Theme: Light and Understanding
In this section of Psalm 119, we learn of the wonder of God’s Word, and of the obedience that is a proper response to it.
Scripture: Psalm 119:129-144
How wonderful is God’s Word? There is a wonderful paragraph by the nineteenth-century Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon on how wonderful God’s Word is. It is
full of wonderful revelations, commands and promises. Wonderful in their nature, as being free from all error, and bearing within themselves overwhelming self-evidence of their truth; wonderful in their effects as instructing, elevating, strengthening, and comforting the soul. Jesus the eternal Word is called Wonderful, and all the uttered words of God are wonderful in their degree. Those who know them best wonder at them most. It is wonderful that God should have borne testimony at all to sinful men, and more wonderful still that his testimony should be of such a character, so clear, so full, so gracious, so mighty.1
As to the writer’s obedience: “Their wonderful character so impressed itself upon his mind that he kept them in his memory; their wonderful excellence so charmed his heart that he kept them in his life.”2
These stanzas offer seven reasons why God’s words are wonderful, and the first is because they give “understanding to the simple.” The writer states this in verse 130 and records his obedient response in verse 131:
The entrance of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.
I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands.
“Entrance” is an interesting term. The Hebrew word is pethach. But depending upon whether it is pronounced with a short or long “e” it can mean either “door” (with a short “e”) or “revelation” (with a long “e”). The New International Version, following the King James, takes it the first way, saying, “The entrance of your words gives light.” Martin Luther thought it had to do with revelation, so his translation read, “Wenn dein Wort offenbar wird” (“When your word is revealed”). The explanation for this double meaning is that in the early days of the formation of the Hebrew language the Jews were bedouins, who lived in tents. The only opening in a tent was the flap of skin that was the door. So when the door was opened light came into the tent, illuminating everything that was inside. The writer captures this exactly when he speaks of the “entrance” of God’s words giving light.
Haven’t you found that to be true? Reading the Bible throws light on life, on all its problems and trials, on the confusing behavior of other people, on what is important and what is not, on right behavior, right goals and right priorities. If you have not found this to be true, it is because of either of two things. Either you are not really studying the Bible, or you are approaching it in a superior or vain frame of mind, judging it by your own limited views rather than allowing it to judge you.
I mentioned Martin Luther a moment ago. Luther made a strong point of the Word giving understanding “to the simple,” which is what the verse says. He argued that the wisdom of the Bible is hidden from those who are wise in their own eyes, but that it is disclosed to those who are “ready, prepared, eager always to be taught, judged, and to hear, rather than to teach, judge and be heard.”3
1Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 3a, Psalms 88-119 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), p. 378.
3Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 11, First Lectures on the Psalms, II: Psalms 76-126, ed. Hilton C. Oswald (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1976), p. 500.
What is one reason God’s words are wonderful?
Explain how the term “entrance” has a double meaning in Hebrew.
How does our approach to the Bible affect how we understand it?
Reflection: With what frame of mind do you study Scripture? List reasons that you find God’s Word to be wonderful.
Key Point: Reading the Bible throws light on life, on all its problems and trials, on the confusing behavior of other people, on what is important and what is not, on right behavior, right goals and right priorities.