This week as I contemplated the fifth stanza of Psalm 119 I became convinced that it related to Jesus’ familiar quote that goes like this, “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” (Matthew 6:22 KJV) The problem is that no one seems to know what the Hebrew word translated as “single” here, haplous, really means. For example, the NKJV translates it “good,” the NASV as “clear,” the Contemporary English Version as “good,” the NIV as “healthy,” and the ESV also as “healthy.” Clearly no one knows what this Hebrew word haplousreally means. So, I will make my own suggestion. I believe the word means “plaited.”
Strong’s defines the word haplous as literally meaning “folded together.” As I discussed this word with my wife this morning she mused that “to fold something together means to bring in the loose parts or strands and make a braid or plait out of it.” Ah, I said, that makes sense and may be the meaning of this word. So, I looked up the definition and found,
“A braid (also called plait) is a complex structure or pattern formed by intertwining three or more strands…. The simplest possible braid is a flat, solid, three-strand structure in some countries/cases called a plait.” (Wikipedia)
Now remember the proverb, “a cord of three strands is not easily broken” and consider Jesus’ words above in light of Psalm 119:33-40.
33(A) Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes;
and I will keep it(B) to the end.[a]
34(C) Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
35(D) Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for I(E) delight in it.
36(F) Incline my heart to your testimonies,
and not to(G) selfish gain!
37(H) Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
and(I) give me life in your ways.
38(J) Confirm to your servant your promise,
(K) that you may be feared.
39Turn away the(L) reproach that I dread,
for your rules are good.
40Behold, I(M) long for your precepts;
(N) in your righteousness give me life! (Psalm 119:33-40 ESV)
Notice especially verse 37 which is the key to my understanding here. “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things!” Is this not the bane of mankind? With our eyes, whether with natural sight or mental imagery, mankind lusts after one worthless thing after another. The psalmist provides the remedy for this in this fifth stanza. That remedy is to allow the creation of a spiritual braid, or plait, within us which captures all the “loose ends” or “worthless things,” tying them together in a single vision of God’s truth. (I suppose this is how the King James drafters finally settled on the interpretation “single” for the Hebrew word haplous)
The rest of this stanza explains how we mere humans can ever come to this place of singleness of vision, of having a “plaited” eye. God must do it in us. First, he will teach us the way of his statutes so that we can walk in them. Then he will give us the actual understanding of his Law that we my keep it. Next he draws us, leads us, in the way of his commandments so that we actually, from our heart, take delight in them. Fourth his Spirit moves upon our hearts to incline us toward his testimonies instead of toward what we selfishly and lustfully want. Finally, after working like this within us, he can turn our eyes from worthless things which, ultimately, brings us into true life in God’s ways.
“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” The light of the body is the eye, the natural and mental eye, that organ of perception which contemplates and brings perception of reality and truth into our being. If we possess a plaited eye, a folded together, braided perception of reality (because God has given it to us according to our prayer in the pattern of Psalm 119:33-40), then our whole body (being) shall be full of light!
2Beloved, we are(A) God’s children(B) now, and what we will be(C) has not yet appeared; but we know that(D) when he appears[a](E) we shall be like him, because(F)we shall see him as he is. 3And everyone who(G) thus hopes in him(H)purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3 ESV)