What Is the Meaning of Psalm 119?

What is the meaning of Psalm 119?

If you peruse the first page of Google results, then you will come to the common understanding that Psalm 119 is about God’s word. For most modern day Christians, if the psalm is about God’s word, then that means Psalm 119 is ultimately about the Bible. Therefore, you often find statements like the following to explain the meaning of Psalm 119.

  1. The Bible, the word of God, is all sufficient.
  2. The truth of the Bible, God’s word, is reliable.
  3. God’s character is reflected through the Bible, his word.
  4. The Bible, God’s word, is authoritative.

Matthew Henry, who’s Bible commentary is exhaustive and found everywhere, said, “The general scope and design of this psalm is to magnify the Divine law and make it honourable.” For most modern day Christians, Divine law comes from the Old Testament, specifically the ten commandments. The law is often equated with Torah. We commonly think of Torah as law, but it is better thought of as the teaching of parents to their children.

In almost every verse of Psalm 119, there is a synonym for Torah. Roughly, there are ten different terms referring to Torah or the word of God throughout the psalm – law, way, testimonies, commandments, precepts, word, judgments, righteousness, statutes, and truth/faithfulness. Depending on your translation, you will also see the word ordinances.

According to Matthew Henry, Psalm 119 is an extended prayer or meditation that declares 1) Torah is to be held up as a source of blessing and right conduct and 2) the writer is dedicating himself to Torah. Today, this gets translated to the idea that the Old Testament, God’s law, more specifically the ten commandments, is a source of blessing and right conduct and we should dedicate ourselves to keeping the law, the ten commandments, and everything God said in the Old Testament.

But, as I read through Psalm 119 the other day, the Spirit showed me another way to read and understand the psalm. To read the psalm as the Spirit revealed to me requires two key points of understanding.

First, the Bible is not God’s word. Rather, Jesus is God’s word. My previous post, Do You Believe the Bible is God’s Word?, details my thinking on this. So, I will not rehash it here. Therefore, whenever we read “word” in Psalm 119 we should not think about the Old Testament or the Bible. Instead, we should think Jesus.

Second, 1 John 4.8 and both say, “God is love.” Note that nowhere in scripture does it say “God is law.”

Further, Matthew 22.35-40 says, “And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.'” Luke 10.25-28 records virtually the same exact exchange.

What is Jesus saying?

All of the law, the ten commandments, the Old Testament, and the Torah can be summed up in just one word – love! Love for God and love for neighbor are the only two commandments that Jesus ever gave. Amazingly, Jesus gave us two commandments and neither of them are from the ten commandments that Moses gave. (So instead of Christians posting the ten commandments in courthouses, schoolrooms and elsewhere, shouldn’t Christians simply post Jesus’ two commandments to love God and love neighbor as yourself?) Therefore, whenever we read one of those ten synonyms mentioned above in Psalm 119 for God’s word, law, or Torah, our minds should immediately turn to love.

Further, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. The way of Jesus, the way of God, is love. You can see how I understand the way is love in my post Creation: A Witness to Jesus. So, whenever see the word way in Psalm 119, our minds should turn to love.

The idea that love is the way tells us something about the false way and mentioned several times in Psalm 119 and the wicked and insolent who take it. 1 John 4.18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” Love casts out fear. When our way is motivated by love, fear cannot be a possible motivation for us. But, when we are not perfected by love, we are moving in the false way. Then, our actions are motivated by the false way of fear. Ultimately, it is fear that prevents us from loving God, ourselves, and our neighbor. Therefore, when we read “the false way” in Psalm 119 we can substitute fear.

As the Spirit showed me where to substitute Jesus, love, and fear into Psalm 119, I was overwhelmed with the length, height, breadth, and depth of God’s love. Below is the entirety of Psalm 119 as the Spirit revealed it to me. Read it and see how overwhelming and all-encompassing God’s love is.

Psalm 119

Blessed are those who love is blameless, who walk in the love of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep his love, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do not fear, but walk in his love! You have commanded your love to be kept diligently. Oh that my love may be steadfast in your keeping your love! Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all of your love. I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous love. I will keep your love; do not utterly forsake me!

How can a young man keep his love pure? By guarding it according to your love. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your love! I have stored Jesus Christ in my heart, that I might not fear you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your love! With my lips I declare all the love of your mouth. In the love of your love I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your love and fix my eyes on your love. I will delight in your love; I will not forget Jesus Christ.

Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your love. Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your love. I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your love from me! My soul is consumed with longing for your love at all times. You rebuke the fearful ones, who wander from your love. Take away from me fear, for I have kept your love. Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your love. Your love is my delight; love is my counselor.

My soul clings to fear; give me life according to Jesus Christ! When I told of my fear, you answered me; teach me your love! Make me understand the love of your love, and I will meditate on your wondrous love. My soul melts away for fear; strengthen me according to Jesus Christ! Put fear far from me and graciously teach me your love! I have chosen the way of love; I set your love before me. I cling to your love, O Lord; let me not be put to fear! I will run in the love of your love when you enlarge my heart!

Teach me, O Lord, the love of your love; and I will keep love to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your love and observe love with my whole heart. Lead me in the love of your love, for I delight in love. Incline my heart to your love, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your love. Confirm to your servant life, that you may be held in awe. Turn away the fear that I dread, for your love is good. Behold, I long for your love; in your love give me life!

Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your life; then I shall have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in Jesus Christ. And take not Jesus Christ utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your love. I will keep your love continually, forever and ever, and I shall love in a wide place, for I have sought your love. I will also speak of your love before kings and shall not be put to fear, for I find my delight in your love, which I love. I will lift up my hands toward your love, which I love, and I will meditate on your love.

Remember Jesus Christ to your servant, in whom you have made me hope. He is my comfort in my fear, that your life gives me life. The fearful utterly deride me, but I do not turn away from your love. When I think of your love from of old, I take comfort, O Lord. How fear seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your love. Your love has been my song in the house of my sojourning. I remember your name in the night, O Lord, and keep your love. This blessing has fallen to me, that I kept your love.

The Lord is my portion, I promise to keep your love. I entreat your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your life. When I think on my fears, I turn my feet to your love; I hasten and do not delay to keep your love. Though the cords of the fearful ensnare me, I do not forget your love. At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous love. I am a companion of all who are in awe of you, of those who keep your love. The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your love.

You have dealt well with your servant, O Lord, according to Jesus Christ. Teach me love and knowledge, for I believe in your love. Before I was afflicted I feared, but now I keep your love. You are good and do good; teach me your love. The fearful smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your love; their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your love. It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your love. The love of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your love. Those who are in awe of you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in Jesus Christ. I know, O Lord, that your love is righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your life to your servant. Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your love is my delight. Let the fearful be put to shame, because they have wronged me with falsehood; as for me, I will meditate on your love. Let those who are in awe of you turn to me, that they may know your love. May my heart be blameless in your love, that I may not be put to fear!

My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in Jesus Christ. My eyes long for your life; I ask, “When will you comfort me?” For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I have not forgotten your love. How long must your servant endure? When will you judge those who persecute me? The fearful have dug pitfalls for me; they do not live according to your love. All your love is sure; the fearful persecute me with falsehood; help me! The fearful have almost made an end of me on earth, but I have not forsaken your love. In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the love of your mouth.

Forever, O Lord, Jesus Christ is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your love endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast. By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants. If your love had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your love, for by your love you have given me life. I am yours; save me, for I have sought your love. The fearful lie in wait to destroy me, but I consider your love. I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your love is exceedingly broad.

Oh how I love your love! It is my meditation all the day. Your love makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your love is my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your love. I hold back my feet from every fearful way, in order to keep Jesus Christ. I do not turn aside from your love, for you have taught me. How sweet is Jesus Christ to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through your love I get understanding; therefore I hate every fearful way.

Jesus Christ is a lamp to my feet and a light to my love. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous love. I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to Jesus Christ! Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O Lord, and teach me your love. I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your love. The fearful have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your love. Your love is my heritage forever, for your love is the joy of my heart. I incline my heart to perform your love forever, to the end.

I hate fearfulness, but I love your love. You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Jesus Christ. Depart from me, you fearful, that I may keep the love of my God. Uphold me according to your life, that I may live, and let me not be put to fear in Jesus Christ! Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for your love continually! You spurn all who are fearful from your love, for their cunning is in vain. All the fearful of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your love. My flesh trembles for awe of you, and I am in awe of your love.

I have done what is just and right; do not leave me to my oppressors. Give your servant a pledge of good; let not the fearful oppress me. My eyes long for salvation and for the fulfillment of your righteous life. Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love, and teach me your love. I am your servant; give me understanding, that I may know your love! It is time for the Lord to act, for your love has been broken. Therefore I love your love above gold, above fine gold. Therefore I consider all your love to be right; I hate every fearful way.

Your love is wonderful; therefore my soul keeps your love. The unfolding of Jesus Christ gives light; he imparts understanding to the simple. I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your love. Turn to me and be gracious me, as is your love with those who love your name. Keep steady my steps according to your life, and let no iniquity get dominion over me. Redeem me from man’s oppression, that I may keep your love. Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your love. My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your love.

Righteous are you, O Lord, and right is your love. You have appointed your love in righteousness and in faithfulness. My zeal consumers me, because my foes forget Jesus Christ. Your life is well tried, and your servant loves it. I am small and despised, yet I do not forget your love. Your love is righteous forever, and your love is true. Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your love is my delight. Your love is righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live.

With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord! I will keep your love. I call to you; save me, that I may observe your love. I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in Jesus Christ. My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your life. Hear my voice according to your steadfast love; O Lord, according to your love give me life. The fearful draw near who persecute me with evil purpose; the fearful are far from your love. But you are near, O Lord, and all your love is true. Long have I known from your love that you have founded love forever.

Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your love. Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to your life! Salvation is far from the fearful, for the fearful do not seek your love. Great is your mercy, O Lord; give me life according to your love. Many are my persecutors and my adversaries, but I do not swerve from your love. I look at the fearful with disgust, because they do not keep your love. The sum of Jesus Christ is truth, and every bit of your love ensures forever.

Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of Jesus Christ. I rejoice at Jesus Christ like one who finds great spoil. I hate and abhor fear, but I love your love. Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous love. Great peace have those who love your love; nothing can make them fear. I hope for your salvation, O Lord, and I do your love. My soul keeps your love; I love it exceedingly. I keep your love, for all my fears are before you.

Let my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to Jesus Christ! Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to Jesus Christ. My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your love. My tongue will sing of Jesus Christ, for all your love is right. Let your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your love. I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your love is my delight. Let my soul live and praise you, and let your love help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your love.

Do You Believe the Bible Is the Word of God?

Do you the believe the Bible is “the word of God?”

I don’t.

I believe holding the Bible as “the word of God” is a very subtle form of idolatry. because we are putting a book before the actual Word of God, Jesus Christ. Anything we put before God, before Jesus, becomes an idol. And, idolatry is not worship in spirit and in truth.

Let me show you what I mean.

“In the beginning was THE BIBLE, and the THE BIBLE was with God, and THE BIBLE was God.” – John 1:1

Is that what it is says?

No.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. HE (a person) was in the beginning with God.”

So, the Word of God is a he, a person.

“And THE BIBLE continued to increase.” – Acts 6:7

“But THE BIBLE increased and multiplied.” – Acts 12:24

“And THE BIBLE was spreading throughout the whole region.” – Acts 13:49

“So THE BIBLE continued to increase and prevail mightily.” – Acts 18:20

Is that what any of these scriptures say?

No.

They all the say the “word of God” or the “word of the Lord.” Clearly, the Bible is not what Luke has in mind. Jesus Christ, the word of God, continued to increase, multiply, spread and prevail. I only picked the most obvious scriptures in Acts to show you this. Once you have seen the most obvious ones, it’s easier to see all the others refer to Jesus too.

“But it is not as though THE BIBLE has failed.” – Romans 9:6

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through THE BIBLE.” Romans 10:17

Is that what Paul means in these verses?

No.

It’s the word of God, the word of Christ, Jesus Christ, that has not failed and through whom faith comes by hearing.

“Of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make THE BIBLE fully known.” – Colossians 1:25

Is the Bible what Paul came to make known?

No.

Paul came to preach Jesus Christ, the word of God, and him crucified. He said that was all he wanted to know among us.

“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received THE BIBLE, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as what is really is, THE BIBLE, which is at work in you believers.” – 1 Thessalonions 1:13

Is Paul saying these people received the Bible and the Bible is at work in them?

No.

Ironically, the Bible is the word of men, although inspired by God. So, of course Paul wasn’t constantly in thanks that people had received the Bible. The Bible didn’t even exist at that time, nor could many even afford a copy of the scriptures or read them. They received the word of God, Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ is at work in them.

“But the THE BIBLE is not bound.” – 2 Timothy 2:9

Is the Bible bound?

Why, yes it is.

The end of Revelation says that we should add nothing to or take anything away from the book. No one is adding to the Bible anymore. It is bound. But, the word of God, Jesus Christ, is not bound. We saw in Acts that he is increasing, spreading, multiplying, prevailing. And the gospel of John says that if every act of Jesus were to be recorded all the books in the world could not contain them.

“For THE BIBLE is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from HIS (a person) sight.” – Hebrews 4:12-13

Is the Bible living and active?

No.

The word of God, Jesus Christ, is living and active. He divides soul from spirit within us. No creature is hidden from HIS sight. The Bible is not looking into the heart of every creature.

“By faith we understand that the universe was made by THE BIBLE, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” – Hebrew 11:3

Did the Bible make the universe?

No.

Is the Bible invisible?

No.

The Bible did not make the universe. Yes, the Bible is visible. Therefore, it could not have been the invisible thing that made the things that are seen.

The word of God, Jesus Christ, made the universe. Read John 1 and Colossians 1.

“Since you have been born again, not of persihable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding BIBLE.” – 1 Peter 1:23

Are you born again by the Bible?

No.

Is the Bible the imperishable seed that was planted in the ground to bring new life?

No.

The word of God, Jesus Christ, is the grain of wheat, the imperishable seed, planted in the ground that sprang up to new life. (John 12:24) Jesus Christ is the living and abiding word of God.

“And the earth was formed out of water and through the water by THE BIBLE.” – 2 Peter 3:5

Did the Bible form the earth?

No.

The word of God, Jesus Christ, formed the earth. He made everything.

These are just the most obvious places where the word of God is clearly not the Bible. The word of God is Jesus Christ, a person. But, once you have seen the obvious places, you will be able to see Jesus as “the word” in all the other places too.

When you see that in the New Testament, then you should do a study in the Old Testament on “the word of the Lord.” You will notice that many of the uses of that phrase refer to a person.

The Bible calls itself not the word of God but the scriptures. And, so does Jesus.

Jesus said in John 5:39-40, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”

Like the Jews Jesus was speaking to, you can search the scriptures all you want to find life. But, you won’t find life in the scriptures. The scriptures, the Bible, is simply a witness to Jesus, the true word of God, true life. We have to go to him for life. In fact, we can’t even understand the scriptures without his life, the Holy Spirit, in us and teaching us. The Holy Spirit brings to our remembrance everything that Jesus said. The Holy Spirit takes the dead letters and brings them to life (2 Corinthians 3).

Throughout scripture, God states that he wants people to listen to his voice, his word, Jesus Christ. He never stated that he wanted people to listen to a written book.

I posted the above on Facebook more than one year ago. The following is my reply to a comment on my Facebook post. The comment stated that there was a difference between “the word of God incarnate” and “the word of God written.”

Let’s assume that trusted theologians for centuries have made the distinction between “the word of God incarnate” and “the word of God written.” Assuming that, I would respectfully disagree with them.

For the obvious reason that no one knew the word of God was Jesus until he came, I can only compare what the New Testament says about, as you say, “the word of God incarnate” and the “word of God written.”

I already showed in my post that the New Testament says the “word of God” is a person, Jesus Christ. Also, I said in my post that God has always desired a people that would listen to his voice. It is a voice that speaks or proclaims a word. Voices are listened to and heard, hence Jesus’ statement that those who knew him would know his voice.

The exact phrase “word of God” appears 44 times in the Bible.

Of those, 9 times the “word of God” was heard (Luke 5:1, 5:21, 11:28, John 8:47, Acts 13:5), received (Acts 8:14, 11:1, 1 Thessalonians 2:13), or accepted (1 Thessalonians 2:13). I included received and accepted because the vast majority of anyone at that time would have received or accepted whatever the word of God is by hearing as they could not read.

Of those, 8 times the “word of God” was taught (Acts 18:11), proclaimed (Acts 13:5, Acts 17:13), preached (Acts 6:2), spoken (Acts 4:31, Acts 13:46, Hebrews 13:7) or uttered (John 3:34).

Therefore, if just over one-third of the uses of the exact phrase “word of God” are used in the context of hearing or speaking. then God wants us to hear his voice.

So, what about the “word of God written?”

Is that even a thing?

Well, what does the Bible say about itself?

Over and over, the Bible refers to what is written as the scriptures. The word scripture(s) is used 51 times.

Of those, 3 times the scripture is specifically referred to as being read. Not one time is the “word of God” referred to as being read.

Of those, 27 times the scripture is mentioned in the context of being fulfilled or believed. Therefore, more than half the uses of “scripture,” what is written, are to show that the true “word of God,” Jesus, fulfilled what had been written. In this way, what was written, the scripture, is a shadow of the reality, the true word of God, Jesus Christ. The scriptures are no more the word of God than any of the other Old Testament types and shadows – Joseph, Joshua, the offerings, the tabernacle, etc. – are the word of God in some other form. Just like all the types and shadows in the Old Testament, the scriptures are a witness to Jesus Christ, the word of God.

Of those, 8 times the scriptures are mentioned in the context of searching/examining or reasoning/showing/encouraging. The scriptures were used, not to prove that they were the word of God, but to prove that Jesus Christ indeed is the word of God.

Of those, 3 times Jesus is said to interpret or open the scriptures. Jesus took what was written and translated it into the actual word of God for the disciples. He showed them where he, the word of God, was (and wasn’t) in the scriptures.

The scriptures, the Bible, never call themselves the word of God

Muddling the word of God, Jesus Christ, with the scriptures, the Bible, the written word, is actually what calls the whole thing into question and has people confused.

In some manner, Jesus Christ did pit himself against the scriptures, what was written. In the sermon on mount, he repeatedly said, “You have heard it said…but I say to you.” Also, look through the gospels and you will see that Jesus never called the Law “his law” or “his Father’s law.” He almost always said “your law” or “their law.”

You mention Moses and the prophets speaking the “word of God.” Yes, they did. But, they had a veiled view of God. They did not see him clearly. Therefore, they could not write about him clearly. This is why Moses prophesied in Deuteronomy 18:15-18 about God raising up another prophet, Jesus Christ, that Israel would listen to (not read, and isn’t interesting that we don’t have a single thing written from the most important person in the world).

But, Jesus himself said that John the Baptist was the greatest man of the old covenant, but even he was the least in the kingdom of God.

Why?

Because he was not born again, filled, by the Holy Spirit the way we are. This is important because 2 Timothy 3:16 says that scripture is God-breathed. But, do you know what else is God-breathed? Every person is filled with the Holy Spirit, God-breathed as it were. Each human being is as inspired as the scriptures. Therefore, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3 that we are living letters as opposed to the dead letters of the old covenant scriptures that can only point to life when read by the Spirit within us.

Something that is God-breathed contains the Spirit, but it is clearly not the Spirit. Just as the Bible witnesses to, or contains, Jesus, but it is not the Word of God. Without this understanding we get a lot of twisted ideas about God and Jesus.

As for making the book less “sacred,” or less important, you know me better than that. Writing about the Bible every day for an entire year, as I have on this blog, cannot be considered making the book less sacred or less important.

But, we need a right understanding of what it is and what it isn’t. We need to put the Bible and Jesus Christ in their rightful places.