Psalm 119:2

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 2. Blessed are they that keep his testimonies. What! A second blessing? Yes, they are doubly blessed whose outward life is supported by an inward zeal for God's glory. In the first verse we had an undefiled way, and it was taken for granted that the purity in the way was not mere surface work, but was attended by the inward truth and life which comes of divine grace. Here that which was implied is expressed. Blessedness is ascribed to those who treasure up the testimonies of the Lord: in which is implied that they search the Scriptures, that they come to an understanding of them, that they love them, and then that they continue in the practice of them. We must first get a thing before we can keep it. In order to keep it well we must get a firm grip of it: we cannot keep in the heart that which we have not heartily embraced by the affections. God's word is his witness or testimony to grand and important truths which concern himself and our relation to him: this we should desire to know; knowing it, we should believe it; believing it, we should love it; and loving it, we should hold it fast against all comers. There is a doctrinal keeping of the word when we are ready to die for its defence, and a practical keeping of it when we actually live under its power. Revealed truth is precious as diamonds, and should be kept or treasured up in the memory and in the heart as jewels in a casket, or as the law was kept in the ark; this however is not enough, for it is meant for practical use, and therefore it must be kept or followed, as men keep to a path, or to a line of business. If we keep God's testimonies they will keep us; they will keep us right in opinion, comfortable in spirit, holy in conversation, and hopeful in expectation. If they were ever worth having, and no thoughtful person will question that, then they are worth keeping; their designed effect does not come through a temporary seizure of them, but by a persevering keeping of them: "in keeping of them there is great reward."

We are bound to keep with all care the word of God, because it is his testimonies. He gave them to us, but they are still his own. We are to keep them as a watchman guards his master's house, as a steward husbands his lord's goods, as a shepherd keeps his employer's flock. We shall have to give an account, for we are put in trust with the gospel, and woe to us if we be found unfaithful. We cannot fight a good fight, nor finish our course, unless we keep the faith. To this end the Lord must keep us: only those who are kept by the power of God unto salvation will ever be able to keep his testimonies. What a blessedness is therefore evidenced and testified by a careful belief in God's word, and a continual obedience thereunto. God has blessed them, is blessing them, and will bless them for ever. That blessedness which David saw in others he realized for himself, for in Psalms 119:168 he says, "I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies," and in Ps 119:54-56 he traces his joyful songs and happy memories to this same keeping of the law, and he confesses, "This I had because I kept thy precepts." Doctrines which we teach to others we should experience for ourselves.

And that seek him with the whole heart. Those who keep the Lord's testimonies are sure to seek after himself. If his word is precious we may be sure that he himself is still more so. Personal dealing with a personal God is the longing of all those who have allowed the word of the Lord to have its full effect upon them. If we once really know the power of the gospel we must seek the God of the gospel. "O that I knew where I might find HIM," will be our wholehearted cry. See the growth which these sentences indicate: first, in the way, then walking in it, then finding and keeping the treasure of truth, and to crown all, seeking after the Lord of the way himself. Note also that the further a soul advances in grace the more spiritual and divine are its longings: an outward walk does not content the gracious soul, nor even the treasured testimonies; it reaches out in due time after God himself, and when it in a measure finds him, still yearns for more of him, and seeks him still.

Seeking after God signifies a desire to commune with him more closely, to follow him more fully, to enter into more perfect union with his mind and will, to promote his glory, and to realize completely all that he is to holy hearts. The blessed man has God already, and for this reason he seeks him. This may seem a contradiction: it is only a paradox.

God is not truly sought by the cold researches of the brain: we must seek him with the heart. Love reveals itself to love: God manifests his heart to the heart of his people. It is in vain that we endeavour to comprehend him by reason; we must apprehend him by affection. But the heart must not be divided with many objects if the Lord is to be sought by us. God is one, and we shall not know him till our heart is one. A broken heart need not be distressed at this, for no heart is so whole in its seeking after God as a heart which is broken, whereof every fragment sighs and cries after the great Father's face. It is the divided heart which the doctrine of the text censures, and strange to say, in scriptural phraseology, a heart may be divided and not broken, and it may be broken but not divided; and yet again it may be broken and be whole, and it never can be whole until it is broken. When our whole heart seeks the holy God in Christ Jesus it has come to him of whom it is written, "as many as touched Him were made perfectly whole."

That which the Psalmist admires in this verse he claims in the tenth, where he says, "With my whole heart have I sought thee." It is well when admiration of a virtue leads to the attainment of it. Those who do not believe in the blessedness of seeking the Lord will not be likely to arouse their hearts to the pursuit, but he who calls another blessed because of the grace which he sees in him is on the way to gaining the same grace for himself.

If those who seek the Lord are blessed, what shall be said of those who actually dwell with him and know that he is theirs?

"To those who fall, how kind thou art!
How good to those who seek I
But what to those who find? Ah! this
Nor tongue nor pen can show:
The love of Jesus -- what it is,
None but his loved ones know."

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 2. The doubling of the sentence, Blessed... Blessed, in the first verse and second, is to let us see the certainty of the blessing belonging to the godly. The word of God is as true in itself when it is once spoken, as when it is many times repeated: the repetition of it is for confirmation of our weak faith. That which Isaac spake of Jacob, -- "I have blessed him, and he shall be blessed," is the most sure decree of God upon all his children. Satan would fain curse Israel, by the mouth of such as Balaam was; but he shall not be able to curse, because God hath blessed. William Cowper.

Verse 2. Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. In the former verse a blessed man is described by the course of his actions, "Blessed are the undefiled in the way": in this verse he is described by the frame of his heart. Thomas Manton.

Verse 2. Keep his testimonies. The careful keeping in mind of God's testimonies is blessedness; for though there is a keeping of them in conversation mentioned in the former verse, here another thing is intimated diverse from the former; he that keepeth this plant or holy seed so that the devil cannot take it out of his heart, he is happy. The word here used signifieth such a careful custody as that is wherewith we use to keep tender plants. Paul Bayne.

Verse 2. Testimonies. The notion by which the word of God is expressed is "testimonies"; whereby is intended the whole declaration of God's will in doctrines, commands, examples, threatenings, promises. The whole word is the testimony which God hath deposed for the satisfaction of the world about the way of their salvation. Now because the word of God branches itself into two parts, the law and the gospel, this notion may be applied to both. First, to the law, in regard whereof the ark was called "the ark of the testimony" ( Exodus 25:16 ), because the two tables were laid up in it. The gospel is also called the testimony, "the testimony of God concerning his Son." "To the law, and to the testimony" ( Isaiah 8:20 ); where testimony seems to be distinguished from the law. The gospel is so called, because therein God hath testified how a man shall be pardoned, reconciled to God, and obtain a right to eternal life. We need a testimony in this case, because it is more unknown to us. The law was written upon the heart, but the gospel is a stranger. Natural light will discern something of the law, and pry into matters which are of a moral strain and concernment; but evangelical truths are a mystery, and depend upon the mere testimony of God concerning his Son. Thomas Manton.

Verse 2. Testimonies. The word of God is called his testimony, not only because it testifies his will concerning his service, but also his favour and goodwill concerning his own in Christ Jesus. If God's word were no more than a law, yet were we bound to obey it, because we are his creatures; but since it is also a testimony of his love, wherein as a father he witnesseth his favour towards his children, we are doubly inexcusable if we do not most joyfully embrace it. William Cowper.

Verse 2. Blessed are they... that seek him with the whole heart. He pronounces "blessed" not such as are wise in their own conceit, or assume a sort of fantastical holiness, but those who dedicate themselves to the covenant of God, and yield obedience to the dictates of his law, Farther, by these words, he tells us that God is by no means satisfied with mere external service, for he demands the sincere and honest affection of the heart. And assuredly, if God be the sole Judge and Disposer of our life, the truth must occupy the principal place in our heart, because it is not sufficient to have our hands and feet only enlisted in his service. John Calvin, 1509-1564.

Verse 2. The whole heart. Whosoever would have sound happiness must have a sound heart. So much sincerity as there is, so much blessedness there will be; and according to the degree of our hypocrisy, will be the measure of our misery. Richard Greenham, 1531-1591.

Verse 2-3. Observe the verbs seek, do, walk, all making up the subject to whom the blessedness belongs. Henry Hammond, 1605-1660.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 2. -- Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart.

  1. The sacred Quest: "Seek him." He has been sought among the trees, the hills, the planets, the stars. He has been sought in his own defaced image, man. He has been sought amid the mysterious wheels of Providence. But these quests have often been prompted simply by intellect, or compelled by conscience, and have therefore resulted but in a cold faint light. He has been sought in the word which this psalm so highly extols, when it has led up the smoke covered and gleaming peaks of Sinai. It has been followed, when it has led beneath the olives of Gethsemane to witness a mysterious struggle in blood sweating and anguish; to Calvary, where, in the place of a skull, life and immortality are brought to light. The sacred quest but there begins.
  2. The Conduct of the Quest. Seekers might be mistakenly dejected by so literal an interpretation of the "whole heart." We do not hesitate to say a stream is in its whole volume flowing towards sea while there are little side creeks in which the water eddies backward; or to say the tide is coming despite receding waves; or that spring is upon us despite hailstorm and biting wind. Indication of,
    1. Unity
    2. Intensity.
    3. Determination.

No one conducts this quest aright who is not prompted to or sustained in it by the gracious Spirit.

  1. Blessedness both in the pursuit and issue.
(a) Blessedness in the bitterness of penitence. The
door handle touched by him drops of myrrh. The rising sun
sends kindling beams upon the highest peaks.
(b) Blessedness in the happy findings of salvation and
adoption.
(c) Blessedness in the perpetual pursuit. --William Anderson, of Reading, 1882.

Verse 2. -- The double blessing.

  1. On keeping the testimonies.
  2. On seeking the Lord.

Verse 2. -- That seek him with the whole heart.

  1. Seek what? God himself. No peace until he is found.
  2. Seek where? In his testimonies.
(a) By studying them.
(b) By keeping to them.

  1. Seek how? With the Whole heart. --George Rogers.

Verse 2. -- Seeking for God.

  1. The Psalmist's way of seeking God.
(a) He sought God with the heart. Only the heart can find
God. Sight fails.
"The scientific method" fails. All reason fails. Only love
and trust can succeed. Love sees much where all other
perception finds nothing. Faith generally goes with
discovery, and nowhere so much as in finding God.
(b) He sought God with all his heart.

  1. Half heartedness seldom finds anything worth having.

(2) Half heartedness shows contempt for God.

(3) God will not reveal himself to half heartedness. It would be putting the highest premium possible upon indifference.

  1. The Psalmist's plea in seeking God: "Let me not wander from thy commandments"
    1. God's commandments lead, presently, into his own
      presence. If we take even the moral law, every one of the
      ten commandments leads away from the world, and sin, into
      that seclusion of holiness in which he hides. It is thus
      with all the commandments of the Scriptures.
(b) The earnestness of the souls search for God becomes, in
itself, a plea with God that he will be found of us. God,
who loves importunity in prayer, loves it no less when it
takes the form of searching with all the heart. He who
seeks with all the heart finds special encouragement to
pray: "Let me not wander from thy commandments." --F.G. Marchant.

Verse 2. -- That seek him. We must remember six conditions required in them who would seek the Lord rightly.

  1. We must seek him in Christ the Mediator. John 14:6 .
  2. We must seek him in truth. Jeremiah 10:10 John 4:24 Psalms 7:6 .
  3. We must seek him in holiness. 2 Timothy 2:19 Hebrews 12:14 1 John 1:3 .
  4. We must seek him above all things and for himself.
  5. We must seek him by the light of his own word.
  6. We must seek him diligently and with perseverance, never resting till we find him, with the spouse in the Canticles. --William Cowper.

Verse 2,4-5,8. -- Blessed are they that keep. "Thou hast commanded; us to keep." "O that my ways were directed to keep." "I will keep." Blessedness of keeping God's precepts -- displayed ( Psalms 119:2 ), commanded ( Psalms 119:4 ), for ( Psalms 119:5 ), resolved upon ( Psalms 119:8 ). -- C.A.D.

Read Psalm 119:2