THOU hast dealt well with thy servant, O Lord, according unto thy word. 66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments. 67 Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word. 68 Thou art ,good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes. 69 The proud have forged a lie against me: but I will keep thy precepts with my whole heart. 70 Their heart is as fat as grease; but I delight in thy law. 71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes. 72 The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.
In this ninth section the verses in the Hebrew all begin with the letter Teth.
In our own version they all commence with the letter T, except 67 and 71, and these can easily be made to do so by reading, Till I was afflicted, and, Tis good for me. These verses are the tributes of experience, testifying to the goodness of God, the graciousness of his dealings, and the preciousness of his word. Especially the Psalmist proclaims the; excellent uses of adversity and the goodness of God in afflicting him. The sixty-fifth verse is the text of the entire octave. 65. Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O Lord, according unto thy word. This is the summary of his life, and assuredly it is the sum of ours.
The Psalmist tells the Lord the verdict of his heart; he cannot be silent, he must speak his gratitude in the presence of Jehovah, his God. From the universal goodness of God in nature, in verse 64, it is an easy and pleasant step to a confession of the Lords uniform goodness to ourselves personally. It is something that God has dealt at all with such insignificant and undeserving beings as we are; and it is far more that he has dealt well with us, and so well, so wondrously well. He hath done all things well: the rule has no exception. In providence and in grace, in giving prosperity and in sending adversity, in everything Jehovah hath dealt well with us. It is dealing well on our part to tell the Lord that we feel that he hath dealt well with us; for praise of this kind is specially fitting and comely. This kindness of the Lord is, however, no chance matter: he promised to do so, and he has done it according to his word. It is very precious to see the word of the Lord fulfilled in our happy experience; it endears the Scripture to us, and makes us love the Lord of the Scripture. The book of providence tallies with the book of promise: what we read in the page of inspiration we meet with again in the leaves of our life-story. We may not have thought that it would be so; but our unbelief is repented of now that we see the mercy of the Lord to us, and his faithfulness to his word; henceforth we are bound to display a firmer faith both in God and in his promise. He has spoken well, and he has dealt well. He is the best of Masters; for it is to very unworthy and incapable servants that he has acted thus graciously: does not this cause us to delight in his service more and more? We cannot say that we have dealt well with our Master; for when we have done all, we are unprofitable servants; but as for our Lord, he has given us light work, large maintenance, loving encouragement, and liberal wages. It is a wonder that he has not long ago discharged us, or at least reduced our allowances, or handled us roughly; yet we have had no hard dealings, all has been ordered with as much consideration as if we had rendered perfect obedience. We have had bread enough and to spare, our livery has been duly supplied, and his service has ennobled us and made us happy as kings;. Complaints we have none. We lose ourselves in adoring thanksgiving, and find ourselves again in careful thanks-living. 66. Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments. Teach me good judgment and knowledge. Again he begs for teaching, as in verse 64, and again he uses Gods mercy as an argument. Since God had dealt well with him, he is encouraged to pray for judgment to appreciate the Lords goodness. The gift of good judgment is; a form of goodness which the godly man most needs and most desires, and it is one which the Lord is most ready to bestow. David felt that he had frequently failed in judgment in the matter of the Lords dealings with him: from want of knowledge he had misjudged the chastening hand of the heavenly Father, and, therefore he now asks to be better instructed, since he perceives the injustice which he had done to the Lord by his hasty conclusions. He means to say Lord, thou didst deal well with me when I thought thee hard and stern; be pleased to give me more wit, that I may not a second time think so ill of my Lord. A sight of .our errors and a sense of our ignorance should make us teachable. We are not able to judge, for our knowledge is sadly inaccurate and imperfect; if the Lord teaches us knowledge, we shall attain to good judgment, but not otherwise. The Holy Ghost alone can fill us with light, and set our understanding upon a proper balance: let us ardently long for his teachings, since it is most desirable that we should be no longer mere children in knowledge and understanding. For I have believed thy commandments. His heart was right, and therefore he hoped his head would be made right. He had faith, and therefore he hoped to receive wisdom. His mind had been settled in the conviction that the precepts of the word were from the Lord, and were therefore just, wise, kind, and profitable. He believed in holiness, and as that belief is no mean work of grace, upon the soul, he looked for yet further operations of divine grace. He who believes the commands is the man to know and understand the doctrines and the promises. If in looking back upon our mistakes and ignorances, we can yet see that we heartily love the precepts of the divine will, we have good reason to hope that we are Christs disciples, and that he will teach us and make us men of good judgment and sound knowledge. A :man who has learned discernment by experience, and has thus become a man of sound judgment, is a valuable member of a church, and the means of much edification to others. Let all who would be greatly useful offer the prayer of this verse: reach me good judgment and knowledge. 67. Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word Before I was afflicted I went astray. Partly, perhaps, through the absence of trial. Often our trials act as a thorn-hedge to keep us in the good pasture; but our prosperity is a gap through which we go astray. If any of us remember a time in which we had no trouble, we also probably recollect that then grace was low, and temptation was strong. It may be that some believer cries, Oh that it were with me as in those summer days before I was afflicted! Such a sigh is most unwise, and arises from a carnal love of ease: the spiritual man who prizes growth in grace will bless God that those dangerous days are over, and that if the weather be more stormy it is also more healthy. It is well when the mind is open and candid, as in this instance: perhaps David would never have known and confessed his own strayings if he had not smarted under the rod Let us join in his humble acknowledgments, for doubtless we have imitated him in his strayings. Wily is it that a little ease works in us so much disease? Can we never rest without rusting? Never be filled without waxing fat? Never rise as to one world without going down as to another? What weak creatures we are to be unable to bear a little pleasure! What base hearts are those which turn the abundance of Gods goodness into an occasion for sin! But now have I kept thy word. Grace is in that heart which profits by its chastening. It is of no use to plough barren soil When there is no spiritual life, affliction works no spiritual benefit; but where the heart is sound, trouble awakens conscience, wandering is confessed, the soul becomes again obedient to the command, and continues to be so. Whipping will not turn a rebel into a child; but to the true child a touch of the rod is a sure corrective. In the Psalmists case the medicine of affliction worked a change but ; an immediate change now ; a lasting change have I ; an inward change have I kept ; a change Godward thy word. Before his trouble he wandered, but after it he kept within the hedge of the word, and found good pasture for his soul: the trial tethered him to his proper place; it kept him, and then he kept Gods word.
Sweet are the uses of adversity, and this is one of them: it puts a bridle upon transgression, and furnishes a spur for holiness. 68. Thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes. Thou art good, and doest good. Even in affliction God is good, and does good. This is the confession of experience. God is essential goodness in himself, and in every attribute of his nature he is good in the fullest sense of the term; indeed, he has a monopoly of goodness, for there is none good but one, that is God. His acts are according to his nature: from a pure source flow pure streams. God is not latent and inactive goodness; he displays himself by his doings, he is actively beneficent, he does good. How much good he does no tongue can tell I How good he is no heart can conceive! It is well to worship the Lord as the poet here does by describing him. Facts about God are the best praise of God. All the glory we can give to God is to reflect his own glory upon himself. We can say no more good of God than God is and does. We believe in his goodness, and so honor him by our faith; we admire that goodness, and so glorify him by our love; we declare that goodness, and so magnify him by our testimony. Teach me thy statutes. The same prayer as before, backed with the same argument. He prays, Lord be good, and do good to me, that I may both be good and do good through thy teaching. The man of God was a learner, and delighted to learn: he ascribed this to the goodness of the Lord, and hoped that for the same reason he would be allowed to remain in the school and learn on till he could perfectly practice every lesson. His chosen class-book was the royal statutes; he wanted no other. He knew the sad result of breaking those statutes, and by a painful experience he had been led back to the way of righteousness; and therefore he begged, as the greatest possible instance of the divine goodness, that he might be taught a perfect: knowledge of the law, and a complete conformity to it. He who mourns that he has not kept the word longs to be taught it; and he who rejoices that by grace he has been taught to keep it, is :not less anxious for the like instruction to be continued to him.
In verse 12, which is the fourth verse of Beth, we have much the same sense as in this fourth verse of Teth. 69. The proud have forged a lie against me: but I will keep thy precepts with my whole heart. The proud have forged a lie against me. They first derided him (51, then defrauded him (61), and now they haw: defamed him. To injure his character they resorted to falsehood, for they could find nothing against him if they spoke the truth. They forged a lie as a blacksmith beats out a weapon of iron, or they counterfeited the truth as men forge false coin. The original may suggest a common expression They have patched up a lie against me. They were not too proud to lie. Pride is a lie; and when a proud man utters lies he speaketh of his own. Proud men are usually the bitterest opponents of the righteous: they are envious of their good fame, and are eager to ruin it. Slander is a cheap and handy weapon if the object is the destruction of a gracious reputation; and when many proud ones conspire to concoct, exaggerate, and spread abroad a malicious falsehood, they generally succeed in wounding their victim, and it is no fault of theirs if they do not kill him out right. Oh the venom which lies under the tongue of a liar I Many a happy life has been embittered by it, and many a good repute has been poisoned as with the deadliest drug. It is painful to the last degree to hear unscrupulous men hammering away at the devils anvil forging a new calumny; the only help against it is the sweet promise, No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper, and every tongue that riseth against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. But I will keep thy precepts with my whole heart. My one anxiety shall be to mind my own business, and stick to the commandments of the Lord.
If the mud which is thrown at us does not blind our eyes or bruise our integrity, it will do us little harm. If we keep the precepts, the precepts will keep us in the day of contumely and slander. David renews his resolve I will keep ; he takes a new look at the commands, and sees them to be really the Lords thy precepts ; and he arouses his entire nature to the work with my whole heart. When slanders drive us to more resolute and careful obedience they work our lasting good.: falsehood hurled against us may be made to promote our fidelity to the truth, and the malice of men may increase our love to God. If we try to answer lies by our words we may be beaten in the battle; but a holy life is an unanswerable refutation of all calumnies. Spite is balked if we persevere in holiness despite all opposition. 70. Their, heart is as fat as grease; but I delight in thy law. Their heart is as fat as grease. They delight in fatness, but I delight in thee. Their hearts, through sensual indulgence, have grown insensible, coarse, and groveling; but thou hast saved me from such a fate through thy chastening hand. Proud men grow fat through carnal luxuries, and this makes them prouder still. They riot in their prosperity, and fill their hearts therewith till they become insensible, effeminate, and self-indulgent. A greasy heart is something horrible; it is a fatness which makes a man fatuous, a fatty degeneration of the heart which leads to feebleness and death. The fat in such men is killing the life in them. Dryden wrote, O souls! In whom no heavenly fire is found, Fat minds and ever groveling on the ground. In this condition men have no heart except for luxury, their very being seems to swim and stew in the fat of cookery and banqueting. Living on the fat of the land, their nature is subdued to that which they have fed upon; the muscle of their nature has gone to softness and grease. But I delight in thy law. How much better is it to joy in the law of the Lord than to joy in sensual indulgences! This makes the heart healthy, and keeps the mind lowly. No one who loves holiness has the slightest cause to envy the prosperity of the worldling. Delight in the law elevates and ennobles, while carnal pleasure clogs the intellect and degrades the affections. There is and always ought to be a vivid contrast between the believer and the sensualist, and that contrast is as much seen in the affections of the heart as in the actions of the life: their heart is as fat as grease, and our heart is delighted with the law of the Lord. Our delights are a better test of our character than anything else: as a mans heart is, so is the man. David oiled the wheels of life with his delight in Gods law, and not with the fat of sensuality. He had his relishes and dainties, his festivals and delights, and all these he found in doing the will of the Lord his God.
When law becomes delight, obedience is bliss. Holiness in the heart causes the soul to eat the fat of the land. To have the law for our delight will breed in our hearts the very opposite of the effects of pride: deadness, sensuality, and obstinacy will be cured, and we shall become teachable, sensitive, and spiritual. How careful should we be to live under the influence of the divine law, that we fall not under the law of sin and death! 71. It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes. It is good for me that I have been afflicted? Even though the affliction came from bad men, it was over-ruled for good ends; though it was bad as it came from them, it was good for David. It benefited him in many ways, and he knew it. Whatever he may have thought while under the trial, he perceived himself to be the better for it when it was over. It was not good to the proud to be prosperous, for their hearts grew sensual and insensible; but affliction was good for the Psalmist. Our worst is better for us than the sinners best. It is bad for sinners to rejoice, and good for saints to sorrow.
A thousand benefits have come to us through our pains and griefs, and among the rest is this that we have thus been schooled in the law. That I might learn thy statutes. These we have come to know and to keep by feeling the smart of the rod. We prayed the, Lord to teach us (66), and now we see how he has already been doing it. Truly he has dealt well with us, for he has dealt wisely with us. We have been kept from the ignorance of the greasy-hearted by our trials, and this, if there were nothing else, is just cause for constant gratitude. To be larded by prosperity is not good for the proud; but for the truth to be learned by adversity is good for the humble. Very little is to be learned without affliction. If we would be scholars we must be sufferers. As the Latins say, Experientia docet, experience teaches. There is no royal road to learning the royal statutes; Gods commands are best read by eyes wet with tears. 72. The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver. The law of thy mouth. A sweetly expressive name for the word of God.
It comes from Gods own mouth with freshness and power to our souls.
Things written are as dried herbs; but speech has a liveliness and dew about it. We do well to look upon the word of the Lord as though it were newly spoken into our ear; for in very truth it is not decayed by years, but is as forcible and sure as though newly uttered. Precepts are prized when it is seen that they come forth from the lips of our Father who is in heaven. The same lips which spoke us into existence have spoken the law by which we are to govern that existence. Whence could a law so sweetly proceed as from the mouth of our covenant God? Well may we prize beyond all price that which comes from such a source! Is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver. If a poor man had said this, the worlds witlings would have hinted that the grapes are sour, and that men who have no wealth are the first to despise it; but this is the verdict of a man who owned his thousands, and could judge by actual experience of the value of money and the value of truth. He speaks of great riches, he heaps it up by thousands, he mentions the varieties of its forms gold and silver; and then he sets the word of God before it all, as better to him, even if others did not think it better to them. Wealth is good in some respects, but obedience is better in all respects. It is well to keep the treasures of this life; but far more commendable to keep the law of the Lord. The law is better than gold and silver, for these may be stolen from us, but not the word; these take to themselves wings, but the word of God remains; these are useless in the hour of death, but then it is that the promise is most dear. Instructed Christians recognize the value of the Lords word, and warmly express it, not only in their testimony to their fellow-men, but in their devotions to God. It is a sure sign of a heart which has learned Gods statutes when it prizes them above all earthly possessions; and it is an equally certain mark of grace when the precepts of Scripture are as precious as its promises. The Lord cause us thus to prize the law of his mouth.
See how this portion of the psalm is flavored with goodness. Gods dealings are good (65), holy judgment is good (66), affliction is good (67), God is good (68), and here the law is not: only good, but better than the been of treasure Lord, make us good, through thy good word! Amen.