The Longest Psalm – Part 1

20 Jan

Did you know that the longest Psalm is 118. It is wonderful and has 176 verses. There have been times in this blog where I have just omitted verses on longer psalm, but on this one I want you to have the opportunity to read every one; and give me the chance to write about it. [The gift to me of writing about it is that it puts it deeper into my heart and soul.] So, I have decided to blog about Psalm 118 over the next four posting. I hope you enjoy and grow from this incredible song.

Psalm 118 is rooted in the Hebrew alphabet. The first stanza being with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet and continue in that order for 22 stanzas. Probably you, like me, can’t read the original Hebrew, so you don’t get the orderliness of this psalm. The psalm was written in this way because the subject is very important. It is about our journey with God.

In the Benedictine monastery I used to visit, they took eight different times during the week to read through this psalm. Since, my patience, nor my endurance is not up to the standard of the monks, I will be blogging about the psalm in four session.

The psalm is answering the question of how to live life. It is not how to live a God life, but how any human will find a full life. It is easy to understand this point of view, since in the Judeo-Christian tradition, we have been created by God, and God’s spirit was breathed into us. So, the fullness of life is in following the path of our creator and inspirer. The writer is clear that going off on our own is bad; it will not lead us to a blessed life.

1-8 You’re blessed when you stay on course,
walking steadily on the road revealed by God.
You’re blessed when you follow his directions,
doing your best to find him.
That’s right—you don’t go off on your own;
you walk straight along the road he set.
You, God, prescribed the right way to live;
now you expect us to live it.
Oh, that my steps might be steady,
keeping to the course you set;
Then I’d never have any regrets
in comparing my life with your counsel.
I thank you for speaking straight from your heart;
I learn the pattern of your righteous ways.
I’m going to do what you tell me to do;
don’t ever walk off and leave me.

The question for any culture is how to get teenagers headed in the right direction in their lives. It is a true gift to find a life in God when we are young and follow the map that God has given. I remember that I attended my first Bible study when I was 16 years old. I was amazed by what was in the Bible and how much clearer it became when I studied it with others.
I love Eugene Peterson paraphrase, “I’ve banked your promises in the vault of my heart so I won’t sin myself bankrupt.” God’s promises are the greatest things to put into our heart. And, let’s face it, we are going to sin, but at least we will lose God. We will just have to turn around to find God waiting there for us.

How can a young person live a clean life?
By carefully reading the map of your Word.
I’m single-minded in pursuit of you;
don’t let me miss the road signs you’ve posted.
I’ve banked your promises in the vault of my heart
so I won’t sin myself bankrupt.
Be blessed, God;
train me in your ways of wise living.
I’ll transfer to my lips
all the counsel that comes from your mouth;
I delight far more in what you tell me about living
than in gathering a pile of riches.
I ponder every morsel of wisdom from you,
I attentively watch how you’ve done it.
I relish everything you’ve told me of life,
I won’t forget a word of it.

The request from the writer is for God’s generosity and a promise to keep their eyes on God’s path. It is a combination that works. My experience is that when I keep my eyes on God’s path, I feel God’s presence, love and grace. I like the imagine that when neighbors are gossiping about me, I’m absorbed in thinking about God’s wise counsel – clueless to the hate; alive to the love. It think it is a great way to live.

Be generous with me and I’ll live a full life;
not for a minute will I take my eyes off your road.
Open my eyes so I can see
what you show me of your miracle-wonders.
I’m a stranger in these parts;
give me clear directions.
My soul is starved and hungry, ravenous!—
insatiable for your nourishing commands.
And those who think they know so much,
ignoring everything you tell them—let them have it!
Don’t let them mock and humiliate me;
I’ve been careful to do just what you said.
While bad neighbors maliciously gossip about me,
I’m absorbed in pondering your wise counsel.
Yes, your sayings on life are what give me delight;
I listen to them as to good neighbors!

Yet, there are always those times that we fall, we stray from the path and feel awful. Of course, the great news is that we just have to call out to God; humble ourselves to say we are lost, and God picks us up and puts us back on the way. I think when we get lost and God sets us back on course, we grow stronger in our faith of God’s love. I learn that we can rely on God anytime, all the time, to care for us. Sometimes it is a hard lesson, but it is one that can bring power to our live.

I’m feeling terrible—I couldn’t feel worse!
Get me on my feet again. You promised, remember?
When I told my story, you responded;
train me well in your deep wisdom.
Help me understand these things inside and out
so I can ponder your miracle-wonders.
My sad life’s dilapidated, a falling-down barn;
build me up again by your Word.
Barricade the road that goes Nowhere;
grace me with your clear revelation.
I choose the true road to Somewhere,
I post your road signs at every curve and corner.
I grasp and cling to whatever you tell me;
God, don’t let me down!
I’ll run the course you lay out for me
if you’ll just show me how.

So, I hope this day, God will indeed barricade the “Nowhere” road and help you and me along the path to “Somewhere”. Living deep in God’s word is a great place to be. I am looking forward to talking about more of Psalm 118 next time. Peace.


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