God’s Word for You
Psalm 119:12-13 Proclaim what God has done
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Sunday, March 19, 2023
12 Blessed are you, O LORD!
Teach me your statutes.
13 With my lips I proclaim
all the judgments that come from your mouth.
In verse 5 we saw that “statutes” (huqqim) are often a reference to the word of God in its eternal permanence. This is also the meaning here. The poet praises, even blesses God, for his permanent and everlasting word.
How is it that a human might bless the Lord? To bless someone is to wish the best for them: happiness, joy, contentment, and even praise. Jesus blesses the poor, the hungry, the weeping, the hated, when these things come on account of their faith. They have shown their love and devotion to God, and God shows his love and compassion for them by blessing them (Luke 6:20-22; Matthew 5:3-11). Therefore to bless is the opposite of proclaiming woe upon someone. Jesus says “woe” to many people as well: Woe to the rich who sin against their neighbors, to those who are well-fed but do not give thanks, to those who laugh without faith, to those who are loved by the world because they show no faith or righteousness in what they do (Luke 6:24-26). Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel say the same things. Therefore to proclaim woe is to uncover and condemn sin and warn about coming judgment. To proclaim blessings is to display faith and righteousness, whether small or great, and to praise God about the coming of his kingdom.
Therefore, to bless the Lord is when a Christian praises God and adores him, and prays that all good things will come to him. God surely does not need our blessing, but in his word he invites our blessing upon him as we join with the holy angels in singing his praises.
The versatile verb conjugation called the piel is used by the poet twice in these verses. The first is surprisingly not “bless” in verse 12, but “teach.” In the ordinary conjugation, this word is “learn,” but in the piel it becomes causative, “to make someone learn; teach them.” In this Psalm, the phrase “teach me your statutes” is quite common (119:12, 26, 64, 68, 124).
Next we have “proclaim” in verse 13. This word is related to “count,” and is often translated “recount” (NIV, also in 119:26). To recount or proclaim (Exodus 9:16) is to tell and tell again; to preach to the world what God has done. Sometimes another verb form (the imperfect) is used to say something very similar, as in “It will now be said of Jacob and Israel, ‘See what God has done!’” (Numbers 23:23). There, the imperfect passive carries the idea of something being said again and again about what God has done for his people. Here, the poet says that he will do the same thing about the judgments of God, declaring them to be God’s holy will. He will proclaim them in public. This is the same force of the verb that we see in Genesis 2:2, “God finished (declared to be finished) the work he had been doing.”
We should notice the neat little wordplay of verse 13 where we begin by talking about proclaiming with our lips or mouth what God has declared from his mouth. It’s a poetic play on words that we shouldn’t be afraid to point out. It helps us to remember that our words should proclaim or give glory to God’s word.
When we declare and proclaim the word of God, we can become overwhelmed by the task. This is what sometimes gets into the minds of parents when we ask them to help teach Sunday school or other children’s lessons. It certainly weighs heavily on the hearts of young men when they preach their first sermons. Luther offered this advice: “When you are to preach, speak with God and say, ‘Dear Lord God, I wish to preach in your honor. I wish to speak about you, glorify you, praise your name. Although I can’t do this well by myself, I pray that you will make it good.’ And when you preach, don’t look at (the other professors) or me or any other learned man. But think of yourself as the most learned man in the room when you are preaching from the pulpit.” And he added: “I have never been troubled by my inability to preach well, but I have often been alarmed and frightened to think that I was obliged to speak thus in God’s presence about his mighty majesty and divine nature. So be of good courage, and pray” (Table Talk, LW 54:157-158).
When I hear my own sons retell a story from my life, putting their own emphasis or turn-of-phrase or even humor into something I said or did, I have always been delighted by them, humbled by them, and honored by them. Isn’t this just the way our heavenly Father feels when we proclaim his word and works from faith? Never forget that your Lord loves you, and he recognizes your love for him. Be fearless about proclaiming him in the world!
Pastor Timothy Smith