At length I am able to present to the Christian public another part of "The Treasury of David." It has demanded longer labour than its predecessors, but that labour has been freely given to it; and to the utmost of my ability I have kept the volume up to the level of those which have gone before. In the production of this exposition I had far rather be long than lax; for I know by experience the disappointment which comes to readers when, after a promising beginning, they see a serious declension towards the end.
The general acceptance given to this Commentary has placed me under a heavy obligation to do my best even to the end. Towards that end I am still proceeding with all possible diligence, and it is with great pleasure that I look forward to the speedy issue of the seventh and last volume of the work. Many labours distract me from this favourite employment, but I hope to press on with more speed than of late, if my life be spared. It would be imprudent to make too sure of that, for the most fragile Venice glass is not more brittle than human life: "The spider's most attenuated thread Is cord, is cable, to the tender film Which holds our soul in life." I have been all the longer over this portion of my task because I have been bewildered in the expanse of the One Hundred and Nineteenth Psalm, which makes up the bulk of this volume. Its dimensions and its depth alike overcame me. It spread itself out before me like a vast, rolling prairie, to which I could see no bound, and this alone created a feeling of dismay. Its expanse was unbroken by a bluff or headland, and hence it threatened a monotonous task, although the fear has not been realized. This marvellous poem seemed to me a great sea of holy teaching, moving, in its many verses, wave upon wave; altogether without an island of special and remarkable statement to break it up. I confess I hesitated to launch upon it.
Other psalms have been mere lakes, but this is the main ocean. It is a continent of sacred thought, every inch of which is fertile as the garden of the Lord: it is an amazing level of abundance, a mighty stretch of harvest fields. I have now crossed the great plain for myself, but not without persevering, and, I will add, pleasurable, toil. Several great authors have traversed this region and left their tracks behind them, and so far the journey has been all the easier for me; but yet to me and to my helpers it has been no mean feat of patient authorship and research. This great Psalm is a book in itself: instead of being one among many psalms, it is worthy to be set forth by itself as a poem of surpassing excellence. Those who have never studied it may pronounce it commonplace, and complain of its repetitions; but to the thoughtful student it is like the great deep, full, so as never to be measured; and varied, so as never to weary the eye. Its depth is as great as its length; it is mystery, not set forth as mystery, but concealed beneath the simplest statements; may I say that it is experience allowed to prattle, to preach, to praise, and to pray like a child prophet in his own father's house?
My venerable friend, Mr. Rogers, has been spared to help me with his admirable suggestions; but Mr. Gibson, who so industriously translated from the Latin authors, has fallen asleep, leaving behind him copious notes upon the rest of the psalms. Aid in the homiletical department has been given me by several of the ministers who were educated at the Pastors' College, and their names are duly appended to the hints and skeletons which they have supplied. In this department the present volume is believed to be superior to the former ones. May it prove to be really useful to my brethren, and my desire is fulfilled. I know so well the use of a homiletic hint when the mind is in search for a subject that I have felt peculiar pleasure in supplying my readers with a full measure of such helps.
In hunting up rare authors, and making extracts from them, Mr. Keys has rendered me great assistance, and I am also a debtor to others who have cheerfully rendered me service when I have sought it. Burdened with the care of many institutions, and the oversight of a singularly large church, I cannot do such justice to my theme as I could wish. Learned leisure would be far more accurate than my busy pen can ever hope to be. If I had nothing else to think of, I would have thought of nothing else, and undivided energies could have accomplished what spare strength can never perform. Hence, I am glad of help; so glad, that I am happy to acknowledge it. Not in this thing only, but in all other labours, I owe in the first place all to God, and secondarily, very, very much to those generous friends who find a delight in making my efforts successful.
Above all, I trust that the Holy Spirit has been with me in writing and compiling these volumes, and therefore I expect that he will bless them both to the conversion of the unrenewed and to the edification of believers.
The writing of this book has been a means of grace to my own heart; I have enjoyed for myself what I have prepared for my readers. The Book of Psalms has been a royal banquet to me, and in feasting upon its contents I have seemed to eat angels' food. It is no wonder that old writers should call it, — the school of patience, the soul's soliloquies, the little Bible, the anatomy of conscience, the rose garden, the pearl island, and the like. It is the Paradise of devotion, the Holy Land of poesy, the heart of Scripture, the map of experience, and the tongue of saints. It is the spokesman of feelings which else had found no utterance. Does it not say just what we wished to say? Are not its prayers and praises exactly such as our hearts delight in? No man needs better company than the Psalms; therein he may read and commune with friends human and divine; friends who know the heart of man towards God, and the heart of God towards man; friends who perfectly sympathize with us and our sorrows, friends who never betray or forsake. Oh, to be shut up in a cave with David, with no other occupation but to hear him sing, and to sing with him! Well might a Christian monarch lay aside his crown for such enjoyment, and a believing pauper find a crown in such felicity.
It is to be feared that the Psalms are by no means so prized as in earlier ages of the Church. Time was when the Psalms were not only rehearsed in all the churches from day to day, but they were so universally sung that the common people knew them, even if they did not know the letters in which they were written. Time was when bishops would ordain no man to the ministry unless he knew "David" from end to end, and could repeat each psalm correctly; even Councils of the Church have decreed that none should hold ecclesiastical office unless they knew the whole psalter by heart. Other practices of those ages had better be forgotten, but to this memory accords an honourable record. Then, as Jerome tells us, the labourer, while he held the plough, sang Hallelujah; the tired reaper refreshed himself with the psalms, and the vinedresser, while trimming the vines with his curved hook, sang something of David. He tells us that in his part of the world, psalms were the Christian's ballads; could they have had better? They were the love songs of the people of God; could any others be so pure and heavenly? These sacred hymns express all modes of holy feeling; they are fit both for childhood and old age: they furnish maxims for the entrance of life, and serve as watchwords at the gates of death. The battle of life, the repose of the Sabbath, the ward of the hospital, the guest chamber of the mansion, the church, the oratory, yea, even heaven itself may be entered with psalms.
My next portion will continue the Pilgrim Psalms, of which we have five in the present volume. I have been sorry to make a break in these golden steps. I would rather have presented the glittering ascent as a whole, that all might see at a glance "the stairs of the City of David at the ascent of the wall; "but as the books must divide somewhere, and there was no more convenient place, I have been compelled to separate these Songs of the Steps, or "Songs on the high key", as Luther calls them. It was impossible to cut the great psalm in two, and it is a far less evil to separate the members of a group. I hope the arrangement will not cause serious inconvenience to anyone; nor prevent the student's meditating upon each Song of Degrees, not only as it sparkles as a separate star, but as it shines in its own constellation.
Finally, when I reach the last psalm, it is my firm conviction that I shall find no truer closing words for myself than those of Bishop Horne, which I take liberty here to quote, using them as if they were my own, since they admirably express my present feelings and past experiences: — "And now, could the author flatter himself that anyone would take half the pleasure in reading the following exposition which he hath taken in writing it, he would not fear the loss of his labour. The employment detached him from the bustle and hurry of life, the din of politics, and the noise of folly.
Vanity and vexation flew for a season, care and disquietude came not near his dwelling. He arose fresh as the morning to his task; the silence of the night invited him to pursue it; and he can truly say, that food and rest were not preferred before it. Every psalm improved infinitely upon his acquaintance with it, and no one gave him uneasiness but the last; for then he grieved that his work was done. Happier hours than those which have been spent on these meditations on the songs of Zion he never expects to see in this world. Very pleasantly did they pass, and they moved smoothly and swiftly along; for when thus engaged, he counted no time. The meditations are gone, but have left a relish and a fragrance upon the mind, and the remembrance of them is sweet."
Reader, I am, Thine to serve, for Christ's sake, C.H. Spurgeon.
There is no title to this Psalm, neither is any author's name mentioned. It is THE LONGEST PSALM , and this is a sufficiently distinctive name for it. It equals in bulk twenty-two psalms of the average length of the Songs of Degrees. Nor is it long only; for it equally excels in breadth of thought, depth of meaning, and height of fervour. It is like the celestial city which lieth four square, and the height and the breadth of it are equal. Many superficial readers have imagined that it harps upon one string, and abounds in pious repetitions and redundancies; but this arises from the shallowness of the reader's own mind: those who have studied this divine hymn, and carefully noted each line of it, are amazed at the variety and profundity of the thought. Using only a few words, the writer has produced permutations and combinations of meaning which display his holy familiarity with his subject, and the sanctified ingenuity of his mind.
He never repeats himself; for if the same sentiment recurs it is placed in a fresh connection, and so exhibits another interesting shade of meaning. The more one studies it the fresher it becomes. As those who drink the Nile water like it better every time they take a draught, so does this Psalm become the more full and fascinating the oftener you turn to it. It contains no idle word; the grapes of this cluster are almost to bursting full with the new wine of the kingdom. The more you look into this mirror of a gracious heart the more you will see in it. Placid on the surface as the sea of glass before the eternal throne, it yet contains within its depths an ocean of fire, and those who devoutly gaze into it shall not only see the brightness, but feel the glow of the sacred flame. It is loaded with holy sense, and is as weighty as it is bulky. Again and again have we cried while studying it, "Oh the depths!" Yet these depths are hidden beneath an apparent simplicity, as Augustine has well and wisely said, and this makes the exposition all the more difficult. Its obscurity is hidden beneath a veil of light, and hence only those discover it who are in thorough earnest, not only to look on the word, but, like the angels, to look into it.
The Psalm is alphabetical. Eight stanzas commence with one letter, and then another eight with the next letter, and so the whole Psalm proceeds by octonaries quite through the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
Besides which, there are multitudes of appositions of sense, and others of those structural formalities with which the oriental mind is pleased, — formalities very similar to those in which our older poets indulged. The Holy Spirit thus deigned to speak to men in forms which were attractive to the attention and helpful to the memory. He is often plain or elegant in his manner, but he does not disdain to be quaint or formal if thereby his design of instruction can be the more surely reached. He does not despise even contracted and artificial modes of speech, if by their use he can fix his teaching upon the mind. Isaac Taylor has worthily set forth the lesson of this fact: — "In the strictest sense this composition is conditioned ;nevertheless in the highest sense is it an utterance of spiritual life; and in thus finding these seemingly opposed elements, intimated commingled as they are throughout this Psalm, a lesson full of meaning is silently conveyed lo those who shall receive it— that the conveyance of the things of God to the human spirit is in no way damaged or impeded, much less is it deflected or ciliated by its subjugation to loose modes of utterance which most of all bespeak their adaptation to the infancy and the childlike capacity of the recipient."
AUTHOR. The fashion among modern writers is, as far as possible, to take ever? Psalm from David. As the critics of this school are usually unsound in doctrine and unspiritual in tone, we gravitate in the opposite direction, from a natural suspicion of everything which comes from so unsatisfactory a quarter. We believe that David wrote this Psalm. It is Davidic in tone and expression, and it tallies with David's experience in many interesting points. In our youth our teacher called it "David's pocket book", and we incline to the opinion then expressed that here we have the royal diary written at various times throughout a long life. No, we cannot give up this Psalm to the enemy. "This is David's spoil". After long reading an author one gets to know his style, and a measure of discernment is acquired by which his composition is detected even if his name be concealed; we feel a kind of critical certainty that the hand of David is in this thing, yea, that it is altogether his own.
SUBJECT. The one theme is the word of the Lord. The Psalmist sets his subject in many lights, and treats of it in divers ways, but he seldom omits to mention the word of the Lord in each verse under some one or other of the many names by which he knows it; and even if the name be not there, the subject is still heartily pursued in every stanza. He who wrote this wonderful song was saturated with those books of Scripture which he possessed. Andrew Bonar tells of a simple Christian in a farmhouse who had meditated the Bible through three times. This is precisely what this Psalmist had done, — he had gone past reading into meditation. Like Luther, David had shaken every fruit tree in God's garden, and gathered golden fruit therefrom. "The most, "says Martin Boos, "read their Bibles like cows that stand in the thick grass, and trample under their feet the finest flowers and herbs." It is to be feared that we too often do the like.
This is a miserable way of treating the pages of inspiration. May the Lord prevent us from repeating that sin while reading this priceless Psalm.
There is an evident growth in the subject matter. The earlier verses are of such a character as to lend themselves to the hypothesis that the author was a young man, while many of the later passages could only have suggested themselves to age and wisdom. In every portion, however, it is the fruit of deep experience, careful observation, and earnest meditation. If David did not write in there must have lived another believer of exactly the same order of mind as David, and he must have addicted himself to Psalmody with equal ardour, and have been an equally hearty lover of Holy Writ.
Our best improvement of this sacred composition will come through getting our minds into intense sympathy with its subject. In order to this, we might do well to commit it to memory. Philip Henry's daughter wrote in her diary, "I have of late taken some pains to learn by heart Psalm 119, and have made some progress therein." She was a sensible, godly woman.
Having done this, we should consider the fulness, certainty, clearness, and sweetness of the word of God, since by such reflections we are likely to be stirred up to a warm affection for it. What favoured beings are those to whom the Eternal God has written a letter in his own hand and style. What ardour of devotion, what diligence of composition can produce a worthy eulogium for the divine testimonies? If ever one such has fallen from the pen of man it is this 119th Psalm, which might well be called the holy soul's soliloquy before an open Bible.
This sacred ode is a little Bible, the Scriptures condensed, a mass of Bibline, Holy Writ rewritten in holy emotions and actions. Blessed are they who can read and understand these saintly aphorisms; they shall find golden apples in this true Hesperides, and come to reckon that this Psalm, like the whole Scripture which it praises, is a pearl island, or, better still, a garden of sweet flowers.
NOTES RELATING TO THE PSALM AS A WHOLE
Eulogium upon the whole Psalm. — This Psalm shines and shows itself among the rest, Velut inter ignes Luna minores. \1\ a star in the firmament of the Psalms, of the first and greatest magnitude.
This will readily appear if you consider either the manner it is composed in, or the matter it is composed of. The manner it is composed in is very elegant. The matter it is composed of is very excellent. 1. The manner it is composed in is very elegant; full of art, rule, method theological matter in a logical manner, a spiritual alphabet framed and formed according to the Hebrew alphabet. 2. The matter it is composed of is very excellent; full of rare sublimities, deep mysteries, gracious activities, yea, glorious ecstasies.
The Psalm is made up of three things, — (a) prayers, (b) praises, (c) protestations. Prayers to God; praises of God; protestations unto God. Rev. W. Simmons , in a sermon in the "Morning Exercises" , 166 1. Eulogium. This Psalm is called the Alphabet of Divine Love, the Paradise of all the Doctrines, the Storehouse of the Holy Spirit, the School of Truth, also the deep mystery of the Scriptures, where the whole moral discipline of all the virtues shines brightly. And as all moral instruction is delightsome, therefore this Psalm, because excelling in this kind of instruction, should be called delightsome, inasmuch as it surpasses the rest.
The other Psalms, truly, as lesser stars shine somewhat; but this burns with the meridian heat of its full brightness, and is wholly resplendent With moral loveliness. Johannes Paulus Palanterius , 1600. Eulogium. In our German version it has the appropriate inscription, "The Christian's golden A B C of the praise, love, power, and use of the Word of God." Franz Delitzsch , 1871. Eulogium. It is recorded of the celebrated St. Augustine, who among his voluminous works left a Comment on the Book of Psalms, that he delayed to comment on this one till he had finished the whole Psalter; and then yielded only to the long and vehement urgency of his friends, "because", he says, "as often as I essayed to think thereon, it always exceeded the powers of my intent thought and the utmost grasp of my faculties". While one ancient father \2\ entitles this Psalm "the perfection of teaching and instruction"; another \3\ says that "it applies an all containing medicine to the varied spiritual diseases of men— sufficing to perfect those who long for perfect virtue, to rouse the slothful, to refresh the dispirited, and to set in order the relaxed"; to which might be added many like testimonies of ancient and modern commentators on it. William De Burgh , 1860. Eulogium. In proportion as this Psalm seemeth more open, so much the more deep doth it appear to me; so that I cannot show how deep it is. For in others, which are understood with difficulty, although the sense lies hid in obscurity yet the obscurity itself appeareth; but in this, not even this is the case; since it is superficially such, that it seemeth not to need an expositor, but only a reader and listener. Augustine , 354-480. Eulogium. In Matthew Henry's "Account of the Life and Death of his father, Philip Henry, "he says: "Once, pressing the study of the Scriptures, he advised us to take a verse of this Psalm every morning to meditate upon, and so go over the Psalm twice in the year; and that, saith he, will bring you to be in love with all the rest of the Scriptures." He often said, "All grace grows as love to the word of God grows." \1\ And like the moon, the feebler fires among, "Conspicuous shines." — Horace. \2\ St. Hilary. \3\ Theodoret. Eulogium. It is strange that of all the pieces of the Bible which my mother taught me, that which cost me most to learn, and which was to my child's mind most repulsive— the 119th Psalm— has now become of all the most precious to me in its overflowing and glorious passion of love for the law of God. John Ruskin, in "Fors Clavigera".
Eulogium. This Psalm is a prolonged meditation upon the excellence of the word of God, upon its effects, and the strength and happiness which it gives to a man in every position. These reflections are interspersed with petitions, in which the Psalmist, deeply feeling his natural infirmity, implores the help of God for assistance to walk in the way mapped out for him in the divine oracles. In order to be able to understand and to enjoy this remarkable Psalm, and that we may not be repelled by its length and by its repetitions, we must have had, in some measure at least, the same experiences as its author, and, like him, have learned to love and practise the sacred word. Moreover, this Psalm is in some sort a touchstone for the spiritual life of those who read it. The sentiments expressed in it perfectly harmonise with what the historical books and other Psalms teach concerning David's obedience and his zeal for God's glory. There are, however, within it words which breathe so elevated a piety, that they can have their full sense and perfect truthfulness only in the mouth of Him of whom the prophet king was the type. From the French of Armand de Mestral , 1856. Eulogium. The 119th Psalm has been spoken of by a most distinguished living rationalistic critic (Professor Reuss) as "not poetry at all, but simply a litany— a species of chaplet." Such does not seem to be the opinion of the angels of God, and of the redeemed spirits, when that very poem supplies With the language of praise— the paean of victory, "Just and true are thy ways" (Revelation 15:3); the cry of the angel of the waters, "Thou art righteous, O Lord!" (Revelation 16:5); the voice of much people in heaven, "True and righteous are his judgments" (Revelation 19:2); what is this but the exclamation of him, whoever he may have been, who wrote the Psalm— "Righteous art thou, O Lord, and upright are thy judgments" (Psalm 119:137). William Alexander , in "The Quiver" , 1880. Incident. In the midst of a London season; in the stir and turmoil of a political crisis, 1819; William Wilberforce writes in his Diary— "Walked from Hyde Park Corner repeating the 119th Psalm in great comfort". William Alexander, in "The Witness of the Psalms". 1877. Incident. George Wishart, the chaplain and biographer of "the great Marquis of Montrose, "as he was called, would have shared the fate of his illustrious patron but for the following singular expedient. When upon the scaffold, he availed himself of the custom of the times, which permitted the condemned to choose a Psalm to be sung. He selected the 119th Psalm, and before two thirds of the Psalm had been sung, a pardon arrived, and his life was preserved. It may not be out of place to add that the George Wishart, Bishop of Edinburgh, above referred to, has been too often confounded with the godly martyr of the same name who lived and died a century previously. We only mention the incident because it has often been quoted as a singular instance of the providential escape of a saintly personage; whereas it was the very ingenious device of a person who, according to Woodrow, was more renowned for shrewdness than for sanctity. The length of this Psalm was sagaciously employed as the means of gaining time, and, happily, the expedient succeeded. C.H.S.
Alphabetical Arrangement. It is observed that the 119th Psalm is disposed according to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, perhaps to intimate that children, when they begin to learn their alphabet, should learn that Psalm. Nathanael Hardy , 1618-1670. Alphabetical Arrangement. True it is that the verses indeed begin not either with the English or yet the Latin letters, but with the Hebrew, wherein David made and wrote this Psalm. The will and purpose of the Holy Ghost is to make us to feel and understand that the doctrine herein contained is not only set down for great clerks which have gone to school for ten or twenty years; but also for the most simple; to the end none should pretend any excuse of ignorance. From Calvin's Twenty-two Sermons upon the 119th Psalm , 1580. Alphabetical Arrangement. There may be something more than fancy in the remark, that Christ's name, "the Alpha and Omega" — equivalent to declaring him all that which every letter of the alphabet could express— may have had a reference to the peculiarity of this Psalm, — a Psalm in which (with the exception of Psalm 119:84, 122, exceptions that make the rule more marked) every verse speaks of God's revelation of himself to man. Andrew A. Bonar , 1859. Alphabetical Arrangement: Origen says it is alphabetical because it contains the elements or principles of all knowledge and wisdom; and that it repeats each letter eight times, because eight is the number of perfection. Alphabetical Arrangement. That the unlearned reader may understand what is meant by the Psalm being alphabetical, we append the following specimen upon the section Aleph : A blessing is on them that are undefiled in the way and walk in the law of Jehovah; A blessing is on them that keep his testimonies, and seek him with their whole heart; A lso on them that do no wickedness, but walk in his ways. A law hast thou given unto us, that we should diligently keep thy commandments. A h! Lord, that my ways were made so direct that I might keep thy statutes! A nd then shall I not be confounded.
While I have respect unto all thy commandments. A s for me, I will thank thee with an unfeigned heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments. A n eye will I have unto thy ceremonies, O forsake me not utterly. — From "The Psalms Chronologically Arranged By Four Friends". 1867.
PSALM 119:2 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 2. Blessed are they that keep his testimonies. What! A second blessing? Yes, they are doubly blessed whose outward life is supported by an inward zeal for God's glory. In the first verse we had an undefiled way, and it was taken for granted that the purity in the way was not mere surface work, but was attended by the inward truth and life which comes of divine grace. Here that which was implied is expressed. Blessedness is ascribed to those who treasure up the testimonies of the Lord: in which is implied that they search the Scriptures, that they come to an understanding of them, that they love them, and then that they continue in the practice of them. We must first get a thing before we can keep it. In order to keep it well we must get a firm grip of it: we cannot keep in the heart that which we have not heartily embraced by the affections. God's word is his witness or testimony to grand and important truths which concern himself and our relation to him: this we should desire to know; knowing it, we should believe it; believing it, we should love it; and loving it, we should hold it fast against all comers. There is a doctrinal keeping of the word when we are ready to die for its defence, and a practical keeping of it when we actually live under its power. Revealed truth is precious as diamonds, and should be kept or treasured up in the memory and in the heart as jewels in a casket, or as the law was kept in the ark; this however is not enough, for it is meant for practical use, and therefore it must be kept or followed, as men keep to a path, or to a line of business. If we keep God's testimonies they will keep us; they will keep us right in opinion, comfortable in spirit, holy in conversation, and hopeful in expectation. If they were ever worth having, and no thoughtful person will question that, then they are worth keeping; their designed effect does not come through a temporary seizure of them, but by a persevering keeping of them: "in keeping of them there is great reward."
We are bound to keep with all care the word of God, because it is his testimonies. He gave them to us, but they are still his own. We are to keep them as a watchman guards his master's house, as a steward husbands his lord's goods, as a shepherd keeps his employer's flock. We shall have to give an account, for we are put in trust with the gospel, and woe to us if we be found unfaithful. We cannot fight a good fight, nor finish our course, unless we keep the faith. To this end the Lord must keep us: only those who are kept by the power of God unto salvation will ever be able to keep his testimonies. What a blessedness is therefore evidenced and testified by a careful belief in God's word, and a continual obedience thereunto. God has blessed them, is blessing them, and will bless them for ever. That blessedness which David saw in others he realized for himself, for in Psalm 119:168 he says, "I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies, "and in Psalm 119:54-56 he traces his joyful songs and happy memories to this same keeping of the law, and he confesses, "This I had because I kept thy precepts." Doctrines which we teach to others we should experience for ourselves. And that seek him with the whole heart. Those who keep the Lord's testimonies are sure to seek after himself. If his word is precious we may be sure that he himself is still more so. Personal dealing with a personal God is the longing of all those who have allowed the word of the Lord to have its full effect upon them. If we once really know the power of the gospel we must seek the God of the gospel. "O that I knew where I might find HIM, "will be our wholehearted cry. See the growth which these sentences indicate: first, in the way, then walking in it, then finding and keeping the treasure of truth, and to crown all, seeking after the Lord of the way himself. Note also that the further a soul advances in grace the more spiritual and divine are its longings: an outward walk does not content the gracious soul, nor even the treasured testimonies; it reaches out in due time after God himself, and when it in a measure finds him, still yearns for more of him, and seeks him still.
Seeking after God signifies a desire to commune with him more closely, to follow him more fully, to enter into more perfect union with his mind and will, to promote his glory, and to realize completely all that he is to holy hearts. The blessed man has God already, and for this reason he seeks him.
This may seem a contradiction: it is only a paradox.
God is not truly sought by the cold researches of the brain: we must seek him with the heart. Love reveals itself to love: God manifests his heart to the heart of his people. It is in vain that we endeavour to comprehend him by reason; we must apprehend him by affection. But the heart must not be divided with many objects if the Lord is to be sought by us. God is one, and we shall not know him till our heart is one. A broken heart need not be distressed at this, for no heart is so whole in its seeking after God as a heart which is broken, whereof every fragment sighs and cries after the great Father's face. It is the divided heart which the doctrine of the text censures, and strange to say, in scriptural phraseology, a heart may be divided and not broken, and it may be broken but not divided; and yet again it may be broken and be whole, and it never can be whole until it is broken. When our whole heart seeks the holy God in Christ Jesus it has come to him of whom it is written, "as many as touched Him were made perfectly whole."
That which the Psalmist admires in this verse he claims in the tenth, where he says, "With my whole heart have I sought thee." It is well when admiration of a virtue leads to the attainment of it. Those who do not believe in the blessedness of seeking the Lord will not be likely to arouse their hearts to the pursuit, but he who calls another blessed because of the grace which he sees in him is on the way to gaining the same grace for himself.
If those who seek the Lord are blessed, what shall be said of those who actually dwell with him and know that he is theirs? "To those who fall, how kind thou art!
How good to those who seek I But what to those who find? Ah! this Nor tongue nor pen can show:
The love of Jesus— what it is, None but his loved ones know."
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 2. The doubling of the sentence, Blessed... Blessed, in the first verse and second, is to let us see the certainty of the blessing belonging to the godly. The word of God is as true in itself when it is once spoken, as when it is many times repeated: the repetition of it is for confirmation of our weak faith. That which Isaac spake of Jacob, — "I have blessed him, and he shall be blessed, "is the most sure decree of God upon all his children.
Satan would fain curse Israel, by the mouth of such as Balaam was; but he shall not be able to curse, because God hath blessed. William Cowper.
Ver. 2. Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. In the former verse a blessed man is described by the course of his actions, "Blessed are the undefiled in the way": in this verse he is described by the frame of his heart. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 2. Keep his testimonies. The careful keeping in mind of God's testimonies is blessedness; for though there is a keeping of them in conversation mentioned in the former verse, here another thing is intimated diverse from the former; he that keepeth this plant or holy seed so that the devil cannot take it out of his heart, he is happy. The word here used signifieth such a careful custody as that is wherewith we use to keep tender plants. Paul Bayne.
Ver. 2. Testimonies. The notion by which the word of God is expressed is "testimonies" ; whereby is intended the whole declaration of God's will in doctrines, commands, examples, threatenings, promises. The whole word is the testimony which God hath deposed for the satisfaction of the world about the way of their salvation. Now because the word of God branches itself into two parts, the law and the gospel, this notion may be applied to both. First, to the law , in regard whereof the ark was called "the ark of the testimony" (Exodus 25:16), because the two tables were laid up in it. The gospel is also called the testimony, "the testimony of God concerning his Son." "To the law, and to the testimony" (Isaiah 8:20); where testimony seems to be distinguished from the law. The gospel is so called, because therein God hath testified how a man shall be pardoned, reconciled to God, and obtain a right to eternal life. We need a testimony in this case, because it is more unknown to us. The law was written upon the heart, but the gospel is a stranger. Natural light will discern something of the law, and pry into matters which are of a moral strain and concernment; but evangelical truths are a mystery, and depend upon the mere testimony of God concerning his Son. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 2. Testimonies. The word of God is called his testimony, not only because it testifies his will concerning his service, but also his favour and goodwill concerning his own in Christ Jesus. If God's word were no more than a law, yet were we bound to obey it, because we are his creatures; but since it is also a testimony of his love, wherein as a father he witnesseth his favour towards his children, we are doubly inexcusable if we do not most joyfully embrace it. William Cowper.
Ver. 2. Blessed are they... that seek him with the whole heart. He pronounces "blessed" not such as are wise in their own conceit, or assume a sort of fantastical holiness, but those who dedicate themselves to the covenant of God, and yield obedience to the dictates of his law, Farther, by these words, he tells us that God is by no means satisfied with mere external service, for he demands the sincere and honest affection of the heart. And assuredly, if God be the sole Judge and Disposer of our life, the truth must occupy the principal place in our heart, because it is not sufficient to have our hands and feet only enlisted in his service. John Calvin, 1509-1564.
Ver. 2. The whole heart. Whosoever would have sound happiness must have a sound heart. So much sincerity as there is, so much blessedness there will be; and according to the degree of our hypocrisy, will be the measure of our misery. Richard Greenham, 1531-1591.
Ver. 2-3. Observe the verbs seek, do, walk, all making up the subject to whom the blessedness belongs. Henry Hammond, 1605-1660.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 2. — Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. 1. The sacred Quest :"Seek him." He has been sought among the trees, the hills, the planets, the stars. He has been sought in his own defaced image, man. He has been sought amid the mysterious wheels of Providence. But these quests have often been prompted simply by intellect, or compelled by conscience, and have therefore resulted but in a cold faint light. He has been sought in the word which this psalm so highly extols, when it has led up the smoke covered and gleaming peaks of Sinai. It has been followed, when it has led beneath the olives of Gethsemane to witness a mysterious struggle in blood sweating and anguish; to Calvary, where, in the place of a skull, life and immortality are brought to light. The sacred quest but there begins. 2. The Conduct of the Quest. Seekers might be mistakenly dejected by so literal an interpretation of the "whole heart." We do not hesitate to say a stream is in its whole volume flowing towards sea while there are little side creeks in which the water eddies backward; or to say the tide is coming despite receding waves; or that spring is upon us despite hailstorm and biting wind. Indication of, (a) Unity (b) Intensity. (c) Determination.
No one conducts this quest aright who is not prompted to or sustained in it by the gracious Spirit. 3. Blessedness both in the pursuit and issue. (a) Blessedness in the bitterness of penitence. The door handle touched by him drops of myrrh. The rising sun sends kindling beams upon the highest peaks. (b) Blessedness in the happy findings of salvation and adoption. (c) Blessedness in the perpetual pursuit. — William Anderson, of Reading , 1882.
Ver. 2. — The double blessing. 1. On keeping the testimonies. 2. On seeking the Lord.
Ver. 2. — That seek him with the whole heart. 1. Seek what? God himself. No peace until he is found. 2. Seek where? In his testimonies. (a) By studying them. (b) By keeping to them. 3. Seek how? With the Whole heart. — George Rogers .
Ver. 2. — Seeking for God. 1. The Psalmist's way of seeking God. (a) He sought God with the heart. Only the heart can find God. Sight fails. "The scientific method" fails. All reason fails. Only love and trust can succeed. Love sees much where all other perception finds nothing.
Faith generally goes with discovery, and nowhere so much as in finding God. (b) He sought God with all his heart. (1) Half heartedness seldom finds anything worth having. (2) Half heartedness shows contempt for God. (3) God will not reveal himself to half heartedness. It would be putting the highest premium possible upon indifference. 2. The Psalmist's plea in seeking God: "Let me not wander from thy commandments" (a) God's commandments lead, presently, into his own presence. If we take even the moral law, every one of the ten commandments leads away from the world, and sin, into that seclusion of holiness in which he hides. It is thus with all the commandments of the Scriptures. (b) The earnestness of the souls search for God becomes, in itself, a plea with God that he will be found of us. God, who loves importunity in prayer, loves it no less when it takes the form of searching with all the heart. He who seeks with all the heart finds special encouragement to pray: "Let me not wander from thy commandments." — F.G.
Ver. 2. — That seek him. We must remember six conditions required in them who would seek the Lord rightly. 1. We must seek him in Christ the Mediator. John 14:6. 2. We must seek him in truth. Jeremiah 10:10 John 4:24 Psalm 7:6. 3. We must seek him in holiness. 2 Timothy 2:19 Hebrews 12:14 John 1:3. 4. We must seek him above all things and for himself. 5. We must seek him by the light of his own word. 6. We must seek him diligently and with perseverance, never resting till we find him, with the spouse in the Canticles. — William Cowper.
Ver. 2,4-5,8. — Blessed are they that keep. "Thou hast commanded; us to keep." "O that my ways were directed to keep." "I will keep." Blessedness of keeping God's precepts— displayed (Psalm 119:2), commanded (Psalm 119:4), for (Psalm 119:5), resolved upon (Psalm 119:8). — C.A.D.
PSALM 119:3 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 3. They also do no iniquity. Blessed indeed would those men be of whom this could be asserted without reserve and without explanation: we shall have reached the region of pure blessedness when we altogether cease from sin. Those who follow the word of God do no iniquity, the rule is perfect, and if it be constantly followed no fault will arise. Life, to the outward observer, at any rate, lies much in doing, and he who in his doings never swerves from equity, both towards God and man, has hit upon the way of perfection, and we may be sure that his heart is right. See how a whole heart leads to the avoidance of evil, for the Psalmist says, "That seek him with the whole heart. They also do no iniquity." We fear that no man can claim to be absolutely without sin, and yet we trust there are many who do not designedly, wilfully, knowingly, and continuously do anything that is wicked, ungodly, or unjust. Grace keeps the life righteous as to act even when the Christian has to bemoan the transgressions of the heart. Judged as men should be judged by their fellows, according to such just rules as men make for men, the true people of God do no iniquity: they are honest, upright, and chaste, and touching justice and morality they are blameless.
Therefore are they happy. They walk in his ways. They attend not only to the great main highway of the law, but to the smaller paths of the particular precepts. As they will perpetrate no sin of commission, so do they labour to be free from every sin of omission. It is not enough to them to be blameless, they wish also to be actively righteous. A hermit may escape into solitude that he may do no iniquity, but a saint lives in society that he may serve his God by walking in his ways. We must be positively as well as negatively right: we shall not long keep the second unless we attend to the first, for men will be walking one way or another, and if they do not follow the path of God's law they will soon do iniquity. The surest way to abstain from evil is to be fully occupied in doing good. This verse describes believers as they exist among us: although they have their faults and infirmities, yet they hate evil, and will not permit themselves to do it; they love the ways of truth, right and true godliness, and habitually they walk therein. They do not claim to be absolutely perfect except in their desires, and there they are pure indeed, for they pant to be kept from all sin, and to be led into all holiness.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 3. They also do no iniquity. If it be demanded here, How is it that they who walk in God's ways work no iniquity? Is there any man who lives, and sins not? And if they be not without sin, how then are they to be blessed? The answer is, as the apostle says of our knowledge, "We know but in part": so is it true of our felicity on earth, we are blessed but in a part. It is the happiness of angels that they never sinned; it is the happiness of triumphant saints, that albeit they have been sinners, yet now they sin no more; but the happiness of saints militant is, that our sins are forgiven us; and that albeit sin remains in us, yet it reigns not over us; it is done in us, but not by our allowance: "I do the evil which I would not." "Not I, but sin that dwells in me, "Romans 7:17.
To the doing of iniquity , these three things must concur; first, a purpose to do it; next, a delight in doing it; thirdly, a continuance in it; which three in God's children never concur; for in sins done in them by the old man, the new man makes his exceptions and protestations against them. It is not I, says he; and so far is he from delighting in them, that rather his soul is grieved with them; even as Lot, dwelling among the Sodomites, was vexed by hearing and seeing their unrighteous deeds. In a word, the children of God are rather sufferers of sin against their wills than actors of it with their wills: like men spiritually oppressed by the power of their enemy; for which they sigh and cry unto God. "Miserable man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" And in this sense it is that the apostle saith, "He who is born of God sinneth not" (1 John 3:9). William Cowper.
Ver. 3. They also do no iniquity. The blessedness of those who walk in the law: they do— or have done— no wickedness: but walk— or have always walked— in his ways. Throughout the Psalm it may be noticed that sometimes the present tense is employed indicating present action: sometimes the perfect to indicate past and present time: Psalm 119:10- 11,13-14,21, 51-61,101-102,131,145,147. The Speaker's Commentary, 1873.
Ver. 3. They also do no iniquity. That is, they make not a trade and common practice thereof. Slip they do, through the infirmity of the flesh, and subtlety of Satan, and the allurements of the world; but they do not ordinarily and customably go forward in unlawful and sinful courses. In that the Psalmist setteth down this as a part (and not the least part neither) of blessedness, that they work none iniquity, which walk in his ways :the doctrine to be learned here is this, that it is a marvellous great prerogative to be freed from the bondage of sin. Richard Greenham.
Ver. 3. They do no iniquity. All such as are renewed by grace, and reconciled to God by Christ Jesus; to these God imputeth no sin to condemnation, and in his account they do no iniquity . Notable is that which is said of David, "He kept my commandments, and followed me with all his heart, and did that only which was right in mine eyes" (1 Kings 14:8). How can that be? We may trace David by his failings, they are upon record everywhere in the word; yet here a veil is drawn upon them; God laid them not to his charge. There is a double reason why their failings are not laid to their charge. Partly, because of their general state , they are in Christ, taken into favour through him, and "there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ" (Romans 8:1), therefore particular errors and escapes do not alter their condition; which is not to be understood as if a man should not be humbled, and ask God pardon for his infirmities; no, for then they prove iniquities and they will lie upon record against him. It was a gross fancy of the Valentinians, who held that they were not defiled with sin, whatsoever they committed; though base and obscene persons, yet still they were as gold in the dirt. No, no, we are to recover ourselves by repentance, to sue out the favour of God. When David humbled himself, and had repented, then saith Nathan, "The Lord hath put away thy sin" (2 Samuel 12:13). Partly, too, because their bent and habitual inclination is to do otherwise.
They set themselves to comply with God's will, to seek and serve the Lord, though they are clogged with many infirmities. A wicked man sinneth with deliberation and delight, his bent is to do evil, he makes "provision for lusts" (Romans 13:14), and "serves" them by a voluntary subjection (Titus 3:3). But those that are renewed by grace are not "debtors" to the flesh, they have taken another debt and obligation, which is to serve the Lord (Romans 8:12). Partly, too, because their general course and way is to do otherwise.
Everything works according to its form; the constant actions of nature are according to the kind. So the new creature, his constant operations are according to grace. A man is known by his custom, and the course of his endeavours shows what is his business. If a man be constantly, easily, frequently carried away to sin, it discovers the habit of his soul, and the temper of his heart. Meadows may be overflowed, but marsh ground is drowned with every return of the tide. A child of God may be occasionally carried away, and act contrary to the inclination of the new nature; but when men are drowned and overcome by the return of every temptation, it argues a habit of sin. And partly, because sin never carries sway completely, but it is opposed by dislikes and resistances of the new nature. The children of God make it their business to avoid all sin, by watching, praying, mortifying: "I said I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue" (Psalm 39:1), and thus there is a resistance of the sin. God hath planted graces in their hearts, the fear of his Majesty, that works a resistance; and therefore there is not a full allowance of what they do. This resistance sometimes is more strong, then the temptation is overcome: "How can I do this wickedness, and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9). Sometimes it is more weak, and then sin carries it, though against the will of the holy man: "The evil which I hate, that do I" (Romans 7:15,18). It is the evil which they hate; they protest against it; they are like men which are oppressed by the power of the enemy. And then there is a remorse after the sin: David's heart smote him. It grieves and shames them that they do evil. Tenderness goes with the new nature: Peter sinned foully, but he went out and wept bitterly. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 3. They that have mortified their sins live in the contrary graces.
Hence it is that the Psalmist saith, that they work no iniquity, but walk in thy paths. First, they crucify all their sins, "they do no iniquity" : secondly, as they do no iniquity, so they follow all the ways of God, contrary to that iniquity: as they give up all the ways of sin, so they take up all the ways of grace. It is a rule in divinity, that grace takes not away nature that is, grace comes not to take away a man's affections, but to take them up. William Fenner, 1600-1640.
Ver. 3. They walk in his ways. It reproves those that rest in negatives. As it was said of a certain emperor, he was rather not vicious than virtuous.
Many men, all their religion runs upon nots :"I am not as this publican" (Luke 18:11). That ground is naught, though it brings not forth briars and thorns, if it yields not good increase. Not only the unruly servant is cast into hell, that beat his fellow servant, that ate and drank with the drunken; but the idle servant that wrapped up his talent in a napkin. Meroz is cursed, not for opposing and fighting, but for not helping (Judges 5:23). Dives did not take away food from Lazarus, but he did not give him of his crumbs.
Many will say, I set up no other gods; aye, but dost thou love, reverence, and obey the true God? For if not, thou dost fail in the first commandment.
As to the second, thou sayest, I abhor idols; but dost thou delight in ordinances? I do not swear and rend the name of God by cursed oaths; aye, but dost thou glorify God, and honour him? I do not profane the Sabbath; but dost thou sanctify it? Thou dost not plough and dance; but thou art idle, and toyest away the Sabbath. Thou dost not wrong thy parents; but dost thou reverence them? Thou dost not murder; but dost thou do good to thy neighbour? Thou art no adulterer; but dost thou study temperance and a holy sobriety in all things? Thou art no slanderer; but art thou tender of thy neighbour's honour and credit, as of thy own? Usually men cut off half their bill, as the unjust steward bade his lord's debtor set down fifty when he owed a hundred. We do not think of sins of omission. If we are not drunkards, adulterers, and profane persons, we do not think what it is to omit respect to God, and reverence for his holy Majesty. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 3. They walk in his ways. Not in those of his enemies, nor even in their own. Joseph Addison Alexander, 1860.
Ver. 3. They walk in his ways. Habitually, constantly, characteristically.
They are not merely honest, upright, and just in their dealings with men; but they walk in the ways of God; they are religious. Albert Barnes, 1798- 1870.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 3. — They also do no iniquity. They work no iniquity 1. Purpose of heart; 2. Delight; 3. Perseverance; 4. Nor at all when heart is fully sanctified unto God; Christ dwelling in it by faith casting out sin. — Adam Clarke.
Ver. 3. — The relation between negative and positive virtue. Or with God the best preventive of iniquity.
PSALM 119:4 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 4. Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. So that when we have done all we are unprofitable servants, we have done only that which it was our duty to have done, seeing we have our Lord's command for it. God's precepts require careful obedience: there is no keeping them by accident. Some give to God a careless service, a sort of hit or miss obedience, but the Lord has not commanded such service, nor will he accept it. His law demands the love of all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and a careless religion has none of these. We are also called to zealous obedience. We are to keep the precepts abundantly: the vessels of obedience should be filled to the brim, and the command carried out to the full of its meaning. As a man diligent in business arouses himself to do as much trade as he can, so must we be eager to serve the Lord as much as possible. Nor must we spare pains to do so, for a diligent obedience will also be laborious and self denying . Those who are diligent in business rise up early and sit up late, and deny themselves much of comfort and repose.
They are not soon tired, or if they are they persevere even with aching brow and weary eye. So should we serve the Lord. Such a Master deserves diligent servants; such service he demands, and will be content with nothing less. How seldom do men render it, and hence many through their negligence miss the double blessing spoken of in this Psalm.
Some are diligent in superstition and will worship; be it ours to be diligent in keeping God's precepts. It is of no use travelling fast if we are not in the right road. Men have been diligent in a losing business, and the more they have traded the more they have lost: this is bad enough in commerce, we cannot afford to have it so in our religion.
God has not commanded us to be diligent in making precepts, but in keeping them. Some bind yokes upon their own necks, and make bonds and rules for others: but the wise course is to be satisfied with the rules of holy Scripture, and to strive to keep them all, in all places, towards all men, and in all respects. If we do not this, we may become eminent in our own religion, but we shall not have kept the command of God; nor shall we be accepted of him.
The Psalmist began with the third person: he is now coming near home, and has already reached the first person plural, according to our version; we shall soon hear him crying out personally and for himself. As the heart glows with love to holiness, we long to have a personal interest in it. The word of God is a heart affecting book, and when we begin to sing its praises it soon comes home to us, and sets us praying to be ourselves conformed to its teachings.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 4. Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. It is not a matter adiaforov , and left to the discretion of men, either to hear, or to neglect sacred discourses, theological readings, and expositions of the Sacred Book; but God has commanded, and not commanded cursorily when speaking of another matter, but daOm] , earnestly and greatly he has commanded us to keep his precepts. There should be infixed in our mind the words found in Deuteronomy 6:6, "My words shall be in thy heart:" in Matthew 17:5, "Hear ye him." in John 5:39, "Search the Scriptures." Above all things, students of theology should remember the Pauline rule in 1 Timothy 3:, "Give attention to reading." Solomon Gesner.
Ver. 4. Thou hast commanded us, etc. Hath God enjoined us to observe his precepts so exceedingly carefully and diligently? Then let nothing draw us therefrom, no, not in the least circumstance; let us esteem nothing needless, frivolous, or superfluous, that we have a warrant for out of his word; nor count those too wise or precise that will stand resolutely upon the same: if the Lord require anything, though the world should gainsay it, and we be derided and abused for the doing of it, yet let us proceed still in the course of our obedience. Richard Greenham.
Ver. 4. Diligently. For three causes should we keep the commandments of the Lord with diligence: first, because our adversary that seeks to snare us by the transgression of them is diligent in tempting, for he goes about, night and day, seeking to devour us; next, because we ourselves are weak and infirm, by the greater diligence have we need to take heed to ourselves; thirdly, because of the great loss we sustain by every vantage Satan gets over us; for we find by experience, that as a wound is sooner made than it is healed, so guiltiness of conscience is easily contracted, but not so easily done away. William Cowper.
Ver. 4. Diligently. In this verse he reminds the reader how well he knew that this study of the divine law must necessarily be severe, (earnest), since God has commanded that it should be observed diligently; that is, with the profoundest study; as that which alone is good, and as everything is good which it commands. Antonio Brucioli, 1534.
Ver. 4. The word translated "diligently, "doth signify in the original tongue wonderful much , so that the words go thus: "Thou hast commanded to keep thy precepts wonderful much." Richard Greenham.
Ver. 4-5. Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently, Psalm 119:4; this is God's imperative. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! Psalm 119:5; this should be our optative. Thomas Adams, 1614.
Ver. 4-5. It is very observable concerning David, that when he prayeth so earnestly, O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes, he premises this as the reason, Thou hast commanded us to keep thy statutes diligently, thereby intimating that the ground of his obedience to God's precepts was the stamp of divine authority enjoining him. To this purpose it is that he saith in Psalm 119:94, I have sought thy precepts, thereby implying that what he sought in his obedience was the fulfilling of God's will. Indeed, that only and properly is obedience which is done intuitu voluntatis divinae , with a respect to and eye upon the divine will. As that is only a divine faith which believeth a truth, not because of human reason but divine revelation, so that only is a true obedience which conforms to the command, not because it may consist with any selfish ends, but because it carrieth in it an impression of Christ's authority. Nathanael Hardy.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 4. — 1. Take notice of the law giver: "Thou." :Not thy equal one that will be baffled, but the great God. 2. He hath interposed authority: "hast commanded." 3. The nature of this obedience, or thing commanded: "To keep thy precepts." — T. Manton.
Ver. 4. — The supplementary commandment. God having ordained moral law, supplements it with a commandment prescribing the manner keeping it. Hence: 1. God is not indifferent to men's treatment of his— whether they observe, neglect, or defy it. 2. When observed, discriminates the spirit of its observance, whether slavish, partial, or diligent. 3. There is but one spirit of obedience which satisfies requirement. "Diligently" implies an obedience which is, — careful ascertain the law— prompt to fulfil it (Psalm 119:60) — unreserved— love inspired ("diligently, "old meaning, through the Latin, "lovingly, " Psalm 119:47,113). 4. Does our obedience come up to this standard? — C A.D.
Ver. 4. — Not only is service commanded, but the manner of it. Heartiess, care, perseverance required, because without these it will not be uniform, or victorious over difficulty.
Ver. 4. — How to obey : "Diligently." 1. Not, partially, but fully. 2. Not doubtfully, but confidently. 3. Not reluctantly, but readily. 4. Slovenly, but carefully. 5. Not coldly, but earnestly. 6. Not fitfully, but regularly. — W. J.
Ver. 4-6. — A willing recognition (Psalm 119:4). An ardent as (Psalm 119:5). A happy consequence (Psalm 119:6). — W. D.
PSALM 119:5 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 5. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! Divine commands should direct us in the subject of our prayers. We cannot of ourselves keep God's statutes as he would have them kept, and yet we long to do so: what resort have we but prayer? We must ask the Lord to work our works in us, or we shall never work out his commandments. This verse is a sigh of regret because the Psalmist feels that he has not kept the precepts diligently, it is a cry of weakness appealing for help to one who can aid, it is a request of bewilderment from one who has lost his way and would fain be directed in it, and it is a petition of faith from one who loves God and trusts in him for grace.
Our ways are by nature opposed to the way of God, and must be turned by the Lord's direction in another direction from that which they originally take or they will lead us down to destruction. God can direct the mind and will without violating our free agency, and he will do so in answer to prayer; in fact, he has begun the work already in those who are heartily praying after the fashion of this verse. It is for present holiness that the desire arises in the heart. O that it were so now with me: but future persevering holiness is also meant, for he longs for grace to keep henceforth and for ever the statutes of the Lord.
The sigh of the text is really a prayer, though it does not exactly take that form. Desires and longings are of the essence of supplication, and it little matters what shape they take. "O that" is as acceptable a prayer as "Our Father."
One would hardly have expected a prayer for direction; rather should we have looked for a petition for enabling. Can we not direct ourselves? What if we cannot row, we can steer. The Psalmist herein confesses that even for the smallest part of his duty he felt unable without grace. He longed for the Lord to influence his will, as well as to strengthen his hands. We want a rod to point out the way as much as a staff to support us in it.
The longing of the text is prompted by admiration of the blessedness of holiness, by a contemplation of the righteous man's beauty of character, and by a reverent awe of the command of God. It is a personal application to the writer's own case of the truths which he had been considering. "O that my ways, "etc. It were well if all who hear and read the word would copy this example and turn all that they hear into prayer. We should have more keepers of the statutes if we had more who sighed and cried after the grace to do so.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 5. In tracing the connection of this verse with the preceding, we cannot forbear to remark how accurately the middle path is preserved, as keeping us at an equal: distance from the idea of self sufficiency to keep the Lord's statutes, and self justification in neglecting them. The first attempt to render spiritual obedience will quickly convince us of our utter helplessness. We might as soon create a world as create m our hearts one pulse of spiritual life. And yet our inability does not cancel our obligation.
It is the weakness of a heart that "cannot be subject to the law of God, "for no other reason than because it is "carnal, "and therefore "enmity against God." Our inability is our sin, our guilt, our condemnation, and instead of excusing our condition, stops our mouth, and leaves us destitute of any plea of defence before God. Thus our obligation remains in full force. We are bound to obey the commands of God, whether we can or not. What, then, remains for us, but to return the mandate to heaven, accompanied with an earnest prayer, that the Lord would write upon our hearts those statutes to which he requires obedience in his word? Thou hast commanded us to keep thy statutes diligently. We acknowledge, Lord, our obligation, but we feel our impotency. Lord, help us; we look unto thee. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes. Charles Bridges, 1849.
Ver. 5. O that, etc. In the former verse the prophet David observes the charge which God gives, and that is, that his commandments be diligently kept: here, then, he observes his own weakness and insufficiency to discharge that great duty, and therefore, as one by the spirit desirous to discharge it, and yet by the flesh not able to discharge it, he breaketh out into these words, O that my ways were directed, etc. Much like unto a child that being commanded to take up some great weight from the ground, is willing to do it, though not able to do it: or a sick patient advised to walk many turns in his chamber, finds a desire in his heart, though inability in his body to do that which he is directed unto. Richard Greenham.
Ver. 5. O that my ways, etc. It is the use and duty of the people of God to turn precepts into prayers. That this is the practice of God's children appeareth: "Turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God" (Jeremiah 31:18). God had said, "Turn you, and you shall live, "and they ask it of God, "Turn us, "as he required it of them. It was Austin's prayer, Daniel quod jubes, et jube quod vis, "Give what thou requirest, and require what thou wilt." It is the duty of the saints; for, 1st, It suits with the Gospel covenant , where precepts and promises go hand in hand; where God giveth what he commandeth, and worketh all our works in us and for us. They are not conditions of the covenant only, but a part of it.
What God hath required at our hands, that we may desire at his hands. God is no Pharaoh, to require brick where he giveth no straw. Lex jubet, gracia juvat . The articles of the new covenant are not only put into the form of precepts, but promises. The law giveth no strength to perform anything, but the Gospel offereth grace. Secondly, Because, by this means, the ends of God are fulfilled . Why doth God require what we cannot perform by our own strength? He doth it, (1.) To keep up his right. (2.) To convince us of our impotency, and that, upon a trial, without his grace we cannot do his work. (3.) That the creature may express his readiness to obey. (4.) To bring us to lie at his feet for grace. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 5. O that, etc. The whole life of a good Christian is an holy desire , saith Augustine; and this is always seconded with endeavour, without the which, affection is like Rachel, beautiful, but barren. John Trapp.
Ver. 5. O that my ways were directed, etc. The original word ˆwk , kun , is sometimes rendered to establish , and, accordingly, it may seem as if the prophet were soliciting for himself the virtue of perseverance. I am rather inclined to understand it as signifying to direct for, although God is plainly instructing us in his law, the obtuseness of our understanding and the perversity of our hearts constantly need the direction of his Spirit. John Calvin.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 5. — The prayer of the gracious. 1. Suggested by each preceding clause of blessing. 2. By a consciousness of failure. 3. By a loving clinging to the Lord.
Ver. 5. — 1. The end desired: "To keep thy statutes." Not to be safe merely, or happy, but holy. 2. The help implored. (a) To understand the divine precepts. (b) To keep them. — G. R.
Ver. 5. — Longing to obey. 1. It is a noble aspiration. There is nothing grander than the desire to do this except the doing of it. 2. It is a spiritual aspiration. Not the offspring of our carnal nature. It is the heart of God in the new creature. 3. It is a practicable aspiration. We sometimes sigh for the impossible.
But this may be attained by divine grace. 4. It is an intense aspiration. It is the "Oh!" of a burning wish. 5. It is an influential aspiration. It does not evaporate in sighs. It is a mighty incentive implanted by grace which will not let us rest without holiness. — W. J.
PSALM 119:6 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 6. Then shall I not be ashamed. He had known shame, and here he rejoices in the prospect of being freed from it. Sin brings shame, and when sin is gone, the reason for being ashamed is banished. What a deliverance this is, for to some men death is preferable to shame! When I have respect unto all thy commandments. When he respects God he shall respect himself and be respected. Whenever we err we prepare ourselves for confusion of face and sinking of heart: if no one else is ashamed of me I shall be ashamed of myself if I do iniquity. Our first parents never knew shame till they made the acquaintance of the old serpent, and it never left them till their gracious God had covered them with sacrificial skins. Disobedience made them naked and ashamed. We, ourselves, will always have cause for shame till every sin is vanquished, and every duty is observed. When we pay a continual and universal respect to the will of the Lord, then we shall be able to look ourselves in the face in the looking glass of the law, and we shall not blush at the sight of men or devils, however eager their malice may be to lay somewhat to our charge.
Many suffer from excessive diffidence, and this verse suggests a cure. An abiding sense of duty will make us bold, we shall be afraid to be afraid. No shame in the presence of man will hinder us when the fear of God has taken full possession of our minds. When we are on the king's highway by daylight, and are engaged upon royal business, we need ask no man's leave.
It would be a dishonour to a king to be ashamed of his livery and his service; no such shame should ever crimson the cheek of a Christian, nor will it if he has due reverence for the Lord his God. There is nothing to be ashamed of in a holy life; a man may be ashamed of his pride, ashamed of his wealth, ashamed of his own children, but he will never be ashamed of having in all things regarded the will of the Lord his God.
It is worthy of remark that David promises himself no immunity from shame till he has carefully paid homage to all the precepts. Mind that word "all, " and leave not one command out of your respect. Partial obedience still leaves us liable to be called to account for those commands which we have neglected. A man may have a thousand virtues, and yet a single failing may cover him with shame.
To a poor sinner who is buried in despair, it may seem a very unlikely thing that he should ever be delivered from shame. He blushes, and is confounded, and feels that he can never lift up his face again. Let him read these words: "Then shall I not be ashamed." David is not dreaming, nor picturing an impossible case. Be assured, dear friend, that the Holy Spirit can renew in you the image of God, so that you shall yet look up without fear. O for sanctification to direct us in God's way, for then shall we have boldness both towards God and his people, and shall no more crimson with confusion.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 6. Then shall I not be ashamed. No one likes to be ashamed or to blush :therefore all things which bring shame after them must be avoided:
Ezra 9:6 Jeremiah 3:25 Daniel 9:7,9. As the workman keeps his eye fixed on his pattern, and the scholar on the copy of his writing master; so the godly man ever and anon turns his eyes to the word of his God. Martin Geier.
Ver. 6. There is a twofold shame; the shame of a guilty conscience; and the shame of a tender conscience. The one is the merit and fruit of sin; the other is an act of grace. This which is here spoken of is to be understood not of a holy self loathing, but a confounding shame. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 6. Then shall I not be ashamed, etc. Then shall I have confidence both towards God and man, and mine own soul, when I can pronounce of myself that my obedience is impartial, and uniform, and universal, no secret sin reserved for my favour, no least commandment knowingly or willingly neglected by me. Henry Hammond.
Ver. 6. Then shall I not be ashamed, etc. You ask, Why is he not ashamed who has respect unto all the commandments of God ? I answer, the sense is, as if he had said, The commandments of God are so pure and excellent, that though thou shouldest regard the whole and each one of them most attentively, thou wouldest not find anything that would cause thee to blush.
The laws of Lycurgus are praised; but they permitted theft. The statutes of Plato are praised; but they commended the community of wives. "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul:" Psalm 19:7. It is a mirror, reflecting the beautiful light of the stars on him who looks into it. Thomas Le Blanc.
Ver. 6. The blessing here spoken of is freedom from shame in looking unto all the commandments. If God hear prayer, and establish the soul in this habit of keeping the commandments, there will be yet this further blessing of being able to look unto every precept without shame. Many men can look at some commandments without shame. Turning to the ten commandments, the honest man feels no shame as he gazes on the eighth, the pure man is free from reproach as he reads the seventh, he who is reverent and hates blasphemy is not rebuked by the thought that he has violated the third, while the filial spirit rather delights in than shuns the fifth. So on with the remainder. Most men perhaps can look at some of the precepts with comparative freedom from reproof. But who can so look unto them all? Yet this, also, the godly heart aspires to. In this verse we find the Psalmist consciously anticipating the truth of a word in the New Testament: "He that offends in one point is guilty of all." Frederick G.
Ver. 6. Ashamed.
I can bear scorpion's stings, tread fields of fire, In frozen gulfs of cold eternal lie; Be tossed aloft through tracts of endless void, But cannot live in shame. Joanna Baillie, 1762-1851.
Ver. 6. When I have respect unto all thy commandments. Literally, "In my looking at all thy commandments." That is, in his regarding them; in his feeling that all were equally binding on him; and in having the consciousness that he had not intentionally neglected, violated, or disregarded any of them. There can be no true piety except where a man intends to keep ALL the commands of God. If he makes a selection among them, keeping this one or that one, as may be most convenient for him, or as may be most for his interest, or as may be most popular, it is full proof that he knows nothing of the nature of true religion. A child has no proper respect for a parent if he obeys him only as shall suit his whim or his convenience; and no man can be a pious man who does not purpose, in all honesty, to keep ALL, the commandments of God; to submit to his will in everything . Albert Barnes.
Ver. 6. All thy commandments. There is the same reason for obedience to one command as another, — God's authority, who is the Lawgiver (Jas 2:11); and therefore when men choose one duty and overlook others, they do not so much obey the will of God, as gratify their own humours and fancies, pleasing Him only so far as they can please themselves too; and this is not reasonable; we never yield him a "reasonable service, "but when it is universal. Edward Veal (1632-1708), in "The Morning Exercises." Ver. 6. All thy commandments. A partial obedience will never satisfy a child of God. The exclusion of any commandment from its supreme regard in the heart is the brand of hypocrisy. Even Herod could "do many things, "and yet one evil way cherished, and therefore unforsaken, was sufficient to show the sovereign power of sin undisturbed within. Saul slew all the Amalekites but one; and that single exception in the path of universal obedience marked the unsoundness of his profession, cost him the loss of his throne, and brought him under the awful displeasure of his God. And thus the foot, or the hand, or the right eye, the corrupt unmortified members, bring the whole body to hell. Reserves are the canker of Christian sincerity. Charles Bridges.
Ver. 6. Unto all thy commandments. Allow that any of God's commandments may be transgressed, and we shall soon have the whole decalogue set aside. Adam Clarke, 1760-1832.
Ver. 6. Many will do some good, but are defective in other things, and usually in those which are most necessary. They cull out the easiest and cheapest parts of religion, such as do not contradict their lusts and interests. We can never have sound peace till we regard all. Then shall I not be ashamed when I have respect unto all thy commandments. Shame is fear of a just reproof. This reproof is either from the supreme or the deputy judge. The supreme judge of all our actions is God. This should be our principal care, that we may not be ashamed before him at his coming, nor disapproved in the judgment. But there is a deputy judge which every man has in his own bosom. Our consciences do acquit or condemn us as we are partial or sincere in our duty to God, and much depends on that. 1 John 3:20-21, "For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God." Well, then, that our hearts may not reprove or reproach us, we should be complete in all the will of God. Alas, otherwise you will never have evidence of your sincerity. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 6. Such is the mercy of God in Christ to his children, that lie accepts their weak endeavours, joined with sincerity and perseverance in his service, as if they were a full obedience... O, who would not serve such a Lord? You hear servants sometimes complain of their masters as so rigid and strict, that they can never please them; no, not when they do their utmost: but this cannot be charged upon God. Be but so faithful as to do thy best, and God is so gracious that he will pardon thy worst. David knew this gospel indulgence when he said, Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments, when my eye is to all thy commandments. The traveller hath his eye on or towards the place he is going to, though he be as yet short of it; there he would be, and he is putting on all he can to reach it: so stands the saint's heart to all the commands of God; he presseth on to come nearer and nearer to full obedience; such a soul shall never be put to shame. William Gurnall, 1617- 1679.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 6. — See "Spurgeon's Sermons, "No. 1443: "A Clear Conscience."
Ver. 6. — Holy confidence the offspring of universal obedience.
Ver. 6. — The armour of proof. 1. Universal obedience will give unabashed confidence— (a) Before the criticising world. (b) In the court of conscience. (c) At the throne of grace. (d) In the day of judgment. 2. But our obedience is far from universal, and leaves us open to (a) The world's shafts. (b) The rebukes of conscience. (c) It paralyses our prayers (d) It dares not appear for us at the bar of God. 3. Then let us by faith wrap ourselves in the perfect righteousness of Christ. Our answer to the world's cavil. We are not faultless, and for salvation we rest wholly on another. This righteousness is— (a) The salve of our wounded conscience. (b) Our mighty plea in prayer. (c) Our triumphant vindication in the judgment day. — C. A.D.
Ver. 6. — Topic: — Self respect depends on respect for one greater than self. — W. D.
PSALM 119:7 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 7. I will praise thee. From prayer to praise is here, a long or a difficult journey. Be sure that he who prays for holiness will one day praise for happiness. Shame having vanished, silence is broken, and the formerly silent man declares, "I will praise thee." He cannot but promise praise while he seeks sanctification. Mark how well he knows upon what head to set the crown. "I will praise thee. " He would himself be praiseworthy, but he counts God alone worthy of praise. By the sorrow and shame of sin he measures his obligations to the Lord who would teach him the art of living so that he should clean escape from his former misery. With up righteous of heart. His heart would be upright if the Lord would teach him, and then it should praise its teacher. There is such a thing as false and feigned praise, and this the Lord abhors; but there is no music like that which comes from a pure soul which standeth in its integrity. Heart praise is required, uprightness in that heart, and teaching to make the heart upright. An upright heart is sure to bless the Lord, for grateful adoration is a part of its uprightness; no man can be right unless he is upright towards God, and this involves the rendering to him the praise which is his due. When I shall have learned thy righteous judgments. We must learn to praise, learn that we may praise, and praise when we have learned. If we are ever to learn, the Lord must teach us, and especially upon such a subject as his judgments, for they are a great deep. While these are passing before our eyes, and we are learning from them, we ought to praise God, for the original is not, "when I have learned, "but, "in my learning." While yet I am a scholar I will be a chorister: my upright heart shall praise thine uprightness, my purified judgment shall admire thy judgments. God's providence is a book full of teaching, and to those whose hearts are right it is a music book, out of which they chant to Jehovah's praise. God's word is full of the record of his righteous providence, and as we read it we feel compelled to burst forth into expressions of holy delight and ardent praise.
When we both read of God's judgments and become joyful partakers in them, we are doubly moved to song— song in which there is neither formality, nor hypocrisy, nor lukewarmness, for the heart is upright in the presentation of its praise.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 7. I will praise thee... when I shall have learned, etc. There is no way to please God entirely and sincerely until we have learned both to know and do his will. Practical praise is the praise God looks after. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 7. I will praise thee. What is the matter for which he praises God? It is that he has been taught something of him and by him amongst men. To have learned any tongue, or science, from some school of philosophy, bindeth us to our alma mater. We praise those who can teach a dog, a horse, this or that; but for us ass colts to learn the will of God, how to walk pleasing before him, this should be acknowledged of us as a great mercy from God. Paul Bayne.
Ver. 7. Praise thee...when I shall have learned, etc. But when doth David say that he will be thankful? Even when God shall teach him. Both the matter and the grace of thankfulness are from God. As he did with Abraham, he commanded him to worship by sacrifice, and at the same time gave him the sacrifice: so doth he with all his children; for he gives not only good things, for which they should thank him, but in like manner grace by which they are able to thank him. William Cowper.
Ver. 7. When, I shall have learned. By learning he means his attaining not only to the knowledge of the word, but the practice of it. It is not a speculative light, or a bare notion of things: "Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me" (John 6:45). It is such a learning as the effect will necessarily follow, such a light and illumination as doth convert the soul, and frame our hearts and ways according to the will of God. For otherwise, if we get understanding of the word, nay, if we get it imprinted in our memories, it will do us no good without practice. The best of God's servants are but scholars and students in the knowledge and obedience of his word. For saith David, "When I shall have learned." The professors of the Christian religion were primitively called disciples or learners: to plhyov twn mayhtwn ; "the multitude of the disciples" (Acts 6:2.) Thomas Manton.
Ver. 7. Learned thy righteous judgments. We see here what David especially desired to learn, namely, the word and will of God: he would ever be a scholar in this school, and sought daily to ascend to the highest form; that learning to know, he might remember; remembering, might believe; believing, might delight; delighting might admire; admiring, might adore; adoring, might practise; and practising, might continue in the way of God's statutes. This learning is the old and true learning indeed, and he is best learned in this art, who turneth God's word into good works. Richard Greenham.
Ver. 7. Judgments of thy righteousness are the decisions concerning right and wrong which give expression to and put in execution the righteousness of God. Franz Delitzsch.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 7. — The best of praise, the best of learning, the best of blendings, viz., praise and holiness.
Ver. 7. — 1. The professor of sacred music: "I will praise." 2. The subject of his song: "Thee." 3. The instrument: "Heart." 4. The instrument tuned: "Uprightness of heart." 5. The musician's training academy: "Judgments." — W.D.
Ver. 7. — Learning and praising. 1. They are two spiritual exercises. It is possible for learners and singers to be carnal and sensual; but in this case they are employed about the righteous ends, works, and ways of the Lord. 2. They are two appropriate exercises. What can be more seemly than to learn of God and to praise him? 3. They are two profitable exercises. The expectations of the most utilitarian are surpassed. The pleasure and the profit yield abundant reward. Heart, head, life are all benefited. 4. They are two mutually assisting exercises. In the one we are receptive, and in the other communicative. By the one we are fitted to do the other. By the former we are stimulated to do the latter. How wonderfully the lesson is turned into a song, and the learner into a singer. — W.J.
Ver. 7. — 1. Deficiency confessed: "When I shall have learned." This is essential to growth. It is an admission all can truly make. 2. Progress anticipated. He gave his heart to the work of learning. He sought divine help. 3. Praise promised. He promised it to God alone. He vowed it should be sincere: "with upright heart." — W. Williams, of Lambeth, 1882.
PSALM 119:8 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 8. I will keep thy statutes. A calm resolve. When praise calms down into solid resolution it is well with the soul. Zeal which spends itself in singing, and leaves no practical residuum of holy living, is little worth: "I will praise" should be coupled with "I will keep." This firm resolve is by no means boastful, like Peter's "though I should die with thee, yet will I not forsake thee, "for it is followed by a humble prayer for divine help, O forsake me not utterly. Feeling his own incapacity, he trembles lest he should be left to himself, and this fear is increased by the horror which he has of falling into sin. The "I will keep" sounds lightly enough now that the humble cry is heard with it. This is a happy amalgam: resolution and dependence. We meet with those who to all appearance humbly pray, but there is no force of character, no decision in them, and consequently the pleading of the closet is not embodied in the life: on the other band, we meet with abundance of resolve attended with an entire absence of dependence upon God, and this makes as poor a character as the former.
The Lord grant us to have such a blending of excellences that we may be "perfect and entire, wanting nothing."
This prayer is one which is certain to be heard, for assuredly it must be highly pleasing to God to see a man set upon obeying his will, and therefore it must be most agreeable to him to be present with such a person, and to help him in his endeavours. How can he forsake one who does not forsake his law?
The peculiar dread which tinges this prayer with a sombre hue is the fear of utter forsaking. Well may the soul cry out against such a calamity. To be left, that we may discover our weakness, is a sufficient trial: To be altogether forsaken would be ruin and death. Hiding the face in a little wrath for a moment brings us very low: an absolute desertion would land us ultimately in the lowest hell. But the Lord never has utterly forsaken his servants, and he never will, blessed be his name. If we long to keep his statutes he will keep us; yea, his grace will keep us keeping his law.
There is rather a descent from the mount of benediction with which the first verse began to the almost wail of this eighth verse, yet this is spiritually a growth, for from admiration of goodness we have come to a burning longing after God and communion with him, and an intense horror lest it should not be enjoyed. The sigh of Psalm 119:5 is now supplanted by an actual prayer from the depths of a heart conscious of its undesert, and its entire dependence upon divine love. The two, "I wills" needed to be seasoned with some such lowly petition, or it might have been thought that the good man's dependence was in some degree fixed upon his own determination. He presents his resolutions like a sacrifice, but he cries to heaven for the fire.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 8. This verse, being the last of this portion, is the result of his meditation concerning the utility and necessity of the keeping the law of God there take notice: 1. Of his resolution, I will keep thy statutes. 2. Of his prayer, O forsake me not utterly. It is his purpose to keep the law; yet because he is conscious to himself of many infirmities, he prays against desertion.
In the prayer more is intended than is expressed. "O forsake me not" , he means, strengthen me in this work; and if thou shouldest desert me, yet but for a while, Lord, not for ever; if in part, not in whole. Four points we may observe hence: 1. That it is a great advantage to come to a resolution as to a course of godliness. 2. Those that resolve upon a course of obedience have need to fly to God's help. 3. Though we fly to God's help, yet sometimes God may withdraw, and seem to forsake us. 4. Though God seem to forsake us, and really doth so in part; yet we should pray that it may not be a total and utter desertion. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 8 (with 7). I will keep thy statutes, etc. The resolution to "keep the Lord's statutes" is the natural result of having "learned his righteous judgments." And on this point David illustrates the inseparable and happy union of "simplicity" of dependence, and "godly sincerity" of obedience.
Instantly upon forming his resolution, he recollects that the performance of it is beyond the power of human strength, and therefore the next moment he follows it with prayer: I will keep thy statutes; O forsake me not utterly.
Ver. 8. I will. David setteth a personal example of holiness. If the king of Israel keep God's statutes, the people of Israel wilt be ashamed to neglect them. Caesar was wont to say, Princes must not say, Ite , go ye, without me; but, Venite, come ye, along with me. So said Gideon (Jud 5:17): "As ye see me do, so do ye." R. Greenham.
Ver. 8. Forsake me not utterly. There is a total and a partial desertion.
Those who are bent to obey God may for a while, and in some degree, be left to themselves. We cannot promise ourselves an utter immunity from desertion; but it is not total. We shall find for his great name's sake, "The Lord will not forsake his people" (1 Samuel 12:22), and, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5). Not utterly, yet in part they may be forsaken. Elijah was forsaken, but not as Ahab: Peter was forsaken in part, but not as Judas, who was utterly forsaken, and made a prey to the Devil.
David was forsaken to be humbled and bettered; but Saul was forsaken utterly to be destroyed. Saith Theophylact, God may forsake his people so as to shut out their prayers, (Psalm 80:4), so as to interrupt the peace and joy of their heart, and abate their strength, so that their spiritual life may be much at a stand, and sin may break out, and they may fall foully; but they are not utterly forsaken. One way or other, God is still present; present in light sometimes when he is not present in strength, when he manifests the evil of their present condition, so as to make them mourn under it; and present in awakening their desires, though not in giving them enjoyment.
As long as there is any esteem of God, he is not yet gone; there is some light and love yet left, manifested by our desires of communion with him. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 8. Forsake me not utterly. The desertions of God's elect are first of all partial , that is, such as wherein God doth not wholly forsake them, but in some part. Secondly, temporary , that is, for some space of time, and never beyond the compass of this present life. "For a moment (saith the Lord in Esay) in mine anger I hid my face from thee for a little season, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer." And to this purpose David, well acquainted with this matter, prayeth, "Forsake me not overlong." This sort of desertions, though it be but for a time, yet no part of a Christian man's life is free from them; and very often taking deep place in the heart of man, they are of long continuance. David continued in his dangerous fall about the space of a whole year before he was recovered. Luther confesseth of himself, that, after his conversion, he lay three years in desperation. Common observation in such like cases hath made record of even longer times of spiritual forsaking. Richard Greenham.
Ver. 8. O forsake me not utterly. This prayer reads like the startled cry of one who was half afraid that he had been presumptuous in expressing the foregoing resolve. He desired to keep the divine statutes, and like Peter he vowed that he would do so; but remembering his own weakness, he recoils from his own venturesomeness, and feels that he must pray. I have made a solemn vow, but what if I have uttered it in my own strength? What if God should leave me to myself? He is filled with terror at the thought. He breaks out with an "O." He implores and beseeches the Lord not to test him by leaving him even for an instant entirely to himself. To be forsaken of God is the worst ill that the most melancholy saint ever dreams of.
Thank God, it will never fall to our lot; for no promise can be more express than that which saith, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." This promise does not prevent our praying, but excites us to it. Because God will not forsake his own, therefore do we cry to him in the agony of our feebleness, "O forsake me not utterly." C. H. S.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 8. — 1. A hopeful resolve for life. 2. A dreadful fear. 3. A series of considerations removing the fear.
Ver. 8. — 1. The resolution: "I will keep, "etc. 2. The position: "O forsake me not utterly." (a) Filial submission. I deserve it occasionally. (b) Filial confidence. "Not utterly." 3. The connection between the two. Obedience without prayer and prayer without obedience are equally in vain. To make headway both oars must be applied. God cannot abide lazy beggars, who while they can get anything by asking will not work. — G.R.
Ver. 8. — O forsake me not utterly. Divine desertion deprecated. 1. The anguished prayer. (a) Sovereign forsaking. Sovereignty is not arbitrariness or capriciousness: perhaps its right definition is mysterious kingly love; unknown now, but justified when revealed. (b) Vicarious forsaking. (c) Forsaking on account of sin. David, Jonah, and Peter. The seven churches of Asia; the Jews. But to know what "utter" both in regard to degree and time means, we must go to hell. Like one trembling on the very verge of hell, he prays. Like belated traveller, in vast wood and surrounded by beasts of prey, sighs at day's departure. Like the watch on the raft seeing the sail that he has shouted himself hoarse to stop fading away in the sky line. 2. Its doctrinal foundation. Where he condescends to dwell, his abode is perpetual. He can only utterly forsake us because he was deceived in us. He can only utterly forsake because baffled. Both imply blasphemy.
Thou who hatest putting away thou who hast never yet utterly forsaken any saint, make not me the solitary exception. 3. Historical certainty of answer. The saint and the church in all time delivered. It may tarry till "eventide, "as in Cowper's case. His face bore after death an expression of delighted surprise. — W.A.
PSALM 119:9 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 9. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? How shall he become and remain practically holy? He is but a young man, full of hot passions, and poor in knowledge and experience; how shall he get right, and keep right? Never was there a more important question for any man; never was there a fitter time for asking it than at the commencement of life.
It is by no means an easy task which the prudent young man sets before him. He wishes to choose a clean way, to be himself clean in it, to cleanse it of any foulness which may arise in the future, and to end by showing a clear course from the first step to the last; but, alas, his way is already unclean by actual sin which he has already committed, and he himself has within his nature a tendency towards that which defileth. Here, then, is the difficulty, first of beginning aright, next of being always able to know and choose the right, and of continuing in the right till perfection is ultimately reached: this is hard for any man, how shall a youth accomplish it? The way, or life, of the man has to be cleansed from the sins of his youth behind him, and kept clear of the sins which temptation will place before him: this is the work, this is the difficulty.
No nobler ambition can lie before a youth, none to which he is called by so sure a calling; but none in which greater difficulties can be found. Let him not, however, shrink from the glorious enterprise of living a pure and gracious life; rather let him enquire the way by which all obstacles may be overcome. Let him not think that he knows the road to easy victory, nor dream that he can keep himself by his own wisdom; he will do well to follow the Psalmist, and become an earnest enquirer asking how he may cleanse his way. Let him become a practical disciple of the holy God, who alone can teach him how to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil, that trinity of defilers by whom many a hopeful life has been spoiled. He is young and unaccustomed to the road, let him not be ashamed often to enquire his way of him who is so ready and so able to instruct him in it.
Our "way" is a subject which concerns us deeply, and it is far better to enquire about it than to speculate upon mysterious themes which rather puzzle than enlighten the mind. Among all the questions which a young man asks, and they are many, let this be the first and chief: "Wherewithal shall I cleanse my way?" This is a question suggested by common sense, and pressed home by daily occurrences; but it is not to be answered by unaided reason, nor, when answered, can the directions be carried out by unsupported human power. It is ours to ask the question, it is God's to give the answer and enable us to carry it out. By taking heed thereto according to thy word. Young man, the Bible must be your chart, and you must exercise great watchfulness that your way may be according to its directions. You must take heed to your daily life as well as study your Bible, and you must study your Bible that you may take heed to your daily life. With the greatest care a man will go astray if his map misleads him; but with the most accurate map he will still lose his road if he does not take heed to it. The narrow way was never hit upon by chance, neither did any heedless man ever lead a holy life. We can sin without thought, we have only to neglect the great salvation and ruin our souls; but to obey the Lord and walk uprightly will need all our heart and soul and mind. Let the careless remember this.
Yet the "word" is absolutely necessary; for, otherwise, care will darken into morbid anxiety, and conscientiousness may become superstition. A captain may watch from his deck all night; but if he knows nothing of the coast, and has no pilot on board, he may be carefully hastening on to shipwreck.
It is not enough to desire to he right; for ignorance may make us think that we are doing God service when we are provoking him, and the fact of our ignorance will not reverse the character of our action, however much it may mitigate its criminality. Should a man carefully measure out what he believes to be a dose of useful medicine, he will die if it should turn out that he has taken up the wrong vial, and has poured out a deadly poison: the fact that he did it ignorantly will not alter the result. Even so, a young man may surround himself with ten thousand ills, by carefully using an unenlightened judgment, and refusing to receive instruction from the word of God. Wilful ignorance is in itself wilful sin, and the evil which comes of it is without excuse. Let each man, whether young or old, who desires to be holy have a holy watchfulness in his heart, and keep his Holy Bible before his open eye. There he will find every turn of the road marked down, every slough and miry place pointed out, with the way to go through unsoiled; and there, too, he will find light for his darkness, comfort for his weariness, and company for his loneliness, so that by its help he shall reach the benediction of the first verse of the Psalm, which suggested the Psalmist's enquiry, and awakened his desires.
Note how the first section of eight verses has for its first verse, "Blessed are the undefiled in the way." and the second section runs parallel to it, with the question, "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?" The blessedness which is set before us in a conditional promise should be practically sought for in the way appointed. The Lord saith, "For this will I be enquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them."
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
The eight verses alphabetically arranged: 9. B y what means shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word. 10. B y day and by night have I sought thee with my whole heart: O let me not wander from thy commandments. 11. B y thy grace I have hid thy word in my heart, that I might not sin against thee. 12. B lessed art thou, O Lord: teach me thy statutes. 13. B y the words of my lips will I declare all the judgments of thy mouth. 14. B y far more than in all riches I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies. 15. B y thy help I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. 16. B y thy grace I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word. Theodore Kuebler.
Whole eight verses , 9-16. Every verse in the section begins with b , a house . The subject of the section is, The Law of Jehovah purifying the Life. Key word, jkz (zacah ), to be pure , to make pure, to cleanse. F. G.
Ver. 9. Whole verse. In this passage there is, 1. A question. 2. An answer given.
In the question, there is the person spoken of, "a young man, " and his work, "Wherewithal shall he cleanse his way?" In this question there are several things supposed. 1. That we are from the birth polluted with sin; for we must be cleansed. It is not direct "his way, "but "cleanse his way." 2. That we should be very early and betimes sensible of this evil; for the question is propounded concerning the young man. 3. That we should earnestly seek for a remedy, how to dry up the issue of sin that runneth upon us. All this is to be supposed.
That which is enquired after is, What remedy there is against it? What course is to be taken? So that the sum of the question is this: How shall a man that is impure, and naturally defiled with sin, be made able, as soon as he cometh to the use of reason, to purge out that natural corruption, and live a holy and pure life to God? The answer is given: "By taking heed thereto according to thy word." Where two things are to be observed. 1. The remedy. 2. The manner how it is applied and made use of. 1. The remedy is the word; by way of address to God, called "Thy word" ; because, if God had not given direction about it, we should have been at an utter loss. 2. The manner how it is applied and made use of, "by taking heed thereto, " etc.; by studying and endeavouring a holy conformity to God's will. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 9. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? etc. Aristotle, that great dictator in philosophy, despaired of achieving so great an enterprise as the rendering a young man capable of his hqika akroamata , "his grave and severe lectures of morality"; for that age is light and foolish, yet headstrong and untractable. Now, take a young man all in the heat and boiling of his blood, in the highest fermentation of his youthful lusts; and, at all these disadvantages, let him enter that great school of the Holy Spirit, the divine Scripture, and commit himself to the conduct of those blessed oracles; and he shall effectually be convinced, by his own experience, of the incredible virtue, the vast and mighty power, of God's word, in the success it hath upon him, and in his daily progression and advances in heavenly wisdom. John Gibbon (about 1660) in "The Morning Exercises." Ver. 9. A young man. A prominent place— one of the twenty-two parts— is assigned to young men in the 119th Psalm. It is meet that it should be so.
Youth is the season of impression and improvement, young men are the future props of society, and the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom, must begin in youth. The strength, the aspirations, the unmarred expectations of youth, are in requisition for the world; O that they may be consecrated to God. John Stephen, in "The Utterances of the 119 Psalm, " 1861.
Ver. 9. For young man, in the Hebrew the word is r[n naar, i.e., "shaken off" ; that is to say, from the milder and more tender care of his parents.
Thus Mercerus and Savailerius. Secondly, naar may be rendered "shaking off" ; that is to say, the yoke, for a young man begins to cast off the maternal, and frequently the paternal, yoke. Thomas Le Blanc.
Ver. 9. Cleanse his way. The expression does not absolutely convey the impression that the given young man is in a corrupt and discreditable way which requires cleansing, though this be true of all men originally: Isaiah 53:6. That which follows makes known that such could not be the case with this young man. The very inquiry shows that his heart is not in a corrupt state. Desire is present, direction is required. The inquiry is— How shall a young man make a clean way — a pure line of conduct— through this defiling world? It is a question, I doubt not, of great anxiety to every convert whose mind is awakened to a sense of sin— how he shall keep clear of the sin, avoid the loose company, and rid himself of the wicked pleasures and practices of this enslaving world. And as he moves on in the line of integrity— many temptations coming in his way, and much inward corruption rising up to control him— how often will the same anxious inquiry arise: Romans 7:24. It is only in a false estimate of one's own strength that any can think otherwise, and the spirit of such false estimate will be brought low. How felt you, my young friends, who have been brought to Christ, in the day of your resolving to be his? But for all such anxiety there seems to be an answer in the text. By taking heed thereto according to thy word. It is not that young men in our day require information: they require the inclination. In the gracious young man there are both, and the word that began feeds the proper motives. The awful threatenings and the sweet encouragements both more him in the right direction. The answer furnished to this anxious inquiry is sufficiently plain and practical. He is directed to the word of God for all direction, and we might say, for all promised assistance. Still the matter presented in this light does not appear to me to bring out the full import of the passage. The inquiry to me would seem to extend over the whole verse. (This opinion is confirmed by the quotation which follows from Cowles.)
There is required the cleansing that his way be according to the Divine Word. The enquiry is of the most enlarged comprehension, and will be made only by one who can say that he has been honestly putting himself in the way, as the young man in Psalm 119:10-11; and it can be answered only by the heart that takes in all the strength provided by the blessed God, as is expressed here in Psalm 119:12. The Psalmist makes the inquiry, he shows how earnestly he had sought to be in the right way, and immediately he finds all his strength in God. Thus he declares how he has been enabled to do rightly, and how he will do rightly in the future. John Stephen.
Ver. 9. Instead of question and answer both in this one verse, the Hebrew demands the construction with question only, leaving the answer to be inferred from the drift of the entire Psalm— thus: Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way to keep it according to thy word? This translation gives precisely the force of the last clause. Hebrew punctuation lacks the interrogation point, so that we have no other clue but the form of the sentence and the sense by which to decide where the question ends. Henry Cowles, 1872.
Ver. 9. His way. jra , orach , which we translate way here, signifies a track , a rut , such as is made by the wheel of a cart or chariot. A young sinner has no broad beaten path; he has his private ways of offence, his secret pollutions ;and how shall he be cleansed from these? how can he be saved from what will destroy mind, body, and soul? Let him hear what follows; the description is from God. 1. He is to consider that his way is impure ;and how abominable this must make him appear in the sight of God. 2. He must examine it according to God's word , and carefully hear what God has said concerning him and it . 3. He must take heed to it, rmvl , lishmor , to keep, guard, and preserve his way — his general course of life, from all defilement. Adam Clarke.
Ver. 9. By taking heed, etc. I think the words may be better rendered and supplied thus, by observing what is according to thy word ;which shows how a sinner is to be cleansed from his sins by the blood of Christ, and justified by his righteousness, and be clean through his word; and also how and by whom the work of sanctification is wrought in the heart, even by the Spirit of God, by means of the word, and what is the rule of a man's walk and conversation: he will find the word of God to be profitable, to inform in the doctrines of justification and pardon, to acquaint him with the nature of regeneration and sanctification; and for the correction and amendment of his life and manners, and for his instruction in every branch of manners: 2 Timothy 3:16. John Gill, 1697-1771.
Ver. 9. By taking heed. There is an especial necessity for this "Take heed, " because of the proneness of a young man to thoughtlessness, carelessness, presumption, self confidence. There is an especial necessity for "taking heed, " because of the difficulty of the way. "Look well to thy goings"; it is a narrow path. "Look well to thy goings"; it is a new path. "Look well to thy goings"; it is a slippery path. "Look well to thy goings"; it is an eventful path. James Harrington Evans, 1785-1849.
Ver. 9. According to thy word. God's word is the glass which discovereth all spiritual deformity, and also the water and soap which washes and scours it away. Paul Bayne.
Ver. 9. According to thy word. I do not say that there are no other guides, no other fences. I do not say that conscience is worth nothing, and conscience in youth is especially sensitive and tender; I do not say that prayer is not a most valuable fence, but prayer without taking heed is only another name for presumption: prayer and carelessness can never walk hand in hand together; and I therefore say that there is no fence nor guard that can so effectually keep out every enemy as prayerful reading of the word of God, bringing every solicitation from the world or from companions, every suggestion from our own hearts and passions, to the test of God's word: — What says the Bible? The answer of the Bible, with the teaching and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, will in all the intricacies of our road be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. Barton Bouchier.
Ver. 9. Thy word. The word is the only weapon (like Goliath's sword, none to equal this), for the hewing down and cutting off of this stubborn enemy, our lusts. The word of God can master our lusts when they are in their greatest pride: if ever lust rageth at one time more than another, it is when youthful blood boils in our veins. Youth is giddy, and his lust is hot and impetuous: his sun is climbing higher still, and he thinks it is a great while to night; so that it must be a strong arm that brings a young man off his lusts, who hath his palate at best advantage to taste sensual pleasure. The rigour of his strength affords him more of the delights of the flesh than crippled age can expect, and he is farther from the fear of death's gunshot, as he thinks, than old men who are upon the very brink of the grave, and carry the scent of the earth about them, into which they are suddenly to be resolved. Well, let the word of God meet this young gallant in all his bravery, with his feast of sensual delights before him, and but whisper a few syllables in his car, give his conscience but a prick with the point of its sword, and it shall make him fly in as great haste from them all, as Absalom's brethren did from the feast when they saw Amnon their brother murdered at the table. When David would give the young man a receipt to cure him of his lusts, how he may cleanse his whole course and way, he bids him only wash in the waters of the word of God. William Gumall.
Ver. 9. The Scriptures teach us the best way of living, the noblest way of suffering, and the most comfortable way of dying. John Flavel, 1627-1691.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Outlines Upon Keywords of The Psalm, by Pastor C. A. Davis Ver. 9-16. — Sanctification by the word , declared generally (Psalm 119:9); sought personally (Psalm 119:10-12); published to others (Psalm 119:13); personally rejoiced in (Psalm 119:14-16).
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 9. — 1. The young man's question. 2. The wise man's reply.
Ver. 9. — In the word of God, when applied to the heart by the Spirit of God, there is, 1. A sufficiency of light to discover to men the need of cleansing their way. 2. Sufficiency of energy for the cleansing their way. 3. A sufficiency of pleasure to encourage them to choose to cleanse their way. 4. A sufficiency of support to sustain them in their cleansed way. — Theophilus Jones, in a "Sermon to the Young, "1829.
Ver. 9. The word of God provides for the cleansing of the way. 1. By pointing out to the young man the evil of the way. 2. By discovering an infallible remedy for the disorders of his nature— the salvation that is by Jesus Christ. 3. By becoming a directory in all the paths of duty to which he may be called. — Daniel Wilson, 1828.
Ver. 9. — The Psalmist's rules for the attainment of holiness deduced from his own experience. 1. Seek God with thy "whole heart" (Psalm 119:2). Be truly sensible of your wants. 2. Keep and remember what God says (Psalm 119:11): "Thy word have I hidden, "etc. 3. Reduce all this to practice (Psalm 119:11): "That I might not sin against thee." 4. Bless God for what he has given (vet. 12): "Blessed art thou, "etc. 5. Ask more (Psalm 119:12): Teach me thy statute, . 6. Be ready to communicate his knowledge to others (Psalm 119:13): "With my lips have I declared." 7. Let it have a due effect on thy own heart (Psalm 119:14): "I have rejoiced, "etc. 8. Meditate frequently upon them (Psalm 119:15): "I will meditate, "etc. 9. Deeply reflect on them (Psalm 119:16): "I will have respect, "etc. As food undigested will not nourish the body, so the word of God not considered with deep meditation and reflection will not feed the soul. 10. Having pursued the above course he should continue in it, and then his happiness would be secured (Psalm 119:16): "I will not forget thy word: I will (in consequence) delight myself in thy statutes." — Adam Clarke.
Ver. 9. — A question and answer for the young. The Bible is a book for young people. Here it intimates, 1. That the young man's way needs to be cleansed. His way of thinking, feeling, speaking, acting. 2. That he must take an active part in the work. The efficient cause in the operation is God. Other good influences are also at work. But the young man must be in hearty and practical sympathy with the work. 3. That he must use the Bible for the purpose. This records facts, presents incitations, enjoins precepts, utters promises, and sets up examples, all which are adapted to make a young man holy. By reading, studying, and imitating the Scriptures in a lowly and prayerful spirit the young shall escape pollution and ornament society. — W.J.
Ver. 9. — A word to the young. 1. Show how the young man is in special danger of defiling his way.
Through, (a) His strong passions. (b) His immature judgment. (c) His inexperience. (d) His rash self sufficiency. (e) His light companions, and, (f) His general heedlessness. 2. The circumspection he should use to cleanse his way. "Taking heed, " (a) Of his evil propensities. (b) Of his companions. (c) Of his pursuits. (d) Of the tendencies of all he does. 3. The infallible guide by which his circumspection is to be regulated: "according to thy word" — that is to say, (a) Its precepts. (b) Its examples. (c) Its motives. (d) Its warnings. (e) Its allurements. — C.A.D.
PSALM 119:10 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 10. With my whole heart have I sought thee. His heart had gone after God himself: he had not only desired to obey his laws, but to commune with his person. This is a right royal search and pursuit, and well may it be followed with the whole heart. The surest mode of cleansing the way of our life is to seek after God himself, and to endeavour to abide in fellowship with him. Up to the good hour in which he was speaking to his Lord, the Psalmist had been an eager seeker after the Lord, and if faint, he was still pursuing. Had he not sought the Lord he would never have been so anxious to cleanse his way.
It is pleasant to see how the writer's heart turns distinctly and directly to God. He had been considering an important truth in the preceding verse, but here he so powerfully feels the presence of his God that he speaks to him, and prays to him as to one who is near. A true heart cannot long live without fellowship with God.
His petition is founded on his life's purpose: he is seeking the Lord, and he prays the Lord to prevent his going astray in or from his search. It is by obedience that we follow after God, hence the prayer, O let me not wander from thy commandments ; for if we leave the ways of God's appointment we certainly shall not find the God who appointed them. The more a man's whole heart is set upon holiness the more does he dread falling into sin; he is not so much fearful of deliberate transgression as of inadvertent wandering: he cannot endure a wandering look, or a rambling thought, which might stray beyond the pale of the precept. We are to be such wholehearted seekers that we have neither time nor will to be wanderers, and yet with all our wholeheartedness we are to cultivate a jealous fear lest even then we should wander from the path of holiness.
Two things may be very like and yet altogether different: saints are "strangers" — "I am a stranger in the earth" (Psalm 119:19), but they are not wanderers: they are passing through an enemy's country, but their route is direct; they are seeking their Lord while they traverse this foreign land. Their way is hidden from men; but yet they have not lost their way.
The man of God exerts himself, but does not trust himself: his heart is in his walking with God: but he knows that even his whole strength is not enough to keep him right unless his King shall be his keeper, and he who made the commands shall make him constant in obeying them: hence the prayer, "O let me not wander." Still, this sense of need was never turned into an argument for idleness; for while he prayed to be kept in the right road he took care to run in it with his whole heart seeking the Lord.
It is curious again to note how the second part of the Psalm keeps step with the first; for where Psalm 119:2 pronounces that man to be blessed who seeks the Lord with his whole heart, the present verse claims the blessing by pleading the character: With my whole heart have I sought thee.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 10. With my whole heart have I sought thee. There are very few of us that are able to say with the prophet David that we have sought God with our whole heart; to wit, with such integrity and pureness that we have not turned away from that mark as from the most principal thing of our salvation. John Calvin.
Ver. 10. With my whole heart have I sought thee. Sincerity is in every expression; the heart is open before God. The young man can so speak to the Searcher of hearts... Let us consider the directness of this kind of converse with God. We use round about expressions in drawing nigh to God. We say, With my whole heart would I seek thee. We are afraid to be direct... See how decided in his conscious acting is the young man before you, how open and confiding he is, and such you will find to be the characteristic of his pious mind throughout the varied expressions unfolded in this Psalm. Here he declares to the Omniscient One that he had sought him with all his heart. He desired to realize God in everything. John Stephen.
Ver. 10 (first clause ). God alone sees the heart; the heart alone sees God. John Donne, 1573-1631.
Ver. 10. O let me not wander from thy commandments. David after he had protested that he sought God with his whole heart, besought God that he would not suffer him to decline from his commandments. Hereby let us see what great need we have to call upon God, to the end he may hold us with a mighty strong hand. Yea, and though he hath already mightily put to his healing hand, and we also know that he hath bestowed upon us great and manifest graces; yet this is not all: for there are so many vices and imperfections in our nature, and we are so feeble and weak that we have very great need daily to pray unto him, yea, and that more and more, that he will not suffer us to decline from his commandments. John Calvin.
Ver. 10. The more experience a man hath in the ways of God, the more sensible is he of his own readiness to wander insensibly, by ignorance and inadvertency, from the ways of God; but the young soldier dares run hazards, ride into his adversary's camp, and talk with temptation, being confident he cannot easily go wrong; he is not so much in fear as David who here cries, O let me not wander. David Dickson, 1583-1662.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 10. — 1. A grateful review. 2. An anxious forecast. 3. A commendable prayer.
Ver. 10. — The believer's two great solicitudes. 1. What he is anxious to find: "I have sought thee." 2. What he is afraid of losing: "Thy commandments." — W. D.
Ver. 10. — Sincerity not self sufficiency. 1. The believer must be conscious of wholeheartedness in seeking God. 2. But consciousness of sincerity does not warrant self sufficiency. 3. The most wholehearted seeker must still look to divine grace to keep him from wandering. — C.A.D.
PSALM 119:11 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 11. When a godly man sues for a favour from God he should carefully use every means for obtaining it, and accordingly, as the Psalmist had asked to be preserved from wandering, he here shows us the holy precaution which he had taken to prevent his falling into sin. Thy word have I hid in mine heart. His heart would be kept by the word because he kept the word in his heart. All that he had of the word written, and all that had been revealed to him by the voice of God, — all, without exception, he had stored away in his affections, as a treasure to be preserved in a casket, or as a choice seed to be buried in a fruitful soil: what soil more fruitful than a renewed heart, wholly seeking the Lord? The word was God's own, and therefore precious to God's servant. He did not wear a text on his heart as a charm, but he hid it in his heart as a rule. He laid it up in the place of love and life, and it filled the chamber with sweetness and light. We must in this imitate David, copying his heart work as well as his outward character. First, we must mind that what we believe is truly God's word; that being done, we must hide or treasure it each man for himself; and we must see that this is done, not as a mere feat of the memory, but as the joyful act of the affections. That I might not sin against thee. Here was the object aimed at. As one has well said, — Here is the best thing— "thy word"; hidden in the best place, — "in my heart; "for the best of purposes, — "that I might not sin against thee." This was done by the Psalmist with personal care, as a man carefully hides away his money when he fears thieves, — in this case the thief dreaded was sin. Sinning "against God" is the believer's view of moral evil; other men care only when they offend against men. God's word is the best preventive against offending God, for it tells us his mind and will, and tends to bring our spirit into conformity with the divine Spirit. No cure for sin in the life is equal to the word in the seat of life, which is the heart.
There is no hiding from sin unless we hide the truth in our souls.
A very pleasant variety of meaning is obtained by laying stress upon the words "thy" and "thee." He speaks to God , he loves the word because it is God's word, and he hates sin because it is sin against God himself. If he vexed others, he minded not so long as he did not offend his God. If we would not cause God displeasure we must treasure up his own word.
The personal way in which the man of God did this is also noteworthy: "With my whole heart have I sought thee." Whatever others might choose to do he had already made his choice and placed the Word in his innermost soul as his dearest delight, and however others might transgress, his aim was after holiness: "That I might not sin against thee." This was not what he purposed to do, but what he had already done: many are great at promising, but the Psalmist had been true in performing: hence he hoped to see a sure result. When the word is hidden in the heart the life shall be hidden from sin.
The parallelism between the second octave and the first is still continued.
Psalm 119:3 speaks of doing no iniquity, while this verse treats of the method of not sinning. When we form an idea of a blessedly holy man (Psalm 119:3) it becomes us to make an earnest effort to attain unto the same sacred innocence and divine happiness, and this can only be through heart piety founded on the Scriptures.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 11. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. There laid up in the heart the word has effect. When young men only read the letter of the Book, the word of promise and instruction is deprived of much of its power. Neither will the laying of it up in the mere memory avail. The word must be known and prized, and laid up in the heart; it must occupy the affection as well as the understanding; the whole mind requires to be impregnated with the word of God. Revealed things require to be seen. Then the word of God in the heart— the threatenings, the promises, the excellencies of God's word— and God himself realized, the young man would be inwardly fortified; the understanding enlightened, conscience quickened— he would not sin against his God. John Stephen.
Ver. 11. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. In proportion as the word of the King is present in the heart, "there is power" against sin (Ecclesiastes 8:4). Let us use this means of absolute power more, and more life and more holiness will be ours. Frances Ridley Havergal, 1836-1879.
Ver. 11. Thy word have I hid in mine heart. It is fit that the word, being "more precious than gold, yea, than much fine gold, "a peerless pearl, should not be laid up in the porter's lodge only— the outward ear; but even in the cabinet of the mind. Dean Boys, quoted by James Ford.
Ver. 11. Thy word have I hid in mine heart. There is great difference between Christians and worldlings. The worldling hath his treasures in jewels without him; the Christian hath them within. Neither indeed is there any receptacle wherein to receive and keep the word of consolation but the heart only. If thou have it in thy mouth only, it shall be taken from thee; if thou have it in thy book only, Thou shalt miss it when thou hast most to do with it; but if thou lay it up in thy heart, as Mary did the words of the angel, no enemy shall ever be able to take it from thee, and thou shalt find it's comfortable treasure in time of thy need. William Cowper.
Ver. 11. Thy word have I hid in mine heart. This saying, to hide, imports that David studied not to be ambitious to set forth himself and to make a glorious show before men; but that he had God for a witness of that secret desire which was within him. He never looked to worldly creatures; but being content that he had so great a treasure, he knew full well that God who had given it him would so surely and safely guard it, as that it should not be laid open to Satan to be taken away. Saint Paul also declareth unto us (1 Timothy 1:19) that the chest wherein this treasure must be hid is a good conscience. For it is said, that many being void of this good conscience have lost also their faith, and have been robbed thereof. As if a man should forsake his goods and put them in hazard, without shutting a door, it were an easy matter for thieves to come in and to rob and spoil him of all; even so, if we leave at random to Satan the treasures which God hath given us in his word, without it be hidden in this good conscience, and in the very bottom of, our heart as David here speaketh, we shall be spoiled thereof. John Calvin.
Ver. 11. Thy word have I hid in mine heart. — Remembered, approved, delighted in it. William Nicholson on (1671), in "David's Harp Strung and Tuned." Ver. 11. Thy word. The saying , thy oracle; any communication from God to the soul, whether promise, or command, or answer. It means a direct and distinct message, while "word" is more general, and applies to the whole revelation. This is the ninth of the ten words referring to the revelation of God in this Psalm. James G. Murphy, 1875.
Ver. 11. In my heart. Bernard observes, bodily bread in the cupboard may he eaten of mice, or moulder and waste: but when it is taken down into the body, it is free from such danger. If God enable thee to take thy soul food into thine heart, it is free from all hazards. George Swinnock, 1627-1673.
Ver. 11. That I might not sin against thee. Among many excellent virtues of the word of God, this is one: that if we keep it in our heart, it keeps us from sin, which is against God and against ourselves. We may mark it by experience, that the word is first stolen either out of the mind of man, and the remembrance of it is away; or at least out of the affection of man; so that the reverence of it is gone, before that a man can be drawn to the committing of a sin. So long as Eve kept by faith the word of the Lord, she resisted Satan; but from the time she doubted of that, which God made most certain by his word, at once she was snared. William Cowper.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE
Ver. 11. — The best thing, in the best place, for the best of purposes.
PSALM 119:12 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 12. Blessed art thou, O LORD. These are words of adoration arising out of an intense admiration of the divine character, which the writer is humbly aiming to imitate. He blesses God for all that he has revealed to him, and wrought in him; he praises him with warmth of reverent love, and depth of holy wonder. These are also words of perception uttered from a remembrance of the great Jehovah's infinite happiness within himself. The Lord is and must be blessed, for he is the perfection of holiness; and this is probably the reason why this is used as a plea in this place. It is as if David had said— I see that in conformity to thyself my way to happiness must lie, for thou art supremely blessed; and if I am made in my measure like to thee in holiness, I shall also partake in thy blessedness.
No sooner is the word in the heart than a desire arises to mark and learn it.
When food is eaten, the next thing is to digest it; and when the word is received into the soul, the first prayer is— Lord, teach me its meaning. Teach me thy statutes ; for thus only can I learn the way to be blessed.
Thou art so blessed that I am sure thou wilt delight in blessing others, and this boon I crave of thee that. I may be instructed in thy commands. Happy men usually rejoice to make others happy, and surely the happy God will willingly impart the holiness which is the fountain of happiness. Faith prompted this prayer and based it, not upon anything in the praying man, but solely upon the perfection of the God to whom he made supplication.
Lord, thou art blessed, therefore bless me by teaching me.
We need to be disciples or learners— "teach me; " but what an honour to have God himself for a teacher: how bold is David to beg the blessed God to teach him! Yet the Lord put the desire into his heart when the sacred word was hidden there, and so we may be sure that he was not too bold in expressing it. Who would not wish to enter the school of such a Master to learn of him the art of holy living? To this Instructor we must submit ourselves if we would practically keep the statutes of righteousness. The King who ordained the statutes knows best their meaning, and as they are the outcome of his own nature he can best inspire us with their spirit. The petition commends itself to all who wish to cleanse their way, since it is most practical, and asks for teaching, not upon recondite lore, but upon statute law. If we know the Lord's statutes we have the most essential education.
Let us each one say, "Teach me thy statutes." This is a sweet prayer for everyday use. It is a step above that of Psalm 119:10, "O let me not wander, "as that was a rise beyond that of Psalm 119:8, "O forsake me not utterly." It finds its answer in Psalm 119:98-100: "Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies, " etc.: but not till it had been repeated even to the third time in the "Teach me" of Psalm 119:33,66, all of which I beg my reader to peruse. Even after this third pleading the prayer occurs again in so many words in Psalm 119:124,139, and the same longing conics out near the close of the Psalm in Psalm 119:171 — "My lips shall utter praise when thou hast taught me thy statutes."
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 12. Blessed art thou, O Lord: teach me thy statutes. This verse contains a prayer, with the reason of the prayer. The prayer is, "Teach me thy statutes" ; the reason, moving him to seek this, ariseth of a consideration of that infinite good which is in God. He is a blessed God, the fountain of all felicity, without whom no welfare or happiness can be to the creature. And for this cause David earnestly desiring to be in fellowship and communion with God, which he knows none can attain unto unless he be taught of God to know God's way and walk in it; therefore, I say, he prayeth the more earnestly that the Lord would teach him his statutes. Oh that we also could wisely consider this, that our felicity stands in fellowship with God. William Cowper.
Ver. 12. In this verse we have two things, 1. An acknowledgment of God's blessedness, Blessed art thou, O LORD ; i.e. , being possessed of all fulness, thou hast an infinite complacency in the enjoyment of thyself; and thou art he alone in the enjoyment of whom I can be blessed and happy; and thou art willing and ready to give out of thy fulness, so that thou art the fountain of blessedness to thy creatures. 2. A request or petition, Teach me thy statutes ; q.d. , seeing thou hast all fulness in thyself, and art sufficient to thy own blessedness; surely thou hast enough for me. There is enough to content thyself, therefore enough to satisfy me. This encourages me in my address.
Again, — Teach me that I may know wherein to seek my blessedness and happiness, even in thy blessed self; and that I may know how to come by the enjoyment of thee, so that I may be blessed in thee. Further, — Thou art blessed originally, the Fountain of all blessing; thy blessedness is an everlasting fountain, a full fountain; always pouring out blessedness: O, let me have this blessing from thee, this drop from the fountain. William Wisheart, in "Theologia, or, Discourses of God, " 1716.
Ver. 12. Since God is blessed, we cannot but desire to learn his ways. If we see any earthly being happy, we have a great desire to learn out his course, as thinking by it we might be happy also. Every one would sail with that man's wind who prospereth; though in earthly things it holdeth not alway: yet a blessed God cannot by any way of his bring to other than blessedness. Thus, he who is blessedness itself, he will be ready to communicate his ways to other: the most excellent things are most communicative. Paul Bayne.
Ver. 12. Teach me. He had Nathan, he had priests to instruct him, himself was a prophet; but all their teaching was nothing without God's blessing, and therefore he prays, "Teach me." William Nicholson.
Ver. 12. Teach me. These words convey more than the simple imparting of knowledge, for he said before he had such, when he said he hid God's words in his heart; and in Psalm 119:7 he said he "had learned the judgments of his justice" : it includes grace to observe his law. Robert Bellarmine, 1542-1621.
Ver. 12. Teach me. If this were practised now, to join prayer with hearing, that when we offer ourselves to be taught of men, we would there with send up prayer to God, before preaching, in time of preaching and after preaching, we would soon prove more learned and religious than we are. William Cowper.
Ver. 12. Teach me thy statutes. Whoever reads this Psalm with attention must observe in it one great characteristic, and that is, how decisive are its statements that in keeping the commandments of God nothing can be done by human strength; but that it is he who must create the will for the performance of such duty. The Psalmist entreats the Lord to open his eyes that he may behold the wondrous things of the law, to teach him his statutes, to remove from him the way of lying, to incline his heart unto his testimonies, and not to covetousness, to turn away his eyes from beholding vanity, and not to take the word of truth utterly out of his mouth. Each of these petitions shows how deeply impressed he was of his entire helplessness as regarded himself, and how completely dependent upon God he felt himself for any advancement he could hope to make in the knowledge of the truth. All his studies in the divine law, all his aspirations after holiness of life, he was well assured could never meet with any measure of success, except by the grace of God preventing and cooperating, implanting in him a right desire, and acting as an infallible guide, whereby alone he would be enabled to arrive at the propel sense of Holy Scripture, as welt as to correct principles of action in his daily walk before God and man. George Phillips, 1846.
Ver. 12. Teach me thy statutes. If it be asked wily the Psalmist entreats to be taught, when he has just before been declaring his knowledge, the answer is that he seeks instruction as to the practical working of those principles which he has learnt theoretically. Michael Ayguan (1416), in Neale and Littledale.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE
Ver. 12. — The blessedness of God, and the mode of entering into it.
Ver. 12. — 1. David gives glory to God: "Blessed art thou, 0 LORD." 2. He asks grace from God. — Matthew Henry.
Ver. 12. — 1. What it is, or how God doth teach us. (a) God doth teach us outwardly; by his ordinances, by the ministry of men. (b) Inwardly; by the inspiration and work of the Holy Ghost. 2. The necessity of his teaching. 3. The benefit and utility of it. — T. Manton.
Ver. 12. — Desire for Divine Teaching excited by the Recognition of Divine Blessedness. 1. Unveil in some inadequate degree the happiness of the ever blessed God, arising from his purity, benevolence, love. 2. Show the way in which man may become partaker of that blessedness by conformity to his precepts. 3. Utter the prayer of the text. — C.A.D.
PSALM 119:13 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 13. With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth. The taught one of Psalm 119:12 is here a teacher himself. What we learn in secret we are to proclaim upon the housetops. So had the Psalmist done.
As much as he had known he had spoken. God has revealed many of his judgments by his mouth, that is to say, by a plain and open revelation; these it is out duty to repeat, becoming, as it were, so many exact echoes of his one infallible voice. There are judgments of God which are a great deep, which he does not reveal, and with these it will be wise for us not to intermeddle. What the Lord has veiled it would be presumption for us to uncover; but, on the other hand, what the Lord has revealed it would be shameful for us to conceal. It is a great comfort to a Christian in time of trouble when in looking back upon his past life he can claim to have done his duty by the word of God. To have been, like Noah, a preacher of righteousness, is a great joy when the floods are rising, and the ungodly world is about to be destroyed. Lips which have been used in proclaiming God's statutes are sure to be acceptable when pleading God's promises. If we have had such regard to that which cometh out of God's mouth that we have published it far and wide, we may rest quite as assured that God will have respect unto the prayers which come out of our mouths.
It will be an effectual method of cleansing a young man's way if he addicts himself continually to preaching the gospel. He cannot go far wrong in judgment whose whole soul is occupied in setting forth the judgments of the Lord. By teaching we learn; by training the tongue to holy speech we master the whole body; by familiarity with the divine procedure we are made to delight in righteousness; and thus in a threefold manner our way is cleansed by our proclaiming the way of the Lord.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 13. With my lips have I declared, etc. Above all, be careful to talk of that to others which you do daily learn yourself, and out of the abundance of your heart speak of good things unto men. Richard Greenham.
Ver. 13. Having hid the purifying word in his heart, the Psalmist will declare it with his lips ;and as it is so pure throughout, he will declare all in it, without exception. When the fountain of the heart is purified, the streams from the lips will be pure also. The declaring lips of the Psalmist are here placed in antithesis to the mouth of Jehovah, by which the judgments were originally pronounced. F. G. Marchant.
Ver. 13. As the consciousness of having communicated our knowledge and our spiritual gifts is a means of encouragement to seek a greater measure, so it is an evidence of the sincerity and fruitfulness of what knowledge we have: Teach me thy statutes. With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth. David Dickson.
Ver. 13. With my lips, etc. The tongue is a most excellent member of the body, being well used to the glory of God and the edification of others; and yet it cannot pronounce without help of the lips. The Lord hath made the body of man with such marvellous wisdom, that no member of it can say to another, I have no need of thee; but such is man's dulness, that he observes not how useful unto him is the smallest member in the body, till it be taken from him. If our lips were clasped for a time, and our tongue thus shut up, we would esteem it a great mercy to have it loosed again; as that cripple, when he found the use of his feet, leaped for joy and glorified God. William Cowper.
Ver. 13. Declared all the judgments. He says in another place (Psalm 36:6), "Thy judgments are like a great deep." As the apostle says (Romans 11:33-34), "O the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out. For who hath known the mind of the Lord?" If the judgments are unsearchable, how then says the prophet, "I have declared all the judgments of thy mouth"?
We answer, — peradventure there are judgments of God which are not the judgments of his mouth, but of his heart and hand only.
We make a distinction, for we have no fear that the sacred Scripture weakens itself by contradictions. It has not said, The judgments of his mouth are a great deep; but "Thy judgments." Neither has the apostle said, The unsearchable judgments of his mouth: but "His unsearchable judgments." We may regard the judgments of God, then, as those hidden ones which he has not revealed to us; but the judgments of his mouth, those which he has made known, and has spoken by the mouth of the prophets. Ambrose, 340-397.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 13. — Speech fitly employed. It is occupied with a choice subject, a full subject, a subject profitable to men, and glorifying to God.
PSALM 119:14 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 14. I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies. Delight in the word of God is a sure proof that it has taken effect upon the heart, and so is cleansing the life. The Psalmist not only says that he does rejoice, but that he has rejoiced. For years it had been his joy and bliss to give his soul to the teaching of the word. His rejoicing had not only arisen out of the word of God, but out of the practical characteristics of it. The Way was as dear to him as the Truth and the Life. There was no picking and choosing with David, or if indeed he did make a selection, he chose the most practical first. As much as in all riches. He compared his intense satisfaction with God's will with that of a man who possesses large and varied estates, and the heart to enjoy them. David knew the riches that come of sovereignty and which grow out of conquest; he valued the wealth which proceeds from labour, or is gotten by inheritance: he knew "all riches." The gracious king had been glad to see the gold and silver poured into his treasury that he might devote vast masses of it to the building of the Temple of Jehovah upon Mount Zion. He rejoiced in all sorts of riches consecrated and laid up for the noblest uses, and yet the way of God's word had given him more pleasure than even these. Observe that his joy was personal, distinct, remembered, and abundant. Wonder not that in the previous verse he glories in having spoken much of that which he had so much enjoyed: a man may well talk of that which is his delight.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 14. I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, etc. The Psalmist saith not only, "I have rejoiced in thy testimonies, "but, "in the way of thy testimonies." Way is one of the words by which the law is expressed. God's laws are ways that lead us to God; and so it may be taken here, "the way which thy testimonies point out, and call me unto"; or else his own practice, as a man's course is called his way; his delight was not in speculation or talk, but in obedience and practice: "in the way of thy testimonies." He tells us the degree of his joy, as much as in all riches: "as much, "not to show the equality of these things, as if we should have the same affection for the world as for the word of God; but "as much, "because we have no higher comparison. This is that which worldlings dote upon, and delight in; now as much as they rejoice in worldly possessions, so much do I rejoice in the way of thy testimonies. For I suppose David doth not compare his own delight in the word, with his own delight in wealth; but his own choice and delight, with the delight and choice of others. If he had spoken of himself both in the one respect and in the other, the expression was very high. David who was called to a crown, and in a capacity of enjoying much in the world, gold, silver, land, goods, largeness of territory, and a compound of all that which all men jointly, and all men severally do possess; yet was more pleased in the holiness of God's ways, than in all the world: "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36). Thomas Manton.
Ver. 14. The way of thy testimonies. The testimony of God is his word, for it testifies his will; the "way" of his testimony is the practice of his word, and doing of that which he hath declared to be his will, and wherein he hath promised to show us his love. David found not this sweetness in hearing, reading, and professing the word only; but in practising of it: and in very deed, the only cause why we find not the comfort that is in the word of God is that we practise it not by walking in the way thereof. It is true, at the first it is bitter to nature, which loves carnal liberty, to render itself as captive to the word: laboriosa virtutis via , and much pains must be taken before the heart be subdued; but when it is once begun, it renders such joy as abundantly recompenses all the former labour and grief. William Cowper.
Ver. 14. Riches are acquired with difficulty, enjoyed with trembling, and lost with bitterness. Bernard, 1091-1157.
Ver. 14. A poor, good woman said, in time of persecution, when they took away the Christian's Bibles, "I cannot part with my Bible; I know not how to live without it." When a gracious soul has heard a profitable sermon, he says, "Methinks it does me good at heart; it is the greatest nourishment I have": I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. Oliver Heywood, 1629-1702.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE
Ver. 14. — Practical religion, the source of a comfort surpassing riches.
It gives a man ease of mind, independence of carriage, weight of influence, and other matters supposed to arise out of wealth.
Ver. 14. — 1. The subject of rejoicing. Not the "testimonies" merely, but their observances, "the way of, "etc. 2. . The rejoicing in that subject. (a) In its inward peace. (b) In its external consequences. 3. The degree of the rejoicing: "as much as, "etc. — G.R.
Ver. 14. — The two scales of the balance. Whatever riches are good for, God's testimonies are good for. 1. Riches are desirable as the means of procuring the necessaries of life; but God's testimonies supply the necessities of the soul. 2. Riches are desirable as a means of procuring personal enjoyment; but God's testimonies produce the highest joy. 3. Riches are desirable as a means of attaining personal improvement; but God's testimonies are the highest educators. 4. Riches are desirable as a means of doing good; but God's testimonies work the highest good. — C.A.D.
PSALM 119:15 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 15. I will meditate in thy precepts. He who has an inward delight in anything will not long withdraw his mind from it. As the miser often returns to look upon his treasure, so does the devout believer by frequent meditation turn over the priceless wealth which he has discovered in the book of the Lord. To some men meditation is a task; to the man of cleansed way it is a joy. He who has meditated will meditate; he who saith, "I have rejoiced, "is the same who adds, "I will meditate." No spiritual exercise is more profitable to the soul than that of devout meditation; why are many of us so exceeding slack in it? It is worthy of observation that the preceptory part of God's word was David's special subject of meditation, and this was the more natural because the question was still upon his mind as to how a young man should cleanse his way. Practical godliness is vital godliness. And have respect unto thy ways, that is to say, I will think much about them so as to know what thy ways are; and next; I will think much of them so as to have thy ways in great reverence and high esteem. I will see what thy ways are towards me that I may be filled with reverence, gratitude, and love; and then I will observe what are those ways which thou hast prescribed for me, thy ways in which thou wouldest have me follow thee; these I would watch carefully that I may become obedient, and prove myself to be a true servant of such a Master.
Note how the verses grow more inward as they proceed: from the speech of Psalm 119:13 we advanced to the manifested joy of Psalm 119:14, and now we come to the secret meditation of the happy spirit. The richest graces are those which dwell deepest.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 15. I will meditate in thy precepts, etc. All along David had shown what he had done; now, what he will do. Psalm 119:10, "I have sought"; Psalm 119:11, "I have hid"; Psalm 119:12, "I have declared"; Psalm 119:14, "I have rejoiced." Now in the two following verses he doth engage himself to set his mark towards God for time to come. "I will meditate in thy precepts, " etc. We do not rest upon anything already done and past, but continue the same diligence unto the end. Here is David's hearty resolution and purpose, to go on for time to come. Many will say, Thus I have done when I was young, or had more leisure and rest; in that I have meditated and conferred. You must continue still in a holy course. To begin to build, and leave unfinished, is an argument of folly. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 15. I will meditate in thy precepts. Not only of thy precepts or concerning them, but in them, while engaged in doing them. Joseph Addison Alexander.
Ver. 15. I will. See this "I will" repeated again and again (Psalm 119:48,78). In meditation it is hard (sometimes at least) to take off our thoughts from the pre-engagements of other subjects, and apply them to the duty. But it is harder to become duly serious in acting in it, harder yet to dive and ponder; and hardest of all to continue in an abode of thoughts, and dwell long enough, and after views to make reviews, to react the same thinking, to taste things over and over, when the freshness and newness is past, when by long thinking the things before us seem old. We are ready to grow dead and flat in a performance except we stir up ourselves often in it.
It is hard to hold on and hold up, unless we hold up a wakeful eye, a warm affection, a strong and quick repeated resolution; yea, and without often lifting up the soul to Christ for fresh recruits of strength to hold on. David, that so excellent artist in this way, saith he will meditate , he often saith he will . Doubtless, he not only said "I will" when he was to make his entrance into this hard work; but likewise for continuance in it, to keep up his heart from flagging, till he well ended his work. It is not the digging into the golden mine, but the digging long, that finds and fetches up the treasure. It is not the diving into the sea, but staying longer, that gets the greater quantity of pearls. To draw out the golden thread of meditation to its due length till the spiritual ends be attained, this is a rare and happy attainment. Nathanael Ranew, 1670.
Ver. 15. I will meditate. How much our "rejoicing in the testimonies" of God would be increased by a more habitual meditation upon them! This is, however, a resolution which the carnal mind can never be brought to make, and to which the renewed mind through remaining depravity is often sadly reluctant. But it is a blessed employment, and will repay a thousand fold the difficulty of engaging the too backward heart in the duty. Charles Bridges.
Ver. 15. Meditation is of that happy influence, it makes the mind wise, the affections warm, the soul fat and flourishing, and the conversation greatly fruitful. Nathanael Ranew.
Ver. 15. Meditate in, thy precepts. Study the Scriptures. If a famous man do but write an excellent book, O how we do long to see it! Or suppose I could tell you that there is in France or Germany a book that God himself wrote, I am confident men may draw all the money out of your purses to get that book. You have it by you: O that you would study it! When the eunuch was riding in his chariot, he was studying the prophet Isaiah. He was not angry when Philip came and, as we would have thought, asked him a bold question: "Understandest thou what thou readest?" (Acts 8:27-30); he was glad of it. One great end of the year of release was, that the law might be read (Deuteronomy 31:9-13). It is the wisdom of God that speaks in the Scripture (Luke 11:49); therefore, whatever else you mind, really and carefully study the Bible. Samuel Jacomb (1629-1659), in The Morning Exercises.
Ver. 15. I will have respect. The one is the fruit of the other: "I will meditate" ; and then, "I will have respect." Meditation is in order to practice; and if it be right, it will beget a respect to the ways of God. We do not meditate that we may rest in contemplation, but in order to obedience: "Thou shalt meditate in the book of the law day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein" (Joshua 1:8). Thomas Manton.
Ver. 15. And have respect unto thy ways. — As an archer hath to his mark. John Trapp.
Ver. 15. Respect unto thy ways. It is not without a peculiar pleasure, when travelling, that we contemplate the splendid buildings, the gardens, the fortifications, or the fine art galleries. But what are all these sights to the contemplation of the ways of God , which he himself has traversed, or has marked out for man? And what practical need there is that we consider the way, for else we shall be as a sleepy coachman, not carefully observant of the road, who may soon upset himself and his passengers. Martin Geier.
Ver. 15. Thy ways. David's second internal action concerning the word is consideration; where mark well, how by a most proper speech he calls the word of God the ways of God; partly, because by it God comes near unto men, revealing himself to them, who otherwise could not be known of them; for he dwells in light inaccessible; and partly, because the word is the way which leads men to God. So then, because by it God cometh down to men, and by it men go up unto God, and know how to get access to him, therefore is his word called his way . William Cowper.
Ver. 15-16. The two last verses of this section present to us a threefold internal action of David's soul toward the word of God; first, meditation; secondly, consideration; thirdly, delectation: every one of these proceeds from another, and they mutually strengthen one another. Meditation brings the word to the mind; consideration views it and looks at length into it, whereof is bred delectation. That which comes into the mind, were it never so good, if it be not considered, goes as it came, leaving neither instruction nor joy; but being once presented by meditation, if it be pondered by consideration, then it breeds delectation, which is the perfection of godliness, in regard of the internal action. William Cowper.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 15. — The contemplative and active life; their common food, object, and reward.
PSALM 119:16 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 16. I will delight myself in thy statutes. In this verse delight follows meditation, of which it is the true flower and outgrowth. When we have no other solace, but are quite alone, it will be a glad thing for the heart to turn upon itself, and sweetly whisper, "I will delight myself. What if no minstrel sings in the hall, I will delight myself. If the time of the singing of birds has not yet arrived, and the voice of the turtle is not heard in our land, yet I will delight myself." This is the choicest and noblest of all rejoicing; in fact, it is the good part which can never be taken from us; but there is no delighting ourselves with anything below that which God intended to be the soul's eternal satisfaction. The statute book is intended to be the joy of every loyal subject. When the believer once peruses the sacred pages his soul burns within him as he turns first to one and then to another of the royal words of the great King, words full and firm, immutable and divine. I will not forget thy word. Men do not readily forget that which they have treasured up, that which they have meditated on (Psalm 119:15), and that which they have often spoken of (Psalm 119:13). Yet since we have treacherous memories it is well to bind them well with the knotted cord of "I will not forget."
Note how two "I wills" follow upon two "I haves." We may not promise for the future if we have altogether failed in the past; but where grace has enabled us to accomplish something, we may hopefully expect that it will enable us to do more.
It is curious to observe how this verse is moulded upon Psalm 119:8: the changes are rung on the same words, but the meaning is quite different, and there is no suspicion of a vain repetition. The same thought is never given over again in this Psalm; they are dullards who think so. Something in the position of each verse affects its meaning, so that even where its words are almost identical with those of another the sense is delightfully varied. If we do not see an infinite variety of fine shades of thought in this Psalm we may conclude that we are colour blind; if we do not hear many sweet harmonies, we may judge our ears to be dull of hearing, but we may not suspect the Spirit of God of monotony.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 16. I will delight myself, etc. He protested before that he had great delight in the testimonies of God: now he saith he will still delight in them.
A man truly godly, the more good he doth, the more he desires, delights and resolves to do. Temporisers, on the contrary, who have but a show of godliness, and the love of it is not rooted in their heart, how soon are they weary of well doing! If they have done any small external duty of religion, they rest as if they were fully satisfied, and there needed no more good to be done by them. True religion is known by hungering and thirsting after righteousness, by perseverance in well doing, and an earnest desire to do more.
But to this he adds that he will not forget the word . The graces of the Spirit do every one fortify and strengthen another; for ye see meditation helps consideration. Who can consider of that whereof he thinks not?
Consideration again breeds delectation; and as here ye see, delectation strengthens memory: because he delights in the word he will not forget the word; and memory again renews meditation. Thus every grace of the Spirit helps another; and by the contrary, one of them neglected, works a wonderful decay of the remnant. William Cowper.
Ver. 16 I will delight myself When righteousness, from a matter of constraint becomes a matter of choice, it instantly changes its whole nature, and rises to a higher moral rank than before. The same God whom it is impossible to move by law's authority, moves of his own proper and original inclination in the very path of the law's righteousness. And so, we, in proportion as we are like unto God, are alive to the virtues of that same law, to the terror of whose severities we are altogether dead. We are no longer under a schoolmaster; but obedience is changed from a thing of force into a thing of freeness. It is moulded to a higher state and character than before. We are not driven to it by the God of authority. We are drawn to it by the regards of a now willing heart to all moral and all spiritual excellence. Thomas Chalmers, 1780-1847.
Ver. 16. Meditation must not be a dull, sad, and dispirited thing: not a driving like the chariots of the Egyptians when their wheels were taken off, but like the chariots of Amminadib (Song of Solomon 6:12) that ran swiftly. So let us pray, — Lord, in meditation make me like the chariots of Amminadib, that my swift running may evidence my delight in meditating.
Holy David makes delight such an ingredient or assistant here, that sometimes he calls the exercise of meditation by the name of "delight, " speaking in the foregoing verse of this meditation, "I will meditate of thy precepts, " and in Psalm 119:16, I will delight myself in thy statutes ; which is the same with meditation, only with superadding the excellent qualification due meditation should have; the name of delight is given to meditation because of its noble concomitant— holy joy and satisfaction. Nathanael Ranew.
Ver. 16. Delight myself. The word is very emphatic: [v[tva , eshtaasha, I will skip about and jump for joy. Adam Clarke.
Ver. 16. I will not forget. Delight prevents forgetfulness: the mind will run upon that which the heart delighteth in; and the heart is where the treasure is (Matthew 6:21). Worldly men that are intent upon carnal interests, forget the word, because it is not their delight. If anything displeases us, we are glad if we can forget it; it is some release from an inconvenience, to take off our thoughts from it; but it doubles the contentment of a thing that we are delighted in, to remember it, and call it to mind. In the outward school, if a scholar by his own averseness from learning, or by the severity and imprudence of his master, hath no delight in his book, all that he learns is lost and forgotten, it goeth in at one ear, and out at the other: but this is the true art of memory, to cause them to delight in what they learn. Such instructions as we take in with sweetness, they stick with us, and run in our minds night and day. So saith David here, I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 16. Forget. I never yet heard of a covetous old man, who had forgotten where he had buried his treasure. Cicero de Senectute.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 16. — 1. What there is to be delighted in. 2. What comes of such delight: "I will never forget." 3. What comes of such memory— more delight.
PSALM 119:17 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 17-24 In this section the trials of the way appear to be manifest to the Psalmist's mind, and he prays accordingly for the help which will meet his case. As in the last eight verses he prayed as a youth newly come into the world, so here he pleads as a servant and a pilgrim, who growingly finds himself to be a stranger in an enemy's country. His appeal is to God alone, and his prayer is specially direct and personal. He speaks with the Lord as a man speaketh with his friend.
Ver. 17. Deal bountifully with thy servant. He takes pleasure in owning his duty to God, and counts it the joy of his heart to be in the service of his God. Out of his condition he makes a plea, for a servant has some hold upon a master; but in this case the wording of the plea shuts out the idea of legal claim, since he seeks bounty rather than reward. Let my wage be according to thy goodness, and not according to my merit. Reward me according to the largeness of thy liberality, and not according to the scantiness of my service. The hired servants of our Father have all of them bread enough and to spare, and he will not leave one of his household to perish with hunger, .If the Lord will only treat us as he treats the least of his servants we may be well content, for all his true servants are sons, princes of the blood, heirs of life eternal. David felt that his great needs required a bountiful provision, and that his little desert would never earn such a supply; hence he must throw himself upon God's grace, and look for the great things he needed from the great goodness of the Lord. He begs for a liberality of grace, after the fashion of one who prayed, "O Lord, thou must give me great mercy or no mercy, for little mercy will not serve my turn." That I may live. Without abundant mercy he could not live. It takes great grace to keep a saint alive. Even life is a gift of divine bounty to such undeserving ones as we are. Only the Lord can keep us in being, and it is mighty grace which preserves to us the life which we have forfeited by our sin. It is right to desire to live, it is meet to pray to live, it is just to ascribe prolonged life to the favour of God. Spiritual life, without which this natural life is mere existence, is also to be sought of the Lord's bounty, for it is the noblest work of divine grace, and in it the bounty of God is gloriously displayed. The Lord's servants cannot serve him in their own strength, for they cannot even live unless his grace abounds towards them. And keep thy word. This should be the rule, the object, and the joy of our life. We may not wish to live and sin; but we may pray to live and keep God's word. Being is a poor thing if it be not well being. Life is only worth keeping while we can keep God's word; indeed, there is no life in the highest sense apart from holiness: life while we break the law is but a name to live.
The prayer of this verse shows that it is only through divine bounty or grace that we can live as faithful servants of God, and manifest obedience to his commands. If we give God service it must be because he gives us grace. We work for him because he works in us. Thus we may make a chain out of the opening verses of the three first octaves of this Psalm:
Psalm 119:1 blesses the holy man, Psalm 119:9 asks how we can attain to such holiness, and Psalm 119:17 traces such holiness to its secret source, and shows us how to seek the blessing. The more a man prizes holiness and the more earnestly he strives after it, the more will he be driven towards God for help therein, for he will plainly perceive that his own strength is insufficient, and that he cannot even so much as live without the bounteous assistance of the Lord his God.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 17. Deal bountifully with thy servant, etc. These words might be— Render unto thy servant, or upon thy servant. A deep signification seems to be here involved. The holy man will take the responsibility of being dealt with, not certainly as a mere sinful man, but as a man placing himself in the way appointed for reconciliation. Such we find to be the actual case, as you read in Psalm 119:16, in the Part immediately preceding— "I will delight myself in thy statutes; I will not forget thy word." Now, the statutes of the Lord referred preeminently to the sacrifices for sin, and the cleansing for purifications that were prescribed in the Law. You have to conceive of the man of God as being in the midst of the Levitical ritual, for which you find him making all preparations: 1 Chronicles 22-24. Placing himself, therefore, upon these, he would pray the Lord to deal with him according to them; or, as we, in New Testament language, would say, — placing himself on the great atonement, the believer would pray the Lord to deal with him according to his standing in Christ, which would be in graciousness or bounty. For if the Lord be just to condemn without the atonement, he is also just to pardon through the atonement; yea, he is just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. John Stephen.
Ver. 17. Deal bountifully, etc. O Lord, I am constantly resolved to obey and adhere to thy known will all the days of my life: O make me those gracious returns which thou hast promised to all such. Henry Hammond.
Ver. 17. Deal bountifully... that I may keep thy word, etc. A faithful servant should count his by past service richly rewarded by being employed yet more in further service, as this prayer teacheth; for David entreats that he may live and keep God's word. David Dickson.
Ver. 17. Bountifully. And indeed, remembering what a poor, weak, empty, and helpless creature the most experienced believer is in himself, it is not to be conceived that anything short of a bountiful supply of grace can answer the emergency. Charles Bridges.
Ver. 17. Thy servant. That he styles himself so frequently the servant of God notes the reverent estimation he had of his God, in that he accounts it more honourable to be called the servant of God who was above him than the king of a mighty, ancient, and most famous people that were under him. And indeed, since the angels are styled his ministers, shall men think it a shame to serve him? and especially since he of his goodness hath made them our servants, "ministering spirits" to us? Should we not joyfully serve him who hath made all his creatures to serve us, and exempted us from the service of all other, and hath only bound us to serve himself? William Cowper.
Ver. 17. That I may live. As a man must "live" in order to work, the first petition is, that God would "deal with his servant, " according to the measure of grace and mercy, enabling him to "live" the life of faith, and strengthening him by the Spirit of might in the inner man. George Horne, 1730-1792.
Ver. 17. That I may live, and keep thy word. David joins here two together, which whosoever disjoins cannot be blessed. He desires to live; but so to live that he may keep God's word. To a reprobate man, who lives a rebel to his Maker, it had been good (as our Saviour said of Judas) that he had never been born. The shorter his life is, the fewer are his sins and the smaller his judgments. But to an elect man, life is a great benefit; for by it he goes from election to glorification, by the way of sanctification. The longer he lives, the more good he doth, to the glory of God, the edification of others, and confirmation of his own salvation; making it sure to himself by wrestling and victory in temptations, and perseverance in well doing. William Cowper.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Outlines Upon Keywords of the Psalm, By Pastor C. A. Davis.
Ver. 17-24. — Divine bounties desired . Life, for godly service (Psalm 119:17). Illumination (Psalm 119:18). Guidance homeward for the stranger ("thy commandments") (Psalm 119:19-20), and, glancing at the proud who err from this guidance (Psalm 119:21), the Psalmist prays for removal of the "reproach" entailed by fidelity to God (Psalm 119:22-24).
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 17. — 1. A bountiful master. 2. A needy servant— begging for very life. 3. A suitable recompense: "and keep thy word."
Ver. 17. — We are here taught, 1. That we owe our lives to God's mercy. 2. That therefore we ought to spend our lives in God's service. — Matthew Henry.
PSALM 119:18 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 18. Open thou mine eyes. This is a part of the bountiful dealing which he has asked for; no bounty is greater than that which benefits our person, our soul, our mind, and benefits it in so important an organ as the eye. It is far better to have the eyes opened than to be placed in the midst of the noblest prospects and remain blind to their beauty. That l may behold wondrous things out of thy law. Some men can perceive no wonders in the gospel, but David felt sure that there were glorious things in the law: he had not half the Bible, but he prized it more than some men prize the whole. He felt that God had laid up great bounties in his word, and he begs for power to perceive, appreciate, and enjoy the same.
We need not so much that God should give us more benefits, as the ability to see what he has given.
The prayer implies a conscious darkness, a dimness of spiritual vision, a powerlessness to remove that defect, and a full assurance that God can remove it. It shows also that the writer knew that there were vast treasures in the word which he had not yet fully seen, marvels which he had not yet beheld, mysteries which he had scarcely believed. The Scriptures teem with marvels; the Bible is wonder land; it not only relates miracles, but it is itself a world of wonders. Yet what are these to closed eyes? And what man can open his own eyes, since he is born blind? God himself must reveal revelation to each heart. Scripture needs opening, but not one half so much as our eyes do: the veil is not on the book, but on our hearts. What perfect precepts, what precious promises, what priceless privileges are neglected by us because we wander among them like blind men among the beauties of nature, and they are to us as a landscape shrouded in darkness!
The Psalmist had a measure of spiritual perception, or he would never have known that there were wondrous things to be seen, nor would he have prayed, "open thou mine eyes"; but what he had seen made him long for a clearer and wider sight. This longing proved the genuineness of what he possessed, for it is a test mark of the true knowledge of God that it causes its possessor to thirst for deeper knowledge.
David's prayer in this verse is a good sequel to Psalm 119:10, which corresponds to it in position in its octave: there he said, "O let me not wander, "and who so apt to wander as a blind man? and there, too, he declared, "with my whole heart have I sought thee, "and hence the desire to see the object of his search. Very singular are the interlacings of the boughs of the huge tree of this Psalm, which has many wonders even within itself if we have opened eyes to mark them.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 18. Open thou mine eyes. Who is able to know the secret and hidden things of the Scriptures unless Christ opens his eyes? Certainly, no one; for "No man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him." Wherefore, as suppliants, we draw near to him, saying, "Open thou mine eyes, " etc.
The words of God cannot be kept except they be known; neither can they be known unless the eyes shall be opened, — hence it is written, "That I may live and keep thy word"; and then, "Open thou mine eyes." Paulus Palanterius.
Ver. 18. Open thou mine eyes. "What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?" was the gracious inquiry of the loving Jesus to a poor longing one on earth. "Lord! that I may receive my sight, "was the instant answer. So here, in the same spirit, and to the same compassionate and loving Lord, does the Psalmist pray, "Open thou mine eyes" ; and both in this and the preceding petition, "Deal bountifully with thy servant, "we see at once who prompted the prayer. Barton Bouchier.
Ver. 18. Open thou mine eyes. If it be asked, seeing David was a regenerate man, and so illumined already, how is it that he prays for the opening of his eyes? The answer is easy: that our regeneration is wrought by degrees. The beginnings of light in his mind made him long for more; for no man can account of sense, but he who hath it. The light which he had caused him to see his own darkness; and therefore, feeling his wants, he sought to have them supplied by the Lord. William Cowper.
Ver. 18. Open thou mine eyes. The saints do not complain of the obscurity of the law, but of their own blindness. The Psalmist doth not say, Lord make a plainer law, but, Lord open mine eyes :blind men might as well complain of God, that he doth not make a sun whereby they might see. The word is "a light that shineth in a dark place" (2 Peter 1:19). There is no want of light in the Scripture, but there is a veil of darkness upon our hearts; so that if in this clear light we cannot see, the defect is not in the word, but in ourselves.
The light which they beg is not anything besides the word. When God is said to enlighten us, it is not that we should expect new revelations, but that we may see the wonders in his word, or get a clear sight of what is already revealed. Those that vent their own dreams under the name of the Spirit, and divine light, they do not give you mysteria , but monstra , portentous opinions; they do not show you the wondrous things of God's law, but the prodigies of their own brain; unhappy abortives, that die as soon as they come to light. "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isaiah 8:20). The light which we have is not without the word, but by the word.
The Hebrew phrase signifieth "unveil mine eyes." There is a double work, negative and positive. There is a taking away of the veil, and an infusion of light. Paul's cure of his natural blindness is a fit emblem of our cure of spiritual blindness: "Immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith" (Acts 9:18). First, the scales fall from our eyes, and then we receive sight. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 18. The Psalmist asks for no new revelation. It was in God's hand to give this, and he did it in his own time to those ancient believers; but to all of them at every time there was enough given for the purposes of life. The request is not for more, but that he may employ well that which he possesses. Still better does such a form of request suit us, to whom life and immortality have been brought to light in Christ. If we do not find sufficient to exercise our thoughts with constant freshness, and our soul with the grandest and most attractive subjects, it is because we want the eye sight. It is of great importance for us to be persuaded of this truth, that there are many things in the Bible still to be found out, and that, if we come in the right spirit, we may be made discoverers of some of them. These things disclose themselves, not so much to learning, though that is not to be despised, as to spiritual sight, to a humble, loving heart.
And this at least is certain, that we shall always find things that are new to ourselves . However frequently we traverse the field, we shall perceive some fresh golden vein turning up its glance to us, and we shall wonder how our eyes were formerly holden that we did not see it. It was all there waiting for us, and we feel that more is waiting, if we had the vision. There is a great Spirit in it that holds deeper and even deeper converse with our souls.
This further may be observed, that the Psalmist asks for no new faculty.
The eyes are there already, and they need only to be opened. It is not the bestowal of a new and supernatural power which enables a man to read the Bible to profit, but the quickening of a power he already possesses. In one view it is supernatural, as God is the Author of the illumination by a direct act of his Spirit; in another it is natural, as it operates through the faculties existing in a man's soul. God gives "the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ, that the eyes of man's understanding may be enlightened." (Ephesians 1:17) It is important to remember this also, for here lies our responsibility, that we have the faculty, and here also is the point at which we must begin action with the help of God. A man will never grow into the knowledge of God's word by idly waiting for some new gift of discernment, but by diligently using that which God has already bestowed upon him, and using at the same time all other helps that lie within his reach. There are men and books that seem, beyond others, to have the power of aiding insight. All of us have felt it in the contact of some affinity of nature which makes them our best helpers; the kindred clay upon the eyes by which the great Enlightener removes our blindness (John 9:6). Let us seek for such, and if we find them let us employ them without leaning on them. Above all, let us give our whole mind in patient, loving study to the book itself, and where we fail, at any essential part, God will either send his evangelist Philip to our aid (Acts 8:26-40) or instruct us himself. But it is only to patient, loving study that help is given. God could have poured all knowledge into us by easy inspiration, but it is by earnest search alone that it can become the treasure of the soul.
But if so, it may still be asked what is the meaning of this prayer, and why does the Bible itself insist so often on the indispensable need of the Spirit of God to teach? Now there is a side here as true as the other, and in no way inconsistent with it. If prayer without effort would be presumptuous, effort without prayer would be vain. The great reason why men do not feel the power and beauty of the Bible is a spiritual one. They do not realize the grand evil which the Bible has come to cure, and they have not a heart to the blessings which it offers to bestow. The film of a fallen nature, self maintained, is upon their eyes while they read: "The eyes of their understanding are darkened, being alienated from the life of God" (Ephesians 4:18). All the natural powers will never find the true key to the Bible, till the thoughts of sin and redemption enter the heart, and are put in the centre of the Book. It is the part of the Father of lights, by the teaching of his Spirit, to give this to the soul, and he will, if it humbly approaches him with this request. Thus we shall study as one might a book with the author at hand, to set forth the height of his argument, or as one might look on a noble composition, when the artist breathes into us a portion of his soul, to let us feel the centre of its harmonies of form and colour. Those who have given to the Bible thought and prayer will own that these are not empty promises. John Ker, in a Sermon entitled, "God's Word Suited to Man's Sense of Wonder, " 1877.
Ver. 18. O let us never forget; that the wonderful things contained in the divine law can neither be discovered nor relished by the "natural man, "whose powers of perception and enjoyment are limited in their range to the objects of time and sense. It is the divine Spirit alone who can lighten the darkness of our sinful state, and who can enable us to perceive the glory, the harmony, and moral loveliness which everywhere shine forth in the pages of revealed truth. John Morison, 1829.
Ver. 18. Uncover my eyes and I will look— wonders out of thy law. The last clause is a kind of exclamation after his eyes have been uncovered.
This figure is often used to denote inspiration or a special divine communication. "Out of thy law, "i.e. , brought out to view, as if from a place of concealment. Joseph Addison Alexander.
Ver. 18. Wondrous things. Many were the signs and miracles which God wrought in the midst of the people of Israel, which they did not understand. What was the reason? Moses tells us expressly what if was: "Yet the Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day" (Deuteronomy 29:4). They had sensitive eyes and ears, yea, they had a rational heart or mind; but they wanted a spiritual ear to hear, a spiritual heart or mind to apprehend and improve those wonderful works of God; and these they had not, because God had not given them such eyes, ears, and hearts. Wonders without grace cannot open the eyes fully; but grace without wonders can. And as man hath not an eye to see the wonderful works of God spiritually, until it is given; so, much less hath he an eye to see the wonders of the word of God till it be given him from above; and therefore David prays, Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. And if the wondrous things of the law are not much seen till God give an eye, then much less are the wondrous things of the Gospel. The light of nature shows us somewhat of the Law; but nothing of the Gospel was ever seen by the light of nature.
Many who have seen and admired some excellencies in the Law could never see, and therefore have derided, that which is the excellency of the Gospel, till God had opened their heart to understand. Joseph Caryl, 1602- 1673.
Ver. 18. "The word is very nigh" unto us; and, holding in our hand a document that teems with what is wonderful, the sole question is, "Have we an eye to its marvels, a heart for its mercies?" Here is the precise use of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit puts nothing new into the Bible; he only so enlightens and strengthens our faculties, that we can discern and admire what is there already. It is not the telescope which draws out that rich sparkling of stars on the blue space, which to the naked eye seem points of light, and untenanted: it is not the microscope which condenses the business of a stirring population into the circumference of a drop of water, and clothes with a thousand tints the scarcely discernible wing of the ephemeral insect. The stars are shining in their glory, whether or no we have the instruments to penetrate the azure; and the tiny tenantry are carrying on their usual concerns, and a rich garniture still forms the covering of the insect, whether or no the powerful lens has turned for us the atom into a world, and transformed the almost imperceptible down into the sparkling plumage of the bird of paradise. Thus the wonderful things are already in the Bible. The Spirit who indited them at first brings them not as new revelations to the individual; but, by removing the mists of carnal prejudice, by taking away the scales of pride and self sufficiency, and by rectifying the will, which causes the judgment to look at truth through a distorted medium, — by influencing the heart, so that the affections shall no longer blind the understanding, — by these and other modes, which might be easily enumerated, the Holy Ghost enables men to recognize what is hid, to perceive beauty and to discover splendour where all before had appeared without form and comeliness; and thus brings round the result of the Bible, in putting on the lip the wonderful prayer which he had himself inspired: Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. Henry Melvill, 1798-1871.
Ver. 18. The wondrous things seem to be the great things of an eternal world— he had turned his enquiring eyes upon the wonders of nature, sun, moon, and stars, mountains, trees, and rivers. He had seen many of the wonders of art; but now, he wanted to see the spiritual wonders contained in the Bible. He wanted to know about God himself in all his majesty, purity, and grace. He wanted to learn the way of salvation by a crucified Redeemer, and the glory that is to follow. Open mine eyes. — David was not blind— his eye was not dim. He could read the Bible from end to end, and yet he felt that he needed more light.
He felt that he needed to see deeper, to have the eyes of his understanding opened. He felt that if he had nothing but his own eyes and natural understanding, he would not discover the wonders which he panted to see.
He wanted divine teaching— the eye salve of the Spirit; and therefore he would not open the Bible without this prayer, "Open thou mine eyes."
Robert Murray Macheyne, 1813-1843.
Ver. 18. Wondrous things. Wherefore useth he this word "wondrous" ? It is as if he would have said, Although the world taketh the law of God to be but a light thing, and it seemeth to be given but as it were for simple souls and young children; yet for all that there seemeth such a wisdom to be in it, as that it surmounts all the wisdom of the world, and that therein lie hid wonderful secrets. John Calvin.
Ver. 18. Thy law. That which is the object of the understanding prayed for, that in the knowledge whereof the Psalmist would be illuminated, is hr;wOT.
The word signifies instruction; and being referred unto God, it is his teaching or instruction of us by the revelation of himself, the same which we intend by the Scripture. When the books of the Old Testament were completed they were, for distinction's sake, distributed into hr;wOT µybiWtK] , and µya]ybin] , or the "Law, "the "Psalms, "and the "Prophets, "Luke 24:44. Under that distribution Torah signifies the five books of Moses. But whereas these books of Moses were, as it were, the foundation of all future revelations under the Old Testament, which were given in the explication thereof, all the writings of it were usually called "the Law, "Isaiah 8:20. By the law , therefore, in this place, the Psalmist understands all the books that were then given unto the church by revelation for the rule of its faith and obedience. And that by the law , in the Psalms, the written law is intended, is evident from the first of them, wherein he is declared blessed who "meditates therein day and night, "Psalm 1:2; which hath respect unto the command of reading and meditating on the books thereof in that manner, Jos 1:8. That, therefore, which is intended by this word is the entire revelation of the will of God, given unto the church for the rule of its faith and obedience— that is, the holy Scripture.
In this law there are twOal;p]ni "wonderful things." al;p] signifies to be "wonderful, "to be "hidden, "to be "great" and "high; "that which men by the use of reason cannot attain unto or understand (hence twOalp]ni are things that have such an impression of divine wisdom and power upon them as that they are justly the object of our admiration); that which is too hard for us as Deuteronomy 17:8, rb;r; ËM]mi alep;y yki — "If a matter be too hard for thee, "hid from thee. And it is the name whereby the miraculous works of God are expressed, Psalm 77:11 78:11. Wherefore, these "wonderful things of the law" are those expressions and effects of divine wisdom in the Scripture which are above the natural reason and understanding of men to find out and comprehend. Such are the mysteries of divine truth in the Scripture, especially because Christ is in them, whose name is" Wonderful, "Isaiah 9:6; for all the great and marvellous effects of infinite wisdom meet in him. John Owen, 1616-1683.
Ver. 18. Wondrous things. There are promises in God's word that no man has ever tried, to find. There are treasures of gold and silver in it that no man has taken the pains to dig for. There are medicines in it for the want of a knowledge of which hundreds have died. It seems to me like some old baronial estate that has descended to a man (who lives in a modern house) and thinks it scarcely worth while to go and look into the venerable mansion. Year after year passes away and he pays no attention to it, since he has no suspicion of the valuable treasures it contains, till, at last, some man says to him, "Have you been up in the country to look at that estate?"
He makes up his mind that he will take a look at it. As he goes through the porch he is surprised to see the skill that has been displayed in its construction: he is more and more surprised as he goes through the halls.
He enters a large room, and is astonished as he beholds the wealth of pictures on the walls, among which are portraits of many of his revered ancestors. He stands in amazement before them. There is a Titian, there a Raphael, there is a Correggio, and there is a Giorgione. He says, "I never had any idea of these before." "Ah, "says the steward, "there is many another thing that you know nothing about in the castle, "and he takes him from room to room and shows carved plate, and wonderful statues, and the man exclaims, "Here I have been for a score of years the owner of this estate, and have never before known what things were in it." But no architect ever conceived of such an estate as God's word, and no artist, or carver, or sculptor, ever conceived of such pictures, and carved dishes, and statues as adorn its apartments. It contains treasures that silver, and gold, and precious stones are not to be mentioned with. Henry Ward Beecher, 1872.
Ver. 18. That I may behold wondrous things. The great end of the Word of God in the Psalmist's time, as now, was practical; but there is a secondary use here referred to, which is worthy of consideration, — its power of meeting man's faculty of wonder. God knows our frame, for he made it, and he must have adapted the Bible to all its parts. If we can show this, it may be another token that the book comes from Him who made man... That God has bestowed upon man the faculty of wonder we all know. It is one of the first and most constant emotions in our nature. We can see this in children, and in all whose feelings are still fresh and natural.
It is the parent of the desire to know, and all through life it is urging men to enquire. John Ker.
Ver. 18. Wondrous things out of thy law. In 118 we had the "wondrous" character of redemption; in 119 we have the "wonders" (Psalm 119:18,27,129), of God's revelation. William Kay, 1871.
Ver. 18-19. When I cannot have Moses to tell me the meaning, saith Saint Augustine, give me that Spirit that thou gavest to Moses. And this is that which every man that will understand must pray for: this David prayed for; — Open thou mine eyes that I may see the wonders of the Law; and (Psalm 119:19) hide not thy commandments from me. And Christ saith, "If you, being evil, can give good gifts to your children; how much more shall your heavenly Father give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" so that then we shall see the secrets of God. Richard Stock, (1626).
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 18. — 1. The precious casket: "thy law." 2. The invisible treasure: "wondrous things." 3. The miraculous eyesight: "that I may behold." 4. The divine oculist: "Open thou mine eyes."
Ver. 18. — The hidden wonders of the gospel. There are many hidden things in nature; many in our fellow men; so there are many in the Bible.
The things of the Bible are hidden because of the blindness of Man. 1. The blind man's sorrow :"Open mine eyes." I cannot see. I have eyes and see not. The pain of this conscious blindness when a man really feels it. 2. The blind man's conviction :"That I may behold wondrous, "etc.
There are wondrous things there to be seen. I am sure of it. There is a wonderful view, (a) of sin; (b) of hell, as its desert; (c) of One ready to save; (d) of perfect pardon; (e) of God's love: (f) of all sufficient grace; (g) of heaven. 3. The blind man's wisdom. The fault is in my eyes, not in thy word. "Open my eyes, "and all will be well. The reason for not seeing is because the eyes are blinded by sin. There is nothing wanting in the Bible. 4. The blind man's prayer :"Open thou mine eyes." (a) I cannot open them. (b) My dearest friends cannot. (c) Only thou canst. "Lord, I pray thee, now open them." Many seek to stop such praying. Be like Bartimaeus who "cried so much the more." 5. The blind man's anticipation :"That I may behold." (a) The joy of a cured blind man when he is about to behold, for the first time, the beauties of nature. (b) The joy of the spiritually healed when they begin "looking unto Jesus." (c) The personal character of the joy: "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold." I have hitherto had to see through the eyes of others. I would depend on other eyes no longer. The glad anticipation of Job: "Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another." — Frederick G. Marchant, 1882.
Ver. 18. — God's word suited to man's sense of wonder. 1. We shall make some remarks on the sense of wonder in man, and what generally excites it. One of the first causes of wonder is the new or unexpected. The second source is to be found in things beautiful and grand. A third source is the mysterious which surrounds man— there are things unknowable. 2. God has made provision for this sense of wonder in his revealed word. The Bible addresses our sense of wonder by constantly presenting the new and unexpected to us; it sets before us things beautiful and grand. If we come to the third source of wonder, that which raises it to awe, it is the peculiar province of the Bible to deal with this. 3. The means we are to use in order to have God's word thus unfolded — the prayer of the Psalmist may be our guide— "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law." — John Ker, of Glasgow, 1877.
Ver. 18. — Wondrous sights for opened eyes. 1. The wondrous things in God's law. A wondrous rule of life. A wondrous curse against transgression. A wondrous redemption from the curse shadowed forth in the ceremonial law. 2. Special eyesight needed to behold them. They are spiritual things.
Men are spiritually blind. 1 Corinthians 2:14. 3. Personal prayer to the Great Opener of eyes. — C.A.D.
PSALM 119:19 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 19. I am a stranger in the earth. This is meant for a plea. By divine command men are bound to be kind to strangers, and what God commands in others he will exemplify in himself. The Psalmist was a stranger for God's sake, else had he been as much at home as worldlings are: he was not a stranger to God, but a stranger to the world, a banished man so long as he was out of heaven. Therefore he pleads, Hide not thy commandments from me. If these are gone, what have I else?
Since nothing around me is mine, what can I do if I lose thy word? Since none around me know or care to know the way to thyself, what shall I do if I fail to see thy commands, by which alone I can guide my steps to the land where thou dwellest? David implies that God's commands were his solace in his exile: they reminded him of home, and they showed him the way thither, and therefore he begged that they might never be hidden from him, by his being unable either to— understand them or to obey them. If spiritual light be withdrawn the command is hidden, and this a gracious heart greatly deprecates. What would be the use of opened eyes if the best object of sight were hidden from their view? While we wander here we can endure all the ills of this foreign land with patience if the word of God is applied to our hearts by the Spirit of God; but if the heavenly things which make for our peace were hid from our eyes we should be in an evil case, — in fact, we should be at sea without a compass, in a desert without a guide, in an enemy's country without a friend.
This prayer is a supplement to "open thou mine eyes", and, as the one prays to see, the other deprecates the negative of seeing, namely, the command being hidden, and so out of sight. We do well to look at both sides of the blessing we are seeking, and to plead for it from every point of view. The prayers are appropriate to the characters mentioned: as he is a servant he asks for opened eyes that his eyes may ever be towards his Lord, as the eyes of a servant should be; as a stranger he begs that he may not be strange to the way in which he is to walk towards his home. In each case his entire dependence is upon God alone.
Note how the third of the second octave (11) has the same keyword as this third of the third octave: "Thy word have I hid, ""Hide not thy commandments from me." This invites a meditation upon the different senses of hiding in and hiding from .
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 19. I am a stranger in the earth. David had experience of peace and war, of riches and poverty, of pleasure and woe. He had been a private and public person; a shepherd, a painful calling; a soldier, a bloody trade; a courtier, an honourable slavery, which joins together in one the lord and the parasite, the gentleman and the drudge; and he was a king, — a glorious name, filled up with fears and cares. All these he had passed through, and found least rest when he was at the highest, less content on the throne than in the sheepfolds. All this he had observed and laid up in his memory, and this his confession is an epitome and brief of all; and in effect he telleth us, that whatsoever he had seen in this his passage, whatsoever he had enjoyed, yet he found nothing so certain as this, — that he had found nothing certain, nothing that he could abide with or would abide with him, but that he was still as a passenger and "stranger in the earth."
Anthony Farindon, 1596-1658.
Ver. 19. I am a stranger in the earth, etc. As a sojourner, he hath renounced the world, which is therefore become his enemy; as "a stranger" he is fearful of losing his way; on these accounts he requests that God would compensate the loss of earthly comforts by affording the light of heaven; that he would not "hide his commandments, " but show and teach him those steps, by which he may ascend toward heaven, rejoicing in hope of future glory. George Horne, 1730-1792.
Ver. 19. I am a stranger in the earth. This confession from a solitary wanderer would have had little comparative meaning; but in the mouth of one who was probably surrounded with every source of worldly enjoyment, it shows at once the vanity of "earth's best joys, " and the heavenly tendency of the religion of the Bible. Charles Bridges.
Ver. 19. I am a stranger in the earth, etc. 1. Every man here upon earth (especially a godly man) is but a stranger and a passenger. 2. It concerns him that is a stranger to look after a better and a more durable state. Every man should do so. A man's greatest care should be for that place where he lives longest; therefore eternity should be his scope. A godly man will do so. Those whose hearts are not set upon earthly things, they must have heaven. The more their affections are estranged from the one, the more they are taken up about the other (Colossians 3:2); heaven and earth are like two scales in a balance, that which is taken from the one is put into the other. 3. There is of sufficient direction how to obtain this durable estate, but in the word of God. Without this we are but like poor pilgrims and wayfaring men in a strange country, not able to discern the way home.
A blessed state is only sufficiently revealed in the word: "Life and immortality is brought to light through the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10).
The heathens did but guess at it, and had some obscure sense of an estate after this life; but as it is brought to light with most clearness in the word, so the way thither is only pointed out by the word. It is the word of God makes us wise to salvation, and which is our line and rule to heavenly Canaan; and therefore it concerns those that look after this durable state to consult with the word. 4. There is no understanding God's word but by the light of the Spirit. "There is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding" (Job 32:8). Though the word have light in it, yet the spirit of man cannot move till God enlightens us with that lively light that makes way for the dominion of the truth in our hearts, and conveys influence into our hearts. This is the light David begs when he says, "Hide not thy commandments from me." David was not ignorant of the Ten Commandments, of their sound; but he begs their spiritual sense and use. 5. If we would have the Spirit we must ask it of God in prayer; for God gives the "Spirit to them that ask him" (Luke 11:13); and therefore we must say, as David, "O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me: let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles" (Psalm 43:33). Thomas Manton.
Ver. 19. I am a stranger in the earth, etc. When a child is born, it is spoken of sometimes under the designation of "a little stranger!" Friends calling will ask if, as a privilege, they may "see the little stranger." A stranger, indeed! come from far. From the immensities. From the presence, and touch, and being of God! And going— into the immensities again— into, and through all the unreckonable ages of duration.
But the little stranger grows, and in a while begins to take vigorous root.
He works, and wins, and builds, and plants, and buys, and holds, and, in his own feeling, becomes so "settled" that he would be almost amused with anyone who should describe him as a stranger now.
And still life goes on, deepening and widening in its flow, and holding in itself manifold and still multiplying elements of interest. Increasingly the man is caught by these— like a ship, from which many anchors are cast into the sea. He strives among the struggling, rejoices with the gay, feels the spur of honour, enters the race of acquisition, does some hard and many kindly things by turns; multiplies his engagements, his relationships, his friends, and then — just when after such preparations, life ought to be fully beginning, and opening itself out into a great restful, sunny plain— lo! the shadows begin to fall, which tell, too surely, that it is drawing fast to a close. The voice, which, soon or late, everyone must hear, is calling for "the little stranger, "who was born not long ago, whose first lesson is over, and who is wanted now to enter by the door called death, into another school. And the stranger is not ready. He has thrown out so many anchors, and they have taken such a fast hold of the ground that it will be no slight matter to raise them. He is settled . He has no pilgrim's staff at hand; and his eye, familiar enough with surrounding things, is not accustomed to the onward and ascending way, cannot so well measure the mountain altitude, or reckon the far distance. The progress of time has been much swifter than the progress of his thought. Alas! he has made one long mistake. He has "looked at the things which are seen, "and forgotten the things which are not seen. And "the things which are seen" are temporal, and go with time into extinction; while "those which are not seen, are eternal." And so there is hurry, and confusion, and distress in the last hours, and in the going away. Now, all this may be obviated and escaped, thoroughly, if a man will but say— I am a stranger in the earth: hide not thy commandments from me. Alexander Raleigh, in "The Little Sanctuary, and other Meditations." 1872.
Ver. 19. I am a stranger in the earth, etc. In the law, God recommends strangers to the care and compassion of his people; now David returns the arguments to him, to persuade him to deal kindly with him. Robert Leighton, 1611-1684.
Ver. 19. In the earth. He makes no exception here; the whole earth he acknowledged a place of his pilgrimage. Not only when he was banished among the Moabites and Philistines was he a stranger; but even when he lived peaceably at home in Canaan, still he thinks himself a stranger. This consideration moved godly Basil to despise the threatening of Modestus, the deputy of Valens the emperor, when he braved him with banishment. Ab exilii metu liber sum, unam hominum cognoscens esse patram, paradisum omnem autem terram commune naturae exilium. And it shall move us to keep spiritual sobriety in the midst of pleasures, if we remember that in our houses, at our own fireside, and in our own beds, we are but strangers, from which we must shortly remove, to give place to others. William Cowper.
Ver. 19. Hide not thy commandments from me. The manner of David's reasoning is this. I am here a stranger and I know not the way, therefore, Lord, direct me. The similitude is taken from passengers, who coming to an uncouth country where they are ignorant of the way, seek the benefit of a guide. But the dissimilitude is here: in any country people can guide a stranger to the place where he would be; but the dwellers of the earth cannot show the way to heaven; and therefore David seeks no guide among them, but prays the Lord to direct him. William Cowper.
Ver. 19. Hide not thy commandments from me. There is a hiding of the word of God when means to hear it explained by preachers are wanting; and there is a hiding of the comfortable and lively light of the Spirit, who must quicken the word into us. From both those evils we may, and we should, pray to be saved. David Dickson.
PSALM 119:20 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 20. My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times. True godliness lies very much in desires. As we are not what we shall be, so also we are not what we would be. The desires of gracious men after holiness are intense, — they cause a wear of heart, a straining of the mind, till it feels ready to snap with the heavenly pull. A high value of the Lord's commandment leads to a pressing desire to know and to do it, and this so weighs upon the soul that it is ready to break in pieces under the crush of its own longings. What a blessing it is when all our desires are after the things of God. We may well long for such longings.
God's judgments are his decisions upon points which else had been in dispute. Every precept is a judgment of the highest court upon a point of action, an infallible and immutable decision upon a moral or spiritual question. The word of God is a code of justice from which there is no appeal. "This is the Judge which ends the strife Where wit and reason fail; Our guide through devious paths of life, Our shield when doubts assail." Watts.
David had such reverence for the word, and such a desire to know it, and to be conformed to it, that his longings caused him a sort of heart break, which he here pleads before God. Longing is the soul of praying, and when the soul longs till it breaks, it cannot be long before the blessing will be granted. The most intimate communion between the soul and its God is carried on by the process described in the text. God reveals his will, and our heart longs to be conformed thereto. God judges, and our heart rejoices in the verdict. This is fellowship of heart most real and thorough.
Note well that our desire after the mind of God should be constant; we should feel holy longings "at all times." Desires which can be put off and on like our garments are at best but mere wishes, and possibly they are hardly true enough to be called by that name, — they are temporary emotions born of excitement, and doomed to die when the heat which created them has cooled down. He who always longs to know and do the right is the truly right man. His judgment is sound, for he loves all God's judgments, and follows them with constancy. His times shall be good, since he longs to be good and to do good at all times.
Remark how this fourth of the third eight chimes with the fourth of the fourth eight. "My soul breaketh"; "my soul melteth." There is surely some recondite poetic art about all this, and it is well for us to be careful in studying what the psalmist was so careful in composing.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 20. My soul breaketh, etc. Here is a protestation of that earnest desire he had to the obedience of the word of God; he amplifies it two ways: first, it was no light motion, but such as being deeply rooted made his heart to break when he saw that he could not do in the obedience thereof what he would. Next, it was no vanishing motion, like the morning dew; but it was permanent, omni tempore , he had it at all times . William Cowper.
Ver. 20. My soul breaketh for the longing, as one that with straining breaks a vein. William Gurnall.
Ver. 20. My soul breaketh, etc. This breaking is by rubbing, chafing, or crushing. The spirit was so fretted with its yearning desire after the things which Jehovah had spoken, that it was broken as by heavy friction. The "longing" to find out and follow the hidden wonders was almost unbearable. This longing continued with the Psalmist "at all times, " or "in every season." Prosperity could not make him forget it; adversity could not quench it. In sickness or health, in happiness or sadness, in company or alone, nothing overcame that longing. "The wondrous things" were so wonderful, and still so hidden. To see a little of "the beauty of the Lord" is to get to know how much there is which we fail to see, and thus to long more than ever. He who pursues ardently the wonders of the word of the Lord, will never set that longing at rest as long as he remains "in the earth." It is only when we shall "be like him, " and "shall see him as he is, "that we shall cry, "Enough, Lord!" "I shall be satisfied when I awake in thy likeness." F. G. Marchant.
Ver. 20. My soul breaketh for the longing. For the earnest desire. "That it hath unto thy judgments at all times. " Thy law; thy commands. This was a constant feeling. It was not fitful, or spasmodic. It was the steady, habitual state of the soul on the subject. He had never seen enough of the beauty and glory of the law of God to feel that all the wants of his nature were satisfied, or that he could see and know no more; he had seen and felt enough to excite in him an ardent desire to be made fully acquainted with all that there is in the law of God. Albert Barnes.
Ver. 20. My soul breaketh for the longing, etc. The desire after God's appointments becomes painfully intense. A longing— an intense longing— for the judgments of the Lord— at all times. These are the particulars of his breaking soul. His whole mind is toward the things of God. He prays that he may behold the wondrous things of Jehovah's law, and that he may not hide his commandments from him; and here his soul breaks for longing towards his judgments at all times. The state of the Psalmist's mind would not lead us here to suppose that he was awaiting the manifestation of the Lord's judgments in vindicating his cause against ungodly men, or that he was longing for opportunity of fulfilling all the deeds of righteousness towards his fellow men; for this he was doing to the utmost. Evidently he is intent upon the ordinances of religion, which were called "judgments" in reference to the solemn sanctions with which they were enjoined. The man of God so longed to join with the Lord's people in these, that his heart was ready to break with desire, as he was forced from place to place in the wilderness. The renewed heart is here. Another might long to be delivered from persecution, to be at rest, to be restored to home, relations, and comfort. The man of God could not but desire those natural enjoyments; but, over all, his holy mind longed with ardour for the celebration of Jehovah's worship. John Stephen.
Ver. 20. Thy judgments. God's judgments are of two sorts: first, his commands; so called because by them right is judged and discerned from wrong. Next, his plagues executed upon transgressors according to his word. David here refers to the first. Let men who have not the like of David's desire, remember, that they whose heart cannot break for transgressing God's word because they love it, shall find the plagues of God to bruise their body and break their heart also. Let us delight in the first sort of these judgments, and the second shall never come upon us. William Cowper.
Ver. 20. Mark that word, at all times. Bad men have their good moods, as good men have their bad moods. A bad man may, under gripes of conscience, a smarting rod, the approaches of death, or the fears of hell, or when he is sermon sick, cry out to the Lord for grace, for righteousness, for holiness; but he is the only blessed man that hungers and thirsts after righteousness at all times. Thomas Brooks, 1608-1680.
Ver. 20. At all times. Some prize the word in adversity, when they have no other comfort to live upon; then they can be content to study the word to comfort them in their distresses; but when they are well at ease, they despise it. But David made use of it "at all times; " in prosperity, to humble him; in adversity, to comfort him; in the one, to keep him from pride; in the other, to keep him from despair; in affliction, the word was his cordial; in worldly increase, it was his antidote; and so at all times his heart was carried out to the word either for one necessity or another. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 20. At all times. How few are there even among the servants of God who know anything of the intense feeling of devotion here expressed! O that our cold and stubborn hearts were warmed and subdued by divine grace, that we might be ready to faint by reason of the longing which we had "at all times" for the judgments of our God. How fitful are our best feelings! If today we ascend the mount of communion with God, tomorrow we are in danger of being again entangled with the things of earth. How happy are they whose hearts are "at all times" filled with longings after fellowship with the great and glorious object of their love! John Morison, 1829.
Ver. 20. If you read the lives of good men, who have been, also, intellectually great, you will be struck, I think, even to surprise, a surprise, however, which will not be unpleasant, to find them, at the close of life, in their own estimation so ignorant, so utterly imperfect, so little the better of the long life lesson. Dr. Chalmers, after kindling churches and arousing nations to their duties, summed up his own attainments in the word "desirousness, "and took as the text that best described his inner state, that passionate, almost painful cry of David, My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments. But how grand was the attainment! To be in old age as simple as a little child before God! To be still learning at threescore years and ten! How beautiful seem the great men in their simplicity! Alexander Raleigh, in "The Little Sanctuary, " 1872.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 20. — 1. The word sought, and sought at all times. 2. The word sought, and sought with intense desire. 3. The word sought, and sought the more intensely the more it is found. It was because he had found so much in the word of the Lord already, that the soul of the Psalmist was breaking to find more. Those who have been once admitted to "the secret of the Lord" find their highest joy in knowing that secret still more fully. It is to those who know that secret that the promise is given: "He will show them his covenant:" Psalm 25:14. — F.G.M.
Ver. 20. — One of the best tests of character and prophecies of what a man will be, are his longings. 1. The saint's absorbing object :"Thy judgments." The word here is synonymous with the "word" of God. (a) The Psalmist greatly reverenced the word. (b) He intensely desired to know its contents. (c) He wishes to feed upon God's word. (d) He longed to obey it. (e) He longed to feel the power of God's judgments in his own heart. 2. The saint's ardent longings. (a) They constitute a living experience. (b) The expression used in the text represents a humble sense of imperfection. (c) It indicates an advanced experience. (d) It is an experience which we may term a bitter sweet. (e) These longings may become very wearying to a man's soul. 3. Cheering reflections. (a) God is at work in your soul. (b) The result of God's work is very precious. (c) It is leading on to something more precious. (d) The desire itself is doing you good. (e) It makes Christ precious. See "Spurgeon's Sermons, "No. 1586: "Holy Longings."
PSALM 119:21 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 21. Thou hast rebuked the proud that are cursed. This is one of God's judgments: he is sure to deal out a terrible portion to men of lofty looks.
God rebuked Pharaoh with sore plagues, and at the Red Sea "In the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O Lord." In the person of the naughty Egyptian he taught all the proud that he will certainly abase them. Proud men are cursed men: nobody blesses them, and they soon become a burden to themselves. In itself, pride is a plague and torment. Even if no curse came from the law of God, there seems to be a law of nature that proud men should be unhappy men. This led David to abhor pride; he dreaded the rebuke of God and the curse of the law. The proud sinners of his day were his enemies, and he felt happy that God was in the quarrel as well as he. Which do err from thy commandments. Only humble hearts are obedient, for they alone will yield to rule and government. Proud men's looks are high, too high to mark their own feet and keep the Lord's way. Pride lies at the root of all sin: if men were not arrogant they would not be disobedient.
God rebukes pride even when the multitudes pay homage to it, for he sees in it rebellion against his own majesty, and the seeds of yet further rebellions. It is the sum of sin. Men talk of an honest pride; but if they were candid they would see that it is of all sins the least honest, and the least becoming in a creature, and especially in a fallen creature: yet so little do proud men know their own true condition under the curse of God, that they set up to censure the godly, and express contempt for them, as may be seen in the next verse. They are themselves contemptible, and yet they are contemptuous towards their betters. We may well love the judgments of God when we see them so decisively levelled against the haughty upstarts who would fain lord it over righteous men; and we may well be of good under the rebukes of the ungodly since their power to hurt us is destroyed by the Lord himself. "The Lord rebuke thee" is answer enough for all the accusations of men or devils.
In the fifth of the former octave the Psalmist wrote, "I have declared all the judgments of thy mouth, "and here he continues in the same strain, giving a particular instance of the Lord's judgments against haughty rebels. In the next two portions the fifth verses deal with lying and vanity, and pride is one of the most common forms of those evils.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 21. Thou hast rebuked the proud that are cursed. If the proud escape here, as sometimes they do, hereafter they shall not; for, "the proud man is an abomination to the Lord" ; Proverbs 16:5. God cannot endure him; Psalm 101:5. And what of that? Tu perdes superbos , Thou shalt destroy the proud. The very heathens devised the proud giants struck with thunder from heaven. And if God spared not the angels , whom he placed in the highest heavens, but for their pride threw them down headlong to the nethermost hell , how much less shall he spare the proud dust and ashes of the sons of men, but shall cast them from the height of their earthly altitude to the bottom of that infernal dungeon! "Humility makes men angels; pride makes angels devils; "as that father said: I may well add, makes devils of men. Alazoneiav outiv ekfeugei dikhn , says the heathen poet, Menander; "Never soul escaped the revenge of pride, " never shall escape it. So sure as God is just, pride shall not go unpunished. I know now we are all ready to call for a bason, with Pilate, and to wash our hands from this foul sin. Honourable and beloved, this vice is a close one; it will cleave fast to you; yea, so close that ye can hardly discern it from a piece of yourselves: this is it that aggravates the danger of it. For, as Aquinas notes well, some sins are more dangerous propter vehementiam impugnationis , "for the fury of their assault"; as the sin of anger: others for their correspondence to nature; as the sins of lust: other, propter latentiam sui, "for their close skulking" in our bosom; as the sin of pride. Oh, let us look seriously into the corners of our false hearts, even with the lanthorn of God's law, and find out this subtle devil; and never give peace to our souls till we have dispossessed him. Down with your proud plumes, O ye glorious peacocks of the world: look upon your black legs, and your snake like head: be ashamed of your miserable infirmities: else, God will down with them and yourselves in a fearful vengeance. There is not the holiest of us but is this way faulty: oh, let us be humbled by our repentance, that we may not be brought down to everlasting confusion: let us be cast down upon our knees, that we may not be cast down upon our faces. For God will make good his own word, one way; "A man's pride shall bring him low." Joseph Hall, 1574-1656.
Ver. 21. Thou hast rebuked the proud. Let the histories of Cain, Pharaoh, Haman, Nebuchadnezzar, and Herod, exhibit the proud under the rebuke and curse of God. He abhors their persons and their offerings: he "knows them afar off": he "resisteth them": "he scattereth them in the imaginations of their hearts." Yet more especially hateful are they in his sight, when cloaking themselves under a spiritual garb, — "which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me: for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day." David and Hezekiah are instructive beacons in the church, that God's people, whenever they give place to the workings of a proud heart, must not hope to escape his rebuke. "Thou wast a God that forgavest them, though thou tookest vengeance on their inventions:" Psalm 99:8. Charles Bridges.
Ver. 21. Thou hast rebuked the proud. David addeth another reason whereby he is more enflamed to pray unto God and to address himself unto him to be taught in his word; to wit, when he seeth that he hath so, "rebuked the proud." For the chastisement and punishments which God layeth upon the faithless and rebellious should be a good instruction for us; as it is said that God hath executed judgment, and that the inhabitants of the land should learn his righteousness. It is not without cause that the prophet Isaiah also hath so said; for he signifieth unto us that God hath by divers and sundry means drawn us unto him, and that chiefly when he teacheth us to fear his majesty. For without it, alas, we shall soon become like unto brute beasts: if God lay the bridle on our necks, what license we will give unto ourselves experience very well teacheth us. Now God seeing that we are so easily brought to run at random, sendeth us examples, because he would bring us to walk in fear and carefully. John Calvin.
Ver. 21. The proud. This is a style commonly given to the wicked; because as it is our oldest evil, so is it the strongest and first that strives in our corrupt nature to carry men to transgress the bounds appointed by the Lord. From the time that pride entered into Adam's heart, that he would be higher than God had made him, he spared not to eat of the forbidden tree.
And what else is the cause of all transgression, but that man's ignorant pride will have his will preferred to the will of God. William Cowper.
Ver. 21. The proud. Peter speaks of the proud, as if they did challenge God like champions, and provoke him like rebels, so that unless he did resist them, they would go about to deprive him of his rule, as Korah, Dathan, and Abiram undermined Moses. Numbers 16:1-33.
For so the proud man saith, I will be like the highest, Isaiah 14:12-15, and, if he could, above the highest too. This is the creature that was taken out of the dust, Genesis 2:7, and so soon as he was made, he opposed himself against that majesty which the angels adore, the thrones worship, the devils fear, and the heavens obey. How many sins are in this sinful world! and yet, as Solomon saith of the good wife, Proverbs 31:29, "Many daughters have done virtuously, but you surmount them all"; so may I say of pride, many sins have done wickedly, but you surmount them all; for the wrathful man, the prodigal man, the lascivious man, the surfeiting man, the slothful man, is rather an enemy to himself than to God; but the proud man sets himself against God, because he doth against his laws; he maketh himself equal with God, because he doth all without God, and craves no help of him; he exalteth himself above God, because he will have his own will though it be contrary to God's will. As the humble man saith, Not unto us, Lord, not unto us, but to thy name give the glory, Psalm 115:1; so the proud man saith, Not unto Him, not unto Him, but unto us give the glory. Like unto Herod which took the name of God, and was honoured of all but the worms, and they showed that he was not a god, but a man, Acts 12:21.
Therefore proud men may be called God's enemies, because as the covetous pull riches from men, so the proud pull honour from God. Beside, the proud man hath no cause to be proud, as other sinners have; the covetous for riches, the ambitious for honour, the voluptuous for pleasure, the envious for wrong, the slothful for ease; but the proud man hath no cause to be proud, but pride itself, which saith, like Pharaoh, "I will not obey, " Exodus 5:2. Henry Smith, 1560-1591.
Ver. 21. Proud that are cursed. — Proud men endure the curse of never having friends; not in prosperity, because they know nobody; not in adversity, because then nobody knows them. John Whitecross, in "Anecdotes illustrative of the Old Testament." Ver. 21. This use of God's judgments upon others must we make to ourselves; first, that we may be brought to acknowledge our deserts, and so may fear; and, next, that we may so behold his justice upon the proud that we may have assurance of his mercy to the humble. This is hard to flesh and blood; for some can be brought to rejoice at the destruction of others, and cannot fear; and others, when they are made to fear, cannot receive comfort. But those which God hath joined together let us not separate: therefore let us make these uses of God's judgments. Richard Greenham.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 21. — 1. The character of the proud. 2. God's dealings with them. 3. Our own relation to them.
Ver. 21. — 1. The sin ; "Err from the commandments." (a) By neglect; or, (b) By abuse of them. 2. Its origin — pride: pride of reason, of heart, of life. 3. Its punishment. (a) Rebuke. (b) Condemnation. — G.R.
PSALM 119:22 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 22. Remove from me reproach and contempt. These are painful things to tender minds. David could bear them for righteousness sake, but they were a heavy yoke, and he longed to be free from them. To be slandered, and then to be despised in consequence of the vile accusation, is a grievous affliction. No one likes to be traduced, or even to be despised. He who says, "I care nothing for my reputation, " is not a wise man, for in Solomon's esteem, "a good name is better than precious ointment." The best way to deal with slander is to pray about it: God will either remove it, or remove the sting from it. Our own attempts at clearing ourselves are usually failures; we are like the boy who wished to remove the blot from his copy, and by his bungling made it ten times worse. When we suffer from a libel it is better to pray about it than go to law over it, or even to demand an apology from the inventor. O ye who are reproached, take your matters before the highest court, and leave them with the Judge of all the earth. God will rebuke your proud accuser; be ye quiet and let your advocate plead your cause. For I have kept thy testimonies. Innocence may justly ask to be cleared from reproach. If there be truth in the charges alleged against us what can we urge with God? If, however, we are wrongfully accused our appeal has a locus standi in the court and cannot be refused. If through fear of reproach we forsake the divine testimony we shall deserve the coward's doom; our safety lies in sticking close to the true and to the right. God will keep those who keep his testimonies. A good conscience is the best security for a good name; reproach will not abide with those who abide with Christ, neither will contempt remain upon those who remain faithful to the ways of the Lord.
This verse stands as a parallel both in sense and position to Psalm 119:6, and it has the catchword of "testimonies, "by which it chimes with Psalm 119:14.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 22. Remove from me reproach and contempt. Here David prays against the reproach and contempt of men; that they might be removed, or, as the word is, rolled from off him. This intimates that they lay upon him, and neither his greatness nor his goodness could secure him from being libelled and lampooned: some despised him and endeavoured to make him mean, others reproached him and endeavoured to make him odious. It has often been the lot of those that do well to be ill spoken of. It intimates, that this burden lay heavy upon him. Hard words indeed and foul words break no bones, and yet they are very grievous to a tender and ingenuous spirit: therefore David prays, Lord, "remove" them from me, that I may not be thereby either driven from any duty, or discouraged in it. Matthew Henry Ver. 22. Remove from me reproach and contempt, etc. In the words (as in most of the other verses) you have, — 1. A request: Remove from me reproach and contempt. 2. A reason and argument to enforce the request: For I have kept thy testimonies.
First, for the request, Remove from me reproach and contempt ; the word signifies, Roll from upon me, let it not come at me, or let it not stay with me. And then the argument: for I have kept thy testimonies. The reason may be either thus: (1) He pleads that he was innocent of what was charged upon him, and had not deserved those aspersions. (2) He intimates that it was for his obedience, for this very cause, that he had kept the word, therefore was reproach rolled upon him. (3) It may be conceived thus, that his respect to God's word was not abated by this reproach, he still kept God's testimonies, how wicked soever he did appear in the eyes of the world.
It is either an assertion of his innocency, or he shows the ground why this reproach came upon him, or he pleads that his respect to God and his service was not lessened, whatever reproach he met with in the performance of it.
The points from hence are many. 1. It is no strange thing that they which keep God's testimonies should be slandered and reproached. 2. As it is the usual lot of God's people to be reproached; so it is very grievous to them, and heavy to bear. 3. It being grievous, we may lawfully seek the removal of it. So doth David, and so may we, with submission to God's will. 4. In removal of it, it is best to deal with God about it; for God is the great witness of our sincerity, as knowing all things, and so to be appealed to in the case. Again, God is the most powerful asserter of our innocency; he hath the hearts and tongues of men in his own hands, and can either prevent the slanderer from uttering reproach, or the hearer from the entertainment of the reproach. He that hath such power over the consciences of men can clear up our innocency; therefore it is best to deal with God about it; and prayer many times proves a better vindication than an apology. 5. In seeking relief with God from this evil, it is a great comfort and ground of confidence when we are innocent of what is charged. In some cases we must humble ourselves, and then God will take care for our credit; we must plead guilty when, by our own fault, we have given occasion to the slanders of the wicked: so, "Turn away my reproach, which I fear: for thy judgments are good" (Psalm 119:39). "My reproach, "for it was in part deserved by himself, and therefore he feared the sad consequences of it, and humbled himself before God.
But at other times we may stand upon our integrity, as David saith here: "Turn away my reproach which I fear: for thy judgments are good." Thomas Manton.
PSALM 119:23 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 23. Princes also did sit and speak against me. David was high game, and the great ones of the earth went a hawking after him. Princes saw in him a greatness which they envied, and therefore they abused him. On their thrones they might have found something better to consider and speak about, but they turned the seat of judgment into the seat of the scorner.
Most men covet a prince's good word, and to be spoken ill of by a great man is a great discouragement to them, but the Psalmist bore his trial with holy calmness. Many of the lordly ones were his enemies, and made it their business to speak ill of him: they held sittings for scandal, sessions for slander, parliaments of falsehood, and yet he survived all their attempts upon him. But thy servant did meditate in thy statutes. This was brave indeed. He was God's servant, and therefore he attended to his Master's business; he was God's servant, and therefore felt sure that his Lord would defend him. He gave no heed to his princely slanderers, he did not even allow his thoughts to be disturbed by a knowledge of their plotting in conclave. Who were these malignants that they should rob God of his servant's attention, or deprive the Lord's chosen of a moment's devout communion. The rabble of princes were not worth five minutes' thought, if those five minutes had to be taken from holy meditation. It is very beautiful to see the two sittings: the princes sitting to reproach David, and David sitting with his God and his Bible, answering his traducers by never answering them at all. Those who feed upon the word grow strong and peaceful, and are by God's grace hidden from the strife of tongues.
Note that in the close of the former octave he had said, "I will meditate, "and here he shows how he had redeemed his promise, even under great provocation to forget it. It is a praiseworthy thing when the resolve of our happy hours is duly carried out in our seasons of affliction.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 23. Princes also did sit, under the shadow of justice, and speak against me. Now this was a great temptation to David, that he was not only mocked and scorned at the taverns and inns, being there blazoned by dissolute jesters and scoffers, and talked of in the streets and market places; but even in the place of justice (which ought to be holy); it could not therefore be chosen but that they also would utterly defame and slander him, and condemn him to be, as it were, a most wicked and cursed man.
When David then did see that he was thus unjustly entreated and handled, he makes his complaint unto God, and says, "O Lord, the princes and governors themselves do sit and speak evil against me; and yet for all that I have kept thy testimonies." Here in sum we are to gather out of this place, that if it so fall out, when we have walked uprightly and in a good conscience? that we are falsely slandered, and accused of this and that whereof we never once thought; yet ought we to bear all things patiently; for let us be sure of that, that we are not better than David, whatever great protestation of our integrity and purity we may dare to make. John Calvin.
Ver. 23 But thy servant did meditate in thy statutes. As husbandmen, when their ground is overflowed by waters, make ditches and water furrows to carry it away; so, when our minds and thoughts are overwhelmed with trouble, it is good to divert them to some other matter. But every diversion will not become saints, it must be a holy diversion: "In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul" (Psalm 94:19). The case was the same with that of the text, when the throne of iniquity frameth mischief by a law; as you shall see here, when he had many perplexed thoughts about the abuse of power against himself. But now where lay his ease in diversion? Would every diversion suit his purpose? No; "Thy comforts, "— comforts of God's allowance, of God's providing, comforts proper to saints. Wicked men in trouble run to their pot and pipe, and games and sports, and merry company, and so defeat the providence rather than improve it: but David, who was God's servant, must have God's comforts. So, elsewhere, when his thoughts were troubled about the power of the wicked: "I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end" (Psalm 73:17). He goeth to divert his mind by the use of God's ordinances, and so cometh to be settled against the temptation. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 23. But thy servant did meditate in thy statutes. — Perceive here the armour by which David fights against his enemy. Arma justi quibus omnes adversariorum repellit impetus , his weapons are the word and player. He renders not injury for injury, reproach for reproach. It is dangerous to fight against Satan or his instruments with their own weapons; for so they shall easily overcome us. Let us fight with the armour of God— the exercises of the word and prayer: for a man may peaceably rest in his secret chamber, and in these two see the miserable end of all those who are enemies to God's children for God's sake. William Cowper.
Ver. 23. Thy statutes. It is impossible to live either Christianly or comfortable without the daily use of Scripture. It is absolutely necessary for our direction in all our ways before we begin them, and when we have ended them, for the warrant of our approbation of them, for resolving of our doubts, and comforting us in our griefs. Without it our conscience is a blind guide, and leadeth us in a mist of ignorance, error, and confusion.
Therein we hear God speaking to us, declaring his good will to us concerning our salvation, and the way of our obedience to meet him in his good will. What book can we read with such profit and comfort? For matter, it is wisdom: for authority, it is divine and absolute: for majesty, God himself under common words and letters expressing an unspeakable power to stamp our heart. Where shall we find our minds so enlightened, our hearts so deeply affected, our conscience so moved, both for casting us down and raising us up? I cannot find in all the books of the world, such an one speak to me, as in Scripture, with so absolute a conquest of all the powers of my soul.
Contemners of Scripture lack food for their souls, light for their life and weapons for their spiritual warfare; but the lovers of Scripture have all that furniture. Therein we hear the voice of our Beloved, we smell the savour of his ointments, and have daily access unto the art of propitiation. If in our knowledge we desire divinity, excellency, antiquity, and efficiency, we cannot find it, but in God's word alone. It is the extract of heavenly wisdom, which Christ the eternal Word brought out of the bosom of his Father. William Struther, 1633.
Ver. 23-24. The two last verses of this section contain two protestations of David's honest affection to the word. The first is, that albeit he was persecuted and evil spoken of, and that by great and honourable men of the world, such as Saul, and Abner, and Ahithophel; yet did he still meditate in the statutes of God. It is a hard temptation when the godly are troubled by any wicked men; but much harder when they are troubled by men of honour and authority. And that, first, by reason of their place :the greater power they have, the greater peril to encounter with their displeasure; therefore said Solomon, "The wrath of a king is as messengers of death."
Next, because authorities and powers are ordained by God, not for the terror of the good, but of the evil: Romans 13:3. And therefore it is no small grief to the godly, when they find them abused to a contrary end: that where a ruler should be to good men like rain to the fields new mown, he becomes a favourer of evil men and a persecutor of the good. Then justice is turned into wormwood; that which should bring comfort to such as fear God, is abused to oppress them. And therefore it should be accounted a great benefit of God, when he gives a people good and religious rulers. William Cowper.
Ver. 23, 51. If the 119th Psalm came from the pen of David, as multitudes believe, then I do not wonder that many have connected its composition with his residence in the school of the prophets of Naioth. The calm in which he then found himself, and the studies which he then prosecuted, might well have led his musings in the direction of that alphabetic code, while there are in it not a few expressions which, to say the least, may have particular reference to the dangers out of which he had so recently escaped, and by which he was still threatened. Such, for example, are the following: "Princes also did sit and speak against me": but thy servant did meditate in thy statutes. "The proud have had me greatly in derision: yet have I not declined from thy law." William M. Taylor, in "David, King of Israel; his Life and its Lessons." 1880.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 23. — Meditation. 1. Our best employment while others slander. 2. Our best comfort under their falsehood. 3. Our best preservative from a spirit of revenge. 4. Our best mode of showing our superiority to their attacks.
PSALM 119:24 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 24. Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellors. They were not only themes for meditation, but "also" sources of delight and means of guidance. While his enemies took counsel with each other the holy man took counsel with the testimonies of God. The fowlers could not drive the bird from its nest with all their noise. It was their delight to slander and his delight to meditate. The words of the Lord serve us for many purposes; in our sorrows they are our delight, and in our difficulties they are our guide; we derive joy from them and discover wisdom in them.
If we desire to find comfort in the Scriptures we must submit ourselves to their counsel, and when we follow their counsel it must not be with reluctance but with delight. This is the safest way of dealing with those who plot for our ruin; let us give more heed to the true testimonies of the Lord than to the false witness of our foes. The best answer to accusing princes is the word of the justifying King.
In Psalm 119:16 David said, "I will delight in thy statutes, "and here he says "they are my delight": thus resolutions formed in God's strength come to fruit, and spiritual desires ripen into actual attainments. O that it might be so with all the readers of these lines.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 24. Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellors. His delight and his counsellors, that is, his delight because his counsellors; his counsellors, and therefore his delight. We know how delightful it is to any to have the advantage of good counsel, according to the perplexities and distractions in which they may be. "Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel, "says Solomon, Proverbs 27:9. Now this is the sweetness of Divine communion, and of meditation on God and his word; it employs a man with seasonable counsel , which is a very great refreshment to us. T. Horton, 1673.
Ver. 24. Thy testimonies also are my delight, etc. Those that would have God's testimonies to be their delight, must make them for their counsellors and be advised by them: and let those that take them for their counsellors in close walking, take them for their delight in comfortable walking. Matthew Henry.
Ver. 24. Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellors. What could we want more in a time of difficulty than comfort and direction David had both these blessings. As the fruit of his "meditation in the Lord's statutes, "in his distress they were his "delight" ; in his seasons of perplexity they were his "counsellors, " directing his behaviour in the perfect way. Charles Bridges.
Ver. 24. My counsellors. In the Hebrew it is, "the men of my counsel, "which is fitly mentioned; for he had spoken of princes sitting in council against him. Princes do nothing without the advice of their Privy Council; a child of God hath also his Privy Council, God's testimonies. On the one side there was Saul and his nobles and counsellors; on the other side there was David and God's testimonies. Now, who was better furnished, think you, they to persecute and trouble him, or David how to carry himself under this trouble? Alphonsus, king of Arragon, being asked who were the best counsellors? answered, "The dead (meaning books), which cannot flatter, but do without partiality declare the truth." Now of all such dead counsellors, God's testimonies have the preeminence. A poor, godly man, even then when he is deserted of all, and hath nobody to plead for him, he hath his senate, and his council of state about him, the prophets and apostles, and "other holy men of God, that spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." A man so furnished, is never less alone than when alone; for he hath counsellors about him that tell him what is to be believed or done; and they are such counsellors as cannot err, as will not flatter him, nor applaud him in any sin, nor discourage or dissuade him from that which is good, whatever hazard it expose him to. And truly, if we be wise, we should choose such counsellors as these: "Thy testimonies are the men of my counsel." Thomas Manton.
Ver. 24. My counsellors. See here a sentence worthy to be weighed of us, when David calleth the commandments of God his "counsellors." For, in the first place, he meaneth that he might scorn all the wisdom of the most able and most expert men in the world, since he was conducted by the word of God, and governed thereby. In the second place, he meaneth that when he shall be so governed by the word of God, he would not only be truly wise, but that it would be as if he had all the wisdom of all the men in the world, yea, and a great deal more. John Calvin.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 24. — 1. He reverenced them as God's testimonies. 2. He revelled in them as his delight. 3. He referred to them as his counsellors.
PSALM 119:25 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 25-32. Here, it seems to me, we have the Psalmist in trouble bewailing the bondage to earthly things in which he finds his mind to be held. His soul cleaves to the dust, melts for heaviness, and cries for enlargement from its spiritual prison. In these verses we shall see the influence of the divine word upon a heart which laments its downward tendencies, and is filled with mourning because of its deadening surroundings. The word of the Lord evidently arouses prayer (Psalm 119:25-29), confirms choice (Psalm 119:30), and inspires renewed resolve (Psalm 119:32): it is in all tribulation whether of body: or mind the surest source of help.
This portion has 'D' for its alphabetical letter: it sings of Depression, in the spirit of Devotion, Determination, and Dependence.
Ver. 25. My soul cleaveth unto the dust. He means in part that he was full of sorrow; for mourners in the east cast dust on their heads, and sat in ashes, and the Psalmist felt as if these ensigns of woe were glued to him, and his very soul was made to cleave to them because of his powerlessness to rise above his grief. Does he not also mean that he felt ready to die? Did he not feel his life absorbed and fast held by the grave's mould, half choked by the death dust? It may not be straining the language if we conceive that he also felt and bemoaned his earthly mindedness and spiritual deadness.
There was a tendency in his soul to cling to earth which he greatly bewailed. Whatever was the cause of his complaint, it was no surface evil, but an affair of his inmost spirit; his soul cleaved to the dust; and it was not a casual and accidental falling into the dust, but a continuous and powerful tendency, or cleaving to the earth. But what a mercy that the good man could feel and deplore whatever there was of evil in the cleaving! The serpent's seed can find their meat in the dust, but never shall the seed of the woman be thus degraded. Many are of the earth earthy, and never lament it; only the heaven born and heaven soaring spirit pines at the thought of being fastened to this world, and bird limed by its sorrows or its pleasures. Quicken thou me according to thy word. More life is the cure for all our ailments. Only the Lord can give it. He can bestow it, bestow it at once, and do it according to his word, without departing from the usual course of his grace, as we see it mapped out in the Scriptures. It is well to know what to pray for, — David seeks quickening: one would have thought that he would have asked for comfort or upraising, but he knew that these would come out of increased life, and therefore he sought that blessing which is the root of the rest. When a person is depressed in spirit, weak, and bent towards the ground, the main thing is to increase his stamina and put more life into him; then his spirit revives, and his body becomes erect.
In reviving the life, the whole man is renewed. Shaking off the dust is a little thing by itself, but when it follows upon quickening, it is a blessing of the greatest value; just as good spirits which flow from established health are among the choicest of our mercies. The phrase, "according to thy word, "means— according to thy revealed way of quickening thy saints.
The word of God shows us that he who first made us must keep us alive, and it tells us of the Spirit of God who through the ordinances pours fresh life into our souls; we beg the Lord to act towards us in this his own regular method of grace. Perhaps David remembered the word of the Lord in Deuteronomy 32:39, where Jehovah claims both to kill and to make alive, and he beseeches the Lord to exercise that life giving power upon his almost expiring servant. Certainly, the man of God had not so many rich promises to rest upon as we have, but even a single word was enough for him, and he right earnestly urges "according to thy word." It is a grand thing to see a believer in the dust and yet pleading the promise, a man at the grave's mouth crying, "quicken me, "and hoping that it shall be done.
Note how this first verse of the 4th octonary tallies with the first of the "Quicken me." While in a happy third (17). — "That I may live"... "Quicken me." While in a happy state he begs for bountiful dealing, and when in a forlorn condition he prays for quickening. Life is in both cases the object of pursuit: that he may have life, and have it more abundantly.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
The eight verses alphabetically arranged: 25. (D)epressed to the dust is my soul: quicken thou me according to thy word. 26. (D)eclared have I (to thee) my ways, and thou heardest me: teach me thy statutes. 27. (D)eclare thou to me the way of thy precepts: so shall I talk of thy wondrous works. 28. (D)ropping (marg. ) is my soul for heaviness: strengthen thou me according unto thy word. 29. (D)eceitful ways remove from me; and grant me thy law graciously. 30. (D)etermined have I upon the way of truth; thy judgments have I laid before me. 31. (D)eliberately I have stuck unto thy testimonies: O Lord, put me not to shame. 32. (D)ay by day I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart. Theodore Kubber.
Ver. 25. My soul cleaveth unto the dust. The Hebrew word for "cleaveth" signifies "is joined, ""has adhered, ""has overtaken, ""has taken hold, ""has joined itself." Our soul is a polypus: as the polypus readily adheres to the rocks, so does the soul cleave to the earth; and hardly can it be torn from the place to which it has once strongly attached itself. Though thy soul be now more perfect, and escaping from the waters of sin has become a bird of heaven, be not careless; earthly things are birdlime and glue; if you rub the wings against these thou wilt be held, and joined to the earth. Thomas Le Blanc.
Ver. 25. My soul cleaveth unto the dust, etc. The word rendered "cleaveth" means to be glued to; to stick fast. It has the sense of adhering firmly to anything, so that it cannot easily be separated from it. The word "dust" here may mean either the earth, and earthly things, considered as low, base, unworthy, worldly; or it may mean the grave, as if he were near to that, and in danger of dying. Deuteronomy Wette understands it in the latter sense. Yet the word cleave would hardly suggest this idea; and the force of that word would be better represented by the idea that his soul, as it were, adhered to the things of earth, that it seemed to be so fastened to them— so glued to them that it could not be detached from them; that his affections were low, earthly, grovelling, so as to give him deep distress, and lead him to cry to God for Life and strength that he might break away from them. Albert Barnes.
Ver. 25. My soul cleaveth unto the dust, etc. The first clause seems intended to suggest two consistent but distinct ideas, that of deep degradation, as in Psalm 44:25, and that of death, as in Psalm 22:29. The first would be more obvious in itself, and in connection with the parallel referred to; but the other seems to be indicated as the prominent idea by the correlative petition for quickening in the last clause. "Quicken, " i.e., save me alive, or restore me to life, the Hebrew word being a causative of the verb to live. Joseph Addison Alexander.
Ver. 25. My soul cleaveth to the dust, etc. In this verse, David hath a complaint; "My soul cleaveth to the dust" ; and a prayer; Quicken thou me according to thy word. The prayer, being well considered, shall teach us the meaning of the complaint; that it was not, as some think, any hard bodily estate which grieved him, but a very sore spiritual oppression (as I may call it), bearing down his soul; that where he should have mounted up toward heaven, he was pressed down to the earth, and was so clogged with earthly cogitations, or affections, or perturbations, that he could not mount up. His particular temptation he expresses not; for the children of God many times are in that estate that they cannot tell their own griefs, and sometimes so troubled, that it is not expedient, albeit they might, to express them to others.
And hereof we learn, how that which the worldling counts wisdom, to the Christian is folly; what is joy to the one, is grief to the other. The joy of a worldling is to cleave unto the earth; when he gripes it surest, he thinks himself happiest, for it is his portion: to take heed to his worldly affairs, and have his mind upon them (in his estimation) is only wisdom. For the serpent's curse is upon him, he creeps on the earth, and licks the dust all the days of his life. This is the miserable condition of the wicked, that even their heavenly soul is become earthly. Qui secundum corporis appetentiam vivit caro est, etiam anima eorum caro est; as the Lord spake of those who perished in the Deluge, that they were but flesh, no spirit in them; that is, no spiritual or heavenly motion.
But the Christian, considering that his soul is from above, sets his affection also on those things which are above: he delights to have his conversation in heaven; and it is a grief to him when he finds his motions and affections drawn down and entangled with the earth. His life is to cleave to the Lord; but it is death to him when the neck of his soul is bowed down to the yoke of the world. William Cowper.
Ver. 25. My soul cleaveth to the dust. "Look up now to the heavens." So once spake the Lord to Abraham his friend, and he speaketh thus to us also. Alas! why must it be so always that, when we come to know ourselves even but a little, we are constantly answering with the mournful sigh, "My soul cleaveth to the dust"? Ah! that is indeed the deepest pain of a soul which has already tasted that the Lord is merciful, when, although desiring to soar on high, it sadly feels how impossible it is to rise. There is much hidden pain in every heart of man even in the spiritual life; but what can deeper grieve us than the perception that we are chained as with leaden weights to things concerning which we know that they may weary but cannot satisfy us? Nay, we could never have supposed, when we first, heard the Psalm of the Good Shepherd, that it could issue from a heart that panteth after God so often and so bitterly; we could never have imagined that it could become so cold, so dry, so dark within a heart which at an earlier period had tasted so much of the power of that which is to come.
Have we not formerly, with this same Psalm, been able to vaunt, "I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches"? But afterwards, but now perhaps... Oh sad hours, when the beams of the sun within seem quenched, and nothing but a blond red disc remains! The fervency of the first love is cooled; earthly cares and sins have, as it were, attached a leaden plummet to the wings of the soul which, God knows, would fain soar upwards. We would render thanks, and scarce can pray; we would pray, and scarce can sigh. Our treasure is in heaven, but our soul cleaves to the earth; at least earth cleaves on all sides so to it, and weighs it down, that the eye merely sees the clouds, the tongue can but breathe forth complaints. Ah, so completely can the earth fetter us, that the heavens appear to be only a problem, and our old man is like the Giant of Mythology, who, cast to the ground in the exhausting combat, receives by contact with his mother earth fresh strength. Oh, were it otherwise! Shall it not at last, at last be altered?
Dost thou really desire it, thou who out of the depths of thy soul so complainest, and canst scarcely find more tears to bewail the sorrow of thy heart? Well is it for thee if the pain thou sufferest teach thee to cry to God: "Quicken thou me, according to thy word." Yea, this is the best comfort for him who too well knows what it is to be bowed together with pain; this is the only hope for a heart which almost sinks in still despair. There is an atmosphere of life, high above this dust which streams to us from every side, and penetrates even the darkest dungeon. There is a spring of life by which the weary soul may be refreshed; and the entrance to this spring stands open, in spite of all the clouds of dust which obscure this valley of shadows here. There is a power of life which can even so completely make an end of our dead state, that we shall walk again before the face of the Lord in the land of the living, and, instead of uttering lamentation, we shall bear a song of praise upon our lips. Does not the Prince of life yet live in order also to repeat to us, "Awake and rejoice, thou that dwellest in the dust; "and the Spirit, that bloweth whither he listeth, can, will, shall he not in his own good time, with his living breath, blow from our wings the dust that cleaveth to them? But, indeed, even the gnawing pain of the soul over so much want of spirituality and dulness is ever an encouraging sign that the good work is begun in our hearts: that which is really dead shivers no more at its own cold. "My soul cleaveth to the dust, " sayest thou, with tears? thus wouldest thou not speak except that already a higher hand between the soul and this dust had cleft a hollow which was unknown to it before. No one has less cause for despair than he who has lost hope in himself, and really learns to seek in God that, which he deeply feels, he least of all can give himself.
Yes, this is the way from the deepest pain to procure the best consolation; the humble, earnest, persevering player, that he who lives would also give life to our souls, and continue to increase it, till freed from all dryness and deadness of spirit, and uprooted from the earth, we ascend to the eternal mount of light, where at last we behold all earthly clouds beneath us. This the God of life alone can work; but he is willing— nay, we have his own word as pledge, that he promises and bestows on us true life. Only, let us not forget that he who will quicken us "according" to his word, also performs this through his word. Let us then draw from out the eternally flowing fountain, and henceforth leave it unconditionally to him, how he will listen to our cry, even though he lead us through dark paths! Even through means of death God can quicken us and keep us alive. Lo, we are here; Lord, do with us as seemeth good to thee! Only let our souls live, that they may praise thee, here and eternally! J. J. Van Oosterzee (1817- 1882), in "The Year of Salvation." Ver. 25. Cleaveth to the dust. Is weighed down by the flesh which itself is dust. James G. Murphy.
Ver. 25. The dust, is the place of the afflicted, the wounded, and the dead. Quicken me, viz., to life, peace, and joy. A. R. Fausset.
Ver. 25. Quicken thou me, etc. Seeing he was alive, how prays he that God would quicken him? I answer, — The godly esteem of life, not according to that they have in their body, but in their soul. If the soul lacks the sense of mercy, and a heavenly disposition to spiritual things, they lament over it, as a dead soul: for sure it is, temporal desertions are more heavy to the godly than temporal death. According to thy word. This is a great faith, that where in respect of his present feeling he found himself dead, yet he hopes for life from God, according to his promise. Such was the faith of Abraham, who under hope, believed above hope. And truly, many times are God's children brought to this estate, that they have nothing to uphold them but the word of God; no sense of mercy, no spiritual disposition; but on the contrary, great darkness, horrible fears and terrors. Only they are sustained by looking to the promise of God, and kept in some hope that he will restore them to life again, because it is his praise to finish the work which he begins. William Cowper.
Ver. 25. Quicken thou me. This phrase occurs nine times, and only in this Psalm. It is of great importance, as it expresses the spiritual change by which a child of Adam becomes a child of God. Its source is God; the instrument by which it is effected is the word, Psalm 119:50. James G.
Ver. 25 Quicken thou me according to thy word. Where there is life there will be the endeavour to rise— the believer will not lie prone in his aspirations after God. From the lowest depths the language of faith is heard ascending to God most high, who performeth all things for the believer.
The true child cannot but look towards the loving Father, who is the Almighty, All sufficient One. Have you not found it so? But will you mark the intelligence that shines around the believer's prayer? He prays that the Lord may quicken him according to his word . The word may be regarded in the light of the standard after which he is to be fashioned; or the Psalmist may have in view the requirements contained in the word regarding the believer's progress; or he may be thinking of the promises found therein in behalf of the poor and needy when they apply. Indeed, all these significations may be wrapped up in the one expression— "according to thy word" — the standard of perfection, the requirements of the word, — the promises concerning it. The great exemplar of the believer is Christ, — of old it was the Christ of prophecy. Then the requirements of the Lord's will were scattered through the word. The Psalmist, however, may be dwelling upon the large promises which the Lord hath given towards the perfecting of his people. You see after what the spiritual nature aspires. It is quite enough to the natural man or the formalist that he be as the generally well behaved and esteemed among professors— the spiritual man aspires beyond— he aspires after being quickened according to God's word. Judge of yourselves. John Stephen.
Ver. 25. Quicken thou me according to thy word. By thy providence put life into my affairs, by thy grace put life into my affections; cure me of my spiritual deadness, and make me lively in my devotion. Matthew Henry.
Ver. 25. Quicken thou me according to thy word, Albeit the Lord suffer his own to lie so long low in their heavy condition of spirit, that they may seem dead; yet by faith in his word he keepeth in them so much life as doth furnish unto them prayer to God for comfort: "Quicken thou me according to thy word." David Dickson.
Ver. 25 Quicken thou me. To whom shall the godly fly when life faileth but to that Wellspring of all life? Even as to remove cold the next way is to draw near the fire, so to dispel any death, the next way is to look to him who is our root, by whom we live this natural life. All preservatives and restoratives are nothing, all colleges of physicians are vanity, if compared with him. Other things which have not life, give life as the instruments of him who is life, as fire burneth being the instrument of heat. "When heart and flesh fail, God is the strength of my heart." As a man can let a fire almost go out which had been kindled, and then blow it up, and by application of new fuel make it blaze as much as ever: so can God deal with this flame of life which he hath kindled. Paul Bayne.
Ver. 25. According to thy word. The word removes deadness of conscience and hardness. Is not this word a hammer to soften the heart, and is not this the immortal seed by which we are begotten again?
Therefore David, finding his conscience in a dead frame, prayed, "My soul cleaveth to the dust; quicken thou me according to thy word." The word is the first thing by which conscience is purified and set right. John Sheffield, in "A Good Conscience the Strongest Hold, " 1650.
Ver. 25. According to thy word. What word doth David mean? Either the general promises in the books of Moses or Job; which intimate deliverance to the faithful observers of God's law, or help to the miserable and distressed; or some particular promise given to him by Nathan, or others.
Chrysostom saith, "Quicken me according to thy word: but it is not a word of command, but a word of promise." Mark here, — he doth not say secundum meritum meum , but, secundum verbum tuum ;the hope, or that help which we expect from God, is founded upon his word; there is our security, in his promises, not in our deserving: Prommittendo se fecit debitorem, etc.
When there was so little Scripture written, yet David could find out a word for his support. Alas! in our troubles and afflictions, no promise comes to mind. As in outward things, many that have less live better than those that have abundance; so here, now Scripture is so large, we are less diligent, and therefore, though we have so many promises, we are apt to faint, we have not a word to bear us up. This word did not help David, till he had lain so long under this heavy condition, that he seemed dead. Many, when they have a promise, think presently to enjoy the comfort of it. No, waiting and striving are first necessary. We never relish the comfort of the promises till the creatures have spent their allowance, and we have been exercised. God will keep his word, and yet we must expect to be tried.
In this his dead condition, faith in God's word kept him alive. When we have least feeling, and there is nothing left us, the word will support us: "And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb: he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief but was strong in faith, giving glory to God" (Romans 4:19-20). One way to get comfort is to plead the promise of God in prayer, Chirographa tua injiciebat tibi Domine , show him his handwriting; God is tender of his word. These arguments in prayer, are not to work upon God, but ourselves. Thomas Manton Ver. 25. One does not wonder at the fluctuations which occur in the feelings and experience of a child of God— at one time high on the mountain, near to God and communing with God, at another in the deep and dark valley. All, more or less, know these changes, and have their sorrowing as well as their rejoicing seasons. When we parted with David last, what was he telling us of his experience? that God's testimonies were his delight and his counsellors ;but now what a different strain! all joy is darkened, and his soul cleaveth to the dust . And there must have been seasons of deep depression and despondency in the heart of David— given as a fugitive and wanderer from his home, hunted as a partridge upon the mountains, and holding, as he himself says, his life continually in his hands.
Yet I think in this portion of the Psalm there is evidence of a deeper abasement and sorrow of heart than any mere worldly suffering could produce. He had indeed said, "I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul"; but, even in that moment of weak and murmuring faith, he knew that he was God's anointed one to sit on the throne of Israel. But, here there is indication of sin, of grievous sin which had laid his soul low in the dust; and I think the petition in Psalm 119:29 gives us some clue to what that sin had been: "Remove me from the way of lying." Had David— you may well ask in wonder— had David ever lied? had he ever deviated from the strait and honourable path of truth I am afraid we must own that he had at one time gone so near the confines of a falsehood, that he would be but a poor casuist and a worse moralist who should attempt to defend the Psalmist from the imputation. We cannot read the 27th chapter of the 1st of Samuel without owning into what a sad tissue of equivocation and deceit David was unhappily seduced. Well might his soul cleave to the dust as he reviewed that period of his career; and though grace did for him what it afterwards did for Peter, and he was plucked as a brand out of the burning, yet one can well imagine that like the Apostle afterwards, when he thought thereon he wept, and that bitterly. Barton Bouchier.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Outlines Upon Keywords of the Psalm, By Pastor C. A. Davis.
Ver. 25-32. — Quickening. Prayed for with confession (Psalm 119:25-26).
When obtained shall be talked of (Psalm 119:27). Desired for the sake of strength (Psalm 119:28), of truthfulness (Psalm 119:29-31), and of activity (Psalm 119:32).
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 25. — 1. Nature and its tendency. 2. Grace and its mode of operation. 3. Both truths in their personal application.
Ver. 25. — Quicken thou me, etc. 1. There are many reasons why we should seek quickening. (a) Because of the deadening influence of the world. "Thy soul cleaveth, "etc. (b) The influence of vanity (see Psalm 119:37). (c) Because we are surrounded by deceivers (see Psalm 119:87-88). (d) Because of the effect of seasons of affliction upon us (see Psalm 119:7). 2. Some of the motives for seeking quickening. (a) Because of what you are— a Christian; life seeks more life. (b) Because of what you ought to be. (c) Because of what we shall be. (d) In order to obedience (see Psalm 119:88). (e) For your comfort (Psalm 119:107,50). (f) As the best security against the attacks of enemies (Psalm 119:87- 88). (g) To invigorate our memories (Psalm 119:93). (h) Consider (as a motive to seek this quickening) the terrible consequences of losing spiritual life; or, in other words, lacking it in its manifest display. 3. Some of the ways in which the quickening may be brought to us. (a) It must be by the Lord himself. "Quicken me, O Lord." (b) By the turning of the eyes (Psalm 119:37). (c) By the word (Psalm 119:50). (d) By the precepts (Psalm 119:93). (e) By affliction (Psalm 119:107). (f) By divine comforts. 4. Enquire where are our pleas when we come before God to ask for quickening. (a) Our necessity (Psalm 119:107, etc.). (b) Our earnest desire (Psalm 119:40). (c) Appeal to God's righteousness (Psalm 119:40). (d) To his lovingkindness (Psalm 119:88,149,156). (e) The plea in the text: "according to thy word" (Psalm 119:28,107).
See "Spurgeon's Sermons, "No. 1350: "Enlivening and Invigorating."
PSALM 119:26 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 26. I have declared my ways. Open confession is good for the soul.
Nothing brings more ease and more life to a man than a frank acknowledgment of the evil which has caused the sorrow and the lethargy.
Such a declaration proves that the man knows his own condition, and is no longer blinded by pride. Our confessions are not meant to make God know our sins, but to make us know them. And thou heardest me. His confession had been accepted; it was not lost labour; God had drawn near to him in it. We ought never to go from a duty till we have been accepted in it. Pardon follows upon penitent confession, and David felt that he had obtained it. It is God's way to forgive our sinful way when we from our hearts confess the wrong. Teach me thy statutes. Being truly sorry for his fault, and having obtained full forgiveness, he is anxious to avoid offending again, and hence he begs to be taught obedience. He was not willing to sin through ignorance, he wished to know all the mind of God by being taught it by the best of teachers. He pined after holiness. Justified men always long to be sanctified. When God forgives our sins we are all the more fearful of sinning, again. Mercy, which pardons transgression, sets us longing for grace which prevents transgression. We may boldly ask for more when God has given us much; he who has washed out the past stain will not refuse that which will preserve us from present and future defilement. This cry for teaching is frequent in the Psalm; in Psalm 119:12 it followed a sight of God, here it follows from a sight of self. Every experience should lead us thus to plead with God.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 26. I have declared my ways, etc. This verse contains a prayer, with a reason after this form: — O Lord, I have oft before declared unto thee the whole state and course of my life, my wanderings, my wants, my doubts, my griefs: I hid nothing from thee, and thou, according to my necessity, didst always hear me: therefore now, Lord, I pray thee to teach me; by thy light illuminate me that I may know thy statutes and receive grace to walk in them. This is a good argument in dealing with the Lord, — I have gotten many mercies and favourable answers from thee; therefore, Lord, I pray thee to give me more; for whom he loves, he loves to the end; and where he begins to show mercy he ceaseth not till he crown his children with mercy. And so gracious is he Lord, that he esteems himself to be honoured as oft as we give him the praise that we have found comfort in him, and therefore come to seek more.
Next, it is to be marked how he saith, I have declared my ways, and thou heardest me : these two go well together, Mercy and Truth: truth in the heart of man confessing; mercy in God, hearing and forgiving: happy is the soul wherein these two meet together. Many there are who are destitute of this comfort; they cannot say, God hath heard me, and all because they deal not plainly and truly with the Lord in declaring their ways unto him. William Cowper.
Ver. 26. I have declared my ways. In Psalm 119:59 he thinketh upon his ways , that is, his inward imperfections and outward aberrations from the strait and straight ways of God; and here he is not ashamed to declare them , that is, to acknowledge and confess that all this came upon him because he was forgetful to do God's will. Note the connection between this and the previous verse: My soul clave unto the dust, because I clave not to thee. — Richard Greenham.
Ver. 26. I have declared my ways. yTir]pãse , sipparti , "I have remembered my ways"; I have searched them out; I have investigated them. And that he had earnestly prayed for pardon of what was wrong in them, is evident; for he adds, Thou heardest me. Adam Clarke.
Ver. 26. I have declared my ways, etc. Him whom thou hast heard in humble confessing of his sins, him thou must teach thy statutes. The saints lay open to God what they find, both good and evil seeking deliverance, supply, strengthening, directing: even as sick patients tell to their doctor both what good and what otherwise they perceive; or as clients lay bare their case to their counsel. Declared. As if he had read them out of a book. The saints know their ways. A man that hath light with him seeth the way, and can tell you all about it; another is in darkness and knoweth nothing: the one taketh observation of his course, the other doth not. Thou hast heard me. God's goodness is seen in his hearing what we lay open before him. If great ones let a poor man tell his tale at large we count it honourable patience; but it is God's glory to hear our wants, our weakness through sin, the invincibleness of our evils, our utter impotency in ourselves even to seek redress. That mode of procedure would lose the favour of man, but it winneth favour with God. The more humbly we confess all our wants, the more confident we may be that God will hear us.
He teacheth the humble , for the humble scholar will give to his master the honour of that he learns. I have rehearsed (said with myself) my ways; and "thou hast beard my private confession." I have declared to others what my way is, and "thou hast heard me" so discoursing; wherefore teach me, seeing I communicate what I receive. It is a plea derived from his carefulness to learn, and from the use he had made of that he had learned. The godly, like candles, light each other. Paul Bayne.
Ver. 26. I have declared my ways. They that would speed with God, should learn this point of Christian ingenuity, unfeignedly to lay open their whole case to him. That is, to declare what they are about, the nature of their affairs, the state of their hearts, what of good or evil they find in themselves, their conflicts, supplies, distresses, hopes; this is declaring our ways— the good and evil we are conscious of. As a sick patient will tell the physician how it is with him, so should we deal with God, if we would find mercy. This declaring his ways may be looked upon, 1. As an act of faith and dependence. 2. As an act of holy friendship. 3. As an act of spiritual contrition, and brokenness of heart: for this declaring must be explained according to what David meant by the expression, "My ways." First, By his "ways" may be meant his businesses or undertakings: I have still made them known to thee, committing them to the direction of thy providence; and so it is an act of faith and dependence, consulting with God, and acquainting him with all our desires.
Secondly, By his "ways" may be meant, all his straits, sorrows, and dangers; and so this declaration is an act of holy friendship, when a man comes as one friend to another, and acquaints God with his whole state, lays his condition before the Lord, in hope of pity and relief.
Thirdly, By "ways" is meant temptations and sins; and so this declaring is an act of spiritual contrition or brokenness of heart. Sins are properly our ways, as Eze 18:25. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 26-30. The way of thy precepts. My ways. The way of lying. The way of truth. Here should be noticed the two contrasts by which the Prophet teaches what must be shunned both in life and in doctrine, and what embraced. The first respects the life of Christians, as the Prophet sets the way of God's commandments over against his own ways, Psalm 119:26-27; and respecting these he confesses that they have pressed him down to the dust and have greatly distressed him; but respecting those he declares that they have again raised him up. He means by his own ways a depraved nature, carnal desire, and the carnal mind which is enmity against God, Romans 8:7; but by the ways of the Lord he denotes the will of God expressed in the Word. Therefore the boastings of the papists of the perfect obedience of the renewed are empty: for David, assured by having been renewed, complains bitterly and with many tears that his soul, under the intolerable weight of sins, had been brought down to the dust of death and almost suffocated; but that God had heard his prayers and brought him back to the way of his commandments. We, here, also, gather that in this life all the saints experience the wrestling and contest of the flesh and the spirit, so that they are continually compelled to mourn that their flesh turns them aside from the way of the Lord into the by paths of sin: just as Paul cries out, "I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, etc. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Romans 7:23-24.
The second contrast concerneth the doctrine ;for David opposes the way of lying to the way of truth. We are taught by this contrast that we should eschew false doctrine, and steadfastly adhere to divine truth. To this applies the precept of Paul, Ephesians 4:25. "Wherefore, having put away the lie, speak truth each one with his neighbour." Further, we learn, if we hate our own ways, i.e. , confess our sins to the Lord, and, trusting in the Mediator, pray for forgiveness, that God is wont to hear and mercifully to forgive our sins; as it is written, 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Solomon Gesner.
Ver. 26. Thou heardest me. Past answers to prayer should encourage us to come the more boldly to the throne of grace. — Jacob never forgot the night he spent at Bethel. William S. Plumer.
Ver. 26. Teach me thy statutes. The often repetition of this one thing in this Psalm argues, 1. The necessity of this knowledge. 2. The desire he had to obtain it. 3. That such repetitions are not frivolous when they proceed from a sound heart, a zealous affection, and a consideration of the necessity of the thing prayed for. 4. That such as have most light have little in respect of what they should have. 5. As covetous men think they have never gold enough, so Christian men should think they have never knowledge enough. Richard Greenhorn.
Ver. 26. Teach me. We can never do without teaching, even in old age.
Unless the Spirit of God teaches us we learn in vain. Martin Geier.
Ver. 26-27. Here is David's earnest desire for the continuance of that intimacy that had been between him and his God; not by visions and voices from heaven, but by the Word and Spirit in an ordinary way: "Teach me thy statutes, " that is, "make me to understand the way of thy precepts." When he knew God had heard his declaration of his ways, he doth not say, Now, Lord, tell me my lot, and let me know what the event will be; but, Now, Lord, tell me my duty, let me know what thou wouldest have me to do as the case stands. Note, Those that in all their ways acknowledge God, may pray in faith that he will direct their steps in the right way. And the surest way of keeping up our communion with God is, by learning his statutes, and walking diligently in the way of his precepts. Matthew Henry.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 26. — Confession. Absolution. Instruction.
Ver. 26. — 1. The duty: "I have declared my ways" — made known my experience of thy word to others. 2. Its notice by God: "Thou heardest me." 3. Its reward. More knowledge will be given: "Teach me, "etc. — G.R.
PSALM 119:27 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 27. Make me to understand the way of thy precepts. Give me a deep insight into the practical meaning of thy word; let me get a clear idea of the tone and tenor of thy law. Blind obedience has but small beauty; God would have us follow him with our eyes open. To obey the letter of the word is all that the ignorant can hope for; if we wish to keep God's precepts in their spirit we must come to an understanding of them, and that can be gained nowhere but at the Lord's hands. Our understanding needs enlightenment and direction: he who made our understanding must also make us understand. The last sentence was, "teach me thy statutes, "and the words, "make me to understand, "are an instructive enlargement and exposition of that sentence: we need to be so taught that we understand what we learn. It is to be noted that the Psalmist is not anxious to understand the prophecies, but the precepts, and he is not concerned about the subtleties of the law, but the commonplaces and everyday rules of it, which are described as "the way of thy precepts." So shall I talk of thy wondrous works. It is ill talking of what we do not understand. We must be taught of God till we understand, and then we may hope to communicate our knowledge to others with a hope of profiting them. Talk without intelligence is mere talk, and idle talk; but the words of the instructed are as pearls which adorn the ears of them that hear. When our heart has been opened to understand, our lips should be opened to impart knowledge; and we may hope to be taught ourselves when we feel in our hearts a willingness to teach the way of the Lord to those among whom we dwell. Thy wondrous works. Remark that the clearest understanding does not cause us to cease from wondering at the ways and works of God. The fact is that the more we know of God's doings the more we admire them, and the more ready we are to speak upon them. Half the wonder in the world is born of ignorance, but holy wonder is the child of understanding. When a man understands the way of the divine precepts he never talks of his own works, and as the tongue must have some theme to speak upon, he begins to extol the works of the all perfect Lord.
Some in this place read "meditate" or "muse" instead of "talk"; it is singular that the words should be so near of kin, and yet it is right that they should be, for none but foolish people will talk without thinking. If we read the passage in this sense, we take it to mean that in proportion as David understood the word of God he would meditate upon it more and more. It is usually so; the thoughtless care not to know the inner meaning of the Scriptures, while those who know them best are the very men who strive after a greater familiarity with them, and therefore give themselves up to musing upon them.
Observe the third verse of the last eight (19), and see how the sense is akin to this. There he was a stranger in the earth, and here he prays to know his way; there, too, he prayed that the word might not be hid from himself, and here he promises that he will not hide it from others.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 27. Make me to understand. Natural blindness is an obstinate disease, and hardly cured: therefore again and again we had need to pray, "Open mine eyes"; "Teach me thy statutes"; Make me to understand the way of thy precepts. Our ignorance is great even when it is cured in part. The clouds of temptation and carnal affection cause it to return upon us, so that we know not what we know. Therefore he cries, "open my eyes; cause me to understand." Yea, the more we know the more is our ignorance discovered to us: "Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man. I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy" (Proverbs 30:2-3). "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:5-6). Alas, a poor, little, hearsay knowledge availeth not; they abhor themselves when they have more intimate acquaintance. None so confident as a young professor that knoweth a few truths, but in a weak and imperfect manner: the more we know indeed, the more sensible we are of our ignorance, and how liable to this mistake and that, so that we dare not trust ourselves for an hour. Thomas Mantels.
Ver. 27. Understated the way... so shall I talk. We can talk with a better grace of God's "wondrous works, " the wonders of providence, and especially the wonders of redeeming love, when we understand the way of God's precepts, and walk in that way. Matthew Henry Ver. 27. The way of they precepts. He desireth that God would, partly by his Spirit, partly by his ministers, partly by affliction, partly by study and labour, make him to have a right and sound understanding, not only of his statutes , but of the way of his statutes, that is, after what sort and order he may live and direct his life, according to those things which God hath commanded him in his law. Learn here how hard a thing it is for man overweening himself in his own wisdom, to know God's will till God make him to know. Richard Greenham.
Ver. 27. So shall I talk of thy wondrous works. He that is sensible of the wondrous things that are in God's word? will be talking of them. 1. It will be so. 2. It should be so. 1. It will be so . When the heart is deeply affected, the tongue cannot hold, but will run out in expressions of it; "for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." When cheered and revived in their afflictions saints are transported with the thought of the excellency of God. "Come, and I will tell you what God hath done for my soul" (Psalm 66:15). The woman, when she had found the lost groat, calleth her neighbours to rejoice with her. He that hath but a cold knowledge, will not be so full of good discourse. 2. It should be so in a threefold respect: for the honour of God; the edification of others; and for our own profit. (a) For the honour of God, to whom we are so much indebted, to bring him into request with those about us. Experience deserveth praise; when you have found the Messiah, call another to him: "Andrew calleth Peter, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias: and Philip called Nathanael and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph" (John 1:41-45). (b) For the edification of others: "And thou, being converted, strengthen thy brethren" (Luke 22:32). True grace is communicative as fire, etc. (c) For our own profit. He that useth his knowledge shall have more.
Whereas, on the contrary, full breasts, if not sucked, become dry. In the dividing, the loaves increased. All gifts, but much more spiritual, which are the best, are improved by exercise. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 27. So shall I talk, etc. Desire of knowledge should not be for satisfying of curiosity, or for ostentation, or for worldly gain, but to edify ourselves and others in wisdom... Thy wondrous works. The works of creation, redemption and providence, either set down in Scripture, or observed in our own experience, transcend our capacity, and cannot but draw admiration from them that see them well. David Dickson.
Ver. 27. So shall I talk. It is a frequent complaint with Christians, that they are straitened in religious conversation, and often feel unable to speak "to the use of edifying, that they may minister grace to the hearers, "Ephesians 4:29. Here, then, is the secret disclosed, by which we shall be kept from the danger of dealing in unfelt truths, for "out of the abundance of the heart our mouths shall speak, "Matthew 12:34. Seek to have the heart searched, cleansed, filled with the graces of the Spirit. Humility, teachability, simplicity, will bring light unto the understanding, influence the heart, "open the lips, "and unite every member that we have in the service and praise of God. Charles Bridges.
Ver. 27. I shall talk of. There is a close affinity between all the duties of religion. The same word is rendered pray, meditate , and talk of . We think of God's excellent majesty; we cry to him in humble prayer; we study his word until our souls are filled with gladness and admiration; and then how can we but talk of his wondrous works? William S. Plumer.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 27. — 1. A student's prayer. 1. It deals with the main subject of the conversation which is to be that student's occupation— "the way of God's precepts." 2. A confession is implied: "Make me, "etc. 3. A great boon is asked— to understand, to know, thy statutes. 4. The Fountain of all wisdom is applied to. 2. The occupation of the instructed man. 1. He testifies of God's works— his wondrous works— Christ's work for us; the Holy Spirit's work in us. The wonderful character of these works of God, a wide field for devout study. 2. He speaks very plainly: "I will talk, "etc. 3. He will speak very frequently: "I will talk." 4. He will speak to the point: "So" — i.e., according to understanding. 3. The intimate relation between the prayer of the student and the pursuit that he subsequently followed. See "Spurgeon's Sermons, "No. 1344: "The Student's Prayer."
Ver. 27. — Education for the ministry. 1. The student at college: "Make me to understand." His lesson. His instructor. His application. 2. The preacher at his work: "So shall I talk, "etc. His qualification. His theme. His manner. — C.A.D.
PSALM 119:28 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 28. My soul melteth for heaviness. He was dissolving away in tears.
The solid strength of his constitution was turning to liquid as if molten by the furnace heat of his afflictions. Heaviness of heart is a killing thing, and when it abounds it threatens to turn life into a long death, in which a man seems to drop away in a perpetual drip of grief. Tears are the distillation of the heart; when a man weeps he wastes away his soul. Some of us know what great heaviness means, for we have been brought under its power again and again, and often have we felt ourselves to be poured out like water, and near to being like water spilt upon the ground, never again to be gathered up. There is one good point in this downcast state, for it is better to be melted with grief than to be hardened by impenitence. Strengthen thou me according unto thy word. He had found out an ancient promise that the saints shall be strengthened, and here he pleads it. His hope in his state of depression lies not in himself, but in his God; if he may be strengthened from on high he will yet shake off his heaviness and rise to joy again. Observe how he pleads the promise of the word, and asks for nothing more than to be dealt with after the recorded manner of the Lord of mercy. Had not Hannah sung, "He shall give strength unto his King, and exalt the horn of his anointed"? God strengthens us by infusing grace through his word: the word which creates can certainly sustain. Grace can enable us to bear the constant fret of an abiding sorrow, it can repair the decay caused by the perpetual tear drip, and give to the believer the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Let us always resort to prayer in our desponding times, for it is the surest and shortest way out of the depths. In that prayer let us plead nothing but the word of God; for there is no plea like a promise, no argument like a word from our covenant God.
Note how David records his inner soul life. In Psalm 119:20 he says, "My soul breaketh; "in Psalm 119:25, "My soul cleaveth to the dust; "and here, "My soul melteth." Further on, in Psalm 119:81, he cries, "My soul fainteth; "in Psalm 119:109, "My soul is continually in my hand; "in Psalm 119:167, "My soul hath kept thy testimonies; " and lastly, in Psalm 119:175, "Let my soul live." Some people do not even know that they have a soul, and here is David all soul. What a difference there is between the spiritually living and the spiritually dead.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 28. My soul melteth for heaviness. In the original the word signifies, "droppeth away." The Septuagint hath it thus: "My soul fell asleep through weariness." Probably by a fault of the transcribers, putting one word for another. My soul droppeth. It may relate (1) to the plenty of his tears, as the word is used in Scripture: "My friends scorn me: but mine eye poureth out tears unto God" (Job 16:20), or droppeth to God, the same word; so it notes his deep sorrow and sense of his condition. The like allusion is in Joshua 7:5; "The heart of the people melted, and became as water." Or (2) it relates to his languishing under the extremity of his sorrow; as an unctuous thing wasteth by dropping, so was his soul even dropping away.
Such a like expression is used in Psalm 117:96: "Their soul is melted because of trouble"; and of Jesus Christ, whose strength was exhausted by the greatness of his sorrows, it is said, Psalm 22:14, "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it melteth in the midst of my bowels." Be the allusion either to the one or to the other; either to the dropping of tears, or to the melting and wasting away of what is fat or unctuous, it notes a vehement sorrow, and brokenness of heart. So much is clear, his soul was even melting away, and unless God did help, he could hold out no longer. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 28. My soul melteth. The oldest versions make it mean to slumber (LXX enustayen , Vulg. dormitavit ), which would make the clause remarkably coincident with Luke 22:45. Joseph Addison Alexander.
Ver. 28. Heaviness. There is nothing may comfort a natural man but David had it; yet cannot all these keep him from that heaviness whereunto, as witnesseth S. Peter, the children of God are subject in this life, through their manifold temptations. The men of the world are so far from this disposition, that if they have health and wealth, they marvel what it is should make a man heavy: they are not acquainted with the exercise of a feeling conscience; they know not the defects of the spiritual life, and are not grieved at them: being dead in sin they feel not that they want life; all their care is to eat and drink and make merry. But miserable are they; for in their best estate they are as oxen fed for the slaughter. Woe be to them who laugh now, they shall mourn; but blessed are they who mourn now, for they shall be comforted. William Cowper.
Ver. 28. Strengthen thou me according unto thy word. Strengthen me to do the duties, resist the temptations, and bear up under the burdens of an afflicted state, that the spirit may not fail. Matthew Henry.
Ver. 28. Strengthen thou me according unto thy word. What is that word which David pleaded? "As thy days, so shall thy strength be, " Deuteronomy 33:25. "Will he plead against me, "said Job, "with his great power? No; but he will put strength in me, "Job 23:6. Charles Bridges.
Ver. 28. Strengthen thou me. Gesenius translates this, "Keep me alive." Thus, ynimey]q , in this verse, answers to yniyijæ , in the first verse. This prayer for new strength, or life, is an entreaty that the waste of life through tears might be restored by the life giving word. Frederick G. Marchant.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 28. — Heaviness, its cause, curse, and cure.
PSALM 119:29 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 29. Remove from me the way of lying. This is the way of sin, error, idolatry, folly, self righteousness, formalism, hypocrisy. David would not only be kept from that way, but have it kept from him; he cannot endure to have it near him, he would have it swept away from his sight. He desired to be right and upright, true and in the truth; but he feared that a measure of falsehood would cling to him unless the Lord took it away, and therefore he earnestly cried for its removal. False motives may at times sway us, and we may fall into mistaken notions of our own spiritual condition before God, which erroneous conceits may be kept up by a natural prejudice in our own layout, and so we may be confirmed in a delusion, and abide under error unless grace comes to the rescue. No true heart can rest in a false view of itself; it finds no anchorage, but is tossed to and fro till it gets into the truth and the truth into it. The true born child of heaven sighs out and cries against a lie, desiring to have it taken away as much as a man desires to be set at a distance from a venomous serpent or a raging lion. And grant me thy law graciously. He is in a gracious state who looks upon the law itself as a gift of grace. David wishes to have the law opened up to his understanding, engraved upon his heart, and carried out in his life; for this he seeks the Lord, and pleads for it as a gracious grant. No doubt he viewed this as the only mode of deliverance from the power of falsehood: if the law be not in our hearts the lie will enter. David would seem to have remembered those times when, according to the eastern fashion, he had practised deceit for his own preservation, and he saw that he had been weak and erring on that point; therefore he was bowed down in spirit and begged to be quickened and delivered from transgressing in that manner any more. Holy men cannot review their sins without tears, nor weep over them without entreating to be saved from further offending.
There is an evident opposition between falsehood and the gracious power of God's law. The only way to expel the lie is to accept the truth. Grace also has a clear affinity to truth: no sooner do we meet with the sound of the word "graciously" than we hear the footfall of truth: "I have chosen the way of truth." Grace and truth are ever linked together, and a belief of the doctrines of grace is a grand preservative from deadly error.
In the fifth of the preceding octave (Psalm 119:21) David cries out against pride, and here against lying— these are much the same thing. Is not pride the greatest of all lies?
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 29. — It says, Remove from me the way, and not me from the way; because that way of iniquity is within us, for we are born children of wrath, and the passions innate in us run to the he, and make the wretched way of crimes in our souls. Thomas Le Blanc.
Ver. 29. Remove from me the way of lying. Here he acknowledgeth that although he were already exercised in the law of God and in his knowledge, and that although he were a prophet to teach others, nevertheless he was subject to a number of wicked thoughts and imaginations which might always wickedly lead him from the right way, except God had held him with his mighty and strong hand. And this is a point which we ought here rightly to note; for we see how men greatly abuse themselves. When any of us shall have had a good beginning, we straightway think that we are at the highest; we never bethink us to pray any more to God, when once he hath showed us favour enough to serve our turns; but if we have done any small deed, we by and by lift up ourselves and wonder at our great virtues, thinking straightway that the Devil can win no more of us. This foolish arrogancy causeth God to let us go astray, so that we fall mightily, yea, that we break both arms and legs, and are in great hazard of breaking our necks. I speak not now of our natural body, but of our soul. Let us look upon David himself; for he it is that hath made proof hereof. It came to pass that he villainously and wickedly erred when he took Bathsheba the wife of his subject, Uriah, to play the whoremonger with her, that he was the cause of so execrable a murder, yea, and that of many; for he did as much as in him lay, to cause the whole army of the Lord and all the people of Israel to be utterly overthrown. See, then, the great negligence and security into which David fell; and see also wherefore he saith, "Alas, my good God, I beseech thee so to guide me, that I may forsake the way of lying." John Calvin.
Ver. 29. Lying. A sin that David, through diffidence, fell into frequently.
See 1 Samuel 21:2,8, where he roundly telleth three or four lies; and the like he did, 1 Samuel 27:8,10: this evil he saw by himself, and here prayeth against it. John Trapp.
Ver. 29. The way of lying, etc. Lying ways are all ways, except the ways of God's commandments: reason, sense, example, custom, event, deceivable lusts, these tell a man he is safe, or that he shall repent of them, and take no hurt in the end, and they promise ease and blessedness, but perform it not.
Such as desire to obey God must be kept from evil ways: we are not so sanctified but that temptation will injure our graces. As a fire in kindling, not thoroughly alight, may be quenched by a little water, so may our holiness be damped by temptation. We find within us a proneness to false ways, as candles new blown out are soon blown in again. Therefore as burnt children dread the fire, so do we fear the way of lying. God doth not suffer temptations to come into the presence of some; and in others God maketh the heart averse from sin when the temptation is present. We must come out of the ways of sin, ere we can walk in the ways of God. Paul Bayne.
Ver. 29. The way of lying. The whole life of sin is a lie from beginning to end. The word "lying" occurs eight times in this Psalm. William S. Plumer.
Ver. 29. The way of lying. By the way of lying is to be understood all that is in man's nature, not agreeable to the word, whether it be counsels, or conclusions of the heart, or external actions; and it is called a lying way, because nature promises a good to be gotten by sin which man shall not find in it. William Cowper.
Ver. 29. The way of lying. The prophet here desireth to be confirmed by God against all corruptions in doctrine, and disorder of conversation, which Satan by his witty and wily instruments doth seek to set abroach in the world. These are called "the way of lying." 1. Because they are invented by Satan, the father of lies. 2. They are countenanced by man's wit, the storehouse of lies. 3. They seem to be that, which they are not, which is of the nature of lies. 4. They are contrary to God and his truth, the discoverers of lies. Richard Greenham.
Ver. 29. Grant me thy law graciously. He opposes the law of God to the way of lying. First, because it is the only rule of all truth, both in religion and manners: that which is not agreeable to it is but a lie which shall deceive men. Secondly, it destroys and shall at length utterly destroy all contrary errors. As the rod of Aaron devoured the rods of the enchanters: so the word, which is the rod of the mouth of God, shall, in the end, eat up and consume all untruths whatsoever. Thirdly, according to the sentence of this word, so shall it be unto every man; it deceives none. Men shall find by experience it is true: he who walks in a way condemned by the word, shall come to a miserable end. And, on the contrary, it cannot but be well with them who live according to this rule. William Cowper.
Ver. 29. Grant me thy law graciously. David had ever the book of the law; for every king of Israel was to have it always by him, and the Rabbis say, written with his own hand. But, "Grant me thy law graciously; " that is, he desires he might have it not only written by him, but upon him, to have it imprinted upon his heart, that he might have a heart to observe and keep it.
That is the blessing he begs for, "the law" ; and this is begged "graciously, " or upon terms of grace, merely according to thine own favour, and good pleasure. Here is, — 1. The sin deprecated, "Remove from me the way of lying." 2. The good supplicated and asked, "Grant me thy law graciously." In the first clause you have his malady, David had been enticed to a course of lying. In the second we have his remedy, and that is the law of God. Thomas Manton.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 29. — The way of lying. 1. Describe the way of lying . Various paths, e.g., erroneous views of doctrine: false grounds of faith: looseness of practice: shrinking from the daily cross. 2. Show why it is thus named. It does not furnish its promised pleasures. It does not lead to its professed goal. It lies through the territory of the father of lies. 3. Notice the peculiarity in the prayer against it. Not remove me from, but remove from me: for the way of lying is within us. 4. Our deliverance from the way of lying lies with God. — C.A.D.
Ver. 29-30. — 1. The way of lying, our wish to have it removed, and the method of answer. 2. The way of truth, our choice, and the method of carrying it out.
PSALM 119:30 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 30. I have chosen the way of truth. As he abhorred the way of lying, so he chose the way of truth: a man must choose one or the other, for there cannot be any neutrality in the case. Men do not drop into the right way by chance; they must choose it, and continue to choose it, or they will soon wander from it. Those whom God has chosen in due time choose his way.
There is a doctrinal way of truth which we ought to choose, rejecting every dogma of man's devising; there is a ceremonial way of truth which we should follow, detesting all the forms which apostate churches have invented; and then there is a practical way of truth, the way of holiness, to which we must adhere whatever may be our temptation to forsake it. Let our election be made, and made irrevocably. Let us answer to all seducers, "I have chosen, and what I have chosen I have chosen." O Lord, by thy grace lead us with a hearty free will to choose to do thy will; thus shall thine eternal choice of us bring forth the end which it designs. Thy judgments have I laid before me What he had chosen he kept in mind, laying it out before his mind's eye. Men do not become holy by a careless wish: there must be study, consideration, deliberation, and earnest enquiry, or the way of truth will be missed. The commands of God must be set before us as the mark to aim at, the model to work by, the road to walk in.
If we put God's judgments into the background we shall soon find ourselves departing from them.
Here again the sixth stanzas of the third and fourth octaves ring out a similar note. "I have kept thy testimonies" (Psalm 119:22), and "Thy judgments have I laid before me." This is a happy confession, and there is no wonder that it is repeated.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 30. I have chosen the way of truth. Here you have the working of a gracious soul. This is more than sitting and hearing the word— having no objection to what you hear. Such hearing is all that can be affirmed of the generality of gospel hearers, except we add, that none are more ready to be caught by false and easy ways of salvation, for they assent to all they hear.
The man of God strikes a higher and more spiritual note— he goes into the choice of the thing; he chooses the way of truth; and he cannot but choose it; it is the bent of his renewed nature, the effect indeed of all he has been pleading. How act we? The way of truth is all that God has revealed concerning his Son Jesus. The willing heart chooses this way, and all of it; the bitterness of it, the self denial of it, as well as the comfort of it; a Saviour from sin as well as a Saviour from hell; a Saviour whose Spirit can lead from prayerlessness to godliness, from idleness upon the Sabbath day to a holy keeping of that day, from self seeking to the seeking of Christ, from slack, inconsistent conduct to a careful observance of all the Lord's will. Where God's people meet, there such will delight to be. O for such to abound among us! John Stephen.
Ver. 30. I have chosen the way of truth. Religion is not a matter of chance, but of choice. Have we weighed things in the balance, and, upon mature deliberation, made an election, — "We will have God upon any terms" Have we sat down and reckoned the cost, — or what religion must cost us, — the parting with our lusts; and what it may cost us, — the parting with our lives? Have we resolved, through the assistance of grace, to own Christ when the swords and staves are up? and to sail with him, not only in a pleasure boat, but in a man of war? This choosing God speaks him to be ours: hypocrites profess God out of worldly design, not religious choice. Thomas Watson, in "The Morning Exercises." Ver. 30. I have chosen the way of truth. The choice which David makes here of God's truth proceeds from that choice and election whereby the Lord before all time made choice of David, in Christ, to be one of his elect.
For as it is true of love, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us" — we could never have loved him, if first he had not loved us; so it is true of election; if he before time had not chosen us to be his people, we could never in time have chosen him to be our God. And this I mark in them who love the word of God, and delight in it, who can say out of a good heart, that the Lord is their portion and the joy of their soul: this is a sure seal of their election, imprinted by the finger of God in their heart. William Cowper.
Ver. 30. In all our religious exercises, let deliberation precede our resolution, and consideration usher in determination. David did so; and therefore he says here, I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid before me. Indeed, he cannot but resolve upon, and make choice of, the way of piety, who layeth before him the goodness, the rectitude and pleasantness of the way. When the prodigal considereth with himself how well his father's servants fared, he thinketh of, yea, determines to go home: "I will arise and go to my father." Abraham Wright, 1661.
Ver. 30. I have chosen. No man ever served the Lord but he first made choice of him to be his Master. Every man when he comes to years of discretion, so as to be master of himself, advises with himself what course he shall take, whether he will serve God or the world. Now all the saints of God have made this distinct choice; we will serve the Lord, and no other.
Moses when both stood before him, the pleasures of Egypt on the one hand, and God and his people with their afflictions on the other, he chose the latter before the former, Hebrews 11:25. So David saith he did, I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid before me ; for to choose, is, when a thing lies before a man, and he considers and takes it.
So Joshua, "I and my house will serve the Lord." John Preston, (1587- 1628) in "The Golden Sceptre held forth to the Humble." 1638.
Ver. 30. Truth. There are three kinds of truth; truth in heart, truth in word, truth in deed (2 Kings 20:3 Zechariah 8:16 Hebrews 10:22). Ayguan. From "The Preacher's Storehouse, "by J. E. Vaux.
Ver. 30. Thy judgments. God's word is called his judgment, because it discerns good from evil; and is not a naked sentence; but, as it points out evil, so it pronounces plagues against it, which shall be executed according to the sentence thereof. William Cowper.
Ver. 30-31. I have chosen; I have stuck. The choosing Christian is likely to be the sticking Christian; when those that are Christians by chance tack about if the wind turn. Matthew Henry.
Ver. 30. Thy judgments have I laid before me. The solid consideration that God's word is God's decree or judgment may guard a believer against men's terrors and allurements, and fix him in his right choice, as here. David Dickson.
Ver. 30. Thy judgments have I laid before me. Men that mean to travel the right way will lay before them a map: so David, as his will had resolved upon the ways of truth, so he setteth before his eyes the map of the law, which did manifest this unto him, as the ship man hath his card with the compass. Paul Bayne.
PSALM 119:31 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 31. I have stuck unto thy testimonies, — or I have cleaved, for the word is the same as in Psalm 119:25. Though cleaving to the dust of sorrow and of death, yet he kept fast hold of the divine word. This was his comfort, and his faith stuck to it, his love and his obedience held on to it, his heart and his mind abode in meditation upon it. His choice was so heartily and deliberately made that he stuck to it for life, and could not be removed from it by the reproaches of those who despised the way of the Lord. What could he have gained by quitting the sacred testimony? Say rather, what would he not have lost if he had ceased to cleave to the divine word? It is pleasant to look back upon past perseverance and to expect grace to continue equally steadfast in the future. He who has enabled us to stick to him will surely stick to us. O LORD, put me not to shame. This would happen if God's promises were unfulfilled, and if the heart of God's servant were suffered to fail. This we have no reason to fear, since the Lord is faithful to his word. But it might also happen though the believer's acting in an inconsistent manner, as David had himself once done, when he fell into the way of lying, and pretended to be a madman. If we are not true to our profession we may be left to reap the fruit of our folly, and that will be the bitter thing called "shame." It is evident from this that a believer ought never to be ashamed, but act the part of a grave man who has done nothing to be ashamed of in believing his God, and does not mean to adopt a craven tone in the presence of the Lord's enemies. If we beseech the Lord not to put us to shame, surely we ought not ourselves to be ashamed without cause.
The prayer of this verse is found in the parallel verse of the next section (Psalm 119:39): "Turn away my reproach which I fear." It is evidently a petition which was often on the Psalmist's heart. A brave heart is more wounded by shame than by any weapon which a soldier's hand can wield.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 31. I have stuck unto thy testimonies. It is not a little remarkable, that while the Psalmist says (Psalm 119:25), "My soul cleaveth to the dust, "he should say here, "I have cleaved unto thy testimonies" ; for it is the same original word in both verses. The thing is altogether compatible with the experience of the believer. Within there is the body of indwelling sin, and within there is the undying principle of divine grace. There is the contest between them "the flesh lusteth a against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh" (Galatians 5:17), and the believer is constrained to cry out, "O wretched man that I am" (Romans 7:24). It is the case; and all believers find it so. While the soul is many times felt cleaving to the dust, the spirit strives to cleave unto God's testimonies. So the believer prays, Cause that I be not put to shame. And keeping close to Christ, brethren, you shall not be put to shame, world without end. John Stephen.
Ver. 31. I have stuck unto thy testimonies. He adhered to them when momentary interests might have dictated a different line of conduct, when unbelief would have been ready to shrink from the path of duty, when outward appearances were greatly discouraging to fidelity, when all were ready to deride his preposterous determination. John Morison.
Ver. 31. I have stuck. True godliness evermore wears upon her head the garland of perseverance. William Cowper.
Ver. 31. Put me not to shame. Forasmuch as David, in a good conscience, endeavoured to serve God, he craves that the Lord would not confound him. This is two ways done; either when the Lord forsakes his children, so that in their trouble they feel not his promised comforts, and great confusion of mind and perturbation is upon them; or otherwise when he leaves them as a prey to their enemies, who scorn them for their godly and sincere life, and exult over them in their time of trouble; when they see that all their prayer and other exercises of religion cannot keep them out of their enemies' hands. "He trusted in God: let him deliver him." From this shame and contempt he desires the Lord would keep him, and that he should never be like unto them, who, being disappointed of that wherein they trusted, are ashamed. William Cowper.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 31. — Reasons for sticking to the Divine testimonies.
Ver. 31. — A wholesome mixture. 1. Sturdy fidelity. 2. Self distrust, 3. Importunate prayer. — C.A.D.
PSALM 119:32 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 32. I will run the way of thy commandments. With energy, promptitude, and zeal he would perform the will of God, but he needed more life and liberty from the hand of God. When thou shalt enlarge my heart. Yes, the heart is the master; the feet soon run when the heart is free and energetic. Let the affections be aroused and eagerly set on divine things, and our actions will be full of force, swiftness, and delight. God must work in us first, and then we shall will and do according to his good pleasure. He must change the heart, unite the heart, encourage the heart, strengthen the heart, and enlarge the heart, and then the course of the life will be gracious, sincere, happy, and earnest; so that from our lowest up to our highest state in grace we must attribute all to the free favour of our God. We must run; for grace is not an overwhelming force which compels unwilling minds to move contrary to their will: our running is the spontaneous leaping forward of a mind which has been set free by the hand of God, and delights to show its freedom by its bounding speed.
What a change from Psalm 119:25 to the present, from cleaving to the dust to running in the way. It is the excellence of holy sorrow that it works in us the quickening for which we seek, and then we show the sincerity of our grief and the reality of our revival by being zealous in the ways of the Lord.
For the third time an octave closes with, "I will." These "I wills" of the Psalms are right worthy of being each one the subject of study and discourse.
Note how the heart has been spoken of up to this point: "whole heart" (2), "uprightness of heart" (7), "hid in mine heart" (11), "enlarge my heart."
There are many more allusions further on, and these all go to show what heart work David's religion was. It is one of the great lacks of our age that heads count for more than hearts, and men are far more ready to learn than to love, though they are by no means eager in either direction.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 32. I will run in the way of thy commandments when, etc. You must remember that the speaker, the Psalmist, is not an unconverted man, but one who had long before been brought under the dominion of religion. He is not, therefore, soliciting the first entrance, but the after and multiplied workings of a principle of grace; and he states his desire in an expression which is singularly descriptive of the outgoing of an influence from the heart over the rest of the man. His wish is that his heart might be enlarged; and this wish amounted to a longing that the whole of himself might act in unison with the heart, so that he might become, as it were, all heart, and thus the heart in the strictest sense be enlarged, through the spreading of itself over body and soul, expanding itself till it embraced all the powers of both. If there be the love of God in the heart, then gradually the heart, possessed and actuated by so noble and stirring a principle, will bring over to a lofty consecration all the energies, whether mental or corporeal, and will be practically the same as though the other departments of man were thus the result turned into heart, and he became, according to the phrase which we are accustomed to employ when describing a character of unwonted generosity and warmth, "all heart." So that the desire after an enlarged heart you may fairly consider tantamount to a desire that every faculty might be brought into thorough subjection to God, and that just as God himself is love — love being rather the Divine essence than a Divine attribute, and therefore love mingling itself with all the properties of Godhead, so the man having love in the heart might become all heart, the heart throwing itself into all his capacities, pervading but not obliterating the characteristics of his nature. And exactly in accordance with this view of the enlargement of heart which the Psalmist desired is the practical result which was to follow on its attainment. He was already walking in the way of God's commandments; but what he proposed to himself was the running that way: I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart. A quickened pace, a more rapid progress, a greater alacrity, a firmer constancy, a more resolute and unflinching obedience, these were the results which the Psalmist looked for from the enlargement of his heart. And truly if all the faculties of mind and body be dedicated to God, with a constant and vigorous step will man press on in the way that leadeth to heaven. So long as the dedication is at best only partial, the world retaining some fraction of its empire, notwithstanding the setting up of the kingdom of God, there can be nothing but a slow and impeded progress, a walking interrupted by repeated halting, if not backslidings, by much of loitering, if not of actual retreat; but if the man be all heart, then he will be all life, all warmth, all zeal, all energy, and the consequence of this complete surrender to God will be exactly that which is prophetically announced by Isaiah: "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." Henry Melvill, 1798-1871.
Ver. 32. I will run. By running is meant cheerful, ready, and zealous observance of God's precepts: it is not go, or walk, but run . They that would come to their journey's end, must run in the way of God's commandments. It notes a speedy or a ready obedience, without delay. We must begin with God betimes. Alas! when we should be at the goal, we have many of us scarce set forth. And it notes earnestness; when a man's heart is set upon a thing, he thinks he can never do it soon enough. And this is running, when we are vehement and earnest upon the enjoyment of God and Christ in the way of obedience. And it notes again, that the heart freely offereth itself to God.
This running is the fruit of effectual calling. When the Lord speaks of effectual calling, the issue of it is running; when he speaks of the conversion of the Gentiles, "Nations that know not thee shall run unto thee"; and, "Draw me, and we will run after thee." When God draws there is a speedy, earnest motion of the soul.
This running, as it is the fruit of effectual calling, so it is very needful; for cold and faint motions are soon overborne by difficulty and temptation: "Let us run with patience the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1).
When a man hath a mind to do a thing, though he be hindered and jostled, he takes it patiently, he goes on and cannot stay to debate the business. A slow motion is easily stopped, whereas a swift one bears down that which opposeth it; so is it when men run and are not tired in the service of God.
Last of all, the prize calls for running: "So run that ye may obtain" (1 Corinthians 9:24). Thomas Manton.
Ver. 32. I will run. It was not the walking , "the way of God's commandments, "but the running "the way of God's commandments, "to which David aspired. The text has no connection with the case of one who habitually pursues the opposite path; it has exclusive reference to the pace at which the line of duty is to be traversed... It may not unnaturally excite surprise, that "the sweet singer of Israel" — he who was emphatically declared to be "a man after God's own heart" — should, nevertheless, in the words of the text, seem to imply that he was not yet "running the way of God's commandments." But, dear brethren, the greater an individual's comparative holiness, the more intense will be his longing for absolute holiness. To others, David might appear to be speeding marvellously along the path of life; and yet he himself deemed his movements to be far less rapid. It is humility was one of the evidences of his holiness. Hugh B.
Ver. 32. I will run the way. His intended course in this way he expresses by running. It is good to be in this way even in the slowest motions; love will creep where it cannot walk. But if thou art so indeed, then thou wilt long for a swifter motion; if thou do but creep, creep on, desire to be enabled to go. If thou goest, but yet haltingly and lamely, yet desire to be strengthened to walk straight; and if thou walkest, let not that satisfy thee, desire to run. So here, David did walk in this way; but he earnestly wishes to mend his pace; he would willingly run, and for that end he desires an enlarged heart.
Some dispute and descant too much whether they go or no, and childishly tell their steps, and would know at every step whether they advance or no, and how much they advance, and thus amuse themselves, and spend the time of doing and going in questioning and doubting. Thus it is with many Christians; but it were a more wise and comfortable way to be endeavouring onwards, and if thou make little progress, at least to be desiring to make more; to be praying and walking, and praying that thou mayest walk faster, and that in the end thou mayest run, not satisfied with anything attained. Yet by that dissatisfaction we must not be so dejected as to sit down, or to stand still, but rather we must be excited to go on. Robert Leighton.
Ver. 32. Enlarged my heart, or dilated it, namely, with joy. It is obvious to remark the philosophical propriety with which this expression is applied: since the heart is dilated, and the pulse by consequence becomes strong and full, from the exultation of joy as well as of pride. (See Parkhurst on bjr .) Richard Mant.
Ver. 32. Thou wilt enlarge my heart. God would enlarge the very seat of life, and thus give his weak servant more strength; such strength that he need no longer lie prone on the dust struggling to arise; but strength to enable him to run in the way of truth. Thus, he who prays, "O Lord, put me not to shame, " finds for himself the truth of an earlier song: "They looked unto him, and were lightened, and their faces were not ashamed." Frederick G. Marchant.
Ver. 32. Enlarge my heart. It is said of Solomon, that he had "a large heart, (the same word that is used here,)as the sand of the sea shore:" that is a vast, comprehensive spirit, that could fathom much of nature, both its greater and lesser things. Thus, I conceive, the enlargement of the heart comprises the enlightening of the understanding. There arises a clearer light there to discern spiritual things in a more spiritual manner; to see the vast difference betwixt the vain things the world goes after, and the true solid delight that is in the way of God's commandments; to know the false blush of the pleasures of sin, and what deformity is under that painted mask, and not be allured by it; to have enlarged apprehensions of God, his excellency, and greatness and goodness; how worthy he is to be obeyed and served; this is the great dignity and happiness of the soul; all other pretensions are low and poor in respect of this. Here then is enlargement to see the purity and beauty of his law, how just and reasonable, yea, how pleasant and amiable it is; that his commandments are not grievous, that they are beds of spices; the more we walk in them, still the more of their fragrant smell and sweetness we find. Robert Leighton.
Ver. 32. Narrow is the way unto life, but no man can run in it save with widened heart. Prosper, of Aquitaine, (403-463), quoted by Neale and Littledale.
Ver. 32. Enlarged. Surely a temple for the great God (such as our hearts should be) should be fair and ample. If we would have God dwell in our hearts, and shed abroad his influences, we should make room for God in our souls, by a greater largeness of faith and expectation. The rich man thought of enlarging his barns, when his store was increased upon him (Luke 12:16-21), so should we stretch out the curtains of Christ's tent and habitation, have larger expectations of God, if we would receive more from him. The vessels failed before the oil failed. We are not straitened in God, but in ourselves; by the scantiness of our thoughts, we do lot make room for him, nor greaten God: "My soul doth magnify the Lord" (Luke 1:46).
Faith doth greaten God. How can we make God greater than he is? As to the declarative being, we can have greater and larger apprehensions of his greatness, goodness, and truth. 1. There needs a large heart, because the command is exceedingly broad: "I have seen an end of all perfection; but thy commandment is exceeding broad" (Psalm 119:96). A broad law and a narrow heart will never suit: we need love, faith, knowledge, and all to carry us through this work, which is of such a vast extent and latitude. 2. We need enlarged heart, because of the lets and hindrances within ourselves. There is lust drawing off from God to sensual objects: "Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed" (Jas 1:14). Therefore there needs something to draw us on, to carry us out with strength and life another way, to urge us in the service of God. Lust sits as a clog upon us, it is a weight of corruption (Hebrews 12:1), retarding us in all our flights and motions, thwarting, opposing, breaking the force of spiritual impulsions, if not hindering them altogether (Galatians 5:17). Well then, lust drawing so strongly one way, God needs to draw us more strongly the other way. When there is a weight to poise us to worldly and sensual objects, we need a strength to carry us on with vigorous and lively motions of soul towards God, an earnest bent upon our souls, which is this enlargement of heart. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 32 My heart. The great Physician knows at once where to look for the cause, when he sees anything amiss in the outward life of his people.
He well knows that all spiritual disease is heart disease, and it is the heart remedies that he must apply. At one time, our Physician sees symptoms which are violent in their nature; at another, he sees symptoms of languor and debility; but he knows that both come from the heart; and so, it is upon the heart that he operates, when he is about to perform a cure.
The strong action of the heart in all holy things comes from the blessed operation of the Spirit upon it; then only can we "run" the way of God's commandments, when he has enlarged our heart. Heartiness in action is the subject to which the reader's attention is here directed, and it is one of considerable importance.
There are many believers, who for want of enlargement of heart are occupying a poor position in the church of God. They are trusting to Jesus for life eternal, and he will doubtless not disappoint them; he will be true to his word, that "he that believeth shall be saved; "but they are still, alas! to a deplorable degree, shut up in self; they have contracted hearts; still do they take narrow views of God's claim, and their own privileges, and the position in which they are set in the world and however much they might be said to stand, or sit, or walk in the way of God's commandments, they cannot be said to "run" in it. Running is a strong and healthy action of the body; it requires energy, it is an exercise that needs a sound heart; none can run in the way of God's commandments, except in strength and vigour imparted by him. The running Christians are comparatively few; walking and sitting Christians are comparatively common; but the running Christian is so uncommon as often to be thought almost mad.
Let us, for the sake of order, classify our observations on this subject under the following heads: 1. What heartiness is . The heartiness spoken of here under the term, "enlargement of the heart, "is cheerfulness in doing God's will — love for that will— a drawing out of the affections towards it— an interest in it; all this it is, and a great deal more, which it is not easy to describe or define. 2. What heartiness does. Where there is enlargement of the heart by God, there is an outgoing beyond all the limits which fallen selfishness assigns. The heart contracted at the fall; it shrank when sin entered into it; it became unequal to containing great and generous thoughts; it became a bondaged heart. True! the responsibilities of duty could not be escaped, nor could the directions of conscience; but the affections are voluntary, and the fallen heart drew in its affections from God; it felt that it had the power of withholding them from him and his commandments, and it rejoiced to shew its enmity in withholding its sympathy, where it could not withhold its obedience... 3. Whence heartiness comes. Now, as we have already said, where the heart is operated on by the Spirit, and all its natural evil overruled, it has outgoings which are entirely beyond the limits that fallen selfishness assigns. Love is inwrought with it: the union of sentiment, the identity of interest which love inspires, pervade it, in all belonging to God, for it has received these from God; the heart becomes unbondaged from mere rules, or perhaps to speak more correctly, it rises above them, and it feels— not merely it knows , but it feels — so much of the beauty of God's commandments, that it delights to "run" in them; it loves to be hearty in them; its interests, its affections are in them. Philip Bennet Power, in "The I Wills' of the Psalms, " 1862.
Ver. 32. Disquiets of heart unfit us for duty, by hindering our activity in the prosecution of duty. The whole heart, soul, and strength should be engaged in all religious services; but these troubles are as clogs and weights to hinder motion. Joy is the dilatation of the soul, and widens it for anything which it undertakes; but grief contracts the heart, and narrows all the faculties. Hence doth David beg an "enlarged heart, "as the principle of activity: I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart ; for what else can be expected when the mind is so distracted with fear and sorrow, but that it should be uneven, tottering, weak, and confused? so that if it do set itself to anything, it acts troublesomely, drives on heavily, and doth a very little with a great deal ado; and yet, the unfitness were less, if that little which it can do were well done; but the mind is so interrupted in its endeavours that sometimes in prayer the man begins, and then is presently at a stand, and dares not proceed, his words are swallowed up, "he is so troubled that he cannot speak" Psalm 77:4. Richard Gilpin, (1625-1699), in "Daemonologia Sacra."
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 32. — The Fettered Racer set free. 1. The course that invited him. 2. The shackles that bound him. 3. The impatience that prompted him. 4. The Lord that freed him. 5. Now let him go. — C.A.D.
Ver. 32. 1. Liberty desired. 2. Liberty rightly used. Or, the effect of the heart upon the feet.
Ver. 32. — The text will give us occasion to speak, 1. Of the benefit of an enlarged heart. The necessary precedence of this work on God's part, before there can be any serious bent or motion of heart towards God on our part. 2. The subsequent resolution of the saints to engage their hearts to live to God. 3. With what earnestness, alacrity and rigour of spirit this work is to be carried on: "I will run." — T. Manton.
Ver. 32. — 1. The way of obedience: "Thy commandments." 2. The duty of obedience: "I will run" — not stand still— not loiter— not creep— not walk, but run. 3. The life of obedience. (a) Where it lies— in the heart. (b) Whence it comes: "When thou shalt, "etc. (c) What it does— enlarges the heart. — G.R.
PSALM 119:33 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 33-40. A sense of dependence and a consciousness of extreme need pervade this section, which is all made up of prayer and plea. The former eight verses trembled with a sense of sin, quivering with a childlike sense of weakness and folly, which caused the man of God to cry out for the help by which alone his soul could be preserved from falling back into sin.
Ver. 33. Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes. Child like, blessed words, from the lips of an old, experienced believer, and he a king, and a man inspired of God. Alas, for those who will never be taught. They dote upon their own wisdom; but their folly is apparent to all who rightly judge.
The Psalmist will have the Lord for his teacher; for he feels that his heart will not learn of any less effectual instructor. A sense of great slowness to learn drives us to seek a great teacher. What condescension it is on our great Jehovah's part that he deigns to teach those who seek him. The lesson which is desired is thoroughly practical; the holy man would not only learn the statutes , but the way of them, the daily use of them, their tenor, spirit, direction, habit, tendency. He would know that path of holiness which is hedged in by divine law, along which the commands of the Lord stand as sign posts of direction and mile stones of information, guiding and marking our progress. The very desire to learn this way is in itself an assurance that we shall be taught therein, for he who made us long to learn will be sure to gratify the desire. And I shall keep it unto the end. Those who are taught of God never forget their lessons. When divine grace sets a man in the true way he will be true to it. Mere human wit and will have no such enduring influence: there is an end to all perfection of the flesh, but there is no end to heavenly grace except its own end, which is the perfecting of holiness in the fear of the Lord. Perseverance to the end is most certainly to be predicted of those whose beginning is in God, and with God, and by God; but those who commence without the Lord's teaching soon forget what they learn, and start aside from the way upon which they professed to have entered. No one may boast that he will bold on his way in his own strength, for that must depend upon the continual teaching of the Lord: we shall fall like Peter, if we presume on our own firmness as he did. If God keeps us we shall keep his way; and it is a great comfort to know that it is the way with God to keep the feet of his saints. Yet we are to watch as if our keeping of the way depended wholly on ourselves; for, according to this verse, our perseverance rests not on any force or compulsion, but on the teaching of the Lord, and assuredly teaching, whoever be the teacher, requires learning on the part of the taught one: no one can teach a man who refuses to learn.
Earnestly, then, let us drink in divine instruction, that so we may hold fast our integrity, and to life's latest hour follow on in the path of uprightness!
If we receive the living and incorruptible seed of the word of God we must live: apart from this we have no life eternal, but only a name to live.
The "end" of which David speaks is the end of life, or the fulness of obedience. He trusted in grace to make him faithful to the utmost, never drawing a line and saying to obedience, "Hitherto shalt thou go, but no further." The end of our keeping the law will come only when we cease to breathe; no good man will think of marking a date and saying, "It is enough, I may now relax my watch, and live after the manner of men." As Christ loves us to the end, so must we serve him to the end. The end of divine teaching is that we may persevere to the end.
The portions of eight show a relationship still. GIMEL, begins with prayer for life, that he may keep the word (Psalm 119:17); DALETH cries for more life, according to that word (Psalm 119:25); and now HE opens with a prayer for teaching, that he may keep the way of God's statutes. If a keen eye is turned upon these verses a closer affinity will be discerned.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Upon this Octonary the Notes furnished by Mr. Marchant, one of the Tutors of the Pastors' College, are so excellent that we give them entire.
SUBJECT: THE LAW OF JEHOVAH TO BE SET BEFORE THE EYES, THE WIND, THE FEET, AND THE HEART.
Key phrase: dtrma drkel Mqh . Set up before thy servant thy word (Psalm 119:38).
Ver. 33. THE WORD SET UP BEFORE THE EYES. Teach me; literally, "point out, ""indicate to me." hry , as used here, means "to send out the hand, " especially in the sense of pointing out. Hence "to show, ", "to indicate, ""to teach." The Psalmist here prays for direction in its more superficial form: Many paths were before his eyes leading down to death: one path was before him, leading unto life. He here asks to be shown which is Jehovah's way. If the Lord will ever show his eyes which way is the right way, then he will keep it unto the end. Here is light wanted for the eyes. As the Indian pursues his trail with unerring eye and unfaltering step, so, watching for every deviation which might take us astray, we should pursue the way which leadeth unto life.
Ver. 33-40. In this Octonarius, now and again, the same prayer is repeated, of which several times mention has before been made. For he prays that he may be divinely taught, governed, strengthened, and defended against the calumnies, reproaches, and threatenings of his enemies. And the prayer is full of the most ardent longings, which is manifest from the same resolve being so frequently repeated. For the more he knows the ignorance, obscurity, doubts, and the imbecility of the human mind, and sees how men are impelled by a slight momentum, so that they fall away from the truth and embrace errors repugnant to the divine word, or fall into great sins, the more ardently and strongly does he ask in prayer that he may be divinely taught, governed, and strengthened, lest he should cast away acknowledged truth, or plunge himself into wickedness. And by his example he teaches that we, also, against blindness born with us, and the imbecility of our flesh, and also against the snares and madness of devils should fortify ourselves with those weapons; namely, with the right study and knowledge of the divine Word, and with constant prayer. For if so great a man, who had made such preeminent attainments, prayed for this, how much more ought they to do so, who are but novices and ignorant beginners. This is the sum of this Octonarius. D. H. Mollerus.
Ver. 33-40. In this part, nine times does the Psalmist send up his petition to his God, and six of these he accompanies with a reason for being heard... These petitions are the utterances of a renewed heart; the man of God could not but give utterance to them— such was the new refining process that had taken place upon him... The outline runs thus: — Petitions are offered for Instruction (Psalm 119:33) and Understanding (Psalm 119:34), and likewise for Spiritual Ability (Psalm 119:35) and Inclination (Psalm 119:36). These are followed by petitions for Exemption from the Spirit of Vanity (Psalm 119:37), and for Divine Quickening (Psalm 119:37). The Lord is besought to make good his Word of Promise to his servant (Psalm 119:38), and to deliver him from Feared Reproach. Last of all, the man of God places his prayer for quickening upon the ground of the Divine Righteousness (Psalm 119:40). May the Divine Spirit teach us to compare ourselves with what we find here, as we would see the salvation of our God! John Stephen.
Ver. 33-40. — I observe that in this one octonary which is not to be found in any of the rest, namely, that in every several verse there is a several prayer. In the first whereof he prays to be taught, and then promises to take in that which God shall teach him. He had before resolved to run in this way; but he felt forthwith his own natural aberrations, and therefore he cometh to this guide to be taught. Richard Greenham.
Ver. 33. Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes, etc. Instruction from above is necessary for the children of God, while they continue in this world. The more we know, the more we shall desire to know; we shall beg a daily supply of grace, as well as of bread; and a taste of "the cluster of Eshcol" will make us long after the vintage of Canaan (Numbers 13:23).
Religion is the art of holy living, and then only known when it is practised; as he is not a master of music who can read the notes which compose it, but he who has learnt to take a lesson readily from the book, and play it on his instrument; after which the pleasure it affords will be sufficient motive for continuing so to do. George Horne.
Ver. 33. Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes, etc. In the sincerity of your hearts go to God for his teaching. God is pleased with the request. "Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing" (1 Kings 3:9,10). Oh, beg it of God, for these three reasons— 1. The way of God's statutes is worthy to be found by all. 2. It is hard to be found and kept by any. 3. It is so dangerous to miss it, that this should quicken us to be earnest with God. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 33. Teach me, O LORD, etc. "He who is his own pupil, "remarks S.
Bernard, "has a fool for his master." A soldier who enters on a march does not settle for himself the order of his going, nor begin the journey at his own will, nor yet choose pleasant short cuts, lest he should fall out of rank, away from the standards, but gets the route from his general, and keeps to it; advances in a prescribed order, walks armed, and goes straight on to the end of his march to find there the supplies provided by the commissariat. If he goes by any other road, he gets no rations, and finds no quarters ready, because the general's orders are that all things of this kind shall be prepared for those who follow him, and turn not aside to the right hand or the left.
And thus he who follows his general does not break down, and that for good reasons; for the general consults not for his own convenience, but for the capability of his whole army. And this, too, is Christ's order of march, as he leads his great host out of the spiritual Egypt to the eternal Land of Paradise. Ambrose, quoted by Neale and Littledale.
Ver. 33. Teach me, O LORD, the way, etc. It should never be forgotten, as this fifth section teaches us, that there is a way marked out by God's own appointment for all his people to walk in, and in which to persevere. Others lay down a path each for himself, and keeping to it think they are safe.
David did not trust to anything of this kind; he was only desirous of being found in the way of God's ordinance, and to be so taught of God as to keep it to the end; or as the original reads, keep it the end, the end of his profession, the salvation of his soul. W. Wilson.
Ver. 33. Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it, etc. If thou continue a teacher of me, saith David, I shall continue a servant to thee. Perseverance cannot be unless continual light and grace be furnished to us from the Lord. As the tree which hath not sap at the root may flourish for a while, but cannot continue; so a man, whose heart is not watered with the dew of God's grace continually, may for a time make a fair show of godliness, but in the end he will fall away, We bear not the root, but the root bears us: let us tremble and fear. If we abide not in our Lord, we become withered branches, good for nothing but the fire. Let us alway pray that he would ever abide with us, to inform us by his light, and lead us by his power, in that way which may bring us to himself. William Cowper.
Ver. 33. Statutes, from a word signifying to mark, trace out, describe and ordain ;because they mark out our way, describe the line of conduct we are to pursue, and order or ordain what we are to observe. Adam Clarke.
Ver. 33. God's "statutes" declare his authority and power of giving us laws. Matthew Pool, 1624-1679.
Ver. 33. Unto the end, or, by way of return , or reward , or gratitude to thee; God's mercy in teaching being in all reason to be rewarded or answered by our observing and taking exact care of what he teaches. Or else by analogy with Psalm 19:11, where the keeping his commandments brings great reward with it: it may here be rendered bq,[e (understanding the preposition l ) for the reward , meaning the present joy of it, Psalm 119:32, not excluding the future crown. H. Hammond.
Ver. 33. Unto the end. Quite through ;the Hebrew is, to the heel. The force of the words seems to be, "Quite through, from head to foot." Zachary Mudge, 1744.
Ver. 33-34. Unto the end. He will be no temporizer ;he will keep it "to the end." He will be no hypocrite ;he will keep it "with his whole heart." Adam Clarke.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Outlines Upon Keywords of the Psalm, By Pastor C. A. Davis.
Ver. 33-40. — Faithfulness secured by divine in working. Prayer for divine teaching, understanding, constraint, and control of heart and eyes, to ensure persevering and wholehearted faithfulness (Psalm 119:33-37). The Psalmist, thus established in the word, prays for the establishment of the word to himself (Psalm 119:38); deprecates the reproach of unfaithfulness (Psalm 119:39); and enforces the whole prayer by the vehemence of the desire which prompts it (Psalm 119:40).
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 33. — In this prayer for grace observe, 1. The person to whom he prays: "O Lord." 2. The person for whom: "teach me." 3. The grace for which he prayeth: to be taught. 4. The object of this teaching: "The way of thy statutes." The teaching which he begs, is not speculative, but practical, to learn how to walk in the way of God. — T. Manton.
Ver. 33. — The superior efficacy of divine teaching : it secures holy practice and insures its perpetuity.
Ver. 33-34. — Light from above. 1. The blinding power of sin. "Teach me", i.e., "point out to me." "Give me understanding." Whatever may have been the original amount of light which came item eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, that light has long been insufficient. (a) Men need light to discern the right way from the wrong. (b) Men need light to understand the beauties of the right way. Such beauties line the way of truth on either hand, but only the God taught mind appreciates them. Even Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life, is as a root out of a dry ground, till the mind is taught of the Lord.
Sin is the cause of this blindness. The farther any man walks in the way of sin, the less can he see of the beauties of holiness. 2. The enlightening grace of the Lord. "Teach me." "Give me understanding." This grace, (a) May be boldly asked: "If any man lack wisdom let him ask of God." (b) Will be freely given. "Who giveth to all men liberally." "Ask, and it shall be given." (c) Will be amply sufficient. "I shall keep it unto the end." "I shall keep Thy law." To see is to follow. 3. The stimulating power of clearly revealed truth. "I shall observe it with my whole heart." To see is not only to follow, but to follow with love and gladness. It is written of the light which will come before the throne, "We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." "O thou, that dwellest between the Cherubim, shine forth, "even here, on the way that leads to thy presence. — F.G.M.
Ver. 33-35. — Alpha and Omega. 1. God, the giver of spiritual instruction: Psalm 119:33. 2. Of spiritual understanding, without which this instruction is in vain:
Psalm 119:34. 3. Of grace for practical obedience when thus instructed: Psalm 119:35. 4. For wholehearted obedience: Psalm 119:84. 5. For final perseverance: Psalm 119:33. — C.A.D.
Ver. 33-36. — Human Dependence on Divine help. 1. There can be no steady keeping in the way of the Lord without the Lord's guidance: Psalm 119:83. 2. There can be no observing of the way with the heart without Divine light for the mind: Psalm 119:34. 3. There can be no diligent pursuit of the way till divine energy be given to the will: Psalm 119:35. 4. There can be no true love of the way unless the heart be constrained by the love of God: Psalm 119:36. He who said, "Without me ye can do nothing, "is necessary for us to see the way, to understand the way, to walk in the way, and to love the way. — F. G. M.
PSALM 119:34 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 34. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law. This is the same prayer enlarged, or rather it is a supplement which intensifies it. He not only needs teaching, but the power to learn: he requires not only to understand, but to obtain an understanding . How low has sin brought us; for we even lack the faculty to understand spiritual things, and are quite unable to know them till we are endowed with spiritual discernment. Will God in very deed give us understanding? This is a miracle of grace. It will, however, never be wrought upon us till we know our need of it; and we shall not even discover that need till God gives us a measure of understanding to perceive it. We are in a state of complicated ruin, from which nothing but manifold grace can deliver us. Those who feel their folly are by the example of the Psalmist encouraged to pray for understanding: let each man by faith cry, "Give me understanding." Others have had it, why may it not come to me ? It was a gift to them; will not the Lord also freely bestow it upon me ?
We are not to seek this blessing that we may be famous for wisdom, but that we may be abundant in our love to the law of God. He who has understanding will learn, remember, treasure up, and obey the commandment of the Lord. The gospel gives us grace to keep the law; the free gift leads us to holy service; there is no way of reaching to holiness but by accepting the gift of God. If God gives, we keep; but we never keep the law in order to obtaining grace. The sure result of regeneration, or the bestowal of understanding, is a devout reverence for the law and a resolute keeping of it in the heart. The Spirit of God makes us to know the Lord and to understand somewhat of his love, wisdom, holiness, and majesty; and the result is that we honour the law and yield our hearts to the obedience of the faith. Yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. The understanding operates upon the affections; it convinces the heart of the beauty of the law, so that the soul loves it with all its powers; and then it reveals the majesty of the lawgiver, and the whole nature bows before his supreme will. An enlightened judgment heals the divisions of the heart, and bends the united affections to a strict and watchful observance of the one rule of life. He alone obeys God who can say, "My Lord, I would serve thee, and do it with all my heart"; and none can truly say this till they have received as a free grant the inward illumination of the Holy Ghost. To observe God's law with all our heart at all times is a great grace, and few there be that find it; yet it is to be had if we will consent to be taught of the Lord.
Observe the parallel of Psalm 119:2 and Psalm 119:10 where the whole heart is spoken of in reference to seeking, and in Psalm 119:58 in pleading for mercy; these are all second verses in their octonaries. The frequent repetition of the phrase shows the importance of undivided love: the heart is never whole or holy till it is whole or united. The heart is never one with God till it is one within itself.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 34. THE WORD SET BEFORE THE MIND. Give me understanding. The word used here refers to mental comprehension, as distinguished from the mere direction, or pointing out, asked for in the previous verse. Here the prayer is, "Make me to discern, ""Cause me to perceive, "i.e. , with the understanding "Faith cometh by hearing and hearing, by the word of God." The outer senses must first see the way, then the mind must understand it, then, with faith and love, the heart should follow it. Thus, too, the Psalmist, if God will cause him to understand the law, will keep it with all his heart. Still, the heart is prone to lean to things earthly and sinful, and divine help has presently to be invoked for that also.
Ver. 34. Give me understanding. The Psalmist goes to the root of the matter; he is taught to do so by the Spirit of all teaching. He would not merely be taught, as a master would teach, but he would have his mind remoulded and informed as only the Creator could do. The words imply as much. "Give me understanding" — make me to understand. Not merely did he want to know a thing— the general nature of it; but he wished to understand the beginning, the outgoing and the end of it. He wanted to attain the power of distinction between right and wrong— spiritual discernment that so he might discern the right, and, at the same time, all that was contrary to it; he wanted understanding, that so he might know, and discern, and prize the truth, the true way of God, carefully avoiding all that would be aside from it. John Stephen.
Ver. 34. Give me understanding. This is that which we are indebted to Christ for; for "the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding" (1 John 5:20). Matthew Henry.
Ver. 34. Understanding. The understanding is the pilot and guide of the whole man; that faculty which sits at the stern of the soul: but as the most expert guide may mistake in the dark, so may the understanding, when it wants the light of knowledge. "Without knowledge the mind cannot be good" (Proverbs 19:2); nor the life good; nor the external condition safe (Ephesians 4:18). "My people are destroyed for the lack of knowledge" (Hosea 4:6).
It is ordinary in Scripture to set profaneness, and all kinds of miscarriages, upon the score of ignorance. Diseases in the body have many times their rise from distempers in the head ;and exorbitance in practice, from errors in the judgment. And, indeed, in every sin, there is something both of ignorance and error at the bottom: for did sinners truly know what they do in sinning, we might say of every sin what the Apostle speaks concerning that great sin, "Had they known him, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory" (1 Corinthians 2:8). Did they truly know that every sin is a provoking the Lord to jealousy, a proclaiming war against heaven, a crucifying the Lord Jesus afresh, a treasuring up wrath afresh unto themselves against the day of wrath; and that if ever they be pardoned, it must be at no lower a rate than the price of his blood— it were scarce possible but sin, instead of alluring, should affright, and instead of tempting, scare. From the "Recommendatory Epistle prefixed to the Westminster Confession and Catechisms." Ver. 34. My whole heart. The whole man is God's by every kind of right and title; and therefore, when he requireth the whole heart, he doth but require that which is his own. God gave us the whole by creation, preserveth the whole, redeemeth the whole, and promises to glorify the whole. If we had been mangled in creation we would have been troubled; if born without hands or feet. If God should turn us off to ourselves to keep that part to ourselves which we reserved from him, or if he should make such a division at death, take a part to heaven, or if Christ had bought part: "Ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God iri your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Corinthians 6:20). If you have had any good work upon you, God sanctified the whole in a gospel sense, that is every part: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Not only conscience, but will and affections, appetite and body. And you have given all to him for his use: "I am my beloved's"! not a part, but the whole. He could not endure Ananias that kept back part of the price; all is his due.
When the world, pleasure, ambition, pride, desire of riches, unchaste love, desire a part in us, we may remember we have no affections to dispose of without God's leave. It is all his, and it is sacrilege to rob or detain any part from God. Shall I alienate that which is God's to satisfy the world, the flesh, and the Devil? Thomas Manton.
Ver. 34, 35. Give me understanding. Make me to go. The understanding which he seeks leads to going, and is sought to that end. God's teaching begets obedience; he showeth us the path of life, and he maketh us to go in it. It is such instruction as giveth strength, that excites the sluggish will, and breaketh the force of corrupt inclinations; it removeth sluggish will and the darkness which corruption and sin have brought upon the mind, and maketh us pliable and ready to obey; yea, it giveth not only the will, but the deed; in short, it engages us in a watchful, careful, uniform, and constant obedience. Thomas Manton.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 34. — The influence of the understanding upon the heart, and the united power of understanding and heart over the life.
Ver. 34. — Seeing and loving. 1. When men see they love (the whole verse). 2. When men love they see. Only the loving heart would have seen enough to write such a verse. — F. G. M.
PSALM 119:35 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 35. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight. "To will is present with me; but how to perform that which good I find not." Thou hast made me to love the way, now make me to move in it.
It is a plain path, which others are treading through thy grace; I see it and admire it; cause me to travel in it. This is the cry of a child that longs to walk, but is too feeble; of a pilgrim who is exhausted, yet pants to be on the march; of a lame man who pines to be able to run. It is a blessed thing to delight in holiness, and surely he who gave us this delight will work in us the yet higher joy of possessing and practising it. Here is our only hope; for we shall not go in the narrow path till we are made to do so by the Maker's own power. O thou who didst once make me, I pray thee make me again: thou hast made me to know; now make me to go. Certainly I shall never be happy till I do, for my sole delight lies in walking according to thy bidding.
The Psalmist does not ask the Lord to do for him what he ought to do for himself: he wishes himself to "go" or tread in the path of the command. He asks not to be carried while he lies passive; but to be made "to go." Grace does not treat us as stocks and stones, to be dragged by horses or engines, but as creatures endowed with life, reason, will, and active powers, who are willing and able to go of themselves if once made to do so. God worketh in us, but it is that we may both will and do according to his good pleasure. The holiness we seek after is not a forced compliance with command, but the indulgence of a whole hearted passion for goodness, such as shall conform our life to the will of the Lord. Can the reader say, "therein do I delight" ? Is practical godliness the very jewel of your soul, the coveted prize of your mind? If so, the outward path of life, however rough, will be clean, and lead the soul upward to delight ineffable. He who delights in the law should not doubt but what he will be enabled to run in its ways, for where the heart already finds its joy the feet are sure to follow.
Note that the corresponding verse in the former eight (Psalm 119:35) was "Make me to understand, "and here we have "Make me to go." Remark the: order, first understanding and then going; for a clear understanding is a great assistance towards practical action.
During the last few octaves the fourth has been the heart verse :see Psalm 119:20,28, and now Psalm 119:36. Indeed in all the preceding fourths great heartiness is observable. This also marks the care with which this sacred song was composed.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 35. THE WORD SET BEFORE THE FEET. The word ynibewridjæ is from ËræD; "to tread with the feet, ""to trample." Hence, "Make me to go, "alludes here to the very act of walking in the divine way, in distinction from mere perception of the way with the eyes and with the understanding.
It is in this matter of practical walking that the actual difficulties of the way seem to come more forcibly into sight; hence we no longer have Ëd,D, used (as in Psalm 119:33) which may mean a broad open way, but bytin; , which (says Gesenius) "never denotes a public and royal road, such as was raised up and formed by art, but always a footpath." So the younger Buxtorf renders the word by Semita . When the feet really come to tread it, the way of truth is ever found to be "the narrow way."
Ver. 35. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments. David, in the former verses, had begged for light, now for strength to walk according to this light. We need not only light to know our way, but a heart to walk in it. Direction is necessary because of the blindness of our minds; and the effectual impulsions of grace are necessary because of the weakness of our hearts. It will not answer our duty to have a naked notion of truths, unless we embrace and pursue them. So, accordingly, we need a double assistance from God; the mind must be enlightened, the will moved and inclined. The work of a Christian lies not in depth of speculation, but in the height of practice. The excellency of Divine grace consisteth in this, — That God doth first teach what is to be done, and then make us to do whet is taught: "Make me to go in the path of thy commandments." Thomas Marten.
Ver. 35. The path of thy commandments. They are termed "the paths, " because paths are narrow, short, straight, clean passages for people on foot only, and not for horses and carriages; and such is the way of the Lord, as compared with that of the flesh and of the world, all the ways of which are broad, filthy, and crooked, trodden by the brute beasts, the type of carnal, animal man. He assigns a reason for being heard when he says, For this same I have desired ; because, through God's grace, I have chosen this path, and desired to walk in it, and it is only meet that he who gives the will should give the grace to accomplish, as St. Paul says, "Who worketh in you both to will and to do." Robert Bellarmine.
Ver. 35. The path is "the path of thy commandments." Not any new way, but the old and pathed way wherein all the servants of God have walked before him, and for which the Grecians (as Euthymius notes) called it tribon quasi viam tritam . But howsoever this way be pathed, by the walking and treading of many in it, yet he acknowledgeth it is but one, yea, and a narrow and difficult path to keep, and therefore seeks he to be guided into it. William Cowper.
Ver. 35. The path. It is a "path" not a public road; a path where no beast goes, and men seldom. Adam Clarke.
Ver. 35, 37. The path. Thy way: The Hindus call panth or way the line of doctrine of any sect followed, in older to attain to mukti , or deliverance from sin. Way signifies the chief means to an end, and is applied to the Scriptures, Psalm 119:27, to God's counsels, to God's works. This spiritual way is— (1) easy to find , Isaiah 35:8, (2) clean , no mud of sin; (3) never out of repair . Christ the same now as 6,000 years ago; (4) no lion or wild beasts on; (5) costly , the blood of Christ made it; (6) not lonely , many believers on it, Hebrews 12:1; (7) no toll , all may come; (8) wide . The way to the cities of refuge was forty-eight feet wide. The map of the Bible shows this path; (9) the end pleasant— Heaven. J. Long, in "Eastern Proverbs and Maxims illustrating old Truths, " 1881.
Ver. 35-36. Therein do I delight. Incline my heart unto thy testimonies. A child of God hath not the bent of his heart so perfectly fixed towards God but it is ever and anon returning to its old bent and bias again. The best may find that they cannot keep their affections as loose from the world when they have houses, and lands, and all things at their will, as they could when they are kept low and bare. The best may find that their love to heavenly things is on the wane as worldly things are on the increase. It is reported of Pius Quintus that he should say of himself that, when he first entered into orders, he had some hopes of his salvation; when he came to be a cardinal, he doubted of it; but since he came to be pope, he did even almost despair. Many may find a very great change in themselves, much decay of zeal for God's glory, and love to and relish of God's word, and mindfulness of heavenly things, as it fares better with them in the world.
Now it is good to observe this before the mischief increaseth. Look, as jealousy and caution are necessary to prevent the entrance and ginning of this mischief, so observation is necessary to prevent the increase of it.
When the world doth get too deep an interest in our hearts, when it begins to insinuate and entice us from God, and weaken our delight in the ways of God and zeal for his glory, then we need often to tell you how it is for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Thomas Manton.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 35. — The prayer of a child, and the delight of a child. Or, Our pleasure in holiness a plea for grace.
Ver. 35. — 1. Delight avowed. 2. Disinclination implied. 3. Constraint implored. — W. W.
PSALM 119:36 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 36. Incline my heart unto thy testimonies. Does not this prayer appear to be superfluous, since it is evident that the Psalmist's heart was set upon obedience? We are sure that there is never a word to spare in Scripture.
After asking for active virtue it was meet that the man of God should beg that his heart might be in all that he did. What would his goings be if his heart did not go? It may be that David felt a wandering desire, an inordinate leaning of his soul to worldly gain, — possibly it even intruded into his most devout meditations, and at once he cried out for more grace.
The only way to cure a wrong leaning is to have the soul bent in the opposite direction. Holiness of heart is the cure for covetousness. What a blessing it is that we may ask the Lord even for an inclination. Our wills are free, and yet without violating their liberty, grace can incline us in the right direction. This can be done by enlightening the understanding as to the excellence of obedience, by strengthening our habits of virtue, by giving us an experience of the sweetness of piety, and by many other ways. If any one duty is irksome to us it behooves us to offer this player with special reference thereto: we are to love all the Lord's testimonies, and if we fail in any one point we must pay double attention to it. The learning of the heart is the way in which the life will lean: hence the force of the petition, "Incline my heart." Happy shall we be when we feel habitually inclined to all that is good. This is not the way in which a carnal heart ever leans; all its inclinations are in opposition to the divine testimonies. And not to covetousness. This is the inclination of nature, and grace must put a negative upon it. This vice is as injurious as it is common; it is as mean as it is miserable. It is idolatry, and so it dethrones God; it is selfishness, and so it is cruel to all in its power; it is sordid greed, and so it would sell the Lord himself for pieces of silver. It is a degrading, grovelling, hardening, deadening sin, which withers everything around it that is lovely and Christlike. He who is covetous is of the race of Judas, and will in all probability turn out to be himself a son of perdition. The crime of covetousness is common, but very few will confess it; for when a man heaps up gold in his heart, the dust of it blows into his eyes, and he cannot see his own fault. Our hearts must have some object of desire, and the only way to keep out worldly gain is to put in its place the testimonies of the Lord. If we are inclined or bent one way, we shall be turned from the other: the negative virtue is most surely attained by making sure of the positive grace which inevitably produces it.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 36. THE WORD SET BEFORE THE HEART. Incline my heart unto thy testimonies. It is nothing for the eyes to see, for the mind to understand, nor even for the feet to be made to go in the way of truth, if the heart be not inclined thereunto also. It is with the heart that man believeth unto righteousness. To be without love is, according to Corinthians 13:1-3, to be without everything.
Thus the sense of these four methodical petitions in this section is as follows: Make me to see, make me to understand, make me to go in, and make me to love to go in, the beaten and narrow path of thy testimonies.
So far as I gather, Luther gives almost the exact sense of the foregoing exposition; for he translates the opening words of Psalm 119:33-36 by terms signifying respectively, "Point out to me, " "Explain to me, ""Lead me, "and "Incline (bend, slope) my heart, "etc.
Ver. 36. Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.
We must be convinced that covetousness, I mean that our covetousness, is vice; for it holds something of a virtue, of frugality, which is not to that which one hath: and this makes us entertain thoughts that it is no vice; and we often say that it is good to be a little worldly; a little covetousness we like well; which shows that we do not indeed and in heart, hold it to be a sin. For if sin be naught, a little of sin cannot be good. As good say, a little poison were good, so it be not too much. And so we find, that men will rate at their children for spending, and are ready to turn them of doors, if they be given unto waste; but if they be near and pinching then we like that too much; and I scarce know a man who doth use to call upon his children that they spare not, save not. I know youth is rather addicted the other way, and is more subject to waste and consume, by that the natural heat is quick and active in them; and therefore there is more fear and danger that they prove prodigal and turn and therefore the more may be said and done that way to youth. But the thing I press is, that in case we see our children in their youth to begin to be covetous and worldly, we call them good husbands, and are but too to see it so, and are too much pleased with them for it. Little do think that worldliness is a most guilty sin in respect of God, and hurtful in respect of men. Hark what the word of God saith of it, Ephesians 5:5: It is idolatry , and idolatry is the first sin of the first table. It is the root of all evils, 1 Timothy 6:10. There is no evil but a worldly man do it to save his purse. Thus David: "Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness" : he saith not, this or that testimony, but (as including all the laws of God) he saith "testimonies" ; to show us covetousness draws us away, not from some only, but from all God's commandments. So St. Paul: where covetousness is, there are "many lusts, " 1 Timothy 6:9, and "many sorrows, "1 Timothy 6:10. "It drowns men in perdition and destruction, "1 Timothy 6:9. And the Greek word signifies such a drowning as is almost past all hope and recovery. It is the bane all society: men cry out of it, because they would have none covetous, rich but themselves. A hater he is of mankind; he hates all poor, they would beg something of him; and all rich, because they have which he would have. A covetous man would have all that all have. Thus speaks a noble father (Chrysostom). Such believe not the word, they trust neither nor man. For he that trusts not God, cannot trust man. It robs God that confidence we should have in him, and dependence we owe unto him it turns a man from all the commandments. Hence the prophet prays God to turn his heart to his commandments, "and not to covetousness." For not only we ought not, but as the phrase is, "we cannot serve God mammon, "Luke 16:13. Richard Capel, in "Tentations: their Danger, Cure." 1655.
Ver. 36. Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.
Without a restraining hand the heart is prone to turn aside into the byways of petty love of pelf. The remedy must be from above. Heavenly aid is therefore sought. Henry Law.
Ver. 36. Incline my heart. Were we naturally and spontaneously inclined to the righteousness of the law, there would be no occasion for the petition of the Psalmist, "Incline my heart." It remains, therefore, that our hearts are full of sinful thoughts, and wholly rebellious until God by his grace change them. John Calvin.
Ver. 36. Incline my heart. In the former verses David had asked understanding and direction to know the Lord's will; now he asketh an inclination of heart to do the Lord's will. The understanding needs not only to be enlightened, but the will to be moved and changed. Man's heart is of its own accord averse from God and holiness, even then when the wit is most refined, and the understanding is stocked and stored with high notions about it: therefore David doth not only say, "Give me understanding, "but, "Incline my heart." We can be worldly of ourselves, but we cannot be holy and heavenly of ourselves; that must be asked of him who is the Father of lights, from whom cometh down every good and perfect gift. They that plead for the power of nature, shut out the use of prayer. But Austin hath said well, Naturn vera confessione non falsa defersione opus habet :we need rather to confess our weakness, than defend our strength. Thus doth David, and so will every broken hearted Christian that hath had an experience of the inclinations of his own soul, he will come to God, and say, Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 36. Incline. Then shall I not decline. James G. Murphy.
Ver. 36. Unto thy testimonies. The contrast is most striking. There are the divine testimonies on the one hand, and there is "covetousness" on the other. God stands on one side, the world on the other. The renewed man chooses between the two; he does not require long to think, and God is his choice. John Stephen.
Ver. 36. Not to covetousness. He prays in particular that his heart may be diverted from covetousness, which is not only an evil, but as saith the Apostle, "the root of all evil." David here opposes it as an adversary to all the righteousness of God's testimonies: it inverts the order of nature, and makes the heavenly soul earthly. It is a handmaid of all sins; for there is no sin which a covetous man will not serve for his gain. We should beware of all sins, but specially of mother sins. William Cowper.
Ver. 36. Covetousness, or rather, "gain unjustly acquired."... The Hebrew word [xB can only mean plunder, rapine, unjust gain. J. J. Stewart Perowne.
Ver. 36. Covetousness. S. Bonaventura, on our Psalm, says Covetousness must be hated, shunned, put away: must be hated, because it attacks the life of nature: must be shunned, because it hinders the life of grace: must be put away, because it obstructs the life of glory. Clemens Alexandrinus says that covetousness is the citadel of the vices, and Ambrose says that it is the loss of the soul. Thomas Le Blanc.
Ver. 36. Covetousness. I would observe to the reader, and desire him duly and seriously to consider, that although this commandment, "Thou shalt not covet, "is placed the last in number, yet it is too often the first that is broken, man's covetous heart leading the van in transgression. William Crouch, in "The Enormous Sin of Covetousness detected, " 1709.
Ver. 36. Covetousness is an immoderate desire of riches, in which these vices concur. First , An excessive love of riches, and the fixing of our hearts upon them. Secondly , A resolution to become rich, either by lawful or unlawful means, 1 Timothy 6:9. Thirdly , Too much haste in gathering riches, joined with impatience of any delay, Proverbs 28:20,22, 20:21. Fourthly , An insatiable appetite, which can never be satisfied; but when they have too much, they still desire more, and have never enough, Ecclesiastes 4:8. Like the horseleech, Proverbs 30:15; the dropsy, and hell itself, Proverbs 27:20. Fifthly , Miser like tenacity, whereby they refuse to communicate their goods, either for the use of others, or themselves. Sixthly , Cruelty. Proverbs 1:18-19, exercised both in their unmercifulness and oppression of the poor. Covetousness is a most heinous vice; for it is idolatry, and the root of all evil, Col 3:5 1 Timothy 6:10; a pernicious thorn, that stifles all grace and chokes the seed of the word, Matthew 13:22, and pierceth men through with many sorrows, 1 Timothy 6:10, and drowns them in destruction and perdition. James Usher, 1580-1655.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 36. — Holiness a cure for covetousness.
Ver. 36,112. — The Cooperation of the Divine and the Human in Salvation. 1. It is God that worketh in you: Psalm 119:36. 2. Therefore work out your own salvation with fear and trembling:
Psalm 119:112. — C.A.D.
PSALM 119:37 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 37. Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity. He had prayed about his heart, and one would have thought that the eyes would so surely have been influenced by the heart that there was no need to make them the objects of a special petition; but our author is resolved to make assurance doubly sure. If the eyes do not see, perhaps the heart may not desire: at any rate, one door of temptation is closed when we do not even look at the painted bauble. Sin first entered man's mind by the eye, and it is still a favourite gate for the incoming of Satan's allurements: hence the need of a double watch upon that portal. The prayer is not so much that the eyes may be shut as "turned away" ; for we need to have them open, but directed to right objects. Perhaps we are now gazing upon folly, we need to have our eyes turned away; and if we are beholding heavenly things we shall be wise to beg that our eyes may be kept away from vanity. Why should we look on vanity? — it melts away as a vapour. Why not look upon things eternal? Sin is vanity, unjust gain is vanity, self conceit is vanity, and, indeed, all that is not of God comes under the same head. From all this we must turn away. It is a proof of the sense of weakness felt by the Psalmist and of his entire dependence upon God that he even asks to have his eyes turned for him; he meant not to make himself passive, but he intended to set forth his own utter helplessness apart from the grace of God. For fear he should forget himself and gaze with a lingering longing upon forbidden objects, he entreats the Lord speedily to make him turn away his eyes, hurrying him off from so dangerous a parley with iniquity. If we are kept from looking on vanity we shall be preserved from loving iniquity. And quicken thou me in thy way. Give me so much life that dead vanity may have no power over me. Enable me to travel so swiftly in the road to heaven that I may not stop long enough within sight of vanity to be fascinated thereby. The prayer indicates our greatest need, — more life in our obedience. It shows the preserving power of increased life to keep us from the evils which are around us, and it, also, tells us where that increased life must come from, namely, from the Lord alone. Vitality is the cure of vanity. When the heart is full of grace the eyes will be cleansed from impurity. On the other hand, if we would be full of life as to the things of God we must keep ourselves apart from sin and folly, or the eyes will soon captivate the mind, and, like Samson, who could slay his thousands, we may ourselves be overcome through the lusts which enter by the eye.
This verse is parallel to Psalm 119:21,29 in the previous eights: "rebuke, ""remove, ""turn away"; or "proud, ""lying, " "vanity."
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 37. Turn away mine eyes, etc. Literally, "Make mine eyes to pass from seeing vanity; " as though he would pray, Whatever is of vanity, make me to pass without seeing it. The sentiment is strikingly like that in our Lord's prayer: "Lead us not into temptation." Having prayed for what he wanted to see, the Psalmist here prays for the hiding of what he would not see.
Ver. 37. Turn away mine eyes, etc. Having prayed for his heart, he now prayeth for his eyes also. Omnia a Deo petit, docens, illum omnia efficere .
By the eyes oftentimes, as by windows, death enters into the heart; therefore to keep the heart in a good estate three things are requisite, First, careful study of the senses, specially of the eyes; for it is a righteous working of the Lord, ut qui exteriori oculo negligenter utitur, intertori non injuste caecetur that he who negligently useth the external eye of his body, should punished with blindness in the internal eye of his mind. And for this cause Nazianzen, deploring the calamities of his soul, wished that a door might set before his eyes and ears, to close them when they opened to anything that is not good; malis autem sua sponte uturumque clauderetur .
The second thing is, a subduing of the body by discipline. And the third is, continuance in prayer. William Cowper.
Ver. 37. Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity. Notice that he does not say, I will turn away mine eyes; but, "Turn away mine eyes." This shows that it is not possible for us sufficiently to keep our by our own caution and diligence; but there must be divine keeping. For, first, wheresoever in this world you turn yourself provocations to are met with.
Secondly, with the unwary, and with far different the persons, the eyes, the servants of a corrupt heart, wander after the things which are the vanities.
Thirdly, before you are aware, the evil contracted through eyes creeps in to the inmost recesses of the heart, and casts in the seeds perdition. This the Psalmist himself had experienced, not without greatest trouble both of heart and condition. Wolfgang Musculus, 1563.
Ver. 37. Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity. It may seem strange prayer of David, to say, "Turn away mine eyes from seeing vanity; " as though God meddled with our looking; or that we had not power in selves to cast our eyes upon what objects we list. But is it not, that we delight in, we delight to look upon? and what we love, we love to seeing? and so to pray to God, that our eyes may not see vanity; is as much as to pray for grace, that we be not in love with vanity. For, vanity hath of itself so graceful an aspect, that it is not for a natural man to leave looking upon it; unless the fairer aspect of God's grace draw our eyes from vanity, to look upon itself; which will always naturally looking upon the fairest. And as David here makes his prayer in the particular, against temptations of prosperity, so Christ teacheth us to make prayer in the general, against the temptations, both of prosperity adversity, and very justly. For many can bear the temptations of one who are quickly overcome by temptations of the other kind. So David could bear persecution without murmuring, but when he came to prosperity could not turn away his eyes from vanity. Sir Richard Baker.
Ver. 37. Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity. An ugly object loses much of its deformity when we look often upon it. Sin follows the general law, and is to be avoided altogether, even in its contemplation, we would be safe. A man should be thankful in this world that he eyelids; and as he can close his eyes, so he should often do it. Albert Barnes.
Ver. 37. Turn away, then quicken, etc. The first request is for the removing the impediments of obedience, the other for the addition of new degrees of grace. These two are fitly joined, for they have a natural influence upon one another; unless we turn away our eyes from vanity, we shall soon contract deadness of heart. Nothing causeth it so much as an inordinate liberty in carnal vanities; when our affections are alive to other things, they are dead to God, therefore the less we let loose our hearts to these things, the more lively and cheerful in the work of obedience. On the other side, the more the rigour of grace is renewed, and the habits of it quickened into actual exercise, the more is sin mortified and subdued. Sin dieth, and our senses are restored to their proper use. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 37. Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity. That sin may be avoided we must avoid whatsoever leads to or occasions it. As this caused Job (Job 31:1) to covenant strongly with his eyes, so it caused David to pray earnestly about his eyes. "Turn away mine eyes (or as the Hebrew may be rendered, make them to pass ), from beholding vanity." The eye is apt to make a stand, or fix itself, when we come in view of an ensnaring object; therefore it is our duty to hasten it away, or to pray that God would make it pass off from it... He that feareth burning must take heed of playing with fire: he that feareth drowning must keep out of deep waters. He that feareth the plague must not go into an infected house. Would they avoid sin who present themselves to the opportunities of it? Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 37. Turn away mine eyes. Lest looking cause liking and lusting: John 2:16. In Hebrew the same word signifieth both an eye and a fountain; to show that from the eye, as from a fountain, floweth much mischief; and by that window Satan often winds himself into the soul. This David found by experience, and therefore prays here, "Turn away, " transfer, make to pass "mine eyes, " etc. He knew the danger of irregular glancing and inordinate gazing. John Trapp.
Ver. 37. Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity. It is a most dangerous experiment for a child of God to place himself within the sphere of seductive temptations. Every feeling of duty, every recollection of his own weakness, every remembrance of the failure of others, should induce him to hasten to the greatest possible distance from the scene of unnecessary conflict and danger. John Morison.
Ver. 37. Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity. From gazing at the delusive mirages which tempt the pilgrim to leave the safe highway. William Kay.
Ver. 37. Is it asked— "What will most effectually turn my eyes from vanity?" Not the seclusion of contemplative retirement— not the relinquishment of our lawful connexion with the world— but the transcendent beauty of Jesus unveiled to our eyes, and fixing our hearts. Charles Bridges.
Ver. 37. Turn away mine eyes, etc. The fort royal of your souls is in danger of a surprise while the outworks of your senses are unguarded.
Your eyes, which may be floodgates to pour out tears, should not be casements to let in lusts. A careless eye is an index to a graceless heart.
Remember, the whole world died by a wound in the eye. The eyes of a Christian should be like sunflowers, which are opened to no blaze but that of the sun. William Seeker, 1660.
Ver. 37. Vanity, in Hebrew usage, has often special reference to idols and the accompaniments of idol worship. The Psalmist prays that he may never be permitted even to see such tempting objects. Henry Cowles.
Ver. 37. Quicken thou me. Every saint is very apt to be a sluggard in the way and work of God. "Quicken me, " says one of the chiefest and choicest of saints, "in thy way" ; and it is as much as if he should say in plain terms, "Ah, Lord! I am a dull jade, and have often need of thy spur, thy Spirit."
This prayer of David seems proof enough to this point; but if you desire farther confirmation, I shall produce an argument instar omnium , "that none shall dare to deny, nor be able to disapprove"; and that is drawn from the topic of your own experience; and this is argumentum lugubre , like a funeral anthem, "very sad and sorrowful." Do you not feel and find, to the grief of your own souls, that, whereas you should weep as if you wept not, rejoice as if you rejoiced not, and buy as if you possessed not; inverso ordine , "inverting this order, " you weep for losses as if you would weep out your eyes; you rejoice in temporal comforts as if you were in heaven; and you buy as if it were for ever and a day (Psalm 49:11). But e contrario , "on the contrary, " you pray as if you prayed not; hear as if you heard not; work for God as' if you worked not. Now, we know, experto credas , ("You may yield credence to that of which you have made trial.") a man that sticks fast in a ditch needs no reason to prove he is in, but remedies to pull him out. Your best course will be to propose the case how you may get rid of this unwelcome guest, spiritual sloth: it is a case we are all concerned in, Asini aures quis non habet ("where is the man who hath not the ears of an ass?") Every man and mortal hath some of the ass's dulness and sloth in him. Simmons, in "The Morning Exercises, " 1661.
Ver. 37. Quicken thou me. Another quickening ordinance is prayer . How often doth David pray for quickening grace? five or six times in one Psalm.
He begins many a prayer with a heavy heart, and before he hath done he is full of life. Therefore, pray much, because all life is from God, and he quickens whom he will. Only let me add this caution, before I let this pass, — Be sure thy understanding and affection go along together in every ordinance, and in every part of the ordinance, as thou wouldst have it a quickening ordinance. Matthew Lawrence, in "The Use and Practice of Faith, " 1657.
Ver. 37. Thy way, by way of emphasis, in opposition to and exaltation of, above, all other ways. There is a fourfold way: 1. Via mundi , the way of the world; and that is spinosa , thorny. 2. Via carnis , the way of the flesh; and that is insidiosa , treacherous. 3. Via Satana, the way of the devil; and that is tenebricosa , darksome. 4. Via Domini , the way of God; and that is gratiosa , gracious. Simmons.
Ver. 37-38. Prayer is nothing but the promise reversed, or God's word formed into an argument, and retorted by faith upon God again. Know, Christian, thou hast law on thy side. Bills and bonds must be paid. David prays against the sins of a wanton eve and a dead heart: Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way ; and see how he urges his argument in the next words, — Stablish thy word unto thy servant. A good man is as good as his word, and will not a good God be so? But where finds David such a word for help against these sins? Surely in the covenant. It is in the magna charta. The first promise held forth thus much, — "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." William Gumall.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 37. — Quicken thou me in thy way. This brief prayer— 1. Deals with the believer's frequent need. 2. It directs us to the sole worker of quickening: "Thou." 3. It describes the sphere of renewed rigour: "in thy way." 4. It denotes that there may be special reasons and special seasons for this prayer— times of temptation: Psalm 119:37; seasons of affliction:
Psalm 119:107; when called to some extraordinary service. See "Spurgeon's Sermons, "No. 1073: "A Honeycomb."
Ver. 37. — Here is, 1. Conversion from "vanity." 2. Conversion to— "thy way." 3. Conversion by— "Quicken thou me." — G. R.
Ver. 37. — David prays, 1. For restraining grace that he might be prevented and kept back from that which would hinder him in the way of his duty: "Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity." 2. For constraining grace, that he might not only be kept from everything that would obstruct his progress heavenward, but that he might have that grace which was necessary to forward him in that progress: "Quicken thou me in thy way." — M. Henry.
PSALM 119:38 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 38. Stablish thy word unto thy servant. Make me sure of thy sure word: make it sure to me and make me sure of it. If we possess the spirit of service, and yet are troubled with sceptical thoughts we cannot do better than pray to be established in the truth. Times will arise when every doctrine and promise seems to be shaken, and our mind gets no rest: then we must appeal to God for establishment in the faith, for he would have all his servants to be well instructed and confirmed in his word. But we must mind that we are the Lord's servants, for else we shall not long be sound in his truth. Practical holiness is a great help towards doctrinal certainty: if we are God's servants he will confirm his word in our experience. "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine"; and so know it as to be fully assured of it. Atheism in the heart is a horrible plague to a God fearing man, it brings more torment with it than can well be described; and nothing but a visitation of grace can settle the soul after it has been violently assailed thereby. Vanity or falsehood is bad for the eyes, but it is even worse when it defiles the understanding and casts a doubt upon the word of the living God. Who is devoted to thy fear, or simply— "to thy fear." That is, make good thy word to godly fear: wherever it exists; strengthen the whole body of reverent men. Stablish thy word, not only to me, but to all the godly ones under the sun. Or, again, it may mean — "Stablish thy word to thy fear, "namely, that men may be led to fear thee; since a sure faith in the divine promise is the fountain and foundation of godly fear. Men will never worship a God in whom they do not believe. More faith will lead to more godly fear. We cannot look for the fulfilment of promises in our experience unless we live under the influence of the fear of the Lord: establishment in grace is the result of holy watchfulness and prayerful energy. We shall never be rooted and grounded in our belief unless we daily practise what we profess to believe. Full assurance is the reward of obedience. Answers to prayer are given to those whose hearts answer to the Lord's command.
If we are devoted to God's fear we shall be delivered from all other fear.
He has no fear as to the truth of the word who is filled with fear of the Author of the word. Scepticism is both the parent and the child of impiety; but strong faith both begets piety and is begotten of it. We commend this whole verse to any devout man whose tendency is to scepticism: it will be an admirable prayer for use in seasons of unusually strong misgivings.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 38. Stablish thy word unto thy servant. In view of the exposition of the previous verses of the section this would be more correctly rendered, "Hold up thy word before thy servant; "i.e. , hold it up to my eyes, to my mind, to my steps, and to my heart. Make all that is vain to pass, so that I see it not; but let thy word be so set up before my whole being that I shall always see it, and thus, by it, see my way to thee.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 38. Stablish thy word unto thy servant, etc. — Well, but here is a strange thing— a man who is a true "servant of God, " "devoted to his fear, " praying for what he surely must already have, else how could he be a servant? or be living in Jehovah's fear? He seems to assume, clearly and without any doubt, his own personal consecration, and then he prays for that which must surely be, at least in considerable measure, assumed and comprehended in the very idea of a true personal consecration. Unless God's word is made sure to a man he will never become his servant. If he is his servant, why should he pray, "Stablish thy word" ? Why, too, should he say in Psalm 119:35, "Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight" ? "Therein do I delight. It is the way of my choice, of my joy!" And yet, "Make me to go in it, "as if I were unwilling. This apparent contradiction or discrepancy is easily solved in a true experience, and can be, in fact, solved in no other way. Is not this the very condition of many and many a one? "Stablished, " yet moved; "devoted, " yet uncertain; "serving" God truly, yet looking and longing for clearer warrant, and higher sanction, and more inward grace, to make the service better; "believing, "yet crying, sometimes, "with tears, Help thou mine unbelief!" Alexander Raleigh.
Ver. 38. Stablish thy word unto thy servant. Why doth David pray thus, "Stablish thy word to me; " since God's word is most certain and so stable in itself that it cannot be more so? (2 Peter 1:19). "We have a more sure, "or a more stable, "word of prophecy, "as the word signifies. How can the word be more stable than it is? I answer, it is sure in regard of God from whom it comes, and in itself. In regard of the things propounded it cannot be more or less stable, it cannot be fast and loose: but in regard of us, it may be more or less established. And that two ways, — 1. By the inward assurance of the Spirit increasing our faith. 2. By the outward performance of what is promised.
First, By the inward assurance of the Spirit, by which our faith is increased.
Great is the weakness of our faith, as appears by our fears, doubts, distrusts, so that we need to be assured more and more. We need say with tears as he doth in the gospel: "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief" (Mark 9:24); and to cry out with the apostles, "Lord, increase our faith" (Luke 17:5). There is none believeth so, but he may yet believe more. And in this sense the word is more established, when we are confirmed in the belief of it, and look upon it as sure ground for faith to rest upon.
Secondly, By actual performance, when the promise is made good to us.
Every event which falls out according to the word is a notable testimony of the truth of it, and a seal to confirm and strengthen our faith. Three ways may this be made good. 1. The making good of some promises at one time strengthens our faith in expecting the like favour at another. Christ was angry with his disciples for not remembering the miracle of the loaves, when they fell into a like strait again. "Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves?" (Matthew 16:9). We are to seek upon every difficulty; whereas former experience in the same kind should be a means of establishment to us: "He hath delivered, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us" (2 Corinthians 1:10). In teaching a child to spell we are angry, if, when we have showed him a letter once, twice, and a third time, yet when he meets with it again still he misses: so, God is angry with us when we have had experience of his word in this, that, and the other providence, yet still our doubts return upon us. 2. The accomplishment of one promise confirms another; for God, that keepeth touch at one time, will do so at another: "I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom." (2 Timothy 4:17-18). In such a strait God failed not, and surely he that hath been true hitherto will not fail at last. 3. When the word is performed in part, it assures us of, the performance of the whole. It is an earnest given us of all the rest: For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him amen (2 Corinthians 1:20). A Christian hath a great many promises, and they are being performed daily; God is delivering, comforting, protecting him, speaking peace to his conscience; but the greater part are yet to be performed. Present experiences do assure us of what is to come. Thus, "Stablish thy word, " that is, make it good by the event, that I may learn to trust another time either for the same, or other promises or accomplishments of thy whole word. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 38. Stablish thy word unto thy servant. Confirm it; make it seem firm and true; let not my mind be vacillating or sceptical in regard to thy truth.
This seems to be a prayer against the influence of doubt and scepticism; a prayer that doubts might not be suffered to spring up in his mind, and that the objections and difficulties of scepticism might have no place there.
There is a class of men whose minds are naturally sceptical and unbelieving, and for such men such a prayer is peculiarly appropriate. For none can it be improper to pray that the word of God may always seem to them to be true; that their minds may never be left to the influence of doubt and unbelief. Albert Barnes.
Ver. 38. Who is devoted to thy fear. The word may be rendered either which or who; as relating either to thy word or to thy servant. 1. Thy word; for in the original Hebrew the posture of the verse is thus, "Stablish to thy servant thy word, which is to the fearing of thee, "or, "which is given that thou mayest be feared; "there being in the word of God the greatest arguments and inducements to fear, to reverence, and to obey him. The word of God was appointed to plant the fear of God in our hearts, and to increase our reverence of God; not that we may play the wantons with promises, and feed our lusts with them. 2. I rather take our own translation, and it hath such a sense as that passage, "But I give myself unto prayer" (Psalm 119:4). In the original it is, "But I prayer." So in this place it may be read, Stablish thy word to thy servant, "Who is to thy fear." Our translators add, to make the sense more full, addicted, or "devoted to thy fear, "that is, who makes it his business, care, and desire to stand in the fear of God.
Now this is added as a true note and description of God's servants, as being a main thing in religion, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm 11:10), it is the first in point of order, and it is the first thing when we begin to be wise, to think of God, to have awful thoughts of God, it is a chief point of wisdom, the great thing that makes us wise to salvation. And it is added as an argument of prayer, "O Lord, let thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name" (Nehemiah 1:11).
The more any are given to the fear of God, the more assurance they have of God's love, and of his readiness to hear them at the throne of grace. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 38. Who is devoted to thy fear. He who hath received from the Lord grace to fear him may be bold to seek any necessary good thing from him; because the fear of God hath annexed the promises of all other blessings with it. William Cowper.
Ver. 38. He that chooses God, devotes himself to God as the vessels of the sanctuary were consecrated and set apart from common to holy uses, so he that has chosen God to be his God, has dedicated himself to God, and will no more be devoted to profane uses. Thomas Watson.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE
Ver. 38. — Confirmation. What? "Thy word established." To whom? "Unto thy servant." Why? "Who is devoted, "etc.
Ver. 38. — Fear of God evidences itself, 1. By a dread of his displeasure. 2. Desire of his favour. 3. Regard for his excellencies. 4. Submission to his will. 5. Gratitude for his benefits. 6. Conscientious obedience to his commands. — Charles Buck.
Ver. 38. — The four kinds of fear. 1. The fear of man, by which we are led rather to do wrong than to suffer evil. 2. Servile fear, through which we are induced to avoid sin only from the dread of hell. 3. Initial fear, in which we avoid sin partly from the fear of hell, but partly also from the love of God, which is the fear of ordinary Christians. 4. Filial fear, when we are afraid to disobey God only and altogether from the love we bear him. Jeremiah 32:40. — Ayguan, in J. Edward Vaux's "Preacher's Storehouse, "1878.
PSALM 119:39 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 39. Turn away my reproach which I fear. He feared just reproach, trembling lest he should cause the enemy to blaspheme through any glaring inconsistency. We ought to fear this, and watch that we may avoid it.
Persecution in the form of calumny may also be prayed against, for it is a sore trial, perhaps the sorest of trials to men of sensitive minds. Many would sooner bear burning at the stake than the trial of cruel mockings.
David was quick tempered, and he probably had all the greater dread of slander because it raised his anger, and he could hardly tell what he might not do under great provocation. If God turns away our eyes from falsehood, we may also expect that he will turn away falsehood from injuring our good name. We shall be kept from lies if we keep from lies. For thy judgments are good. Therefore he is anxious that none may speak evil of the ways of God through hearing an ill report about himself. We mourn when we are slandered; because the shame is cast rather upon our religion than ourselves. If men would be content to attribute evil to us , and go no further, we might bear it, for we are evil; but our sorrow is that they cast a slur upon the word and character of God, who is so good, that there is none good in comparison with him. When men rail at God's government of the world it is our duty and privilege to stand up for him, and openly to declare before him, "thy judgments are good"; and we should do the same when they assail the Bible, the gospel, the law, or the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. But we must take heed that they can bring no truthful accusation against us, or our testimony will be so much wasted breath.
This prayer against reproach is parallel to Psalm 119:31, and in general to many other of the seventh verses in the octaves, which usually imply opposition from without and a sacred satisfaction within. Observe the things which are good: "thy judgments are good; " "thou art good and doest good" (Psalm 119:68); "good for me to have been afflicted" (Psalm 119:71); "teach me good judgment" (Psalm 119:66).
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 39. Turn away my reproach which I fear. "Cause to pass my reproach which I feared." This also, like the vanity spoken of in Psalm 119:37, the Psalmist prays that he may not see. He would have the gaze of his whole manhood bent only on the word. The reproach which he feared is that to which he had already referred in Psalm 119:21-22, and perhaps again in Psalm 119:31. The proud had erred from the commandments, and had inherited rebuke; it was the reproach and shame which were theirs that the Psalmist would have to be turned aside, so that they should not be seen. For thy judgments are good. This is given as a reason why the reproach should be thus turned aside. The proud had thought lightly and contemptuously on the divine judgments, hence their reproach; the Psalmist held those judgments to be good, and thus hoped that he might not see reproach.
Ver. 39. Turn away my reproach, etc. In these words you have, 1. A request, "Turn away my reproach." 2. A reason to enforce it. "For thy judgments are good." First, for the request. "Turn away, " roll from upon me, so it signifies. He was clothed with reproach; now roll from me "my reproach." Some think he means God's condemnatory sentence, which would turn to ills reproach, or some remarkable rebuke from God, because of his sin. Rather, I think, the reproach of his enemies; and he calls it "my reproach, " either as deserved by himself, or as having personally lighted upon him, the reproach which was like to be his lot and portion in the world, through the malice of his enemies: "the reproach which I fear, " that is, which I have cause to expect, and am sensible of the sad consequences of it.
Secondly, for the reason by which this is enforced: "for thy judgments are good." There are different opinions about the form of this argument. Some take the reason thus: Let me not suffer reproach for adhering to thy word, thy word which is so good. But David doth not speak here of suffering reproach for righteousness' sake, but such reproach as was likely to befall him because of his own infirmities and failings. Reproaches for righteousness' sake are to be "rejoiced in; "but he saith, this I "fear, "and therefore I suppose this doth not hit the reason. Neither do I accept the other sense, — Why should I be looked upon as an evil doer as long as I keep thy law, and observe thy statutes? Others judge badly of me, but I appeal to thy good judgment.
By "judgments" we may understand God's dealings. Thou dost not deal with men according to their desert. Thy dispensations are kind and gracious. Better still: by "judgments" are meant the ways, statutes, and ordinances of God called judgments, because all our words, works, thoughts are to be judged according to the sentence of the word: now these, it is a pity they should suffer in my reproach and ignominy. This is that I fear more than anything else that can happen to me. I think the reason will better run thus: Lord, there is in thy law, word, covenant, many promises to encourage thy people, and therefore rules to provide for the due honour and credit of thy people. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 39. Turn away my reproach. In the Hebrew it is, "Take away my rebuke" ; as if he should have said, O Lord, I may commit some such evil against thy good law, yea, some such notorious transgression, as may tend to my shame; I beseech thee, take it away. Or else he meaneth, I have already, O Lord, by divers sins, and by name through adultery and murder brought shame and rebuke upon myself among men; I entreat thee to remove this shame and rebuke.
Out of the first exposition we learn, First, that the godly are subject unto notorious sins. Secondly, that those sins will cause shame in them, though the wicked will not be ashamed. Thirdly, that God only can take away this shame. Fourthly, that we may pray for the removing of shame even amongst men, especially that which may bring with it some dishonour to God. Fifthly, that the godly are most jealous over themselves. Sixthly, the way to avoid sin is ever to be afraid lest we should sin.
Out of the second exposition note, that the remembrance of our former sins must draw out of us prayers unto God, that for them we may not be rebuked in displeasure in this life, nor confounded and abashed in the life to come. Richard Greenham.
Ver. 39. My reproach is the reproach which the world casts on the God fearing. This is dreaded as a great temptation to apostasy. James G.
Ver. 39. For thy judgments are good. One would have expected him to say— For thou art merciful— Cause my reproach which I fear to pass over from me, for thou art merciful. No, he does not add this as his present reason, but "Thy judgments are good." We should catch the meaning at once, were the words these— For thy judgments are awful — "Turn away my reproach which I fear, "for thy judgments are awful. But as the words are— "For thy judgments are good , "we find he verily takes refuge in the "judgments" — viz., that the Lord would vindicate him against all the unjust judgments of men; and as to judgment with God, since he took refuge in the atonement which the Lord had appointed, the Lord would vindicate him there also. John Stephen.
Ver. 39. For thy judgments are good. The judgments of the wicked are bad judgments, but the judgments of God are good; I pray against those, I appeal, to these: I fear the one, I approve the other. Now the judgments which God pronounces in his word, be they threatenings in the law, or consolations in the Gospel, yea, and those also which he executeth in the world, whether upon the godly or godless, they must needs be good. 1. Because God is goodness itself. 2. He cannot be deceived. 3. He will not be bribed. 4. He alone is no respecter of persons, but judgeth according to every man's work. Richard Greenham.
Ver. 39. The "reproach" which the poet fears in this verse is not the reproach of confessing, but of denying God. Franz Delitzsch.
Ver. 39. For thy judgments are good. This reason shows he feared God's rebuke. Man's "reproach" comes from a corrupt judgment, he condemns where God will absolve, I pass not for it; but I know thy rebuke is always deserved, "for thy judgments are good." William Nicholson.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 39. — 1. Man's judgment dreaded. 2. God's judgment approved.
Ver. 39. — The reproach of inconsistency. 1. The dishonour caused by it (2 Samuel 12:14). 2. The danger of incurring it. 3. The prayer against it. — C.A.D.
PSALM 119:40 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 40. Behold, I have longed after thy precepts. He can at least claim sincerity. He is deeply bowed down by a sense of his weakness and need of grace; but he does desire to be in all things conformed to the divine will.
Where our longings are, there are we in the sight of God. If we have not attained perfection, it is something to have hungered after it. He who has given us to desire, will also grant us to obtain. The precepts are grievous to the ungodly, and therefore when we are so changed as to long for them we have clear evidence of conversion, and we may safely conclude that he who has begun the good work will carry it on. Quicken me in thy righteousness. Give me more life wherewith to follow thy righteous law; or give me more life because thou hast promised to hear prayer, and it is according to thy righteousness to keep thy word. How often does David plead for quickening! But never once too often. We need quickening every hour of the day, for we are so sadly apt to become slow and languid in the ways of God. It is the Holy Spirit who can pour new life into us; let us not cease crying to him. Let the life we already possess show itself by longing for more.
The last verses of the octaves have generally exhibited an onward look of resolve, hope, and prayer. Here past fruits of grace are made the plea for further blessing. Onward in the heavenly life is the cry of this verse.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 40. Behold, I have longed after, etc. This is given as a more intense form of the statement which he had just made, that he esteemed the judgments to be good. They were so good that he longed after them. Blot only so, but he desired to long after them even more. Thus he prays for even more life and rigour in pursuing the path which they pointed out— Quicken me in thy righteousness. He who really longs after divine truth, mourns that he does not long more. When the heart has no love, thee mind has no light, and can only judge the precepts erroneously. "The pure in heart" see better with the mind than can the impure. "Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness." Love so enlarges discernment that he who really loves often finds that his judgment of the blessedness of truth has outstripped even his longing for it. Hence it is the quick who cry, "Quicken me" ; it is those who have living desires who pray for yet more life in the way of righteousness.
Ver. 40. I have longed after thy precepts. We are sometimes unconsciously led to "long" after the promises, more than "after the precepts" of God; forgetting that it is our privilege and safety to have an equal regard to both— to obey his precepts in dependence on his promises, and to expect the accomplishment of the promises in the way of obedience to the precepts. Charles Bridges.
Ver. 40. Precepts, from a word which means to place in trust , mean something entrusted to man, "that which is committed to thee"; appointments of God, which consequently have to do with the conscience, for which man is responsible, as an intelligent being. The precepts are not so obviously apprehended as the law and the testimonies. They must be sought out. "Behold, my desire is for thy precepts" (Psalm 119:40). "Thy precepts I seek" (Psalm 119:45). "Thy precepts I have sought" (Psalm 119:94)... They are a law of liberty: "And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts" (Psalm 119:45). John Jebb.
Ver. 40. Quicken me in thy righteousness. He said before, "Quicken me in thy word, "here, "in thy righteousness"; all is one; for the word of God is the righteousness of God, in which is set down the will of righteousness. In this the prophet desires to be quickened, that is, to be confirmed, that in cheerfulness and gladness of spirit he might rely upon the word of God. Richard Greenham.
Ver. 40. Quicken me in thy righteousness. The petition is for liveliness in the knowledge and practice of holiness, according to the tenor of God's word and by its operation on the heart. If any prefer by "righteousness" to understand the faithfulness or justice of God, whereby he has bound himself to give grace to those who trust in him, there is no objection to such an interpretation. It is in fact implied in the others. Whoever can truly use the language of this verse is regenerate. Before renewing grace the law was a dead letter. It was more; it was a hated letter. The carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. A sinner desires no restraint from the divine precepts. William S. Plumer.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 40. — 1. Gracious longings experienced. 2. Great necessity felt— more life needed. 3. Wise petition offered.
PSALM 119:41 EXPOSITION.
In these verses holy fear is apparent and prominent. The man of God trembles lest in any way or degree the Lord should remove his favour from him. The eight verses are one continued pleading for the abiding of grace in his soul, and it is supported by such holy arguments as would only suggest themselves to a spirit burning with love to God.
Ver. 41. Let thy mercies come also unto me, O LORD. He desires mercy as well as teaching, for he was guilty as well as ignorant. He needed much mercy and varied mercy, hence the request is in the plural. He needed mercy from God rather than from man, and so he asks for "thy mercies."
The way sometimes seemed blocked, and therefore he begs that the mercies may have their way cleared by God, and may "come" to him. He who said, "Let there be light, "can also say, "Let there be mercy." It may be that under a sense of unworthiness the writer feared lest mercy should be given to others, and not to himself; he therefore cries, "Bless me, even me also, O my Father." Viewed in this light the words are tantamount to our well known verse "Lord, I hear of showers of blessing Thou art scattering, full and free; Showers, the thirsty land refreshing; Let some droppings fall on me, Even me." Elizabeth Codner, 1860.
Lord, thine enemies come to me to reproach me, let thy mercies come to defend me; trials and troubles abound, and labours and sufferings not a few approach me; Lord, let thy mercies in great number enter by the same gate, and at the same hour; for art thou not the God of my mercy? Even thy salvation. This is the sum and crown of all mercies— deliverance from all evil, both now and for ever. Here is the first mention of salvation in the Psalm, and it is joined with mercy: "By grace are ye saved"...
Salvation is styled "thy salvation, "thus ascribing it wholly to the Lord: "He that is our God is the God of salvation." What a mass of mercies are heaped together in the one salvation of our Lord Jesus! It includes the mercies which spare us before our conversion, and lead up to it. Then comes calling mercy, regenerating mercy, converting mercy, justifying mercy, pardoning mercy. Nor can we exclude from complete salvation any of those many mercies which are needed to conduct the believer safe to glory. Salvation is an aggregate of mercies incalculable in number, priceless in value, incessant in application, eternal in endurance. To the God of our mercies be glory, world without end. According to thy word. The way of salvation is described in the word, salvation itself is promised in the word, and its inward manifestation is wrought by the word; so that in all respects the salvation which is in Christ Jesus is in accordance with the word. David loved the Scriptures, but he longed experimentally to know the salvation contained in them: he was not satisfied to read the word, he longed to experience its inner sense. He valued the field of Scripture for the sake of the treasure which he had discovered in it. He was not to be contented with chapter and verse, he wanted mercies and salvation.
Note that in the first verse of HE (Psalm 119:33) the Psalmist prayed to be taught to keep God's word, and here in VAU he begs the Lord to keep his word. In the first case he longed to come to the God of mercies, and here he would have the Lord's mercies come to him: there he sought grace to persevere in faith, and here he seeks the end of his faith, even the salvation of the soul.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 41-48. This commences a new portion of the Psalm, in which each verse begins with the letter Vau, or v . There are almost no words in Hebrew that begin with this letter, which is properly a conjunction, and hence in each of the verses in this section the beginning of the verse is in the original a conjunction, — vau. Albert Barnes.
Ver. 41-48. This whole section consists of petitions and promises. The petitions are two; Psalm 119:41,43. The promises are six. This, among many, is a difference between godly men and others: all men seek good things from God, but the wicked so seek that they give him nothing back again, nor yet will promise any sort of return. Their prayers must be unprofitable, because they proceed from love of themselves, and not of the Lord. If so be they obtain that which is for their necessity, they care not to give to the Lord that which is for his glory: but the godly, as they seek good things, so they give praise to God when they have gotten them, and return the use of things received, to the glory of God who gave them. They love not themselves for themselves, but for the Lord; what they seek from him they seek it for this end, that they may be the more able to serve him.
Let us take heed unto this; because it is a clear token whereby such as are truly religious are distinguished from counterfeit dissemblers. William Cowper.
Ver. 41. Let thy mercies come also unto me. The way was blocked up with sins and difficulties, yet mercy could clear all, and find access to him, or make its own way: "Let it come, " that is, let it be performed or come to pass, as it is rendered: "Now let thy words come to pass" (Judges 13:12) — Hebrew, "Let it come." Here we read, let it come home to me, for my comfort and deliverance. David elsewhere saith, "Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life" (Psalm 23:6); go after him, find him out in his wanderings. So, "What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits toward me?" (Psalm 116:12). They found their way to him though shut up with sins and dangers. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 41. Let thy mercies come also unto me, O Lord. The mercies of God everywhere meet the man whom God quickens (Psalm 119:40). David understood that God blesses the soul, the body, the household, the ordinances, and all things else that belong to his servants; the whole of which blessing is flora mercy, without merit, bestowed largely, wonderfully, etc. Martin Geier.
Ver. 41. Let thy mercies come also unto me, O LORD, etc. Ministers of the Word and students of Theology are reminded by this prayer that they ought not only to preach to others the true way of attaining everlasting salvation, but that they should also with earnest prayers cry unto God that they might themselves be made partakers of the Divine mercies, and receive "the end of their faith, the salvation of their souls." Paul, indeed, was greatly anxious respecting this matter, and was constrained to write, that he kept his body under, and brought it into subjection, lest after preaching to others he should himself be a castaway. Solomon Gesner.
Ver. 41. Thy mercies. Thy word. We should consider here the way in which the Prophet seeks salvation from God. In this prayer he conjoins two things, as those which uphold his confidence, viz., the mercy of God and his Word. These are to the man of faith the two strongest pillars of his hope. Wolfgang Musculus.
Ver. 41. Even thy salvation, etc. It is not any sort of delivery by any means, which the servant of God being in straits doth call for, or desire, but such a deliverance as God will allow, and be pleased to give in a holy way. "Let thy salvation come." As the word of promise is the rule of our petition, so is it a pawn of the thing promised, and must be held fast till the performance come: "Let thy mercies come also unto me, O LORD, even thy salvation, according to thy word" ; and this is one reason of the petition. David Dickson.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Outlines Upon Keywords of the Psalm, By Pastor C. A. Davis.
Ver. 41-48. — Promised mercies. Desired (Psalm 119:41), as an answer to "him that reproacheth" (Psalm 119:42-43); as a means of faithfulness (Psalm 119:44); liberty (Psalm 119:45); boldness (Psalm 119:46); delight (Psalm 119:47), and eager longing (Psalm 119:48).
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 41. — See "Spurgeon's Sermons, "No. 1524: "Your Personal Salvation."
Ver. 41. — 1. God's mercies come to us unsought continually. His sparing mercies, temporal mercies, etc. 2. The chief outcome of God's mercies is his salvation. It is our greatest need; it is his greatest gift. 3. We should have a personal interest in this salvation: "Let thy mercies come also unto me." 4. When we seek God's salvation, we may plead his promise: "according to thy word." — Horatio Wilkins, of Cheltenham, 188 2.
Ver. 41. — Even me. 1. In me there is need of mercy. 2. To me mercy can come. 3. Thy salvation suits me. 4. Special difficulties would daunt me. 5. Thy word encourages me.
Ver. 41. — 1. Salvation is all of mercy. 2. All mercies are in salvation. 3. All men should be anxious for salvation to come to them. 4. It can only come according to God's word. — W.W.
Ver. 41-43. — A Comprehensive Prayer. 1. The possession of salvation, Psalm 119:41. 2. Is the power for defence: Psalm 119:42. 3. And the qualification for usefulness: Psalm 119:43. — C.A.D.
PSALM 119:42 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 42. So shall I have wherewith to answer him that reproacheth me.
This is an unanswerable answer. When God, by granting us salvation, gives to our prayers an answer of peace, we are ready at once to answer the objections of the infidel, the quibbles of the sceptical, and the sneers of the contemptuous. It is most desirable that revilers should be answered, and hence we may expect the Lord to save his people in order that a weapon may be put into their hands with which to rout his adversaries. When those who reproach us are also reproaching God, we may ask him to help us to silence them by sure proofs of his mercy and faithfulness. For I trust in thy word. His faith was seen by his being trustful while under trial, and he pleads it as a reason why he should be helped to beat back reproaches by a happy experience. Faith is our argument when we seek mercies and salvation; faith in the Lord who has spoken to us in his word. "I trust in thy word" is a declaration more worth the making than any other; for he who can truly make it has received power to become a child of God, and so to be the heir of unnumbered mercies. God hath more respect to a man's trust than to all else that is in him; for the Lord hath chosen faith to be the hand into which he will place his mercies and his salvation. If any reproach us for trusting in God, we reply to them with arguments the most conclusive when we show that God has kept his promises, heard our prayers, and supplied our needs. Even the most sceptical are forced to bow before the logic of facts.
In this second verse of this eight the Psalmist makes a confession of faith, and a declaration of his belief and experience. Note that he does the same in the corresponding verses of the sections which follow. See Psalm 119:50, "Thy word hath quickened me"; Psalm 119:58, "I entreated thy favour"; Psalm 119:66, "I have believed thy commandments"; Psalm 119:74, "I have hoped in thy word." A wise preacher might find in these a series of experimental discourses.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 42. So shall I have, etc. I shall have something by which I may reply to those who calumniate me. So the Saviour replied to the suggestions of the tempter almost wholly by passages of Scripture (Matthew 4:4,7,10); and so, in many cases, the best answer that can be given to reproaches on the subject of religion will be found in the very words of Scripture. A man of little learning, except that which he has derived from the Bible, may often thus silence the cavils and reproaches of the learned sceptic; a man of simple hearted, pure piety, with no weapon but the word of God, may often thus be better armed than if he had all the arguments of the schools at his command. Comp. Ephesians 6:17. Albert Barnes.
Ver. 42. So shall I have wherewith to answer, etc. When the heart realizes assured salvation, it is supplied with abundant answers to those who sneer at the delights of faith. Henry Law.
Ver. 42. So shall I have wherewith to answer, etc. Hugo Cardinalis observeth that there are three sorts of blasphemers of the godly, — the devils, heretics, and slanderers. The devil must be answered by the internal word of humility; heretics by the external word of wisdom; slanderers by the active word of a good life. Richard Greenham.
Ver. 42. So shall I have, etc. For I should give them a short answer, and a true one, — that I trust in thy word; I put my confidence in thee, who canst make good thy promises, because thou art omnipotent; and wilt, because thou art merciful. William Nicholson.
Ver. 42. So shall I have wherewith to answer, etc. This follows the phrase, "according to thy word." Christians should learn from the example of David what to oppose to the reproaches and false accusations of the enemies of the truth. Nothing is done by railing; but weapons should be taken from the word of God; and these are strong through faith in God for the overturning of both the Devil himself and his instruments. For truly with weapons of this kind the Saviour himself discomfited Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11); and Paul (Ephesians 6:10-18) puts on himself, and commends to the Christian soldier, the girdle of Divine truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the Gospel, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Solomon Gessler.
Ver. 42. Wherewith to answer, etc. It is not forbidden to believers, modestly and fully, to answer those that reproach them, and to rebut the lie. See Proverbs 26:5 27:11. But to be able to answer them is received as a blessing from God. Martin Geier.
Ver. 42-43. In Psalm 119:42 there is a play upon the two senses of the term "word, " thus: "and I will answer my revilers a word, for I have trusted in thy word." Having trusted in thy word of promise, I shall have a word of reply to make to them when thou shalt graciously hear this prayer. Take not thy word of truth (i.e. , of promise) out of my mouth ; let me have it still to speak of before my enemies and to rest upon for my own soul. If God were to fail in fulfilling his word of promise, it would, in the sense here contemplated, be quite taken out of his mouth. Henry Cowles.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 42. — Faith's answer to reproach found in the fact that she trusts God's word.
Ver. 42-43, 47. — Faith, hope, and love. "I trust." "I have hoped." "I have loved." Faith warring, hope testifying, love obeying.
PSALM 119:43 EXPOSITION.
Ver 43. And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth. Do not prevent my pleading for thee by leaving me without deliverance; for how could I continue to proclaim thy word if I found it fail me? such would seem to be the run of the meaning. The word of truth cannot be a joy to our mouths unless we have an experience of it in our lives, and it may be wise for us to be silent if We cannot support our testimonies by the verdict of our consciousness. This prayer may also refer to other modes by which we may be disabled from speaking in the name of the Lord: as, for instance, by our falling into open sin, by our becoming depressed and despairing, by our labouring under sickness or mental aberration, by our finding no door of utterance, or meeting with no willing audience. He who has once preached the gospel from his heart is filled with horror at the idea of being put out of the ministry; he will crave to be allowed a little share in the holy testimony, and will reckon his dumb Sabbaths to be days of banishment and punishment. For I have hoped in thy judgments. He had expected God to appear and vindicate his cause, that so he might speak with confidence concerning his faithfulness. God is the author of our hopes, and we may most fittingly entreat him to fulfil them. The judgments of his providence are the outcome of his word; what he says in the Scriptures he actually performs in his government; we may therefore look for him to show himself strong on the behalf of his own threatenings and promises, and we shall not look in vain.
God's ministers are sometimes silenced through the sins of their people, and it becomes them to plead against such a judgment; better far that they should suffer sickness or poverty than that the candle of the gospel should be put out among them, and that thus they should be left to perish without remedy. The Lord save us, who are his ministers, from being made the instruments of inflicting such a penalty. Let us exhibit a cheerful hopefulness in God, that we may plead it in prayer with him when he threatens to close our lips.
In the close of this verse there is a declaration of what the Psalmist had done in reference to the word of the Lord, and in this the thirds of the octaves are often alike. See Psalm 119:35, "therein do I delight"; Psalm 119:43, "I have hoped in thy judgments"; Psalm 119:51, "yet have I not declined from thy law"; Psalm 119:59, "I turned my feet to thy testimonies"; and Psalm 119:67,83,99, etc. These verses would furnish an admirable series of meditations.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 43. Take not the word of truth, etc. It is well known that men do, when persecution threatens, either altogether deny the truth, or weakly and lukewarmly confess it; but lest this should happen to him, David therefore prays here, O Lord, take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, i.e. , make me, with an intrepid spirit, always to confess the avowed truth boldly and manfully. In the Hebrew text it is daOmi d[e , "very, ""very much, " or, as Augustine renders it, "wholly and altogether"; and he thinks that David prayed for this, that, if through human weakness it should happen to him to fall, and at some time or other not steadfastly to confess the word, yet that God would not allow him to continue in that sit, , but again restore and establish him; and he illustrates this by the example of Peter. Further, David adds the reason which has impelled him thus to pray: Because I have for, and even with great desire, as the Hebrew verb ljæy; signifies, "thy judgments, " with which in the last day thou wilt openly pass sentence on heretics, fanatics, and all tyrants. Solomon Gesner.
Ver. 43. Take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth. The word is taken out of the mouth, when it is said to the sinner, Wherefore dost thou declare thy statutes? And eloquence itself becomes dumb if the conscience be evil. The birds of heaven come and take the word out of thy mouth, even as they took the seed of the word from off the rock lest it should bring forth fruit. Ambrose.
Ver. 43. The word is also taken out of our mouth when in strong temptations all things, as it were, fail, neither can we discover where we may make a stand: Psalm 69:2. Martin Geier.
Ver. 43. Take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth. Sometimes we are afraid to speak for the Saviour, lest we should incur the charge of hypocrisy. At other times we are ashamed to speak, from the absence of that only constraining principle— "the love of Christ." And thus "the word of truth is taken out of our mouths." Often have we wanted a word to speak for the relief of the Lord's tempted people, and have not been able to find it; so that the recollection of precious lost opportunities may well give utterance to the prayer— "Take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth." Not only do not take it out of my heart; but let it be ready in my mouth for a confession of my Master. Some of us know the painful trial of the indulgence of worldly habits and conversation, when a want of liberty of spirit has hindered us from standing up boldly for our God. We may perhaps allege the plea of bashfulness or judicious caution in excuse for silence; which however, in many instances, we must regard as a self deceptive covering for the real cause of restraint— the want of apprehension of the mercy of God to the soul. Charles Bridges.
Ver. 43. Take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth. Oh, what service can a dumb body do in Christ's house! Oh, I think the word of God is imprisoned also! Oh, I am a dry tree! Alas, I can neither plant nor water!
Oh, if my Lord would make but dung of me, to fatten and make fertile his own corn ridges in Mount Zion! Oh, if I might but speak to three or four herd boys of my worthy Master, I would be satisfied to be the meanest and most obscure of all the pastors in this land, and to live in any place, in any of Christ's basest out houses! But he saith, "Sirrah, I will not send you; I have no errands for you there away." My desire to serve him is sick of jealousy, lest he be unwilling to employ me... I am very well every way, all praise to him in whose books I must stand for ever as his debtor! Only my silence pains me. I had one joy out of heaven, next to Christ my Lord, and that was to preach him to thiss faithless generation; and they have taken that from me. It was to me as the poor man's one eye, and they have put out that eye. Samuel Rutherford.
Ver. 43. For I have hoped in thy judgments, the word µmpvm , judgment , signifieth either the law, or the execution of the sentence thereof. 1. The law or whole word of God; so that, "I have hoped in thy judgments, " is no more, but in thy word do I hope; as it is, "I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope" (Psalm 130:5). 2. Answerable execution of the law, when the promise or threatening is fulfilled. (1) When the promise is fulfilled: that is judgment in a sense when God accomplishes what he has promised for our salvation and deliverance.
Thus God is said to judge his people, when he righteth and sayeth them according to his word: "O Lord, thou hast seen my wrong: judge thou my cause" (Lamentations 3:59). (2) But the more usual notion of judgment is the execution of the threatening on wicked men; which being a benefit to God's faithful servants, and done in their favour, David might well be said to hope for it. Their "judgment" is our obtaining the promise. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 43-44. Lord, let me have the word of truth in "my mouth" that I may commit that sacred depositum to the rising generation (2 Timothy 2:22), and by them it may be transmitted to succeeding ages; so shall "thy law" be kept "for ever and ever, "i.e. , from one generation to another, according to that promise (Isaiah 59:21): "My words in thy mouth shall not depart out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed." Matthew Henry.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 43. — How the true preacher could be silenced, and his plea that he may not be so.
PSALM 119:44 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 44. So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever. Nothing more effectually binds a man to the way of the Lord than an experience of the truth of his word, embodied in the form of mercies and deliverances.
Not only does the Lord's faithfulness open our mouths against his adversaries, but it also knits our hearts to his fear, and makes our union with him more and more intense. Great mercies lead us to feel an inexpressible gratitude which, falling to utter itself in time, promises to engross eternity with praises. To a heart on flame with thankfulness, the "always, unto eternity and perpetuity, "of the text will not seem to be redundant; yea, the hyperbole of Addison in his famous verse will only appear to be solid sense: — "Through all eternity to thee A joyful song I will raise; But oh! eternity's too short To utter all thy praise." Addison.
God's grace alone can enable us to keep his commandments without break and without end; eternal love must grant us eternal life, and out of this will come everlasting obedience. There is no other way to ensure our perseverance in holiness but by the word of truth abiding in us, as David prayed it might abide with him.
The verse begins with "So, "as did Psalm 119:42. When God grants his salvation we are so favoured that we silence our worst enemy and glorify our best friend. Mercy answereth all things. If God doth but give us salvation we can conquer hell and commune with heaven, answering reproaches and keeping the law, and that to the end, world without end.
We may not overlook another sense which suggests itself here. David prayed that the word of truth might not be taken out of his mouth, and so would he keep God's law: that is to say, by public testimony as well as by personal life, he would fulfil the divine will, and confirm the bonds which bound him to his Lord for ever. Undoubtedly the grace which enables us to bear witness with the mouth is a great help to ourselves as well as to others: we feel that the vows of the Lord are upon us, and that we cannot run back.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 44. So shall I keep thy law continually, etc. The Lord's keeping our heart in faith, and our mouth and outward man in the course of confession and obedience, is the cause of our perseverance. David Dickson.
Ver. 44. So shall I keep. Mark, the promise of obedience is brought in by way of argument; "So shall I keep, ""so, " that is, this will encourage me, this will enable me.
First, The granting of his requests would give him encouragement: when God answers our hope and expectation, gratitude should excite and quicken us to give all manner of obedience. If he will give us a heart, and a little liberty to confess his name, and serve him, we should not be backward or uncertain, but walk closely with him.
Secondly, This would give him assistance and strength. If God do daily give assistance, we shall stand; if not, we fall and falter; this will be a means of his perseverance, not only to engage and oblige him, but to help him to hold on to the end.
Then mark the consistency of this obedience, "Continually, and for ever and ever." David would not keep it for a fit, or for a few days, or a year, but always, even to the end of his life. Here are three words to the same sense: "continually, ""for ever, ""and ever." And the Septuagint expresses it thus: "I shall keep thy law always, and for ever, and for ever, and ever; "four words there. This heaping of words is not in vain. 1. It shows the difficulty of perseverance: unless believers do strongly persist in the resistance of temptation, they will soon be turned out of the way; therefore David binds his heart firmly: we must do it now, yea, always, unto the end. 2. He expresses his vehemence of affection: those that are deeply affected with anything are wont to express themselves as largely as they can. As Paul, who had a deep sense of God's power: "Exceeding greatness of his power, according to the working of his mighty power" (Ephesians 1:19). He heaps up several words, because his sense of them was so great: so David here doth heap up words— "continually, and for ever, and ever, and ever." 3. Some think the words are so many, that they may express not only this life, but that which is to come. I will keep them continually, and for ever, and ever; that is, all the days of my life, and in the other world. So Chrysostom, "I will keep them continually, "etc., points out the other life, where there will be pure and exact keeping of the law of God.
Here we are every hour in danger, but then we shall be put out of all danger, and without fear of sinning, we shall remain in a full and perfect righteousness; we hope for that which we have not attained unto, and this doth encourage us for the present: so would he make David express himself. 4. If we must distinguish these words, I suppose they imply the continuity and perpetuity of obedience; the continuity of obedience, that he would serve God continually, without intermission; and the perpetuity of obedience, that he would serve God for ever and ever, without defection or revolt, at all times, and to the end. Constancy and perseverance in obedience is the commendation of it. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 44. So shall I keep thy law continually. That is, if thou wilt not take the word of thy truth out of my mouth, "I will alway keep thy law." "Yea, unto age, and age of age:" he showeth what is meant by alway. For sometimes by "alway" is meant, as long as we live here; but this is not, "unto age, and age of age." For it is better thus translated than as some copies have, "to eternity, and to age of age, "since they could not say, and to eternity of eternity. That law therefore should be understood, of which the apostle saith, "Love is the fulfilling of the law." For this will be kept by the saints, from whose mouth the word of truth is not taken, that is, by the church of Christ herself, not only during this world, that is, until this world is ended; but for another world which is styled world without end . For we shall not there receive the commandments of the law, as here, to keep them, but we shall keep the fulness of the law itself without any fear of sinning; for we shall love God the more fully when we shall have seen him; and our neighbour too; for "God will be all in all"; nor will there be room for any false suspicion concerning our neighbour, where no man will be hidden to any. Augustine.
Ver. 44. Continually, for ever and ever. The language of this verse is very emphatic. Perfect obedience will constitute a large proportion of heavenly happiness to all eternity; and the nearer we approach to it on earth, the more we anticipate the felicity of heaven. Note in Bagster's Comprehensive Bible.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE
Ver. 44. — The perpetuity of gracious living. On what it is conditioned: "So." How entirely it is consistent with free agency: "I keep." How continuous it is, and how eternal.
Ver. 44. — Heaven begun below. 1. The present life of the believer— keeping God's law. 2. The continual care of the believer— to keep God's law. 3. The eternal prospect of the believer— keeping God's law for ever and ever. — C.A.D.
PSALM 119:45 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 45. And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts. Saints find no bondage in sanctity. The Spirit of holiness is a free spirit; he sets men at liberty and enables them to resist every effort to bring them under subjection. The way of holiness is not a track for slaves, but the King's highway for freemen, who are joyfully journeying from the Egypt of bandage to the Canaan of rest. God's mercies and his salvation, by teaching us to love the precepts of the word, set us at a happy rest; and the more we seek after the perfection of our obedience the more shall we enjoy complete emancipation from every form of spiritual slavery. David at one time of his life was in great bondage through having followed a crooked policy. He deceived Achish so persistently that he was driven to acts of ferocity to conceal it, and must have felt very unhappy in his unnatural position as an ally of Philistines, and captain of the body guard of their king. He must have feared lest through his falling into the crooked ways of falsehood the truth would no longer be on his tongue, and he therefore prayed God in some way to work his deliverance, and set him at liberty from such slavery. By terrible things in righteousness did the Lord answer him at Ziklag: the snare was broken, and he escaped.
The verse is united to that which goes before, for it begins with the word "And, "which acts as a hook to attach it to the preceding verses. It mentions another of the benefits expected from the coming of mercies from God. The man of God had mentioned the silencing of his enemies (Psalm 119:42), power to proceed in testimony (Psalm 119:43), and perseverance in holiness; now he dwells upon liberty, which next to life is dearest to all brave men. He says, "I shall walk, "indicating his daily progress through life; "at liberty, " as one who is out of prison, unimpeded by adversaries, unencumbered by burdens, unshackled, allowed a wide range, and roaming without fear. Such liberty would be dangerous if a man were seeking himself or his own lusts; but when the one object sought after is the will of God, there can be no need to restrain the searcher. We need not circumscribe the man who can say, "I seek thy precepts." Observe, in the preceding verse he said he would keep the law; but here he speaks of seeking it. Does he not mean that he will obey what he knows, and endeavour to know more? Is not this the way to the highest form of liberty, — to be always labouring to know the mind of God and to be conformed to it? Those who keep the law are sure to seek it, and bestir themselves to keep it more and more.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 45. I will walk at liberty. Wherever God pardons sin, he subdues it (Micah 7:19). Then is the condemning power of sin taken away, when the commanding power of it is taken away. If a malefactor be in prison, how shall he know that his prince hath pardoned him? If a jailer come and knock off his chains and fetters, and lets him out of prison, then he may know he is pardoned: so, how shall we know God hath pardoned us? If the fetters of sin be broken off, and we walk at liberty in the ways of God, this is a blessed sign we are pardoned. Thomas Watson.
Ver. 45. I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts. As he who departs from confessing of God's truth doth cast himself in straits, in danger and bonds; so he that beareth out the confession of the truth doth walk as a free man; the truth doth set him free. David Dickson.
Ver. 45. I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts. When the Bible says that a man led by the Spirit is not under the law, it does not mean that he is free because he may sin without being punished for it; but it means that he is free because being taught by God's Spirit to love what his law commands he is no longer conscious of acting from restraint. The law does not drive him, because the Spirit leads him... There is a state, brethren, when we recognize God, but do not love God in Christ. It is that state when we admire what is excellent, but are not able to perform it. It is a state when the love of good comes to nothing, dying away in a mere desire. That is a state of nature, when we are under the law, and not converted to the love of Christ. And then there is another state, when God writes his law upon our hearts by love instead of fear. The one state is this, "I cannot do the things that I would; "the other state is this, "I will walk at liberty, for I seek thy commandments." Frederick William Robertson, 1816-1853.
Ver. 45. I will walk at liberty. The Psalmist's mind takes in the enlargement of his position. A little while ago, and he felt like a man straitened— hemmed in by rocks, in a narrow dangerous pass who could not make his way out. You know the characteristics of Canaan, and you can easily conceive of the position of a traveller exploring his dreaded way through one of the mountain passes. The traveller before us has attained to tread upon secure ground. Now, all at once, favoured of the Most High, and conscious of being in his way, he finds himself in a spacious place, and he walks at large: "And I will walk at liberty; for I seek thy precepts." He had made diligent enquiry into all that the Lord had enjoined, and seeking conformity thereto, he felt that he could walk with comfort. He recreates himself in his spiritual emancipation. The secret evil doer of fair profession cannot know this spiritual liberty at all. As long as a man finds himself to be wrong, and especially a man of a tender conscience, he feels hampered on all sides, depressed in mind, and evilly circumstanced. To what expansion of mind does a man awake when he becomes conscious of being in the appointed way of God! And he is actually at liberty; for the good providence of God is around him, and his grace supports him. John Stephen.
Ver. 45. He who goes the beaten and right path will have no brambles hit him across the eyes. Saxon proverb.
Ver. 45-48. Five things David promises himself here in the strength of God's grace. 1. That he should be free and easy in his duty: I will walk at liberty: freed from that which is evil, not hampered with the fetters of my own corruptions, and free to that which is good. 2. That he should be bold and courageous in his duty: I will speak of thy testimonies before kings. 3. That he should be cheerful and pleasant in his duty: I will delight myself in thy commandments, in conversing with them, in forming to them. 4. That he should be diligent and vigorous in his duty: I will lift up my hands unto thy commandments; which notes not only a vehement desire towards them, but a close application of mind to the observance of them. 5. That he should be thoughtful and considerate in his duty: I will meditate in thy statutes. Matthew Henry.
Ver. 45-48. In these four verses he explains, seriatim , in what the observance of the law consists; a thing he promised, when he said in fourth verse of this division, that he would observe God's law in his in his words, in his mind, and in his acts; and the prophet seems all once, as having been heard, to have changed his mode of speaking, for says, "And I walked at large." When God's mercy visited me, I did walk in the narrow ways of fear, but in the wide one of love; that is to say, observed the law willingly, joyfully, with all the affections of my heart, "because I have sought after thy commandments" as a thing of great and most important to come at; "and I spoke" openly and fearlessly on the justice of his most holy law, even "before kings, and I was not ashamed" and I constantly turned the law in my mind, and made its mysteries the subject of my meditation, "and I lifted up my hands, " to carry out his high and sublime commands; that is, his extremely perfect and arduous commands. Finally, in all manner of ways, in heart, mind, word, and "I was exercised in thy justifications."
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE
Ver. 45-47. — Liberty of walk. Liberty of speech. Liberty of heart.
Ver. 45-48. — The true freeman enjoys — 1. Free walk with God. 2. Free talk about God. 3. Free love unto God. 4. Free exercise, of soul, (a) in holy practice; (b) in heavenly meditation. — W. Durban.
Ver. 45-48. — Five things the Psalmist promises himself here in the strength of God's grace. 1. That he should be free and easy in his duty: "I will walk at liberty." 2. That he should be bold and courageous in his duty: "I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings." 3. That he should be cheerful and pleasant in his duty: "I will delight myself in thy commandments." 4. That he should be diligent and vigorous in his duty: "I will delight myself in thy commandments." 5. That he should be thoughtful and considerate in his duty: "I will meditate in thy statutes." — M. Henry.
PSALM 119:46 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 46. I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed. This is part of his liberty; he is free from fear of the greatest, proudest, and most tyrannical of men. David was called to stand before kings when he was an exile; and afterwards, when he was himself a monarch, he knew the tendency of men to sacrifice their religion to pomp and statecraft; but it was his resolve to do nothing of the kind. He would sanctify politics, and make cabinets know that the Lord alone is governor among the nations. As a king he would speak to kings concerning the King of kings. He says, "I will speak" : prudence might have suggested that his life and conduct would be enough, and that it would be better not to touch upon religion in the presence of royal personages who worshipped other gods, and claimed to be right in so doing. He had already most fittingly preceded this resolve by the declaration, "I will walk, "but he does not make his personal conduct an excuse for sinful silence, for he adds, "I will speak." David claimed religious liberty, and took care to use it, for he spoke out what he believed, even when he was in the highest company. In what he said he took care to keep to God's own word, for he says, "I will speak of thy testimonies." No theme is like this, and there is no way of handling that theme like keeping close to the book, and using its thought and language. The great hindrance to our speaking upon holy topics in all companies is shame, but the Psalmist will "not be ashamed" ; there is nothing to be ashamed of, and there is no excuse for being ashamed, and yet many are as quiet as the dead for fear some creature like themselves should be offended. When God gives grace, cowardice soon vanishes. He who speaks for God in God's power, will not be ashamed when beginning to speak, nor while speaking, nor after speaking; for his theme is one which is fit for kings, needful to kings, and beneficial to kings. If kings object, we may well be ashamed of them , but never of our Master who sent us, or of his message, or of his design in sending it.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 46. I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings. In words he seems to believe that he is in possession of that which he formerly prayed for. He had said, "Take not the word of truth out of my mouth, "and now, as if he had obtained what he requested, he rises up, and maintains that he would not be dumb, even were he called upon to speak in presence of kings. He affirms that he would willingly stand forward vindication of the glory of God in the face of the whole world. John Calvin.
Ver. 46. I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings. The terror of kings and of men in power is an ordinary hindrance of free confession God's truth in time of persecution; but faith in the truth sustained in heart by God is able to bring forth a confession at all hazards. David Dickson.
Ver. 46. I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings. Before came to the crown kings were sometimes his judges , as Saul and Achish: but if he were called before them to give a reason of the hope that was in: him, he would speak of God's testimonies, and profess to build his hope upon them, and make them his council, his guard, his crown, his all. We must never be afraid to own our religion, though it should expose us to the wrath of kings, but speak of it as that which we will live and die by, like the three children before Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 3:16 Acts 4:20. After David came to the crown kings were sometimes his companions , they visited him, and he returned their visits; but he did not, in complaisance to them, talk of everything but religion for fear of affronting them, and making his converse uneasy to them: no, God's testimonies shall be the principal subject of his discourse with the kings, not only to show that he was not ashamed of his religion, but to instruct them in it, and bring them over to it. It is good for kings to hear of God's testimonies , and it will adorn the conversation of princes themselves to speak of them. Matthew Henry.
Ver. 46. I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings. Men of greatest holiness have been men of greatest boldness; witness Nehemiah, the three children, Daniel, and all the holy prophets and apostles: Proverbs 23:1, "The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion, "yea, as a young lion, as the Hebrew has it, one that is in his hot blood and fears no colours, and that is more bold than any others. Holiness made Daniel not only as bold as a lion, but also to daunt the lions with his boldness. Luther was a man of great holiness, and a man of great boldness: witness his standing out against all the world; and when the emperor sent for him to Worms, and his friends dissuaded him from going, as sometimes Paul's did him, "Go, "said he, "I will surely go, since I am sent for, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; yea, though I knew that there were as many devils in Worms to resist me as there be tiles to cover the houses, yet I would go." And when the same author and his associates were threatened with many dangers from opposers on all hands, he lets fall this heroic and magnanimous speech: "Come, let us sing the 46th Psalm, and then let them do their worst." Latimer was a man of much holiness, counting the darkness and profaneness of those times wherein he lived, and a man of much courage and boldness; witness his presenting to King Henry the Eighth, for a New Year's gift, a New Testament, wrapped up in a napkin, with this posie or motto about it; "Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge." Thomas Brooks.
Ver. 46. Note that in this verse we are taught to shun four vices. First, overmuch silence: hence he says, "I will speak." Secondly, useless talkativeness: "of thy testimonies." The Hebrew doctors say that ten measures of speaking had descended to the earth, — that nine had been carried off by the women, but one left for all the rest of the world.
Hieronymus rightly exhorts all Christians: "Consecrate thy mouth to the Gospel: be unwilling to open it with trifles or fables." Thirdly, we are taught to shun cowardice: "before kings." For, as it is said (Proverbs 29:25), "The fear of man bringeth a snare." Fourthly, and lastly, we are taught to shun cowardly bashfulness: "and will not be ashamed." Thomas Le Blanc.
Ver. 46. I will not be ashamed. That is, I shall not be cast down from my position or my hope; I shall not be afraid; nor will I, from fear of danger or reproach, shun or renounce the confession; nor shall I be overcome by terrors or threats. D. H. Mollerus.
Ver. 46-48. In these three last verses David promises a threefold duty of thankfulness. First, the service of his tongue. Next, the service of his affections. Thirdly, the service of his actions. A good conscience renders always great consolation; and an honest life makes great boldness to speak without fear or shame, as ye see in David towards Saul, in Elias to Ahab, in Paul to Agrippa, to Festus, and to Felix. William Cowper.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 46-48. — Lips, heart, and hands. 1. Public profession of God's word ("I will speak, "Psalm 119:46) must be warranted by— 2. Private delight in God's word ("I will delight myself, " Psalm 119:47), which must result in— 3. Practical obedience to God's word ("I will lift up my hands, " Psalm 119:48).
Ver. 46. — 1. The truly earnest must speak. 2. They are at no loss for good subjects: "Thy testimonies." The range is boundless— the variety endless. 3. They never fear any audience: "before kings." — W.W.
PSALM 119:47 EXPOSITION.
Ver. 47. And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved. Next to liberty and courage comes delight. When we have done our duty, we find a great reward in it. If David had not spoken for his Master before kings, he would have been afraid to think of the law which he had neglected; but after speaking up for his Lord he feels a sweet serenity of heart when musing upon the word. Obey the command, and you will love it; carry the yoke, and it will be easy, and rest will come by it. After speaking of the law the Psalmist was not wearied of his theme, but he retired to meditate upon it; he discoursed and then he delighted, he preached and then repaired to his study to renew his strength by feeding yet again upon the precious truth. Whether he delighted others or not when he was speaking, he never failed to delight himself when he was musing on the word of the Lord. He declares that he loved the Lord's commands, and by this avowal he unveils the reason for his delight in them: where our love is, there is our delight. David did not delight in the courts of kings, for there he found places of temptation to shame, but in the Scriptures he found himself at home; his heart was in them, and they yielded him supreme pleasure. No wonder that he spoke of keeping the law, which he loved; Jesus says, "If a man love me, he will keep my words." No wonder that he spoke of walking at liberty, and speaking boldly, for true love is ever free and fearless. Love is the fulfilling of the law; where love to the law of God reigns in the heart the life must be full of blessedness. Lord, let thy mercies come to us that we may love thy word and way, and find our whole delight therein.
The verse is in the future, and hence it sets forth, not only what David had done, but what he would do; he would in time to come delight in his Lord's command. He knew that they would neither alter, nor fail to yield him joy.
He knew also that grace would keep him in the same condition of heart towards the precepts of the Lord, so that he should throughout his whole life take a supreme delight in holiness. His heart was so fixed in love to God's will that he was sure that grace would always hold him under its delightful influence.
All the Psalm is fragrant with love to the word, but here for the first time love is expressly spoken of. It is here coupled with delight, and in Psalm 119:165 with "great peace." All the verses in which love declares itself in so many words are worthy of note. See Psalm 119:47,97,113,119,127,140,159,163,165,167.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 47. I will delight myself in thy commandments. It is but poor comfort to the believer to be able to talk well to others upon the ways of God, and even to "bear the reproach" of his people, when his own heart is cold, insensible, and dull. He longs for "delight" in these ways; and he shall delight in them. Charles Bridges.
Ver. 47. He who would preach boldly to others must himself "delight" in the practice of what he preacheth. If there be in us a new nature, it will "love the commandments of God" as being congenial to it; on that which we love we shall continually be "meditating, "and our meditation will end in action; we shall "lift up the hands which hang down" (Hebrews 12:12), that they may "work the works of God whilst it is day, because the night cometh when no man can work" (John 9:4). George Horne.
Ver. 47. Thy commandments, which I have loved. On the word "loved, " the Carmelite quotes two sayings of ancient philosophers, which he commends to the acceptance of those who have learnt the truer philosophy of the Gospel. The first is Aristotle's answer to the question of what profit he had derived from philosophy: "I have learnt to do without constraint that which others do from fear of the law." The second is a very similar saying of Aristippus: "If the laws were lost, all of us would live as we do now that they are in force." And for us the whole verse is summed up in the words of a greater Teacher than they: "If a man love me, he will keep my words": John 14:23. Neale and Littledale.
Ver. 47-48. What is in the word a law of precept, is in the heart a law of love; what is in the one a law of command, is in the other a law of liberty "Love is the fulfilling of the law, "Galatians 5:14. The law of love in the heart, is the fulfilling the law of God in the Spirit. It may well be said to be written in the heart, when a man doth love it. As we say, a beloved thing is in our hearts, not physically, but mor