We have now come to the tenth portion, which in each stanza begins with Jod, but it certainly does not treat of jots and titles and other trifles. Its subject would seem to be personal experience and its attractive influence upon others. The prophet is in deep sorrow, but looks to be delivered and made a blessing. Endeavouring to teach, the Psalmist first seeks to be taught (verse 73), persuades Himself that he will be well received (74), and rehearses the testimony which he intends to bear (75). He prays for more experience (76, 77), for the baffling of the proud (78), for the gathering together of the godly to him (79), and for himself again that he may be fully equipped for his witness bearing and may be sustained in it (80). This is the anxious yet hopeful cry of one who is heavily afflicted by cruel adversaries, and therefore makes his appeal to God as his only friend.
Verse 73. Thy hands have made me and fashioned me. It is profitable to remember our creation, it is pleasant to see that the divine hand has had much to do with us, for it never moves apart from the divine thought. It excites reverence, gratitude, and affection towards God when we view him as our Maker, putting forth the careful skill and power of his hands in our forming and fashioning. He took a personal interest in us, making us with his own hands; he was doubly thoughtful, for he is represented both as making and moulding us. In both giving existence and arranging existence he manifested love and wisdom; and therefore we find reasons for praise, confidence, and expectation in our being and well being.
Give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments. As thou hast made me, teach me. Here is the vessel which thou hast fashioned; Lord, fill it. Thou hast given me both soul and body; grant me now thy grace that my soul may know thy will, and my body may join in the performance of it. The plea is very forcible; it is an enlargement of the cry, "Forsake not the work of thine own hands." Without understanding the divine law and rendering obedience to it we are imperfect and useless; but we may reasonably hope that the great Potter will complete his work and give the finishing touch to it by imparting to it sacred knowledge and holy practice. If God had roughly made us, and had not also elaborately fashioned us, this argument would lose much of its force; but surely from the delicate art and marvellous skill which the Lord has shown in the formation of the human body, we may infer that he is prepared to take equal pains with the soul till it shall perfectly bear his image.
A man without a mind is an idiot, the mere mockery of a man; and a mind without grace is wicked, the sad perversion of a mind. We pray that we may not be left without a spiritual judgment: for this the Psalmist prayed in verse 66, and he here pleads for it again; there is no true knowing and keeping of the commandments without it. Fools can sin; but only those who are taught of God can be holy. We often speak of gifted men; but he has the best gifts to whom God has given a sanctified understanding wherewith to know and prize the ways of the Lord. Note well that David's prayer for understanding is not for the sake of speculative knowledge, and the gratification of his curiosity: he desires an enlightened judgment that he may learn God's commandments, and so become obedient and holy. This is the best of learning. A man may abide in the College where this science is taught all his days, and yet cry out for ability to learn more. The commandment of God is exceeding broad, and so it affords scope for the most vigorous and instructed mind: in fact, no man has by nature an understanding capable of compassing so wide a field, and hence the prayer, "give me understanding"; -- as much as to say -- I can learn other things with the mind I have, but thy law is so pure, so perfect, spiritual and sublime, that I need to have my mind enlarged before I can become proficient in it. He appeals to his Maker to do this, as if he felt that no power short of that which made him could make him wise unto holiness. We need a new creation, and who can grant us that but the Creator himself? He who made us to live must make us to learn; he who gave us power to stand must give us grace to understand. Let us each one breathe to heaven the prayer of this verse ere we advance a step further, for we shall be lost even in these petitions unless we pray our way through them, and cry to God for understanding.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
In this section each verse begins with the Hebrew letter Jori, or i, the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet, called in Matthew 5:18 , jot; one jot or tittle shall in no wise pass from the law. --Albert Barnes.
Verse 73-80. -- The usual account of this section, as given by the medieval theologians, is that it is the prayer of man to be restored to his state of original innocence and wisdom by being conformed to the image of Christ. And this squares with the obvious meaning, which is partly a petition for divine grace and partly an assertion that the example of piety and resignation in trouble is attractive enough to draw men's hearts on towards God, a truth set forth at once by the Passion, and by the lives of all those saints who have tried to follow it. --Neale and Littledale.
Verse 73. -- Thy hands have made me and fashioned me, etc. This verse hath a petition for understanding, and a reason with it: I am the workmanship of thine hands, therefore give me understanding. There is no man but favours the works of his hands. And shall not the. Lord much more love his creatures, especially man, his most excellent creature? Whom, if ye consider according to the fashion of his body, ye shall find nothing on earth more precious than he; but in that which is not seen, namely, his soul, he is much more beautiful. So you see, David's reasoning is very effectual; all one as if he should say as he doth elsewhere, "Forsake not, O Lord, the work of thine hands"; thou art my author and maker; thine help I seek, and the help of none other.
No man can rightly seek good things from God, if he consider not what good the Lord hath already done to him. But many are in this point so ignorant, that they know not how wonderfully God did make them; and therefore can neither bless him, nor seek from him, as from their Creator and Conserver. But this argument, drawn from our first creation, no man can rightly use, but he who is through grace partaker of the second creation; for all the privileges of our first creation we have lost by our fall. So that now by nature it is no comfort to us, nor matter of our hope, that God did make us; but rather matter of our fear and distrust, that we have mismade ourselves, have lost his image, and are not now like unto that which God created us in the beginning. --William Cowper.
Verse 73. -- Thy hands have made me and fashioned me, etc. Mark here two things: first, that in making his prayer for holy understanding, he justly accuseth himself and all others of blindness, which proceeded not from the Creator, but from man corrupted. Secondly, that even from his creation he conceived hope that God would continue his work begun in him, because God leaveth not his work, and therefore he begs God to bestow new grace upon him, and to finish that which he had begun in him. --Thomas Wilcocks, 1586.
Verse 73. -- Hugo ingeniously notices in the different verbs of this verse the particular vices to be shunned: ingratitude, when it is said, "Thy hands have made me"; pride, "and fashioned me"; confidence in his own judgment, "give me understanding"; prying inquisitiveness, "that I may learn thy commandments."
Verse 73. -- Thy hands. Hilary and Ambrose think that by the plural "hands" is intimated that there is a more exact and perfect workmanship in man, and as if it were with greater labour and skill he had been formed by God, because after the image and likeness to God: and that it is not written that any other thing but man was made by God with both hands, for he saith in Isaiah, "Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth": Isa 48:13. --John Lorinus, 1569-1634.
This, however, is an error, as Augustine notes; for it is written, "The heavens are the work of thine hands." Psalms 102:25 . --C.H.S.
Verse 73. -- Thy hands. Oh, look upon the wounds of thine hands, and forget not the work of thine hands: so Queen Elizabeth prayed. --John Trapp.
Verse 73. -- Some refer the verb hyhn, "made," to the soul, yhnv, "fashioned," to the body. -- D.H. Mollerus.
Verse 73. -- Made me and fashioned me: give me understanding. The greatness of God is no hindrance to his intercourse with us, for one special part of the divine greatness is to be able to condescend to the littleness of created beings, seeing that creaturehood must, from its very name, have this littleness; inasmuch as God must ever be God, and man must ever be man: the ocean must ever be the ocean, the drop must ever be the drop. The greatness of God compassing our littleness about, as the heavens the earth, and fitting into it on every side, as the air into all parts of the earth, is that which makes the intercourse so complete and blessed: "In his hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind" ( Job 12:10 ). Such is his nearness to, such is his intimacy with, the works of his hands. It is nearness, not distance, that the name Creator implies; and the simple fact of his having made us is the assurance of his desire to bless us and to hold intercourse with us. Communication between the thing made and its maker is involved in the very idea of creation. "Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give we understanding, that I may learn thy commandments." "Faithful Creator" is his name ( 1 Peter 4:19 ), and as such we appeal to him, "Forsake not the work of thine own hands" ( Psalms 138:8 ). -- Horatius Bonar, in "The Rent Veil", 1875.
Verse 73. -- Give we understanding, etc. The book of God is like the apothecary's shop, there is no wound but therein is a remedy; but if a stranger come unto the apothecary's shop, though all these things be there, vet he cannot tell where they are, but the apothecary himself knoweth; so in the Scriptures, there are cures for any infirmities; there is comfort against any sorrows, and by conferring chapter with chapter, we shall understand them. The Scriptures are not wanting to us, but we to ourselves; let us be conversant in them, and we shall understand them, when great clerks who are negligent remain in darkness. --Richard Stock.
Verse 73. -- Give me understanding. Let us pray unto God that he would open our understandings, that as he hath given us consciences to guide us, so also he would give eyes to these guides that they may be able to direct us aright. The truth is, it is God only that can soundly enlighten our consciences; and therefore let us pray unto him to do it. All our studying, and hearing, and reading, and conferring will never be able to do it; it is only in the power of him who made us to do it. He who made our consciences, he only can give them this heavenly light of true knowledge and right understanding; and therefore let us seek earnestly to him for it. --William Fenner, 1600-1640.
Verse 73. -- That I may learn thy commandments. That he might learn them so as to know the sense and meaning of them, their purity and spirituality; and so as to do them from a principle of love, in faith, and to the glory of God: for it is not a bare learning of them by heart or committing them to memory, nor a mere theory of them, but the practice of them in faith and love, which is here meant. --John Gill.
Verse 73-74. -- From these verses, learn,
- Albeit nothing can satisfy unbelief, yet true faith will make use of the most common benefit of creation to strengthen itself: "Thine hands have made me and fashioned me."
- It is a good way of reasoning with God, to ask another gift, because we have received one; and because he hath given common benefits, to ask that he would give us also saving graces: "Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments."
- Seeing that God is our Creator, and that the end of our creation is to serve God, we may confidently ask whatsoever grace may enable us to serve him, as the Psalmist's example doth teach us...
- It should be the joy of all believers to see one of their number sustained and borne up in his sufferings; for in the proof and example of one sufferer a pawn is given to all the rest, that God will help them in like case: "They that fear thee will be glad when they see me." --David Dickson.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Outlines Upon Keywords of the Psalm, By Pastor C. A. Davis.
Verse 73-80. -- Natural and spiritual creation. The Psalmist prays to the Creator for spiritual life or "understanding" ( Psalms 119:73 ), he will then be welcomed by the spiritual ( Psalms 119:74 ). He submissively receives affliction for spiritual training ( Psalms 119:75-77 ), deprecates the hostility of the proud ( Psalms 119:78 ), craves the company of the spiritual ( Psalms 119:79 ), and prays for heart soundness ( Psalms 119:80 ).
Verse 73. --
- Consider the Lord's great care in our creation.
- See in it a reason for his perfecting the new creation within us.
- Observe the method of this perfecting.