Psalm 119 'dalet'

This is my fourth post reflecting on stanzas from Psalm 119. This covers verses 25 to 32 under the letter dalet (also spelt daleth).

These verses, from the NASBĀ®1, interspersed with my comments read as follows:

25. My soul cleaves to the dust; Revive me according to Your word.

  • ‘My soul cleaves to the dust’ is such an interesting and evocative phrase. A soul (our mind, will and emotions) grovelling and wallowing in the dust. On its last (metaphorical) legs. What has brought the soul so low, what does the future hold, and is relief to be found?
  • Matthew Henry suggests David’s complaint could be due either to a recognition of his own moral corruption, or a result of outward afflictions.
  • The word translated as ‘revive’ is the Hebrew chayah (H2441) and can be read as restore, revive, nourish or preserve. At its root is the idea of life, so David is seeking whatever is needed to bring or preserve life.
  • David recognises that restoration or revival can come ‘according to Your word’. That could be read as ‘in line with what Your word says’, ’through partaking of Your word’, or ‘in response to Your command’.
  • In light of the above, we can consider whether reading/hearing the word is restorative in its own right, or only when it is administered and followed (obeyed). I think both! Reading God’s word puts us in a position to connect to God such that His Holy Spirit can impart life and truth to us. Equally, obeying God’s word is a recognition or display of faith that this word is true.
  • Clearly David could be restored or revived in soul or spirit at the immediate, spoken command of God.
  • We can safely say that David had some issues and was feeling very down, and the administration of God’s word (whether being read, obeyed or commanded) could revive him.

26. I have told of my ways, and You have answered me; Teach me Your statutes.

  • Another interesting verse. David has spoken to God/prayed about David’s situation and behaviour and the Lord has answered David. Perhaps in the light of that David continues by asking ’teach me Your statutes’.
  • Is the request to have the Lord teach David His statutes a consequence or result of the Lord and David discussing David’s ways? I don’t know.
  • David declares his personal relationship with the Lord - it is a two-way relationship involving two-way conversations. And in the midst of that David declares ’teach me Your statutes’.
  • The prayer or request to ’teach me Your statutes’ is a good one regardless of our situation. It brings to mind Jesus’ words about the sending of the Holy Spirit in John 14:26, ‘But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.’ The Holy Spirit has this task from the time of Jesus’ resurrection onwards to teach believers all things and bring to our minds the words of Jesus. But for that to be effective, we need to place ourselves in a position or posture to be taught and to listen!

27. Make me understand the way of Your precepts, So I will meditate on Your wonders.

  • This verse (and the couple before it) are speaking of the transformative power of God’s word.
  • This may be the word spoken/heard. It may be it preached. It may be the word declared or commanded and obeyed.
  • In this case an understanding of the way of the precepts can be seen as having a grasp of the overall scope, thrust and intent of the Lord’s words; and the effect or impact is an increased capacity to meditate on and be amazed at the Lord’s creation and work.
  • This work isn’t limited to natural creation, but indeed all that the Lord’s word achieves - including its transformative power and capacity in the lives of humanity.
  • Each of the Amplified, ESV and NKJV refer to meditating on the Lord’s ‘wondrous works’ rather than the NASB’s ‘wonders’.

28. My soul weeps because of grief; Strengthen me according to Your word.

  • David is overwhelmed with grief and turns to the word of God for strength.
  • His use of ‘weeping’ is the Hebrew dalaph (H1811) and indicates such ideas as dripping, weeping, melting or pouring out.
  • The word translated ‘grief’ is the Hebrew tugah (H8424) and means depression, grief, heaviness or sorrow.
  • Interestingly each of the primary versions I use render this verse slightly differently using a combination of renderings for the Hebrew words dalaph and tugah. Occasionally some of these translations read identically, and often there will be a deal of commonality in the words used. These different renderings are:
    • Amplified: My life dissolves and weeps itself away for heaviness; raise me up and strengthen me according to [the promises of] Your word.
    • ESV [2011]: My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!
    • NKJV: My soul melts from heaviness; Strengthen me according to Your word.
    • NLT: I weep with grief; encourage me by your word.
  • This verse is similar to verse 25 above where David seeks restoration and revival from the Lord due to him being overwhelmed.

29. Remove the false way from me, And graciously grant me Your law.

  • Verse 29 contains some interesting terminology/phrasing. David is requesting that the Lord take something away, and replace it with something else - remove the false way, grant me Your law.
  • The ‘false way’ may be pride, or a false perception or understanding of how one succeeds in life. It may be wrong attitudes and beliefs.
  • This idea of gracious granting of the law sounds like being given understanding of and right standing under2 the law of God.
  • It is seeking right standing before God based on true standards, not false.

30. I have chosen the faithful way; I have placed Your ordinances before me.

  • I see a strong connection or flow between the two clauses in this sentence. David, in placing the Lord’s ordinances before him is choosing the faithful way.
  • David reflects that following the faithful way is a choice. It is a choice he made. It is a choice we can all make or not.
  • And the second clause also contains a decision - to place the Lord’s ordinances ‘before me’.
  • What is it to ‘have placed Your ordinances before me’? I think it involves specific and intentional decisions and actions. It may encompass Scripture memory, Bible study, meditation.

31. I cling to Your testimonies; O LORD, do not put me to shame!

  • The word ‘cling’ here is the same in the Hebrew as that translated as ‘cleave’ in verse 25 above.
  • The KJV phrases this as ‘I have stuck unto thy testimonies’. Matthew Henry comments that this is ‘with unchanged affection and an unshaken resolution’.
  • The idea of not being put to shame strikes me as taking the longer view of ensuring David remains righteous and holy before the Lord.

32. I shall run the way of Your commandments, For You will enlarge my heart.

  • This verse contains a declaration of intent, and describes the reason or rationale for it.
  • David will go with the flow of the Lord’s commandments - and often that will run against the tide of society’s inclinations and directions.
  • The term ’enlarge my heart’ is clearly spiritual rather than physiological. Matthew Henry states the phrase means to receive God’s wisdom. It is to have greater capacity to take in and live out God’s word - which is really what spiritual wisdom comes down to.

Many of the verses in this fourth stanza, daleth, contain explicit prayers or requests of the Lord (verses 25 to 29 and 31). David sees his relationship with God as interactive and mutual. There are some things David sees and recognises as his responsibility, and there are others that he requests of the Lord. The other two verses (30 and 32) are declarations of practice or intent - one in the past tense and the other in the future tense. I find this combination of declaration of action alongside prayers or requests for assistance interesting. It is a reflection of spiritual reality - that we need to take a stand and make a declaration but also seek the Lord’s help in the same breath. It’s not only up to us (and we’re kidding ourselves if we think it is); but we also do need to be doing things in line with our declarations to put us in the line of God’s grace.

  1. Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation. ↩︎

  2. I have never previously seen a connection between ‘understanding’ and ‘standing under’. Correct under-standing grants us the capacity to ‘stand under’ the law or statement in question. ↩︎