Psalms 119

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

Text: Proverb 4:10-17


I.         How do you learn? What do you need to learn?

            A.        The evil decay, but a child of God must learn - II Timothy 3:13-17

            B.        It is important for all aspects of life - II Peter 1:3

            C.        Your parents have invested a lot in you, so has your heavenly Father, make them happy - Proverbs 23:23-26

II.        A psalm about God’s law

            A.        Psalms 119 is the longest Psalm in the Bible.

                        1.         It is actually not one psalm, but a series of 22 psalms all on the same topic.

                        2.         Each mini psalm is composed of eight verses, but we miss something in the translation

                                    a.         Each verse starts with the same letter.

                                    b.         In Psalms 119:1-8, each verse starts with aleph, the Hebrew letter “a.”

                                    c.         In Psalms 119:9-16, each verse starts with beth, the Hebrew letter “b”

                        3.         The technique is called an acrostic

            B.        It’s not the only one

                        1.         Psalm 9 - 2 verses for each of the 22 Hebrew consonants

                        2.         Psalm 10 - 2 verses each

                        3.         Psalm 25 - 1 verse each

                        4.         Psalm 34 - 1 verse each

                        5.         Psalm 37 - 2 verses each

                        6.         Psalm 111 - ½ verse each

                        7.         Psalm 112 - ½ verse each

                        8.         Psalm 119 - 8 verses each

                        9.         Psalm 145 - 1 verse each

                        10.       The book of Lamentations and sections of Proverbs 31 are also done as acrostics

            C.        Except for just a few verses, each line contains some reference to the law or uses a synonym for the law.

            D.        Hebrew letters come from a picture image style of writing

                        1.         What is interesting is the pictures of the letter seem to go with the topic being discussed in each section of Psalms 119

                        2.         Sometimes the name of the letter is also a Hebrew word and the meaning relates to topic being discussed in each section of Psalms 119

III.       The psalm

            A.        Aleph - Mighty Blessings - Psalm 119:1-8

                        1.         An aleph in Hebrew is an ox. The old way of writing this letter looks like an ox head seen from above. It is the prefix for strong or mighty. It is also the word for learn.

                        2.         Too many people get wrapped up in feeling miserable about their life.

                                    a.         “I can’t do this. I can’t do that.”

                        3.         The psalmist sees the happiness (blessing) that comes from having God’s laws

                                    a.         Where you look, were you focus, results in what you do - Matthew 6:22-24

                                    b.         What better place to look than in the wisdom of God’s laws - Deuteronomy 6:24

                        4.         “Count Your Many Blessings” (118)

            B.        Beth - House of Protection - Psalm 119:9-16

                        1.         You see this letter in many names: Bethel (house of God), Bethlehem (house of bread), etc.

                        2.         When we are young we need protection and security, which we find in our house.

                        3.         God’s word is our protection - Proverbs 6:20-24

                        4.         “How Shall the Young Secure Their hearts?” (253)

            C.        Gimel - Journey through Life - Psalm 119:17-24

                        1.         A gimel in Hebrew is a camel, something that carries you as you travel

                        2.         We’re passing through, so we need to have our eyes open to where we are going

                                    a.         We need to avoid the dangers - I Peter 2:11

                                    b.         We need to live as for God - I Peter 1:17

                                    c.         Because we are looking for our homeland, a better place - Hebrews 11:13-16

                        3.         Life, like any journey, has its good and bad times.

                        4.         “Here We Are But Straying Pilgrims” (247)

            D.        Daleth - Door leading from sorrows - Psalms 119:25-32

                        1.         A daleth in Hebrew is a door that divides one place from another

                        2.         We live in griefs, but God’s word is the door that takes us away from these sorrows.

                        3.         God is able to turn bad times to good purposes - Romans 8:28

                        4.         Trials teach us - James 1:2-4

                        5.         “The Haven of Rest” (657)

            E.        He - Observing Righteousness - Psalm 119:33-40

                        1.         A he in Hebrew is to see (Lo! Or Behold!)

                        2.         The original character pictured a window.

                        3.         Here is a desire to focus on God’s word and not the vanity of the world

                        4.         It is a looking that is applied to life - James 1:21-25

                        5.         “Open My Eyes, That I May See” (505)

            F.        Vav - Hang confidence upon - Psalm 119:41-48

                        1.         A vav in Hebrews is a hook, nail, or peg upon which you hang something.

                        2.         Here the writer hangs his confidence on God’s word

                        3.         There is a progression: wait, keep, walk, speak, delight, uplift hands, and meditate

                        4.         When we know God’s salvation, we are confident to tell others - I Peter 3:14-16

                        5.         Knowing how you ought to answer - Colossians 4:6

                        6.         “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less” (438)

            G.        Zayin - Our Weapon - Psalm 119:49-56

                        1.         The picture is a weapon to be thrown, such as a spear or an arrow

                        2.         When we are pressed by enemies, we need to remember the weapon God has given us

                                    a.         Our warfare is spiritual - II Corinthians 10:3-6

                                    b.         A war where our sword is the word of God - Ephesians 6:12-17

                        3.         “Sound the Battle Cry” (594)

            H.        Cheth - No terror of the wicked - Psalm 119:57-64

                        1.         Chath is terror or being filled with terror

                        2.         The picture symbol was that of a hedge or fence surrounding something

                        3.         The wicked have tried to surround him, but the psalmist has found deliverance in God’s word.

                        4.         Notice the sense of urgency (Psalm 119:60) and the long hours (Psalm 119:62).

                                    a.         Such is combined in the word “diligence” - II Timothy 2:15

                                    b.         Like those in Nehemiah’s day, we need to build up our defenses through the study of God’s word and we cannot delay nor can we afford sloppy work.

                        5.         “A Mighty Fortress” (6)

            I.         Teth - Mired by Satan - Psalm 119:65-72

                        1.         Tit (?) is to be mired in mud

                        2.         Another derivation suggests that teth means spin and refers to knotting or twining string.

                        3.         The picture symbol is that of a serpent or snake.

                                    a.         Satan, as the old serpent, was the father of lies - John 8:44

                        4.         For a while the psalmist was lead astray, but now God has led he out of danger. Now he realizes that the trouble ultimately good for him - Hebrews 12:11; I Corinthians 11:32

                        5.         “Trials Dark on Every Hand” (702)

            J.         Yodh - God’s Hands - Psalm 119:73-80

                        1.         Yodh refers to a bent hand and can be applied in a figurative sense to how a person becomes conscious of something.

                        2.         The psalmist sees God’s hands fashioning him through teachings, chastisement, comfort and compassion - Psalm 138:6-8

                        3.         God molds our lives - Philippians 1:3-6

                        4.         “Have Thine Own Way” (197)

            K.        Kaph - Longing for Comfort - Psalm 119:81-88

                        1.         Kaph is hollow portion of a cupped hand and by extension the hollow in anything else, such as a bowl or the wing of a bird. It refers to someone being held and comforted, or being under the power of another - Matthew 23:37

                        2.         The psalmist talks of languishing while waiting for God’s comfort and justice, yet he hasn’t forgotten God’s teaching - Hebrews 12:1-3; 6:10-12

                        3.         “Till the Storms Passes By” (665)

            L.        Lamedh - Learning Perseverance - Psalm 119:89-96

                        1.         Lamedh is to learn or to teach.

                        2.         The original picture symbol was that of an ox goad used for correction

                        3.         We can see the staying power of God in our universe and in God’s dealings with men. Something the Gentiles did not learn - Romans 1:18-21

                        4.         “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” (190)

            M.       Mem - Sweet Meditation - Psalm 119:97-104

                        1.         The glyph for mem represents a wave rolling at the shore and by extension, water.

                        2.         The word for honey in this passage starts with mem

                        3.         Here the psalmist talks of doing what many people do when sitting beside the water – meditating

                                    a.         Learning God’s laws takes much more than plain reading. We need to think about and contemplate what God is saying - Psalm 1:2

                                    b.         Joshua was told to think about it constantly - Joshua 1:8

                                    c.         The result is restraint from false ways

                        4.         “Be Thou My Vision” (70)

            N.        Nun - A Light to Keep Us from Floundering - Psalm 119:105-112

                        1.         The letter nun depicts a fish and the Hebrew word nun means fish. Nun was the name of Joshua’s father.

                        2.         The word for light starts with nun.

                        3.         God’s word is a light to guide my path - Proverbs 6:23

                                    a.         The psalmist needs guidance because he is afflicted and the wicked are trying to entrap him

                                    b.         His life is constantly in danger.

                                    c.         But he has not left God’s word because he has determined to stay

                        4.         “Thy Word” (895) or “How Precious is the Book” (249)

            O.        Samekh - Supported and Sustained - Psalm 119:113-120

                        1.         The glyph for samekh is for a prop and by extension, something that holds you up or sustains you

                                    a.         The Hebrew word samakh means to support or to provide for

                                    b.         The word sustain starts with samekh.

                        2.         God’s word both keeps us safe and keeps us going - Psalm 32:7; Isaiah 41:10

                        3.         “How Firm a Foundation” (248)

            P.        ‘Ayin - Looking for Salvation - Psalm 119:121-128

                        1.         The glyph for ‘ayin represents the eye. The Hebrew word ‘ayin also means eye.

                        2.         With enemies all around, the psalmist is looking diligently for God to handle the problem and save him.

                                    a.         He as looked so long, his eyes are tiring

                                    b.         But unlike Jeremiah who watched in vain (Lamentations 4:17), this watch will be fruitful.

                        3.         “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” (442)

            Q.        Pe - Panting for the Word - Psalm 119:129-136

                        1.         The glyph represents a mouth and the Hebrew word peh means mouth.

                        2.         The psalmist longs for God’s word that it’s as if he is panting after a long run - Psalms 42:1; I Peter 2:1-2

                        3.         “As the Deer Pants for the Water” (843)

            R.        Tsadhe - Righteous - Psalm 119:137-144

                        1.         The glyph, it is argued, represents a fish hook, though it is uncertain

                        2.         The alternative name for tsadhe is tsaddiyq, which means “righteous”

                        3.         Here the psalmist extolls the righteousness of God which produced a righteous law

                                    a.         Look to God for righteousness - Isaiah 51:1-8

                                    b.         Psalm 19:7-11 - A description of God’s law

                        4.         “Psalm 19" () or “Seek Ye First” (883)

            S.        Qoph - Listen, I Cried - Psalm 119:145-152

                        1.         The glyph represents the rounded back of a skull or the rounded back of an axe – sometimes called the “ear” of the axe.

                        2.         The root word qoph refers to a circular motion or going around

                        3.         Perhaps the psalmist had in mind the circle of the ear. It is a cry to God to listen and save as he looks through God’s word.

                                    a.         A cry in the morning, starting each day leaning on God - Psalm 5:1-3

                                    b.         Psalm 130 - Waiting eagerly

                                    c.         And through the night, persistent - Psalm 63:1-8

                        4.         “I am Thine, O Lord” (261)

            T.        Resh - Revived from Affliction - Psalm 119:153-160

                        1.         The word resh has three meanings in Hebrew

                                    a.         Most commonly it refers to the head and figuratively to lead or go first. Seen in verse 160 as beginning or sum

                                    b.         A poison from a plant called rosh. You see it in this passage in the reference to the wicked – rasha (verse 155)

                                    c.         Poverty, to be poor

                        2.         The psalmist speaks of his afflictions and persecutions because the wicked don’t heed God’s word and his need to be rescued which is found in God’s teachings.

                                    a.         The Lord upholds the downtrodden - Proverbs 22:22-23

                                    b.         We have an advocate in Christ - I John 2:1

                        3.         “He is Able to Deliver Thee” (208) or “We Praise Thee, O God” (732)

            U.        Sin or Shin - Sharpened by God’s Word - Psalm 119:161-168

                        1.         Looks like a row of teeth

                        2.         The Hebrew word shen means a tooth but is also used as a root for sharpening, whether a weapon, or words, or the mind

                        3.         The psalmist finds awe, joy, love, peace, hope in God’s word

                                    a.         A cause to rejoice in God’s word - Jeremiah 15:16

                        4.         “Savior, Teach Me” (568)

            V.        Tav - Mark Me for Service - Psalm 119:169-176

                        1.         The Hebrew word tav means a mark, brand or sign

                        2.         The psalmist wants the things which he says to mark him as one who has chosen to follow God.

                                    a.         Christ died because we were straying - Isaiah 53:6

                                    b.         Now we return to our Shepherd - I Peter 2:25

                                    c.         We are marked or sealed - II Timothy 2:19

                        3.         “Purer in Heart, O God” (542)

[Song numbers come from Praise for the Lord]

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