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.
Right >§§§> Left
All day long I meditate on your law. Oh, how i love it! I am made wiser than my enemies because your commands are always with me. I meditate on your statutes for I have more insight than all my teachers. I obey your precepts for I have more understanding than the elders. So that I might obey your word, I have kept my feet from every evil path. You yourself have taught me. I have not departed from your laws. Sweeter than honey to my mouth are how sweet your words are to my taste. I hate every wrong path therefore I gain understanding from your precepts.
The Psalmist recognizes there is a purpose for God’s laws, commands, statutes and precepts. He’s used the Hebrew letter “Mem – waves, water” to reveal it to us as eye-catching waves rising repeatedly from the ocean of truth that is God’s knowledge. Those waves regularly break the surface of the water as they begin their push toward the shore to deposit their power and become one with it before ebbing back into the vastness of depths that are unseen.
Waves and water are the imagery the Psalmist chooses to show God’s persistence to raise up His laws, commands, statutes and precepts as a recurring opportunity to release His power upon the shore…His people…and in that moment become one with them.
The Psalmist has seen God at work repeatedly in his own life. He recognizes those waves have touched him with wisdom, insight and understanding. They’ve risen from the depths of God’s knowledge to break upon him with new realities that sustain him over and over. The imagery is God’s laws, commands, statutes and precepts are “waves”that have broken on him and united him in that moment with the unseen depths of the “water” that created them to enable him to “obey” and keep his “feet from every wrong path.”
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. [NIV]
Learning how to be taught today from left to right:
“In the heavens Lord, your word stands firm and is eternal. You established the earth and it endures. Your faithfulness continues through all generations. All things serve you for your laws endure to this day. I would have perished in my affliction if your law had not been my delight. You have preserved my life by them and I will never forget your precepts. I have sought out you precepts; save me for I am yours. I will ponder your statutes but the wicked are waiting to destroy me. Your commands are boundless but to all perfection I see a limit.”
My challenge is trying to read and write about this section of Psalm 119 with fresh thinking. The Psalmist has focused his belief on the faithfulness of God enduring despite the risk of his own circumstances. Several things were clear to him. Endurance came packaged with correction and learning. His own endurance was dependent on God’s boundless laws, precepts and statutes even when faced with dramatic events that called into question his own security. The final clarity of truth the Psalmist’s grappled with, were his words that the Lord’s “commands are boundless, but to all perfection I see a limit.”
The circumstances we have seen with our own eyes this last week in the Capital of the United States have shown us how much we need to read and ponder these words of the Psalmist in a contemporary way. His clarity must become ours. As limited as perfection may be it never looks like an angry mob causing chaos, destruction and death. Lamedh is the powerful reminder the Psalmist has given us this week; every person of faith must deliberately make the choice every day to let God’s boundless laws, precepts and statutes teach them to be willing to learn.
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. [NIV]
A different plan for reading backwards, writing & praying today:
I have put my hope in your word, my soul faints with longing for your salvation. When will you comfort me? My eyes fail looking for your promise. I do not forget your decrees though I am like a wineskin in the smoke. When will you punish my persecutors? How long must your servant wait? Contrary to your law, the arrogant dig pits to trap me. I am being persecuted without cause. Help me. Your commands are trustworthy. I have not forsaken your precepts but they almost wiped me from the earth. The statutes of your mouth in your unfailing love, preserve my life that I may obey them. [Amen]
The most intriguing phrase in this part of Psalm 119 was “I am like a wineskin in the smoke.” The wineskin was vital to carrying the wine from place to place in ancient times but eventually it deteriorated as it was exposed to the smoke from fires of life inside a tent. There are many meanings of that phrase, and Kaph, but John Piper gets credit for an idea I thought worth passing on that relates the phrase to Kaph. Kaph is the open hand of God that can “tame” and “open” the life of one who will “bend” to His will. The wine is the Gospel. The fragile “wineskin” of life is what God has given us to carry His Gospel from place to place. That opportunity won’t last forever.
Psalm 119 [NIV]
73 Give me understanding to learn your commands and how your hands made me and formed me
74 I have put my hope in your word so those who fear you can rejoice when they see me
75 You have afflicted me in faithfulness I know Lord and your laws are righteous
76 According to your promise to your servant, may your unfailing love be my comfort.
77 Your law is my delight that I may live and your compassion come to me
78 I will meditate on your precepts, may the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause
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.
The mention of hands in v73 was distracting in terms of that small Hebrew subtitle, “Bent.” Reading each individual section of Psalm 119 backwards and rewriting them without changing their intent [I hope] has made them seem more like a personal prayer to me. The last two verses today couldn’t possibly have been any more personal so I haven’t changed them. I hope they’ll be your personal prayer too.
My first thoughts about “bent” evoked the imagery of the gently bent hand of God reaching toward us. I don’t think that’s what the Psalmist had in mind, as true and welcoming as that is. “Bent” is something more than a description of the physical hand of God. Instead I believe the Psalmist has discovered “Bent” is God’s purpose for His laws, precepts, statutes, decrees and commands. God’s promise was to change His servant’s natural “bent,”* so his inclination would be the determination to do or have all that God was offering him: hope, faithfulness, unfailing love, comfort and compassion.
*Bent: determined to do or have or a natural talent or inclination
65 Do good to your servant according to your word, Lord.
66 Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.
68 You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.
69 Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies, I keep your precepts with all my heart.
70 Their hearts are callous and unfeeling, but I delight in your law.
71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees
72 The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.
There is a “before and after” story here in Teth that relates to affliction; where it comes from and how does it relate to a serpent/snake? Teth is a not-so-subtle reminder of an old “before” story; there really was a serpent hiding in the garden whose purpose was to call into question the absolute truth God had spoken. Affliction might be the mask of temptation that serpent wears today as he repeats his original question asked long before the Psalmist wrote: “did God really say…?”
The Psalmist’s words are obviously written to let God know he’s aware there has been a “before and after” in his life. “Before” I was afflicted I went astray…The “after” is “It was good for me to be afflicted…so that I might learn your decrees…but now I obey your word.” The Psalmist has shown us the imagery of an “after” we can recognize. God has built a house [us] and filled it with light [the Word], protected by a strong door [Jesus]and a hedge [the Holy Spirit] around it. A place where affliction and even the possibility of a serpent hiding in the garden no longer has the power to silence the absolute truth of what God really did say.
Psalm 119: 57-64 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. NIV
The “I” statements are so striking in these verses they have preempted my forwards/backwards plan as the last days of 2020 unroll. Heth is part of the wisdom revealed to us again in Christmas, 2020. Jesus was God Himself, offered to the world to be the true Hedge, Fence, Surround between the vulnerabilities of life and our confidence in the unknown days of 2021 yet to come.
“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 [in all his Psalms] 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.”a
Psalm 119:41-48 ו Waw – Hook, Nail, Peg
41 May your UNFAILING LOVE come to me, Lord, your salvation, according to your promise;”
42 then I can answer anyone who taunts me, for I TRUST in your word.
43 Never take your word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my HOPE in your laws.
44 I will always OBEY your law, for ever and ever.
45 I will walk about in freedom, for I have SOUGHT out your precepts.
46 I will SPEAK of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame,
47 for I delight in your commands because I LOVE them.
48 I reach out for your commands, which I love, that I may MEDITATE on your decrees. [NIV]
The mysterious Hebrew headings of Psalm 119 have been like directions from the plans of an Architect for a structure being built. They each tell a backstory of the words that follow them. Reading verses 41-48 right to left seems to personalize how these special “nails” secure the previous walls, doors and windows of the promised, personal shelter being built for God’s people…their salvation.
41 Your salvation Lord is according to your promise of UNFAILING LOVE to me
42 I TRUST in your word, I can answer anyone who taunts me
43 I HOPE in your laws, you never take your word of truth from my mouth
44 Forever and ever I will OBEY your law always
45 I have SOUGHT out your precepts, I will walk about in freedom
46 I will not be put to shame when I SPEAK of your statutes before kings
47 Your commands are my delight because I LOVE them
48 I MEDITATE on your decrees, I will reach out with love for your commands
Reading these verses forwards, and then backwards and pondering their meaning continues. It seems like all of Psalm 119 has been about the building of the temple within the people of God; you and I. Today seems a perfect time for to punch a hole in the walls that we depend on for protection to let in a little more light using the Hebrew “ה He.” I haven’t missed the “coincidence” that God has used winter darkness, a raging pandemic and the period of Advent to do just that.
ה He – Window, Lattice
Psalm 119: 33-40 ESV
33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.
35 Lead me in the path of your commandment for I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!
37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.
38 Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared.
39 Turn away the reproach that I dread, for your rules are good.
40 Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!
33 I will keep the way of your statures to the end, O Lord; teach me
34 I keep your law and observe it with my whole heart because you give me understanding
35 I delight in the path of your commandment, lead me to it
36 Your testimonies, not Selfish gain, inclines my heart
37 Give me life in your ways and turn my eyes from looking at worthless things
38 Your promise confirms that you may be feared to your servant
39 Your rules are good for they turn away the reproach that I dread
40 Your righteousness gives me life! Behold I long for your precepts
Click here to read a previous post about the meaning of ה He – Window
25 My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!
26 When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes!
27 Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
28 My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!
29 Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law!
30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me.
31 I cling to your testimonies, O Lord; let me not be put to shame!
32 I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!
God’s Word has survived all these centuries because it’s more than information. Psalm 119, Daleth – Door is truth beyond time, translation, and even survives reading these eight verses right to left. My hope is that after you’ve read the eight verses above as copied from the English Standard Version you’ll read my right to left versions with the “Door” in mind. Daleth is the Old Testament Word of God that opens the “Door” to our communication with Him through our relationship to Jesus. “Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.”
25 Give me life according to your word, dust clings to my soul
26 You answered me with your statutes to teach me your ways when I told of my ways
27 I will meditate on your wondrous works to make me understand the way of your precepts
28 Your word strengthens me when my soul melts away for sorrow
29 Graciously teach me your law and put false ways far away from from me
30 Your rules set before me are the way of faithfulness I have chosen
|31 Let me not be put to shame O Lord, I cling to your testimonies
32 Enlarge my heart so I will run in the way of your commandments
Click here to read a previous post about ד Daleth – Door