Psalm 119:97-104 מ Mem – Waves, Water
97 Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
98 Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies.
99 I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
100 I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.
101 I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.
102 I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path.
I wondered whether the Psalmist was in his personal Red Sea period when I saw he’d chosen the title Mem [Waves, Water]. His life has been like the Israelites as they came up against that barrier of water that seemed like sure destruction with nowhere to go. He’s personally experienced God opening up a path for him like the parting of those waters to where he is now. This is his response. It reads like a man who’s survived the journey through the sea bed and made it to this lofty place of confidence on the mountain top.
I’m resisting “peeking” ahead to see how his own bottom line of faith, “for you yourself have taught me,” continues to change the focus of his wisdom, insight and understanding.
Psalm 119:89-96 ל Lamedh – ox, goad, correction, learning
89 Your word, Lord, is eternal;
it stands firm in the heavens.
90 Your faithfulness continues through all generations;
you established the earth, and it endures.
91 Your laws endure to this day,
for all things serve you.
92 If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.
93 I will never forget your precepts,
for by them you have preserved my life.
94 Save me, for I am yours;
I have sought out your precepts.
95 The wicked are waiting to destroy me,
but I will ponder your statutes.
96 To all perfection I see a limit,
but your commands are boundless.
There are two important choices in the life of this special man, the Psalmist. The first one is his deliberate choice to believe the faithfulness of God endures no matter what his circumstances are.
Lamedh is his second deliberate choice; perspective. He chooses to accept the reality that correction and learning happen in the circumstances of his life. That’s how he knows firsthand…perfection doesn’t come easy.
It’s all about living life with the perspective of that second choice while depending on the lasting reality of the first one. It doesn’t just happen, it has to be deliberate.
Psalm 119:81-88 כ Kaph – Wing, Palm
81 My soul faints with longing for your salvation,
but I have put my hope in your word.
82 My eyes fail, looking for your promise;
I say, “When will you comfort me?”
83 Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke,
I do not forget your decrees.
84 How long must your servant wait?
When will you punish my persecutors?
85 The arrogant dig pits to trap me,
contrary to your law.
86 All your commands are trustworthy;
help me, for I am being persecuted without cause.
87 They almost wiped me from the earth,
but I have not forsaken your precepts.
88 In your unfailing love preserve my life,
that I may obey the statutes of your mouth.
The Psalmist saw his life with a different comparison; a wineskin. He wasn’t protected by a palace. Wineskins weren’t even used in a palace. They were the travel mug of the day for the person on the move; the fugitive.
A wineskin was strong, to a point, but could easily be ruined if exposed to certain elements. That would leave the traveler at serious risk of losing the very thing needed most to survive. It was from this comparison the Psalmist wrote.
This “wineskin’s” soul longed to be done with waiting for the promised comfort. The smoke of circumstance blurred what his eyes could see right then but he was counting on the unfailing love of Kaph. This was the “wing, Palm” he could trust to lift him away above his circumstances to preserve his life; the word, decrees, precepts and statutes of God that he knew.
Psalm 119:73-80 י Yodh – Hand [Bent]
73 Your hands made me and formed me;
give me understanding to learn your commands.
74 May those who fear you rejoice when they see me,
for I have put my hope in your word.
75 I know, Lord, that your laws are righteous,
and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
76 May your unfailing love be my comfort,
according to your promise to your servant.
77 Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight.
78 May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause;
but I will meditate on your precepts.
79 May those who fear you turn to me,
those who understand your statutes.
80 May I wholeheartedly follow your decrees,
that I may not be put to shame.
I couldn’t help but notice this man who’d captured the heart of God used the word “me” 13 times in these eight verses. There’s another 6 “I’s” and a few “my’s as well. My first reaction was all those references to himself seemed pretty self-absorbed but then I realized they were probably the very reason he’d captured God’s heart.
The Psalmist recognized God’s hand in his life. That hand made his relationship more than desire to know the commands and decrees. That bent hand was the place he could safely put all those “me’s, I’s and my’s” so he could wholeheartedly and shamelessly admit every part of himself was dependent on a hand’s-on God.
ח Heth – Hedge, Fence, Surround
57 You are my portion, Lord;
I have promised to obey your words.
58 I have sought your face with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
59 I have considered my ways
and have turned my steps to your statutes.
60 I will hasten and not delay
to obey your commands.
61 Though the wicked bind me with ropes,
I will not forget your law.
62 At midnight I rise to give you thanks
for your righteous laws.
63 I am a friend to all who fear you,
to all who follow your precepts.
64 The earth is filled with your love, Lord;
teach me your decrees.
We have a shelter, we have our defense and now we have a hedge, fence or a surround. Heth is a boundary; “a point or limit that indicates where two things become different. ” Look at the Psalmist, the hero of the song. His theme regularly shifts from complete confidence in his knowledge of God to the awareness, and sometimes even fear, of how vulnerable he is.
God has set himself as the boundary line between those shifts of confidence and vulnerability. It’s that point of Heth from which the Psalmist speaks; “I have promised…I have sought…I have considered…I will hasten,,,I will not forget…I rise to give you thanks…The earth is filled with your love, Lord; teach me your decrees.”
49 Remember your word to your servant,
for you have given me hope.
50 My comfort in my suffering is this:
Your promise preserves my life.
51 The arrogant mock me unmercifully,
but I do not turn from your law.
52 I remember, Lord, your ancient laws,
and I find comfort in them.
53 Indignation grips me because of the wicked,
who have forsaken your law.
54 Your decrees are the theme of my song
wherever I lodge.
55 In the night, Lord, I remember your name,
that I may keep your law.
56 This has been my practice:
I obey your precepts.
ז Zayin – Weapon
Look at this definition of weapons: “a means of gaining an advantage or defending oneself in a conflict or contest.”
Our recent history of events has given us terrible images of the reality of weapons used for violent and random destruction. Even in the midst of that murderous mayhem and death “defense” is the cry for the need to have personal weapons. That choice is our mistake but it may well be a metaphor of Zayin.
Many have decided the “means of gaining an advantage or defending oneself in a conflict or contest” is to justify those weapons. The Psalmist writes of recognizing the need to depend on a defense that’s much harder to recognize and accept; a radically different list of defensive weapons that justifies us instead…God’s law.
That “law” is the Word that gives hope and promises that preserve life and give comfort in suffering in the midst of this human conflict. Those are the Psalmists’ weapons. They can become the defense of our life too; wherever we are and whenever we need them because we remember and practice them.