There have been great times of violence in history, and we are experiencing some of that today at least in some localities. Often I have heard it said that violence begets violence. Maybe it does, but it doesn’t have to. Our verse today shows us a different way, and it is a way that some have exemplified in our day; some people have responded to violence with without violence.

Our verse comes from Psalm 119. If you are familiar with the Bible, you may know that this psalm is the longest; in fact, it is the longest chapter in the entire Bible. It is constructed along a highly technical acrostic with each letter of the Hebrew alphabet used to begin the first word in every verse in a section of eight verses. That’s why the chapter has 176 verses with eight verses for each of 22 Hebrew letters.

Also, this psalm celebrates the written word of God. It does so with a number of synonyms, and in this verse it is the word “testimonies.” Here is Psalm 119:95: “The wicked have waited for me, to destroy me; But I will consider thy testimonies.” This version is the American Standard Version of 1901. It is a faithful and simple rendition.

The verse demonstrates antithetic parallelism in that the two clauses are going different directions, but they may be directions that you did not expect. The second clause is not just a negation of the first.

We don’t know who the writer of Psalm 119 is. Some think it is too academic-sounding to be David, but others are confident it could have been him. There is no reason he could not have written in an academic fashion, since he was certainly an accomplished writer. But we really don’t know, and it really doesn’t matter.

But the psalmist has a difficult circumstance. He mentions wicked people, and that is assumed to contrast with the psalmist himself. The idea of ‘wicked’ in the Hebrew is that of someone who is contrary to “the character and attitude of God,” according to the Theological Workbook of the Old Testament. You can consider who God is and what His values are, and this person is the opposite. He may be a criminal, or he may not. He may lead rebellions, or he may be a church member, but he is contrary to God, and here he is set on destroying the psalmist.

The term ‘destroy’ in Hebrew really carries the idea of killing someone. So his goal is to murder the psalmist, and he is looking for the right opportunity to do so. You may not know anyone like this, and you can be thankful if that is the case, but there are such.

So the psalmist is in a dangerous situation. Again, we do not know if David wrote this, but he did know this circumstance--he had plenty of enemies. And we wonder, if this would be the case for you, what would your thoughts be? What would your plans be? Would you respond in kind and hope you would be first? Would you improve your defensive position? The psalmist has a different approach.

The word “but” is in italics in our version because it is not in the original Hebrew. It is understood, however, that the second clause is a focus change, so that “but” is implied even if it is not spoken. The translators did us a favor by including it.

The psalmist is busy. In contrast to the wicked, he has turned his attention to God’s word. The translation “consider” is acceptable, but it seems weak because of the Hebrew stem used for this verb. The stem indicates that our psalmist is himself very involved in this activity. The verb form further is imperfect, either signaling that he will give attention to this or that he is continuing in that activity.

The word used for God’s written word here is “testimonies.” Without becoming too technical, let me just report that the dictionaries say this word refers to Scripture as testifying of God, and included in it is a sense of warning. Elsewhere, the tablets on which the ten commandments were written were referred to as ‘the testimony.’ So while the psalmist is being threatened, he is committing himself to Bible study. We can add that he is especially interested in who God is and how that impacts his life here and now. That is his answer to the violent threat.

When you and I feel threatened, we would do well to follow the psalmist’s example.

Arlie Rauch has retired from 41 years as a pastor and is the author of Mercy for Me. He can be reached at arlieandruth@cox.net.