# 331 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 119. A giant among the Psalms.

I’m always amazed at just how tall some trees can grow. It seems that the world’s largest tree is the Hyperion, which is a coastal redwood and is located somewhere in the heart of Redwood National Park in California, USA. This giant among trees reaches a staggering 380 feet (115 metres) tall!  

In 2016 Miriam and I checked out one of Western Australia’s tallest trees. It is a giant karri tree known as the Gloucester Tree and is a mere 58 metres in height! It is said to be the world’s second tallest fire-lookout tree, and visitors can climb up to a platform in its upper branches for views of the surrounding karri forest, although I confess that we didn’t actually climb too far.

Today though, we will consider something far more gigantic and exciting that these amazing trees. In fact, we will begin what I have been looking forward to for some time and that is contemplating Psalm 119, the longest Psalm in the Psalter with 176 verses. Kidner calls it “this giant among the Psalms [which] shows the full flowering of that ‘delight … in the law of the Lord’ which is described in Psalm 1, and gives its personal witness to the many-sided qualities of Scripture praised in Psalm 19:7ff.” (# 29)

Before we begin, if you have time read Psalm 119 (or go to the following link to listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bv9zVidzfY ) to get the big picture of this incredible Psalm, suitably titled “The Rich and Precious Jewel of the Word” by Kidner. (# 29)  

I confess that I begin this meditation on Psalm 119 with a sense of inadequacy, very aware that it is quite a challenge to do it justice and to really portray the psalmist’s desire when he wrote it, considering the incredible lengths he went to in order to describe just how wonderful and how much he delighted in and loved the word of God (torah).

Brueggemann describes it as “the most extensive of the torah songs [which include Psalms 1, 15, 19, 24] … [and] a massive intellectual achievement. It is an astonishingly crafted acrostic psalm.”  (# 2) In fact, not only is this psalm an acrostic poem [with each stanza beginning with successive letters from the Hebrew alphabet], but moreover, every verse of each stanza begins with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Sadly, this amazing achievement is lost in the translation to English.

Before we move on in this introduction though let me give you a definition of “torah” by Brueggemann:

“The torah is understood not simply as Israelite moral values, but as God’s will and purpose, ordained in the very structure of life… creation and torah are understood together, the torah articulating God’s intention for Israel in creation… torah is Israel’s way to respond to and fully honour God’s well-oriented world… undertaken gladly in a posture of gratitude.” (#2)

The psalmist certainly was not legalistic and he did not consider the law (torah) as a series of do’s and do-not’s limiting one’s happiness and burdensome to keep. In fact, just the very opposite! He ‘rejoiced’ and ‘delighted’ in God’s word affirming its “life-giving power… and [as] a mode of joyous existence… of God’s lifegiving presence… The torah [was] no burden… it [was] a source of light, life, joy and delight.” (2) Listen to his words from beginning to end of this psalm:

14 I rejoice in following your statutes
    as one rejoices in great riches…

16 I delight in your decrees…

24 Your statutes are my delight…

70 I delight in your law…

72 The law from your mouth is more precious to me
    than thousands of pieces of silver and gold…

77 … your law is my delight…

97 Oh, how I love your law!
    I meditate on it all day long…

119 I love your statutes…

127 I love your commands
    more than gold, more than pure gold…

129 Your statutes are wonderful;
    therefore I obey them…

159 See how I love your precepts…

167 I obey your statutes,
    for I love them greatly…

174 … your law gives me delight.


Is that how you feel about God’s words as found in the Bible? Are they of greater value to you than gold, more than pure gold? Are they more precious to you than thousands of pieces of silver and gold? Are you able to honestly say to God, Oh, how I love your law… your law gives me delight? If not, then meditating on this giant of a psalm may be just what you need. Perhaps begin with the following prayer:

18 Open my eyes that I may see
    wonderful things in your law. Amen.

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