This is a psalm by itself, like none of the rest; it excels them all, and shines brightest in this constellation. It is much longer than any of them more than twice as long as any of them. It is not making long prayers that Christ censurers, but making them for a pretence, which intimates that they are in themselves good and commendable. It seems to me to be a collection of David’s pious and devout ejaculations, the short and sudden breathings and elevations of his soul to God, which he wrote down as they occurred, and, towards the latter end of his time, gathered out of his day-book where they lay scattered, added to them many like words, and digested them into this psalm, in which there is seldom any coherence between the verses, but, like Solomon’s proverbs, it is a chest of gold rings, not a chain of gold links. And we may not only learn, by the psalmist’s example, to accustom ourselves to such pious ejaculations, which are an excellent means of maintaining constant communion with God, and keeping the heart in frame for the more solemn exercises of religion, but we must make use of the psalmist’s words, both for the exciting and for the expressing of our devout affections; what some have said of this psalm is true, "He that shall read it considerately, it will either warm him or shame him.’’ The composition of it is singular and very exact. It is divided into twenty-two parts, according to the number of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and each part consists of eight verses, all the verses of the first part beginning with Aleph, all the verses of the second with Beth, and so on, without any flaw throughout the whole psalm. Archbishop Tillotson says, It seems to have more of poetical skill and number in it than we at this distance can easily understand. Some have called it the saints’ alphabet; and it were to be wished we had it as ready in our memories as the very letters of our alphabet, as ready as our A B C. Perhaps the penman found it of use to himself to observe this method, as it obliged him to seek for thoughts, and search for them, that he might fill up the quota of every part; and the letter he was to begin with might lead him to a word which might suggest a good sentence; and all little enough to raise any thing that is good in the barren soil of our hearts. However, it would be of use to the learners, a help to them both in committing it to memory and in calling it to mind upon occasion; by the letter the first word would be got, and that would bring in the whole verse; thus young people would the more easily learn it by heart and retain it the better even in old age. If any censure it as childish and trifling, because acrostics are now quite out of fashion, let them know that the royal psalmist despises their censure; he is a teacher of babes, and, if this method may be beneficial to them, he can easily stoop to it; if this to be vile, he will be yet more vile.II. The general scope and design of it is to magnify the law, and make it honourable; to set forth the excellency and usefulness of divine revelation, and to recommend it to us, not only for the entertainment, but for the government, of ourselves, by the psalmist’s own example, who speaks by experience of the benefit of it, and of the good impressions made upon him by it, for which he praises God, and earnestly prays, from first to last, for the continuance of God’s grace with him, to direct and quicken him in the way of his duty. There are ten different words by which divine revelation is called in this psalm, and they are synonymous, each of them expressive of the whole compass of it (both that which tells us what God expects from us and that which tells us that we may expect from him) and of the system of religion which is founded upon it and guided by it. The things contained in the scripture, and drawn from it, are here called, 1. God’s law, because they are enacted by him as our Sovereign. His way, because they are the rule both of his providence and of our obedience. His testimonies, because they are solemnly declared to the world and attested beyond contradiction. His commandments, because given with authority, and (as the word signifies) lodged with us as a trust. His precepts, because prescribed to us and not left indifferent. 6. His word, or saying, because it is the declaration of his mind, and Christ, the essential eternal Word, is all in all in it. 7. His judgments, because framed in infinite wisdom, and because by them we must both judge and be judged. 8. His righteousness, because it is all holy, just, and good, and the rule and standard of righteousness. 9. His statutes, because they are fixed and determined, and of perpetual obligation. His truth, or faithfulness, because the principles upon which the divine law is built are eternal truths. And I think there is but one verse (it is v. 122) in all this long psalm in which there is not one or other of these ten words; only in three or four they are used concerning God’s providence or David’s practice (as v. 75, v. 84, v. 121), and v. 132they are called God’s name. The great esteem and affection David had for the word of God is the more admirable considering how little he had of it, in comparison with what we have, no more perhaps in writing than the first books of Moses, which were but the dawning of this day, which may shame us who enjoy the full discoveries of divine revelation and yet are so cold towards it. In singing this psalm there is work for all the devout affections of a sanctified soul, so copious, so various, is the matter of it. We here find that in which we must give glory to God both as our ruler and great benefactor, that in which we are to teach and admonish ourselves and one another (so many are the instructions which we here find about a religious life), and that in which we are to comfort and encourage ourselves and one another, so many are the sweet experiences of one that lived such a life. Here is something or other to suit the case of every Christian. Is any afflicted? Is any merry? Each will find that here which is proper for him. And it is so far from being a tedious repetition of the same thing, as may seem to those who look over it cursorily, that, if we duly meditate upon it, we shall find almost every verse has a new thought and something in it very lively. And this, as many other of David’s psalms, teaches us to be sententious in our devotions, both alone and when others join with us; for, ordinarily, the affections, especially of weaker Christians, are more likely to be raised and kept by short expressions, the sense of which lies in a little compass, than by long and laboured periods.1. ALEPH.
Verses 1-3 The psalmist here shows that godly people are happy people; they are, and shall be, blessed indeed. Felicity is the thing we all pretend to aim at and pursue. He does not say here wherein it consists; it is enough for us to know what we must do and be that we may attain to it, and that we are here told. All men would be happy, but few take the right way; God has here laid before us the right way, which we may be sure will end in happiness, though it be strait and narrow. Blessednesses are to the righteous; all manner of blessedness. Now observe the characters of the happy people. Those are happy, 1. Who make the will of God the rule of all their actions, and govern themselves, in their whole conversation, by that rule: They walk in the law of the Lord, v. 1. God’s word is a law to them, not only in this or that instance, but in the whole course of their conversation; they walk within the hedges of that law, which they dare not break through by doing any thing it forbids; and they walk in the paths of that law, which they will not trifle in, but press forward in them towards the mark, taking every step by rule and never walking at all adventures. This is walking in God’s ways (v. 3), the ways which he has marked out to us and has appointed us to walk in. It will not serve us to make religion the subject of our discourse, but we must make it the rule of our walk; we must walk in his ways, not in the way of the world, or of our own hearts, Job. 23:10, Job. 23:11 Job. 31:7 . Who are upright and honest in their religion—undefiled in the way, not only who keep themselves pure from the pollutions of actual sin, unspotted from the world, but who are habitually sincere in their intentions, in whose spirit there is no guile, who are really as good as they seem to be and row the same way as they look. Who are true to the trust reposed in them as God’s professing people. It was the honour of the Jews that to them were committed the oracles of God; and blessed are those who preserve pure and entire that sacred deposit, who keep his testimonies as a treasure of inestimable value, keep them as the apple of their eye, so keep them as to carry the comfort of them themselves to another world and leave the knowledge and profession of them to those who shall come after them in this world. Those who would walk in the law of the Lord must keep his testimonies, that is, his truths. Those will not long make conscience of good practices who do not adhere to good principles. Or his testimonies may denote his covenant; the ark of the covenant is called the ark of the testimony. Those do not keep covenant with God who do not keep the commandments of God. Who have a single eye to God as their chief good and highest end in all they do in religion (v. 2): They seek him with their whole heart. They do not seek themselves and their own things, but God only; this is that which they aim at, that God may be glorified in their obedience and that they may be happy in God’s acceptance. he is, and will be, the rewarder, the reward, of all those who thus seek him diligently, seek him with the heart, for that is it that God looks at and requires; and with the whole heart, for if the heart be divided between him and the world it is faulty. Who carefully avoid all sin (v. 3): They do no iniquity; they do not allow themselves in any sin; they do not commit it as those do who are the servants of sin; they do not make a practice of it, do not make a trade of it. They are conscious to themselves of much iniquity that clogs them in the ways of God, but not of that iniquity which draws them out of those ways. Blessed and holy are those who thus exercise themselves to have always consciences void of offence.
Verses 4-6 We are here taught, 1. To own ourselves under the highest obligations to walk in God’s law. The tempter would possess men with an opinion that they are at their liberty whether they will make the word of God their rule or no, that, though it may be good, yet it is not so necessary as they are made to believe it is. He taught our first parents to question the command: Hath God said, You shall not eat? And therefore we are concerned to be well established in this (v. 4): Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts, to make religion our rule; and to keep them diligently, to make religion our business and to mind it carefully and constantly. We are bound, and must obey at our peril. To look up to God for wisdom and grace to do so (v. 5): O that my ways were directed accordingly! not only that all events concerning us may be so ordered and disposed by the providence of God as not to be in any thing a hindrance to us, but a furtherance rather, in the service of God, but that our hearts may be so guided and influenced by the Spirit of God that we may not in any thing transgress God’s commandments—not only that our eyes may be directed to behold God’s statutes, but our hearts directed to keep them. See how the desire and prayer of a good man exactly agree with the will and command of a good God: "Thou wouldest have me keep thy precepts, and, Lord, I fain would keep them.’’ This is the will of God, even our sanctification; and it should be our will. 3. To encourage ourselves in the way of our duty with a prospect of the comfort we shall find in it, v. 6. Note, (1.) It is the undoubted character of every good man that he has a respect to all God’s commandments. He has a respect to the command, eyes it as his copy, aims to conform to it, is sorry wherein he comes short; and what he does in religion he does with a conscientious regard to the command, because it is his duty. He has respect to all the commandments, one as well as another, because they are all backed with the same authority (Jam. 2:10, Jam. 2:11 ) and all levelled at the same end, the glorifying of God in our happiness. Those who have a sincere respect to any command will have a general respect to every command, to the commands of both testaments and both tables, to the prohibitions and the precepts, to those that concern both the inward and the outward man, both the head and the heart, to those that forbid the most pleasant and gainful sins and to those that require the most difficult and hazardous duties. (2.) Those who have a sincere respect to all God’s commandments shall not be ashamed, not only they will thereby be kept from doing that which will turn to their shame, but they shall have confidence towards God and boldness of access to the throne of his grace, 1 Jn. 3:21 . They shall have credit before men; their honesty will be their honour. And they shall have clearness and courage in their own souls; they shall not be ashamed to retire into themselves, nor to reflect upon themselves, for their hearts shall not condemn them. David speaks this with application to himself. Those that are upright may take the comfort of their uprightness. "As, if I be wicked, woe to me; so, if I be sincere, it is well with me.’’
Verses 7-8 Here is, I. David’s endeavour to perfect himself in his religion, and to make himself (as we say) master of his business. He hopes to learn God’s righteous judgments. He knew much, but he was still pressing forward and desired to know more, as knowing this, that he had not yet attained; but as far as perfection is attainable in this life he reached towards it, and would not take up short of it. As long as we live we must be scholars in Christ’s school, and sit at his feet; but we should aim to be head-scholars, and to get into the highest form. God’s judgments are all righteous, and therefore it is desirable not only to learn them, but to be learned in them, mighty in the scriptures. II. The use he would make of his divine learning. He coveted to be learned in the laws of God, not that he might make himself a name and interest among men, or fill his own head with entertaining speculations, but, 1. That he might give God the glory of his learning: I will praise thee when I have learned thy judgments, intimating that he could not learn unless God taught him, and that divine instructions are special blessings, which we have reason to be thankful for. Though Christ keeps a free-school, and teaches without money and without price, yet he expects his scholars should give him thanks both for his word and for his Spirit; surely it is a mercy worth thanks to be taught so gainful a calling as religion is. Those have learned a good lesson who have learned to praise God, for that is the work of angels, the work of heaven. It is an easy thing to praise God in word and tongue; but those only are well learned in this mystery who have learned to praise him with uprightness of heart, that is, are inward with him in praising him, and sincerely aim at his glory in the course of their conversation as well as in the exercises of devotion. God accepts only the praises of the upright. That he might himself come under the government of that learning: When I shall have learned thy righteous judgments I will keep thy statutes. We cannot keep them unless we learn them; but we learn them in vain if we do not keep them. Those have well learned God’s statutes who have come up to a full resolution, in the strength of his grace, to keep them.III. His prayer to God not to leave him: "O forsake me not! that is, leave me not to myself, withdraw not thy Spirit and grace from me, for then I shall not keep thy statutes.’’ Good men see themselves undone if God forsakes them; for then the tempter will be too hard for them. "Though thou seem to forsake me, and threaten to forsake me, and dost, for a time, withdraw from me, yet let not the desertion be total and final; for that is hell. O forsake me not utterly! for woe unto me if God departs from me.’’2. BETH.
Verse 9 Here is, 1. A weighty question asked. By what means may the next generation be made better than this? Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? Cleansing implies that it is polluted. Besides the original corruption we all brought into the world with us (from which we are not cleansed unto this day), there are many particular sins which young people are subject to, by which they defile their way, youthful lusts (2 Tim. 2:22 ); these render their way offensive to God and disgraceful to themselves. Young men are concerned to cleanse their way—to get their hearts renewed and their lives reformed, to make clean, and keep clean, from the corruption that is in the world through lust, that they may have both a good conscience and a good name. Few young people do themselves enquire by what means they may recover and preserve their purity; and therefore David asks the question for them. A satisfactory answer given to this question. Young men may effectually cleanse their way by taking heed thereto according to the word of God; and it is the honour of the word of God that it has such power and is of such use both to particular persons and to communities, whose happiness lies much in the virtue of their youth. (1.) Young men must make the word of God their rule, must acquaint themselves with it and resolve to conform themselves to it; that will do more towards the cleansing of young men that the laws of princes or the morals of philosophers. (2.) They must carefully apply that rule and make use of it; they must take heed to their way, must examine it by the word of God, as a touchstone and standard, must rectify what is amiss in it by that regulator and steer by that chart and compass. God’s word will not do without our watchfulness, and a constant regard both to it and to our way, that we may compare them together. The ruin of young men is either living at large (or by no rule at all) or choosing to themselves false rules: let them ponder the path of their feet, and walk by scripture-rules; so their way shall be clean, and they shall have the comfort and credit of it here and for ever.
Verse 10 Here is, 1. David’s experience of a good work God had wrought in him, which he takes the comfort of and pleads with God: "I have sought thee, sought to thee as my oracle, sought after thee as my happiness, sought thee as my God; for should not a people seek unto their God? If I have not yet found thee, I have sought thee, and thou never saidst, Seek in vain, nor wilt say so to me, for I have sought thee with my heart, with my whole heart, sought thee only, sought thee diligently.’’ 2. His prayer for the preservation of that work: "Thou that hast inclined me to seek thy precepts, never suffer me to wander from them.’’ The best are sensible of their aptness to wander; and the more we have found of the pleasure there is in keeping God’s commandments the more afraid we shall be of wandering from them and the more earnest we shall be in prayer to God for his grace to prevent our wanderings.
Verse 11 Here is, 1. The close application which David made of the word of God to himself: He hid it in his heart, laid it up there, that it might be ready to him whenever he had occasion to use it; he laid it up as that which he valued highly, and had a warm regard for, and which he was afraid of losing and being robbed of. God’s word is a treasure worth laying up, and there is no laying it up safely but in our hearts; if we have it only in our houses and hands, enemies may take it from us; if only in our heads, our memories may fail us: but if our hearts be delivered into the mould of it, and the impressions of it remain on our souls, it is safe. The good uses he designed to make of it: That I might not sin against thee. Good men are afraid of sin, and are in care to prevent it; and the most effectual way to prevent is to hide God’s word in our hearts, that we may answer every temptation, as our Master did, with, It is written, may oppose God’s precepts to the dominion of sin, his promises to its allurements, and his threatenings to its menaces.
Verse 12 Here, 1. David gives glory to God: "Blessed art thou, O Lord! Thou art infinitely happy in the enjoyment of thyself and hast no need of me or my services; yet thou art pleased to reckon thyself honoured by them; assist me therefore, and then accept me.’’ In all our prayers we should intermix praises. He asks grace from God: "Teach me thy statutes; give me to know and do my duty in every thing. Thou art the fountain of all blessedness; O let me have this drop from that fountain, this blessing from that blessedness: Teach me thy statutes, that I may know how to bless thee, who art a blessed God, and that I may be blessed in thee.’’
Verses 13-16 Here, I. David looks back with comfort upon the respect he had paid to the word of God. He had the testimony of his conscience for him, 1. That he had edified others with what he had been taught out of the word of God (v. 13): With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth. This he did, not only as a king in making orders, and giving judgment, according to the word of God, nor only as a prophet by his psalms, but in his common discourse. Thus he showed how full he was of the word of God, and what a holy delight he took in his acquaintance with it; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks. Thus he did good with his knowledge; he did not hide God’s word from others, but hid it for them; and, out of that good treasure in his heart, brought forth good things, as the householder out of his store things new and old. Those whose hearts are fed with the bread of life should with their lips feed many. He had prayed (v. 12) that God would teach him; and here he pleads, "Lord, I have endeavoured to make a good use of the knowledge thou hast given me, therefore increase it;’’ for to him that has shall be given. 2. That he had entertained himself with it: "Lord, teach me thy statutes; for I desire no greater pleasure than to know and do them (v. 14): I have rejoiced in the way of thy commandments, in a constant even course of obedience to thee; not only in the speculations and histories of thy word, but in the precepts of it, and in that path of serious godliness which they chalk out to me. I have rejoiced in this as much as in all riches, as much as ever any worldling rejoiced in the increase of his wealth. In the way of God’s commandments I can truly say, Soul, take thy ease;’’ in true religion there is all riches, the unsearchable riches of Christ.II. He looks forward with a holy resolution never to cool in his affection to the word of God; what he does that he will do, 2 Co. 11:12 . Those that have found pleasure in the ways of God are likely to proceed and persevere in them. 1. He will dwell much upon them in his thoughts (v. 15): I will meditate in thy precepts. He not only discoursed of them to others (many do that only to show their knowledge and authority), but he communed with his own heart about them, and took pains to digest in his own thoughts what he had declared, or had to declare, to others. Note, God’s words ought to be very much the subject of our thoughts. He will have them always in his eye: I will have respect unto thy ways, as the traveller has to his road, which he is in care not to miss and always aims and endeavours to hit. We do not meditate on God’s precepts to good purpose unless we have respect to them as our rule and our good thoughts produce good works and good intentions in them. 3. He will take a constant pleasure in communion with God and obedience to him. It is not for a season that he rejoices in this light, but "I will still, I will for ever, delight myself in thy statutes, not only think of them, but do them with delight,’’ v. 16. David took more delight in God’s statutes than in the pleasures of his court or the honours of his camp, more than in his sword or in his harp. When the law is written in the heart duty becomes a delight. 4. He will never forget what he has learned of the things of God: "I will not forget thy word, not only I will not quite forget it, but I will be mindful of it when I have occasion to use it.’’ Those that meditate in God’s word, and delight in it, are in no great danger of forgetting it.3. GIMEL.
Verse 17 We are here taught, 1. That we owe our lives to God’s mercy. David prays, Deal bountifully with me, that I may live. It was God’s bounty that gave us life, that gave us this life; and the same bounty that gave it continues it, and gives all the supports and comforts of it; if these be withheld, we die, or, which is equivalent, our lives are embittered and we become weary of them. If God deals in strict justice with us, we die, we perish, we all perish; if these forfeited lives be preserved and prolonged, it is because God deals bountifully with us, according to his mercy, not according to our deserts. The continuance of the most useful life is owing to God’s bounty, and on that we must have a continual dependence. That therefore we ought to spend our lives in God’s service. Life is therefore a choice mercy, because it is an opportunity of obeying God in this world, where there are so few that do glorify him; and this David had in his eye: "Not that I may live and grow rich, live and be merry, but that I may live and keep thy word, may observe it myself and transmit it to those that shall come after, which the longer I live the better I shall do.’’
Verse 18 Observe here, 1. That there are wondrous things in God’s law, which we are all concerned, and should covet, to behold, not only strange things, which are very surprising and unexpected, but excellent things, which are to be highly esteemed and valued, and things which were long hidden from the wise and prudent, but are now revealed unto babes. If there were wonders in the law, much more in the gospel, where Christ is all in all, whose name is Wonderful. Well may we, who are so nearly interested, desire to behold these wondrous things, when the angels themselves reach to look into them, 1 Pt. 1:12 . Those that would see the wondrous things of God’s law and gospel must beg of him to open their eyes and to give them an understanding. We are by nature blind to the things of God, till his grace cause the scales to fall from our eyes; and even those in whose hearts God has said, Let there be light, have yet need to be further enlightened, and must still pray to God to open their eyes yet more and more, that those who at first saw men as trees walking may come to see all things clearly; and the more God opens our eyes the more wonders we see in the word of God, which we saw not before.
Verse 19 Here we have, 1. The acknowledgment which David makes of his own condition: I am a stranger in the earth. We all are so, and all good people confess themselves to be so; for heaven is their home, and the world is but their inn, the land of their pilgrimage. David was a man that knew as much of the world, and was as well known in it, as most men. God built him a house, established his throne; strangers submitted to him, and people that he had not known served him; he had a name like the names of the great men, and yet he calls himself a stranger. We are all strangers on earth and must so account ourselves. The request he makes to God thereupon: Hide not thy commandments from me. He means more: "Lord, show thy commandments to me; let me never know the want of the word of God, but, as long as I live, give me to be growing in my acquaintance with it. I am a stranger, and therefore stand in need of a guide, a guard, a companion, a comforter; let me have thy commandments always in view, for they will be all this to me, all that a poor stranger can desire. I am a stranger here, and must be gone shortly; by thy commandments let me be prepared for my removal hence.’’
Verse 20 David had prayed that God would open his eyes (v. 18) and open the law (v. 19); now here he pleads the earnestness of his desire for knowledge and grace, for it is the fervent prayer that avails much. 1. His desire was importunate: My soul breaketh for the longing it hath to thy judgments, or (as some read it) "It is taken up, and wholly employed, in longing for thy judgments; the whole stream of its desires runs in this channel. I shall think myself quite broken and undone if I want the word of God, the direction, converse, and comfort of it.’’ 2. It was constant—at all times. It was not now and then, in a good humour, that he was so fond of the word of God; but it is the habitual temper of every sanctified soul to hunger after the word of God as its necessary food, which there is no living without.
Verse 21 Here is, 1. The wretched character of wicked people. The temper of their minds is bad. They are proud; they magnify themselves above others. And yet that is not all: they magnify themselves against God, and set up their wills in competition with and opposition to the will of God, as if their hearts, and tongues, and all, were their own. There is something of pride at the bottom of every wilful sin, and the tenour of their lives is no better: They do err from thy commandments, as Israel, that did always err in their hearts; they err in judgment, and embrace principles contrary to thy commandments, and then no wonder that they err in practice, and wilfully turn aside out of the good way. This is the effect of their pride; for they say, What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? As Pharaoh, Who is the Lord? 2. The wretched case of such. They are certainly cursed, for God resists the proud; and those that throw off the commands of the law lay themselves under its curse (Gal. 3:10 ), and he that now beholds them afar off will shortly say to them, Go, you cursed. The proud sinners bless themselves; God curses them; and, though the most direful effects of this curse are reserved for the other world, yet they are often severely rebuked in this world: Providence crosses them, vexes them, and, wherein they dealt proudly, God shows himself above them; and these rebukes are earnests of worse. David took notice of the rebukes proud men were under, and it made him cleave the more closely to the word of God and pray the more earnestly that he might not err from God’s commandments. Thus saints get good by God’s judgments on sinners.
Verse 22 Here, 1. David prays against the reproach and contempt of men, that they might be removed, or (as the word is) rolled, from off him. This intimates that they lay upon him, and that neither his greatness nor his goodness could secure him from being libelled and lampooned. Some despised him and endeavoured to make him mean; others reproached him and endeavoured to make him odious. It has often been the lot of those that do well to be ill-spoken of. It intimates that they lay heavily upon him. Hard and foul words indeed break no bones, and yet they are very grievous to a tender and ingenuous spirit; therefore David prays, "Lord, remove them from me, that I may not be thereby either driven from my duty or discouraged in it.’’ God has all men’s hearts and tongues in his hand, and can silence lying lips, and raise up a good name that is trodden in the dust. To him we may appeal as the assertor of right and avenger of wrong, and may depend on his promise that he will clear up our righteousness as the light, Ps. 37:6 . Reproach and contempt may humble us and do us good and then it shall be removed. He pleads his constant adherence to the word and way of God: For I have kept thy testimonies. He not only pleads his innocency, that he was unjustly censured, but, (1.) That he was jeered for well-doing. He was despised and abused for his strictness and zeal in religion; so that it was for God’s name’s sake that he suffered reproach, and therefore he could with the more assurance beg of God to appear for him. The reproach of God’s people, if it be not removed now, will be turned into the greater honour shortly. (2.) That he was not jeered out of well-doing: "Lord, remove it from me, for I have kept thy testimonies notwithstanding.’’ If in a day of trial we still retain our integrity, we may be sure it will end well.
Verse 23 See here, 1. How David was abused even by great men, who should have known better his character and his case, and have been more generous: Princes did sit, sit in council, sit in judgment, and speak against me. What even princes say is not always right; but it is sad when judgment is thus turned to wormwood, when those that should be the protectors of the innocent are their betrayers. Herein David was a type of Christ, for they were the princes of this world that vilified and crucified the Lord of glory, 1 Co. 2:8 . What method he took to make himself easy under these abuses: he meditated in God’s statutes, went on in his duty, and did not regard them; as a deaf man, he heard not. When they spoke against him, he found that in the word of God which spoke for him, and spoke comfort to him, and then none of these things moved him. Those that have pleasure in communion with God may easily despise the censures of men, even of princes.
Verse 24 Here David explains his meditating in God’s statutes (v. 23), which was of such use to him when princes sat and spoke against him. 1. Did the affliction make his sad? The word of God comforted him, and was his delight, more his delight than any of the pleasures either of court or camp, of city or country. Sometimes it proves that the comforts of the word of God are most pleasant to a gracious soul when other comforts are embittered. Did it perplex him? Was he at a loss what to do when the princes spoke against him? God’s statutes were his counsellors, and they counselled him to bear it patiently and commit his cause to God. God’s testimonies will be the best counsellors both to princes and private persons. They are the men of my counsel; so the word is. There will be found more safety and satisfaction in consulting them than in the multitude of other counsellors. Observe here, Those that would have God’s testimonies to be their delight must take them for their counsellors and be advised by them; and let those that take them for their counsellors in close walking take them for their delight in comfortable walking.4. DALETH.
Verse 25 Here is, I. David’s complaint. We should have thought his soul soaring to heaven; but he says himself, My soul not only rolls in the dust, but cleaves to the dust, which is a complaint either, 1. Of his corruptions, his inclination to the world and the body (both which are dust), and that which follows upon it, a deadness to holy duties. When he would do good evil was present with him. God intimated that Adam was not only mortal, but sinful, when he said, Dust thou art, Gen. 3:19 . David’s complaint here is like St. Paul’s of a body of death that he carried about with him. The remainders of in-dwelling corruption are a very grievous burden to a gracious soul. Or, 2. Of his afflictions, either trouble of mind or outward trouble. Without were fightings, within were fears, and both together brought him even to the dust of death (Ps. 22:15 ), and his soul clave inseparably to it.II. His petition for relief, and his plea to enforce that petition: "Quicken thou me according to thy word. By thy providence put life into my affairs, by thy grace put life into my affections; cure me of my spiritual deadness and make me lively in my devotion.’’ Note, When we find ourselves dull we must go to God and beg of him to quicken us; he has an eye to God’s word as a means of quickening (for the words which God speaks, they are spirit and they are life to those that receive them), and as an encouragement to hope that God would quicken him, having promised grace and comfort to all the saints, and to David in particular. God’s word must be our guide and plea in every prayer.
Verses 26-27 We have here, 1. The great intimacy and freedom that had been between David and his God. David had opened his case, opened his very heart to God: "I have declared my ways, and acknowledged thee in them all, have taken thee along with me in all my designs and enterprises.’’ Thus Jephthah uttered all his words, and Hezekiah spread his letters, before the Lord. "I have declared my ways, my wants, and burdens, and troubles, that I meet with in my way, or my sins, my by-ways (I have made an ingenuous confession of them), and thou heardest me, heardest patiently all I had to say, and tookedst cognizance of my case.’’ It is an unspeakable comfort to a gracious soul to think with what tenderness all its complaints are received by a gracious God, 1 Jn. 5:14, 1 Jn. 5:15 . David’s earnest desire of the continuance of that intimacy, not by visions and voices from heaven, but by the word and Spirit in an ordinary way: Teach me thy statutes, that is, Make me to understand the way of thy precepts. When he knew God had heard his declaration of his ways he did not say, "Now, Lord, tell me my lot, and let me know what the event will be;’’ but, "Now, Lord, tell me my duty; let me know what thou wouldst have me to do as the case stands.’’ Note, Those who in all their ways acknowledge God may pray in faith that he will direct their steps in the right way. And the surest way of keeping up our communion with God is by learning his statutes and walking intelligently in the way of his precepts. See 1 Jn. 1:6, 1 Jn. 1:7 . 3. The good use he would make of this for the honour of God and the edification of others: "Let me have a good understanding of the way of thy precepts; give me a clear, distinct, and methodical knowledge of divine things; so shall I talk with the more assurance, and the more to the purpose, of thy wondrous works.’’ We can talk with a better grace of God’s wondrous works, the wonders of providence, and especially the wonders of redeeming love, when we understand the way of God’s precepts and walk in that way.
Verses 28-29 Here is, 1. David’s representation of his own griefs: My soul melteth for heaviness, which is to the same purport with v. 25, My soul cleaveth to the dust. Heaviness in the heart of man makes it to melt, to drop away like a candle that wastes. The penitent soul melts in sorrow for sin, and even the patient soul may melt in the sense of affliction, and it is then its interest to pour out its supplication before God. His request for God’s grace. (1.) That God would enable him to bear his affliction well and graciously support him under it: "Strengthen thou me with strength in my soul, according to thy word, which, as the bread of life, strengthens man’s heart to undergo whatever God is pleased to inflict. Strengthen me to do the duties, resist the temptations, and bear up under the burdens, of an afflicted state, that the spirit may not fail. Strengthen me according to that word (Deu. 33:25 ), As thy days so shall thy strength be.’’ (2.) That God would keep him from using any unlawful indirect means for the extricating of himself out of his troubles (v. 29): Remove from me the way of lying. David was conscious to himself of a proneness to this sin; he had, in a strait, cheated Ahimelech (1 Sa. 21:2 ), and Achish, v. 13and ch. 27:10 . Great difficulties are great temptations to palliate a lie with the colour of a pious fraud and a necessary self-defence; therefore David prays that God would prevent him from falling into this sin any more, lest he should settle in the way of it. A course of lying, of deceit and dissimulation, is that which every good man dreads and which we are all concerned to beg of God by his grace to keep us from. (3.) That he might always be under the guidance and protection of God’s government: Grant me thy law graciously; grant me that to keep me from the way of lying. David had the law written with his own hand, for the king was obliged to transcribe a copy of it for his own use (Deu. 17:18 ); but he prays that he might have it written in his heart; for then, and then only, we have it indeed, and to good purpose. "Grant it me more and more.’’ Those that know and love the law of God cannot but desire to know it more and love it better. "Grant it me graciously;’’ he begs it as a special token of God’s favour. Note, We ought to reckon God’s law a grant, a gift, an unspeakable gift, to value it, and pray for it, and to give thanks for it accordingly. The divine code of institutes and precepts is indeed a charter of privileges; and God is truly gracious to those whom he makes gracious by giving them his law.
Verses 30-32 Observe, I. That those who will make anything to purpose of their religion must first make it their serious and deliberate choice; so David did: I have chosen the way of truth. Note, 1. The way of serious godliness is the way of truth; the principles it is founded on are principles of eternal truth, and it is the only true way to happiness. We must choose to walk in this way, not because we know no other way, but because we know no better; nay we know no other safe and good way. Let us choose that way for our way, which we will walk in, though it be narrow.II. That those who have chosen the way of truth must have a constant regard to the word of God as the rule of their walking: Thy judgments have I laid before me, as he who learns to write lays his copy before him, that he may write according to it, as the workman lays his model and platform before him, that he may do his work exactly. As we must have the word in our heart by an habitual conformity to it, so we must have it in our eye by an actual regard to it upon all occasions, that we may walk accurately and by rule.III. That those who make religion their choice and rule are likely to adhere to it faithfully: "I have stuck to thy testimonies with unchanged affection and an unshaken resolution, stuck to them at all times, through all trials. I have chosen them, and therefore I have stuck to them.’’ Note, The choosing Christian is likely to be the steady Christian; while those that are Christians by chance tack about if the wind turn.IV. That those who stick to the word of God may in faith expect and pray for acceptance with God; for David means this when he begs, "Lord, put me not to shame; that is, never leave me to do that by which I shall shame myself, and do thou not reject my services, which will put me to the greatest confusion.’’V. That the more comfort God gives us the more duty he expects from us, v. 32. Here we have, 1. His resolution to go on vigorously in religion: I will run the way of thy commandments. Those that are going to heaven should make haste thither and be still pressing forward. It concerns us to redeem time and take pains, and to go on in our business with cheerfulness. We then run the way of our duty, when we are ready to it, and pleasant in it, and lay aside every weight, Heb. 12:1 . His dependence upon God for grace to do so: "I shall then abound in thy work, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.’’ God, by his Spirit, enlarges the hearts of his people when he gives them wisdom (for that is called largeness of heart, 1 Ki. 4:29 ), when he sheds abroad the love of God in the heart, and puts gladness there. The joy of our Lord should be wheels to our obedience.5. HE.
Verses 33-34 Here, I. David prays earnestly that God himself would be his teacher; he had prophets, and wise men, and priests, about him, and was himself well instructed in the law of God, yet he begs to be taught of God, as knowing that none teaches like him, Job. 36:22 . Observe here, 1. What he desires to be taught, not the notions or language of God’s statutes, but the way of them—"the way of applying them to myself and governing myself by them; teach me the way of my duty which thy statutes prescribe, and in every doubtful case let me know what thou wouldst have me to do, let me hear the word behind me, saying, This is the way, walk in it’’ Isa. 30:21 . How he desires to be taught, in such a way as no man could teach him: Lord, give me understanding. As the God of nature, he has given us intellectual powers and faculties; but here we are taught to pray that, as the God of grace, he would give us understanding to use those powers and faculties about the great things which belong to our peace, which, through the corruption of nature, we are averse to: Give me understanding, an enlightened understanding; for it is as good to have no understanding at all as not to have it sanctified. Nor will the spirit of revelation in the word answer the end unless we have the spirit of wisdom in the heart. This is that which we are indebted to Christ for; for the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, 1 Jn. 5:20 .II. He promises faithfully that he would be a good scholar. If God would teach him, he was sure he should learn to good purpose: "I shall keep thy law, which I shall never do unless I be taught of God, and therefore I earnestly desire that I may be taught.’’ If God, by his Spirit, give us a right and good understanding, we shall be, 1. Constant in our obedience: "I shall keep it to the end, to the end of my life, which will be the surest proof of sincerity.’’ It will not avail the traveller to keep the way for a while, if he do not keep it to the end of his journey. Cordial in our obedience: I shall observe it with my whole heart, with pleasure and delight, and with vigour and resolution. That way which the whole heart goes the whole man goes; and that should be the way of God’s commandments, for the keeping of them is the whole of man.
Verses 35-36 He had before prayed to God to enlighten his understanding, that he might know his duty, and not mistake concerning it; here he prays to God to bow his will, and quicken the active powers of his soul, that he might do his duty; for it is God that works in us both to will and to do, as well as to understand, what is good, Phil. 2:13 . Both the good head and the good heart are from the good grace of God, and both are necessary to every good work. Observe here,I. The grace he prays for. 1. That God would make him able to do his duty: "Make me to go; strengthen me for every good work.’’ Since we are not sufficient of ourselves, our dependence must be upon the grace of God, for from him all our sufficiency is. God puts his Spirit within us, and so causes us to walk in his statutes (Eze. 36:27 ), and this is that which David here begs. That God would make him willing to do it, and would, by his grace, subdue the aversion he naturally had to it: "Incline my heart to thy testimonies, to those things which thy testimonies prescribe; not only make me willing to do my duty, as that which I must do and therefore am concerned to make the best of, but make me desirous to do my duty as that which is agreeable to the new nature and really advantageous to me.’’ Duty is then done with delight when the heart is inclined to it: it is God’s grace that inclines us, and the more backward we find ourselves to it the more earnest we must be for that grace.II. The sin he prays against, and that is covetousness: "Incline my heart to keep thy testimonies, and restrain and mortify the inclination there is in me to covetousness.’’ That is a sin which stands opposed to all God’s testimonies; for the love of money is such a sin as is the root of much sin, of all sin. Those therefore that would have the love of God rooted in them must get the love of the world rooted out of them; for the friendship of the world is enmity with God. See in what way God deals with men, not by compulsion, but he draws with the cords of a man, working in them an inclination to that which is good and an aversion to that which is evil.III. His plea to enforce this prayer: "Lord, bring me to, and keep me in, the way of thy commandments, for therein do I delight; and therefore I pray thus earnestly for grace to walk in that way. Thou hast wrought in me this delight in the way of thy commandments; wilt thou not work in me an ability to walk in them, and so crown thy own work?’’
Verse 37 Here, 1. David prays for restraining grace, that he might be prevented and kept back from that which would hinder him in the way of his duty: Turn away my eyes from beholding vanity. The honours, pleasures, and profits of the world are the vanities, the aspect and prospect of which draw multitudes away from the paths of religion and godliness. The eye, when fastened on these, infects the heart with the love of them, and so it is alienated from God and divine things; and therefore, as we ought to make a covenant with our eyes, and lay a charge upon them, that they shall not wander after, much less fix upon, that which is dangerous (Job. 31:1 ), so we ought to pray that God by his providence would keep vanity out of our sight and that by his grace he would keep us from being enamoured with the sight of it. He prays for constraining grace, that he might not only be kept from every thing that would obstruct his progress heaven-ward, but might have that grace which was necessary to forward him in that progress: "Quicken thou me in thy way; quicken me to redeem time, to improve opportunity, to press forward, and to do every duty with liveliness and fervency of spirit.’’ Beholding vanity deadens us and slackens our pace; a traveller that stands gazing upon every object that presents itself to his view will not rid ground; but, if our eyes be kept from that which would divert us, our hearts will be kept to that which will excite us.
Verse 38 Here is. 1, . The character of a good man, which is the work of God’s grace in him; he is God’s servant, subject to his law and employed in his work, that is, devoted to his fear, given up to his direction and disposal, and taken up with high thoughts of him and all those acts of devotion which have a tendency to his glory. Those are truly God’s servants who, though they have their infirmities and defects, are sincerely devoted to the fear of God and have all their affections and motions governed by that fear; they are engaged and addicted to religion. The confidence that a good man has towards God, in dependence upon the word of his grace to him. Those that are God’s servants may, in faith and with humble boldness, pray that God would establish his word to them, that is, that he would fulfil his promises to them in due time, and in the mean time give them an assurance that they shall be fulfilled. What God has promised we must pray for; we need not be so aspiring as to ask more; we need not be so modest as to ask less.
Verse 39 Here, 1. David prays against reproach, as before, v. 22. David was conscious to himself that he had done that which might give occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, which would blemish his own reputation and turn to the dishonour of his family; now he prays that God, who has all men’s hearts and tongues in his hands, would be pleased to prevent this, to deliver him from all his transgressions, that he might not be the reproach of the foolish, which he feared (Ps. 39:8 ); or he means that reproach which his enemies unjustly loaded him with. Let their lying lips be put to silence. 2. He pleads the goodness of God’s judgments: "Lord, thou sittest in the throne, and thy judgments are right and good, just and kind, to those that are wronged, and therefore to thee I appeal from the unjust and unkind censures of men.’’ It is a small thing to be judged of man’s judgment, while he that judges us is the Lord. Or thus: "Thy word, and ways, and thy holy religion, are very good, but the reproaches cast on me will fall on them; therefore, Lord, turn them away; let not religion be wounded through my side.’’
Verse 40 Here, 1. David professes the ardent affection he had to the word of God: "I have longed after thy precepts, not only loved them, and delighted in what I have already attained, but I have earnestly desired to know them more and do them better, and am still pressing forward towards perfection.’’ Tastes of the sweetness of God’s precepts will but set us a longing after a more intimate acquaintance with them. He appeals to God concerning this passionate desire after his precepts: "Behold, I have thus loved, thus longed; thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I am thus affected.’’ 2. He prays for grace to enable him to answer this profession. "Thou hast wrought in me this languishing desire, put life into me, that I may prosecute it; quicken me in thy righteousness, in thy righteous ways, according to thy righteous promise.’’ Where God has wrought to will he will work to do, and where he has wrought to desire he will satisfy the desire.6. VAU.
Verses 41-42 Here is, 1. David’s prayer for the salvation of the Lord. "Lord, thou art my Saviour; I am miserable in myself, and thou only canst make me happy; let thy salvation come to me. Hasten temporal salvation to me from my present distresses, and hasten me to the eternal salvation, by giving me the necessary qualifications for it and the comfortable pledges and foretastes of it.’’ 2. David’s dependence upon the grace and promise of God for that salvation. These are the two pillars on which our hope is built, and they will not fail us:—(1.) The grace of God: Let thy mercies come, even thy salvation. Our salvation must be attributed purely to God’s mercy, and not to any merit of our own. Eternal life must be expected as the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, Jude. 21, . "Lord, I have by faith thy mercies in view; let me by prayer prevail to have them come to me.’’ (2.) The promise of God: "Let it come according to thy word, thy word of promise. I trust in thy word, and therefore may expect the performance of the promise.’’ We are not only allowed to trust in God’s word, but our trusting in it is the condition of our benefit by it. 3. David’s expectation of the good assurance which that grace and promise of God would give him: "So shall I have wherewith to answer him that reproaches me for my confidence in God, as if it would deceive me.’’ When God saves those out of their troubles who trusted in him he effectually silences those who would have shamed that counsel of the poor (Ps. 14:6 ), and their reproaches will be for ever silenced when the salvation of the saints is completed; then it will appear, beyond dispute, that it was not in vain to trust in God.
Verses 43-44 Here is, 1. David’s humble petition for the tongue of the learned, that he might know how to speak a word in season for the glory of God: Take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth. He means, "Lord, let the word of truth be always in my mouth; let me have the wisdom and courage which are necessary to enable me both to use my knowledge for the instruction of others, and, like the good householder, to bring out of my treasury things new and old, and to make profession of my faith whenever I am called to it.’’ We have need to pray to God that we may never be afraid or ashamed to own his truths and ways, nor deny him before men. David found that he was sometimes at a loss, that the word of truth was not so ready to him as it should have been, but he prays, "Lord, let it not be taken utterly from me; let my always have so much of it at hand as will be necessary to the due discharge of my duty.’’ 2. His humble profession of the heart of the upright, without which the tongue of the learned, however it may be serviceable to others, will stand us in no stead. (1.) David professes his confidence in God: "Lord, make me ready and mighty in the scriptures, for I have hoped in those judgments of thy mouth, and, if they be not at hand, my support and defence have departed from me.’’ (2.) He professes his resolution to adhere to his duty in the strength of God’s grace: "So shall I keep thy law continually. If I have thy word not only in my heart, but in my mouth, I shall do all I should do, stand complete in thy whole will.’’ Thus shall the man of God be perfect, thoroughly furnished for every good word and work, 2 Tim. 3:17 ; Col. 3:16 . Observe how he resolves to keep God’s law, [1.] Continually, without trifling. God must be served in a constant course of obedience every day, and all the day long. [2.] For ever and ever, without backsliding. We must never be weary of well-doing. If we serve him to the end of our time on earth, we shall be serving him in heaven to the endless ages of eternity; so shall we keep his law for ever and ever. Or thus: "Lord, let me have the word of truth in my mouth, that I may commit that sacred deposit to the rising generation (2 Tim. 2:2 ) and by them it may be transmitted to succeeding ages; so shall thy law be kept for ever and ever,’’ that is, from one generation to another, according to that promise (Isa. 59:21 ), My word in thy mouth shall not depart out of the mouth of thy seed, nor thy seed’s seed.
Verses 45-48 We may observe in these verses, 1. What David experienced of an affection to the law of God: "I seek thy precepts, v. 45. I desire to know and do my duty, and consult thy word accordingly; I do all I can to understand what the will of the Lord is and to discover the intimations of his mind. I seek thy precepts, for I have loved them, v. 47, v. 48. I not only give consent to them as good, but take complacency in them as good for me.’’ All that love God love his government and therefore love all his commandments. What he expected from this. Five things he promises himself here in the strength of God’s grace:—(1.) That he should be free and easy in his duty: "I will walk at liberty, freed from that which is evil, not hampered with the fetters of my own corruptions, and free to that which is good, doing it not by constraint, but willingly.’’ The service of sin is perfect slavery; the service of God is perfect liberty. Licentiousness is bondage to the greatest of tyrants; conscientiousness is freedom to the meanest of prisoners, Jn. 8:32, Jn. 8:36 ; Lu. 1:74, Lu. 1:75 . (2.) That he should be bold and courageous in his duty: I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings. Before David came to the crown kings were sometimes his judges, as Saul, and Achish; but, if he were called before them to give a reason of the hope that was in him, he would speak of God’s testimonies, and profess to build his hope upon them and make them his council, his guards, his crown, his all. We must never be afraid to own our religion, though it should expose us to the wrath of kings, but speak of it as that which we will live and die by, like the three children before Nebuchadnezzar, Dan. 3:16 ; Acts. 4:20 . After David came to the crown kings were sometimes his companions; they visited him and he returned their visits; but he did not, in complaisance to them, talk of every thing but religion, for fear of affronting them and making his conversation uneasy to them. No; God’s testimonies shall be the principal subject of his discourse with the kings, not only to show that he was not ashamed of his religion, but to instruct them in it and bring them over to it. It is good for kings to hear of God’s testimonies, and it will adorn the conversation of princes themselves to speak of them. (3.) That he should be cheerful and pleasant in his duty (v. 47): "I will delight myself in thy commandments, in conversing with them, in conforming to them. I will never be so well pleased with myself as when I do that which is pleasing to God.’’ The more delight we take in the service of God the nearer we come to the perfection we aim at. (4.) That he should be diligent and vigorous in his duty: I will lift up my hands to thy commandments, which denotes not only a vehement desire towards them (Ps. 143:6 )—"I will lay hold of them as one afraid of missing them, or letting them go;’’ but a close application of mind to the observance of them—"I will lay my hands to the command, not only to praise it, but practise it; nay, I will lift up my hands to it, that is, I will put forth all the strength I have to do it.’’ The hands that hang down, through sloth and discouragement, shall be lifted up, Heb. 12:12 . (5.) That he should be thoughtful and considerate in his duty (v. 48): "I will meditate in thy statutes, not only entertain myself with thinking of them as matters of speculation, but contrive how I may observe them in the best manner.’’ By this it will appear that we truly love God’s commandments, if we apply both our minds and our hands to them.7. ZAIN.
Verse 49 Two things David here pleads with God in prayer for that mercy and grace which he hoped for, according to the word, by which his requests were guided:-1. That God had given him the promise on which he hoped: "Lord, I desire no more than that thou wouldst remember thy word unto thy servant, and do as thou hast said;’’ see 1 Chr. 17:23 . "Thou art wise, and therefore wilt perfect what thou hast purposed, and not change thy counsel. Thou art faithful, and therefore wilt perform what thou hast promised, and not break thy word.’’ Those that make God’s promises their portion may with humble boldness make them their plea. "Lord, is not that the word which thou hast spoken; and wilt thou not make it good?’’ Gen. 32:9 ; Ex. 33:12 . That God, who had given him the promise in the word, had by his grace wrought in him a hope in that promise and enabled him to depend upon it, and had raised his expectations of great things from it. Has God kindled in us desires towards spiritual blessings more than towards any temporal good things, and will he not be so kind as to satisfy those desires? Has he filled us with hopes of those blessings, and will he not be so just as to accomplish these hopes? He that did by his Spirit work faith in us will, according to our faith, work for us, and will not disappoint us.
Verse 50 Here is David’s experience of benefit by the word. 1. As a means of his sanctification: "Thy word has quickened me. It made me alive when I was dead in sin; it has many a time made me lively when I was dead in duty; it has quickened me to that which is good when I was backward and averse to it, and it has quickened me in that which is good when I was cold and indifferent.’’ 2. Therefore as a means of his consolation when he was in affliction and needed something to support him: "Because thy word has quickened my at other times, it has comforted me then.’’ The word of God has much in it that speaks comfort in affliction; but those only may apply it to themselves who have experienced in some measure the quickening power of the word. If through grace it make us holy, there is enough in it to make us easy, in all conditions, under all events.
Verse 51 David here tells us, and it will be of use to us to know it, 1. That he had been jeered for his religion. Though he was a man of honour, a man of great prudence, and had done eminent services to his country, yet, because he was a devout conscientious man, the proud had him greatly in derision; they ridiculed him, bantered him, and did all they could to expose him to contempt; they laughed at him for his praying, and called it cant, for his seriousness, and called it mopishness, for his strictness, and called it needless preciseness. They were the proud that sat in the scorner’s seat and valued themselves on so doing. 2. That yet he had not been jeered out of his religion: "They have done all they could to make me quit it for shame, but none of these things move me: I have not declined from thy law for all this; but, if this be to be vile’’ (as he said when Michal had him greatly in derision), "I will be yet more vile.’’ He not only had not quite forsaken the law, but had not so much as declined from it. We must never shrink from any duty, nor let slip an opportunity of doing good, for fear of the reproach of men, or their revilings. The traveller goes on his way though the dogs bark at him. Those can bear but little for Christ that cannot bear a hard word for him.
Verse 52 When David was derided for his godliness he not only held fast his integrity, but, 1. He comforted himself. He not only bore reproach, but bore it cheerfully. It did not disturb his peace, nor break in upon the repose of his spirit in God. It was a comfort to him to think that it was for God’s sake that he bore reproach, and that his worst enemies could find no occasion against him, save only in the matter of his God, Dan. 6:5 . Those that are derided for their adherence to God’s law may comfort themselves with this, that the reproach of Christ will prove, in the end, greater riches to them than the treasures of Egypt. 2. That which he comforted himself with was the remembrance of God’s judgments of old, the providences of God concerning his people formerly, both in mercy to them and in justice against their persecutors. God’s judgments of old, in our own early days and in the days of our fathers, are to be remembered by us for our comfort and encouragement in the way of God, for he is still the same.
Verse 53 Here is, 1. The character of wicked people; he means those that are openly and grossly wicked: They forsake thy law. Every sin is a transgression of the law, but a course and way of wilful and avowed sin is downright forsaking it and throwing it off. 2. The impression which the wickedness of the wicked made upon David; it frightened him, it put him into an amazement. He trembled to think of the dishonour thereby done to God, the gratification thereby given to Satan, and the mischiefs thereby done to the souls of men. He dreaded the consequences of it both to the sinners themselves (and cried out, O gather not my soul with sinners! let my enemy be as the wicked ) and to the interests of God’s kingdom among men, which he was afraid would be thereby sunk and ruined. He does not say, "Horror has taken hold on me because of their cruel designs against me,’’ but "because of the contempt they put on God and his law.’’ Sin is a monstrous horrible thing in the eyes of all that are sanctified, Jer. 5:30 Jer. 23:14 ; Hos. 6:10 ; Jer. 2:12 .
Verse 54 Here is, 1. David’s state and condition; he was in the house of his pilgrimage, which may be understood either as his peculiar trouble (he was often tossed and hurried, and forced to fly) or as his lot in common with all. This world is the house of our pilgrimage, the house in which we are pilgrims; it is our tabernacle; it is our inn. We must confess ourselves strangers and pilgrims upon earth, who are not at home here, nor must be here long. Even David’s palace is but the house of his pilgrimage. 2. His comfort in this state: "Thy statutes have been my songs, with which I here entertain myself,’’ as travellers are wont to divert the thoughts of their weariness, and take off something of the tediousness of their journey, by singing a pleasant song now and then. David was the sweet singer of Israel, and here we are told whence he fetched his songs; they were all borrowed from the word of God. God’s statutes were as familiar to him as the songs which a man is accustomed to sing; and he conversed with them in his pilgrimage-solitudes. They were as pleasant to him as songs, and put gladness into his heart more than those have that chant to the sound of the viol, Amos. 6:5 . Is any afflicted then? Let him sing over God’s statutes, and try if he cannot so sing away sorrow, Ps. 138:5 .
Verses 55-56 Here is, 1. The converse David had with the word of God; he kept it in mind, and upon every occasion he called it to mind. God’s name is the discovery he has made of himself to us in and by his word. This is his memorial unto all generations, and therefore we should always keep it in memory—remember it in the night, upon a waking bed, when we are communing with our own hearts. When others were sleeping David was remembering God’s name, and, by repeating that lesson, increasing his acquaintance with it; in the night of affliction this he called to mind. 2. The conscience be made of conforming to it. The due remembrance of God’s name, which is prefixed to his law, will have a great influence upon our observance of the law: I remembered thy name in the night, and therefore was careful to keep thy law all day. How comfortable will it be in the reflection if our own hearts can witness for us that we have thus remembered God’s name, and kept his law! 3. The advantage he got by it (v. 56): This I had because I kept thy precepts. Some understand this indefinitely: This I had (that is I had that which satisfied me; I had every thing that is comfortable) because I kept thy precepts. Note, All that have made a business of religion will own that it has turned to a good account, and that they have been unspeakable gainers by it. Others refer it to what goes immediately before: "I had the comfort of keeping thy law because I kept it.’’ Note, God’s work is its own wages. A heart to obey the will of God is a most valuable reward of obedience; and the more we do the more we may do, and shall do, in the service of God; the branch that bears fruit is made more fruitful, Jn. 15:2 .8. CHETH.
Verse 57 We may hence gather the character of a godly man. 1, . He makes the favour of God his felicity: Thou art my portion, O Lord! Others place their happiness in the wealth and honours of this world. Their portion is in this life; they look no further; they desire no more; these are their good things, Lu. 16:25 . But all that are sanctified take the Lord for the portion of their inheritance and their cup, and nothing less will satisfy them. David can appeal to God in this matter: "Lord, thou knowest that I have chosen thee for my portion, and depend upon thee to make me happy.’’ 2. He makes the law of God his rule: "I have said that I would keep thy words; and what I have said by thy grace I will do, and will abide by it to the end.’’ Note, Those that take God for their portion must take him for their prince, and swear allegiance to him; and, having promised to keep his word, we must often put ourselves in mind of our promise, Ps. 39:1 .
Verse 58 David, having in the foregoing verse reflected upon his covenants with God, here reflects upon his prayers to God, and renews his petition. Observe, 1. What he prayed for. Having taken God for his portion, he entreated his favour, as one that knew he had forfeited it, was unworthy of it, and yet undone without it, but for ever happy if he could obtain it. We cannot demand God’s favour as a debt, but must be humble suppliants for it, that God will not only be reconciled to us, but accept us and smile upon us. He prays, "Be merciful to me, in the forgiveness of what I have done amiss, and in giving me grace to do better for the future.’’ 2. How he prayed—with his whole heart, as one that knew how to value the blessing he prayed for. The gracious soul is entirely set upon the favour of God, and is therefore importunate for it. I will not let thee go except thou bless me. 3. What he pleaded—the promise of God: "Be merciful to me, according to thy word. I desire the mercy promised, and depend upon the promise for it.’’ Those that are governed by the precepts of the word and are resolved to keep them (v. 57) may plead the promises of the word and take the comfort of them.
Verses 59-60 David had said he would keep God’s word (v. 57), and it was well said; now here he tells us how and in what method he pursued that resolution. 1. He thought on his ways. He thought beforehand what he should do, pondering the path of his feet (Prov. 4:26 ), that he might walk surely, and not at all adventures. He thought after what he had done, reflected upon his life past, and recollected the paths he had walked in and the steps he had taken. The word signifies a fixed abiding thought. Some make it an allusion to those who work embroidery, who are very exact and careful to cover the least flaw, or to those who cast up their accounts, who reckon with themselves, What do I owe? What am I worth? "I thought not on my wealth (as the covetous man, Ps. 49:11 ) but on my ways, not on what I have, but what I do:’’ for what we do will follow us into another world when what we have must be left behind. Many are critical enough in their remarks upon other people’s ways who never think of their own: but let every man prove his own work. 2. He turned his feet to God’s testimonies. He determined to make the word of God his rule, and to walk by that rule. He turned from the by-paths to which he had turned aside, and returned to God’s testimonies. He turned not only his eye to them, but his feet, his affections to the love of God’s word and his conversation to the practice of it. The bent and inclinations of his soul were towards God’s testimonies and his conversation was governed by them Penitent reflections must produce pious resolutions. 3. He did this immediately and without demur (v. 60): I made haste and delayed not. When we are under convictions of sin we must strike while the iron is hot, and not think to defer the prosecution of them, as Felix did, to a more convenient season. When we are called to duty we must lose no time, but set about it to-day, while it is called to-day. Now this account which David here gives of himself may refer either to his constant practice every day (he reflected on his ways at night, directed his feet to God’s testimonies in the morning, and what his hand found to do that was good he did it without delay), or it may refer to his first acquaintance with God and religion, when he began to throw off the vanity of childhood and youth, and to remember his Creator; that blessed change was, by the grace of God, thus wrought. Note, (1.) Conversion begins in serious consideration, Eze. 18:28 ; Lu. 15:17 . (2.) Consideration must end in a sound conversion. To what purpose have we thought on our ways if we do not turn our feet with all speed to God’s testimonies?
Verse 61 Here is, 1. The malice of David’s enemies against him. They were wicked men, who hated him for his godliness. There were bands or troops of them confederate against him. They did him all the mischief they could; they robbed him; having endeavoured to take away his good name (v. 51), they set upon his goods, and spoiled him of them, either by plunder in time of war or by fines and confiscations under colour of law. Saul (it is likely) seized his effects, Absalom his palace, and the Amalekites rifled Ziklag. Worldly wealth is what we may be robbed of. David, though a man of war, could not keep his own. Thieves break through and steal. 2. The testimony of David’s conscience for him that he had held fast his religion when he was stripped of every thing else, as Job did when the bands of the Chaldeans and Sabeans had robbed him: But I have not forgotten thy law. No care nor grief should drive God’s word out of our minds, or hinder our comfortable relish of it and converse with it. Nor must we ever think the worse of the ways of God for any trouble we meet with in those ways, nor fear being losers by our religion at last, however we may be losers for it now.
Verse 62 Though David is, in this psalm, much in prayer, yet he did not neglect the duty of thanksgiving; for those that pray much will have much to give thanks for. See, 1. How much God’s hand was eyed in his thanksgivings. He does not say, "I will give thanks because of thy favours to me, which I have the comfort of,’’ but, "Because of thy righteous judgments, all the disposals of thy providence in wisdom and equity, which thou hast the glory of.’’ We must give thanks for the asserting of God’s honour and the accomplishing of his word in all he does in the government of the world. 2. How much David’s heart was set upon his thanksgivings. He would rise at midnight to give thanks to God. Great and good thoughts kept him awake, and refreshed him, instead of sleep; and so zealous was he for the honour of God that when others were in their beds he was upon his knees at his devotions. He did not affect to be seen of men in it, but gave thanks in secret, where our heavenly Father sees. He had praised God in the courts of the Lord’s house, and yet he will do it in his bed-chamber. Public worship will not excuse us from secret worship. When David found his heart affected with God’s judgments, he immediately offered up those affections to God, in actual adorations, not deferring, lest they should cool. Yet observe his reverence; he did not lie still and give thanks, but rose out of his bed, perhaps in the cold and in the dark, to do it the more solemnly. And see what a good husband he was of time; when he could not lie and sleep, he would rise and pray.
Verse 63 David had often expressed the great love he had to God; here he expresses the great love he had to the people of God; and observe, 1. Why he loved them; not so much because they were his best friends, most firm to his interest and most forward to serve him, but because they were such as feared God and kept his precepts, and so did him honour and helped to support his kingdom among men. Our love to the saints is then sincere when we love them for the sake of what we see of God in them and the service they do to him. 2. How he showed his love to them: He was a companion of them. He had not only a spiritual communion with them in the same faith and hope, but he joined with them in holy ordinances in the courts of the Lord, where rich and poor, prince and peasant, meet together. He sympathized with them in their joys and sorrows (Heb. 10:33 ); he conversed familiarly with them, communicated his experiences to them, and consulted theirs. He not only took such to be his companions as did fear God, but he vouchsafed himself to be a companion with all, with any, that did so, wherever he met with them. Though he was a king, he would associate with the poorest of his subjects that feared God, Ps. 15:4 : Jam. 2:1 .
Verse 64 Here, 1. David pleads that God is good to all the creatures according to their necessities and capacities; as the heaven is full of God’s glory, so the earth is full of his mercy, full of the instances of his pity and bounty. Not only the land of Canaan, where God is known and worshipped, but the whole earth, in many parts of which he has no homage paid him, is full of his mercy. Not only the children of men upon the earth, but even the inferior creatures, taste of God’s goodness. His tender mercies are over all his works. 2. He therefore prays that God would be good to him according to his necessity and capacity: "Teach me thy statutes. Thou feedest the young ravens that cry, with food proper for them; and wilt thou not feed me with spiritual food, the bread of life, which my soul needs and craves, and cannot subsist without? The earth is full of thy mercy; and is not heaven too? Wilt thou not then give me spiritual blessings in heavenly places?’’ A gracious heart will fetch an argument from any thing to enforce a petition for divine teaching. Surely he that will not let his birds be unfed will not let his children be untaught.9. TETH.
Verses 65-66 Here, 1. David makes a thankful acknowledgment of God’s gracious dealings with him all along: Thou hast dealt well with thy servant. However God has dealt with us, we must own he has dealt well with us, better than we deserve, and all in love and with design to work for our good. In many instances God has done well for us beyond our expectations. He has done well for all his servants; never any of them complained that he had used them hardly. Thou hast dealt well with me, not only according to thy mercy, but according to thy word. God’s favours look best when they are compared with the promise and are seen flowing from that fountain. 2. Upon these experiences he grounds a petition for divine instruction: "Teach me good judgment and knowledge, that, by thy grace, I may render again, in some measure, according to the benefit done unto me.’’ Teach me a good taste (so the word signifies), a good relish, to discern things that differ, to distinguish between truth and falsehood, good and evil; for the ear tries words, as the mouth tastes meat. We should pray to God for a sound mind, that we may have spiritual senses exercised, Heb. 5:14 . Many have knowledge who have little judgment; those who have both are well fortified against the snares of Satan and well furnished for the service of God and their generation. 3. This petition is backed with a plea: "For I have believed thy commandments, received them, and consented to them that they are good, and submitted to their government; therefore, Lord, teach me.’’ Where God has given a good heart a good head too many in faith be prayed for.
Verse 67 David here tells us what he had experienced, 1. Of the temptations of a prosperous condition: "Before I was afflicted, while I lived in peace and plenty, and knew no sorrow, I went astray from God and my duty.’’ Sin is going astray; and we are most apt to wander from God when we are easy and think ourselves at home in the world. Prosperity is the unhappy occasion of much iniquity; it makes people conceited of themselves, indulgent of the flesh, forgetful of God, in love with the world, and deaf to the reproofs of the word. See Ps. 30:6 . It is good for us, when we are afflicted, to remember how and wherein we went astray before we were afflicted, that we may answer the end of the affliction. 2. Of the benefit of an afflicted state: "Now have I kept thy word, and so have been recovered from my wanderings.’’ God often makes use of afflictions as a means to reduce those to himself who have wandered from him. Sanctified afflictions humble us for sin and show us the vanity of the world; they soften the heart, and open the ear to discipline. The prodigal’s distress brought him to himself first and then to his father.
Verse 68 Here, 1. David praises God’s goodness and gives him the glory of it: Thou art good and doest good. All who have any knowledge of God and dealings with him wilt own that he does good, and therefore will conclude that he is good. The streams of God’s goodness are so numerous, and run so full, so strong, to all the creatures, that we must conclude the fountain that is in himself to be inexhaustible. We cannot conceive how much good our God does every day, much less can we conceive how good he is. Let us acknowledge it with admiration and with holy love and thankfulness. 2. He prays for God’s grace, and begs to be under the guidance and influence of it: Teach me thy statutes. "Lord, thou doest good to all, art the bountiful benefactor of all the creatures; this is the good I beg thou wilt do to me,—Instruct me in my duty, incline me to it, and enable me to do it. Thou art good, and doest good; Lord, teach me thy statutes, that I may be good and do good, may have a good heart and live a good life.’’ It is an encouragement to poor sinners to hope that God will teach them his way because he is good and upright, Ps. 25:8 .