Commentary on Ps 118 for Sunday 17A by Dr Noel Donnelly


Psalm 118 is the longest psalm in the bible. It’s another alphabet song. Some of us may remember that Perry Como love song of the 50’s: A you’re adorable; B you’re beautiful; C you’re a cutie full of charms. Well our Psalm 118 is of course a more ancient alphabetical love song. It uses the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet to make 22 sections of 8 verses in each  . For example section A would have 8 verses within it beginning with a letter A and so on. Such was the clever mind of the ancient author! 

What we end up with is a long orderly psalm about God’s Law; but this Law is about God’s loving guidance rather than a list of rules. It calls for a warm hearted response of joyful obedience, a way of life that brings people closer to a loving God.

Our liturgy selects 8 of these 176 verses with the response, “Lord how I love your law!” This follows the reading where the great King Solomon humbly prays for God’s wise guidance. The psalm leads into the Gospel about the wise disciple selectively bringing new and old treasures from the cupboard of experience.

Psalm 118 may have a complex structure but its essential linking of law and love is such an important treasure to be grasped. Duty may be the ticking of boxes but a motive of love is what the psalmist encourages. 

the audio of the commentary

Ps 118 : words (c) The Grail, England; music (c) St Mungo Music; recorded by Liz Newman.

featured image: David with his harp: graphic (c) Netta Ewing.