Blessed are you, O LORD;
teach me your statutes (Psa. 119:12 NRSV).
Why does the psalmist bless God? Did God sneeze? (If God sneezed would you say, “God bless God”?)
Yeah, we don’t really understand blessing very well today if we think only think blessing follows sneezing. Blessing is huge in the Bible. It’s the first thing God does to the freshly created humans (Gen. 1:28) and what God is going to do through Abraham’s descendents to all the families of the earth (Gen. 12:3).
So, God blesses us, but how do we bless God? Throughout the psalms, the people are called to bless YHWH because of how he has blessed them(Psa. 28:6; 31:21; 41:13; 68:19; 144:1). The primary way the people are called to bless God is through praise (Psa. 106:48; 135:21).
One way the psalmist here blesses God is that he writes an acrostic song 176 verses long singing the praises of God’s word. Specifically in this verse, the psalmist asks God to be his Torah-teacher. (The Hebrew word “blessed” in 119:12 is barak, here as a passive participle, so this fourth verse of the Bet section begins appropriately with Bet.)
How do you bless God?
“Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD” (Psalm 119:1).
So, I’m blessed as long as I can keep my way blameless. It doesn’t sound like I’ll be experiencing much blessing.
Thus begins the Aleph section of Psalm 119 (all eight verses in the Hebrew begin with the letter Aleph).
While blamelessness may seem like a high bar, walking in the law of the LORD (or “Torah of YHWH”) sounds a little easier. Hebrew poetry uses parallelism, where the 2nd line echoes the 1st, so blamelessness and walking in God’s law are roughly synonymous here.
The word translated as “blameless” (tamim) could also be rendered as “with integrity” or “with honesty”.
Walking in God’s laws with integrity still may not seem like as easy task, but as we’ll discover later in Psalm 119, the psalmist frequently asks for divine assistance. It’s not meant to be done on our own.
What’s the motivation for walking in integrity in the way of Torah? Blessing. While we’re not exactly sure what the blessing will involve, the rest of the psalm will flesh that out for us.
I hope you’ll come back each Sunday as we discuss one more verse from this longest chapter in the Bible, and find out more about the blessings in store for those who walk in God’s laws.
How do you walk in God’s laws?