A prayer to Yahweh (Ps 119:25-119:32)

Dalet

“My soul clings to the dust.

Revive me according to your word!

When I told of my ways,

You answered me.

Teach me your statutes.

Make me understand the way of your precepts.

I will meditate on your wondrous works.

My soul melts away for sorrow.

Strengthen me according to your word!

Put false ways far from me!

Graciously teach me your law!

I have chosen the way of faithfulness.

I set your ordinances before me.

I cling to your decrees.

Yahweh!

Let me not be put to shame!

I will run in the way of your commandments.

You enlarge my understanding!”

This psalmist prays to Yahweh. He wanted to be revived by Yahweh since he had formerly answered his prayers. He wanted to know more about the statutes. Apparently the statutes were difficult things to learn. He was going to meditate on the these decrees so that he might better understand the wondrous works of Yahweh. He wanted to stay away from false ways. He wanted to be faithful as he clung to these decrees. He did not want to be put to shame. He was seeking a better understanding of the commandments. This section on the fourth consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Dalet, ends with this plea.

The trustworthy servant (Ps 119:17-119:24)

Gimel

“Deal bountifully with your servant.

Thus I may live and observe your word.

Open my eyes!

Thus I may behold

Wondrous things out of your law.

I am an alien in the land.

Do not hide your commandments from me!

My soul is consumed with longing

For your ordinances at all times.

You rebuke the insolent.

You rebuke the accursed ones,

You rebuke those who wander from your commandments.

Take away from me their scorn and contempt.

I have kept your decrees.

Even though princes sit plotting against me,

Your servant will meditate on your statutes.

Your decrees are my delight.

They are my counselors.”

This psalmist maintained that he was a trustworthy servant. He wanted to live and observe the word of God. He wanted his eyes opened so that he could see all the wondrous things of the law. He was like an alien in his own land. He did not want Yahweh to hide the commandments from him. He was consumed with following the laws of Yahweh. He knew that Yahweh rebuked those who wandered from keeping his commandments, the insolent and the accursed ones. Even if other princes were plotting against him, this psalmist would continue to meditate on Yahweh’s statutes. The psalmist delighted in Yahweh’s decrees since they were like his counselors. Thus this section on the third consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Gimel, came to an end.

Prayer to keep the commandments (Ps 119:9-119:16)

Bet

“How can young people keep their way pure?

They guard it according to your word.

With my whole heart I seek you.

Do not let me stray from your commandments.

I treasure your word in my heart.

Thus I may not sin against you.

Blessed be you!

Yahweh!

Teach me your statutes!

With my lips I declare

All the ordinances of your mouth.

I delight in the way of your decrees.

I delight as much as in all riches.

I will meditate on your precepts.

I will fix my eyes on your ways.

I will delight in thy statutes.

I will not forget your word.”

This psalmist asked Yahweh to help him keep his commandments. He asked the basic question that keeps coming up today. How can the young people keep a pure way? How can they keep your word? The psalmist maintained that he was trying not to stray from Yahweh’s commandments with his whole heart. Once again, he personally wanted to learn more about the statutes of Yahweh. Using the first person singular, he wanted to delight in Yahweh’s commandment like others delight in riches. He wanted to meditate on the statutes of Yahweh so that he would not forget them. Thus this section on the second consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Bet, comes to an end.

The right sacrifices (Ps 4:4-4:5)

“When you are disturbed

Do not sin!

Mediate about it on your beds!

Be silent!

Selah

Offer right sacrifices!

Put your trust in Yahweh!”

However, there was a caveat to this self-righteousness. You could not sin even if you were a little disturbed. You had to meditate while you were in bed. You had to be silent in your prayer. After this mention of silence, there is a pause for a musical interlude. You had to offer the right sacrifices. Apparently this psalm might have been used when burnt offerings or evening sacrifices were being made. You had to put your trust in Yahweh, and not in yourself.

The happy people (Ps 1:1-1:3)

“Happy are those

Who do not follow the advice of the wicked.

They do not take the path that sinners tread.

They do not sit in the seat of scoffers.

Their delight is in the law of Yahweh.

On his law they meditate day and night.

They are like trees

That are planted by streams of water.

They yield their fruit in its season.

Their leaves do not wither.

In all that they do,

They prosper.”

Psalm 1 is considered a preface to the collection of psalms or praises. There is no attribution to this psalm. It may have been the biblical editor’s choice. This psalm emphasizes the two ways, much like the later 1st century CE Christian Didache. This is, in fact, a wisdom psalm. The happy or blessed ones are the people who do not follow wicked advice. They receive blessings. They are the prosperous or the righteous people. They do not walk down the way of sinners or scoffers. Their delight and happiness is in the law of Yahweh. They are like the strong trees planted by streams of water as they always yield their fruit in the correct season. Their leaves never wither. Everything that they do is prosperous because they are sustained by the water. They meditate day and night on the Torah that was given by Yahweh, the God of Israel, via Moses. They are much like Christian contemplatives or Buddhist monks. The happy blessed one is the one who follows the law. This psalm sets the tone for all the psalms to follow.