The Alphabet Psalm
by John Sainsbury
19 March 2023« Previous Day | Next Day »
As I study my way through the Psalms, and I arrive at Psalm 119, it can be something of a shock to see such a monster of a psalm with all of its 176 verses. Sometimes, sadly, that might be a bit off-putting and cause us to skip over the treasures that it contains. That would be a great shame, especially because this psalm wasn’t the impulsive outpouring of someone in extreme duress, as some of the psalms appear to be. No, this psalm is carefully composed and has so much to teach us about treasures we can find to guide our path through life.
To begin with, Psalm 119 is what we might call an alphabet psalm, divided into twenty-two equal stanzas, each headed by a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In the first stanza, the initial word of each of the eight verses begins with aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In the second stanza, the initial words all begin with beth, the second letter, and so on throughout the psalm. It’s so intentional in how it’s constructed.
But there is a greater complexity to it as well. The nouns that the psalmist uses to expound his love of God’s word also number eight. And each noun occurs, on average, twenty-two times. The eight verses of any given stanza will contain most, if not all, of them. C. S. Lewis described this psalm as a pattern, a thing done like embroidery, stitch by stitch, through long quiet hours, for love of the subject and for the delight in leisurely, disciplined craftsmanship. He goes on to speak of the subject of Psalm 119, the word of God, as not being about irksome, restrictive rules, but God’s way for His people to be happy.
If you’ve ever been out somewhere in the pitch dark, at night time, the use of a torch is absolutely essential if you are to find your way and not stumble over something unseen. And that’s what we find, for life, in the verse today. ‘Your word is a lamp for my feet, and a light on my path’ (Psalm 119:105). In the increasing spiritual and moral darkness of the world in which we live, how else are we to find our way forward unless we study, apply, and teach the truths found in God’s word, the light for our path?
So why not take a few minutes today and enjoy the rich tapestry of Psalm 119 and ask the Lord to guide your path through life.
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