Psalm 119

Yahweh's Excellent Word

Psalm 119 is a "Wisdom Psalm" whose author is unknown, and yet there is reason to believe it was written by Ezra in the post-exilic times. It is an acrostic Psalm, constructed into twenty-two eight-verse stanzas corresponding to the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

The Psalm is self outlined in the sense of the acrostic, so let me fill in the literary background of the Psalm to give it meaning in relationship to the time of its writing. Because the evidence of Ezra's authorship is most likely, I will assume throughout my review that Ezra is the author.

Ezra's main theme in the Psalm is Yahweh (appearing twenty-four times in the text). Ezra's main subject of the Psalm is the “Word" which appears 175 times in 176 verses in some form, and it appears in every verse except verses 3, 37, 84, 90, 121, 122, and 132.

The basic words used for “Word”:

1. “Law” 25 times,
2. “Testimonies” 23 times
3. “Precepts” 21 times
4. “Statutes” 22 times
5. “Commandments”  22 times
6. “Judgments”/“ordinances” 33 times
7. “Word” (Hebrew davar, ordevarim) 23 times
8. “Word” (imrah) 30 times

Ezra uses afflictions as the circumstantial backdrop for his Psalm, the word appearing in verses 8, 20, 22, 23, 25, 28, 39, 42, 50, 51, 53, 61, 67, 69, 71, 75, 78, 81–87, 92, 94, 95, 107, 110, 115, 121– 23, 134, 136, 141, 143, 145–47, 149, 150, 153, 154, 157, 161, 170, and 176.

The aim of Ezra is clear: he is calling upon Yahweh to deliver him, thus Judah, according to His Word and for the sake of His lovingkindness, so that those who consider the act of honoring Yahweh and His word fruitless will have their insults buried beneath Yahweh's faithfulness. He further commits to bearing faithful witness to the world concerning Yahweh's promise-keeping nature, and further he is ready to surrender to wholehearted obedience to Yahweh's command.  

Place this Psalm against the background of Judah’s returning from Babylon to rebuild the Wall of the City of Jerusalem on the basis of God's Word. You can see Ezra writing this Psalm to imprint on the heart and minds of Yahweh's people the great faith they should have in Yahweh to fulfill what He had started, according to His promise.

Observation: This Psalm serves as a motivating song, reviving faith in Yahweh's Word against the adversaries wishing to stop Judah's resettlement and rebuilding. After Judah had rebuilt the wall, the nation asked the scribe Ezra to come and read the law. He did so at the Water Gate (Nehemiah 8). A revival of God's Word was sweeping the nation at this time. It is hard to imagine this Psalm not being written by Ezra at this time.

Purpose: To show us how to pray when we are partway through God’s completing and fulfilling a Word Yahweh has spoken into our lives, restoring and renewing our faith in His promises.