Mem maddens the meditator trying to draw thematic connections. The middle verses are clear enough. Stanzas 98-100 all revolve around the thematic couplet of intellectual spiritual life and “greater than” comparisons. The poet is wiser than enemies, has more understanding than all his teachers, and understands more than his elders. All because God’s word is his meditation.
Stanzas 101-102 turn from contemplation to action. Both verses focus on the walk of living God’s word. Feet are held back from every evil way and God’s rules are not turned away from.
Verse 100 actually transitions from contemplation to action by mentioning “keep your word.” Verse 102 actually calls back to contemplation after action by saying “you have taught me.” So 98-102 is a tight 3+2 exposition of the value of knowing and doing God’s word.
Things get a little fuzzy at the edges though.
Not so much with the first verse of the octave. After proclaiming love for God’s law, the poet makes it “my meditation all the day.” This certainly fits well with 98-100 as “my meditation” is repeated in verse 99. As previously mentioned, 98-100 all focus on the mental aspect of approaching God’s word. So perhaps our 3+2 is now 4+2.
And really, the last verse isn’t too bad. Stanza 104 seems to tie both concentrations together. In the first line we have “understanding” just as we had twice in 98-100. In the second line hear “every false way” which seems a suitable echo to “every evil way” in verse 101. So again, contemplation and action.
But that pesky verse 103! It simply ruins the 4+4 we seem set up for:
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
The sentiment surely matches the very first line of the octave- “Oh how I love your law!” The declaration of satisfaction in God’s words certainly seems more at home in the first half of the octave which focuses on the inner life. The metaphor is lovely and vivid, but it intrudes in the second half focusing on action.
Upon pondering it, however, I suppose the interruption is a polite one. We like things neat and clean. We like our lines of demarcation, our boxes, definitions, and boundaries. Mem will not let this comfort remain undisturbed. There is no neat and clean line between contemplation and action, doctrine and devotion. We can’t schedule separate blocks of time to respond to God’s word in these ways. Love and duty are always crowding in on one another. One intruding on the other- not to move it out of the way but to strengthen and give life.
I understand more than elders because I keep your word. I don’t follow evil so I keep your word. To love God’s law with your mind and heart is to hate everything against God’s law with your feet. There is One Body.
Fill my days with love and my ways with obedience. Your word makes me more. More understanding, more knowledge, more wisdom than friend or foe. But your word cannot be bound it must go forth. Your commands keep me on the right path and keep me walking. They keep me so I can keep them. More. Give me more. Give me more love for your words: sweeter than honey, better than pie and a perfectly cold glass of milk! You instruct my mind and guide my deeds.