Psalm 119 'gimel'

My third post looking at a stanza of Psalm 119. This covers verses 17 to 24 under the letter gimel.

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

17. Deal bountifully with Your servant, That I may live and keep Your word.

  • The word translated as ‘bounty’ is the Hebrew gamal (H1580) and speaks of bestowing, doing good, rewarding or serving. So ‘deal bountifully’ could equally be ‘do good’, ‘bestow reward’.
  • It raises an interesting approach - seeking favour or goodness from the Lord so one can live and keep the Lord’s word. It is the realisation and acknowledgement that all we have (even life itself) comes from God.
  • It reminds me of the sentiment expressed in Psalm 88:11-12 where the Lord is asked, ‘Will Your lovingkindness be declared in the grave, Your faithfulness in Abaddon? Will Your wonders be made known in the darkness? And Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?’ The Psalmist is seeking something from the Lord in order to be able to serve and worship.

18. Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law.

  • One of the better-known verses from the Psalm. The wording I am more familiar with is ‘Open my eyes that I may see wondrous things in your law’.
  • This verse acknowledges that we can only receive revelation if it is enabled by the Holy Spirit. We need our eyes opened!
  • We see this in operation when we read a Bible passage or verse that we’ve read many times previously but see or understand something more or deeper than what we had previously seen.
  • This can be used as a prayer when we are approaching Bible reading.

19. I am a stranger in the earth; Do not hide Your commandments from me.

  • The idea of ‘stranger’ is the Hebrew gare (H1616) which can be translated as a guest, a foreigner, a sojourner.
  • Interestingly David realises he is a temporary visitor to this planet.
  • It reminds me of 1 Peter 2:11 where he writes to “aliens and strangers”.
  • Larry Norman, the iconic and ground-breaking Christian singer/songwriter of the 60s through to the 2000s put out an album called Only Visiting This Planet.

20. My soul is crushed with longing After Your ordinances at all times.

  • Stronger language/sentiment than we’ve seen in the Psalm so far.
  • Being ‘crushed’ is the Hebrew garac which can mean crushed (as we see here), dissolved or broken. It carries with it the idea of being pulverised.
  • The Psalmist’s soul is being pulverised with the desire to hear and understand and live the Lord’s ordinances all the time. I don’t think too many people could say that (and mean it) these days.

21. You rebuke the arrogant, the cursed, Who wander from Your commandments.

  • This is the first verse in Psalm 119 that is couched in the negative - describing penalties or judgement against those who don’t follow God’s law.
  • The ‘arrogant’ is the Hebrew zed (H2086) and refers to the presumptuous or the proud.
  • This verse raises the question as to which comes first - wandering from the commandments leading to arrogance and being cursed; or arrogance leading people away from truth.

22. Take away reproach and contempt from me, For I observe Your testimonies.

  • The Psalmist pleads to the Lord for relief from reproach (disgrace or shame) and contempt (disrespect and being despised).
  • We can assume that the source of the reproach and contempt were adversaries seeking to take David down. Whilst David was morally far from perfect, he is described as ‘a man after God’s own heart’ in 1 Samuel 13:14.
  • Matthew Henry describes the purpose of David’s call to the Lord as a plea to ‘silence lying lips, and raise up a good name that is trodden in the dust.’

23. Even though princes sit and talk against me, Your servant meditates on Your statutes.

  • This verse may contain some clues as to who is drumming up reproach and contempt for David in the previous verse.
  • ‘Princes’ (H8269) are the leaders of any class or rank - they may be captains, governors, princes, lords or principals.
  • So leaders of various kinds are speaking against David, casting aspersions or making accusations against David’s character or behaviour.
  • David’s response is not to defend himself, but instead meditate upon the statutes of the Lord. This reflects the idea of leaving our reputation in God’s hands.

24. Your testimonies also are my delight; They are my counselors.

  • ‘Delight’ is the Hebrew shashua (H8191) which can be translated as delight, pleasure or enjoyment.
  • The word ‘counselors’ is the Hebrew etsah (H6098) which can be read as counsel, advise and prudence.
  • So the Lord’s commands or testimonies can provide both joy and advice - generating good feelings and wise outcomes.

This third stanza of Psalm 119 has provided me with a greater appreciation of the depth of God’s word. The Psalmist has covered a lot of territory in these eight verses - such a diverse presentation on the importance and relevance of the Bible. Looking forward to what the fourth stanza, daleth, holds.

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