Jan 13, 2015

The Blessedness of Keeping God's Law

Psalm 119:1–8

"Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORDŽ‘’! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways!" (vv. 1–3).

Wisdom is God's gift to His people, a blessing that He always gives to those who ask for it in faith (James 1:5-8). Yet the Lord does not ordinarily grant this wisdom by placing it immediately in our hearts and minds. Instead, it comes through the diligent study and application of His revelation. Today's passage emphasizes this truth.

If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9:10), we cannot attain wisdom if we do not have the honor for God that Scripture commends, and we cannot honor our Creator if we do not know Him. This is where God's Word comes in, particularly His law, which is one emphasis of Psalm 119. As verse 7 indicates, the one who in faith seeks to understand the Lord's righteous rules will end up praising Him and honoring His name.

The psalmist proclaims great blessing on the person who seeks to know and walk in the law of God, even going so far as to assert that the one who lives according to the Lord's statutes will "not be put to shame." As John Calvin notes in his commentary on this passage, the psalmist speaks in an ultimate sense. In this fallen world, unbelievers often shame those who endeavor to live by God's law; however, this shame will not endure, for the Lord will finally vindicate all who seek to obey His commands (Ps. 135:14). On the last day, all people will see that those who have served the Lord have done the most honorable thing possible.

Although blessings are associated with observing the law, we must note that the psalmist is not talking about absolute perfection when he speaks of keeping the law blamelessly (119:1). The psalm teaches implicitly that no sinner can render this kind of obedience, for the psalmist, an exemplary figure, prays that he would be able to keep the commandments (v. 5). He recognizes his own inability and prays for the grace to walk in righteousness. The blamelessness commended is a life wherein one is oriented in the main toward the things of God. It is a life lived in gratitude that another—Jesus Christ—has kept the law perfectly in our place (Rom. 5:12-21). We do not obey the law in order to be declared righteous in the Lord's sight; we obey because we have been declared righteous in Christ alone. Calvin writes that "when uprightness is demanded of the children of God, they do not lose the gracious remission of their sins, in which their salvation alone consists." We always fall short of God's perfect standard, but He forgives all who give up their own efforts to merit citizenship in heaven and trust Christ. Our place in His kingdom is based on the righteousness of Christ.

Coram Deo

John Calvin comments, "We must not be influenced by our own designs, nor decide, according to carnal reason, what we are to do, but must at once come to the determination, that they who turn not aside, either to the right hand or the left, from the observance of God's commandments, are indeed in the right path." Wisdom comes to those who seek God and endeavor to follow His law of gratitude for His great salvation.

For Further Study