It's fitting that the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119, is a writing intended to be a celebration of God's Word - The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces (119:72). In fact, the psalmist references the Word of God in 171 of the 176 verses. He (unknown, possibly Ezra the priest, post-exilic 500 BC +/-, in celebration of the rebuilding of the temple and the return to Jerusalem), uses many of the revered Hebrew words for God's law throughout – they include:
- Word (dabar) – refers to commands, as like the 10 commandments or instructions spoken by God
- Saying (imrah) – very similar to dabar, or word; instruction from God
- Statutes (chuqqim) – translated as ‘laws’, or rules learned from past history
- Judgments (mishpatim) – similar word to chuqqim, a later word for ‘rules’
- Law (torah) – the first 5 books of the Bible; later used to include books like Isaiah, Jeremiah. Is also translated as ‘teaching’ in 119
- Precept (piqqudim) – translated ‘guidelines’, or references to help us know what God has appointed to be done
- Testimonies (eduth) – more directly ‘instructions’ as in guidance, as opposed to commands
The image below indicates how this looks in Hebrew text, keeping in mind that Hebrew is read from right to left. This acrostic, of which there are eight other acrostics within the book of psalms, is by far the most complete. Some believe that this is an indication of the psalmist's desire to demonstrate the completeness of God's law, while others believe that these truths were of such importance to learn that this style would allow for easier memorization, particularly without the availability of written text.
|Click on image for larger view|
Many of you might be familiar with Psalm 119:05 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path - an excellent summary verse for the entire chapter. God's Word makes our path clear, guides our way, enables us to find sure footing along our journey. Without His Word, we are lost in darkness, searching for direction, stumbling over obstacles put before us. And yes, the Amy Grant / Michael W Smith song Thy Word was based on Psalm 119.
Finally, if you are seeking to understand the essence of this psalm, verses 33-40 might be a good place to look. I would encourage each of us to meditate on this passage for several days. As we do, we should consider the question; are our desires similar to that of the psalmist?