Daybreak: Psalm 119:1-40
“Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.” (Psalm 119:36)
Covetousness — a greedy, acquisitive, avaricious love of money — is an insidious evil. To many individuals who build their lives around acquiring and accumulating wealth, money represents success, power, and prestige; to others, it represents security. John G. Wendel and his sisters may have been in the latter category, although no one knows for sure. Whatever their reasons, they are considered to be among the most tight-fisted people of all time.
Each of the Wendel children received a huge inheritance from their parents’ real estate ventures (the family wealth in the early 1900s was estimated at $50 million), but they hoarded what they had and spent only what was absolutely necessary to maintain life. They shunned society and lived like paupers on the most expensive residential property in New York City, making virtually no improvements to their dwelling. Spouses could have meant a dispersal of the family fortune, so John and five of his six sisters remained single. They never took a streetcar or rode in a taxi. They walked to business appointments where — surrounded by the twenty or more safety deposit boxes containing deeds to their properties — they discussed financial matters with the executive who handled their affairs. As the years passed and the siblings died one by one, each left their portion to the survivors in the family. When the last sister died in 1931, her estate was valued at more than $100 million. Her only dress was one that she had made herself, and she had worn it for twenty-five years.
The author of our key verse recognized the danger of covetousness; he prayed that God would incline his heart toward God’s Law rather than toward material gain. He regarded the love of money as a lure which could potentially entice his heart away from God. To emphasize the request made in our key verse, he followed it by entreating, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity [or worthless things], and quicken thou me in thy way” (Psalm 119:37). He clearly knew that obedience and love for God’s Law are more valuable than the wealth of this world.
The covetousness alluded to in our focus verse is no less a peril in our day than it was three thousand years ago. The desire to acquire wealth is subtle, and its danger often unrecognized. Money can easily become more than just a benign medium of exchange — it can become a god that bids us worship it! And covetousness can encompass far more than just monetary wealth; it can be an inordinate desire for another person’s possessions, property, or even another person’s spouse.
Let us purpose to make spiritual values paramount in our lives, and be sure we do not open the door to covetousness.
Psalm 119, Stanzas 1-5
The author of Psalm 119 is unknown. Many of the stanzas have a Davidic tone, and some references in the psalm could be associated with events in David’s life. However, contemporary scholarship suggests it was likely composed sometime after the construction of the second Temple in Jerusalem in 515 B.C. The best evidence for this conclusion is linguistic: Psalm 119 uses late Biblical Hebrew, as opposed to the classical form of the language.
Psalm 119 is both the longest psalm and the longest chapter in the entire Bible; it is also the most intricate of Biblical acrostic poems. It is divided into twenty-two stanzas, each comprised of eight verses and titled with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. In the original Hebrew, each of these verses begins with the same letter as the stanza title.
Although each stanza has a different emphasis, they are connected by a central theme: appreciation for the Law of God — specifically the torah which is a Hebrew word referring to the will of God as it was made known to Israel. Every verse, with the exception of verses 122 and 132, contains a reference to God’s Law in one or more of the following words: “commandments,” “judgments,” “law,” “precepts,” “statutes,” “testimonies,” “ordinances,” “way,” “truth,” and “word.” Today’s text covers the first five stanzas: Aleph, Beth, Gimel, Daleth, and He.
In the first stanza, Aleph, the psalmist spoke of the blessings of salvation and obedience to God’s Law. Beth focuses on how being obedient to God’s Word can help maintain salvation. In the third stanza, Gimel, the psalmist encountered adversity and at first longed for God’s Law, and then took refuge in it; he may have been in exile when it was written. Daleth, the fourth stanza, relates to the conversion of the psalmist and his subsequent inclination towards God’s Law. He, the fifth stanza, describes his willingness to learn of God’s Law.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines – Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. Book I (1:1 — 41:13)
II. Book II (42:1 — 72:20)
III. Book III (73:1 — 89:52)
IV. Book IV (90:1 — 106:48)
V. Book V (107:1 — 150:6)
A. Psalm 119
1. Aleph (119:1-8)
2. Beth (119:9-16)
3. Gimel (119:17-24)
4. Daleth (119:25-32)
5. He (119:33-40)
A Closer Look
- In verse 9, how did the psalmist say that a young man could “cleanse his way”?
- What do you think the psalmist meant in verse 19 when he said, “I am a stranger in the earth”?
- Other than salvation, what are some of the blessings we receive when we seek God with all of our hearts?
The psalmist asked God to help him withstand the lure of prosperity, and instead to value God’s Law. That is still a good prayer for us to pray.