Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Body Parts and Coded Verses

Psalm 119 – 14th Stanza

Unfortunately many modern translations of the Bible have eliminated the 22 groupings of this beautiful Psalm. There are 176 verses divided into 22 stanzas of 8 lines. The first eight lines each start in Hebrew with the letter aleph, the next eight with the second Hebrew letter, bet, and so on, in order, through all 22 Hebrew letters. Is this a memorization technique, a poetic device, an amazing code or something else? The cool beauty of it is lost in translation. The words law, statute, precept, decree, promise, command and word appear more than 176 times. That’s a pretty big emphasis on WORD, God’s word. Should we pay attention to his laws, promises, commands? To His Word?

The first line of each stanza give us some great bits of wisdom (who says there’s no instruction manual for parents?). How can you be blessed? Walk according to the law of the Lord (119:1). How can a young man stay pure? Live according to God’s word (119:9). Why would God be good to me? Because I obey his word (119:17). Who made me? God’s hands made me and formed me (119:73). Where should I put my hope? In His word (119:81). Isn’t God’s word out of date now? No, it’s eternal (119:89). And there’s more.

The 14th stanza begins with an oft quoted text. You may have heard it sung. “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Four body parts are mentioned in these verses; look for them. Here’s the whole stanza (NIV):

105 Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.
106 I have taken an oath and confirmed it,
that I will follow your righteous laws.
107 I have suffered much;
preserve my life, LORD, according to your word.
108 Accept, LORD, the willing praise of my mouth,
and teach me your laws.
109 Though I constantly take my life in my hands,
I will not forget your law.
110 The wicked have set a snare for me,
but I have not strayed from your precepts.
111 Your statutes are my heritage forever;
they are the joy of my heart.
112 My heart is set on keeping your decrees
to the very end.

Feet, mouth, hands, and heart were the four body parts. They are in the original Hebrew and yet some translations have written them out. Feet signify our walk or our conduct: we need God’s word to light our path. Our mouths should be praising him willingly and without expecting anything in return (though He will bless us). Verse 109 says I constantly take my life in my own hand. We should be in God’s hands, not our own. By the way, there are two words for hand in Hebrew, both are symbolized by the 10th and 11th Hebrew letters, one is a grasping hand and the other, the one used in this verse, is an open hand. If we put our lives (our souls in the Hebrew) in our own open hand the inference behind this is that we are in great danger – we could fall out of an open hand. The last body part is mentioned twice: heart. God’s word is the joy of my heart. My heart is set on keeping (extending, completing) God’s word.

I love that my heritage (vs. 111) is God’s word. That is exactly why the only things I specifically willed to my children were my Bibles.