Blind Faith (No. 5, 2009)
This devotional challenges you to a 5-minute devotional practice every day for the month of February. You will need just 4 things to accept this challenge:
1. a copy of Psalm 119, your favorite translation;
2. a copy of this Blind Faith, just to remind you what to do each day;
3. pen and paper for making notes;
4. a definite 5-minute time slot each day (Making a personal appointment with God, same time each day, is best.).
Psalm 119 may be most famous for being the longest chapter in the Bible – 176 verses. Many Bible translations preserve the unusual organization of the Hebrew text into stanzas of (8 verses each. Within each of the 22 stanzas, all of the 8 verses begin with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which has 22 letters. I can imagine the psalm being used by rabbis to teach both the Hebrew alphabet, and to teach important concepts of the Hebrew faith at the same time. I am not aware of any English translation that employs the acrostic design (beginning verses 1-8 with the letter a, verses 9-16 with the letter b, etc.), but that would make an intriguing exercise for some Hebrew Bible scholar!
February works well for a devotional study of Psalm 119 because of the psalm’s 22 stanzas. Harried schedules being what they are for most people, a 5-minute devotional time can be scheduled every day, giving one day of “Sabbath” rest per week. Somewhere along the 28 days of February, you get 2 extra “off days” to account for forgetfulness, special time crunches, or other time robbers. Psalm 119 easily fits even the most demanding daily schedule.
Why invest 5 minutes a day thinking about Psalm 119? The theme of the psalm is consistent throughout, and offers helpful opportunities for self-assessment and focused relationship and prayer with God. The treasure of God’s word is the prominent theme of the psalm. Its close twin is prayer as a constant conversation with God about everything we do. Except for verses 1-3 and 115, all of the other 172 verses are forms of prayer addressed to the Lord. The psalm provides us with a marvelous illustration of how to pray. The prayers in the psalm ask for greater understanding of God’s word, and for God’s presence and help for whatever situation we might face. Also, the psalmist uses ten different terms for the Word of God, and all but verses 90, 122, and 132 mention at least one of these terms. The large number of terms emphasizes the sufficiency of God’s Word and the many ways God meets our needs.
Here are 4 things to do in each 5-minute devotional using Psalm 119:
1. Read an 8-verse stanza of Psalm 119. If your Bible translation does not include the stanza divisions for each Hebrew letter, be sure to mark your place, so you will know easily where to begin reading the next day.
2. Look for these ideas in today’s stanza of Psalm 119:
• What does the psalmist affirm about the word of God?
• How does the psalmist describe his/her own condition in life?
• What stresses does the psalmist find in the world around him/her?
• What does the psalmist say about the regular practice of prayer, attention to God’s word, and the way of living daily?
3. Apply what the stanza says to your own experience. What struggles, comforts, promises, commands, and requirements can you identify in your own life from this psalm? You may want to write a paraphrase of a verse or two, or of the whole stanza, in terms of situations in your own life.
4. Pray. Talk with God – honestly, specifically – about your obedience to God’s word, your faith in God’s direction for your life, and growth in your practice of prayer.
During February, the weather outside is likely to encourage you to stay bundled up in a comfortable spot inside. A simple investment of 5 minutes on 22 of 28 days in the month could draw you closer to God, enhance your attention to what the Bible says, and improve your practice of prayer. I am confident that you will quickly gain new appreciation for how all of those can change your daily life.
I have done this February devotional exercise before, and I will do it again for February 2009. Will you join me? I would love to know if you are taking the challenge, and what your experience turns out to be. Let me know particular verses of Psalm 119 that you find especially relevant to your life, perhaps sharing what they mean for your relationship with God, your practice of prayer, and how you live each day. If you give me permission, I may share your insights with Blind Faith readers. Let me know how it goes for you.
– J. Edward Culpepper, Ph.D.