The words of prophet Nehemiah which says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength,” points to joy as byproduct of the Christian faith rooted in trust in God (Neh 8:10). Everyone want to be joyful and happy but we are living in an imperfect post-truth world where there is more sin, unbelief, sadness, sorrow and pain hence, many are searching for means to be joyful in the wrong ways and in the wrong places. The Bible says there are certain conditions and circumstances that are key to a joyful and blessed life, church and nation. There is true joy in the blessedness of keeping God’s law.
Joyful people, Joyful church, and Joyful nations points to the blessedness of keeping God’s word. God’s word points us to numbers of titles and reference including law, testimonies, precepts, statutes, commandments, judgements, truth and righteousness. Psalm 119, as the longest psalm and the longest chapter in the Bible invites us to a meditation on the beauty and the Excellencies of God’s Word and how it helps us stay pure and grow in faith. In such a time when the world is drowning in a sea of impurity, pride, and unbelief, the psalmist emphasises both the outspokenness and the dependability of God’s laws. In a world of “fake happiness” like a person who throws a “fake smile,” though being professional, such happiness or smile is not real.
The Psalm for today begins with the usage of eight synonyms and a description of the way to true joy, true happiness, true blessedness, true holiness, just as Christ began his Sermon on the Mount (Ps 119, Matt 5). The blessing formula in Psalm 119 also forms the basis for the Beatitudes in Matthew, a declaration to correct the universal fundamental errors, defilement, fake happiness, and fake smile among others.
Joyful people, Joyful church and Joyful nations as the result of the blessedness of keeping God’s laws summons us as spiritual pedestrians, pilgrims in exile to positive Beatitude of being. There is a testimony of a young man who rose one night in a testimony meeting when the famous Dwight L. Moody was conducting a series of meeting in Brockton, Massachusetts. On his confidence of salvation, the young man said at the meeting, “I am not quite sure – but I am going to trust, and I am going to obey.” With ‘a kernel of Scripture and weave a personal or first-person reflection around the chosen passage and the testimony of the young man, John H. Sammis (1846-1919) composed the refrain of the revival famous song: “Trust and Obey, for there’s no other way, To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
As model pilgrims and travellers, our character must be undefiled especially under the pressure and seduction of today’s culture. Naturally, we are defiled and out of the way and it is only the atoning blood of Jesus Christ that can remove our defilement through our conversion by the power of the Holy Spirit. The description of the blessed, joyful person as one who “walk in the law of the Lord” suggests a metaphor of the totality of one’s behaviour and activities. To walk and follow the law in every respect is about consistency in choosing to follow the path that God has revealed through the law – and this ‘leads inexorably to a happy, blessed life. However, walking contrary to the law only causes trouble and suffering’ (vs 6,8). The conditions of our peace, joy, and happiness in life, in our churches, in our nations and with God is base on purity, obedience to God’s Word, fidelity, seeking after God with integrity, and using the words of John Wesley, following God’s precepts, “directing our duty.”
Blessed are undefiled in the way,
Who walk in the law of the Lord!
Blessed are those who keep His testimonies,
Who seek Him with the whole heart!
They also do no iniquity;
They walk in His ways.
You have commanded us
To keep Your precepts diligently.
Oh, that my ways were directed
To keep Your statutes!
Then I would not be ashamed,
When I look into all Your commandments.
I will praise You with uprightness of heart,
When I learn Your righteous judgements.
I will keep Your statutes;
Oh, do not forsake me utterly! (Ps 119:1-8).
Comparatively, Psalm 119 and Mathew 5 functions to encourage the righteous and to call for those who are not living righteously to change their ways. The two texts also points to the need for heart-fellowship with God. The blessedness in keeping God’s law calls for heart-fellowship, an experience of “warmed heart.” The “warm-heart” experience of John Wesley suggests a model and beginning of heart-fellowship with God for the revival and renewal of our churches and nations. Heart-fellowship with God goes beyond head-fellowship, church structure and positions.
There is the positive and negative Beatitudes of being. Beloved, the blessedness is set before you and I. To be joyful as a person, as a church and as a nation, we must aim at blessedness with earnest effort to obtain it. Blessedness is ascribed to the undefiled, to those who walk in the law of the Lord; to those who keep His testimonies, the Word of God, because in it He testifies for truth and against sin; to those who seek God with the whole heart. Blessedness is about heart-fellowship in contrast to head-fellowship. Sin brings shame hence, blessedness of keeping God’s law brings deliverance, church growth, healing of the nations and joy unspeakable.