Containing 176 verses, Psalm 119 is the longest single chapter in the Bible. The author of Psalm 119 is unknown, but most scholars agree that it was written by David, Ezra, or Daniel. Each of these proposed authors suffered serious difficulties in his life, and the author of Psalm 119 reflects that in descriptions of plots, slanders, and taunts against him (verses 23, 42, 51, 150 ), persecutions (verses 61, 86, 95, 110, 121, 134, 157, 161), and afflictions (verses 67, 71, 143, 153). The persecution and affliction of the man (and woman) of God is a major theme of Psalm 119.
Another prominent theme in Psalm 119 is the profound truth that the Word of God is all-sufficient. Psalm 119 is an expansion of Psalm 19:7–9: “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.” There are eight different terms referring to the Word of God throughout the psalm: law, testimonies, precepts, statues, commandments, judgments, word, and ordinances. In almost every verse, the Word of God is mentioned. Psalm 119 affirms not only the character of the Scriptures, but it affirms that God’s Word reflects the very character of God Himself. Notice these attributes of God ascribed to Scripture in Psalm 119:
1. Righteousness (verses 7, 62, 75, 106, 123, 138, 144, 160, 164, 172)
2. Trustworthiness (verse 42)
3. Truthfulness (verses 43, 142, 151, 160)
4. Faithfulness (verse 86)
5. Unchangeableness (verse 89)
6. Eternality (verses 90,152)
7. Light (verse 105)
8. Purity (verse 140)
The format of Psalm 119 is an alphabetic acrostic, meaning that the first letters of each line in Hebrew follow through the alphabet, 8 lines per letter, thus 8 lines x 22 letters in Hebrew = 176 lines. One message of this psalm is that we are to live a lifestyle that demonstrates obedience to the Lord, who is a God of order (hence the acrostic structure), not of chaos.
The psalm opens with two beatitudes. “Blessed” are those whose ways are blameless, who live according to God’s law, who keep His statutes and seek Him with all their heart. The author of the psalm is a man who has known great trouble in his life, but also one who has come through it with a deep and passionate understanding of God’s unfailing love and compassion (Psalm 119:75–77). Throughout his affliction, the author clings to the truths he learns from the Scriptures, which are eternal and “stand firm in the heavens” (Psalm 119:89–91). His love for the Word of God and his dedication to remember it and live by it is a theme that is repeated over and over (verses 11, 15–16, 24, 34, 44, 47, 55, 60, etc.).
These are the lessons for us in this great psalm. The Word of God is sufficient to make us wise, train us in righteousness, and equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:15–17). The Scriptures are a reflection of God’s nature, and from them we learn that we can trust His character and His plan and purposes for mankind, even when those plans include affliction and persecution. Blessed indeed are we if our delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law we meditate day and night (Psalm 1:2).