“Law and Grace”              Psalm 119: 1-8                  February 13, 2010
Introduction:  The Old Testament is not old. The value of the Old Testament to the Christian is expressed several times in the New Testament:
For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. (Ro 15:4)
Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. (1 Co 10:11)
Paul reminded Timothy of the importance of the Old Testament scriptures he had learned as a child:
But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Ti 3:14-17)
Of the books of the Old Testament, this is especially true of the book of Psalms! The value of the Psalms for the Christian is so great; we should do what we can to become more familiar with them.
As Christians, we are commanded to utilize the Psalms:
Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, (Ep 5:19)
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Co 3:16)
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. (Ja 5:13)
Thus the Psalms are useful for singing praises to God. They are also useful for teaching and confirming that Jesus is the Christ or Messiah. Note the use Jesus made of them (Lk 24:44-47), and also Peter's use of them in his first gospel sermon (Ac 2:25-28, 34-35).
Luke 24:44-47 
 44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
 45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
Acts 2:25-28
25 David said about him:
   “‘I saw the Lord always before me.
   Because he is at my right hand,
   I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
   my body also will live in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me to the grave,
   nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
   you will fill me with joy in your presence.’  (Quoting Psalm 16:8-11)
Acts 2:34-35
34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
   “‘The Lord said to my Lord:
   “Sit at my right hand
35 until I make your enemies
   a footstool for your feet.”’  (Quoting Psalm 110:1)
It has been said that in the Psalms one finds "expressed the eager yearning and longing for God's presence". It certainly contains "prayers and songs of joyous trust and praise." Indeed, every emotion known to man is expressed in beautiful and inspired terms (e.g., joy, anger, praise, repentance, trust, even doubt).  
Are you filled with some emotion for which you cannot find the words to express it? It is likely you will find it expressed in the book of Psalms!
One of the things that makes Hebrew poetry different is the use of "Thought Rhyme." Also known as "parallelism", thought rhyme involves arranging thoughts in relation to each other. This is done without a concern as to whether certain words rhyme with each other (as found in most modern poetry). In the Psalms, we find several different kinds of thought rhyme. Three of the most common are
1) Synonymous parallelism - The thought of first line is repeated in the second line, expressed in different words for the sake of emphasis. A good example is found in Psalm 24:2...
For He has founded it upon the seas,
And established it upon the waters
. (Same idea, reworded)
2) Antithetical parallelism - The truth presented in one line is strengthened by a contrasting statement in the next line. Consider this example from Psalm 1:6...
For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the ungodly shall perish
. (Note the contrast)
3) Synthetic parallelism - The first and second lines bear some definite relation to each other (such as cause and effect, or proposition and conclusion). A good example is Psalm 119:11...
Your word I have hidden in my heart, (Cause)
That I might not sin against You! (Effect)
It is often fascinating to note how creative the Hebrew poets were as they composed their poetry using "thought rhyme" rather than "word rhyme". In some cases it even helps in interpreting difficult expressions or phrases.
The origin of the word "Psalm" comes from the Greek word “psalmos", and from the Hebrew word "zmr" meaning "to pluck"; i.e., taking hold of the strings of an instrument with the fingers. It implies that the psalms were originally composed to be accompanied by a stringed instrument.
"Psalms are songs for the lyre, and therefore lyric poems in the strictest sense."(Delitzsch, Psalms, Vol. I, p. 7) David and others therefore originally wrote the Psalms to be sung to the accompaniment of the harp.
In New Testament worship, we are told to sing the psalms to the accompaniment of the heart:
"...in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Ep 5:19)
The phrase, "making melody," comes from the Greek word "psallontes" (literally, plucking the strings of). Therefore, we are to "pluck the strings of our heart" as we sing the psalms (i.e., to sing with emotion).
Psalm 119 is recited at the Feast of Pentecost, the spring festival observed 50 days after Passover, which celebrates the giving of the Torah to Moses at Mt. Sinai.
Acrostic poems were the works of highly skilled literary artists and functioned in ancient Israelite literature in a number of ways. Acrostics were most likely memory devices to aid in individual and corporate recitation; and, literally, they summarized all that could be said or that needed to be said about a particular subject from alif to tav, from A to Z. (Nancy DeClaisse-Walford, Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University Atlanta, GA)
The central theology of this psalm is the word of God. At least 173 of the 176 verses mention the scriptures by some title or another... All can be found in the first 8 verses: the law, testimonies, precepts, statues, commandments, ordinances, word, and way. Each has a slightly different nuance and root meaning. For example: 
Law: Hebrew torah—basically means law, but actually means ‘teaching, direction’ and connotes the whole will of God as imparted to mortals for their guidance.
Statues: literally means that which is engraved on stone; a common form in which laws of a community were published.  Statutes are laws regulating the life of the individual as a member of society.
 Ordinances: regulate man’s relationship with his neighbor.
Are you a Law-Abiding Christian? To be “law-abiding” means to live within the law. The psalmist says one who lives within the law is “happy.” Why is this true? Think about where you live. What about your dwelling makes you happy or gives you a feeling of contentment, a feeling of being “at home”?
Don’t walls keep out extreme heat and cold, protect us from rain or sunstroke? Don’t the parameters or our home keep us safe from other harm: stray or wild animals, looters, or worse? How safe and content would we feeling sleeping under the open sky year round? Where would home even be?
Why does the psalmist feel so utterly content with the boundaries, walls, the spaces of the law? Does looking at God’s commandments as a dwelling within which we can choose to live make a difference in how we look at biblical “rules” or divine expectations?  
In Psalm 119, the instruction of Yahweh is not presented as a strict set of rules and regulations, but a way of life, or approach to being, that brings one closer to God. Torah has become for the psalmist much more than the laws by which Israel should live; torah has become a personal way to God.”
 In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus speaks,
Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one iota, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19)
Take comfort in God’s words. They’re meant to comfort and console, challenge and direct. May you feel at home in the pages of your Bible. Amen.
  June 2021  
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