Psalm 119:120

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 120. My flesh trembleth for fear of thee. Such was his awe in the presence of the Judge of all the earth, whose judgment he had just now been considering, that he did exceedingly fear and quake. Even the grosser part of his being, -- his flesh, felt a solemn dread at the thought of offending one so good and great, who would so effectually sever the wicked from among the just. Alas, poor flesh, this is the highest thing to which thou canst attain!

And I am afraid of thy judgments. God's words of judgment are solemn, and his deeds of judgment are terrible; they may well make us afraid. At the thought of the Judge of all, -- his piercing eye, his books of record, his day of assize, and the operations of his justice, -- we may well cry for cleansed thoughts, and hearts, and ways, lest his judgments should light on us. When we see the great Refiner separating the precious from the vile, we may well feel a godly fear, lest we should be put away by him, and left to be trodden under his feet.

Love in the previous verse is quite consistent with fear in this verse: the fear which hath torment is cast out, but not the filial fear which leads to reverence and obedience.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

The fifteenth letter, SAMECH, denotes a prop or pillar, and this agrees well with the subject matter of the strophe, in which God is twice implored to uphold his servant ( Psalms 119:16-17 ), while the utter destruction of those who make light of his law, or encourage scepticism regarding it, may be compared to the fate of the Philistine lords, on whom Samson brought down the roof of the house where they were making merry, by overthrowing the pillars which supported it. --Neale and Littledale.

Verse 120. -- My flesh trembleth for fear of thee. Instead of exulting over those who fell under God's displeasure he humbleth himself. What we read and hear of the judgments of God upon wicked people should make us

  1. To reverence his terrible majesty, and to stand in awe of him. Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God? 1 Samuel 6:20 .
  2. To fear lest we offend him, and become obnoxious to his wrath. Good men have need to be restrained from sin by the terrors of the Lord; especially when judgment begins at the house of God, and hypocrites are discovered, and put away as dross. --Matthew Henry.

Verse 120. -- My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, etc. At the presence of Jehovah, when he appeareth in judgment, the earth trembleth and is still. His best servants are not exempted from an awful dread, upon such occasions; scenes of this kind, shown in vision to the prophets, cause their flesh to quiver, and all their bones to shake. Encompassed with a frail body, and a sinful world, we stand in need of every possible tie; and the affections both of fear and love must be employed, to restrain us from transgression; we must, at the same time, "love God's testimonies, and fear his Judgments." --George Horne.

Verse 120 -- My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, etc. In prayer, in the evening I had such near and terrific views of God's judgments upon sinners in hell, that my flesh trembled for fear of them...I flew trembling to Jesus Christ as if the flames were taking hold of me: Oh! Christ will indeed save me or else I perish. --Henry Martyn, 1781- 1812.

Verse 120. -- My flesh trembleth for fear of thee. Familiarity with men breeds contempt; familiarity with God, not so: none reverence the Lord more than they who know him best and are most familiar with him. --William Cowper.

Verse 120,116. -- My flesh trembleth for fear of thee; I am afraid....Let me not be ashamed of my hope. True religion consists in a proper mixture of fear of God, and of hope in his mercy; and wherever either of these is entirely wanting, there can be no true religion. God has joined these things, and we ought by no means to put them asunder. He cannot take pleasure in those who fear him with a slavish fear, without hoping in his mercy, because they seem to consider him as a cruel and tyrannical being, who has no mercy or goodness in his nature; and, besides, they implicitly charge him with falsehood, by refusing to believe and hope in his invitations and offers of mercy. On the other hand, he cannot be pleased with those who pretend to hope in his mercy without fearing him; for they insult him by supposing that there is nothing in him which ought to be feared; and, in addition to this, they make him a liar, by disbelieving his awful threatenings denounced against sinners, and call in question his authority, by refusing to obey him. Those only who both fear him and hope in his mercy, give him the honour that is due to his name. -- Edward Payson.

Verse 120. -- Trembles or shudders, strictly used of the hair as standing erect in terror (comp. Job 4:15 ). --J.J. Stewart Perowne.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 120. -- The judgments of God on the wicked cause in the righteous,

  1. Love.
  2. Awe.
  3. Fear.

Verse 120. --

  1. Describe the true character of the fear.
(a) It is the fear of reverence for God's authority and
power.
(b) It is the fear of horror against sin as meriting
judgment.

  1. Show its compatibility with filial love.
(a) The more we love God the more firmly we believe in the
certainty and awfulness of his judgments.
(b) The more we love God the more will we
fear to arouse his chastising rod against ourselves.
(a) In fact, if we love not God, we shall have no fear lest
sin should involve us in judgment.

  1. Commend it.
(a) As it proves a just sense of sin's desert.
(b) As it shows a true appreciation of God's righteousness.
(c) As it is not a fear that hath torment, but a fear which
increases watchfulness, and walks hand in hand with
perfect confidence in saying grace. --J.F.