Reflections on Psalm 119 —
God’s laws are a masterful work of compassion and justice. The one who honors them finds blessings in a variety of ways.
Psalm 119 stands apart from all other chapters in the Bible in terms of its construct and purpose. With 176 verses, Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. And every one of its verses share the same purpose: to honor the Word of God.
Psalm 119 is creatively constructed. It is divided into twenty-two stanzas, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Each stanza is eight verses in length, and every verse in a stanza begins with the corresponding Hebrew letter. The eight verses of the first stanza Aleph begins with aleph (א); the eight verses of the second stanza Beth begins with Beth (ב); and so on. Yet while applying this delicate alliteration, the author was able to weave a hidden message into each stanza, a unique praise of God’s Word.
Though many debate the authorship of Psalm 119, I believe this magnificent celebration of the Word of God is written by David. No other writer spoke with such familiarity of the ways of God, the longings of the soul, the sting of deceit and slander, or the regrets of past mistakes. No other writer experienced the depths of sorrow and the heights of intimate exchange with the Lord like David–and all of these emotions are skillfully articulated in each stanza. The conclusion of Psalm 119 is written like a benediction; remarkably similar to David’s at the end of Psalm 144. Charles Spurgeon shared the belief that David wrote Psalm 119, saying:
“We believe that David wrote this Psalm. It is Davidic in tone and expression, and it tallies with David’s experience in many interesting points…after long reading an author one gets to know his style, and a measure of discernment is acquired by which his composition is detected even if his name be concealed; we feel a kind of critical certainty that the hand of David is in this thing, yea, that it is altogether his own.”
The Multi-Faceted Word of God
The entirety of Psalm 119 is a celebration of God’s Word, particularly the Hebrew Torah–the ancient but timeless writings of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. We often overlook these books, dismiss their relevance. They contain some interesting stories, but also a significant number of laws and ordinances that are hard to read and harder yet to understand. But to David, these books were not just mundane rules and rituals. They were wrapped treasures waiting for him to unfold. He saw beyond the written rule into the heart of the Creator, and he marveled at their unparalleled benefit to mankind. He did not just read these books, he dearly loved them, found them entirely applicable to his daily life. He often asks the Lord to “teach” him the testimonies and statutes–he wanted to keep them fresh in his mind; a continual, unquenchable spirit of learning.
God’s Word takes on various forms in the Torah, and David appreciated each one. Besides the general Hebrew forms of “word”, dabar and imrah, David used six other Hebrew expressions for God’s Word in Psalm 119. David’s use of each term is intentional, not haphazard, for every term has a unique benefit. David speaks of God’s prescribed statutes (choq)–customs, festivals, and ceremonies that if practiced, would inspire a sense of community and distinction. He praises God’s ordinances (mishpat)–rules for proper treatment of others, and penalties, or judgments for offenders. He celebrates God’s testimonies (eduwth)–proofs of God’s character and purpose so that we might believe in Him. And, he praises God’s commands (miswah), laws (torah), and precepts (piqqud)–authoritative rules given to us not out of spite or heavy-handedness, but for guidance, protection, and prosperity. David trusts each form of God’s Word because he believes they are inspired by God, not just the musings of man. Verse 4 of the first stanza introduces a common theme. David attributes God with origination of this great work, saying, “You have ordained Your precepts, that we should keep them diligently.” Though Moses and other men were credited for compiling the text, David knew that these were “men, moved by the Holy Spirit” (II Peter 1:21). God inspired the writings, using the personality and style of the author but ensuring the end product was precisely what He wanted to say and true to His nature. David fully embraced this idea.
In a world full of self-serving rhetoric and flattery, God’s Word stands apart as an unbiased, refined truth which is a great source of security and comfort. Because it is inspired by God Himself, we can approach it with confidence and expectation. We can put our guard down, trust the good-naturedness of its source, and absorb its encouraging content.
What Is So Appealing About Laws?
I find it intriguing that David “longs” for God’s ordinances (v20), “delights” in His statutes (v16), “loves” His law (v116), and so forth. What is so appealing about a bunch of rules and laws? Why does David have so much affection for them? In Psalm 19:7-8, David expressed similar affinity for God’s commands, writing:
“The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes…”
In the perfection and truth of God’s laws, David found something comforting, invigorating, and refreshing. The laws of God are powerful, possessing a unique balance of mercy and justice unlike any other laws this world has seen. By giving this great work to the Hebrews, God set them above their peers. This is why Moses so vehemently implored the Hebrews to honor God’s laws, saying in Deuteronomy 4:6-8:
“…keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation…is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?”
David therefore is comforted knowing that God cares enough to define ordinances dictating proper treatment of others and to establish punishments for abusers. He feels a sense of identity in the festivals, feasts, and regulations God established for His people. He takes courage from the many testimonies of God’s love and strength, and grows in faith when he sets his mind on these things. He recognizes the wisdom of the commandments, precepts, and laws, appreciates that God has clearly articulated His expectations. He feels secure knowing his moral responsibility, and realizes that things will go better if he minds them.
It is no wonder David “delighted” in God’s Word–a sentiment he repeated nine times in Psalm 119 (v16, v24, v35, v47, v70, v77, v92, v143, and v174). To delight in God’s Word as David did suggests we ought to do more than read it to satisfy a New Year’s Resolution. We need to approach it ready to be shaped, for it is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (II Timothy 3:16). We should read it with a teachable spirit (v33), a willingness to apply it (v44), and a bit of desperation (v31). David was not content to just read the Word. He sought to grasp its significance and relevance to his life, demonstrated in the five times he asks God for “understanding” of the Word in Psalm 119 (v34, v74, v125, v144, and v169). We should approach the Word in the same way.
Twenty-Two Applications, Twenty-Two Benefits
David introduces Psalm 119 with the promise: “How blessed are those…who walk in the law of the Lord.” God blesses those who honor His Word by doing what it says. But how are we to honor God’s Word, and what do His blessings look like? The twenty-two stanzas answer both questions. Not only are they creatively written, they are masterfully constructed to give us twenty-two ways to apply God’s Word, and twenty-two unique benefits as well.
Though they share similar construct and general adoration of God’s Word, each stanza has a unique idea revealing David’s particular concern and highlighting specific reasons for which he appreciates the Word. In each stanza, David expresses the needs of his soul. He is emotional, often desperate, suffering some ordeal. But he turns his heart to praise God’s Word, lifting his spirits and giving him hope in spite of his difficult situation. For example, in Psalm 119:143 he confesses that “…trouble and anguish have come upon me” but then is encouraged when he considers God’s Word: “…yet Your commandments are my delight.”
In this way, David expresses a practical theology with many helpful aids for those who suffer in the same way. It is a theology in which believing in the sovereignty of God is not optional, but necessary to give us assurance. It exposes the human, psychological, and spiritual enemies that assail us. It provides relief from crippling grief and enslaving sin. It gives us assurance when people are cruel and contemptuous. It gives clarity when so-called Christian friends live without conviction. It brings hope and perseverance when the road seems long and God distant.
Reading Psalm 119 in this way, looking for David’s subtle clues, we will see that God’s Word is not a burdensome set of rules, but rather an important and dependable source of hope, courage, and comfort in a variety of circumstances and grow in appreciation for its many benefits.
Twenty-Two Daily Devotions
Let’s take a look at each of the twenty-two stanzas and unpack the benefits God’s Words have to offer. I suggest reading one stanza per day as part of a devotion. For each stanza, I have suggested a key word, summary statement, my personal takeaway, and a particular benefit of God’s Word portrayed in the stanza. Sometimes, I use other scriptures to clarify my reasoning. If there are important terms to understand, I include a definition to provide further context. For example, when David expresses dismay at the contempt he feels from others, I add a definition like this: “Contempt” = looking at someone else with judgment, looking down our nose at someone like I know better than they.
One side note. I use the New American Standard Bible in this study because it attempts to translate the Hebrew text word for word into English. This is important in this psalm because the varied terms for “word” are not always interchangeable, and I wanted to preserve the original term chosen in each case. I believe there is something significant in David’s choice of “statute” versus “ordinance”, “testimony” versus “precept”, and so on.
My hope is that this detailed exposition on Psalm 119 provides helpful guidance to those whose souls, like mine, are in daily need of encouragement.
Aleph א (Psalm 119:1-8)
Key Word: Walk
Summary: If I align my ways with the word, I have confidence before God.
David dedicates the first three verses of Psalm 119 to introduce his tribute to God’s Word. As he does in Psalm 1, David guarantees blessings for those who align their life around it. He emphasizes this important benefit by writing these verses in third person, the only verses spoken in this voice throughout the entire psalm:
1 How blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.
2 How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, who seek Him with all their heart.
3 They also do no unrighteousness; they walk in His ways.
David turns his attention to the Lord, speaking directly to the Author of the great laws.
4 You have ordained Your precepts, that we should keep them diligently.
5 Oh that my ways may be established to keep Your statutes!
6 Then I shall not be ashamed when I look upon all Your commandments.
7 I shall give thanks to You with uprightness of heart, when I learn Your righteous judgments.
8 I shall keep Your statutes; do not forsake me utterly!
Glenn’s Takeaway: “How blessed are those…who walk in the law of the Lord” (v1). “You have ordained your precepts that we should keep them diligently” (v4). God’s intent for giving the Word to me is that I should pay attention to it on a regular basis. I can relate to the author’s fear that he won’t stay true to his commitment to honor God’s word, so I share his desperate cry for God’s presence (v8). To “Walk” = the daily way in which we live, my habits, conduct, thought patterns, and the way I treat others. To walk in the law is to make it my authority, align my attitude with it, let it expose my bad habits. I will set aside time and find solitude to read and absorb it. I won’t just read it. I’ll keep going back to it, trying to understand what it says and what it means. Jesus is said to be the Word of God (John 1:1), so I will let Him dwell in me (John 15:5), increase in me, and become my life (John 1:14, Colossians 3:4), interacting with Him through the Word.
Benefit: There are blessings for me if I value and honor God’s Word by making it the authority of my life. In this case, “Blessed” = happy, because I have nothing to be ashamed of (v1, 6) and I can live with confidence (v5).
Beth ב (Psalm 119:9-16)
Key Word: Treasure
Summary: Treasuring the word in my heart and memory helps purify your my with God.
9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.
10 With all my heart I have sought You; do not let me wander from Your commandments.
11 Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.
12 Blessed are You, O Lord; teach me Your statutes.
13 With my lips I have told of all the ordinances of Your mouth.
14 I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways.
16 I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word.
Glenn’s Takeaway: “Your Word I have treasured in my heart…” (v11). To “Treasure” God’s word = value its contents, meditate on it (think about it a lot), memorize it, measure my life against it, asking God to help me not wander from it, being open to learn from it, talk about it with others, rejoice in it. Treasuring the word can help me keep my way pure (v9), aligned with God’s intent, making it something I’m not ashamed of, pleasing to God. I can pause and use the Word to reflect, to ask God to search me and test my heart (Psalm 139:23-24). As I consider the Word, I will ask God questions like, “Are there aspects of my life that are contrary to the Word, and displeasing to You in some way?”
Benefit: The Word provides objective feedback, like a mirror (James 1:22). If I treasure it in my heart, memorizing it and reflecting on it, it will help me by exposing my selfish intentions, the dangerous paths I’m taking, and the evil motives within me. By using the Word as a mirror on my life this way, I have no hidden issues before God, no false pretenses. I know I am sinful and so I rely on God’s forgiveness and righteousness instead of my own. In this manner, my way is pure, for I are walking with sincerity before God.
Gimel ג (Psalm 119:17-24)
Key Word: Validation
Summary: I will seek God’s validation when I feel wrongfully judged by others.
17 Deal bountifully with Your servant, that I may live and keep Your word.
18 Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law.
19 I am a stranger in the earth; do not hide Your commandments from me.
20 My soul is crushed with longing after Your ordinances at all times.
21 You rebuke the arrogant, the cursed, who wander from Your commandments.
22 Take away reproach and contempt from me, for I observe Your testimonies.
23 Even though princes sit and talk against me, your servant meditates on Your statutes.
24 Your testimonies also are my delight; they are my counselors.
Glenn’s Takeaway: “Take away reproach and contempt from me…” (v22). “Contempt” = looking at someone else with judgment, looking down my nose at someone like I know better than they. In this case, David feels the judgment of others, important men slandering him behind his back (v23). When I feel mistreated by others and my soul is disturbed (“crushed with longing”), I will seek God’s counsel in the Word (v24). Even if I can’t understand what it says or what’s going on, I will still believe that the Word is wonderful (v18). It is mysterious, yet intentional and worth my time. I will ask God to open my eyes to understand it (v18). Rather than backlash at these contemptuous, arrogant people, I will seek validation in God and let Him be the judge (v21).
Benefit: In the Word, I can find validation in God’s counsel, even when others close to me–boss, coworkers, neighbors, or even family members–treat me with contempt.
Deleth ד (Psalm 119:25-32)
Key Word: Way
Summary: There is a way of living that God prescribes–it is good for me to learn about it and live it.
25 My soul cleaves to the dust; revive me according to Your word.
26 I have told of my ways, and You have answered me; teach me Your statutes.
27 Make me understand the way of Your precepts, so I will meditate on Your wonders.
28 My soul weeps because of grief; strengthen me according to Your word.
29 Remove the false way from me, and graciously grant me Your law.
30 I have chosen the faithful way; I have placed Your ordinances before me.
31 I cling to Your testimonies; O Lord, do not put me to shame!
32 I shall run the way of Your commandments, for You will enlarge my heart.
Glenn’s Takeaway: “Remove the false way from me” (v29). I need to consider the way in which I live. “Way” = the pattern by which I live; the mindset, attitude, and motives that drive my behavior and define my goals. We will often live for selfish gain. The author is ashamed of the way he has lived and vows to follow the way God would have for him (v28-29, 31). This is why self-reflection, honesty, and willingness to change are important. We should be grieved our waywardness (v28). Grieving is like our call to “mourn” (James 4:8-10). To “Mourn” = disdaining our habitual selfishness and looking upward for help and redirection (v26-27). Mourning prepares me to seek God’s restoration and to change my way to match His. Having an internal attitude of mourning is more precious to God than lighthearted carelessness.
Benefit: The Word presents the Way God wants me to walk. For example, He wants me to live a life that pleases Him (Ephesians 5:10), that promotes the things He values such as justice, mercy, and humility (Micah 6:8). He wants me to live believing He is alive and aware of me (Hebrews 11:6). He wants me to be dependent on promptings from the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:5-6, Galatians 5:16-25). It’s living as though God really exists and cares about what I do. If I stay on God’s Way, my heart is enlarged (v32)–in other words, my capacity to love and to enjoy life increases. I am growing to maturity.
He ה (Psalm 119:33-40)
Key Word: Reverence
Summary: The word produces reverence for God and keeps me from vanity.
33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I shall observe it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law and keep it with all my heart.
35 Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to dishonest gain.
37 Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, and revive me in Your ways.
38 Establish Your word to Your servant, as that which produces reverence for You.
39 Turn away my reproach which I dread, for Your ordinances are good.
40 Behold, I long for Your precepts; revive me through Your righteousness.
Glenn’s Takeaway: “Establish your word…as that which produces reverence for You” (v38). Loving the Word helps me fear God. To “Fear God” = living like God is real and cares about what I do. This stanza contains the first request for understanding (v34). “Understanding” = going beyond mere knowledge of the word to recognizing its meaning and relevance to life. It is living like God exists; like He rewards faith and disciplines sin. I should ask God for understanding (v34), so I appreciate the warnings of scripture and avoid vanity, greed, and dishonesty (v36-37). The more I know God, the more I acquire understanding (Proverbs 9:10).
Benefit: The Word teaches me to fear God, which in turn helps me see falseness of sin so I can develop a distaste for it and avoid it (Proverbs 3:7).
Vav ו (Psalm 119:41-48)
Key Word: Liberty
Summary: The Word gives me freedom and confidence.
41 May Your lovingkindnesses also come to me, O Lord, Your salvation according to Your word;
42 So I will have an answer for him who reproaches me, for I trust in Your word.
43 And do not take the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for I wait for Your ordinances.
44 So I will keep Your law continually, forever and ever.
45 And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts.
46 I will also speak of Your testimonies before kings and shall not be ashamed.
47 I shall delight in Your commandments, which I love.
48 And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, which I love; and I will meditate on Your statutes.
Glenn’s Takeaway: “I will speak of your testimonies to kings and shall not be ashamed” (v46). If I love God’s Word (notice the repeated clause, “which I love”) and walk in it, I can be free to stand up to people who look at me with contempt (v42). I will feel liberated (v45) because the Word affirms me. I won’t worry about what others think of me, won’t always try to keep a good impression. I will be free to be creative in how I engage people with the Word, confidently crossing social barriers like when Jesus talked with the woman and the well (John 4). I will speak boldly before people I normally would fear (v46), like Peter and John before the ruling council (Acts 4:13).
Benefit: The Word teaches me how to not fear man. “Fear of Man” = worrying about what people think of me, and living to impress others. The Word gives me confidence, validation, assurance, and boldness in the presence of influential people..
Zayin ז (Psalm 119:49-56)
Key Word: Comfort
Summary: The word revives me when I feel afflicted.
49 Remember the word to Your servant, in which You have made me hope.
50 This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your word has revived me.
51 The arrogant utterly deride me, yet I do not turn aside from Your law.
52 I have remembered Your ordinances from of old, O Lord, and comfort myself.
53 Burning indignation has seized me because of the wicked, who forsake Your law.
54 Your statutes are my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.
55 O Lord, I remember Your name in the night, and keep Your law.
56 This has become mine, that I observe Your precepts.
Glenn’s Takeaway: “This is my comfort in affliction…” (v50). God’s Word comforts me from the weariness I feel from every day affliction. “Affliction” = can be physical oppression, but can also come in more subtle forms. General affliction is the subtle derision and mocking of Christianity by a godless world that tries to promote its own value system of tolerance and casts doubt on the church and the exclusivity of Christ. Personal affliction comes when I am the victim of more direct confrontation because of my faith and conviction–jokes, slander, misrepresentation, lies, or gossip. A scoffer’s contempt can fill my soul (Psalm 123:3-4). Like Lot, I can be personally afflicted by those close to my family–taken lightly, ignored (Genesis 19:14). Like Job, those close to me may question my faith (Job 2:9-10). This is hard because I am called to love them, not resent them. I need the Word to “comfort” and “revive” (v50, 52), to be my song (v54).
Benefit: The Word comforts and revives me when I am weary from the general and personal affliction my soul feels every day.
Heth ח (Psalm 119:57-64)
Key Word: Examine
Summary: We should frequently examine our ways to see if they align with God’s Word.
57 The Lord is my portion; I have promised to keep Your words.
58 I sought Your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to Your word.
59 I considered my ways and turned my feet to Your testimonies.
60 I hastened and did not delay to keep Your commandments.
61 The cords of the wicked have encircled me, but I have not forgotten Your law.
62 At midnight I shall rise to give thanks to You because of Your righteous ordinances.
63 I am a companion of all those who fear You, and of those who keep Your precepts.
64 The earth is full of Your lovingkindness, O Lord; teach me Your statutes.
Glenn’s Takeaway: “I considered my ways…” (v59). It’s good for me to regularly stop and reflect on my trending attitudes and actions. This is what it means to “Examine” myself (II Corinthians 13:5)– it’s putting my decisions, lifestyle choices, etc. under God’s microscope and let Him help me see “hurtful” ways (Psalm 139:24). If I’m off course, I should take immediate and necessary steps. Having close “companions” who fear God (v63) helps with this.
Benefit: The Word gives me a point of reference, a truth source for my attitude, behavior, treatment of others, and disposition toward God. It shows me rough spots in my life and tells me what to do about them. I am wise if I do what it says, like fixing my hair after looking in a mirror (James 1:22-25).
Teth ט (Psalm 119:65-72)
Key Word: Affliction
Summary: I will see God’s discipline (affliction) as a good thing, necessary to bring me back to the right pathway.
65 You have dealt well with Your servant, O Lord, according to Your word.
66 Teach me good discernment and knowledge, for I believe in Your commandments.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.
68 You are good and do good; teach me Your statutes.
69 The arrogant have forged a lie against me; with all my heart I will observe Your precepts.
70 Their heart is covered with fat, but I delight in Your law.
71 It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.
72 The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
Glenn’s Takeaway: “Before I was afflicted, I went astray…” (v67). “Affliction” = in this case, affliction is discipline, rebuke and correction from the Lord because the author “went astray.” Affliction is uncomfortable but refining, and ultimately, for my good. God has many ways to discipline me. He used Nebuchadnezzar to invade Judah and expose their sinful idolatry–“I have made you an assayer and a tester among My people…” (Jeremiah 6:27). He can use arrogant, abusive people to refine me, too. Arrogant people around me may see my affliction as just desserts and boast in my low position. I may feel their judgment. It is hard when I’m going through it. But I will trust that God’s discipline is for my good (v72), and that through it, I will appreciate the Word all the more.
Benefit: I learn from the Word best when I go through affliction (discipline) from the Lord. I will see this affliction as “trials” which God uses to help me grow in maturity if I trust Him (James 1:2-3).
Yodh י (Psalm 119:73-80)
Key Word: Wait
Summary: I will be content during God’s refinement.
73 Your hands made me and fashioned me; give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.
74 May those who fear You see me and be glad, because I wait for Your word.
75 I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.
76 O may Your lovingkindness comfort me, according to Your word to Your servant.
77 May Your compassion come to me that I may live, for Your law is my delight.
78 May the arrogant be ashamed, for they subvert me with a lie; but I shall meditate on Your precepts.
79 May those who fear You turn to me, even those who know Your testimonies.
80 May my heart be blameless in Your statutes, so that I will not be ashamed.
Glenn’s Takeaway: “May those who fear You see me and be glad, because I wait for Your word” (v74) and a first reprise of, “I wait for Your Word” (v74). This stanza continues the theme of responding to God’s affliction (discipline). God’s afflictions are a “yoke” I must bear (Lamentations 3:27-28). His afflictions are “judgments” which I will assume are righteous (v75)–i.e., they are for my good and fair from God’s perspective. Sometimes they are in direct response to my waywardness (v67); sometimes He applies them for general refinement and transformation as in the case of Jeremiah, Job, and Joseph. They are always meant to sharpen me, to bring me to maturity. I will be patient and wait for the affliction to pass. I will seek to learn from it, be OK with it, accept it as God’s discipline. I will be content with the way God made me (v73), flaws and all. I will ask for His compassion and help to get through the affliction. Others will see my attitude and be encouraged by it (v74, 79). The tone of this stanza mirrors David’s response to Shimei who threw stones and cursed him while he fled Jerusalem in humiliation (II Samuel 16:5-14). This stanza contains the second request for understanding (v73). I will ask God for understanding from the Word during trials.
Benefit: I will let the Word help me understand the big picture when I’m going through affliction. I will wait for His reply (His “word”). To “Wait” = persistently believing that God hears and cares even when He seems silent. Waiting is the essence of faith. It is being patient, believing God is very real, being content in that knowledge and in His provision while I wait.
Kaph כ (Psalm 119:81-88)
Key Word: Judgment
Summary: Wait for God’s retribution on oppressive enemies.
81 My soul languishes for Your salvation; I wait for Your word.
82 My eyes fail with longing for Your word, while I say, “When will You comfort me?”
83 Though I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget Your statutes.
84 How many are the days of Your servant? When will You execute judgment on those who persecute me?
85 The arrogant have dug pits for me, men who are not in accord with Your law.
86 All Your commandments are faithful; they have persecuted me with a lie; help me!
87 They almost destroyed me on earth, but as for me, I did not forsake Your precepts.
88 Revive me according to Your lovingkindness, so that I may keep the testimony of Your mouth.
Glenn’s Takeaway: “When will You execute judgment on those who persecute me?” (v84), and a second reprise of, “I wait for Your Word” (v81). God’s Word includes “Judgments”. “Judgments” = The decrees, afflictions, punishments, rulings, and sentences God intentionally issues in my life and the lives of others for refinement or rebuke. The author feels attacked by enemies who persecute him with their slander, lies, false testimonies, accusations, etc. “Persecution” = physical, verbal, or mental resistance, oppression, or abuse I feel from someone else because of my belief, creed, gender, or race. My “Enemy” = anyone who persecutes me in a moment. People who bad-mouth me or “throw me under the bus” can be an enemy. It can be people I don’t normally consider enemies–a neighbor who slanders my name in the neighborhood, a coworker who attacks my design before my peers, or even a family member who criticizes me. I even have enemies in the spiritual realm–Satan’s hordes are always accusing me, injecting thoughts of worthlessness, failure, or temptations into my brain. When I feel attacked, I will cry out to God for intervening judgment on my enemies who wrongfully assail me (v84). In time, He will repay if indeed wrong has been done. But I must wait for it (v81) and in the meantime, stand up under persecution, not fighting back, not holding grudges, but remembering His statutes–one of which, as Jesus explained, is “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44). I will let God handle the justice part, and appeal to Him to help me do that.
Benefit: God’s Word is salvation (v81) from persecution, a refuge when I feel attacked. It gives me perspective, reminding me that God is in control of the situation including the people causing the disturbance. It reminds me that God cares and does all things for my refinement. It reminds me that God takes care of vengeance and justice, so I can leave that to Him and ask Him to help me love my enemy (Romans 12:14,17-21).
Lamedh ל (Psalm 119:89-96)
Key Word: Sovereignty
Summary: God’s law is constant, and its constance gives me stability in times of affliction.
89 Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.
90 Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations; You established the earth, and it stands.
91 They stand this day according to Your ordinances, for all things are Your servants.
92 If Your law had not been my delight, then I would have perished in my affliction.
93 I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have revived me.
94 I am Yours, save me; for I have sought Your precepts.
95 The wicked wait for me to destroy me; I shall diligently consider Your testimonies.
96 I have seen a limit to all perfection; Your commandment is exceedingly broad.
Glenn’s Takeaway: “Your Word is settled in heaven…” (v89). When I am afflicted, I will remember God’s sovereignty. “Sovereignty” = the universe obeys God’s wishes; everything is under His control (v89-91). Since this is true, I will have hope that the Lord of Heaven not only knows my affliction, but is the One in charge of it, controlling my circumstances for my good, and can help me endure it. Without this reminder, without delighting myself in God’s law during affliction, I will perish (v92); i.e., I will succumb to doubt, fear, and despair. God’s precepts revive me in my time of need (v93). I will call out to God to “save” me (v94). In this case, “Salvation” = deliverance of the soul from doubt, fear, and despair. This is a salvation of the soul, not to be confused with being born again. This salvation is something I need daily, not just once in my life.
Benefit: God’s Word is firm, immovable, never broken nor changed. Everything in the universe has to obey it, without exception. To endure trials, I need to pursue God’s Word–read it, trust it, cherish it, value it, and depend on it. God’s Word can literally save my soul from “death” (despair, doubt, bitterness, etc.). James said, “In humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your soul” (James 1:21).
Mem מ (Psalm 119:97-104)
Key Word: Prudence
Summary: We gain discernment from the Word, and motivation to be prudent.
97 O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.
98 Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine.
99 I have more insight than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Your precepts.
101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word.
102 I have not turned aside from Your ordinances, for You Yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 From Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
Glenn’s Takeaway: “From Your precepts I get understanding, therefore I hate every false way” (v104). David feels that his attention to the Word has given him understanding, insight, and wisdom beyond his years. “Insight” (or, “Discernment”) = the ability to distinguish good and evil, wise and unwise choices in any aspect of my life, be it home, work, sports, crafts, or conduct. “Wisdom” = skill in applying discernment, obeying God’s Word, and making good choices. As Jesus said, “every man who hears these Words of Mine and acts on them is like a wise man…” (Matthew 7:24). “Prudence” = taking the right action when presented with a moral decision. “A prudent man sees evil and hides himself; the naive proceed and pay the penalty.” (Proverbs 27:12).
Benefit: If I love it, the Word rewards me with supernatural insight, understanding, discernment, prudence, and wisdom beyond my years.
Nun נ (Psalm 119:105-112)
Key Word: Persistence
Summary: Cling to the Word even in the darkest hour.
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
106 I have sworn and I will confirm it, that I will keep Your righteous ordinances.
107 I am exceedingly afflicted; revive me, O Lord, according to Your word.
108 O accept the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord, and teach me Your ordinances.
109 My life is continually in my hand, yet I do not forget Your law.
110 The wicked have laid a snare for me, yet I have not gone astray from Your precepts.
111 I have inherited Your testimonies forever, for they are the joy of my heart.
112 I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes forever, even to the end.
Glenn’s Takeaway: “My life is continually in my hand [in danger], yet I do not forgot Your law…” (v109). Sometimes, I will feel “exceedingly afflicted” (v107). Life can seem too hard, like I cannot go on. Malicious people can entrap me, create a hopeless situation from which there is no escape (v110). Even then, I will cling to God’s Word with persistence. “Persistence” = sticking with it, continuing to dedicate time and energy to read it, meditate on it, and put it into practice.
Benefit: The Word is a “lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (v105). The Word lights up potential stumbling blocks so that I can avoid them. When I feel afflicted, those blocks can be discouragement, fear, anxiety, despair, bitterness, hatred, etc. The Word is the only instruction and guidance I can truly trust. It contains the stuff that can really help me. So, I will cling to it no matter what.
Samekh ס (Psalm 119:113-120)
Key Word: Sincerity
Summary: You cannot love the world and God at the same time.
113 I hate those who are double-minded, but I love Your law.
114 You are my hiding place and my shield; I wait for Your word.
115 Depart from me, evildoers, that I may observe the commandments of my God.
116 Sustain me according to Your word, that I may live; and do not let me be ashamed of my hope.
117 Uphold me that I may be safe, that I may have regard for Your statutes continually.
118 You have rejected all those who wander from Your statutes, for their deceitfulness is useless.
119 You have removed all the wicked of the earth like dross; therefore I love Your testimonies.
120 My flesh trembles for fear of You, and I am afraid of Your judgments.
Glenn’s Takeaway: “I hate those who are double-minded…” (v113). Today, “hate” and “intolerance” are dirty words. But this stanza teaches that sometimes, it is necessary to hate. We are to love others, but we cannot love the wayward living of people who claim they are Christians. We should hate, not tolerate, the lifestyle that dishonors God. It is impossible to love God and the world at the same time. James said, “friendship with the world is hostility toward God” (James 4:1-5). Jesus said, “no one can serve two Masters; he will hate the one and love the other” (Matthew 6:24). If I befriend the world, love what it offers, buy into its materialistic and humanistic enchantments, and trust in its promises, I make myself an enemy of God. I can’t love both, and I will hate the one I don’t choose. I have to decide which it will be. Sometimes it’s necessary to hate things. “Hate” = to be bothered by the attitude, beliefs, or actions of those who disregard and mistreat God’s Word; to not tolerate it, to not join in their revelry, to not let them into my inner circle of trust and affection, to stand up and speak out when they attempt to influence me or others for evil. The third reprise of “I will wait for Your word” (v114) suggests sometimes I have to wait for God to find inner peace when troubled by double-minded people.
Benefit: Like a sword, the Word separates things of God from things of the world (Hebrews 4:12). The Word is to be feared (v120). It is not an idle word (Deuteronomy 32:47), to be put on a shelf and ignored. I can’t claim to love the Word and yet not fear it nor do what it says. Those who try are foolish (Matthew 7:26), deceitful (v118), double-minded (v113), and doers of evil (v115).
Ayin ע (Psalm 119:121-128)
Key Word: Consequence
Summary: Heed God’s law or He will act.
121 I have done justice and righteousness; do not leave me to my oppressors.
122 Be surety for Your servant for good; do not let the arrogant oppress me.
123 My eyes fail with longing for Your salvation and for Your righteous word.
124 Deal with Your servant according to Your lovingkindness and teach me Your statutes.
125 I am Your servant; give me understanding, that I may know Your testimonies.
126 It is time for the Lord to act, for they have broken Your law.
127 Therefore I love Your commandments above gold, yes, above fine gold.
128 Therefore I esteem right all Your precepts concerning everything, I hate every false way.
Glenn’s Takeaway: “It is time for the Lord to act, for they have broken the law” (v126). It is a certainty of the universe that sin will not go unpunished. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap…” (Galatians 6:7). “Consequences” = certain, future results of my current decisions and actions. Knowing there are consequences to sin, I will love the commandments. This stanza contains the third request for understanding (v73). It is hard to wait for justice, so I will ask God for understanding to see the big picture and not be envious when wicked people seem to “get away with it”.
Benefit: The Word gives me certainty that there will be consequences for sin. This is a deterrent for me, and when I do mess up and feel His displeasure, this truth leads me to repentance and a cry for mercy and forgiveness. It also helps me not envy those who seem to prosper by doing evil regularly (Psalm 37:1-11).
Pe פ (Psalm 119:129-136)
Key Word: Enslaved
Summary: Expose sin’s mastery over us by “unfolding” God’s Word to get understanding.
129 Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul observes them.
130 The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.
131 I opened my mouth wide and panted, for I longed for Your commandments.
132 Turn to me and be gracious to me, after Your manner with those who love Your name.
133 Establish my footsteps in Your word, and do not let any iniquity have dominion over me.
134 Redeem me from the oppression of man, that I may keep Your precepts.
135 Make Your face shine upon Your servant, and teach me Your statutes.
136 My eyes shed streams of water, because they do not keep Your law.
Glenn’s Takeaway: “Do not let any iniquity have dominion over me…” (v131). Sin can become my master if I am not careful. I can become enslaved to it. “Enslaved” = living in miserable conditions, and feeling unable to do anything about it. I can feel like I’m free to choose as I please, but in reality, if I give in to sin, I become its slave. Cain was so warned before he killed his brother (Genesis 4:7). I can be blind to the miserable condition sin has me living under. Sin can reign in me, and I can heedlessly present my body to it thinking I’m calling the shots, living my own life, only to find I am falling farther into death (Romans 6:12-23). “Death” = a spiritual condition lived outside of God’s favor. It is characterized by chaos, discontentedness, anxiety, despair, loneliness, etc.
Benefit: The Word is the freeing agent that can deliver me from sin’s dominion. By “unfolding” it (v130)–i.e., studying it, measuring my life against it–I can see where I may be enslaved to sin and get help. For example, the Word gives me reminders to “present our members to God” (Romans 6:12-13, Romans 12:1-2), and teaches me how to ask the Spirit to crucify the sins that master me (Romans 8:13).
Tsadke צ (Psalm 119:137-144)
Key Word: Zeal
Summary: Be zealous for the pure truth of God’s Word.
137 Righteous are You, O Lord, and upright are Your judgments.
138 You have commanded Your testimonies in righteousness and exceeding faithfulness.
139 My zeal has consumed me, because my adversaries have forgotten Your words.
140 Your word is very pure, therefore Your servant loves it.
141 I am small and despised, yet I do not forget Your precepts.
142 Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law is truth.
143 Trouble and anguish have come upon me, yet Your commandments are my delight.
144 Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live.
Glenn’s Takeaway: “My zeal has consumed me because my adversaries have forgotten Your words” (v139). Living in an increasingly atheistic world is hard. This stanza contains the fourth request for understanding (v144). I will not become tolerant of the world’s dismissal of God’s Word as truth. I will be intolerant of its lies. I do not follow the lifestyle of casual Christians that take God’s Word lightly, even if they dismiss me (v141), even if it troubles me (v143). In those times, I will find delight in the Word.
Benefit: God’s Word is very pure (v139), truth (v142), upright (v137), and commanded in righteousness and exceeding faithfulness. “Pure” = like silver, refined in a furnace seven times (Psalm 12:6). Unlike all the guidance, advice, and advertising the world offers, the Word is pure, truthful, and reliable. God’s Word stands alone as the only news that is 100% trustworthy.
Qoph ק (Psalm 119:145-152)
Key Word: Constancy
Summary: God’s Word is a reliable source of strength when I need it most.
145 I cried with all my heart; answer me, O Lord! I will observe Your statutes.
146 I cried to You; save me and I shall keep Your testimonies.
147 I rise before dawn and cry for help; I wait for Your words.
148 My eyes anticipate the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word.
149 Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness; revive me, O Lord, according to Your ordinances.
150 Those who follow after wickedness draw near; they are far from Your law.
151 You are near, O Lord, and all Your commandments are truth.
152 Of old I have known from Your testimonies that You have founded them forever.
Glenn’s Takeaway: “I rise before dawn and cry for help” (v147). The Christian walk is a walk of desperate clinging (Jeremiah 13) to the Savior. To “Cry” = crying like a child, “Abba! Father!”, “save me!” (Romans 8:15). It is “casting your cares upon Him” (I Peter 5:7) and waiting for His response. The fourth reprise of “I will wait for Your word” (v147) suggests when we are desperate and cry out, we need to be poised to keep trusting God even when He doesn’t answer us immediately.
Benefit: “You have founded them forever” (v152). I can count on the Word’s constancy and eternal relevance. It is a steady rock on which I can lean when I need comfort or reassurance.
Resh ר (Psalm 119:153-160)
Key Word: Revival
Summary: Every day, I can seek revival from the Lord–an overflowing of mercy to strengthen my soul.
153 Look upon my affliction and rescue me, for I do not forget Your law.
154 Plead my cause and redeem me; revive me according to Your word.
155 Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek Your statutes.
156 Great are Your mercies, O Lord; revive me according to Your ordinances.
157 Many are my persecutors and my adversaries, yet I do not turn aside from Your testimonies.
158 I behold the treacherous and loathe them, because they do not keep Your word.
159 Consider how I love Your precepts; revive me, O Lord, according to Your lovingkindness.
160 The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.
Glenn’s Takeaway: “Revive me…” (v154, 156, 159). Revival doesn’t require a big tent and a preacher. I can experience revival every day by encountering the Word and grasping God’s love for me. “Revival” = being strengthened in the soul, comprehending the vastness of God’s love for me, and being filled to the measure of God’s fullness (Ephesians 3:14-18). I can ask for it every day, whenever I feel weary. As Jesus said, “come to Me all who are weary…” (Matthew 11:18-20). I can be revived “according to…” (to the full capacity of) God’s mercy, which is limitless, stretching to the sky (Psalm 36:5). Every morning, God’s mercies are new (Lamentations 3:22-23), so every day, I can ask God to revive me, overwhelm me with His abundant mercy. Because God’s Word is true and everlasting (v160), I have a timeless source of revival that is always relevant to my situation.
Benefit: The Word can revive a weary soul. I can take His Word “to the bank”, asking Him big things, such as revival, strengthening, comprehension of His love, and fullness, all in accordance with His promises.
Shin ש (Psalm 119:161-168)
Key Word: Peace
Summary: Love for the Word builds security in my soul.
161 Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of Your words.
162 I rejoice at Your word, as one who finds great spoil.
163 I hate and despise falsehood, but I love Your law.
164 Seven times a day I praise You, because of Your righteous ordinances.
165 Those who love Your law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble.
166 I hope for Your salvation, O Lord, and do Your commandments.
167 My soul keeps Your testimonies, and I love them exceedingly.
168 I keep Your precepts and Your testimonies, for all my ways are before You.
Glenn’s Takeaway: “Those who love Your law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble” (v165). Even though all my ways are fully exposed to the Lord (v168) and powerful men persecute me unfairly (v161), I can be at peace and not rattled or caused to stumble (v165). This is because I love the Word, honor it as the authority in my life (v161), and understand how valuable it is to me (v162).
Benefit: The Word gives me peace. “Peace” = joy, contentment, calmness in the face of adversity, an end of striving, rest for the soul. It is what Jesus refers to when He says to those who come to Him, “…you shall find rest for your soul” (Matthew 11:19).
Tav ת (Psalm 119:169-176)
Key Word: Appeal
Summary: I can appeal to God on the basis of His compassionate nature and the faithfulness and integrity of the Word.
169 Let my cry come before You, O Lord; give me understanding according to Your word.
170 Let my supplication come before You; deliver me according to Your word.
171 Let my lips utter praise, for You teach me Your statutes.
172 Let my tongue sing of Your word, for all Your commandments are righteousness.
173 Let Your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen Your precepts.
174 I long for Your salvation, O Lord, and Your law is my delight.
175 Let my soul live that it may praise You, and let Your ordinances help me.
176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commandments.
Glenn’s Takeaway: “Let…” (v169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 175). I can appeal to God to hear my cries and prayers (v169-170), for understanding (v169), to help me praise Him (v171-172), for a steadying hand (v173), for salvation of soul (v174-175). When I have gone astray like a lost sheep (v176), and feel lonely and afraid, I can ask God to find me and restore me. To “Appeal” = making requests to God with confidence based on what I know to be true about Him–that He is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love and truth, and forgiving (Exodus 34:6). This is what it means to pray “in His name” (John 16:24).
Summary: The Word is a steadying rock and comforting friend when I am lost and alone. The Word reveals God’s shepherding heart, His grace and compassion, and I will appeal to God on the basis of His Word to find me, help me, and reassure me.