Do me a favor and read Psalm 119. As you read through this Alef to Tav 176 verse poem, underline or highlight the words “love” “meditate” “whole heart” “consumed with longing” “law” “precepts” “rules” and “testimonies”. If you do this, approx 1/2 a dozen pages in the middle of your Bible will be almost fully underlined or highlighted!
What kind of person would compose such a poem???
Perhaps you’re inclined to imagine a hyper legalistic person produced this psalm. Perhaps you envision someone like the older brother in Luke 15 writing such a loquacious poem. Perhaps you read the portions about how the psalmist “hates the double-minded, and looks at the faithless with disgust” (v.113 and v.158), and you surmise that this must be the older brother in Jesus’ parable about the prodigal son!
Do me another favor, and turn to the final verse in the psalm, and check out the surprise ending! The psalmist says, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep!”
You will completely miss the point of this psalm if you fail to realize that the YOUNGER BROTHER is the author of this poem! All the obsession, infatuation, fixation, and addiction to the ways, rules, precepts, and testimonies of God is born out of the mysterious reality of having received Yahweh’s scandalous mercy! The reason the psalmist LOVES the testimonies and precepts of our Father isn’t because he has personally produced zeal for the law and performed it perfectly; just the opposite, the psalmist LOVES the law of our Father because our Father ran to embrace him when he was covered in pig poop cowering home with his tail between his legs. You CANNOT read this psalm (with all its surplus of enthusiasm for the law of God) with an older brother/Pharisaical mindset. Rather, you must read every sentence of this poem from the perspective of a chief sinner/wayward wretch miraculously saved by God’s unmerited mercy! You must allow every part of this psalm to be defined and flavored by the emphatic statements, arbitrations, and decisions of Jesus of Nazareth, and you must recognize the kinds of people Jesus condemns, and the kinds of people Jesus treasures! You must read every single word of this psalm with THE MIND OF CHRIST, and relish the truth (see v.160) that Jesus not only holistically determines and defines THE TRUTH, but HE IS HIMSELF THE TRUTH INCARNATE!
Consider how many legalists/Pharisees have read this psalm thinking to themselves, “Amen! I agree with everything about this psalm! I love all the ‘law’ language, I love the lengthiness, and I love how it lambastes the lawless (see v.128 and v.163)!” But these legalists completely missed the point of this poem! These Pharisees impose their own opinions and self-absorbed traditions on what it means to worship God (see Mark 7:8-9), they slap the label ‘holiness’ on their preferred value system (which happens to be diametrically opposed to the only true and living, holy, holy, holy God’s value system), and they condemn themselves by rejecting the truth incarnate and by refusing the emphatic value system of God graphically displayed and dramatically revealed in the fullness of God in the flesh/the life and stories of Jesus of Nazareth!