Psalm 119 Gives Concentrated Testimony To Virtues of God's Written Word
"Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord" (Psalm 119:1).
The longest chapter in the Bible is also one of the richest in spiritual content, setting forth the inspired testimony of the Psalmist to his personal knowledge and experience of the written word of God. By one synonym or another, this word is referred to in 174 of the 176 verses; and in the two exceptions, 122 and 132, the word is still in sight even in the English, and is actually referred to in the Hebrew text of 132.
Much of the beauty of the Psalm, with its alphabetical structure, is lost in translation, but the beauty of eternal truth breaks through the language barrier. In the original scripture, each of the first eight verses begins with Aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
In these eight verses we are told something of A People: (1-4) Happy (1), Holy (2), Hopeful (3), and Helpful (4); A Prayer (5); A Prospect (6); A Purpose (7); and A Plea (8).
"Blessed (happy) are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord."
(1) God's people are and ought to be the happiest people in the world. They have everything to be happy about. They are blessed or happy because of who and what they are by the grace of God: because they are the blessed children of "the blessed God" (1 Timothy 1:11). Richly blessed even to be in the way, God's way, the way of life and truth, they are exceedingly happy when undefiled, when the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, keeps on cleansing them from all sin. (1 John 1:7). Part of their blessedness or happiness is the privilege that is theirs to "walk in the law of the Lord." Far from imagining that divine grace was designed to promote sin, they agree with Paul that "the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good." (Romans 7:12). Every child of God must learn that "there's no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey."
"Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart."
(2) God's people are happy because they are holy. He has called them and set them apart from the world. They have received the testimonies of His word, and great is their happiness when they keep these testimonies - keep them not only on their lips but in their hearts and lives. Having learned something of God their Creator and Redeemer, they continue to seek Him through His word; and there is special blessedness for those who seek Him with the whole heart, because it is this kind of seeking that finds. We are blessed in the seeking, but even more blessed in the finding, as we get to know more and more of God.
"They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways."
(3) God's people are begotten unto a living hope (1 Peter 1:3), and to the extent that this hope occupies our minds we turn from iniquity to walk in the ways of God. As a rule of life, the true spiritual children of God "do no iniquity." For a New Testament statement of this doctrine, see 1 John. 3:9. Hope for a better life and a better world to come is based primarily upon the promises of God, but secondarily upon our own experience of salvation already received and practiced in this present life. (1 John. 3:18-21).
"Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently."
(4) God's people are a helpful people. As "laborers together with God" (1 Corinthians 3:9), we have the exalted privilege of helping to carry on His work. Our mission in the world is to help others. Our helpfulness to others will be in proportion to our keeping the precepts of God, and He has commanded us to do this diligently.
A PRAYER"O that my ways were directed to keep they statutes!"
(5) Although in this present flesh we all come short of that perfect obedience which we owe to God, the true child of God recognizes his obligation and earnestly desires to do what he ought even when he fails. It is in this sense that the genuine Christian no longer sins: when his desires and motives are in accord with the Spirit of God, it is no longer he that does evil, but the sin that still dwells in him. (Romans 7:20). But this is true only of the genuine believer, whose earnest and sincere longing and prayer is, "O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!" The professing Christian who is content to "continue in sin, that grace may abound" (Romans 6:1) has need to examine himself, whether he really is "in the faith" (II Corinthians 13:5).
A PROSPECT"Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments."
(6) We have no reason to be ashamed of God, but abundant reason to be ashamed of ourselves. Shame on us, when we think that we can pick and choose among the commandments of God, and obey what and where and when we please! People who try to "get by" with such conduct shall surely be ashamed of themselves in due time; and if some of them really are objects of divine grace, they shall yet be "least in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:19). David understood well, as we all need to, that our only prospect of standing unashamed before God and man lies in our having respect unto all the commandments of God.
A PURPOSE"I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments."
(7) Our highest and most noble purpose in life is to praise our Creator, Savior, and Judge. It is because of His good pleasure or will that we exist and were created. (Revelation 4:11). It is possible to go through a form of praise without much substance; in fact, the time will come when even the enemies of God, rebels against His righteous rule, will unwillingly pay tribute to His power and truth (Philippians 2:9-11); but God prefers the praise that is offered "with uprightness of heart." Now, we learn the righteous judgments of God partly as we read them in His word, partly as the Holy Spirit enables us to accept and understand them, and partly as we observe them executed in our own experience or in history. Only when and to the extent that we have learned God's righteous judgments can we praise Him with uprightness of heart.
A PLEA"I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly."
(8) Sometimes God tries the faith of His children by apparently forsaking them; and sometimes they may lose their fellowship with Him because of their sins, and so feel forsaken. To the child of God His sure promise is, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5); but even so, our realization of His presence does sometimes dim. The Psalmist must have felt something of this fading out of his consciousness of the divine presence. As a true child of God, he resorted to the only remedy for backsliding: reconsecration of his life to sincere obedience, and humble prayer to the living God in Whom was his only hope. May we do likewise!
[From Ashland Avenue Baptist paper, August 16, 1968. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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