I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried; I hoped in Thy word.
Today our early morning devotional takes us to the great psalm--Psalm 119. This is a psalm dedicated to the praise of God's Word. It is the longest and most elaborate of the alphabetic psalms. While there are eight other acrostic psalms (9; 10; 25; 34; 37; 111; 112; and 145), this one far exceeds all the others in splendor. It is arranged in twenty-two stanzas, corresponding to the twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Within each stanza the first line of every verse begins with the same letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Although we cannot see that in English, in our Bible the word supplied at the head of each stanza is the name of the Hebrew letter with which each verse in that stanza begins.
The author of the psalm is unknown but it is definitely Davidic in tone and expression and squares with David's experiences at many interesting points.
While these details of the psalm are interesting, devotionally there is something far more important in Psalm 119. The Masseretes, those scribes who copied the ancient Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament, observed that in every verse but one (verse 122) there is a direct reference to the law under one of ten legal names found in the psalm. Others dispute that claim but it is clear that the theme of this great psalm is the Word of God. The great preponderance of verses contain at least one word which identifies the Word of God and sings man's praises to it.
Psalm 119 is filled with delightful expressions of appreciation for God's Word. "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy word" (verse 9). "I have rejoiced in the way of Thy testimonies, as much as in all riches" (verse 14). "I will speak of Thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed" (verse 46). "For ever, O LORD, Thy word is settled in heaven" (verse 89). "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (verse 105). With expressions of love and devotion like these, what more could God hear that would bring joy to His ears? What promise could the psalmist make that would seal his eagerness to know God's law?
Psalm 119:147 provides the answer. The psalmist says, "I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried; I hoped in Thy word." Before the light broke through the shadows of the dark night, the psalmist was already prevailing on God in prayer. He cried unto His God before He spoke unto his fellow man. He spent time hoping in God's Word each morning before he gave himself to speaking God's Word throughout the day. It was at the dawning of the morning that the psalmist found the Word of God most precious to him.
Ambrose commented, "It is a grievous thing if the rays of the rising sun find thee lazy and ashamed in thy bed, and the bright light strike on eyes still weighed down with slumbering sloth." The psalmist would agree with this church father.
To delight in the law of God, to sing praises to the Word of God, to read and meditate on the testimonies of God, all bring joy to the heart of God. But I believe the greatest joy is brought to His heart when we do these things at the dawning of the day. When we seek His word above all others, His encouragement before all others, His truth instead of all others, then we will be pleasing to Him more than all others.
One grand benefit of preceding the dawn with Bible reading and prayer is that it will not only add God's blessing to our day, but it will also encourage us to continue in His Word and prayer throughout the day. The same psalmist who rose early in the morning to hope in God's Word continued into the night watches meditating in that same Word (verse 148). When we begin the day early in prayer and the Word, we can continue that practice throughout the day. But if we do not come to the Lord until the evening hours, we can never know the joy of spending the day with Him. Let us enjoy His Word throughout this day.
MORNING HYMN Break Thou the bread of life, Dear Lord, to me, As Thou didst break the loaves, Beside the sea; Beyond the sacred page, I seek Thee, Lord My spirit pants for Thee, O living Word.
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