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January 5th, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Psalm 119:12: Bless YHWH

Today on January 5th 2009 I am picking up where I left off last month in Psalm 119. Psalm 119 as will recall is a “acrostic” Psalm. It is very highly organized and careful writes. There are twenty two stanzas, each stanza being eight verses (or Hebrew lines) in length. Within each respective verse, each verse starts with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In the first stanza, the “aleph” stanza, each verse starts with the Hebrew letter aleph, in the “beth” stanza each verse starts with the Hebrew letter beth, and so forth. There are eight different words for God’s Word that are used throughout the entire poem. The author seems to have liked the number eight.

We left off in the “beth” stanza (verses nine through sixteen) at verse 11. If you want to catch up a little you can find the devotion on verse 11 here. So that you will see verse twelve in the flow of the Psalm I will include verses nine through sixteen:

9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
12 Blessed are you O LORD; teach me your statutes.

To “bless” the Lord is to ascribe to Him praise and adoration and thanksgiving. Given that the Book of Psalms  is the praise and prayer book of God’s people we would expect to find lots of blessing of God going on, and we do.

From another acrostic Psalm we read: “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalm 34:1). Sounding a lot like Psalm 119, Psalm 16 says “I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me” (Psalm 16:7). It would probably do your heart good to read other Scriptures where God or His name is given blessing – Psalm 18:46; 26:12; Psalm 63:4; Psalm 103:1, 2; 20, 21, 22; Psalm 104:1, 35; Psalm 115:18; Psalm 134:1, 2; Psalm 135:19, 20; Psalm 144:1; and Psalm 145:2 to name a few.

We find the same pattern in the New Testament. The beginning of Zechariah’s song in Luke 1 reads: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel.” Several of the epistles start out with praise to God using the idea of blessing the lord to express this praise. So in 2 Corinthians 1 Paul writes, Blessed be the god and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.” In Ephesians, which starts out with a long expression of praise and thanksgiving, Paul says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” Not to be outdone in praise, the Apostle Peter starts off his letter with “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope…”

In the New Testament the Greek word translated as “blessed” in the verses just cited is in other places translated as “praise be” or just “”praise” or “blessing.” It is the Greek word from which eventually we get the word “eulogy,” which means to honor and praise. It is a “worship” word. Around the heavenly throne the creatures of heaven and the saints are gathered in praise to God giving Him perpetual blessing and praise:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12).

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13).

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen” (Revelation 7:12).

In almost every case cited above the person is responding to a prior gift or grace of God. We  say “Blessed be the Lord” and “Bless the Lord,” and where he offers doxology by giving God blessing – in almost every case the blessing is the cry of the heart in response to some aspect of God’s goodness and blessing recognized or described. In other words, the heart that sees and hears the goodness and justice and wonder and majesty of God simply cried out in response b y saying, “Blessed is He” or “Blessed are You.”

Not that the cry is always spontaneous. In the Psalm the Hebrew word translated as “blessing” begins with the letter “beth,” and so it fits into the flow of the “beth” stanza.

And what is the prior goodness of blessing of God to the Psalmist that he would then turn and offer “blessing” back to God? It is the Word of God.”I have stored up your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Out of a heart filled with the stored up word of God comes the giving of blessing back to God.

Yes, that the Lord of heaven and earth speaks to us through the word of scripture is a huge blessing. The God of heaven has stooped down to little us to share his Word and His will in a way we can see and understand it. He has not left us alone in a dark place groping to find Him. He has not abandoned us to figure out truth on our own. No, He has not been silent but has come to us in words we can understand. No indeed, He has shared His word, both in the letters of Scripture and even more in the person and teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the very “Word” of God.

The mind and heart opened up to God’s Word will inevitable give back praise to God. In this Word we learn about Him, about ourselves, about His purposes and will for us. The Word is a great gift.

We know that. We feel that. We praise God for that. But then we look at ourselves, at the crowdedness of our hearts, at the difficulty we have “connecting” heart and soul with God’s word. So did the Psalmist. Thus, just after his cry of praise and blessing he offers up a word of prayer – “teach me your statues.”

We know God is there. We know He is not silent. We open His word, and we feel dull, resistant, sleepy, distracted, hardness of heart. This is real life. We are so often dull of hearing. So, do we give up? Do we walk away from His word? No, we pray to Him, “open up your Word to us. “Make you word clear to me. Make my heart receptive. Help me to learn your statutes. Cause my hardness to be turned to openness to your Word. Help me praise you.”

Just as we believe that God must change our hearts in the first place, so that we can come to Him in faith and repentance, we also know that God must change our hearts every day, so that can continue to live in faith and repentance. He has changed us, He is changing us, and He will change us. This we believe; this we know to be true.

Christian friend, the longest Psalm and indeed the longest chapter in the Bible speaks to us about the excellencies of God’s word and the help we must receive from God to hear and understand and apply it. We are no less dependent upon the Spirit’s renewing power the tenth year of our Christian walk than we were the first moment.

But we have to give the Spirit of God something to work with. We have to be reading, meditating upon, and pondering His word day to day. When we are in His word He eventually makes it into a living word for us.

I hope that you have some sort of regular Bible reading time in your life. I use the Saint James Daily Devotional Guide and recommend it highly. It has me in the Old and New Testament every day, and in the Psalms. In fact, over the course of any year I will read through the Psalms 5-6 times, the Gospel and Epistles one time each year, and the Old Testament every two years.  You can find out more about it at the Saint James web site.

It’s not like every day I get a spiritual buzz as I am reading. Someday the Scripture pops out at me, some days I feel as dead as a old board. But as my mind is in it I give the Spirit more and more opportunity to use it to transform me. And so I pray, “Lord, may your word come alive to me that by it I will know you more deeply and better and obey you more completely.”

I hope that you can find a way to do the same.

Joel

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