How blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD. How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, who seek Him with all [their] heart. They also do no unrighteousness; they walk in His ways. You have ordained Your precepts, that we should keep [them] diligently. Oh, that my ways may be established to keep Your statutes! Then I shall not be ashamed when I look upon all Your commandments. I shall give thanks to You with uprightness of heart when I learn Your righteous judgments. I shall keep Your statutes; do not forsake me utterly! Psalm 119:1-8 (NASB)
The Blessedness of Walking in God’s Ways
In the first eight verses of this great Psalm, David highlights a common Biblical concept: The blessedness of walking in God’s ways. In the opening verse, he stated that those who walk blamelessly are themselves blessed.
The following two verses assert this same blessed status of those who observe God’s testimonies and seek Him with all their heart. David developed this a bit further, saying that God’s people do no unrighteousness. Simply put? This means God’s people walk in His way and not their own. (More on this later.)
When we get to verse four, we see that it serves as a pivot point. You have ordained your precepts that we should keep them diligently. Although this verse serves as a purpose statement for God’s word (God made His precepts so that His people including David would keep them diligently), notice the pivot: David has now inserted himself into the story for the first time.
The thing I can’t help but notice is that in verses five through eight David changed course, focusing inwardly, petitioning God with, “Oh, that my ways may be established to keep Your statutes!” Of course, he’s not asking a literal question here, instead David is expressing a personal longing.
Verses six through eight continue with, “Then I shall not be ashamed when I look upon all your commandments. I shall give thanks to you with uprightness of heart when I learn Your righteous judgments. I shall keep your statutes do not forsake me utterly!”
These powerful eight verses can be summed up this way, the truly blessed walk in God’s ways, God’s ways are found in His word, and David humbly looked to God for the knowledge and ability to walk in them all the days of his life. This is what we will discover in greater detail through this blog series. Hopefully it will become our desire as well. But first, let’s make sure we have a right understanding of righteousness.The truly #blessed walk in God’s ways, God’s ways are found in His word, and David humbly looked to God for the knowledge and ability to walk in them all the days of his life. #Psalm 119:1-8 Click To Tweet
Righteousness: A Definition
The concept that God called His people to righteousness, and that King David connected righteousness with obedience to God’s law, is easy to prove. But fully understanding righteousness within this context will require connecting additional dots.
Most of us see righteousness as good behavior. In one sense, this is true. Proverbs 21:3 calls us to “do righteousness” and Isaiah 56:1 does the same. In the verses we are discussing today, we actually see the same idea stated in the reverse; God’s people “do no unrighteousness.”
Though behavioral righteousness is clearly present, the foundational concept David was getting at in this section is that a man or woman must be “established” as righteous in order to “do” righteousness.
Let me give you an example: Psalm 24:4’s wording helps us tremendously with understanding this. “He who has clean hands and a pure heart who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully, he shall receive a blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.”
“He shall receive… righteousness from the God of his salvation.” Does that sound strange to you? Isn’t righteousness simply what we call doing good deeds? Not exactly. Just because we do a good deed doesn’t make the deed (or us for that matter) righteous. This is why Scripture says our good deeds can be filthy rags to God (Is. 64:6). It’s also important to see that the first half of Psalm 24:4 are issues of faith, not issues of work. We will see this in the Beatitudes in tomorrow’s post.
Righteousness fully understood is a declaration of position before God, by God. A declaration by God over His faithful servants, which establishes them in a position and state of righteousness and authorizes them to do righteousness.
What we see in Psalm 24:4-5 is that those who have clean hands and a pure heart (which we know, for us, occurs through faith in King Jesus: Acts 15:8-9), and those who have not lifted up their soul to falsehood or sworn deceitfully, (which we understand in the Old Covenant as God’s remnant, those who refused to bow a knee to Baal or any other), these are the ones who are declared righteous.Righteousness is a declaration of position before God, by God, which establishes them in a position & state of righteousness and authorizes them to do righteousness. Click To Tweet
Old & New Covenants: A Proper Distinction
This brings up an important note about the Old Covenant versus the New Covenant: many want to promote a kind of works-contract distinction from Old to New, but this isn’t accurate to the whole of God’s word. In both covenants, the contract on offer is a contract of faith. And at all times, real faith has feet. Real faith exhibits works.
In the Old Covenant, those who walked by faith were walking with God and consequently “saved.” Yes, they still needed Jesus, just as we do. But as we see from Scripture, Christ died for the sins of mankind (past, present & future) at “just the right time” (Romans 5:6).
Thus, the Old and New Covenants are covenants of grace through faith. In the former, God’s promise was that his people (Israel) would bring forth the Messiah (the seed). In the latter , God’s promise is that his people (all who believe in King Jesus) will bring forth the blessing of the nations (the calling of all nations, tribes & tongues to place their trust in Jesus).
The difference between the covenants must be understood rightly, otherwise the conclusion many assert is that God made one plan in the OT which ‘failed,’ and after learning what He did wrong He came up with a new and better plan. This is absurd on so many levels!Many conclude that God made 1 plan in the OT which ‘failed,’ & after learning what He did wrong, He came up with a new & better plan. This is absurd on so many levels! Click To Tweet
Anyway, back to righteousness…
There are echoes of this established position of righteousness that reverberate throughout the New Testament: “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36); “No longer do I call you slaves… but I have called you friends.” (John 15:15); “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, [he is] a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor. 5:17)
Although we do see a clear call to do righteousness within Scripture, there is first a need to receive righteousness. This is a position. This receiving is a matter of faith, and true faith will always lead to doing. I’m reminded of an old statement that goes something like this: “Sanctification is the process of becoming what God has already declared you to be.”
So far we’ve learned that the blessed walk in God’s ways, God’s ways are found in His word, and that like David if we want to be this kind of person we have to seek God by faith. This is what the truly righteous do. Tomorrow, we will wade into a portion of Jesus’s most famous sermon, The Beatitudes, to unravel years of bad teaching and truly understand what Jesus was teaching.Many want to promote a works-contract distinction from Old to New Covenant, this isn’t accurate to God’s word. In both covenants, the contract on offer is a contract of #faith. Click To Tweet
Have you ever been tempted to wonder if God had made a mistake in the Old Testament? Have you wondered why people think he had two plans? How did you learn differently or how are you still struggling with the concept. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.