Tsadhe

Tsadhe is the eighteenth letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Tsadhe (also written as “Tsade” or “Tsadde” or “Tzadi” or “Tzadee”) has the same sound as “tz” as in “nuts”. Every line in Psalm 119:137-144 starts with this letter. Tsadhe looks like this:

Tsade

The left side of the letter “tsadhe” represents a humble and faithful servant bent in submission. On the right is a hand lifted up to God. Put those two things together and you have a righteous person. The word “tsadhe” means “righteous one”. Only the humble are truly righteous.

Let’s review the last few letters we have studied.

  • The letter samech – represents safeguarding and closure
  • The letter ayin — represents sight
  • ]The letter pe — represents speech

Then, after these three letters, comes the letter צ (tsadhe). This cluster of letters tells a story. A person, who safeguards and protects his eyes from evil things and protects his mouth and speech from saying bad things, will be a tsadhe, a righteous individual.

The Pharisees in Jesus’ day were intent on becoming “tsadik” — disciples of righteousness, by doing “tsadakah” — acts of righteousness. Jesus had a few words to say about that.

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-4)

The highest form of righteous acts are those done in secret. Can you imagine having a trumpeter play “Reveille” every time you put your offering in the plate? That would get annoying.

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It’s hard to be righteous.
Trying to sustain righteousness on our own doesn’t work.
“All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6)
(“Filthy rags” is most accurately translated as “menstrual cloths”.)
Selah.

Thankfully, we have a Righteous Savior
who not only forgives our filthiness,
but also imputes His righteousness onto us.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us,
so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
(2 Cor. 5:21)

That’s righteous good news.

tzadi

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

Long Song Study, part T

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Every verse in this section of Psalm 119 starts with the Hebrew letter “Tsadhe” (more on that tomorrow). The letter means “righteous” — and that’s definitely the theme of this passage. A form of the word is used six times in eight verses. Let’s dig in!

Verse 137
Righteous are you, O Lord, and right are your rules.
Righteous: upright, moral, virtuous, good, pure, true, just. Righteousness covers a lot of ground, but basically it boils down to perfect perfection, excellent excellence, faultless faultlessness. You get the idea — just keep on piling up the words. David made the connection that a righteous God would have to be the author of righteous laws, otherwise He wouldn’t be righteous. God’s perfect rightness was a great comfort to David, assuring him that God would always deal with him in the same way: uprightly, morally, with virtue and goodness, in purity, truth and justice.

Verse 138
You have appointed your testimonies in righteousness and in all faithfulness.
Moses is given credit for writing down the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch, or Torah). But David didn’t forget that every word was a result of divine authority, given to Moses by the direction of God. The Bible is not a smorgasbord that we get to pick and choose from according to our personal preferences and tastes.

It is not left to our choice whether we will accept them or not; they are issued by royal command, and are not to be questioned. God’s word is righteous and cannot be impeached; it is faithful and cannot be questioned; it is true from the beginning, and it will be true unto the end. (Spurgeon)

See that little word “all” before faithfulness? Like a balloon that keeps expanding with every breath blown into it, this expression means His faithfulness never explodes. It just keeps filling and filling until it’s as faithful as faithful can be.

Verse 139
My zeal consumes me, because my foes forget your words.
David’s certainty about the perfection of God’s law made him incredulous when he saw others dismiss it with contempt. It ate him up inside to witness his enemies utterly ignoring the commands of God Himself. David wasn’t personally offended, but burned with holy anger that God would be treated in such a way. I get it. It riles me up to observe professing Christians, who have been taught the truth, act like they have forgotten every bit of it.

Verse 140
Your promise is well tried, and your servant loves it.
Other versions use the words “very pure” and “thoroughly tested”, but I like the sound of “well tried”. Commands are to be obeyed, but promises are to be “well tried”. The Word can stand up to the test. That’s why David loved it so — it had been weighed and measured and NOT found wanting. In fact, “the more we try the promises, the surer we shall find them.” (George Horne)

Verse 141
I am small and despised, yet I do not forget your precepts.
David was the youngest of the eight sons of Jesse. That’s seven older, burly brothers. When Samuel was looking for a king to anoint in Jesse’s house, David wasn’t even considered a possibility by his father. Years later, as King of Israel, perhaps David still suffered from “Youngest Child Syndrome” — the littlest child overshadowed by a crowd of strong personalities. When David showed up on the front lines of the Philistine battle, his older brothers despised him for challenging Goliath. It’s hard to get over things like that. That’s conjecture, of course. Still, David didn’t blame God or use pain from the past as an excuse. Like David, we all have had past experiences that left us feeling insignificant and undervalued. And like David, we need to hold on to the truest, most reliable thing in life — God’s words.

Verse 142
Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your law is true.
David tried hard to establish the theme of righteousness in this passage. Here he started piling up the words: God is right and He is righteously righteous. He is righteous as righteous can be. And it’s not a temporary thing — it’s a forever-and-ever-amen thing. That truth gave David a firm foundation on which to stand.

Verse 143
Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight.
It seems like a contradiction to have trouble and anguish alongside delight.

Only the one who is acquainted with the struggles of the spiritual life will understand the expression before us. Let the reader herein find a balance in which to weigh himself. Does he find, even when he is begirt with sorrow, that it is a delightful thing to do the will of the Lord? (Spurgeon)

Well? Are you begirt (surrounded) with stress and pressure? Can you still delight in the Lord? How does your scale read?

Verse 144
Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live.
One more time, just in case you missed it, God’s words are righteous forever. Got it?

And so he rejoices in the sheer trustworthiness of the word of God. That the small, despised nobody, who burns with jealous anger for the honor of God, who endures trouble and anguish, may safely rest on this righteous word. (Christopher Ash)

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Things I know for sure from this passage:

  • When I say God is righteous, I’m not describing what He does, I am describing who He is.
  • God invites me to put His promises to the test.
  • Well tried promises lead to deeper love for the Word.
  • Even when trouble finds me, I can find delight in God’s words.
  • Studying God’s Word and gaining understanding adds life to my days.

Next: Tsadhe

Stanza T

Instead of counting how many weeks we’ve been at this (this is week 18!), let’s start a countdown. Only five more weeks and the Long Song study will be done! The finish line is in sight. Let’s finish this race!

Psalm 119:137-144

Totally perfect — that’s You, Lord;
     and Your commands are right on, too.

Talk about handing out great rules!
     I trust them with my heart and soul.

Tired out by my own fervor,
     I’m appalled that some blow You off.

Tested and tried and verified,
     Your promises are dearly loved.

Though I am deprived and picked on,
     I call to mind Your wise counsel.

Truth is found in all of Your laws;
     Your goodness never expires.

Trouble comes at me from all sides,
     but I won’t let it steal my joy.

Timeless and flawless are Your words,
     so teach me how to live by them.

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Next: Long Song Study, part T