God’s Word, purity and truthfulness

Psalm 119

Psalm 119 is a great acrostic poem, the longest psalm, and 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.

Ayin

121 I have done what is just and right;
    do not leave me to my oppressors.
122 Give your servant a pledge of good;
    let not the insolent oppress me.
123 My eyes long for your salvation
    and for the fulfilment of your righteous promise.
124 Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love,
    and teach me your statutes.
125 I am your servant; give me understanding,
    that I may know your testimonies!
126 It is time for the Lord to act,
    for your law has been broken.
127 Therefore I love your commandments
    above gold, above fine gold.
128 Therefore I consider all your precepts to be right;
    I hate every false way.

Pe

129 Your testimonies are wonderful;
    therefore my soul keeps them.
130 The unfolding of your words gives light;
    it imparts understanding to the simple.
131 I open my mouth and pant,
    because I long for your commandments.
132 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
    as is your way with those who love your name.
133 Keep steady my steps according to your promise,
    and let no iniquity get dominion over me.
134 Redeem me from man’s oppression,
    that I may keep your precepts.
135 Make your face shine upon your servant,
    and teach me your statutes.
136 My eyes shed streams of tears,
    because people do not keep your law.

Tsadhe

137 Righteous are you, O Lord,
    and right are your rules.
138 You have appointed your testimonies in righteousness
    and in all faithfulness.
139 My zeal consumes me,
    because my foes forget your words.
140 Your promise is well tried,
    and your servant loves it.
141 I am small and despised,
    yet I do not forget your precepts.
142 Your righteousness is righteous for ever,
    and your law is true.
143 Trouble and anguish have found me out,
    but your commandments are my delight.
144 Your testimonies are righteous for ever;
    give me understanding that I may live.

Psalm 119:121-144

The two buildings at the top of this post are the leaning tower of Pisa, which was designed to be upright but already had a distinct lean even before it was finished, and Candle House, near the railway station in Leeds, UK, which looks like it is leaning, always to the right no matter from where it is viewed, despite being perfectly perpendicular. A perfect optical illusion. To see what leaning buildings have to do with Psalm 119, read on.

We are getting near the end of this long song. What I intend to do here is wrap up the word ‘Word’ in English and the other Hebrew word that is translated that way, then I will look at two aspects of God which are passed on into his word that look to be unconnected but are connected with each other in this passage.

Word, imrah

The other word translated as word, dabar, means something being made real or something real. Imrah means an utterance or speech and is used in both singular and plural forms. The word translated word in the Old Testament does not usually refer to the written word of God, Psalm 119 uses Torah and Piqqudim for that, when we see ‘word’ in the Old Testament it is about making the writings real in our lives or, as in this case, the active word of God spoken directly into people’s lives, which includes prophesying.

I have read the arguments on social media that the only meaning of ‘word’ in the Bible is Jesus, and that the Bible is not the word of God, only Jesus. I have also seen the opposite argument. I have long learned not to get involved. The Old Testament does talk about the law and written canon of scripture, but there are other words it uses for that. These are however included in the wider meaning of imrah, so using God’s word for Scripture is valid, though not limited to that. Imrah is the words that God speaks. It includes but is not restricted to scripture.

Purity and truthfulness

Purity in verse 140 means pure as in refined, tested. there are no impurities. Truthfulness in verse 142 means true as in vertical, upright. not leaning one way or the other. God’s word is like God, perfectly upright.

Western philosophy often thinks in abstract terms, and it is easy for us to think that way too, but Hebrew thought patterns in the Bible very rarely use the abstract. The aspects of God here are that God is pure like refined gold and true like a vertical wall measured with a plumbob. No impurities and no leaning in God. Also very few abstract terms, instead using concrete nouns and comparisons.

The word of God also has the same properties as God, being pure and upright. It is something that can be depended on, the written word, prophesy and any other way God chooses to speak.


< Psalm 119:97-120 | Psalm 119:121-144 | Psalm 119:145-176 >

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