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Bailey Sadler Class



Study Theme:  Spoken: The Rhythm of God’s Word

What This Lesson Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

The focus for this week continues our study of Psalm 119, which provides believers with instruction for life and shows us just how valuable God’s Word is for living life.


Dec. 04

God’s Word Delights


Dec. 11

God’s Word Fills My Heart


Dec. 18

God’s Word Gives Courage


Dec. 25

God’s Living Word Saves


Jan. 01

God’s Word is Always Relevant


Jan. 08

God’s Word is Truth


Jan. 15

Created for a Purpose



God’s Word teaches us all we need to live well.


Psalm 119:9-16





Heeding God’s Word Cleanses  (Ps. 119:9-11)

Learning God’s Word Equips  (Ps. 119:12-13)

Remembering God’s Word Delights  (Ps. 119:14-16)


  Last week’s study introduced Psalm 119.  The first verses of the psalm highlighted how God’s Word can be our delight.  We experience joy as we follow God’s Word!  We find our fulfillment because God has instructed us to follow His Word.  Joy comes from obeying God’s Word (119:1-3), and as we live according to His laws and teachings, we live the life God has designed for us.

Psalm 119:4-6 commands us to obey God Word.  God desires that we keep His precepts with all diligence (v. 4).  The psalmist desired that his life completely reflect a commitment to the Lord so he would not be ashamed when he reflected on God’s commands (vv. 5-6).  Third, Psalm 119:7-8 challenged readers to lean on God’s presence to obey His Word.  He confessed he would praise God with a sincere heart (v. 7).  He also implored the Lord to stay with him and never to abandon him as he followed His statutes (v. 8). 

Psalm 119:17-24, the unit that follows this week’s focal passage, highlights how God’ Word gives courage.  We can stand in a world that opposes us because God’s Word guides us at every turn.  It keeps us focused when we don’t feel we belong (vv. 17-20).  It also keeps us focused when we face opposition (vv. 21-22).  Finally, God’s Word keeps us focused on His perspective (vv. 23-24).

Sandwiched in between verses 1-8 and verses 17-24, verses 9-16 highlight how God’s Word is designed to fill our hearts.  It will keep us from sin (vv. 9-11) and also guide us to further understand God’s Word (vv. 12-13).  Finally, as God’s Word fills our hearts, we can rejoiced in what God teaches us in His Word (vv. 14-16).  We will see God’s character and purpose grow in us, and as others see our growth, God can use us to draw them closer to Him.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


Manuals, how-to books, and online videos abound with promises to solve a multitude of problems and instruction for developing any number of techniques and skills that will make life better.  Beware!  When it comes to what really matters—living life—only one source will give us all we truly need: God’s Word.  The Bible may not answer every single question we raise, but it gives us the answers we need for the moment and the promises it gives can be counted on without doubt.  If we commit ourselves to reading God’s Word, He will guide us to understand His Word, so that we might live well.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


Heeding God’s Word Cleanses  (Ps. 119:9-11)

9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping Your word. 10 I have sought You with all my heart; don’t let me wander from Your commands. 11 I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You.








1.   Based on our society, what do you think most people say is needed to live well?

2.   What do you say is needed for you to live well?

3.   What does the term “quality of life” mean to you?

4.   What is the point of the rhetorical question asked by the psalmist in verse 9?

5.   Why do you think the psalmist asked the question?

6.   How did the psalmist answer the question in verse 9?

7.   What does it take for a believer (you) to keep God’s Word?

8.   What is the implication of the answer to the question for the believer?

9.   What does verse 10 tell us about the psalmist’s relationship with the Lord?

10.   What does he ask of the Lord in verse 10?

11.   How can the Lord keep us from wandering from His commands (v. 10)?

12.   What do the words “sought” and “with all my heart” tell us about where our priorities “ought” to be (v. 10)?

13.   If our priorities are what they ought to be, what do you think that would do to keep us from wandering from His commands?

14.   What does the word “treasure” mean to you?  (Digging Deeper.)

15.   What does it imply when it applied to God’s Word?

16.   If we fill our heart with God’s Word, is it easier to live out God’s commands?  Why, or why not?

17.   Why do you think this would keep you from sinning?

18.   What does Deut. 17:14-20 add to the discussion of knowing and keeping God’s judgments?

19.   What are some of the benefits of being committed to reading and studying God’s Word on a daily basis?


Lasting Lessons in Psalm 119:9-11:

1.  Following God’s Word is key to purity.

2.  We should seek the Lord with all our hearts.

3.  Filling our hearts with God’s Word helps us no to sin.



Learning God’s Word Equips  (Ps. 119:12-13)

12 Lord, may You be praised; teach me Your statutes. 13 With my lips I proclaim all the judgments from Your mouth.

1.   What do you think prompted the psalmist to want to praise God (v. 12)?

2.   What do you think may have been the psalmist’s intention when he asked God to teach him His statutes?

3.   What are some ways God can teach a believer His Word?

4.   What is the most effective way God teaches you His Word?

5.   How effective has that been for you?

6.   Why do you think believers still struggle  with knowing the will of God when God has revealed His will in His Word?

7.   What do these few verses tell us about God’s Will: 1 Thess. 5:18; Phil. 4:6; Heb. 10:25; Matt. 28:18-20. (In seeking God’s will for your life, start with these few verses and trust Him to lead you to more of His specific will.)

8.   What does the word “proclaim” mean?

9.   What does the word “judgments” mean as used in verse 13?

10.   What does verse 13 mean to you?

11.   Based on verse 13, what is the implication for the believer?

12.   How does that implication play out in your life?

13.   What are some ways we can proclaim God’s judgments?


Lasting Lessons in Psalm 119:12-13:

1.  The Lord God is worthy of our praise.

2.  Believers should desire to learn more of God’s Word.

3.  God desires us not only to learn His Word but to proclaim His Word to others.



Remembering God’s Word Delights  (Ps. 119:14-16)

14 I rejoice in the way revealed by Your decrees as much as in all riches. 15 I will meditate on Your precepts and think about Your ways. 16 I will delight in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.

1.   What was the subject of the psalmist’s joy (v. 14)?

2.   What value would you say most Christians place on their material possessions as opposed to God’s Word?

3.   What behaviors do you see around you that indicates we do not really understand the value of God’s Word?

4.   Do you think we should celebrate God’s Word?  If so, why? 

5.   Do you celebrate God’s Word?  If so, how?

6.   What does your lifestyle tell you about the value you place on God’s Word?

7.   How would you explain the meaning of verse 15 for the believer?

8.   What does the word “meditate” mean?  (See Digging Deeper.)

9.   What does it mean to you to meditate on God’s Word?

10.   What do you think it means to “delight” in God’s Word?

11.   According to the last part of verse 16, what is the implication for the believer?

12.   What are some of the things a believer can do that would help him/her to not forget God’s Word?

13.   What are some things a believer can do to fill his/her mind with God’s Word?

14.   What do you think makes God’s Word more valuable that riches?

15.   When you look at the whole focal passage, how would you summarize the message it has for you?

16.   What tends to distract you from reading/studying God’s Word and hiding it in your heart?


Lasting Lessons in Psalm 119:14-16:

1.  God’s Word is worth far more than any riches the world can offer.

2.  Believers should meditate regularly on God’s precepts.

3.  When God’s Word fills our minds, it affects the way we think and the way we act in our daily lives.

4.  As believers, we should find delight in God’s Word, because it is a message of great joy.



God’s Word teaches us all we need to live well.  It keeps us from sin.  In it, we learn eternal truth.  It brings great joy to us as we rely on it to guard our way.  It is truly worth remembering—worth not neglecting.

Herschel Hobbs wrote: “We do not worship the Bible but the triune God who revealed it, guarded it from error, and preserved it through the ages.  It is His abiding Word for us.  Read it to be wise.  Trust Him who gave it to be saved.  Follow its precepts to achieve victorious Christian living.  Share it with others who grope in darkness.  And so live it that even if another never sees the Book of all books that person will see Jesus in you.  Thus it becomes God’s Word for you and in you.

When it comes to God’s Word, does it fill your heart?  Do you celebrate God’s Word with a joyful heart?  Do you meditate on His Word so that you will not forget it?  On a scale of 1 to 10, rate how much God’s Word (1) fills your heart; (2) is celebrated with a joyful heart; (3) is meditated on, in your daily life?  How do you rate yourself on each of the three criteria?  If your rating in any of the three criteria is not what you would like, ask God’s Holy Spirit to help you improve where needed. 

What are the implications of these truths for your life?  THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!

REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.


Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.



Focal Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:

King James Version:  Psalm 119:9-16

Psalm 119:9-16 (KJV)

9 Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. 10 With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. 11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. 12 Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes. 13 With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth. 14 I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. 15 I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. 16 I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.


New King James Version:  Psalm 119:9-16

Psalm 119:9-16 (NKJV)

9 How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. 10 With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! 11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You! 12 Blessed are You, O LORD! Teach me Your statutes! 13 With my lips I have declared All the judgments of Your mouth. 14 I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, As much as in all riches. 15 I will meditate on Your precepts, And contemplate Your ways. 16 I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.


New Living Translation:   Psalm 119:9-16

Psalm 119:9-16 (NLT)

9 How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word. 10 I have tried hard to find you— don’t let me wander from your commands. 11 I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. 12 I praise you, O LORD; teach me your decrees. 13 I have recited aloud all the regulations you have given us. 14 I have rejoiced in your laws as much as in riches. 15 I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways. 16 I will delight in your decrees and not forget your word.



(NOTE:  Commentary for the focal passage comes from five sources: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament,Believer's Bible Commentary,The Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” “The Moody Bible Commentary,” and “The Pulpit Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)


Lesson Outline — “God’s Word Fills My Heart” — Psalm 119:9-16




Heeding God’s Word Cleanses  (Ps. 119:9-11)

Learning God’s Word Equips  (Ps. 119:12-13)

Remembering God’s Word Delights  (Ps. 119:14-16)


The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament:  Psalm 119:9-16

The Beth Strophe (119:9-16)

119:9.  The psalmist as a wisdom teacher asks the rhetorical question, “How can a young man keep his way pure?” as a teaching device (34:11), similar to that found in Proverbs (1:4; 25:12-13; Eccl 11:9; 12:1). The “young man” is the disciple, also known as “my son” in Proverbs. The young man may keep his way “pure,” an equivalent for “blameless” (v. 1) and “steadfast” (v. 5), by the practice of godliness. As the wise “guard” (sh-m-r “keep,” vv. 4-5, 8, rendered in NIV as “obey”) the revealed will of God, so must the disciple “guard” (sh-m-r; NIV, “by living”) God’s “word” (dabar).

119:10-16.  The teacher exemplifies the wise response to God’s revelation in vv. 10-16. He is sincere in his love for God (“I seek you with all my heart,” v. 10; cf. v. 2) and demonstrates his love for God by treasuring his “word” of promise (‘imrah) in his “heart” (v. 11). The act of “hiding” God’s word is not to be limited to the memorization of individual texts or even whole passages but extends to a holistic living in devotion to the Lord (cf. Deut 6:4-9; 30:14; Jer 31:33). The inner devotion to the Lord also finds expression in a teachable spirit (v. 12) and in contentment (vv. 14, 16).

The teachable spirit begins with a proper regard for God (v. 12). The psalmist confesses his adoration for the Lord (“Praise be to you, O LORD”; cf. 28:6) as an introduction to his petition (see “hallowed be your name.... Give us,” Matt 6:9, 11). Also in v. 7 he connects praise with instruction. This demonstrates that little instruction in godliness takes place unless the heart is full of praise.

Contentment is a true expression of inner godliness. The psalmist declares repeatedly that his inner delight and joy is in God and his revelation: “I have hidden” (i.e., “I treasure,” v. 11), “I rejoice” (v. 14), “I delight” (v. 16; cf. vv. 24, 47, 70). What brings joy to his life is not material acquisition (“great riches,” v. 14) but the Lord himself (cf. vv. 72, 111, 162; Prov 3:13-14; 8:10-11; 16:16; Matt 6:33).

The external expression of the psalmist’s inner loyalty to the Lord is joyful obedience (vv. 10, 15-16). Joyful obedience finds expression in seeking the Lord with all one’s heart (v. 10), lest he “stray” (sh-g-h “wander,” “err”; cf. Prov 19:27) from God’s “commands” (miswoth). His “delight” is not only in knowing the “ways,” the “decrees” (huqqim), and the “word” (dabar), but also in the careful practice (vv. 15-16). As part of the practice of godliness, he speaks openly and positively about God’s revelation of his will. With his “lips” he “recounts” (s-p-r “count”; cf. NEB, “I say them over, one by one”) the “laws” (mishpatim), which he treasures as having come out of the “mouth” of the Lord (v. 13).

The root s-y-h (“meditate,” vv. 15, 23, 27, 48, 78) has the basic meaning of a loud, enthusiastic, and emotion-filled form of speaking; but in Psalm 119 it has the sense of a wise, pensive concentration (see Hans-Peter Muller, “Die hebraische Wurzel שׂיח,” VetTest 19 [1969]: 361-71). The psalmist may quietly meditate on what the Lord expects of him, controlling his emotions as an expression of absolute loyalty to the Lord.

The love for God’s word is love for God (v. 16; cf. vv. 47, 70), expressed in a heart attitude, in actions, and in words. In his whole being the godly man cries out for God and delights in his will. This kind of a teacher can guide “a young man” to “keep his way pure” (v. 9).

SOURCE: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General Editor; Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers


Believer's Bible Commentary: Psalm 119:9-16

119:9. One of the most crucial problems in the life of every young man is how to keep pure. The answer is by practical obedience to the words of the Bible.

119:10.  In the matter of holiness, there is a curious merging of human desire (With my whole heart I have sought You), and divine empowering (Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments).

119:11. He does not make us holy against our will or without our cooperation. Someone has wisely said, "The best book in the world is the Bible. The best place to put it is in the heart. The best reason for putting it there is that it saves us from sinning against God."

119:12.  Because God is so great and so gracious, the renewed nature desires to learn His statutes and be molded by them. The love of Christ constrains us!

119:13. Deep delight in the treasures of the Word leads inevitably to the desire to share them with others. It is a law of life that when we really believe something, we want to pass it on.

119:14. No prospector was ever more pleased with his nuggets of gold than the one who searches out the hidden wealth of the Scriptures.

119:15. God's Word provides endless resource material for the most satisfying meditation, but this should never be divorced from the determination to be doers of the Word.

119:16. "His commandments are not burdensome" (1 Jn. 5:3). Whoever is born of God will delight in the statutes of the Lord and determine to keep them in constant remembrance.

SOURCE: Believer's Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990, 1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.


The Complete Biblical Library Commentary: Psalm 119:9-16

119:9-16. The inference drawn from v. 9, that the psalmist was a young man, is precarious. The language would be quite as appropriate to an aged teacher desirous of guiding impetuous youth to sober self-control. While some verses favor the hypothesis of the author’s youth (v. 141, and perhaps vv. 99ff), the tone of the whole, its rich experience and comprehensive grasp of the manifold relations of the Law to life, imply maturity of years and length of meditation. The Psalm is the ripe fruit of a life which is surely past its spring. But it is extremely questionable whether these apparently personal traits are really so. Much rather is the poet “thinking... of the individuals of different ages and spiritual attainments who may use his works” (Cheyne, in loc.).

The word rendered “by taking heed” (HED #8490) has already occurred in vv. 4f (“observe”). The careful study of the word must be accompanied with as careful a study of self. The object observed there was the Law; here, it is the man himself. Study God’s Law, says the psalmist, and study thyself in its light; so shall youthful impulses be bridled and the life’s path be kept pure. That does not sound so like a young man’s thought as an old man’s maxim in which are crystallized many experiences.

The rest of the section intermingles petitions, professions and vows and is purely personal. The psalmist claims that he is one of those whom he has pronounced blessed, inasmuch as he has “sought” God with his “whole heart.” Such longing is no mere idle aspiration, but must be manifested in obedience, as v. 2 has declared. If a man longs for God, he will best find Him by doing his will. But no heart-desire is so rooted as to guarantee that it shall not die, nor is past obedience a certain pledge of a like future.

Wherefore, the psalmist prays, not in reliance on his past, but in dread that he may falsify it, “Let me not wander.” He had not only sought God in his heart, but had there hid God’s Law, as its best treasure, and as an inward power controlling and stimulating. Evil cannot flow from a heart in which God’s Law is lodged. That is the tree which sweetens the waters of the fountain. But the cry “teach me thy statutes” would be but faltering, if the singer could not rise above himself and take heart by gazing upon God, whose own great character is the guarantee that He will not leave a seeking soul in ignorance.

Professions and vows now take the place of petitions. “From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,” and the word hid in it will certainly not be concealed. It is buried deep, that it may grow high. It is hidden, that it may come abroad. Therefore, v. 13 tells of bold utterance, which is as incumbent on men as obedient deeds.

A sane estimate of earthly good will put it decisively below the knowledge of God and of his will. Lives which despise what the world calls riches, because they are smitten with the desire of any sort of wisdom, are ever nobler than those which keep the low levels. And highest of all is the life which gives effect to its conviction that man’s true treasure is to know God’s mind and will. To rejoice in his testimonies is to have wealth that cannot be lost and pleasures that cannot wither. That glad estimate will surely lead to happy meditation on them, by which their worth shall be disclosed and their sweep made plain. The miser loves to tell his gold; the saint, to ponder his wealth in God. The same double direction of the mind, already noted, reappears in v. 15, where quiet meditation on God’s statutes is associated with attention to the ways which are called his, as being pointed out by and pleasing to Him, but are ours, as being walked in by us. Inward delight in, and practical remembrance of the Law are vowed in v. 16, which covers the whole field of contemplative and active life.

SOURCE:  The Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Chronicles.  Copyright © 1998 by World Library Press Inc. Database © 2010 WORDsearch Corp.


The Moody Bible Commentary: Psalm 119:9-16

Beth: God's Word Provides Protection Against Sin (119:9-16)

119:9-16. These verses focus on what may be called the preparatory benefits of God's Word. It is essential for a young man to keep his way pure and resist temptation before theological doubt is encountered rather than during it or after it. For this reason the psalmist opened this section with an explicit reference to a young man, beginning in youth and establishing a pattern throughout life to walk with God. This way entails both treasuring (zealously guarding; cf. Jos 2:4; Ps 27:5; Pr 10:14) God's word... in one's heart (v. 11) as well as meditating on it (v. 15, internalizing, memorizing it, pondering it over time, and considering how it applies to one's situation). This should form a lifelong habit of hiding God's word in his heart so as to not sin against the Lord (v. 11).

SOURCE: The Moody Bible Commentary; by Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham; © 2014 by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Database © 2015 WORDsearch.


The Pulpit Commentary – Psalm 119:9-16

Verse 9.

Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? It does not follow from this inquiry that the writer is a “young man” — rather the reverse. He is anxious to give advice to young men, which is naturally the part of one somewhat advanced in life. By taking heed thereto, according to thy Word. This is the answer to the question raised in clause 1. By looking to God's Word, and guiding himself thereby, the young man may “cleanse his way” — not otherwise.

Verse 10.

With my whole heart have I sought thee (comp. ver. 2). O let me not wander from thy commandments; i.e. “let me not accidentally and through ignorance stray from the right path.”

Verse 11.

Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee; rather, thy promise (imrah). To have God's word of promise laid up in the heart is the only security against being surprised into sin.

Verse 12.

Blessed art thou, O Lord: teach me thy statutes. God's statutes are really known to those only whom God teaches. By nature we have but a faint glimmer of their meaning. God must teach us by his Spirit ere we can apprehend them aright.

Verse 13.

With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” The “word” hid in the psalmist's heart (ver. 11) could not but rise to his lips on fit occasion, and be set forth before the people for their edification — more especially as there was an express command binding upon all Israelites to teach the Law to their children and dependants (see particularly Deuteronomy 6:7).

Verse 14.

I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches (comp. ver. 72). God's Word is a treasure, beyond expression precious, calculated to rejoice the heart of all such as possess it.

Verse 15.

I will meditate in thy precepts. The full force of the Divine precepts is not to be grasped except by prolonged meditation on them. God's commandments are “exceeding broad” (ver. 96). And have respect unto thy ways; or, “consider them,” “reflect upon them.”

Verse 16.

I will delight myself in thy statutes (comp. vers. 24, 40, 47, 70, 77, etc.; and see also Psalm 1:2). I will not forget thy Word. That which is “laid up in the heart” (ver. 11) can never be forgotten.

SOURCE:  The Pulpit Commentary; Volume 8: Psalms; Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.



TREASURE, TREASURY:  What one values whether silver and gold or something intangible and the storage place of what is valuable.

In Old Testament times treasure might be stored in the king’s palace (2 Kings 20:13) or in the Temple (1 Kings 7:51). In Jesus’ day the term also applied to thirteen trumpet-shaped offering receptacles in the Temple court of the women where Jesus watched people make their offerings (Mark 12:41). “Treasure” and “treasury” are also used as illustrations or figures of speech. Israel was God’s treasure (Ex. 19:5). This is reflected in the idea of Christians as God’s own people (1 Pet. 2:9). A person’s memory is a treasure (Prov. 2:1; 7:1). Fear (awe) of the Lord was Israel’s treasure (Isa. 33:6).

Jesus Himself used the term frequently. He contrasted earthly treasures to those of heaven (Matt. 6:19-20). What a person treasures or values determines one’s loyalty and priorities (Matt. 6:21). Paul marveled that the treasure of God’s revelation of Himself in Christ had been deposited in an earthen vessel such as Paul himself (2 Cor. 4:7).

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.

MEDITATION:  The act of calling to mind some supposition, pondering upon it, and correlating it to one’s own life. A wicked individual meditates upon violence (Prov. 24:2). The meditation of a righteous person contemplates God or His great spiritual truths (Pss. 63:6; 77:12; 119:15, 23,27,48,78,97,148; 143:5). He hopes to please God by meditation (Ps. 19:14). Thus meditation by God’s people is a reverent act of worship. Through it they commune with God and are thereby renewed spiritually.

Most references to meditation occur in the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms. The Hebrew words for meditation primarily were derived from two separate roots. The first (hagah) literally means “to utter in a low sound.” The word is used to denote the growling of a lion (Isa. 31:4) or the cooing of a dove (Isa. 38:14). Therefore it has been suggested that, in ancient Hebrew meditation, Scripture frequently was recited in a low murmur. The second root word (siach) has the basic meaning of “to be occupied with,” or “concerned about.” Thus meditation is the repetitious going over of a matter in one’s mind because it is the chief concern of life. The constant recollection of God’s past deeds by the hearing of Scripture and repetition of thought produce confidence in God (Pss. 104:34; 119:15,23,48,78,97,99,148; Ps. 63:6-8; 143:5).

Meditation is only mentioned twice in the New Testament. Jesus instructed Christians to meditate beforehand on their attitude toward persecution (Luke 21:14). Paul advised Timothy to meditate on the matters about which Paul had written Him (1 Tim. 4:15). Meditation is an important part of the Christian’s relationship with Christ.

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.




Words For The Word

By Francis X. Kimmitt

Francis X. Kimmitt is professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, director of dual enrollment, and coordinator of institutional effectiveness at Bryan College in Dayton, TN.


SALM 119 is a masterful celebration of the Torah (translated “Instruction” or “Law”) of the Lord.  It consists of 176 verses, divided into 22 stanzas, each of which contains 8 verses.  In each stanza, the eight verses begin with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  Thus it is an acrostic poem.  For example, the first eight lines begin with the second letter, beth, and so forth. An analogy would be if someone were to write a similar poem in English, the first 8 lines would begin with the letter “a,” the next 8 with the letter “b.”  This pattern would continue until the poem was complete with 208 lines (26 x 8). 

The Pattern

Old Testament scholar Leslie Allen stated that the number of lines in each stanza seems to have been determined by the number of the synonyms the psalmist used to focus on the psalm’s theme; the Torah.  These synonyms are as follows: Torah (used in the psalm 25 times), word(s) (24 times), rulings or judgments (23 times), testimonies or covenants (23 times), command(s) (23 times), statutes or laws (21 times), charges or precepts (21 times), and saying or promise (19 times).1  The 8 symomyms do not occur in any regular pattern in the 22 stanzas, and they all are in only 4 of the 22 stanzas: the ones designated with the Hebrew letters chet, yod, kaph, and pe.  The other 18 stanzas have 6 or 7 of the synonyms, using them 7 to 9 times in each case.

The acrostic form of the poem serves several functions: (1) a mnemonic device for “public and private—both individual and corporate—recitation” of the poem;2 (2) a celebration of the completeness of the Lord’s Torah; and (3) an expression of the fullness of the wisdom that it contains for all of human life.3  The form of Psalm 119 is a wisdom psalm.  Wisdom psalms provide “instruction in right living and right faith in the tradition of the other wisdom writings of the Old Testament—Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job.  And in most of these psalms, the path to wisdom is through adherence to the Torah, the instruction of the Lord.”4

Psalm 119, furthermore, is rightly classified as a Torah psalm because of its focus on the Lord’s Torah.  The heart of Psalm 119 is Torah, the law and instruction that God gave Israel at Mount Sinai.  This law or instruction, however, had already been written on the heart of Israel’s founding patriarch, Abraham (Gen. 26:5).  As we read the Old Testament and, in particular the Psalms, we find that God’s Torah is expressed in three forms: His ways, works, and words.5  The psalmists instruct God’s people about Lord’s actions in history, His “ways,” which are a prime way of revealing His character (see Ps. 25).  As the Lord’s actions show us His ways, they also present His “works,” such as “justice,” “truth,” “righteousness,” and “faithfulness” (Pss. 25; 111).

This brings us to God’s “words,” the topic of this article.  The psalmist begins this beautiful psalm with a blessing: “How happy are those whose way is blameless, who live according to the Lord’s instruction!” (Ps. 119:1, HCSB) The blessing brings us into the treasure room of God’s Torah.  God is waiting for us to open His Word and receive all of the goodness He has to offer if we will only hear and obey.

The Terms

TorahWe have discussed the first of the eight synonyms—Torah—in detail, but we will look at a few verses to see its importance.  The psalm begins with a blessing on the one who lives according to the Lord’s Torah (v. 1).  His Law is their delight (v. 70).  Even if the wicked surround the righteous, they do not forget God’s Law (v. 61), but they burn with indignation at the wicked who abandon His Law (v. 53).

Word—The second most common term is “word” (Hebrew, dabar).  Its essential meaning is what God said or says.  But it has power to bring about its intended action because it is the word of the Lord—“an expression and extension of Yahweh’s knowledge, character, and ability.”6  The one who waits for God’s “word” knows that this word brings the soul’s salvation (v. 81), understanding (v. 169), and answers to our deepest cries for help in the night (v. 147).

RulingsTranslated from the Hebrew word mishpatim, the term rendered “rulings” or “judgments” carries the idea of justice or rightness that has its root in God’s character.  This justice, therefore, “ought to be an attribute of man in general and of judicial processes among them.”7  The true servant of the Lord does justice and righteousness.  Desiring to be delivered from all oppressors, he relies on God’s character (v. 121) because His “judgments” are righteous (v. 75).

Testimoniestranslated “testimonies’ or “covenants” (Hebrew eduth), this term refers to unspecified laws, instructions, or commands from God to His people.  It is the testimony or witness of God particularly related to His instructions to Moses in the context of the Mount Sinai narratives and covenant.8  God’s “testimonies” are wonderful (v. 129).  He revives us according to His faithful love so that we can keep His “testimonies” (v. 88). 

CommandsWisdom literature uses the term “commands” or “commandments” (Hebrew mitzvoth) for a teacher’s instruction to the pupil (Prov. 2:1; 3:1).  Throughout the Old Testament, these are the requirements of God’s covenant for His people and, in particular, refer to the Ten Commandments in Exodus 24:12.9  In Psalm 119, the Lord’s commandments are true (v. 151), reliable (v. 86), and righteous (v. 172).

StatutesThe term “statutes” (Hebrew choqim) refers to rules, or prescriptions or duties God imposed, specifically demands He made upon His covenant people.  Biblical texts often use this term alongside torah, debar, eduth, mishpatim, and  mitzvoth,10 suggesting that the psalmist did use them interchangeably.

PreceptsUnique to Psalms, the Hebrew term translated “precepts” or “charges” (piqqudim) refers to the responsibilities that God requires of His people.11  Interestingly, 21 of the 24 uses of piqqudim in Scripture are in Psalm 119.  The righteous meditate on the “precepts” of the Lord, but the wicked try to lead them astray with lies or false ways (vv. 78,128).

Saying—The final synonym is “saying” or “promise” (Hebrew imrah).  In Psalm 119, it appears 19 times, always with reference to God and personalized with the second person pronoun (“Your sayings” or “Your words”).  I hide “Your word” (imrah) in my heart so that I might not sin against You (v. 11); and by “Your word” I receive spiritual direction (v. 133).  The believer keeps and obeys “Your word” (v. 67), but the faithless do not (v. 158).  When God gives His “word,” it is His “promise” to the faithful servant (vv. 38,58,76,82,162).

The Hebrew poet brings this magnificent poem to its conclusion as he began, focusing on the blessing of God’s Law: “I long for Your salvation, Lord, and Your Torah is my delight.  May my soul live that it may praise You, and may Your judgments help me” (vv. 174-175, author’s translation).  Psalm 119 is one of the great treasures of the Bible; its riches are there to be mined by the servant of God with a willing and open heart.                                                                                                                                                                                                      

  1.  Allen. Psalms 101-150, vol. 21 in Word Biblical Commentary (Waco; Word Books, 1983), 139.

  2.  DeClaisse-Walford, Jacobson, Tanner, The Book of Psalms (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014), 870.

  3.  Futato, “The Book of Psalms” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, vol. 7 (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2009), 372.

  4.  DeClaisse-Walford, Book of Psalms, 870-71.

  5.  Bullock, Encountering the Book of Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 216-17.

  6.  Ames, (drb, speak) in New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis [NIDOTTE], gen ed. VanGemeren (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), 1:914.

  7.  Culver, §2443c (mishpat, justice, ordinance) in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament [HARRIS], ed. Harris (Chicago: Moody 1980), 2:948-49.

  8.  Enns, in NIDOTTE, 3:328-29.

  9.  Hartley, §1887b (mitzvah, commandment) in HARRIS, 2:757-58.

 10.  Lewis, §728a (hoq, statute) in ibid., 1:317.

 11.  Hamilton, §1802e (piqqudim, precepts) in ibid., 2:732.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 42, No. 3; Spring 2016.


The WORD  A Description

By Kevin Hall

Kevin Hall is professor of religion and occupies the Ida Elizabeth & J. W. Hollums Chair of Bible at Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee, Oklahoma.


ANY A BELIEVER has been inspired by the psalmist’s statement—“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps. 119:105; KJV).  This significant description of God’s Word is part of a meditation that provides a rich tapestry of images that give insight into the practical relevance of the Word.  Thus, an exploration of Psalm 119 yields multiple descriptions of God’s Word that taken together broaden and deepen our understanding of God’s communication with His servants.

Significance of the Terms

The main term Hebrew employed by Psalm 119, and by all parts of the Old Testament for that matter, for the Word of God is torah, customarily translated as “law.”  But whereas the English word “law” implies a legal standard organized and recorded in legal texts and precedents, the Hebrew word torah connotes the broader idea of teaching or instruction.  Also adopted as the name of the first five books of the Bible, the Torah is comprised of a careful blend of legal material, history, and narrative.  This blend implies that God’s torah or instruction for His people is inseparable from life lived with and under God.  Thus, the apostle Paul could challenge his opponents who desired to be under the law to hear the law by calling their attention to the Genesis story of Abraham’s two sons (Gal. 4:21-31).  Likewise, Psalm 119 can begin its meditation on God’s torah by comparing it to an undefiled walk or lifestyle (v. 1).1  Significantly then, we see the great lawgiver Moses resisting the Lord’s call because he was not an eloquent speaker.  In response, the Lord promised to teach Moses what to say (Ex. 4:12).

Psalm 119 employs no less than seven other terms to clarify and enrich our understanding of God’s Word.  Each represents a facet of God’s torah; collectively they emphasize the depth and breadth of the Word.

After torah, the second most frequent term is dabar, normally translated as “word.”  Though it may seem to be a general term, dabar reminds us of the creative power of the God who speaks “in the beginning” (Gen. 1).  The term emphasizes that the truth of God’s Word exists from the beginning and for all time (Ps. 119:160).

Like an effective ruler, God leads by righteous “judgments” (Hebrew, mishpatim; see v. 7).  Being a term commonly used to describe the way of a king (see 1 Sam. 8:11), this synonym for the Word draws us into consideration of the kingdom of God, a kingdom established on the foundations of righteousness and justice.

The character of God’s Word as witness is also on display.  God’s testimonies (Hebrew, edah) bear witness to God’s covenant with God’s people and are a source of delight to the psalmist (Ps. 119:24).2

“Commandment” (Hebrew, mitzvah) implies authority.  God’s Word comes as commands for us to obey.  Yet the psalmist seeks God’s commandments with his whole heart (see vv. 4,10).

When we speak of a word “carved in stone,” we evoke the permanence of the record.  The Hebrew term choq (“statutes,” vv. 33,112) draws from the ancient Near Eastern practice of stone inscriptions to speak of the permanence and binding character of God’s Word.

Along with the permanence of God’s Word is the Word’s aptness for the particularities of life.  Thus, God speaks in precepts, words displaying God’s attentiveness to the details of the lives of God’s people.3

Derived from the verb “to say,” the final torah imrah may be a synonym for the more common Hebrew term for “word” dabar.  Even so, the psalmist can hide such a saying in his heart (v. 11), perhaps implying something akin to a personal promise that “strikes the right balance between the general and particular” character of the Word.4

Important Images and Themes

In addition to the basic torah terms, Psalm 119 develops a description of God’s Word according to various images and themes.  These images and themes emphasize the faithfulness of the Author of the Word.  Further the images stress the practical benefits that readers receive from these faithful expressions of God’s will and purpose.

Foremost among the images of the Word is that of a lamp or light upon the path (v. 105).  The notion that keeping the law is akin to walking in the way of the Lord or staying on the right path runs as a thread not only through Psalm 119 (see. Vv. 3,9,15,33-35).  It also stands at the beginning of the psalter (Ps. 1) and guides many of the biblical meditations on wisdom (see Prov. 1:15; 2:20).  Thus, the psalmist aptly compares the revelatory power of God’s Word to that of a light illuminating one’s steps along a path.  Even understand as statutes inscribed in stone, the Word provides a way of life and a path to follow (Ps. 119:33-35).

The justice of God’s Word is another important theme.  Numerous times the psalmist cries out for relief from unjust circumstances, seeking the just rulings and dealings Judge (vv. 121-22,134,137,153-54).  Even when the psalmist’s affliction is deserved, he is able to rely on the Lord’s judgments (v. 75-77). 

As is often the case in the wisdom writings of the Old Testament, images of prosperity, wealth, and riches abound in Psalm 119.  The psalmist openly confesses to delighting in the way of God’s testimonies as he would in all wealth (v. 14).  God’s commandments, treasured above even the finest gold (v. 127), represent such a purity of pursuit (v. 140) that desire for God’s Word actually deters the psalmist from covetousness (v. 36).

In addition to being the delight of the psalmist, God’s Word serves as his counselor (v. 24).  Often in the ancient Near East, counselors served kings, giving all manner of advice (see 2 Sam. 15:32-34; 17:1-14).  Guided by God’s counsel that gives understanding even to the simple (Ps. 119:130), the psalmist can envision himself speaking before kings without shame (v. 46).

In the final analysis, however, the liberty the psalmist seeks (v. 45) comes in recognition of his need of God’s commandments as he lives as God’s servant (v. 176).  As God’s servant keeping God’s Word, the psalmist finds life (v. 17).  He even shares the fellowship of service with all of heaven and earth and each generation (vv. 89-91).

Perhaps the ultimate image applied to God’s Word by Psalm 119 is the image of breadth.  Believers often consider the perfection of the Word; but the psalmist, having seen an end of all perfection, remains yet captivated by the unsurpassed breadth of God’s commandment (v. 96; see Ps. 18:19).  Forever settled in heaven and a word for the ages (119-89-90), the Word of God, God’s Torah, is worthy of continual meditation and yields unparalleled understanding (vv. 97-99).

The psalmist affirms what believers have found through the centuries.  God’s Word is a lamp, and it is far more.                               Bi

1.  Psalm 1, often called a Torah psalm, is entirely based on the comparison of Torah meditation and walking in the way of the righteous.

2.  The book of the law was placed beside the ark of the covenant as a witness of God’s covenant demands (Deut. 31:26).

3.  See Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150: A Commentary of Books III-V of the Psalms (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1975), 418.

4.  Ibid., 419.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Fall 2009.


The HEART in Old Testament Theology

By R. Raymond Lloyd

R. Raymond Lloyd is retired pastor of First Baptist Church, Starkville, Mississippi.


HE BIBLICAL ADMONITION to “love . . . and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart” (Deut. 10:12; 11:13)1 is the language of mankind of all the ages. The expression of Moses then, or those who preceded him,2 or the pulpit today; the expression of spiritual relationships, or romantic ones – all incorporate in some fashion intellect, emotion, and will as stemming from the heart.

We, however, know the heart as a muscle, pulsing an average 100,000 times and pumping about 2,000 gallons of blood daily. In the average lifetime the heart beats more than 2.5 billion times.3 Not so the ancient Hebrews. They, like the other peoples of the ancient Near East, while being aware of the existence and general function of the heart, appear to have known nothing of the circulation of blood. The Old Testament only rarely used the word “heart” to describe the physical organ. And each such anatomical reference is, to say the least, quite vague.4

While the physiological significance of the heart was generally unknown, they did recognize its central importance to the life of the individual. In essence, it took the place of the brain as the locus of all psychical activity. This reflects the normal conception of man, both among the Hebrews and the other ancients, whose physical functions have close association with physical organs.5

Of all the physical organs the heart is by far the most important, and most frequently mentioned in the Old Testament. It is the “central and unifying organ of personal life.” R. C. Dentan suns it up thusly:

. . . it (the heart) was the inner most spring of individual life, the ultimate source of all its physical, intellectual, emotional, and volitional energies, and consequently the part of man through which he normally achieved contact with the divine.6

The word “heart” occurs 853 times in the Old Testament, both as leb and lebab. The two words appear to be totally synonymous with leb generally being used in the earlier literature and lebab in the latter. These numerous texts reflect the main facets of the psychical center of life. Only a limited number of such texts can be cited here.7

A. The Intellectual Center

The center of intellectual life was located in the heart. Here one is said to perceive, as Ezekiel was commissioned by the Lord to “receive [my words] in thine heart? (Ezek. 3:10); to think as “David said in his heart” (1 Sam. 27:1); to understand as the Preacher expressed it: “I applied mine heart to know wisdom” (Eccl. 8:16); to meditate, as the psalmist encouraged his people to “commune with your own heart upon your bed” (Ps. 4:4); to remember, as Wisdom’s exhortation to let “mercy and truth” be written on “the tablet of thy heart” (Prov. 3:3). In the climax to Jeremiah’s great “Temple Sermon,” he condemned child sacrifice and used the phrase “neither came it into my ‘leb’” (Jer. 7:31). It is translated in most every version as “mind,” for this is precisely its meaning. Typical English idioms as “what’s on one’s mind” or “to bear in mind” are expressed in the Hebrew as “all that is in thine heart” (1 Sam. 14:7) and “layeth it to heart” (Isa. 57:1). Furthermore, wisdom from the Lord was given to the heart (Prov. 2:10), as when “God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding . . . and largeness of heart” (1 Kings 4:29).

B. The Emotional Center

As the seat of one’s emotional life virtually every human emotion is attributed to the heart. Fundamental emotions such as joy and pleasure, grief and despair have their roots in the leb. The heart is made “glad” (Prov. 27:11); Hannah’s “heart rejoiceth in the Lord” (1 Sam. 2:1); Israel was “glad of heart” to the Lord for His goodness at the dedication of the temple (1 Kings 8:66); their “heart shall rejoice” in the return from exile (Zech. 10:7); the Philistine’s “hearts were merry” as they celebrated the victory over Samson (Judg. 16:25). On the other hand, God was “grieved . . . at his heart” (Gen. 6:6): Israel poured out its “heart like water before the face of the Lord” over the destruction of Jerusalem (Lam. 2:19); in sickness the psalmist groaned in the “disquiteness of his heart” (Ps. 38:8); Nehemiah is described as having a “sorrow of heart” because of the destruction of Jerusalem (Neb. 2:2).

Numerous are the examples demonstrating fear as an emotion of the heart. Many of those in exile are described as being “of a fearful heart” (Isa. 35:4). Moses called on the tribes of Gad and Reuben not to “discourage . . . the heart of the children of Israel” as they had been at the report of the spies at Kadesh-barnea (Num. 32:7-9). The “hearts of the people melted” as they fled before the men of Ai (Josh. 7:5). The heart trembles when a person is afraid (Job. 37:1). “Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear,” said the psalmist (Ps. 27:3). On the other hand, the heart is depicted as being firm and strong. The psalmist called on Israel to “let your heart take courage” (Ps. 27:14, NASB; 31:24); David “found in his heart to pray” for the building of the house of David (2 Sam. 7:27), another way of expressing that he “took courage.” The lack of such was shown by Joseph’s brothers as “their heart failed them” when they discovered the money had been restored (Gen. 42:28).

Seated in the heart also are the “transitive emotions,” as Professor Fabry called them, of love and hate.8 Its romantic expression is found in the relationship of Samson and Delilah (Judg. 16:15,17,18). David’s “heart was toward Absalom,” his son (2 Sam. 14:1). The mode of speech used by lovers, “speak to the heart,” was used by the Lord expressing His unconditional love in seeking to restore the bond between Israel and Himself (Hos. 2:14). References to hatred in the heart are more limited. However, as David danced before the ark, Saul’s daughter “despised him in her heart” (2 Sam. 6:16), and the Holiness Code admonished one not to “hate your brother in your heart” (Lev. 19:17, NIV).

These are but a few examples of the fact that virtually every human emotion expressed in the Old Testament emanated from the heart.

C. The Volitional Center

The third major psychical activity of the heart is will. The line separating the intellectual and volitional functions of the heart is sometimes unclear. However, there are distinctions, because the heart functions as the locus of the “driving force” behind the will of a human being. As a result it has moral, ethical, and religious connotations. It becomes the governing factor of one’s behavior. Here choices are made based on one’s own intuition and conscience or the influence of other persons or of God Himself.

Both virtues and vices spring from the heart. Here lay the motivation for evil deeds: the wicked have “mischief in their hearts” (Ps. 28:3); false prophets have “deceit of their heart” (Jer. 14:14); the Lord hates a “heart that deviseth wicked imaginations” (Prov. 6:18). Following the command to “love the Lord . . . with all thy heart” come the warning to “take heed . . . that your heart be not deceived” (Deut. 11:13,16). It may be swelled with pride: Uzziah’s “heart was lifted up to his destruction” (2 Chron. 26:16). It may also be “hardened” as was Pharaoh’s (Ex. 7:3; 8:15) or “stubborn” as when Israel walked in “the stubbornness of their evil heart” (Jer. 7:24, NASB). On occasions it was called “uncircumcised” (Jer. 9:26, NASB). It may even be duplicitous: the ungodly have a “double heart” (Ps. 12:2). Jeremiah pictured sin as being “graven upon the tablet of their heart” (Jer. 17:1).

Virtues, likewise, originate in the heart. “Upright in heart” is a favorite expression of the psalmist (7:10; 32:11). Solomon instructed Israel on the occasion of the dedication of the temple to “let your heart therefore be perfect with the Lord our God” (1 Kings 8:61). One who walks uprightly “speaks truth in his heart” (Ps. 15:2, NASB). When one conforms to God’s standard of behavior as expressed in the law and thus keeps the covenant, he is said to have “integrity of heart” (1 Kings 9:4).

The heart is the locus of divine contact. The Lord “knowest the hearts of all the children of men” (1 Kings 8:39). He knows the “secrets of the heart” (Ps. 44:21). The Creator “who fashions the hearts of them” all knows their deeds (Ps. 33:15, NASB). His primary concern, as described in His instructions to Samuel when seeking one to anoint as king from among the sons of Jesse, was not the “outward appearance,” because “the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). Human beings are continuously under God’s scrutiny (1 Chron. 29:17; Ps. 17:3; Prov. 17:3). Because the heart tends toward evil and is crooked and perverted, prone to deceit and filled with pride, it is imperative for it to undergo a radical change.

Thus comes the ringing call throughout the Old Testament for the heart to be shattered of self and controlled by God, for the desired “sacrifices of God are . . . a broken and a contrite heart” (Ps. 51:17). The urgent need is for one to become clean and petition God as did the penitent psalmist: “create in me a clean heart, O God” (Ps. 51:10). Moses directed Israel to “circumcise . . . your heart and be no more stiffnecked” (Deut. 10:16). Jeremiah called on Jerusalem to “wash thine heart from wickedness” (Jer. 4:14). He called for a return to the Lord with their whole heart” (Jer. 24:7) and strongly censured those who “hath not returned unto me with [their] whole heart” (Jer. 3:10). God’s ideal standard of behavior may be best expressed by the psalmist when he asked, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in this holy place?” and then proceeded to provide the answer: “He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart” (Ps. 24:3-4). These two phrases describe God’s requirement of both inward and outward purity, a purity of thought and deed. When one responded with unwavering allegiance to God, he was said to have a faithful heart (Neh. 9:8) or a steadfast heart (Ps. 112:7).

Obviously a response to God was expected and the most all-inclusive desired expression of that was communicated through the directive: “love and serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul.”9 This is the heart of Old Testament covenant theology. This was to be Israel’s response to the God who had delivered them from Egyptian bondage. The eloquent words of the Shema are found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “Hear, O Israel” The Lord our God is one Lord; And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”

The faithful were to recite them twice daily. This command to love God is linked directly with keeping the law. The concluding exhortation of the Deuteronomic Law Code commanded that Israel shall perform all the statues and ordinances “with all thy heart . . .” (Deut. 26:16).

This requirement “to love . . . the Lord thy God with all thy heart . . .” appears several times in the Old Testament and in each instance relates to a covenantal commitment. It was to be Israel’s response to the God who established and set the terms of the covenant at Sinai. It demands a loyalty that is unqualified and unconditional. In keeping with the Hebrew concept of totality, the heart is virtually synonymous with the whole person (Prov. 3:1).

But for Israel, keeping the law with all of one’s heart was an impossibility. Human effort alone was insufficient. Hope for improvement of the heart could be found only in God’s grace. Because Israel had persistently broken the old covenant, Jeremiah introduced the idea of a new covenant whose law was not to be written on tablets of stone, but in the human heart (Jer. 31:31-34). While the new covenant had similarities to the old, it was different in that the new covenant promised the creation of a new man. God was going to the focal point of His contact with man and making known His will and purpose directly to the intellectual, emotional, and volitional center of a person’s life. Jeremiah did not say how this would become reality, but he may well have been speaking not only at Christ’s work, but also the Holy Spirit’s work in enlightening, convicting, and enabling a person in his response to God.

While God gives a new heart to those who put their faith in Him, His expectations remain the same. We are still to “love the Lord [our] God with all [our] heart,” with our total being, with our full capacity.

1.  Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations in this article are taken from the King James Version of the Bible.

2.  In Egypt and Mesopotamia various texts reflect very similar meanings to those of the Hebrews, including the psychical functions of the heart. Compare Heinz-Josef Fabry. “Leb”;” lebab” Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, vol. Vii (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.; 1995), 401ff.

3.  Heart and Stroke Facts, American Heart Association, 1992-99, p. 2.

4.  Ibid., 411.

5.  For a most thorough discussion relating the psychical functions to the total human being: soul, body, and spirit, as well as the various parts of the body, in other words, face, mouth, palate, tongue, lips, nose, ear, arm, hand, foot, knees, bones, blood, loins, bosom, bowels, kidneys, and heart, compare A. R. Johnson, The Vitality of the Individual in the Thought of Ancient Israel (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1949). It should be clearly noted that there is “absolutely no unity in the ideas of the Old Testament about the nature of man,” because those ideas came from very diverse periods of time and centers of people. Hebrew psychology is not a precise and exacting science and the equation of certain functions to the particular physical organs was somewhat “loose and inconsistent.” Compare Gerhard Von Rad, Old Testament Theology (London: Oliver and Boyd, 1962), 152-153.

6.  R. C. Dentan, “Heart,” The Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 2 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962), 549.

7.  For an exhaustive study of the use of leb and lebab in all the dimensions of human life, compare Fabry, 412.

8.  Ibid., 416-17.

9.  Many of the characteristics of the leb are also attributes of the nephesh. Obviously Deuteronomy does not reflect the Greek concept of dichotomy expressing “complimentary attributes of human personality.” However, leb may express the intentional nature of man and the nephesh may well “denote that vital principal in man which animates the human body and reveals itself in the form of conscious life.” Johnson, 9-26.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Winter 2001-02.


Sin, Iniquity, Transgression: What Is The Difference?

By John T. Bunn

Dr. Bunn is pastor of First Baptist Church, Sylva, North Carolina.


HE VOCABULARY for the manifestation of evil in the Old Testament, commonly referred to as sin, is extensive and, at times, quite confusing.  Each of the Hebrew words used to denote an offense against God, estrangement from God, or a breach of God’s law is symbolic of an idea or an action.

There are some eighteen terms used to refer to people’s disobedience before God.  Yet, three of the terms are used more frequently in the Old Testament than the other fifteen; kata, awon and pesha.

The words are translated “sin,” “iniquity,” and “transgression,” in that order.  As such, the three terms may be used together to encompass the sum total of man’s offenses against God; or each may express, according to the context of Scripture, a different aspect or symptom of the presence of evil in life.  Yet, at times, one of the terms (kata = “sin”) apparently is used as an inclusive expression covering all aspects of humanity’s wickedness (see Jer. 33:8; Lev. 16:21; Ps. 32:5).  Each of these three major words share a common implied meaning of something broken.1  As each word is discussed, its symbolic meaning will be explained.

It also is interesting to note at the onset how frequently these primary words for evil’s presence were used together.  The following is but a partial listing of such usage: Exodus 34:7-9; Leviticus 16:21; Numbers 14:18; Joshua 24:19; Job 13:23; Isaiah 6;7; Jeremiah 36:3; Micah 1:5.  In certain instances when all three words were utilized by the writer, the emphasis was upon personal estrangement from God which had brought to the individual a sense of awesome void (see Ps. 32:1-5; Ps. 51:1-13; Jer. 33:8).  When the psalmist or prophet expressed guilt and shame through the use of the three terms “sin, iniquity, and transgression” the consciousness of personal sinfulness was presented completely.

As one studies the terminology of humanity’s breach of relationship with God is is necessary to be reminded that the biblical writer was attempting to convey the inner feelings of people.  The disobedient responses of a person toward God could be anywhere in the spectrum from subtle to demonic.  Thus the author attempted to use those terms which more precisely described the offense committed.  To the Hebrew mind-set one did not sin in general, only in particular!  It was for this reason that many expressions arose in the language to identify various aspects of human insubordination.

What then is meant by each of these terms?

“Sin,” [kata], is first presented to the Bible reader in Genesis 4:7 where it was depicted as a wild beast lurking at the doorway of life.2  As a force it became that manifestation of evil in the human life which caused one to deviate from the goal or the way which God had set for life.  Hebrew words are seldom abstract, but have concrete images behind them.  The basic imagery behind the term kata is that of an archer, slingsman, or spearman who has missed the target.  In essence, this category of offense implies one has failed to reach the goal, hit the target, or arrive at a destination set by God.  A most graphic way of expressing the meaning of the term is that it depicts a traveler who fails to reach the final stage of a journey.

Some of the older books in Old Testament theology forcefully deal with the nature of this word by affirming its equivalency to the New Testament Greek word amartia which implies a missing or abandoning of the straight road or norm for life.3  The offense is not one of willful disobedience, rather it seems to be one occasioned by simple neglect or lapse of discipline.  This gradual slipping away is a straying from the right way (that is, the norm of righteousness), a doing of that which is forbidden without an attitude of stubborn defiance of God, and perhaps, simply omitting to do those things which one ought to do.  In other words, kata means missing the objective standard of righteousness for one’s life.

“Iniquity.” [awon], is the second term to be explored.  This means a deliberate acceptance of the wrong goals, aims, or objectives in life by a perverse turning aside from the course prescribed by God.  These is an inherent meaning in “iniquity” of distortion or perversion of right brought about by an inner inclination for evil.4  In the more explicit passages delineating evil within people and its consequence, the term “iniquity” was seen as the distortion or perversion of right which brought a tremendous burden to the offender, whether it was an individual Israelite (see Gen. 4:13; 15:16; 43:9; 44:16; Isa. 1:4; 40:2) or Israel as a nation (see 2 Sam. 1:16; 4:11; 1 Kings 2:32; 2 Kings 9:7).  A striking thing about the committing of iniquity is that in many passages the act was accompanied by a sense of pervasive guilt (see Ps. 32:5; Judg. 11:35; 2 Sam. 24:10).

The third of the big three words for offenses against God is “transgression,” [pesha].  “Transgression” does not capture its meaning completely.5  It is an exceedingly strong term denoting defiance of and secession from a superior or a source of authority.  It is the casting aside of all restraints, literally a “running wild.”  Both Amos and Micah employed the term with devastating effect in their prophetic messages (see Amos 1:3,6,9,11,13; Micah 3:8; 6:7; 7:18).  This particular type of conduct was directed at the person of God or those offices or things ordained by God such as the covenant, king, or priest.  In addition it expressed a contempt for authority and the assertion of self-determination.  In essence it was that posture or self-assertion that set one above God and beyond the authority of His ordinances, commands, and precepts.  It is this word which is used in 1 Kings 12:19 in reference to the continuing rebellion of the Northern Kingdom, Israel, against the Southern Kingdom, Judah (also see 2 Kings 17:21).  The same word also was employed in a number of passages of similar connotation (see 2 Kings 1:1; 2 Chron. 10:19; Isa. 1:2).

What then is the difference between the three major words employed to denote offenses against God, God’s objective standards for life, or that authority sanctioned by God?  It has been stated previously that the three words “sin,” “iniquity,” and “transgression” often are found together in certain passages.  Their use in relationship to each other in Psalm 51:1-4 and Psalm 32:1-2 provides excellent insight into their meaning.  When the words are used together it enhances and heightens the implications of their meanings.

Mankind’s open insult of a sovereign God has subjective and objective impact.  When one sins, that is, misses the goal or the target, it is without malicious intent, as is the case with “transgression.”  It is also without evil disposition, as is the case with “Iniquity.”  Yet it does affect God, for it is a straying from His established norms for people and it does affect each person as the betrayal is sensed (Ps. 32:1-5).6  Intensity of the nature of the offense is heightened however, with employment of the terms “iniquity” and “transgression.”  It almost is like using the expression “bad,” “worse” and “worst” denoting a progression, and saying it is bad to sin (kata), worse to commit iniquity (awon), but worst to transgress (pesha).  This moves in orderly steps from laxity of discipline to open rebellion.

Although each of the words denotes a distinct type of error they have a fundamental commonality.  “Sin” means to miss the mark.  “Iniquity” means a deliberate going wrong.  “Transgression” means willful disobedience.  Each basically indicates a disassociation or disruption, something that creates brokenness.  Thus, each of the words is used throughout the Old Testament to denote conduct which breaks relationship with God or conduct which is a breach of established authority (that is, the authority of the covenant and the law, Torah).  Yet, each of the three terms deals more with alienation from God than it does with defection from a keeping of Israelite religious law.  A number of other words are employed to define social wrongdoing.  Essentially, the three categories of misconduct describe defection from God with each denoting a different attitudinal position toward Him and a different posturing of self.  Whether it be “sin,” “iniquity,” or “transgression” it is an act done directly against God (Gen. 39:9; Ps. 51:4).  “Your iniquities,” says Isaiah, “have separated between you and your God” (Isa. 59:2).  Since it was God who had established the norm of righteousness for Israel, and since it was God who had given the law and executed a covenant with Israel, all forms of disobedience had their ultimate end as an irreverent or thoughtless contempt for God.7                                                    

1.  Jacob, Theology of the Old Testament (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1958), p. 281.

2.  Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1967), 2:380.

3.  Davidson, The Theology of the Old Testament (New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1904), p. 207.

4.  Dahood, Psalms, vol 2, The Anchor Bible (Doubleday and Co., 1968), p. 43.

5.  Davidson, p. 210; Eichrodt, p. 381.

6.  Weiser, The Psalms (London: SCM Press, 1959), pp. 402-3.

7.  Durham, Psalms, Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman, 1971), p. 275.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 42, No. 3; Spring 2016.


Delight,  A Word Study

By Kevin Hall

Kevin Hall is professor of religion and occupies the Ida Elizabeth & J.W. Hollums Chair of Bible, Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee, Oklahoma.


NDERSTANDING AN AUTHOR’S use of a particular word can be difficult, especially if he is a skilled poet communicating in an ancient language.  In the case of Psalm 119, we are dealing with a writer so devoted to God’s Torah1 that he wrote one of the most exquisite and intricate meditations in the Bible on the unparalleled value of the Torah of the Lord.  Employing a literary format known as acrostic, the writer of Psalm 119 presented the glories of God’s Torah from A to Z.2  To say he was delighted with God’s Word would be a vast understatement!

So when the writer of Psalm119 stated he would “delight” in the Lord’s statutes (Ps. 119:16), we should take him at his word and pay particular attention to the word he used.  For though the concept of taking delight in God’s Word appears in the second verse of the Book of Psalms (1:2), the writer of Psalm 119 chose a less common word with a different nuance.  Moving beyond the general notion of having strong desire and taking pleasure in something, Psalm 119:16 uses a term that expresses delight that is playful and free, with “a quieter, more relaxed and homely ring”—more so than other words would have expresses.3

We may begin to understand the meaning of the word our psalmist used by studying the Hebrew root of the word translated “delight.”  The basic root shaa occurs in several related language contexts.  The related root in Aramaic, for example, implies the delight of taking sport in something, or playful delight.  This aspect of the root’s significance clarifies the use of shaa in Isaiah 11:8, where we read that “an infant will play [Hebrew root, shaa] beside the cobra’s pit” (HCSB).  In this context the infant’s play is delightfully carefree.  Hebrew linguists agree that such carefree, playful delight is the basic sense of the root shaa.

Similarly, Psalm 94:19 uses the word to paint a picture of someone who has moved from being dreary filled to delighted.  It says, “When I am filled with cares, Your comfort brings me joy [emphasis added; Hebrew root, shaa]” (HCSB).  In this verse the psalmist set up a striking contrast.  When surrounded by something stressful and oppressive, he did not focus on those concerns but on God’s comfort, which brings not just relief, but delight.

The context provided by Psalm 119 yields additional clues to the meaning of shaa.  This magisterial psalm is a literary wonder of 22 carefully crafted paragraphs, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  In a stunning display of skill, discipline, and dedication, each line of each paragraph begins with the Hebrew alphabet letter that the paragraph represents.  So, for instance, Psalm 119:16 is the last verse of the second paragraph of the psalm, and it begins with the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, as do all verses in Psalm 119:9-16.  Sticking with this format, the writer was still able to communicate with clarity and precision.  Within the focused context of verses 9-16, he assembled a rich range of terms that indicate the depth of his delight in God’s law.  The psalmist proclaimed, “I have treasured [or “hidden;” Hebrew, zpn] Your word in my heart” (v. 11), “I rejoice in the way revealed by Your decrees” (v. 14), “I will meditate on Your precepts and think about Your ways” (v. 15), and “I will not forget Your word” (v. 16).  If we remember that this careful literary construction and disciplined articulation is nevertheless profoundly poetic, we will realize that our psalmist wove this rich tapestry of terms in order to express his irrepressible delight.  This means that all these expressions—to treasure, to rejoice, to meditate, to think, and not forget—reflect aspects of carefree delight the writer felt in the presence of God’s Torah.

In the broader context of the entire psalm, we find even further responses to God’s Word that the psalmist related with his delight.  In Psalm 119:47, “love” and “delight” are parallel responses.  The psalmist’s delight also yielded a profound hope in the life-giving reality of God’s compassion (v. 77).  In fact, he was certain that if the Lord’s “Instruction has not been my delight, I would have died in my affliction” (v. 92).  So abiding was the psalmist’s hope, that even with trouble and distress overtook him, he remained steadfast in his delight in God’s commands (v. 143).

As mentioned above, if we look up the word shaa in a standard Hebrew dictionary, we find words like “play” and “sport.”  Following the trail of this root through Psalm 119, however, we encounter an experience grounded in joy that is anything but trifling or trivial.  The idea of a delight expressing carefree and complete abandon remains though, and rightly so.  For the “Lord’s Instruction” is a delight, and happy are all who follow it (1:1-2).                                                                                                                                             

1.  Torah is the basic Hebrew word comprising God’s Law, expressed variously as statutes, commandments, words, precepts, and decrees.  The compilation of these terms to clarify and expound the nature of torah is typical of Psalm 119 and the Old Testament generally.  See Psalm 119:16 for example.  Torah itself can connote law, but most usually implies instruction or teaching.  The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates torah as “instruction” (see Ps. 1:2).  All Scripture quotations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).

2.  See “Acrostic” in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, gen. ed. Brand, Draper, and England (Nashville” Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 20.

3.  Kidner, Psalms 73-150, vol. 14b in Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1975), 420.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Winter 2016-17.




383.  (17.135) What is the Answer To & Where in The Bible is This Week’s Trivia Question Found: What priest had the boy Jehoash proclaimed king, causing the death of the wicked Queen Athaliah?  Answer Next Week:

Last Week’s Question  What priest made the first “piggy bank” by placing a chest with a hole in it near the altar of the temple? Answer:  Jehoiada; 2 Kings 12:9.