Ayin is the sixteenth letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Ayin (also written as Ayen) has no sound of its own, but usually has a vowel associated with it. Every line in Psalm 119:121–128 starts with this letter. Ayin looks like this:


Like the first letter of the aleph-bet (Aleph), Ayin is a silent letter, so it represents an attitude of humility. The Ayin doesn’t speak, but it “sees” because it is the Hebrew word for “eye” and “to see”.

Rabbis teach that the letter Ayin shows two “eyes” at the top, portraying how Yahweh is able to see both sides of every situation. This letter reminds us that God is watching over us all the time. The eyes of the Lord represent His intimate knowledge about every part of our lives.

“The eyes of the Lord are everywhere,
keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”
(Proverbs 15:3)

In Psalm 119:120-128, David described himself as a servant three times (v. 122, 124, 125). The word servant starts with the silent letter “Ayin”, showing that our service to God and to others should be done without bragging about what we do or drawing attention to ourselves.

Jewish scholars love to find numerical connections in the scriptures. They point out that in Genesis 16, Hagar said, “You are the God who sees me. I have now seen the one who sees me.” The sixteenth letter plays big in the sixteenth chapter of the first book in the Torah.

Because we have two eyes, traditional Hebrews teach that everyone has one evil eye and one good eye, and we choose which one to use to interpret the world around us. Even Jesus used the idea of “good eyes” and “bad eyes” in the Sermon on the Mount.

The eye is the lamp of the whole body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. Matthew 6:22-23

The meaning of this is easily lost on us because He was using an idiom, or a figure of speech, that was relevant in Jewish culture. (Like when we say, “It’s raining cats and dogs,” we don’t mean literal cats and dogs are falling out of the sky.)

In Jesus’ day, to have a “good eye” meant you were generous and open-hearted and to have a “bad eye” meant you were stingy and always chasing after money. Reading this passage in context, it makes sense. Just prior to these verses about eyes, Jesus talked about storing up treasure in heaven. Just after, He taught that we cannot serve both God and money. He wasn’t preaching about eyes! He was teaching about money! He was using an idiom that His audience completely understood. Be generous. Don’t be stingy.

“If we love others sincerely and have a generous spirit, our life will be full of light. If we think only of our own gain, turning a blind eye to the needs of others, our lives will be dark indeed.” (Listening to the Language of the Bible, Lois Tverberg)

The dual nature of our eyes means we need to “keep an eye” on our eyes. On one hand, we can have the eyes of our hearts enlightened by the Spirit. (Eph. 1:18) On the other hand, we have to constantly battle against “the lust of the eyes.” (1 John 2:16)


Oh be careful, little eyes, what you see.
Oh be careful, little eyes, what you see.
For the Father up above is looking down in love,
So be careful, little eyes, what you see.

ayin (1)

Next: My favorite word in the Bible that starts with “R”.

Long Song Study, part R

In the words of songwriter Bob Dylan,
“You’re gonna have to serve somebody.”
David may have been the king of Israel,
but he never forgot that he was the servant of God.


Verse 121
I have done what is just and right; do not leave me to my oppressors.
As ruler of Israel, King David could say with confidence that he had done his best to uphold justice and make honorable and ethical decisions. Therefore, he approached God with boldness and pled for deliverance. We come humbly to the throne of God when dealing with our sin, but when we are being unjustly accused, we can call on our Deliverer for rescue.

Verse 122
Give your servant a pledge of good; let not the insolent oppress me.
What is a “pledge of good”? Let’s get some help with this one.

To give a pledge means to take responsibility for someone else, perhaps for their debt…. It means you will guarantee the payment of my debt, if necessary by paying it yourself. (Christopher Ash)

So, David was asking for back-up, a promise from God to stand between him and his oppressors. The thing David asked for, we now have in Jesus.

David was praying for the cross. This prayer points forward hundreds of years later when God did just that, in the person of his Son; when he took responsibility for our debts, and nailed them to the cross. (Christopher Ash)

We now have Jesus, who stands between us and our Accuser, the devil. He interposed His precious blood to pay the debt we could not possibly pay. Hallelujah for living on this side of the cross!

Verse 123
My eyes long for your salvation and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise.
We have something David longed for: salvation and fulfillment of the promise. This verse makes me ask some questions, “What do my eyes long for? Am I yearning for the final consummation of the remaining promises? Have I set my heart, my mind and my eyes on things above and not on earthly things?”
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18)

Verse 124
Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love, and teach me your statutes.
God always deals with us from a standpoint of love, specifically “hesed” love. His mercy comes in one of two ways: God either removes us from trouble or supports us in trouble. “God hasn’t promised temporal deliverance from every trial we encounter. He hasn’t promised us that we will live above the turmoil of this fallen world. He has promised to guard us from ultimate evil — the loss of Him. And He has promised to sustain us through seasons of lament by reviving our sense of His distinguishing love as revealed in His word.” (Stephen Yuille) And He promises to teach us, if we will only be teachable. David asked God to teach him twelve times in Psalm 119. There’s always more to learn.

Verse 125
I am your servant; give me understanding, that I may know your testimonies!
For a third time, David emphasized his position as a servant. Humbly he asked to be taught and then to take the next step — to gain understanding. A human teacher can present the material, lay out the facts, and write down the equations. But she can’t make a student understand all the nuances and underlying truths. God can do that. He can both teach us and give us spiritual insight which results in real knowledge. Which leads to real wisdom.

Verse 126
It is time for the Lord to act, for your law has been broken.
This might sound a bit audacious or a little bossy. But it’s not! This is the prayer of saints throughout time: “Your kingdom come!” “Come, Lord Jesus!” God actually loves it when we pray like that. Except we usually call for God to act on our behalf when we are personally hurt or in trouble. David was most concerned about God’s honor, not his own comfort. The king’s heart was broken because the commands of God were being broken. What makes your heart break? “Let my heart be broken for the things that break the heart of God.” (Bob Pierce)

Verse 127
Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold.
David was surrounded by people who despised God’s law. And what was his response? To love the words of God even more. “The more the pressure grows to abandon it, the more passionately and delightedly he embraces it. He is deeply loyal.” (Christopher Ash) The word for gold in Hebrew is “zahab”, which means “gold colored”. The word for fine gold in this verse is “paz” which means refined, pure, 24-karat gold. David valued God’s word more than all the shimmery, shiny, veneered things the world had to offer. Then he intensified his statement: God’s word meant more to him than the most pure and precious thing in creation.

Verse 128
Therefore I consider all your precepts to be right; I hate every false way.
When the secular, God-less culture begins to find fault with God’s Word, we can be all the more sure that God’s Word is right. “When confidence in God is counted vile, we purpose to be viler still.” (Spurgeon) You have to admire David for this: “he was a good lover and he was a good hater, but he was never a waverer.” (Spurgeon)

(You didn’t think I could get through a passage without a quote by Spurg, did you?)


Things I know for sure from this passage:

  • If I want to hear someday, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” then I need to be a good and faithful servant today.
  • God Himself is willing to teach us, which is an act of great grace.
  • All of God’s precepts are right; not most, not some, not just the ones I agree with.
  • False ways are to be hated; not flirted with, not dabbled in, not excused.
  • Love for the Lord leads to love for His Word.

Next: Ayin

Stanza R

Another week.
Another passage from Psalm 119.
Another Hebrew letter.
Another favorite word.
You know the routine.
Ah, but never let the study of God’s Word become routine!
Routine: a habitual, unimaginative, rote procedure;
dull or uninteresting;

Far from routine, true open-hearted study of the Bible is riveting.
Welcome to Week “R”!

Psalm 119:121-128

Resolving to make wise choices,
     I need You to wipe out my foes.

Renew me and keep me healthy;
     away with those cocky bullies.

Restless, I watch for Your coming,
     my eyes are worn out from looking.

Respond to me with love, O Lord,
     and help me learn to trust in You.

Ready to serve, I need Your thoughts,
     so I can grasp Your every word.

React quickly — now would be good,
     for Your law is being ignored.

Really, I love Your words so much;
     they are priceless, worth more than gold.

Reflecting on how right You are,
     wrong paths have become disgusting.


Next: Long Song Study, part R