Psalm 119:33

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 33-40. A sense of dependence and a consciousness of extreme need pervade this section, which is all made up of prayer and plea. The former eight verses trembled with a sense of sin, quivering with a childlike sense of weakness and folly, which caused the man of God to cry out for the help by which alone his soul could be preserved from falling back into sin.

Verse 33. Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes. Child like, blessed words, from the lips of an old, experienced believer, and he a king, and a man inspired of God. Alas, for those who will never be taught. They dote upon their own wisdom; but their folly is apparent to all who rightly judge. The Psalmist will have the Lord for his teacher; for he feels that his heart will not learn of any less effectual instructor. A sense of great slowness to learn drives us to seek a great teacher. What condescension it is on our great Jehovah's part that he deigns to teach those who seek him. The lesson which is desired is thoroughly practical; the holy man would not only learn the statutes, but the way of them, the daily use of them, their tenor, spirit, direction, habit, tendency. He would know that path of holiness which is hedged in by divine law, along which the commands of the Lord stand as sign posts of direction and mile stones of information, guiding and marking our progress. The very desire to learn this way is in itself an assurance that we shall be taught therein, for he who made us long to learn will be sure to gratify the desire.

And I shall keep it unto the end. Those who are taught of God never forget their lessons. When divine grace sets a man in the true way he will be true to it. Mere human wit and will have no such enduring influence: there is an end to all perfection of the flesh, but there is no end to heavenly grace except its own end, which is the perfecting of holiness in the fear of the Lord. Perseverance to the end is most certainly to be predicted of those whose beginning is in God, and with God, and by God; but those who commence without the Lord's teaching soon forget what they learn, and start aside from the way upon which they professed to have entered. No one may boast that he will bold on his way in his own strength, for that must depend upon the continual teaching of the Lord: we shall fall like Peter, if we presume on our own firmness as he did. If God keeps us we shall keep his way; and it is a great comfort to know that it is the way with God to keep the feet of his saints. Yet we are to watch as if our keeping of the way depended wholly on ourselves; for, according to this verse, our perseverance rests not on any force or compulsion, but on the teaching of the Lord, and assuredly teaching, whoever be the teacher, requires learning on the part of the taught one: no one can teach a man who refuses to learn. Earnestly, then, let us drink in divine instruction, that so we may hold fast our integrity, and to life's latest hour follow on in the path of uprightness! If we receive the living and incorruptible seed of the word of God we must live: apart from this we have no life eternal, but only a name to live.

The "end" of which David speaks is the end of life, or the fulness of obedience. He trusted in grace to make him faithful to the utmost, never drawing a line and saying to obedience, "Hitherto shalt thou go, but no further." The end of our keeping the law will come only when we cease to breathe; no good man will think of marking a date and saying, "It is enough, I may now relax my watch, and live after the manner of men." As Christ loves us to the end, so must we serve him to the end. The end of divine teaching is that we may persevere to the end.

The portions of eight show a relationship still. GIMEL, begins with prayer for life, that he may keep the word ( Psalms 119:17 ); DALETH cries for more life, according to that word ( Psalms 119:25 ); and now HE opens with a prayer for teaching, that he may keep the way of God's statutes. If a keen eye is turned upon these verses a closer affinity will be discerned.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Upon this Octonary the Notes furnished by Mr. Marchant, one of the Tutors of the Pastors' College, are so excellent that we give them entire.


SECTION h HE.

SUBJECT: THE LAW OF JEHOVAH TO BE SET BEFORE THE EYES, THE WIND, THE FEET, AND THE HEART.

Key phrase: dtrma drk[l ~qh. Set up before thy servant thy word ( Psalms 119:38 ).

Verse 33. THE WORD SET UP BEFORE THE EYES. Teach me; literally, "point out," "indicate to me." hry, as used here, means "to send out the hand," especially in the sense of pointing out. Hence "to show,", "to indicate," "to teach." The Psalmist here prays for direction in its more superficial form: Many paths were before his eyes leading down to death: one path was before him, leading unto life. He here asks to be shown which is Jehovah's way. If the Lord will ever show his eyes which way is the right way, then he will keep it unto the end. Here is light wanted for the eyes. As the Indian pursues his trail with unerring eye and unfaltering step, so, watching for every deviation which might take us astray, we should pursue the way which leadeth unto life.

Verse 33-40. In this Octonarius, now and again, the same prayer is repeated, of which several times mention has before been made. For he prays that he may be divinely taught, governed, strengthened, and defended against the calumnies, reproaches, and threatenings of his enemies. And the prayer is full of the most ardent longings, which is manifest from the same resolve being so frequently repeated. For the more he knows the ignorance, obscurity, doubts, and the imbecility of the human mind, and sees how men are impelled by a slight momentum, so that they fall away from the truth and embrace errors repugnant to the divine word, or fall into great sins, the more ardently and strongly does he ask in prayer that he may be divinely taught, governed, and strengthened, lest he should cast away acknowledged truth, or plunge himself into wickedness. And by his example he teaches that we, also, against blindness born with us, and the imbecility of our flesh, and also against the snares and madness of devils should fortify ourselves with those weapons; namely, with the right study and knowledge of the divine Word, and with constant prayer. For if so great a man, who had made such preeminent attainments, prayed for this, how much more ought they to do so, who are but novices and ignorant beginners. This is the sum of this Octonarius. D. H. Mollerus.

Verse 33-40. In this part, nine times does the Psalmist send up his petition to his God, and six of these he accompanies with a reason for being heard... These petitions are the utterances of a renewed heart; the man of God could not but give utterance to them -- such was the new refining process that had taken place upon him... The outline runs thus: -- Petitions are offered for Instruction ( Psalms 119:33 ) and Understanding ( Psalms 119:34 ), and likewise for Spiritual Ability ( Psalms 119:35 ) and Inclination ( Psalms 119:36 ). These are followed by petitions for Exemption from the Spirit of Vanity ( Psalms 119:37 ), and for Divine Quickening ( Psalms 119:37 ). The Lord is besought to make good his Word of Promise to his servant ( Psalms 119:38 ), and to deliver him from Feared Reproach. Last of all, the man of God places his prayer for quickening upon the ground of the Divine Righteousness (Ps 119:40). May the Divine Spirit teach us to compare ourselves with what we find here, as we would see the salvation of our God! John Stephen.

Verse 33-40. -- I observe that in this one octonary which is not to be found in any of the rest, namely, that in every several verse there is a several prayer. In the first whereof he prays to be taught, and then promises to take in that which God shall teach him. He had before resolved to run in this way; but he felt forthwith his own natural aberrations, and therefore he cometh to this guide to be taught. Richard Greenham.

Verse 33. Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes, etc. Instruction from above is necessary for the children of God, while they continue in this world. The more we know, the more we shall desire to know; we shall beg a daily supply of grace, as well as of bread; and a taste of "the cluster of Eshcol" will make us long after the vintage of Canaan ( Numbers 13:23 ). Religion is the art of holy living, and then only known when it is practised; as he is not a master of music who can read the notes which compose it, but he who has learnt to take a lesson readily from the book, and play it on his instrument; after which the pleasure it affords will be sufficient motive for continuing so to do. George Horne.

Verse 33. Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes, etc. In the sincerity of your hearts go to God for his teaching. God is pleased with the request. "Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing" ( 1 Kings 3:9 1 Kings 3:10 ). Oh, beg it of God, for these three reasons --

  1. The way of God's statutes is worthy to be found by all.
  2. It is hard to be found and kept by any.
  3. It is so dangerous to miss it, that this should quicken us to be earnest with God. Thomas Manton.

Verse 33. Teach me, O LORD, etc. "He who is his own pupil," remarks S. Bernard, "has a fool for his master." A soldier who enters on a march does not settle for himself the order of his going, nor begin the journey at his own will, nor yet choose pleasant short cuts, lest he should fall out of rank, away from the standards, but gets the route from his general, and keeps to it; advances in a prescribed order, walks armed, and goes straight on to the end of his march to find there the supplies provided by the commissariat. If he goes by any other road, he gets no rations, and finds no quarters ready, because the general's orders are that all things of this kind shall be prepared for those who follow him, and turn not aside to the right hand or the left. And thus he who follows his general does not break down, and that for good reasons; for the general consults not for his own convenience, but for the capability of his whole army. And this, too, is Christ's order of march, as he leads his great host out of the spiritual Egypt to the eternal Land of Paradise. Ambrose, quoted by Neale and Littledale.

Verse 33. Teach me, O LORD, the way, etc. It should never be forgotten, as this fifth section teaches us, that there is a way marked out by God's own appointment for all his people to walk in, and in which to persevere. Others lay down a path each for himself, and keeping to it think they are safe. David did not trust to anything of this kind; he was only desirous of being found in the way of God's ordinance, and to be so taught of God as to keep it to the end; or as the original reads, keep it the end, the end of his profession, the salvation of his soul. W. Wilson.

Verse 33. Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it, etc. If thou continue a teacher of me, saith David, I shall continue a servant to thee. Perseverance cannot be unless continual light and grace be furnished to us from the Lord. As the tree which hath not sap at the root may flourish for a while, but cannot continue; so a man, whose heart is not watered with the dew of God's grace continually, may for a time make a fair show of godliness, but in the end he will fall away, We bear not the root, but the root bears us: let us tremble and fear. If we abide not in our Lord, we become withered branches, good for nothing but the fire. Let us alway pray that he would ever abide with us, to inform us by his light, and lead us by his power, in that way which may bring us to himself. William Cowper.

Verse 33. Statutes, from a word signifying to mark, trace out, describe and ordain; because they mark out our way, describe the line of conduct we are to pursue, and order or ordain what we are to observe. Adam Clarke.

Verse 33. God's "statutes" declare his authority and power of giving us laws. Matthew Pool, 1624-1679.

Verse 33. Unto the end, or, by way of return, or reward, or gratitude to thee; God's mercy in teaching being in all reason to be rewarded or answered by our observing and taking exact care of what he teaches. Or else by analogy with Psalms 19:11 , where the keeping his commandments brings great reward with it: it may here be rendered bq[ (understanding the preposition l) for the reward, meaning the present joy of it, Psalms 119:32 , not excluding the future crown. H. Hammond.

Verse 33. Unto the end. Quite through; the Hebrew is, to the heel. The force of the words seems to be, "Quite through, from head to foot." Zachary Mudge, 1744.

Verse 33-34. Unto the end. He will be no temporizer; he will keep it "to the end." He will be no hypocrite; he will keep it "with his whole heart." Adam Clarke.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Outlines Upon Keywords of the Psalm, By Pastor C. A. Davis.

Verse 33-40. -- Faithfulness secured by divine in working. Prayer for divine teaching, understanding, constraint, and control of heart and eyes, to ensure persevering and wholehearted faithfulness ( Psalms 119:33-37 ). The Psalmist, thus established in the word, prays for the establishment of the word to himself ( Psalms 119:38 ); deprecates the reproach of unfaithfulness ( Psalms 119:39 ); and enforces the whole prayer by the vehemence of the desire which prompts it ( Psalms 119:40 ).

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 33. -- In this prayer for grace observe,

  1. The person to whom he prays: "0 Lord."
  2. The person for whom: "teach me."
  3. The grace for which he prayeth: to be taught.
  4. The object of this teaching: "The way of thy statutes." The teaching which he begs, is not speculative, but practical, to learn how to walk in the way of God. --T. Manton.

Verse 33. -- The superior efficacy of divine teaching: it secures holy practice and insures its perpetuity.

Verse 33-34. -- Light from above.

  1. The blinding power of sin. "Teach me", i.e., "point out to me." "Give me understanding." Whatever may have been the original amount of light which came item eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, that light has long been insufficient.
    1. Men need light to discern the right way from the wrong.
(b) Men need light to understand the beauties of the right
way. Such beauties line the way of truth on either hand,
but only the God taught mind appreciates them. Even Jesus,
who is the way, the truth, and the life, is as a root out
of a dry ground, till the mind is taught of the Lord. Sin
is the cause of this blindness. The farther any man walks
in the way of sin, the less can he see of the beauties of
holiness.

  1. The enlightening grace of the Lord. "Teach me." "Give me understanding." This grace,
    1. May be boldly asked: "If any man lack wisdom let him ask
      of God."
(b) Will be freely given. "Who giveth to all men
liberally." "Ask, and it shall be given."
(c) Will be amply sufficient. "I shall keep it unto the
end." "I shall keep Thy law." To see is to follow.

  1. The stimulating power of clearly revealed truth. "I shall observe it with my whole heart." To see is not only to follow, but to follow with love and gladness. It is written of the light which will come before the throne, "We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." "O thou, that dwellest between the Cherubim, shine forth," even here, on the way that leads to thy presence. --F.G.M.

Verse 33-35. -- Alpha and Omega.

  1. God, the giver of spiritual instruction: Psalms 119:33 .
  2. Of spiritual understanding, without which this instruction is in vain: Psalms 119:34 .
  3. Of grace for practical obedience when thus instructed: Psalms 119:35 .
  4. For wholehearted obedience: Psalms 119:84 .
  5. For final perseverance: Psalms 119:33 . --C.A.D.

Verse 33-36. -- Human Dependence on Divine help.

  1. There can be no steady keeping in the way of the Lord without the Lord's guidance: Psalms 119:83 .
  2. There can be no observing of the way with the heart without Divine light for the mind: Psalms 119:34 .
  3. There can be no diligent pursuit of the way till divine energy be given to the will: Ps 119:35.
  4. There can be no true love of the way unless the heart be constrained by the love of God: Psalms 119:36 . He who said, "Without me ye can do nothing," is necessary for us to see the way, to understand the way, to walk in the way, and to love the way. --F. G. M.