Sunday, 3 July, 2022

Exaltation of the Word of God in Psalm 119

Reverend Martin Adhikary

Psalm 119 occupies an important place in the entire Bible. It is the longest chapter Psalm in the Bible with 176 verses. It is divided into 22 sections or stanzas titled with a Hebrew letter serving as the caption of each chapter. So there are 8 verses in each stanza. The most remarkable thing about this great Psalm is that it uses 8 synonyms for ‘Word’ of God. It is used in all the 176 verses of the Psalm excepting in verses 84, 90, 121,132, 149 and 156 where it is to be found that the synonyms for God’s Word is indirectly used. Most scholars agree that verse 122 is the only verse where there is no reference to God’s word, directly or indirectly: “Ensure your servant’s well-being; let not the arrogant oppress me”. So we can see that this particular Psalm is an exceptional Psalm in that it is entirely committed to magnify and honour the life-giving and eternal Word or law of God.

This Psalm uses eight different Hebrew words as synonyms for God’s Word, the Holy Scriptures, which is God revelation to man. The words are: Hebrew word ‘Torah’, meaning instruction, law and even God’s revelation) is used in this Psalter 25 times. The word ‘Dabar’, is spoken word of God and it is used 24 times; ‘Mishpatim’, meaning ‘Judgments’ is used 23 times; ‘Edut’, meaning Testimonies 23 times; ‘Imrah’, meaning anything God has commanded or spoken 19 times; ‘piqudim’ meaning precepts 21times; ‘Miswah’, meaning  commandments 22times and ‘huqqim’, meaning authority to give laws 21 times. The 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet are shown here as they are found in  both Bangla and English versions of the Bible each serving as a caption for the 8 verses forming a stanza in the Psalm. It is obvious indeed that this Psalm was written to celebrate God’s life-giving Word and instruction to man. “The law from your mouth is more precious to me that thousands of pieces of silver and gold”, sang the writer in verse 74. “How sweet are your Words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!  I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore, I hate every wrong path” (verse 103-104). God’s eternal word is kept in heaven for eternity. Thus the writer wrote, “Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens” (verse 89). God’s word is truth and beautiful for all people for all generation for the world without end. So we see the Psalter declaring, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. I have taken an oath and confirmed it that I will follow your righteous laws” (verse 105-106). Some particular verses in this great spiritual hymn are: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (verses 9-11).

Many verses mention God’s word in one line and in second line connects to God’s revelation and wondrous intervention and work in human affairs. In fact this Psalm is a long personal prayer of praise and petition to Almighty God and the Creator. God is viewed personally with utmost and intimate relationship. It contains petitions for divine wisdom (verses 33-40), prayers of exaltation (verses 45-48), unconditional allegiance and obedience to God’s holy will (57-64), and it has also laments in verse 81-88, vindication (132-134). Above all else it is the greatest Psalm of Thanksgiving to God for what he is and also for what he does for us. The Psalm guides one to worship and adore a highly personal God, who is intimately related to his devotee having sincerity and righteousness. About this Psalm David Rawlinson observed, “Psalm is actually not about the topic of getting scripture into your life. Instead, it is the honest words that erupt when what God says get into you. It is not an exhortation to Bible study. It is an outcry of faith. Psalm 119 is the thoughtful outcry that rises when real life meets real God”. It teaches us to hear from God more than we talk to him. His words speak to us as and when we pray. What a tremendous commentary on the Psalm when he said these on another occasion,  “As those who drink the Nile water like it better every time they take draught, so does this Psalm becomes more full and fascinating the oftener you turn to it”! Finally, we can find in this special Psalm the life of the devotee is entirely dependent on God’s loving care manifested in his entire word mean for a true believer. This is the most sublime prayer that one can make in complete trust and unconditional faith and submission to the will of God.


The writer is a Christian Theology teacher and a Church leader