Chapter 1
Keys to a Happy Life

Psalm 119:1-8

Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible with its 176 verses. It is almost the middle chapter of the Bible, chapter 117 being in the middle. The middle verse is 118:8.

Psalm 118:8—It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.

This chapter is of one of the acrostic psalms. It has 22 stanzas with eight verses each. Each stanza is represented by one of twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. For example, in this first section of eight verses, all the verses begin with the first Hebrew letter "aleph." This is why the word "Aleph" is the title of verses 1-8.

There are other acrostic psalms such as Psalm 9, 10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 145. Lamentations 3 has the same pattern as Psalm 119. The Jews used the alphabetic sequences to teach truth that was considered total and perfect. Proverb 31:10-31 is about the virtuous woman or the total, perfect woman. They are in alphabetic succession, each verse beginning with the succeeding letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

In Psalm 119, the Word of God is referred to in almost every verse of the chapter with the exception of a few. God's Word is referred to by terms such as law, word, judgments, testimony, statutes, commandments, precepts, sayings, and way. The fact that it is an acrostic from A to Z indicates the truth that God's written word is what we need to satisfy us from A to Z. Jesus Christ, the Living Word, taught this truth in Revelation 1:8, when He said, "I am the ALPHA and OMEGA." These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Christ and His Word are our all in all. Our attitude and relationship with the Word of God will be an indication of our relationship with the Son of God.

The number eight is predominant in this chapter as each stanza has eight verses. Eight is the number of resurrection, eternal life, and new beginning. If you want to receive eternal life and turn your life around with a new beginning, then the Word of God has the answers for that goal. Jesus is the "Living Word." It is interesting to note that the name Jesus has a numerical value of 888. God uses His Word to reach sinners for Christ in salvation and bring about a new beginning.

Romans 10:17—So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

2 Corinthians 5:17—Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

This chapter in Psalms has been called a "Golden Granary" for feeding the soul. There is a message in every verse for the hungry heart. Many lives have been touched by Psalm 119. It is almost an inexhaustible well of truth. Its depth is so vast and great that it is like the midnight waters lying on the floor of the sea. You cannot see everything for it is impossible. Charles Spurgeon in his Treasury of David devoted 349 pages to this chapter. Charles Bridges wrote 481 pages and the Puritan writer Thomas Manton wrote 1677 pages. There is not enough ink to describe the treasures contained within this chapter about God's precious Word.

William Wilberforce, the British statesman, who was largely responsible for the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire, wrote in his diary in 1819, "Walked today from Hyde Park Corner, repeating the 119th psalm in great comfort."

The pioneer missionary to India, Henry Martyn memorized Psalm 119 as an adult in 1804. His life was very difficult, but he confessed that the Bible alone gave him strength to keep going. He died of exhaustion in 1812. David Livingstone, pioneer missionary to Africa, won a Bible from his Sunday School teacher by repeating Psalm 119 by heart when he was nine years old.

In Matthew Henry's "Account of the Life and Death of His Father Phillip Henry," he says, "Once, pressing the study of the Scriptures, he advised us to take a verse of this psalm every morning to meditate upon, and so go over this psalm twice each year. This will cause you to fall in love with the rest of the Scriptures."

George Wisehart was a bishop of Edinburg in the 17th century. He was condemned to death and would have been executed except for this incident. When he was on the scaffold, he made use of a custom of that time that permitted the condemned to choose a psalm to be sung. Wisehart chose Psalm 119. Before two-thirds of the psalm had been sung, a pardon arrived and his life was spared. Wisehart was expecting a pardon and requested Psalm 119 to stall for time until it came.

The setting of the writing of Psalm 119 is very similar to our day. It was during a time of rampant religious skepticism. It was a time of apathy, fickleness, and indifference. The nation had become very profane.

Psalm 119:126—It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law.

Psalm 119:95—The wicked have waited for me to destroy me: but I will consider thy testimonies.

These people were unstable and changed very quickly. Their attention span was short, jumping from one fad to another. Apathy, indifference, and fickleness are a part of our day, too. God is not a priority. He is squeezed into our crammed schedules. Part of the skepticism today is coming from the corruption found in the church in the lives of those in leadership.

Unfortunately, the Lord is a stranger to many believers. They never pray, read God's Word, and church is no big deal. Many do not go at all, yet, they will insist they love the Lord! Something is not right with that picture. Many people today are looking for a church that will entertain them instead of one that will exhort and encourage them to serve Christ. The fickleness of believers is seen in people who are so easily offended. Our churches in America are filled with spiritually anemic believers who are bitter, resentful, jealous, and pout if you step on their toes or they don't get their own way. The condition of America is a reflection of the condition of the church.

When the psalmist is confronted with the hostility of his society, he tightens his grip on the Word of God like a bulldog clamping on a meaty bone. His response is opposite to the response of many today who let go of God's Word when they face difficulty.

As the curtains open on this wonderful chapter, we find that the unknown author of this chapter reveals the "Keys to a Happy Life." He begins by telling us the prescription for blessing. God wants us to have joy and He tells us how to have it. He is the One who can fill the emptiness of the human heart which longs for fulfillment and happiness. Billy Sunday said, "If you have no joy in your religion, there's a leak in your Christianity somewhere." This section of Psalm 119 will deal with how to plug the leaks.

I. The Prescription for Blessing—119:1-3

The first section of eight verses begins with the Hebrew letter aleph. This is the same letter that began the Ten Commandments. Aleph is the symbol for "oneness" and "mastery" in the Hebrew language. The word "aleph" is related to the word "aluph" which means "mastery." Aleph reminds us that God's Word is "one," from Genesis to Revelation. It is God's message. His message is to master our lives.

The Jews saw "aleph" as a ladder placed on the ground, reaching toward Heaven. The Word of God is like a ladder. It brings us closer to the Lord and helps us in our walk with Him. The psalmist gives a prescription for blessing in this first section.

A. The Purity of the Happy Man

vs. 1a, 3a.

1a—Blessed are the undefiled in the way, 3a—They also do no iniquity:

The word "iniquity" means "trickery, depravity, deceitfulness." The word "blessed" is in plural form. Blessings are upon the undefiled. When God blesses us, He blesses us in the "plural." His blessings are many.

Who are the undefiled? This word "undefiled" is from the Hebrew word tamiym (tawmeem) which means "to have integrity, to be without blemish, blameless, upright, honest, or mature." The word tamiym is equivalent to the Greek word teleios in James 1. Teleios means "a lifestyle conformed to God's way and Word." This word describes Job in Job 1:1 where it says that Job was "upright."

If you want joy in your life, you cannot refuse to obey God's Word. It must be a part of your being. Make the truths of the Bible a habitual practice in your daily decisions and living. This is indicated by the phrase "the way." Blessed are the undefiled in the way.

Notice the phrase "undefiled in the way." These are paths or the road we walk each day. They indicate our habits and daily activities. "The way" refers to the character of a person. In fact, it referred to the character of God in Isaiah 35.

Isaiah 35:8—And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.

When a person's character and lifestyle are characterized by purity, honesty, integrity, and righteousness, God's blessings will be upon that person, which in turn lead to joy.

B. The Practice of a Happy Man

vs. 1b, 2, 3

1b—"who walk in the law of the Lord"; [2] Blessed are they that keep His testimonies. [3] They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.

The blessed or happy man walks in the law of the Lord. The word "walk" is from the word halak which means "manner of life." This is part of his practice. The Word of God plays a vital role in his daily life.

The law of the Lord is the Law or the Torah. It means "direction, instruction, or guidance." It is that which is given out or caught. It implies the rule of conduct. It is to be our guide. God is our Judge and we are to walk in what He has taught or given to us.... His Law.

* The Law of the Lord

The Law of the Lord does several things for us.

1. It Encourages Us

2 Chronicles 31:4—Moreover he commanded the people that dwelt in Jerusalem to give the portion of the priests and the Levites, that they might be encouraged in the law of the Lord.

2. It Converts and Changes Us

Psalm 19:7—The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.

The word "perfect" means "complete, sound, or honest." The idea behind the word "converting" is "turning back to God."

3. We Can Delight in It and Be Blessed

Psalm 1:2—But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

4. We Can Despise It and Be Destroyed

Isaiah 5:24—Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel

Isaiah 30:9—That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord:

Amos 2:4—Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have despised the law of the Lord, and have not kept his commandments, and their lies caused them to err, after the which their fathers have walked:

What is your attitude toward God's Word? The practice of the blessed man is he "keeps" God's testimonies. What does that mean? This word "keep" is from the word natsar {nawtsar} which means "to guard, watch over, comply with, observe, or protect." We watch over or guard what we consider to be valuable because we don't want it taken away. God's law is to be valuable to us. It is to be our treasure as we put it into practice in our own personal life, lest Satan steal it from our heart.

Matthew 13:19—When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.

The phrase "catcheth away" is from the Greek word harpazo which means "to snatch, pluck, or seize by force." It is the same word used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 to refer to Christians being "caught up" at the Rapture. The blessed man keeps God's testimonies in order to guard against Satan making an inroad into his heart. Do you put the Word into practice? Do you treasure the Scriptures?

Psalm 119:72—The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.

Psalm 119:127—Therefore Hove thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold.

Psalm 119:162—I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil.

As we look at the practice of a godly man, there are some things we must do and not do if we are going to have happiness. We are to love the right things and hate that which will destroy us and others. Negatively speaking, the "blessed" man does not entangle himself in iniquity. He knows the consequences of sin and that sinful living will hurt his walk with God.

Proverbs 28:18—Whoso walketh uprightly shall be saved: but he that is perverse in his ways shall fall at once.

Proverbs 14:2—He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the Lord: but he that is perverse in his ways despiseth him.

The godly man hates certain things.

Psalm 119:104—Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.

Psalm 119:113—I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love.

Psalm 119:128—Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.

Psalm 119:163—I hate and abhor lying: but thy law do Hove.

Positively speaking, the "blessed" man walks in God's ways. The blessed man not only avoids and hates certain things, he also loves that which is good and right.

Psalm 119:97—O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.

Psalm 119:119—Thou puttest away all the wicked of the earth like dross: therefore I love thy testimonies.

Psalm 119:127—Therefore Hove thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold.

Psalm 119:167—My soul hath kept thy testimonies; and I love them exceedingly.

If you are going to change your ways, you must replace that which is bad with that which is good. We have seen so far the purity and the practice of a blessed man, now we will examine the pursuit of the happy man.

C. The Pursuit of the Happy Man

vs. 2b

"seek Him with the whole heart"

What you pursue reveals what you are aiming at and your priorities. The blessed man seeks God with his whole heart. This word "seek" is from the word darask which means "to seek with care, to seek frequently, to consult or inquire." The place to find the Lord is in His Word. We are to carefully and frequently seek Him with our whole heart. There is no room for half-heartedness and divided loyalties. We can't pick and choose what we will obey and not obey. We will find the Lord when we are serious about finding Him.

Jeremiah 29:13—And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

* with Our Whole Heart...

1. We Are to Praise Him

Psalm 111:1—Praise ye the Lord. I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation.

2. We Are to Pursue Him

Psalm 119:10—With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.

3. We Are to Practice God's Precepts

Psalm 119:34—Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.

Psalm 119:69—The proud have forged a lie against me: but I will keep thy precepts with my whole heart.

4. We Are to Pray

Psalm 119:145—I cried with my whole heart; hear me, O Lord: I will keep thy statutes.

5. We Are to Have Passion and Love for God

Deuteronomy 6:5—And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

6. We Are to Perform Our Service to God

1 Samuel 12:20—And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart;

1 Samuel 12:24—Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.

7. We Are to Have Positive Trust in the Lord

Proverbs 3:5—Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

Beloved, God expects total commitment and is repulsed by our divided heart.

Jeremiah 3:10—And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the Lord.

Revelation 3:16—So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Have you given your whole heart to the Lord? Are you living for Christ?

II. The Proclamation Concerning Precepts—119:4

We are to keep God's precepts diligently. This word "keep" is from the word shamar which means "to treasure in memory, to exercise great care over, to do or observe carefully." This word indicates our attitude toward the Scriptures. It involves personal discipline.

Proverbs 13:3—He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.

What are we to keep, treasure, or carefully observe? The answer is "God's precepts." Precepts are God's mandates handed down to be observed. They are God's Word entrusted to men. How are they to be kept? The answer is "diligently." This means "exceedingly, in abundance, very much, carefully." God's Word is to be obeyed, practiced consistently with our whole heart, not half-heartedly.

III. The Plea—119:5-6

Oh, that my ways were directed. This word "directed" is from the word kuwn (koon) which means "stable, established, firm, settled." The psalmist prays for stability in his life. Paul prayed for this, too.

Romans 7:19—For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

Romans 7:22-25... For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: [23] But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. [24] O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? [25] I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

What makes us unstable? The answer is "double-mindedness."

James 1:8—A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

1 Corinthians 10:21—Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils.

Luke 16:13—No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

The psalmist prays for stability in obeying God's statutes. That is a great challenge for us. The word "statutes" means "something engraved or cut, like a map or chart." A statute is a definite standard and intended to last. They are God's written law. It is His way and we are to walk in it. His Word is reliable, dependable, and can be trusted.

Romans 15:4—For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

The writer prays for stability so he will not be ashamed when he respects God's Word. This word "ashamed" means "to be disappointed, frustrated, or put to shame." The Lord is not in the business of letting us down, but in picking us up. God doesn't want us to be ashamed, frustrated, or people that are disappointed in Him.

* Avoiding Frustration and Disappointment with God

1. We Are to Patiently Wait On the Lord

Isaiah 49:23—And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.

2. We Are to Trust Him with Our Lives

Psalm 25:20—O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee.

3. We Are to Dedicate Ourselves to Him

Isaiah 50:7—For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.

4. We Are to Put Our Faith in Him for Salvation

Romans 9:33—As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

Romans 10:11—For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

5. We Are to Fellowship and Abide in Him

1 John 2:28—And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.

IV. The Praise From a Pure Heart—119:7, 8

This man praises the Lord with four things.

A. He Praises Him with Cleanness

vs. 7

"I will praise thee with uprightness of heart,..."

Genuine praise cannot be given when your life is tainted with sin and your life is not right with God. Your praise would be a joke or farce. Sin must be confessed and forsaken. Praise for God comes from a clean heart. A pure life honor and glorifies the Lord. It glorifies Him to bear His character in your life. His character is purity. Are you clean?

B. He Praises Him with Correctness

vs. 7

".... when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments"

Praise is learned from the Bible. We praise God when we esteem His Word as precious as He does.

C. He Praises Him with His Conduct

vs. 8

"I will keep thy statutes..."

Part of praising God involves the study of His Word and putting it into practice.

John 14:15—If ye love me, keep my commandments.

D. He Praises Him with Confidence

vs. 8

".... O forsake me not utterly."

We cannot keep God's statutes unless God helps us. The psalmist cries, "God, don't stop helping me." We praise God by our dependence upon Him. God will not give up on us, even when we give up on ourselves. His grace sustains us. Is your attitude, "I will keep thy statutes?" If so, this is a key to a happy life.