Psalm 119:41-48

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Waw

41  Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord, 

your salvation according to your promise; 

42  then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, 

for I trust in your word. 

43  And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, 

for my hope is in your rules. 

44  I will keep your law continually, 

forever and ever, 

45  and I shall walk in a wide place, 

for I have sought your precepts. 

46  I will also speak of your testimonies before kings 

and shall not be put to shame, 

47  for I find my delight in your commandments, 

which I love. 

48  I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, 

and I will meditate on your statutes. 

ESV

The psalmist opens this stanza asking for the Lord’s covenant faithfulness (asādîm pl of hesed also translated steadfast love/unfailing love/loyal love) to come to him. The Lord’s faithfulness and love is the promise of salvation. “What the psalmist does in this stanza is what all believers should do, pray for the promises of God to be fulfilled. The focus of the request here is on the promised deliverance from the opposition and reproach of the world” (A. Ross, Psalms (90-150) KEL, 2016, p. 503). 

The Lord will never do anything that violates Himself or His Covenant. He is faithful and the psalmist (and the psalmists at large) know this. In verses 41-42 confidence in the Lord’s salvation is what “will cause him to triumph over the one who taunts him” (D. Estes, Psalms 73-150 NAC, 2019, p. 412). The psalmist clearly states that it is the Lord’s Word that he trusts, not the words of his oppressors.

In verse 43, the psalmist does rely on his own ability and strength to answer his oppressors. “Because he realizes he could be tempted to speak falsely, the psalmist urges the Lord to help him continue to speak what is truthful” (Estes, p. 412). The psalmist’s hope and confidence is in the Lord and what He says. “As in vv. 142, 151, 160, “truth” (ʾĕmet) here has the sense of being trustworthy and reliable” (p. 412).

The Lord’s Word always has and will always be True, Reliable and Trustworthy! As such the psalmist will keep, guard, watch, observe (וְאֶשְׁמְרָ֖ה) the Lord’s law continually (torah tāmîd) forever and ever (v 44). “Although he does not specifically refer to himself as a student, his resolution to keep the Lord’s instruction continually (tāmîd) implies that he will never graduate from God’s school but will be a perpetual student of his way (cf. v. 117). Obedience to God’s tôrâ (“instruction”) is the fixed commitment of the psalmist’s life” (Estes, p. 412).

The psalmist knows that the Lord is the only One who delivers and saves (v 41); as such, he will trust His Word (v 42), hope in His rules (v 43), keep His law continually (v 44) and walk in a wide place (v 45) meaning he will “liv[e] life fully” (Ross, p. 505) because he had sought (drš) His precepts. “By setting his focus to study or seek (drš, as in v. 2 speaks of a wholehearted, intentional search) God’s precepts, he finds that obedience to God’s word leads to freedom, not to confinement. As with a train, true liberty comes from staying on the tracks of obedience to God’s instruction, not by going off the rails in an attempt to do as one pleases” (Estes, p. 412).

The psalmist is taking His love for the Lord and His Word public (v 46a). True love and devotion to the Lord cannot help but to overflow in public, no matter the cost. Hence why the psalmist will not be put to shame (v 46b). The psalmist finds delight in the commandments which he loves (v 47). It is obvious throughout this psalm that he (the psalmist) loves and delights in the Lord and in His Word.

Because the psalmist is so full of love and delight in God’s Word (v 47), he raises his hands toward His commandments and will meditate on them (v 48). “This is an active, intentional response, as the psalmist does not resist God’s word, but he receives it joyfully and without reluctance. Because he loves what the Lord has said, he accepts and assimilates it into his life. As in Ps 1:2, the process of meditation causes him to internalize God’s word so that he lives what he learns from him” (Estes, pp. 412-413).

Praise You Lord for Your covenant faithfulness! Praise You Lord that You do not violate Your Covenant and that You have made Your way and standard clear to us! Lord God, may Your Word overflow authentically from our lives because of our personal time in worship, devotion and study with You. Lord God, help us to love and trust Your Word. Help us to be confident in our salvation that is by grace through faith in Christ so that we will not doubt nor be shaken when trials, oppressors or negative emotions come against us. Lord God, may we be reminded that when we go off the rails and follow the things of this world that we will suffer consequences for our disobedience. Lord God, thank You for this reader. May this reader be reminded that Your Word is True, Reliable and Trustworthy. Lord God, for the reader who is not in Christ, may today be the day of their salvation. Thank You Lord for preserving Your Word in each generation. Lord, for those of us who are in Christ may we never stop delighting, loving and meditating on Your Word. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Psalm 119:33-40

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He

33  Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; 

and I will keep it to the end.

34  Give me understanding, that I may keep your law 

and observe it with my whole heart. 

35  Lead me in the path of your commandments, 

for I delight in it. 

36  Incline my heart to your testimonies, 

and not to selfish gain! 

37  Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; 

and give me life in your ways. 

38  Confirm to your servant your promise, 

that you may be feared. 

39  Turn away the reproach that I dread, 

for your rules are good. 

40  Behold, I long for your precepts; 

in your righteousness give me life! 

(ESV, emphasis mine)

Verses 33-39 each begin with a hiphil, imperative, 2ms with a 1cs suffix. Each of these seven petitions “reveal the psalmist’s humility and dependence on the LORD” (A. Ross, A Commentary on the Psalms (90-150) KEL, 2016, p. 496). In verse 34 give is supplied in English and the literal translation would be cause me understanding or cause me to understand. God is also the Agent in these verses meaning He is “the person or thing that instigates an action or causes change in another person or thing” (J. Thompson, The Lexham Glossary of Semantic Roles (2014, n.p.). 

With the above in mind, in verse 33 “Once again, as in vv. 12, 26, the psalmist invites the Lord to be his teacher (cf. Pss 27:11; 86:11). He is not just curious to learn God’s way, but he is committed to live the path of life defined by God’s word” (D. Estes, Psalms 73-150, NAC, 2019, p. 410). The psalmist will keep the Lord’s statutes to the end (ʿēqeb). Alter translates ʿēqeb as “without fail” (The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary, 2007, p. 423). The psalmist is petitioning/inviting the Lord to teach him the way (derek) of His statutes, keeping them continually without fail. “For the psalmist the road of obedience has no off-ramp” (Estes, p. 410).

Cause me understanding in verse 34 is a request for discernment. In petitioning the Lord to teach him (v 33) “the psalmist knew he needed discernment to know how to understand and apply [the teaching]” (Ross, p. 497). By understanding and discerning the Word, the psalmist will be able to keep His Law, observing it with his whole heart (mind, will and emotions).

The psalmist petitions the Lord to lead him in the path (nātîb) of His commandments (v 35a). Path (nātîb) and way (derek) are “metaphor[s] for the course of life” (Estes, p. 410). The psalmist delights in God’s commandments (v 35b) as such he will follow the Lord’s path rather than follow his own path.

In verses 36 and 37 “the petitions are different; here the psalmist wants the LORD to turn his attention away from the things of the world and toward the things of God” (Ross, p. 498). The petition in verse 36 calls on the Lord to incline (turn CSB) his heart to the Lord’s testimonies and not to selfish gain (beṣaʿ). “The human heart defaults toward evil (cf. Jer 17:9), so it must be directed toward what is right; and in fact to turn the heart often refers to turning one’s heart to idolatry” (Estes, p. 410). Selfish gain (beṣaʿ) “refers to the plunder or gain one gets by means of violence and damage done to someone else. The psalmist knows it will take a supernatural influence on his affections and will to make him prefer the good and reject the bad. He cannot have both, mammon and the stipulations of the covenant (see also Matt. 6:24; Luke 16:13); and if he wants to follow the LORD’s way, there is no place for unjust gain. In this prayer the psalmist reveals that he is completely dependent on God to change his heart; and this will be accomplished through God’s word” (Ross, p. 498).

Verse 37 the psalmist petitions the Lord to turn (haaber) or “avert” (Alter, p. 423) his eyes from looking at worthless things (šawʾ). šawʾ refers to that which is vain, false, empty, inconsequential. The psalmist commands God to both turn his eyes from šawʾ and to give him life! There is no life outside of the Lord’s ways. According to Ross, “This prayer for renewed life in God’s ways suggests at least that he had been inclined more to unjust gain and worthless things (two categories that cover almost everything in the pagan world) than to the way of God. These two verses may record the resultant prayers when God gives people understanding of the word” (p. 499).

The psalmist calls the Lord to act on his behalf in verses 38-40. Confirm (qwm) in verse 38 has a sense of rise, stand up. The psalmist is petitioning the Lord “to act on his behalf” (Ross, p. 499) by commanding Him to stand up, confirm to His servant His promise (covenant) which will cause the psalmist to fear and revere Him. In verse 39 the psalmist calls on the Lord to act on his behalf by haaber (turning, averting) the reproach (shame, disgrace) that he dreads/fears from sinful people (see vv 21-23). The psalmist knows the Lord’s rules (mispat) are good. The psalmist is “confident that the Lord will do what is just and good for him, he places his fearful experience and his reputation into the Lord’s hands” (Estes, p. 411).

The psalmist ends this stanza (v 40) exclaiming how (hinnē̂) he longs for the Lord’s precepts. “In this context the “precepts” must refer to those aspects of the law that result in divine acts…of judgment that bring help for the afflicted” (Ross, p. 500). The psalmist then implores the Lord in His righteousness to give him life (piel, imperative, 2ms with 1cs suffix). “In calling for the Lord to give him life or to revive him (cf. vv. 25, 37), he suggests that he is struggling and that he needs divine empowerment to sustain him in the face of the challenges he is enduring [such as his reproach in v 39]” (Estes, p. 411).

Lord God, cause us to have teachable spirits, so that we may know Your ways and keep them, especially during times of trials and testings. Lord God cause us to understand and discern Your Word so that we may keep and apply it. Lord God, lead us in the path of Your commandments, may we not deviate from them. Lord God, may we observe and delight in Your Word with all our heart, soul (nefesh entire being) and strength. Lord God, incline our hearts to Your Word so that we will not seek selfish gain, committing violence or slandering someone else. Lord God, turn our eyes from vain, worthless and empty things. Lord God, give us life that comes from following You and Your ways. Lord God, may we fear, revere and glorify You in all that we do. Lord God, help us to suffer well in a world that is becoming less and less tolerant of Yourself and Your people. Lord, may we never forget that Your rules are good. Lord God, may we long to know Your precepts more, so that we will know how to obey You in times of trials and difficulties. Thank You Lord that for those of us who are saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ we have been made righteous by the blood of Christ. May we NEVER forget that we have done NOTHING to earn our salvation! Salvation always has and always will be Your work from start to finish. Lord work on the hearts of our readers and loved ones who are far from You. Lord God, thank You for this reader and for this section of Your Word. Amen.

 

Psalm 119:25-32

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Daleth

25  My soul clings to the dust; 

give me life according to your word! 

26  When I told of my ways, you answered me; 

teach me your statutes! 

27  Make me understand the way of your precepts, 

and I will meditate on your wondrous works. 

28  My soul melts away for sorrow; 

strengthen me according to your word! 

29  Put false ways far from me 

and graciously teach me your law! 

30  I have chosen the way of faithfulness; 

I set your rules before me. 

31  I cling to your testimonies, O Lord; 

let me not be put to shame! 

32  I will run in the way of your commandments 

when you enlarge my heart! (ESV)

The psalmist opens this stanza with stating that his nefesh (life source, entire being in English translations soul) clings to the dust (v 25a). The psalmist here is “not just having a down day, but he is experiencing a time of real need because dust is a frequent biblical image for humiliation (D. Estes, Psalms 73-150 NAC, 2019, p. 408 see also Job 16:15; 30:19; Ps 44:25; Isa 47:1). It is in humility that the psalmist cries out to the Lord commanding Him to give life according to His Word (v 25b). Life in this verse can also be translated revive or renewal. “The anticipation of renewal is based on the “word” (dābār) of God (W. VanGemeren Psalms REBC, 2008, p. 865 see also vv. 42, 51, 65, 69, 78, 85, 95, 110, 134, 141, 150, 154, 157, 161; Dt 8:3; 30:6, 15, 19–20; 32:47).

In verse 26 the psalmist has told/declared his ways to the Lord and He answered him (v 26a). The psalmist is remembering the Lord’s past faithfulness to him and as such prays for the Lord to teach him His statutes (v 26b). Because God has been faithful to him before, the psalmist can have confidence the Lord will be faithful now.

In verse 27 the Psalmist implores God to cause him to understand (hiphil, imperative, 2ms with 1cs suffix) the way of His precepts. The hiphil is a verb of causation and the Lord here is the Agent. The semantic definition of Agent is “the person or thing that instigates an action or causes change in another person or thing” (J. Thompson, The Lexham Glossary of Semantic Roles (2014, n.p.).

As the Lord causes the psalmist to understand His precepts, he will meditate on his wondrous works. “With the increase in knowledge and understanding there will be increase in devotion and praise” (A. Ross, A Commentary on the Psalms (90-150) KEL, 2016, p. 491). The Lord’s people should consistently cry along with the psalmist, “cause me to understand your precepts,” because “God’s instruction and illumination deepen human dependence on the Lord. The psalmist prays that he may “meditate” on the “wonders” of the Lord. The word opens the way to recognizing the greatness of God’s acts in creation and in redemption” (VanGemeren, p. 865).

The psalmist’s nefesh is depleted from “grief and vexation” (VanGemeren, p. 865), and he calls out to God to strengthen him by His Word (v 28). The Lord promises to give life according to His Word (v 25). The psalmist again uses a hiphil, imperative to strongly ask God to cause him to put false ways far from himself. The psalmist is pleading with God to be the Agent of change in putting away false ways and the Agent who graciously teaches him His law (v 29).

“Proverbs 14:12 states that “there is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way to death,” so as in Ps 139:24 the psalmist asks the Lord to remove the “offensive way” from him. Whatever deviates from the Lord’s way is deceitful and false, but the instruction of the Lord will keep him on the right path. Though he may stumble into sin, he values the truth of God’s word over falsehood” (Estes, pp. 408-409).

Verses 30-32 “Devotion to God focuses on doing his will. The psalmist affirms his deep commitment in the language of action: “I have chosen … I have set … I hold fast … I run”” (VanGemeren, p. 865). The way of faithfulness stands in contrast to false ways (v 29). Faithfulness’s way “summarizes a life that is characterized by obedience to the will of God” (Ross, p. 493).

The psalmist in verse 25 stated that his nefesh clings to the dust and in verse 31 he clings to the Lord’s testimonies. “As he has cleaved to the dust, so he cleaves to God’s word. Doubtless his oppressors derided him for his commitment to what the Lord has said, so he pleads with the Lord not to put him to shame. He fully expects the Lord to be faithful to him in his need, and he has no backup plan. If the Lord does not strengthen him (v. 28), the psalmist would suffer humiliation and shame” (Estes, p. 409).

This stanza concludes with the psalmist running. “Usually we simply walk in the way of Yhwh’s commands (vv. 1, 4); running in the way of them is another way of suggesting not mere compliance with Yhwh’s expectations but living by them enthusiastically and energetically” (J. Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament: Psalms 90-150, 2006, p. 396).

The Lord is the Agent causing the psalmist’s heart to enlarge. Heart as noted before encompasses the mind, emotions and will. “God’s commands liberate his heart to run in the way of the Lord” (Estes, p. 409). God will cause our hearts to enlarge when we run in the way of His commandments (v 32). We will become more confident like the psalmist when we meditate on God and His wondrous works. By meditating on His wondrous works we will also be less fearful and anxious by the trials, calamities and hardships that we will face.

Lord God, there is so much truth and richness in this stanza. Lord God, may we be a people who seek to hear and obey Your Word. May we run in the way of Your commands, seeking to delight in You rather than to run and delight in the wicked ways of this world. Lord God, cause us to understand Your ways, putting false ways far from us. Lord God, in Your grace and mercy teach us to delight and love Your Word. Lord God, thank You for this reader. Lord God, may we choose, set and cling to You and Your Word each and everyday. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

 

Psalm 119:17-24

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Gimel

17  Deal bountifully with your servant, 

that I may live and keep your word. 

18  Open my eyes, that I may behold 

wondrous things out of your law. 

19  I am a sojourner on the earth; 

hide not your commandments from me! 

20  My soul is consumed with longing 

for your rules at all times. 

21  You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones, 

who wander from your commandments. 

22  Take away from me scorn and contempt, 

for I have kept your testimonies. 

23  Even though princes sit plotting against me, 

your servant will meditate on your statutes. 

24  Your testimonies are my delight; 

they are my counselors (ESV). 

 In the last stanza the psalmist referred to himself as the Lord’s student and in the opening of this stanza he refers to himself as the Lord’s servant. The psalmist “does not accept God’s blessing and then proceed to do as he pleases, but he humbly takes his place before the Lord, his Master, whom he asks to deal [bountifully] with him. His reasonable response to the Lord’s goodness is obedience that keeps his word” (D. Estes, Psalms 73-150 NAC, 2019, p. 406).

Verses 17-18 each begin with prayers in the form of imperatives followed by purpose clauses. The first imperative is deal bountifully. In the Psalter, bounty has the “connotation of deliverance” (A. Ross, Psalms 90-150 KEL, 2016, p. 483). When the psalmist here prays that the Lord will deal bountifully with him it is so that he can live and keep the Lord’s Word (purpose clause).

The second prayer is for God to open his eyes. “In both the OT and the NT, sight is a frequent metaphor for understanding (see Gen 3:5; Eph 1:17–18). Apart from divine revelation and illumination, humans are blind, but the psalmist calls on the Lord to open his eyes so that he would be able to see the extraordinary things in his instruction” (Estes, p. 406).  No one will ever out know God’s law/instruction and it is important to remember “…not everyone who reads God’s word has the spiritual understanding to appropriate it correctly (see Matt. 6:22–23; 7:3–5; John 9:39–41)” (Ross, pp. 483-484).

The psalmist moves from calling himself servant to sojourner (v. 19). In the Ancient Near East (ANE) the poor, widow, orphan, sojourner/foreigner were “especially vulnerable and in need of protection” (Estes, p. 406). The psalmist knows that the Lord cares for the poor, widows, orphans and sojourners (Deut 10:18). “In this context, in which the psalmist lives among those who do not share his godly values and commitments, he needs direction from the Lord, so he asks the Lord to make his commands clear to him” (Estes, p. 407). 

In verse 20 the psalmist refers to his soul (nefesh). In Hebrew nefesh derives from the word for neck and it means life source, whole inner being. The psalmist here is saying that his life source, his entire inner being is consumed with loving God’s rules/just decrees. “It is evident that he passionately desires God’s direction for his life” (Estes, p. 407).

The psalmist compares his obedience (v. 22) to the disobedience of the insolent (v. 21). “Even though he has obeyed the Lord, he has received contempt from his wicked oppressors because living by God’s word is not a guarantee of a pain-free life in a sinful world. He is confident, however, that the Lord can thwart those who threaten him, and he entrusts his plight into God’s hands” (Estes, p. 407).

Even though princes (magistrates) plot against the psalmist, he as the Lord’s servant will meditate and delight in His Word because they are his counselors (vv. 23-24).

God’s Word gives comfort and guidance in times of difficulty and distress. Believers today need God’s wisdom and discernment now more than ever; testing and holding everything we read and hear up to the light of God’s Word. May our nefesh be completely consumed in desiring God and His Word.

Lord God, thank You that You reveal Yourself to us through Your Word. Thank You that Your Word brings life and not death for those who believe the Good News of Jesus Christ. Lord, for the reader who does not know You Lord, may they seek You today while there is still time. Lord God, may we follow the example of this psalmist desiring and meditating on Your Word to help us in these darkening and difficult times. Lord God, help us to be a people whose entire being is consumed with You and Your Word rather than being consumed with the things of this world. Lord God, thank You for this reader. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

 

Psalm 119:9-16

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Beth

How can a young man keep his way pure? 

By guarding it according to your word. 

10  With my whole heart I seek you; 

let me not wander from your commandments! 

11  I have stored up your word in my heart, 

that I might not sin against you. 

12  Blessed are you, O Lord; 

teach me your statutes! 

13  With my lips I declare 

all the rules of your mouth. 

14  In the way of your testimonies I delight 

as much as in all riches. 

15  I will meditate on your precepts 

and fix my eyes on your ways. 

16  I will delight in your statutes; 

I will not forget your word (ESV).

In language similar to Wisdom Literature, “the ‘young man’ is the disciple, also known as ‘my son’ in Proverbs” (W. VanGemeren, Psalms REBC, 2008, p. 862). This matter of purity “does not only concern a young man, but any concerned disciple” (A. Ross, A Commentary on the Psalms (90-159) KEL, 2016, p. 476).

Purity was vital to Israel’s existence. The question of “how can a man keep his way pure?” encompasses all areas and activities of a person’s life. The answer is that he will keep his way pure by “guarding” the Lord’s Word (v 9). Guard here is the same as in Genesis 3:24 where the cherubim and flaming sword “guard the way to the tree of life” (emphasis mine). The psalmist is to guard his way with the same ferocity as the cherubim and flaming sword guard the way to the tree of life.

By asking how to “keep his way pure?” the psalmist acknowledges (as in previous verses) that he is prone to temptation and folly’s invitation (see Proverbs 9:13-18). It is worth mentioning the psalmist does not ask, “why does a young man need to keep his way pure?” The psalmist already knows why, “blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord” (Ps 119:1). The psalmist does not lament the effort that he has to give in actively keeping and guarding his way. Today, Christians often lament, whine and complain about the hardship and drudgery of obeying God and keeping pure (see Old Testament Israel for further thoughts).

It is only fitting that with this perspective the psalmist would seek the Lord with his whole being and store His word in his heart so as to not sin against Him (vv 10-11). “Because the word of God has penetrated to his [“heart”], the core of his life that includes his thinking, his feelings, and his choices (cf. v. 2), it keeps him from missing the mark of God’s holy standard expressed in his word” (D. Estes, Psalms 73-150 NAC, 2019, p. 405).

The psalmist calls the Lord blessed and then cries out for the Lord to teach him His statutes (v 12). “The point of the verse is the desire to learn more of God’s law, but a teachable spirit begins with a proper regard for God—hence, the praise for the teacher” (Ross, p. 478). In verse 13 the psalmist declares his learning “publicly because he views himself as the channel of God’s instruction to others” (Estes, p. 405). The psalmist delights in the Lord’s Word “as much as in all riches” (v 14). In verses 15-16 the psalmist actively chooses to meditate on His precepts because he loves Him and wants to obey Him. Because the Lord’s ways lead to life, he will fix his eyes on them. By delighting in the Lord’s statutes, he will not forget His Word.

Lord God, help us to be a people who choose to keep their way pure. Help us to be agents and ambassadors of light and not debauchery and darkness. Lord God, help us to guard Your Word as You have guarded us from finding Eden and the Tree of Life. Lord help us to keep our way pure as we share Jesus with the lost. Lord God, help us to be a people who seek You with their whole being. Lord God, may our times of wandering from Your Way become less and may we become quicker at recognizing when we have strayed. Lord God, as society becomes more and more hostile to Your Word, may we learn Your Word, storing it in our hearts. Lord God, thank You that You will teach us Your Word when we are sincere in obeying it. Remind Your people Lord that You never teach us anything to keep it to ourselves. You teach us so that we may strengthen and encourage Your Body! Thank You Lord for this reader and help them to not forget Your Word. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

 

Psalm 119:1-8

ESV
Aleph

1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! 

2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, 

3 who also do no wrong, but walk in      his ways! 

4 You have commanded your precepts 
to be kept diligently. 

5 Oh that my ways may be steadfast 
in keeping your statutes! 

6 Then I shall not be put to shame, 
having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. 

7 I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules. 

8 I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me! 
CSB
א Aleph

1 How happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk according to the LORD’s instruction!

2 Happy are those who keep his decrees and seek him with all their heart.

3 They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways. 

4 You have commanded that your precepts be diligently kept. 

5 If only my ways were committed to keeping your statutes!

6 Then I would not be ashamed when I think about all your commands. 

7 I will praise you with an upright heart when I learn your righteous judgments. 

8 I will keep your statutes; never             abandon me.

ʾašrê (אַשְׁרֵי) can be translated in English as either blessed or happy (vv 1-2) and I absolutely LOVE how this psalm opens “on a note exclaiming the happiness of those who walk according to the Lord’s instruction” (D. Estes, Psalms 73-150 NAC, 2019, p. 402).

There are many similarities to the opening of Psalm 119 and the opening of the Book of Psalms itself, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Ps 1:1-2 ESV, emphasis mine). Jesus also begins each Beatitude (Matt 5:3-11) stating, “blessed/happy are…” (for more on this see Mourning; Meek; Hunger, Thirst and Psalm 1; Mercy; Pure in Heart; Peace: Maker or Breaker?; Persecution).

Many English versions translate torah in verse 1 as law; however, Estes is correct when he says, “the CSB properly construes it as “instruction,” because its nuance is teaching or guidance” (D. Estes, Psalms 73-150 NAC, 2019, p. 402 see also Introduction to Psalm 119 for the different words used to refer to God’s Law). He also goes on to say, “The Lord instructs one how to lead a good and godly life. Self-direction does not lead to happiness, but the good life is ordered according to the way of the Lord” (pp. 402-403).

Walks and keeps are both participles meaning that God’s people are actively, continuously to walk in His instructions and to keep His testimonies/decrees. While seek is not a participle in the Hebrew, the imperfect aspect renders this an ongoing action. Ross states, “To seek the LORD with a whole heart means that they are completely occupied with the discernment of the LORD’s will revealed in his word. It is the people who keep God’s laws and diligently seek him who are blessed by him” (A. Ross, A Commentary on the Psalms (90-150) vol 3 KEL, 2016, p. 469).

The wise and blameless person does not just do “what is right before God but also avoids what is wrong” (Estes, p. 403). The wise and blameless person is the one who seeks God with their whole heart so that they may discern the lies of this world; “testing the spirits” (1 John 4:1) against the Truth of God’s Word.

Bible believing Christians need wisdom and discernment now more than ever and we gain wisdom by seeking God, meditating on His Word and surrounding ourselves with other likeminded believers as we evangelize/share Jesus with the lost.

The Lord “has commanded [His] precepts to be kept diligently” (v 4). These are not suggestions nor opinions. “Love for God receives expression in doing the will of God” (W. VanGemeren, Psalms REBC, 2008, p. 860) which is why the psalmist declares in his next verse, “Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!” (v 5).

“The psalmist further prays that no “shame” or ultimate disgrace may overtake him (v. 6). “Shame” in OT usage connotes abandonment by the Lord and condemnation to utter ruin, as happen to the enemies of God (cf. vv. 31, 46, 80; 6:10; 25:2; 83:17). In this prayer the psalmist intimates that he lives with adversity while walking in the way of the Lord. His lament is like a sobbing, and he prays that the Lord will have mercy on his servant” (VanGemeren, p. 861). Estes adds, “In Psalm 119 both active disobedience and passive neglect of God’s word lead to shame (cf. vv. 31, 46, 80). The psalmist must contemplate with favor all that God has commanded (cf. v. 15), not selecting what he prefers but obeying completely what the Lord has required” (p. 403).

In verse 7 the psalmist will praise the Lord with an upright heart when he learns God’s rules/decrees because he knows “the Lord blesses the righteous” (Ross, p. 473). The psalmist is not doing this for show nor as works based salvation and protection, but out of a heart (mind, will and emotions) that knows that God is who He says He is and He does what He says He will do.

The psalmist ends this first section saying that he will keep God’s statues/decrees but because “he is prone to incomplete commitment to the Lord’s commands (cf. vv. 5–6), he calls on the Lord not to abandon him” (Estes, p. 404).

Father God, Lord how blessed and happy we are when we walk in a manner that is pleasing to You. Although we may suffer for it, we know that You are with us. Lord God, help us to be a people who actively seek You with our whole hearts (mind, will and emotions) learning Your Word, and desiring to walk and follow in Your ways so that we may obey Your instructions. Lord God, help us to be a people who seek to be blameless, pure and holy in a world that values debauchery and filth in every area of life. Lord God, help us to grow in wisdom and discernment. Help us to test everything we see and hear against Scripture. Lord God, may we be a people who say that we will praise You even in the midst of adversity and not knowing what Your next plan is for us. Lord God, may we be reminded that for those who are seeking to keep Your Word that they will not be put to shame. Lord God, Your Word brings life and we thank You for it. Lord God, thank You for this reader and for the opportunity to study Your Word together. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

 

Introduction to Psalm 119

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It is well known that Psalm 119 is the longest psalm in the Bible. In fact, it is twice as long as any other. Psalm 119 is also an acrostic in which each stanza begins with the successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. For example: verses 1-8 begin with aleph (the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet), vv 9-16 begin with Beth, vv 17-24 begin with Gimel etc. Most modern translations note this distinction with subheadings.

Since writing my post on the “Authority of Scripture” my yearly Bible plan has brought me to Psalm 119 and I cannot help but to reflect on the importance of loving, understanding, murmuring, obeying and applying the Word of God.

The Psalmist uses eight different Hebrew words for God’s Law:

  1. Law (tôrâh) is used 25 times. “The word “law” has both a broad and a narrow meaning. In the broad sense it refers to any “instruction” flowing from the revelation of God as the basis for life and action. In the narrow sense it denotes the Torah of Moses, whether the Pentateuch, the priestly law, or the Deuteronomic law” (VanGemeren, Psalms, REBC, 2008, p. 859).
  2. Word (dābār) occurs 24 times. “Any word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord is dābār, whether it pertains to the Decalogue (Dt 4:13), the law of Moses (Dt 4:2, 10), or the word revealed through the prophets. It is a most general designation for divine revelation, whether of expectation or promise” (p. 859).
  3. Decisions/judgements (mišpāṭîm) occurs 23 times and are God’s laws/decisions/judgments that are the foundation of Israel’s legal system.
  4. Statute(s)/Testimony (ʿēdût/ʿēdôt) occurs 23 times. Testimony is often related to covenant and the “observance of the “statutes” of the Lord signifies loyalty to the terms of the covenant made between the Lord and Israel” (p. 859).
  5. Command/s (miṣwâ/miṣwôt) occurs 22 times. “The word “command” is a frequent designation for anything that the Lord, the covenantal God, has ordered. It is a synonym of “law,” as well as of “decrees” and “laws”” (p. 859).
  6. Decrees (ḥuqqîm) occurs 21 times. God is the Sovereign Author of His decrees.
  7. Precepts (piqqûdîm) occurs 21 times and is only found in the Book of Psalms in which it is synonymous with covenant and related to command. The Psalmist is to respond to the Lord’s commanded precepts by guarding, longing for, meditating on, gaining understanding so as to never forsake, stray or forget them. “Essentially, the God who orders human beings to respond to his revelation expects an appropriate response of submission and loyalty to and love of his commands” (p. 860).
  8. Saying/promise (ʾimrâ) occurs 19 times and can refer to anything that God has spoken or promised.

Allen Ross notes that all eight synonyms occur in four stanzas (verses): 57–64; 73–80; 81–88 and 129–136. “The other stanzas use seven or six of the words, sometimes repeating one or two of them. So there is no apparent attempt at a perfect symmetry” (A Commentary on the Psalms (90-150) KEL, 2016, p. 460).

What I love about this psalm is how similar it is to both the Torah and to wisdom thought and language found in Proverbs. Psalm 119 is also a lament/complaint psalm in that the psalmist is crying out to God for His help against the powerful people who are lying, maligning, and afflicting him.

In a day in age where Christians are increasingly being mocked and scorned for their faith, I thought it would be a worthwhile to traverse this psalm together. As Ross says, “As a major resource for meditation this psalm is superb. It reveals how divine revelation is the basis for everything that the believer does; but it also shows how the Word of the LORD is applied in all the circumstances of life” (p. 462).

May we find comfort in the fact that “the psalmist knows firsthand the oppression of evil. He has been surrounded by wickedness, pursued by the arrogant and proud, and humbled by sorrow and disgrace; yet his refuge is in God. He constantly cries out to God, retreats into his shadow, and finds solace in his strength. This is a psalm not only of law but also of love, not only of statute but also of spiritual strength, not only of devotion to precept but also of loyalty to the way of the Lord. The beauty in this psalm resounds from the relationship of the psalmist and his God” (VanGemeren, p. 858).

Lord God, prepare us as we journey together through Psalm 119. Lord, may we find refuge and strength in You. May we drink deeply of Your Word, as we bring our laments and complaints to You, seeking Your knowledge and wisdom so that we may love, worship, know and obey You more. Lord God, thank You that Your Word is Truth. Help us to be holy, pure and blameless because You are Holy, Pure and Blameless. Lord God may we desire Your Word, may we carve out time to meditate on Your Word daily whether by reading or hearing Your Word. Lord God, thank You for Your love for us. Thank You Lord for this reader. Stir in this reader a desire to know You more. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Hunger, Thirst and Psalm 1

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matt 5:6 NIV).

Hunger and thirst are both present, active, participles in Greek, signifying continuous action. I do not know a better way to start 2021 then by hungering and thirsting for righteousness.

This is a deep longing like when you are famished and in need of food or “dying of thirst” so to speak. This righteousness is one that can only be filled or satisfied (ESV) by God. The righteousness that Jesus is speaking of here isn’t forensic, imputed righteousness, our right standing before God we receive at the time of salvation. The righteousness that Jesus is speaking about here is practical in that we are to want to do what God says is right and see what God says is right done on earth as it is in Heaven.

In light of Jesus’s call to upright living and correct conduct, I cannot help but to think of Psalm 1 which says:

1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish
(ESV).

In Psalm 1 the blessed person does NOT walk, stand nor sit with the wicked, sinners or scoffers. The blessed person is the one who delights and meditates on God’s law, applying what He says.

As God continuously knows (qal, participle) the way of the righteous believer in Psalm 1, so too does He know the heart and conduct of the believer that is continuously and longingly hungering and thirsting for righteousness. The person whose conduct delights in meditating on the Word, seeking His will and righteousness to be done on the earth is the one who will be filled and satisfied both now and in eternity.

May this New Year be one where we hunger and thirst to know God and His righteousness more than ever before!

Father God, thank You that You Word is alive and practical! Thank You that when we famished in our hunger and thirst for You and Your righteousness that You will fill us. Lord God, stir this reader to want to know You more! Lord God, when we meditate on You and Your attributes, we decrease thinking about ourselves. Lord God, forgive us for all the ways that we fall short and bring shame to Your Name rather than glory, honor and praise. Lord God, thank You that You will one day hold all false prophets and false teachers accountable for the way they confuse and mislead people. Lord God, draw us closer to You today. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.