Psalm 139:17

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 17. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! He is not alarmed at the fact that God knows all about him; on the contrary, he is comforted, and even feels himself to be enriched, as with a casket of precious jewels. That God should think upon him is the believer's treasure and pleasure. He cries, "How costly, how valued are thy thoughts, how dear to me is thy perpetual attention!" He thinks upon God's thoughts with delight; the more of them the better is he pleased. It is a joy worth worlds that the Lord should think upon us who are so poor and needy: it is a joy which fills our whole nature to think upon God; returning love for love, thought for thought, after our poor fashion.

How great is the sum of them! When we remember that God thought upon us from old eternity, continues to think upon us every moment, and will think of us when time shall be no more, we may well exclaim, "How great is the sum!" Thoughts such as are natural to the Creator, the Preserver, the Redeemer, the Father, the Friend, are evermore flowing from the heart of the Lord. Thoughts of our pardon, renewal, upholding, supplying, educating, perfecting, and a thousand more kinds perpetually well up in the mind of the Most High. It should fill us with adoring wonder and reverent surprise that the infinite mind of God should turn so many thoughts towards us who are so insignificant and so unworthy! What a contrast is all this to the notion of those who deny the existence of a personal, conscious God! Imagine a world without a thinking, personal God! Conceive of a grim providence of machinery! -- a fatherhood of law! Such philosophy is hard and cold. As well might a man pillow his head upon a razor edge as seek rest in such a fancy. But a God always thinking of us makes a happy world, a rich life, a heavenly hereafter.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 17. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, etc. So far from thinking it a hardship to be subject to this scrutiny, he counts it a most valuable privilege. However others may regard this truth, "to me", my judgment and my feelings, "how costly" valuable "are thy thoughts", i.e. thy perpetual attention to me. --Joseph Addison Alexander.

Verse 17. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How cold and poor are our warmest thoughts towards God! How unspeakably loving and gloriously rich are his thoughts towards us! Compare Ephesians 1:18 : "The riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints." --A.R. Fausset.

Verse 17. How precious ... how great is the sum of them? Our comforts vie with the number of our sorrows, and win the game. The mercies of God passed over in a gross sum breed no admiration; but cast up the particulars, and then arithmetic is too dull an art to number them. As many dusts as a man's hands can hold, is but his handful of so many dusts; but tell them one by one, and they exceed all numeration. It was but a crown which king Solomon wore; but weigh the gold, tell the precious stones, value the richness of them, and what was it then? --Thomas Adams.

Verse 17-18. Behold David's love to God; sleeping and waking his mind runs upon him. There needs no arguments to bring those to our remembrance whom we love. We neglect ourselves to think upon them. A man in love wastes his spirits, vexes his mind, neglects his meat, regards not his business, his mind still feels on that he loves. When men love that they should not, there is more need of a bridle to keep them from thinking of it, than of spurs to keep them to it. Try thy love of God by this. If thou thinkest not often of God, thou lovest him not. If thou canst not satisfy thyself with profits, pleasures, friends, and other worldly objects, but thou must turn other businesses aside, that thou mayest daily think of God, then thou lovest him. --Francis Taylor, in "God's Glory in Man's Happiness", 1654.

Verse 17-18. Mercies are either ordinary or extraordinary -- our common necessaries, or the remarkable supplies which we receive now and then at the hand of God. Thou must not only praise him for some extraordinary mercy, that comes with such pomp and observation that all thy neighbours take notice of it with thee, as the mercy which Zacharias and Elizabeth had in their son, that was noised about all the country ( Luke 1:65 ); but also for ordinary every day mercies: for first, we are unworthy of the least mercy (Ge 32:10), and therefore God is worthy of praise for the least, because it is more than he owes us. Secondly, these common, ordinary mercies are many. Thus David enhances the mercies of this kind, -- O God, how great is the sum of them. "If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand; when I wake I am still with thee." As if he had said, There is not a point of time wherein thou art not doing me good; as soon as I open my eyes in the morning I have a new theme, in some fresh mercies given since I closed them over night, to employ my meditations that are full of praise. Many little items make together a great sum. What is lighter than a grain of sand, yet what is heavier than the sand upon the seashore? As little sins (such as vain thoughts and idle words), because of their multitude, arise to a great guilt, and will bring in a long bill, a heavy reckoning at last; so, ordinary mercies, what they want in their size of some other great mercies, have compensated it in their number. Who will not say that a man shows greater kindness in maintaining one at his table with ordinary fare all the year than in entertaining him at a great feast twice or thrice in the same time? --William Gurnall.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 17-18. The Psalm dilates upon the omniscience of God. In no mournful manner, but the reverse.

  1. God's thoughts of us.

    1. How certain.
    2. How numerous.
    3. How condescending.
    4. How tender.
    5. How wise.
    6. How practical.
    7. How constant.
  2. Our thoughts upon his thoughts.

    1. How late and yet how due to the subject.
    2. How delightful.
    3. How consoling.
    4. How strengthening to faith.
    5. How arousing to love.
  3. Our thoughts upon God himself.

    1. They place us near God.
    2. They keep us near God.
    3. They restore us to him. We are with God when we awake from sleep, from lethargy, from death.

Verse 17-18.

  1. The saint precious to God. He thinks of him tenderly; in countless ways; perpetually.
  2. God precious to the saints. Noting God's loving kindnesses, numbering them, newly awakening to them.
  3. The mingling of these loves: "I am still with thee."

--W.B.H.