Meditating on the Lord in Psalm 119

 

In the languages of different peoples, numerous synonyms to describe the same things are often included. For example, in the languages of the Eskimos and Scots, snow and rain respectively are depicted by a number of vivid synonyms. In the Old Testament, the Hebrews also had many different terms to express the word of God, and particularly so in Psalm 119. This psalm is the longest in the Book of Psalms, and is divided into 22 strophes each with 8 verses, a total of 178. It is also the longest litany in the form of an acrostic poem in the Bible. The first word of each strophe begins with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet, continuing in order through all 22 alphabets to form the acrostic poem. The focal point of the psalm is meditation on the word of God. The phrase “Your word” alone appears 34 times. The author also ingeniously used many synonyms to describe the preciousness of the Lord’s word, and applied them repeatedly. Just in the first section of the litany (v. 1-7), the author employed 7 different synonyms to depict the word of God. We see how perfect the Lord’s word is. Below are the meanings of these terms:

 

1.    Torah (appears 25 times in the original Hebrew) – can be translated as rules or law, and signifies the first 5 books of the Old Testament, or the Pentateuch of Moses. “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord!” (v.1)

2.    Testimony (14 times) – can be translated as order or witness, and comes from the Ten Commandments encompassing God’s standards or boundaries for man’s behaviour. “Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart!” (v. 2)

3.    Way (11 times) – can be translated as behaviour or act, and points to God’s mode of action for man in the Law. “They also do no iniquity; they walk in His ways.” (v. 3)

4.    Precepts (21 times) – can be translated as instructions or mandated commands. “You have commanded us to keep your precepts diligently.” (v. 4)

5.    Statutes (21 times) – can be translated as decrees, meaning enacted laws that are to be executed. “Oh, that my ways were directed to keep your statutes!” (v. 5)

6.    Commandments (22 times) – can be translated as the law, meaning rules to be obeyed. “Then I would not be ashamed, when I look into all your commandments.” (v. 6)

7.    Judgment (23 times) – can be translated as formal decree or ruling, meaning the verdict of the court. “I will praise you with uprightness of heart, when I learn your righteous judgments.” (v. 7)

 

If we use the above 7 terms that relate to the word of God to describe Jesus Christ, then it becomes even more significant. For the preciousness and perfection of God are fully manifested in His Son. Christ is the Word of Life that was there in the beginning. This Word became flesh and came to earth to bring us grace, truth and the word of God. After He had provided purification of sins, Christ sat down at the right hand of the Majesty (God) in heaven, to inherit the name that is superior to the angels’ (Hebrews 1:3-4). And Christ will surely come again. In his vision, John saw Him ride on a white horse, with many crowns on His head that have different names written on them. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood and His name is the Word of God. On His robe and on His thigh He has this name written: “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Revelations 19:11-313, 16). The author of the psalm expressed deeply his admiration of and obedience to the word of God. Do we also have the same admiration and obedience towards Christ, the Word of God?

 

By: Daniel To