Psalm 119:59

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 59. I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. While studying the word he was led to study his own life, and this caused a mighty revolution. He came to the word, and then he came to himself, and this made him arise and go to his Father. Consideration is the commencement of conversion: first we think and then we turn. When the mind repents of ill ways the feet are soon led into good ways; but there will be no repenting until there is deep, earnest thought. Many men are averse to thought of any kind, and as to thought upon their ways, they cannot endure it, for their ways will not bear thinking of. David's ways had not been all that he could have wished them to be, and so his thoughts were sobered over with the pale cast of regret; but he did not end with idle lamentations, he set about a practical amendment; he turned and returned, he sought the testimonies of the Lord, and hastened to enjoy once more the conscious favour of his heavenly friend. Action without thought is folly, and thought without action is sloth: to think carefully and then to act promptly is a happy combination. He had entreated for renewed fellowship, and now he proved the genuineness of his desire by renewed obedience. If we are in the dark, and mourn an absent God, our wisest method will be not so much to think upon our sorrows as upon our ways: though we cannot turn the course of providence, we can turn the way of our walking, and this will soon mend matters. If we can get our feet right as to holy walking, we shall soon get our hearts right as to happy living. God will turn to his saints when they turn to him; yea, he has already favoured them with the light of his face when they begin to think and turn.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 59. -- I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. The transition which is made in the text from the occasion of this alteration, "I thought on my ways," to the change itself, is very lofty and elegant. He does not tell us that, after a review of them, he saw the folly and danger of sin, the debasedness of its pleasures, and the poison of its delights; or that, upon a search into God's law, he was convinced that what he imagined so severe, rigid, and frightful before, was now all amiable and lovely; no, but immediately adds, "I turned my feet unto thy testimonies"; than which I can conceive nothing more noble or strong; for it emphatically says, that there was no need to express the appearance his ways had when once he thought upon them. What must be the consequence of his deliberation was so plain, namely, that sin never prevails but where it is masked over with some false beauties, and the inconsiderate, foolish sinner credulously gives ear to its enchantments, and is not at pains and care to enquire into them; for a deep, thorough search would soon discover that its fairest appearances are but lying vanities, and that he who is captivated with that empty show is in the same circumstances with a person in a dream, who can please himself with his fancy only while asleep, and that his awakening out of it no sooner or more certainly discovers the cheat, than a serious thinking upon the ways of iniquity and rebellion against God will manifest the fatal madness of men in ever pursuing them. --William Dunlop, 1692-1720.

Verse 59. -- I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. Some translate the original, I looked on both sides upon my ways, I considered them every way, "and turned my feet unto thy testimonies" I considered that I was wandering like a lost sheep, and then I returned. --George Swinnock.

Verse 59. -- I thought on my ways, etc. The Hebrew word bct that is here used for thinking, signifies to think on a man's ways accurately, advisedly, seriously, studiously, curiously. This holy man of God thought exactly and curiously on all his purposes and practices, on all his doings and sayings, on all his words and works, and finding too many of them to be short of the rule, yea, to be against the rule, he turned his feet to God's testimonies; having found out his errors, upon a diligent search, a strict scrutiny, he turned over a new leaf, and framed his course more exactly by rule. O Christians, you must look as well to your spiritual wants as to your spiritual enjoyments; you must look as well to your layings out as to your layings up; you must look as well forward to what you should be, as backward to what you are. Certainly that Christian will never be eminent in holiness that hath many eyes to behold a little holiness, and never an eye to see his further want of holiness. --Thomas Brooks.

Verse 59. -- I thought on my ways. The word signifies a fixed, abiding thought. Some make it an allusion to those that work embroidery; that are very exact and careful to cover the least flaw; or to those that cast accounts. Reckon with yourselves, What do I owe? what am I worth? "I thought" not only on my wealth, as the covetous man, Psalms 69:11 ; but "on my ways"; not what I have, but what I do; because what we do will follow us into another world, when what we have must be left behind. Many are critical enough in their remarks upon other people's ways that never think of their own, but "let every man prove his own work."

This account which David here gives of himself may refer either to his constant practice every day; he reflected on his ways at night, directed his feet to God's testimonies in the morning, and what his hand found to do that was good he did it without delay: or it may refer to his first acquaintance with God and religion, when he began to throw off the vanity of childhood and youth, and to remember his Creator; that blessed change was by the grace of God thus wrought. Note,

  1. Conversion begins in serious consideration; Ezekiel 18:28 ; Luke 15:17 .
  2. Consideration must end in a sound conversion. To what purpose have we thought on our ways, if we do not turn our feet with all speed to God's testimonies? --Matthew Henry.

Verse 59. -- I thought on my ways. Be frequent in this work of serious consideration. If daily you called yourselves to an account, all acts of grace would thrive the better. Seneca asked of Sextius, Quod hodie malum sanasti? cui vitio obstitisti? You have God's example in reviewing every day's work, and in dealing with Adam before he slept. The man that was unclean was to wash his clothes at eventide. --Thomas Manton.

Verse 59. -- I thought on my ways, etc. Poisons may be made curable. Let the thoughts of old sins stir up a commotion of anger and hatred. We shiver in our spirits, and a motion in our blood, at the very thought of a bitter potion we have formerly taken. Why may we not do that spiritually, which the very frame and constitution of our bodies doth naturally, upon the calling a loathsome thing to mind? The Romans' sins were transient, but the shame was renewed every time they reflected on them: Romans 6:21 , "Whereof ye are now ashamed." They reacted the detestation instead of the pleasure: so should the reviving of old sins in our memories be entertained with our sighs, rather than with joy. We should also manage the opportunity, so as to promote some further degrees of our conversion: "I thought or, my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies." There is not the most hellish motion, but we may strike some sparks from it, to kindle our love to God, renew our repentance, raise our thankfulness, or quicken our obedience. --Stephen Charnock.

Verse 59. -- And turned my feet unto thy testimonies. Mentioning this passage, Philip Henry observed, that the great turn to be made in heart and life is, from all other things to the word of God. Conversion turns us to the word of God, as our touchstone, to examine ourselves, our state, our ways, spirits, doctrines, worships, customs; as our glass, to dress by, James 1; as our rule to walk and work by, Galatians 6:16 ; as our water, to wash us, Psalms 119:9 ; as our fire to warm us, Luke 24:32 ; as our food to nourish us, Job 23:12 ; as our sword to fight with, Ephesians 6:13-17 ; as our counsellor, in all our doubts, Psalms 119:24 ; as our cordial, to comfort us; as our heritage, to enrich us.

Verse 59. -- And turned my feet unto thy testimonies. No itinerary to the heavenly city is simpler or fuller than the ready answer made by an English prelate to a scoffer who asked him the way to heaven; "First turn to the right, and keep straight on." --Neale and Littledale.

Verse 59. -- And turned. Turn to God, and he will turn to you; then you are happy, though all the world turn against you. --John Mason.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 59. --

  1. Self examination: "I thought on" my private "ways" -- my social ways -- my sacred ways -- my public ways.
  2. Its advantages: "And turned my feet," etc. --G.R.

Verse 59. --

  1. Unthinking and straying.
  2. Thinking and turning. --C.A.D.

Verse 59. --

  1. Conviction.
  2. Conversion. --W. D.

Verse 59. -- Thinking on our own ways. Enquire,

  1. Why so generally neglected?
(a) Want of courage.
(b) Occupied too much.
(c) Unpleasant, and therefore the chief care of many is to
banish it.

  1. When is it wisely conducted?
(a) When honestly engaged in.
(b) When thoroughly carried out.
(c) When Scripture is made the referee and standard.

  1. When Divine help is sought.
  2. What end will it serve?
(a) Turn us from our own ways with shame and penitence.
(b) Turn us to God's testimonies with earnestness,
reverence, and hopefulness. --J.F.

Verse 59. --

  1. Right thinking: "I thought on my ways."
(a) That this thought upon his ways caused the Psalmist
dissatisfaction is evident.
(b) Right thinking upon our ways will suggest a practical
change.
(c) The retrospect we take of our life should suggest that
any turn we make should be towards God: "Unto thy testimonies."
(d) Right thinking also suggests that such a turning is
possible.

  1. Right turning. The turn was --
(a) Complete.
(b) Practical.
(c) Spiritual.
(d) Immediate.
(e) It must be a divine work. See "Spurgeon's Sermons," No.
1181: "Thinking and Turning."