The psalmist opens the longest, most majestic piece of the Psaltery with an encouragement towards commitment to the Word of God, to engage upon the “strait way” that leads to the “narrow gate.” In this first section, and throughout the rest of the Psalm as well, we see multiple references to God’s Word: “law of the Lord,” “his testimonies,” “his ways,” “your precepts,” “your statutes,” “your commandments,” “your righteous rules.”
Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules. I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me! (Ps. 119:1–8)
What’s clear is that the only way to see and experience a blessed, fulfilling, joy-filled life is in devoting and pledging your life for the sake of God’s name. As a believer in Jesus, the most disheartening reality is to see crowds of people searching for happiness and fulfillment — searching for God — but continuing their search in all the wrong places. They try and try again, to no avail, to silence the inner voice that cries out for satisfaction. But its cries are never quieted, so long as they attempt to be satisfied with crummy “God-replacements.”
What’s painfully obvious in these opening lines of Psalm 119, is that the way of God is the only way to happiness and fulfillment and contentment, indeed, the only way to life. All side roads lead to death. God’s way leads to life. As the late Robert Capon says, “Hell is only for those who insist on finding their life outside of Jesus’ death.” (81) Only those who readily admit their deadness are those who are truly living. Recognizing that you’re already “dead in trespasses and sins” frees you up to accept Jesus’s resuscitating resurrection. Those who’ve been justified by grace are those “whose way is blameless,” not because they themselves are guiltless, but because they’re trusting in the gospel-testimony that God has forever scratched from their account the guilt of sin, and, instead, replaced their records with Christ’s holy record.
Committing yourself to the gospel, to the testimony of Christ, puts you on the pursuit of God — a pursuit which will require your death in exchange for eternal life. The psalmist, here, as he continues to do throughout, is praying for a steadfast commitment to God’s Word, God’s “testimonies,” that he might be always fixed on all of God’s commandments. (Ps. 119:6) The blessing is certain for those “who walk in the law of the Lord.” (Ps. 119:1) It is an unquestionable benefit of divine grace that God blesses those who keep his statutes.
Notwithstanding this fact, don’t read this text as if it’s simply a this-for-that declaration: “I obey, I get blessed.” God doesn’t deal so primitively, so simply with those who are engaging upon his way. No, the summons of this text is for those who are seeking the Lord “with their whole heart” (Ps. 119:2) to be remembering, recalling, and always considering God’s Word of Truth, the testimony of his Son’s substitution. “The Gospel is the testimony of Christ,” comments John Gill, “of what he is, has done and suffered for his people, and of the blessings of grace by him.” This is what we are to commit ourselves to remembering. Resolve with the songwriter to keep all of God’s statutes (Ps. 119:8), and pray for the grace to do so.
- Robert Capon, The Parables of Grace (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1996).