Click to donate today!
The various excellencies and important uses of the law or
revelation of God.
This is another of the alphabetical or acrostic Psalms. It is divided into twenty-two parts, answering to the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Every part is divided into eight verses; and each verse begins with that letter of the alphabet which forms the title of the part, e.g.: The eight first verses have א aleph prefixed, the second eight ב beth, each of the eight verses beginning with that letter; and so of the rest. All connexion, as might be naturally expected, is sacrificed to this artificial and methodical arrangement.
It is not easy to give any general Analysis of this Psalm; it is enough to say that it treats in general on the privileges and happiness of those who observe the law of the Lord. That law is exhibited by various names and epithets tending to show its various excellences. Earnest prayers are offered to God for wisdom to understand it, and for grace to observe it faithfully. These particulars may be collected from the whole composition, and appear less or more in every part.
The words which express that revelation which God had then given to men, or some particular characteristic of it, are generally reckoned to be the ten following:
To these some add the following:
3. Name; but these are not used in the sense of the other ten words.
I believe it is almost universally asserted that in every verse of this Psalm one or other of those ten words is used, except in ver. 122; but on a closer inspection we shall find that none of them is used in the above sense in the 84th, 90th, 121st, 122nd, and 132nd. See the notes on these verses. Psalms 119:84; Psalms 119:90; Psalms 119:121; Psalms 119:122; Psalms 119:132
To save myself unnecessary repetition, and the reader time and trouble, I shall here, once for all, explain the above words, which the reader will do well to keep in remembrance.
1. The Law, תורה TORAH, from ירה yarah, to direct, guide, teach, make straight, or even, point forward; because it guides, directs, and instructs in the way of righteousness; makes our path straight, shows what is even and right, and points us onward to peace, truth, and happiness. It is even our school-master to bring us to Christ, that we may be justified through faith; and by it is the knowledge of sin.
II. STATUTES, חקים CHUKKIM, from חק chak, 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.
III. PRECEPTS, פקודים PIKKUDIM, from פקד pakad, to take notice or care of a thing, to attend, have respect to, to appoint, to visit; because they take notice of our way, have respect to the whole of our life and conversation, superintend, overlook, and visit us in all the concerns and duties of life.
IV. COMMANDMENTS, מצות MITSVOTH, from צוה tasvah to command, order, ordain; because they show us what we should do, and what we should leave undone, and exact our obedience.
V. TESTIMONIES, עדות EDOTH, from עד ad, denoting beyond, farther, all along, to bear witness, or testimony. The rites and ceremonies of the law; because they point out matters beyond themselves, being types and representations of the good things that were to come.
VI. JUDGMENTS, משפטים MISHPATIM, from שפט shaphat, to judge, determine, regulate, order, and discern, because they judge concerning our words and works; show the rules by which they should be regulated; and cause us to discern what is right and wrong, and decide accordingly.
VII. TRUTH, אמונה EMUNAH, from אמן aman, to make steady, constant, to settle, trust, believe. The law that is established steady, confirmed, and ordered in all things, and sure; which should be believed on the authority of God, and trusted to as an infallible testimony from Him who cannot lie nor deceive.
VIII. WORD, דבר dabar, from the same root, to discourse, utter one's sentiments, speak consecutively and intelligibly; in which it appears to differ from מלל malal, to utter articulate sounds. Any prophecy or immediate communication from heaven, as well as the whole body of Divine revelation, is emphatically called דבר יהוה debar Yehovah, the word of Jehovah. On the same ground we call the whole Old and New Testament THE WORD OF THE LORD, as we term the volume in which they are contained THE BIBLE - THE BOOK. In his revelation God speaks to man; shows him, in a clear, concise, intelligible, and rational way, his interest, his duty, his privileges; and, in a word, the reasonable service that he requires of him.
IX. WAY, דרך DERECH, from the same root, to proceed, go on, walk, tread. The way in which God goes in order to instruct and save man; the way in which man must tread in order to be safe, holy, and happy. God's manner of acting or proceeding in providence and grace; and the way that man should take in order to answer the end of his creation and redemption.
X. RIGHTEOUSNESS, צדקה TSEDAKAH from צדק tsadak, to do justice, to give full weight. That which teaches a man to give to all their due; to give GOD his due, MAN his due, and HIMSELF his due; for every man has duties to God, his neighbor, and himself, to perform. This word is applied to God's judgments, testimonies, and commandments; they are all righteous, give to all their due, and require what is due from every one.
The three words, which some add here, are,
1. FAITHFULNESS, אמונה EMUNAH: but see this under No. VII., nor does it appear in Psalms 119:90, where it occurs, to be used as a characteristic of God's law, but rather his exact fulfilment of his promises to man.
The second is JUDGMENT, משפט mishpat. See this under No. VI.: it occurs in Psalms 119:84; Psalms 119:121: "When wilt thou execute judgment," c. but is not used in those places as one of the ten words.
The third is NAME, שם shem, see Psalms 119:132: but this is no characteristic of God's law; it refers here simply to himself. Those that love thy NAME is the same as those that love THEE. Bishop Nicholson inserts promises among the ten words: but this occurs no where in the Psalm.
We might, and with much more propriety, add a fourth, אמרה IMRAH, from אמר amar, to branch out, spread, or diffuse itself, as the branches of a tree; and which is often used for a word spoken, a speech. This often occurs in the Psalm: and we regularly translate it word, and put no difference or distinction between it and דבר dabar, No. VIII.: but it is not exactly the same; דבר dabar may apply more properly to history, relation, description, and such like; while, אמרתך imrathecha, thy word, may mean an immediate oracle, delivered solemnly from God to his prophet for the instruction of men. But the two words appear often indifferently used; and it would not be easy to ascertain the different shades of meaning between these two roots.
Having thus far introduced the Psalm to the reader's attention, I should probably speak at large of the elegance of its composition, and the importance and utility of its matter. Like all other portions of Divine revelation, it is elegant, important, and useful; and while I admire the fecundity of the psalmist's genius, the unabating flow of his poetic vein, his numerous synonyms, and his copia verborum, by which he is enabled to expand, diversify, and illustrate the same idea; presenting it to his reader in all possible points of view, so as to render it pleasing, instructive, and impressive; I cannot rob the rest of the book of its just praise by setting this, as many have done, above all the pieces it contains. It is by far the largest, the most artificial, and most diversified; yet, in proportion to its length, it contains the fewest ideas of any Psalm in the Book.
Several of the ancients, particularly the Greek fathers, have considered it as an abridgement of David's life; in which he expresses all the states through which he had passed; the trials, persecutions, succours, and encouragements he had received. The Latin fathers perceive in it all the morality of the Gospel, and rules for a man's conduct in every situation of life. Cassiodorus asserts that it contains the sentiments of the prophets, apostles, martyrs, and all the saints. In the introduction to the Book of Psalms, I have conjectured that many of them were composed from notes taken at different times, and in widely different circumstances; hence the different states described in the same Psalm, which could not have been at one and the same time the experience of the same person. It is most likely that this Psalm was composed in this way, and this, as well as its acrostical arrangement, will account for its general want of connexion.
Though the most judicious interpreters assign it to the times of the Babylonish captivity; yet there are so many things in it descriptive of David's state, experience, and affairs, that I am led to think it might have come from his pen; or if composed at or under the captivity, was formed out of his notes and memoranda.
I shall now make short remarks on the principal subjects in each part; and, at the end of each, endeavour by the Analysis to show the connexion which the eight verses of each have among themselves, and the use which the reader should make of them. In all the Versions except the Chaldee this Psalm is numbered cxviii.
Verse Psalms 119:1. Blessed are the undefiled in the way — אשרי תמימי דרך ashrey temimey darech, "O the blessedness of the perfect ones in the way." This Psalm begins something like the first, where see the notes. Psalms 1:1 By the perfect, which is the proper meaning of the original word, we are to understand those who sincerely believe what God has spoken, religiously observe all the rules and ceremonies of his religion, and have their lives and hearts regulated by the spirit of love, fear, and obedience. This is farther stated in the second verse.
Verse Psalms 119:3. They also do no iniquity — They avoid all idolatry, injustice, and wrong; and they walk in God's ways, not in those ways to which an evil heart might entice them, nor those in which the thoughtless and the profligate tread.
Verse Psalms 119:4. Thy precepts diligently. — מאד meod, "superlatively, to the uttermost." God has never given a commandment, the observance of which he knew to be impossible. And to whatsoever he has commanded he requires obedience; and his grace is sufficient for us. We must not trifle with God.
Verse Psalms 119:5. O that my ways were directed — "I wish that my way may be confirmed to keep thy statutes." Without thee I can do nothing; my soul is unstable and fickle; and it will continue weak and uncertain till thou strengthen and establish it.
Verse Psalms 119:6. Then shall I not be ashamed — Every act of transgression in the wicked man tends to harden his heart; and render it callous. If a man who fears God is so unhappy as to fall into sin, his conscience reproaches him, and he is ashamed before God and man. This is a full proof that God's Spirit has not utterly departed from him, and that he may repent, believe and be healed.
Unto all thy commandments. — God requires universal obedience, and all things are possible to him whom Christ strengthens; and all things are possible to him that believes. Allow that any of God's commandments may be transgressed, and we shall soon have the whole decalogue set aside.
Verse Psalms 119:8. O forsake me not utterly. — עד מאד ad meod, "to utter dereliction;" never leave me to my own strength, nor to my own heart!
I. In this first octonary the prophet commends to us the law of God, and persuades us to practise it by two arguments: 1. Happiness, Psalms 119:1-2. 2. The excellence of the Lawgiver, Psalms 119:4.
II. He shows his affection to this law, desiring grace to keep it, Psalms 119:5.
On which he knew there would follow two effects:
1. Peace of conscience: "He should not be ashamed," c.
2. Thankfulness to God for his teaching, Psalms 119:7.
"Blessed are they who are undefiled in the way," c.
"Blessed are they who keep his testimonies," &c.
"They also do no iniquity," &c.
I. The first argument used by the prophet to persuade men to obedience is blessedness. He that would be happy must be obedient and his obedience, if true, may be thus discerned: -
1. "He must be undefiled in the way." Keep himself from sin.
2. "He must walk in the law of the Lord," c. Which is the rule of our faith, life, and worship.
3. "He must keep his testimonies." Search them out in God's word.
4. "He must seek him with a whole heart." With sincerity search his law to the utmost, both what it bids, and what it forbids, in order to know the mind of the Lawgiver.
5. "They also do no iniquity." They work no iniquity with 1. Purpose of heart 2. Delight 3. With perseverance; 4. Nor at all, when the heart is fully sanctified unto God; Christ dwelling in it by faith.
6. They walk in his way, which the wicked do not: but the righteous have taken it for their path through life; and should they at any time swerve from it, they come back by repentance and confession to God.
The prophet's second argument to persuade to obedience is the authority of the Lawgiver. All disobedience proceeds either from contempt of God's laws, or rebellion against them: but David brings to our mind the authority of the Lawgiver, from a consideration of who he is who commands our obedience as his servants: "Thou hast commanded that we keep,' c.
1. Thou, who knowest when we err, and wilt punish us.
2. Hast commanded - absolutely enjoined.
3. That we keep, c. - they cannot be dispensed with.
4. Diligently, &c. Not negligently or lazily, or Satan will take advantage of us.
II. The blessedness promised to the keepers of God's law moved the prophet to send forth this ardent prayer, "O that my ways," &c.
1. David was a great king, and yet desires to be obedient.
2. He answers God's command by a prayer, to be enabled to perform it by his grace.
3. "O that my ways," &c. My counsels, actions, &c., were conformable to the straitness and regularity of thy law.
4. He knew he could not be too closely united to God, and therefore he prays to be directed.
Which prayer he knew God would hear and that the effect would be quietness of soul, and boldness at a throne of grace.
1. "Then shall I not be confounded," c. If his heart were right with God, he should not fly from him, as did Adam: that was the effect of disobedience.
2. If God directed his ways to the keeping of his commandments, he should find no amazement in his conscience, but holy boldness.
And this effect will produce another fruit, a thankful heart.
1. "I will praise thee." Give thee thanks for they grace and assistance.
2. "With uprightness of heart." Not with his tongue only, but with an honest and upright heart.
3. But this could not be done till God had taught him: "I will praise thee when I shall have learned," &c. Not to know them only with my understanding, but to make them the rule of my life, which cannot be but by the influence of the Spirit of GOD.
And what follows upon this will be a firm purpose of heart to be obedient to God's laws.
1. "I will keep thy statutes." So am I fully resolved and decreed with myself. And it is a great help to godliness to resolve to live a godly life for how shall that be performed which is not purposed.
2. And yet this purpose or conclusion he makes in God's strength and therefore constantly prays: "O forsake me not utterly." Without thy aid I can do nothing: but if at any time in thy just judgment thou desert me, that I may know and feel my own weakness, and learn the better to fly to thee, let it not be an utter desertion. Forsake me not, neither too much nor too long.
Verse Psalms 119:9. A young man cleanse his way — ארח 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, לשמר lishmor, to keep guard, and preserve his way-his general course of life, from all defilement.
Verse Psalms 119:10. With my whole heart have I sought thee —
4. He must seek God; make earnest prayer and supplication to him for Divine light, for a tender conscience, and for strength to walk uprightly.
5. His whole heart; all his affections must be engaged here, or he cannot succeed. If he keep any affection for the idol or abomination; if his heart do not give it before the Lord, he may make many prayers, but God will answer none of them.
6. He must take care to keep in the path of duty, of abstinence and self-denial; not permitting either his eye, his hand, or his heart to wander from the commandments of his Maker.
Verse Psalms 119:11. Thy word have I hid in my heart —
7. He must treasure up those portions of God's word in his mind and heart which speak against uncleanness of every kind; and that recommend purity, chastity, and holiness. The word of Christ should dwell richly in him. If God's word be only in his Bible, and not also in his heart, he may soon and easily be surprised into his besetting sin.
Verse Psalms 119:12. Blessed art thou —
8. He must acknowledge the mercy of God, in so far preserving him from all the consequences of his sin.
9. He should beg of him to become his teacher, that his heart and conscience might be instructed in the spirituality of his statutes.
Verse Psalms 119:13. With my lips have I declared —
10. He should declare to his own heart, and to all his companions in iniquity, God's judgments against himself and them; that if his long-suffering mercy have not made a proper impression on their hearts, they may tremble at his approaching judgments.
Verse Psalms 119:14. I have rejoiced —
11. He must consider it his chief happiness to be found in the path of obedience, giving his whole heart and strength to God; and when enabled to do it, he should rejoice more in it than if he had gained thousands of gold and silver. O how great is the treasure of a tender and approving conscience!
Verse Psalms 119:15. I will meditate —
12. He should encourage self-examination and reflection; and meditate frequently on God's words, works, and ways-and especially on his gracious dealings towards him.
13. He should keep his eye upon God's steps; setting the example of his Saviour before his eyes, going where he would go, and nowhere else; doing what he would do, and nothing else; keeping the company that he would keep, and none else; and doing every thing in reference to the final judgment.
Verse Psalms 119:16. I will delight myself — The word is very emphatical: אשתעשע eshtaasha, I will skip about and jump for joy.
14. He must exult in God's word as his treasure, live in the spirit of obedience as his work, and ever glory in God, who has called him to such a state of salvation.
15. He must never forget what God has done for him, done in him, and promised farther to do; and he must not forget the promises he had made, and the vows of the Lord that are upon him. Any young man who attends to these fifteen particulars will get his impure way cleansed; victory over his sin; and, if he abide faithful to the Lord that bought him, an eternal heaven at last among them that are sanctified.
In the first part the psalmist, having commended God's law, from its Author - God, and its end - happiness, shows us in the second part the efficacy and utility of it to a holy life, without which there can be no happiness. And in order to show this effect, he chooses the most unlikely subject.
I. A young man, in whom the law of the members is most strong; he wants experience; he is headstrong, and generally under the government, not of reason nor religion, but of his own passions.
II. The psalmist shows that, to cleanse the way of such, he must "take heed to them," watch over them, and "remember his Creator in the days of his youth."
As a man must become holy in order to be happy, he shows how this holiness is to be attained, and adduces his own experience.
1. Seek God with thy "whole heart." Be truly sensible of your wants.
2. Keep and remember what God says: "Thy words have I hidden," &c.
3. Reduce all this to practice: "That I might not sin against thee."
4. Bless God for what he has given: "Blessed art thou," &c.
5. Ask more: "Teach me thy statutes."
6. Be ready to communicate his knowledge to others: "With my lips have I declared."
7. Let it have a due effect on thy own heart: "I have rejoiced," &c.
8. Meditate frequently upon them: "I will meditate," &c.
9. Deeply reflect on them: "I will have respect," &c. 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: "I will not forget thy word. I will (in consequence) delight myself in thy statutes."
Verse Psalms 119:17. Deal bountifully — גמל gemol, reward thy servant. Let him have the return of his faith and prayers, that the Divine life may be preserved in his soul! Then he will keep thy word. From גמל gamal, to reward, &c., comes the name of ג gimel, the third letter in the Hebrew alphabet, which is prefixed to every verse in this part, and commences it with its own name. This is a stroke of the psalmist's art and ingenuity.
Verse Psalms 119:18. Open thou mine eyes — גל עיני gal eynai, reveal my eyes, illuminate my understanding, take away the veil that is on my heart, and then shall I see wonders in thy law. The Holy Scriptures are plain enough; but the heart of man is darkened by sin. The Bible does not so much need a comment, as the soul does the light of the Holy Spirit. Were it not for the darkness of the human intellect, the things relative to salvation would be easily apprehended.
Verse Psalms 119:19. I am a stranger in the earth — In the land. Being obliged to wander about from place to place, I am like a stranger even in my own country. If it refer to the captives in Babylon, it may mean that they felt themselves there as in a state of exile; for, although they had been seventy years in it, they still felt it as a strange land, because they considered Palestine their home.
Verse Psalms 119:20. My soul breaketh — We have a similar expression: It broke my heart, That is heart-breaking, She died of a broken heart. It expresses excessive longing, grievous disappointment, hopeless love, accumulated sorrow. By this we may see the hungering and thirsting which the psalmist had after righteousness, often mingled with much despondency.
Verse Psalms 119:21. Thou hast rebuked the proud — This was done often in the case of David; and was true also in reference to the Babylonians, who held the Israelites in subjection, and whose kings were among the proudest of human beings. Instead of זדים zedim, the proud, some MSS. read זרים zarim, strangers, and one reads גוים goyim, the heathen; and so the Syriac.
Verse Psalms 119:22. Remove from me reproach and contempt — Of these the captives in Babylon had a more than ordinary load.
Verse Psalms 119:23. Princes also did sit — It is very likely that the nobles of Babylon did often, by wicked misrepresentations, render the minds of the kings of the empire evil affected towards the Jews.
Verse Psalms 119:24. Thy testimonies also are - my counsellors.] אנשי עצתי anshey atsathi, "the men of my counsel." I sit with them; and I consider every testimony thou hast given as a particular counsellor; one whose advice I especially need.
The Analysis will farther explain the particular uses of this part.
In this division the psalmist -
I. Reckons up the impediments he may meet with in endeavouring to keep God's law.
II. Prays God to remove them.
First impediment. A dead soul and a dull heart; and therefore he prays for grace that he may live and keep God's word.
Second impediment. Blindness of understanding: "Open my eyes, that I may see wonders in thy law." The wonderful equity, wisdom, and profit of it.
Third impediment. His wayfaring and uncertain situation: I am a "stranger upon the earth;" therefore, "hide not thy commandments from me." Should I be frequently destitute of thy ordinances, leave me not without thy Spirit's teaching.
Fourth impediment. His infirmity and imperfection: "My soul breaks," c. I wish to be at all times, what I am sometimes, full of desire, fervour, zeal, prayer, and faith. Then shall I be what I should be, when my heart is steady in seeking thy salvation.
Fifth impediment. Pride of heart. This he saw in others, and was afraid that it might take place in himself and he knew if it did, he should wander from the commandment, and come under a curse.
Sixth impediment. The reproach and contempt he met with in consequence of his endeavours to live a godly life. Against this he prays as a grievous temptation: "Remove from me reproach and contempt."
Seventh impediment. The rulers of the people plotted against his life; they even met in council about it: "Princes did also sit and speak against me." It is difficult to bear reproach even for Christ's sake; though it should be a matter of glorying: but he must be strong in the faith, who can stand against keen raillery, and state persecution.
But what effect had all this upon the psalmist?
1. He cleaved to God's testimonies, and conscientiously observed them.
2. He made them his counsellors - drew all his wisdom from them; and he was amply rewarded, for they became his delight. Every man profits who is faithful to his God.
Verse Psalms 119:25. My soul cleaveth unto the dust — It would be best to translate נפשי naphshi, my life; and then cleaving to the dust may imply an apprehension of approaching death; and this agrees best with the petition.
Quicken thou me — חיני chaiyeni, "make me alive." Keep me from going down into the dust.
Verse Psalms 119:26. I have declared my ways — ספרתי sipparti, "I have numbered 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."
Verse Psalms 119:28. My soul melteth — דלף dalaph signifies to distil, to drop as tears from the eye. As my distresses cause the tears to distil from my eyes, so the overwhelming load of my afflictions causes my life to ebb and leak out.
Verse Psalms 119:29. The way of lying — The propensity to falsity and prevarication, whatsoever is contrary to truth. Remove me from its solicitations, and remove it from me. "Grant me thy law graciously;" give it to me as a rule of moral conduct; but give it to me graciously through the Gospel; and then it will not be the letter that killeth, but will be sanctified to me, so as to become to me holy, just, and GOOD.
Verse Psalms 119:30. I have chosen the way of truth — And that I may continue in its "remove from me the way of lying." See above.
Verse Psalms 119:31. I have stuck — דבקתי dabakti, I have cleaved to, been glued to, them: the same word as in Psalms 119:25. My soul cleaves as much to thy testimonies, as my life has cleaved to the dust.
O Lord, put me not to shame. — Let my sins and follies be blotted out by thy mercy; and so hide and cover them that they shall never appear, either in this or the coming world, to my shame and confusion! How many need to be importunate with God in this prayer!
Verse Psalms 119:32. I will run — The particle כי, which we translate when, should be translated because: Because thou shalt enlarge, or dilate, my heart; make plain my path by cleansing me from my impurity, and taking the hinderances out of my way. I will then run without dread of stumbling, and every day make sensible progress.
The psalmist -
I. Sets down the state of an imperfect man.
II. Confesses it.
III. Asks grace and mercy.
IV. Professes what in consequence he would do.
I. 1. "My soul cleaveth unto the dust:" His affections cleaved to things below, instead of being set on things above.
2. "Quicken thou me:" Give me a life according to thy law. By cleaving to the earth, he was earthly; by cleaving to the flesh, he was carnal; but by living according to the spiritual law, he was to become one spirit with God.
II. He confesses his imperfections.
1. "I have declared my ways." I acknowledge all my wanderings, sins, follies, and unfaithfulness, I have hidden nothing from thee.
2. Thou didst hear me; forgavest me out of thy mere mercy.
3. Do the like now: "Teach me thy statutes." These two things should be sought together: mercy to pardon, and grace to assist and renew.
III. He proceeds in this prayer.
1. "Make me to understand:" Where the mind is darkened, the heart cannot be well ordered.
2. He that asks good things from God should ask them for a good end: "Make me to understand; so shall I talk," &c.
3. He would show God's wondrous works: I shall talk of thy wondrous law, - thy wondrous Gospel, - thy wondrous mercy in saving sinners, - the wondrous means thou usest, &c.
IV. He returns to his confession, and states what he purposes to do.
1. "My soul melts:" I am full of trouble and distress.
2. "Strengthen thou me:" Give me the grace thou hast promised.
3. "Remove from me the way of lying:" Give me power to avoid all sin.
4. "Grant me thy law graciously:" Print the matter of it in my heart, and abolish my corruption.
5. He chooses the truth.
6. He adheres to it.
7. He will continue in it.
8. Yea, and with greater diligence than ever. To make up for lost time, he will now run: and, while running, keep in God's way. Some run, but they run out of it.
Verse Psalms 119:33. Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes — To understand the spiritual reference of all the statutes, c, under the law, required a teaching which could only come from God.
I shall keep it unto the end. — Here is a good thing asked for a good end. He wishes for heavenly teaching not to make a parade of it, but to enable him to discern his duty, that he might act accordingly.
Verse Psalms 119:34. With my whole heart. — I will not trifle with my God, I will not divide my affections with the world; God shall have all.
Verse Psalms 119:36. Not to covetousness. — Let me have no inordinate love for gain of any kind, nor for any thing that may grieve thy Spirit, or induce me to seek my happiness here below.
Verse Psalms 119:37. From beholding vanity — An idol, worldly pleasure, beauty, finery; any thing that is vain, empty, or transitory. Let me not behold it; let me not dwell upon it. Let me remember Achan: he saw, - he coveted, - he took, - he hid his theft, and was slain for his sin.
Verse Psalms 119:38. Stablish thy word — Fulfil the promises thou hast made to me.
Verse Psalms 119:39. Turn away my reproach, which I fear — This may be understood of the reproach which a man may meet with in consequence of living a godly life, for such a life was never fashionable in any time or country. But I have found the following note on the passage: "I have done a secret evil; my soul is sorry for it: if it become public, it will be a heavy reproach to me. O God, turn it away, and let it never meet the eye of man!" - Anon.
Verse Psalms 119:40. Behold, I have longed — Thou searchest the heart; thou knowest that I have long desired thy salvation; thou seest that this desire still remains. Behold it! it is thy work; and through thy mercy I breathe after thy mercy.
Quicken me — I am dying; O give me the spirit of life in Christ Jesus!
In this part, which is wholly precatory, the psalmist prays, -
I. That God would illuminate his mind.
II. That he would remove all those hinderances which might prevent him from doing his duty.
I. 1. The first petition is for illumination: "Teach me;" point me out what I am to learn, and how I am to learn it.
2. The second is, "Give me understanding." Let me comprehend, that I may profit by this teaching.
3. The end for which he asks, - that he "may keep the law."
He specifies the manner: 1. He will be no temporizer; he will keep it "to the end." 2. He will be no hypocrite; he will keep it "with his whole heart."
1. He prays for power: "Make me to go." Without thy Spirit's help I can do nothing: I do not know the way without thy teaching; I cannot walk in it without thy help.
2. He wishes to go in the path; the way in which all God's followers have walked.
3. It is a path, not a public road; a path where no beast goes, and men seldom.
4. He gives a reason why his petition should be granted: "Therein do I delight."
II. He prays to have all impediments removed.
1. "Incline my heart." Bind it down to a willing obedience.
2. "Not to covetousness." Keep me from the love of money, the world, the creature.
3. He prays against the desire of the eye: "Turn away mine eyes." Let the eye of my body be turned away from vanity; the eye of my mind turned away to thee.
4. Let me find the benefit of this turning: "Stablish thy word," - make good thy word; give me grace to stand.
5. For which he gives this reason: "I am thy servant, and am devoted to thy fear."
6. He is afraid of the consequences if he be not faithful: "Turn away my reproach." Let it not be said, at the day of judgment, "I was hungry, and you gave me no meat," c.
7. He knows if God condemns it must be justly: "For thy judgments are good." Man may condemn where thou approvest he may approve where thou condemnest. Thy judgments alone are good.
8. He concludes, desiring the Lord to look on the state of his heart: "Behold!" 1. Is not my heart right before thee? 2. If so, quicken me; make me alive, and keep me alive! Without the latter, the former will answer no end.
Verse Psalms 119:41. Let thy mercies come — Let me speedily see the accomplishment of all my prayers! Let me have thy salvation-such a deliverance as it becomes thy greatness and goodness to impart. Let it be according to thy word-thy exceeding great and precious promises.
Verse Psalms 119:42. So shall I have wherewith to answer — Many say, "My hope in thy mercy is vain;" but when thou fulfillest thy promises to me, then shall I answer to the confusion of their infidelity.
Verse Psalms 119:43. Take not the word of truth — Grant that the assurances which thy prophets have given to the people of approaching deliverance may not fall to the ground; let it appear that they have spoken thy mind, and that thou hast fulfilled their word.
Verse Psalms 119:45. I will walk at liberty — When freed from the present bondage, we shall rejoice in obedience to thy testimonies; we shall delight to keep all thy ordinances.
Verse Psalms 119:46. I will speak - before kings — Dr. Delaney supposes that this is spoken in reference to Achish, king of Gath, whom David had instructed in the Jewish religion; but we have already seen that it is most likely that the Psalm was compiled under the Babylonish captivity. But the words may with more propriety be referred to the case of Daniel, and other bold and faithful Israelites, who spoke courageously before Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius. See the books of Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah.
Verse Psalms 119:47. Thy commandments, which I have loved. — O shame to Christians who feel so little affection to the Gospel of Christ, when we see such cordial, conscientious, and inviolate attachment in a Jew to the laws and ordinances of Moses, that did not afford a thousandth part of the privileges!
Verse Psalms 119:48. My hands also will I lift up — I will present every victim and sacrifice which the law requires. I will make prayer and supplication before thee, lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting.
The psalmist prays for mercy, and promises to show his thankfulness two ways: -
I. By a bold confession of God's law.
II. By holy obedience to it.
The whole section consists of two petitions and six promises.
I. I. First petition. "Let thy mercies come also unto me - even thy salvation." He joins these two, mercy and salvation, as cause and effect; for God's mercy can alone bring salvation.
This being granted, he vows to be thankful and courageous.
1. He vows to confess God's law, and answer any adversary who may say, "It is vain for him to hope in the Lord," by showing that God has fulfilled his word.
2. That he will put his trust in God; because he is omnipotent and merciful.
II. The second petition is, "Take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth." For which he gives a reason: "I have hoped in thy judgments."
1. "Take not thy word," in which I boast and glory before my adversaries.
2. "Take not the word out of my mouth," so that I dare not speak nor openly profess it.
3. "Take it not away utterly." If for my unfaithfulness thou shouldst shut my mouth for a time, restore thy favour to me, that I may again make confession unto salvation.
4. For which he gives this reason: "I have hoped," c. I trust in thy fidelity and justice, that thou wilt accomplish, in promises and threatenings, whatsoever thou hast engaged to perform.
II. Now he shows his thankfulness by determining to make confession of God's mercy in a holy life serving God.
1. With a free heart: "I will walk at liberty;" sin shall have no dominion over me.
2. With a loosened tongue: "I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings." It is a difficult thing to speak to great men concerning their salvation; it requires great boldness, and equal humility. Rudeness, under the guise of zeal, spoils every good.
3. With hearty affection: "I will delight myself." He who can delight in his duty has made considerable progress in piety.
4. With corresponding practice: "My hands will I lift up." My life shall declare that I have not received the grace of God in vain.
5. With a considerate mind: "I will meditate in thy statutes." My understanding shall frequently examine them, approve of them, and turn them over to a heart full of fervent affection.
6. This was a work to which he was accustomed: "I have loved thy commandments and statutes." Love feels no loads, and habit is a second nature.
Verse Psalms 119:49. Remember the word — Thou hast promised to redeem us from our captivity; on that word we have built our hope. Remember that thou hast thus promised, and see that we thus hope.
Verse Psalms 119:50. This is my comfort — While enduring our harsh captivity, we anticipated our enlargement; and thy word of promise was the means of keeping our souls alive.
Verse Psalms 119:51. The proud have had me — We have been treated, not only with oppressive cruelty, but also with contempt, because we still professed to trust in thee, the living God, who because of our transgressions hadst been greatly displeased with us; yet we have not declined from thy law.
Verse Psalms 119:52. I remembered thy judgments of old — The word judgments is here taken for providential dealing; and indeed kind treatment; that which God showed to the Hebrews in bearing with and blessing them. And it was the recollection of these judgments that caused him to comfort himself.
Verse Psalms 119:53. Horror hath taken hold upon me — The word זלעפה zilaphah, which we render horror, is thought to signify the pestilential burning wind called by the Arabs simoom. Here it strongly marks the idea that the psalmist had of the destructive nature of sin; it is pestilential; it is corrupting, mortal.
Verse Psalms 119:54. Thy statutes have been my songs — During our captivity all our consolation was derived from singing thy praises, and chanting among our fellow-captives portions of thy law, and the precepts it contains.
Verse Psalms 119:55. I have remembered thy name — Thou art Jehovah; and as our God thou hast made thyself known unto us. In the deepest night of our affliction this has consoled me.
Verse Psalms 119:56. This I had, because I kept thy precepts. — Though thou didst leave us under the power of our enemies, yet thou hast not left us without the consolations of thy Spirit.
In this part the psalmist -
II. Shows his trust in God, notwithstanding his discouragements.
III. Commends the word of God, by showing what blessed effects it had produced in him.
I. 1. He prays: "Remember;" accomplish and perfect thy promise. God's promises are made to prayer and faith; if men do not exert these, God will not fulfil the others.
2. "Made to thy servant:" The promises are made to the obedient. It is in vain to desire God to remember his promises made to us, if we make no conscience to perform our promises made to him.
3. "Wherein thou hast caused me to put my trust:" This is a forcible argument to induce God to fulfil his promises. They are thy promises; thou hast made them to us; and thou hast caused us to hope, because made by thee, that they shall be fulfilled.
II. He shows that the hope he had in God made him steady, even in afflictions.
1. "This is my comfort in affliction:" That is, God's word and promise.
2. "Thy word hath quickened me;" brought me life, strength, and courage.
3. He mentions his afflictions. 1. The proud have had me in derision. 2. Yet I have not declined from thy law. 3. For in my afflictions I remembered thy judgments; his casting down the proud and exalting the humble. And, 4. From these considerations he derived comfort.
III. His knowledge of God's purity and judgments caused him to commiserate the state of the wicked.
1. "Horror hath taken hold upon me:" For those who trampled under foot God's word, and persecuted the righteous, he grieved; not because of the evil they did him, but of the evil they did themselves. He describes those men.
2. They forsook God's laws. Probably apostate Israelites.
3. He was not without consolation, though much afflicted and harassed. He took delight in God's law, and made his songs of it.
4. And this was a source of joy to him both day and night.
5. He concludes with this acclamation: "This I had;" I had this spirit, this power, this comfort, "because I kept thy precepts." While I suffered for God, I was enabled to rejoice in God. As I made him my portion, so he has been my praise.
Verse Psalms 119:57. Thou art my portion, O Lord — From the fifty-seventh to the sixtieth verse may be seen the progress of the work of grace on the human heart, from the first dawn of heavenly light till the soul is filled with the fulness of God. But as I consider this Psalm as notes selected from diaries of past experience, formed at different times; and that the author has been obliged, for the support of his acrostic plan, to interchange circumstances, putting that sometimes behind which in the order of grace comes before; because, to put it in its right place, the letters would not accord with the alphabetical arrangement; I shall therefore follow what I conceive to be its order in the connexion of grace, and not in the order in which the words are here laid down. Psalms 119:60.
Verse Psalms 119:58. Psalms 119:60.
Verse Psalms 119:59. FIRST. - I thought on my ways — חשבתי chashabti, I deeply pondered them; I turned them upside down; I viewed my conduct on all sides. The word, as used here, is a metaphor taken from embroidering, where the figure must appear the same on the one side as it does on the other; therefore, the cloth must be turned on each side every time the needle is set in, to see that the stitch be fairly set. Thus narrowly and scrupulously did the psalmist examine his conduct; and the result was, a deep conviction that he had departed from the way of God and truth.
SECONDLY. - And turned my feet unto thy testimonies. — Having made the above discovery, and finding himself under the displeasure of God, he abandoned every evil way, took God's word for his directory, and set out fairly in the way of life and salvation.
Verse Psalms 119:60. THIRDLY. - I made haste, and delayed not — He did this with the utmost speed; and did not trifle with his convictions, nor seek to drown the voice of conscience.
The original word, which we translate delayed not, is amazingly emphatical. ולא התמהמהתי velo hithmahmahti, I did not stand what-what-whating; or, as we used to express the same sentiment, shilly-shallying with myself: I was determined, and so set out. The Hebrew word, as well as the English, strongly marks indecision of mind, positive action being suspended, because the mind is so unfixed as not to be able to make a choice.
Ver. Psalms 119:58. FOURTHLY. - Being determined in his heart, he tells us, I entreated thy favour with my whole heart. He found he had sinned; that he needed mercy; that he had no time to lose; that he must be importunate; and therefore he sought that mercy with all his soul.
FIFTHLY. - Feeling that he deserved nothing but wrath, that he had no right to any good, he cries for mercy in the way that God had promised to convey it: "Be merciful unto me!" And to this he is encouraged only by the promise of God; and therefore prays, "Be merciful unto me ACCORDING to thy WORD."
Ver. Psalms 119:57. SIXTHLY. - To keep himself firm in his present resolutions, he binds himself unto the Lord. "I have said that I would keep thy words." Thy vows are upon me, and I must not add to my guilt by breaking them.
SEVENTHLY. - He did not seek in vain; God reveals himself in the fulness of blessedness to him, so that he is enabled to exclaim, Thou art my portion, O Lord! My whole soul trusts in thee, my spirit rests supremely satisfied with thee. I have no other inheritance, nor do I desire any. Here then is the way to seek, the way to find, and the way to be happy. Other effects of this conversion may be seen below.
Verse Psalms 119:61. The bands of the wicked have robbed me — חבלי chebley, the cables, cords, or snares of the wicked. They have hunted us like wild beasts; many they have taken for prey, and many they have destroyed.
Verse Psalms 119:62. At midnight I will rise — We are so overpowered with a sense of thy goodness, that in season and out of season we will return thee thanks.
Verse Psalms 119:63. I am a companion — This was the natural consequence of his own conversion; he abandoned the workers of iniquity, and associated with them that feared the Lord.
Verse Psalms 119:64. The earth is full of thy mercy — What an astonishing operation has the grace of God! In the midst of want, poverty, affliction, and bondage, it makes those who possess it happy! When Christ dwells in the heart by faith, we have nothing but goodness around us. Others may complain; but to us even the earth appears full of the mercy of the Lord.
In this part we have -
I. The assertion of the psalmist, that God was his portion; and his resolution upon it to keep God's law.
II. His prayer for grace to enable him to do it.
III. His profession of duty and a holy life.
IV. His concluding acclamation and prayer.
I. "Thou art my portion:" Let others choose as they please, thou art sufficient for me; I ask no more.
1. And on this I resolve to be thy obedient servant: "I have said, that I would keep thy words."
2. But thou knowest I am unable without thy grace to do this; therefore I must entreat thy favour: "Be merciful unto me." There are three helps to a godly life, all which we meet here, viz.: -
1. Determination. This makes a man begin well: "I have said."
2. Supplication. This makes a man continue well: "I entreated."
3. Consideration. This makes a man, when he errs, come back to the way again.
II. He was ready to co-operate with grace: "I have thought on my ways." If we be not workers with God, vain are our prayers. Two things are required of us: 1. Aversion from evil. 2. Conversion to good. Both must meet together.
1. Aversion from evil: "I thought on my ways." But he did not rest here.
2. Conversion to good: "I turned my feet unto thy testimonies."
III. And his sincerity is shown many ways: -
1. By his readiness and zeal: "I made haste, and delayed not."
2. By his courage and constancy. Though he was plundered, for his adherence to God, by the bands of the wicked, yet he did not forget God's law.
3. By his fervour about it. He was always employed in the work; and would rather take something from his natural rest, than not gratify his hunger and thirst after righteousness: "At midnight I will rise to give thanks."
4. By selecting his company. "He who walks with the lame will learn to limp:" therefore avoiding the society of the wicked, he seeks the company of them that fear the Lord and keep his precepts.
IV. He concludes with an acclamation and prayer.
1. "The earth, O Lord, is full of thy mercy." There is not a creature that is not a partaker of thy goodness; let me have my portion in it.
2. "Teach me thy statutes." That is, continue to instruct me. I need constant teaching, line upon line, and precept upon precept. Teach thou, and I will learn; and as I learn from thy teaching, I will practise by thy grace.
Verse Psalms 119:65. Thou hast dealt well with thy servant — Whatsoever thy word has promised, thou hast fulfilled. Every servant of God can testify that God has done him nothing but good, and therefore he can speak good of his name.
Verse Psalms 119:66. Teach me good judgment and knowledge — טוב טעם ודעי למדני tob taam vedaath lammnedeni. Teach me (to have) a good taste and discernment. Let me see and know the importance of Divine things, and give me a relish for them.
Verse Psalms 119:67. Before I was afflicted I went astray — Many have been humbled under affliction, and taught to know themselves and humble themselves before God, that probably without this could never have been saved; after this, they have been serious and faithful. Affliction sanctified is a great blessing; unsanctified, it is an additional curse.
Verse Psalms 119:68. Thou art good — And because thou art good, thou doest good; and because thou delightest to do good, teach me thy statutes.
Verse Psalms 119:69. The proud have forged a lie — The poor captives in Babylon had their conduct and motives continually misrepresented, and themselves belied and calumniated.
Verse Psalms 119:70. Their heart is as fat as grease — They are egregiously stupid, they have fed themselves without fear; they are become flesh-brutalized, and given over to vile affections, and have no kind of spiritual relish: but I delight in thy law - I have, through thy goodness, a spiritual feeling and a spiritual appetite.
Verse Psalms 119:71. It is good for me that I have been afflicted — See on Psalms 119:67.
Verse Psalms 119:72. The law of thy mouth is better — Who can say this? Who prefers the law of his God, the Christ that bought him, and the heaven to which he hopes to go, when he can live no longer upon earth, to thousands of gold and silver? Yea, how many are there who, like Judas, sell their Saviour even for thirty pieces of silver? Hear this, ye lovers of the world and of money!
As the letter ט teth begins but few words, not forty, in the Hebrew language, there is less variety under this division than under any of the preceding.
The psalmist, having been afflicted, shows, -
I. How graciously God dealt with him, in bringing him profitably through it.
II. Prays for a right judgment and knowledge.
III. Expresses his love to God's law, and the value he set upon it.
I. The psalmist gives thanks for mercy granted in affliction.
1. "Thou hast dealt graciously with thy servant." Graciously in afflicting him, and graciously in relieving him.
2. And this thou hast done "according to thy word." Thou hast fulfilled thy promise.
II. He prays to be taught of God: -
1. "Teach me good judgment." Many judge badly; for they think that affliction is a sign of God's displeasure. Let me have that good judgment that receives it as a fatherly correction from thee.
2. He asks for science and knowledge. A spiritual perception, and taste for heavenly things.
3. For this he gives his reason: "I have believed thy commandments." If we believe not God, we cannot profit by his word.
4. There is something remarkable in the manner of asking: 1. A good or sound judgment. 2. Knowledge; for without a sound judgment, knowledge is of no use.
III. He acknowledges that God's chastisements had done him good.
1."Before I was afflicted." Prosperity is often the mother or error.
2. "Now I have kept thy word." Schola crucis, schola lucis, "The school of the cross is the school of light."
3. He acknowledges that the good God had done him good. To have a right notion of God is a great blessing.
IV. Much of the psalmist's affliction proceeded from wicked men. These he describes: -
1. They were proud. Pride is the mother of rebellion, both against God and man.
2. They were liars. Evil speaking and calumny are the first weapons of persecutors.
3. They forged these lies; they invented them. There was none ready to their hand, so they framed some to serve their purpose.
4. The psalmist opposes them with humility and truth: "I will keep thy precepts."
5. He shows more particularly their moral character: "Their heart was as fat as grease;" they were stupid, brutish, hoggish. Their god was their belly. 1. Because they abounded in wealth, they were proud. 2. Because they pampered themselves, they were stupid, and incapable of moral feeling. The fat is the least sensible part of the animal system.
V. He shows the condition of the godly.
1. They see God's hand in their afflictions.
2. They learn his statutes.
3. They prefer his word to all earthly treasures; and,
4. They persevere in this heavenly disposition, because they continue to depend on God.
Verse Psalms 119:73. Thy hands have made me — Thou hast formed the mass out of which I was made; and fashioned me - thou hast given me that particular form that distinguishes me from all thy other creatures.
Give me understanding — As thou hast raised me above the beasts that perish in my form and mode of life, teach me that I may live for a higher and nobler end, in loving, serving, and enjoying thee for ever. Show me that I was made for heaven, not for earth.
Verse Psalms 119:74. They that fear thee — They who are truly religious will be glad - will rejoice, at this farther proof of the saving power of God.
Verse Psalms 119:75. I know - that thy judgments are right — All the dispensations of thy providence are laid in wisdom, and executed in mercy: let me see that it is through this wisdom and mercy that I have been afflicted.
Verse Psalms 119:76. Thy merciful kindness — Let me derive my comfort and happiness from a diffusion of thy love and mercy, חסדך chasdecha, thy exuberant goodness, through my soul.
Verse Psalms 119:77. Let thy tender mercies — רחמיך rachameycha, thy fatherly and affectionate feelings.
Verse Psalms 119:78. Let the proud be ashamed — To reduce a proud man to shame, is to humble him indeed. Let them be confounded. Without cause - without any colourable pretext, have they persecuted me.
Verse Psalms 119:79. Let those that fear thee — The truly pious.
Turn unto me — Seeing thy work upon me, they shall acknowledge me as a brand plucked from the burning.
Verse Psalms 119:80. Let my heart be sound in thy statutes — Let it be perfect - all given up to thee, and all possessed by thee.
I. In the first place the psalmist prays for understanding, comfort, and mercy; and uses this argument, I am thy creature: "Thy hands have fashioned me."
II. He prays for understanding: Give me heavenly light and influence.
III. He prays for this that he may learn God's commandments. This was his end.
1. He endeavours to persuade God to this by the benefit that others would receive from seeing his conversion: "They - that fear thee will be glad," c.
2. He acknowledges that, if he was at any time deserted, it was because he was unfaithful, and that it was in very faithfulness that God had corrected him therefore God's judgments were right.
3. He prays that God's merciful kindness may be extended to him. But this prayer he would not presume to have offered, had he not been authorized and encouraged by God's word: "According to thy word." When God gives a promise, he binds himself to fulfil it.
4. He desires to be treated as a child in the heavenly family; and therefore prays for God's fatherly mercies - his bowels of compassion.
5. And he prays for them for this end, "that he may live." And here also he adds a reason why he should be heard: "Thy law is my delight."
6. He puts up another petition for his enemies, if they will take timely warning: "Let the proud be ashamed;" let them see their unprincipled conduct and blush that they have been persecuting and calumniating innocent people.
7. He next expresses his own resolution: "I will meditate on thy statutes." Howsoever they deal with me, I will cleave unto my God.
8. He prays that he may be acknowledged by the godly: "Let them that fear thee turn unto me." God's Church is a communion of saints, and to them has God so distributed his graces that one stands in need of another. Where one doubts, the light of another may solve his difficulty. One grieves; another may comfort him. One is tempted; another may uphold and restore him. This company the psalmist would have joined to him for these ends.
9. He prays that he may be sound in the faith, for without this he could not be steady in his obedience. Though an orthodox creed does not constitute true religion, yet it is the basis of it, and it is a great blessing to have it; and soundness of mind is a strong help to the retention of a sound creed.
Finally, he shows the end for which he desires this blessing, that "he may not be ashamed." That he may continue sincere and upright, have dominion over all sin, give no place to secret iniquities, and that he may never be put to the blush before God or man. Reader, beg of God to enable thee to lay these things profitably to heart.
Verse Psalms 119:81. My soul fainteth for thy salvation — I have longed so incessantly after thy salvation - the complete purification and restoration of my soul, that my very spirits are exhausted.
"My heartstrings groan with deep complaint;
My soul lies panting, Lord, for thee;
And every limb and every joint
Stretches for perfect purity."
Verse Psalms 119:82. Mine eyes fail — With looking up for the fulfilment of thy promise, as my heart fails in longing after thy presence.
Verse Psalms 119:83. Like a bottle in the smoke — In the eastern countries their bottles are made of skins; one of these hung in the smoke must soon be parched and shrivelled up. This represents the exhausted state of his body and mind by long bodily affliction and mental distress.
Verse Psalms 119:84. How many are the days of thy servants — Dost thou not know that I have few to live, and they are full of trouble?
When wilt thou execute judgment on them that persecute me? — Shall not the pride of the Chaldeans be brought down, the arm of their strength broken, and thy people delivered? In this verse there is none of the ten words used in reference to God's law.
Verse Psalms 119:85. The proud have digged pits — The Vulgate, Septuagint, AEthiopic, and Arabic, translate this verse thus: "They have recited to me unholy fables, which are not according to thy law." They wish us to receive their system of idolatry, and the tales concerning their gods; but these are not according to thy law. The Anglo-Saxon is the same: [A.S.]: They quothed me the unrightwise spells; but no so so law thine.
Verse Psalms 119:87. They had almost consumed me — Had it not been for thy mercy, we had all been destroyed under this oppressive captivity.
Verse Psalms 119:88. Quicken me — Make and keep me alive.
So shall I keep — Without the spiritual life there is no obedience; we must therefore rise from the dead, and be quickened by the Spirit of Christ.
I. In this section the psalmist laments his being grieved with some inward anguish.
II. Complains of his enemies.
III. Expresses his hope and constancy; and,
IV. Prays to God for comfort and grace.
I. 1. He begins with a sad complaint: "My soul fainteth." As the body will fail if it want natural food, so will the soul if it get not the bread of life.
2. His eyes also failed with looking up. The blessing was long delayed.
3. Yet he hoped in God's word. He knew that it would not fail.
4. He made complaint: "When wilt thou comfort me?"
5. His state was most deplorable; his body dried and shrivelled up through long fasting and affliction, so that it resembled a leathern bottle hung up in the smoke.
6. Yet still he continued faithful: "I do not forget thy statutes."
II. He complains against his enemies.
1. How long he should be obliged to suffer them.
2. He inquires "when the Lord will execute judgments."
He describes these enemies from their qualities: -
1. They were proud. They would not bow down to nor acknowledge God.
2. They were treacherous. They digged pits for him - used every kind of means in order to destroy him; cruel, treacherous, and cowardly.
3. They were impious. In heart and conduct they were not "according to God's law."
4. They acted without a shadow of justice; wrongfully against law and justice.
III. He prays for succour: "Help thou me." Here are three things of especial note: 1. O Thou, who art infinite.. 2. Help; for thou hast all power in heaven and in earth. 3. Me, who cannot stand against my enemies; but "I trust in thee."
IV. 1. He closes with a frequent petition: "Quicken thou me - make me alive." All true religion consists in the LIFE of God in the SOUL of man.
2. The manner in which he wishes to be quickened: "After thy loving-kindness." He wishes not to be raised from the death of sin by God's thunder, but by the loving voice of a tender Father.
3. The effect it should have upon him: "So shall I keep the testimony of thy mouth." Whatever thou speakest I will hear, receive, love, and obey.
Verse Psalms 119:89. For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven. — Thy purposes are all settled above, and they shall all be fulfilled below.
Verse Psalms 119:90. Thy faithfulness — That which binds thee to accomplish the promise made. And this shall be, not for an age merely, but from generation to generation; for thy promises refer to the whole duration of time.
Thou hast established the earth — Thou hast given it its appointed place in the system, and there it abideth.
Verse Psalms 119:91. They continue this day — This verse should be thus read: All are thy servants; therefore, they continue this day according to thy ordinances. "All the celestial bodies are governed by thy power. Thou hast given an ordinance or appointment to each, and each fulfils thy will in the place thou hast assigned it."
Verse Psalms 119:92. Unless thy law had been my delights — Had we not had the consolations of religion, we should long ago have died of a broken heart.
Verse Psalms 119:93. I will never forget thy precepts — How can I? It is by them I live.
Verse Psalms 119:94. I am thine, save me — He who can say this need fear no evil. In all trials, temptations, dangers, afflictions, persecutions, I am thine. Thy enemies wish to destroy me! Lord, look to thy servant; thy servant looks to thee. O how sovereign is such a word against all the evils of life! I am THINE! therefore save thine OWN!
Verse Psalms 119:96. I have seen an end of all perfection — Literally, "Of all consummations I have seen the end:" as if one should say, Every thing of human origin has its limits and end, howsoever extensive, noble, and excellent. All arts and sciences, languages, inventions, have their respective principles, have their limits and ends; as they came from man and relate to man, they shall end with man: but thy law, thy revelation, which is a picture of thy own mind, an external manifestation of thy own perfections, conceived in thy infinite ideas, in reference to eternal objects, is exceeding broad; transcends the limits of creation; and extends illimitably into eternity! This has been explained as if it meant: All the real or pretended perfection that men can arrive at in this life is nothing when compared with what the law of God requires. This saying is false in itself, and is no meaning of the text. Whatever God requires of man he can, by his grace, work in man.
This section contains an encomium of the WORD of GOD; of its perfection and immutability; and of the comfort the psalmist received from it.
I. In the three first verses the psalmist shows that God's word is immutable, by an instance in the creatures.
1. In the HEAVENS. They continue to this day as he made them in the beginning.
2. In the EARTH. As it was established in the beginning, so it abideth.
3. So also of the other heavenly bodies. They also abide as they were created; and answer still, most exactly, the ends for which they were made.
4. The reason of which is, "All are God's servants," made to obey his will: and from obedience they never swerve.
II. He shows the excellence of this word by a rare effect it had on himself: "Unless thy law had been my delight, I should have perished." No such comfort in trouble as God's word and promise. This he remembers with gratitude.
1. "I will never forget thy precepts." Only those forget them who reap no good from them.
2. This word had quickened him, i.e., God speaking and working by that word.
3. He will therefore be the Lord's servant for ever: "I am thine."
4. He knows he cannot continue so, but by Divine help: "Save me!"
5. He shows his love to God's word: "He seeks his precepts," that he may obey them.
III. He needed the help of God, because he had inveterate enemies. These he describes:
1. By their diligence: "The wicked have waited for me."
2. By their cruelty: "They waited to destroy me."
3. His defence against them. I will consider אתבנן ethbonen, I will set myself to consider. I will use all proper means to enable me to understand them.
IV. Having shown the perfection of God's word, -
1. In establishing and upholding the frame of the world.
2. In bringing comfort to the soul. In the close,
3. He compares it to all other things which we esteem as excellent and perfect, - riches, honours, crowns, sceptres, kingdoms, c., over which the word of God has still the pre-eminence they perish, but it endures for ever: "I have seen an end of all perfection." Jonah's gourd was smitten by a worm; the golden head had feet of clay; the most beautiful form shall dissolve into dust; Babylon, the wonder of the world, has perished from the face of the earth; the fairest day is succeeded by midnight; and so of other things: "but the commandment is exceeding broad:" all the principles of justice are contained in it; no just notion of God without it; all the rules of a holy life, and all the promises of life eternal, are found in it. It is the word of God, and it endureth for ever. When the heavens and the earth are no more, this word shall stand up and flourish.
Verse Psalms 119:97. O how love I thy law — This is one of the strongest marks of a gracious and pious heart, cast in the mould of obedience. Such love the precepts of Christ: in his commandments they delight; and this delight is shown by their making them frequent subjects of their meditation.
Verse Psalms 119:98. Wiser than mine enemies — Some have thought that this Psalm was composed by Daniel, and that he speaks of himself in these verses. Being instructed by God, he was found to have more knowledge than any of the Chaldeans, magicians, soothsayers, c., &c. and his wisdom soon appeared to the whole nation vastly superior to theirs.
Verse Psalms 119:99. I have more understanding than all my teachers — As he had entered into the spiritual nature of the law of God, and saw into the exceeding breadth of the commandment, he soon became wiser than any of the priests or even prophets who instructed him.
Verse Psalms 119:100. I understand more than the ancients — God had revealed to him more of that hidden wisdom which was in his law than he had done to any of his predecessors. And this was most literally true of David, who spoke more fully about Christ than any who had gone before him; or, indeed, followed after him. His compositions are, I had almost said, a sublime Gospel.
Verse Psalms 119:101. I have refrained my feet — By avoiding all sin, the spirit of wisdom still continues to rest upon me.
Verse Psalms 119:103. Sweeter than honey to my mouth! — What deep communion must this man have had with his Maker! These expressions show a soul filled with God. O Christians, how vastly superior are our privileges! and alas! how vastly inferior in general, are our consolations, our communion with God, and our heavenly-mindedness!
Verse Psalms 119:104. Through thy precepts I get understanding — Spiritual knowledge increases while we tread in the path of obedience. Obedience is the grand means of growth and instruction. Obedience trades with the talent of grace, and thus grace becomes multiplied.
In this division we see, -
I. The affection of the psalmist to the law of God.
II. The great benefits he derived from it.
I. 1. "O how I love thy law." God alone knows how great that love is which I feel.
2. As true love always seeks opportunities of conversing with the beloved object, the psalmist shows his in meditation on God's law by day and night.
He gives us several encomiums on God's word: -
1. The wisdom he derived from it. It made him wiser than his enemies. It taught him how to conduct himself towards them, so as to disappoint many of their plans, and always insure his own peace.
2. It made him wiser than his teachers. Many, even of the Jewish teachers, took upon them to teach that to others which they had never learned themselves. He must have been wiser than these. Many in the present day take upon themselves the character of ministers of Jesus Christ, who have never felt his Gospel to be the power of God to their salvation. A simple woman, who is converted to God, and feels the witness of his Spirit that she is his child, has a thousand times more true wisdom than such persons, though they may have learned many languages and many sciences.
3. It made him wiser than the ancients - than any of the Jewish elders, who had not made that word the subject of their deep study and meditation.
A second enconium. God's word gives power over sin: "I have refrained:" and the psalmist was no speculatist; he was in every respect a practical man.
A third encomium is, the more a man resists evil forbidden by that law, and practices righteousness commanded by it, the stronger he grows. The psalmist refrained from every evil way, that he might keep God's word.
Lest any one should think that he pretends to have acquired all these excellencies by his own study and industry, he asserts that he had nothing but what he had received: "I have not departed," c. "for THOU hast taught me."
A fourth encomium is, that God's law gives indescribable happiness to them who love and obey it: "How sweet are thy words," c.
II. In the last verse he proves all that he said by the blessed effects of God's word upon himself.
1. He got understanding by it. He became learned, wise, and prudent.
2. He was enabled to hate every false way - false religion, lying vanities, empty pleasures and every thing that did not tend to and prepare for an eternity of blessedness.
Verse Psalms 119:105. Thy word is a lamp — This is illustrated thus by Solomon, Proverbs 6:23: "The commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life." God's word is a candle which may be held in the hand to give us light in every dark place and chamber; and it is a general light shining upon all his works, and upon all our ways.
Verse Psalms 119:106. I have sworn — Perhaps this means no more than that he had renewed his covenant with God; he had bound himself to love and serve him only.
Verse Psalms 119:107. I am afflicted very much — עד מאד ad meod, "to extremity, excessively." We are in the most oppressive captivity.
Quicken me — Deliver us from our bondage.
Verse Psalms 119:108. The freewill-offerings of my mouth — נדבות פי nidboth pi, the voluntary offerings which I have promised. Or, As we are in captivity, and cannot sacrifice to thee, but would if we could; accept the praises of our mouth, and the purposes of our hearts, instead of the sacrifices and offerings which we would bring to thy altar, but cannot.
Verse Psalms 119:109. My soul is continually in my hand — נפשי naphshi, my life; that is, it is in constant danger, every hour I am on the confines of death. The expression signifies to be in continual danger. So Xenarchus in Athenaeus, lib. xiii., c. 4: Εν τῃ χειρι την ψυχην εχοντα, "having the life in the hand;" which signifies continual danger and jeopardy. There is some thing like this in the speech of Achilles to Ulysses, HOM. Il. ix., ver. 322: -
Αιει εμην ψυχην παραβαλλομενος πολεμιζειν·
"Always presenting my life to the dangers of the fight."
My soul is in thy hand, is the reading of the Syriac, Septuagint, AEthiopic, and Arabic; but this is a conjectural and useless emendation.
Verse Psalms 119:110. The wicked have laid a snare — Thus their lives were continually exposed to danger.
Verse Psalms 119:111. As a heritage — In Psalms 119:57 he says, God is my portion, חלקי chelki. In this he says, Thy testimonies have I taken as a heritage, נחל nachal. To these he was heir; he had inherited them from his fathers, and he was determined to leave them to his family for ever. If a man can leave nothing to his child but a Bible, in that he bequeaths him the greatest treasure in the universe.
Verse Psalms 119:112. I have inclined mine heart — I used the power God gave me, and turned to his testimonies with all mine heart. When we work with God, we can do all things.
In this division the psalmist points out farther excellencies of God's word, in the use of it. 1. God's word was a lamp to his feet to guide him through every dark place. 2. It was a light to his path, ever showing him generally the way in which he should walk.
1. He therefore resolves to keep it, and binds himself to fulfil his resolution. As the lamp was going before, and the light was shining, it was necessary that he should walk while the light shone. He therefore, 1. Binds himself by an oath or vow: "I have sworn." 2. He will be faithful to his oath: "I will perform it." 3. Not merely to admire, but to keep God's word. 4. Not its promises merely, but its righteous judgments.
2. And this he will do in all circumstances, even in extreme affliction. Then he requests two things from the Lord. 1. That he would "accept the freewill-offerings of his mouth." All his praises, thanksgivings, and vows. 2. That he would "teach him his judgments," that he might perform what he had vowed.
3. He shows the difficulties he was in: 1. "My soul is continually in my hand." I am in continual danger. He had got the sword of the Spirit, and his life depended on the use he made of it: if the soldier, whose life depends on his drawn sword, does not use it well, his enemy kills him. 2. Hence he says, "I do not forget thy law." I am making - a proper use of my sword. 3. And that I have need of it is evident for "the wicked have laid a snare for me." 4. This did not intimidate him: he did not leave the path of duty for fear of a snare being in that path: "I erred not from thy precepts." I did not go about to seek a safer way.
4. He keeps his resolution, and vows still. 1. He preferred God's testimonies even to the land of Canaan, to riches and crowns: "I have taken them for my heritage." 2. He delighted in them: "They are the rejoicing of my heart."
5. In this work he was determined to continue: 1. "I have inclined my heart." The counsel of the soul is like a balance; and the mind, which hath the commanding power over the affections, inclines the balance to that which it judges best. 2. It was to perform it, that he thus inclined his heart. 3. And this, not for a time, or on some particular occasion, but always, and unto the end. Then the end of life would be the beginning of glory.
Verse Psalms 119:113. I hate vain thoughts — I have hated סעפים seaphim, "tumultuous, violent men." I abominate all mobs and insurrections, and troublers of the public peace.
Verse Psalms 119:114. My hiding place — My asylum.
And my shield — There is a time in which I may be called to suffer in secret; then thou hidest me. There may be a time in which thou callest me to fight; then thou art my Shield and Protector.
Verse Psalms 119:115. Depart from me — Odi profanum vulgus, etarceo, I abominate the profane, and will have no communion with them. I drive them away from my presence.
Verse Psalms 119:116. Uphold me — סמכני sammecheni, prop me up; give me thyself to lean upon.
Verse Psalms 119:117. Hold thou me up — I shall grow weary and faint in the way, if not strengthened and supported by thee.
And I shall be safe — No soul can be safe, unless upheld by thee.
Verse Psalms 119:118. Thou hast trodden down — All thy enemies will be finally trodden down under thy feet.
Their deceit is falsehood. — Their elevation is a lie. The wicked often become rich and great, and affect to be happy, but it is all false; they have neither a clean nor approving conscience. Nor can they have thy approbation; and, consequently, no true blessedness.
Verse Psalms 119:119. Thou puttest away all the wicked of the earth like dross — There is no true metal in them: when they are tried by the refining fire, they are burnt up; they fly off in fumes, and come to no amount. There is probably an allusion here to the scum or scoriae at the surface of melting metals, which is swept oft previously to casting the metal into the mould.
Therefore I love thy testimonies. — Thy testimonies will stand; and thy people will stand; because thou who didst give the one, and who upholdest the other, art pure, immovable, and eternal.
Verse Psalms 119:120. My flesh trembleth for fear of thee — I know thou art a just and holy God: I know thou requirest truth in the inner parts. I know that thou art a Spirit, and that they who worship thee must worship thee in spirit and in truth; and I am often alarmed lest I fall short. It is only an assurance of my interest in thy mercy that can save me from distressing fears and harassing doubts. It is our privilege to know we are in God's favour; and it is not less so to maintain a continual filial fear of offending him. A true conception of God's justice and mercy begets reverence.
In this section the psalmist -
I. Declares his hatred to wickedness, and his detestation of wicked men.
II. Expresses his love to God's law.
III. Prays for grace to sustain him in the observance of it.
IV. Foretells the destruction of the wicked.
I. "I hate vain thoughts;" not only evil itself, but the thought that leads to it.
II. 1. "Thy law do I love:" I strive to keep every affection exercised on its proper object.
2. This is my privilege: for thou art, 1. "My hiding-place," that public evils may not reach me; and 2. "My shield," to ward off the fiery darts of the wicked one.
3. To God, therefore, and his word, he would adhere in all extremities; and would have no communion with the wicked. 1. These he would drive away as the pests of piety: "Depart from me." 2. Because he would "keep the commandments of God," while the others were bent on breaking them.
III. He prays for the grace of God to sustain him.
1. "Uphold me:" if thou do not, I fall.
2. "Hold thou me up:" for I am falling. One part of this prayer is against the occurrence of evil; the other, against evil as actually taking place.
IV. He foretells the destruction of wicked men.
1. "Thou hast trodden down:" they who tread thy commandments under their feet shall be trodden down under thy feet. The first treading shall bring on the second.
2. They deceive themselves in supposing thou wilt not resent this. This is a deception, and a dangerous one too, for it is against the most positive declarations of thy truth, therefore it is falsehood.
3. This is most certain, for "thou puttest away all the wicked of the earth like dross;" they are utterly vile, and of no account in thy sight.
4. "Therefore I love thy testimonies." And for this, among others reasons, that I may avoid their judgments.
5. Foreseeing the judgments to fall on the wicked, it was necessary that he should be filled with a salutary fear. 1. "My flesh trembleth." Happy is he who by other men's harms learns to be wise. 2. We should work out our salvation with fear and trembling. God is holy and just as well as merciful; therefore we should fear before him. 3. Because he saw those judgments coming on the wicked, he desired to be established in God's holy fear. In all cases the old proverb is true: "Too much familiarity breeds contempt."
Verse Psalms 119:121. I have done judgment and justice — I have given the best decision possible on every case that came before me; and I have endeavoured to render to all their due.
Verse Psalms 119:122. Be surety for thy servant — ערב arob, give a pledge or token that thou wilt help me in times of necessity. Or, Be bail for thy servant. What a word is this! Pledge thyself for me, that thou wilt produce me safely at the judgment of the great day. Then sustain and keep me blameless till the coming of Christ. Neither of these two verses has any of the ten words in reference to God's law or attributes. The judgment and the justice refer to the psalmist's own conduct in Psalms 119:121. The hundred and twenty-second has no word of the kind.
Verse Psalms 119:123. Mine eyes fail — See on Psalms 119:82.
Verse Psalms 119:125. I am thy servant — See on Psalms 119:94.
Verse Psalms 119:126. It is time for thee, Lord, to work — The time is fulfilled in which thou hast promised deliverance to thy people. They - the Babylonians,
Have made void thy law. — They have filled up the measure of their iniquities.
Verse Psalms 119:127. Therefore I love thy commandments — I see thou wilt do all things well. I will trust in thee.
Above gold — מזהב mizzahab, more than resplendent gold; gold without any stain or rust.
Yea, above fine gold. — ומפז umippaz, above solid gold; gold separated from the dross, perfectly refined.
Verse Psalms 119:128. All thy precepts concerning all things to be right — There are too many supplied words here to leave the text unsuspected. All the ancient versions, except the Chaldee, seem to have omitted the second כל col, ALL and read the text thus: "Therefore I have walked straight in all thy precepts." I go straight on in all thy precepts, hating every false way. I neither turn to the right hand nor to the left; the false ways are crooked; thy way is straight. I am going to heaven, and that way lies straight before me. To walk in the way of falsity I cannot, because I hate it; and I hate such ways because God hates them.
In this part the psalmist,
I. Makes a profession of his integrity.
II. Prays for protection against his enemies.
III. Resolves to walk in the right way.
I. He makes a profession of his integrity: -
1. "I have done judgment and justice."
2. Though he had done so, yet he was not free from calumny and oppression. He commends, therefore, his righteous cause to God: "Leave me not to mine oppressors."
3. "Be surety for thy servant:" give me an assurance that thou wilt stand by me.
4. "Let not the proud oppress me." For miserable are the destitute when they fall into such hands.
II. He shows us how he had prayed against his enemies, and for God's salvation.
"Mine eyes fail." My faith is almost gone, and the eye of my mind become dim.
2. It was the salvation of God he had in view: "For thy salvation."
3. The ground on which he prayed was the word of God's righteousness.
He proceeds in his prayer; and begs God to deal with him as a needy servant, and also an ignorant scholar.
1. "Deal with thy servant." I am ready to do thy will; but treat me in thy mercy.
2. "Teach me thy statutes." I wish to learn what thy will is; and when I know it, faithfully to do it.
He urges the same request, with nearly the same reasons for it: "I am thy servant." I am no stranger to thee. I have frequently come to thee to get grace to enable me to serve thee. I am one of thy domestics, a member of thy Church.
He comes now with his complaint.
1. "It is time for thee to work." Thy enemies are strong, and thy people weak.
2. "They have made void thy law." They have entirely trampled it under foot.
III. The zeal of the psalmist increased as the love of many waxed cold.
1. "Therefore," because they despise thy word, ordinances, and people.
2. "I love thy commandments." As they hate, so I love. When we love God's commandments, it is a sign that we have not received the grace of God in vain.
3. To show the greatness of his love, he says, I love thy commandments "above gold; yea, above fine gold." My love is greater to thy law, than that of the miser is to his bags.
4. He received all God's precepts to be right; and he takes not some, but the whole of them.
5. Whatever gain idolatry and time-serving might hold out to him, he abominated it, because he hated every false way. His love of God, his law, and holiness, was greater than his love of life.
Verse Psalms 119:129. Thy testimonies are wonderful — There is a height, length, depth, and breadth in thy word and testimonies that are truly astonishing; and on this account my soul loves them, and I deeply study them. The more I study, the more light and salvation I obtain.
Verse Psalms 119:130. The entrance of thy words giveth light — פתח pethach, the opening of it: when I open my Bible to read, light springs up in my mind. Every sermon, every prayer, every act of faith, is an opening by which light is let into the seeking soul.
Verse Psalms 119:131. I opened my mouth, and panted — A metaphor taken from an animal exhausted in the chase. He runs, open-mouthed, to take in the cooling air; the heart beating high, and the muscular force nearly expended through fatigue. The psalmist sought for salvation, as he would run from a ferocious beast for his life. Nothing can show his earnestness in a stronger point of view.
Verse Psalms 119:132. As thou usest to do — Treat me as thy mercy has induced thee to treat others in my circumstances. Deal with me as thou dealest with thy friends.
Verse Psalms 119:133. Order my steps — הכן hachen, make them firm; let me not walk with a halting or unsteady step.
Have dominion over me. — בי bi, IN me. Let me have no governor but God; let the throne of my heart be filled by him, and none other.
Verse Psalms 119:135. Make thy face to shine — Give me a sense of thy approbation. Let me know, by the testimony of thy Spirit in my conscience, that thou art reconciled to me. The godly in all ages derived their happiness from a consciousness of the Divine favour. The witness of God's spirit in the souls of believers was an essential principle in religion from the foundation of the world.
Verse Psalms 119:136. Rivers of waters run down mine eyes — How much had this blessed man the honour of God and the salvation of souls at heart! O for more of that spirit which mourns for the transgressions of the land! But we are not properly convinced of the exceeding sinfulness of sin.
In this division the psalmist -
I. Praises God's word.
II. Shows his affection to it.
III. Prays for grace to keep it.
IV. Mourns for those who do not.
1. The eulogy he gives to God's word here is from a new quality not mentioned before. "Thy testimonies are wonderful;" wondrous mysteries are contained in the Divine oracles.
1. The ceremonial law is wonderful, because the mystery of our redemption by the blood of Christ is pointed out in it.
2. The prophecies are wonderful, as predicting things, humanly speaking, so uncertain, and at such great distance of time, with so much accuracy.
3. The decalogue is wonderful, as containing in a very few words all the principles of justice and charity.
4. Were we to go to the New Testament, here wonders rise on wonders! All is astonishing; but the psalmist could not have had this in view.
The second eulogy is, that God's law is the dispenser of light.
1. The entrance of it, the first chapter of Genesis; what light does that pour on the mind of man! What knowledge of the most important things, which we should never have known without it!
2. It gives light to the simple - to those who are not double; who have but one end in view, and one aim to that end.
3. Of those simple ones or babes our Lord speaks, Matthew 11:25, and St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 1:25-26, c.
II. The psalmist shows that he was one of those simple ones.
1. "He opened his mouth" by prayer, and sought the spirit of light and piety.
2. He panted after it as men do that want breath, and are longing to get fresh air.
3. And this he did because "he longed for God's commandments" had a vehement desire to know and keep them.
III. He now betakes himself to prayer, and acquaints us with the petitions he had offered.
1. He said, "Look upon me." Consider thy poor, dependent, helpless creature.
2. "Have mercy upon me." Look, not with the indignation which I deserve, but with the mercy which thou knowest I need.
3. "As thou usest to do." Act by me as thou dost by them that love thee.
4. "Order my steps." Give me grace to be obedient. Many look for mercy to pardon their sin, but do not look for grace to enable them to be obedient.
5. "Let not any iniquity have dominion over me." Let me be saved from all my spiritual captivity.
6. "Deliver me from the oppression of men." Let neither wicked men nor wicked spirits rule over me.
7. "Make thy face to shine upon me!" Let me have thy light, thy peace, and thy approbation.
8. "And teach me thy statutes." Keep me at thy feet, under continual instruction.
IV. He concludes by telling how he grieved for the wickedness of others and the dishonour of God. If we grieve not for others, their sin may become ours. See Ezekiel 9:8; 1 Corinthians 5:2.
Verse Psalms 119:137. Righteous art thou — Thou art infinitely holy in thy nature; and therefore thou art upright in thy judgments - all thy dispensations to men.
Verse Psalms 119:138. Thy testimonies — Every thing that proceeds from thee partakes of the perfections of thy nature.
Verse Psalms 119:139. My zeal hath consumed me — My earnest desire to promote thy glory, and the pain I feel at seeing transgressions multiplied, have worn down both my flesh and spirits.
Verse Psalms 119:140. Thy word is very pure — צרופה tseruphah, it is purification. It is not a purified thing, but a thing that purifies. "Now ye are clean," said Christ, "by the word I have spoken unto you." God's word is a fire to purify as well as a hammer to break.
Verse Psalms 119:141. I am small and despised — And on these accounts have every thing to fear. Being small, I cannot resist; being despised, I am in danger; but even all this does not induce me to start aside, or through the fear of man to be unfaithful to thee.
Verse Psalms 119:142. Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness — The word צדק tsedek is a word of very extensive meaning in the Bible. It signifies, not only God's inherent righteousness and perfection of nature, but also his method of treating others; his plan of redemption; his method of saving others. And the word δικαιοσυνη, which answers to it, in the Septuagint and in the New Testament, is used with the same latitude of meaning, and in the same sense; particularly in that remarkable passage, Romans 3:25-26, where see the notes. Thy merciful method of dealing with sinners and justifying the ungodly will last as long as the earth lasts; and thy law that witnesses this, in all its pages, is the truth.
Verse Psalms 119:143. Trouble and anguish — I am exercised with various trials from men and devils.
Have taken hold on me — But still I cleave to my God, and am delighted with his law.
Verse Psalms 119:144. The righteousness of thy testimonies is everlasting — Thy moral law was not made for one people, or for one particular time; it is as imperishable as thy nature, and of endless obligation. It is that law by which all the children of Adam shall be judged.
Give me understanding — To know and practise it.
And I shall live. — Shall glorify thee, and live eternally; not for the merit of having done it, but because thou didst fulfil the work of the law in my heart, having saved me from condemnation by it.
In this division the psalmist -
I. Commends the law of God, from its Author, its equity, its purity, and its perpetuity.
II. A consideration of which led him to love and delight in it, though opposed by many enemies.
I. 1. "Righteous art thou." Thou alterest not with times, thou changest not with persons, thou art ever the same.
2. Thy judgments, in giving rewards and dispensing punishments, are upright.
3. Thy testimonies, that declare this, are righteous and faithful.
He consequently felt an ardent zeal for God's glory.
1. This "zeal consumed him," and he expresses the cause.
2. Men "forgot God's words." He pined away for grief on this account. He turns to another character of God's law.
"Thy word is very pure."
1. It is pure in itself, and the purifier of the heart.
2. On this account he loved it; and we know that "love is the fulfilling of the law."
A third effect was a careful remembrance of it, though tried by his enemies.
1. "I am small." Of no weight nor authority; have no secular power.
2. "Despised." Have no credit nor respect.
3. "Yet do I not forget thy precepts." Nothing can move me while upheld by thee; and thou wilt uphold me while I cleave unto thee.
A fourth commendation of God's law is its immutability.
1. It is immutable, and can never be dispensed with. It is a righteousness that is everlasting.
2. It is the truth: 1. It has priority of all laws; 2. Contains no falsehood.
3. Its promises and threatenings shall all be punctually fulfilled.
II. He loved and delighted in it, notwithstanding he had trouble and anguish.
1. Trouble and anguish. The righteous are often under the cross.
2. Yet "thy commandments are my delights." While faithful to thee, all my afflictions are sanctified to me, so that I can rejoice while I suffer.
He speaks again about the immutability of God's word.
1. "The righteousness of thy testimonies," Thy word is like thyself, for it comes from thee.
2. "Give me understanding." I always stand in need of teaching.
3. "And I shall live." All is death without thee. Live in me, that I may live by thee.
Verse Psalms 119:145. I cried with my whole heart — The whole soul of the psalmist was engaged in this good work. He whose whole heart cries to God will never rise from the throne of grace without a blessing.
Verse Psalms 119:147. I prevented the dawning — קדמתי kiddamti, "I went before the dawn or twilight."
Verse Psalms 119:148. Mine eyes prevent — קדמו kiddemu, "go before the watches." Before the watchman proclaims the hour, I am awake, meditating on thy words. The Jews divided the night into three watches, which began at what we call six o'clock in the evening, and consisted each of four hours. The Romans taught them afterwards to divide it into four watches of three hours each; and to divide the day and night into twelve hours each; wherein different guards of soldiers were appointed to watch. At the proclaiming of each watch the psalmist appears to have risen and performed some act of devotion. For a remarkable custom of our Saxon ancestors, Psalms 119:164.
Verse Psalms 119:150. They draw nigh — They are just at hand who seek to destroy me.
They are far from thy law. — They are near to all evil, but far from thee.
Verse 151. Thou art near — As they are near to destroy, so art thou near to save. When the enemy comes in as a flood, the Spirit of the Lord lifts up a standard against him.
Verse Psalms 119:152. Concerning thy testimonies, I have known of old — קדם ידעתי kedem yedati, "Long ago I have known concerning thy testimonies." Thou hast designed that thy testimonies should bear reference to, and evidence of, those glorious things which thou hast provided for the salvation of men; and that this should be an everlasting testimony. They continue, and Christ is come.
I. The psalmist is earnest in his prayers for deliverance.
II. He shows the end for which he desires it.
III. The necessity of its being speedy, as his enemies were at hand.
I. 1. His prayer was earnest; it was a cry, rather than a petition.
2. It was sincere: "I cried with my whole heart." There was no hypocrisy in it.
3. It was in season: "I prevented the dawning of the morning."
4. It was out of season: "Mine eyes prevent the night-watches."
What he prayed for, -
1. Audience: "Hear me, O Lord."
2. Deliverance: "Save me."
3. Increase of grace: "Quicken me."
II. The end for which he prayed.
1. That he might keep God's statutes.
2. That he might keep his testimonies. See the explanation of these words at the beginning of this Psalm.
3. That he might meditate on God's word.
4. That he might increase in the life of God.
The arguments he uses: -
1. His faith and hope. I cried, because I waited and hoped in thy word.
2. God's mercy. According to thy loving-kindness.
3. The danger he was in from his pursuing enemies. - 1. They draw nigh. 2. They are mischievously bent. 3. They are most impious men. Far from the law of God; they despised and hated it.
III. Near as they may be to destroy, thou art nearer to save.
1. "Thou art near:" They cannot come where thou art not.
2. "All thy commandments are truth:" And thou hast commanded us to trust in thee; and therefore we shall not fear evil. Thou wilt support thy servants, and destroy thine enemies.
He concludes with an acclamation: -
1. "Concerning thy testimonies:" Thy will, which thou hast testified in thy word.
2. "I have known of old:" Ever since I looked into them, began to study and practice them.
3. "That thou hast founded them for ever:" They are of eternal truth, immutable and indispensable. And this is the anchor of our souls, that we may not be carried away by trials and temptations. Not one tittle of God's truth has ever failed any of his sincere followers. No one promise of his that has been sought by faith in Christ has ever been unfulfilled. Blessed be God!
Verse Psalms 119:153. Consider mine affliction — See mine affliction or humiliation: but the eye of the Lord affects his heart; and therefore he never sees the distresses of his followers without considering their situation, and affording them help.
Verse 154. Plead my cause — ריבה ריבי ribah ribi. "Be my Advocate in my suit." Contend for us against the Babylonians, and bring us out of our bondage.
According to thy word. — Spoken by thy prophets for our comfort and encouragement.
Verse 155. Salvation is far from the wicked — There is no hope of their conversion.
For they seek not thy statutes. — And they who do not seek, shall not find.
Verse 156. Great are thy tender mercies — They are רבים rabbim, multitudes. They extend to all the wretchednesses of all men.
Verse 158. I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved — Literally, I was affected with anguish.
Verse Psalms 119:160. Thy word is true from the beginning — ראש rosh, the head or beginning of thy word, is true. Does he refer to the first word in the Book of Genesis, בראשית bereshith, "in the beginning?" The learned reader knows that ראש rash, or raash, is the root in that word. Every word thou hast spoken from the first in Bereshith (Genesis) to the end of the law and prophets, and all thou wilt yet speak, as flowing from the fountain of truth, must be true; and all shall have in due time, their fulfillment. And all these, thy words endure for ever. They are true, and ever will be true.
I. 1. The psalmist begins with a petition: "Consider my affliction."
2. Begs that God would help him: "Deliver me."
3. The reason for both: "I do not forget thy law."
4. He begs God to be his Advocate: 1. "Plead my cause." At the bar of men a just cause often miscarries for want of an able advocate, and is borne down by an unjust judge. Be thou my Advocate, and I shall not fail. 2. "Quicken me:" Revive my hopes, give new life to my soul.
II. He believes he shall be heard, because -
1. "Salvation is far from the wicked:" But he does not forget God's law.
2. "They seek not God's statutes:" But he meditates in God's law day and night.
III. If he ever miscarries, or comes short, he flees to God for mercy.
1. On God's mercies he bestows two epithets: 1. They are great or many, and they endure for ever. 2. They are tender; they are misericordiae, q.d., miseria cordis, feelings which occasion pain and distress to the heart. רחמים rachamim, such as affect and flow from the tender yearnings of the bowels. The word signifies what a mother feels for the infant that lay in her womb, and hangs on her breast.
2. He prays to be quickened. Let me not die, but live.
IV. He complains of his adversaries: -
1. They are many: Many devils, many men; many visible, more invisible.
2. Yet he continued steadfast: "I do not decline," c.
3. They were "transgressors:" Not simple sinners, but workers of iniquity.
4. He was greatly distressed on their account: "I beheld them, and was grieved."
V. He brings this as a proof of his attachment to God.
1. "Consider how I love:" No man dare say to God, "Look upon me," but he who is persuaded that when God looks upon him he will like him. This was a sure proof of the psalmist's sincerity.
2. He loves not merely the blessings he receives from God, but he loves God's law and none will love this, who does not delight in obedience. And how few are there of this character, even in the Church of God!
3. And because he loves he prays to be quickened. The soul only which is spiritually alive, can obey.
VI. He concludes with a commendation of God's word.
1. "Thy word is true," in its principle and in all its details, from Adam to Moses; from Moses to Christ, from Christ to the present time; and from the present time to the end of the world.
2. For it "endures for ever:" All other things wear out or decay; lose their testimony, and become obsolete. But God will ever bear testimony to his own word, and continue to support its veracity by fulfilling it to all successive generations.
Verse Psalms 119:161. Princes have persecuted me — This may refer to what was done by prime ministers, and the rulers of provinces, to sour the king against the unfortunate Jews, in order still to detain them in bondage. In reference to David, the plotting against him in Saul's court, and the dangers he ran in consequence of the jealousies of the Philistine lords while he sojourned among them, are well known.
My heart standeth in awe — They had probably offers made them of enlargement or melioration of condition, providing they submitted to some idolatrous conditions; but they knew they had to do with a jealous God; their hearts stood in awe, and they were thereby kept from sin.
Verse 162. As one that findeth great spoil. — שלל רב shalal rab. This appears to refer to such spoil as is acquired by stripping the dead in a field of battle, taking the rich garments of the slain chiefs; or it may refer to plunder in general. As God opened his eyes he beheld wonders in his law; and each discovery of this kind was like finding a prize.
Verse 163. I - abhor lying — Perhaps they might have made the confessions which the Chaldeans required, and by mental reservation have kept an inward firm adherence to their creed; but this, in the sight of the God of truth, must have been lying; and at such a sacrifice they would not purchase their enlargement, even from their captivity.
Verse 164. Seven times a day do I praise thee — We have often seen that seven was a number expressing perfection, completion, c., among the Hebrews and that it is often used to signify many, or an indefinite number, see Proverbs 24:16; Leviticus 26:28. And here it may mean no more than that his soul was filled with the spirit of gratitude and praise, and that he very frequently expressed his joyous and grateful feelings in this way. But Rabbi Solomon says this is to be understood literally, for they praised God twice in the morning before reading the decalogue, and once after; twice in the evening before the same reading, and twice after; making in the whole seven times. The Roman Church has prescribed a similar service.
In a manuscript Saxon Homily, Domin. 3, in Quadrag, A.D. 971, I find the following singular directions: -
Every Christian man is commanded that he always his body seven times bless with the sign of Christ's cross.
1. First, at day-break.
2. Second time at undern tide, (nine o'clock in the morning.)
3. The third time at midday.
4. The fourth time at noon-tide. (3 o'clock P.M.)
5. The fifth time in the evening.
6. The sixth time at night ere he go to rest.
7. The seventh time at midnight. A good man would do so if he awoke.
It seems that the sign of the cross was thought sufficient, even without prayer.
Verse 165. Great peace have they — They have peace in their conscience, and joy in the Holy Spirit; and
Nothing shall offend — Stumble, or put them out of the way.
Verse 166. Lord, I have hoped — Thou hast promised deliverance, and I have expected it on the ground of that promise.
Verse 167. My soul hath kept — I have not attended to the latter merely, but my spirit has entered into the spirit and design of thy testimonies.
Verse Psalms 119:168. For all my ways are before thee. — Thou knowest that I do not lie; thy eye has been upon my heart and my conduct, and thou knowest that I have endeavoured to walk before thee with a perfect heart.
In this section the psalmist shows: -
I His love to God; and
II. The ardour and perfection of that love.
I. The first sign of his love was, that it stood in the midst of persecution.
1. "Princes have persecuted."
2. But "without a cause," though they pretended many.
3. "But my heart standeth in awe." My love and confidence have due respect to thy infinite justice and immaculate purity.
The second sign of his love is the joy and delight he took in God's law; it was greater than a conqueror could feel at the fortunate issue of a battle, and the spoils of the vanquished, howsover rich or immense.
The third sign was his hatred to all iniquity: "I hate and abhor lying."
The fourth sign was his fervour and earnestness in - devotion: "Seven times," c.
The fifth sign was the satisfaction he took in the welfare of others.
1. "Great peace have they which love thy law."
2. "Nothing shall offend them." They go on their way rejoicing and they that love God rejoice with them that do rejoice.
II. He shows the perfection of his love, -
1. By his hope and confidence: "Lord, I have hoped," c.
2. By his obedience: "And done thy commandments."
3. By keeping God's testimonies with all his soul.
And this he repeats.
1. "I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies."
2. I have done this through the purest motives, as thou knowest: "For all my ways are before thee." Whatever he did he did in God's sight for he well knew that the eye of the Lord was constantly upon him.
For other particulars see the preceding notes.
Verse 169. Let my cry come near before thee — This is really a fine image; it is of frequent occurrence, and is little heeded. Here the psalmists cry for deliverance is personified; made an intelligent being, and sent up to the throne of grace to negotiate in his behalf. He pursues this prosopopoeia in the next verse, and sends his supplication in the same way. I have already had occasion to refer to a similar figure in Homer, where prayers are represented as the daughters of Jupiter. See on Psalms 88:2.
Verse 171. My lips shall utter praise — תהלה tehillah, a song of praise.
Verse 172. My tongue shall speak of thy word — There is a curious distinction here. In the preceding verse he says, "My lips shall utter;" here no reference is made to articulate sounds, except as affixed to musical notes. In this verse he says, "My tongue shall speak; " here articulate and intelligible words are intended. He first utters sounds connected with words expressive of his grateful feelings; in the second he speaks words, principally those which God himself had spoken, containing promises of support, purposes relative to the redemption of his people, and denunciations against their enemies.
Verse 173. Let thine hand help me — Exert thy power in my defence.
Verse 175. Let my soul live — Let my life be preserved, and my soul quickened!
Verse 176. I have gone astray like a lost sheep — A sheep, when it has once lost the flock, strays in such a manner as to render the prospect of its own return utterly hopeless. I have seen them bleating when they have lost the flock, and when answered by the others, instead of turning to the sound, have gone on in the same direction in which they were straying, their bleatings answered by the rest of the flock, till they were out of hearing! This fact shows the propriety of the next clause.
Seek thy servant — I shall never find thee; come to the wilderness, take me up, and carry me to the flock. See the notes on the parable of the lost sheep, Luke 15:4, c. The psalmist began with "Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord" and he concludes with "I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant." And thus, conscious of the blessedness of those who are in the way or righteousness, he desires to be brought into it, that he may walk in newness of life. Ver. 1: "It is a good way, and they are blessed that walk in it." Verse the last, "Bring me into this way, that I may be blessed." And thus the Psalm, in sentiment, returns into itself; and the latter verse is so connected with the former, as to make the whole a perfect circle, like the serpent biting its own tail.
There is one extraordinary perfection in this Psalm: begin where you will, you seem to be at the commencement of the piece; end where you will, you seem to close with a complete sense. And yet it is not like the Book of Proverbs, a tissue of detached sentences; it is a whole composed of many parts, and all apparently as necessary to the perfection of the Psalm, as the different alphabetical letters under which it is arranged are to the formation of a complete alphabet. Though there be a continual recurrence of the same words, which would of itself prevent it from having a pleasing effect upon the ear, yet these words are so connected with a vast variety of others, which show their force and meaning in still new and impressive points of light, that attention is still excited, and devotion kept alive, during the whole reading. It is constructed with admirable art, and every where breathes the justest and highest encomiums on the revelation of God; shows the glories of the God who gave it, the necessities and dependence of his intelligent creatures, the bounty of the Creator, and the praise and obedience which are his due. It is elegant throughout; it is full of beauties, and I have endeavoured in the preceding notes to mark some of them; but the number might have been greatly multiplied. To no Psalm can its own words be better applied, Psalms 119:18: "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law."
In this last section the psalmist seems to sum up all his preceding exercises.
I. He prays.
II. Gives thanks.
III. Confesses his errors.
IV. Craves mercy; and,
V. Promises obedience.
I. In the first two verses he prays for his prayers, begging God to accept them.
1. "Let my cry come near before thee!"
2. "Let my supplication come before thee!" This repetition shows his earnestness, fervency, importunity, and perseverance. See Luke 11:1, c.
That for which he prays is, 1. Understanding 2. Deliverance.
1. "Give me understanding." I want more light.
2. Give me this "according to thy word." In the measure which thou hast promised.
3. And give it to me for this end, that I may know thy law, be obedient to its precepts, and finally, by thy mercy, obtain everlasting life.
4. "Deliver me according to thy word." I want salvation, and that measure of it which thy word promises.
II. He gives thanks.
1. "My lips shall utter praise." I will celebrate thy praises with songs.
2. "My tongue shall speak." I shall set forth thy wondrous deeds.
3. Shall show that all thy commandments are righteousness; just, holy, impartial.
4. But these things I cannot do till "thou hast taught me thy statutes."
III. He proceeds to other parts of prayer: -
1. "Let thy hand help me." My own strength will avail little.
2. "I have chosen thy statutes:" and without thy help I cannot obey them.
3. "I have longed for thy salvation." Thou knowest my heart is right with thee.
4. "And thy law is my delight." A man naturally longs for that which he delights to possess.
Here he notes three things: -
1. I have "chosen thy precepts."
2. I have "longed for thy salvation."
3. "Delighted in thy law;" therefore "let thy hand be with me."
He prays for, -
1. Life: "Let my soul live."
2. "And it shall praise thee." When the soul is dead to God, there is neither gratitude nor obedience.
3. "Let thy judgments help me." Cause the merciful dispensations of thy providence ever to work in my behalf. In this sense the word judgments is frequently taken in this Psalm.
IV. He confesses his errors.
1. "I have gone astray," departed from thee, my Shepherd.
2. "And like a lost sheep too." See the note.
3. My errors, however, have not been wilful and obstinate. I did not sufficiently watch and pray, and my sheep - like simplicity was practised upon by my arch enemy.
4. The consequence, however, has been, I am lost - far from thy fold. But thou didst come to seek and save that which was lost.
5. Therefore, O Lord, seek me. I am in the wilderness; leave the ninety and nine that do not need thee as I do, and seek me; for, by thy grace, I seek thee.
V. I look for thee in the spirit of obedience.
1. Seek thy servant. I am ready to do thy will, though I erred from thy ways.
2. "I do not forget thy commandments," though I have often come short of my duty.
These words may be very suitable to a person who has backslidden, and who is returning to God with a penitent and believing heart.
1. Though he had fallen, the light of God continued to shine into his conscience.
2. He had not forgotten God's way, nor lost sight of his own state. The word of the Lord, applied by his Spirit, 1. When he was slumbering, awakened him. 2. When he was dead, quickened him. 3. When he was in danger, preserved him. 4. When he was wounded, cured him. 5. When he was assailed by his foes, armed and defended him. 6. And by this word he was nourished and supported. It was ever well with the psalmist, and it is ever well with all the followers of God, when they do not forget God's word.
It may be just necessary to note here, that if this Psalm be considered as belonging to the times of the Babylonish captivity, which it most probably does, the psalmist, though speaking in his own person, is ever to be considered as speaking in the persons of all the captives in Babylon.
These files are public domain.
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 119". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://studylight.org/