THY hand have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments. 74 They that fear thee will be glad when they see me; because I have hoped in thy word. 75 I know, OLORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me. 76 Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant. 77 Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live: for thy law is my delight. 78 Let the proud be ashamed; for they dealt perversely with me without a cause: but I will meditate in thy precepts. 79 Let those that fear thee turn unto me, and those that have known thy testimonies. 80 Let my heart be sound in thy statutes; that I be not ashamed.
We have now come to the tenth portion, which in each stanza begins with Jod; but it certainly does not treat of jots and tittles and other trifles. Its subject would seem to be personal experience and its attractive influence upon others. The prophet is in deep sorrow, but looks to be delivered and made a blessing. Endeavoring to teach, the Psalmist first seeks to be taught (verse 73), persuades himself that he will be well received (74), and then repeats the testimony which he intends to bear (75). He prays for more experience (76, 77), for the baffling of the proud (78), for the gathering together of the godly to him (79), and for himself again, that he may be fully equipped for his witness-bearing, and may be sustained in it (80). This is the anxious yet hopeful cry of one who is heavily afflicted by cruel adversaries, and therefore makes his appeal to God as his only friend. 73. ‘“Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding that I may learn thy command-merits ’” ‘“Thy hands have made me and fashioned me. ’” It is profitable to remember our creation, it is pleasant to see that the divine hand has had much to do with us; for it never moves apart from the divine thought. It excites reverence, gratitude, and affection towards God when we view him as our Maker, putting forth the careful skill and power of his hands in our forming and fashioning. He took a personal interest in us, making us with his own hands; he was doubly thoughtful, for he is represented both as making and molding us. In both giving existence and arranging existence the Lord manifested love and wisdom; and therefore we find reasons for praise, confidence, and expectation in our being and well-being. ‘“Give me understanding, that I may team thy commandments. ’” As thou hast made me, teach me. Here is the vessel which thou hast fashioned; Lord, fill it l Thou hast given me both soul and body; grant me now thy grace that my soul may know thy will, and my body may join in the performance of it. The plea is very forcible; it is an enlargement of the cry, ‘“Forsake not the, work of thine own hands.’” Without understanding the divine law and rendering obedience to it, we are imperfect and useless; but we may reasonably hope that the great Potter will complete his work, anti give the finishing touch to it, by imparting to us sacred knowledge and holy character. If God had roughly made us, and had not also elaborately fashioned us, this argument would lose much of its force; but surely from the delicate art and marvelous skill which the Lord has shown in the formation of the human body, we may infer that he is prepared to take equal pains with the soul, till it shall perfectly bear his image.
A man without a mind is an idiot, the mere mockery of a man; and a mind without grace is wicked, the sad perversion of a mind. We pray that we may not be left without spiritual judgment or understanding: this the Psalmist sought in verse 66, and he here pleads for it again: there is no true knowing and keeping of the commandments without it. Fools can sin; but only those who are taught of God can be holy. We often speak of gifted men; but he has the best gifts to whom God has given a sanctified understanding wherewith to know and prize the ways of the Lord. Note well that David’s prayer for understanding is not for the sake of speculative knowledge, and the gratification of his curiosity: he desires an enlightened judgment, that he may learn ,God’s commandments, and so become obedient and holy. This is the best of learning. A man may abide in the College: where this science is taught all his days, and yet cry out for ability to learn more. The commandment of God is exceeding broad, and so it affords scope for the most vigorous and instructed mind: in fact, no man has by nature an understanding capable of compassing so wide a field, and hence the prayer, ‘“Give me understanding’”; — as much as to say — I can learn other things with the mind I have, but thy law is so pure, so perfect, spiritual and sublime, that I need to have my mind enlarged before I can become proficient in it. He appeals to his Maker to do this, as if he felt that no power short of that which made him could make him wise unto holiness. We need a new creation, and who can grant us this but the Creator himself? He who made us to live must make us to learn; he who gave us power to stand must give us grace to understand. Let us each one breathe to heaven the prayer of this verse ere we advance a step further; for we shall be lost even in these petitions unless we pray our way through them, and cry to God for understanding. 74. ‘“They that fear thee will be glad when they see me; because I have hoped in thy word. ’” When a man of God obtains grace for himself he becomes a blessing to others, especially if that grace has made him a man of sound understanding and holy knowledge.
God-fearing men are encouraged when they meet with experienced believers. A hopeful man is a God-send when things are declining or in danger. When the hopes of one believer are fulfilled, his companions are cheered and established, and led to hope also. It is good for the eyes to see a man whose witness is that the Lord is true; it is one of the joys of saints to hold converse with their more advanced brethren. The fear of God is not a left-handed grace, as some have called it; it is quite consistent with gladness; for if even the sight of a comrade gladdens the God-fearing, how glad must they be in the presence of the Lord himself! We do not only meet to share each other’s burdens,, but to :partake in each other’s joys, gracious men contribute largely to the stock of mutual gladness. Hopeful men bring gladness with them. Despondent spirits spread the infection of depression, and hence few are glad to see them; while those whose hopes are grounded upon God’s word carry sunshine in their faces, and are welcomed by their fellows. When professors by their freezing words chill all hearts; the godly avoid their company. May this never be our character! 75 ‘“I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me. ’” ‘“I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right. ’” He who would learn more must be thankful for what he already knows, and be willing to confess it to the glory of God. The Psalmist had been sorely tried, but he had continued to hope in God under his trial, and now he avows his conviction that he had been justly and wisely chastened. This he not only thought but knew, so that he. was positive about it, and spoke without a moment’s hesitation. Saints are sure about the rightness of their troubles, even when they cannot see the intent of them. It :made the godly glad to hear David say this, ‘“And that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me. ’” Because love required severity, therefore the Lord exercised it was not because God was unfaithful that the believer found himself in a sore strait, but for just the opposite reason: it was the faithfulness of God to his covenant which brought the chosen one under the rod. It might not be needful that other’s should be tried just then; but it was necessary to the Psalmist, and therefore the Lord did not withhold the blessing. Our heavenly Father is no Eli: he will not suffer his children to sin without rebuke, his love is too intense for that. The man who makes the confession of this verse is already progressing in the school of grace, and is learning the commandments. This third verse of the section corresponds to the third of Teth (67), and in a degree to several other verses which make the thirds in their octaves. 76. ‘“Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant. ’” Having confessed the righteousness of the Lord, he now appeals to his mercy, and while he does not ask that the rod may be removed, he earnestly begs for comfort under it. Righteousness and faithfulness afford us no consolation if we cannot also taste of mercy, and, blessed be God, this is promised us in the word, and therefore we may expect it. The words ‘“merciful kindness’” are a happy combination, and express exactly what we need in affliction: mercy to forgive the sin, and kindness to sustain under the sorrow. With these we can be comfortable in the cloudy and dark day:, and without them we are wretched indeed; for these, therefore, let us pray unto the Lord, whom we have grieved by our sin, and let us plead the word of his grace as our sole reason for expecting his favor. Blessed be his name, notwithstanding our faults we are still his servants, and we serve a compassionate Master. Some read the last clause, ‘“according to thy saying unto thy servant’”; some special saying of the Lord was remembered and pleaded: can we not remember some such ‘“faithful saying,’” and make it the groundwork of our petitioning? That phrase, ‘“according to thy word,’” is a very favorite one; it: shows the motive for mercy and the manner of mercy. Our prayers are according to the mind of God when they’ are according to the word of God. 77. ‘“Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live: for thy law is my delight. ’” ‘“Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live. ’” He was so hard pressed that he was at death’s door if God did not succor him. He needed not only mercy, but ‘“mercies,’” and these must be of a very gracious and considerate kind, even ‘“tender mercies,’” for he was sore with his wounds. These gentle favors must be of the Lord’s giving, for nothing less would suffice; and they must ‘“come ’” all the way to the sufferer’s heart, for he was not able to journey after them; all he could do was to sigh out, ‘“Oh that they would come’”! If deliverance did not soon come, he felt ready to expire; and yet he told us but a verse or so ago that he hoped in God’s word: how true it is that hope lives on when death seems written on all besides! A heathen said, ‘“dum spiro spero,’” while I breathe I hope; but the Christian can say, ‘“dum expiro spero,’” even when I expire I still expect the blessing. Yet no true child of God can live without the tender mercy of the Lord; it is death to him to be under God’s displeasure. Notice, again, the happy combination of the words of our English version. Was there ever a sweeter sound than this — ‘“ tender mercies’”? He who has been grievously afflicted, and yet tenderly succored, is the only man who knows the meaning of such choice language.
How truly we live when tender mercy comes to us! Then we do not merely’ exist, but live; we are lively, full of life, vivacious, and vigorous.
We know not what life is till we know God. Some are said to die by the visitation of God, but we live by it. ‘“For thy law is my delight. ’” O blessed faith I He is no mean believer who rejoices in the law even when its broken precepts cause him to suffer. To delight in the word when it rebukes us, is proof that we are profiting under it. Surely this is a plea which will prevail with God, however bitter our griefs may be; if we still delight in the law of the Lord he cannot let us die, he must and ‘will cast a tender look upon us, and comfort our hearts. 78. ‘“Let the proud be ashamed; for they dealt perversely with me without a cause: but I will meditate in thy precepts. ’” ‘“Let the proud be ashamed. ’” He begged that the judgments of God might no longer fall upon himself, but upon his cruel adversaries. God will not suffer those who hope in his word to be put to shame, for he reserves that reward for haughty spirits: they shall yet be overtaken with confusion, and become the subjects of contempt, while God’s afflicted ones shall again lift up their heads. Shame is for the proud, for it is a shameful thing; to be proud. Shame is not for the holy, for there is nothing in holiness to be ashamed of. ‘“For they dealt perversely with me without a cause. ’” Their malice was wanton, he had not provoked them. Falsehood was employed to forge an accusation against him; they had to bend his actions out of their true shape before they could assail his character. Evidently the Psalmist keenly felt the malice of his foes. His consciousness of innocence with regard to them created a burning sense of injustice, and he appealed to the righteous Lord to take his part and clothe his false accusers with shame. Probably he mentioned them as ‘“the proud;’ because he knew that the Lord always takes vengeance on proud men, and vindicates the cause of those whom they oppress. Sometimes he mentions the proud, and sometimes the wicked, but he always means the same persons; the words are interchangeable: he who is proud is sure to be wicked, and proud persecutors are, the worst of wicked men. ‘“But I will meditate in thy precepts. ’” He would leave the proud in God’s hands, and give himself up to holy studies and contemplations. To obey the divine precepts we have need to know them, and think much of them, hence, this persecuted saint felt that meditation must be his chief employment. He would study the law of God, and not the law of retaliation. The proud are not worth a thought. The worst injury they can do us is to take us away from our devotions; let us baize them by keeping all the closer to our God when they are most malicious in their onslaughts.
In a similar position to this we have met with the proud in other octave.,;, and shall meet them yet again. They are evidently a great plague to the Psalmist, but he rises above them. 79. ‘“Let those that fear thee turn unto me, and those that have known thy testimonies. ’” Perhaps the tongue of slander had alienated some of the godly, and probably the actual faults of David had grieved many more. He begs God to turn to him, and then to turn his people towards him. Those who are right with God are also anxious to be right with his children.
David craved the love and sympathy of gracious men of all grades — of those who were beginners in grace, and of those who were mature in piety — ‘“those that fear thee,’” and ‘“those that have known thy testimonies.’” We cannot afford to lose the love of the’ least of’ the saints; and if we have lost their esteem we may most properly pray to have it restored. David was the leader of the godly party in the nation, and it wounded him to the heart when he perceived that those who feared God were not as glad to see him as aforetime they had been. He did not bluster, and say that if they could do without him he could very well do without them; but he so deeply felt the value of their sympathy, that he made it a matter of prayer that the Lord would turn their hearts to him again. Those who are dear to God, and are instructed in his word, should be very precious in our eyes, and we should do our utmost to be upon good terms with them.
David has two descriptions for the saints: they are God-fearing and God.- knowing. They possess both devotion and instruction; they have both the spirit and the science of true religion. We know some believers who are gracious, but not intelligent; and, on the other hand, we also know certain professors who have all head and no heart: he is the man who combines devotion with intelligence. We neither care for devout dunces nor for intellectual icebergs. When fearing and knowing walk hand in hand they cause men to be thoroughly furnished unto every good work. If those choice spirits who both love God and learn of God are my favorite companions I may hope that I am one of their order. Grant, O Lord, that such persons ever turn to me because they find in me congenial company! 80. ‘“Let my heart be sound in thy statutes: that I be not ashamed. ’” This is even more important than to be held in esteem by good men. This is the root of the matter. If the heart be sound in obedience to God, all is well, or will be well. If right at heart we are right in the main. If we be not sound before God, our name for piety is an empty sound. Mere profession wilt fail, and undeserved esteem will disappear like a bubble: when it bursts; only sincerity and truth will endure in the evil day. He who is right at heart ;has no reason for shame, and he never shall have any. Hypocrites ought to be ashamed now, and they shall one day be put to shame without end: their hearts are rotten, and their names shall rot. This eightieth verse is a variation of the prayer of the seventy-third verse; there the Psalmist sought sound understanding, here he goes deeper, and begs for a sound heart.
Those who have learned their own frailty by sad experience, are led to dive beneath the surface, and cry to the Lord for truth in the inward parts. In closing the consideration of these eight verses, let us join with the writer in the prayer, ‘“Let my heart be sound in thy statutes.’”