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Psalm 119:9-16

How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. 

I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. 

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees. 

With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. 

I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. 

I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. 

I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.

When I was a kid I collected Spider-Man comic books and trading cards. I would go to comic book stores and look through the latest issues, I would look through back issues for interesting stories, and I would buy up packs of cards whenever I had the money. I loved Spider-Man. I remember watching the re-runs of the 1967 Spider-Man TV show – which, apparently, only ran for three seasons, but, somehow, in my memory, it was never ending. From the era of my own childhood, I watched the Spider-Man series that ran from 1994-98 with Christopher Daniel voicing Spider-Man/Peter Parker and Mark Hamil (yes, Luke Skywalker…) voicing Hobgoblin – this was a classic of my childhood!

When I finished grade 8 and our class was moving on to high school, for our graduation dinner we did a presentation to the parents introducing each graduating student. Each student was introduced and then did something to convey a little of their personality. Most of my classmates would walk across stage with a hockey stick, doing some sort of neat deke; or with a baseball bat, tossing it in some fancy spin move… When my name was read, I ran across the stage with a Spider-Man mask on, did a cartwheel to round off to back handspring, landed in superhero pose, and “webbed” the crowd of parents with silly string.

Even as I became a “mature” teenager I developed my love of Spider-Man: I read novelizations of the character and even appreciated the graphic, and a little grotesque, novelizations of the Spider-Man anti-hero, Venom. I began drawing my own comic heroes and versions of Spider-Man in different poses and action sequences.

Even now, as a fully-grown adult (notice I didn’t say fully “mature”…) I continue to be a huge fan of the Marvel movies, but Spider-Man is always my favourite character. Spider-Man: No Way Home might be the best movie of all time. And yes, in fact, I do still have part of my comic book and card collection; which I have shared with my 7-year-old son, who also loves superheroes.

My love of Spider-Man drove me to read as much as I could; to spend what little money I had on comics and cards; and to learn everything I could about the character and world. 

It is this same sort of love of subject and marvel at the beauty of content that drives the Psalmist in Psalm 119. This is clear in our section: “I seek you with all my heart… I have hidden your word in my heart… I rejoice in your statutes… I mediate on your precepts and consider your ways… I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.” C.S. Lewis, in his little book, Reflections on the Psalms, notes the singular beauty of Psalm 119. Most of us know it is the longest in the psalter, most of us are aware of its basic poetic structure as an alphabetic acrostic, where the first word of each line in each unit begins with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet – making Psalm 119 consist of 22 sections, each of 8 stanzas. As Lewis notes, “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 stich, through long, quiet hours, for love of subject and for the delight in leisurely, disciplined craftsmanship.”[1]

The love of God’s law and the love of his craft drives the Psalmist to sing this song of prayer in the form that it is. 

For many of us, Psalm 119 might be tough slough. How many of us can say we’ve read the whole thing? Let alone have read the whole of God’s law (ie, the Pentateuch, the 1st five books of the Bible); let alone even further: the whole Bible. How many of us would genuinely say after reading these that we love them, delight in them, and rejoice at them? And, to be clear, especially for those unfamiliar with God’s word, such a love will seem strange. Again, Lewis notes, “It will look like priggery or pedantry (or else like a neurotic fussiness) to those who cannot sympathise with it, but it need not be any of these things. It maybe the delight in Order… it is the language of a man ravished by a moral beauty.”[2]

No doubt people made fun of me for my fascination with Spider-Man, but I didn’t care. I still don’t. I love(d) it. May we all love God’s word with the same abandon. In the pages of God’s word, coursing through the choruses of these songs of prayer, we come to see Jesus; on these pages we come to know the voice of the True Shepherd. That is a love I will rejoice in; a voice I will delight in; and a way of life I will follow after.

Lord Jesus, you are the Word that took on flesh to ransom us. Help me to hear your voice from the pages of my Bible. Draw me closer to you, Lord and God, as I meditate on your precepts. In you is life and that life is the light of all humanity. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

[1] C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, 52.
[2] Lewis, 53.