I have enjoyed the discipline of daily Bible reading for a number of years now but on January 4th, 2009, when Beth Moore issued the challenge to be "steeped" in the Word of God, the message resonated deep within me. She called us to wonder what the Lord might do in and through those that would give Him a year and take a deep dive into the Word. So, with anticipation and excitement, I plunged in!
Beth had read from Psalm 119 and I decided that this was the perfect place to start. After all, I wanted to know what the Lord required of me concerning His Word and what He promised concerning His Word. Psalm 119 is an acrostic of the Hebrew alphabet, each section divided into 8 verse sections. I started by reading 1 section a day in the Amplified, King James and New Living Translations. On day 2, I decided to look up key words in Hebrew using the Strong's Concordance. I was immediately stunned by just how limited the English language is! When I stop to consider that I am an English speaker merely looking words up in basically an English/Hebrew dictionary, I can't tell you how much I wish that I were Hebrew speaking and understood more of that culture and tradition! However, the Lord is so faithful! I have learned so much! And with each new lesson comes new excitement! I thought that I would share just a few of the highlights with you...
Precepts... The Hebrew word used many times in Psalm 119 as precepts is "piqquwd". As simply as I can define it, it is the collective mandates of God. The Merrium/Webster online dictionary suggests an authoritative mandate especially of a superior to an inferior as well as an authorization to act as a representative. Before this, I always thought that the words precepts, statutes, commandments and testimonies were basically interchangeable. Although I see much overlap, there is specific and significant unique meaning to each word. As I've sat at the Lord's feet and been taught by His Spirit, He's shown me some valuable applications to my life. Not only do God's collective mandates for me include the Ten Commandments and to love the Lord my God with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength and to love my neighbor as myself (see Mark 12:30-31) but they also include the values and goals that His Word has inspired and even the priorities and tasks that spring from those. Over the past couple of years, the Lord has been impressing these on me and we've been working through them (I'll post them under their own heading). Through my study of Psalm 119, I've come to consider the Lord's precepts as His "pre-sets" for my life. I am to "do no willful wandering" from them (vs. 3), "observe them diligently" (vs. 4). I can ask the Lord to "make me understand the way" of His precepts. The word understand is to cause me to recognize intelligently, discern spiritually and even feel emotionally (see Strong's 995 "biyn"). I am to seek and inquire for His precepts for they will cause me to "walk at liberty and at ease" (vs. 45)! Does it get any more promising than that?! I am merely scratching the surface but if it's by His precepts that I am quickened, repaired, made whole, given the promise of life... I WANT them!
Statutes... The Hebrew word for statutes is "choq" (Strong's 2706). (Forgive me for not knowing how to type in the appropriate accents in the transliterations). These are enactments, hence appointments of time, space, quantity, labor or usage. The Lord God of the Universe has the right to set appointments upon my time, my space and personal environment, my labor, what I use, to set up tasks - whatever with me! Though I have found 3 distincitively separate words for "teach" in Psalm 119, I think the one used in verse 33 regarding statutes is my favorite! "Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes; and I will keep it unto the end." That word "teach" or "yarah" is showcased in 2 Chronicles 26 (especially vs. 15) when young King Uzziah was "marvelously helped til he was strong." The Lord taught this young 16 year old King of Judah and he won victories, fortified the kingdom, harvested and even manufactured inventions. I want the Lord to teach me about using my time, space, labor etc. to produce a maturity in me like that! I can count on Him to teach me His statutes. The word translated "teach" in verse 26 implies that He will do it through discipline if He has to. I have to say, "Praise God"! Do what it takes!
Testimonies... Hebrew 5713 "edah" is the Lord's witnesses (within me). I am to keep them (vs. 2) for they are my "delight" and my "counsellors" (vs. 24). When I "cleave" to the witness of His Spirit within me, I will not be put to shame (disappointed or delayed, confounded, confused or dry) (vs. 31). How wonderful! You know those checks that we sense in our spirit when we are about to do something we shouldn't or the confirmation we sense when we have chosen obedience. "Listening" to the witness of God's Spirit within me definitely takes awareness and practice and I don't claim to have mastered it but it is so precious to us that the Lord likens it to "enough riches" in verse 14! How much is enough for you? No debt! No needs! No wants! Would you rejoice in that kind of material substance? "I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as [much as] in all riches." O Lord, please bring me to the place where I understand the depths of that!
I'd love to tell you about the Hebrew word that we translate "way" or "ways" or how awesome it is that "all my ways are [fully known]" before the Lord. Check out the Hebrew word "derek" (Strong's 1870) for that! Or how the word we translate as "walk" implies practice. Or the word "turn" (vs. 59) how it reminds us that God knows He's going to have to come and fetch us home "again and again". Praise Him! I could go on and on but that would rob you of such a blessing as you search for yourself.
There is one last thing that I want to share. It's an answer to a prayer that I forgot that I had prayed. (I'm so thankful that our God doesn't forget!) On January 1st, 2009, the Lord was showing me that He was going to do a new work in my life (Isaiah 43:19). He is leading me on a path that I haven't known (Isaiah 42:16). It's His pleasure to magnify instruction and revelation (Isaiah 42:21) and was I not going to "give heed" to it (Isaiah 43:19b)? I wrote in my journal "How, Lord? Show me how to heed!" Perhaps the most profound definition of all came just 6 short days later...
The Hebrew word translated "heed" and in other places as keep and obey is "shamar" (Strong's 8104). It means to hedge about (as with thorns), to be circumspect (360 degrees), to protect, to attend to, to keep (oneself), to mark and to save. I want the Word of God to be so involved in my life as to be a hedge of thorns 360 degrees around me to guard and protect me, to attend to and save me from the tempting dangers of our world! Now that puts new meaning to our conscience being "pricked" as we are tempted to wander from the life-giving witness of the Sweet Spirit of God as He reminds us of God's collective mandates (or pre-sets) for our lives, the Lord's rightful appointments as to our time, space, labor, tools of usage and whatever else the Lord asks of me - for my own good!
Do this new work in me, Lord! I love the way You are magnifying Your instructions! Steep me in Your Truth! And since I am absolutely positive that I am completely incapable of doing this work on my own, I am especially grateful for the reminder that You gave me yesterday...
"Blessed be the Lord, Who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised. Not one word has failed of all His good promise... that He may incline our hearts to Him, to walk in all His ways and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His precepts which He commanded... that He may maintain the cause and right of His servant and of His people Israel as each day requires." (see 1 Kings 8:56, 58, 59b)