5 Truths to Know about Psalm 119
By Debbie McDaniel
“I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” - Psalm 119:32
All too often, maybe simply because of its length, we read through Psalm 119 too quickly. Or we skip forward to something else, or just read a verse here or there, but possibly never look at the entire chapter as a whole, or think about who wrote it, and what the real point of it even is. In looking deeper, we can discover so much wisdom, hidden gems that reveal the richness of our God coming to life through its words.
5 Truths to Know About Psalm 119:
1. This Psalm is actually written as an acrostic poem. The verses of each stanza begin with the same letter of each of the Hebrew alphabet, such as “Aleph,” “Beth,” “Gimel,” and so on. This is only noticeable in looking back at the original text. There are 22 stanzas or sections, equal to 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, with 8 verses each, and a total of 176 verses.
2. The author of this chapter is unknown but some have suggested it may have been Ezra the priest, written at the time that the temple had been rebuilt. Though the life of Ezra may not be the most well known in the Bible, he was extremely important and greatly used by God at a time in history when the Israelites desperately needed a faithful, strong leader. Ezra lived his days out of a deep, personal commitment to God, not simply seeking his own personal gain. He was given much responsibility to lead, sent by the King Artaxerxes, to set up a program of religious education for the people. His life proved faithful to study, follow, and teach God’s Word, and his godly example is still very relevant for our lives today. Others have suggested that Psa. 119 may have been written by David, or possibly Daniel. The author is certainly one who experienced great affliction in life, since persecution of those who hold fast to the Word of God is a theme carried throughout.
3. Almost every verse mentions God’s Word in some way– it may be written as His “word,” “ways,” “statutes,” “decrees,” “law,” “precepts,” “commands,” or “promise” – but it’s in some way mentioned through most all of the verses.
4. Just as Psalm 119 is the longest chapter of the Bible, two Psalms just before, Psalm 117, is the shortest chapter of all. There has been much discussion through history of whether Psalm 117 or 118 is the center chapter of the entire Bible. Some have said it’s divided as such: 594 chapters up to Psalm 117 and 594 chapters from Psalm 119 on, with chapter 118 being the center, and a total of 1189 chapters in the entire Bible. Those that hold to this also believe that Psa. 118:8 is the center verse of the Bible, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” Others have said that Psalm 117 seems to be the center point, with these 2 verses, “Praise the LORD, all nations; Laud Him, all peoples! For His loving kindness is great toward us, And the truth of the LORD is everlasting. Praise the LORD!” Either way, it’s interesting to note that, depending on translation, 594 + 594 = 1188. It all points to the truth that God is a God of order and precision. This entire section of God’s Word is Sovereignly placed at a significant and pivotal point in the Bible and we would be wise to study it carefully.
5. The overall message of Psalm 119 focuses on the truth of God’s Word. It encourages us through every generation to stay close and focused on His Word no matter what swirls around us in this world. Living in the freedom and knowledge of God’s ways, obeying His law above all else, and keeping in step with His commandments is the only way to truly live wise, strong lives.
God’s Word is powerful, living, and active. It never changes, because He never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His words are breathed straight from His heart to us, a love letter for life, not simply an old-fashioned, outdated book with no relevance for today. His Word is sharper than any two-edged sword.
Psalms 119 reminds us that God's very character is reflected through His Word, He is Righteous, He is Faithful, He is Unchanging, He is True. The opening 2 verses remind us, that we are "blessed" as we walk in His Truth, and seek him with our whole heart.