I've been reading through the Psalms the last two months or so, studying them leisurely one or two a day. Today I sailed through Psalm 118, and then came up on Psalm 119. Sometimes I look ahead to see how long the next one is, helping me to decide whether I will read it today or save it for tomorrow.
Wow! My memory did not serve me well, for surely I'd read this Psalm many times throughout my life, and I wasn't remembering its unusual length. This time, though, I was shocked to see it covered nearly eight pages in my little Bible!
I decided to charge in. The longest single chapter in the entire Bible, Psalm 119 contains 176 verses. If we were to look back at the original text, we would easily see that this Psalm is actually written as an alphabet acrostic poem. The verses of each stanza begin with the same letter of each of the Hebrew alphabet, such as "Aleph," "Beth," "Gimel," and so on. There are 22 stanzas, equal to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Each stanza has 8 verses, making a total of 176 verses in this Psalm.
The author of this lengthy Psalm is unknown, but most scholars agree it was David, Ezra, or Daniel. Each of these men suffered serious difficulties in his life, and suffering and persecutions are well reflected in these verses. To be sure, the persecution and affliction of men and women of God is a major theme of Psalm 119.
Additionally almost every verse in this poem mentions God's word in some way, and indeed, the overall message of Psalm 119 is that God's Word is truth. "Word," "ways," "statutes," "decrees," "law," "precepts," "commands," "promise," and others. We can take encouragement from this Psalm to stay close to God and focused on his Word no matter what difficulties swirl around us in this life.
As we know His ways and obey them, we will be able to truly live wise, strong lives. That's comforting to know.
People have a number of favorite verses that come from Psalm 119. One of them is "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." (Psalm 119:105)
Here's a little tidbit of random information, too. It would appear that Psalm 119 lies smack dab in the middle of the Bible. Actually Psalm 117 is the middle-most chapter of the Bible, with 594 chapters preceding it and 594 chapters following it. Psalm 117 is also the shortest Psalm with only two verses.
Have you read the longest and shortest Psalms?