Aleph (a) Stanza (1-8)
The first stanza in the Psalm stands in the same relationship to the rest of Psalm 119 as Psalm 1 does to the rest of the Psalter. There is the same emphasis on the joy of obedience to the Word.
The Blessedness of Obedience
1 How blessed are those whose way is blameless,
Who walk in the law of the Lord.
2 How blessed are those who observe His testimonies,
Who seek Him with all their heart.
3 They also do no unrighteousness;
They walk in His ways.
Just as Psalm 1 begins with beatitude, so also here. We could translate “How blessed” as “How rewarding is the life.” Most of the time we think sin will make us happy, but it is sin that makes us miserable and obedience that makes us happy.
The blessed man is described as, “Whose way is blameless/Who walks in the Law of the LORD.” This is integrity of heart and practical obedience to God’s Law. This obedience is not just formal obedience, this is wholehearted pursuit of God through His Word. “His whole heart is engaged to know and love more and more” (Charles Bridges). It is not as though the believer is ever perfect in holiness and heart, but what he is on the inside, he is on the outside.
The Authority of the Word
4 You have ordained Your precepts,
That we should keep them diligently.
The Psalmist does not look at the Word or the Law as an abstract moral code, he sees the precepts of the Word as being ordained by God Himself. Diligent obedience to the Word is diligent obedience to God Himself.
A Sincere Plea and Commitment
5 Oh that my ways may be established
To keep Your statutes!
6 Then I shall not be ashamed
When I look upon all Your commandments.
7 I shall give thanks to You with uprightness of heart,
When I learn Your righteous judgments.
8 I shall keep Your statutes;
Do not forsake me utterly!
The Psalmist sees the authority of the Word. He sees its beauty for his life and therefore he longs for and cries out for communion with God. “This passionate exclamation pulsates with conviction, strong desire, and an acute awareness of dependence” (Zemek). He pleads with God for help, knowing the result of the divine help will be avoiding the shame and disgrace of a disobedient life. He desires the blessedness of obedience and a good conscience as opposed to the disgrace of sinful rebellion.
This enablement of grace would not lead to self-congratulation, but praise. His resolution is not mere self-determination, there is an awareness of inability and utter dependence on grace. He is, “Firm in his purpose, but distrustful of his strength” (Bridges, 14-15). He understands his own weakness and vulnerability and pleads that God would not abandon him. Without God’s perpetual presence and empowerment, his life is nothing.
What are our priorities and desires? Do we desire to know and obey God better? Do we want to be happy enough to seek Him and obey His Word?
If these priorities and desires are ours, we will consciously be dependent on God for the empowerment of His grace. Jesus, in the New Covenant, gives us His Spirit and promises empowerment to walk in obedience (Ezek. 36:27). Charles Bridges comments, “He who commands our duty, perfectly knows our weakness, and he who feels his own weakness is fully encouraged to depend upon the power of the Savior.”