Psalm 116:9

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 9. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. This is the Psalmist's second resolution, to live as in the sight of God in the midst of the sons of men. By a man's walk is understood his way of life: some men live only as in the sight of their fellow men, having regard to human judgment and opinion; but the truly gracious man considers the presence of God, and acts under the influence of his all observing eye. "Thou God seest me" is a far better influence than "My master sees me." The life of faith, hope, holy fear, and true holiness is produced by a sense of living and walking before the Lord, and he who has been favoured with divine deliverances in answer to prayer finds his own experience the best reason for a holy life, and the best assistance to his endeavours. We know that God in a special manner is nigh unto his people: what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness?

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 9. I will walk, etc. It is a holy resolution which this verse records. The previous verse had mentioned among the mercies vouchsafed, "Thou hast delivered my feet from falling"; and the first use of the restored limb is, I will walk before the LORD. It reminds me of the crippled beggar at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, to whom Peter had said, "In the name of Jesus Christ rise up and walk"; and "immediately his ankle bones received strength, and he leaping up stood and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God." It is a very sure mark of a grateful heart to employ the gift to the praise of the giver, in such a manner as he would most wish it to be employed. Barton Bouchier.

Verse 9. When you, my soul, return to this rest, thou shalt walk in order that thou mayest have some exercise in thy rest, that thy resting may not make thee restive. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. For now that my feet are delivered from falling, how can I better employ them than in walking? Were they delivered from falling that they should stand still and be idle? No, my soul, but to encourage me to walk: and where is so good walking as in the land of the living Alas! what walking is it in the winter, when all things are dead, when the very grass lies buried under ground, and scarce anything that has life in it is to be seen? But then is the pleasant walking, when nature spreads her green carpet to walk upon, and then it is the land of the living, when the trees shew they live, by bringing forth, if not fruits, at least leaves; when the valleys shew they live, by bringing forth sweet flowers to delight the smell, at least fresh grass to please the eyes. But is this the walking in the land of the living that David means? O my soul, to walk in the land of the living is to walk in the paths of righteousness: for there is no such death to the soul as sin, no such cause of tears to the eyes as guiltiness of conscience, no such falling of the feet as to fall from God: and therefore, to say the truth, the soul can never return to its rest if we walk not within in the paths of righteousness; and we cannot well say whether this rest be a cause of the walk, or the walking be a cause of the resting: but this we may say, they are certainly companions the one to the other, which is in effect but this -- that justification can never be without sanctification. Peace of conscience, and godliness of life, can never be one without the other. Or is it perhaps that David means that land of the living where Enoch and Elias are living, with the living God? But if he mean so, how can he speak so confidently, and say, "I will walk in the land of the living"? as though he could come to walk there by his own strength, or at his own pleasure? He therefore gives his reason: "I believed, and therefore I spake," for the voice of faith is strong, and speaks with confidence; and because in faith he believes that he should come to walk in the land of the living, therefore with confidence lie speaks it, I will walk in the land of the living. Sir Richard Baker.

Verse 9. I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living, i.e., I shall pass the whole of my life under his fatherly care and protection. The prophet has regard to the custom of men, and chiefly of parents: for those who ardently love their children have them always in their thoughts and carry them there, never ceasing from care and anxiety about them, but being always attentive to their safety. Omnis enim in natis chari stat cura parentis. Children are, therefore, said to walk before and in the sight of their parents, because they have them as constant guardians of their health and safety. Thus also the godly in this life walk before God, that is to say, are defended by his care and protection. Mollerus.

Verse 9. I will walk before the LORD. According to a different reading of the first word, "I shall," and, "I will," the clause puts on several senses; if read "I shall walk," they are words of confident expectation; if "I will," they are words of obedient resolution. According to the former, the Psalmist promises somewhat to himself from God; according to the latter, he promises somewhat of himself to God. Both these constructions are probable and profitable. "Before God"; that is, in his service; or, "before God," that is, under his care. Let us consider both senses.

  1. I shall walk before the Lord in the land of the living; that is, by continuing in this world, I shall have opportunity of doing God service. It was not because those holy men had less assurance of God's love than we, but because they had greater affections to God's service than we, that this life was so amiable in their eyes. To this purpose the reasonings of David and Hezekiah concerning death and the grave are very observable. "Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth"? so David, Ps 30:9. "The grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee"; so Hezekiah, Isa 38:18. They saw death would render them useless for God's honour, and therefore they prayed for life.

It lets us see why a religious man may desire life, that he may walk before the LORD, and minister to him in the place wherein he hath set him. Indeed, that joy, hope, and desire of life which is founded upon this consideration is not only lawful, but commendable; and truly herein is a vast difference between the wicked and the godly. To walk in the land of the living is the wicked man's desire, yea, were it possible he would walk here for ever; but for what end? only to enjoy his lusts, have his fill of pleasure, and increase his wealth: whereas the godly man's aim in desiring to live is that he may "walk before God," advance his glory, and perform his service. Upon this account it is that one hath fitly taken notice how David doth not say, I shall now satiate myself with delights in my royal city, but, I shall walk before the LORD in the land of the living.

  1. And most suitably to this interpretation, this "before the LORD," means under the Lord's careful eye. The words according to the Hebrew may be read, before the face of the LORD, by which is meant his presence, and that not general, before which all men walk, but special, before which only good men walk. Indeed, in this sense God's face is as much as his favour; and as to be cast out of his sight is to be under his anger, so to walk before his face is to be in favour with him: so that the meaning is, as the Psalmist had said, I shall live securely and safely in this world under the careful protection of the Almighty; and this is the confidence which he here seemeth to utter with so much joy, that God's gracious providence should watch over him the remainder of his days. Nathanael Hardy, in a Sermon entitled "Thankfulness in Grain," 1654.

Verse 9. In the land of the living. These words admit of a threefold interpretation, being understood by some, especially for the land of Judea. By others, erroneously for the Jerusalem which is above. By the most, and most probably, for this habitable earth, the present world.

  1. That exposition which Cajetan, Lorinus, with others, give of the words, would not be rejected, who conceive that by the land of the living David here meaneth Judea, in which, or rather over which being constituted king, he resolves to walk before God, and do him service. This is not improbably that "land of the living" in which the Psalmist when an exile "believed to see the goodness of the Lord"; this is certainly that "land of the living" wherein God promises to "set his glory"; nor was this title without just reason appropriated to that country.
    1. Partly, because it was a "land" which afforded the most plentiful supports and comforts of natural life, in regard of the wholesomeness of the climate, the goodness of the soil, the overflowing of milk and honey, with other conveniences both for food and delight.
    2. Chiefly, because it was the "land" in which the living God was worshipped, and where he vouchsafed to place his name; whereas the other parts of the world worshipped lifeless things, of which the Psalmist saith, "They have mouths, and speak not; eyes, and see not; ears, and hear not."
  2. The land of the living is construed by the ancients to be that heavenly country, the place of the blessed. Indeed, this appellation does most fitly agree with heaven: this world is desertum mortuorum, a desert of dead, at least, dying men; that only is regio virorum, a region of living saints. "He who is our life" is in heaven, yea, "our life is hid with him in God," and therefore we cannot be said to live till we come thither. In this sense no doubt that devout bishop and martyr, Babilas, used the words, who being condemned by Numerianus, the emperor, to an unjust death, a little before his execution repeated this and the two preceding verses, with a loud voice. Nor is it unfit for any dying saint to comfort himself with the like application of these words, and say in a confident hope of that blessed sight, I shall walk before the Lord in the land of the living.
  3. But doubtless the literal and proper meaning of these words is of David's abode in the world; during which time, wheresoever he should be, he would "walk before God"; for that seems to be the emphasis of the plural number, lands, according to the original. The world consists of many countries, several lands, and it is possible for men either by force, or unwillingly, to remove from one country to another: but a good man when he changeth his country, yet altereth not his religion, yea, wherever he is he resolves to serve his God. Nathaniel Hardy.

Verse 9. Land of the living. How unmeet, how shameful, how odious a thing is it that dead men should be here on the face of the earth, which is "the land of the living." That there are such is too true. "She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth," 1 Timothy 5:6 ; Sardis had a name that she lived, but was dead, Revelation 3:1 ; "The dead bury their dead," Matthew 8:22 ; all natural men are "dead in sins," Ephesians 2:1 2 Corinthians 5:14 . William Gouge.

Verse 9, 12, etc. The Hebrew word that is rendered walk, signifies a continued action, or the reiteration of an action. David resolves that he will not only take a turn or two with God, or walk a pretty way with God, as Orpah did with Ruth, and then take his leave of God, as Orpah did of her mother, Ruth 1:10-15 ; but he resolves, whatever comes on it, that he will walk constantly, resolutely, and perpetually before God; or before the face of the Lord. Now, walking before the face of the Lord doth imply a very exact, circumspect, accurate, and precise walking before God; and indeed, no other walking is either suitable or pleasing to the eye of God. But is this all that he will do upon the receipt of such signal mercies? Oh no! for he resolves to take the cup of salvation, and to call upon the name of the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving, Psalms 116:13 Psalms 116:17 . But is this all that he will do? Oh, no! for he resolves that he will presently pay his vows unto the Lord in the presence of all his people, Psalms 116:14 Psalms 116:18 . But is this all that he will do? Oh, no! for he resolves that he will love the Lord better than ever and more than ever, Ps 116:1-2. He loved God before with a real love, but having now received such rare mercies from God, he is resolved to love God with a more raised love, and with a more inflamed love, and with a more active and stirring love, and with a more growing and increasing love than ever. Thomas Brooks.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 9. The effect of deliverance upon ourselves: "I will walk," etc.

  1. Walk by faith in him.
  2. Walk in love with him.
  3. Walk by obedience to him. G. R.