Psalm 119:54

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 54. Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage. Like others of God's servants, David knew that he was not at home in this world, but a pilgrim through it, seeking a better country. He did not, however, sigh over this fact, but he sang about it. He tells us nothing about his pilgrim sighs, but speaks of his pilgrim songs. Even the palace in which he dwelt was but "the house of his pilgrimage," the inn at which he rested, the station at which he halted for a little while. Men are wont to sing when they come to their inn, and so did this godly sojourner; he sang the songs of Zion, the statutes of the great King. The commands of God were as well known to him as the ballads of his country, and they were pleasant to his taste and musical to his ear. Happy is the heart which finds its joy in the commands of God, and makes obedience its recreation. When religion is set to music it goes well. When we sing in the ways of the Lord it shows that our hearts are in them. Ours are pilgrim psalms, songs of degrees; but they are such as we may sing throughout eternity; for the statutes of the Lord are the psalmody of heaven itself.

Saints find horror in sin, and harmony in holiness. The wicked shun the law, and the righteous sing of it. In past days we have sung the Lord's statutes, and in this fact we may find comfort in present affliction. Since our songs are so very different from those of the proud, we may expect to join a very different choir at the last, and sing in a place far removed from their abode.

Note how in the sixth verses of their respective octaves we often find resolves to bless God, or records of testimony. In Psalms 119:46 it is, "I will speak," and in Psalms 119:2 , "I will give thanks," while here he speaks of songs.

Verse 54. -- Thy statutes have been my songs. In the early ages it was customary to versify the laws, that the people might learn them by heart, and sing them. -- Williams.

Verse 54. -- Thy statutes have been my songs. God's statutes are here his "songs," which give him spiritual refreshing, sweeten the hardships of the pilgrimage: and measure and hasten his steps. --Franz Delitzsch.

Verse 54. -- Songs. Travellers sing to deceive the tediousness of the way; so did David; and hereby he solaced himself under that horror which he speaks of in verse Psalms 119:53 . Great is the comfort that cometh in by singing of Psalms with grace in our hearts. -- John Trapp.

Verse 54. -- "Songs."

"Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer."

"And the night shall be filled with music, And the cares that infest the day Shall fold their tents like the Arabs, And as silently steal away." --Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882).

Verse 54. -- Songs in the house of my pilgrimage. Wherefore is everything like warmth in religion branded with the name of enthusiasm? Warmth is expected in the poet, in the musician, in the scholar, in the lover and even in the tradesman it is allowed, if not commended -- why then is it condemned in the concerns of the soul -- a subject which, infinitely above all others, demands and deserves all the energy of the mind? Would a prisoner exult at the proclamation of deliverance, and is the redeemed sinner to walk forth from his bondage, unmoved, unaffected, without gratitude or joy? No, "Ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands." Shall the condemned criminal feel I know not what emotions, when instead of the execution of the sentence he receives a pardon? and is the absolved transgressor to be senseless and silent? No. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: and not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement."

Other travellers are accustomed to relieve the tediousness of their journey with a song. The Israelites, when they repaired from the extremities of the country three times a year to Jerusalem to worship, had songs appointed for the purpose, and travelled singing as they went. And of the righteous it is said, "They shall sing in the ways of the Lord. The redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs; and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads." --William Jay.

Verse 54. -- Songs in the house of my pilgrimage. See how the Lord in his wise dispensation attempers himself to our infirmities. Our life is subject to many changes, and God by his word hath provided for us also many instructions and remedies. Every cross hath its own remedy, and every state of life its own instruction. Sometimes our grief is so great that we cannot sing; then let us pray: sometimes our deliverance so joyful that we must break out in thanksgiving; then let us sing. "If any man among you be afflicted, let him pray; if he be merry, let him sing." Prayers for every cross, and psalms for every deliverance, hath God by his own Spirit penned for us; so that now we are more than inexcusable if we fail in this duty. --William Cowper.

Verse 54. -- In the house of my pilgrimage. According to the original, "the house of my pilgrimages"; that is, whatever places I have wandered to during Saul's persecution of me. --Samuel Burder.

Verse 54. -- In the house of my pilgrimage. Natablus expounds this of his banishment amongst the Philistines; that when he was put from his native country and kindred, and all other comforts failed him, the word of the Lord furnished matter of joy to him. And indeed, the banishment of God's servants may cast them far from their .kindred and acquaintance; but it chaseth them nearer to the Lord, and the Lord nearer to them. Proof of this in Jacob, when he was banished, and lay without, all night in the fields, he found a more familiar presence of God than he did when he slept in the tent with father and mother.

But we may rather, with Basil, refer it to the whole time of David's mortal life: "oranera vitam suam peregrinationera vocare arbitror". So Jacob acknowledgeth to Pharaoh, that his life was a pilgrimage; and Abraham and Isaac dwelt in the world as strangers.

S. Peter therefore teacheth us as pilgrims to abstain from the lusts of the flesh; and S. Paul, to use this world as if we used it not; for the fashion thereof goeth away. Many ways are we taught this lesson; but slow are we to learn it. Alas, what folly is this, that a man should desire to dwell in the earth, when God calleth him to be a citizen of heaven! Yet great is the comfort we have of this, that the houses wherein we lodge upon earth are but houses of our pilgrimage. The faithful Israelites endured their bondage in Egypt the more patiently, because they knew they were to be delivered from it. If the houses of our servitude were eternal mansions, how lamentable were our condition! But God be thanked, they are but way faring cottages, and houses of our pilgrimage. Such a house was the womb of our mother: if we had been enclosed there for ever, what burden had it been to her, what bondage to ourselves! Such a house will be the grave; of the which we must all say with Job, "The grave shall be my house, and I shall make my bed in the dark." If we were there to abide for ever, how comfortless were our estate. But, God be praised, our mansion house is above; and the houses we exchange here on earth are but the houses of our pilgrimage; and happy is he who can so live in the world as esteeming himself in his own house, in his own bed, yea, in his own body, to be but a stranger, in respect of his absence from the Lord. --William Cowper.

Verse 54. -- My pilgrimage. If men have been termed pilgrims, and life a journey, then we may add that the Christian pilgrimage far surpasses all others in the following important particulars: -- in the goodness of the road, in the beauty of the prospects, in the excellence of the company, and in the vast superiority of the accommodation provided for the Christian traveller when he has finished his course. --H.G. Salter, in "The Book of Illustrations", 1840.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 54. -- Here is --

  1. Light in darkness.
  2. Companionship in solitude.
  3. Activity in rest: "house of pilgrimage." --G.R.

Verse 54. -- The cheerful pilgrim.

  1. A good man views his residence in this world as only the house of his pilgrimage.
  2. The situation, however disadvantageous, admits of cheerfulness.
  3. The sources of his joy are derived from the Scriptures. --W. Jay.

Verse 54. -- See "Spurgeon's Sermons," No. 1652: "The Singing Pilgrim."