Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, is filled with verses about the Bible. This psalm is also filled with the prayers of a man who has a deep longing to commune with God and live a godly life in accordance with the Word of God.
One particular prayer is repeated seven times: “Teach me your decrees” (see verses 12, 26, 64, 68, 124, 135, 171). Do you pray this prayer when reading the Bible?
Let’s take a look at the meaning of this prayer.
The psalmist is communicating his heartfelt desire for God to teach him the Word. (“Decrees” is one of many synonyms for the Bible in Psalm 119.) And the fact that he repeats this prayer so often is an obvious indication that this desire is both sincere and consuming.
Every verse in this psalm was written in the Hebrew poetic style known as “parallelism”, which means there are usually two statements that go together. These two statements often complement one another, and this literary structure enables us to dive deeper into the meaning of the prayer to “teach me your decrees”.
Here are two truths to learn from the verses that contain this prayer:
Being taught by God is closely associated with worship.
It is significant that verses 64, 68, and 124 all mention something magnificent about the character of God. Specifically, God’s attributes of love and goodness are highlighted immediately before the psalmist asks for God’s teaching. “The earth is filled with your love, Lord; teach me your decrees” (verse 64; see also verse 124). “You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees” (verse 68).
Verses 12 and 171 also mention praise of God. “Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees” (verse 12). “May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees” (verse 171).
So there is a clear connection between praising God for His greatness and being taught by God. The more we recognize the infinite worth of our Creator, the more we want Him to teach us. This is why Christians do things in a particular order during our church services: worship is usually first (singing hymns of praise), followed by teaching (the sermon), followed by more worship (concluding hymns).
Recognizing God for who He is – the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving One – stimulates a longing to sit at the feet of King Jesus and let Him teach us how to live.
Being taught by God is closely associated with self-examination.
Note verse 26 – “I gave an account of my ways and you answered me; teach me your decrees”. God knows everything about us, yet the psalmist realizes his need to tell God what he’s been doing and thinking. Undoubtedly this includes confession of sin – being honest with God about our faults and taking responsibility for them in His presence.
And certainly this also includes pouring out our hearts when we are faced with the struggles and frustrations of life, and asking for help. Fortunately, we can count on God to listen as we share the most intimate details of our lives — an amazing thing, when you consider that the Creator of the universe has promised to listen to us when we cry out to Him.
God promises to both listen and answer. He delights to impart His wisdom to us, and the psalmist is confident of just that in verse 26 – “you answered me”. God provides the guidance we need, and He does that primarily through His Word; hence the connection between the believer’s self-examination and the believer’s longing for the teaching of God’s Word.
So when we look up – through worship and praise – God will teach us His Word. And when we look within – through self-examination – God will teach us His Word. Let us follow the example of the psalmist and beseech our Father to teach us His decrees every day, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.