The general scope and design of this psalm is to magnify the Divine law, and make it honourable. There are ten words by which Divine revelation is called in this psalm, and each expresses what God expects from us, and what we may expect from him. 1. God's law; this is enacted by him as our Sovereign. 2. His way; this is the rule of his providence. 3. His testimonies; they are solemnly declared to the world. 4. His commandments; given with authority. 5. His precepts; not left as indifferent matters to us. 6. His word, or saying; it is the declaration of his mind. 7. His judgments; framed in infinite wisdom. 8. His righteousness; it is the rule and standard of what is right. 9. His statutes; they are always binding. 10. His truth or faithfulness; it is eternal truth, it shall endure for ever.
Verses 1-8 This psalm may be considered as the statement of a believer's experience. As far as our views, desires, and affections agree with what is here expressed, they come from the influences of the Holy Spirit, and no further. The pardoning mercy of God in Christ, is the only source of a sinner's happiness. And those are most happy, who are preserved most free from the defilement of sin, who simply believe God's testimonies, and depend on his promises. If the heart be divided between him and the world, it is evil. But the saints carefully avoid all sin; they are conscious of much evil that clogs them in the ways of God, but not of that wickedness which draws them out of those ways. The tempter would make men think they are at them out of those ways. The tempter would make men think they are at liberty to follow the word of God or not, as they please. But the desire and prayer of a good man agree with the will and command of God. If a man expects by obedience in one thing to purchase indulgence for disobedience in others, his hypocrisy will be detected; if he is not ashamed in this world, everlasting shame will be his portion. The psalmist coveted to learn the laws of God, to give God the glory. And believers see that if God forsakes them, the temper will be too hard for them.
Verses 9-16 To original corruption all have added actual sin. The ruin of the young is either living by no rule at all, or choosing false rules: let them walk by Scripture rules. To doubt of our own wisdom and strength, and to depend upon God, proves the purpose of holiness is sincere. God's word is treasure worth laying up, and there is no laying it up safe but in our hearts, that we may oppose God's precepts to the dominion of sin, his promises to its allurements, and his threatenings to its violence. Let this be our plea with Him to teach us his statutes, that, being partakers of his holiness, we may also partake of his blessedness. And those whose hearts are fed with the bread of life, should with their lips feed many. In the way of God's commandments there is the unsearchable riches of Christ. But we do not meditate on God's precepts to good purpose, unless our good thoughts produce good works. I will not only think of thy statutes, but do them with delight. And it will be well to try the sincerity of our obedience by tracing the spring of it; the reality of our love by cheerfulness in appointed duties.
Verses 17-24 If God deals in strict justice with us, we all perish. We ought to spend our lives in his service; we shall find true life in keeping his word. Those that would see the wondrous things of God's law and gospel, must beg him to give them understanding, by the light of his Spirit. Believers feel themselves strangers on earth; they fear missing their way, and losing comfort by erring from God's commandments. Every sanctified soul hungers after the word of God, as food which there is no living without. There is something of pride at the bottom of every wilful sin. God can silence lying lips; reproach and contempt may humble and do us good, and then they shall be removed. Do we find the weight of the cross is above that we are able to bear? He that bore it for us will enable us to bear it; upheld by him we cannot sink. It is sad when those who should protect the innocent, are their betrayers. The psalmist went on in duty, and he found comfort in the word of God. The comforts of the word of God are most pleasant to a gracious soul, when other comforts are made bitter; and those that would have God's testimonies to be their delight, must be advised by them. May the Lord direct us in exercising repentance of sin, and faith in Christ.
Verses 25-32 While the souls of the children of this world cleave to the earth as their portion, the children of light are greatly burdened, because of the remains of carnal affections in their hearts. It is unspeakable comfort to a gracious soul, to think with what tenderness all its complaints are received by a gracious God. We can talk of the wonders of redeeming love, when we understand the way of God's precepts, and walk in that way. The penitent melts in sorrow for sin: even the patient spirit may melt in the sense of affliction, it is then its interest to pour out its soul before God. The way of lying means all false ways by which men deceive themselves and others, or are deceived by Satan and his instruments. Those who know and love the law of the Lord, desire to know it more, and love it better. The way of serious godliness is the way of truth; the only true way to happiness: we must always have actual regard to it. Those who stick to the word of God, may in faith expect and pray for acceptance with God. Lord, never leave me to do that by which I shall shame myself, and do not thou reject my services. Those that are going to heaven, should still press forward. God, by his Spirit, enlarges the hearts of his people when he gives them wisdom. The believer prays to be set free from sin.
Verses 33-40 Teach me thy statutes, not the mere words, but the way of applying them to myself. God, by his Spirit, gives a right understanding. But the Spirit of revelation in the word will not suffice, unless we have the Spirit of wisdom in the heart. God puts his Spirit within us, causing us to walk in his statutes. The sin here prayed against is covetousness. Those that would have the love of God rooted in them, must get the love of the world rooted out; for the friendship of the world is enmity with God. Quicken me in thy way; to redeem time, and to do every duty with liveliness of spirit. Beholding vanity deadens us, and slackens our pace; a traveller must not stand gazing upon every object that presents itself to his view. The promises of God's word greatly relate to the preservation of the true believer. When Satan has drawn a child of God into worldly compliances, he will reproach him with the falls into which he led him. Victory must come from the cross of Christ. When we enjoy the sweetness of God's precepts, it will make us long for more acquaintance with them. And where God has wrought to will, he will work to do.
Verses 41-48 Lord, I have by faith thy mercies in view; let me by prayer prevail to obtain them. And when the salvation of the saints is completed, it will plainly appear that it was not in vain to trust in God's word. We need to pray that we may never be afraid or ashamed to own God's truths and ways before men. And the psalmist resolves to keep God's law, in a constant course of obedience, without backsliding. The service of sin is slavery; the service of God is liberty. There is no full happiness, or perfect liberty, but in keeping God's law. We must never be ashamed or afraid to own our religion. The more delight we take in the service of God, the nearer we come to perfection. Not only consent to his law as good, but take pleasure in it as good for us. Let me put forth all the strength I have, to do it. Something of this mind of Christ is in every true disciple.
Verses 49-56 Those that make God's promises their portion, may with humble boldness make them their plea. He that by his Spirit works faith in us, will work for us. The word of God speaks comfort in affliction. If, through grace, it makes us holy, there is enough in it to make us easy, in all conditions. Let us be certain we have the Divine law for what we believe, and then let not scoffers prevail upon us to decline from it. God's judgments of old comfort and encourage us, for he is still the same. Sin is horrible in the eyes of all that are sanctified. Ere long the believer will be absent from the body, and present with the Lord. In the mean time, the statutes of the Lord supply subjects for grateful praise. In the season of affliction, and in the silent hours of the night, he remembers the name of the Lord, and is stirred up to keep the law. All who have made religion the first thing, will own that they have been unspeakable gainers by it.
Verses 57-64 True believers take the Lord for the portion of their inheritance, and nothing less will satisfy them. The psalmist prayed with his whole heart, knowing how to value the blessing he prayed for: he desired the mercy promised, and depended on the promise for it. He turned from by-paths, and returned to God's testimonies. He delayed not. It behoves sinners to hasten to escape; and the believer will be equally in haste to glorify God. No care or grief should take away God's word out of our minds, or hinder the comfort it bestows. There is no situation on earth in which a believer has not cause to be thankful. Let us feel ashamed that others are more willing to keep from sleep to spend the time in sinful pleasures, than we are to praise God. And we should be more earnest in prayer, that our hearts may be filled with his mercy, grace, and peace.
Verses 65-72 However God has dealt with us, he has dealt with us better than we deserve; and all in love, and for our good. Many have knowledge, but little judgment; those who have both, are fortified against the snares of Satan, and furnished for the service of God. We are most apt to wander from God, when we are easy in the world. We should leave our concerns to the disposal of God, seeing we know not what is good for us. Lord, thou art our bountiful Benefactor; incline our hearts to faith and obedience. The psalmist will go on in his duty with constancy and resolution. The proud are full of the world, and its wealth and pleasures; these make them senseless, secure, and stupid. God visits his people with affliction, that they may learn his statutes. Not only God's promises, but even his law, his percepts, though hard to ungodly men, are desirable, and profitable, because they lead us with safety and delight unto eternal life.
Verses 73-80 God made us to serve him, and enjoy him; but by sin we have made ourselves unfit to serve him, and to enjoy him. We ought, therefore, continually to beseech him, by his Holy Spirit, to give us understanding. The comforts some have in God, should be matter of joy to others. But it is easy to own, that God's judgments are right, until it comes to be our own case. All supports under affliction must come from mercy and compassion. The mercies of God are tender mercies; the mercies of a father, the compassion of a mother to her son. They come to us when we are not able to go to them. Causeless reproach does not hurt, and should not move us. The psalmist could go on in the way of his duty, and find comfort in it. He valued the good will of saints, and was desirous to keep up his communion with them. Soundness of heart signifies sincerity in dependence on God, and devotedness to him.
Verses 81-88 The psalmist sought deliverance from his sins, his foes, and his fears. Hope deferred made him faint; his eyes failed by looking out for this expected salvation. But when the eyes fail, yet faith must not. His affliction was great. He was become like a leathern bottle, which, if hung up in the smoke, is dried and shrivelled up. We must ever be mindful of God's statutes. The days of the believer's mourning shall be ended; they are but for a moment, compared with eternal happiness. His enemies used craft as well as power for his ruin, in contempt of the law of God. The commandments of God are true and faithful guides in the path of peace and safety. We may best expect help from God when, like our Master, we do well and suffer for it. Wicked men may almost consume the believer upon earth, but he would sooner forsake all than forsake the word of the Lord. We should depend upon the grace of God for strength to do every good work. The surest token of God's good-will toward us, is his good work in us.
Verses 89-96 The settling of God's word in heaven, is opposed to the changes and revolutions of the earth. And the engagements of God's covenant are established more firmly than the earth itself. All the creatures answer the ends of their creation: shall man, who alone is endued with reason, be the only unprofitable burden of the earth? We may make the Bible a pleasant companion at any time. But the word, without the grace of God, would not quicken us. See the best help for bad memories, namely, good affections; and though the exact words be lost, if the meaning remain, that is well. I am thine, not my own, not the world's; save me from sin, save me from ruin. The Lord will keep the man in peace, whose mind is stayed on him. It is poor perfection which one sees and end of. Such are all things in this world, which pass for perfections. The glory of man is but as the flower of the grass. The psalmist had seen the fulness of the word of God, and its sufficiency. The word of the Lord reaches to all cases, to all times. It will take us from all confidence in man, or in our own wisdom, strength, and righteousness. Thus shall we seek comfort and happiness from Christ alone.
Verses 97-104 What we love, we love to think of. All true wisdom is from God. A good man carries his Bible with him, if not in his hands, yet in his head and in his heart. By meditation on God's testimonies we understand more than our teachers, when we understand our own hearts. The written word is a more sure guide to heaven, than all the fathers, the teachers, and ancients of the church. We cannot, with any comfort or boldness, attend God in holy duties, while under guilt, or in any by-way. It was Divine grace in his heart, that enabled the psalmist to receive these instructions. The soul has its tastes as well as the body. Our relish for the word of God will be greatest, when that for the world and the flesh is least. The way of sin is a wrong way; and the more understanding we get by the precepts of God, the more rooted will be our hatred of sin; and the more ready we are in the Scriptures, the better furnished we are with answers to temptation.
Verses 105-112 The word of God directs us in our work and way, and a dark place indeed the world would be without it. The commandment is a lamp kept burning with the oil of the Spirit, as a light to direct us in the choice of our way, and the steps we take in that way. The keeping of God's commands here meant, was that of a sinner under a dispensation of mercy, of a believer having part in the covenant of grace. The psalmist is often afflicted; but with longing desires to become more holy, offers up daily prayers for quickening grace. We cannot offer any thing to God, that he will accept but what he is pleased to teach us to do. To have our soul or life continually in our hands, implies constant danger of life; yet he did not forget God's promises nor his precepts. Numberless are the snares laid by the wicked; and happy is that servant of God, whom they have not caused to err from his Master's precepts. Heavenly treasures are a heritage for ever; all the saints accept them as such, therefore they can be content with little of this world. We must look for comfort only in the way of duty, and that duty must be done. A good man, by the grace of God, brings his heart to his work, then it is done well.
Verses 113-120 Here is a dread of the risings of sin, and the first beginnings of it. The more we love the law of God, the more watchful we shall be, lest vain thoughts draw us from what we love. Would we make progress in keeping God's commands, we must be separate from evil-doers. The believer could not live without the grace of God; but, supported by his hand, his spiritual life shall be maintained. Our holy security is grounded on Divine supports. All departure from God's statutes is error, and will prove fatal. Their cunning is falsehood. There is a day coming which will put the wicked into everlasting fire, the fit place for the dross. See what comes of sin Surely we who fall so low in devout affections, should fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into heavenly rest, any of us should be found to come short of it, ( Hebrews 4:1 ) .
Verses 121-128 Happy is the man, who, acting upon gospel principles, does justice to all around. Christ our Surety, having paid our debt and ransom, secures all the blessings of salvation to every true believer. The psalmist expects the word of God's righteousness, and no other salvation than what is secured by that word, which cannot fall to the ground. We deserve no favour form God; we are most easy when we cast ourselves upon God's mercy, and refer ourselves to it. If any man resolve to do God's will as his servant, he shall be made to know his testimonies. We must do what we can for the support of religion, and, after all, must beg of God to take the work into his own hands. It is hypocrisy to say we love God's commandments more than our worldly interests. The way of sin is a false way, being directly contrary to God's precepts, which are right: those that love and esteem God's law, hate sin, and will not be reconciled to it.
Verses 129-136 The wonders of redeeming love will fix the heart in adoration of them. The Scriptures show us what we were, what we are, and what we shall be. They show us the mercy and the justice of the Lord, the joys of heaven, and the pains of hell. Thus they give to the simple, in a few days, understanding of those matters, which philosophers for ages sought in vain. The believer, wearied with the cares of life and his conflicts with sin, pants for the consolations conveyed to him by means of the sacred word. And every one may pray, Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name. We must beg that the Holy Spirit would order our steps. The dominion of sin is to be dreaded and prayed against by every one. The oppression of men is often more than flesh and blood can bear; and He who knoweth our frame, will not refuse to remove it in answer to the prayers of his people. Whatever obscurity may appear as to the faith of the Old Testament believers, their confidence at the throne of grace can only be explained by their having obtained more distinct views of gospel privileges, through the sacrifices and services of their law, than is generally imagined. Go to the same place, plead the name and merits of Jesus, and you will not, you cannot plead in vain. Commonly, where there is a gracious heart, there is a weeping eye. Accept, O Lord, the tears our blessed Redeemer shed in the days of his flesh, for us who should weep for our brethren or ourselves.
Verses 137-144 God never did, and never can do wrong to any. The promises are faithfully performed by Him that made them. Zeal against sin should constrain us to do what we can against it, at least to do more in religion ourselves. Our love to the word of God is evidence of our love to God, because it is designed to make us partake his holiness. Men's real excellency always makes them low in their own eyes. When we are small and despised, we have the more need to remember God's precepts, that we may have them to support us. The law of God is the truth, the standard of holiness, the rule of happiness; but the obedience of Christ alone justifies the believer. Sorrows are often the lot of saints in this vale of tears; they are in heaviness through manifold temptations. There are delights in the word of God, which the saints often most sweetly enjoy when in trouble and anguish. This is life eternal, to know God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent, ( John 17:3 ) . May we live the life of faith and grace here, and be removed to the life of glory hereafter.
Verses 145-152 Supplications with the whole heart are presented only by those who desire God's salvation, and who love his commandments. Whither should the child go but to his father? Save me from my sins, my corruptions, my temptations, all the hinderances in my way, that I may keep thy testimonies. Christians who enjoy health, should not suffer the early hours of the morning to glide away unimproved. Hope in God's word encourages us to continue in prayer. It is better to take time from sleep, than not to find time for prayer. We have access to God at all hours; and if our first thoughts in the morning are of God, they will help to keep us in his fear all the day long. Make me lively and cheerful. God knows what we need and what is good for us, and will quicken us. If we are employed in God's service, we need not fear those who try to set themselves as far as they can out of the reach of the convictions and commands of his law. When trouble is near, God is near. He is never far to seek. All his commandments are truth. And God's promises will be performed. All that ever trusted in God have found him faithful.
Verses 153-160 The closer we cleave to the word of God, both as our rule and as our stay, the more assurance we have of deliverance. Christ is the Advocate of his people, their Redeemer. Those who were quickened by his Spirit and grace, when they were dead in trespasses and sins, often need to have the work of grace revived in them, according to the word of promise. The wicked not only do not God's statutes, but they do not even seek them. They flatter themselves that they are going to heaven; but the longer they persist in sin, the further it is from them. God's mercies are tender; they are a fountain that can never be exhausted. The psalmist begs for God's reviving, quickening grace. A man, steady in the way of his duty, though he may have many enemies, needs to fear none. Those that hate sin truly, hate it as sin, as a transgression of the law of God, and a breaking of his word. Our obedience is only pleasing to God, and pleasant to ourselves, when it comes from a principle of love. All, in every age, who receive God's word in faith and love, find every saying in it faithful.
Verses 161-168 Those whose hearts stand in awe of God's word, will rather endure the wrath of man, than break the law of God. By the word of God we are unspeakable gainers. Every man hates to have a lie told him, but we should more hate telling a lie; by the latter we give an affront to God. The more we see the beauty of truth, the more we shall see the hateful deformity of a lie. We are to praise God even for afflictions; through grace we get good from them. Those that love the world have great vexation, for it does not answer what they expect; those that love God's word have great peace, for it outdoes what they expect. Those in whom this holy love reigns, will not perplex themselves with needless scruples, or take offence at their brethren. A good hope of salvation will engage the heart in doing the commandments. And our love to the word of God must subdue our lusts, and root out carnal affections: we must make heart work of it, or we make nothing of it. We must keep the commandments of God by obedience to them, and his promises by reliance on them. God's eye is on us at all times; this should make us very careful to keep his commandments.
Verses 169-176 The psalmist desired grace and strength to lift up his prayers, and that the Lord would receive and notice them. He desired to know more of God in Christ; to know more of the doctrines of the word, and the duties of religion. He had a deep sense of unworthiness, and holy fear that his prayer should not come before God; Lord, what I pray for is, what thou hast promised. We have learned nothing to purpose, if we have not learned to praise God. We should always make the word of God the rule of our discourse, so as never to transgress it by sinful speaking, or sinful silence. His own hands are not sufficient, nor can any creature lend him help; therefore he looks up to God, that the hand that had made him may help him. He had made religion his deliberate choice. There is an eternal salvation all the saints long for, and therefore they pray that God would help their way to it. Let thy judgments help me; let all ordinances and all providences, (both are God's judgments,) further me in glorifying God; let them help me for that work. He often looks back with shame and gratitude to his lost estate. He still prays for the tender care of Him who purchased his flock with his own blood, that he may receive from him the gift of eternal life. Seek me, that is, Find me; for God never seeks in vain. Turn me, and I shall be turned. Let this psalm be a touchstone by which to try our hearts, and our lives. Do our hearts, cleansed in Christ's blood, make these prayers, resolutions and confessions our own? Is God's word the standard of our faith, and the law of our practice? Do we use it as pleas with Christ for what we need? Happy those who live in such delightful exercises.
Psalms 119:1-176 . This celebrated Psalm has several peculiarities. It is divided into twenty-two parts or stanzas, denoted by the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Each stanza contains eight verses, and the first letter of each verse is that which gives name to the stanza. Its contents are mainly praises of God's Word, exhortations to its perusal, and reverence for it, prayers for its proper influence, and complaints of the wicked for despising it. There are but two verses ( Psalms 119:122 Psalms 119:132 ) which do not contain some term or description of God's Word. These terms are of various derivations, but here used, for the most part, synonymously, though the use of a variety of terms seems designed, in order to express better the several aspects in which our relations to the revealed word of God are presented. The Psalm does not appear to have any relation to any special occasion or interest of the Jewish Church or nation, but was evidently "intended as a manual of pious thoughts, especially for instructing the young, and its peculiar artificial structure was probably adopted to aid the memory in retaining the language."
ALEPH. ( Psalms 119:1-8 ).
1. undefiled--literally, "complete," perfect, or sincere (compare Psalms 37:37 ).
the way--course of life.
in the law--according to it (compare Luke 1:6 ).
law--from a word meaning "to teach," is a term of rather general purport, denoting the instruction of God's Word.
2. testimonies--The word of God is so called, because in it He testifies for truth and against sin.
seek him--that is, a knowledge of Him, with desire for conformity to His will.
3. his ways--the course He reveals as right.
4-6. precepts--are those directions which relate to special conduct, from a word meaning "to inspect."
statutes--or ordinances, positive laws of permanent nature. Both words originally denote rather positive than moral laws, such as derive force from the divine appointment, whether their nature or the reasons for them are apprehended by us or not.
commandments--or institutions. The term is comprehensive, but rather denotes fundamental directions for conduct, both enjoining and forbidding.
have respect unto--or regard carefully as to their whole purport.
7. judgments--rules of conduct formed by God's judicial decisions; hence the wide sense of the word in the Psalms, so that it includes decisions of approval as well as condemnation.
8. Recognizes the need of divine grace.
BETH. ( Psalms 119:9-16 ).
9. The whole verse may be read as a question; for,
by taking heed--is better, "for" taking heed, that is, so as to do it. The answer is implied, and inferable from Psalms 119:5 Psalms 119:10 Psalms 119:18 , &c., that is, by God's grace.
10-16. We must carefully treasure up the word of God, declare it to others, meditate on it, and heartily delight in it; and then by His grace we shall act according to it.
GIMEL. ( Psalms 119:17-24 ).
17-20. Life is desirable in order to serve God; that we may do so aright, we should seek to have our eyes opened to behold His truth, and earnestly desire fully to understand it.
21-24. God will rebuke those who despise His word and deliver His servants from their reproach, giving them boldness in and by His truth, even before the greatest men.
DALETH. ( Psalms 119:25-32 ).
25-27. Submitting ourselves in depression to God, He will revive us by His promises, and lead us to declare His mercy to others.
28-32. In order to adhere to His word, we must seek deliverance from temptations to sin as well as from despondency.
my heart--with gracious affections.
HE. ( Psalms 119:33-40 ).
33-38. To encourage us in prayer for divine aid in adhering to His truth, we are permitted to believe that by His help we shall succeed.
the way of thy statutes--that is, the way or manner of life prescribed by them. The help we hope to obtain by prayer is to be the basis on which our resolutions should rest.
37. Turn away mine eyes--literally, "Make my eyes to pass, not noticing evil."
vanity--literally, "falsehood;" all other objects of trust than God; idols, human power, &c. ( Psalms 31:6 , 40:4 , 60:11 , 62:9 ).
quicken . . . in thy way--make me with living energy to pursue the way marked out by Thee. Revive me from the death of spiritual helplessness ( Psalms 119:17 Psalms 119:25 Psalms 119:40 Psalms 119:50 , Psalms 116:3 ).
38. who is devoted to thy fear--or better, "which (that is, Thy word) is for Thy fear," for producing it. "Which is to those who fear Thee." God's word of promise belongs peculiarly to such (compare Genesis 18:19 , 1 Kings 2:4 , 8:25 ) [HENGSTENBERG].
39, 40. Our hope of freedom from the reproach of inconsistency is in God's power, quickening us to live according to His Word, which He leads us to love.
for thy judgments are good--The time must therefore be at hand when Thy justice will turn the "reproach" from Thy Church upon the world ( Isaiah 25:8 , 66:5 , Zephaniah 2:8-10 ).
VAU. ( Psalms 119:41-48 ).
41-44. The sentiment more fully carried out. God's mercies and salvation, as revealed in His Word, provide hope of forgiveness for the past and security in a righteous course for the future.
42. The possession of God's gift of "salvation" ( Psalms 119:41 ) will be the Psalmist's answer to the foe's "reproach," that his hope was a fallacious one.
45-48. To freedom from reproach, when imbued with God's truth, there is added "great boldness in the faith" [ 1 Timothy 3:13 ], accompanied with increasing delight in the holy law itself, which becomes an element of happiness.
48. My hands . . . lift up unto . . . commandments--that is, I will prayerfully ( Psalms 28:2 ) direct my heart to keep Thy commandments.
ZAIN. ( Psalms 119:49-56 ).
49-51. Resting on the promises consoles under affliction and the tauntings of the insolent.
upon which--rather, "Remember Thy word unto Thy servant, because," &c. So the Hebrew requires [HENGSTENBERG].
50. for--rather, "This is my comfort . . . that," &c. [MAURER].
hath quickened--What the Word has already done is to faith a pledge of what it shall yet do.
52-56. The pious take comfort, when harassed and distressed by wickedness of men who forsake God's law, in remembering that the great principles of God's truth will still abide; and also God's
judgments of old--that is, His past interpositions in behalf of His people are a pledge that He will again interpose to deliver them; and they become the theme of constant and delightful meditation. The more we keep the more we love the law of God.
53. Horror--rather, "vehement wrath" [HENGSTENBERG].
54. songs--As the exile sings songs of his home ( Psalms 137:3 ), so the child of God, "a stranger on earth," sings the songs of heaven, his true home ( Psalms 39:12 ). In ancient times, laws were put in verse, to imprint them the more on the memory of the people. So God's laws are the believer's songs.
house of my pilgrimage--present life ( Genesis 17:8 , 47:9 , Hebrews 11:13 ).
56. Rather, "This is peculiarly mine (literally, to me), that I keep Thy precepts" [HENGSTENBERG and MAURER].
CHETH. ( Psalms 119:57-64 ).
57-60. Sincere desires for God's favor, penitence, and activity in a new obedience, truly evince the sincerity of those who profess to find God a portion ( Numbers 18:20 , Psalms 16:5 , Lamentations 3:24 ).
58. favour--Hebrew, "face" ( Psalms 45:12 ).
59. So the prodigal son, when reduced to straits of misery ( Luke 15:17 Luke 15:18 ).
61, 62. This the more, if opposition of enemies, or love of ease is overcome in thus honoring God's law.
have robbed me--better, surrounded me, either as forcible constraints like fetters, or as the cords of their nets. HENGSTENBERG translates, "snares."
62. At midnight--HENGSTENBERG supposes a reference to the time when the Lord went forth to slay the Egyptian first-born ( Exodus 11:4 , 12:29 ; compare Job 34:20 ). But it rather refers to the Psalmist's own praises and prayers in the night time. Compare Paul and Silas ( Acts 16:25 ; compare Psalms 63:6 ).
63. The communion of the saints. Delight in their company is an evidence of belonging to them ( Psalms 16:3 , Amos 3:3 , Malachi 3:16 ).
64. While opposed by the wicked, and opposing them, the pious delight in those who fear God, but, after all, rely for favor and guidance not on merit, but mercy.
TETH. ( Psalms 119:65-72 ).
65-67. The reliance on promises ( Psalms 119:49 ) is strengthened by experience of past dealings according with promises, and a prayer for guidance, encouraged by sanctified affliction.
66. Teach me good judgment and knowledge--namely, in Thy word (so as to fathom its deep spirituality); for the corresponding expression ( Psalms 119:12 Psalms 119:64 Psalms 119:68 ), is, "Teach me Thy statutes."
67. Referred by HENGSTENBERG to the chastening effect produced on the Jews' minds by the captivity ( Jeremiah 31:18 Jeremiah 31:19 ). The truth is a general one ( Job 5:6 , John 15:2 , Hebrews 12:11 ).
68. Compare as to the Lord Jesus ( Acts 10:38 ).
69, 70. The crafty malice of the wicked, in slandering him, so far from turning him away, but binds him closer to God's Word, which they are too stupid in sin to appreciate. HENGSTENBERG refers the "lie" to such slanders against the Jews during the captivity, as that in Ezra 4:1-6 , of sedition.
70. fat as grease--spiritually insensible ( Psalms 17:10 , 73:7 , Isaiah 6:10 ).
71, 72. So also affliction of any kind acts as a wholesome discipline in leading the pious more highly to value the truth and promises of God.
JOD. ( Psalms 119:73-80 ).
73. As God made, so He can best control, us. So as to Israel, he owed to God his whole internal and external existence ( Deuteronomy 32:6 ).
74. So when He has led us to rely on His truth, He will "make us to the praise of His grace" by others. "Those who fear Thee will be glad at my prosperity, as they consider my cause their cause" ( Psalms 34:2 , 142:7 ).
75-78. in faithfulness--that is, without in the least violating Thy faithfulness; because my sins deserved and needed fatherly chastisement. Enduring chastisement with a filial temper ( Hebrews 12:6-11 ), God's promises of mercy ( Romans 8:28 ) will be fulfilled, and He will give comfort in sorrow ( Lamentations 3:22 , 2 Corinthians 1:3 2 Corinthians 1:4 ).
77. Let thy tender mercies come unto me--As I am not able to come unto them. But the wicked will be confounded.
78. and so shall not be "ashamed," that is, put to shame ( Psalms 119:80 ).
79, 80. Those who may have thought his afflictions an evidence of God's rejection will then be led to return to Him; as the friends of Job did on his restoration, having been previously led through his afflictions to doubt the reality of his religion.
80. Let my . . . be sound--that is, perfect, sincere.
ashamed--disappointed in my hope of salvation.
CAPH. ( Psalms 119:81-88 ).
81-83. In sorrow the pious heart yearns for the comforts of God's promises ( Psalms 73:26 , 84:2 ).
82. Mine eyes fail for thy word--that is, with yearning desire for Thy word. When the eyes fail, yet faith must not.
83. bottle in the smoke--as a skin bottle dried and shriveled up in smoke, so is he withered by sorrow. Wine bottles of skin used to be hung up in smoke to dry them, before the wine was put in them [MAURER].
84-87. The shortness of my life requires that the relief afforded to me from mine enemies should be speedy.
85. pits--plots for my destruction.
which--rather, "who," that is, "the proud"; "pits" is not the antecedent.
87. consumed me upon earth--HENGSTENBERG translates, "in the land"; understanding "me" of the nation Israel, of which but a small remnant was left. But English Version is simpler; either, "They have consumed me so as to leave almost nothing of me on earth"; or, "They have almost destroyed and prostrated me on the earth" [MAURER].
I forsook not--Whatever else I am forsaken of, I forsake not Thy precepts, and so am not mistaken of Thee ( Psalms 39:5 Psalms 39:13 , 2 Corinthians 4:8 2 Corinthians 4:9 ), and the injuries and insults of the wicked increase the need for it. But, however they act regardless of God's law, the pious, adhering to its teaching, receive quickening grace, and are sustained steadfast.
LAMED. ( Psalms 119:89-96 ).
89-91. In all changes God's Word remains firm ( 1 Peter 1:25 ). Like the heavens, it continually attests God's unfailing power and unchanging care ( Psalms 89:2 ).
is settled in--that is, stands as firmly as the heaven in which it dwells, and whence it emanated.
90. thou hast established the earth, and it abideth--( Psalms 33:9 ).
91. They--the heaven ( Psalms 119:89 ) and the earth ( Psalms 119:90 ). HENGSTENBERG translates, "They stand for thy judgment," that is, ready, as obedient servants, to execute them. The usage of this Psalm favors this view. But see Jeremiah 33:25 .
92-94. Hence the pious are encouraged and inclined to seek a knowledge of it, and persevere amidst the efforts of those planning and waiting to destroy them.
my delights--plural, not merely delight, but equal to all other delights.
93. The bounds of created perfection may be defined, but those of God's law in its nature, application, and influence, are infinite. There is no human thing so perfect but that something is wanting to it; its limits are narrow, whereas God's law is of infinite breadth, reaching to all cases, perfectly meeting what each requires, and to all times ( Psalms 19:3 Psalms 19:6 Psalms 19:7-11 , Ecclesiastes 3:11 ). It cannot be cramped within any definitions of man's dogmatical systems. Man never outgrows the Word. It does not shock the ignorant man with declared anticipations of discoveries which he had not yet made; while in it the man of science finds his newest discoveries by tacit anticipations provided for.
MEM. ( Psalms 119:97-104 ).
97. This characteristic love for God's law (compare Psalms 1:2 ) ensures increase.
98-100. of knowledge, both of the matter of all useful, moral truth, and an experience of its application.
wiser than mine enemies--with all their carnal cunning ( Deuteronomy 4:6 Deuteronomy 4:8 ).
they are ever with me--The Hebrew is, rather singular, "it is ever with me"; the commandments forming ONE complete whole, Thy law.
99. understanding--is practical skill ( Psalms 2:10 , 32:8 ).
100. more than the ancients--Antiquity is no help against stupidity, where it does not accord with God's word [LUTHER] ( Job 32:7-9 ). The Bible is the key of all knowledge, the history of the world, past, present, and to come ( Psalms 111:10 ). He who does the will of God shall know of the doctrine ( John 7:17 ).
101-104. Avoidance of sinful courses is both the effect and means of increasing in divine knowledge (compare Psalms 19:10 ).
NUN. ( Psalms 119:105-112 ).
105. Not only does the Word of God inform us of His will, but, as a light on a path in darkness, it shows us how to follow the right and avoid the wrong way. The lamp of the Word is not the sun. He would blind our eyes in our present fallen state; but we may bless God for the light shining as in a dark place, to guide us until the Sun of Righteousness shall come, and we shall be made capable of seeing Him ( 2 Peter 1:19 , Revelation 22:4 ). The lamp is fed with the oil of the Spirit. The allusion is to the lamps and torches carried at night before an Eastern caravan.
106-108. Such was the national covenant at Sinai and in the fields of Moab.
108. freewill offerings--the spontaneous expressions of his gratitude, as contrasted with the appointed "offerings" of the temple ( Hosea 14:2 , Hebrews 13:15 ). He determines to pursue this way, relying on God's quickening power ( Psalms 119:50 ) in affliction, and a gracious acceptance of his "spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise" ( Psalms 50:5 Psalms 50:14 Psalms 50:23 ).
109, 110. In the midst of deadly perils (the phrase is drawn from the fact that what we carry in our hands may easily slip from them, Judges 12:3 , 1 Samuel 28:21 , Job 13:14 ; compare 1 Samuel 19:5 ), and exposed to crafty enemies, his safety and guidance is in the truth and promises of God.
111, 112. These he joyfully takes as his perpetual heritage, to perform the duties and receive the comforts they teach, evermore.
SAMECH. ( Psalms 119:113-120 ).
113. vain thoughts--better, "unstable persons," literally, "divided men," those of a divided, doubting mind ( James 1:8 ); "a double-minded man" [HENGSTENBERG], skeptics, or, skeptical notions as opposed to the certainty of God's word.
114. hiding-place--(Compare Psalms 27:5 ).
shield--( Psalms 3:3 , 7:10 ).
hope in thy word--confidently rest on its teachings and promises.
115-117. Hence he fears not wicked men, nor dreads disappointment, sustained by God in making His law the rule of life.
Depart from me--Ye can do nothing with me; for, &c. ( Psalms 6:8 ).
118-120. But the disobedient and rebellious will be visited by God's wrath, which impresses the pious with wholesome fear and awe.
their deceit is falsehood--that is, all their cunning deceit, wherewith they seek to entrap the godly, is in vain.
120. The "judgments" are those on the wicked ( Psalms 119:119 ). Joyful hope goes hand in hand with fear ( Habakkuk 3:16-18 ).
AIN. ( Psalms 119:121-128 ).
121-126. On the grounds of his integrity, desire for God's word, and covenant relation to Him, the servant of God may plead for His protecting care against the wicked, gracious guidance to the knowledge of truth, and His effective vindication of the righteous and their cause, which is also His own.
122. Be surety--Stand for me against my oppressors ( Genesis 43:9 , Isaiah 38:14 ).
127,128. Therefore--that is, In view of these benefits, or, Because of the glory of Thy law, so much praised in the previous parts of the Psalm.
I love . . . [and] Therefore (repeated)--All its precepts, on all subjects, are estimable for their purity, and lead one imbued with their spirit to hate all evil ( Psalms 19:10 ). The Word of God admits of no eclecticism; its least title is perfect ( Psalms 12:6 , Matthew 5:17-19 ).
PE. ( Psalms 119:129-136 ).
129. wonderful--literally, "wonders," that is, of moral excellence.
130. The entrance--literally, "opening"; God's words, as an open door, let in light, or knowledge. Rather, as HENGSTENBERG explains it, "The opening up," or, "explanation of thy word." To the natural man the doors of God's Word are shut. Luke 24:27 Luke 24:31 , Acts 17:3 , Ephesians 1:18 , confirm this view, "opening (that is, explaining) and alleging," &c.
unto the simple--those needing or desiring it (compare Psalms 19:7 ).
131-135. An ardent desire (compare Psalms 56:1 Psalms 56:2 ) for spiritual enlightening, establishment in a right course, deliverance from the wicked, and evidence of God's favor is expressed
I opened my mouth, and panted--as a traveller in a hot desert pants for the cooling breeze ( Psalms 63:1 , 84:2 ).
132. Look . . . upon me--opposed to hiding or averting the face (compare Psalms 25:15 , 86:6 , 102:17 ).
as thou usest to do--or, "as it is right in regard to those who love Thy name." Such have a right to the manifestations of God's grace, resting on the nature of God as faithful to His promise to such, not on their own merits.
133. Order my steps--Make firm, so that there be no halting ( Psalms 40:2 ).
any iniquity-- Psalms 119:34 (favors HENGSTENBERG, "any iniquitous man," any "oppressor"). But the parallel first clause in this ( Psalms 119:33 ) favors English Version ( Psalms 19:13 ). His hope of deliverance from external oppression of man ( Psalms 119:34 ) is founded on his deliverance from the internal "dominion of iniquity," in answer to his prayer ( Psalms 119:33 ).
136. Zealous himself to keep God's law, he is deeply afflicted when others violate it (compare Psalms 119:53 ). Literally, "Mine eyes come down (dissolved) like water brooks" ( Lamentations 3:48 , Jeremiah 9:1 ).
because, &c.--(Compare Ezekiel 9:4 , Jeremiah 13:17 ).
TZADDI. ( Psalms 119:137-144 ).
137-139. God's justice and faithfulness in His government aggravate the neglect of the wicked, and more excite the lively zeal of His people.
139. ( Psalms 69:9 ).
140. very pure--literally, "refined," shown pure by trial.
141. The pious, however despised of men, are distinguished in God's sight by a regard for His law.
142-144. The principles of God's government are permanent and reliable, and in the deepest distress His people find them a theme of delightful meditation and a source of reviving power ( Psalms 119:17 Psalms 119:116 ).
law is the truth--It therefore cannot deceive as to its promises.
everlasting--( Psalms 111:3 ), though to outward appearance seeming dead.
KOPH. ( Psalms 119:145-152 ).
145-149. An intelligent devotion is led by divine promises and is directed to an increase of gracious affections, arising from a contemplation of revealed truth.
147. prevented--literally, "came before," anticipated not only the dawn, but even the usual periods of the night; when the night watches, which might be expected to find me asleep, come, they find me awake ( Psalms 63:6 , 77:4 , Lamentations 2:19 ). Such is the earnestness of the desire and love for God's truth.
149. quicken me--revive my heart according to those principles of justice, founded on Thine own nature, and revealed in Thy law, which specially set forth Thy mercy to the humble as well as justice to the wicked (compare Psalms 119:30 ).
150-152. Though the wicked are near to injure, because far from God's law, He is near to help, and faithful to His word, which abides for ever.
RESH. ( Psalms 119:153-160 ).
153-155. Though the remembering of God's law is not meritorious, yet it evinces a filial temper and provides the pious with promises to plead, while the wicked in neglecting His law, reject God and despise His promises (compare Psalms 9:13 , 43:1 , 69:18 ).
154. Plead, &c.--HENGSTENBERG translates, "Fight my fight." (See Psalms 35:1 , 43:1 , Micah 7:9 ).
157. (Compare Psalms 119:86 Psalms 119:87 Psalms 119:95 ).
158. (Compare Psalms 119:136 ).
transgressors--or, literally, "traitors," who are faithless to a righteous sovereign and side with His enemies (compare Psalms 25:3 Psalms 25:8 ).
159. (Compare Psalms 119:121-126 Psalms 119:153-155 ).
quicken me, O Lord, according to thy lovingkindness--( Psalms 119:88 ). This prayer occurs here for the ninth time, showing a deep sense of frailty.
160. God has been ever faithful, and the principles of His government will ever continue worthy of confidence.
from the beginning--that is, "every word from Genesis (called so by the Jews from its first words, 'In the beginning') to the end of the Scriptures is true." HENGSTENBERG translates more literally, "The sum of thy words is truth." The sense is substantially the same. The whole body of revelation is truth. "Thy Word is nothing but truth" [LUTHER].
SCHIN. ( Psalms 119:161-168 ).
161-165. (Compare Psalms 119:46 Psalms 119:86 ).
awe--reverential, not slavish fear, which could not coexist with love ( Psalms 119:163 , 1 John 4:8 ). Instead of fearing his persecutors, he fears God's Word alone ( Luke 12:4 Luke 12:5 ). The Jews inscribe in the first page of the great Bible, "How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!" ( Genesis 28:17 ).
162. (Compare Matthew 13:44 Matthew 13:45 ). Though persecuted by the mighty, the pious are not turned from revering God's authority to seek their favor, but rejoice in the possession of this "pearl of great price," as great victors in spoils. Hating falsehood and loving truth, often, every day, praising God for it, they find peace and freedom from temptation.
163. lying--that is, as in Psalms 119:29 , unfaithfulness to the covenant of God with His people; apostasy.
165. nothing shall offend them--or, "cause them to offend" (compare Margin).
166-168. As they keep God's law from motives of love for it, and are free from slavish fear, the are ready to subject their lives to His inspection.
168. all my ways are before thee--I wish to order my ways as before Thee, rather than in reference to man ( Genesis 19:1 , Psalms 73:23 ). All men's ways are under God's eye ( Proverbs 5:21 ); the godly alone realize the fact, and live accordingly.
TAU. ( Psalms 119:169-176 ).
169,170. The prayer for understanding of the truth precedes that for deliverance. The fulfilment of the first is the basis of the fulfilment of the second ( Psalms 90:11-17 ). On the terms "cry" and "supplication" (compare Psalms 6:9 , 17:1 ).
171, 172. shall utter--or, "pour out praise" (compare Psalms 19:2 ); shall cause Thy praises to stream forth as from a bubbling, overflowing fountain.
172. My tongue shall speak of thy word--literally, "answer Thy Word," that is, with praise, respond to Thy word. Every expression in which we praise God and His Word is a response, or acknowledgment, corresponding to the perfections of Him whom we praise.
173, 174. (Compare Psalms 119:77 Psalms 119:81 Psalms 119:92 ).
I have chosen--in preference to all other objects of delight.
175. Save me that I may praise Thee.
thy judgments--as in Psalms 119:149 Psalms 119:156 .
176. Though a wanderer from God, the truly pious ever desires to be drawn back to Him; and, though for a time negligent of duty, he never forgets the commandments by which it is taught.
lost--therefore utterly helpless as to recovering itself ( Jeremiah 50:6 , Luke 15:4 ). Not only the sinner before conversion, but the believer after conversion, is unable to recover himself; but the latter, after temporary wandering, knows to whom to look for restoration. Psalms 119:175 Psalms 119:176 seem to sum up the petitions, confessions, and professions of the Psalm. The writer desires God's favor, that he may praise Him for His truth, confesses that he has erred, but, in the midst of all his wanderings and adversities, professes an abiding attachment to the revealed Word of God, the theme of such repeated eulogies, and the recognized source of such great and unnumbered blessings. Thus the Psalm, though more than usually didactic, is made the medium of both parts of devotion--prayer and praise.