Christian Way of Life, Psalm 119

Tod Kennedy, November 7, 2010

Acrostic or alphabetic psalm

Psalm 119 is an acrostic psalm which means that each line in each section begins with a letter of the alphabet in order from aleph (the first Hebrew letter) to tav (the last Hebrew letter). Psalm 119 divides each section according to letter. For example, 119:1-8 is the aleph section and each line begins with aleph. There are 22 sections corresponding to the 22 letters (sin and shin count as the same letter, so 22 sections, not 23) of the Hebrew alphabet. This alphabetizing aids in memory. The acrostic psalms are 9-10 (taken together), 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119, and 145.

Theme of Psalm 119

Yahweh’s word—law, testimony, precepts, statutes, commandments, judgments, word, ordinances—is unerring, dependable, wise, preventative, corrective, the source of delight, and the light that guides us on the path of life. Our response to these truths should be love for Yahweh, love for His word, meditation on His word, memorizing His word, delighting in His word, obeying His word, and allowing His word to shape, order, and determine our thinking, speaking, and acting. The psalmist refers to Scripture in every verse except 84, 121, and 122. Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible—176 verses.

Words the psalmist uses for Scripture in Psalm 119

  1. Law—torah; direction, instruction, law, body of teaching,. 25 x
  2. Testimonies—‘edah; an affirmation about something, 14x
  3. Precepts—piqqudim; something appointed, a charge, 21x
  4. Statutes—huqqim; something prescribed, enactment, decree, 21x
  5. Commandments—miszwah; a definite authoritative command, 22x
  6. Judgments—mishpot; a sentence, judicial decision, judgment, 23x
  7. Word—dabar; word or speech, 23x
  8. 8.    Word=saying—imrah; utterance speech, word, 19x.
  9. 9.    Ordinances—mishpat; a judgment, 23x

Theme of each section of Psalm 119

  1. Aleph, 119:1-8. The blessed or spiritually happy person is one who walks according to, observes, keeps, looks at, and learns Yahweh’s law, testimonies, ways, precepts, statutes, commandments, and judgments.
  2. Beth, 119:9-16. Yahweh’s word—learned, meditated upon, talked about, and rejoiced in keeps one from sin, and the psalmist wants more of His word.
  3. Gimel, 119:17-24. The psalmist pleads that Yahweh will explain his word to him and comfort and counsel him with his word.
  4. Daleth, 119:25-32. Yahweh’s word revives, strengthens, encourages, and corrects one who pays close attention to it.
  5. He, 119:33-40. The psalmist asks Yahweh to teach him His word, to revive him by it, and to motivate him by it so he will reverence Yahweh and live righteously.
  6. Vav. 119:41-48. Yahweh’s word provides security, answers, a way of life, delight, and the message to tell to others.
  7. Zayin, 119:49-56. Yahweh’s word gives hope, comfort, renewed life, and reminds him about Yahweh.
  8. Heth, 119:57-64. The psalmist wanted Yahweh’s favor and knew that His word spoke of favor, and he determined to follow Yahweh’s word and to give Him thanks.
  9. Teth, 119:65-72. Yahweh disciplined the psalmist to bring him back to Yahweh’s word, and he responded with thanks and renewed desire to follow Yahweh’s word.
  10. Yodh, 119:73-80. Even though Creator Yahweh disciplined the psalmist, the psalmist knew the discipline was righteous and according to Yahweh’s word and he determined to meditate on and live according to Yahweh’s word.
  11. Kaph, 119:81-88. Though ungodly people are persecuting the psalmist, he trusts Yahweh’s word and lovingkindness, and he does not stop following Yahweh’s word.
  12. Lamed, 119:89-96. Yahweh’s word is settled (permanent) in heaven and it gives order to all things; and because of this the psalmist makes Yahweh’s words his delight and authority.
  13. Mem, 119:97-104. The psalmist loves and meditates on Yahweh’s word and this word makes him wise, gives him understanding and pleasure, and keeps him from evil.
  14. Nun, 119:105-112. Yahweh’s word guides one’s life, revives one when afflicted, and gives inner joy and the psalmist determines to obey and apply it always.
  15. Samekh, 119:113-120. Yahweh is the psalmist’s hiding place and shield from evildoers and he asks Yahweh to sustain and uphold him so he can continue to follow Yahweh’s word, commands, statutes, and judgments.
  16. Ayin, 119:121-128. The psalmist, who is oppressed by arrogant law breakers, wants Yahweh’s deliverance and asks Him to show lovingkindness and teach him Yahweh’s word, statutes, testimonies, law, commandments, and precepts.
  17. Pe, 119:129-136. Yahweh’s testimonies are wonderful and his word gives light and understanding and the psalmist longs to be established in all of Yahweh’s words.
  18. Tsadhe, 119:137-144. Yahweh is righteous and all his judgments are right, and the psalmist loves all of Yahweh’s words and his enemies have forgotten them.
  19. Qoph, 119:145-152. Enemies follow the psalmist and while he cries to Yahweh for help and waits for Yahweh’s words he resolves to meditate on and obey Yahweh’s words.
  20. Resh, 119:153-160. The psalmist, persecuted by those who do not keep Yahweh’s word, pleads for Yahweh to act for him because Yahweh’s words are truth and righteous and he loves them.
  21. Shin, 119:161-168. Though princes persecute the psalmist, he is in awe of Yahweh’s words; he loves them, rejoices because of them, praises Yahweh for them, resolves to keep them, and knows they give peace and stability.
  22. Tav, 119:169-176. The straying psalmist cries out to Yahweh for understanding and deliverance that fits Yahweh’s word, and he wants to praise Yahweh and sing about His word because Yahweh and His word are his delight and only deliverance.

Lessons for the Christian life

  1. Yahweh’s word (God’s word) is central to knowing God, to learning his will and his provisions for believers, to keeping our thoughts, words, and actions right, to keep us from sin, and to provide spiritual happiness.
  2. Yahweh’s word centers our lives on Yahweh, God. His word rightly established in our lives honors Him.
  3. Yahweh’s word rightly established in our lives gives us spiritual happiness.
  4. We secure Yahweh’s word in our lives by listening, reading, meditating, and memorizing it. We accept its authority over us.