Blessed are they whose ways are blameless,
Our ways are important to God – it’s our ways that make us stand out in the world. And what are these blameless ways? I think of James’ letter – Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (1:27) There’s an inner and an outer dimension to this walk – and being in a way that is merciful, faithful, generous, free is to blameless. The Lord blesses them – and these, in this psalm, are his words of blessing. Those who receive the blessing are those justified by faith, believing and carrying no sin.
who walk according to the way of the Lord.
This means our walk is defined by the God’s word: his law is the definitive guide to every step and the entire trek – our stumbling, childlike toddle and our youthful racing. The beginning of our responsibility to crawl forward like a baby, and begin to rise to our feet!
Blessed are they who keep his statutes
and seek him with all of their heart.
To keep his law and to follow his law is to seek him. To be obedient is to prove that you are willing to be visited by the Spirit. The greatest treat or happiness we can have is to be in the place of seeking God.
They do nothing wrong:
they walk in his ways.
Because they don’t fear stepping out of God’s will, they know the height and width and breadth of his love for them, so his ways are explorable, free, open – what we might call free-grazing!
You have laid down precepts
that are to be fully obeyed.
Yes, commands and instructions that are only valuable when we carry them out to the end – when we complete the task and finish the race. And to fulfil things like this – when we have no strength? God promises to be our strength – they shall run and not grow weary – and so we don’t fulfil these instructions by the letter but by the Spirit – by God’s grace. These precepts are foundational for us – their weight is indicated when the psalmist says ‘You have laid down…’ as if they were flagstones or paving on the road. And this is a prophetic address to Jesus, too. He has laid down instructions that, fully obeyed, become a firm and plain pathway to walk, to run, through life, almost fulfilling themselves in us rather than requiring us to fulfil them.
Oh that my ways were steadfast
in obeying your decrees!
After receiving revelation of the great value of God’s word, what else can we do but cry out in sorrow for our failure and in desire for their good! This is our new heart’s cry – the Spirit of life within us cries this out to God – as did Jesus, who loved to obey his father and longed to follow his decrees, even unto death.
Then I would not be put to shame
when I consider all your commands.
Because our conscience will shame us if we think honestly – for all the commands convict us, sooner or later. If one does, then the whole law does. But a right sense of shame only exalts God higher, in thankfulness for Jesus and in adoration of God’s holiness. And when we realise that it is God’s single purpose to bring about his kingdom by changing us so that we do indeed become steadfast and obedient, then we will worship even more, knowing that we can be free of shame.
I will praise you with an upright heart
as I learn your righteous laws.
The process of being shamed and of continuing is the process of learning the law of love – and our redeemed heart will continue to praise God all through the process of sanctification – all through the increasing revelation of God’s plan – even while we read this psalm. Not a thing can happen but, taken rightly, it will lead us to praise God.
I will obey your decrees;
do not utterly forsake me.
Yes, it will happen. My obedience to your word, O God, will happen, not because of me but because of what you have promised, again and again. It will happen because you, yourself, are training me in righteousness. To leave me without shame and with no conviction would be worse than to suffer correction, so do not forsake me. What we have now from you is good for us.