Happiness Despite a Lawless, Loveless World
“Happy are the ones faultless in their way, the ones walking in the law of Jehovah.”—PSALM 119:1.
1, 2. (a) From whom does genuine happiness come, and for how long is it possible to experience it? (b) Rather than “the Beatitudes,” what should the opening part of the Sermon on the Mount be called, and why so?
HAPPINESS comes from the Creator of man. He is “the happy God” with good news for us. (1 Timothy 1:11) He has laid up everlasting happiness for his human creatures here on earth. Even now, they may enter into it by bringing themselves into line with his regulations.—Psalm 119:26, 33.
2 Nineteen centuries ago Jesus Christ, the Son of “the happy God,” delivered what has come to be called the Sermon on the Mount. According to Matthew 5:1-12, this sermon opened up with what are called “the Beatitudes,” meaning “the Blessednesses.” However, according to the Greek language, into which the disciple Matthew’s account of the earthly life of Jesus Christ was translated, they should rather be called “the Happinesses.” Even the account of Matthew in the Hebrew language uses the Hebrew word meaning “happy.”
3. (a) Did the writer of Psalm 119 qualify to enjoy the special happinesses, set forth by Jesus Christ? Explain. (b) Describe the psalmist’s expressed feelings toward the Law covenant mediated by Moses.
3 A man who anciently qualified for enjoying such happinesses as were set forth by the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ, was the inspired Jewish writer of Psalm 119, the longest psalm of the Bible. In line with the reasons given by Jesus Christ for being happy, the psalmist was conscious of his spiritual need. Also, he was mournful, he was mild-tempered, he hungered and thirsted for righteousness, he was merciful, he was reproached and persecuted, and he had every sort of wicked thing lyingly said against him. He wrote the psalm hundreds of years before our Common Era, while the nation of Israel was still under the Law covenant that had been mediated by the prophet Moses between Jehovah God and the nation in 1513 B.C.E. at Mount Sinai. Properly the psalmist had no fault to find with the Law of that covenant, for it was God-given. He well knew that the pagan nations all around the land of Israel had nothing to compare with that divine Law. He looked upon it as most enlightening, saying in Ps 119 verses 105 and 130: “Your word is a lamp to my foot, and a light to my roadway. The very disclosure of your words gives light, making the inexperienced ones understand.”
4. (a) In what order is Psalm 119 composed, and how is this a help? (b) By making reference to “the book of psalms,” Jesus and his disciples set a pattern for whom, and for what purpose?
4 To serve as a memory aid the psalmist made it an alphabetic psalm, so that in the 22 stanzas each of the 8 Hebrew lines starts with the same Hebrew letter, in alphabetic order. Thus each line of the first stanza under the first Hebrew letter Aleph as a heading starts with that first letter Aleph. Each line of the second stanza starts with the second Hebrew letter Beth. So it goes down through the 22 stanzas of the psalm, corresponding to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. With 8 Hebrew lines to each of the 22 stanzas, the psalm mounts up to 176 verses. In his teaching, Jesus Christ himself referred to “the book of Psalms.” (Luke 20:42; 24:44) In this he set a pattern for his disciples.—Acts 1:20; 13:33; 1 Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 4:7; James 5:13.
5. In opening up Psalm 119, whose experiences did the writer likely have in mind?
5 The psalmist doubtless wrote out of his own personal experience when he opened up Psalm 119, saying: “Happy are the ones faultless in their way, the ones walking in the law of Jehovah. Happy are those observing his reminders . . . In his ways they have walked. You yourself have commandingly given your orders to be carefully kept. O that my ways were firmly established to keep your regulations! In that case I should not be ashamed, when I look to all your commandments. I shall laud you in uprightness of heart, when I learn your righteous judicial decisions. Your regulations I continue to keep. O do not leave me entirely.”—Psalm 119:1-8.
6. (a) How are key words made to stand out in this psalm? (b) Of what was the psalmist a student, and how is this borne out?
6 In that opening stanza of 8 Hebrew lines we note the key words law, reminders, orders, regulations, commandments, and judicial decisions. All through the 176 Hebrew verses, the psalmist emphasizes those words. For example, he uses the word “law” 25 times, “reminders” 22 times, “orders” 21 times, “regulations” 21 times, “commandments” 20 times, “judicial decision(s)” 21 times, with the related word “commandment” being used twice in the psalm. Despite the psalmist’s repeated use of these words that may sound legalistic, there is no evidence that he was a professional lawyer or jurist or even a judge. He was foremost a student of Jehovah’s recorded Word, which fact is borne out by his use of the expression “your word” 15 times. If he was the king of the nation of Israel, he was under the divine command to write a personal copy of the Law of Jehovah’s covenant with Israel for his own study and use. (Deuteronomy 17:14-18) The psalmist did not find the close study of Jehovah’s “word” with these features in mind to be boring, wearisome. He longed for what would help him to be law-abiding. (Psalm 119:40, 131, 174) Are we like him?
7. (a) How does knowing and walking in God’s law benefit us? (b) To what does “Torah” refer, but under what arrangement do Christians find themselves?
7 When we compare the international and national laws of the lands that are under the unseen control of “the father of the lie,” Satan the Devil, with Jehovah’s law, we can join the psalmist in saying: “Your law is truth. You are near, O Jehovah, and all your commandments are truth.” (John 8:44; Psalm 119:142, 151) So by “walking in the law of Jehovah,” we, like the psalmist, will be safeguarded from walking in the way of worldly error to our own hurt, bodily and spiritually. This works for our happiness. (Psalm 119:1) It works for our having divine blessing and approval. This affects our hearts, just as Psalm 119:97, 126, 127 indicates. The psalmist was under the Mosaic Law covenant that contained the “Torah,” the body of divine law that embodied many hundreds of distinct laws. Jehovah’s anointed witnesses of today are under the new covenant (of which Jesus Christ is the Mediator) with a “law” written, as it were, “in their heart.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34) By studying the Christian Greek Scriptures, they get acquainted with the new covenant “law” and its commandments.
8. (a) Does this lawless world face a bright prospect? (b) How did the psalmist describe his tearful concern over the failure of the Jews to keep God’s Law? (c) How was Jesus’ prophecy regarding unfaithful Jerusalem fulfilled, and what does this portend for Christendom?
8 The due time draws near for the rightful Lawgiver, Jehovah, to take action against this lawless world. A tearful prospect lies ahead. In his own day the psalmist, as a lover of God’s law, wept over the situation. (Psalm 119:136) A few days before undergoing a cruel martyr’s death, Jesus Christ wept over the tradition-keeping but lawbreaking city of Jerusalem. (Luke 19:41) Thirty-seven years after the Jews had crowned their lawbreaking by having the innocent Messiah, Jesus Christ, put to death at Gentile hands, Jehovah did act. (Psalm 119:126) The mournful things foreseen by Jesus Christ did come upon the city in 70 C.E. Today that which was foreshadowed by Jerusalem, and the Jewish people over which she ruled, is involved on a tremendously larger scale. Christendom, her modern-day lawbreaking counterpart, is far greater than ancient Jerusalem and the nation of Israel. In his own way Jehovah will put into the hearts of the political elements of this world to turn against all organized religion of the world, including Christendom, the fraudulent Kingdom of Christ.—Revelation, chapter 17.
9. (a) Contrast Christendom’s blood-spilling course with the attitude and conduct of Jehovah’s Witnesses. (b) Our course harmonizes with what pattern? (c) For what reasons does Christ reject Christendom today?
9 Did not two world wars break out in Christendom, with her clergy backing such blood-spilling conflicts? In marked contrast with such breakers of the law of God’s new covenant, which commands brotherly love, the psalmist said as a pattern for Jehovah’s Witnesses of today: “Falsehood I have hated, and I do keep detesting it. Your law I have loved.” (Psalm 119:163) He desired to be wholehearted in his law keeping. He expresses his dislike of a halfhearted, lukewarm attitude, saying: “The halfhearted ones I have hated, but your law I have loved.” (Psalm 119:113) This is how Jesus Christ feels toward Christendom today, for it resembles the congregation in ancient Laodicea. To Christendom he can justly say: “Because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16) We cannot be loving the lawless, loveless world and be loving Christ at the same time. There can be no straddling of the fence. Warm love must be the moving force behind obedience to God. Jehovah could never inspire a wholehearted servant of his to say anything less forceful than this: “I shall show a fondness for your commandments that I have loved.”—Psalm 119:47.
10. (a) What do we have to be fond of, even as was the psalmist? (b) What was the affliction of the psalmist designed to do, but to what course did he hold, having what effect upon us?
10 Our being fond of Jehovah’s law leads to salvation. The psalmist owned up to this when he said: “If your law had not been what I am fond of, then I should have perished in my affliction.” (Psalm 119:92) His affliction was not some death-dealing sickness. He was under affliction from the presumptuous (toward God), who were hating him and persecuting him. Under the pressure he would have yielded to the aims of such Israelites and have gone contrary to Jehovah’s will if he had not loved God’s law so much. What a fine example the psalmist is to us today who are under such pressure from a world in which lawlessness abounds to such an extent that the love of the majority of mankind has cooled off during this conclusion of the system of things!—Matthew 24:3, 12.
11. Our salvation stems from what, and so how do we view human schemes?
11 Only by keeping God’s law do we have basis for expecting to be saved eternally. We long for salvation into God’s new system of new heavens and a new earth. Close to the end of Psalm 119, verse 174 expresses it for us, saying: “I have longed for your salvation, O Jehovah, and your law I am fond of.” Hence, we reject the proposed human schemes and arrangements for the salvation of this lawless, loveless world.
Law-Abiding Under Persecution
12. (a) Persecution of the “woman” and her “seed” is instigated and carried out by whom, and why? (b) How have the persecutors been rebuked?
12 Persecution on a world scale was foretold for Jehovah’s Witnesses during these last days of this dying old system of things under the unyielding rule of the symbolic dragon, Satan the Devil. Revelation 12:17 points out his target, saying: “The dragon grew wrathful at the woman [Jehovah’s wifelike organization], and went off to wage war with the remaining ones of her seed [aside from the newborn Kingdom], who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus.” The persecution comes principally from those who presume to stray away from what God commands for these last days of the dragon’s visible system of things on earth. By means of the Kingdom message proclaimed worldwide by Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jehovah has rebuked these cursed ones, just as Psalm 119:21 says: “You have rebuked the cursed presumptuous ones, who are straying from your commandments.” Far different is the case of the faithful ones whom such presumptuous persecutors reproach and revile, just as was the case with the psalmist: “The presumptuous ones themselves have derided me to the extreme. From your law I have not deviated.”—Psalm 119:51.
13. (a) Despite the wicked designs of persecutors, to what outcome does keeping God’s law lead? (b) How, in modern times, has this been demonstrated?
13 Seeing that Jehovah’s Witnesses are proceeding in agreement with Jehovah’s law for this time, the presumptuous persecutors try to bring about the downfall of the law-abiding Witnesses, just as was illustrated in the case of the psalmist, who said: “The presumptuous have excavated pitfalls to get me, those who are not in accord with your law.” (Psalm 119:85) The putting of the presumptuous schemers to shame means not merely the exposure of their misleading ways but, more particularly, the vindication of Jehovah as the true God. So with no maliciousness the psalmist could pray: “Let the presumptuous ones be ashamed, for without cause they have misled me. As for me, I concern myself with your orders.” (Psalm 119:78) Jehovah makes sure that even the persecution works out for good and that the persecutors do not really fraudulently gain anything. He responds to the prayer of Psalm 119:122: “Act as a surety for your servant for what is good. May the presumptuous ones not defraud me.” Death on a mass scale threatened Jehovah’s Witnesses during the dictatorships of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, but by not forgetting the law and commandments of their God, they stood firm and many survived. In the words of Psalm 119:60, 61, the survivors can say: “I hurried up, and I did not delay to keep your commandments. The very ropes of the wicked ones surrounded me. Your law I did not forget.” The Almighty God is able to cut or break asunder the ropes of restraint tied about his Witnesses by their enemies and thus to free his servants in his due time for the work that he has ordained for them to do during this conclusion of the system of things.
14. (a) Similar to the psalmist’s case, what have Jehovah’s Witnesses experienced, and what has been the outcome of their enemies’ efforts? (b) Who are able to rejoice over their sufferings, and why?
14 According to his words at Psalm 119:84, 86, 161, the psalmist underwent much persecution even from his own countrymen. Witnesses of Jehovah have suffered persecution inside and outside the lands of Christendom in which they are under ban at the present time. However, the enemy has failed in the purpose of his foul, unjustified persecution! To the amazement of the enemy, the Witnesses who are “walking in the law of Jehovah” and “observing his reminders” are moved to rejoice over their sufferings for Jehovah God and his Christ. They are reminded of what Jesus Christ said in his list of happinesses: “Happy are you poor, because yours is the kingdom of God. Happy are you whenever men hate you, and whenever they exclude you and reproach you and cast out your name as wicked for the sake of the Son of man. Rejoice in that day and leap, for, look! your reward is great in heaven, for those are the same things their forefathers used to do to the prophets [including the psalmist].” (Psalm 119:1, 2; Luke 6:20, 22, 23) Sharing in Jehovah’s delight, his persecuted Witnesses continue to “magnify the law and make it majestic.”—Isaiah 42:21.
Benefits From Psalm 119
◻ How is Psalm 119 arranged, and why?
◻ What special words did the psalmist use repeatedly?
◻ How do we, in contrast to Christendom, feel about God’s law?
◻ What should we love, despite the persecution of Christians?
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The psalmist keenly appreciated that knowing and applying God’s Word can bring happiness
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Many of Jehovah’s Witnesses stood firm and survived Nazi persecution. They could happily say: “Your law I did not forget”