Psalm 119:168

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 168. I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies. Both the practical and the doctrinal parts of God's word he had stored up, and preserved, and followed. It is a blessed thing to see the two forms of the divine word, equally known, equally valued, equally confessed: there should be no picking and choosing as to the mind of God. We know those who endeavour to be careful as to the precepts, but who seem to think that the doctrines of the gospel are mere matters of opinion, which they may shape for themselves. This is not a perfect condition of things. We have known others again who are very rigid as to the doctrines, and painfully lax with reference to the precepts. This also is far from right. When the two are "kept" with equal earnestness then have we the perfect man.

For all my ways are before thee. Probably he means to say that this was the motive of his endeavouring to be right both in head and heart, because he knew that God saw him, and under the sense of the divine presence he was afraid to err. Or else he is thus appealing to God to bear witness to the truth of what he has said. In either case it is no small consolation to feel that our heavenly Father knows all about us, and that if princes speak against us, and worldlings fill their mouths with cruel lies, yet he can vindicate us, for there is nothing secret or hidden from him.

We are struck with the contrast between this verse, which is the last of its octave, and Psalms 119:176 , which is similarly placed in the next octave. This is a protest of innocence, "I have kept thy precepts," and that a confession of sin, "I have gone astray like a lost sheep." Both were sincere, both accurate. Experience makes many a paradox plain, and this is one. Before God we may be clear of open fault and yet at the same time mourn over a thousand heart wanderings which need his restoring hand.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 168. -- I have kept thy precepts, for all my ways are before thee. When men are some way off in a king's eye they will be comely in their carriage; but when they come into his presence chamber to speak with him they will be most careful. Because saints are always in God's sight, their constant deportment must be pious and seemly. -- George Swinnock.

Verse 168. -- I have kept thy precepts, etc. The Hebrew word yn[, shamar, that is here rendered "kept," signifies to keep carefully, diligently, studiously, exactly. It signifies to keep as men keep prisoners, and to keep as a watchman keeps the city or the garrison; yea, to keep as a man would keep his very life. But now mark what was the reason that David kept the precepts and the testimonies of the Lord so carefully, so sincerely, so diligently, so studiously, and so exactly. Why, the reason you have in the latter part of the verse, "for all my ways are before thee." O sirs! it is as necessary for him that would be eminent in holiness, to set the Lord always before him, as it is necessary for him to breathe. In that 31st of Job you have a very large narrative of that height and perfection of holiness that Job bad attained to, and the great reason that he gives you, for this is in the 4th verse, "Doth not he see my way, and count all my steps?" The eye of God had so strong an influence upon his heart and life, that it wrought him up to a very high pitch of holiness. --Thomas Brooks.

Verse 168. -- All my ways are before thee. That God seeth the secrets of our heart, is a point terrible to the wicked but joyful to the godly. The wicked are sorry that their heart is so open: it is a boiling pot of all mischief, a furnace and forge house for evil. It grieveth them that man should hear and see their words and actions; but what a terror is this -- that their Judge, whom they hate, seeth their thought! If they could deny this, they would. But so many of them as are convinced and forced to acknowledge a God, are shaken betimes with this also -- that he is All seeing. Others proceed more summarily, and at once deny the Godhead in their heart, and so destroy this conscience of his All knowledge. But it is in vain: the more they harden their heart by this godless thought, the more fear is in them; while they choke and check their conscience that it crow not against them it checks them with foresight of fearful vengeance and for the present convinceth them of the omniscience of God, the more they press to suppress it. But the godly rejoice herein; it is to them a rule to square their thoughts by; they take no liberty of evil thinking, willing, wishing, or affecting, in their hearts. Where that candle shineth, all things are framed as worthy of him and of his sight, whom they know to be seeing their heart. -- William Struther, 1633.

Verse 168. -- All my ways are before thee. Walk, Christian, in the view of God's omniscience; say to thy soul, cave, videt Deus; take heed, God seeth. It is under the rose, as the common phrase is, that treason is spoken, when subjects think they are far enough from their king's hearing; hut did such know the prince to be under the window, or behind the hangings, to their discourse would be more loyal. This made David so upright in his walking: "I have kept thy precepts, for all my ways are before thee." If Alexander's empty chair, which his captains, when they met in counsel, set before them, did awe them so as to keep them in good order; how helpful would it be to set before ourselves the fact that God is looking upon us! The Jews covered Christ's face, and then buffeted him: Matthew 14:65 . So does the hypocrite; he first says in his heart, God sees not, or at least forgets that he sees, and then he makes bold to sin against him; like that foolish bird, which runs her head among the reeds, and thinks herself safe from the fowler, as if because she did not see her enemy, therefore he could not see her. Te mihi abscondam, non me tibi (Augustine). I may hide thee from my eye, but not myself from thine eye. --William Gurnall.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 168. --

  1. The claim of God's word upon our utmost obedience." I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies." He does not mean that he had kept them perfectly; for that were to contradict other expressions in the psalm. He means that he kept them sincerely and strove to keep them perfectly, as one who realized their claim upon him.
    1. The whole word is divine: an equal authority pervades
      every precept; no distinction should be made of more or
      less obligation.
(b) The whole word is pure and right; expediency, or making
the measure and manner of obedience suitable to our own
purpose, is a false principle; to be carefully
distinguished from righteous expediency, which is the
foregoing of a personal right in consideration of another's
benefit.
(c) The moral code of the word is a unity; obedience is
like a connected chain, a wilful flaw in one link renders
all useless.

  1. The consciousness which greatly helps obedience: "For all my ways are before thee."
    1. "Are before thee," as plainly seen by thee.
(b) "Are before thee," constantly observed.
(c) "Are before thee;" deliberately placed before thee by
me, that they may be corrected and directed.

--J.F.

Verse 168. -- All my ways are before thee.

  1. The saint's delight.
  2. The sinner's distress.

--W.W.

Verse 168. (second clause). --

  1. Necessarily so: for thou art the omniscient God: Psalms 134:3 .
  2. Voluntarily so: for I choose to walk in thy sight. See Psalms 16:9
  3. Consciously and blessedly so. For the light of thy countenance inspires and gladdens me. See Psalms 89:15 .

--W.H.J.P.

Verse 168. (second clause). -- Living in the sight of God Actually the case with all; designedly the case of the godly; happily the case of the favoured; preeminently the case of those who abide in fellowship.

Verse 168. --

  1. The practical and doctrinal teachings of God before us.
  2. All our ways before him.
  3. The sort of conduct which these two causes will produce.