Psalm 119… There are key words that must be understood, such as “law,” “testimonies,” “ways,” “precepts,” “commandments,” “word” (two different usages), “judgments,” and “righteousness.” These words are not all the same, but different aspects of the truth.
Law (Torah) occurs twenty-five times in this psalm. The meaning is “to project” or “to point out” or “to show a rule of conduct and to instruct and teach.” It is both a law of God and a revelation for our walk. In the law, God points out His will for the life of man, or simply, “the law sets down duties and how they are to be done.” God’s law is His Word and it binds us to obedience. His laws, or rules of conduct, also guide, direct, and instruct in the way of righteousness. They make our walk straight. Paul teaches that the law is not against the promises of God (Galatians 3:21).
Testimonies (eduth, edah) occurs twenty-three times in this psalm. The meaning is “to reiterate”; i.e., “to go back and go over them” or “to testify” or “to witness.” Testimonies are really God’s revealed law. It’s the witness that He will keep His promises. In Deuteronomy 31:26, Israel was told to place the Book of the Law beside the Ark of the Covenant that it may be there for a witness against them. In other words, the Scripture with its high standard and clear warnings is meant to be a testimony. It stands there to remind people that the word is dependable, trustworthy, and true. Isaiah 8:20… “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (KJV). The “testimonies” are God’s revealed will. They are beyond question and beyond contradiction. They are to be observed wholeheartedly.
Precepts (piqqud) occurs twenty-one times in this psalm. It means “to take oversight” or “to take charge” or “to look closely and responsively into a situation and take action.” God cares about details. A “precept” is like a prescription that the doctor gives especially for you and for which you are responsible. A rhema word is like a precept. It is a word prescribed by God for our good. We are to take charge of that word because it is meaningful to our well-being. There is power in a precept. God’s full authority is behind it.
Statute (choq) occurs twenty-one times in this psalm. This word comes from a word meaning “to hew” or “to cut in” or “to engrave” or “to inscribe.” A statute is an engraved word, or a decree chiseled out on a stone. It speaks of the binding force of God’s word. A statute is a definite prescribed written law of God. It is very authoritative; the full power of God is behind it. The statutes are fixed laws and unchangeable. They are there to mark our way and to describe the line of conduct that we are to pursue and observe.
Ways (derek, darak) occurs thirteen times in this psalm. It means “to tread with the feet” or “the act of walking.” It denoted the life one leads. God’s ways are simply His rules of conduct that we are to walk in. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). The ways of God are simple instructions. Follow them… walk in them. They lead to life.
Commandments (mitsvah) occurs twenty-two times in this psalm. It means “to set up, to constitute”; i.e., “a constitutional command.” It is a definite, straight, and clear command of God, such as “Thou shalt not steal” (Exodus 20:15, KJV). These commands are God’s orders to show us His will, what we should do and what we should not do. His commands are to be obeyed without question.
Word (imrah) occurs nineteen times in this psalm. It means “to bring to light” or “to say, tell, talk, or communicate.” It is a word that is given orally. There is yet another “word” (dabar) that occurs twenty-four times in this psalm. It means “to arrange what you say in a row”; i.e, “to set forth in order the word that you speak.” The word is orderly, in sequence, and intelligible. What God says makes sense. (In preaching we call it “hermeneutics,” ways of interpreting Scripture, or “homiletics,” the art of writing sermons)
Judgments (mishpat) occurs twenty-three times in this psalm. It means “to set straight or upright.” It refers to a judicial decision, a governing decision, a governing decree, or a regulated decree. This word conveys the judgments (decisions) God has laid down about human situations. The word “judgments” or “ordinances” then is the standard given for fair dealings between man and man. It’s a guidance system. (We see this in the court systems; often a judgment is given based upon earlier cases.)
Righteousness (zedek) occurs fifteen times in this psalm. This word means “to be right, upright, just, or righteous.” This word describes the character of God’s word. God’s word is faithful, true, stable, trustworthy, and holy. It does not change.
Pastor George Belobaba
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