Bible reading, being among the three core spiritual disciplines alongside prayer and fellowship, is very key for spiritual growth. Spiritual disciplines, also referred to as the means of grace, help us realign our lives and strengthen our faith.
In Acts 2:42, we read about the early church and how they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (the word), to fellowship and to prayer. If at all we are to be Christians who are keen on growing spiritually and working out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), we have to commit ourselves to these means of grace.
They are the means God has given us so that we can constantly saturate ourselves with more of Him for consistent spiritual nourishment and enjoyment of Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
Therefore, giving ourselves to these means of grace and especially reading of God’s word is not about earning God’s favor or controlling His blessing. Rather, our reading of the Bible is meant to help us put ourselves in the path of receiving God’s grace as we constantly saturate ourselves in His word.
Through God’s word, we are sanctified and continually conformed to the image of Christ. Jesus Christ, while praying for His disciples in John 17:17 says, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”
Also, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us of the sufficiency of Scripture: “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
In the Bible, Psalm 119 is the longest psalm and the longest chapter. Worth noting, is that it is almost entirely dedicated to telling of the excellencies of God’s word. Through this article, it is my hope that you will be drawn to see the excellencies of God’s word.
The Excellencies of God’s Word
The author of Psalm 119 goes to great lengths to capture the excellencies of God’s word. In this psalm, he glorifies God and His word and often refers to Scripture over and over again. Psalm 119 is very remarkable for how often it refers to God’s written revelation, His word.
In almost every verse, there is a mention of God’s word and how wonderful it is. In addition, Scripture is referred to many times using a variety of words which include: law, word, judgements, testimonies, commandments, statutes and precepts.
It is interesting to note that the structure of Psalm 119 is arranged in an acrostic pattern. There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet and this Psalm contains 22 sections of 8 verses each. Each of the sections is given a Hebrew alphabet and the first verse in each section begins with that letter. One of the other books of the Bible where we see this kind of pattern is in Lamentations 3 which is also divided into 22 sections.
Throughout the entire chapter, the author expresses his delight in God’s word, which he finds extremely wonderful and marvelous. His delight is captured in almost all of the verses, among them being Psalm 119:14-16: “I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.”
Further on, in verse 18, the Psalmist asks God to open his eyes that he may see the wondrous things that are in His word. As one progresses throughout the entire chapter, this theme of the excellencies of God’s word and the author’s delight in them continues to become prominent.
Some of the verses where this is captured include Psalm 119: 46-47 – “I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame, for I delight in your commands because I love them.” Psalm 119:97 – “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.” Psalm 119:167 – “I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly.” Psalm 119:103 says, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth”. Psalm 119:129 – “Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them.”
This great delight in God’s word is very profound and if practiced, can make a lot of difference in a believer’s life. In our Christian walk and our Bible reading, this is the kind of delight we ought to pursue. Unless we have such a great delight in God’s word, we will not be careful to obey it.
In addition to expressing his delight, the author’s attitude as he approaches God’s word is also very profound. He asks God to open his eyes that he may see the wonderful things out of his word (Psalm 119:18). The author approaches God’s word with humility and asks for God’s help. He acknowledges that he needs help to understand the Word. We also see this in Psalm 119:33-34, Psalm 119:64, Psalm 119:68 and Psalm 119:73.
Likewise, our reading of the word should be characterized by an attitude of humility. At all times, we should begin by acknowledging that we need God’s help. Through the Promised Helper – The Holy Spirit, God gives us understanding of His word. The Holy Spirit illuminates the Scriptures for us and gives us understanding even of the seemingly tough portions of Scripture.
Any attempt at Bible reading should be done with dependence on the Holy Spirit for divine revelation. The Holy Spirit, by whom the Word of God is inspired, is the only One able to grant us understanding. Therefore, any kind of reading of the Bible without the help of the Holy Spirit is an exercise in futility and we should always remember that as we approach His word.
The other aspect we observe in this chapter is how the Psalmist acknowledges his insufficiency to keep God’s word. After reading God’s word, he asks God to help him walk in His ways. “Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not towards selfish gain (Psalms 119:34-36).”
Here, the author not only acknowledges that he needs help to read and understand, but also to obey and do what God’s word requires. Psalm 119:133 also captures this very clearly: “Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.”
This is very important because in our fallen nature we have the tendency to rely on our own strength and to think that we can do things by ourselves. However, God desires that we would depend on Him and upon His grace to enable us to live the Christian life. We must never forget that He is the One who works in us to will and to act according to His good purpose – Philippians 2:13.
We are all familiar with our shortcomings when it comes to keeping God’s word. We fall short many times and can all agree that we need help from God to keep His commandments. We are all familiar with our besetting sins – the sins that we find ourselves falling into most times. In this psalm, we are reminded to ask God to help us walk in His ways and keep His Word.
One of the prayers we can and should always make is Psalm 119:34-36: “Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Make me walk in the path of your commandments, For I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, And not to covetousness.”
Another observation we make in this psalm is the author’s response to pain, suffering and affliction. In Psalm 119:92 the Psalmist says, “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.” Also in Psalm 119:143, the author says, “Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands give me delight.”
In these verses, we see that despite being afflicted, he does not turn away from God’s word. This is very key because we live in a broken world where there is a lot of pain and suffering. From loss of loved ones to diseases to persecution and ridicule, afflictions of various kinds are bound to come our way. However, God’s word offers us comfort and strength during such times (Psalm 119:50).
We are well aware of people who have turned away from God’s ways after facing pain and suffering. On the contrary, like the Psalmist, our response to pain and suffering ought to draw us to His word and not away from His word. In His word, we find comfort, strength and the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7).
Benefits of Reading God’s Word
Thus far, it is very clear that God’s word is immensely important to every believer. It is through God’s word that we are sanctified and conformed to the image of Christ. In addition to these, the Psalmist highlights several ways in which God’s word benefits him.
One of the benefits the Psalmist mentions is that God’s word helps him to keep away from sin and not sin sin against God. He expresses this in Psalm 119:9-11, which most of us are familiar with as it is often used in the context of sexual purity: “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
Another benefit that the Psalmist highlights is that God’s word revives him when he is low and weary with sorrow. Psalm 119:25 – “I am laid low in the dust; preserve me according to your word.” Similarly, we are often brought low by various issues in life and in such moments, God’s Word revives our souls.
In addition, God’s word makes us wise and gives us understanding. In Psalm 119:98-100 “Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies. I have insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts.” Also Psalm 119:104 says, “I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.”
Finally, God’s word gives us guidance and direction about various issues in life. This is very well captured in Psalm 119:105 which says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Also, it gives us peace: Psalm 119:165 – “Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.”
In conclusion, I would like to acknowledge that this is only a scratch on the surface with regards to the excellencies of God’s word. There are other portions of Scripture which talk about this theme such as Psalm 19:7-14. I would greatly encourage you to also immerse yourself in this Psalm and to meditate upon it. It is my hope that your eyes have been opened to behold the excellencies of God’s word.
Now would be a great time to examine yourself and ask, Do I delight in God’s word? Do I love God’s word and meditate upon it as often as possible? Do I treasure God’s word more than anything else? I am certain that there is room for improvement for all of us. We all need to be reminded to drink again and again at the fountain of God’s word for it never runs dry.