In this mini-series of studies from Psalm 119, I wanted to first share an observation from a commentary [Tesh & Zorn, p.372-374]; one that wouldn’t necessarily have been clear to me, since I don’t currently know how to read Hebrew. In addition to the interesting structure of this psalm, the idea of torah permeates its stanzas. There are (according to commentators) eight related words – i.e., “torah” and seven synonyms – that appear often in this Psalm. In fact, these eight words appear approximately (and maybe exactly) an average of once per verse in this Psalm.
We might know the Torah as the first five books of the Holy Scriptures, and we might think of “torah” as the law of Moses. In Psalm 119, the word torah and its synonyms are translated in words like “law”, “word”, “commands”, “decrees”, “statutes”, and “precepts”. In total, we can see this Psalm as a testimony to God’s torah, and I believe that this affirmation of the value of God’s word extends beyond just the law of Moses, to all that God has said.
If you think that 176 verses is an awful lot to say about God’s word, well, I think that the author of this psalm would beg to differ. God’s torah is that important!
OK, with that background, let’s take a look at Psalm 119:9-16 to get started. In this acrostic Psalm, this section corresponds to the Hebrew letter “Beth”. Staring with the first verse of that section:
How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.
Psalms 119:9 NIV
This verse is an important set-up to this stanza. It gives us the “why” of what the author describes in the rest of this section, set up as a simple question and answer. In my oversimplified paraphrase:
- Question: How do we remain pure, or at least keep on that path?
- Answer: By following God’s Word.
For some of us, these might seem like rhetorical questions. Perhaps we already know that [theoretically] living according to God’s instructions perfectly will result in us being righteous. In fact, we might even already know that we can’t perfectly keep God’s commands in order to be righteous on our own, and so we need Jesus Christ’s sacrifice to pay for our sins. However, even for those of us who have received the grace of God (as a necessary alternative to living a perfect life), we still learn how to live righteously after that from God’s Word.
However, there are those who don’t know the answers to these questions. They are searching for how to heal the guilt that they feel, or for direction as to how to be a “good person”.
In fact, the answers to really important questions in life – like so many other answers – are found in God’s Word. And, when we realize that God’s Word isn’t only found in the Bible, but also in Jesus Christ (who is the Word, according to the first chapter of the gospel of John), we discover that all of the answers to the really important questions are answered in God’s Word. For instance:
- Where did we come from?
- Why are we here?
- What is our purpose in life?
- Who is God?
- What is God like?
- What does God expect from us?
- Can we get to know God?
- How can we restore our relationship with God once we broke it?
As a result, it’s important not only to study the Bible ourselves, but also to share its answers with others who haven’t heard. As we – both individually and collectively – seek out answers to these questions (including how to stay on the right path), let’s start with God’s Word.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for October 23, 2022
- The Lookout, October 23, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press NIV Commentary, Psalms, Volume 2, Walter D. Zorn, © 2004, College Press Publishing Co., Joplin, MO.