Psalm 119

Words used to describe God’s Word

A. Commandment

Commandment (Hebrew: mitswah) means Divine Authority. This refers to the Covenant that God made with the people of Israel and can be seen as constitutional commands. Basically the commandments (precepts and instructions) concern daily living, they are God’s directions to guide man to choose correctly between right and wrong. This means that they must be obeyed, for we are called to be steadfast in keeping them.

The word can be twenty-two times in Psalm 119 in verses 6, 10, 19, 21, 32, 35, 47, 48, 60, 66, 73, 86, 96, 98, 115, 127, 131, 143, 151, 166, 172, 176.

B. Judgement

Judgement (Hebrew: mishpat) concern the decisions of the all wise Judge for every day life. The term refers to God’s verdicts, ordinances, and revelations of God’s will. The judgements of God are seen as just even when He makes a judgement against some conduct that results in punishment. It also means that God is wise and knows exactly how to deal with mankind. Scriptures teaches us that if we learn God’s judgements (what He tells us to do or to avoid) then we will save ourselves much sorrow and punishment. The judgements must be put in our hearts.

This word appears twenty-three times in Psalm 119 in verses 7, 13, 20, 30, 39, 43, 52, 62, 75, 84, 91, 102, 106, 108, 120, 121, 132, 137, 149, 156, 160, 164, 175.

C. Law

This word is probably the best known of the Hebrew words relating to God’s word. Law (Hebrew: Torah) speaks of God’s right to direct our ways through His laws. It suggests that God is King and as such His words must be obeyed. The Law can mean a single command or the complete Old Testament Scriptures. At the time the Psalms were written it was probably only the first five books of the Bible (Genesis to Deuteronomy) that the author of Psalm 119 had in mind. Through His law (instructions, doctrine, revealed will) God guides and directs His people in the ways of righteousness. The apostle Paul calls the Law a schoolmaster that teaches a person how to live correctly. Psalm 119 teaches us that we must abide by God’s doctrines (Law) so that we will keep from sin.

Law is found twenty-five times in verses 1, 18, 29, 34, 44, 51, 53, 55, 61, 70, 72, 77, 85, 92, 97, 109, 113, 126, 136, 142, 150, 153, 163, 174.

D. Precepts

Precepts (Hebrew: piqqud) mean appointments, orders, statutes, and mandates of God. This is an important word because it means that God’s word on any matter cannot be dispensed with or thought lightly off, nor can we act indifferently towards them. When He speaks we must stand up and take notice. His precepts are for every detail of our daily lives. God will not budge from the orders and statutes He has made and He expects His people to follow them exactly.

The word precept can be found twenty-one times in verses 4, 15, 27, 40, 45, 56, 63, 69, 78, 87, 93, 94, 100, 104, 110, 128, 134, 141, 159, 168, 173.

E. Statutes

Statutes (Hebrew: choq and chuqqah) are God’s regulations that must be strictly obeyed. They are binding ordinances. The idea is of eternal truths that are fixed. They are unchangeable. To serve God a person must pursue and observe exactly what the Lord commands, therefore they are rules of conduct for His servants.

The word is found twenty-two times in verses 5, 8, 12, 16, 23, 26, 33, 48, 54, 64, 68, 71, 80, 83, 112, 117, 117, 124, 135, 145, 155, 171.

F. Testimony

Testimony (Hebrew: Edhah) refers to God’s Covenant or contract with Israel. The root of the word is ‘witness’ and so probably has the tablets of stone that were placed in the Ark of the Covenant (also known as the Ark of the Testimony). God’s testimonies concern the rites and ceremonies of the law. The New Testament writers see these ceremonies pointing beyond themselves to Christ. As a ‘witness’ we can understand all of God’s word to be faithful, true and without the slightest error.

The word is found twenty-three times in verses 2, 14, 22, 24, 31, 36, 46, 59, 79, 88, 95, 99, 111, 119, 125, 129, 138, 144, 145, 152, 157, 167, 168.

G. Word

Word (Hebrew: davar) refers to the sayings, commands, utterances, and promises of the Lord. This may be linked to the other Hebrew word (`imra, which is used thirteen times in this psalm) for both have very similar meaning. ‘Word’ (davar) is the whole of divine revelation, that is, any direct word to man from God or through His prophets. It concerns God’s mind and will on all matters relating to natural and spiritual life. The psalmist expects us to conform our lives according to God’s revealed will as contained in His word. God’s word not only contains direction for good conduct but also the promises of blessing for such.

This term is found twenty-four times in Psalm 119 in verses 9, 16, 17, 25, 28, 42, 43, 49, 57, 65, 74, 81, 89, 101, 105, 107, 114, 130, 139, 147, 160, 161, 169.

Despite the fact that these words all have their own special meaning, it appears that the psalmist actually interchanges these terms so making us understand that God’s word affect every part of our lives. Though separate from one another there seems to be a kind of mesh that links each word to another. At the centre of the seven words is God’s revealed will for man.