Sunday: Psalm 119.1-16 & Deuteronomy 1.1-5

From Mark Booker

Psalm 119.1-16: We'll be reading all 176 verses of Psalm 119 over the course of the 11 Sundays before Advent. This Psalm is an acrostic poem, with 22 eight-verse stanzas (one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet). All the poetic lines in a stanza begin with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The focus of the psalm is God's revelation and the psalm uses eight words for that: torah (teaching/instruction/law), decrees, precepts, statutes, commands, ordinances, word, and promise. The psalm begins by communicating that happiness or blessedness comes from walking 'in the law of the Lord' (v1). It's no surprise then that the main theme of the psalm is delighting in, meditating upon, and walking in God's word. That's our hope, too, as the people of God. 

Deuteronomy 1.1-5: The introduction to Deuteronomy signals that the focus of this book is on the word of God spoken through Moses (v1, v3, v5). The book begins with the expression, "These are the words," and this is its title in Hebrew. These words are given in three speeches from Moses (chs. 1-4, chs. 5-28, and chs. 29-30). The English title, "Deuteronomy," which means 'second law,' tells us that this book - these words - will contain law, understood as both 1) instruction/exhortation (chs. 4-11, chs. 27-30) and 2) regulations (actual laws - see law code of chs. 12-26). 

These opening verses also point to the location of God's people in the plains of Moab, on the banks of the Jordan about to enter the Promised Land (see map below), and they remind us of the story of Israel up to this point: rescued from Egypt, encounter with God at Sinai (referred to as Horeb in v2), wilderness wanderings (v3 - 'fortieth year'), and now entering the Promised Land. Verse 1 picks up from the last verse of the book of Numbers, signifying that Deuteronomy is continuing this story. Moses, as he comes to the end of his life, exhorts the saved-by-grace people of Yahweh (name for Israel's God) to be faithful to God's word as they enter the new challenges of the Promised Land. This is summed up best in Dt 30.19: choose life!