For my weekly quiet time this week, I will do something a little different. I’ll post Psalm 119: Lamed in the King James Version (which is in the public domain), then I will feature two quotes about Psalm 119: Lamed that I really liked.
89 LAMED. For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.
90 Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: thou hast established the earth, and it abideth.
91 They continue this day according to thine ordinances: for all are thy servants.
92 Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction.
93 I will never forget thy precepts: for with them thou hast quickened me.
94 I am thine, save me; for I have sought thy precepts.
95 The wicked have waited for me to destroy me: but I will consider thy testimonies.
96 I have seen an end of all perfection: but thy commandment is exceeding broad.
1. Leslie Allen says in his Word Commentary: “The lamed strophe contrasts what stands with what perishes. The stable universe is a visible token of Yahweh’s faithfulness. The results of the divine word in its creative and sustaining role are seen in the ordered world, whose order is homage to its Master. V 96 sums up the strophe. On the one hand the scope of God’s revelation embraces the universe, for it is the expression of his will; on the other the feebleness of human potential (apart from God) is blatant. Devotion to God’s Torah is the only means of sustenance: it is the divinely intended channel of true life.”
I wish that Allen explained more how the Torah would be the channel of true life. Is the Psalmist saying that God will preserve his life because of his obedience to the Torah? Or that the Torah encourages him and keeps him alive by allowing him to set his mind on what is wholesome, good, and true, so that he does not give in to depression and despair about life?
Psalm 119: Lamed’s appeal to the natural order interests me. I heard a professor once say that, according to Islam, all of nature is submitted to Allah (God), except for human beings, who have free will. Psalm 119: Lamed appears to acknowledge that much of creation is subordinate to God. Perhaps the Psalmist is appealing to the natural order to reassure himself of God’s character as one who is faithful: if God has preserved the generations for so long, then God will hopefully preserve him as well. Or the Psalmist is reassuring himself that God is powerful, since God maintains the cosmos, and thus God will have the ability to preserve him. Or the Psalmist could be saying that God is orderly, and that the Psalmist is partaking of what is orderly by remembering and obeying God’s Torah.
I agree with Allen that there may be a contrast between the creation and the Torah in Psalm 119: Lamed. The creation is good and orderly, but it has its limits. The Torah, however, is vast in terms of its meaning and application. Do I agree with this? I think that there is so much to learn about nature—-and that we haven’t scratched the surface. Regarding the Torah, conversely, it’s tempting to say that it has its limits: that its meaning is consigned to the original intention of the author. And yet, there are so many ideas about what the original author meant. There have been so many reinterpretations of the Torah within religious communities. Readers approaching Torah notice something different. And there are so many ways that people have applied the Torah. Perhaps the Torah is vast, within the context of interpretation, reintepretation, and application!
2. On v 96, which says “I have seen an end of all perfection: but thy commandment is exceeding broad”, Matthew Henry says the following:
“Here we have David’s testimony from his own experience, 1. Of the vanity of the world and its insufficiency to make us happy: I have seen an end of all perfection. Poor perfection which one sees an end of! Yet such are all those things in this world which pass for perfections. David, in his time, had seen Goliath, the strongest, overcome, Asahel, the swiftest, overtaken, Ahithophel, the wisest, befooled, Absalom, the fairest, deformed; and, in short, he had seen an end of perfection, of all perfection. He saw it by faith; he saw it by observation; he saw an end of the perfection of the creature both in respect of sufficiency (it was scanty and defective; there is that to be done for us which the creature cannot do) and in respect of continuance; it will not last our time, for it will not last to eternity as we must. The glory of man is but as the flower of the grass. 2. Of the fulness of the word of God, and its sufficiency for our satisfaction: But thy commandment is broad, exceedingly broad. The word of God reaches to all cases, to all times. The divine law lays a restraint upon the whole man, is designed to sanctify us wholly. There is a great deal required and forbidden in every commandment. The divine promise (for that also is commanded) extends itself to all our burdens, wants, and grievances, and has that in it which will make a portion and happiness for us when we have seen an end of all perfection.“