Not a One-Trick Pony: Part 3

Football season is upon us, which actually makes me pretty happy (Go, Pack, Go!).  While this might put me in the minority among women, I enjoy watching grown men clobber one another over a hunk of leather (though when I put it like that, it somehow seems less inviting). Although I probably have a better working knowledge of the general rules and strategies of football than many of my female peers, I don’t know anything compared to people who have actually played the game. Have you ever listened to quarterback-turned-commentator Tony Romo call a football game? I love it. His passion for and knowledge of the game are unmistakable. He always seems to know exactly what play the coach/quarterback will call next, and he analyzes the game with expertise that many ex-players lack. This shows that Romo has a genuine understanding of the game after decades of playing and studying it, rather than a dabbling interest. Yes, I can watch a football game on a Sunday afternoon without being confused, but compared to someone who has spent his life as a student of the game, my understanding is superficial (at best).

The same sort of idea is at play when we consider Psalm 119. We read through it and notice how many times the Word of God is referenced, so we deduce that it’s all about Scripture. Yes, it is. But that is a superficial understanding. If that’s all we know, we miss out on much of what this psalm has to offer. We must become students of the Word. While it may take time and work to discover, Psalm 119 holds treasures that are worth the dig. The more time and energy you spend grappling with any passage of Scripture, the more you’ll see there. I’ve already explored what the psalm has to say about prayer and suffering; today, we finish this series by examining perhaps the most important topic of the three: Psalm 119 and knowing God.

This psalm is chock-full of references to God’s character. We could probably tease out more, but check out this list of who God is, according to Psalm 119:

  • Blessed (v. 12)
  • Righteous (vv. 40, 137, 138, 142)
  • Abounding in lovingkindness (vv. 41, 64, 76, 88, 129, 149, 159)
  • My portion (v. 57)
  • Good (v. 68)
  • The Creator (vv. 73, 90)
  • Faithful (vv. 75, 90, 138)
  • Compassionate (v. 77)
  • Comforter (v. 82)
  • Judge (v. 84)
  • Teacher (vv. 33, 108, 124, 135)
  • My Hiding Place and Shield (v. 114)
  • My surety (v. 122)
  • Gracious (v. 132)
  • Near (v. 151)
  • Merciful (v. 156)
  • My Rescuer/Deliverer (vv. 153, 170)
  • Master (v. 176)

We could extrapolate what each of these means—and maybe I’ll do that and write about it someday—but instead, as I wrap up my ramblings on this great psalm, I want to leave you with one big idea:

We know God when we know His Word.  
We cannot know God if we do not know His Word.

This may seem painfully elementary, but if we miss this point, we’ve lost the whole ballgame. I’ve not intended to downplay the psalmist’s love of Scripture, but rather to contextualize it, to show that Psalm 119 offers more than facts about the Bible; it reveals the heart of its writer. At least two things stand out in this psalm: first, the psalmist loves God’s Word. Second, he loves the God of the Word. He loves who God is and he loves to obey Him. He trusts Him to deliver him from his oppressors. The psalmist makes bold declarations of faith as enemies are breathing down his neck because he has soaked in Scripture and gotten to know the God only it can reveal. We cannot divorce these two ideas. To know God is to know His Word and to know His Word is to know God. Bible teacher and author Jen Wilkin puts it this way: “It has been said that we become what we behold. I believe that there is nothing more transformative to our lives than beholding God in His Word. After all, how can we conform to the image of a God we have not beheld?”[1]

The psalmist of 119 had much less revelation of God’s character than we have today. He had just the first five books, most of which we’d rather skip over in the yearly Bible-reading plan.  Not the psalmist, though. He devoured it and came out, not saying how boring and dry the dimensions of the Tabernacle were or how his eyes glazed over as he read the dietary laws. No, his response was this: “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (v. 103). “The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (v. 72). “Therefore, I love Your commandments above gold, yes, above fine gold” (v. 127). He meditated on the Word day and night; he hid it in his heart; he “opened [his] mouth wide and panted” for God’s commandments. Because of his voracious appetite for Scripture, he got to know his God.

We love to make the Bible all about ourselves: “You can slay the giants in your life just like David!” “You can walk on the proverbial water just like Peter!” “Obey God, or you’ll end up in a smelly fish belly just like Jonah!” We love to make the heroes of these stories the people in them, completely missing the fact that the hero of the whole Story and every story in it is God Himself! Our teaching should be more like this: “God is the great Deliverer who saved His covenant people from destruction through an unlikely vessel.” “Jesus is the Master of the sea, the One in whom we must place our faith.” “God is merciful despite disobedience, unbelief, and rebellion. He forgives though we don’t deserve it!” As you look into the mirror of God’s Word, you will see yourself, not in the heroic limelight, but in desperate need of rescue and finding it only in the true Hero. The Person of interest in Scripture is the Author Himself. We must come to Scripture looking for the One it reveals. What do the Levitical dietary laws teach us about God? What do the genealogies reveal about the One in whose image each of those souls was created? What can we learn about Yahweh in a list of instructions about how to build the Tabernacle or the ark or the Temple? That may sound hard—probably because it is. But it’s worth it. Need proof? Read Psalm 119.

Psalm 119 is all about the Word of God, but more than that, it is all about what a life looks like that has been immersed in God’s Word. Because the poet feasted on the revelation of God in the light, he could cling to His character in the dark. Perhaps our view of God falters easily when the storms strike because we haven’t beheld Him while the waters are calm. So, go to the Word, my friends, and behold the glory of the One whom it reveals. Remember, we know God when we know His Word; and we cannot know God if we do not know His Word.

[1] Jen Wilkin, Women of the Word, pg. 18

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