Psalm 119:1-8. Humanity’s Greatest Happiness

This portion of the psalm may be considered as the statement of a believer’s experience…

PSALM 119:1-8

ALEPH.
1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!

  • All aim at happiness, but only the virtuous take the proper means to attain it. (St. Augustine)

2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, 

  • His testimonies. The commandments of God are called his testimonies, because they testify his holy will unto us. We must search the law, not out of curiosity, but to practice it; otherwise we shall become more guilty. (Haydock)

3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! 

  • Ways. They may, however, repent. The just are subject to fall.
  • If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. – 1 Jn 1:8

4 Thou hast commanded thy precepts to be kept diligently. 

  • Diligently. Literally “too much.” But this is a Hebrew idiom, to imply the greatest diligence. (Haydock)

5 O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping thy statutes! 

  • O! that. Conscious of his own insufficiency, the psalmist prays for grace to be justified. Moses acknowledged that man could not observe the law without Christ.
  • “For this commandment which I command you this day is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.” – Deut 30:11-14.
  • Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on the law shall live by it. But the righteousness based on faith says, Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascent into heaven?” (that is, to bring Christ down) or “Who will descend into the abyss?” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach); because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For man believe with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved. – Romans 10:5-10.

6 Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all thy commandments. 

  • All. At the day of judgment, it will not suffice to have observed only some of the commandments. (St. Jerome & St. Ambrose)

7 I will praise thee with an upright heart, when I learn thy righteous ordinances. 

  • A hymn of praise is not fitting on the lips of a sinner, for it has not been sent from the Lord. For a hymn of praise should be uttered in wisdom, and the Lord will prosper it. – Sirach 15:9-10.

8 I will observe thy statutes; O forsake me not utterly!

  • Utterly. It may be advantageous to us to be left awhile, that we may know our own weakness. (St. Gregory)
  • He (and you) may always at least have recourse to prayer: Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thess 5:16-18.
  • The neglect of this duty is the cause of so many falls.

Jesus said, “If you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” This statement of our Savior is very helpful for salvation, and we must ponder it attentively. We will be blessed if we know the heavenly commands, yet still more so if we eagerly pursue in our works the things that we know. One who neglects to keep his known commandments is not capable of being happy; one who scorns finding out about these [commandments] is separated much further away from the heritage of the blessed. The psalmist agrees with this. Weighing the hearts of mortals and in like manner perceiving that everyone loves happiness but few ask where it is, he clearly testified as to what is the greatest happiness of human beings in this life, saying, “Blessed are those who are undefiled in the way, who walk in the Lord’s law.” And lest it be supposed that this way of the undefiled and blessed can be laid hold of indiscriminately by the ignorant and the untaught, he subsequently continued and said, “Blessed are they who search his testimonies and seek him with their whole heart.” – Bede*, Homilies on the Gospels 2.5.

*Bede the Venerable (c.672/673-735). Born in Northumbria, at the age of seven, he was put under the care of the Benedictine monks of Saints Peter and Paul at Jarrow and given a broad classical education in the monastic tradition. Considered one of the most learned men of his age.

Why is it that in a country of laws, and one as litigious as the United States, these laws of God as manifested in Christ are so wantonly ignored? So many seem to have an attorney on speed dial. During this time of Lent let’s take our eyes off of ourselves and our grievances and instead take a hard look at walking a different Way.

Intro to Series is here
Next: Psalm 119:9-16

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