with a simple question: How are we to live a holy life? How are we to keep ourselves pure? The answer is immediately given, and is found in living our lives in accordance with the Word of God.
As a youth minister, I cannot count the number of times I heard people say something to the effect of, “I want to enjoy my life while I am young. I’ll consider church and Christianity when I’m older.” But the psalmist reverses that, and says that the way to purity begins when we are young, or at least as young as we can possibly be. This does not discount the possibility of people coming to know God late in life, but rather states the principle that we need to turn to God now, before another moment goes by, as soon as possible. Or, as Hebrews 3 tells us, this is a decision to make today.
The next couple of verses show the lengths we are to go to in order to seek after God’s Word and make it a priority in our lives. Verse two tells us to seek it with all our hearts. Verse three states that we must hide it in our hearts. Doing so will have the effect of helping us not to stray, and helping us to avoid sin.
In the second half of the first strophe of Psalm 119, the writer describes his longing for God’s Word, and ends with a commitment of obedience. Take a look at this passage for yourself in Psalm 119:5-8.
Most of the time, when you read something, you expect the author to build his case and then, at the end, present his conclusion. But Psalm does just the opposite. In this first strophe, we see the introduction to the entire passage in the first three verses, but we also see the crux of the entire thing in verse 8, where the writer, likely David (although Hezekiah, Ezra and Daniel are also possibilities), states his commitment to obedience to God’s commands.
Since the first three verses are the introduction, the rest of this stanza is directly connected to it. God has set the standard for obedience to his decrees, and the psalmist expresses his desire to comply. In order to do so, he realizes that there must be a strong will to obey. In verse 5, he wished his ways to be “steadfast” or “established,” which means to be prepared, to make firm, to be resolved to stand firm upon God’s commands.
Because of his integrity in this matter, the writer knows that no shame will result. And this is true: standing firm upon God’s Word, and holding tightly to his values will never result in shame, but praise and joy will be the result, just as we see in verse 7.
With a new year comes a new memorization goal. For this year, I want to memorize all of Psalm 119. This week, we will begin with an overview, and the first four verses. Take a look at them for yourself.
Psalm 119 is the longest of all the psalms, at 176 verses long. It is also the most complex of all the psalms, being written as an acrostic, with eight verses for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. There are twenty-two strophes to this psalm, corresponding to each letter, with eight verses in each, possibly as a connection to the eight different words used to convey God’s Word that are used within.
If you memorized the letters that break up the sections of this psalm, you would have the entire Hebrew alphabet memorized, and this could have been a literary device to help teach the written language in Old Testament times.
The key concept to Psalm 119 is God’s Word. There are eight different terms used to communicate this found in these verses. Let’s look at each briefly. Many of them overlap in English, and so it may be a bit confusing. But each term stands on its own in the original language.
This week marks the final passage of 1 Peter, where Peter gives a few final greetings and closes. You can find it in 1 Peter 5:13-14.
This final passage can be broken into four easy portions for discussion. Each of them provides valuable insight into the early church and those who served as leaders.
She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings
The first phrase is the most ambiguous of them all. There are a couple of different possibilities as to what Peter is referring to here. It is worth noting that Peter’s choice of words is almost identical to that of John’s in his final words of 2 John, “The children of your chosen sister send their greetings.” Both John and Peter focus on the fact that we have been chosen by God as a central focus in much of their writings, as Peter did in 1:1-2. This provides a nice set of bookends for Peter’s letter.
One other item in this phrase bears some scrutiny. Peter refers to Babylon. There are a couple of possibilities. It could be the major city that existed in Mesopotamia, the literal Babylon. It could also be a reference to a less well known town of the same name in Egypt. Most likely, Peter uses it like John does in Revelation, as a veiled reference to Rome. With Peter’s historical connection to Rome, this seems the most plausible.
The last few verses of 1 Peter are the final greetings that Peter gives to his readers. He begins by giving credit to Silas for his help. Take a look at 1 Peter 5:12.
Just who is this guy that Peter is talking about, and how was he such a help to Peter?
In the original language, Peter uses the name Silvanus. Many of the modern translations, such as the NIV, use Silas, and they do so based on a couple of specific thoughts. First of all, that this Silvanus was the same one mentioned in the letter of 2 Corinthians, as a coworker of Paul and Timothy. Second, that Silvanus is the man named Silas in Acts, who was sent to Antioch by the Jerusalem church leaders, and then joined Paul on his second missionary journey.
Silas is a Greek name, while Silvanus is Latin, and in the case of Paul’s mention of Silvanus, and Luke’s person named Silas, it is possible that they are the same person. If so, then it is also likely that this is the same person to which Peter is referring to as well. Based on what we know of Silas/Silvanus, his efforts with Paul and now possibly with Peter make him a “faithful brother,” and a great help in ministry to Peter.