Hot Poker!

Want to refresh your love for the Word of God? Hang around Psalm 119. It’s really hot!

776

Okay, we aren’t talking about a game of cards, gang.  [I bet I just lost half my audience!]

We’re talking about fireplace pokers, and how to turn a cold poker into a hot one. So how do you do it? You just start messing around in the fire with it. You put it next to burning logs. The hotter they burn, the hotter the poker gets.

Now, wasn’t that just an amazing piece of wisdom? Worth every penny you paid for it, wasn’t it?

Step right up, folks, there’s plenty more where that came from!

Cynical self-deprecation aside, there actually is a point to this: hang around people who have a passion for something, and it’s catching—it’s contagious. This is what mentoring is all about: hanging around people who love Jesus more than you do, in the hopes that it will rub off—just like the fire makes a cold poker hot.

So, if we take this hot poker philosophy just a little further, we can ask this question: if my love for the Word of God is growing cold, how can I reverse the decline? How can I renew and refresh my love for God’s Word?

You might start by hanging around people who really love the Word. May I recommend someone in particular? Try the writer of Psalm 119. Psalm 119 is a paean, a song of praise for the Word of God. Want to love the Word more? Hang around Psalm 119.

According to Derek Kidner [Psalms 73-150, pp. 453-454], the psalmist uses eight primary expressions in Psalm 119 to refer to the Scripture:

  • Law
  • Testimonies
  • Precepts
  • Statutes
  • Commandments
  • Ordinances (also translated “judgments”)
  • Word
  • Promise

The psalmist also uses a few less common terms to point to the Scripture: “faithfulness,” “ways,” and “name” (loving God’s name in Psalm 119 is equivalent to loving what God has said—in other words, His Word).

Of the 176 verses in Psalm 119, fully 173 of them contain one of these expressions signifying the Scripture. Here’s my favorite sample: Psalm 119:97 (NASB) O how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day.

But not only is Psalm 119 a love song about God’s Word, it’s also an artistic, highly structured poem composed of twenty two eight-verse sections. Psalm 119 is an acrostic, meaning that in Hebrew, the first word in each verse of an eight-verse section begins with the same letter. There are twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet and twenty-two eight-verse sections. Verses 1-8 all begin with aleph, verses 9-16 all begin with beth, verses 17-24 all begin with gimel, and so forth all the way through the alphabet. Someone has said that Psalm 119 expresses the psalmist’s love for Scripture from A to Z!

  1. S. Lewis correctly identifies the passion behind such complex and beautiful verbal choreography:

“This poem is not, and does not pretend to be a sudden outpouring of the heart like, say, Psalm 18. It is a pattern, a thing done like embroidery, stitch by stitch, through long quiet hours, for love of the subject and for the delight in leisurely, disciplined craftsmanship” [Lewis, cited by C. Hassell Bullock, Encountering the Book of Psalms, p. 221].

In other words, the psalmist’s love for God’s Word is not only reflected in the content of the words, but also in the beautifully crafted poetic structure of the psalm.

Here’s a 46-day summer project for you. Get yourself a notebook, or keep a journal on your computer. Do these things:

  • Day 1: read the entire psalm in one sitting.
  • Days 2-23: work through the psalm, reading one eight-verse section each day, and write down in your journal what the psalmist says about God’s Word. Put it in your own words.
  • Day 24: read the entire psalm again.
  • Days 25-46: work through the psalm again, reading one eight-verse section each day, only this time write down what the psalmist says about his own responses to God’s Word. Pick out a response in each section that you want to see in own your life, and commit it to prayer.

Want to refresh your love for the Word of God? Hang around Psalm 119. It’s really hot!