Welcome to our first Bible study of 2016.
Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible, containing 176 verses divided into 22 sections, each beginning with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. For the next 22 weeks, we’ll study section by section and I hope you will add your comments, insights, questions and observations as we proceed. I am using a modern translation which I find particularly inspiring and I hope you will as well. Let’s begin, shall we?
Joyful are people of integrity who follow the instructions of the Lord.
Joyful are those who obey His laws and search for Him with all their hearts.
They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in His paths.
You have charged us to keep your commandments carefully.
Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees!
Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands.
As I learn your righteous regulations, I will thank You by living as I should!
I will obey your decrees. Please don’t give up on me!
The psalmist doesn’t mince words; he is straightforward, even blunt. Genuine and abiding joy is the fruit of a vibrant and personal relationship with the Lord of heaven. It’s not a matter of routine religion, but a relationship in which you and I invest the time required to get to know God and His Word.
The Torah tells us that man does not live by bread alone. Physical food nourishes the body but we are much more than a body. It is the Word of the living God that nourishes the soul and for that ‘food’ we need to hunger far more than we do for our favorite pizza or chocolate cake.
The opening section of the psalm sets the bar high. Live according to God’s commandments, search for an intimate relationship with Him, refuse to compromise with evil, walk carefully in His paths – this is not for the casual or apathetic. It’s for the one whose heart says, ‘Oh that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees!’ (vs. 5)
The psalmist is also realistic about our humanity. He acknowledges our need to ‘learn Your righteous regulations’ and appeals to the Lord, ‘Please don’t give up on me!’
I love that, don’t you? Haven’t You said that to God at some time or other? I sure have.
The appeal encoded in these eight verses is clear: don’t be fooled into thinking that true joy is found anywhere else but in knowing God and living according to His standards. Oh, you may experience occasional flashes or periods of happiness, but joy is something different. Happiness comes and goes, depending on situations and experiences. Joy is an inner quality which God means for you and I to possess consistently. He has shown us the way; the ball is in our court.
From every direction, religious and secular, we are hearing warnings that 2016 may be a difficult year. Bloomberg Business, hardly a biblical commentary, published a headline on December 27, 2015 that read in part: 2015, The Year that Nothing Worked. Market Watch followed up two days later with this headline: Wall Street’s Forecast for 2015: Worse than 2015’s. And that’s just the economy. What about terrorism, global conflicts, the unprecedented public rapes and violence Europe is experiencing?
If you and I are going to thrive spiritually in 2016, it will be because we not just renew but increase our meditation and study in the Word of God and prayer.
When the outlook is bleak, go for the uplook.
I will lift my eyes to the hills, from which comes my help. My help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1
Know someone who could use a spiritual lift? Invite them to join this Bible Study and….don’t forget to leave a comment below.