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  • CHARLES SPURGEON'S WRITINGS -
    EXPOSITION ,OF VERSES 161 TO 168.


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    PRINCES have persecuted me without a cause: but my heart standeth in awe of thy word. 162 I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil. 163 I hate and abhor lying: but thy law do I love. 164 Seven times a day do praise thee because of thy righteous judgments. 165 That peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them. 166 Lord, l have hoped for thy salvation, and done thy commandments. 167 My soul hath ,kept thy testimonies; and I love them exceedingly. 168 I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies: for all my ways are before thee.

    We are drawing near to the end. The pulse of the Psalm beats more quickly than usual; the sentences are shorter, the sense is more vivid, the strain is more full and deep. The veteran of a thousand battles, the receiver of ten thousand mercies, rehearses his experience, and anew declares his loyalty to the Lord and his law. Oh, that when we come to the close of life we may be able to. speak as David does as he closes his life-psalm! Not boastfully, but still boldly, he places himself among the obedient servants of the Lord.

    Oh, to be clear in conscience when life’s sun is setting! 161. ‘“Princes have persecuted me without a cause: but my heart standeth in awe of thy word. ’” ‘“Princes have persecuted me without a cause. ’” Such persons ought to have known better; they should have had sympathy with one of their own rank. A man expects a fair trial at the hands of his peers. It is ignoble for any one to be prejudiced; but worst of all for noblemen to be so. If honor were banished from all other breasts it should remain in the bosom of kings, and certainly honor forbids the persecution of the innocent. Princes are appointed to protect the virtuous and avenge the oppressed, and it is a shame when they themselves become the assailants of the righteous. It was a sad case when the man of God found himself attacked by the judges of the earth, for their eminent position added weight and venom to their enmity. It was well that the sufferer could truthfully assert that this; persecution was ‘“without a cause.’” He had not broken their laws, he had not injured them, he had not even desired to see them injured: he had not been an advocate of rebellion or anarchy, he had neither openly nor secretly opposed their power, and therefore, while this made their oppression the more inexcusable, it took away a part of its sting, and helped the brave-hearted servant of God to bear up under their oppressions. ‘“But my heart standeth in awe of thy word. ’” He might have been overcome by awe of the princes, had it not been that a greater fear drove out the less, and he was swayed by awe of God’s word. How little are crowns and scepters in the judgment of that man who perceives a more majestic royalty in the commands of his God! We are not likely to be disheartened by persecution, nor driven by it into sin, if the word of God exerts supreme power over our minds. 162. ‘“I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil. ’” His awe did not prevent his joy; his fear of God was not of the kind which perfect love casts out, but of the sort which it nourishes. He trembled at the word of the Lord, and yet rejoiced at it. He compares his joy to that of one who has been long in battle, and has; at last won the victory and is dividing the spoil. This usually falls to the lot of princes; and though David was divided from other monarchs by their persecution of him, yet he had victories of his own, which they understood not, and treasures in which they could not share. He could say, — ‘“With causeless hate by princes chased, Still on thy word my heart is placed.

    That word I dread; that word I hold More dear than heaps of captured gold. ’” ‘“David’s spoil’” was more than equal to the greatest gains of all the mighty men. His holy booty taken by his earnest: contention for the truth of God was greater than all the trophies that can be gained in war. Grace divides greater spoil than falls to the lot of sword or bow.

    In the evil times we have to fight hard for divine truth: every doctrine costs us a battle. But when we gain a full understanding of eternal truth by personal struggles it becomes doubly precious to us. If we have unusual battling for the word of God, may we have for our spoil a firmer hold upon the priceless word!

    Perhaps the, passage may mean that the Psalmist rejoiced as one who comes upon hidden treasure for which he has not fought, in which case we find the analogy in the man of God who, while reading the Bible, makes grand and blessed discoveries of the grace of God laid up for him — discoveries which surprise him, for he looked not to find such a prize.

    Whether we come by the truth as finders or as warriors fighting for it, the heavenly treasure should be equally dear to us. With what quiet joy does the ploughman steal home with his golden find! How victors shout as they share the plunder! How glad should that man be who has discovered his portion in the promises of Holy Writ, and is able to enjoy that portion for himself, knowing by the witness of the Holy Spirit that it is all his own! 163. ‘“I hate and abhor lying: but thy law do I love. ’” ‘“I hate and abhor lying. ’” A double expression for an inexpressible loathing. Falsehood in doctrine, in life, or in speech, falsehood in any form or shape, had become utterly detestable to the Psalmist. This was a remarkable statement for an Oriental to make; for, generally, lying is the delight of Easterns, and the only wrong they see in it is when their skill is at fault, so that the lie is found out. David himself had made much progress when he had come to this; for he, too, had practiced guile in his day. He does not, however, alone refer to falsehood in conversation; he evidently intends perversity in faith and teaching. He wrote down all opposition to the God of truth as lying, and then he turned his whole soul against it with the intensest form of indignation. Godly men should detest false doctrine even as they abhor any other lie. ‘“But thy law do I love. ’” He did not merely yield to it, but he had great pleasure in it. A sullen obedience is essentially rebellion: only a hearty love will secure sincere loyalty to law. David loved the law of God because it is the foe of falsehood and the guardian of truth. His love was as ardent as his hate: he intensely loved the word of God, which is in itself pure truth. True men love truth, and hate lying. It is well for us to know which way our hates and loves run; and we may do essential service to others by declaring what: are the objects of our admiration and detestation. Both love and hate are contagious, and when they are sanctified the wider their influence the better. 164. ‘“Seven times a day do f praise thee because of thy righteous judgments. ’” He labored perfectly to praise his perfect God, and therefore fulfilled the perfect number of songs — that number being seven. He reached a Sabbath in his praise, and before he rested on his bed he found sweet rest in the joyful adoration of Jehovah. Seven may also intend notable frequency.

    Frequently he lifted up his heart in thanksgiving to God for his divine teachings in the word, and for his divine actions in providence. With his voice he extolled the righteousness of the Judge of all the earth. As often as he thought of God’s ways a song leaped to his lips. At the sight of the oppressive princes, and at the hearing of the abounding falsehood around him, he felt all the more bound to adore and magnify God, who in all things is truth and righteousness, When others slander us, or in any other way rob us of our just need of praise, it should be a warning to us :not to fall into the same conduct towards our God, who is so much more worthy of honor. If we praise God when we are persecuted, our music will be all the sweeter to him because of our constancy in suffering. If we keep clear of all lying, our song will be the more acceptable because it comes out of honest lips. If we never flatter men, we shall be in the better condition for honoring the Lord. Do we praise God seven times a day? Alas! the question needs altering — Do we praise him once in seven days? O shameful fraud, which deprives the Ever Blessed of the music of this lower sphere!

    The pre-eminent holiness of Jehovah’s laws and acts should bring forth from us continued praise. Happy are holy men to be ruled by a righteous governor who never errs I Each lover of righteousness will say in his heart — ‘“Just are thy laws; I daily raise The sevenfold tribute of my praise’” 165. ‘“Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them. ’” ‘“Great peace have they which love thy law. ’” What a charming verse is this! It deals not with those who perfectly keep the law — for where should such men be found? — -but with those who love it, whose hearts and hands are made to square with its precepts and demands. These men are ever striving, with all their hearts, to walk in obedience to the law, and though they are often persecuted they have peace, yea, great peace; for they have learned the secret of the reconciling blood, they have felt the power of the comforting Spirit, and they stand before the Father as men accepted. The Lord has given them to feel his peace, which passeth all understanding. They have many troubles, and are likely to be persecuted by the proud; but their usual condition is that of deep calm peace too great for ‘“these light afflictions’” to break. ‘“And nothing shall offend them, ’” or, ‘“shall really injure them.’” ‘“All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.’” It must needs be that offenses come; but these lovers of the law are peacemakers, and so they neither give nor take offense. That peace which is founded upon conformity to God’s will is a living and lasting one, worth writing of with enthusiasm, as the Psalmist here does. 166. ‘“Lord, I have hoped for thy salvation, and done thy commandments. ’” Here we have salvation by grace, and the fruits thereof.

    All David’s hope was fixed upon God, he looked to him alone for salvation; and then he endeavored most earnestly to fulfill the commands of ibis law. Those who place least reliance upon good works are very frequently those who have the most of them: that same divine teaching which delivers us from confidence in our own doings leads us to abound in every’ good work to the glory of God. In times of trouble there are two things to be done, the first is to hope in God, and the second is to do that which is right. The first without the second would be mere, presumption; the second without the first mere formalism. It is well if in looking back we can claim to have acted in the way which is commanded of the Lord. If we have acted rightly towards God we are sure that he will act kindly towards us. 167. ‘“My soul hath kept thy testimonies; and I love them exceedingly. ’” ‘“My soul hath kept thy testimonies. ’” My outward life has kept thy precepts, and my inward life, my soul, has kept thy testimonies. God has borne testimony to many sacred truths, and these we hold fast with all our heart and soul, for we value them as life itself. The gracious man stores up the truth of God within his heart as a treasure exceedingly dear and precious — he keeps it His secret soul, his inmost self, becomes the guardian of these divine teachings which are his. sole authority in soul matters. To him it becomes a great joy in his old age to be able to say, ‘“My soul hath kept thy testimonies.’” ‘“And I love them exceedingly. ’” This was Why he kept them, and, having kept them, this was the result of the keeping. He did not merely store up revealed truth by way of duty, but because of a deep, unutterable affection for it. He felt that he could sooner die than give up any part of the revelation of God. The more we store our minds with heavenly truth, the more deeply shall we be in love with it: the more we see the exceeding riches of the Bible, the more will our love exceed measure, and exceed expression. 168. ‘“I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies; dear all my ways are before thee ,’” ‘“I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies. ’” Both the practical and the doctrinal parts of God’s word he had stored up, and preserved, and followed. It is a blessed thing to see the two forms of the divine word equally known, equally valued, equally confessed: there should be no picking and choosing as to the mind of God. We know those who endeavor to be careful as to the precepts, but who seem to think that the doctrines of the gospel are mere matters of opinion, which they may shape for themselves. This is not a perfect condition of things. We have known others again who are very rigid as to the doctrines, and painfully lax with reference to the precepts. This also is far from right. When the two are ‘“kept ’” with equal earnestness, then have we the perfect man. ‘“For all my ways are before thee ?’ Probably he means to say that this was the motive of his endeavoring to be right both in head and heart, because he knew that God saw him, and under the sense of the divine presence he was afraid to err. Or else he is thus appealing to God to bear witness to the truth of what he has said. In either case it is no small consolation to feel that our heavenly Father knows all about us, and that if princes speak against us, and worldlings fill their mouths with cruel lies, yet he can vindicate us, for there is nothing secret or hidden from him.

    We are struck with the contrast between this verse, which is the last of its octave, and verse 176, which is similarly placed in the next octave. This is a protest of innocence, ‘“I have kept thy precepts,’” and that a confession of sin, ‘“I have gone astray like a lost sheep.’” Both were sincere, both accurate. Experience makes many a paradox plain, and this is one. Before God we may be clear of open fault, and yet at the same time mourn over a thousand heart-wanderings which need his restoring hand.

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