Psalms 119:1-8 Blessed are
the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord!
2 Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart!
3 They also do no iniquity; they walk in His ways.
4 You have commanded us to keep Your precepts diligently.
5 Oh, that my ways were directed to keep Your statutes!
6 Then I would not be ashamed, when I look into all Your commandments.
7 I will praise You with uprightness of heart, when I learn Your righteous judgments.
8 I will keep Your statutes; oh, do not forsake me utterly!
The 119th Psalm is an alphabetical or acrostic Psalm. There are 176 verses divided into 22 sets of 8 verses each, answering to the 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Each verse in the first set of 8 verses begins with the Hebrew letter aleph; the second set begins with the second Hebrew letter beth; and so on for the remaining sets. For this reason we have titled the commentary on this first set aleph.
Verse 1 Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord!
Since there are some who are called “the undefiled” there must also be some who would be called “the defiled”. We should not be quick to assume that only the “undefiled” are Christians and the “defiled” are not. The Scriptures are written to God’s people and for God’s people. Thus, we understand that both the “undefiled” and the “defiled” are Christians. I will explain how that is so.
The adamic nature we inherited is a defiled nature, and after we repent for our sins and become Christians the defiled nature of Adam is still with us. In that sense, we are all defiled. But the Psalmist tells us that those who walk in the law of the Lord are undefiled. There is a way in which God counts us as undefiled when we are progressing spiritually in the divine instructions of the Lord.
The Hebrew word for “law” is torah, which means “divine instructions or teachings”. The word “walk” indicates forward progress. Therefore, those who are really walking in God’s divine instructions are called “the undefiled”. Abraham walked with God. He was led by the divine instructions of God. For that reason the Lord counted him righteous (Genesis 15:6). Abraham still carried the fallen nature he inherited from Adam; he still had many fleshly problems, but because he had committed his way to the Lord he was deemed undefiled.
As we can see, the defilement of the adamic nature remains a problem if we are not advancing spiritually in our relationship with the Lord. Spiritual progress has a cleansing effect upon the defilement of our flesh. If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. I John 1:7. This is not speaking of being forgiven for sins committed. This is talking about being cleansed from the defilement of our sinful flesh nature. The most common and most deadly sin among Christians is the sin of not progressing spiritually in the Lord, and deception always moves in to make the Christian think he is growing spiritually when he is not. Therefore, blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord!
Verse 2 Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart!
The testimonies of the Lord are His charges unto His people. For example, God had made a covenant with Israel and His testimonies or charges through Moses revealed how they were to live according to that covenant. The testimonies of the Lord revealed His will for His people. Everything involving their ceremonies, rituals and offerings, their relationship with God and with one another was set forth before them. In particular His testimonies were to enable them to enter into the land God was giving them and to teach them how they were to serve the Lord there. In a very real sense the testimonies of the Lord are to lead and teach. The law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. Galatians 3:24.
Notice that verse two is also speaking of spiritual progress. The key to keeping the testimonies of the Lord is to seek Him with the whole heart. Do you know how to seek the Lord with a whole heart? Do you even know what it means to seek the Lord? We do not seek Him because He is lost. We seek Him because of the vast chasm between us and Him. Regardless of where you are in your spiritual growth there is still much of the Lord that you do not yet know. Even if you have obtained all that the Apostle Paul walked in there is still more of God. Do you remember what he said? Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14.
Jeremiah had a lot to say about the heart. It is a common thing for Christians to think more highly of themselves than they ought to think (Romans 12:3). That is the thinking of a deceived heart, for the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9). God knows what your heart is like. He knows your heart is desperately wicked; that was the Word of the Lord through Jeremiah. Yet, He also says: I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lor;, and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart (Jeremiah 24:7). Then in chapter 29 He says: For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all of your heart (Jeremiah 29:11-13). Can you believe this? Abraham believed God and He counted it for righteousness (Genesis 15:6).
Verse 3 They also do no iniquity; they walk in His ways.
Those who walk in His ways do no iniquity. How do we understand such a statement as this? It must be understood in the light of other scriptures such as I John 1:8. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. Human nature itself is sin, and all the self-discipline that we can muster up won’t be able to keep it from showing itself at times. Self-discipline itself will not keep us from doing any iniquity! We could spend a life-time dealing with the brush-fires of our adamic nature and never get anywhere. What is the answer? The answer is in our submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ that His life might come forth within us. It is the will of God for us to become as He is. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. Matthew 10:24-25. His life must come forth in us (II Thessalonians 1:10).
The emphasis up to this point in this psalm has been spiritual growth. We are not going to neglect the suppression of our sinful nature. We will repent for any iniquity and set our hearts to not let it happen again, but our primary dedication and determination will be the appropriation of the divine nature of our Lord! Spiritual growth into His fullness is the answer! We will walk in the divine instructions of the Lord and He will count it as righteousness. We will grow from glory to glory being transformed into His image and likeness (II Corinthians 3:18).
We will walk in His ways, not our own ways! Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes unto the Father except through Him (John 14:6). The Lord Jesus is the Way, the only Way. Yet His ways are many. The revelation of Him comes to us through many ways. Those He has chosen to minister through are His ways. Moses was a way, Samuel was a way, Isaiah was a way, the apostle Paul was a way, and many other men and women of God both in the Scriptures and also since that time have been ways for the revelation of Him to come to us. Therefore, we must know the ones He sends and receive them as the ways of the Lord, for they are the channels for the revelations and comings of the Lord. For I say unto you, You shall not see Me henceforth till you say, Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord. Matthew 23:39.
Verse 4 You have commanded us to keep Your precepts diligently.
The precepts of the Lord are the guidelines and directives made available to us that we might become His will. They come by way of His grace through those He has chosen as His ways. The apostle Paul, for example, presents this principle in his epistles. His letters are filled with the precepts of the Lord, showing us how we should walk with God. First, though, he begins his letters by saying: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Then the rest of his letter is given to ministering the precepts that we are commanded to keep. Oh, the riches of His grace toward us who believe! His grace is toward us that we might receive His precepts and it is His grace that creates the “ways” for them to be ministered to us. Paul was very aware of the grace of God enabling him to minister His will. By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. I Corinthians 15:10.
I wonder sometime if we realize how wonderful the teachings of the Lord are. Are we aware of the tremendous treasure we have in our Bibles? May the Lord grant unto us a revelation of the riches of His Word; a revelation like that which the Psalmist had. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward. Psalm 19:7-11.
Verse 5 Oh, that my ways were directed to keep Your statutes!
The moment you really begin trying to keep the statutes and commandments of God is when you also begin experiencing failure after failure. This rude awakening of your inability to be faithful is when you say: Oh, that my ways were directed to keep Your statutes! This is when you understand what Jeremiah meant when he said that the heart was desperately wicked. More importantly, though, it is also when you begin to understand and appreciate the grace, mercy, and love of the Lord.
It usually takes some spiritual growth before one realizes his inability to keep the statutes of the Lord. It takes a while for him to understand that it isn’t only what he does that displeases the Lord but what he is. The sinful acts come out of a sinful nature. Once he realizes that he sets his heart to discipline his actions. Then comes the stark realization that human nature cannot be changed through discipline. Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil. Jeremiah 13:23. Even if you were to keep all the commandments from your youth, as the rich young ruler did in Matthew 19:16-22, you would still be a sinner, for it is the nature of man that is sin not merely the actions. This realization brings the response: Oh that my ways were directed to keep Your statutes!
Verse 6 Then I would not be ashamed, when I look into all Your commandments.
The one really desiring to know and walk with the Lord first comes into an awareness of his utter inability to do so. He realizes what Paul meant when he said, “There is none who does good, no, not one” (Romans 3:12). Realizing this he says, Oh, that my ways were directed to keep Your statutes! Then I would not be ashamed, when I look into all Your commandments.
When I look into His commandments I am ashamed because I know I cannot keep them. What do I do? How can I be directed to keep His commandments? Another look into His commandments is needed – a deeper look! James gives us the answer in his epistle. Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. James 1:22-25. James says that we are to look beyond the commandments into the “perfect law of liberty.” How do we do that?
We need to learn the language of the Scriptures. A commandment in the “perfect law of liberty” is a provision. For example, when God says, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy, it is not just a commandment of what you should do. The “perfect law of liberty” means that it is a provision. In other words, God is saying, “Because I am holy, I can make you holy.”
Now, James says to be a doer and not just a hearer. As a commandment you can’t do that in yourself; so see it as a provision of the “perfect law of liberty.” Say to the Lord, “Lord, here is my life. You be the doer through me. I give you my life as a channel for You to work Your will. You be the doer through me.” That is what Jesus did. He said, “The Father who dwells in Me does the works” (John 14:10). Do you see it? As long as we are trying to do works for God we will be ashamed. Our ways are directed to keep His statutes when it is the Lord working through us. By the way, that is also how our man nature is cleansed and purified. His life flowing through us is the only way our sinful nature can be cleansed.
Verse 7 I will praise You with uprightness of heart, when I learn Your righteous judgments.
To learn the righteous judgments of God is to learn His ways, and His ways are not the ways of men. For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9. We are told in Psalm 103:7 that the children of Israel saw the acts of God but Moses knew His ways. We do not only want to see what God is doing; we want to know His ways. We want to be involved in what He is doing. In fact, we want Him to do it through us. Therefore, it is necessary to learn His righteous judgments. Needless to say, a tremendous change is necessary, for man cannot know the things of God. As it is written: Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit…The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. I Corinthians 2:9-10, 14.
Learning the righteous judgments of God requires a transformation, a renewing of the mind. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2. Without this renewing of the mind a person cannot accurately understand the Scriptures. We touched on this in the comments on verse six, concerning the perfect law of liberty. We must learn to understand commandments as provisions. Do you remember Jesus saying that He didn’t come to destroy the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17)? We cannot fulfill the commandments of the Lord; He must fulfill them through us. When we learn the righteous judgments of God the Scriptures will take on a completely different meaning; we will have a new Bible. The Word will be written upon our hearts and fulfilled by the Christ within us. Then we will be able to really praise and worship the Lord in spirit and truth.
Verse 8 I will keep Your statutes; oh, do not forsake me utterly!
Christ in you is the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27), and Christ functioning through you is the glory (II Thessalonians 1:10). Trying to be what God wants you to be and do what He wants you to do apart from Him is the bondage of religion. Open your heart to the presence of the Lord. Let Him fulfill His Word in you. The majority of the Christian world is trying to please God while living apart from Him. It can’t be done! If God is sitting on a throne up in the heavens somewhere, it is your own fault. His desire is for His throne to be in your heart. He wants to rule and reign in you and through you. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? I Corinthians 3:16.
When the Psalmist says, “I will keep Your statutes,” he knows he can’t do that in himself. That is why he adds, “Oh, do not forsake me utterly!” He knows that it must be the Lord keeping His statutes in him, and should the Lord forsake him, he would not be able to keep them. Are you having difficulty keeping the commandments of the Lord? You are trying to do it by yourself. You can’t please the Lord that way. Let the Lord fulfill His Word in you and through you.
Speaking through Jeremiah the Lord said, I will give them a heart to know Me (Jeremiah 24:7). The heart He gives us is the heart of Christ. Again the Lord said: I will give you a new heart and put a new Spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh, and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Ezekiel 36:26-27. We will walk in His statutes and keep His judgments because it will be the Lord in us accomplishing it. Jesus said, “I can of Myself do nothing” (John 5:30). Are we better than He? No, of course not! We can of ourselves do nothing. It was the Father working through Jesus Christ and it will have to be the Lord Jesus working through us. Amen!
Copyright © 2005 by Henry DuBose