Theme: The Believer’s Portion
This stanza of Psalm 119 speaks of finding God, his love, and his comfort.
Scripture: Psalm 119:41-64
It has always been natural for Christians to sing of what is lodged joyfully in their hearts, and their worship services have always been characterized by great hymn singing. Our contemporaries do not sing much today, though they listen to other people perform songs for them, and many of these songs are ugly. It is because life for our contemporaries is ugly. How beautiful are the hymns of Christians in ugly times like ours!
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the American poet who gave us “Evangeline” and “The Song of Hiawatha” (died 1882), wrote this about musical renderings of God’s Word:
Such songs have power to quietThe restless pulse of care,And come like the benedictionThat follows after prayer.And the night shall be filled with music,And the cares that infest the dayShall fold their tents like the Arabs,And as silently steal away.
The singing of Christians does not make the causes of their sorrows go away, though the Lord sometimes does that himself. But it does lift their spirits and testifies to the goodness of God who provides comfort even in bad times.
Everything we have looked at so far leads up to stanza eight (the heth stanza, the last of this little grouping of three), and to its key verse: “You are my portion, O LORD” (v. 57). For this is what is really involved in a prayerful study of God’s Word, not finding comfort only or even getting to know one aspect of God’s character, even one as important as love, but rather getting to know and possess God himself. Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote wisely of this stanza, “In this section the psalmist seems to take firm hold upon God himself: appropriating him (v. 57), crying out for him (v. 58), returning to him (v. 59), solacing himself in him (vv. 61, 62), associating with his people (v. 63), and sighing for personal experience of his goodness (v. 64).”1
When the psalmist wrote that God was his “portion” he was using a word that had great meaning in Jewish religious history. This is because, when the Israelite tribes came out of the desert and made their conquest of the land of Canaan and every tribe received its appointed portion, the priestly tribe of Levi did not receive land. Instead, they were given forty-eight priestly cities scattered throughout the land and were to live there so that their priestly service would always be widely available. They had no land, but they were given something better. It was said of them that they had “no portion [inheritance]” in the land because their portion [inheritance] was the LORD” (Josh. 13:33).2
1Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 3a, Psalms 88-119 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), p. 254.
2The account of the distribution of the priestly cities to Levi is in Joshua 21.
What does singing accomplish for the Christian?
How do we “possess” God?
What historical meaning is behind the word “portion”?
Application: Examine the lyrics of contemporary music. How do they compare with the hymns of faith?
Key Point: This is what is really involved in a prayerful study of God’s Word, not finding comfort only or even getting to know one aspect of God’s character, even one as important as love, but rather getting to know and possess God himself.