Sermon for July 29th, 2018

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Psalm 119:1-176

Dr. Cleophus J. Larue is the Francis Landey Patton professor of Homiletics at Princeton Seminary, and has been described as one of America's most distinguished preachers. When I was at seminary, I had the privilege of being a student in his "Introduction to Preaching" class, where, on the first day he gave this advice to young preachers: "Get yourself out of the way, and let the scriptures do most of the talking."

That's precisely my plan today, for a number of reasons. First of all, because Psalm 119 is the longest of all the psalms, and is the single longest chapter in the entire bible. It is long enough to be a sermon in its own right. Second, and more importantly, it is the climax of the Book of Psalms, the greatest literary achievement of Hebrew Poetry, and any words I might add to it would pale in comparison.

I will be using my own translation, which emphasises and brings back some of the poetic features that usually get lost in translation from Hebrew to English.

I intend to offer a few comments along the way, to help us focus on some things we might otherwise miss, but most of today's sermon will be a reading of Psalm 119. The whole thing. You might say that the text of today's Scripture reading is interspersed throughout sermon. Or better yet, the text of today's sermon is interspersed throughout the psalm. So without further introduction...Psalm 119.

Psummer of Psalms - The Longest Psalm


1 Awesome is the way of the blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.

2 Amazing are those who tend to his testament, who seek him wholeheartedly,

3 Avoiding all wrong, walking in his way.

4 All of your precepts are carefully to be kept

5 Ah! that my path might be straight in preserving your statutes!

6 Ashamed, then, I shall not be when I survey your commandments

7 Authentically I will thank you when I study your justice

8 Abandon me not, for I will abide by your statutes

  • Acrostic nature of psalm
  • Ashreh means blessed, happy (beatitudes)
  • Synonyms for Torah in every verse: law, decrees, ways, precepts, statutes, commandments, ordinances.


9 But how can the young stay holy? Through holding on to to your word.

10 By my whole heart have I sought you; don't let me stray from your statutes

11 Buried in my heart are your sayings; so that sin won't become my aim

12 Blessed are you Lord, allow me to learn of your laws

13 By my lips I have professed all the proclamations of your mouth

14 Beyond all wealth, I delight in the way of your decrees

15 Brooding over your precepts, I behold your ways

16 Blinded by the light of your statutes, I won't forget your word.

  • Psalm 119 is a wisdom psalm, in the tradition of proverbs
  • Torah, or law, is teaching. Acrostic is for that purpose.
  • Heart is the Jewish seat of understanding and wisdom, not just emotion (as in the west)


17 Grant favor to your servant, that I may flourish and keep your word

18 Give me open eyes that I may see glimpses of wonder from your law

19 Guest that I am in this country, don't conceal from me your commandments

20 Great longing pervades my soul for your statutes at all times

21 Gloating and Godless transgressors of your rules receive your rebuke

22 Get rid of their reproach and contempt, for your commandments I have kept.

23 Governing officials slander your servant, but still I will study your way

24 Guidance and great delight are your decrees to me.

  • Open my eyes that I may see, by Clara Scott (psalms are meant to be sung!)


  • Daleth in hebrew means door, path, way of life (and Derek means road). Emphasis on "way" in this stanza.

25 Dust clings to my soul; revive me according to your word

26 Declared I my way--you took notice--now teach me your statutes

27 Direct me in the way of your precepts so I may meditate in your wonders

28 Dissolved in sorrow is my soul; solidify me according to your word

29 Deceitful paths remove from my way, and in your law show mercy

30 Deciding in the way of your truth, I fix your testament before me

31 Do not put me to shame, O Lord, for I have locked myself to your law

32 Develop my heart as I dash down the path of your precepts


  • Recurring Refrain: Give me life (contrasted with what is not life)
  • Torah gives life

33 Heavenly Lord, teach me the way of your commandments; I'll keep them for all time

34 Help me understand; I'll hold your law and live it with all my heart

35 Have me go down the path of your precepts, for there is my delight

36 Head my heart toward your testimony, and not to dishonorable gain

37 Hide vanity away from my eyes, revive me in your way

38 Honor your promise to your servant, who holds you in awe

39 Halt my fear of disgrace, for great are your decrees

40 How I have longed for your law; in your righteousness give me life.


  • Hebrew word for AND (The Psalmist cheats!)

41 Welcome, Lord, is your kindness to me, the salvation that comes from your covenant

42 Words you supply me for response to all reproaches, in your word I am secure.

43 Withdraw not your true word from my mouth; for in your judgements I wait

44 Without end and for all time, your teaching I will keep,

45 Walking in your freedom, for I have sought your ways

46 With Kings I will speak of your testimony, and will not be ashamed

47 Willingly, I delight in your decrees which I have loved

48 Weighing over your statutes, I shall lift my hands to your well-loved laws


  • In Hebrew ZAYIN makes the "Z" sound. Lots of hebrew words start with Z.
  • To avoid a zany, zoo-themed stanza with zero appeal, I'll be substituting with the related "J" sound.

49 Just where I rest my hope, there remember your word to your servant.

50 Jeopardy renders this comfort: Your commandments will revive me.

51 Jerks surround me with scorn, but I will not stray from your law

52 Judgments past I remember from you, Lord; and I am reassured.

53 Jealousy seizes me on account of evildoers who spurn your law

54 Joyful songs are your statutes to me, wherever I sojourn

55 Jehovah, I recall your name at night, and keep your law

56 Just this much has come to pass, as I have kept your precepts.


  • In Hebrew, this is the guttural "ch" for which there is no English equivalent.
  • Using English "ch" instead.

57 Chosen is my lot with you Lord, and I choose to keep your words.

58 Charity, wholeheartedly I crave from you, and compassion which you promised.

59 Changed were my steps when I considered your ways, turned to your testimonies

60 Charging forth without delay, I follow your decrees

61 Chains of the wicked may wind around me, I will not neglect your law

62 Cheerfully at midnight I rise, making thanks for your righteous ways,

63 Chumming around with God-fearing friends, gathering those who keep your commands.

64 Charged with your faithfulness, Lord, the earth is full; Let me learn your ways


65 Treat your servant well, O Lord, in keeping with your word

66 Trust I shall place in your statutes; School me in judgment and knowledge ((SHOFAR!!!))

67 Transgressing before I answered you, today I take heed of your word

68 Teach me your way, for good is what you do, and good is who you are

69 Tarnished by untruths of the wicked, with my whole heart still I keep your commands

70 Tallowed and obtuse are their hearts, but I delight in your law

71 Troubles, too, have been good to me, for through them I am taught your truths

72 To me, the law from your mouth is greater than treasures of gold.

  • Shofar, used at Jewish festivals, traditionally blown after certain verses.


  • Yodh is the smallest letter in Hebrew Alphabet, the size of an apostrophe
  • Yodh/Yad means hand in Hebrew, a work, a finished product

73 You created me with your hands and crafted me; give me wisdom to heed your commands.

74 Yet may they be happy, who see me and fear you; for in your word is my hope

75 Yahweh, I know your judgments are fair, faithful even in my affliction

76 Your kindness grant as my comfort; in keeping with your promise to your servant

77 Years of life may your mercy bring, for your law is my delight

78 Yea, though the proud dealt perversely with me, put them to shame--I will meditate on your ways

79 Yield me those who flee you in fear, yet may they find your words.

80 Young and pure, let my heart hold to your precepts, so I may not be put to shame.

  • Notice the psalmist has begun to take a more active role in serving others.


81 Consumed is my soul for your salvation, but still I wait for your word

82 Constrained are my eyes waiting for your commands; when will you comfort me?

83 Curing like a wineskin covered in smoke, still I won't forget your statutes

84 Counting my days as your servant--when will you conclude the case of my oppressors?

85 Callous people have dug me a pit--they do not conform to your law

86 Commandments from you are truth--save me from the slander of my tormenters!

87 Close to death they left me in this land, still I did not lose sight of your law.

88 Covenant with you is what brings me to life, keeping your lips' decrees.

  • Image of wineskin in the smoke -- curing a wineskin to make it stronger.
  • Throughout this Psalm is the recurring idea that even our trials are God given to help us.


89 Lord, you are forever; your word is fixed in the heavens!

90 Love for every generation you have firmly established in the land

91 Lo! All things are your servants, standing at your command

92 Lost in grief I should have been, had not your law been my delight

93 Let me not forget your ways, forever will they give me life

94 Looking always for your law, I am yours, deliver me!

95 Lying in wait, while the wicked seek my destruction--I will consider your decrees

96 Limits I can see for perfect things, but your precepts exceed them all


  • The passionate love for the law here reminds me of Judge Ward Koehler

97 My meditation all day long is what? Your law: My love.

98 Make me wiser than my foes by your commandments, ever with me

99 More insight have I than all who instruct me, for your statutes are my meditation

100 More yet I perceive than all the ancients, for your precepts I embrace

101 Malevolent paths I refuse to follow, that I might maintain your way

102 Matters of justice cannot cause me to swerve, since you yourself have taught me

103 My mouth savors your words more than what? The sweetest honey-mead!

104 Misleading paths I hate, for through your way comes wisdom.


105 Night-time light upon my path, your word is a lamp to my feet

106 Now have I sworn and will confirm, your statutes I will keep

107 New life in my weakness, give to me, Lord, in keeping with your word

108 Notice my gifts of praise--please, God--teach your precepts to me (((SHOFAR!!!)))

109 Never will I forget your law, for my life is ever in your hand

110 Nor will I stray from your statutes, though the wicked have laid me a snare

111 Nearest to my heart is your testimony; truly my heritage forever

112 Now and always I'm inclined to take instructions to heart

  • Play famous Amy Grant song


113 Sneaky dissemblers I despise, but dear is your law to me

114 Secret refuge, my shield you are, in your word I will remain

115 Stay apart from me, you wicked, for I will guard the statutes of my God

116 Support me as you have promised, let me live unashamed of my hope

117 Save and sustain me, for your statutes continuously I will revere

118 Spurn those who stray from your laws, their lies are all in vain

119 So much waste you consider the wicked, your commandments therefore I love

120 Skin standing on edge, I'm afraid of the fairness in your sentence


  • Ayin is the Hebrew word for "eyes," which show up in this stanza in verse 123.
  • In Hebrew, the letter Ayin is actually silent, I'll be substituting the letter "i"

121 If my cause is just and right, don't relinquish me to my oppressors

122 Insure the good your servant; lest the godless persecute with pride (((SHOFAR!!!)))

123 In strained light my eyes seek out your salvation, your righteous speech

124 Instruct me in your decrees, deal faithfully with your servant as you have said

125 Insight your servant asks of you, that I may see your statutes and know

126 It is time to act, O Lord, for your law has been cast aside

127 Indeed I love your commands more than costly leaves of gold

128 Incorrect paths I abhor, but I am pleased with all of your precepts


  • Pe is the Hebrew word for "open mouth," which shows up in v.131
  • This stanza borrows language from the famous Aaronic benediction

129 Prodigious are your commandments, therefore, I keep them with my soul

130 Progressing forth, your words light up the minds of the simple

131 Panting open-mouthed, I pine for your decrees

132 Prepare for me your mercy, in the manner of those who love your name

133 Place my steps pursuant to your word; let wrongness never within me rule

134 Persecution of people, deliver me from this, that I may keep your ways

135 Put the shine of your face upon your servant, and let me learn your law

136 Prompting tears to stream my face, your statutes they forsake


  • This letter makes the "Ts" sound, for which there is no English equivalent.
  • I'm substituting the "Th" sound instead.
  • Notice the theme of eternal righteousness in this stanza

137 Thou art righteous, O Lord, thy judgments are upright

138 Things so fairly have you commanded, testimonies faithful and full

139 Thy words forgot by enemies fills me with angry zeal

140 Therefore your servant loves when your word is tried so well

141 Though I am young and yet despised, I don't forget your law

142 This law is true and lasting, righteous in righteousness

143 Through trial and trouble I discovered your commandments were still my delight

144 The righteousness of your law forever, gives life that I may live


  • In Hebrew pronounced the same as KAF, but here using the "Qu" sound.

145 Quoth I with all my heart, Lord, "Answer, that I may keep your law."

146 Questioning about your deliverance, that I might keep your decrees

147 Quietly before dawn I rise: A cry for help--my hope in your commands

148 Quarters of each night pass, my open eyes observing the promise of your word

149 Quicken me in your judgment, Lord, hear me according to your covenant

150 Quarrelers in every quadrant closing in on me, quite far from your law

151 Quality is in your commandments, Lord, close you are at hand

152 Quoted words from long ago, taught me your foundations forever lain


  • Notice that resurrection is a persistent theme throughout the psalm, "revive me, give me life"

153 Rescue me--consider my condition--your commandments I have not forgotten

154 Redeem me and revive me, in keeping with your promise, plead my case

155 Remote from the wicked is salvation, for your statutes they do not seek

156 Revive me according to your custom--your compassion, Lord, is great

157 Rife are my oppressors and rivals; yet I will not run from your way

158 Ruefully I recognize the reprobate, for they disregard your word

159 Reflect on my love for your precepts, Lord, revive me in accordance with your rule

160 Right from the start, your word is true, your righteousness judgment reigns (((SHOFAR!!!)))


161 Shaken-down by sovereigns on scanty grounds, only your statutes strike fear in my heart

162 Shouting for joy at the sound of your speech, just as one who shoulders a prize (((SHOFAR!!!)))

163 Shamefaced lies I hate and abhor, but how I love your law

164 Showing your praise seven times a day for sheer delight in your decrees

165 Shalom (great peace) have those who love your law and have no cause to shuffle

166 Share with me your salvation, O God, and I shall keep your commands

167 Shored-up in my soul are your statutes enshrined, exceedingly with my love

168 Shining forth, your decrees are kept, your precepts displayed in my ways


  • The letter TAV (as in, Tavizon) is pronounced just like the letter Teth, earlier.
  • Just for fun, and since we haven't used it yet, I'm going to replace with the "V" sound.

169 Vulnerable, my cry goes up to you, Lord; give me vision to see your commands

170 Voiced, may my prayer be vested in you; deliver me in accordance with your word

171 Victorious praise flows over my lips, for I follow your wonderful ways

172 Via songs from my tongue, I will tell of your promise, your precepts all are true

173 Visit upon me the help of your hand, your ordinances I made made my own

174 Vindication I long for from you, O Lord, for your law is my delight

175 Vivify me that I may venerate you, vindicated by your commandments

176 Verily I wander like a virtual sheep, seek out this servant of yours, for your verdict I shall never forget.