I really didn’t mean to take a vacation from the blog even while I was on vacation this past week. But…I guess that is what happened. Here are some thoughts on 119 and then we’ll get to 120.
119: Did you know that every section of this massive psalm begins with another successive letter of the alphabet? For example, vs. 1 begins with the word: Happy which in Hebrew is “ashrei” which begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, aleph. Then vs. 9 begins with the word in Hebrew: בַּמֶּ֣ה which begins with the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, bet. The psalm follows all the way through till the end with every single letter of the alphabet represented. It is called an acrostic poem.
There has to be meaning in the completeness of this psalm. As I read through it and made my way through it I was somewhat surprised that I was actually looking forward to what came next. It flows naturally and gives what I would consider one of the most complete life lessons in Scripture on how to live your life. It sounds very much like the advice which we receive in Proverbs, but it is…complete.
In almost every single one of the sections of each letter of the alphabet we find the phrase: “word” or “law”. So, that would lead me to believe that the verse which we all know and which we enjoy: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and light unto my path.” (vs.105), is really one of the central tenets of this psalm. It speaks to how the Word of God has to be central in our lives and has to guide and direct our every step.
It is so tempting to make decisions that we think have nothing to do with our faith and so take a time out on the Scripture and how we ought to make our decisions. We see that happen with our families, with our finances, with our friends. There is no time out in our lives from following the way of Scripture. We sometimes treat family members in a way that is contrary to Scripture and we don’t even think about it. But Scripture tells us to love and to turn the other cheek. It is interesting for me to study people and try to figure out why they made a certain decision and discover that it really had nothing to do with their faith and or their understanding of Scripture. The decision was made with a suspension of belief. Not a very healthy thing to do. So, as you read Psalm 119 (again), be reminded of the centrality of Scripture as our guide in life.
120: I was about to say that this psalm is more manageable, but I’m not so sure. It is entitled a song of ascents, which means that it would be used by pilgrims as they made their way into Jerusalem. So what I am envisioning is the small town feel that many of these pilgrims may have felt. You see, everyone knew each other and each family knew each other. What happens in this setting is that automatically people get a label and words fly quickly whenever something bad happens. Once a label is attached it is hard to shake. So the pilgrim, or maybe it was David himself, is hoping that people would not judge him based on the words that have gone before him which don’t necessarily represent him.
The book of James has something to say about this as well. Go ahead and read James chapter 3 and see the intersection of this psalm and that chapter in the Bible. There is a great lesson to be learned in these verses.