Psa 119:1-8 KJV ALEPH. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD. Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways. Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments. I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly.
Music and song have the wondrous effect of stirring us heart, soul, and mind. We are affected by song on every level. Our passions, intellect, and determination intertwine to impact us more deeply and quickly than just words in ways incomparable to even the best prose and poetry. The Lord created us to sing to His glory. All creation sings to the glory of God.
A difficulty in bible study as applied to the psalms is forgetting these are songs. This is really a difficulty with bible study in general. We study and analyze to break the text into understandable bites and meditate on the meaning. But if we stop with generating outlines of propositions we wither our souls. Study should bring understanding and understanding should bring repentance. Then repentance should bring praise that ushers us into His presence with thanksgiving and rejoicing. With that in mind I aim to look at this stanza of Psalm 119.
The song starts with a bold statement on the key to blessing–to happiness, to joy day by day.
The blessed are:
- Undefiled in the way. Those who are mature, complete, blameless, walking in accordance with the truth
- Those who walk in the law. They live continually in and by the Word of God. Rejoicing in all He reveals.
- Those who keep His testimonies. They look always at the witness of the Word, treating it as a great treasure to guard, and a treasure that guards us.
- Those who seek Him with their whole heart. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness, they follow hard after the Lord, not turning aside until they can be in His presence and receive His love and wisdom. To press until abundant life, eternal life is theirs, not just in heaven, but here, now and forever.
- Those who do no iniquity. Iniquity is a dark stain on the soul. The stain immorality. The stain of bloodshed. The stain of wickedness. Violent deeds, injustice, perversion: this is iniquity.
- Those who walk in His ways. His ways are the path of life. This path is walked by Christ and leads to Christ. The bible speaks much of paths, roads, ways. Jesus said the road to destruction was broad and easy to travel. The path to life was narrow and full of troubles and trials. This path must be walked with faith and courage.
The psalmist notes that God commands us to keep, to guard His precepts. This means, in general, all the teaching of the Word of God. But, I think it means specifically those things above. Most especially the fourth statement. It’s a restating of the first and greatest commandnent: you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, all your strength. In truth, that commandment is a song, as is all the Word of God because the Word impacts us very much like a song, reverberating through us. The command is to let these precepts work in us so that we echo and harmonize with the Word.
But I cannot, nor can you, because sin has broken us. At best, we can desire to walk in the truth. How can a liar walk in the truth? How can a thief walk blameless? How does a murderer find the path of life? Adulterers have no harmony. Sin has worked its destruction and these words of blessing, of happiness mock us. In our sin we have less desire to walk with God than a woman would to hold hands with her rapist. We are left with Paul’s cry, “Who will save me from this body of death?”
The answer is Christ, we know. But is it a real answer or have we trivialized it? We speak it glibly, for sure, but has He captured our heart, soul, and mind like a song? Jesus walked the narrow, troubled path that led Him to the cross–to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil–to the tree of death. He gasped when our iniquity, our stain was laid on Him in Gethsemane. He carried that stain to Golgotha and washed it, our bloody stain, in His blood. He accepted the curse so that He could give us blessing. He accepted death, the wrath of God, so that He could give us Life. So that we, like Paul, could sing ‘O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?’
This is why David asks for his ways to be directed by God. At its root, the word translated as directed pictures a seed planted with roots sinking deep into the soil and the stem reaching upward to seek the Son and bear much fruit. He says then he won’t be ashamed: a word that means to wither, to dry up, to be naked, to fail in hope and expectation. We must abide in the Tree of Life, in Christ or else be cutoff, wither, and die.
David sings that if planted, he will praise God, a lifting of hands, in uprightness of heart. His heart, free of the bondage of sin and death will sing to the glory of God. His life will be a song of praise. Even as he walks and is disciplined by the Lord, goaded by God to walk the narrow path, he will sing and shout for joy.
He closes with a plea, do not forsake me utterly…and we are back to Christ: Eli Eli lama sabachthani…the cry of every man in hell. Jesus was forsaken so that we could sing a new song, ‘You are worthy!’
Lord Jesus, make our lives a song of praise to you.