Psalm 119 is unique. There is nothing else like it in the Bible.
In Psalm 119, every verse except verse 122 of the 176 verses makes some reference to the Word of God. It is amazing any single subject could be written about so extensively with so much variety and so little repetition. The entire Psalm concerns the Word of God and bespeaks the many facets of it. It is specifically designed for personal improvement and memorization, but is written in a style suitable for public worship. Psalm 119 makes no reference to the Nation of Israel. There is no reference to any feast day, city, Old Testament characters, the Temple or Jerusalem. This Psalm is totally occupied with God’s Word as a source of strength for all people. Every verse contains a praise of God’s Word or some concept of affection toward it.
This is an alphabetical Psalm. It is the longest and the most extensive of all the alphabetical Psalms (Psalms 15, 34 and 37 are examples). Psalm 119 has been called “An Alphabet of Prayers,” “The Great Alphabet,” “The Saints Alphabet” or “A Children’s Sermon.” There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, and there are 22 stanzas of eight verses each in Psalm 119 for a total of 176 verses. Every first letter of every set of eight verses (also called couplets) begins with a Hebrew letter in Hebrew alphabetical order and is like a mini poem in itself.
Each of the 176 verses consists of two phrases. In this acrostic Psalm, your Bible may or may not be marked according to each of the 22 stanzas in this Psalm (Aleph, Beth, Gimel, Daleth, etc). It is exceedingly simple and elegant in structure. Nothing is obscure. There is seldom any relation between one verse and the next, nor is there any specific arrangement or connection between the stanzas. Therefore, view this Psalm as a chest of gold coins, not a chain of gold links or a string of pearls.
You can form your own acrostics from Psalm 119. For example:
T: Trust it – verse 42
H: Hope in it – verse 43
E: Esteem it – verse 128
W: Walk in it – verse 1
O: Obey it – verse 31
R: Respect it – verse 6
D: Do it – verse 116
O: Observe it – verse 9
F: Fear it – verses 39 and 120
G: Grow in it – verse 103
O: Obtain it – verse 111
D: Declare it – verse 13
God’s Word is:
Admirable – highly esteemed; appreciated
Admissible – accepted; allowed to enter
Acceptable – received with pleasure; favorable
Advisable – an option worthy to be followed
Adoptable – able to be selected and received
Accessible – easy to acquire
Agreeable – pleasant
Administrable – able to be put into effect for good
The mood of Psalm 119 is meditative. This Psalm does not take us outdoors into God’s natural world, but keeps us indoors in the prayer closet. The author seems to be a young person, but the wisdom sounds like one speaking from deep experiences. These could be thoughts from the author’s palm pilot over several years. Whoever wrote this Psalm was a person saturated with Scripture, one who has progressed beyond the simple reading of God’s Word and is doing serious meditation. The author has shaken every fruit tree in God’s garden then gathered all the best fruit.
Psalm 119 reflects the childlike awe and wonder of the Christian with an open Bible. We should always have the deepest love and appreciation for God’s Holy Word. You will note that every reference to the Word of God in Psalm 119 also relates to God in some way. Thus, this Psalm is not a glorification of the Bible as a sacred relic but concerns the living, vibrant worship of God. It shows that the true function of the Word is practical, not speculative. A constant theme is the delight we can find in His Word, for we delight in the One who gave it (verses 14 and 16). The Word of God, as depicted in Psalm 119, is attractive, dependable, unshakable, and inexhaustible. The Word liberates, gives life, stability and steadfastness.
It is also interesting to note that this Psalm was probably written around the time of the Jew’s return from the Babylonian captivity. It seems to be written by one who has experienced the pain of the exile, for he refers to enemies who have rank and authority (verses 21 and 23), those who have the power to crush him (verses 61 and 69) and those exposed to insults because they love Jehovah (verses 6, 22, and 31). Perhaps your prayer life has been hindered by those who oppress or oppose you: a boss, a co-worker, a relative or a spouse. If you have a hard time praying, begin reading this Psalm and your heart will warm up to prayer, for it reflects the happy effects of obeying the Word of God despite harsh circumstances.
“Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.” Psalm 119:11
In reading Psalm 119, you will note a number of different terms that are used to refer to the Word of God. Let’s examine some of them.
The word “Commandment” – used 22 times
This term refers to a specific, authoritative command imposed with God-ordained authority. It bespeaks the absolute authority of what God says and the right of God to give orders.
Note the term “commandments” in:
Verse 66 – “believe in them”
Verse 32 – “run in them”
Verse 86 – “put faith in them”
Verse 35 – “follow them”
The term “Judgments” – used 23 times
This term refers to judicial pronouncements against specific types of conduct. It bespeaks God’s absolute fairness in his dealings with humans.
Note this word “Judgments” in:
Verse 20 – “long for them”
Verse 52 – “remember them”
Verse 108 – “learn them”
Verse 156 – “live them”
The word “Law” – used 25 times
This is the most commonly used term for the Word of God in Psalm 119. This Hebrew word refers to the guidelines from God for humans. It means “to teach; to direct; directions from God to man; rules of conduct.”
When the author writes, “I have kept thy Law, he means, “I have faithfully kept your Word.” God’s Word is Law.
Note the term “Law” in:
Verse 44 – “keep it”
Verses 70, 77 and 92 – “delight in it”
Verse 113 – “love it”
Verse 97 – “meditate on it”
The word “Precepts” – used 21 times
This term refers to God’s mandates which have been entrusted to human beings.
The idea behind this word refers to a military officer responsible to look closely into a situation and take action. It carries the thought of directing one’s conduct.
Note the term “Precept” in:
Verse 27 – “understand them”
Verse 45 – “seek them”
Verse 173 – “choose them”
The word “Saying(s)” – used 19 times
This word refers to God’s oral utterances and their intended purpose.
The term “Statutes in Psalm 119 is used 22 times
This is a word which depicts legislation which comes directly from God and refers to the binding force and the permanence of Scripture. It refers to something engraved or inscribed, like an inner law written on the “tables of the heart.” It is the deeper understanding of His will beyond anything written down. This bespeaks an intimate communication with God and a willingness to obey His written laws.
Note what we are to do with this term “statutes” in:
Verse 54 – “sing them”
Verse 80 – “be sound in them”
Verse 112 – “perform them”
In Psalm 119, the term “Testimonies” is used 23 times
This is a Hebrew word which means what God attests to, what God Himself bear witness to, what God declares, God’s revealed Law. The Ark of the Covenant was sometimes called The Ark of the Testimony, for it held the two tablets of the Ten Commandments or the testimony of God.
Note this word “testimony” in:
Verse 125 – “know them”
Verse 36 – “incline to them”
Verse 46 – “speak of them”
Verse 95 – “consider them”
The word “Way” in our Psalm is used 13 times
This refers to “a course of action laid out by God.” If you want to know the true path, read the Word of God.
The term “Word” is used 24 times in Psalm 119
It is a term that points to God’s truth in any form, written or oral. It is also translated as “promise,” that which is articulated by God; that which God says; an announcement by God.
Concerning God’s Holy Word, we are to:
Verse 38 – “establish it”
Verse 11 – “hide it”
Verse 162 – “rejoice in it”
Your Bible is a lantern to get you safely along the dark path of life. God’s Word penetrates the fog of 21st century temptations. Are you reading God’s Word every day? The darkness is what makes your flashlight such a useful and essential item. But what good is the flashlight if the batteries grow weak when you approach the cliff?
How interesting that many Americans will pay megabucks for a rare book but disregard the most precious of all books, the book that has more copies in circulation than any book ever printed. Other books may be written for the poor or the rich, for the young or old, for the male or female, but this Book crosses all social, gender, age and ethnic barriers. It is for you. Don’t treat it as a literary curio. Mine its wealth every day of your life.
“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105