In our last post, we hit the pivot point within Psalm 119:1-8 where David transitioned from “they” to “me.” Things began to get a bit more personal for him as well as for us. Today, we will look at what happens when we can’t or won’t keep God’s commands.
Oh, that my ways may be established To keep Your statutes!” Psalm 119:5 (NASB)
During David’s oppression and his affliction, he had been prevented from keeping specific key statutes like sacrificial observations. This is one of many opinions on what is happening here so bear with me for a second. If this is true and we tie this in with God’s decreed righteousness from our first post, David is likely saying, “I need your help, God. I need you to establish my footing. I want to do everything you have called me to do. I want to keep all of your statutes.”
Remember, David was declared righteous, but many of his oppressors did not agree with God’s declaration over David’s life. David may very well have been calling out for justice once again.
Though David’s circumstances may look different than our present-day life, we can each identify with obstacles that have conspired to keep us from walking in God’s truth. Be that cultural prohibitions, personal sinfulness, poor teaching, or a half-hearted approach to faith, we each face unique challenges to keeping God’s statutes and subsequently need his help in overcoming them.
In other words no matter what David was facing, the point is still the same. Blessed people walk in God’s ways. God declared His ways that WE should walk in them. But we need God to teach and enable us to walk in those ways! What follows are the rewards of the blessed life.Blessed people walk in God’s ways. God declared His ways that WE should walk in them. But we need God to teach and enable us to walk in those ways! Click To Tweet
Then I shall not be ashamed When I look upon all Your commandments. Psalm 119:6 (NASB)
The implication within verse six is that David was (and we will be) ashamed when we look upon God’s commandments if we are not/have not been established in the place where we are able to keep God’s statutes. As before, the type of shame we feel or experience might look different than what David felt or experienced, but the point is still the same.
If it is true (and I believe it is) that David was dealing with an inability to keep certain laws because of oppression, verse 6 seems to be his way of saying, “God, if you override my oppressors and establish me back on a right footing, then I will be able to keep statutes, then I won’t be ashamed.”
There are certain commandments David was simply unable to carry out. Even though it was not his fault, as a devout Jew, David felt shame for his inability to walk in God’s statutes. I don’t think we understand this level of humility. I don’t think we understand this level of reverence.
This is similar to Ezra’s cry in Ezra 9 when the prophet cried out to God because the remnant who had returned from Babylon immediately fell back into the same sins that had led to their exile. Ezra cried, “WE have sinned against you.” Right away, we might wonder why Ezra is apologizing. This wasn’t his sin. He hadn’t done anything.
We can ask the same thing about David’s circumstance. Why was David looking upon any commandment that he can’t do with a sense of shame? One answer seems to be that David’s belief in the holiness of God was so profound that it drove a corresponding need to obey no matter the obstacle. This is powerful.
Though our own challenges will look different than what David faced, we can still hold to this same belief in God’s holiness. We can still deeply believe that keeping God’s word will keep us from shame.David’s belief in the holiness of God was so profound that it drove a corresponding need to obey no matter the obstacle. #obedience Click To Tweet
Shame on Us
We aren’t David, and we aren’t being kept from obedience because we are on the run for our lives. But, we still face different types of shame depending on what obstacles conspire to keep us from walking out God’s commandments. Let’s explore a few.
Maybe we are faced with the obstacle of being what Proverbs calls a fool. Being firmly rooted in the word of God brings wisdom. When we lack wisdom, we act like fools. This brings shame upon us. Proverbs 3:35 says, “The wise will inherit honor, but fools display dishonor.”
Maybe our obstacle is that we are entertaining the passing pleasures of sin rather than hiding God’s word in our heart (Psalms 119:11). When we forsake the light of God’s word, we will walk in the dark of sin, foolishness, and unrighteousness. This heaps shame and chaos into our lives (Genesis 3:10/1 Corinthians 6/James 3:13-18) and brings grief, embarrassment, and bitterness to those we love (Proverbs 17:25/Proverbs 10:1). It also reflects poorly on the King we say we represent, bringing shame to his holy name (Malachi 1). And, its end result will be our shameful disconnect from our brothers and sisters in Christ (2 Thessalonians 3:14).
Lastly, maybe the obstacle we face is not knowing we have a personal responsibility to study God’s word. This can shame us when we share our faith. 1 Peter 3:15 says that we must always be ready to give a defense for the hope that is within us. The word translated ‘defense’ is the same Greek word we derive the modern idea of apologetics from.
We are exhorted to always be ready to give a reasoned defense of our faith. We are to be always ready to build a case for our belief. But how can we accomplish this if we haven’t cared enough to study the Scripture upon which we must build the foundation for our case?
This inability often leads to mockery from the world. But, if we have studied, if we are ready, then the shame is on the one who mocks us, not on the belief we hold.
Regardless of the shame we presently wrestle with, if we will look on God’s word (and do it) that shame will vanish from our minds. David has a humility and an earnestness to never give the devil a foothold. He knows that those who walk in God’s ways are blessed, he knows that God’s ways are established in His word and now in humility David cries out to God that he never wants to look on any of God’s commands with shame. He personally wants to be counted among the ‘they’ of verses one through three.
God’s Commands are not Burdensome
I shall give thanks to You with uprightness of heart When I learn Your righteous judgments. Psalm 119:7 (NASB)
God’s word is good. God’s word is true. It’s fascinating that David would say, “I’m going to give thanks to you with uprightness of heart when I learn your righteous judgments.” Contrary to popular belief, God’s judgments are not something to bemoan and to complain about. They are not something to fight against. No, they are good and true. They should provoke us to rejoice.
Returning to Matthew 5:12 and the Beatitudes, we see Jesus saying, “Rejoice and be glad for your reward in heaven is great for, in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Why wouldn’t we be grateful and rejoice when we realize that God’s word brings restoration, wisdom, joy, a brighter outlook, cleansing, truth, beauty, sweetness, protection, and reward? (Psalm 19:7-11)God's judgments are not something to bemoan and to complain about. They are not something to fight against. No, they are good and true. They should provoke us to rejoice. Click To Tweet
What is Worship?
Before we move to our final verse let me point out something that I see in the modern church that has to be rightly understood and re-ordered. How and when does worship come according to this Psalm? What is worship and what is the order of operations? Does David say he will worship (meaning sing) his way into obedience? Or is it the other way round and far more profound?
David says, “I shall give thanks to you with uprightness of heart…” So how does he worship? Obedience. John 4:23 says, “Worship the father in spirit and in truth.” (See also Romans 12:1) What’s the order? David said, “When I learn Your righteous judgments.” In other words David (as I said at the outset) knew that the blessed are those who walk in God’s word, God’s word was purposed for us to obey, and David wanted to be among the ‘they.’ When this happens not only will shame be gone but worship will have taken it’s place.Does David say he will #worship (sing) his way into #obedience? Or is it the other way round and far more profound? Click To Tweet
Will God Forsake Us?
I shall keep Your statutes; Do not forsake me utterly! Psalm 119:8 (NASB)
Again, this is an interesting bit of language. Crying out that God would not forsake him seems to be a strange statement from David. But I don’t believe for one second that this was David expecting the shoe to drop or for the hammer to fall. David wasn’t under the impression that God was going to write him off someday. Instead, I believe David understood God loved him and knew he was a man after God’s heart.
This isn’t the only time we hear this language from David. Psalm 71:9 “Do not cast me off in the time of old age. Do not forsake me when my strength fails.” or Psalm 71:18 “Even when I am old and gray, Oh God, do not forsake me until I declare Your strength to this generation, your power to all who are to come.”
The forsaking David mentions in these contexts seems a lot like he fears that God will put him out to pasture as a ruler or take away his influence. It sounds like, “Don’t forsake me until I’ve proclaimed your name to this generation.” Again, what it seems David was saying is that he wanted God not to put him away from service, not to lay him aside. Instead, he wanted that God would restore him. David’s true desire is to always be among the “they.”
The truly blessed walk in God’s ways, God’s ways are found in His word, and you and I (like David) should humbly look to God for the knowledge and ability to walk in them all the days of our lives. We may not fully understand why God commands us to walk a certain way but what we need to be certain of is that the blessed walk by faith.The #blessed walk by #faith. #Psalm 119:1-8 Click To Tweet
How have you dealt with shame after not being able to follow God in the way you know you should? I’d love to hear your story. Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.