Psalm 118 (LXX) / 119 (MT): Meditations on the Excellencies of the Word of God
א Aleph (Theme: Principles Of God-Pleasing Life; seeking out God’s testimonies in purity & sincerity)
Science, leader: the leading principles of a godly, God-pleasing Life, the complete system of moral principles. The 1st 3 verses describe the degrees by which such a life attains perfection, the following 2 describe the productive powers of such a life: strong zeal & God’s grace; the last 3 explain the conditions necessary for such a life.
1 Blessed are the undefiled in the way, Who walk in the law of the Lord!
2 Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, Who seek Him with the whole heart!
3 They also do no iniquity; They walk in His ways.
4 You have commanded us To keep Your precepts diligently.
5 Oh, that my ways were directed To keep Your statutes!
6 Then I would not be ashamed, When I look into all Your commandments.
7 I will praise You with uprightness of heart, When I learn Your righteous judgments.
8 I will keep Your statutes; Oh, do not forsake me utterly!
ב Beth (Theme: The Soul: will, heart, memory, disposition)
House, Dwelling, Abode: the will, the heart, feelings, taste & interest, meditation & memory—the whole human nature can become an abode for the commandments. What kind of abode shall we prepare for the commandments, & how shall we establish it in ourselves?
9 How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.
10 With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!
11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.
12 Blessed are You, O Lord! Teach me Your statutes.
13 With my lips I have declared All the judgments of Your mouth.
14 I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, As much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on Your precepts, And contemplate Your ways.
16 I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.
ג Gimel (Theme: Endurance In Overcoming Trials in spiritual life)
Camel: this is the most enduring of all pack animals. The song speaks of difficulties in the spiritual life & ways to overcome them. Those walking on the path of commandments are likened to the camel, especially in the beginning, when they have not yet acquired the taste of it, but also later on when pressures of external troubles burden the inner disposition. All this is overcome by adherence to the given promise.
17 Deal bountifully with Your servant, That I may live & keep Your word.
18 Open my eyes, that I may see Wondrous things from Your law.
19 I am a stranger in the earth; Do not hide Your commandments from me.
20 My soul breaks with longing For Your judgments at all times.
21 You rebuke the proud—the cursed, Who stray from Your commandments.
22 Remove from me reproach & contempt, For I have kept Your testimonies.
23 Princes also sit & speak against me, But Your servant meditates on Your statutes.
24 Your testimonies also are my delight & my counselors.
ד Daleth (Theme: Repentance & Confession)
Door—doors leading to repentance & conversion. The profit takes a repentant sinner & with him recalls the road to conversion, from the 1st stimulation of the conscience to the decisive entry upon the path of commandments. The doors of repentance are in the 1st 3 verses, a transitional stage in the next 2 verses & the doors into the righteous life in the last 3.
25 My soul clings to the dust; Revive me according to Your word.
26 I have declared my ways, & You answered me; Teach me Your statutes.
27 Make me understand the way of Your precepts; So shall I meditate on Your wonderful works.
28 My soul melts from heaviness; Strengthen me according to Your word.
29 Remove from me the way of lying, & grant me Your law graciously.
30 I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments I have laid before me.
31 I cling to Your testimonies; O Lord, do not put me to shame!
32 I will run the course of Your commandments, For You shall enlarge my heart.
ה He (Theme: Seek From God Knowledge, Strength, Grace; safeguard, apply deed, fear God, avoid self-will & vanity)
Here: here is what has to be done. Seek from God the outline of the godly way (v. 33), knowledge (v. 34) & strength (v. 35). But no matter how much you asked for it, you will not get it if you do not apply your own efforts. Therefore seek (v. 33), safeguard (v. 34) & long for (v. 35) the way through the joint application of freedom & grace for a true & godly life. Compel yourself to every good deed, take care that your intentions are pure & unselfish (v. 36); do not get carried away by vanity (v. 37), let the fear of the Lord animate you. However, sinful thoughts will slip through; therefore let Repentance be the background of your life (v. 39). Having done all this, put yourself into God’s hands, striving only to please God (v. 40).
33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, & I shall keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, & I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
35 Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, For I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to Your testimonies, & not to covetousness.
37 Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, & revive me in Your way.
38 Establish Your word to Your servant, Who is devoted to fearing You.
39 Turn away my reproach which I dread, For Your judgments are good.
40 Behold, I long for Your precepts; Revive me in Your righteousness.
ו Waw (Theme: Hope, Trust In God’s Promises & Judgments)
Hook, anchor: an anchor is used to hold a boat securely, despite waves. The anchor is a symbol of hope & trust…The 1st 4 versus described the basis of hope: the unerring word of God’s promises (v. 41, 42), God’s judgments towards the ungodly & the wicked (v. 43, 44). The last 4 describe the state when hope has entered the heart: spaciousness of walk, fearless proclamation of the truth, the seeking of the needful good part (cf. Lk. 10:42), & patient abiding in godliness.
41 Let Your mercies come also to me, O Lord—Your salvation according to Your word.
42 So shall I have an answer for him who reproaches me, For I trust in Your word.
43 And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, For I have hoped in Your ordinances.
44 So shall I keep Your law continually, Forever & ever.
45 And I will walk at liberty, For I seek Your precepts.
46 I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings, & will not be ashamed.
47 And I will delight myself in Your commandments, Which I love.
48 My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments, Which I love, & I will meditate on Your statutes.
ז Zayin (Theme: God’s Mercy, Comfort & Consolation)
Olive: oil is made from the olive tree; it is the symbol of God’s mercy & of all that is comforting & soothing. Assembled here are sayings which express grief of the soul & ways to its consolation: grief from the slowness of God’s promises (v. 49), humiliating circumstances in life (v. 50), arrogance & mockeries of enemies (v. 51, 52), increase of sin & impiety (v. 53), weariness of the stay on earth (v. 54), & in all these afflictions, Consolation is sought from God & His holy law (v. 55, 56).
49 Remember the word to Your servant, Upon which You have caused me to hope.
50 This is my comfort in my affliction, For Your word has given me life.
51 The proud have me in great derision, Yet I do not turn aside from Your law.
52 I remembered Your judgments of old, O Lord, & have comforted myself.
53 Indignation has taken hold of me Because of the wicked, who forsake Your law.
54 Your statutes have been my songs In the house of my pilgrimage.
55 I remember Your name in the night, O Lord, & I keep Your law.
56 This has become mine, Because I kept Your precepts.
ח Heth (Theme: The Law & Commandments As Path to avoid sin & bondage)
Sin: The Prophet does not speak here about sin proper, but about how a sinner frees himself from its bondage, & what means he uses to stay on the right path. The sinner is taken at that very moment when awakening from sin he results to stop sinning. Before him are the world with its delights & the Lord with His commandments. Having considered the one & the other, he chooses the law (v. 57). However, old habits are not easily overcome, & he asks help from God (v. 58). Having received God’s forgiveness, he considers a new life (v. 59), yet this decision does not make him a different person on the spot; he has to withstand in overcome sin (v. 60), & drop his former sinful relationships (v. 61). The Prophet offers powerful means to achieve this: nightly prayer (v. 61), contact with God-fearing people (v. 63), & the handing over of one’s fate to the mercy of God (v. 64).
57 You are my portion, O Lord; I have said that I would keep Your words.
58 I entreated Your favor with my whole heart; Be merciful to me according to Your word.
59 I thought about my ways, & turned my feet to Your testimonies.
60 I made haste, & did not delay To keep Your commandments.
61 The cords of the wicked have bound me, But I have not forgotten Your law.
62 At midnight I will rise to give thanks to You, Because of Your righteous judgments.
63 I am a companion of all who fear You, & of those who keep Your precepts.
64 The earth, O Lord, is full of Your mercy; Teach me Your statutes.
ט Teth (Theme: God’s Grace & Word In Joys, Trials, Persecutions)
Mud, clay: mud means dirt, but mud can be used for healing & out of clay are made useful vessels. In a similar way the Lord fashions the soul through various means. They are: God’s grace & word (v. 65, 66), a sorrowful or happy life (v. 67, 68), with the Lord’s consent, persecution from men (v. 69, 70), & the conviction that all this is under God’s direct influence, & as such, the highest good for man (v. 71, 72). In the preceding octave it has been shown how a sinner is pulled away from sin & turns to God, here it is shown how man’s inner perfection is fashioned by the Lord through external circumstances of life.
65 You have dealt well with Your servant, O Lord, according to Your word.
66 Teach me good judgment & knowledge, For I believe Your commandments.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word.
68 You are good, & do good; Teach me Your statutes.
69 The proud have forged a lie against me, But I will keep Your precepts with my whole heart.
70 Their heart is as fat as grease, But I delight in Your law.
71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.
72 The law of Your mouth is better to me Than thousands of coins of gold & silver.
Prayer after the First Stasis:
Glory to the Father & to the Son & to the Holy Spirit; now & ever & unto ages of ages. Amen.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia; Glory to Thee, O God. (3x)
Lord, have mercy. (3x)
Glory to the Father & to the Son & to the Holy Spirit; now & ever & unto ages of ages. Amen.