Psalm 119:18

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 18. Open thou mine eyes. This is a part of the bountiful dealing which he has asked for; no bounty is greater than that which benefits our person, our soul, our mind, and benefits it in so important an organ as the eye. It is far better to have the eyes opened than to be placed in the midst of the noblest prospects and remain blind to their beauty.

That l may behold wondrous things out of thy law. Some men can perceive no wonders in the gospel, but David felt sure that there were glorious things in the law: he had not half the Bible, but he prized it more than some men prize the whole. He felt that God had laid up great bounties in his word, and he begs for power to perceive, appreciate, and enjoy the same. We need not so much that God should give us more benefits, as the ability to see what he has given.

The prayer implies a conscious darkness, a dimness of spiritual vision, a powerlessness to remove that defect, and a full assurance that God can remove it. It shows also that the writer knew that there were vast treasures in the word which he had not yet fully seen, marvels which he had not yet beheld, mysteries which he had scarcely believed. The Scriptures teem with marvels; the Bible is wonder land; it not only relates miracles, but it is itself a world of wonders. Yet what are these to closed eyes? And what man can open his own eyes, since he is born blind? God himself must reveal revelation to each heart. Scripture needs opening, but not one half so much as our eyes do: the veil is not on the book, but on our hearts. What perfect precepts, what precious promises, what priceless privileges are neglected by us because we wander among them like blind men among the beauties of nature, and they are to us as a landscape shrouded in darkness!

The Psalmist had a measure of spiritual perception, or he would never have known that there were wondrous things to be seen, nor would he have prayed, "open thou mine eyes"; but what he had seen made him long for a clearer and wider sight. This longing proved the genuineness of what he possessed, for it is a test mark of the true knowledge of God that it causes its possessor to thirst for deeper knowledge.

David's prayer in this verse is a good sequel to Psalms 119:10 , which corresponds to it in position in its octave: there he said, "O let me not wander," and who so apt to wander as a blind man? and there, too, he declared, "with my whole heart have I sought thee," and hence the desire to see the object of his search. Very singular are the interlacings of the boughs of the huge tree of this Psalm, which has many wonders even within itself if we have opened eyes to mark them.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 18. Open thou mine eyes. Who is able to know the secret and hidden things of the Scriptures unless Christ opens his eyes? Certainly, no one; for "No man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him." Wherefore, as suppliants, we draw near to him, saying, "Open thou mine eyes," etc. The words of God cannot be kept except they be known; neither can they be known unless the eyes shall be opened, - - hence it is written, "That I may live and keep thy word"; and then, "Open thou mine eyes." Paulus Palanterius.

Verse 18. Open thou mine eyes. "What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?" was the gracious inquiry of the loving Jesus to a poor longing one on earth. "Lord! that I may receive my sight," was the instant answer. So here, in the same spirit, and to the same compassionate and loving Lord, does the Psalmist pray, "Open thou mine eyes"; and both in this and the preceding petition, "Deal bountifully with thy servant," we see at once who prompted the prayer. Barton Bouchier.

Verse 18. Open thou mine eyes. If it be asked, seeing David was a regenerate man, and so illumined already, how is it that he prays for the opening of his eyes? The answer is easy: that our regeneration is wrought by degrees. The beginnings of light in his mind made him long for more; for no man can account of sense, but he who hath it. The light which he had caused him to see his own darkness; and therefore, feeling his wants, he sought to have them supplied by the Lord. William Cowper.

Verse 18. Open thou mine eyes. The saints do not complain of the obscurity of the law, but of their own blindness. The Psalmist doth not say, Lord make a plainer law, but, Lord open mine eyes: blind men might as well complain of God, that he doth not make a sun whereby they might see. The word is "a light that shineth in a dark place" ( 2 Peter 1:19 ). There is no want of light in the Scripture, but there is a veil of darkness upon our hearts; so that if in this clear light we cannot see, the defect is not in the word, but in ourselves.

The light which they beg is not anything besides the word. When God is said to enlighten us, it is not that we should expect new revelations, but that we may see the wonders in his word, or get a clear sight of what is already revealed. Those that vent their own dreams under the name of the Spirit, and divine light, they do not give you mysteria, but monstra, portentous opinions; they do not show you the wondrous things of God's law, but the prodigies of their own brain; unhappy abortives, that die as soon as they come to light. "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" ( Isaiah 8:20 ). The light which we have is not without the word, but by the word.

The Hebrew phrase signifieth "unveil mine eyes." There is a double work, negative and positive. There is a taking away of the veil, and an infusion of light. Paul's cure of his natural blindness is a fit emblem of our cure of spiritual blindness: "Immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith" ( Acts 9:18 ). First, the scales fall from our eyes, and then we receive sight. Thomas Manton.

Verse 18. The Psalmist asks for no new revelation. It was in God's hand to give this, and he did it in his own time to those ancient believers; but to all of them at every time there was enough given for the purposes of life. The request is not for more, but that he may employ well that which he possesses. Still better does such a form of request suit us, to whom life and immortality have been brought to light in Christ. If we do not find sufficient to exercise our thoughts with constant freshness, and our soul with the grandest and most attractive subjects, it is because we want the eye sight. It is of great importance for us to be persuaded of this truth, that there are many things in the Bible still to be found out, and that, if we come in the right spirit, we may be made discoverers of some of them. These things disclose themselves, not so much to learning, though that is not to be despised, as to spiritual sight, to a humble, loving heart.

And this at least is certain, that we shall always find things that are new to ourselves. However frequently we traverse the field, we shall perceive some fresh golden vein turning up its glance to us, and we shall wonder how our eyes were formerly holden that we did not see it. It was all there waiting for us, and we feel that more is waiting, if we had the vision. There is a great Spirit in it that holds deeper and even deeper converse with our souls.

This further may be observed, that the Psalmist asks for no new faculty. The eyes are there already, and they need only to be opened. It is not the bestowal of a new and supernatural power which enables a man to read the Bible to profit, but the quickening of a power he already possesses. In one view it is supernatural, as God is the Author of the illumination by a direct act of his Spirit; in another it is natural, as it operates through the faculties existing in a man's soul. God gives "the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ, that the eyes of man's understanding may be enlightened." (Eph 1:17) It is important to remember this also, for here lies our responsibility, that we have the faculty, and here also is the point at which we must begin action with the help of God. A man will never grow into the knowledge of God's word by idly waiting for some new gift of discernment, but by diligently using that which God has already bestowed upon him, and using at the same time all other helps that lie within his reach. There are men and books that seem, beyond others, to have the power of aiding insight. All of us have felt it in the contact of some affinity of nature which makes them our best helpers; the kindred clay upon the eyes by which the great Enlightener removes our blindness ( John 9:6 ). Let us seek for such, and if we find them let us employ them without leaning on them. Above all, let us give our whole mind in patient, loving study to the book itself, and where we fail, at any essential part, God will either send his evangelist Philip to our aid ( Acts 8:26-40 ) or instruct us himself. But it is only to patient, loving study that help is given. God could have poured all knowledge into us by easy inspiration, but it is by earnest search alone that it can become the treasure of the soul.

But if so, it may still be asked what is the meaning of this prayer, and why does the Bible itself insist so often on the indispensable need of the Spirit of God to teach? Now there is a side here as true as the other, and in no way inconsistent with it. If prayer without effort would be presumptuous, effort without prayer would be vain. The great reason why men do not feel the power and beauty of the Bible is a spiritual one. They do not realize the grand evil which the Bible has come to cure, and they have not a heart to the blessings which it offers to bestow. The film of a fallen nature, self maintained, is upon their eyes while they read: "The eyes of their understanding are darkened, being alienated from the life of God" ( Ephesians 4:18 ). All the natural powers will never find the true key to the Bible, till the thoughts of sin and redemption enter the heart, and are put in the centre of the Book. It is the part of the Father of lights, by the teaching of his Spirit, to give this to the soul, and he will, if it humbly approaches him with this request. Thus we shall study as one might a book with the author at hand, to set forth the height of his argument, or as one might look on a noble composition, when the artist breathes into us a portion of his soul, to let us feel the centre of its harmonies of form and colour. Those who have given to the Bible thought and prayer will own that these are not empty promises. John Ker, in a Sermon entitled, "God's Word Suited to Man's Sense of Wonder," 1877.

Verse 18. O let us never forget; that the wonderful things contained in the divine law can neither be discovered nor relished by the "natural man," whose powers of perception and enjoyment are limited in their range to the objects of time and sense. It is the divine Spirit alone who can lighten the darkness of our sinful state, and who can enable us to perceive the glory, the harmony, and moral loveliness which everywhere shine forth in the pages of revealed truth. John Morison, 1829.

Verse 18. Uncover my eyes and I will look -- wonders out of thy law. The last clause is a kind of exclamation after his eyes have been uncovered. This figure is often used to denote inspiration or a special divine communication. "Out of thy law," i.e., brought out to view, as if from a place of concealment. Joseph Addison Alexander.

Verse 18. Wondrous things. Many were the signs and miracles which God wrought in the midst of the people of Israel, which they did not understand. What was the reason? Moses tells us expressly what if was: "Yet the Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day" ( Deuteronomy 29:4 ). They had sensitive eyes and ears, yea, they had a rational heart or mind; but they wanted a spiritual ear to hear, a spiritual heart or mind to apprehend and improve those wonderful works of God; and these they had not, because God had not given them such eyes, ears, and hearts. Wonders without grace cannot open the eyes fully; but grace without wonders can. And as man hath not an eye to see the wonderful works of God spiritually, until it is given; so, much less hath he an eye to see the wonders of the word of God till it be given him from above; and therefore David prays, Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. And if the wondrous things of the law are not much seen till God give an eye, then much less are the wondrous things of the Gospel. The light of nature shows us somewhat of the Law; but nothing of the Gospel was ever seen by the light of nature. Many who have seen and admired some excellencies in the Law could never see, and therefore have derided, that which is the excellency of the Gospel, till God had opened their heart to understand. Joseph Caryl, 1602-1673.

Verse 18. "The word is very nigh" unto us; and, holding in our hand a document that teems with what is wonderful, the sole question is, "Have we an eye to its marvels, a heart for its mercies?" Here is the precise use of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit puts nothing new into the Bible; he only so enlightens and strengthens our faculties, that we can discern and admire what is there already. It is not the telescope which draws out that rich sparkling of stars on the blue space, which to the naked eye seem points of light, and untenanted: it is not the microscope which condenses the business of a stirring population into the circumference of a drop of water, and clothes with a thousand tints the scarcely discernible wing of the ephemeral insect. The stars are shining in their glory, whether or no we have the instruments to penetrate the azure; and the tiny tenantry are carrying on their usual concerns, and a rich garniture still forms the covering of the insect, whether or no the powerful lens has turned for us the atom into a world, and transformed the almost imperceptible down into the sparkling plumage of the bird of paradise. Thus the wonderful things are already in the Bible. The Spirit who indited them at first brings them not as new revelations to the individual; but, by removing the mists of carnal prejudice, by taking away the scales of pride and self sufficiency, and by rectifying the will, which causes the judgment to look at truth through a distorted medium, -- by influencing the heart, so that the affections shall no longer blind the understanding, -- by these and other modes, which might be easily enumerated, the Holy Ghost enables men to recognize what is hid, to perceive beauty and to discover splendour where all before had appeared without form and comeliness; and thus brings round the result of the Bible, in putting on the lip the wonderful prayer which he had himself inspired: Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. Henry Melvill, 1798- 1871.

Verse 18. The wondrous things seem to be the great things of an eternal world -- he had turned his enquiring eyes upon the wonders of nature, sun, moon, and stars, mountains, trees, and rivers. He had seen many of the wonders of art; but now, he wanted to see the spiritual wonders contained in the Bible. He wanted to know about God himself in all his majesty, purity, and grace. He wanted to learn the way of salvation by a crucified Redeemer, and the glory that is to follow.

Open mine eyes. -- David was not blind -- his eye was not dim. He could read the Bible from end to end, and yet he felt that he needed more light. He felt that he needed to see deeper, to have the eyes of his understanding opened. He felt that if he had nothing but his own eyes and natural understanding, he would not discover the wonders which he panted to see. He wanted divine teaching -- the eye salve of the Spirit; and therefore he would not open the Bible without this prayer, "Open thou mine eyes." Robert Murray Macheyne, 1813-1843.

Verse 18. Wondrous things. Wherefore useth he this word "wondrous"? It is as if he would have said, Although the world taketh the law of God to be but a light thing, and it seemeth to be given but as it were for simple souls and young children; yet for all that there seemeth such a wisdom to be in it, as that it surmounts all the wisdom of the world, and that therein lie hid wonderful secrets. John Calvin.

Verse 18. Thy law. That which is the object of the understanding prayed for, that in the knowledge whereof the Psalmist would be illuminated, is hrwt. The word signifies instruction; and being referred unto God, it is his teaching or instruction of us by the revelation of himself, the same which we intend by the Scripture. When the books of the Old Testament were completed they were, for distinction's sake, distributed into hrwt, ~ybwtk, and ~yaybg, or the "Law," the "Psalms," and the "Prophets," Luke 24:44 . Under that distribution Torah signifies the five books of Moses. But whereas these books of Moses were, as it were, the foundation of all future revelations under the Old Testament, which were given in the explication thereof, all the writings of it were usually called "the Law," Isaiah 8:20 . By the law, therefore, in this place, the Psalmist understands all the books that were then given unto the church by revelation for the rule of its faith and obedience. And that by the law, in the Psalms, the written law is intended, is evident from the first of them, wherein he is declared blessed who "meditates therein day and night," Ps 1:2; which hath respect unto the command of reading and meditating on the books thereof in that manner, Joshua 1:8 . That, therefore, which is intended by this word is the entire revelation of the will of God, given unto the church for the rule of its faith and obedience -- that is, the holy Scripture.

In this law there are twalpg "wonderful things." alp signifies to be "wonderful," to be "hidden," to be "great" and "high;" that which men by the use of reason cannot attain unto or understand (hence twalpg are things that have such an impression of divine wisdom and power upon them as that they are justly the object of our admiration); that which is too hard for us as Deuteronomy 17:8 , rkr $mm alpy yk -- "If a matter be too hard for thee," hid from thee. And it is the name whereby the miraculous works of God are expressed, Psalms 77:11 78:11. Wherefore, these "wonderful things of the law" are those expressions and effects of divine wisdom in the Scripture which are above the natural reason and understanding of men to find out and comprehend. Such are the mysteries of divine truth in the Scripture, especially because Christ is in them, whose name is" Wonderful," Isaiah 9:6 ; for all the great and marvellous effects of infinite wisdom meet in him. John Owen, 1616-1683.

Verse 18. Wondrous things. There are promises in God's word that no man has ever tried, to find. There are treasures of gold and silver in it that no man has taken the pains to dig for. There are medicines in it for the want of a knowledge of which hundreds have died. It seems to me like some old baronial estate that has descended to a man (who lives in a modern house) and thinks it scarcely worth while to go and look into the venerable mansion. Year after year passes away and he pays no attention to it, since he has no suspicion of the valuable treasures it contains, till, at last, some man says to him, "Have you been up in the country to look at that estate?" He makes up his mind that he will take a look at it. As he goes through the porch he is surprised to see the skill that has been displayed in its construction: he is more and more surprised as he goes through the halls. He enters a large room, and is astonished as he beholds the wealth of pictures on the walls, among which are portraits of many of his revered ancestors. He stands in amazement before them. There is a Titian, there a Raphael, there is a Correggio, and there is a Giorgione. He says, "I never had any idea of these before." "Ah," says the steward, "there is many another thing that you know nothing about in the castle," and he takes him from room to room and shows carved plate, and wonderful statues, and the man exclaims, "Here I have been for a score of years the owner of this estate, and have never before known what things were in it." But no architect ever conceived of such an estate as God's word, and no artist, or carver, or sculptor, ever conceived of such pictures, and carved dishes, and statues as adorn its apartments. It contains treasures that silver, and gold, and precious stones are not to be mentioned with. Henry Ward Beecher, 1872.

Verse 18. That I may behold wondrous things. The great end of the Word of God in the Psalmist's time, as now, was practical; but there is a secondary use here referred to, which is worthy of consideration, -- its power of meeting man's faculty of wonder. God knows our frame, for he made it, and he must have adapted the Bible to all its parts. If we can show this, it may be another token that the book comes from Him who made man... That God has bestowed upon man the faculty of wonder we all know. It is one of the first and most constant emotions in our nature. We can see this in children, and in all whose feelings are still fresh and natural. It is the parent of the desire to know, and all through life it is urging men to enquire. John Ker.

Verse 18. Wondrous things out of thy law. In 118 we had the "wondrous" character of redemption; in 119 we have the "wonders" ( Psalms 119:18 Psalms 119:27 Psalms 119:129 ), of God's revelation. William Kay, 1871.

Verse 18-19. When I cannot have Moses to tell me the meaning, saith Saint Augustine, give me that Spirit that thou gavest to Moses. And this is that which every man that will understand must pray for: this David prayed for; -- Open thou mine eyes that I may see the wonders of the Law; and ( Psalms 119:19 ) hide not thy commandments from me. And Christ saith, "If you, being evil, can give good gifts to your children; how much more shall your heavenly Father give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" so that then we shall see the secrets of God. Richard Stock, (1626).

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 18. --

  1. The precious casket: "thy law."
  2. The invisible treasure: "wondrous things."
  3. The miraculous eyesight: "that I may behold."
  4. The divine oculist: "Open thou mine eyes."

Verse 18. -- The hidden wonders of the gospel. There are many hidden things in nature; many in our fellow men; so there are many in the Bible. The things of the Bible are hidden because of the blindness of Man.

  1. The blind man's sorrow: "Open mine eyes." I cannot see. I have eyes and see not. The pain of this conscious blindness when a man really feels it.
  2. The blind man's conviction: "That I may behold wondrous," etc. There are wondrous things there to be seen. I am sure of it. There is a wonderful view,
    1. of sin;
(b) of hell, as its desert;
(c) of One ready to save;
(d) of perfect pardon;
(e) of God's love:
(f) of all sufficient grace;
(g) of heaven.

  1. The blind man's wisdom. The fault is in my eyes, not in thy word. "Open my eyes," and all will be well. The reason for not seeing is because the eyes are blinded by sin. There is nothing wanting in the Bible.
  2. The blind man's prayer: "Open thou mine eyes."
(a) I cannot open them.
(b) My dearest friends cannot.
(c) Only thou canst. "Lord, I pray thee, now open them."
Many seek to stop such praying. Be like Bartimaeus who
"cried so much the more."

  1. The blind man's anticipation: "That I may behold."
(a) The joy of a cured blind man when he is about to behold,
for the first time, the beauties of nature.
(b) The joy of the spiritually healed when they begin
"looking unto Jesus."
(c) The personal character of the joy: "Open thou mine eyes,
that I may behold." I have hitherto had to see through the
eyes of others. I would depend on other eyes no longer.
The glad anticipation of Job: "Whom I shall see for
myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another." --Frederick G. Marchant, 1882.

Verse 18. -- God's word suited to man's sense of wonder.

  1. We shall make some remarks on the sense of wonder in man, and what generally excites it. One of the first causes of wonder is the new or unexpected. The second source is to be found in things beautiful and grand. A third source is the mysterious which surrounds man -- there are things unknowable.
  2. God has made provision for this sense of wonder in his revealed word. The Bible addresses our sense of wonder by constantly presenting the new and unexpected to us; it sets before us things beautiful and grand. If we come to the third source of wonder, that which raises it to awe, it is the peculiar province of the Bible to deal with this.
  3. The means we are to use in order to have God's word thus unfolded -- the prayer of the Psalmist may be our guide -- "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law." --John Ker, of Glasgow, 1877.

Verse 18. -- Wondrous sights for opened eyes.

  1. The wondrous things in God's law. A wondrous rule of life. A wondrous curse against transgression. A wondrous redemption from the curse shadowed forth in the ceremonial law.
  2. Special eyesight needed to behold them. They are spiritual things. Men are spiritually blind. 1 Corinthians 2:14 .
  3. Personal prayer to the Great Opener of eyes. --C.A.D.