Though I am memorizing in the ESV, I love the first verse of this psalm in the Holman Christian Standard version: “How happy are those whose way is blameless, who live according to the Lord’s instruction!”
The first word of our psalm is the Hebrew word ‘esher. The word can be translated “happiness” or “blessedness,” and it is often used as an interjection akin to saying, “How happy!” Indeed, how happy are those who tarry with the Lord!
Right at the very beginning, the psalm flies in the face of everything I believed before I came to know the Most High. Before I fell in love with the Author of my faith, I did not see His law and happiness as co-existent. Blinded by sin, I believed the law to be stifling and ridiculously full of old-fashioned values and outdated mores. I did not want such restrictions on my activity. I was progressive. I was enlightened. I was intelligent. Or so I believed.
If I had been honest (which I certainly was not back then), I would have had to admit that my main beef with God’s law was simply that I did not wish to give up my way of doing things. Although I knew deep in my heart that many choices I made were dead wrong and even unhealthy and unsustainable, I stubbornly clung to them, fearful that giving up my “independence” to a bunch of laws would rob the joy from life.
Quite the opposite: how happy is the man (or in my case, woman)!
You see, in those days of running from God, I never did find the happiness I sought. Oh, I had good moments and good days, but when I was all alone in the night, I also had fear. I had regret. I was full of bitterness and self-loathing.
In those days I was also haunted by a sickening knowledge of my own wrongness. These were the genuine bursts of real thought that surfaced during rare times I did not self-medicate with alcohol or distract myself with licentious living.
Oh, if I could only go back and tell that old self how much happier she would be if only she would not continue to flee from God’s laws but embrace them and find the peace she craves! I long to tell her that “old-fashioned” is not always akin to obsolete but is sometimes ancient and marvelous, full of beauty as the skies are full of stars.
Let’s look back and visit the old me for a moment; this girl who had trusted in the new ideals over the tried-and-true.
There she lays, sobbing on the floor of her apartment. She has been in a desperate, fruitless search for love, for something to quiet her turbulent heart, yet she ignores the only One whose love will complete her. She even mocks Him whose love will loose the snaky bonds she now calls “freedom” and make her more truly herself than she is now in this sad, half-life of bars and shallow relationships.
I pity her.
But she will learn. Before many years pass, she will read this very psalm and make the fifth verse her own fervent prayer. Seeking God with her whole heart, she will find a love even greater than she ever dreamed possible. She will find happiness in walking in His laws, and despite what she now thinks, will find nothing but distress and heartache outside the borders of His will.
It will take a trip or two across those borders before she realizes the absolute futility of trying to reconcile the old life with the new. The more she walks with the Light of the world, the more she sees the chipped paint and tarnish on those things that once seemed to glitter like diamond, the very things that once enticed her away from her King.
As her reverence for her King grows, she will choose to walk more and more closely with Him, avoiding even drifting towards the boundaries of His will lest she stray across the edge. The lure of her former life will be utterly dead and its corpse sidestepped with disgust.
Though difficult times will come and she will be troubled, the Lover of her soul will always provide grace to help in time of need. How happy will she be!