Psalm 119

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by: FCC Staff

12/08/2022

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Psalm 119

The 119th Psalm is an acrostic poem of twenty-two stanzas, following the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Within a stanza, each verse begins with the same Hebrew letter.

For those of us who have made it a practice over the years to use the Psalms as part of our morning devotional reading, 150 chapters divided by five chapters each day makes for a handy 30-day prayer book. Add to that one chapter each day of the 31 chapters of Proverbs, and the two combined make a powerful start to your day. But I must confess (and I’m sure I’m not alone) that upon arriving at day 24 (depending on what else is going on that day) reading all of Psalm 116 through 120, as well as Proverbs 24, is daunting. Over the years, I’ve found myself more than once falling behind a day or two then trying to catch up before the end of the month. Why? Because Psalm 119 is notably both the longest Psalm and longest chapter in the entire Bible.  Because of this, it’s tempting to either speed-read through it without paying much attention, or to skip it altogether thinking that you’ll come back to it later. Maybe what is needed is a bit more of a background and introduction, and even pausing to take a deep meditative breath before diving into this momentous writing called the 119th Psalm.

Most believe it was penned by David. Some believe it was for his son, Solomon. Because of its structure, it is believed that part of its purpose was for ease of memorization, because each of its twenty-two parts are broken down by the letters in the Hebrew alphabet, which has 22 letters. Under each section or stanza, headed by the letter of the alphabet, are eight verses. Each of the eight verses within each stanza begin with the first letter of that letter of the alphabet.

The first stanza, verses 1-8, are headed by the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet which is called “ALEPH.” Then the first letter of each word in each of the eight sentences in that section (in Hebrew) begin with an Aleph. The next section, verses 9-16, are headed with the second letter in the alphabet, “BETH,” and each of the following eight sentences begin with the Hebrew letter BETH (and so on for 22 letters and 176 verses). This makes it very structured, very purposeful, and very organized.  Throughout the Psalm, there are again eight key Hebrew words that appear repeatedly which are translated in English in varying ways to be: Law, Testimonies, Precepts, Statutes, Commandments, Judgments, Word, Promise. All of these terms bring different views to what we call Scripture. They are not to be taken separately, but work together to emphasize and bring to light to what Scripture is, where it comes from, and what it does.

As we read through this Psalm, it becomes immediately clear that it is not simply academic in its emphasis of these topics, but is in fact a pursuit of God through His Scripture. The Psalmist is not conducting an intellectual pursuit devoid of spiritual significance. Neither is he attempting to have a spiritual connection with God apart from the instructions contained in His Word. This Psalmist is writing so that the reader would know, trust, and obey the Word of God because that is the ONLY way one can know, trust, and obey God.

There are many key verses throughout this Psalm, but for me the two that truly express its purpose and power are Psalm 119:11, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” The importance of memorization of God’s Word, especially from youth and Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path,” reveals that God’s purpose for His Word is revelation, a guide, and a shield, in and through this time of darkness. In that revelation, we see that Jesus is the embodiment of the Word who became flesh and “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5)

Prayer for Today: Lord, as we prepare to study the 119th Psalm, may we gain a whole new love of Your Word and an even greater desire to know You more fully in every area of our lives. Amen!

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Psalm 119

The 119th Psalm is an acrostic poem of twenty-two stanzas, following the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Within a stanza, each verse begins with the same Hebrew letter.

For those of us who have made it a practice over the years to use the Psalms as part of our morning devotional reading, 150 chapters divided by five chapters each day makes for a handy 30-day prayer book. Add to that one chapter each day of the 31 chapters of Proverbs, and the two combined make a powerful start to your day. But I must confess (and I’m sure I’m not alone) that upon arriving at day 24 (depending on what else is going on that day) reading all of Psalm 116 through 120, as well as Proverbs 24, is daunting. Over the years, I’ve found myself more than once falling behind a day or two then trying to catch up before the end of the month. Why? Because Psalm 119 is notably both the longest Psalm and longest chapter in the entire Bible.  Because of this, it’s tempting to either speed-read through it without paying much attention, or to skip it altogether thinking that you’ll come back to it later. Maybe what is needed is a bit more of a background and introduction, and even pausing to take a deep meditative breath before diving into this momentous writing called the 119th Psalm.

Most believe it was penned by David. Some believe it was for his son, Solomon. Because of its structure, it is believed that part of its purpose was for ease of memorization, because each of its twenty-two parts are broken down by the letters in the Hebrew alphabet, which has 22 letters. Under each section or stanza, headed by the letter of the alphabet, are eight verses. Each of the eight verses within each stanza begin with the first letter of that letter of the alphabet.

The first stanza, verses 1-8, are headed by the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet which is called “ALEPH.” Then the first letter of each word in each of the eight sentences in that section (in Hebrew) begin with an Aleph. The next section, verses 9-16, are headed with the second letter in the alphabet, “BETH,” and each of the following eight sentences begin with the Hebrew letter BETH (and so on for 22 letters and 176 verses). This makes it very structured, very purposeful, and very organized.  Throughout the Psalm, there are again eight key Hebrew words that appear repeatedly which are translated in English in varying ways to be: Law, Testimonies, Precepts, Statutes, Commandments, Judgments, Word, Promise. All of these terms bring different views to what we call Scripture. They are not to be taken separately, but work together to emphasize and bring to light to what Scripture is, where it comes from, and what it does.

As we read through this Psalm, it becomes immediately clear that it is not simply academic in its emphasis of these topics, but is in fact a pursuit of God through His Scripture. The Psalmist is not conducting an intellectual pursuit devoid of spiritual significance. Neither is he attempting to have a spiritual connection with God apart from the instructions contained in His Word. This Psalmist is writing so that the reader would know, trust, and obey the Word of God because that is the ONLY way one can know, trust, and obey God.

There are many key verses throughout this Psalm, but for me the two that truly express its purpose and power are Psalm 119:11, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” The importance of memorization of God’s Word, especially from youth and Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path,” reveals that God’s purpose for His Word is revelation, a guide, and a shield, in and through this time of darkness. In that revelation, we see that Jesus is the embodiment of the Word who became flesh and “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5)

Prayer for Today: Lord, as we prepare to study the 119th Psalm, may we gain a whole new love of Your Word and an even greater desire to know You more fully in every area of our lives. Amen!

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