119. Blessed Are Those Who Heed the Law of God

Text Information
First Line: Blessed are those who heed the law of God
Title: Blessed Are Those Who Heed the Law of God
Versifier: Clarence P. Walhout (1980)
Meter: 10 11 10 11 10 11
Language: English
Publication Date: 1987
Topic: Illumination; Law of God; Profession of Faith (9 more...)
Copyright: Text and harmonization © 1987, CRC Publications
Tune Information
Name: GENEVAN 119
Composer: Louis Bourgeois (1551)
Harmonizer: Howard Slenk (1985)
Meter: 10 11 10 11 10 11
Key: F Major
Copyright: Text and harmonization © 1987, CRC Publications

Text Information:

Professions of one who lives by God’s Word.

Scripture References:
st. 1 = vv. 1-8
st. 2 = vv. 9-16
st. 3 = vv. 17-24
st. 4 = vv. 25-32
st. 5 = vv. 33-40
st. 6 = vv. 41-48
st. 7 = vv. 49-56
st. 8 = vv. 57-64
st. 9 = vv. 65-72
st. 10 = vv. 73-80
st. 11 = vv. 81-88
st. 12 = vv. 89-96
st. 13 = vv. 97-104
st. 14 = vv. 105-112
st. 15 = vv. 113-120
st. 16 = vv. 121-128
st. 17 = vv. 129-136
st. 18 = vv. 137-144
st. 19 = vv. 145-152
st. 20 = vv. 153-160
st. 21 = vv. 161-168
st. 22 = vv. 169-176

The longest of the psalms, 119 is an extended devotional on the Word of God, probably included in the Psalms as a model of true piety. The psalmist expresses passionate devotion to God's Word as the light upon his path, acknowledging his own heart's errant ways. He confesses his experience of both the pain and fruits of God's corrective discipline, reflecting that he has suffered much at the hands of those who have no regard for God's Word and who have made him the target of their persecution. The psalmist addresses most of his lines to God, mingling prayer with professions of love for God's Word. He perceives that Word as made up primarily of promises to be believed and directives to be followed, which is consistent with the theme found elsewhere that true godliness ("the fear of the LORD") consists of trust and obedience.

Blessed are those who live by God's law, says the psalmist (st. 1); I live by the Word of God (st. 2). Please, LORD, help me understand your will (st. 3). Protect me from scorners and guide me (st. 4); increase my faith and help me be obedient (st. 5). Sustain me with your love in the face of those who taunt me for loving your Word (st. 6). Your Word renews my hope, O God, though the wicked mock me. Their unjust scorning of your laws angers me (st. 7). Please be merciful to me, according to your promise; I will obey your law even if the wicked bind me with ropes (st. 8). Give me wisdom to keep from straying again, and protect me from the slanderous attacks of the arrogant (st. 9). Please bless me for serving you so that the godly are encouraged (st. 10). O God, I trust your promises and love your precepts; please deliver me from those who wish to harm me (st. 11). Your creative word upholds the whole creation, and your commandments secure life (st. 12); I love your law for the wisdom and joy it provides (st. 13). Your law is a lamp to guide my feet and a heritage to be cherished (st. 14). I want no association with evildoers; I love your law, and I know I can rely on your promises to defend me (st. 15). LORD, defend me from those who oppress out of disdain for your law (st. 16). Your law is the source of light and life and understanding (st.
17); your laws are righteous; your promises never fail (st. 18). Save me from the lawless, O God I want to live by your commands forever; I meditate on them throughout the night (st. 19). Deliver me from my persecutors, for I love your precepts (st. 20). I find comfort in your promises when I am persecuted without cause. Those who love your law have great peace (st. 21). Help me according to your promise, O God, so that my praise and delight in your law may continue (st. 22).

In 1980 Clarence P. Walhout (PHH 6) accepted the challenge of preparing a metrical setting of this long psalm, working with the suitably long tune from the 1551 Genevan Psalter. By working without rhyme, he was able to provide one stanza for each of the eight-verse units, completing the entire psalm in twenty-two stanzas. The original Hebrew poetry is in acrostic form, in which each of the sections is headed by one of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and the letter heading a section is also the letter beginning each line of that section. Other settings of parts of Psalm 119 are at 276 and 584.

Liturgical Use:
Focus upon the Word of the Lord–the choice of stanzas may vary from one occasion to another: stanzas 3, 5, 7, 13, 14, and 17 are specifically useful in conjunction with the reading of the Ten Commandments or as sung prayers of illumination prior to the main Scripture reading. Any number of stanzas are useful when preaching on the Decalogue.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

GENEVAN 119, by Louis Bourgeois (PHH 3), was first published in the 1551 edition of the Genevan Psalter; Howard Slenk (PHH 3) harmonized the tune in 1985. GENEVAN 119 is in Hypo-Ionian mode (major). The six long lines of the melody use two slightly different rhythmic patterns and mostly stepwise motion. A bright but not loud organ registration helps this tune to "sing itself." Antiphonal performance is helpful in the singing of a select group of stanzas.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

MIDI file: MIDI Preview
(Faith Alive Christian Resources)

Suggestions or corrections? Contact us