Enter ‘119’ in the Search field at right and you come up with four posts on this psalm over less than a year — this one makes five. Five times out of 150 psalms is favouritism, surely? No; at 176 verses this is longest psalm — and the longest chapter in the Bible. So we’ve been taking small bites.
As an acrostic psalm, in the original Hebrew each section of eight verses is identified by a letter of their alphabet. Further, the verses begin with that letter. This was perhaps a teaching aid, or perhaps a touch of poetic flair. The alliteration is lost in the English versions.
This Sunday we sing Psalm 119:105-112 (click for text), in a section with the letter נ (Nun) that sits well-nigh in the middle of the Bible, starting at a well-known verse 105:
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path
Two different refrain tunes have been used for the four recent readings turned up by that search. This week we use the Isaac Everett tune that we have enjoyed twice before with text by J Snodgrass, this time drawn from נ and the previous section, מ (Mem):
Meditate with every breath
Needing only you to guide me
Never turning from your path.
This is not a direct quote of the text of the psalm. The author has taken a step back, zoomed out and looked at the whole psalm to summarise the ideas. Everett explains in The emergent psalter (page 19) that taken sequentially, these short sectional refrains can be sung together as a song, using this tune or any 8,7,8,7 metre.
And by the way, noting that the four phrases or lines above start with MMNN for sections M and N, we get the hint that the full song is also acrostic! Maybe we’ll try it one day.
All welcome, as we have a four-part arrangement for both refrain and verses that we have found suitable and enjoyable.