ESV Aleph 1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! 2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, 3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! 4 You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. 5 Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! 6 Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. 7 I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules. 8 I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me!
CSB א Aleph 1 How happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk according to the LORD’s instruction! 2 Happy are those who keep his decrees and seek him with all their heart. 3 They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways. 4 You have commanded that your precepts be diligently kept. 5 If only my ways were committed to keeping your statutes! 6 Then I would not be ashamed when I think about all your commands. 7 I will praise you with an upright heart when I learn your righteous judgments. 8 I will keep your statutes; never abandon me.
ʾašrê (אַשְׁרֵי) can be translated in English as either blessed or happy (vv 1-2) and I absolutely LOVE how this psalm opens “on a note exclaiming the happiness of those who walk according to the Lord’s instruction” (D. Estes, Psalms 73-150 NAC, 2019, p. 402).
There are many similarities to the opening of Psalm 119 and the opening of the Book of Psalms itself, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Ps 1:1-2 ESV, emphasis mine). Jesus also begins each Beatitude (Matt 5:3-11) stating, “blessed/happy are…” (for more on this see Mourning; Meek; Hunger, Thirst and Psalm 1; Mercy; Pure in Heart; Peace: Maker or Breaker?; Persecution).
Many English versions translate torah in verse 1 as law; however, Estes is correct when he says, “the CSB properly construes it as “instruction,” because its nuance is teaching or guidance” (D. Estes, Psalms 73-150 NAC, 2019, p. 402 see also Introduction to Psalm 119 for the different words used to refer to God’s Law). He also goes on to say, “The Lord instructs one how to lead a good and godly life. Self-direction does not lead to happiness, but the good life is ordered according to the way of the Lord” (pp. 402-403).
Walks and keeps are both participles meaning that God’s people are actively, continuously to walk in His instructions and to keep His testimonies/decrees. While seek is not a participle in the Hebrew, the imperfect aspect renders this an ongoing action. Ross states, “To seek the LORD with a whole heart means that they are completely occupied with the discernment of the LORD’s will revealed in his word. It is the people who keep God’s laws and diligently seek him who are blessed by him” (A. Ross, A Commentary on the Psalms (90-150) vol 3 KEL, 2016, p. 469).
The wise and blameless person does not just do “what is right before God but also avoids what is wrong” (Estes, p. 403). The wise and blameless person is the one who seeks God with their whole heart so that they may discern the lies of this world; “testing the spirits” (1 John 4:1) against the Truth of God’s Word.
Bible believing Christians need wisdom and discernment now more than ever and we gain wisdom by seeking God, meditating on His Word and surrounding ourselves with other likeminded believers as we evangelize/share Jesus with the lost.
The Lord “has commanded [His] precepts to be kept diligently” (v 4). These are not suggestions nor opinions. “Love for God receives expression in doing the will of God” (W. VanGemeren, Psalms REBC, 2008, p. 860) which is why the psalmist declares in his next verse, “Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!” (v 5).
“The psalmist further prays that no “shame” or ultimate disgrace may overtake him (v. 6). “Shame” in OT usage connotes abandonment by the Lord and condemnation to utter ruin, as happen to the enemies of God (cf. vv. 31, 46, 80; 6:10; 25:2; 83:17). In this prayer the psalmist intimates that he lives with adversity while walking in the way of the Lord. His lament is like a sobbing, and he prays that the Lord will have mercy on his servant” (VanGemeren, p. 861). Estes adds, “In Psalm 119 both active disobedience and passive neglect of God’s word lead to shame (cf. vv. 31, 46, 80). The psalmist must contemplate with favor all that God has commanded (cf. v. 15), not selecting what he prefers but obeying completely what the Lord has required” (p. 403).
In verse 7 the psalmist will praise the Lord with an upright heart when he learns God’s rules/decrees because he knows “the Lord blesses the righteous” (Ross, p. 473). The psalmist is not doing this for show nor as works based salvation and protection, but out of a heart (mind, will and emotions) that knows that God is who He says He is and He does what He says He will do.
The psalmist ends this first section saying that he will keep God’s statues/decrees but because “he is prone to incomplete commitment to the Lord’s commands (cf. vv. 5–6), he calls on the Lord not to abandon him” (Estes, p. 404).
Father God, Lord how blessed and happy we are when we walk in a manner that is pleasing to You. Although we may suffer for it, we know that You are with us. Lord God, help us to be a people who actively seek You with our whole hearts (mind, will and emotions) learning Your Word, and desiring to walk and follow in Your ways so that we may obey Your instructions. Lord God, help us to be a people who seek to be blameless, pure and holy in a world that values debauchery and filth in every area of life. Lord God, help us to grow in wisdom and discernment. Help us to test everything we see and hear against Scripture. Lord God, may we be a people who say that we will praise You even in the midst of adversity and not knowing what Your next plan is for us. Lord God, may we be reminded that for those who are seeking to keep Your Word that they will not be put to shame. Lord God, Your Word brings life and we thank You for it. Lord God, thank You for this reader and for the opportunity to study Your Word together. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.