Are you familiar with Psalm 119? Containing 176 verses in all, it is the longest chapter in the Bible. Nearly every verse in it mentions the word of God, and some are the most widely recognized and commonly memorized in all of Scripture. Many of them read as though the author is super confident in his ability to know and obey God’s word:
“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (v. 11)
“My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.” (v. 20)
“Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.” (v. 33)
“I will keep your law continually, forever and ever.” (v. 44)
The psalm is full of many more statements similar to these! To a non-gospel-trained eye, it can certainly look like the psalmist’s hope is set in, well…himself.
But I don’t think that’s the case at all.
My challenge for us today is to look at this psalm through a gospel lens. When studying such long texts in the Bible, we can easily miss the forest for the trees. We zoom in on specific verses or smaller chunks of them, and the context of the passage as a whole is lost on us. The psalms are a very special category in Scripture as they represent different psalmists’ perspectives on God’s movement and position in their lives but also serve a prophetic purpose. Some of that prophetic pointing to Christ is not visible to us at all until we later read Jesus’ words in the New Testament announcing the psalms referred to Him (like we read yesterday in Luke 24). I admit, while I love the devotional aspects of reading psalms, understanding the ways it depicts the gospel is a tricky task. It is certainly not my strength!
But as I’ve read the entire 119th Psalm over and over again during the past couple of months, I’ve started to glimpse a pattern of this psalmist’s heart cries. In them, we find:
A belief that God’s ways are best and a desire to follow in them. (“You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.” – v. 68)
A knowing that righteousness is essential. (“Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.” – v. 133)
A recognition of his need – for as much as he longs for the Word, he realizes it’s not enough; looking toward Christ for rescue and righteousness. (“My eyes long for your salvation and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise.” – v. 123)
A worship; faith in a coming Savior led to praise and an even greater love for the Word. (“Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O Lord, and teach me your rules.” – v. 108)
How should the gospel intersect our Bible study lives?
Like the psalmist, I want a high view of the Bible, and I want to obey it. But what should drive that obedience? Knowing Jesus perfectly fulfilled the law in my place should lead me to worship and push me deeper into experiencing God through his Word.
Don’t forget that our study of the Bible, our obedience to it, doesn’t save us. Even when we have a Psalm 119 kind of love for God’s Word, it’s still not enough! This beautiful gift of a Scripture definitely highlights the power of God’s Word and the holy perfection it commands, but let’s remember that it also points to man’s inability to keep it perfectly and his deep need for a Savior. It looks ahead to Jesus as the embodiment of the Word and his sacrifice as the fulfillment of God’s commands.