Psalms For Life
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Psalm 119 – part 3

Biblical spirituality, from A to Z

We’re tempted to forsake God when serving him costs us dearly. The psalmist seeks God’s protection as well as deliverance from such self-sabotage in the fullness and freedom of a God-taught life.

73 Your hands have moulded me
and made me into the person I am—
now give me the understanding I need
to learn to please you.
74 Those who revere you
will be delighted to see
that I’ve put my hope in your word.
75 I know your judgments are just, YHWH
that you made me suffer
out of faithfulness.
76 Let your unfailing love comfort me
in keeping with what you promised your servant.
77 Show me compassion so I may live
because your word is my delight.
78 Let the insolent be shamed
for giving me a bad name with all their lies.
Meanwhile, I’ll stay focused on your directives.
79 May those who revere you regroup around me
those who know your teachings.
80 May my heart be blameless in obeying you
so I’m spared any further disgrace.

81 Bone-weary from waiting for you to save me
I still hope in your word.
82 My eyes are worn out
from watching for you to keep your promise.
When will you come through for me?
83 Though I’ve become dried-up
like a wineskin in a smoky place
I don’t forget your statutes.
84 How long must your servant hold on—
when will you bring my stalkers to justice?
85 The arrogant have dug pits to trap me
in defiance of your law.
86 All your commands can be trusted.
Help me when people hound me with falsehoods.
87 Even though they almost made an end of me
I didn’t abandon your way of living.
88 In keeping with your unfailing love
give me life and I’ll live to please you.

89 Forever, YHWH
your word stands indisputable in the heavens.
90 Your faithfulness extends throughout all time
as enduring as the earth you created.
91 To this day your decree holds everything together
since everything exists to serve you.
92 If your word hadn’t been my delight
my suffering would have been the end of me.
93 I’ll never forget your precepts
for you’ve given me new life through them.
94 I am yours—rescue me
because I’ve made it my goal
to follow all your directives.
95 Though evildoers lie in wait to destroy me
your words are what I focus on.
96 I’ve seen how limiting seeking perfection is
but obeying your commandments
leads to wide-open vistas.

97 How I love your word, YHWH—
I think about it all day long!
98 Your commands constantly guide me
making me wiser than my enemies.
99 I understand more than all my teachers
because I meditate on your words.
100 I have more insight
than even the wisest of sages
because I live by your precepts.
101 I’ve avoided getting onto a perilous path
by staying within the bounds set by your word.
102 I haven’t deviated from your laws
because you’re the one who taught me.
103 How sweet your words are to my taste—
I crave nothing more!
104 From your precepts
I gain the wisdom to hate every false path.

This is the third part of the Psalter’s longest psalm.

In our harried age, we may wish the psalmist* had simply given us an executive summary. Alternatively, we let her lead us in her long meditative prayer on what living a life centered on God’s word means. Pointing to the psalm’s comprehensiveness, its twenty-two stanzas go through the letters of the alphabet in turn, the first Hebrew word in each verse beginning with each stanza’s given letter. If we read this longest of all psalms through in one sitting, its effect is powerful.

The psalmist begins with the blessedness of obeying God, whose written word cuts through our complacency, revealing our urgent need of him. Besides speaking through scripture, God continually engages our hearts in conversation. To flourish in life, we must listen to all he says.

God’s goodness and relentless love assure the psalmist that his word is trustworthy, making her delight in it. Following it enables us to navigate life correctly. By contrast, the self-seeking discount God’s truth, their false view of reality leading them astray. The psalmist acknowledges how blind she is apart from God and how messed up things get when she makes herself the center. So beyond guidance, she also asks for the ability to understand scripture, walk in its light, and communicate it to others. Only then can she count on God’s faithfulness: she can’t take it for granted.

The psalmist is also anxious about her vulnerability to attack. For powerful people misrepresent, mock, and viciously assail not just God’s truth, but also anyone following it. So she prays and waits for God to come through for her, as he has before. She clings to the fact that she can count on him even when he doesn’t seem in control. And broken as she is, she realizes that she can’t live without God’s word and his loving correction.

Lord, the psalmist accurately describes my world. How incredible that you walk and talk with me! Help me attend to all your words—to cling to them as if they’re my life, which they are. Open my mind to your truth, give me grace to obey it, and deliver me from evil, I pray. Amen.

In your free moments today, pray these words:

How I love your word, YHWH—
I think about it all day long!

 

* I imagine the psalmist here as a woman of faith, like Miriam, Deborah, Hanna, or the Virgin Mary (see further, my answer to the question: Who wrote the psalms?).

Psalm 119 – part 2

Biblical spirituality, from A to Z

We’re tempted to forsake God when serving him costs us dearly. The psalmist seeks God’s protection as well as deliverance from such self-sabotage in the fullness and freedom of a God-taught life.

33 Teach me what it means, YHWH
to walk in the path your word marks out
and I’ll stay the course.
34 Help me understand your law
so I can do all you ask
and obey you wholeheartedly.
35 Lead me in the path of your commands
my true delight.
36 Make me long to obey you
not to get ahead at all costs.
37 Keep me from being distracted
by worthless things.
Let me find life in walking your path.
38 Keep your promises to your servant
so that you may be revered.
39 Deflect the disgrace I so dread—
your way of judging things is always good.
40 See how I long to please you?
In your bounty grant me life.

41 Let your unfailing love embrace me, YHWH.
Rescue me, true to your word.
42 Then I’ll be able to refute
those who insult me
because I take you at your word.
43 Don’t take the least of your faithful words
from my mouth
for I hope in your judgments.
44 I’ll follow your instruction always—
both now and forever.
45 I will walk in freedom
because I seek to live by your precepts.
46 I’ll speak of your decrees before the powerful
without a hint of embarrassment.
47 I delight in your commandments—
how I cherish them!
48 I approach your commandments, which I love
with hands upraised
my mind poring over all you’ve said.

49 Remember the word you gave your servant
the word you made me hope in.
50 It’s what comforts me in my suffering—
your promise gives me life.
51 Though the headstrong really mock me
I refuse to turn away from your word.
52 When I recall your time-honored judgments
I’m encouraged, YHWH.
53 And I become furious
when I see the self-seeking abandon your law.
54 Your statutes have become my songs
as I make my pilgrim journey.
55 At night I think of all you are to me, YHWH
and pledge my love in return.
56 This has become my life
as I’ve obeyed your commandments.

57 YHWH is all I want in life—
I promise to do all you ask of me.
58 I seek your favor with all my heart:
true to your promise
grant me your grace.
59 After reflecting on my ways
I returned to walk the path your word marks out.
60 Without hesitating
I hurried to obey your commands.
61 Though caught in the cords of the self-seeking
I haven’t forgotten your word.
62 In the middle of the night
I get up and thank you
for your judgments are unerringly just and true.
63 I’m a friend to all who revere you
to all who observe your precepts.
64 Your unrelenting love fills the earth, YHWH!
Teach me to live as you want me to.

65 You’ve done your servant good
just as you promised, YHWH.
66 Teach me discernment and good judgment
for I’m committed to keeping your commands.
67 Before I was afflicted
I went astray
but now I obey your word.
68 You are goodness personified
and all you do is good.
Teach me to obey your laws.
69 Though the arrogant smear me with lies
I wholeheartedly do what you ask of me.
70 Their hearts are calloused, unfeeling
but I delight in your teachings.
71 The suffering I went through did me good
because it made me take your laws to heart.
72 The words you speak
are worth more to me
than a fortune in silver and gold.

This is the second part of the Psalter’s longest psalm.

In our harried age, we may wish the psalmist* had simply given us an executive summary. Alternatively, we let her lead us in her long meditative prayer on what living a life centered on God’s word means. Pointing to the psalm’s comprehensiveness, its twenty-two stanzas go through the letters of the alphabet in turn, the first Hebrew word in each verse beginning with each stanza’s given letter. If we read this longest of all psalms through in one sitting, its effect is powerful.

The psalmist begins with the blessedness of obeying God, whose written word cuts through our complacency, revealing our urgent need of him. Besides speaking through scripture, God continually engages our hearts in conversation. To flourish in life, we must listen to all he says.

God’s goodness and relentless love assure the psalmist that his word is trustworthy, making her delight in it. Following it enables us to navigate life correctly. By contrast, the self-seeking discount God’s truth, their false view of reality leading them astray. The psalmist acknowledges how blind she is apart from God and how messed up things get when she makes herself the center. So beyond guidance, she also asks for the ability to understand scripture, walk in its light, and communicate it to others. Only then can she count on God’s faithfulness: she can’t take it for granted.

The psalmist is also anxious about her vulnerability to attack. For powerful people misrepresent, mock, and viciously assail not just God’s truth, but also anyone following it. So she prays and waits for God to come through for her, as he has before. She clings to the fact that she can count on him even when he doesn’t seem in control. And broken as she is, she realizes that she can’t live without God’s word and his loving correction.

The psalmist accurately describes my world, Lord. How incredible that you walk and talk with me! Help me to attend to all your words—to cling to them as if they’re my life, which they are. Open my mind to your truth, give me grace to obey it, and deliver me from evil, I pray. Amen.

In your free moments today, meditate on these words:

Your unfailing love fills the earth, YHWH.
Teach me to live as you want me to.

 

* I imagine the psalmist here as a woman of faith, like Miriam, Deborah, Hanna, or the Virgin Mary (see further, my answer to the question: Who wrote the psalms?).

Psalm 119 – part 1

Biblical spirituality, from A to Z

We’re tempted to forsake God when serving him costs us dearly. The psalmist seeks God’s protection as well as deliverance from such self-sabotage in the fullness and freedom of a God-taught life.

How blessed are those
who walk the path of integrity
always open to YHWH’s instruction.
2 How happy are those
whose lives line up with his decrees
who seek him wholeheartedly.
3 Wronging no one
they live life as he tells them to.
4 You’ve commanded
us to be diligent about obeying your orders.
5 If only my steps were resolute
in keeping your laws!
6 Then I’d never be ashamed
for I’d keep your commands clearly in view.
7 I’d praise you from the bottom of my heart
on seeing where your just rulings lead.
8 I will obey your statutes.
Don’t totally give up on me!

9 How can a young person
stick to the path of purity?
Only by carefully keeping your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart—
don’t let me stray from your commands.
11 I’ve hidden your word in my heart
to keep me from sinning against you.
12 You are blessed, YHWH.
Teach me your laws.
13 I can’t stop talking
about the things you’ve said.
14 I find more joy in the path
your word has put me on
than in gaining all kinds of wealth.
15 I’ll ponder your precepts
and reflect on your paths.
16 I take such delight in your statutes
I won’t forget a single thing you say. 

17 Be good to your servant
so I can live to keep your word.
18 Open my eyes to behold
the wonderful things your word contains.
19 I’m a stranger on earth—
give me clear directions here.
20 My soul constantly aches
to know how you judge things.
21 You blast the wilful
who put themselves under your curse
by wandering from your commands.
22 Shield me from their taunts and insults
because I’ve followed your teachings.
23 Even when powerful people
sit scheming against me
your servant stays focused on your statutes.
24 I delight in your boundary markers—
they’re my trusted counsellors.

25 My soul clings to the dust—
give me life as you’ve promised to do.
26 When I admitted what I’d done
you answered me.
Now teach me to live as you want me to.
27 Help me grasp your precepts
and I’ll fix my mind
on the wonderful things you’ve done.
28 I’m overwhelmed by grief—
help me back onto my feet
as you said you would.
29 Keep me from all the false leads out there
by graciously guiding me in your teaching.
30 I’ve chosen to walk the path of truth
committed myself to obey your laws.
31 I’m holding onto your words for dear life—
don’t let me be disgraced, YHWH.
32 I run with abandon
down the path of your commands
because you’ve set my heart free.


This is the first part of the Psalter’s longest psalm.

In our harried age, we may wish the psalmist* had simply given us an executive summary. Alternatively, we let her lead us in her long meditative prayer on what living a life centered on God’s word means. Pointing to the psalm’s comprehensiveness, its twenty-two stanzas go through the letters of the alphabet in turn, the first Hebrew word in each verse beginning with each stanza’s given letter. If we read this longest of all psalms through in one sitting, its effect is powerful.

The psalmist begins with the blessedness of obeying God, whose written word cuts through our complacency, revealing our urgent need of him. Besides speaking through scripture, God continually engages our hearts in conversation. To flourish in life, we must listen to all he says.

God’s goodness and relentless love assure the psalmist that his word is trustworthy, making her delight in it. Following it enables us to navigate life correctly. By contrast, the self-seeking discount God’s truth, their false view of reality leading them astray. The psalmist acknowledges how blind she is apart from God and how messed up things get when she makes herself the center. So beyond guidance, she also asks for the ability to understand scripture, walk in its light, and communicate it to others. Only then can she count on God’s faithfulness: she can’t take it for granted.

The psalmist is also anxious about her vulnerability to attack. For powerful people misrepresent, mock, and viciously assail not just God’s truth, but also anyone following it. So she prays and waits for God to come through for her, as he has before. She clings to the fact that she can count on him even when he doesn’t seem in control. And broken as she is, she realizes that she can’t live without God’s word and his loving correction.

Lord, the psalmist accurately describes me and my world. How incredible that you walk and talk with me! Help me attend to all your words—to cling to them as if they’re my life, which they are. Open my mind to your truth, give me grace to obey it, and deliver me from evil, I pray. Amen.

In your free moments today, meditate on these words:

I run with abandon
down the path of your commands
because you’ve set my heart free.

 

* I imagine the psalmist here as a woman of faith, like Miriam, Deborah, Hanna, or the Virgin Mary (see further, my answer to the question: Who wrote the psalms?).

Psalm 119 – part 5

Biblical spirituality, from A to Z

We’re tempted to forsake God when serving him costs us dearly. The psalmist seeks God’s protection as well as deliverance from such self-sabotage in the fullness and freedom of a God-taught life.

145 I cry to you with all my heart, YHWH.
Answer me and I’ll do all you ask of me.
146 I call on you to save me
so I can live as you’ve commanded me to.
147 I’m up before the dawn
crying for help, hoping in your word.
148 I lie awake through the night watches
pondering your promise.
149 Listen to me
because your love never fails, YHWH.
Give me life in keeping with your covenant.
150 The closer my persecutors get to me
the farther they are from your word.
151 But you are closer still, YHWH
and your promises are trustworthy.
152 I long ago learned that your precepts
were made to stand forever.

153 Look on my suffering and deliver me
because I haven’t forgotten your law.
154 Be my advocate and defend me.
Give me life as you promised.
155 The wicked have no right at all to deliverance
since they totally ignore your word.
156 You’ve shown me so much compassion:
preserve my life as you promised, YHWH.
157 My enemies and oppressors are numerous
but I haven’t turned away from your laws.
158 I’m appalled when I see the treacherous
who don’t heed a word you say.
159 See how I love your instruction, YHWH
and lovingly keep me alive.
160 Every word you utter is rock-solid—
all your just judgments stand true forever.

161 Powerful people harass me for no reason
but your word alone strikes fear in me.
162 I’m overjoyed by your promise
like someone striking it rich.
163 I utterly detest falsehood
but I love your word.
164 I praise you seven times a day
because your judgments are just.
165 Those who love your law
have great peace
and nothing makes them stumble.
166 I wait expectantly for your deliverance
obeying your commands as I do, YHWH.
167 My soul hangs on your every word
which I love with all my heart.
168 I follow your guidance
and abide by your counsel
because you know me inside out.

169 Let my cry reach you, YHWH
give me understanding as you said you would.
170 Listen to my prayer
and deliver me as you promised.
171 My lips overflow with praise
because you teach me your statutes.
172 Let your word roll off my tongue
for all your commands are just.
173 Keep your hand free to steady me
since I’ve chosen your counsel.
174 I long for your deliverance, YHWH
for your instruction is my delight.
175 Let me live to praise you
sustained by your life-giving laws.
176 I’ve gone astray like a lost sheep.
Come and search for your servant
because I haven’t forgotten your commands.

This is the last part of the Psalter’s longest psalm.

In our harried age, we may wish the psalmist* had simply given us an executive summary. Alternatively, we let her lead us in her long meditative prayer on what living a life centered on God’s word means. Pointing to the psalm’s comprehensiveness, its twenty-two stanzas go through the letters of the alphabet in turn, the first Hebrew word in each verse beginning with each stanza’s given letter. If we read this longest of all psalms through in one sitting, its effect is powerful.

The psalmist begins with the blessedness of obeying God, whose written word cuts through our complacency, revealing our urgent need of him. Besides speaking through scripture, God continually engages our hearts in conversation. To flourish in life, we must listen to all he says.

God’s goodness and relentless love assure the psalmist that his word is trustworthy, making her delight in it. Following it enables us to navigate life correctly. By contrast, the self-seeking discount God’s truth, their false view of reality leading them astray. The psalmist acknowledges how blind she is apart from God and how messed up things get when she makes herself the center. So beyond guidance, she also asks for the ability to understand scripture, walk in its light, and communicate it to others. Only then can she count on God’s faithfulness: she can’t take it for granted.

The psalmist is also anxious about her vulnerability to attack. For powerful people misrepresent, mock, and viciously assail not just God’s truth, but also anyone following it. So she prays and waits for God to come through for her, as he has before. She clings to the fact that she can count on him even when he doesn’t seem in control. And broken as she is, she realizes that she can’t live without God’s word and his loving correction.

Lord, the psalmist has accurately described me and my world. How incredible that you walk and talk with me! Help me attend to all your words—to cling to them as if they’re my life, which they are. Open my mind to your truth, give me grace to obey it, and deliver me from evil, I pray. Amen.

In your free moments today, meditate on these words:

I’ve gone astray like a lost sheep.
Come and search for your servant
for I haven’t forgotten your commands.

 

* I imagine the psalmist here as a woman of faith, like Miriam, Deborah, Hanna, or the Virgin Mary (see further, my answer to the question: Who wrote the psalms?).

Why YHWH?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH or YHVH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and sometimes transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Likewise, all modern translations either translate or transliterate it. Some other options for translating it are “the Eternal,” “the Almighty,” or “the Sovereign Lord.”

While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it seems to me more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. This roots it more firmly in the biblical story as the name God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. Meaning “the self-existent One who answers to no one,” the name YHWH set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. I’ve chosen to transliterate only YHWH’s consonants since the earliest Hebrew manuscripts contain only consonants, the vowels being added much later. My aim in doing so is to honor God’s name and set it apart, as unique.

One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it out of reverence. (They read Adonai instead whenever they come to YHWH in the text.) I take the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard, who advocated pronouncing it as Yahveh (Yah·vay). He favored that over the standard Yahweh since the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish. It also makes it sound more robust, period.

Finding strength in the ancient psalms

May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.