This passage deals with the perfect righteousness of Jehovah and his word, and expresses the struggles of a holy soul in reference to that righteousness. The initial letter with which every verse commences in the Hebrew is "P", and the keyword to us is PURITY.
Verse 137. Righteous art thou, O LORD. The Psalmist has not often used the name of Jehovah in this vast composition. The whole psalm shows him to have been a deeply religious man, thoroughly familiar with the things of God; and such persons never use the holy name of God carelessly, nor do they even use it at all frequently in comparison with the thoughtless and the ungodly. Familiarity begets reverence in this case. Here he uses the sacred name in worship. He praises God by ascribing to him perfect righteousness. God is always right, and he is always actively light, that is, righteous. This quality is bound up in our very idea of God. We cannot imagine an unrighteous God.
And upright are thy judgments. Here he extols God's word, or recorded judgments, as being right, even as their Author is righteous. That which conics from the Righteous God is itself righteous. Jehovah both saith and doth that which is right, and that alone. This is a great stay to the soul in time of trouble. When we are most sorely afflicted, and cannot see the reason for the dispensation, we may fall back upon this most sure and certain fact, that God is righteous, and his dealings with us are righteous too. It should be our glory to sing this brave confession when all things around us appear to suggest the contrary. This is the richest adoration -- this which rises from the lips of faith when carnal reason mutters about undue severity, and the like.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
S. Jerome, whom most of the medievalists follow, explains Tsaddi as meaning justice or righteousness, which, however, is mrc, tsedek But he is so far right that there is a play in this strophe on the sound of the initial letter, as in the case of Gemol; for the very first word, righteous, is mrc, tsaddik, and the whole scope of the strophe is the strong grasp which even the young and inexperienced soul can have of righteousness amidst the troubles of the world. --Neale and Littledale.
All these verses begin with Tzaddi, the eighteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet; Psalms 119:137 Psalms 119:142 Psalms 119:144 , with some form of the word which we render righteous, or righteousness; each of the remainder with a wholly different word. --William S. Plumer.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 137. -- Righteous art thou, O LORD, etc. Here David, sore troubled with grief for the wickedness of his enemies, yea, tempted greatly to impatience and distrust, by looking to their prosperous estate, notwithstanding their so gross impiety, doth now show unto us a three fold ground of comfort, which in this dangerous temptation upheld him. The first is, a consideration of that which God is in himself; namely, just and righteous: the second, a consideration of the equity of his word; the third, a view of his constant truth, declared in his working and doing according to his word. When we find ourselves tempted to distrust by looking to the prosperity of the wicked, let us look up to God, and consider his nature, his word, his works, and we shall find comfort.
Righteous art thou. This is the first ground of comfort -- a meditation of the righteousness of God's nature; he alters not with times, he changes not with persons, he is, alway and unto all, one and the same righteous and holy God. Righteousness is essential to him, it is himself; and he can no more defraud the godly of their promised comforts, not let the wicked go unpunished in their sins, than he can deny himself to be God, which is impossible. --William Cowper.
Verse 137. -- Righteous art thou, O LORD, etc. Essentially, originally, and of himself; naturally, immutably and universally, in all his ways and works of nature and grace; in his thoughts, purposes, counsels, and decrees; in all the dispensations of his providence; in redemption, in the justification of a sinner, in the pardon of sin, and in the gift of eternal life through Christ. "And upright are thy judgments." They are according to the rules of justice and equity. He refers to the precepts of the word, the doctrines of the gospel, as well as the judgments of God inflicted on wicked men, and all the providential dealings of God with his people, and also the final judgment. --John Gill.
Verse 137. -- Righteous art thou, O LORD, etc. Here is much to keep the children of God in awe. The Lord is a righteous God: though they have found mercy and taken sanctuary in his grace, the Lord is impartial in his justice. God that did not spare the angels when they sinned, nor his Son when he was a sinner by imputation, will not spare you, though you are the dearly beloved of his soul: 11:31 . The sinful courses of God's children occasion bitterness enough; they never venture upon sin, but with great Joss. If Paul give way to a little pride, God will humble him. If any give way to sin, their pilgrimage will be made uncomfortable. Eli falls into negligence and indulgence, then is the ark of God taken, his two sons are slain in battle, his daughter-in-law dies, he himself breaks his neck. Oh! the wonderful tragedies that sin works in the houses of the children of God! David, when he intermeddled with forbidden fruit, was driven from his palace, his concubines defiled, his own son slain; a great many calamities did light upon him. Therefore the children of God have cause to fear; for the Lord is a just God, and they will find it so. Here upon earth he hath reserved liberty to visit their iniquity with rods, and their transgression with scourges. I must press you to imitate God's righteousness: "If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him": 1Jo 2:29. You have a righteous God; and this part of his character you should copy out. -- Thomas Manton.
Verse 137. -- David's great care, when he was under the afflicting hand of God, was to clear the Lord of injustice. Oh! Lord, saith he, there is not the least show, spot, stain, blemish, or mixture of injustice, in all the afflictions thou hast brought upon me. I desire to take shame to myself, and to set to my seal, that the Lord is righteous, and that there is no injustice, no cruelty, nor no extremity in all that the Lord hath brought upon me. He sweetly and readily subscribes unto the righteousness of God in those sharp and smart afflictions that God exercised him with. "Righteous art thou, O LORD, and upright are thy judgments." God's judgments are always just; he never afflicts but in faithfulness. His will is the rule of justice; and therefore a gracious soul dares not cavil nor question his proceedings. --Thomas Brooks.
Verse 137. -- The hundred and thirty-seventh verse, like the twenty-fifth, is associated with the sorrows of an Imperial penitent (Gibbon, Decline and Fall, ch. 46). When the deposed and captive Emperor Maurice was led out for execution by the usurper Phocas, his five sons were previously murdered one by one in his presence; and at each fatal blow he patiently exclaimed, "Righteous art thou, O Lord, and upright are thy judgments." -- Neale and Littledale.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Outlines Upon Keywords of the Psalm, By Pastor C. A. Davis.
Verse 137-144. -- The righteousness of God and his word. ( Psalms 119:137-138 ). Indignation at the forgetfulness of the enemies ( Psalms 119:139 ) The purity of the word ( Psalms 119:140-141 ). This righteousness of God and his testimonies is everlasting ( Psalms 119:142-144 ).
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 137-138. -- Solemn contemplation.
- The contemplation of the deep and awful display of the divine character is good for the soul.
- It will lead to a conviction of the righteousness of God's character and administration.
- It will result in loyal submission. --C.A.D.
Verse 137. -- A consideration of divine righteousness. Convinces us of sin, reconciles us to trying providence, excites a desire to imitate, arouses to reverent adoration.
Verse 137. -- God is righteous.
- In his commands.
- In his threatenings.
- In his chastisement.
- In his judgments.
- In his promises. --G.R.