Don’t Miss the Artistry

Psalm 119 – part 1

For the weekdays of this week, I do encourage you to continue to read through Ezekiel. In Saturday’s devotion, we will catch the highlights of those verses. However, our focus for the next few days will be Psalm 119. The longest chapter in the Bible, by both verse and words, Psalm 119 is worth the time we are going to spend with it. Rather than going through verse by verse (we will do a bit of that on Wednesday and Thursday), I’d like to talk about the themes that come out of reading Psalm 119. We’ll talk about God’s self-revelation, in both the Torah and the whole Bible, and we’ll discuss some ways that we can honor God’s word by keeping it close to us. 

But today, I want to talk about Psalms in general, and this Psalm in particular. The Bible is a dense book. Often we can treat it like a study guide, a how-to manual, a game plan for life. And, these are not incorrect. But that is NOT ALL the Bible is. It is not simply an owner’s manual for our life, but it is a vast collection of biographies, histories, letters, and poems that are inspired by God’s Words, authoritative about our lives, and true in everything it affirms. 

The Psalms in general help disabuse us of our study guide/owner’s manual/game plan approach to the Bible, because they are not always God’s words to people, but people’s words BACK TO GOD. In the Psalms there is rage, despair, longing, frustration, ecstasy, devastation, joy, sorrow, wrath, contentment, love. The whole gamut of the human experience is on display. But more than just these emotions, they are the human experience, recreated and retold in beauty.

Think about your favorite song. Do you hear the twang of a steel guitar? Do you feel the rumble of the bass from the hook? Does the distortion make you want to turn up the speakers to 11? What do the lyrics mean? What do the lyrics SAY? Are those two the same, or is the meaning conveyed not in words but in how they are sung or how the music crescendos at the same time they are singing of silence? Let me venture a guess; you like your favorite song. This genius insight of mine is because we all think our song has a certain beauty. I like metal and the screams of the vocalists and the distortion of their guitars are just wonderful and gorgeous. But more often than not, in metal and rock, the music and the lyrics work in tandem to make the pain, betrayal, loss, anger, and even love of the musicians real and visceral. There is beauty in my favorite songs, and in yours, even if you like country. 

Psalm 119 is also beautiful, a labor of love that took the artist hours of labor spent crafting the art to perfection. Just because God guided the Psalmist doesn’t mean the Psalmist didn’t put his blood sweat and tears into crafting a beautiful poem in honor of God and his word. What I want you to notice today is the beauty. Read all of Psalm 119. Read it from start to finish, top to bottom. But DON’T MISS THE ARTISTRY. Think about why the Psalmist used this word in this place. Why? Does one line jump out at you? Why is that? Does one line not sit well with you? Why do you not connect with that line? 

Moreover, think about the breakdown of the Psalm. There are 22 sections of 8 verses of Psalm 119. In your Bibles, there may even be a strange mark and word. For many this would be something that looks like an X and the word “Aleph” or “Alef”. The translators are helping you see that this poem is an acrostic. The first letter of each verse is aleph. Eight times over. Then the same with beth, then gimmel, so on and so forth. The artist had to be intentional to work out each line to build off the previous one, but also each verse needed a new word. That takes time, commitment, dedication. Artistry. 

Don’t miss the artistry. 

Don’t miss the passion or the beauty of this psalm. That is why when you saw””Read all of Psalm 119” and you skipped that and kept reading the devotion, you really should go read the entire Psalm today. The beauty the artist wanted to display for God is in the text, and I don’t want you to miss it. 

Don’t miss the artistry. 

-Jake Ballard

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Ezekiel 25-26 and Psalm 119:1-40

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