At one hundred and seventy-six verses, Psalm 119 is a marathon-length inscription among the Bible’s collection of ancient Hebrew poetry. Its length alone is enough to keep even the most devoted of Psalm-lovers decidedly busy elsewhere.

Daunting as the psalm is in length, its form is also singularly baffling; it was constructed along Hebrew alphabetical patterns that mean nothing to modern English readers like you and me. The ancient acrostic must have been intriguing for those who could appreciate its rhythm and rhyme in its original form but it’s lost on us. We are not able to grasp the linguistic play on words that would have accompanied the lyrical song.

There is a third reason to avoid the Psalm, if it comes to that. It is unabashedly repetitious. It tells us in dozens of ways how the psalmist feels, thinks, and acts (or wishes he could act) in regard to the driving theme, the concept of God’s morality. True, there is some variety; he uses several carefully chosen synonyms to describe the many facets of God’s moral nature. But what if we’re left feeling cornered, discomfited, even shamed to see we have disregarded such lofty maxims? Or worse, we might have no defense after one hundred and seventy-six verses other than to conclude that God’s moral Law is to be fully obeyed, something of which we fear—even know—we are incapable. Reading the psalm might imply moral liability. Wouldn’t it be better just to align with the axiom, “Ignorance is bliss”?

But we’ve come to recognize that ignorance is a shallow sort of bliss. A God-perspective on life, though, marks humans who are deliberately seeking the goal—dare we call it bliss—God designed for us. That is precisely why God ensured the psalmist would write Psalm One Nineteen: to present to our eyes a picture of the goal of human living that radiates with something amazing and quite beyond us—God’s plan for us. And God has good plans for you and me. It’s as if we’ve come to a door with a nameplate over it marked “The Real You and Real God Meeting Place.”

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD…” (Jeremiah 29:11-14a).

We’ll find that in some ways the psalmist has only a glimpse of that goal. But it’s an important glimpse. Jesus Himself was the one who would come centuries later and open the door wide for humans to access that goal.

“Jesus came, in fact,” explains author N.T. Wright in his book After You Believe, “to launch God’s new creation, and with it a new way of being human, a way which picked up the glimpses of “right behavior” afforded by ancient Judaism and paganism and, transcending both, set the truest insights of both on quite a new foundation. And with that, he launched also a project for rehumanizing human beings, a project in which they would find their hearts cleansed and softened, find themselves turned upside down and inside out, and discover a new language to learn and every incentive to learn it.”

So as we enter on this journey through Psalm 119, let’s go as seekers—explorers with hearts of hope and with eyes open to a future where God makes it possible for us to ultimately live, dare we imagine it, as rehumanized human beings.

The door is about to swing open.





Hebrews 11:3


“By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”

Do you remember using ‘invisible ink’ as a child? Your mother may have shown you how to squeeze a lemon, then carefully paint a message with its juice onto course absorbent paper. You could barely see what you were writing, and the brush strokes were always thicker than you hoped they would be, but it was exciting. You imagined intrigue and mystery. Your friend, or brother, or sister was to read the invisible message by placing it in the oven or over a hot element briefly, when, surprise! The message began to be revealed as the juice-letters browned.

Words coming from the mouth of God are a bit like that. They have the power to make the invisible visible. They make what was not become what is. This is the concept of God’s creativity: He makes out of nothing. He speaks and creates.

His object-making comes from word-speaking. It is important to understand this concept because it describes God’s unique position within what we might call the realm of reality. He is the source of all resources. Everything visible has its source in Him. People may reassemble, replicate, and redesign, only God can speak to create.

The 21st millennium invention of ‘3D printing’ is more replicative than creative. 3D solid objects are made by digitally scanning what is to be replicated. Layers of plastic resin are built up until a functional object is created. It’s new. It’s improved. But it’s not creative. Something is not actually made from nothing.

This aptitude of God to speak and thus make is far more relevant to our lives than lemon juice messages or 3D printers. Committing ourselves to read His written Word, the Bible, creates spiritual life in us, where before there was chaos. In addition, we are called to become people who pray.

Prayer seems, in some astonishing way, to be endowed with a vestige of similar creative power. God living, breathing, speaking into our lives, speaks through us as we return prayer to Him. His creative power flows through us like rushing water through an unbarred conduit to effect creative change.

In prayers of worship, we begin to see the unseen. The invisible character of God is revealed to our inner being and we are changed.

In prayers of confession, we begin to understand our own appalling condition apart from God. Light shines on our darkness revealing what was hidden.

In prayers of thanksgiving, we are enabled to observe blessing. Our eyes are opened to see God’s loving-kindness where before we only, selfishly, saw inconvenience.

And in prayers of petition we speak God’s power into the lives of loved ones. We do not control the creative process. We submit to God’s hand, but our prayers enable us to participate with Him in the making of something out of nothing.

As we go forward on our journey with Him who is invisible, let us submit ourselves to His creative processes. He speaks, we pray. Imagine what might become visible!