Psalm 119:111

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 111. Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever. He chose them as his lot, his portion, his estate; and what is more, he laid hold upon them and made them so, -- taking them into possession and enjoyment. David's choice is our choice. If we might have our desire, we would desire to keep the commands of God perfectly. To know the doctrine, to enjoy the promise, to practise the command, -- be this a kingdom large enough for me. Here we have an inheritance which cannot fade and cannot be alienated; it is for ever, and ours for ever, if we have so taken it. Sometimes, like Israel at the first coming into Canaan, we have to take our heritage by hard fighting, and, if so, it is worthy of all our labour and suffering; but always it has to be taken by a decided choice of the heart and grip of the will. What God gives we must take.

For they are the rejoicing of my heart. The gladness which had come to him through the word of the Lord had caused him to make an unalterable choice of it. All the parts of Scripture had been pleasing to David, and were so still and therefore he stuck to them, and meant to stick to them for ever. That which rejoices the heart is sure to be chosen and treasured. It is not the head knowledge but the heart experience which brings the joy.

In this verse, which is the seventh of its octave, we have reached the same sweetness as in the last seventh ( Psalms 119:103 ): indeed, in several of the adjoining sevenths, delight is evident. How good a thing it is when experience ripens into joy, passing up through sorrow, prayer, conflict, hope, decision, and holy content into rejoicing! Joy fixes the spirit: when once a man's heart rejoices in the divine word, he greatly values it, and is for ever united to it.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 111. -- Thy testimonies have I taken, etc. The Scripture is called "testimonies" in respect to God himself, because it doth give a testimony to him, and makes God known to us: it gives a testimony of all those attributes that are himself, of his wisdom, of his power, of his justice, of his goodness, of his truth. The declaration of these, we have them all in the various books of the Scriptures: there is never a book, but there is a testification of these attributes. In the book of Genesis we have a testimony of his power in making the world, of his justice in drowning the world, and of his goodness in saving Noah. In the book of Exodus, we have a testimony of his providence in leading the people of Israel through the Red Sea, in bringing them out of Egypt; we have a testimony of his wisdom in giving them his law. What should I name more? In the New Testament, in the Gospel, all is testimony. As the Old gave testimony to God, so the New to Christ: "To him gave all the prophets witness"; not only the Old, but the New: "These are they that testify of me." Everywhere there is testimony of Christ, -- of his humility, in taking our nature; of his power, in working miracles; of his wisdom, in the parables that he spoke; of his patience and love, in the torments that he suffered for us. Both Law and Gospel -- the whole book of Scripture, and every part of it in these regards is fitly called "the testimonies of the Lord." And the holy Psalmist made choice of this name when he was to speak to the honour and glory of it; because it was that name from which he sucked a great deal of comfort, because it was the testimony of God's truth and goodness and wisdom and power to him; thereupon he makes so precious esteem of it as to account it his "heritage." -- Richard Holdsworth (1590-1649), in "The Valley of Vision."

Verse 111. -- Thy testimonies. By "testimonies" is meant the covenant between God and his people; wherein he bindeth himself to them, and them to him. Some think that the excellency of the word is here set out by many names; but we must look to the propriety of every word: as before by "judgments," so by this word "testimonies," is meant the covenant: not the commandments, because they cannot be an inheritance, for they cannot comfort us, because we cannot fulfil them, but fail in them, and cannot therefore take comfort in them. It is the gospel that bringeth peace and comfort. "The law," when it is taken generally, containeth all the word, particularly the commandments; so "the word" generally containeth both law and gospel, but particularly the promises, as Rom. 10. So likewise by the "testimonies," when they are opposed to the law, is meant the promises of the covenant, as Isaiah 8, and this testimony is confirmed to us by the sacraments, as to them by sacrifices. --Richard Greenham.

Verse 111. -- As an heritage. Why the divine testimonies should be called by the Psalmist an inheritance; why he brings them within the compass of this notion, may not So easily be understood; for the word of God points out the inheritance, but it is not the inheritance itself. Yes, there is good reason to be given for the expression, were there no more than this, that we consider the inestimable comfort, and heavenly treasure that is to be found in the word of God; it is a rich mine of all celestial treasure, it is a storehouse of all good things, of all saving knowledge. All privileges whatsoever they are that we can expect on earth or heaven, they are all contained in the word of God: here is ground enough why it is called an inheritance; he hath a good heritage that hath all these.

Yet there is a better reason than this; for if it be so that heaven is our inheritance, then the word of God is; because it is the word that points out heaven, that gives the assurance of heaven: we have in the word of God all the evidences of heaven. Whatsoever title any saint hath to heaven, he hath it in and out of the word of God. There are the evidences in the word of God; both the evidence of discovery, it is the holy terrier of the celestial Canaan, and the evidence of assurance, it is as a sacred bond or indenture between God and his creature. St. Gregory said wittily, when he called it God's epistle that he sent to man for the declaration of his will and pleasure, he might as well have called it God's deed of gift, whereby he makes over and conveys to us all those hopes that we look for in heaven. Whatsoever interest we have in God, in Christ, whatsoever hope of bliss and glory, whatsoever comfort of the Spirit, whatsoever proportion of grace, all are made over to us in the promises of the gospel, in the word of God.

Now put this together, look as in human affairs, evidences, though they be not properly the inheritance itself, yet they are called the inheritance, and are the inheritance, though not actually, yet virtually so; because all the title we have to an inheritance is in the deeds and evidences; therefore evidences are precious things. Though it be but a piece of paper, or parchment full of dust and worm eaten, yet it is as much worth sometimes as a county, as much worth as all a man's possessions besides. So likewise it is with the Scriptures; they are not actually and properly the inheritance itself, but they are via, the way to the kingdom. It is called the gospel of the kingdom, nay more, the kingdom itself: "The kingdom of God is come among you," or "to you". Why the kingdom? Why the inheritance? By the same reason, both, because here we have the conveyance, here we have the deed, here we have the assurance of whatsoever title or claim we make to heaven. --Richard Holdsworth.

Verse 111. -- They are the rejoicing of my heart. He saith not that God's testimonies bring joy, but that they are joy; there is no other joy but the delight in the law of the Lord. For all other joy, the wise king said of laughter, "thou art mad," and of joy, "what is it that thou dost?" Ecclesiates 6. True joy is the earnest which we have of heaven, it is the treasure of the soul, and therefore should be laid up in a safe place; and nothing in this world is safe to place it in. And therefore with the spouse we say, "We will be glad in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine." Let others seek their joy in wine, in society, in conversation, in music; for me, thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased. These indeed are the precious fruits of the earth, but they seal not up special favour; a man may have together with them, an empty, husky, and chaffy soul. And therefore these are not the joys of the saints; they must have God, or else they die for sorrow; his law is their life. --Abraham Wright.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 111. --

  1. Estate.
  2. Entering upon it.
  3. Entail upon it.
  4. Enjoyment of it.

Verse 111. -- Notice, --

  1. How rich the Psalmist was determined to be: "Thy testimonies have I taken as a heritage." Rich, --
    1. In knowledge.
(b) In holiness.
(c) In comfort.
(d) In companionship, for God's company goes with his word.
(e) In hope.

  1. How he clung to his wealth: "For ever."
(a) He hurt none by so doing; he could give generously his
portion, and yet not waste.
(b) He was right; for he had the only wealth of which an
everlasting possession is possible.
(c) He was wise.

  1. How he rejoiced in his wealth: "They are the rejoicing of my heart."
    1. Here is internal and deep joy; not always possible to
      the possession of wealth.
(b) Pure, unalloyed joy; it is never so with other wealth.
(c) Safe joy; other joy is dangerous.
(d) Unloseable joy. --J.F.