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A Meditation of Psalm 119

I sensed recently a need to begin a new meditation of the Psalms, and specifically Psalm 119. After a little research, I discovered that this Psalm is used by the Jewish people to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year which begins this year on September 24th. And, this Psalm is used to celebrate God’s Word and His instruction to those who are His people. Psalm 119 is divided into 22 stanzas with 8 verses each and each stanza begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet. How beautiful is the Word of God that He would celebrate and construct His written word in such a way. Charles Spurgeon so liked this Psalm that he said, “we might do well to commit it to memoryAs those who drink the Nile water like it better every time they take a draught, so does this Psalm become more full and fascinating the oftener you turn to it.” So, with that recommendation, how could anyone not want to excavate all that we can get from this inspired Word of God?

So I began, one stanza at a time, to dig out the rich pearls of wisdom that are found in this great work.

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Psalm 119:1–8 (ESV) — 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! 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!

The word “blessed” in this Psalm is interesting. According to the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT), there are two Hebrew words used for bless. The first is ‘barak’ and is used by God when He pronounces blessing on someone. This word means that God has blessed us with the potential to live an abundant and productive life. When God blessed (barak) mankind at creation, He immediately told him to “do” something to manifest that blessing. (Gen 1:28; 2:5-9) Be Fruitful! Multiply! Subdue! Take Dominion! These were the things that man had to do in order to see the manifested blessing (barak) of God.

The second is ‘asar’ and is never shown in a way that comes from the lips of God, but is reserved for man and is a word that indicates something that will provoke an “envious desire” from others. Another translation supports this as the Amplified Bible describes the word blessed as meaning “happy, fortunate, to be envied”. God never pronounces man blessed (asar). When God blesses man, He pronounces man blessed (barak). However, when man is blessed (asar), it is more of a ‘congratulations’ from man’s actions. Interestingly the word used in Psalm 119 is not barak, but asar. The significance again, according to TWOT, is that when asar is used, the blessing received is a result of man doing something and the blessing is the result of man’s prior actions.

Another important question to ask is “what does it look like to be blessed?” This may sound like a foolish question, but do we understand what blessing truly looks like, especially when we are expected to do something in order to receive the blessing? The answer is again found in the TWOT with a secondary definition of blessed (aser) as “happy”. Blessing brings happiness in life. From this definition, we see that happiness is not something automatically granted, but it is rewarded as a result of our own actions of obedience to God.

So, let’s see what the Psalmist has to say!

How are we blessed? What conditions bring about blessing in our life?

  1. Blameless in our way
    1. Several meanings of the word blameless are “free of blemish, undefiled without defect, entire, complete, upright, without blemish”
    2. We are blessed in the way we conduct our lives, if our actions are in line with the word of the Lord. How do we live? How do we carry about our life business, work, and relationships? Is our conduct in accordance with the Word of God?
  2. Keep God’s testimonies; Keep diligently His Precepts; Steadfast in keeping God’s statutes
    1. One of the definitions of the Hebrew word “keep” is to ‘guard with fidelity’. We must keep a guard over our heart and our lives to make sure we are in alignment with the Word of God. We guard His Word and our life with integrity of heart, purpose and desire. We measure every action and attitude with how they line up with the Word of God.
    2. To keep God’s Word diligently means that we are forceful in maintaining our life in alignment with His Word. In the TWOT, the word indicates something that is done with great force. We exercise great force in keeping the Word of God, putting down all fleshly desires that would cause us to deviate from His truth. The Psalmist also indicates that when the Word of God is learned, it will result in “upright” praise or praise that is fitting and pleasing to God.
    3. Steadfastness in keeping God’s Word means we are firm in our dedication to keeping the Word of God.
  3. Seek God with our whole heart
    1. According to the Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, this word seek means “to inquire about, to worship, to examine”. The TWOT defines seeking as one who “seeks with care”. Seeking God is very intentional and is done with great care and concern, looking for every detail we can find about Him.
    2. Our whole heart means with our totality, completely, wholly seeking after God with all we have. Our minds, will and emotions are fixed upon Him and only Him. We do not deviate from following Him wholly and only.
  4. Do no wrong
    1. The root of this word “wrong” means ‘to deviate’. The TWOT further defines “wrong” as to deviate from a right standard or to walk contrary to what is known to be right.
    2. When we do wrong, we are not acting according to what we know to be right. We do not intentionally deviate from God’s standard of life. This is telling us that inherent in the Word of God is the blessing of God and when we deviate from that standard, the blessing will not follow us. This is consistent with the admonition given by Moses: Deuteronomy 5:29 (ESV) Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever! Also, in Deuteronomy 28 we are told that blessings will overtake us if we diligently obey the Word of God. The promised results of following God’s word, is that God’s blessing will follow us.

So what are we learning from this stanza of Psalm 119? We have learned that blessing in our life requires action on our part. God blessed (barak) mankind in the garden when He created Him. He blessed mankind sovereignly to be a benefactor of all that God has made available to him. In order to see the manifested blessing of God, obedience from mankind toward God was required. We were created for blessing from God, but that blessing does not come to us outside of our obedience to His Word. This is why Jesus said to His disciples and to us “If you love me, you will obey me.” (John 14:15, 23)

The New Testament supports this obedience to God’s Word and the fact that we are blessed in what we do, not what our intentions are.

  • James 1:25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
  • Romans 2:13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.
  • John 13:17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

How do we insure this obedience? It is by keeping with diligence and steadfastness the Word of the Lord. It is by seeking God wholly and completely with all that is within us. And it is by adhering to the Word of the Lord and walking according to the Standard set forth in His Word. We choose not to walk contrary to God’s standard as revealed in His Word.

We are living in serious times and our relationship with God is crucial. Join me in meditating upon God’s Word on a daily basis. Let’s experience the promises of His Word in our lives.

 

Donna Wise

By Pastor Donna Wise Posted in Thoughts

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