Most Americans know the song, “A, B, C, D, E, F, G …” It’s important because learning to read begins with the alphabet. Interestingly, the English word alphabet is derived from the Hebrew letters aleph and beth. What a perfect setting for the first octave (8’s) of Psalm 119. Let’s take a step back and look at the big picture.
The first word of verse one, ashre, begins with aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Undoubtedly you don’t know what ashre means; allow me enlighten you. It’s a way of walking in life that brings blessing, happiness, or joy. The Psalmist desires us to look at these eight verses with that image in mind. When you walk in the ways of God, in the power of the Holy Spirit, there is inner happiness or joy. Those ‘ways’ are captured in this Psalm using six different words (in italics) that overlap in meaning but each is unique.
To begin with (vs. 1-2), there’s a blessing in walking in the law or teachings of the LORD. Our instruction manual for this higher life in the Spirit, not surprising, is the Bible. In the Old Testament it was the Torah, the first five books, but for a believer in Jesus Christ it’s found in the Spirit.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16 ESV)
The word testimony refers to what we’ve observed or witnessed God doing in scripture or in our life and it’s a powerful tool used in sharing Christ. As we walk in His ways, seeking Him with all that we are, our whole heart, we keep His precepts or commandments (vs. 3-5).
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25 ESV)
Precepts are responsibilities in life that God says are important. Loving Him and loving others as yourself is a great start. Our prayer (vs. 5) is that He will help us keep His statutes or prescribed tasks and with the help of the Holy Spirit we can reach those goals. There is no shame involved when our eyes are focused on His commandments or missions because if we miss it, He is a God of second chances.
God, in His fascinating creativity, selected this first octave to encourage us in our walk with Him. Verses 7-8 close the section as the writer determines in his heart, “I will…” He will learn God’s rules or decisions and praise Him. He will keep or guard God’s statutes as his rights and privileges in Him and asks fervently for God’s help. As we advance in our spiritual life we can expect His blessing and power to complete our mission.
Lastly, his concern is that God will not forsake him in this ashre, walk of blessing, fortunately we have Jesus’ assurance: And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b ESV)