א Alef: A in English
- 1 People are happiest
When they live a good, clean life
And follow the LORD’s Law.1
- 2 People are happiest
When they do what God tells them to do,
And when they do it with all their heart.
- 3 These people want
Nothing to do with injustice.
They obey you, LORD.
- 4 You gave us your laws
And you expect us to obey them.
- 5 I want to develop the good habit
Of keeping your laws,
- 6 So I won’t be ashamed
When I study the laws more closely.
- 7 I will thank you sincerely
When I study your laws
And discover how good they are.
- 8 I will obey your laws,
So, please don’t ever leave me.
ב Bet: B in English
- 9 How can young people
Live the kind of life God loves to see?
By letting your laws guide them.
- 10 I try to follow you with all my heart.
Don’t let me stray from your laws.
- 11 Your word is a treasure
Buried deep in my heart
So I won’t sin against you.
- 12 You are wonderful, LORD.
Teach me your laws.
- 13 I open my mouth
And recite the laws you spoke.
- 14 The joy I get from obeying your laws
Is like finding hidden treasure.
- 15 I will think about your laws
And study what you want me to do.
- 16 I will be glad to live by your laws.
I won’t forget what you taught us.
ג Gimel: G in English
- 17 Be generous to me, your servant,
So I can keep on living
And obeying you.
- 18 Open my eyes so I can see
All the wonders of your law.
- 19 I’m just a stranger passing by.
Don’t let me bypass your commandments.
- 20 My soul weighs heavy
With a constant desire
To learn your laws and live by them.
- 21 You blast away as you scold
The arrogant and the cursed.
Those are the ones who abandoned your law.
- 22 Don’t let people insult or mistreat me.
I’ve honored and lived by your laws.
- 23 Leaders get together and slander me.
But, being your servant, I study your laws.
- 24 I’m delighted by the words you’ve spoken.
I treat them as my personal advisors.
ד Dalet: D in English
- 25 I’m dying and returning to dust.
Save me, as you promised in your laws.2
- 26 I told you about my troubles,
And you were kind enough to help.
Now, please teach me your laws.
- 27 Help me understand
The reason behind your laws.
Then I’ll think about
The wonders you’ve worked.
- 28 While I cry in sadness and grief,
Help me find strength in your teachings.
- 29 Don’t let me get distracted
And drawn into something bad.
Please keep guiding me with your Law.
- 30 I’ve picked the right path to follow.
And I’m tracking your laws as I go.
- 31 I hug tight to your words, LORD.
Please, don’t let me end in disgrace.
- 32 I follow your commandments
Wherever they lead.
And I’m wiser because I do so.
ה Heh: H in English
- 33 LORD, teach me about your laws
So I can follow them from A to Z.
- 34 Help me understand the Law
So I’ll know how to obey it
And I’ll want to obey it.
- 35 Lead me through life
Down the path of obedience.
I love the guidance I find in your laws.
- 36 Tune my heart to your laws.
Tune out everything selfish and dishonest.
- 37 Don’t let my eyes lead me into trouble.
Keep me focused on the path you want me to follow.
- 38 I’m your servant,
Please keep the promise you made to me,
And to others who honor and respect you.
- 39 Stop people from hurting me
Hurling insults I hate to hear.
Your rules prohibit that meanness.
- 40 Look, I want to live by your laws.
Energize me with your goodness.
ו Vav: W in English
- 41 LORD, let me feel your persistent love.
And save me, as you said you would.
- 42 Then I’ll have answers for the insults heaped on me.
I trust that you will do all that you say.
- 43 And when I talk let me speak nothing but the truth.
I have faith in the rules you’ve given me.
- 44 And so I’ll go on living by your rules,
Forever and forever again.
- 45 And I’ll walk through life relaxed,
Knowing that I’m following your lead.
- 46 I’ll pass your words along to leaders in the land,
Without embarrassment or shame.
- 47 Your laws are my constant delight.
I love those laws with all my heart.
- 48 I reach out and grab your commandments
Because I love them that much.
I think about your laws and I study them.
ז Zayin: Z in English
- 49 Remember what you promised me, your servant.
Remember, too, the hope that promise gave to me.
- 50 In pain, I looked for comfort.
And I found it in your teaching,
Which gave me a huge boost.
- 51 The snooty hold their noses when they see me.
But I push forward, still following your Law.
- 52 When I recall how long your laws have guided us,
It warms my heart and puts me at my ease.
- 53 I felt the anger burning deep inside me
As I watched sinners ignoring your Law.
- 54 Wherever I go, your laws follow me
As lyrics in the music of my life.
- 55 Every night I think of you, dear LORD,
Remembering who you are,
Renewing my vow to honor your Law.
- 56 This is my promise:
I will obey your laws.
ח Het: Kh in English
- 57 You LORD are the one I count on.
I promise to live by your rules.
- 58 I need your help
And ask with all my heart
That you’ll be as kind to me as you’ve promised.
- 59 I considered my options.
And I decided to follow your laws.
- 60 I didn’t poke around. I hurried.
I ran to your laws.
- 61 Wicked people set traps to catch me.
But I haven’t forgotten how to follow the Law.
- 62 At midnight I woke up and thanked you
For the wonderful laws you’ve given us.
- 63 I am one of many
Who respect you and obey your laws.
- 64 LORD, when I look at the world
I see your overwhelming love.
Teach me more about your laws.
ט Tet: T in English
- 65 You’ve been good to me, your servant,
Just as you promised, LORD.
- 66 Give me the wisdom in takes
To make good decisions.
I’m trusting in your laws to help me.
- 67 Before hard times humbled me
I strayed from you.
But now I honor and obey your teachings.
- 68 You do good and you are good.
Educate me about your laws.
- 69 Snooty, arrogant people
Have been spreading a lie about me.
But I’m holding tight to your laws.
- 70 Their hearts are as compassionate
As a slab of fatback.
I, however, love your law.
- 71 I’m glad those hard times walloped me
Because they led me to study your laws.
- 72 Words you spoke when you gave the Law
Are worth more than thousands of nuggets
Of silver and gold.
י Yud: Y in English
- 73 With your very own hands
You made me and nurtured me.
Now, give me the wisdom I need
To learn your laws.
- 74 I want people who respect you
To be happy when they see what has become of me
Now that I trust your teachings.
- 75 LORD, I know you judge people fairly
And that you’ve let me suffer hard times
For my own good.
- 76 Comfort me with your persistent love.
I’m the servant you promised to love.
- 77 Show me compassion so I’ll live,
Since I find so much joy in your Law.
- 78 Make arrogant people feel ashamed
For leading me from you with lies.
Now, I’m going to reflect on your teachings.
- 79 May everyone who respects you
Everyone who knows your laws
Come back to me as friends.
- 80 Help me follow your laws with all my heart
So I won’t get myself in trouble.
כּ Kaf: K in English
- 81 I’m desperate,
I need you to rescue me,
And I’m waiting to hear from you.
- 82 I’m straining my eyes,
Looking for you to do what you promised.
So, let me ask this,
“I need your comfort. When will you help?”
- 83 I’m shriveling up
Like a wineskin bag in a smokehouse.
Still, I haven’t forgotten your teachings.
- 84 How long will I live?
And when will you give the people
Who make life miserable for me
Everything they deserve?
- 85 Godless people dug pits to trap me.
Godless people who ignore your Law.
- 86 Every rule in your Law is a good one.
But these people persecute me with a lie.
Help me, please.
- 87 They almost put me in the ground.
But here I am.
I didn’t turn my back on your laws.
- 88 You love me, now save me.
Then I can keep telling people about your teachings.
ל Lamed: L in English
- 89 LORD, your every word,
From Creation to Law,
Stands on heaven’s solid ground.
- 90 Your devoted love for us
Goes on and on, generation to generation.
You made this world. And it’s still here.
- 91 It’s all here because of your word.
Everything here serves you.
- 92 If I hadn’t found joy in your Law
I would have died in my misery.
- 93 I can’t possibly forget your laws
Because through them, you saved my life.
- 94 I belong to you. Rescue me,
Because I’ve always tried to live by your laws.
- 95 Evil people are waiting to ambush and kill me.
But I’m going to focus on your teachings.
- 96 I know from personal experience,
Everything has its limits.
With one exception:
Your Law exceeds all measurements.
It’s off the scale.
מ Mem: M in English
- 97 I’m in love with your Law.
I think about it all day long.
- 98 Your laws give me wisdom
That my enemies don’t have.
I take those laws with me wherever I go.
- 99 I’m now wiser
Than anyone who has ever taught me.
It’s because I think about your teachings.
- 100 I understand more about life
Than even the elderly do.
It’s because I live by your laws.
- 101 I’ve kept my feet on the right path.
I’ve taken no evil sidetracks.
It’s because I’m determined to obey your laws.
- 102 I haven’t turned my back on your rules.
How could I? You taught them to me.
- 103 I consume your delicious words.
They’re sweeter than honey to me.
- 104 My understanding comes from your teaching.
So I hate lies passed off as truth.
נ Nun: N in English
- 105 Your word is a lamp to light my way.
It’s a light for the path my feet should take.
- 106 I made a promise, and I confirm it now.
I will live my life according to your sacred laws.
- 107 I am overwhelmed in troubles.
Please, LORD, save me like you promised.
- 108 I hope you accept my praise as a gift, LORD.
And please keep teaching me your laws.
- 109 I’m in danger all the time.
But I always follow your rules.
- 110 Bad people set a trap to snare me.
But I’m sticking to the path
Where your laws take me.
- 111 You passed your laws on to me,
As my inheritance, a gift forever.
What joy they’ve brought to my life.
- 112 My head told my heart to follow your laws,
All the way to the end of forever.
ס Samekh: S in English
- 113 I hate two-faced flip floppers.
But I sure do love your Law.
- 114 You are my safe house and my best defense.
And I’m waiting to hear from you.
- 115 If you like doing what you know is dead wrong
Stay the devil away from me.
I want to obey God’s laws.
- 116 You promised to keep me alive.
Now’s the time to keep your promise.
I have hope.
Don’t let me regret it.
- 117 Save me and keep me safe.
I trust your laws,
And I’d like to keep trusting them.
- 118 You give a thumbs down
To those who give a thumbs down to your laws.
Those liars are good for nothing.
- 119 You toss wicked folks like trash in a dumpster.
That’s why I love your laws.3
- 120 I’m so scared of you that I shake.
I’m afraid of how you might punish me.
ע Ayin: Silent in English
- 121 I’ve been a good person
Who treats others fairly.
Don’t hand me over to my enemies.
- 122 Guarantee my safety.
Don’t let rotten people abuse me.
- 123 I strain my eyes searching.
I need a sign that you’re coming to my rescue
As you said you would.
- 124 Do with me, your servant,
Whatever your love demands.
But please teach me your laws.
- 125 I’m your humble servant.
Please give me the wisdom I need
To understand your teachings.
- 126 LORD, it’s time for you to do something
About those who have broken your Law.
- 127 I love your rules
More than gold,
More than pure gold.
- 128 So, I carefully observe your laws,
All your laws about everything.
I hate to see people not doing the same.
פּ Peh: P in English
- 129 Your teachings are wonderful.
It’s only right for me to obey them.
- 130 When your words appear,
Light begins to shine.
Your teaching makes simple people wiser.
- 131 Your teachings took my breath away.
That’s how much I want to learn your laws.
- 132 Be kind to me.
You have a reputation for doing that
To those who love who you are.
- 133 Let your teaching guide my footsteps.
And don’t let sin kidnap me.
- 134 Don’t let people mistreat me.
Instead, give me the freedom to honor your laws.
- 135 Shine on me Lord,
And teach me how to live by your rules.
- 136 My eyes cry rivers
When I see how others ignore your Law.
צ Tzadeh: Tz sound in English
- 137 You are good, LORD.
And so are your laws.
- 138 The laws you created are good.
And they’ve got the staying power to last.
- 139 I’m gut-twisting mad
Because my enemies ignore your teachings.
- 140 Your teachings are the purest of pure.
I’m your servant, and I love them to death.
- 141 I’m not important,
Though widely hated.
Yet I always honor your laws.
- 142 The goodness in you
Is goodness for good,
To the everlasting measure of time.
Your Law is reliable and true.
- 143 Hard times and pain
Have come for a visit.
But I still find joy in your laws.
- 144 Your teachings will remain good forever.
Help me understand them,
So I can live my life for the better.
ק Kuf: Q in English
- 145 I’m calling you LORD,
With all my heart.
Please answer me
And I’ll obey your words.
- 146 I’m calling on you to save my life
So I can keep honoring your laws.
- 147 I wake in the darkness before the dawn,
Then I cry for help and wait for your words.
- 148 Through the night, hour after hour,
I study and consider your teachings.
- 149 Listen for my voice,
As you faithfully do.
Save me, LORD,
As you’re famous for doing.
- 150 Enemies coming after me are getting close.
They’re a long way from your Law.
- 151 You’re close to me, LORD.
Your rules are right.
- 152 I’ve learned your law from ancient times.
You set them up to last forever.
ר Resh: R in English
- 153 Look at the trouble I’m in
And come to my rescue.
I haven’t forgotten your Law.
- 154 Fight for me and save my life.
Rescue me as you promised.
- 155 It’s a long-distance walk
From wickedness to rescue.
For the wicked don’t follow your laws.
- 156 Your mercy, LORD, is incredible,
So, please save me, since that’s what you do.
- 157 I have lots of enemies tormenting me.
But I’m staying true to your rules.
- 158 I see the traitors, and I hate them.
They want nothing to do with your laws.
- 159 Keep in mind how much I love your laws,
And then save my life, LORD,
As you faithfully do.
- 160 I can sum up your teachings in one word:
And it will last forever.
שׁ Shin: Sh in English
- 161 My leaders mistreat me for no reason.
But I stand in awe of your laws.
- 162 I celebrate your laws
Like I’d throw a party
When I find a hidden treasure.
- 163 I hate lies. They make me sick
But I love your Law.
- 164 I sing your praises seven4 times a day
Because your laws are good.
- 165 People find incredible peace
When they fall in love with your Law.
Nothing will get them rattled.
- 166 I’m hoping you’ll save my life, LORD.
Meanwhile, I’m obeying your laws.
- 167 I follow your teachings,
And I love them with all my heart.
- 168 I obey your rules and honor your teachings
Because you see everything I do.
ת Tav: T in English
- 169 Please hear my prayer, LORD.
And help me understand your teachings.
- 170 I’m pleading, so please listen.
Save my life, as you promised.
- 171 Let me sing your praises
As you teach me your laws.
- 172 Turn me loose
And let me sing of your law.
For every rule is good.
- 173 Give me a hand, because I need some help,
And I’ve decided to obey your laws.
- 174 I desperately want you to save me, LORD.
Your Law is the delight of my life.
- 175 Let me live to praise you.
And let your laws help me.
- 176 I’ve been wandering around like a sheep on the loose.
So, look for your lost servant who hasn’t forgotten your laws.
This is the longest song in Psalms: 176 verses. Each verse praises the hundreds of Jewish laws that Moses said he delivered for God. It does so as a huge acrostic. The song is divided into 22 sections, each with eight verses, and every verse starting with the same Hebrew letter to which that section is devoted. The first section begins with alef, the first Hebrew letter. And each of the eight verses in that section begins with alef. The song then works its way through all the Hebrew letters, until it reaches tav, the last letter. The point the songwriter seemed to want to make is that he loves everything about God’s Law, from A to Z, which to him was alef to tav.
Moses told the Hebrew ancestors of the Jewish people that if they obeyed God, then God would bless them in whatever work they did, and give them peace and prosperity (Deuteronomy 28:1-14).
Let’s give the songwriter the benefit of the doubt and say what he loves is the justice built into God’s laws, and not that he enjoys seeing souls getting punished or annihilated.
The number seven here is probably not meant to be literal, but only a poetical way of saying several times a day. Jews traditionally pray three times a day (Psalm 55:17; Daniel 6:11). In a Jewish collection of ancient writings and commentaries, Rabbi Jose bar Hanina (AD 100s) said the founding fathers of the Jewish faith provided the timing of prayer. Abraham prayed in the morning. His son, Isaac, prayed in the afternoon. Isaac’s son Jacob prayed in the evening, before going to sleep.