World has its formulas for happiness: don’t worry, be happy; mind over matter, if you don’t mind it don’t matter; do this, get that, you’ll be fine; how to be in your happy place in 5 easy steps…with pictures! If you still think it might work, check out Ecclesiastes!
Should be no surprise: as Ps. 119 is central to God’s Word, so God’s Word central to life….lived right. And, God’s Word is central to Ps. 119: “Students disagree on this, but it appears that every verse contains a direct mention of God’s Word except seven: verses 3, 37, 84, 90, 121, 122, and 132.” Wiersbe
“The unknown author used eight different words for the Scriptures: law (tôrâh), testimony (‛êdâh), precept (piqqûd), statute (chôq), commandment (mitsvâh), judgment (mishpâṭ), word (dâbâr), and promise (‘imrâh). All eight are found in 33–40, 41–48, 57–64, 73–80, 81–88, and 129–136.” “Promise” 12x or 13x depending on version, all as “word” (42x) in KJV/NKJV/NASB.
A few other things in general about the entire psalm: is like listening in on personal conversation between psalmist and God, expressing devotion and commitment. Is a composition that both presumes and expects change – as author lives out commitment to God’s word, he both desires and expects to be changed by it. Not simply interested in external change, is concerned with his “heart” (15x), the very core of his being and totality of his immaterial nature (emotion, thought and will). Repeatedly asks God to give understanding (5x), that God would teach him (9x) so he might live and love more pleasing to God.
So…if you intend to sincerely enter into the spirit and teaching of this psalm, expect to be changed.
A (aleph) is the foundational principle to Christian living: happiness comes from holiness. If you aren’t holy, you aren’t happy, and if you want to be happy, try holiness (this is why this stanza alone, but also bet and het, are powerful antidotes to the Jesus-plus-Nothing/let-go-let-God approach to sanctification). BTW, the world (the media, your unbelieving friends and neighbors) thanks to Satan’s influence aggressively and purposefully promotes its own substitutes – don’t be seduced. Be sure God’s word is central in your life – the Bible understood and applied by the Spirit is best antidote to Satan’s poison.
If sermon topic is correct, if true happiness is impossible without holiness, what can we learn about holy people from these eight verses?
A. holy people have a holy walk v.1, 3
“undefiled in the way” = holy people – this is our calling:
1 Pet. 1:15-16but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
1 Pet. 2:9 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
walk in the law – comprehensive term, means “God’s revealed will for his people for all of life”
describes guiding principles for those who are blameless (undefiled) – they live according to principles declared in God’s word as regular habit
do no iniquity
“What it is to do iniquity? If we make it our trade and practice to continue in wilful disobedience. To sin is one thing, but to make sin our work is another.” Manton
constant aim is to do what is right, pleasing to God, sinful behavior is the exception; also…turn away from sinful thoughts/actions ASAP, as soon as aware of sinfulness
walk in his ways
another way of saying “walk in his law”…and more: includes everything we know God expects even if not explicitly commanded – shown by Christ’s example, revealed in God’s character
B. holy people have a holy heart v.2, 7
seek him whole-heartedly – do not have divided loyalty, trying to be devoted to both God and the world
that part of our heart not fully devoted to God never stays in its corner; always wants to take more territory – we need to show it the door, not push it back out of sight
result of full devotion to God: keep his testimonies / observe his rules without holding back or grudging; will experience joy and blessing from knowing we are pleasing Heavenly Father
upright heart = sincerity
better to be silent than worship God insincerely – saying the words but not feeling the love; saying right thing but not really believing it; directing praise to God but desiring some for self (look at how spiritual he is)
“Heart-fellowship with God is enjoyed through a love of that word which is God’s way of communing with the soul by his Holy Spirit. You are not only instructed, but influenced to holy emotion, and helped to express the same.” CHS
C. holy people have a commitment to holiness v.4-6
requires constant attention and thought, deliberately evaluating thoughts and actions and choices
predisposed to obedience
desire that default would be to obey; how much nicer – walking with dog rather than being taken for walk by dog – same for our own inclinations to obedience
longer time on road (Christian life) should mean greater holiness, greater likelihood we will do what is right
“There can be no true piety except where a man intends to keep all the commands of God. If he makes a selection among them, keeping this one or that one, as may be most convenient for him, or as may be most for his interest, or as may be most popular, it is full proof that he knows nothing of the nature of true religion. A child has no proper respect for a parent if he obeys him only as shall suit his whim or his convenience; and no man can be a pious man who does not purpose, in all honesty, to keep All the commandments of God; to submit to his will in everything.” Barnes
D. holy people desire to grow v.7
thirst for learning in order to praise
God’s laws show his glory just as his works do – Psa. 19 first half, what we see with our eyes; second half, what we see with our minds
require different sort of study – considering principles and people instead of simply power; God’s righteous judgments and their application show many more aspects of God’s character: wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, truth in relationship to his creatures
has different kind of effect – true Holy Spirit enabled comprehension of God’s Word and its application changes how we think and act
don’t lose sight of goal: learning / studying God’s word when done right results in changed relationship with God
should be equipped to praise him more adequately because we know him better, love him more, and are more fully devoted to him
E. holy people are dependent v.8
commitment to obedience requires constant supply of God’s grace
New Year’s Resolutions?? – pretty much a standard joke, how long will you keep them? resolution to keep God’s statutes is good and proper but….don’t even think about trying it alone
only way we can keep God’s commands in any capacity is by his grace; only way our keeping is acceptable is when God graciously condescends and accepts his own work in us
self-confidence is deadly to our obedience and our souls
1 Cor. 10:12-13Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
F. holiness results in happiness v.1-2
walk in God’s way to find happiness
notice order here: it is those who are blameless, who are walking right way in right direction whom God blesses
addressed this in teaching on biblical worldview: all other worldviews are distortions of truth, conflict is inherent
seek God wholeheartedly to find happiness
God must be the goal in order to experience full blessing; even benefits from God, good as they are, often only temporary
only God himself can fully satisfy – best part of the Gospel not the gift of eternal life, is gift of God giving himself to his children: Father, Brother, Comforter
World’s view – happiness is the goal, concept that is embedded in American culture. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” God’s word makes abundantly clear: pursuit of happiness is fool’s errand.
Principle found consistently in Bible: happiness / blessing are result of pursuing God, seeking God, obeying God because we love God. So what does that mean in practical terms?
1. Are you unhappy? down in the dumps? discontented? feeling like something is missing? Take your spiritual temperature – make sure to spend adequate time in prayer, Bible study, meditation, worship and fellowship – consciously purposefully do the things that will encourage growth in holiness. Note: that may mean saying “no” to some other things
2. Is Christian brother or sister down in the mouth? a drag to be around? the death of the party? Pray with them; share what you have learned from Bible study and meditation; ask what they are gaining from their own study/meditation; urge them to be faithful in worship; include them in fellowship
3. Is someone close to you seriously unhappy, frustrated with emptiness of pursuing happiness as a goal? Show what it means to live under umbrella of God’s blessing. Tell them how living out principles of these 8 verses brings happiness and blessing like nothing else, that has true and lasting substance.
Above all….Take Time To Be Holy