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The Christian in the midst of the world is an a-b-c child of God. He must learn the first principles of walking as a child of light in a world of darkness, sin and death. Such learning is really a lifelong task! 

That we are such little children, who must daily learn to give heed to the law of God is very evident from our entire life as a Christian in the midst. of this world. Think, for instance, of our Sabbath. To keep the Sabbath implies that we maintain the ministry of the Word and the schools, diligently come to the congregation of God to learn His Word, use the Sacraments, give alms to the poor, and thus begin in this life the eternal Sabbath, by ceasing all the days of our life from sin, entering into the rest! 

Whoever has made even a superficial study of the 119th Psalm will have noticed that this Psalm is preeminently an alphabet Psalm. It is formally controlled by the Hebrew alphabet. There are one hundred seventy-six verses in this Psalm. These are divided into twenty-two sections of eight verses each. Each verse in each of these sections begins with the character of the Hebrew alphabet. In fact, each Sine in each of these sections begins with the Hebrew character of that section. 

Thus in the verses 1-8, now under consideration, each line begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It begins with aleph. We have the a-b-c of the Christian’s life of thankfulness portrayed here in this Psalm. It is the song upon the law, the blessedness of those keeping the commandments of the Lord. 

This section reads in full as follows: Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in, the law of the Lord. Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways. Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments. I will keep thy statutes: Oh, forsake me not utterly

It should not escape our notice that in this section the psalmist strikes the key-note of the entire Psalm. We have here the “theme” of this entire marvelous composition from the heart and pen of the psalmist. This implies that in this “aleph” of this psalm the entire “alphabet” is implied. For the law of God is one. Thus it is in the great “Shamah” (Hear, Israel . . .) and thus it is also here. Thus the church, who can put spiritual things with spiritual, has always interpreted the law as the rule of good works of thankfulness. Does not Question 114 of the Heidelberg Catechism teach “that the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience; yet so, that with a sincere resolution they begin to live, not only according to some, but all of God’s commandments“? We should, while emphasizing the former over against the “perfectionist,” not forget to emphasize the latter over against the propensities of the flesh to walk in sinful license! Both the perfectionist and the antinomist are a great and perpetual evil under the sun. 

How different it is with the psalmist. He does not desire to walk according to his own lusts, which war against the soul, but he would walk according to the “law of the LORD” with his whole heart. He would be “undefiled” in the way. The Hebrew term for “undefiled” really means that which is perfect, whole, sincere. The German translation has “ohne Tadel,” that is, without rebuke, reprimand, censure, reproof or fault. The Holland translation has “de oprechten,” that is, the upright, who do not depart from the perpendicular line of God’s precepts. 

The straight line here, the norm of all godly conduct is the law of Jehovah. 

This is not a grievous yoke in the eyes of the Psalmist, but it is the object of all his delight. 

The law of the LORD is not simply the law upon tables of stone, the letter which kills (II Cor. 3) but it is the law as it is fulfilled in Christ, and as it is ours in the ministry of the Holy Spirit. In this Spirit we have been renewed after God’s image so that with our entire life we may show our thankfulness to God! (Question 86 of Heidelberg Catechism). And thus the law is the rule for a life of thankfulness. Good works ought to be performed. Sanctification must be perfected in the fear of God (II Corinthians 7:1). And so the law is here the law as it is the rule of good works having the sanction Of God. Thus the law stands forth here as the rule for the people of God, who are a holy nation, a royal priesthood, a peculiar treasure of God, called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light to declare His praises! 

This law is found under the mercy-seat! Its just demands have been fully satisfied in Christ’s death. But now he writes it in our hearts through the Holy Spirit and by the preaching of the same! It is taken up in the Gospel promise. The law is established by faith (Romans 3:31)! 

Thus we have the law here in this beautiful Psalm. From many aspects its beauty and grandeur are recounted. It is the joy and delight of the reborn heart. 

This law is called by various other names and qualifications here in this “Aleph” section, verses 1-8. 

It is called preeminently by the term “way.” This implies that the law is a rule for our entire life and that we are to “walk” according to it. Of course, such a walk does not mean: merit! It means that we walk in the law of the Lord by a true and living faith. For it is impossible that they who are engrafted into Christ by a true faith should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness. (See Heidelberg Catechism, Questions 64, 86, 87; Belgic Confession, Article 24;Romans 6:1, 2Ephesians 2:10, etc.) 

Then too the law is called “precepts.” The Holland translates “bevelen.” The German translates “Befehle.” Precepts are the law from the viewpoint of its being a sacred charge to us. It puts us under obligation, under the “ought” of grace! Since we are “under grace” we ought to place our members servants of righteousness (Romans 6:1-14)! 

For these precepts are really “statutes.” This refers to law which is established by authoritative legislature. In the statute book of God as this lies upon the throne of God this is established. Heaven and earth may pass away but not one iota or tittle of this law shall pass away till it all be fulfilled (Matt. 5:17-20). 

Furthermore, it is for this very reason that this law is also “commandments,” that which ought to be done, and which cannot be neglected with impunity. 

Yet, even so, this law of Jehovah is a “righteous judgment.” The Holland translates “de rechten uwer gerechtigheid.” The German translates “die Rechte deiner Gerechtigkeit.” Here the psalmist qualifies the law from the viewpoint that there is nothing unfair in the law. It is all just what the law demands. For here the “can,” the “will” and the “must” can perfectly find their ultimate expression in the glories of heaven. The law of God is ethically altogether lovely in divine perfection as the rule for the child of God, conformed to God’s image. Is the law then evil, or has the good become evil to me? God forbid! For the law is holy, and the commandment holy, justand good. Romans 7:12

Now the psalmist would keep this law with hiswhole heart. He would not simply speak of it with his lips. His lips too must rejoice in the law. But with all his heart. The heart is the seat of our life in relationship to God and our neighbor. “Heart” is not to be identified with “mind.” In the Great Commandment Jesus notes: Heart, mind, soul, strength! Notice the order. He places “heart” on the foreground. Only when the heart is right toward the law will also the mind, soul and strength stand in the proper relationship to God. The mind is the conscious service of God with the heart. The soul is serving God with all our affections. And the strength is serving God with all the strength of the heart, mind and soul! That will be heaven’s great joy. The Great Commandment in our hearts! 

That life of heaven, of God’s tabernacle with man, the psalmist would here achieve. He cries out: o, that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes.When he hears the Lord say: Keep my statutes diligently, his heart responds: O that all my affections were directed, aimed at the keeping of thy law. For the psalmist has a delight in the law of the LORD, after the inward man. 

But he has a constant battle! 

He has to battle with the assaults of the devil, the world and his own flesh. And that, too, without ceasing! And he is so weak in himself that he cannot stand a moment. Hence, the longing outcry of the psalmist. He would diligently keep these commandments. But, the good that he would do he does not do. But the evil which he would not, that he does! He is wretched in his lot. He longs for the perfection. He longs to the “blessednesses” of the perfect in the way. The perfect satisfaction of those who fully walk as image-bearers of God he covets for himself. 

He longs in this “Aleph” not only to live according to some but according to all of God’s commandments, and that perfectly. 

But he also fears that he shall not. He knows that the Lord must constantly teach him. He would “learn” the righteousness of God’s judgments. When he learns this he will more fully seek these commandments with all his heart, will more and more crucify his old nature and walk in a new and holy life. For when a Christian does not seek the Lord with all his heart he comes to grief, falls into temptation, faith is interrupted, the Holy Spirit is grieved. And that to God’s child is worse than death. Then he does not taste the blessedness of the LORD! 

Hence, he prays: O, forsake me not utterly! The German translates: forsake me nevermore. The Holland translates: verlaat mij niet al te zeer, that is, do not forsake me beyond measure! How well we too know what that means when the Lord seems to forsake utterly. But we have a right to pray this prayer. For our Lord Jesus Christ by his inexpressible anguish, pains, terrors and hellish agonies, in which he was plunged during all his sufferings, but especially on the cross, hath delivered us from the torments and anguish of hell!

Now, we have a small beginning of the new obedience. O, do not forsake us utterly. Rather give us the blessed assurance that thou wilt make us willing henceforth to live unto thee! 

Such is the a-b-c of the life of God’s child in the world. 

Such is the struggle. But the victory is sure. I thank God, through Jesus Christ, my Lord!