Ps 119 is the longest psalm and chapter in the Bible, and is located somewhat in the middle of the Bible. All 176 revolves around one thing -- the Bible. As we read it, we can see clearly the kind of heart on display, as well as his fears, dreams, hopes and longing. This is a man that did write 176 lines about his love for the Bible. His heart is enthralled by God and His word, and he is utterly excited and passionate about his subject matter. The psalmist is also clear about God and what God has given. He knows that these are not just any words, but are from God, and are words that translate into obedience. The man who wrote Ps 119 is also certain that God is his highest good, and there is nothing greater than Him, and so, he is set on seeking and pursuing this God.
We also see how the psalmist is one who is afraid of going against God and sinning against God (Ps 119:11). When was the last time we prayed like this? This psalmist is clear that he does not want to sin against God, to oppose God. Susanna Wesley, mother of John and Charles Wesley wisely gave this advice to her sons about the Bible, saying, "this book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book”.
What kind of life is this?
What can we learn about Bible reading from Ps 119? The psalmist shows us 5 things that Bible reading achieves.
1. Bible reading is the way of blessing (Ps 119:1-3)
Like Ps 1, this psalm begins with the word "blessed" and describes an Eden-like state. It is therefore a blessed thing if we are Bible-readers, and if our Bible reading helps us to obey God. Ps 119:2 sheds light on the desire of the blessed man. He wants to seek God with their whole heart Bible reading is the way God shapes your heart and desires, not for this world, but the world that we are meant for. In the beginning, we were created to be image-bearers of God. Our hearts and ways were aligned with God. But with sin, we no longer desire to do what God planned. We have been born into a world of confusion, as we rebelled against God. Jesus came into this world, to live the live we should have lived and died the death we deserved. Jesus showed us the way of the cross and what it means and looks like to obey Him. In His stead, He has created a people that no longer lived for themselves, but live for God. And the Bible shows us the way of God! This is why we should and ought to love it.
2. Bible reading is the way of obedience (Ps 119:4-6)
God has demanded His word to be kept diligently (Ps 119:4). And we see the desire of the psalmist in Ps 119:5. How was your heart when you came into the room today? What did you think when you heard that we are doing the psalms. The psalms are not light and fluffy, but it shows us the true desires of the man of God. The desires of the psalmist does not make sense to the world. It takes a radical heart change to desire and live obedient lives.
Obeying God’s word is also described as a way of keeping ourselves from shame (Ps 119:6). In John 14:21, we know that obedience is a way of declaring and showing our love for Christ. It tells us what Jesus loves — a heart that loves Him. This kind of a heart knows what Jesus had to pay when that heart did not follow Him.
3. Bible reading is a way of worship (Ps 119:7-8)
An upright heart arises as a result of learning His rules, and this leads to praise (Ps 119:7). He also knows that with sin comes God distancing a heart that sins (Ps 119:8). We know this, because this is what mature Christians look like. They never just know stuff, but their hearts
are full of His word.
4. Bible reading is a way of protection (Ps 119:9-11)
Notice how in the psalm, the psalmist makes the connection between the way of the psalmist and the heart. The way and path he takes arises from the heart. Notice this connection in the psalm. The way to keep to the way is to guard and watch what enters and fills the heart. Will 2018 be the year when we pray this, and ask God to help us walk the straight and narrow, instead of the crooked and winding? What you do with your heart is what you watch, buy, think about when no one is around? Does it make sense to you that Bible-reading is protection? With more Bible, we get more safety and security? Everything inside our hearts is danger and left to ourselves, we will make a mess of our lives. We want to run life on our own, without God.
5. Bible reading is the way of education (Ps 119:12-16)
The psalmist comes and asks God to teach him (Ps 119:12). In fact, the Bible is riches. Basically, he would throw away his phone to get more Bible! The psalmist really wants to know. Who is this perfect man, who wants God and His word, and His greatest fear is that He wanders and loses God? The one who came to fulfill a law, every jot and tittle of it. The one who as a child did not follow His parents home, but stayed in the synagogue, determined to go about His Father’s business. The one who spouted Scripture on the cross. He hung on that cross, and bled obedience to His Father. This is the same one who says in Matt 11:11:25-30. Jesus is the one to reveal the father and the son, and then, it leads to the famous rest passage. Knowing God is rest. But the yoke of Christ is something that we need to take and learn from Him, and only that gives us rest. Bible reading to know Jesus will give us rest for our souls.
In October 2017, we did a month-long survey of the reading habits of those who attend or attended Fellowship. 82 responses were collected from mainly university students and working adults, with some responses from students in other tertiary institutes and those serving NS.
The key observations and points from the survey have been distilled and summarised:
Our attitudes towards Bible reading is clearly different from that of the psalmist in 119. This is something that all of us can reflect on especially at the start of this year. More than just making new year resolutions and resolving to be a better person this year, this calls us to repent and return in faith to a person, Jesus Christ. At Fellowship this year, we also wish to continue to do this practically and faithfully weekly. We hope that you'll join us for our yearlong study on Exodus!