Psalm 119:72

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 72. The law of thy mouth. A sweetly expressive name for the word of God. It comes from God's own mouth with freshness and power to our souls. Things written are as dried herbs; but speech has a liveliness and dew about it. We do well to look upon the word of the Lord as though it were newly spoken into our ear; for in very truth it is not decayed by years, but is as forcible and sure as though newly uttered. Precepts are prized when it is seen that they come forth from the lips of our Father who is in heaven. The same lips which spoke us into existence have spoken the law by which we are to govern that existence. Whence could a law so sweetly proceed as from the mouth of our covenant God? Well may we prize beyond all price that which comes from such a source.

Is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver. If a poor man had said this, the world's witlings would have hinted that the grapes are sour, and that men who have no wealth are the first to despise it; but this is the verdict of a man who owned his thousands, and could judge by actual experience of the value of money and the value of truth. He speaks of great riches, he heaps it up by thousands, he mentions the varieties of its forms, -- "gold and silver"; and then he sets the word of God before it all, as better to him, even if others did not think it better to them. Wealth is good in some respects, but obedience is better in all respects. It is well to keep the treasures of this life; but far more commendable to keep the law of the Lord. The law is better than gold and silver, for these may be stolen from us, but not the word; these take to themselves wings, but the word of God remains; these are useless in the hour of death, but then it is that the promise is most dear. Instructed Christians recognize the value of the Lord's word, and warmly express it, not only in their testimony to their fellow men, but in their devotions to God. It is a sure sign of a heart which has learned God's statutes when it prizes them above all earthly possessions; and it is an equally certain mark of grace when the precepts of Scripture are as precious as its promises. The Lord cause us thus to prize the law of his mouth.

See how this portion of the psalm is flavoured with goodness. God's dealings are good ( Psalms 119:65 ), holy judgment is good ( Psalms 119:66 ), affliction is good ( Psalms 119:67 ), God is good ( Psalms 119:68 ), and here the law is not only good, but better than the best of treasure. Lord, make us good, through thy good word. Amen.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 72. -- The law of thy mouth is better unto me, etc. Highly prize the Scriptures. Can he make a proficiency in any art, who doth slight and deprecate it? Prize this book of God above all other books. St. Gregory calls the Bible "the heart and soul of God." The rabbins say, that a mountain of sense hangs upon every apex and title of Scripture. "The law of the Lord is perfect": Psalms 19:7 . The Scripture is the library of the Holy Ghost; it is a pandect of divine knowledge, an exact model and platform of religion. The Scripture contains in it the credenda, "the things which we are to believe," and the agenda, "the things which we are to practise." It is "able to make us wise unto salvation": 2 Timothy 3:15 . The Scripture is the standard of truth, the judge of controversies; it is the pole star to direct us to heaven: Isa 8:20. "The commandment is a lamp": Proverbs 6:23 . The Scripture is the compass by which the rudder of our will is to be steered; it is the field in which Christ, the Pearl of price, is hid; it is a rock of diamonds; it is a sacred collyrium, or eyesalve; it mends their eyes that look upon it; it is a spiritual optic glass in which the glory of God is resplendent; it is the panacy, or universal medicine for the soul. The leaves of Scripture are like the "leaves of the tree of life, for the healing of the nations": Revelation 22:2 . The Scripture is both the breeder and feeder of grace. How is the convert born, but by "the word of truth"? James 1:18 . How doth he grow, but by "the sincere milk of the word"? 1 Peter 2:2 . The word written is the book out of which our evidences for heaven are fetched; it is the sea mark which shows us the rocks of sin to avoid; it is the antidote against error and apostasy, the two edged sword which wounds the old serpent. It is our bulwark to withstand the force of lust; like the Capitol of Rome, which was a place of strength and ammunition. The Scripture is the "tower of David," wherein the shields of our faith hang: Song of Solomon 4:4 . "Take away the word and you deprive us of the sun," said Luther. The word written is above an angelic embassy, or voice from heaven. "This voice which came from heaven we heard... We have also a more sure Word": 2 Peter 1:18 2 Peter 1:19 . O, prize the word written; prizing is the way to profiting. If Caesar so valued his commentaries, that for preserving them he lost his purple robe, how should we estimate the sacred oracles of God? "I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food." --Thomas Watson, in "The Morning Exercises".

Verse 72. -- The law of thy mouth is better unto me. The sacred Scriptures are the treasures and pleasures of a gracious soul: to David they were better than thousands of gold and silver. A mountain of transparent pearls, heaped as high as heaven, is not so rich in treasure as these; hence that good man chose these as his heritage for ever, and rejoiced in them as in all riches. A covetous miser could not take such delight in his bags, nor a young heir in a large inheritance, as holy David did in God's word.

The word law comes from a root that signifies to try as merchants that search and prove the wares that they buy and lay up; hence also comes the word for gems and jewels that are tried, and found right. The sound Christian is the wise merchant, seeking goodly pearls; he tries what he reads or hears by the standard or touchstone of Scripture, and having found genuine truths he lays them up to the great enriching of this supreme and sovereign faculty of the understanding. --Oliver Heywood.

Verse 72. -- The word of God must be nearer to us than our friends, dearer to us than our lives, sweeter to us than our liberty, and more pleasant to us than all earthly comforts. -- John Mason.

Verse 72. -- One lesson, taught by sanctified affliction, is, the love of God's word. "This is my comfort, in my affliction: thy word hath quickened me." In reading a part of the one hundred and nineteenth psalm to Miss Westbrook, who died, she said, "Stop, sir, I never said so much to you before -- I never could; but now I can say, `The word of thy mouth, is dearer to me, than thousands of gold and silver.' What can gold and silver do for me by now?" --George Redford, in "Memoirs of the late Rev. John Cooke", 1828.

Verse 72. -- Thousands of gold and silver. Worldly riches are gotten with labour, kept with care, lost with grief. They are false friends, farthest from us when we have most need of comfort; as all worldlings shall find to be true in the hour of death. For then, as Jonah's gourd was taken from him in a morning, when he had most need of it against the sun; so is it with the comfort of worldlings. It is far otherwise with the word of God; for if we will lay it up in our hearts, as Mary did, the comfort thereof shall sustain us, when all other comfort shall fail us.

This it is that makes us rich unto God, when our souls are storehouses, filled with the treasures of his word. Shall we think it poverty to be scant of gold and silver? "An ideo angelus pauperest, quia non habet jumenta", etc (Chrysostom). Shall we esteem the angels poor, because they have not flocks of cattle? or that S. Peter was poor, because he had not gold nor silver to give unto the cripple? No, he had store of grace, by infinite degrees more excellent than it.

Let the riches of gold be left unto worldlings: these are not current: in Canaan, not accounted of in our heavenly country. If we would be in any estimation there, let us enrich our souls with spiritual graces, which we have in abundance in the mines and treasures of the word of God. --William Cowper.

Verse 72. -- The Scripture is an ever overflowing fountain that cannot be drawn dry, and an inexhausted treasure that cannot be emptied. To this purpose tend those resemblances of the law made use of by David in this psalm, and no less justly applicable to the gospel; it is not only better than "gold and silver," which are things of value, but "thousands", which implies abundance. In another verse he compares it to all riches and great spoil, both which contain in them multiplex genus, all sorts of valuable commodities, sheep, oxen, lands, houses, garments, goods, moneys, and the like: thus are all sorts of spiritual riches, yea, abundance of each sort, to be had in the gospel. And therefore the Greek fathers compare Scripture verities to precious stones, and our Saviour to a pearl of great price. A minister, in this respect, is called a merchant of invaluable jewels; for, indeed, gospel truths are choice and excellent, as much worth as our souls, as heaven, as salvation is. Nay, should I go higher, look what worth there is in the riches of God's grace, the precious blood of Christ, that may secondarily be applied to the gospel, which discovereth and offereth both to us. --Abraham Wright.

Verse 72,127. -- When David saw how some make void the law of God, he saith, "Therefore I love thy commandments above gold: yea, above fine gold." As if he had said, I love thy law all the more because I see some men esteem and reckon it as if it were dross, and throw it up as void and antiquated, or taking the boldness, as it were, to repeal and make it void, that they may set up their own lusts and vain imaginations. Because I see both profane and superstitious men thus out of love with thy law, therefore my love is more enfamed to it, "I love it above gold," which leads the most of men away captives in the love of it; and I esteem it more than that which is most esteemed by men, and gains men most esteem in this world, "fine gold"; yea, as he said ( Psalms 19:10 ) "more than much fine gold." --Joseph Caryl.

Verse 72. -- You that are gentlemen, remember what Hierom reports of Nepotianus, a young gentleman of Rome, qui longs et assidua meditatione Scripturarum pectus suum feterat bibliothecam Christi, who by long and assiduous meditation of the Scriptures, made his breast the library of Christ. Remember what is said of King Alfonsus, that he read over the Bible fourteen times, together with such commentaries as those times afforded.

You that are scholars, remember Cranmer and Ridley; the former learned the New Testament by heart in his journey to Rome, the latter in Pembroke hall walks in Cambridge. Remember what is said of Thomas a Kempis, -- that he found rest nowhere nisi in angulo, cum libello, but in a corner with this Book in his hand. And what is said of Beza, -- that when he was above fourscore years old he could say perfectly by heart any Greek chapter in Paul's Epistles.

You that are women, consider what Hierom saith of Paula, Eustochiam, and other ladies, who were singularly versed in the Holy Scriptures.

Let all men consider that hyperbolical speech of Luther, that he would not live in Paradise without the Word; and with it he could live well enough in hell. This speech of Luther must be understood cum grano salis. --Edmund Calamy.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 72. -- The advantages of riches far excelled by the blessings of the word.

Verse 72. -- A valuation.

  1. The saints' high estimate of God's law.
  2. Show when it was formed: in affliction: Psalms 119:71 .
  3. Vindicate its truth -- by illustrating the hollowness of riches, and the satisfaction found in godliness. --C.A.D.

Verse 72. -- The word, better than gold and silver.

  1. It gives what gold and silver cannot purchase.
  2. Without what it gives, gold and silver may be a curse.
  3. Without gold and silver, it may yield its treasure more freely and fully than with them.
  4. The word and what it gives shall rejoice the heart when gold and silver shall be useless to their disappointed worshippers. --J.F.

Verse 72. -- The law of thy mouth is better, etc.

  1. It is more refining, and makes me a better man.
  2. It is more enriching, and makes me a wealthier man.
  3. It is more distinguishing, and makes me a greater man.
  4. It is more sustaining, and makes me a stronger man.
  5. It is more preserving, and makes me a safer man.
  6. It is more satisfying, and makes me a happier man.
  7. It is more lasting, and better suited to me as an immortal man. --W.J.