Precepts, faithfulness and unchangeableness

Psalm 119

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Psalm 119 is a great acrostic poem, the longest psalm and also the longest chapter in the Bible. The 22 stanzas each consist of 8 lines, each line starting with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet, each stanza having a different start letter. It is an epic love song for God’s law.


73 Your hands have made and fashioned me;
    give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.
74 Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice,
    because I have hoped in your word.
75 I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous,
    and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
76 Let your steadfast love comfort me
    according to your promise to your servant.
77 Let your mercy come to me, that I may live;
    for your law is my delight.
78 Let the insolent be put to shame,
    because they have wronged me with falsehood;
    as for me, I will meditate on your precepts.
79 Let those who fear you turn to me,
    that they may know your testimonies.
80 May my heart be blameless in your statutes,
    that I may not be put to shame!


81 My soul longs for your salvation;
    I hope in your word.
82 My eyes long for your promise;
    I ask, “When will you comfort me?”
83 For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke,
    yet I have not forgotten your statutes.
84 How long must your servant endure?[g]
    When will you judge those who persecute me?
85 The insolent have dug pitfalls for me;
    they do not live according to your law.
86 All your commandments are sure;
    they persecute me with falsehood; help me!
87 They have almost made an end of me on earth,
    but I have not forsaken your precepts.
88 In your steadfast love give me life,
    that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.


89 For ever, O Lord, your word
    is firmly fixed in the heavens.
90 Your faithfulness endures to all generations;
    you have established the earth, and it stands fast.
91 By your appointment they stand this day,
    for all things are your servants.
92 If your law had not been my delight,
    I would have perished in my affliction.
93 I will never forget your precepts,
    for by them you have given me life.
94 I am yours; save me,
    for I have sought your precepts.
95 The wicked lie in wait to destroy me,
    but I consider your testimonies.
96 I have seen a limit to all perfection,
    but your commandment is exceedingly broad.

PSALM 119:73-96 ESVUK

These are the 10th to 12th stanzas of Psalm 119, with each line of each stanza starting with the 10th to 12th letters of the Hebrew alphabet. I shall be looking at one aspect of God’s word and two of the attributes of God in this post.

Precepts, piqqudim

Precepts in Psalm 119 are plural only. It is not the name of individual laws but for the collection of commandments or laws. “Let the insolent be put to shame because they have wronged me with falsehood; as for me, I will meditate on your precepts. says verse 78. Note that the response to being insulted is to meditate on God’s written word to see if the verbal attack is correct; using the Bible as a set of clobber verses to be used against people is wrong, it is to be used internally. It is not a defence to others that you have kept God’s law, though it is used elsewhere as a defence to God: The psalmist is meditating to see if he is in fact in the wrong. This is humility towards the scripture that is often missing.


The word translated as ‘sure’ in v. 86 is usually translated as faithfulness elsewhere in the ESV. it means firmness and steadiness. When it says that Moses’ hands were steady in Exodus 17 it is using this word. It is a feminine word, the masculine of which speaks in the active tense about a person who trusts in something so the feminine means that the person, in this case, God, can be trusted because God is faithful. Psalm 119 takes this quality of God and extends it to God’s written word which can be trusted.


Psalm 119 verse 89 says that God’s law is firmly fixed in the heavens. God does not change. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever: Heaven and Earth will pass away but Jesus’ words will never pass away. The properties of God are passed on to his written word and the words he speaks to us. Psalm 119 is an epic love song to God’s word and to the properties of God’s word seen in his word, both the written word and the word God speaks to us. Loving God’s word leads to a pouring out of praise, not a dry reciting. I pray that God will constantly give me joy and excitement in his word.

< Psalm 119:49-72 | Psalm 119:73-96 | Psalm 119:97-120 >

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