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Psalm 119:18-20 1
18 Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. 19 I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me. 20 My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.

clip_image055Background 2

Psalm 119 is the longest psalm as well as the longest chapter in the Bible. It is referred to in Hebrew by its opening words, “Ashrei temimei derech” (“happy are those whose way is perfect”). It is the prayer of one who delights in and lives by the Torah, the sacred law. Each verse of the psalm employs a synonym for the Torah, such as dabar (“word, promise”) mishpatim (“rulings”), etc.

The 176 verses of the Psalm are divided into 22 stanzas of eight lines each: one stanza for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In the first stanza, each of the 8 lines begin with aleph, the first letter of the alphabet; in the next stanza, each of the lines begin with bet, the second letter, and so on through the entire alphabet. Poems that use patterns involving the initial letter of a line are called acrostics; Psalm 119 is one of about a dozen alphabetic acrostic poems in the Bible.

The acrostic form and the use of the Torah words constitute the framework for an elaborate prayer. The grounds for the prayer are established in the first two stanzas (alef and beth): the Torah is held up as a source of blessing and right conduct and the psalmist pledges to dedicate himself to the law. The prayer proper begins in the third stanza (gimel, v. 17). Like many other psalms, this prayer includes both dramatic lament (e.g. verses 81-88) joyous praise (e.g., verses 45-48) and prayers for life, deliverance and vindication (e.g., verses 132-134). What makes Psalm 119 unique is the way that these requests are continually and explicitly grounded in the gift of the Torah and the psalmist’s loyalty to it.

Biblical Truths

Verse 18. Open thou mine eyes, reveal my eyes, illuminate my understanding, take away the veil that is on my heart, and then shall I see wonders in thy law. The Holy Scriptures are plain enough; but the heart of man is darkened by sin. The Bible does not so much need a comment, as the soul does the light of the Holy Spirit. Were it not for the darkness of the human intellect, the things relative to salvation would be easily apprehended.

Verse 19. I am a stranger in the earth, in the land. Being obliged to wander about from place to place, I am like a stranger even in my own country. If it refer to the captives in Babylon, it may mean that they felt themselves there as in a state of exile; for, although they had been seventy years in it, they still felt it as a strange land, because they considered Palestine their home.

Verse 20. My soul breaks. We have a similar expression: It broke my heart that is heart-breaking; she died of a broken heart. It expresses excessive longing, grievous disappointment, hopeless love, accumulated sorrow. By this we may see the hungering and thirsting which the psalmist had after righteousness, often mingled with much despondency.

Items for Discussion

  • How might you paraphrase these psalm passages if you wanted to make it contemporary?
    • Open my eyes to see wonderful things in Your word. I am but a pilgrim here on earth; how I need a map and Your commands are my chart and my guide. I long for your instructions more than I can tell.
  • Consider the requests of the psalmist and why is it important to pray for these things?
  • How would you describe a person consumed with knowing God’s Word?
  • How would you describe a church consumed with knowing God’s Word?
  • Why is it important to know God’s Word?
  • Why is it important to be consumed with knowing God’s Word?
  • How is it that the psalmist is a stranger on earth?

3 John 1:2-4
2 Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. 3 It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Background 3

This brief epistle, written to a Christian whose name was Gaius, of whom nothing more is known, and in respect to which the time and place of writing it are equally unknown. The writer then adverts to the fact that he had written on this subject to the church, commending these strangers to their attention, but that Diotrephes would not acknowledge his authority, or receives those whom he introduced to them. This conduct, he said, demanded rebuke; and he says that when he himself came, he would take proper measures to assert his own authority, and show to him and to the church the duty of receiving Christian brethren commended to them from abroad.

Biblical Truths 4

Verse 2. Dear friend, I pray. The word used here commonly means in the New Testament to pray; but it is also employed to express a strong and earnest desire for anything, Acts 27:29; Romans 9:3; 2 Corinthians 13:9. This is probably all that is implied here.

Enjoy good health. The word occurs in the New Testament only in the following places: Romans 1:10, rendered have a prosperous journey; 1 Corinthians 16:2, rendered hath prospered; and in the passage before us. It means, properly, to lead in a good way; to prosper one’s journey; and then to make prosperous; to give success to; to be prospered. It would apply here to any plan or purpose entertained. It would include success in business, happiness in domestic relations, or prosperity in any of the engagements and transactions in which a Christian might lawfully engage. It shows that it is right to wish that our friends may have success in the works of their hands and their plans of life.

Enjoy good health. It is not necessary to suppose, in order to a correct interpretation of this, that Gaius was at that time suffering from bodily indisposition, though perhaps it is most natural to suppose that, as John makes the wish for his health so prominent. But it is common, in all circumstances, to wish for the health and prosperity of our friends; and it is as proper as it is common, if we do not give that a degree of prominence above the welfare of the soul.
Even as your soul is getting along well. John had learned, it would seem, from the “brethren” who had come to him, (3 John 1:3,) that Gaius became a Christian; that he was advancing in the knowledge of the truth, and was exemplary in the duties of the Christian life; and he prays that in all other respects he might be prospered as much as he was in that. It is not very common that a man is more prospered in his spiritual interests than he is in his other interests, or that we can, in our wishes for the welfare of our friends, make the prosperity of the soul, and the practice and enjoyment of religion, the standard of our wishes in regard to other things. It argues a high state of piety when we can, as the expression of our highest desire for the welfare of our friends, express the hope that they may be in all respects as much prospered as they are in their spiritual concerns.

Verse 3. It gave me great joy. Who these were is not certainly known. They may have been members of the same church with Gaius, who, for some reason, had visited the writer of this epistle; or they may have been the “brethren” who had gone from him with a letter of commendation to the church, (1 John 1:9,) and had been rejected by the church through the influence of Diotrephes, and who, after having been hospitably entertained by Gaius, had again returned to the writer of this epistle. In that case, they would of course bear honorable testimony to the kindness which they had received from Gaius, and to his Christian character.

Walk in the truth. Live in accordance with the truth. The writer had made the same remark of the children of Cyria, to whom the second epistle was directed.

Verse 4. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. That they adhere steadfastly to the truth and that they live in accordance with it. This is such language as would be used by an aged apostle when speaking of those who had been converted by his instrumentality, and who looked up to him as a father; and we may, therefore, infer that Gaius had been converted under the ministry of John, and that he was probably a much younger man than he was. John, the aged apostle, says that he had no higher happiness than to learn, respecting those who regarded him as their spiritual father, that they were steadfast in their adherence to the doctrines of religion. The same thing may be said now.

Items for Discussion

  • Why do we find delight and satisfaction when we see our efforts of faith building working? What is the human need that is fulfilled (in us)?
  • What can you confer from John’s attitude about his follow up and connectedness to his protégés?
  • Would you consider John’s letter encouraging to his protégés?
  • Health, things going well are OK to pray for according to John. How does this fit with your own ideas about prayer?

Discussion Challenge

  • How should a congregation respond to these verses with respect to their priorities, prayers, etc.?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
  2. Wikipedia
  3. Barnes Notes
  4. Clark’s Commentaries
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