As part of our Bible study series on the Psalms, we looked at Psalms 78 and 119 last night. 119 is the longest psalm, 78 the second longest. I am going to reflect on three particular aspects of 119.
First, this long poem has 22 stanzas of 8 lines apiece. Every line in each stanza begins with the same Hebrew letter. (In English, this would be as if every line in the first stanza began with “A,” every line in the second stanza began with “B,” etc.) Right away, you can can sense this is going to be a long piece of poetry.
Second, Psalm 119 is largely void of excitement. The rivers don’t clap their hands, God doesn’t win victory with his right hand, there are no festal shouts, or wingèd birds that appear in other psalms. 119 is routine, monotonous, and for the most part, very boring.
Finally, this psalm is individualistic in nature. Essentially, it is 176 verses of solitary meditation on God’s teaching, or torah. Unlike the other psalms, in which a communal relationship with God is described, here the psalmist is reflecting on his personal relationship with God.
Psalm 119 is long, routine, and individual. Hmmm…what does this sound like? Our lives! For the most part, our days are long, routine, and, for the most part, lived as an individual. This psalm, though it has few images that will stick in our minds or describe our joys and sorrows, it speaks truthfully of our everyday existence.