The Word as a Template for the Heart

A devotional on Psalm 119:1-32

Fascinating facts about Psalm 119 according to

  • This, the longest psalm, is divided into 22 sets of eight-verse strophes, or sections.
  • Before each section, a word and sometimes a symbol appear. (These words are the English names of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The symbols represent the Hebrew letters.)
  • It is written in a unique poetic form known as an acrostic. (In an acrostic, the first verse begins with a word starting with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Aleph. The second verse then begins with a word starting with the second letter, Beth. This pattern continues until the alphabet is used up.)
  • Because Psalm 119 is divided into 22 eight-verse sections, each section then represents a Hebrew letter. The first eight verses all begin with the letter Aleph. Verses 9-16 all begin with Beth, and so on throughout the psalm.

א Aleph

1 Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.

The blameless – tamiym – are complete, whole, sound, and healthful. They are innocent, without blemish, perfect, and unimpaired. They are these things in the way – derek – in the frequented or trodden road. They are tamiym in their habits. What a great goal to aspire to. The psalmist shows us how.

2 Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart

3 they do no wrong but follow his ways.

The heart is front and center when it comes to fulfilling our calling to be tamiym. It’s not just what we do, it’s who we are. This is an unfolding of what it means to love the Lord with all our heart, and all our mind, and all our soul – the greatest commandment. Reflect back to the three aspects of the heart/ soul/mind. They are the Will, the Intellect, and the Emotions (WIE.) Keep these in mind as we explore this glorious psalm.

As we strive to align our hearts with God in love, our actions follow and we are tamiym. We frequently try to get the actions to align first but that puts the cart before the horse. The heart is the horse and the resulting actions are the cart. Moreover, as New Testament believers know, we are woefully incapable of meeting every requirement of the law. Yet to sin in just one means we completely miss the mark and might as well have broken them all. So God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteous of God, (2 Cor. 5:21.) To be tamiym starts with Jesus being Lord of the heart.

4 You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed.

As sovereign over our lives, God has laid down rules for living. In this passage we will see them called precepts, decrees, commands, laws, the way, statutes, and the word. These are not given willy-nilly just to keep us busy till Jesus returns. They are serious mandates with serious consequences when they are obeyed and when they are not obeyed. They are to be obeyed diligently – meod – with muchness. I love that word. It means forcefully, exceedingly, very vehemently, wholly, and speedily.

5 Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!

Here the psalmist passionately states the desire of his heart: to consistently obey with muchness. Jesus makes it abundantly clear how we are to love him in John 14:15, 16, 21 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” He also makes it clear that we can’t do it alone, but need a helper, the promised Holy Spirit.

6 Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands.

As we learn God’s ways, we find that we constantly fall short. He who thinks he is perfect has not considered or understood the commands. To know them is to constantly see our shortcomings. Remember that the commands can be summed as loving God and loving others.

7 I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.

8 I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me.

Here we see the will applied. The psalmist determines to praise – yadah. That is the word that means to thrust the hands in the air, to give thanks and worship, and to confess sin. To do so with uprightness means to do it as it should be done, not our idea of what’s good enough. It is imperative that we learn the laws that we are to obey. If we don’t know God’s expectation, how can we meet it? May we explore the word so as to learn (a function of the intellect) them.

To obey is to keep, to guard. it is to attend to and put a hedge about so as to preserve. It speaks to a treasure that is cherished and at risk.

ב Beth

9 How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.

10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.

To seek is to resort to. It means that we speedily defer to God and his ways, not as a last resort when our ways have failed. May we desire to stay tethered to the word and its commands. Further, to seek means to investigate, to practice with care, to follow.

11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

To hide is to store, treasure, to hoard. It is to esteem and protect. So we hide God’s word in our will. We treasure it in our intellect. We protect it in our emotions.  This treasure is endangered. Many imposters within and without desire to crowd it out. That is why we are to “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it,” Pr. 4:23.

12 Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees.

We are to expose ourselves to God’s teaching at all times. May we take every opportunity to immerse ourselves in the refreshing pool of his teaching. May we expose our brains (an aspect of the heart/soul) to him and his ways. May we fill it with information. The more we know, the richer we are. May we be teachable. Man’s opinions and thoughts may be good, but the unadulterated pure word of God is unmatched.

13 With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth.

Have you ever thought you understood something till you went to explain it to someone else and realized you didn’t get it? If you can recount it, you probably learned it. Practice this constantly. Speaking organizes the thoughts and gels what you are learning. Do it alone and with others.

14 I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.

The psalmist here engages his emotions. He nurtures delight in following the statutes. We gain an affinity for what we spend time and attention on. May we pursue God’s word as much as we pursue silver and gold. May it be the primary desire of our hearts.

15 I meditate on your precepts and have respect upon your ways.

To meditate is a function of the intellect. It means to ponder, consider, or muse and to utter. To have respect – nabat – is to consider, to pay attention to, to scan and lock in on. This too is a function of the intellect preceding focus and learning.

16 I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.

The psalmist again engages the emotional state of delight. It is to amuse or please oneself. The KJV renders the latter part of the verse, “I will not forget your word.” Shakach is to ignore or to cease caring. We see his will determining to engage the intellectual aspect of memory and the emotional aspect of caring.

ג Gimel

17 Be good to your servant while I live, that I may obey your word.

18 Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.

This is one of my favorite verses. The senses are integral to the heart. Indeed, the heart has parallel senses to our physical senses.  Paul said “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints,” Eph. 1:18. One person will read the word and find nothing of value. Another will see pure gold. May we be those who have eyes to see spirit treasures that our physical eyes cannot. Make this your prayer every time you get in the word: “open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”

19 I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me.

20 My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.

21 You rebuke the arrogant, who are accursed, those who stray from your commands.

22 Remove from me their scorn and contempt, for I keep your statutes.

To keep – natsar – is to maintain, to guard. To maintain is another function of the intellect. We initiate activity, maintain it, and then terminate it.  Many start but don’t follow through. Maintenance is an act of maturity and commitment. This is where the rubber meets the road. It requires faithfulness, strength, and endurance. Anyone can start on a desire and commitment to be in the word. Many do, con gusto. To maintain and finish well requires assistance from our precious helper, the Holy Spirit of God himself. He wants to help you in this regard. Ask him.

23 Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servant will meditate on your decrees.

24 Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.

ד Daleth

25 I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word.

26 I gave an account of my ways and you answered me; teach me your decrees.

He is always teaching. Are we always learning?

27 Cause me to understand the way of your precepts, that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds.

28 My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.

To strengthen – qum – is another aspect of the intellect, the will, and the emotions.  It starts with the basic intellectual act of being roused as from sleep so we can pay attention. Sorrow (among other emotions) wears us down and can cause our bodily systems to start shutting down in self-preservation. God’s word is as sugar to a diabetic having a low. It gives a new lease on life so that we can rise up. God has not called us to stupor and ignorance. He calls us to valor and strength and purpose. He calls us to prosper and engage; to maintain and finish, and to do so with muchness!

29 Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me and teach me your law.

Lies are the primary thing that keep us from the Word. The enemy of our souls is a liar. He has always been and always will be. If the Word is the truth, it is the antithesis of Satan. He does not want us in the Word. He’s okay if we are in the news and on Facebook and YouTube for hours on end. But he trembles when we are consistently and strategically in the Word. He will do anything and everything in his power to keep us from it. It’s a good thing we have power and help in that department. Not today, Satan! Tomorrow doesn’t look good either.

30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on

To set ones heart is to adjust so that it resembles something else. We have to choose (intellect) what is truth and then align our souls with it. That is the sole job of our lives. This is what it means to worship God. This is what pleases him. I take my will and use his will as a template – I desire what he desires. I take my intellect and adjust it to his – I am roused by what rouses him; I become alert to what he is alert to; I focus on what he focuses on; I learn and memorize what he teaches and values; I perceive as he does; I problem-solve and plan according to him. I take his intellect and use it as a blueprint for mine. I also adjust my emotions to his. I fear what he says to fear. I delight in what delights him. I love what he loves and hate what he hates. Beloved, set your heart on his laws.

31 I hold fast to your statutes, Lord; do not let me be put to shame.

32 I run in the path of your commands, for you have broadened my understanding.

KJV I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.

Image result for American ninja

Hold fast with tenacity and determination. Many things will attempt to knock you off. It is like a scene on American Ninja. Dabaq means to stick to, to cling and join to. Adhere yourself to his statutes. Become one with them. Follow hard after them. With your will, determine that in your life the path – derek – of his word will be well worn. It will be as a frequented and well-used highway. It shall consume you and make you one with it. Delight me in it, Lord. Have your way with me.

Published by hannahtk

Hannah is a footloose Jesus-girl who enjoys family and friends, writing, painting, calligraphy, speaking and teaching, reading, cooking, gardening...

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