Psalm 119:39

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 39. Turn away my reproach which I fear. He feared just reproach, trembling lest he should cause the enemy to blaspheme through any glaring inconsistency. We ought to fear this, and watch that we may avoid it. Persecution in the form of calumny may also be prayed against, for it is a sore trial, perhaps the sorest of trials to men of sensitive minds. Many would sooner bear burning at the stake than the trial of cruel mockings. David was quick tempered, and he probably had all the greater dread of slander because it raised his anger, and he could hardly tell what he might not do under great provocation. If God turns away our eyes from falsehood, we may also expect that he will turn away falsehood from injuring our good name. We shall be kept from lies if we keep from lies.

For thy judgments are good. Therefore he is anxious that none may speak evil of the ways of God through hearing an ill report about himself. We mourn when we are slandered; because the shame is cast rather upon our religion than ourselves. If men would be content to attribute evil to us, and go no further, we might bear it, for we are evil; but our sorrow is that they cast a slur upon the word and character of God, who is so good, that there is none good in comparison with him. When men rail at God's government of the world it is our duty and privilege to stand up for him, and openly to declare before him, "thy judgments are good"; and we should do the same when they assail the Bible, the gospel, the law, or the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. But we must take heed that they can bring no truthful accusation against us, or our testimony will be so much wasted breath.

This prayer against reproach is parallel to Psalms 119:31 , and in general to many other of the seventh verses in the octaves, which usually imply opposition from without and a sacred satisfaction within. Observe the things which are good: "thy judgments are good;" "thou art good and doest good" (Ps 119:68); "good for me to have been afflicted" ( Psalms 119:71 ); "teach me good judgment" (Ps 119:66).

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 39. Turn away my reproach which I fear. "Cause to pass my reproach which I feared." This also, like the vanity spoken of in Psalms 119:37 , the Psalmist prays that he may not see. He would have the gaze of his whole manhood bent only on the word. The reproach which he feared is that to which he had already referred in Psalms 119:21 - 22, and perhaps again in Psalms 119:31 . The proud had erred from the commandments, and had inherited rebuke; it was the reproach and shame which were theirs that the Psalmist would have to be turned aside, so that they should not be seen. For thy judgments are good. This is given as a reason why the reproach should be thus turned aside. The proud had thought lightly and contemptuously on the divine judgments, hence their reproach; the Psalmist held those judgments to be good, and thus hoped that he might not see reproach.

Verse 39. Turn away my reproach, etc. In these words you have,

  1. A request, "Turn away my reproach."
  2. A reason to enforce it. "For thy judgments are good."

First, for the request. "Turn away," roll from upon me, so it signifies. He was clothed with reproach; now roll from me "my reproach." Some think he means God's condemnatory sentence, which would turn to ills reproach, or some remarkable rebuke from God, because of his sin. Rather, I think, the reproach of his enemies; and he calls it "my reproach," either as deserved by himself, or as having personally lighted upon him, the reproach which was like to be his lot and portion in the world, through the malice of his enemies: "the reproach which I fear," that is, which I have cause to expect, and am sensible of the sad consequences of it.

Secondly, for the reason by which this is enforced: "for thy judgments are good." There are different opinions about the form of this argument. Some take the reason thus: Let me not suffer reproach for adhering to thy word, thy word which is so good. But David doth not speak here of suffering reproach for righteousness' sake, but such reproach as was likely to befall him because of his own infirmities and failings. Reproaches for righteousness' sake are to be "rejoiced in;" but he saith, this I "fear," and therefore I suppose this doth not hit the reason. Neither do I accept the other sense, -- Why should I be looked upon as an evil doer as long as I keep thy law, and observe thy statutes? Others judge badly of me, but I appeal to thy good judgment.

By "judgments" we may understand God's dealings. Thou dost not deal with men according to their desert. Thy dispensations are kind and gracious. Better still: by "judgments" are meant the ways, statutes, and ordinances of God called judgments, because all our words, works, thoughts are to be judged according to the sentence of the word: now these, it is a pity they should suffer in my reproach and ignominy. This is that I fear more than anything else that can happen to me. I think the reason will better run thus: Lord, there is in thy law, word, covenant, many promises to encourage thy people, and therefore rules to provide for the due honour and credit of thy people. Thomas Manton.

Verse 39. Turn away my reproach. In the Hebrew it is, "Take away my rebuke"; as if he should have said, O Lord, I may commit some such evil against thy good law, yea, some such notorious transgression, as may tend to my shame; I beseech thee, take it away. Or else he meaneth, I have already, O Lord, by divers sins, and by name through adultery and murder brought shame and rebuke upon myself among men; I entreat thee to remove this shame and rebuke.

Out of the first exposition we learn, First, that the godly are subject unto notorious sins. Secondly, that those sins will cause shame in them, though the wicked will not be ashamed. Thirdly, that God only can take away this shame. Fourthly, that we may pray for the removing of shame even amongst men, especially that which may bring with it some dishonour to God. Fifthly, that the godly are most jealous over themselves. Sixthly, the way to avoid sin is ever to be afraid lest we should sin.

Out of the second exposition note, that the remembrance of our former sins must draw out of us prayers unto God, that for them we may not be rebuked in displeasure in this life, nor confounded and abashed in the life to come. Richard Greenham.

Verse 39. My reproach is the reproach which the world casts on the God fearing. This is dreaded as a great temptation to apostasy. James G. Murphy.

Verse 39. For thy judgments are good. One would have expected him to say -- For thou art merciful -- Cause my reproach which I fear to pass over from me, for thou art merciful. No, he does not add this as his present reason, but "Thy judgments are good." We should catch the meaning at once, were the words these -- For thy judgments are awful -- "Turn away my reproach which I fear," for thy judgments are awful. But as the words are -- "For thy judgments are good," we find he verily takes refuge in the "judgments" -- viz., that the Lord would vindicate him against all the unjust judgments of men; and as to judgment with God, since he took refuge in the atonement which the Lord had appointed, the Lord would vindicate him there also. John Stephen.

Verse 39. For thy judgments are good. The judgments of the wicked are bad judgments, but the judgments of God are good; I pray against those, I appeal, to these: I fear the one, I approve the other. Now the judgments which God pronounces in his word, be they threatenings in the law, or consolations in the Gospel, yea, and those also which he executeth in the world, whether upon the godly or godless, they must needs be good.

  1. Because God is goodness itself.
  2. He cannot be deceived.
  3. He will not be bribed.
  4. He alone is no respecter of persons, but judgeth according to every man's work. Richard Greenham.

Verse 39. The "reproach" which the poet fears in this verse is not the reproach of confessing, but of denying God. Franz Delitzsch.

Verse 39. For thy judgments are good. This reason shows he feared God's rebuke. Man's "reproach" comes from a corrupt judgment, he condemns where God will absolve, I pass not for it; but I know thy rebuke is always deserved, "for thy judgments are good." William Nicholson.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 39. --

  1. Man's judgment dreaded.
  2. God's judgment approved.

Verse 39. -- The reproach of inconsistency.

  1. The dishonour caused by it ( 2 Samuel 12:14 ).
  2. The danger of incurring it.
  3. The prayer against it. --C.A.D.