Reading: Psalms 119:113-176
This week we read the last third of Psalm 119.
Click on the link for the reading to read the Psalms for this week. As we read, let us not do so in haste. Take time to read each Psalm at least three times: once to understand the content, once as a poem or song to feel the meaning, and once as a prayer to appropriate the Psalm into your life. There is a hymn attached at the bottom of the page that helps bring meaning to one of the Psalms for the week.
Psalm 119 consists of 22 sections, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Each line within a section starts with the same letter. This week we will look at sections 15-22. James Luther Mays explains that this is an instructional Psalm. Creation is the classroom (vs.17,23,124f). The students are the servants of God (vs. 97-100). Learning is the way of life (vs. 9-16). As children of God, let us be learners.
Samekh: verses 113-120. These verses articulate mostly loyalty and trust. Intermingled in the words of trust we hear of opposition. And, as always, it is necessary to pray for life.
Ayin: verses 121-128. This section contains mostly complaints. The petitions in verses 121-122 imply the complaint which is then voiced directly in verse 123. Verse 128 indicates that the psalmist has not become totally disoriented as he or she awaits God’s help. Verse 127 indicates the psalmist has already received a reward that is greater than the material wealth oppressors might gain by their dishonest ways: the love of God’s revelation, which constitutes life.
Pe: verses 129-136. Here the psalmist asserts that it is God’s “justice” to be gracious. This assertion reinforces the psalmist’s conviction that his or her life depends ultimately on God’s mercy and love. The petitions indicate that the psalmist entrusts life to God, depending on God for guidance, liberation from oppression, and illumination.
Tsadhe: verses 137-144. The key word in this section is “righteousness.” God is righteous (vs. 137,142) and God’s decrees are righteous (v. 144). The word “righteousness” is used elsewhere to describe the policy that God wills and enacts as ruler of the universe. In keeping with the conviction of God’s universal reign, the psalmist proclaims that God’s righteousness is “everlasting”/”forever.” As a servant, one who recognizes God’s sovereignty, the psalmist is bothered by the same thing that bothers God: disloyalty. The section ends with a petition that indicates again the psalmist’s dependence upon God for life and future.
Ooph: verses 145-152. “Save me” cries the psalmist. The chronological references in verses 147-148 emphasize that the psalmist is in constant conversation with God. As always, the psalmist looks to God’s steadfast love and justice for life. And as always, this is necessary because of the presence of opposition.
Resh: verses 153-160. This section begins with and is dominated by petition, especially the one that pervades the psalm: “give me life.” This plea is associated with God’s mercy/compassion and steadfast love, as well as with God’s justice. As affirmed throughout, God’s justice ultimately takes the form of merciful love. The righteousness God intends will be effected ultimately by God’s faithful love.
Sin and Shin: verses 161-168. Although this section starts with a complaint, it moves quickly to expressions of joy and commitment. It is not clear whether the “seven times” is meant literally or whether it is figurative for something like “all day long.” The one persecuted without cause knows simultaneously “great peace” and security. The faithful life inevitably involves both home and the present experience of God.
Taw: verses 169-176. The final section contains several pleas that by this point are familiar: pleas for understanding, for grace, for help, as well as the all-embracing plea for life. The psalmist anticipates and promises praise, but it is striking, especially in view of all the expressions of loyalty and obedience throughout the psalm, that the psalmist includes in the final verse another plea for help that follows what sounds like a confession of sin. The last verse of 119, therefore, is a final reminder of what the psalmist has affirmed all along: The faithful are saved by grace. Their lives and their futures belong to God (see Luke 15:1-7).
This is the Psalm in hymn form. Read or sing it through with melody to give the Psalm another dimension.
Just getting started? Find our reading schedule here
If you’d like to sign up for the reading notes to come via email, please sign up below.