1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord!
2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
who seek him with their whole heart,
3 who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways!
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4 You have commanded your precepts
to be kept diligently.
5 Oh that my ways may be steadfast
in keeping your statutes!
6 Then I shall not be put to shame,
having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
7 I will praise you with an upright heart,
when I learn your righteous rules.
8 I will keep your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me!
A Zealous Follower of God
Psalm 119 is one of the longest chapters in the Bible. With 176 verses and 22 eight-verse stanzas, the psalm is extremely well-structured. The psalmist uses an acrostic poetic form, arranging the first letter of each stanza according to its order in the Hebrew alphabet. Almost every stanza uses synonyms connoting the “law.” Readers are compelled to accompany the author in his deep pondering of God’s Word, the theme of this psalm. The psalmist’s overwhelming love for the Word of God is deeply rooted in his heart. He firmly believes that God gives blessings through his Word. God wants us to hold him and his Word as of sovereign importance in our lives.
In this first section of Psalm 119, the psalmist presents his innermost thoughts:
In verses 1-3, he declares that those who walk according to God’s law are blessed.
In v. 4, the psalmist thanks God that, in his covenant, he has given us the law so that he may bless us as we keep his laws.
In vv. 5-8, the psalmist says he desires to steadfastly keep the law, at all times having a grateful heart.
In v. 8, the psalmist says he hopes the Lord will keep him on the right path, and that in the end he will be blessed as he keeps God’s covenant.
As I read this psalm, a picture came to me of how the blessed man pursues God’s law. This blessed man does God’s righteous and holy will with all his heart and soul, and is a picture of indefatigable zeal. I feel this is the picture God wants to engrave on our hearts, so that, like that blessed man, we will use every ounce of our energy to follow God’s word. When we do this, God may bless us in his covenant with us.
A person who earnestly does God’s will not only comes to enjoy God’s word as he races on earth, but he is also able to be “unashamed” in all he does. This person, who is following God with all her heart and soul, is delivered from the shame of sin. They experience God’s salvation, and the beauty and goodness of God’s Word. When a man or woman follows God, their heart is continually trained to discern wisdom, and they gain the strength to judge between right and wrong with integrity and honesty.
A Lived-Out Expression of God’s Law
The last verse in this passage says, “I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me!” This verse led me to become lost in deep thought. I felt the strong emotion present in the psalmist’s heart – he was looking forward to both know and do God’s will, eagerly expectant of experiencing God’s grace and renewal in the covenant. Is this not the goal we all aim at? But this promise is based on the statement, “I will keep.” Intuitively, I understand this as an emotional expression. But when I read it as a rational assurance, I have deep fear: “Do I value all of God’s commands? Can I really keep these commands? Lord, what makes you not forsake me?”
As I despair of human nature, I instinctively turned to Christ. Hebrews 10:16 says, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds.” When Psalm 119 says I will be kept in God’s covenant and will not be forsaken, this is because God already put his law in my heart, at a time when I could not value his commands myself.
I understand this even more when I see how God made his law the guideline for human life – and he did this so he could then make my life into a lived-out expression of his law of righteousness. Wow! This is incredible. I do not entirely understand it, but I know it is true. God said it, and he will make it happen.
I relaxed. In my heart, I knew I needed to think more about how this truth of the gospel impacted me. When I first read the verse, “I will keep your statutes,” my fear grew. The fact is, by myself, I will never be able to keep his law. But Christ took for me the consequences of my failure to obey God’s law. On the cross, Christ was rejected by the Father. Now, God does not hold us accountable for failing to keep his law, and we will not be forsaken. Not only am I free from my failure, but I also feel the need to look to Christ. He has truly done righteous deeds; he has fulfilled all the law. I must let him dwell in me every day, constantly guiding my heart to do the will of God the Father. Then I may enjoy the joy and blessing of God, who is himself the source of all blessings.
Xin Mu (a pseudonym) completed his Master’s degree abroad in 2009 and returned to China to serve his church. He and his wife have two daughters, and together enjoy ministry to couples and families.
Dear God, our heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ,
We come to worship you! You are the Creator of heaven and earth. You gave us the law to keep, so we may live in your presence and be blessed in your covenant.
But every one of us are heart-hardened and disobedient, unable to perfectly keep your laws and statutes. But it is not just that we disobey and do not receive your blessing, but also, because of our nature, we fall into your wrath and judgment. You are righteous and holy!
Thank you, my Lord Jesus, for coming to save us. You yourself bore the judgment for those who disobey God’s law; in our place, you yourself bore rejection from God the Father. You secured for me blessing in the Father. For this, we will always give thanks and praise your name; may your name be exalted in all the churches and in the hearts of all peoples! No one can be perfect and good as you are!
Lord, please be always in me, and please guide me to do the Father’s will. Break me, that, like you, I may have a heart of obedience to the Father. According to your promises, never forsake me, so that I may continually walk in your righteous way.
In the name of Jesus, amen.