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OH HOW I LOVE THY LAW; IT IS MY MEDITATION ALL THE DAY
Delitzsch gives us the inscription above this psalm in his old German Version: "The Christian's golden A-B-C of the praise, love, power and use of the Word of God." He then added, "For here we have set forth in inexhaustible fulness what the Word of God is to a man, and how a man is to behave himself in relation to it."
Psalms 119 is an acrostic to end all acrostics! There are twenty-two strophes (paragraphs), corresponding to the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Each of the strophes has eight lines (verses), and every one of the lines in each strophe begins with the appropriate Hebrew letter marking that stanza. The first eight lines begin with ALEPH, the second eight with BETH, and so on throughout the 176 lines of the Psalm. Kidner named the following as the nine acrostic psalms of the Psalter: "Psalms 9; Psalms 10; Psalms 25; Psalms 34; Psalms 37; Psalms 111; Psalms 112; Psalms 119; and Psalms 145." The use of this literary device cannot be used as a safe indication of the date of a psalm or of any other Biblical book.
There are widely divergent views regarding date and authorship of this psalm. Leupold placed it in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah; McCullough dated it "Some time after Ezra." Dahood's comment questions such opinions.
Current scholarship tends to assign a later date to the psalm; but the view that the psalm was composed for some Davidic king does not seem improbable. Numerous poetic usages that were rarely employed in the post-Exilic period have been uncovered in the poem; and these strongly favor a pre-Exilic date.
More than a century earlier, Adam Clarke expressed the same opinion.
Although most judicious interpreters assign it to the times of the Babylonian captivity; yet there are so many things in it that are descriptive of David's state, experience and affairs, that I am led to think it might have come from his pen.
Matthew Henry, Charles H. Spurgeon, J. W. Burns, and many other older commentators ascribe the psalm to David.
Regarding the author, Delitzsch has written the following.
The poet is a young man who finds himself in a situation which is clearly described. He is derided, oppressed, persecuted by those who despise the divine word (apostasy is all around him), particularly by a government hostile to true religion (Psalms 119:23,46,161). He is in bonds (Psalms 119:61,83), expecting death (Psalms 119:109) .... In the midst of it, God's Word is his comfort and wisdom. The whole Psalm is a prayer for steadfastness in the midst of an ungodly, degenerate race in the midst of great trouble.
Briggs described the one whom he supposed was the author here as, "A scribe, an early Pharisee of the highest and noblest type."
One of the outstanding features of this psalm is the occurrence of ten synonyms for "law," one of which is repeated in almost every verse of the whole psalm. Leupold listed the synonyms as: "Law, word, saying, commandment, statute, ordinance, precept, testimony, way, and path." Rawlinson listed only nine of these, and Kidner listed only eight. This writer believes that "truth" (Psalms 119:151) should also be added to the list, making eleven in all. The first eight of the synonyms listed by Leupold occur twenty times, or more, in the poem; but the others are used less frequently.
Regarding the meaning of "law," along with all the synonyms, it simply cannot be restricted to the Torah, as Yates thought. Our Lord himself and also the Apostle Paul quoted both the Psalms and the Prophets, referring to them as "law." See John 15:25,1 Corinthians 14:21 as proof of this. The synonyms, as used here, therefore mean, "The Scriptures as a whole."
Christian hymnology owes a lot to this psalm. Isaac Watts' famous hymn, set to music by Beethoven, "How Shall the Young Secure Their Hearts, is based on this psalm." Also, "The Statutes of the Lord," by James MacGranahan, from which hymn we selected a title for the whole chapter, has half a dozen quotations from verses in this psalm. There are also a number of other examples in the average hymnal.
Regarding the classification of this psalm, the only one that really fits is, "Acrostic." As McCullough said, "It is impossible to assign it to any of the familiar categories." The same scholar also noted that, "God is either addressed or referred to in every one of the 176 verses"!
Regarding the organization of this lengthy psalm, "There is no progress of thought, and such progress would scarcely have been possible under the iron rule which the author imposed upon himself." Of course, Addis was referring to that requirement of beginning every line with a certain Hebrew letter.
Briggs assigned a title to each of the twenty-two strophes of the psalm; and, although some have been critical of his choices, they are still the best which is available to us. We have not quoted his titles exactly, but have adapted them to conform more exactly to our interpretation. The title for Strophe 22 is our own.
HAPPY ARE THOSE WHO PERFECTLY OBEY THE LAW
"Blessed are they that are perfect in the way,
Who walk in the law of Jehovah.
Blessed are they that keep his testimonies,
That seek him with the whole heart.
Yea, they do no unrighteousness;
They walk in his ways.
Thou hast commanded us thy precepts,
That we should observe them diligently.
Oh that my ways were established
To observe thy statutes.
Then shall I not be put to shame,
When I have respect unto all thy commandments.
I will give thanks unto thee with uprightness of heart,
When I learn thy righteous judgments:
I will observe thy statutes:
O forsake me not utterly."
There is a pattern here which is followed throughout, namely, that of stringing together totally unrelated thoughts because of the psalmist's honoring of his acrostic pattern. For example, look at Psalms 119:8.
Also, there are several of the synonyms for "law" used here, as throughout the poem. Briggs supposed that these various synonyms once referred to, "several types of Hebrew law," but such distinctions seemed to have been lost in the translations. We shall consider them as referring, in each case, to the teachings of the Holy Bible.
HE OBSERVES IT WITH HEART, LIP, AND WAY; AND REJOICES IN IT
"Wherewith shall a young man cleanse his way?
By taking heed thereto according to thy word.
With my whole heart have I sought thee:
Oh let me not wander from thy commandments.
Thy word have I laid up in my heart,
That I might not sin against thee.
Blessed art thou, O Jehovah:
Teach me thy statutes.
With my lips have I declared
All the ordinances of thy mouth.
I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies,
As much as in all riches.
I will meditate on thy precepts,
And have respect unto thy ways.
I will delight myself in thy statutes:
I will not forget thy word."
Many comments are suggested by these verses, but all of them seem to be of a very ordinary kind; and we shall allow these beautiful words to stand just as they are written.
GOD'S LAW IS COUNSELOR AGAINST PLOTTING PRINCES
"Deal bountifully with thy servant that I may live;
So will I observe thy word.
Open mine eyes, that I may behold
Wondrous things out of thy law.
I am a sojourner in the earth:
Hide not thy commandments from me.
My soul breaketh for the longing
That it hath unto thine ordinances at all times.
Thou hast rebuked the proud that are cursed,
That do wander from thy commandments.
Take away from me reproach and contempt;
For I have kept thy testimonies.
Princes also sat and talked against me;
But thy servant did meditate on thy statutes.
Thy testimonies also are my delight
And my counselors."
"Princes sat and talked against me" (Psalms 119:23). See Psalms 119:161 for comment on this.
"These verse are the first indication in the psalm (except in Psalms 119:8b) of the psalmist's personal troubles. The insolent or the proud (RSV has `godless') in Psalms 119:21,23 are referred to again in Psalms 119:51,69,78,85,122. Apparently the reference is to irreligious Jews. The princes also were probably Hebrews, but of the nobility." McCullough and others have made such deduction on the basis that there is no reference to Gentiles in the passage.
PRAYER FOR STRENGTHENING AND FOR DELIVERANCE FROM HUMILIATION
"My soul cleaveth unto the dust:
Quicken thou me according to thy word.
I declared my ways, and thou answeredst me:
Teach me thy statutes.
Make me to understand the way of thy precepts:
So shall I meditate on thy wondrous works.
My soul melteth for heaviness:
Strengthen thou me according unto thy word.
Remove from me the way of falsehood;
And grant me thy law graciously.
I have chosen the way of faithfulness:
Thine ordinances have I set before me.
I cleave unto thy testimonies:
O Jehovah, put me not to shame.
I will run the way of thy commandments,
When thou shalt enlarge my heart."
A constant feature of this psalm is the repetition. For example, Psalms 119:26b is exactly the same as Psalms 119:12b. Also, there are many other instances of the same thought appearing in different terminology. "Put me not to shame" (Psalms 119:31) is exactly the same thought as that of Psalms 119:22a. There are literally dozens of similar examples. As Professor Cheyne is reported to have said, "It is a sweetly monotonous meditation."
"Quicken thou me" (Psalms 119:25). This expression, rendered, "Give me life" in the RSV is repeated a number of times throughout the psalm.
A PRAYER THAT GOD WILL TEACH HIM THE LAW AND THAT HE WILL TURN THE PSALMIST TO IT AWAY FROM COVETOUSNESS
"Teach me, O Jehovah, the way of thy statutes;
And I shall keep it unto the end.
Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law;
Yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
Make me go to the path of thy commandments;
For therein do I delight.
Incline my heart unto thy testimonies,
And not to covetousness.
Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity,
And quicken me in thy ways.
Confirm unto thy servant thy word,
Which is in order unto the fear of thee.
Turn away my reproach whereof I am afraid;
For thine ordinances are good.
Behold, I have longed after thy precepts:
Quicken me in thy righteousness."
"Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity" (Psalms 119:37). In spite of the general monotony and constant repetition in the psalm, almost every strophe finds a line of significant fresh and challenging thought. This is such a line.
The lust of the eye entered into the temptation of our mother Eve; and Satan did not overlook the power of it when he tempted the Son of God in the wilderness, showing him "all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them." Here the psalmist prays that God will control what he is tempted to "look upon."
The Lord has commanded, "Look not thou upon the wine when it is red" (Proverbs 23:31). There are also many other things upon which those who wish to live righteously simply should not allow their eyes to linger. Isaiah commended the man who, "shutteth his eyes from looking upon evil" (Isaiah 33:15).
And Job has this: "I made a solemn promise never to look with lust at a girl" (Job 31:1, the Good News Bible).
A PROMISE TO TRUST IN THE LAW AND A VOW TO SERVE IT WITH DELIGHT AND LOVE
"Let thy lovingkindness also come unto me, O Jehovah,
Even thy salvation, according to thy word.
So shall I have an answer for him that reproacheth me;
For I trust in thy word.
And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth;
For I have hoped in thine ordinances.
So shall I observe thy law continually
Forever and ever.
And I shall walk at liberty;
For I have sought thy precepts.
I will also speak of thy testimonies before kings,
And shall not be put to shame.
And I will delight myself in thy commandments,
Which I have loved.
I will lift up my hands also unto thy commandments,
which I have loved;
I will meditate on thy statutes."
There is not a word in this strophe which has not already been duplicated, or nearly so, in previous passages. Psalms 119:43b is like Psalms 119:24; Psalms 119:44 is like Psalms 119:35; Psalms 119:45b is like Psalms 119:6,22,31b; and Psalms 119:48b is like Psalms 119:15, etc.
PROUD SEDUCERS TORMENT LAW-KEEPERS BUT CANNOT DEPRIVE THEM OF COMFORT AND JOY IN DOING SO
"Remember the word unto thy servant,
Because thou hast made me to hope.
This is my comfort in my affliction;
For thy word hath quickened me.
The proud have had me greatly in derision:
Yet have I not swerved from thy law.
I have remembered thine ordinances of old, O Jehovah,
And have comforted myself.
Hot indignation hath taken hold upon me,
Because of the wicked that forsake thy law.
Thy statutes have been my songs
In the house of my pilgrimage.
I have remembered thy name, O Jehovah, in the night,
And have observed thy law.
This I have had,
Because I have kept thy precepts."
The new element in this strophe is the emphasis upon the proud seducers who oppose the psalmist, but have in no way diminished his loving respect for God's law, nor the comfort he receives from obeying it. Also, the mention of his "hot indignation" (Psalms 119:53) against such wickedness is here mentioned for the first time. The double affirmation that he indeed has kept the statutes of the Lord (Psalms 119:55b and Psalms 119:56b) is a recurring theme throughout the whole psalm, as in Psalms 119:15b,22b, and Psalms 119:30b.
"I have remembered thine ordinances of old" (Psalms 119:52). If the psalmist was a young man, as Delitzsch reasoned, he could not have meant here that he had personally remembered God's ordinances for some great length of time. "He is remembering all of the course of God's providential government of the world, including deliverances of God's servants."
DESPITE THE ENCROACHMENT OF WICKEDNESS; THE PSALMIST MAINTAINS FELLOWSHIP WITH LAW OBSERVERS
"Jehovah is my portion:
I have said that I would observe thy words.
I entreated thy favor with my whole heart:
Be merciful unto me according to thy word.
I thought on my ways,
And turned my feet unto thy testimonies.
I made haste, and delayed not,
To observe thy commandments.
The cords of the wicked have wrapped me around;
But I have not forgotten thy law.
At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee
Because of thy righteous ordinances.
I am a companion of all them that fear thee,
And of them that observe thy precepts.
The earth, O Jehovah, is full of thy lovingkindness."
"The cords of the wicked have wrapped me" (Psalms 119:61). Coupled with Psalms 119:110, this verse was interpreted by Delitzsch as meaning the psalmist was in prison. However, the statement in Psalms 119:45 about his walking "in liberty," and the word in this strophe that "he is a companion" of the faithful seems to cast doubt upon that interpretation.
AFFLICTIONS FROM PROUD ENEMIES CANNOT DENY GOD'S GOODNESS; NOR THAT HE IS THE DOER OF GOOD
"Thou hast dealt well with thy servant,
O Jehovah, according to thy word.
Teach me good judgments and knowledge;
For I have believed in thy commandments.
Before I was afflicted I went astray;
But now I observe thy word.
Thou art good, and doest good;
Teach me thy statutes.
The proud have forged a lie against me:
With my whole heart will I keep thy precepts.
Their heart is as fat as grease;
But I delight in thy law.
It is good for me that I have been afflicted;
That I may learn thy statutes.
The law of thy mouth is better unto me
Than thousands of gold and silver."
"Teach me good judgments ... teach me thy statutes" (Psalms 119:66,68). This is a constantly recurring theme throughout the composition. Psalms 119:12b,26b,33,34,38 and Psalms 119:64b have already stated this either verbatim or in different terminology.
The wonderful new thing in this strophe is the blessing of affliction.
"Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now I observe thy word ... It is good for me that I have been afflicted" (Psalms 119:67,71). "This is language that can be used by many a child of God." Many a person can look back upon some terrible affliction, whether illness, unemployment, financial disaster, death of precious love ones, or whatever, in full recognition of the truth that is written here. The purpose of all human sorrow is that it might turn men unto God. The primeval curse upon the earth itself (Genesis 3:17-19) was designed for the same purpose.
A PRAYER TO THE CREATOR THAT HE MAY VISIT THE PROUD; NOT HIS SERVANTS; WITH SHAME
"Thy hands have made me and fashioned me:
Give me understanding that I may learn thy commandments.
They that fear thee shall see me and be glad,
Because I have hoped in thy word.
I know, O Jehovah, that thy judgments are righteous.
And that in faithfulness thou hast afflicted me.
Let, I pray thee, thy lovingkindness be for my comfort.
According to thy word unto thy servant.
Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live;
For thy law is my delight.
Let the proud be put to shame; for they have overthrown me wrongfully:
But I will meditate on thy precepts.
Let those that fear thee turn unto me;
And they shall know thy testimonies.
Let my heart be perfect in thy statutes,
That I be not put to shame."
"In faithfulness thou hast afflicted me" (Psalms 119:75). Miller observed that, "The psalmist recognized that God's discipline was right." As Baigent put it, "He is mature enough to realize that there is spiritual value in suffering and that it can be God's school (Psalms 119:67,71,75)."
"Let those that fear thee turn unto me" (Psalms 119:79). "Cognizant of his own rich knowledge of the Law, the psalmist is eager to share it with his co-religionists."
THE PROUD HAVE ALMOST TRIUMPHED OVER HIM; BUT HE TRUSTS IN THE LAW AND LONGS FOR SALVATION
"My soul fainteth for thy salvation;
But I hope in thy word.
Mine eyes fail for thy word,
While I say, When wilt thou comfort me?
For I am become like a wine-skin in the smoke;
Yet do I not forget thy statutes.
How many are the days of thy servant?
When wilt thou execute judgment upon them that persecute me?
The proud have digged pits for me,
Who are not according to thy law.
All thy commandments are faithful:
They persecute me wrongfully; help thou me.
They had almost consumed me upon earth;
But I forsook not thy precepts.
Quicken me after thy lovingkindness;
So shall I observe the testimonies of thy mouth."
"Mine eyes fail for thy word" (Psalms 119:82). His studies of God's word have been so prolonged and intense that his eyesight has been impaired.
"Like a wine-skin in the smoke" (Psalms 119:83). The simile here is a comparison with, "A skin bottle dried and shriveled up in smoke, so is he withered by sorrow."
The whole thought of this strophe was apparently captured by Delitzsch. "The psalmist stands in need of fresh grace in order that he may not, however, at last succumb."
THE ETERNITY OF GOD'S EXCEEDINGLY BROAD LAW IS FIXED FOR EVER IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH
"Forever, O Jehovah,
Thy word is settled in heaven.
Thy faithfulness is unto all generations:
Thou hast established the earth, and it abideth.
They abide this day according to thine ordinances;
For all things are thy servants.
Unless thy law had been my delight,
I should then have perished in mine affliction.
I will never forget thy precepts;
For with them thou hast quickened me.
I am thine, save me;
For I have sought thy precepts.
The wicked have waited for me to destroy me;
But I will consider thy testimonies.
I have seen an end of all perfection;
But thy commandment is exceeding broad."
"They abide this day" (Psalms 119:91). "The `they' of this verse must include the heavens and the earth, mentioned in the two preceding verses." However, we prefer the marginal reading in the ASV, "As for thy ordinances, they abide this day."
"I have seen an end of all perfection" (Psalms 119:96). "This could well be a summary of Ecclesiastes, where every earthly enterprise has its day and comes to nothing, and where only in God and his commandments do we get beyond these frustrating limits."
"Thy commandment is exceeding broad" (Psalms 119:96). This means, according to Dummelow, that, "The most perfect earthly things are finite and limited; but God's law is for all needs and for all time."
THE PSALMIST LOVES THE LAW WHICH IMPARTS WISDOM AND HATES EVERY EVIL WAY
"Oh how love I thy law!
It is my meditation all the day.
Thy commandments make me wiser than mine enemies;
For they are ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers;
For thy testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged,
Because I have kept thy precepts.
I have refrained my feet from every evil way,
That I might observe thy word.
I have not turned aside from thine ordinances;
For thou hast taught me.
How sweet are thy words unto my taste!
Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth.
Through thy precepts I get understanding:
Therefore I hate every evil way."
This strophe is the one that was made the basis of the hymn, "Oh How Love I thy Law," (See chapter introduction), and from which we selected a title for this entire Psalms 119. Psalms 119:103, here, and also selected lines form several other psalms are woven into the text of that hymn.
Psalms 119:98-100 may be summarized in a single line, "Knowledge of God's law has made him wiser than his enemies, his teachers, and even the old men!" The reason behind this is that, "God is actually his teacher (Psalms 119:102), with the result of love (Psalms 119:97), desire (Psalms 119:103), and sound moral judgment (Psalms 119:104)."
THE PSALMIST REJOICES IN GOD'S LAW AS HIS INHERITANCE AND AS A LAMP EXPOSING SNARES OF THE WICKED
"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet,
A light unto my path.
I have sworn, and have confirmed it,
That I will observe thy righteous ordinances.
I am afflicted very much:
Quicken me, O Jehovah, according to thy word.
Accept, I beseech thee, the freewill-offerings of my mouth, O Jehovah.
And teach me thine ordinances.
My soul is continually in my hand;
Yet do I not forget thy law.
The wicked have laid a snare for me;
Yet have I not gone astray from thy precepts.
Thy testimonies have I taken as a heritage forever;
For they are the rejoicing of my heart.
I have inclined my heart to perform thy statutes
Forever, even unto the end."
Yates' summary of the teaching here is that, "The word of God is the Light of Life, a lamp; and the psalmist's pilgrimage through life is under the guidance of God's teachings. He thus vows to follow the light wherever it may lead and whatever dangers may be involved." A number of the thoughts and expressions of this psalm are included in Isaac Watts' famous hymn, "How Shall the Young Secure Their Hearts"?
"Accept the freewill-offerings of my mouth" (Psalms 119:108). This is the exciting new idea that adorns this strophe. In it there is an indication of the time when the bloody sacrifices of the Law of Moses shall no longer be "the way" to worship God, but he shall be worshipped with the "fruit of our lips" (Hebrews 13:15).
REVERENCING GOD'S LAW; THE PSALMIST PRAYS FOR SUPPORT AGAINST HATEFUL BACKSLIDERS
"I hate them that are of a double mind;
But thy law do I love.
Thou art my hiding-place and my shield:
I hope in thy word.
Depart from me ye evil-doers,
That I may keep the commandments of my God.
Uphold me according to thy word, that I may live;
And let me not be ashamed of my hope.
Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe,
And shall have respect unto thy statutes continually.
Thou hast set at naught all them that err from thy statutes;
For their deceit is falsehood.
Thou puttest away all the wicked of the earth, like dross:
Therefore I love thy testimonies.
My flesh trembleth for fear of thee;
And I am afraid of thy judgments."
"Thou puttest away all the wicked of the earth, like dross" (Psalms 119:119). This can be nothing less than a glimpse of the Eternal Judgment, an interpretation which is confirmed by the trembling fear of the psalmist in the last two verses. We may, at first, be surprised at his fear and trembling, for has he not stated twenty or more times already in this psalm that he "loves God's statutes," "trusts in them," "keeps them," etc.? Maclaren has a satisfactory explanation of this: "Resolutions melt in the fires of temptation, and the psalmist knows life and himself too well to trust himself. So he betakes himself to prayer for God's upholding, without which he cannot live (Psalms 119:116)."
A PRAYER FOR SALVATION FROM OPPRESSORS AND FOR UNDERSTANDING OF GOD'S LAW WHICH THE PSALMIST LOVES
"I have done justice and righteousness:
Leave me not to mine oppressors.
Be surety for thy servant for good:
Let not the proud oppress me.
My eyes fail for thy salvation,
And for thy righteous word.
Deal with thy servant according to thy lovingkindness,
And teach me thy statutes.
I am thy servant; give me understanding,
That I may know thy testimonies.
It is time for Jehovah to work;
For they have made void thy law.
Therefore I love thy commandments
Above gold, yea above fine gold.
Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right;
And I hate every false way."
As far as we can determine, this psalm is made up of thoughts repeatedly used throughout the composition, with very slight variations in expression.
"Teach me" (Psalms 119:124) "David (Spurgeon accepted David as the author) had Nathan, Gad, and the prophets, and besides that all the Levites to teach him; he read the Word of God diligently and meditated upon it day and night; but he here acknowledges that all this was nothing unless God taught him."
"It is time for Jehovah to work" (Psalms 119:126). "David (Matthew Henry believed David was the author) here represents unto God the following, `Lord, there are those that have made void thy law, have set thee and thy government at defiance, and have done all they could to cancel and vacate thy commandments." Henry went on to distinguish between these enemies of God and "the godly man who might, through weakness, sin against God's commandment."
"Therefore I esteem all thy precepts" (Psalms 119:127). "The word `therefore' here does not mean that the Psalmist loved God's law because others set it at naught, but that he loved it more on that account." These words are suggested by a statement from Addis.
"The flow of thought in this stanza is more awkward than in most of the others, being hindered by the sparseness of words beginning with the letter ayin. It is especially difficult to see the logical significance of therefore in Psalms 119:127. Apparently the alphabetical arrangement, rather than the flow of thought, suggested the use of that word."
A PRAYER FOR REDEMPTION FROM OPPRESSORS WHO BREAK GOD'S WONDERFUL LAW WHICH GIVES LIGHT
"Thy testimonies are wonderful;
Therefore doth my soul keep them.
The opening of thy words giveth light;
It giveth understanding unto the simple.
I opened wide my mouth, and panted;
For I longed for thy commandments.
Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me,
As thou usest to do unto those that love thy name.
Establish my footsteps in thy word;
And let not iniquity have dominion over me.
Redeem me from the oppression of man:
So will I observe thy precepts.
Make thy face to shine upon thy servant;
And teach me thy statutes.
Streams of water run down mine eyes,
Because they observe not thy law."
"The opening of thy word giveth light ... understanding to the simple" (Psalms 119:130). "The exposition of God's Word gives light to all, even to those who are simple." We must also add that it gives light to the most intellectual and learned men on earth. Brilliant men like Lenin, Marx, Stalin, etc., refused the light from God's Word, and as a consequence engineered the most terrible governmental fiasco in the history of mankind!
"I opened wide my mouth and panted ... for thy commandments" (Psalms 119:131). DeHoff thought the metaphor here is that of "an exhausted animal" panting for fresh air or water; but the wide opened mouth seems rather to suggest the way tiny birds open their mouths for food from the mother bird. We may also have here a mixed metaphor including both these views, which is not uncommon in Hebrew.
"Streams of water run down mine eyes, because they observe not thy law" (Psalms 119:136). As Kyle Yates wrote, "The psalmist is broken-hearted over those who do not keep God's law."
LIKE HIMSELF; GOD'S LAW IS RIGHTEOUS; THE PSALMIST IS VERY ZEALOUS FOR IT; DOES NOT FORGET IT
"Righteous art thou, O Jehovah,
And upright are thy judgments.
Thou has commanded thy testimonies in righteousness
And very faithfulness.
My zeal hath consumed me,
Because mine adversaries have forgotten thy words.
Thy word is very pure;
Therefore thy servant loveth it.
I am small and despised;
Yet do I not forget thy precepts.
Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness,
And thy law is truth.
Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me;
For thy commandments are my delight.
Thy testimonies are righteous forever:
Give me understanding, and I shall live."
The feature of this stanza is its emphasis upon the righteousness of God (Psalms 119:137), followed by an extension of this principle as applied to God's Word, mentioned in a number of synonyms.
God's judgments are upright (Psalms 119:137).
His testimonies are righteous (Psalms 119:138).
God's righteousness is everlasting (Psalms 119:142).
All of his law is truth (Psalms 119:142).
His commandments are a delight (Psalms 119:143).
His testimonies are eternal (Psalms 119:144).
Burns' conclusion from this was that, all of God's testimonies effectively declare his righteousness, "And therefore are to be depended upon by man."
PRAYER FOR SALVATION FROM ENEMIES IN THE PRESENCE OF GREAT PERIL
"I have called with my whole heart; answer me, O Jehovah:
I will keep thy statutes.
I have called unto thee; save me,
And I will observe thy testimonies.
I anticipated the dawning of the morning, and cried:
I hoped in thy words.
Mine eyes anticipated the night-watches,
That I might meditate on thy word.
Hear my voice according to thy lovingkindness:
Quicken me, O Jehovah, according to thine ordinances.
They draw nigh that follow after wickedness;
They are far from thy law.
Thou art nigh, O Jehovah;
And all thy commandments are truth.
Of old have I known from thy testimonies,
That thou hast founded them forever."
"I have called with my whole heart" (Psalms 119:145). This is the primary earmark of an acceptable prayer. As Spurgeon said, "There may be no beauty of elocution in such prayers, no length of expression, no depth of doctrine nor accuracy of diction; but if the whole heart be in them, they will find their way to the heart of God."
"I anticipated the dawning of the morning" (Psalms 119:147). The King James has this, "I prevented the dawning, etc.," the same being an example of how the meaning of words has changed since the publication of the KJV in the year 1611, A.D. The American Standard Version is an improvement; but the RSV is still better, "I rise before dawn and cry for help."
"They draw near that follow after wickedness" (Psalms 119:150). The marginal reading sheds light on what is meant. "They draw near that persecute me with wickedness."
"Thou art nigh, O Jehovah" (Psalms 119:151). No matter how near to the believer the forces of evil may come, the nearness of God himself is the true and sufficient protection. Many hymns are founded upon the soul's fervent cry for nearness to God. "Nearer My God to Thee," "Nearer, Still Nearer," and "Nearer the Cross" are examples.
HOPE IN GOD'S LAW SUPPORTS PRAYER FOR SALVATION FROM ENEMIES
"Consider mine affliction, and deliver me;
Plead thou my cause, and redeem me:
Quicken me according to thy word.
Salvation is far from the wicked;
For they seek not thy statutes.
Great are thy tender mercies, O Jehovah:
Quicken me according to thine ordinances.
Many are my persecutors and mine adversaries;
Yet have I not swerved from thy testimonies.
I beheld the treacherous, and was grieved,
Because they observe not thy word.
Consider how I love thy precepts:
Quicken me, O Jehovah, according to thy lovingkindness.
The sum of the word is truth;
And every one of thy righteous ordinances endureth forever."
"Salvation is far from the wicked, for they seek not thy statutes" (Psalms 119:155). This is another of those surprising revelations that crop out now and then in this great psalm. A necessary deduction from what is said here is that "Salvation comes from a knowledge of the Word of God and becomes the possession of those who seek to know what that word is." Paul himself could hardly have said it any better. "From a babe thou hast know the sacred writings which are able to make the wise unto salvation." (2 Timothy 3:15). Briggs also made the same deduction on the basis of Psalms 119:155, stating that, "The wicked are far from salvation, because they are far off from God's Law that gives it."
"Quicken me according to thy word ... according to thine ordinances ... according to thy lovingkindnesses" (Psalms 119:154,156,159). The RSV renders "Give me life" instead of quicken me, a plea that has already been repeated a dozen times in this psalm. This petition of the psalmist that God would give him "life" is a prayer for that "more abundant life" of which Jesus spoke (John 10:10), There is a great similarity of meaning in the three verses which feature this petition.
"Consider mine affliction ... I do not forget thy law ... I have not swerved from thy testimonies ... I was grieved for the treacherous" (Psalms 119:153,157,158). Four "arguments" if we might call them that, or "reasons," upon which the psalmist hopes to receive a favorable answer of his prayers, are listed in these verses.
THE PSALMIST PRAISES GOD'S LAW AND HOPES FOR SALVATION DESPITE PERSECUTION BY PRINCES
"Princes have persecuted me without a cause;
But my heart standeth in awe of thy words.
I rejoice at thy word,
As one that findeth great spoil.
I hate and abhor falsehood;
But thy law do I love.
Seven times a day do I praise thee,
Because of thy righteous ordinances.
Great peace have they that love thy law;
And they have no occasion of stumbling.
I have hoped for thy salvation, O Jehovah,
And have done thy commandments.
My soul hath observed thy testimonies;
And I love them exceedingly.
I have observed the precepts and thy testimonies;
For all my ways are before thee."
"Princes have persecuted me" (Psalms 119:161). A line like this almost assures the royal standing of the psalmist. It is hard to imagine princes persecuting some ordinary citizen. A line such as this favors the opinion of many of the older interpreters that David was the author here.
The most astounding thing in the whole composition is the frequency and firmness of the psalmist's declarations of his being free of violating God's law. In this single strophe, note the following.
He respects God's Word (Psalms 119:161).
He rejoices at it (Psalms 119:162).
He abhors falsehood (Psalms 119:163).
He loves God's law (Psalms 119:163).
He hoped for salvation (Psalms 119:166).
He has done God's commandments (Psalms 119:166).
He has observed God's testimonies (Psalms 119:167).
He loves them exceedingly (Psalms 119:167).
He has observed the precepts (Psalms 119:168).
He has observed the testimonies (Psalms 119:168).
All his ways are before the Lord (Psalms 119:168).
This last line has the effect of an affirmation that God knows he is telling the truth about all these claims. The average Christian must exclaim, upon reading this, "For heaven's sake, this man is perfect"! However, no one is perfect except the Lord Jesus Christ; and we must therefore understand these marvelous assertions as this psalmist's earnest and heart-felt intentions, rather than evidences of his absolute perfection. Such statements as these are throughout the psalm, but there is an unusual concentration of them here.
"My heart standeth in awe of thy words" (Psalms 119:161). Contrary to our version (the American Standard Version) and the RSV, Dahood suggested that this synonym for God's law (`thy words') should be eliminated from this verse, despite the prevailing impression that there is such a synonym in every verse of the whole psalm. He also alleged that, "No such term is to be found in the following verses: Psalms 119:37,90,121,122,132, and Psalms 119:149."
ACKNOWLEDGING SIN; THE PSALMIST PRAYS FOR SALVATION; VOWING TO CONTINUE PRAYERS WITH LIP; TONGUE AND SOUL
"Let my cry come near before thee, O Jehovah:
Give me understanding according to thy word.
Let my supplication come before thee:
Deliver me according to thy word.
Let my lips utter praise;
For thou teaches me thy statutes.
Let my tongue sing of thy word;
For all thy commandments are righteousness.
Let thy hand be ready to help me;
For I have chosen thy precepts.
I have longed for thy salvation, O Jehovah;
And thy law is my delight.
Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee;
And let thine ordinances help me.
I have gone astray, like a lost sheep; seek thy servant;
For I do not forget thy commandments."
The glorious surprise of this strophe is the acknowledgment of sin on the part of the psalmist, contrasting dramatically with the previous strophe. What a refreshing word this is! He is not, after all, a self-righteous braggart, but a sinner standing in need of the Lord's forgiveness, just like all the rest of the human race.
"I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant" (Psalms 119:176). Yes, of course, he has not forgotten the commandments; but he has not kept them perfectly, else he would not be like lost sheep, subject to instant death, unless the Lord shall seek and save him. It is surprising that McCullough did not interpret this remark as a reference to sin, but "To a deterioration in the psalmist's circumstances, or to an absence from his people." To us, it is impossible to allow such an interpretation to stand. "Going astray like a lost sheep" is a reference to sin.
"Let my lips utter praise ... let my tongue sing ... my soul shall praise thee" (Psalms 119:171,172,175). This is the psalmist's pledge to continue with all his heart to seek the Lord's help in his prayers with lip, tongue, and soul. No more noble resolution could have been found to close this magnificent psalm.
The John A. Dickson Reference Bible lists seventy-six New Testament quotations from the Book of Psalms, but none from Psalms 119, and none from the balance of the Psalter.
We cannot, at this time challenge that analysis; but there is one New Testament reference which certainly seems to have Psalms 119:172 in view. Luke wrote of Zacharias and Elizabeth, "They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless" (Luke 1:6).
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 119". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter