Shin is the twenty-first letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Shin (also written as “Sin” or “Sheen”) has the same sound as “sh” as in “shy”. Every line in Psalm 119:161-168 starts with this letter. Shin looks like this:


Shin is one of the most important letters in the Hebrew aleph-bet for several reasons.

First, Orthodox Jews hang a mezuzah on the right doorpost of their front entrances. This decorative case contains a small scroll with a prayer on it and whenever someone goes out or comes in, they touch the mezuzah to remember the prayer: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” The letter Shin is engraved on all mezuzahs to represent 1) “El Shaddai”, a name for God which means “God Almighty”, 2) “Shema”, the prayer written on the scroll, and 3) “Shomer”, which means protection.


Second, God has written His name on His city, Jerusalem. An arial photograph of the Holy City reveals three valleys that create the shape of the letter Shin. God Almighty wasn’t kidding when He said, “In Jerusalem, I will put my Name forever.” (2 Kings 21:4)


And third, God has embedded His name in every human heart. The shape of the letter Shin mimics the structure of the human heart: the lower, larger left ventricle (which supplies the full body) and the smaller right ventricle (which supplies the lungs) are positioned like the lines of the letter Shin.


Shin looks a bit like a flame and that’s no accident. The Hebrew word for “fire” is made up of the letters Aleph + Shin. God’s presence in the Old Testament was often seen as a flame. A burning bush drew Moses’ attention and a pillar of fire led the Israelites through the desert. When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, He descended on the mountain with flames, smoke and thunder. The Israelites celebrated that day every year with a holy feast called Pentecost.

Fifteen hundred years later, to the day, the Holy Spirit descended on believers with tongues of fire and the church was born. Fire purifies, burns off the dross, and provides heat and light.

One last thing: When the temple priests would give the Hebrew Priestly Blessing at the end of the service, they would lift their hands and make the sign of Shin while reciting, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” (Num. 6:24-26)


As a child, Leonard Nimoy went to synagogue services with his grandfather. He was intrigued by this sign of “shalom” or peace. As Dr. Spock, Nimoy implemented the gesture on Star Trek to mean “live long and prosper”.



Next: My favorite word in the Bible that starts with W.

Long Song Study, part W


This section of Psalm 119 is probably the most upbeat of all the stanzas. “If section 11 (Kaph — Verses 81-88) was the midnight of the psalm, this is the noonday. This section is trumpets all the way.” (Christopher Ash) In fact, it is the only section that does not contain a request. A quick mention of persecution gives way to soulful lyrics celebrating the wonders of God’s words.

Verse 161
Princes persecute me without cause,
but my heart stands in awe of your words.
Persecution in any form is never pleasant, but David wasn’t dealing with a crotchety neighbor or a disgruntled staff member. Heads of state (plural) were harassing him persistently for no apparent reason. It’s hard not to take it personally. It’s hard not to strike back. It’s hard not to fall into a depressed heap and quit. But. My. Heart. Stands. No matter what was happening on the outside, David was able to keep his interior life stable by focusing on God’s words. They were a constant source of inspiration that kept David’s heart fired up with love for God.

Verse 162
I rejoice at your word
like one who finds great spoil.
Here is a testimony to the power of the Word. With persecution all around, still David could rejoice as if he was the luckiest guy in the world. He felt like he stumbled onto a hidden treasure in a field, a treasure chest in the sand, a golden ticket on the sidewalk. The words “great spoil” mean “abundant booty” in the original language! As David put the Word squarely in front of him, joy was the first thing that sprang up, so he rejoiced. 

Verse 163
I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law.
The second result of setting his heart on God’s Word was renewed love for it. Could it be that the more we love the scriptures, the more we will have an aversion to lies and deception? Could it be that there is so much dishonesty and deceit in the world because there is no delight in or fondness for God’s laws? The living and active word of God has a way of straightening out our values and setting our loves in order. 

Verse 164
Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules.
As David found himself in the awesome presence of God’s words, he overflowed with praise. This third benefit wasn’t a one-and-done kind of experience, but it kept popping up all day long. As king, he didn’t have time to sit in long meditation or quiet solitude so he kept doing his kingly duties, yet his days were shot through with praise. Even during intense periods of persecution, he could continue to raise a hallelujah for the good words of the Lord.

Verse 165
Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.
Peace was the fourth thing David found as he considered the scriptures. Great peace. Peace that passes understanding. Lack of peace, or anxiety, causes all kinds of problems. It robs us of sleep, joy, and contentment. It leads us away from still waters and green pastures. It puts us on a road full of potholes and dangers lurking in the ditches. It makes us susceptible to the enemy’s attacks. But when peace reigns in our hearts, it takes the wobble out of our walk.

What a charming verse is this! It deals not with those who perfectly keep the law — for where should such people be found? — but with those who love it, whose hearts and hands are made to square with its precepts and demands. (Spurgeon)

Verse 166
I hope for your salvation, O Lord, and I do your commandments.
David discovered hope as he stood in awe of God’s words. This fifth link in the chain was what kept him going with an eye toward eternity.

The word of God brings the future into the present, because it ties us by a sure and certain hope to the age to come. It is the aroma of a banquet sensed in the air before the dining doors open. (Christopher Ash)

David was banking on better days ahead, but in the meantime, he would faithfully go about the business of being an obedient disciple.

Verse 167
My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly.
When David talked about loving the Word, he wasn’t stingy with adverbs and adjectives. He didn’t just love God’s testimonies — he loved them exceedingly. The Hebrew word used there means “vehemently, wholly, speedily, diligently, mightily”. (I had to look up “vehemently”: “intensely passionate, strongly zealous”.) So there you go. David wound up his penultimate verse in his penultimate stanza with a strong affirmation of the place God’s Word had in his heart. He loved it. Exceedingly.  

Verse 168
I keep your precepts and testimonies, for all my ways are before you.
I’m so glad all my ways are not before you. That could be embarrassing. Can you imagine starring in your own reality TV show and having millions of viewers watch your every move? And then tweeting their judgmental criticism? It sounds like a nightmare. Not many of us would be comfortable with that much vulnerable transparency. But with God, it’s different. Our hearts are open books before our Maker, yet they are safe. God is for us, not against us. God is not mad at us, He’s mad about us. We can live before Him, in all our brokenness, with joy, love, praise, peace and hope. 


Things I know for sure from this passage:

  • My awe should be reserved for God, and not spent on people.
  • Treasures are waiting for me in the scriptures, but it takes some digging.
  • Do I praise God seven times a day, or once every seven days?
  • I can never underestimate the greatness of God’s peace.
  • I can’t hide anything from God.

Next: Shin