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."
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.
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.
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 ).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ).
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 ).
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.
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.
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 ).
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].
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.
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.
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.