Tav

Tav is the twenty-second and final letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Tav (also written as “Taw”) has the same sound as “t” as in “tall”. Every line in Psalm 119:169-176 starts with this letter. Tav looks like this:

taw

The word Tav means “mark” or “seal” or “sign”. In the earliest Hebrew script, the letter tav was the shape of a cross, much like our English letter “t”.

tav

The last letter of the Aleph-Bet reveals Jesus in a powerful way. The first letter, “Aleph”, showed the God-man who came to be a bridge between heaven and earth. That bridge came in the shape of a cross, or “tav”. Jesus’ death on a cross was foreshadowed in the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Aleph and Tav.

When Aleph-Tav is seen together in one word in Hebrew scripture, it’s like a verification signature or seal of the Author. It appears in significant places in the Bible, but because it is not translatable, it is overlooked in our English translations. But the combination of Aleph-Tav is all over the Old Testament, about 7,000 times! The combination of the two letters is even found in the very first verse of the Bible, Genesis 1:1. The message of Jesus’ coming to earth and His death on the cross is embedded in the dawn of creation!

The word “tav” can be found in Ezekiel 9:4, where God put a mark (tav) on the foreheads of the people who opposed the worship of idols. The death angel was told, “Do not come near anyone who has the mark.” This same idea is in Revelation 22:4, “They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.” Some believe that mark will be the Hebrew letters Aleph and Tav.

Tav also stands for “truth”.
The Hebrew word for truth is “emet” which is spelled
Aleph (The Creator)
+
Mem (gives His life)
+
Tav (on the cross).

The gospel is also easily seen in the word “Torah”,
which is spelled
Tav (the cross)
+
Vav (the nail)
+
Resh (the Captain, or Leader)
+
Hey (Behold!).

tavdagesh

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

Long Song Study, part Y

Sprinkled throughout the 119th Psalm is a phrase that David used often and it’s here in the last section twice: “according to your word”. That’s a good way to sum up David’s heart’s desire — he wanted to live his life in accordance with God’s Word. “According to” means “in agreement with”. This favorite phrase of David’s reminds us that a life of faith is agreeing with God more and arguing with God less.

Verse 169
Let my cry come before you, O Lord;
give me understanding according to your word!
We don’t know if David was aware that this was his final entry in his long song. We also don’t know how old David was as he penned these words. Certainly he was an older man at this point, yet he was still crying out to God and asking for understanding. Not all cries are in desperation — the word used here can also mean “shouts of joy, singing, gladness”. That exclamation point might indicate a triumphant cry!
None of us will get everything all figured out this side of eternity. Albert Einstein said, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” The key is to continue to seek understanding according to the Word. “To be given understanding means more than to be given cognitive content, it means to be changed inside.” (Christopher Ash)

Verse 170
Let my plea come before you;
deliver me according to your word.
David spent his whole life coming to God with his requests and he had seen the hand of God move on his behalf in mighty ways. Coming to the Lord for help was nothing new for David; it was completely natural for him. We shouldn’t expect to “out-grow” our need for God’s help. In fact, challenges often increase as we age, so developing the holy habit of coming before God with our needs is wise. 

Verse 171
My lips will pour forth praise,
for you teach me your statutes.
David followed his two prayer requests with two promises. The first was to praise God, out loud and profusely. The Hebrew word for “pour forth” means “to gush, blurt, flow abundantly”. After laying out his requests, David went directly into praise, probably before the understanding and deliverance arrived. This was also his holy habit — so many of his songs gush with exultant adoration. Again, it was natural for his lips to pour forth praise because it had been his life-long practice.

Verse 172
My tongue will sing of your word,
for all your commandments are right.
David’s second promise was to sing! Words of praise gave way to songs of praise. Charles Wesley wrote the hymn, “O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing” and the lyrics always make me smile. Here is Charles, wishing he had 1,000 tongues in his mouth so he could use them all to praise God. And here I am, having more than enough trouble with my one and only tongue. What would happen if I had 1,000 tongues? Yikes. The truth is, we can control how we use our tongues but it’s not easy. James wrote, “The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.” (Jam. 3:5-6) The Holy Spirit can redeem our tongues to be used for praise!

Verse 173
Let your hand be ready to help me,
for I have chosen your precepts.
The pendulum swings from praise to petition once more. It’s like David can’t make up his mind how to pray. I can relate. There is an unresolved tension that oscillates between good days and bad days, ups and downs, highs and lows. We praise Him, we cry out to Him. Over and over and over. But we have something David didn’t have — Jesus, a High Priest that sympathizes with our weaknesses and invites us to approach the throne of grace with confidence. (Heb. 4:15-16) Jesus proved that God’s hand is ready to help us. 

Verse 174
I long for your salvation, O Lord,
 and your law is my delight.
The longing David felt might have been for personal deliverance, but it also may have reached beyond that to the salvation God promised in the coming Messiah. Everything inside David yearned for the fulfillment of the covenant and the establishment of a kingdom that would last forever. David looked forward to the promise with faith, as did all the Old Testament saints. We are the blessed generations who get to look back on Messiah’s coming to purchase salvation while also looking forward to His glorious return. In the meantime, His Word is to be our delight.

Verse 175
Let my soul live and praise you,
and let your rules help me.
Years ago, I read this verse in the Message translation and wrote it in my NIV Bible. “Invigorate my soul so I can praise You well. Use Your decrees to put iron in my soul.” I love that! To invigorate means to infuse with life, energy, and vitality. That’s how I want to live — with Holy Spirit energy running through my veins, providing vital praise to my lips. That’s how I want to grow old — with Holy Spirit strength in my inner being, providing iron-clad endurance and faithfulness. 

Verse 176
I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant,
for I do not forget your commandments.
Wait. What? What just happened? Can we please lop off this last verse and end on a high note? No, we can’t. Because even though David affirmed his belief, he was aware of his frailty and his dependence on God’s grace. We are lost sheep — “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it.” But do not forget, God does seek after us, especially in His Word. 

I’m going to close David’s long song with a long quote from “Bible Delight” by Christopher Ash. You can skip it or read it later. However, his comments on this ancient psalm seem to speak right into our present world. 

   “As so often in the Bible, the end of the psalm is not the end of the story. If we think of the psalm as portraying the believer as a building under construction, this last verse is a reminder that the scaffolding is still in place. At the end of this psalm we are still in painful tension. This is how it is. This psalm will not be sung in the age to come.* But for now it is authentic Christian experience. This is so realistic.
‘How are you?’ ‘I really don’t know. I cannot work out whether I am in prayer or praise. I seem to feel both strongly and inconsistently.’ This is the authentic Christian response. There are two simpler responses; and neither of them is Christian. If I just say it is grim grim grim, that is not an authentic Christian response. And if I say it is great great great that also is not an authentic Christian response. The authentic response is to say I really don’t know. I am held by the word of God from a painful present to a glorious future. And that word brings into the present a foretaste of joy, hope, peace and praise. And the praise is all muddled up with the prayer. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry; and I do both at the same time. That is authentic Christian experience.
The people of God delight in the word of God, because this word alone ties us in the pain of the present to the glory of the future. May God help us sing it.”

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*Mr. Ash seems to think David will not be performing Psalm 119 on the New Earth. Darn. Oh well. He’s got a lot of other good songs and is probably writing more even now. I’m keeping my front row seat.

Next: Tav

Stanza Y

Well, friends, this is the final week of the Long Song study! I am simultaneously doing cartwheels (in my mind) and wiping tears (for real). Maybe that’s how David felt, too.

At first, I wished David would have called it good after last week’s stanza because it was full of joy, love, praise, peace and hope. But that might have been too neat and tidy of an ending. This is more real. After 176 verses, David still needed God as much as he did in verse one. After 22 stanzas, David was still crying out for the Shepherd.

Psalm 119:169-176

Yelling, I hope You hear me, Lord;
     please help me comprehend Your word.

You listen to every request;
     now rescue, just like You promised.

Yakking all day, I can’t help it,
     because You have taught me so much.

Yes, songs of praise are in my mouth,
     exalting Your faultless commands.

Yank me along with Your right hand,
     for I pick You above all else.

Yearning for Your deliverance,
     still, I find Your word delightful.

Yielding my life to Your purpose,
     let Your law invigorate me.

Yet I wander, so come get me;
     let Your words stick with me always.

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Next: Long Song Study, part Y