Psalm 119, Part 2

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, October 28, 2019 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

As I wrote about last week, Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible, and it’s super cool in the Hebrew, so that’s why I’m writing a second blog post to cover it better. While I don’t have enough space to go verse-by-verse through all of its 176 verses, I do want to give the highlights of each 8-verse stanza, which are labeled with each consonant from the Hebrew alphabet.

Aleph: The very first verse of this long psalm is strikingly similar to Psalm 1:1. We see that the Lord will bless those who follow His law and follow in His way. The psalmist knows that he should always obey what God commands, but he realizes that he can’t always do that and wishes he were better at it. Learning and following God’s righteous ways will help him to praise God better.

Bet: This section starts out with a rhetorical question, asking how long a person can “stay on the path of purity” (verse 9). The answer, of course, is to live according to God’s Word. The psalmist expounds on that by explaining how that means we must seek God’s Word, keep it in our hearts, and delight in it. We need to be teachable and allow God’s Word to shape us.

Gimel: The psalmist is consumed by a desire for God’s Word, so much so that he feels like a stranger on earth. God’s Word is what brings him comfort no matter the situation. He focuses briefly on those who are wicked and do not keep God’s Word, then re-emphasizes how he’s not like that but instead delights in God’s statutes.

Dalet: In this stanza, the psalmist is facing adversities. He knows that only God and His Word can deliver him from these things. He strives to remain teachable, hold fast to God’s law, and continue to be devoted to God’s teachings no matter what happens in his life.

He: Most of the verses of this stanza start with imperative (command) verbs where the psalmist is commanding God to do things, but in a humble way and not out of arrogance. He wants God to teach him, give him understanding, direct him, turn his heart and eyes toward God, and for God to fulfill His promise.

Vav: Whereas in the last section the psalmist commanded things of God, in this section he reaffirms his commitment to God. He says that because of God’s unfailing love and salvation, he will always obey God, not be ashamed of God’s law, and continue to meditate on it.

Zayin: God’s Word provides hope even when (or maybe especially when) we’re suffering. The psalmist finds comfort in God’s law, and he knows that it will deliver him through whatever he’s going through.

Het: Seeking God goes along with obeying Him. We can’t obey Him if we don’t seek Him and know what He commands of us. Even in spite of difficulties, obedience to God needs to be first and foremost in our lives.

Tet: The Hebrew word for “good” starts with the letter tet, and in this section, the psalmist asks God to do good to him and to teach him good judgment. He affirms God’s goodness and the incomparable value of God’s law.

Yod: God has created us for the purpose of following His laws because we show Him love out of our obedience. The psalmist prays that he would follow God’s laws so well that others would look up to his example.

Kaph: This is a section of longing, with the psalmist wondering how long will he have to put up with those who persecute him. He is continuing to wait for God’s deliverance and His promises to be fulfilled.

Lamed: God and His Word are eternal, and the psalmist focuses on God’s law to get him through difficult times. He asks God to save him, for he has continued to learn and obey God’s law.

Mem: This is a praise section, full of statements about how the psalmist loves God’s law. He loves God’s teachings because he loves God, and therefore he devotes his life to following God’s law as best as he can.

Nun: This section contains the famous verse 105, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” God’s law shows him the path on which he should live his life. He constantly faces adversity even on this chosen path, but he knows that God’s Word will sustain him.

Samek: Here we see that the ways of the righteous and the ways of the wicked are very different. This section has many contrasts between the person who follows God’s law and the person who doesn’t.

Ayin: The psalmist explains that he has upheld his share of the deal and followed God’s laws, so now he wants to see God’s promises to him fulfilled. Living in obedience to God is our response to His promises, even if they aren’t yet fulfilled in our lives. We uphold God’s law while we hate everything that goes against it.

Pe: God’s law is not harsh but rather good, and that’s another reason the psalmist wants to obey it. God’s Word brings enlightenment and understanding to our lives. The psalmist continues to pray for God to guide him in all his ways.

Tsade: God’s character and God’s law are both righteous, and that righteousness is the theme of this section, which is fitting as the Hebrew word for righteous starts with the letter tsade. Even though his enemies ignore God’s law, the psalmist clings to it.

Qoph: The psalmist cries out and calls to God for His help. He asks God to remain near him at all times. His prayer is intense, but his loyalty to God is also intense.

Resh: The psalmist’s lament gets stronger here as he continues to pray for God’s deliverance, while still focusing on God’s Word and His laws. He shows God how he has remained loyal, while those who don’t follow God have continued to break His laws.

Sin/Shin: In spite of the lament in the last section, the psalmist rejoices in God here. Even in the midst of affliction, the psalmist delights in God’s law.

Tav: This last section contains a prayer for salvation. Verse 174 sums up the psalm well saying, “I long for your salvation, Lord, and your law gives me delight.” The psalmist remains committed to following God and His laws no matter what, and he prays to God asking for continued knowledge and strength to do this.

And that, friends, is Psalm 119 in a nutshell! I encourage you to go read it, even just meditating on one section per day. Even though we are saved by grace through our faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for us, we obey God’s laws and commands out of our love for Him and our thankfulness for what He has done for us.

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