Mem

Mem is the thirteenth letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Mem has the same sound as “m” as in “mom”. Every line in Psalm 119:97-104 starts with this letter. Mem looks like this:

mem

As you can see, there are two forms of this letter. The open one on the right is used at the beginning or middle of a word. The closed one on the left is only used at the end of a word.

This letter is closely connected to water.
The Hebrew word for water looks like this:

water

See the open “Mem” followed by a “Yod” and finally the closed “Mem”? (Hebrew reads from right to left!) Some rabbis teach that the “Yod” in the middle is a drop of water within the word “water”.

Water is the most basic and important element in life. Sixty percent of our bodies are made up of water. The earth is 71% water. Without water, we can’t live more than three days. There is a Jewish saying, “There is no water but Torah.” Rabbis teach that the Torah is the most basic and important element in one’s spiritual life. Without the Torah, the Jew is like a fish without water — he couldn’t live.

Since “Mem” is the letter of water, it symbolizes the “spring” of wisdom found in the scriptures. Like an underground spring rises up from an unseen source, so does the spring of wisdom rise up from the mysterious Source that is God. http://www.hebrew4christians.com

Maybe that’s why David wrote about wisdom, understanding and insight in the “Mem” section of Psalm 119.

It’s easy to find Jesus in the 13th letter.
The Messiah is our Living Water.
He is the only one who truly satisfies our inner thirst for real life.
He is the most basic and vital of all elements in this world.
He is the Living Word and we cannot survive without Him.

spring

As the second half of the Hebrew alphabet reveals the life of faith in response to the good news of the gospel, so the letter “Mem” reflects the believer’s baptism. First we are taught (Lamed) and then we take a step of obedience by going into the waters (Mem) of baptism.

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.
Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said,
rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
John 7:37-38

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

Long Song Study, part N

David relied heavily on God and His word during his period of suffering. Study, meditation and obedience while under duress produced something in the psalmist — wisdom, understanding and insight. And a great love for God’s word.

“No man ever loved his Bible too much.”
William Swan Plumer

honey

Psalm 119:97-104

Verse 97
Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.
It’s possible to study the Bible, obey the Bible and even teach the Bible, but not love the Bible. David’s love for the law came as a result of meditating on it. Remember, we’re not talking about some Eastern form of meditating — a kind of passive emptying of the mind. Christian meditation is active. It is thinking over and dwelling on the purposes and promises of God, “consciously performed in the presence of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God.” (James Packer) “David meditated on God’s word because he loved it, and loved it the more because he meditated on it.” (Spurgeon) He couldn’t get enough of it.
“This love for God’s word is a great proof of love for God. If a man says he loves God, but neglects His word, that love must be called into question.” (Christopher Ash)

Verse 98
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.
David credited the law for giving him wisdom, beyond that of his enemies. We live in a difficult world and trying to navigate all the posts and tweets and opinions is nearly impossible on our own. The Bible gives us absolute access to the Architect and Creator. When we need to know how to think about an issue, we need to run to our Bibles where we can connect to God’s wisdom without limit.
How did David keep the commandments near him? Probably by memorizing portions of scripture. But it was also his duty, as the law stated, “When the king takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life.” (Deut. 17:18-19) So King David had copied the entire Torah by hand and was charged with keeping it with him. That’s a good law. Maybe we should bring it back.

Verse 99
I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.
It’s good to learn from human teachers. I can name many that have impacted me over the years. (And they’re not all old dead guys.) David recognized he had an understanding that went beyond knowledge and again, he traced it back to his untiring commitment to soak in God’s word.

Verse 100
I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.
Usually, older people are considered to be wiser, having learned from their life experiences. Usually. However, very smart, experienced people can still lack wisdom. It seems there is always a connection between understanding and obedience. David wasn’t just a hearer of the word, but also a doer. “He that excels in practice has the best understanding.” (Thomas Manton) Far from bragging about his great insight, David was extolling the wonder of God’s great wisdom and His ability to put it in a person’s head and heart.

Verse 101
I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word.
David gets practical here. There are just some things that don’t mix with godly wisdom, like evil. Not that it’s easy. He had to make a conscious effort to hold back those feet of his from taking him the wrong way. The choice was before him: keep the word he had grown to love or chase after lies. “If we keep the good word, we must let go the evil.” (Spurgeon)

Verse 102
I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me.
Compared to walking down evil paths, a little turning aside doesn’t seem like a big deal. That is what makes it such a subtle temptation. Turning aside from reading the Bible, praying, and fellowship can begin a slow slide away from the Lord. David wouldn’t do it.

Verse 103
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
When Jewish boys were six years old, they entered school at the local synagogue. On the first day of school, the rabbi would take a generous amount of honey and put it on each of the boys’ slates. Then the rabbi would tell the boys to lick it off as he quoted from Psalm 119, “May the words of God be sweet to your taste, sweeter than honey to your mouth.” The students’ first association with scripture was sweet, helping them understand that nothing was more enjoyable than receiving and tasting the Word of God. Many people are introduced to the Bible as a set of rules and commands, a list of dos and don’ts. Let’s add a bit of sweetness as we share the Word.

Verse 104
Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
The better we understand the heart of God in His law, the easier it is to see religion that’s fake. Hate is a strong word, but there’s a time and place for it. “It is well to be a good hater. Not a hater of living beings, but a hater of every false way. The way of self-will, of self-righteousness, of self-seeking, of worldliness, of pride, of unbelief, of hypocrisy — these are all false ways, and therefore not only to be shunned, but to be abhorred.” (Spurgeon)

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Things I know for sure from this passage:

  • Knowing a lot does not equal wisdom.
  • God’s Word has the power to make us wise people.
  • When we study the Bible, God Himself is our Teacher.
  • Meditating on God’s Word helps us keep His commands.
  • Wisdom is knowledge put to practical use, usually through obedience.

(Click here if you want to discover the difference between wisdom and knowledge!)

Next: Mem

Stanza N

The old David is back in this section! “Oh, how I love Your law!” is his opening line (with an exclamation point!). That’s more like it! His affliction lasted for a season, and now, he writes with a new appreciation for God’s good word.

Psalm 119:97-104

Needless to say, I love Your law;
     I think about it day and night.

Now I outsmart my pesky foes,
     because Your commands make me wise.

Not to brag, but I’ve got insight,
     since I feed my mind with Your word.

None of the elders surpass me,
     for I have learned to obey You.

Notice how I avoid evil;
     I keep my feet on the high road. 

Nothing deters me from Your law,
     for I have learned from the best — You!

Naturally sweet to my senses,
     Your words are tasty as honey.

New discernment keeps my mind sharp;
     I can’t stand walking on dead ends.

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Next: Long Song Study, part N