Thursday, March 10, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119 - The Acrostic

The Acrostic

Do you remember the alphabet song? You know… “A, B, C, D, E, F, G…. H, I, J, K, LMNOP”…and so on…  “next time won’t you sing with me?”

It’s such a simple song, but so powerful.

I remember the moment when God showed me that Psalm 119 is the alphabet song of the Bible. That revelation had a powerful impact on my life.

It was August of 2006, and I had been praying, “Lord, help me to fall in love with Your word.” A part of me expected to magically have this affection and attraction to the Bible. But instead, I came across Psalm 119. In studying it, I learned a few things about it.

You see, the Book of Psalms was originally a group of songs, meant to be sung. I like to say it’s the soundtrack to the Bible.

And the longest of all these Psalms (in fact the longest chapter in the entire Bible!) is this great Psalm 119. Originally written in Hebrew, each of the first 8 verses all start with the first Hebrew letter “Aleph”. And the next 8 verses (9 through 16) each start with the second Hebrew letter Beth.

To better explain, if it were originally written in English, it might look something like this:

  1. Always blessed are those who walk in God’s ways
  2. Amazingly blessed are those who keep God’s word
  3. Actually, they also don’t sin, but walk in His ways.
  4. Authoritatively You have commanded us to keep Your precepts
  5. Actions according to Your word is what I long for.
  6. Ashamed will I never be so long as I keep your word.
  7. Applause awaits You when I learn Your commands!
  8. At my side You will always be.

  1. Boys can live a pure life. How? By your keeping Your word.
  2. Beating in my chest is a heart that longs for Your commandments.
  3. Buried deep in my heart is the treasure of Your word
  4. Blessed are You, O Lord! Teach me Your statutes!
  5. Boldly I have declared all the judgments of Your mouth.
  6. Better than winning the lottery, I’d rather have Your testimonies.
  7. Bringing to mind Your word at all times, I will contemplate it always.
  8. Being overjoyed at understanding Your statutes, I will never forget them.

And so on, for each letter of the alphabet. There are 22 letters in Hebrew, and each letter has 8 verses, so 22 x 8 = 176 verses.

So when I learned that this was originally a song, and that it was written out by each letter like this (which incidentally is called an “acrostic”), something clicked inside of me.

Deep down, I knew that this was meant to be memorized and sung - even by children! And that in doing so, a great love for the word of God would be developed.

It was for this reason I began memorizing Psalm 119, and eventually wrote music to the entire Psalm. It’s amazing how easy it is to memorize songs, as compared to trying brute-force memory tactics. Again, just think of the alphabet song and how effective that is for kids.

And thus I began a lifelong adventure in falling in love with the Word of God. Thanks for joining me on the journey!

Intro to He

“He” is the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet: Aleph, Beth, Gimel, Daleth, He…

The number 5 often indicates grace in the Scripture.
Grace is the unearned, undeserved favor of God.
It is the Divine influence on the heart.
It is a supernatural empowerment to do the impossible.
It is the beautifying of the personality, as one is transformed into the very image of Jesus.

Pride says, “I can do all things.”
Grace says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil 4:13

So as we read through He, we will pay special attention to this topic of Grace, which is noticeably expressed through a humble but confident dependence and reliance on God and His Word.

33 ​​Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes,
​​And I shall keep it to the end.
34 ​​Give me understanding, and 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,
​​And not to covetousness.
37 ​​Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things,
​​And 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.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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