A Love Poem to the Torah

Psalm 119 (verses 81-120)

In both Monday’s and Tuesday’s devotion, I threw out a word that I did not explain that is really the centerpiece of the entire Psalm. The very first verse of Psalm 119 tells us how a person can be blessed. “Blessed are those who are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD.” Those last five words are the focus of Psalm 119. “The law of the Lord.” Transliterated from the Hebrew as “the Torah of YHWH.” (That last word is pronounced yah-way, and is the name of God anytime we see LORD in the Old Testament.)

What is torah? Torah comes from another Hebrew word, yarah. Biblical Hebrew has fewer words than Greek or English, so each word has a range of meanings that depend on the context, but one of the ways to translate yarah would be “to direct, teach, instruct.” When that word nominified is “Torah”. That means the word is something along the lines of “direction, teaching, instructions.” While the word law isn’t wrong, it may not be the best description of what Torah conveys. Instructions, the words of a loving God speaking to his beloved people, are instructions on how to live the best life.

“Blessed are those who are blameless, who walk according to the instructions of YHWH.”

But while that defines Torah, that really doesn’t tell us where to find it. The “Torah” understood as one thing, is the first five books of the Bible, Genesis -Deuteronomy. These books tell us how the Jews became God’s people, how they were rescued from Egypt, and how they were to live in response to that salvation from God. God gave these beginnings of these books to Moses in 1400 BC and had Moses and others edit and change bits and pieces all the way up to about the rule of King Josiah, in 600s BC. These inspired, authoritative, and true books tell us what God likes, dislikes, commands, demands, and desires from his people. 

In the Hebraic culture, the way one went about their day, from caring for their sheep, to planting or harvesting their crops, to going up to Jerusalem for a feast, one had to walk. In both the times of Jesus and the times of Moses, to “walk” in a way was to live that way out. You can begin to see the key ideas around verse one take shape. 

“Blessed are those who live according the the instructions that tell us the commands, demands, and desires of YHWH.”

Throughout Psalm 119, you aren’t always going to read “law”, but the words judgements, precepts, testimonies, and the rest are all words that are speaking about the same Torah. And the Psalmist recognizes their worth. Just today the psalmist’s “eyes fail with longing for your word” (82). The law is his delight (92). He loves both the law and the testimonies of God. (113, 119) These laws are not burdensome and followed begrudgingly. They are the source of life and salvation for the Psalmist. “Sustain me according to your word!” (116) “I am yours, save me; for I have sought your precepts.” (94)

“Blessed are those who live according to the saving, life-giving instructions and commands that YHWH has blessed his people with so we may know him more.”

The Torah commands a lamb to be sacrificed. 

“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

The Torah commands us to love God. 

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength…”

The Torah commands us to love our neighbor like ourselves. 

“and the second is like is love your neighbor like yourself. These sum up the law and the prophets.”

The Torah shows us the mind, heart, soul, and desire of God for his people. 

Christ shows us the perfected way of following God. 

While things change, and we are not commanded to keep the Torah in the way Christ kept it perfectly, can we speak with the same kind of love for the first five books the way the Psalmist loved them, the way JESUS loved them? Are we able to speak about the commands of scripture in the same way as the Psalmist, that every command comes to bring life and salvation? 

Jesus saves us through faith before we ever act, and no amount of work on our part could earn salvation. BUT, the commands of scripture are given to show us the best way to live, and the commands of the Old Testament show us the way the Jews were commanded to live and show us insight into the mind of our beloved Father. 

Let us love God’s word the way the Psalmist did 

and may we all be blessed today. 

“Blessed are those who are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD.”

-Jake Ballard

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Ezekiel 29-30 and Psalm 119:81-120

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