In the last blog post within our Becoming “They” series, we 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 a blessed person we must seek God by faith. This is what the truly righteous do.
Today, we will look at the first half of our main text (Psalm 119:1-8) by going through it verse-by-verse. We will also wade into a portion of Jesus’s most famous sermon to unravel years of bad teaching and truly understand what Jesus was communicating.
How blessed are those whose way is blameless, Who walk in the law of the LORD. Psalm 119:1 (NASB)
Does the blessed language of Psalm 119 remind you of something else? We see similar language in Matthew 5 within the Beatitudes. What I want to look at today is that the Church at large has mostly misunderstood this list of blessed identifiers. Let’s take a look at Jesus’s words:
Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the gentle for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness for theirs is the Kingdom of God.
Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad for your reward in heaven is great; for, in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:1-11 (NASB)
Most in the Church have seen this as a list of behaviors that if performed receive a blessing. But this, as we just learned in the last post about righteousness, is not how it works. We don’t pursue spiritual poverty to gain spiritual riches. Likewise, we don’t mourn so we can be comforted. If we did, it would seem more like manipulation than faith. Instead what we read here is a description of who God came to rescue.We don't pursue spiritual poverty to gain spiritual riches. We don't mourn to be comforted. That would be manipulation not faith. No, the #Beatitudes are a description of WHO God came to RESCUE. Click To Tweet
Let’s zoom in on verse 10 as an example. The blessed mentioned in verse 10 are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness. As God, it was possible Jesus had the words of his servant David in mind, but without question He had the crowds who were sitting at his feet in view. Either way we mustn’t forget this bit of context.
Faithfulness amid persecution for David was the act of standing firm against a rebellious Israel (among other things). Faithfulness amid persecution for the crowds of Jesus’ day would have been standing firm against the oppression of the Jewish elite and enduring the cost of following Jesus. All of these individuals, both Old Testament and New, embodied one or more of the Beatitudes.
The Blessing of the Beatitudes
So what is the blessing of the Beatitudes? The blessing is both present and eternal. Matthew 5:3-12 shows us that the blessing is inheriting the Kingdom of God. Do you want a blessing in this life? God says the tangible thing that you’re going to inherit is his Kingdom. (Maybe you’re asking how the Kingdom can be tangible, keep an eye on upcoming posts for the answer.) Jesus said the Kingdom is like yeast that leavens flour or like a mustard seed that grows larger than other plants. Our inheritance is an ever-growing, ever-increasing blessing. Is it any wonder that Jesus’s parables include people who sell everything to gain what is priceless?
The next phrase in Psalm 119 says, “Blessed are those whose way is blameless.” The literal translation of ‘blameless’ is complete or having integrity. Psalm 101:2 says, “I will give heed to the blameless way… I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart.” There’s an adage that says that integrity is what you do when no one else is looking; within your home if you will.
Our King summed up walking blamelessly in Matthew 5:48, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” To walk blamelessly is to humbly follow in the footsteps of our perfect King as he uses us to spread his Kingdom whether anyone is watching or not.To walk blamelessly is to humbly follow in the footsteps of our perfect King as he uses us to spread his Kingdom whether anyone is watching or not. #discipleship Click To Tweet
How Blessed is Blessed?
How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, Who seek Him with all [their] heart. Psalm 119:2
How blessed? Proverbs 11:20 tells us that “they are his delight.” I can’t think of a better blessing than this. About a month ago I spoke about being a good and faithful servant. I don’t know about you but I want to be God’s friend. I want to be his delight. I want to hear him say, “well done.” This is the promise to those who walk by faith.
The path is seeking Him with our whole heart. Why does this result in blessing? Because those who seek God with all their heart find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). This idea spans Scripture from the Shema of Deuteronomy 6 through Psalm 119 and Jeremiah 29:13 all the way to Jesus and the Beatitudes.
We are tempted today with a half-hearted approach to the Kingdom of God. Many who half-heartedly pursue God will justify themselves by saying, “I’m saved by grace and not works.” But as Dallas Willard famously remarked:
The gospel is opposed to earning, it is not opposed to effort.
We cannot earn our place before God, but because of mercy, because of being declared righteous, we should show diligent effort in righteousness. (James is the master of this concept, keep an eye on upcoming posts as I explore James’s perspective.)We cannot earn our place before God, but because of mercy, because of being declared righteous, we should show diligent effort in righteousness. #faith Click To Tweet
Can the Righteous Sin?
They also do no unrighteousness; They walk in His ways. Psalm 119:3 (NASB)
Does this verse mean that God’s people never do anything wrong or sinful? The answer is no and can be proved on many fronts. First, this wasn’t true of David himself. Even though he was declared to be righteous, we know that David was an adulterer and a murderer and all while being God’s favored King over Israel.
Second, in the New Testament, John tells us that if we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive us of all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) If we confess sin? I thought we were set free from the law of sin and death. We are. We are declared free, but we are also being made perfect. This is called progressive sanctification. Right now, we are not as we will be, but that day is coming! (1 John 3:2) Remember, “sanctification is the process of becoming what God has already declared you to be.”#Sanctification is the process of becoming what God has already declared you to be. Click To Tweet
Though “doing no unrighteousness” does not necessarily equate to a sinless life, when we are diligent to walk in God’s ways, embracing the process of sanctification, we firmly plant our feet on God’s path and safeguard our hearts from turning toward unrighteousness. David will touch on this a few verses later in Psalm 119:11, saying, “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.”
Now, before we turn to verse four (that pivot point I mentioned at the outset) I want to stress what David has said up to this point, and his use of ‘they’ language. David has said that the truly blessed are those who walk in God’s ways. He is not saying if you walk this way you will be blessed.
Instead, the blessed walk this way and it’s the very walking that is our reward. This is the same concept conveyed in Romans 8:1 “Therefore there is now condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The reward of being blameless is that you are blameless. There’s no fear in this. You can stand up tall and walk in confidence. This, in itself, is bound to bring joy, happiness, blessedness.
So you can see that the whole of God’s word is telling the same narrative. The Beatitudes, the Epistles, the Psalms, the reward is consistent with the doing. The gentle inherit the earth. The merciful receive mercy. The peacemakers are the Sons of God.
Transitioning from “They” to “Me”
You have ordained Your precepts, That we should keep [them] diligently. Psalm 119:4 (NASB)
As I said before, this verse shows us the reason God’s precepts were given. The word ‘ordained’ means ‘command.’ God commanded His precepts. Don’t be fooled, God did not suggest His precepts. He commanded them THAT we should keep them diligently.
This is a creation order idea too. Ephesians 2:10 says, “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
When we correctly connect all of the stories of Scripture, we understand that God is restoring Eden. Ephesians 2:10 is not God telling us we were made to help little old ladies cross the street (though that type of good deed is awesome, and we should do it). The Scripture says to prefer our brother over ourselves and to consider others as more important (Romans 12:10/Philippians 2:3). This is all good. But the idea we are looking at surpasses that elementary understanding and hearkens back to God’s people ruling and reigning in an Edenic state.
As we keep God’s precepts, as we perform the good deeds he planned for us, we are ruling and reigning. We are subduing the world. We are expanding God’s Edenic garden temple throughout the rest of the planet. This is the bigger picture, which is why this verse serves as a pivot point.
David has said that the truly blessed walk in God’s ways, now he has declared that God’s precepts were ordained that WE should keep them and keep them diligently. For the first time David is saying blessed people do this and WE are supposed to be that blessed people. What follows this epiphany is a humble and profound desire to do so.As we keep God’s precepts & perform the good deeds he planned for us, we are ruling & reigning. We are subduing the world, expanding God’s Edenic garden temple through the planet. Click To Tweet
In the next post, we will touch an even more personal note as we explore what happens when we don’t or can’t keep God’s commands. Until then, I’d love to hear about your pivot point. How did God take you from “they” to “me?” Comment below or email me at email@example.com.