Book #5: 107-150, cont’d.
An alphabetic acrostic...each stanza of 8 verses is devoted to the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet (for example, using the English alphabet: verses 1-8 each begin with the letter “a”, verses 9-16 each begin with the letter “b”, and so forth). Each of these 8-verse stanzas has a theme of its own that deals with Gods' law. The Psalmist uses 10 different terms for the law or Word of God. Every verse except 90, 122, and 132 mentioning at least one of these terms. With the exception of verses 1-3, every verse is addressed to the LORD.
THE GREATNESS AND GLORY OF GOD'S WORD
This long Psalm deserves a long introduction. The author is unnamed; older commentators almost universally say it is a Psalm of David, composed throughout his entire life. More modern commentators often say that it is post-exilic, coming from the days of Nehemiah or Ezra. We lean towards agreement with the older commentators, but do not insist upon it; if it were important, God would have preserved the name of David to this Psalm. No matter who wrote it, we notice that it was likely written over some period of time and later compiled, because there is not a definite flow of thought from the beginning of the Psalm to the end. The sections and verses are not like a chain, where one link is connected to the other, but like a string of pearls were each pearl has equal, but independent value.
The Psalm is arranged in an acrostic pattern. There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, and this Psalm contains 22 units of 8 verses each. Each of the 22 sections is given to a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and each line in that section begins with that letter. The closest parallel to this pattern in Scripture is found in Lamentations 3, which is also divided into 22 sections, and there are a few other passages in the Hebrew Scriptures which use an acrostic pattern.
Since this is a Psalm glorifying God and His Word, it refers to Scripture over and over again. The psalm is remarkable for how often it refers to God's written revelation, His word. It is referred to in almost every verse. The Masorites said that the Word of God is mentioned in every verse except Psalm 119:122. Other people reckon differently (with disagreement about verses 84, 90, 121, and 132). But Scripture is mentioned in at least 171 of 176 verses.
In this Psalm there are 8 basic words used to describe the Scriptures, God's written revelation to us:
- Law (torah, used 25 times in Psalm 119): "Its parent verb means ‘teach' or ‘direct'; therefore coming from God it means both ‘law' and ‘revelation.' It can be used of a single command or of a whole body of law." (Kidner)
- Word (dabar, used 24 times): The idea is of the spoken word, God's revealed word to man. "Proceeding from his mouth and revealed by him to us." (Poole)
- Judgments (mispatim, used 23 times): "From shaphat, to judge, determine, regulate, order, and discern, because they judge concerning our words and works; show the rules by which they should be regulated; and cause us to discern what is right and wrong, and decide accordingly." (Clarke)
- Testimonies (edut/edot, used 23 times): This word is related to the word for witness. To obey His testimonies "signifies loyalty to the terms of the covenant made between the Lord and Israel." (VanGemeren)
- Commandments (miswah/miswot, used 22 times): "This word emphasizes the straight authority of what is said … the right to give orders." (Kidner)
- Statutes (huqqim, used 21 times): The noun is derived from the root verb "engrave" or "inscribe"; the idea is of the written word of God and the authority of His written word. "Declaring his authority and power of giving us laws." (Poole)
- Precepts (piqqudim, used 21 times): "This is a word drawn from the sphere of an officer or overseer, and man who is responsible to look closely into a situation and take action. . . . So the word points to the particular instructions of the Lord, as of one who cares about detail." (Kidner)
- Word (imrah, used 19 times): Similar in meaning to dabar, yet a different term. "The ‘word' may denote anything God has spoken, commanded, or promised." (VanGemeren)
The theme of the glory of Scripture is diligently explored in this Psalm, but always in connection with God Himself. Derek Kidner well remarks: "This untiring emphasis has led some to accuse the psalmist of worshipping the Word rather than the Lord; but it has been well remarked that every reference here to Scripture, without exception, relates it explicitly to its Author; indeed, every verse from 4 to the end is a prayer for affirmation addressed to Him. This is true piety: a love of God not desiccated by study but refreshed, informed and nourished by it."
David Guzik :: Study Guide for Psalm 119, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Psa/Psa_119.cfm?a=597001
Psalm 119:1-3-These first eight verses each begin with the Hebrew letter “א”. The Psalmist begins by saying that those who follow the Law of the LORD are blessed.
אָשַׁר ʼâshar, aw-shar'; or אָשֵׁר ʼâshêr; a primitive root; to be straight (used in the widest sense, especially to be level, right, happy); figuratively, to go forward, be honest, prosper:—(call, be) bless(-ed, happy), go, guide, lead, relieve.
אֶשֶׁר ʼesher, eh'-sher; from H833; happiness; only in masculine plural construction as interjection, how happy!:—blessed, happy.
Strong’s Definitions, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=H833&t=NASB
Psalm 119:4-8-He asks that his life will be established on God's law. Meaning that he will live according to what God has “ordained” (:4), or determined to be the right way to live. Then, when his life is compared to God’s commandments he will not be ashamed for having lived in a wrong way (:6). And, when he knows God’s law then he will be able to praise God correctly, with “uprightness of heart” (:7).
Psalm 119:9-16-As a young man he has sought to follow God's law and says that he will always continue to do so. He asks God to keep him from straying (:10). He has memorized God’s Word so that it will be a guide for his life and he will not sin (:11). He asks God to teach him His statutes (:12). He then says that he will has/will…
- told of all the ordinances (:13)
- rejoiced in the way of Thy testimonies (:14)
- meditate on Thy precepts (:15)
- regard Thy ways (:15)
- delight in Thy statutes (:16)
- not forget Thy word (:16).
The Psalmist loves God’s Word.
Psalm 119:17-24-He asks that God will help him to know and follow His law even better...to see "wonderful things from Thy law". As he looks around and sees other men ignoring God’s law, he says that he feels like a stranger here (:19a). No matter who it is that criticizes him (even princes), he will continue to study the law (:23). God’s Word is like a counselor to him (:24).
Psalm 119:25-32-He asks that during difficult times that God's law will revive him and strengthen him. Notice that at first his soul cleaves to the dust (:25)…meaning that he is totally exhausted from the struggle. But, he has chosen to trust God and cleave to His testimonies (:31) and as a result God gives him renewed strength (:32).
Psalm 119:33-40-He asks that God teach him about the law so that he can follow
it all of his life, "to the end" (:33). Notice the numerous ways that the Psalmist asks God to help him to follow His law…
- Teach me (:33)
- Give me understanding (:34)
- Make me walk (:35)
- Incline my heart (:36)
- Turn away my eyes (:37)
- Establish Thy word (:38)
- Turn away my reproach (:39).
Psalm 119:41-48-He asks God to give bless him for keeping His law so that he can show others the blessing of doing so (:42). He asks that God give him understanding of His law so that he may keep it correctly (:43-45), and so that he may correctly explain it to others (:46). When he understands God’s commandments he will…
- keep Thy law continually (:44)
- walk at liberty (:45)
- speak of Thy testimonies (:46)
- delight in Thy commandments (:47)
- lift up my hands to Thy commandments (:48)
- meditate on Thy statutes (:48).
Prayer: Lord, as I begin this Psalm, I am in awe of the author’s love for Your law. He realized that by living according to Your law…he was honoring You and he was being blessed. Please help me to love Your law. Don’t let it be burdensome to me. Don’t let me see it as inhibitive. But help me to see it as the Psalmist…that when I keep Your law, then I truly will “walk in liberty” (:45) because I am not enslaved to sin.