My newest book, an introduction to Psalm 119  


Psalm 119: a Devotional Study Guide to Cultivate Rational Biblical Meditation and Spiritual Growth


What is a Devotional?


A devotional in a biblical context refers to a spiritual practice that involves personal study, prayer, and reflection on the Scriptures. A devotion is a time set aside for individuals to draw closer to the object of faith, and strengthen their relationship with God, and seek encouragement.


In the Christian tradition, for example, a devotion might involve reading passages from the Bible, reflecting on their meaning, and spending time in prayer and even song. Devotions can take various forms, including written materials with daily readings, prayers, and songs that individuals engage in as part of their spiritual discipline.


Regarding the title, rational is not rationalism. Mankind’s rational capabilities have been frequently linked to the image of God. The concept of the image of God is normally linked with the idea that humans are created in God’s likeness and have unique qualities that set them apart from other creatures. Part of the image of God involves what is known as the communicable attributes of God or shared attributes such as reasoning, creativity, and moral awareness. Hence, the Christian faith should not be separated from reason and rational thinking.


Biblical truth is not illogical, irrational, or contradictory. Wisdom and discernment are built upon sound logic and correctly understanding Scriptural precepts. Scripture serves as the foundation for this. Hence, this devotional study guide is designed to foster biblical rationality (clear thinking and sound reason for the glory of God) and is not intended to foster highly subjective, ooey, gooey feelings or touchy-feely emotions.    


Introductory Comments and Observations:


Psalm 119 is a remarkable ode to the Word of God, consisting of 176 verses divided into 22 stanzas. It celebrates the beauty, power, and eternal nature of God's law and commands, expressing a deep love and devotion to the teachings of the Lord. The psalmist passionately describes the transformative effect of meditating on God's precepts, testimonies, and statutes, finding joy and guidance in following His commands. Through its rich imagery and heartfelt pleas, Psalm 119 is a powerful reminder of the importance of seeking God's wisdom and living according to His Word.


Studying Psalm 119 can hold personal significance for various reasons:


1.      Emphasis on the Word: The psalmist speaks with reverence for God's Word, inspiring believers to foster an appreciation for the Scriptures and understand their role in spiritual growth.


2.      Rational reflection of the Law: The psalmist meditates God's law, underscoring the importance of rational reflection and incorporating biblical teachings, which underscores the encouragement for believers to establish a habitual practice of meditation for spiritual growth.


3.      Guidance and Wisdom: The psalmist acknowledges the pivotal role of God's Word in furnishing guidance and wisdom. A study of Psalm 119 can help begin a desire among believers to seek divine guidance through the Scriptures for their lives.


4.      Faith and Trust: The psalmist exhibits steadfast faith and trust in the reliability of God's Word, offering motivation for believers confronting adversities, which serves as a moving reminder of the steadfastness of God's promises.


5.      Acrostic Composition: Psalm 119 is characterized by an acrostic structure, with each segment beginning with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This logical arrangement aids in memorization.


6.      Application to Daily Life: The psalmist connects the study of God's Word with practical living, motivating believers to integrate biblical principles into their daily lives.


7.      Self-Reflection: Within this Psalm, the psalmist frequently contemplates personal struggles, triumphs, and the necessity for divine intervention. These introspective passages resonate with individuals, providing an example of speaking personal experiences within their spiritual relationship.


8.      Adoration and Thankfulness: Psalm 119 consistently echoes themes of praise and thanksgiving for God's faithfulness. This focus can inspire gratitude and worship among believers.


Psalm 119 is the longest in the Book of Psalms and the longest chapter in the Bible. It is a unique and powerful composition that focuses on the beauty and importance of God's Word, often using various terms like “law,” “statutes,” “precepts,” and “commands” to refer to divine instructions.


Psalm 119 was possibly composed by Ezra, although commentator Matthew Poole and many others believe David is the author. (1) Psalm 119 promotes the excellence of God's laws and the blessedness of those who abide by them. Psalm 119 is a gold mine of spiritual enrichment.


Psalm 119 is organized in a structure known as an alphabetic acrostic. There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Psalm 119 contains 22 sections with eight verses each. Each of the 22 sections is set to a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and each line begins with that letter. If one looks at the actual Hebrew text, one can see this. Unfortunately, this is often missed in the English translations.


To demonstrate the idea of the alphabetical arranging of the Psalm, look at the following literal rendering of the Hebrew prepared by Pastor Theodore Kubler of Islington, England, in 1880:




1: All they that are undefiled in the way, walking in the law of the Lord, are blessed.

2: All they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart, are blessed.

3: Also, they do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.

4: All thy precepts diligently to keep thou has commanded us.

5: Ah, Lord! That my ways were directed to keep thy statues!

6: Ashamed I shall never be, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.

7: Always will I praise thee, with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments.

8: All thy statutes will I keep: O forsake me not utterly.




9: By what means shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word.

10: By day and by night have I sought thee with my whole heart: O let me not wander from thy commandments.

11: By thy grace I have hid thy word in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.

12: Blessed art thou, O Lord: teach me thy statutes.

13: By the word so my lips will I declare all the judgments of thy mouth.

14: By far more than in all riches I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies.

15: By thy help I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.

16: By thy grace I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.” (2)


To repeat what was stated at the outset and said another way, the purpose of Psalm 119 is to exalt and extol God's law. The psalmist uses ten different terms to describe God's Word in Psalm 119. One sees law, way, testimonies, commandments, precepts, words, judgments, statutes, truth, and ordinances. Psalm 119 is like a thesaurus, how these terms describe various aspects of God's Word and its importance for believers.


The Hebrew alphabet consists of 22 letters. It does not have a case, and five letters have different forms when used at the end of a word. Hebrew is written from right to left. Originally, the alphabet was an abjad consisting only of consonants, but it is now considered an “impure abjad.”  As with other abjads, such as the Arabic alphabet, during its centuries-long use, scribes devised means of indicating vowel sounds by separate vowel points, known in Hebrew as niqqud. In both biblical and rabbinic Hebrew, the letters י ו ה א can also function as matres lectionis, which is when certain consonants are used to indicate vowels. There is a trend in Modern Hebrew towards using matres lectionis to indicate vowels that have traditionally gone unwritten, a practice known as “full spelling.”


Hebrew Alphabet Table


Letter   Name   Pronunciation


א          Aleph    Silent

ב          Bet         B

ג           Gimel    G

ד          Dalet      D

ה          He         H

ו           Vav        V or W

ז           Zayin     Z

ח          Het        Ch

ט          Tet         T

י           Yod        Y

כ          Kaf        K

ל          Lamed   L

מ          Mem      M

נ           Nun       N

ס          Samekh S

ע          Ayin       Silent

פ          Pe          P

צ          Tsade     Ts

ק          Qof      K

ר          Resh    R

ש         Shin     Sh

ת          Tav      T


Devotionals and Commentaries:


Commentaries constitute a valuable means of enlarging one's knowledge of the Bible and enhancing the devotional experience. The following explains several reasons supporting this assertion:


1.      Cultural Context: Commentaries explain the cultural background in which the Bible was authored, which increases comprehension of textual meanings and fosters an application of these meanings to everyday life.


2.      Spiritual Growth: Commentaries serve as catalysts for spiritual development by imparting insights into the biblical text that might escape an individual during independent study.


3.      Diverse Perspectives: Authored by scholars with distinct backgrounds and theological viewpoints, commentaries present diverse perspectives. Engaging with commentaries from various authors increases one's understanding of the text, allowing for a deeper understanding.


4.      Historical Background: Commentaries contribute historical contextual information, enriching one's comprehension of the text's historical setting. A historical perspective is instrumental in deepening one’s understanding of the biblical text.


5.      In-Depth Study: Commentaries facilitate investigation of the Bible by furnishing detailed explanations of the text and assisting in comprehending complicated passages.


Another feature of this rational devotional is the use of lexicon citations for one’s devotional study:


A lexicon can be a valuable tool for enhancing one's devotional study. A lexicon is a reference book that provides definitions, etymology, and usage of words in a particular language. In the context of devotional study, a lexicon can help readers understand the original meaning of words in the Bible, which can provide a deeper understanding of the text.


Additionally, a lexicon can help readers identify the nuances of language that may be lost in translation, which can help them appreciate the beauty and complexity of the original text. Overall, using a lexicon can help readers better understand the Bible and enhance their devotional study experience.


It is worth noting that some influential people have memorized this whole Psalm and found great blessings. For example, John Ruskin (19th-century British writer), William Wilberforce (19th-century British politician who led the movement to abolish the slave trade in the British Empire), Henry Martyn (19th-century pioneer missionary to India), and David Livingstone (19th-century pioneer missionary to Africa). (Boice, Enduring Word Bible Commentary)

Blaise Pascal, the brilliant French philosopher and devout Christian, loved Psalm 119. He memorized it, and he called verse 59 [“I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.”] the turning point of man’s character and destiny. He meant that it is vital for every person to consider his or her ways, understand that our ways are destructive and will lead us to destruction, and then make an about-face and determine to go in God’s ways instead. (Boice, Enduring Word Bible Commentary)


In summary, studying Psalm 119 can deepen one's understanding of the significance of God's Word, foster a greater appreciation for its role in the believer's life, and provide practical insights for spiritual growth and application in daily living. In this devotional, all Scriptural quotations are from the King James Bible. For those who like to incorporate singing in their devotional life, a link is provided to download the entire Psalm 119 from the King James Bible in the form of Musical Settings at the end of this devotional.


Each section of the Psalm is represented in this devotional of studies on Psalm 119. There are insightful historical commentary entries, helpful excerpts from Strong's Lexicon, and parallel passages for easy cross-reference study. Moreover, the reader should consult the cross-references and meditate on these passages. Additionally, the commentators cited represent some of the best classical scholars, so the biographies and sources in this Devotional Guide to Psalm 119 are listed at the end of this work.                                                                   


Now with your Bible and any additional language tools open, it is time to begin. When reading the commentary selections, take notes.


Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)


Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife, Marea, attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of 17 books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at Amazon.