Psalm 119:1-8 (NRSV)
Verse 1Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.
Verse 2Happy are those who keep his decrees, who seek him with their whole heart,
Verse 3who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways.
Verse 4You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.
Verse 5O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!
Verse 6Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
Verse 7I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous ordinances.
Verse 8I will observe your statutes; do not utterly forsake me.
Oh, the joy of those who choose to follow the instruction of God! But 176 verses, all extolling the virtue of the Torah? Isn’t that a wee bit excessive? I used to explain at length that this psalm is an alphabetic acrostic, that each of 22 Hebrew letters begin eight lines each, that 22 times 8 equals 176—and by then eyes had glazed over and ears stopped listening. Now I just open my Biblia Hebraica and show off the pattern. Eyes don’t even need to read Hebrew to discern the scheme.
Verses 1-8 are the “aleph” section, leading the big alphabetic parade that is this psalm and its glorious choice to savor and celebrate God’s instructions for beloved community.
Word of words and Light of light, lead me today through the ABCs and XYZs of daily life. Keep me close to you and instruct me in the way I should go. Amen.