Bet

Delighting, forgetting and 9% (Psalm 119:16)

I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word
 (Psa. 119:16 NRSV).

More delighting in God’s statutes.  In verse 14, the psalmist delighted  (but it uses a different Hebrew verb) in YHWH’s testimonies like Donald Trump delights in riches.  (I wouldn’t know what that was like.)  The psalmist continues to delight here.

In the Hebrew, the prepositional phrase begins the sentence, so more literally: “In your statutes, I will delight”.  Thus, the verse not surprisingly begins the letter Bet (from the prepositional prefix here translated as “in”) for this final verse of the Bet section of the psalm.  Now we’re at the 16th verse out of 176.  We’re 1/11 finished.  That’s over 9% (and you said it couldn’t be done).

This time the delighting is connected not to riches but to not forgetting.  To not forget we write on our hands, God writes it the sky (i.e., a rainbow- Gen 9:13-16), but the psalmist delights in God’s word.

What sorts of things do want to make sure we don’t forget?  Important things: anniversary, SS#, where we put the car keys…and God’s word.  What do we want to forget?  Among other things, the Broncos loss to the Patriots last week.

Delighting in God’s words will help you remember them.

Next week, I’ll take a week off blogging on Psalm 119, then the following week we’ll start the Gimel section of the psalm which is one of my favorites.

What do you do to not forget something? 

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“I’m looking at you” (Psalm 119:15)

I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways
 (Psa. 119:15 NRSV).

Focus.  With fixed eyes, the psalmist is focused on God’s precepts and God’s ways.  A similar visual fixation appeared previously in 119:6 (“having my eyes fixed on your commandments”).  The language of obsession permeates this psalm.  An obsession with God and God’s laws.  The psalmist tells God, “I’m looking at you.”  (This is the 7th verse in the Bet stanza of Psalm 119, all 8 of these verses begin with Bet.)

Why?  Because the psalmist delights in God’s laws.  Delighting in God’s laws appears on either side of this verse (Psalm 119:14, 16).  Delight and meditation also appear in the first psalm, which describe the blessings that come to those who delight and meditate on God’s Torah day and night.

Psalm 119:15 is the first verse in the chapter that two synonyms for God’s law appear in the same verse (“your precepts”, “your ways”). The second time is the next verse (“your statutes”, “your word”).

The synonym for God’s law used here, “precepts” (“precept” = piqud) appears 21 times in Psalm 119 (4, 5, 27, 40, 45, 56, 63, 69, 78, 87, 93, 94, 100, 104, 110, 128, 134, 141, 159, 168, 173), three other places in the Psalms (19:9; 103:18; 111:7), and nowhere else in the Old Testament.  The problem though we don’t know exactly how to spell “precept” because in the Hebrew it always appears as a plural.  And we also don’t know exactly how to spell the plural because it always appears as a plural in what is known as the construct state (connected to a noun or a pronoun), which means it doesn’t have the normal plural ending.  Precepts are always connected to God, “the precepts of YHWH” or “your precepts”.

I should be more like precepts in the Psalms, always connected to God.

What are you connected to?  What are you looking at? 

What do you delight in? (Psalm 119:14)

I delight in the way of your decrees
as much as in all riches
 (Psa. 119:14 NRSV).

What do you delight in?  While I don’t think it’s going to happen, I’ll delight if the Broncos beat the Steelers in a few hours in their first-round playoff match-up.

The psalmist delights in the way of God’s decrees.  Delight is such a great word.  It appears 10 times in English versions of Psalm 119 (verses 14, 16, 24, 35, 47, 70, 77, 92, 143, 176).  Always the focus of the psalmist’s delight is God’s law.  Here the Hebrew word translated as “delight” is sus (like the Dr.) which can also mean “rejoice” or “exult.”  Psalm 1 also speaks of delight, delighting in the law of YHWH day and night (1:2, but there the Hebrew word is hephets).

But here the psalmist isn’t delighting in God’s laws directly but in their ways.  The word translated “way” here is derek which could also be translated as “road.”  “In the road of your testimonies, I rejoice…”  (The initial “In” is the Hebrew prepositional prefix, bet, thus beginning this sixth verse of the bet stanza of the psalm.)

The psalmist delights in God’s law like someone delighting in riches.  (I know it’s hard to imagine someone delighting in money.  They must have been really materialist back then, not like people today.)  The psalmist wants us to learn from a greedy person, not about greed, but about delight and passion.

The psalmist feels about God’s law the way Americans feel about money.  “Give me more.”  Americans say, “Money, money, money!”  The psalmist says, “Law, law, law!”

We had a small Sunday school class at church this morning (Calvary Church of Souderton).  Normally there are 15-20 people, but this week there were only seven.  I was initially discouraged, since I was teaching.  We were going to discuss the 7th chapter of God Behaving Badly, “Is God rigid or flexible?”  We wrestled with the character of God, looking at texts where God doesn’t change (Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29) and texts where he does change (Exo. 32:14; 1 Sam. 15:11, 35; 2 Kings 20:1-6).  (If this is something you’re interested in, read chapter 7.)  Despite our small size, our discussion was a delight.  It was delightful to talk about God and his word together.

When was the last time you delighted in something?  What was it? 

Mouth to mouth (Psalm 119:13)

With my lips I declare
all the ordinances of your mouth
 (Psa. 119:13 NRSV).

The psalmist uses his lips to declare the ordinances of YHWH’s mouth.  From God’s mouth, to the psalmist’s mouth.  Mouth-to-mouth.  For us, “mouth-to-mouth” implies resuscitation.  In Psalm 119:13 mouths and lips are used to communicate God’s laws.

In the world of the Old Testament, lips and mouths often carry communication connotations, they can also mean more than that.  Isaiah declared that he was a man of unclean lips, so YHWH’s seraph (a flying, firey lizard-basically a dragon) touched his lips with a hot coal to purify them (Isa 6:5-6).  Ouch.  Don’t try that at home.  Jeremiah lacked confidence in his speaking, so YHWH touched his mouth and put his words into his mouth to empower him (Jer 1:6-9).

The ministry of these two prophets was characterized by speaking God’s word, like the psalmist.  However, the divine mouth-touch not only imparted a supernatural gift of communication, but also gifts of purification and of empowerment.

The ultimate mouth-to-mouth in Scripture has to be the first one.  During creation God took the mud-man (Adam sounds like the Hebrew word for ground, adamah) and breathed into him the breath of life (Gen. 2:7).  Not technically a resuscitation, since he wasn’t alive previously, but a similar idea.  That which comes from God’s mouth gives us life.

Here in the fifth verse of the Bet section of Psalm 119, the psalmist is taking God’s laws, all of them, and declaring them to the audience to bless, empower, purify and revive.

Be revived and resuscitated as you declare God’s words to the world around you.  From God’s mouth, to the psalmist’s mouth, to your mouth.  Mouth-to-mouth-to-mouth.

(In addition to not blogging on major holidays (Christmas, Easter), I’ll take a Sabbath-esque break from Sunday blogging on Psalm 119 after each 8-verse section.)

Why do you think the psalmist mentions mouths and lips here?