This blessing has fallen to me,
that I have kept your precepts.
Psalm 119:56 ESV
We come now to the final verse of stanza Zayin of Psalm 119, and within the first line we find a difficulty. The psalmist declares, “this blessing has fallen to me…” And the question immediately before us is: which blessing? The KJV and some other translations assume that the psalmist was referring back to the previous verses of the stanza. He finds comfort and life in God’s promise (v. 50). He thinks upon God’s ancient rules and takes comfort (v. 52). He burns with indignation at the wicked (v. 53). He sings God’s statutes as songs of hope and joy during his earthly sojourning (v. 54). And he remembers God’s name in the night (v. 55). Indeed, all of these things are certainly blessings, and they do come to those who keep God’s law, as the latter half of verse 55 implies.
The ESV, however, seems to take “this blessing” as referring to the second half of this same verse: “that I have kept your precepts.” This too is certainly a plausible reading. For from this lens, we would read that psalmist is expressing not only that blessings have resulted from his obedience to God’s Word but that obeying God’s Word is itself a blessing. Obedience certainly does typically yield many rewards, yet obedience is also its own reward, for means living in the light of our blessed Creator’s countenance.
Perhaps the psalmist wrote with purposeful ambiguity so that “this blessing” could be read as applying to both the previous verses and the remainder of this verse. It is indeed a blessing that as we keep our way in accordance with God’s Word we will be comforted, zealous, meditative, and joyous.
Yet even as we experience the great blessings that come whenever we keep God’s statutes, let us also remember that it is God Himself who blesses us with the strength and ability to be obey Him. He does this, first, by sending His Son to perfectly keep the Father’s commands in our place, yet He then sent the Spirit to indwell us and empower us to wage war against our sin and walk in righteousness. Thus, any success in keeping God’s statutes is a blessing that may be rightly said to have “fallen” upon us from the gracious hand of the Father, just like He graciously sends rain to fall upon the earth. Indeed, as Charles Bridges said, “instead of boasting that our own arm, our own diligence, or holiness, “have gotten us” into this favor, we shall cast all our attainments at the feet of Jesus, and crown Him Lord of all forever.”