Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord. Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart— they do no wrong but follow his ways.
Psalm 119:1-3 (NIV)
Read: Psalm 119:1-8
Consider: Between March and May 2018, I wrote a series of devotionals on Psalm 119. My reason for doing so was that this psalm is often ignored by readers due to its overall length and is rarely preached on in sermon series. The psalm contains 176 verses, broken down into 22 sections of 8 verses each. It is an acrostic poem and in the original Hebrew each verse in a section starts with the same Hebrew letter.
At the opening of the psalm, the psalmist uses a Hebrew word that is translated as ‘blessed’, but could also be rendered as ‘happy’. The world tells us that happiness can be found in having more wealth, a larger house, a bigger car, an important job, etc. However, it is clear from the lives of people who surround themselves with the trappings of success, that any happiness they feel is shallow and transient. I’ve often wondered why we speak of having the ‘trappings’ of success? Do you notice the word ‘trap’ in ‘trappings’? The trappings of success may give the outward appearance of success and happiness, but inwardly they leave a person feeling empty and discontented. If you’ve read the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible you will know that it describes the life of a man who seeks happiness and contentment in every possible pleasure and material possession the world can offer. As a wealthy man (possibly King Solomon), there was nothing that he could be denied, yet his summation of all this was: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Everything is meaningless!” (Ecclesiastes 12:8).
True happiness cannot be found in wealth, possessions or status. It can, however, be found in a life that submits itself to God’s rule and authority. This is counter to what the world expects, as society will tell you that becoming a Christian means giving up what you enjoy to live a life of restrictions. Jim Elliot, a missionary to the Huaorani people of Ecuador, said this of becoming a Christian: He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. This echoes what Jesus said in Mark’s gospel: For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? (Mark 8:35-37). Jim Elliot, together with four other missionaries, died at the hands of the Huaorani people on 8th January 1956, aged only 28. Some may consider this a life wasted and cut short? Jim Elliot’s wife, Elisabeth, wrote about their experiences in Ecuador in the book Through Gates of Splendor. Elisabeth’s book was published in 1957, just one year after her husband’s death, yet she could say: ‘My joy is full’.
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).
Pray: Father, may we come to know and experience the true happiness that can only be found in a life that is redeemed through the death of Jesus on the cross. May your joy fill our hearts in ways that demonstrate to the world that Christ reigns in our lives. Amen