Psalm 119:27

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 27. Make me to understand the way of thy precepts. Give me a deep insight into the practical meaning of thy word; let me get a clear idea of the tone and tenor of thy law. Blind obedience has but small beauty; God would have us follow him with our eyes open. To obey the letter of the word is all that the ignorant can hope for; if we wish to keep God's precepts in their spirit we must come to an understanding of them, and that can be gained nowhere but at the Lord's hands. Our understanding needs enlightenment and direction: he who made our understanding must also make us understand. The last sentence was, "teach me thy statutes," and the words, "make me to understand," are an instructive enlargement and exposition of that sentence: we need to be so taught that we understand what we learn. It is to be noted that the Psalmist is not anxious to understand the prophecies, but the precepts, and he is not concerned about the subtleties of the law, but the commonplaces and everyday rules of it, which are described as "the way of thy precepts."

So shall I talk of thy wondrous works. It is ill talking of what we do not understand. We must be taught of God till we understand, and then we may hope to communicate our knowledge to others with a hope of profiting them. Talk without intelligence is mere talk, and idle talk; but the words of the instructed are as pearls which adorn the ears of them that hear. When our heart has been opened to understand, our lips should be opened to impart knowledge; and we may hope to be taught ourselves when we feel in our hearts a willingness to teach the way of the Lord to those among whom we dwell.

Thy wondrous works. Remark that the clearest understanding does not cause us to cease from wondering at the ways and works of God. The fact is that the more we know of God's doings the more we admire them, and the more ready we are to speak upon them. Half the wonder in the world is born of ignorance, but holy wonder is the child of understanding. When a man understands the way of the divine precepts he never talks of his own works, and as the tongue must have some theme to speak upon, he begins to extol the works of the all perfect Lord.

Some in this place read "meditate" or "muse" instead of "talk"; it is singular that the words should be so near of kin, and yet it is right that they should be, for none but foolish people will talk without thinking. If we read the passage in this sense, we take it to mean that in proportion as David understood the word of God he would meditate upon it more and more. It is usually so; the thoughtless care not to know the inner meaning of the Scriptures, while those who know them best are the very men who strive after a greater familiarity with them, and therefore give themselves up to musing upon them.

Observe the third verse of the last eight (19), and see how the sense is akin to this. There he was a stranger in the earth, and here he prays to know his way; there, too, he prayed that the word might not be hid from himself, and here he promises that he will not hide it from others.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 27. Make me to understand. Natural blindness is an obstinate disease, and hardly cured: therefore again and again we had need to pray, "Open mine eyes"; "Teach me thy statutes"; Make me to understand the way of thy precepts. Our ignorance is great even when it is cured in part. The clouds of temptation and carnal affection cause it to return upon us, so that we know not what we know. Therefore he cries, "open my eyes; cause me to understand." Yea, the more we know the more is our ignorance discovered to us: "Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man. I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy" ( Proverbs 30:2-3 ). "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" ( Job 42:5-6 ). Alas, a poor, little, hearsay knowledge availeth not; they abhor themselves when they have more intimate acquaintance. None so confident as a young professor that knoweth a few truths, but in a weak and imperfect manner: the more we know indeed, the more sensible we are of our ignorance, and how liable to this mistake and that, so that we dare not trust ourselves for an hour. Thomas Mantels.

Verse 27. Understated the way... so shall I talk. We can talk with a better grace of God's "wondrous works," the wonders of providence, and especially the wonders of redeeming love, when we understand the way of God's precepts, and walk in that way. Matthew Henry

Verse 27. The way of they precepts. He desireth that God would, partly by his Spirit, partly by his ministers, partly by affliction, partly by study and labour, make him to have a right and sound understanding, not only of his statutes, but of the way of his statutes, that is, after what sort and order he may live and direct his life, according to those things which God hath commanded him in his law. Learn here how hard a thing it is for man overweening himself in his own wisdom, to know God's will till God make him to know. Richard Greenham.

Verse 27. So shall I talk of thy wondrous works. He that is sensible of the wondrous things that are in God's word? will be talking of them.

  1. It will be so.
  2. It should be so.

  1. It will be so. When the heart is deeply affected, the tongue cannot hold, but will run out in expressions of it; "for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." When cheered and revived in their afflictions saints are transported with the thought of the excellency of God. "Come, and I will tell you what God hath done for my soul" ( Psalms 66:15 ). The woman, when she had found the lost groat, calleth her neighbours to rejoice with her. He that hath but a cold knowledge, will not be so full of good discourse.
  2. It should be so in a threefold respect: for the honour of God; the edification of others; and for our own profit.

    1. For the honour of God, to whom we are so much indebted, to bring him into request with those about us. Experience deserveth praise; when you have found the Messiah, call another to him: "Andrew calleth Peter, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias: and Philip called Nathanael and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph" ( John 1:41-45 ).

(b) For the edification of others: "And thou, being converted, strengthen thy brethren" ( Luke 22:32 ). True grace is communicative as fire, etc.

(c) For our own profit. He that useth his knowledge shall
have more. Whereas, on the contrary, full breasts, if
not sucked, become dry. In the dividing, the loaves
increased. All gifts, but much more spiritual, which are
the best, are improved by exercise. Thomas Manton.

Verse 27. So shall I talk, etc. Desire of knowledge should not be for satisfying of curiosity, or for ostentation, or for worldly gain, but to edify ourselves and others in wisdom... Thy wondrous works. The works of creation, redemption and providence, either set down in Scripture, or observed in our own experience, transcend our capacity, and cannot but draw admiration from them that see them well. David Dickson.

Verse 27. So shall I talk. It is a frequent complaint with Christians, that they are straitened in religious conversation, and often feel unable to speak "to the use of edifying, that they may minister grace to the hearers," Ephesians 4:29 . Here, then, is the secret disclosed, by which we shall be kept from the danger of dealing in unfelt truths, for "out of the abundance of the heart our mouths shall speak," Matthew 12:34 . Seek to have the heart searched, cleansed, filled with the graces of the Spirit. Humility, teachability, simplicity, will bring light unto the understanding, influence the heart, "open the lips," and unite every member that we have in the service and praise of God. Charles Bridges.

Verse 27. I shall talk of. There is a close affinity between all the duties of religion. The same word is rendered pray, meditate, and talk of. We think of God's excellent majesty; we cry to him in humble prayer; we study his word until our souls are filled with gladness and admiration; and then how can we but talk of his wondrous works? William S. Plumer.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 27. --

  1. A student's prayer.
  2. It deals with the main subject of the conversation which is to be that student's occupation -- "the way of God's precepts."
  3. A confession is implied: "Make me," etc.
  4. A great boon is asked -- to understand, to know, thy statutes.
  5. The Fountain of all wisdom is applied to.
  6. The occupation of the instructed man.
  7. He testifies of God's works -- his wondrous works -- Christ's work for us; the Holy Spirit's work in us. The wonderful character of these works of God, a wide field for devout study.
  8. He speaks very plainly: "I will talk," etc.
  9. He will speak very frequently: "I will talk."
  10. He will speak to the point: "So" -- i.e., according to understanding.
  11. The intimate relation between the prayer of the student and the pursuit that he subsequently followed. See "Spurgeon's Sermons," No. 1344: "The Student's Prayer."

Verse 27. -- Education for the ministry.

  1. The student at college: "Make me to understand." His lesson. His instructor. His application.
  2. The preacher at his work: "So shall I talk," etc. His qualification. His theme. His manner. --C.A.D.