Psalm 119:48

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 48. My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have loved. He will stretch out towards perfection as far as he can, hoping to reach it one day; when his hands hang down he will cheer himself out of languor by the prospect of glorifying God by obedience; and he will give solemn sign of his hearty assent and consent to all that his God commands. The phrase "lift up my hands" is very full of meaning, and doubtless the sweet singer meant all that we can see in it, and a great deal more. Again he declares his love; for a true heart loves to express itself; it is a kind of fire which must send forth its flames. It was natural that he should reach out towards a law which he delighted in, even as a child holds out its hands to receive a gift which it longs for. When such a lovely object as holiness is set before us, we are bound to rise towards it with our whole nature, and till that is fully accomplished we should at least lift up our hands in prayer towards it. Where holy hands and holy hearts go, the whole man will one day follow.

And I will meditate in thy statutes. He can never have enough of meditation upon the mind of God. Loving subjects wish to be familiar with their sovereign's statutes, for they are anxious that they may not offend through ignorance. Prayer with lifted hands, and meditation with upward glancing eyes will in happy union work out the best inward results. The prayer of Psalms 119:41 is already fulfilled in the man who is thus struggling upward and studying deeply. The whole of this verse is in the future, and may be viewed not only as a determination of David's mind, but as a result which he knew would follow from the Lord's sending him his mercies and his salvation. When mercy comes down, our hands will be lifted up; when God in favour thinks upon us, we are sure to think of him. Happy is he who stands with hands uplifted both to receive the blessing and to obey the precept; he shall not wait upon the Lord in vain.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 48. My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, etc. The duty that David promises God here, is the service of his actions, that he will lift up his hands to the practice of God's commandments. The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power; we are the disciples of that Master, who first began to do and then to teach. But now the world is full of mutilated Christians; either they want an ear and cannot hear God's word, or a tongue and cannot speak of it; or if they have both, they want hands and cannot practise it. William Cowper.

Verse 48. My hands also will I lift up. To lift up the hands is taken variously, and it signifies:

  1. To pray: as in Psalms 28:2 Lamentations 2:19 Habakkuk 3:10 .
  2. To bless others: as Leviticus 9:22 Psalms 134:2 .
  3. To swear: as Genesis 14:22 Exodus 6:8 .
  4. To set about some important matter: as Genesis 41:44 ; "without thee shall no man lift up his hand;" i.e. shall attempt anything, or shall accomplish; Ps 10:12, "lift up thine hand," viz., effectively, to bring help: Hebrews 12:12 , "lift up the hands," etc.; i.e. strongly stimulate Christians.

Perhaps all these may be accommodated to the present passage; for it is possible to be either,

  1. Prayer for Divine grace for the doing of the precepts: or,
  2. Blessing, i.e. praise of God because of them, and the advantages which have thence accrued to us: which the Syriac translator approves, who adds, "and I will glory in thy faithfulness:" or,
  3. Vow, or oath of constant obedience, etc.: -- or,
  4. Active and earnest undertaking of them; which, also, appears to be here chiefly meant. Henry Hammond in Synopsis Poli.

Verse 48. My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments; vowing obedience to them: Genesis 14:22 . William Kay.

Verse 48. My hands also will I lift up. I will present every victim and sacrifice which the law requires. I will make prayer and supplication before thee, lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting. Adam Clarke.

Verse 48. My hands also will I lift up. Aben Ezra explains, (and perhaps rightly,) that the metaphor, in this place, is taken from the action of those who receive any one whom they are glad or proud to see. Daniel Cresswell, 1776-1844.

Verse 48. I will lift up my hands in admiration of thy precepts, "And meditate on thy statutes." W. Green, in "A New Translation of the Psalms," 1762.

Verse 48. To lift up the hand is a gesture importing readiness, and special intention in doing a thing. My hands (saith David) also will I lift up unto thy commandments; as a man that is willing to do a thing and addresses himself to the doing of it, lifts up his hand; so a godly man is described as lifting up his hand to fulfil the commands of God. Joseph Caryl.

Verse 48. Thy commandments. By commandments he understandeth the word of God, yet it is more powerful than so; it is not, I have loved thy word; but, I have loved that part of thy word that is thy "commandments," the mandatory part. There are some parts of the will and word of God that even ungodly men will be content to love. There is the promissory part; all men gather and catch at the promises, and show love to these. The reason is clear; there is pleasure, and profit, and gain, and advantage in the promises; but a pious soul doth not only look to the promises, but to the commands. Piety looks on Christ as a Lawgiver, as well as a Saviour, and not only on him as a Mediator, but as a Lord and Master; it doth not only live by faith, but it liveth by rule; it makes indeed the promises the stay and staff of a Christian's life, but it makes the commandments of God the level. A pious heart knows that some command is implied in the qualification and condition of every promise; it knows that as for the fulfilling of the promises, it belongs to God; but the fulfilling of the commands belongs to us. Therefore it looks so, upon the enjoying of that which is promised that it will first do that which is commanded. There is no hope of attaining comfort in the promise but in keeping of the precept; therefore he pitches the emphasis, "I have loved thy word," that is true, and all thy word, and this part, the mandatory part: "I have loved thy commandments."

Observe the number, "thy commandments"; it is plural, that is, all thy commandments without exception; otherwise even ungodly men will be content to love some commandments, if they may choose them for themselves. Richard Holdsworth (1590-1649), in "The Valley of Vision."

Verse 48. Which I love, or have loved, as in Psalms 119:47 , the terms of which are studiously repeated with a fine rhetorical effect, which is further heightened by the and at the beginning, throwing both verses, as it were, into one sentence. As if he had said: I will derive my happiness from thy commandments, which I love and have loved, and to these commandments, which I love and have loved, I will lift up my hands and heart together. Joseph Addison Alexander.

Verse 48. I will meditate. It is in holy meditation on the word of God that all the graces of the Spirit are manifested. What is the principle of faith but the reliance of the soul upon the promises of the word? What is the sensation of godly fear but the soul trembling before the threatenings of God? What is the object of hope but the apprehended glory of God? What is the excitement of desire or love but longing, endearing contemplations of the Saviour, and of his unspeakable blessings? So that we can scarcely conceive of the influences of grace separated from spiritual meditation in the word. Charles Bridges.

Verse 48. The Syriac has an addition to Psalms 119:48 , which I am surprised has not been noticed. The addition is, "and I will glory in thy faithfulness." Dathe in a note says, THE SEVENTY seem to have read some such addition, although not exactly the same. Edward Thomas Gibson, 1819-1880.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 48. --

  1. Love renewing its activity.
  2. Love refreshing itself with spiritual food.

Verse 48. --

  1. Scripture in the hand for reading. Often in the hand.
  2. In the mind for meditation: "I will meditate," etc.
  3. In the heart for love: "Which I have loved." --G.R.

Verse 48. -- Religion engaged the whole manhood of David: hands, heart, head.

  1. The uplifted hands.
(a) Taking an oath of allegiance to God's word.
Ge 14:22 Ezekiel 20:28 . To receive its doctrines, obey its
precepts, regard its warnings, uphold its honour.
(b) Imploring a blessing upon God's word.
Genesis 48:14 Le 9:22 ;
Luke 24:50 . That its light might spread:
"Fly abroad, thou mighty gospel;" that its influence may become
universal.

  1. The loyal heart.
(a) This accounts for uplifted hands. He had loved the word
himself. Religion is inward first, then outward. We must
love it before we are anxious to spread it.
(b) But what accounts for the loyal heart? The word had
brought him salvation, yielded him sustenance, afforded him
guidance. We love the world for its joyous effects upon
ourselves.

  1. The studious mind.
(a) Devout meditation the best employment.
(b) The Word of God affords a grand field for it.
(c) To meditate in it learn to love it: "have loved," "will
meditate." --H.W.

Verse 48. --

  1. God's commandments loved. We love the law when we love the Lawgiver. We love his will only when our hearts are reconciled and renewed. Hence the need of spiritual renewal.
  2. God's commandments the subject of prayer: "My hands also will I lift up." Perowne says, "The expression denotes the act of prayer." We may pray for a fuller knowledge, a deeper experience, a readier and more perfect obedience.
  3. A theme for meditation. Amidst the hurry of outward activities we must not forget the need of quiet meditation. --H.W.