20 July 2016

Psalm 119:97-112

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." (v. 105)


Psalm 119 is the longest psalm in the collection and is an affirmation of God's law (the Torah).

It has a very disciplined structure which is only evident in the original Hebrew. The first eight lines all begin with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the second eight lines with the second letter and so on. The scholar Walter Bruggemann suggests that "it is likely that the psalm is written in this tightly disciplined fashion so that the 'medium' is a match for the 'message'". In other words a life which obeys the law is one that is in order and disciplined, just like the order and discipline of the psalm.

Today's passage is two of those eight-verse acroustics.

The first (verses 97-104) is a reflection on how the God's law brings about wisdom. But it is more than theoretical. The law gives the writer "understanding than all [their] teachers" (v. 99), but it also also requires discipline (see verse 101). The result though is sweet - "sweeter than honey to my mouth" (v. 103).

In the second part, God's law is also practical - "a lamp to my feet and a light to my path". The word shows "what is safe, what is wise - that is, how to act and what to do" (Walter Bruggemann again). The writer acknowledges that they have control over their own life (verses 109-112), but with that responsibility comes risk and danger. It is through the law that one can steer one's way through.

To Ponder

  • By what law or principles do you live your life?
  • Verse 105 was used as the title for a Methodist Conference report on the nature and authority of the Bible. How do you read the Bible in terms of its authority?
  • How do the words of John's Gospel, "The word became flesh and lived among us" (John 1:14) affect how you may read today's passage?

Bible notes author

Ken Kingston

Ken Kingston preaches in the High Wycombe Circuit. He has worked for the Connexional Team since 1992 in a variety of roles and has been involved in 'Called by Name' and 'Time to Talk of God' amongst others.