Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long! Ps. 119:97
I have been reading a stanza of Psalm 119 every morning. I nurse a cup of coffee while I sit at my kitchen counter with the windows open in the bright summer morning. I am here right now. Here, with my hot mug, an early morning breeze wafting in, the sound of water cheerfully bubbling from the backyard fountain, I sit with my Jesus, for a precious few peaceful minutes.
I am loving Psalm 119. Each small stanza, only 8 verses, is bursting with adoration and wisdom, a series of lyrical, worshipful fountains of praise. At 176 verses, Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm and the longest chapter in the Bible. It is an acrostic. Each of the 22 stanzas begins with a corresponding letter from the Hebrew alphabet. Creative, worshipping symmetry. The author reflects on the myriad applications of God’s Word. Like a blade of sunlight bursting into a million piercing beams of rainbow light through the facets of a diamond, Psalm 119 reflects the glorious mystery of a God who speaks. No aspect of life does he leave untouched by his meditations on the words of God – suffering, joy, monotony, sleep, day, stillness, chaos, war, justice, longing, angst and anger. This is a love song for the Word.
And I am eating it up.
So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey. Ezekial 3:1-3
A God who speaks. Is that not a glory beyond imagining? A God who reveals. A God who leaves a record because He knows that our little lives are too small to find Him without it. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:27)
The author of Psalm 119 is unknown, although many scholars believe it could have been Ezra or David. It was long before the New Testament and the completion of the canon of Scripture, so the word of God of whom the author is speaking refers to the Pentateuch. That’s right, the first five books of the Bible. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. So, when the psalmist says with desperate love, do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope in Your laws, he is talking about, well, this: The priest is to examine the mildew on the walls, and it is has greenish or reddish depressions that appear to be deeper than the surface of the wall, the priest shall go out the doorway of the house and close it for seven days…..
That is the word for which the psalmist is so passionate and devoted. I am reading through the Bible this year with a group of dedicated women at my church, and when I was in the midst of Leviticus, I was begging for it to be over. Its confusing, its complicated, its repetitive, its long. Let’s face it together, its boring.
To us. But….
I was reading about the Pentateuch within its cultural context (I’m a nerd) and I saw something new. I see a new glory surrounding these precious books. In the early days of human history, religion was primitive. Most cultures believed in gods, but they were capricious, disorganized, petty and changeable. There was no organized religion, no recognized morality, no higher standard. They were still people, created for eternity in the image of God, but they had no moral authority around which to organize and evaluate their complicated lives. They were alone. They were groping forward as humanity does, seeking to appease the unpredictable and obviously angry gods who had not revealed what they wanted out of them. No security, no authority, stumbling around in this vast and scary new world that had no secure place to put their hearts.
Except the Israelites. They had a way through the wilderness. They had a moral code and a personal connection with their God. They followed the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. They worshipped a God who made Himself known to them. They had a God who revealed Himself.
Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp, calling it the Tent of Meeting. Anyone inquiring of the Lord would go to the Tent of Meeting outside the camp. And whenever Moses went into the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to the tent, watching Moses until he entered the tent. As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the Lord spoke with Moses. Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent of meeting, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to his tent. The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with His friend. Exodus 33:7-11
This passage grips my heart. There are a thousand truths in it. It is so endearing, these wanderers whose only anchor was the Lord of Hosts. They were yearning, yearning with all of their ignorant hearts for a safe connection with a God who made sense. They dropped everything to stand at the entrances of their tents to catch a distant glimpse of their leader, a humble man, meeting with a God who could be known. Not a fickle deity who arbitrarily assigned life just to snatch it away for an unknown slight. Not a god who was unrelenting because they had not yet distinguished a way to appease his ugly and unknowable wrath. Instead, an orderly, meticulous, almighty God who came down to help overcome the grime and the muck of primitive life. A God who left a record of how to live in this strange and unknown world. He told His people how to have a life that made sense. What to eat, what to build, how to raise a family, keep clean and tend livestock. Most precious and significant of all, this God illuminated how to find Him. He foreshadowed grace through the sacrificial system, provided a moral code for those who had only the Law of Nature. He left His fingerprint of unfailing love on a lost and reckless society. What an indescribable gift.
In my life there have been many mysteries. Many question marks. Yet the trailing threads have always laced to the underbelly of a Tapestry that my eyes are too weak to see. Someday I will see it clearly through perfect eyes, but until that Day I have a record that assures me of a God who has ordered this world so that, in spite of its aching brokenness, is held by One who has provided a way back. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Cor. 13:12). Redemption is real. There is a revelation of infinity. There is an echo that beckons us toward something pure and true and clear and bright. This bent world is, truly truly truly, not the best there is.
Of course the longest chapter in the Bible is dedicated to itself. Dedicated to the majesty of a God who shows Himself. Written by a man who has known suffering and glory in equal measure, whose eyes have been made stronger and bolder by using them to peer into the depths of Truth. A man who cannot get enough of the scroll.
And now, centuries later, we even have more in this record. A complete revelation. You could dig for a thousand years within its riches and never know enough. A whole and Holy Bible. Seriously, if that does not bring you to your knees in worship, I am not sure what will.