Psalm 119: A Lamp & A Light

Read the Bible in 2011Week 41: Wednesday

The unfolding of Your words gives light;
It gives understanding to the simple.
Psalm 119:130

Visualizing the Bible® Chris Harrison

Wednesday’s Bible reading is Psalms 119. It’s very fitting that Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible because in this psalm the writer speaks of his delight and love of God’s Word, he is grateful for its work in his life, and he turns to God for help from His Word over and over again.

Derek Kidner titles it, “‘The Rich and Precious Jewel’ of the Word” and writes:

“This giant among the Psalms shows the full flowering of that ‘delight . . . in the law of the Lord’ which is described in Psalm 1, and gives its personal witness to the many-sided qualities of Scripture praised in Psalm 19:7ff.

“It is an acrostic psalm, an alphabet of prayers and reflections on the Word of God, giving each Hebrew letter its turn to introduce eight successive verses on the subject. While different thoughts tend to predominate in different stanzas, partly from the stimulus of the alphabetic scheme, they are mingled with others that constantly recur. The mood is meditative; the poet’s preoccupations and circumstances come to light in prayers and exclamations, not marshalled in sequence but dispersed throughout the psalm…

“Like a ring of eight bells, eight synonyms for Scripture dominate the psalm, and the twenty-two stanzas will ring the changes on them. They will do it freely, not with a bell-ringer’s elaborate formulae, and they will introduce an occasional extra term. But the synonyms belong together, and we should probably not look for each to show its distinct character at each occurrence, but rather to contribute, by its frequent arrival, to our total understanding of what Scripture is.”1

As you read this psalm, think of Kidner’s words, “the poet’s preoccupations and circumstances come to light in prayers and exclamations.” In Organizing Love, I wrote about the preoccupations and circumstances of my friend Lisa and how the Lord used Psalm 119:11 to turn her away from bitterness and sin and set her on the path to trusting Him.

Leslie M’Caw and J. A. Motyer comment:

“This is an elaborate, ingenious and passionate meditation upon the law of the Lord. ‘Law’ in the OT should not be confused with Pharisaic legalism. The Hebrew word is tôrâ, meaning ‘teaching’. It stands for the will of God revealed to Israel. It is the loving instruction of a parent (Pr. 4:1, 2).

“The psalm has an acrostic pattern: each of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet is made the initial letter of eight verses in the successive sections. The major feature, however, is the repetition of eight synonyms of the will of God: law (tôrâ), ‘teaching’, notes that God has made His truth known by personal verbal communication, just as a teacher or parent would; this is also expressed by word (dāḇār, or ’imrâ). Testimonies (‘ēḏôṯ) stresses the content; God has testified of Himself and His requirements. These latter come to man as statutes (ḥuqqîm, root ḥ-q-q, to engrave) or unchangeable rules; judgments or ordinances (mišpāṭîm), decisions which God has made; precepts (piqqûḏîm) authoritatively imposed; commandments (miṣwôṯ) expecting obedience; all issuing in a way (derek), habitual modes of life and thought. (Cf. Ps. 19:7ff.) One or other of these terms occurs in every verse of the psalm, except v. 122…”2

Here are the eight synonyms organized into a list for easier reading:

    1. Law (tôrâ), ‘teaching’, God has made His truth known by personal verbal communication, just as a teacher or parent would.
    2. Word (dāḇār, or ’imrâ) also expresses this.
    3. Testimonies (‘ēḏôṯ) stresses the content; God has testified of Himself and His requirements.
    4. Statutes (ḥuqqîm, root ḥ-q-q, to engrave) or unchangeable rules.
    5. Judgments or ordinances (mišpāṭîm), decisions which God has made.
    6. Precepts (piqqûḏîm) authoritatively imposed.
    7. Commandments (miṣwôṯ) expecting obedience
    8. Way (derek), all issuing in habitual modes of life and thought.

There are numerous verses of Psalm 119 that God has used in my life, but as I read this psalm today, there were several that described the work of God’s Word in my preoccupations and circumstances of this last year.

My soul weeps because of grief;
Strengthen me according to Your word.
Psalm 119:28
If Your law had not been my delight,
Then I would have perished in my affliction.
Psalm 119:92

Psalm 119:28 describes why I have kept reading and writing about the Bible this year, and it speaks of the work of God’s Word in me as through it God strengthened me with His comfort and wisdom.

Today, as I read Psalm 119, verse 92 spoke deeply to my heart because it so well describes what would have happened to me without God’s ministry of His Word in my life. If you read my Journey Through The Storm, I think you will be able to see this.

What are your preoccupations and circum­stances right now? What prayers and exclamations of the psalmist describe you and your life? As you read Psalm 119, pray and ask the Lord to help you and guide you through His Word.

Your Word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
Psalm 119:105

Visualizing the Bible® Chris Harrison. Used by permission. Click the image to enlarge.
This image was named one of the best science images of 2008 in National Geographic News. An art print of the image can be purchase at Chris’s site here. He explains:
“The bar graph that runs along the bottom represents all of the chapters in the Bible. Books alternate in color between white and light gray. The length of each bar denotes the number of verses in the chapter. Each of the 63,779 cross references found in the Bible is depicted by a single arc – the color corresponds to the distance between the two chapters, creating a rainbow-like effect.”
(Psalm 119 is the long thin line extending down from the bar graph).
Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
1Derek Kidner, Psalms 73–150 (Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England: 1975) 416, 417.
2Leslie S. M’Caw, J. A. Motyer, “Psalms,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds. (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 526.

I’ve written about or referred to Psalm 19 enough times that I decided to give the chapter it’s own category: Psalm 19. In addition to this post, the others are:
Sweeter Than Honey
Bible Basics
Treasure For The Heart
A New Year’s New Mind
Psalms 18–20: Praise & Prayers

Copyright ©2011–2021 Iwana Carpenter

One thought on “Psalm 119: A Lamp & A Light

  1. This morning I’ve slightly edited the post for clarity, added the Read the Bible in 2011 links at the top as well as another comment on Psalm 119:50, and I included a list of my posts on Psalm 19.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s