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 October 31, 2010
Psalm 119:137-144

See the comment on Ps 119:97-104 for some general remarks on the psalm.

Today’s section of the psalm, vv. 137-144 is the section for the Hebrew letter tsade, the eighteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Each of the eight verses starts with a word beginning with tsade. The letter is also the first one in the Hebrew word tsedek ‘righteousness’. That is the theme that runs through this stanza of the psalm. ‘Righteousness/righteous/right’ is mentioned no less than 6 times in the eight verses. The Lord is righteous (v. 137), everlastingly so (v. 142) and so the law and teaching etc. that issue form the Lord are also righteous (vv. 138, 142, 144). From this then flows the psalmist’s love for the Lord’s word (v. 140), their confidence in spite of their insignificance (v. 141) or their enemies’ arrogance (v. 139). The statements about the psalmist (vv. 139-141) are enclosed by statements about the Lord and the law. In v. 137 it is the Lord who is righteous; in v. 144 the Lord’s decrees are ‘righteous forever’. The psalmist is upheld by this righteousness. In this context ‘righteous/righteousness’ takes on all senses of ‘right’ (v. 137), ‘faithfulness’ (v. 138), and ‘truth’ (v. 142), and is seen as the source of delight (v. 143) and understanding (v. 144).

Suggestions for the use of the psalm in worship

The service of the word could be surrounded by refrains taken from the psalm. Before the first reading, v. 137 could be adapted as a refrain pertinent to the readings while v. 142 could be similarly adapted as a concluding refrain.

You are righteous, O LORD,
and your judgments are right.


Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness,
and your word is the truth.

 Verses 143-144 can also be adapted as part of the declaration of forgiveness.
Trouble and anguish may come upon you,
but let the commandments of the Lord be your delight.
God’s decrees are righteous forever;
giving understanding that you may live.
Hear his life-giving word in Jesus Christ:
‘Your sins are forgiven!’
Thanks be to God.
Old Testament reading: Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4

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