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The Blessedness Of Obedience

The Blessedness Of Obedience

A brief study of Psalm 119:1-8, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 12 Apr 2013


Contrary to popular misunderstanding, Psalm 119 is not really a treatise on the Word of God. If you are looking for a psalm on the subject of God’s revelation, you will find it in Psalm 19 rather than Psalm 119.

It is true that Psalm 119 is an acrostic psalm with each section having 8 verses which begin with the Hebrew Alphabet heading the section. It is also true that almost every single verse in this long psalm makes a reference to the Word of God using one of the synonyms such as “word”, “law”, “commandments”, “testimonies”, “precepts”, “statutes” and “judgements.” But it is equally true that if you read through this psalm carefully, you will see that it has much more to do with experimental Christianity or of true and sincere godliness than with the doctrine of revelation.

This is, of course, not to say that this psalm has nothing to do with the word of God. The fact is: the Christian life must be firmly founded on the Word of God if it is to have any meaning and purpose. This, perhaps is the reason why every song in this psalm makes mention and indeed extol the Word of God.

With this in mind, we may think of this psalm as given by Christ for us that we might give expression to our relationship with God vis-a-vis His Word. We may entitle this collection of songs as: “The Righteous One’s Alphabet of True Godliness.”

The first song corresponds to the Hebrew alphabet Aleph. We may call it: “The Blessedness of Obedience.”

This evening, the Lord helping us, we want to consider this song from our perspective as New Covenant saints. After all, we will be singing it as New Covenant saints.

We may discern three paragraphs in this song.


1. The Way of True Blessedness
(v. 1-3)

1 Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.  2 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. 3 They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.

This is a beautiful beginning for a beautiful psalm. It begins in much the same way as the whole Psalter and as the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount. This is a psalm that deals with the soul and the most important thing for the soul is blessedness. What is blessedness? It is happiness or joy. What exactly is it? Well, we don’t need to define it because we know it intuitively. We all know in our heart of hearts that we want to be blessed. But we don’t know how to obtain it. This is what the Scripture sets forth to teach. This is what Psalm 119 provides for us to confess. So the psalm begins…

1 Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.

This verse we may say, is the preface and thesis statement of the whole of Psalm 119. The rest of the psalm is essentially an enlargement of this fact.

God created us in His image that we might enjoy fellowship with Him. Therefore, our highest joy can be found only when we walk with Him and commune with Him. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 Jn 1:5-6). We can only walk with God if we walk in the light. How can we walk in the light except we walk according to God’s law, which is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.

Only such as walk in the light, or walk in the law of the LORD will remain undefiled. Those who walk in darkness will stumble and fall into ditches and cesspools. They will hurt themselves and they will also defile themselves and forfeit the blessing of enjoying God’s fellowship.

Verses 2-3 elaborates on the same idea.

2 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. 3 They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.

Those who would be truly blessed must firstly, “keep His testimonies”, or in other words, obey and observe His words. Secondly, they must “seek him with their whole heart.” That is, they must be sincere and wholehearted, not half-hearted and hypocritical in seeking to please God. Thirdly, must not “do no iniquity.” That is, they must not choose to transgress God’s law or refuse to conform to his laws. Fourthly, they must rather “seek to walk in his ways.” That is: they must seek to know God’s ways, and then diligently pursue a consistent walk in the way.

Now, of course, all these are impossible for the natural man. However, they are not impossible for those who are in Christ. Those who are in Christ are undefiled for they are justified by the righteousness of Christ covering them. And they are freed from the bondage of sin and enabled by the Spirit of Christ to walk in God’s ways.

None who are redeemed by the blood of Christ will disdain God’s laws for Christ came to free them from sin which is lawlessness. But it remains true that we need to be reminded, and it remains true that the more we choose to walk in God’s ways, the more blessed we will be as we seek to live a life of glorifying and enjoying God.

Thus, in the second part of the song, we are given to confess even the deepest desires of our heart. Here is…


2. The Desire of the Godly Man
(v. 4-6)

4 Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. 5 O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! 6 Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.

Every child of God knows that we must keep God’s commandment diligently. We know it through God’s Word. For example, Moses says…

·         “Ye shall observe to do therefore as the LORD your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left” (Dt 5:32)

·         “Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee” (Dt 6:17)

Thus we affirm: “Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently.

As God’s children who have been awakened by His Spirit, we are also desirous of keeping God’s precepts diligently. The Spirit constantly reminds us to the same; and a sense of gratitude deep in our hearts reminds us that if Christ who knew no sin suffered for us to redeem us from our sin, then we must flee from sin by walking diligently according to God’s word.

However, our flesh, the remnant of corruption rebels against the notion of having to walk in God’s ways. There is a spiritual warfare within us. As Paul puts it in Galatians 5:17—“For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”

It is not a battle that we enjoy. Paul’s experience, I believe is not unique to him. His lament in Romans 7, is no doubt the lament of every godly man—

15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me” (Rom 7:15-20).

What shall we do when confronted with this inner struggle? We thank God that Jesus Christ our Lord will deliver us from the body of this death (Rom 7:24-25). But this hope and assurance does not remove the feeling of helplessness and exasperation in our heart. This feeling needs to find expression, and we thank God that Christ our Lord has given us the words to do so…

 5 O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! 6 Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.

What a testimony! By this we acknowledge that only the Lord can help us to walk in His ways. By this we express our desire to be directed by the Lord to keep his statutes. By this we speak of our longing to have boldness to access the throne of God with a clear conscience. By this we confess that we feel guilty and ashamed when we stray from the way of the Lord, or hold the commandments of God in contempt.

Beloved brethren and children, is that not how you feel in your heart of hearts? The Lord understands. The Lord knows.

Only hold not down the godly desires of your heart. Let it rather rise in prayer and the singing of psalms unto the Lord. And let us by the grace of God covenant to respond in a godly way to what the Lord does in our hearts.

This is what we are given to vow in the final part of this song. Here is…


3. The Vow of the Godly Man
(v. 7-8)

It is the practice of godly men to make godly vows unto the Lord when they express their heartfelt desires unto God. This is no more a bargain with God than fasting is intended to twist God’s arm. It is rather an expression of how important the matter is to them. So Jacob vowed, so did Jephthah, so did Hannah, so did David, and so did Paul. Sometimes they make foolish vows that they would regret later, like in the case of Jephthah, but invariably, godly men would keep their vows.

Now, in the present song we are given to sing, we are given not only words to express the deepest desires of our heart. We are also given words to vow unto God as an expression of how serious we are in our desire to be taught and led in the way of the Lord.

A promise to God is a vow.

7 I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments.  8 I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly.

The desire of our heart is to learn more of God’s righteous judgement so that we may walk in His ways. We must always be learning and we will always be learning on this side of eternity. What shall we do when God hears our prayers and teaches us by His providence and by His word his righteous judgements? Make no mistake: God does teach us by His providence too, for does not our experience in life make us wiser in the application of godly principles?

What shall we do when we realise that the Lord has taught us something new to us? Shall we not praise him upon the occasion, acknowledging His goodness? “7 I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments.” Shall we not praise him with uprightness of heart which only those who have been specially taught by the Lord may do? As Matthew Henry puts it:

It is an easy thing to praise God in word and tongue; but those only are well learned in this mystery who have learned to praise him with uprightness of heart, that is, are inward with him in praising him, and sincerely aim at his glory in the course of their conversation as well as in the exercises of devotion.

But what if we have not that special experience? Shall we then cease to walk gratefully before the Lord? Of course not! We should rather continue to walk with Him faithfully, and to seek the Lord’s grace to sustain us day by day in all the changing scenes of life. This should be our fixed resolve. This is what we are given to sing in the last verse of this song: “I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly” (v. 8).

What can be worst for the godly man than to know that God has forsaken him utterly? Woe is me if God forsakes me utterly! But God has the right to do so; and if I cease to keep God’s statutes, then he will indeed withdraw from me. And let none of us take for granted that God will never leave us nor forsake us, and therefore, we need not be concerned. The fact is, if we take not God’s warnings seriously, then it may be indicative that we are still in the bonds of iniquity and therefore have no right to the promises of God, and the Lord will indeed forsake us for all eternity.

Therefore, let us rather, resolve as we are given in the final line of this song. Let us resolve by the Lord’s grace to continue to walk in His ways. And let us plead with the Lord that he may not forsake us utterly. He may sometimes for our good and our chastisement withdraw his gracious favour for a season, but let us plead with him that he will after he has taught us his ways draw us back to Himself.


Conclusion

This is the first song in Psalm 119. May the Lord by His Spirit revive our heart so that we can sing it meaningfully. And as we sing it with sincerity, may the Lord reform our attitude and life so that it grows in conformity to God’s Word!

May we in this way increase in Christ-likeness and Christ-brightness! For this ultimately is the reason why we are given this song to sing in union with him— to one another, and to God His Father and our Father. These words express the attitude and desires that our Saviour would want to see in us. Let us own these words and sing it humbly and gratefully. Amen.

—JJ Lim


 

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