Posted by: davidlarkin | November 25, 2017

Thy Word is a Lamp Unto My Feet – How to Read Psalm 119 as a New Testament Christian

Interior Painting of Old Woman Reading by Candlelight and Man with Lantern by Michiel Versteegh (1756-1843), a Dutch painter best known for his obscure light scenes lit by candlelight like this one.

“Thy Word is a Lamp Unto My Feet,” is a familiar verse, verse 105, from the King James Version of Psalm 119.  Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm and one of about a dozen Hebrew acrostic poems. “Its 176 verses are divided into twenty-two stanzas, one stanza for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet; within each stanza, each of the eight verses begins (in Hebrew) with that letter.” from wikipedia.

Psalm 119 is a loving tribute of a devout Jewish poet to the law of God, His statutes, His precepts and rules to follow in the Mosaic tradition.   But how should Christians read this Psalm with devotion, if we are no longer under the law, but under grace?  This post is intended to provide an answer to that question.

In the early 90s, we attended a large Calvary Chapel church in Phoenix.  Pastor Mark Martin started with a 11 people in a Bible Study, and it has grown to over 12,000 believers with two Northwest Phoenix campuses today.  Its well-attended Sunday Evening service began every week with Amy Grant’s recording of “Thy Word,” from verse 105 of Psalm 119, and the Pastor Mark Martin would come and sit in a chair on the stage to teach verse by verse from a book of the Bible.

The first eight verses are a good example how the poet praises God’s law and his obedience to the law of God.

1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord!
2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
who seek him with their whole heart,

3 who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways!
4 You have commanded your precepts
to be kept diligently.
5 Oh that my ways may be steadfast
in keeping your statutes!
6 Then I shall not be put to shame,
having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
7 I will praise you with an upright heart,
when I learn your righteous rules.
8 I will keep your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me!

And in verse 97, he expresses his love of the Law of God:

Oh how I love your law!
    It is my meditation all the day.

Psalm 119 (ESV)

The New Testament teaches that the Christian is no longer under the law but is under grace.

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Romans 6:14 (ESV)

The substitution of grace for the law is a fulfillment of the prophesy of Jeremiah to the Jews exiled from the land of Israel to Babylon of God’s promise of a new covenant in the last days.  Jeremiah 31:33:

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Jeremiah 31:33 (ESV)

Instead, Christians have the promised new covenant and are now under grace, no longer under law.  We are not saved by obedience to the law and works of the law, as the Apostle Paul wrote clearly and convincingly:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)

And faith in Jesus and His resurrection and life comes to the chosen ones through the Word of God, and not through the law.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Romans 10:17 (New King James Version)

As Jesus said when He was being tempted by the Devil in the desert:

“It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Matthew 4:4 (ESV)

Now we have the living Word of God, the resurrected Messiah, Jesus, creator of all things, present in our hearts through the Holy Spirit to guide us to salvation, justified and glorified:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 

John 1:1-5 (ESV)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:28-30 (ESV)

In Acts, Chapter 15, Paul and Barnabas came to Jerusalem to meet with the church there, led by James, the brother of Jesus.  Some Christians who were from the Pharisee, argued that Gentile Christians must be circumcised, and must follow the Mosaic law as Christians.  Paul and Peter both made strong arguments that Christians were not longer under the law, and Gentile Christians were not required to follow the Mosaic law anymore.  The first council of the Church, the Jerusalem Council is described in Acts as follows:

But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”  And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”

The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,

“‘After this I will return,
and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen;
I will rebuild its ruins,
and I will restore it,
that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord,
and all the Gentiles who are called by my name,
says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.’

Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

Acts 15:1-21 (ESV)

If Christians are are no longer under the law, how are we to read Psalm 119 and its tribute to the laws and statutes of God under the Old Covenant?  Back in the early 90s, Pastor Mark Martin at Calvary Community Church told us when he read Psalm 119 in his devotions, he substituted in his mind, the word, “word,” for “law”, as the Psalm sometimes does, as in “Thy Word is a Lamp unto my Feet.”  The “Word” and the grace of God, and His revealed Word to us in Scripture, has replaced “the Law.”

I have done that expressly for my own devotionals.  Here below in Psalm 119 which I have modified for New Testament Christians, I have replaced all words of “law”, e.g., law, statute, rules, etc. with “Word.”  It is a blessing to me and I hope it is to you who read this as well.  After the Psalm, there is a link to the pdf for downloading, saving and printing for your personal devotions.

Psalm 119 (ESV)

Aleph

119 1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the Word of the Lord!
2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart,
3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways!
4 You have commanded your Word to be kept diligently.
5 Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your Word!
6 Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your Word.
7 I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous Word.
8 I will keep your Word; do not utterly forsake me!

Beth

9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your Word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your Word!
11 I have stored up your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
12 Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your Word!
13 With my lips I declare all the Word of your mouth.
14 In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on your Word and fix my eyes on your ways.
16 I will delight in your Word; I will not forget your Word.

Gimel

17 Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your Word.
18 Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your Word.
19 I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your Word from me!
20 My soul is consumed with longing for your Word at all times.
21 You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones, who wander from your Word.
22 Take away from me scorn and contempt, for I have kept your testimonies.
23 Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your Word.
24 Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.

Daleth

25 My soul clings to the dust;
give me life according to your Word!
26 When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your Word!
27 Make me understand the way of your Word, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
28 My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your Word!
29 Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your Word!
30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your Word before me.
31 I cling to your testimonies, O Lord; let me not be put to shame!
32 I will run in the way of your Word when you enlarge my heart!

He

33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your Word; and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your Word and observe it with my whole heart.
35 Lead me in the path of your Word, for I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!
37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.
38 Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared.
39 Turn away the reproach that I dread, for your Word is good.
40 Behold, I long for your Word; in your righteousness give me life!

Waw

41 Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise;
42 then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your Word.
43 And take not the Word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your Word.
44 I will keep your Word continually, forever and ever,
45 and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your Word.
46 I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame,
47 for I find my delight in your Word, which I love.
48 I will lift up my hands toward your Word, which I love, and I will meditate on your Word.

Zayin

49 Remember your Word to your servant,in which you have made me hope.
50 This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.
51 The insolent utterly deride me,but I do not turn away from your Word.
52 When I think of your Word from of old, I take comfort, O Lord.
53 Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your Word.
54 Your Word has been my songs in the house of my sojourning.
55 I remember your name in the night, O Lord, and keep your Word.
56 This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept your Word.

Heth

57 The Lord is my portion; I promise to keep your Words.
58 I entreat your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.
59 When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies;
60 I hasten and do not delay to keep your Word.
61 Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your Word.
62 At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous Word.
63 I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your Word.
64 The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your Word!

Teth

65 You have dealt well with your servant, O Lord, according to your Word.
66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your Word.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your Word.
68 You are good and do good; teach me your Word.
69 The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your Word;
70 their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your Word.
71 It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your Word.
72 The Word of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

Yodh

73 Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your Word.
74 Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your Word.
75 I know, O Lord, that your Word is righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
76 Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.
77 Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your Word is my delight.
78 Let the insolent be put to shame, because they have wronged me with falsehood; as for me, I will meditate on your Word.
79 Let those who fear you turn to me, that they may know your testimonies.
80 May my heart be blameless in your Word, that I may not be put to shame!

Kaph

81 My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your Word.
82 My eyes long for your promise; I ask, “When will you comfort me?”
83 For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I have not forgotten your Word.
84 How long must your servant endure? When will you judge those who persecute me?
85 The insolent have dug pitfalls for me; they do not live according to your Word.
86 All your Word is sure; they persecute me with falsehood; help me!
87 They have almost made an end of me on earth, but I have not forsaken your Word.
88 In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.

Lamedh

89 Forever, O Lord, your Word is firmly fixed in the heavens.
90 Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.
91 By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants.
92 If your Word had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.
93 I will never forget your Word, for by it you have given me life.
94 I am yours; save me, for I have sought your Word.
95 The wicked lie in wait to destroy me, but I consider your testimonies.
96 I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your Word is exceedingly broad.

Mem

97 Oh how I love your Word! It is my meditation all the day.
98 Your Word makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the aged, for I keep your Word.
101 I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your Word.
102 I do not turn aside from your Word, for you have taught me.
103 How sweet are your Words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through your Word I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.

Nun

105 Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
106 I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous Word.
107 I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to your Word!
108 Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O Lord, and teach me your Word.
109 I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your Word.
110 The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your Word.
111 Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.
112 I incline my heart to perform your Word forever, to the end.

Samekh

113 I hate the double-minded, but I love your Word.
114 You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your Word.
115 Depart from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the Word of my God.
116 Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope!
117 Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for your Word continually!
118 You spurn all who go astray from your Word, for their cunning is in vain.
119 All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your testimonies.
120 My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments.

Ayin

121 I have done what is just and right; do not leave me to my oppressors.
122 Give your servant a pledge of good; let not the insolent oppress me.
123 My eyes long for your salvation and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise.
124 Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love, and teach me your Word.
125 I am your servant; give me understanding, that I may know your testimonies!
126 It is time for the Lord to act, for your Word has been broken.
127 Therefore I love your Word above gold, above fine gold.
128 Therefore I consider all your Word to be right; I hate every false way.

Pe

129 Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them.
130 The unfolding of your Words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.
131 I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your Word.
132 Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name.
133 Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.
134 Redeem me from man’s oppression, that I may keep your Word.
135 Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your Word.
136 My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your Word.

Tsadhe

137 Righteous are you, O Lord, and right is your Word.
138 You have appointed your testimonies in righteousness and in all faithfulness.
139 My zeal consumes me, because my foes forget your Words.
140 Your promise is well tried, and your servant loves it.
141 I am small and despised, yet I do not forget your Word.
142 Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your Word is true.
143 Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your Word is my delight.
144 Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live.

Qoph

145 With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord! I will keep your Word.
146 I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies.
147 I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your Words.
148 My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.
149 Hear my voice according to your steadfast love; O Lord, according to your justice give me life.
150 They draw near who persecute me with evil purpose; they are far from your Word.
151 But you are near, O Lord, and all your Word is true.
152 Long have I known from your testimonies that you have founded them forever.

Resh

153 Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your Word.
154 Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to your promise!
155 Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek your Word.
156 Great is your mercy, O Lord; give me life according to your Word.
157 Many are my persecutors and my adversaries, but I do not swerve from your testimonies.
158 I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep your commands.
159 Consider how I love your Word! Give me life according to your steadfast love.
160 The sum of your Word is truth, and every one of your righteous Words endures forever.

Sin and Shin

161 Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of your Words.
162 I rejoice at your Word like one who finds great spoil.
163 I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your Word.
164 Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous Word.
165 Great peace have those who love your Word; nothing can make them stumble.
166 I hope for your salvation, O Lord, and I do your Word.
167 My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly.
168 I keep your Word and testimonies, for all my ways are before you.

Taw

169 Let my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your Word!
170 Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to your Word.
171 My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your Word.
172 My tongue will sing of your Word, for all your Word is right.
173 Let your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your Word.
174 I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your Word is my delight.
175 Let my soul live and praise you, and let your Word help me.
176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your Word.

English Standard Version (ESV) as modified

Click Here for PDF of Psalm 119 for New Testament Christians

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