Chocolate Book Update - Psalm 119 and Hebrew
Hey, gang. You may be wondering what I'm up to, now that I'm not spending ten hours a week reading the Bible and worrying what to say about it. Well, I've been using a combination of Psalm 119 and Duolingo to learn Hebrew. Every day, I read eight verses in English (with chocolate, of course), copy down the letter of the day several times, write down the first words of each verse that begin with that letter, and then do a lesson or two on Duolingo. It's been a good experience, and I had a thought about Psalm 119 as a whole that I figured I'd share with you.

I had this impression of Psalm 119 as being a children's psalm, written from a perspective of simple orientation and promoting (to put it in William-Blake-esque terms) innocence rather than experience, but my recent readings have disabused me of that notion. Some of the eight-verse stanzas express hope, or perhaps even desperation, within disorientation. Consider Daleth, for example: "I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word" (25) and "My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word" (28). Zayin and Heth's stanzas suggest that the speaker has gone through some disorienting distress ("The arrogant mock me unmercifully" (51), "Though the wicked bind me with ropes, I will not forget your law" (61)), yet remains faithful to God because his experiences have taught him to reorient his perspective. And then there's Teth, which explicitly states: "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word" (67). The psalmist is by no means naive, and although it seems he writes at least in part to teach the Hebrew alphabet to children, he doesn't spare them the harsh realities of human life. Nor does he leave them without hope: when faced with external troubles or even their own sin, they can turn to the word of the Lord, and to the forgiving and just God who stands behind it.