How blessed are those whose way is blameless,
Who walk in the law of the Lord.
How blessed are those who observe His testimonies,
Who seek Him with all their heart.
They also do no unrighteousness;
They walk in His ways.
You have ordained Your precepts,
That we should keep them diligently.
Oh that my ways may be established
To keep Your statutes!
Then I shall not be ashamed
When I look upon all Your commandments.
I shall give thanks to You with uprightness of heart,
When I learn Your righteous judgments.
I shall keep Your statutes;
Do not forsake me utterly!
– Psalm 119:1-8
Yesterday, we read Psalm 117. Only two verses in total, it is the shortest psalm, and chapter, in the Bible. Today, we read the first stanza of the longest psalm, and chapter, in the Bible: Psalm 119.
Psalm 119 is comprised of 22 eight-verse stanzas like the one you see above – resulting in a total of 176 verses. There are 22 stanzas in this psalm because there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet – the original language of the Old Testament. Each verse in the original Hebrew of the stanza you see above begins with “aleph” – the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The second stanza’s eight verses each begin with the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet: “beth.” And so on. Your English Bible may very well have a Hebrew letter heading each stanza.
This mnemonic structure in Psalm 119 was obviously intended to help the ancient Hebrews in their recall of the psalm. Literacy was not as widespread in ancient times as it is now. Therefore, anything that helped memory was welcome. I’ve already mentioned that the structure of Hebrew poetry utilizes repetition, which, of course, helps memorization. Psalm 119 is exceedingly repetitive. Recall, however, that the repetition is not strict; that is, synonyms are used so that the idea is repeated, not the exact words.
The subject of Psalm 119 is the word of the Lord. You can see even from the first stanza that synonyms for “word” include “law,” “testimonies,” “ways,” “precepts,” “statutes,” “commandments,” and “judgments.” It is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible; I refer to it often. Most of all, I think of what it says about the red letters in the New Testament (i.e. Jesus’ words).
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Lord Jesus, help me think about Your words in the way Psalm 119 wants me to think about them…(this is where you remain quiet in order to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.
(All scriptures, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the NASB.)