Psalm 119:89

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 89. For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven. The strain is more joyful, for experience has given the sweet singer a comfortable knowledge of the word of the Lord, and this makes a glad theme. After tossing about on a sea of trouble the Psalmist here leaps to shore and stands upon a rock. Jehovah's word is not fickle nor uncertain; it is settled, determined, fixed, sure, immovable. Man's teachings change so often that there is never time for them to be settled; but the Lord's word is from of old the same, and will remain unchanged eternally. Some men are never happier than when they are unsettling everything and everybody; but God's mind is not with them. The power and glory of heaven have confirmed each sentence which the mouth of the Lord has spoken, and so confirmed it that to all eternity it must stand the same, -- settled in heaven, where nothing can reach it. In the former section David's soul fainted, but here the good man looks out of self and perceives that the Lord fainteth not, neither is weary, neither is there any failure in his word.

The verse takes the form of an ascription of praise: the faithfulness and immutability of God are fit themes for holy song, and when we are tired with gazing upon the shifting scene of this life, the thought of the immutable promise fills our mouth with singing. God's purposes, promises, and precepts are all settled in his own mind, and none of them shall be disturbed. Covenant settlements will not be removed, however unsettled the thoughts of men may become; let us therefore settle it in our minds that we abide in the faith of our Jehovah as long as we have any being.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

LAMED. -- Ver. 89. -- Here the climax of the delineation of the suppliant's pilgrimage is reached. We have arrived at the centre of the psalm, and the thread of the connexion is purposely broken off. The substance of the first eleven strophes has evidently been: "Hitherto hath the Lord brought me: shall it be that I now perish?" To this the eleven succeeding strophes make answer, "The Lord's word changeth not; and in spite of all evil foreboding, the Lord will perfect concerning ms the work that he hath already begun." --Joseph Francis Thruput, 1860.

Verse 89. -- For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven. These words are usually rendered as making but one proposition; but the accent athnab showeth there are two branches; the one asserting the eternity of God; the other, the constancy and permanency of his word. Thus,

  1. "For ever art thou O LORD."
  2. "Thy word is settled in heaven." So the Syriac readeth it; and Geierus, and, after him, others prove and approve this reading. And so this verse and the following do the better correspond one with the other, if we observe beginning and ending: As thou art "for ever, O Lord," and "thy faithfulness is unto all generations," which are exactly parallel. And so also will the last clauses agree: "Thy word is settled in heaven," and, "thou hast established the earth, and it abideth."

It implies that as God is eternal, so is his word, and that it hath a fit representation both in heaven and in earth: in heaven, in the constant motion of the heavenly bodies; in earth, in the consistency and permanency thereof; that as his word doth stand fast in heaven, so doth his faithfulness on earth, where the afflictions of the godly seem to contradict it. -- Thomas Manton.

Verse 89. -- For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven. When Job considers his body turned to dust and worms ( Job 14:19 Job 14:25 ), yet by faith he says, "My Redeemer lives," etc. Even when patience failed in Job, yet faith failed not. Though God kill all other graces and comforts, and my soul too, yet he shall not kill my faith, says lie. If he separate my soul from my body, yet not faith from my soul. And therefore the just lives by faith, rather than by other graces, because when all is gone, yet faith remains, and faith remains because the promise remains: "For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven." And this is the proper and principal meaning of this place. --Matthew Lawrence.

Verse 89. -- For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven. If we look at God's word of promise, as it is in our unsettled hearts, we dream that it's as ready to waver as our hearts are; as the shadow of the sun and moon in the water seems to shake as much as the water doth which it shines upon. Yet for all this seeming shaking here below, the sun and moon go on m a steadfast course in heaven. So the Psalmist tells us that however our hearts stagger at a promise through unbelief, nay, and our unbelief makes us believe that the promise often is shaken; yet God's word is settled, though not in our hearts, yet "in heaven"; yea, and there "for ever," as settled as heaven itself is; yea, more than so; for "heaven and earth may pass," but "not one jot or tittle of the law (and therefore of the gospel) shall fail": Luke 16:17 . --Anthony Tuckney, 1599-1670.

Verse 89. -- Settled. J. M. Good translates the verse as follows -- "For ever, O Jehovah, hath thy word given array to the heavens," and observes that the Hebrew word bcb is a military term, and applies to arraying and marshalling the divisions of an army in their proper stations when taking the field. The hosts of heaven are here supposed to be arrayed or marshalled with a like exact order; and to maintain for ever the relative duties imposed on them: while the earth, like the heavens, has as established a march prescribed to it, which it equally fulfils; for all are the servants of the great Creator; and hence, as they change, produce the beautiful regularity of the seasons, the rich returns of harvest, and daily declare the glory of the Lord.

Verse 89. -- In heaven. Whenever you look to heaven, remember that within you have a God, who hath fixed his residence and shown his glory there, and made it the seat both of his mercy and justice. You have also there a Saviour who, after he had died for our sins, sat down at the right hand of Majesty, to see his promises accomplished, and by his word to subdue the whole world. There are angels that "do his commandment, hearkening to the voice of his word": Psalms 103:20 . There are glorified saints, who see God face to face, and dwell with him for evermore, and came thither by the same covenant which is propounded to us, as the charter of our peace and hope. In the outer region of heaven we see the sun and moon, and all the heavenly bodies, move in that fixed course and order wherein God hath set them; and will God show his constancy in the course of nature, and be fickle and changeable in the covenant of grace, wherein he hath disposed the order and method of his mercies? --Thomas Manton.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 89, 91. -- In these verses there is affirmed to be an analogy between the word of God and the works of God. It is said of his "word," that it is "settled in heaven," and that it sustains its faithfulness from one generation to another. It is said of his "works," and more especially of those that are immediately around us, even of the earth which we inhabit, that as it was established at the first so it abideth afterwards. And then, as if to perfect the assimilation between them, it is said of both in Psalms 119:91 , "They continue this day according to thine ordinances: for all are ray servants"; thereby identifying the sureness of that word which proceeded from his lips, with the unfailing constancy of that Nature which was formed and is upholden by his hands.

The constancy of Nature is taught by universal experience, and even strikes the popular eye as the most characteristic of those features which have been impressed upon her. It may need the aid of philosophy to learn how unvarying Nature is in all her processes -- how even the seeming anomalies can be traced to a law that is inflexible -- how what appears at first to be the caprices of her waywardness, are, in fact, the evolutions of a mechanism that never changes -- and that the more thoroughly she is sifted and put to the test by the interrogations of the curious, the more certainly will they find that she walks by a rule which knows no abatement, and perseveres with obedient footstep in that even course from which the eye of strictest scrutiny has never yet detected one hair breadth of deviation. It is no longer doubted by men of science, that every remaining semblance of irregularity in the universe is due, not to the fickleness of Nature, but to the ignorance of man -- that her most hidden movements are conducted with a uniformity as rigorous as Fate -- that even the fitful agitations of the weather have their law and their principle -- that the intensity of every breeze, and the number of drops in every shower, and the formation of every cloud, and all the occurring alternations of storm and sunshine, and the endless shifting of temperature, and those tremulous varieties of the air which our instruments have enabled us to discover but have not enabled us to explain -- that still, they follow each other by a method of succession, which, though greatly more intricate, is yet as absolute in itself as the order of the seasons, or the mathematical courses of astronomy. This is the impression of every philosophical mind with regard to Nature, and it is strengthened by each new accession that is made to science...But there is enough of patent and palpable regularity in Nature to give also to the popular mind the same impression of her constancy. There is a gross and general experience that teaches the same lesson, and that has lodged in every bosom a kind of secure and steadfast confidence in the uniformity of her processes. The very child knows and proceeds upon it. He is aware of an abiding character and property in the elements around him, and has already learned as much of the fire, and the water, and the food that he eats, and the firm ground that he treads upon, and even of the gravitation by which he must regulate his postures and his movements, as to prove that, infant though he be, he is fully initiated in the doctrine, that Nature has her laws and her ordinances, and that she continueth therein, and the proofs of this are ever multiplying along the journey of human observation; insomuch that when we come to manhood, we read of Nature's constancy throughout every department of the visible world. It meets us wherever we turn our eyes...God has so framed the machinery of my perceptions, as that I am led irresistibly to expect that everywhere events will follow each other in the very train in which I have ever been accustomed to observe them; and when God so sustains the uniformity of Nature, that in every instance it is rigidly so, he is just manifesting the faithfulness of his character. Were it otherwise, he would be practising a mockery on the expectation which he himself had inspired. God may be said to have promised to every human being that Nature will be constant -- if not by the whisper of an inward voice to every heart, at least by the force of an uncontrollable bias which he has impressed on every constitution. So that, when we behold Nature keeping up its constancy, we behold the God of Nature keeping up his faithfulness; and the system of visible things with its general laws, and its successions which are invariable, instead of an opaque materialism to intercept from the view of mortals the face of the Divinity, becomes the mirror which reflects upon the truth that is unchangeable, the ordination that never fails...And so it is, that in our text there are presented together, as if there was a tie of likeness between them -- that the same God who is fixed as to the ordinances of Nature, is faithful as to the declarations of his word; and as all experience proves how firmly he may be trusted for the one, so is there an argument as strong as experience, to prove how firmly he may be trusted for the other. By his work in us he hath awakened the expectation of a constancy in Nature, which he never disappoints. By his word to us, should he awaken the expectation of a certainty in his declarations, this he will never disappoint. It is because Nature is so fixed, that we apprehend the God of Nature to be so faithful. He who never falsities the hope that hath arisen in every bosom, from the instinct which he himself hath communicated, will never falsify the hope that shall arise in any bosom from the express utterance of his voice. Were he a God in whose hand the processes of nature were ever shifting, then might we conceive him a God from whose mouth the proclamations of grace had the like characters of variance and vacillation. But it is just because of our reliance on the one that we feel so much of repose in our dependence upon the other; and the same God who is so unfailing in the ordinances of his creation, we hold to be equally unfailing in the ordinances of his word. --Thomas Chalmers.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Outlines Upon Keywords of the Psalm, By Pastor C. A. Davis.

Verse 89-96. -- The immutable word of God. Is enthroned in heaven ( Psalms 119:89 ), and on earth ( Psalms 119:90-91 ), is the salvation of the believer in affliction ( Psalms 119:92 Psalms 119:94 ), His resource in danger ( Psalms 119:95 ), and the embodiment of perfection ( Psalms 119:96 ).

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 89-92. -- The Psalmist here tells us the prescription which soothed his pains and sustained his spirits. Here we have strong consolation.

  1. In certain facts which he remembered.
(a) The eternal existence of God.
(b) The immutability of his word.
(c) The faithfulness of the fulfilment of that word.
(d) The perpetuity of the word in nature.
(e) The perpetuity of the word in experience.

  1. The delights which tie experienced in the time of his trouble. In bereavements; when everything seemed shifting and inconstant; when his own faith failed him; when all helpers failed him; he fell back upon the eternal settlements: "O Lord, thy word is settled," etc. See "Spurgeon's Sermons," No. 1656: "My Solace in my Affliction."

Verse 89. -- Eternal settlements, or, heavenly certainties.

Verse 89. -- God's eternal calm (in contrast with earth's mutations) imaged in the starry heavens. --William Bickle Haynes, of Stafford, 1882.

Verse 89. -- Consider,

  1. The term, "thy word."
(a) A word is a revealed thought. The Scriptures are just
this: the thoughts and purposes of God made intelligible to
man.
(b) But a "word" also marks specially unity (it is one
word) and wholeness or completeness, a word, not a
syllable. The Scriptures are one and complete.

  1. The statement, "for ever settled in heaven."
(a) "Settled in heaven" before it came to earth; therefore
it could come as a continuous unfolding, through various
dispensations, without the shadow of hesitation or
contradiction manifest in it.
(b) Abides "settled in heaven," for its central revelation;
the atonement is a completed fact, and Christ is now in
heaven a perfected Saviour; thus the word is unalterable.
(c) "For ever settled in heaven." Not only because God in
heaven is of one mind and cannot be turned; but because
righteousness itself, the righteousness of heaven,
demands that an atonement by suffering shall be fully and
everlastingly answered by its due reward.

  1. The lessons.
(a) If settled in heaven, men on earth can never unsettle
it.
(b) The wicked may not indulge a future hope arising from
any new dispensation beyond the grave; God's present word
to us cannot then be unsettled.
(c) The godly may rely on a settled word amidst the
unsettled experiences and feelings incident to earth. --J.F.