Reaching out to Central New York in the name of Jesus Christ

A Word for Today

Psalm 119 — Meditation on the Word

Psa. 119:175   Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me.

Psalm 119, the longest psalm in the Bible, contains twenty-two sections of eight verses each. Each section is labeled by one of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, taken in order. So the first section of eight verses is the Aleph (or Alef) section. The Hebrew aleph corresponds to the English letter a. The second section is the Beth (or Bet) section corresponding to English b, and so on, more or less. There are twenty-two sections because the Hebrew alphabet has only twenty-two letters. There are eight verses devoted to each of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet – 176 verses altogether.

There is a sort of poetic game in the psalm that we cannot see in any English translation. The psalm is an acrostic, which means that there is a clear pattern in first letter of each verse. All eight verses in the Aleph section begin with the Hebrew letter aleph. All eight verses of the Beth section begin with the Hebrew letter beth, and so on throughout the psalm, all the way to the final letter of the Hebrew alphabet, tav. The acrostic pattern is meant to express the completeness or thoroughness of the psalm’s meditation on God’s Word!

There is more! Almost every verse of the psalm refers to God’s Word using one of eight words or designations of the Word of God. You can appreciate this in most English translations. The King James Version of Psalm 119 uses these eight words to refer to God’s Word: law, testimonies, way(s), precepts, statutes, commandments, judgments, and, of course, word. This repetition is meant to express the variety and comprehensiveness of God’s Word. God’s Word meets our every need.

Finally, with only a few exceptions, the poet or speaker of Psalm 119 not only refers to the Word of God in every verse.  He also refers to himself using words like I, me, my, mine, and so on. Here’s an example:

Psa. 119:164   Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy righteous judgments.

What is the meaning of the psalmist writing himself into almost every verse of this thorough meditation on God’s Word?  The meditation is meant to be personal.  God’s Word is not far from this poet.  It is near, in his heart, in his mind; it is his personal hope and his personal anchor. 

May we also meditate on God’s Word with our whole hearts.