Chapter 119: The Laws of God
Psalms 119 is the largest Psalm in all of the Psalms, the author is unnamed; most historians however, almost universally say it is a Psalm of David, composed throughout his entire life. The Psalm does not flow perfectly from one Psalm to another, which means that if it were written by David, it was written over his life and then compiled later.
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.
Because 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.
In this Psalm there are 8 basic words used to describe the Scriptures, God’s written revelation to us:
- Law (torah, used 25 times): Its parent verb means ‘teach’ or ‘direct’; therefore coming from God it means both ‘law’ and ‘revelation.’
- Word (dabar, used 24 times): The idea is of the spoken word, God’s revealed word to man.
- Judgments (mispatim, used 23 times)
- Testimonies (edut/edot, used 23 times): This word is related to the word for witness.
- Commandments (miswah/miswot, used 22 times)
- 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.
- Precepts (piqqudim, used 21 times): (principle: a rule, instruction, or principle that guides somebody’s actions, especially one that guides moral behavior)
- Word (imrah, used 19 times): Similar in meaning to dabar, yet a different term. More of a promise from the Lord.
Being such a long Psalm – and the longest chapter in the Bible – this Psalm has been of some historical note. There have been many lengthy works written on this Psalm. I hope that I can give a simple, yet in depth understanding of this Psalm.
א Aleph (1-8)
In beginning to describe man’s blessedness, the Psalmist starts with the idea that being undefiled in the way is a blessing. “Blessed are they… that seek him with the whole heart.” (Psalms 119:2)
ב Beth (9-16)
Ponder the precepts and ways of the Lord. The author tells us; “I will… have respect unto thy ways… I will not forget thy word” (Psalms 119:15-16)
This reminds me of the scripture in Isaiah 55:8; “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways me ways, saith the Lord” We need to remember that even when we don’t understand a commandment, we must obey them anyways. We cannot pick and chose what commandments we will follow. We must follow them all and have respect for them.
ג Gimel (17-24)
The author asks the Lord to help “Open… [our]…eyes, that [we] may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” (Psalms 119:18) Many people in the world keep their eyes shut out of fear or ignorance. We must open them and see the truth.
ד Daleth (25-32)
“…teach me thy statutes. Make me to understand the way of thy precepts: so I shall talk of thy wondrous works” (Psalms 119:26-27)
This reminds me of the LDS Hymn: I am a child of God.
“Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, Help me find the way. Teach me all that I must do. To live with him someday.” (LDS Hymns, 301)
ה He (33-40)
“Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end” (Psalms 119:33)
We need to learn, understand and practice the commandments which the Lord has given to us. If we do this we can be blessed.
ו Vau (41-48)
The Lord gives us mercy, truth and salvation. The author says; “I will speak of ty testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed.” (Psalms 119:46) We need to be able to give testimony, even before people that might not favor our testimony. Be not afraid to testify.
ז Zain (49-56)
“This is my comfort in my afflication: for thy word hath quickened me.” (Psalms 119:50) If we follow the commandments of the Lord, we will find peace and joy.
ח Cheth (57-64)
“I am a companion of all them that fear thee [the Lord], and of them that keep thy precepts” (Psalms 119:63) we should make friends that love and fear the Lord and keep His commandments. I think it is even more important to have a companion (husband or wife) who also fears the Lord.
ט Teth (65-72)
“Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments.” (Psalms 119:66) Ask the Lord for his good judgment, and for His knowledge.
י Jod (73-80)
“Let my heart be sound in thy statues; that I be not ashamed” (Psalms 119:80) We need to pray that the Lord will keep our heart strong, because we may feel out of place in a world that doesn’t hold to the values, statutes or commandments of the Lord.
כ Caph (81-88)
Those who do not follow the commandments of the Lord will persecute those who do follow the Lord. Pray to the Lord to be lifted up, so that they may not consume you.
ל Lamed (89-96)
“For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven. Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: thou hast established the earth, and it abideth. They continue this day according to thine ordinances: for all are thy servants” (Psalms 119:89-91)
The above scripture is often used by many to claim that the Bible is the ULTIMATE Word of God and that it is PERFECT and will ENDURE forever. Other scriptures that some may use to explain how perfect the Bible is would be: Isaiah 55:11 and Mark 13:31.
I do agree with the scriptures in the sense that God’s WORD will not pass away. But I don’t believe that the Bible is 100% of God’s WORD, nor do I believe that it has been translated correctly. In LDS belief the 8th Article of Faith says: “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly…” I don’t believe that the Bible is translated correctly and throughout thousands of years too much has been changed or lost to take every word literally.
מ Mem (97-104)
“I have more understanding than all my teachers… I understand more than the ancients, because I kept thy precepts” (Psalms 119:99-100) If we put our faith in the Lord, by following His commandments, we can become more knowledgable. Knowledge can be gained in this life, however a full knowledge of life and everything else can never be gained without God.
נ Nun (105-112)
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalms 119:105)
If we put the Lord’s words into action, we will find our paths (lives) much more illuminated and full of joy.
ס Samech (113-120)
“I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love” (Psalms 119:113) Hate wickedness and Love God and His commandments.
ע Ain (121-128)
“I am thy servant; give me understanding, that I may know thy testimonies” (Psalms 119:125)
We are all servants of the Lord and in order to fulfill our purpose as servants (or missionaries) we must pray to have His understanding to know the gospel.
פ Pe (129-136)
“The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” (Psalms 119:130) God’s Word or His Gospel are so simple to understand that even the most simple/humble person can understand.
While serving a 2 year mission in Honduras for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I found that the most uneducated, illiterate person could understand the simple truthes of the Gospel more than the most educated and “complex” person.
צ Tzaddi (137-144)
“The righteousness of thy testimonies is everlasting: give me understanding, and I shall live” (Psalms 119:144) If we have the Lord’s understanding we will live a longer life and in the end live forever with Him in His kingdom. God and His testimony (or Gospel) is forever.
ק Koph (145-152)
The Lord’s testimonies are founded forever. All of God’s commandments are full of truth.
ר Resh (153-160)
“Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth forever.” (Psalms 119:160)
God’s word is forever, even if man distorts changes or removes important parts of the Bible. God’s word is also not limited to one single book. This is something important that we must remember. God’s canon of scripture is not closed.
ש Schin (161-168)
“I hate and abhor lying: but thy law do I love” (Psalms 119:163) the author; who is most likely “David” hated lying and told the Lord that he hated it. The Lord himself also hates lying and it is a reminder for us all to keep from lies and abound in God’s commandments.
ת Tau (169-176)
All of the Lord’s commandments are in righteousness. We need to delight in His law and have our souls saved through His salvation.