Word Psalms

Mike examines the psalms that highlight the value and power of God's Word.
Class by:
5 of 11

Most psalms can be categorized into one of nine different types. So far we have studied:

  1. Wisdom psalms which seek to define the character of a good man, life or action in given situations.
  2. Nature psalms which comment on the greatness of God as it is revealed through the completed act of creation and God's continued activity within it.

Word Psalms

These are psalms praising God for His special revelation to us through His Word.

Aside from the use of parallelism, authors also inserted multiple synonyms for the term, Word of God, as a device denoting reverence when writing about this topic.

Psalm 19

7The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
8The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
9The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
10They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
11Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.
12Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.
13Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins;
Let them not rule over me;
Then I will be blameless,
And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.
14Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.

We previously studied how David combined two types of psalms (Nature and Word) into one poem. In verses 1-6 of Psalm 19 he praises God for His wisdom in creating a world that gives testimony to His power and greatness, and then putting all of this into the hands of man, the weakest of His creation. The creating of the heavens reveals His greatness and, in comparison, the creation of man, made in His image, reveals His character. That the vastness of heaven and earth are put into subjugation to human beings also shows that His wisdom is not at all like our own.

In verses 7-14 he continues to praise God for the way that He reveals and glorifies Himself, but this time he demonstrates how God does this through the giving of His Word. This section of the psalm is divided into two parts:

  1. The description, value and purpose of God's word (verses 7-11).
  2. A prayer of petition (verses 12-14).

Descriptions, Value, Purpose - Verses 7-11

A. Description - Verses 7-9

The author uses six synonyms to describe the Word of God.

  1. Law: Commandments and rituals given by Moses in the Pentateuch/Torah.
  2. Testimony: The things that the Word has spoken about (i.e. God, salvation, relationships, creation, etc.).
  3. Precepts: Rules or guidelines.
  4. Commandments: General principles that encompass everyone and, if violated, affect everyone ("Thou shalt not steal").
  5. Fear: The thing that God's word produces, which is said to be the same thing as the Word itself (a literary device known as metonymy - i.e. the word "crown" in reference to the king himself). Fear also suggests the awe, reverence and religion produced by the Word.
  6. Judgments (ordinances): The sum total of His word, the summary conclusions of what His word teaches.

B. Value - Verses 7-10

The author describes the value and character of God's word and its preciousness for the one who accepts it.

  1. Perfect: Means it is complete, lacking in nothing and exactly what God intended it to be.
  2. Sure: Dependable, accomplishing what God wants.
  3. Right: Comes from the Hebrew words "straight" or "well." The Word is pleasing because of its rightness or soundness.
  4. Pure: No impurity, no mixture of falsehood and truth. It is clean and transparent.
  5. Clean: No ugliness, contamination or deterioration.
  6. True: The epitome of truth. Something tested, straight.
  7. Righteous: It is without sin, totally acceptable.
  8. Precious: More valuable than any material thing (e.g. gold was the most valuable commodity at that time).
  9. Pleasing: More delightful than anything consumed (e.g. honey as example). It stays with you, changes you for good.

C. Purpose - Verses 7-11

He gives the practical benefits derived from knowing and obeying God's word.

  1. Restores the Soul: The Word accomplishes what it sets out to do in that it converts the soul. The person who knows and obeys is changed.
  2. Makes the Simple, Wise: The Word is dependable, even the naive and simple can have confidence that it will give them wisdom and insight.
  3. Makes the Heart Rejoice: The Word has the ability to cheer and encourage because it offers assurance and comfort.
  4. Enlightens Man's Eyes: Man's sinful mind is cleansed and thus brought to understanding through the pure Word.
  5. Provides Assurance: Not only the Word but what we learn from it has permanence. Whatever we know and are assured of in the Bible will always be.
  6. Provides Protection: The Word provides protection from spiritual death as well as physical dangers by warning of the destructiveness and repercussions of certain actions and attitudes.
  7. Provides Encouragement: The Word warns but it also promises and describes the rewards awaiting those who believe and obey what it says.

The author proclaims the greatness of God by using various synonyms to describe His word. In addition to this, he details the Word's value and characteristics as well as what it accomplishes in the life of one who believes and obeys it.

Prayer of Petition - Verses 12-14

In the final two verses the author asks God to help him make a proper response to the Word. In this section he asks three things:

In verse 12, he asks God to forgive or clear him from hidden faults. At first he acknowledges that because he is human, he is not always able to know how he is sinning and going against God's word (only the Christian believer today can pray this kind of prayer because he is under the state of grace and as such is not subject to the condemnation of the Law that charges a person with disobeying the whole Law for an infraction against a single precept - James 2:10).

In verse 13, David asks God to restrain him from committing presumptuous sins. These are sins that he commits knowingly because of rebellion, selfishness, passion, weakness, but not because of ignorance. The Lord does not stop us from these but through His word, our conscience, the Holy Spirit and the church, He can alert us to danger. David also appeals to the Lord for help in not becoming a slave to desire or weakness and thus sin openly against Him. He knew the danger of these and the need to be free from any enslavement to these kinds of sins. (Note the synonymous parallelism in verse 13, stich 1-2/3-4.)

In verses 14, He prays that God will accept the psalm that he is writing and offering to Him. He begins his poem by describing the quality and purpose of God's words, and how precious and productive they are to him. He then ends by asking that his own words be acceptable to God. Again, a balance of ideas: God's words to him/his words to God. David finishes with a declaration that God is:

  1. His Rock: dependable, solid, indestructible (strength).
  2. His Redeemer: This term had two references among the Jewish people. A) Kinsman Redeemer. A relative that had the responsibility to act on behalf of another relative who was in trouble, danger or in need (e.g. Boaz - Book of Ruth). B) Avenger of Blood. This was also a relative who was responsible for avenging the murder of a relative (Deuteronomy 19:4-7;11-13). Ultimately, God is our Avenger of Blood who will carry out justice against those who have injured us (Romans 12:19), and He is our Kinsman Redeemer because He has paid our debt of sin through the cross of Christ (Romans 4:25).

Psalm 119

This is the longest psalm in the Book of Psalms, and the longest chapter in the Bible. This psalm is an "acrostic" because the first letter of the first line and every eighth line thereafter begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet (22 letters x 8 lines = 176 total lines/verses).

There is no progression of thought, but rather a general theme throughout: praise for God's word. This psalm uses 10 different synonyms for the Word of God (five of which are found in Psalm 19): Law, Testimonies, Ways, Statues, Commandments, Ordinances, Word, Precepts, Promises, Judgments.

There is a synonym for the Word in almost every line. Line (verse)105 of this psalm is probably the best known and it summarizes well the overall theme the writer had in mind.

Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.
- Psalms 119:105

Word psalms are meditations, and they express praise and appreciation for the value and character of God's revealed Word to man.

5 of 11