Verse 56. This I had, because I kept thy precepts. He had this comfort, this remembrance of God, this power to sing, this courage to face the enemy, this hope in the promise, because he had earnestly observed the commands of God, and striven to walk in them. We are not rewarded for our works, but there is a reward in them. Many a comfort is obtainable only by careful living: we can surely say of such consolations, "This I had because I kept thy precepts." How can we defy ridicule if we are living inconsistently? how can we comfortably remember the name of the Lord if we live carelessly? It may be that David means that he had been enabled to keep the law because he had attended to the separate precepts: he had taken the commands in detail, and so had reached to holiness of life. Or, by keeping certain of the precepts he had gained spiritual strength to keep others: for God gives more grace to those who have some measure of it, and those who improve their talents shall find themselves improving. It may be best to leave the passage open just as our version does; so that we may say of a thousand priceless blessings, "these came to us in the way of obedience." All our possessions are the gifts of grace, and yet some of them come in the shape of reward; yet even then the reward is not of debt, but of grace. God first works in us good works, and then rewards us for them.
Here we have an apt conclusion to this section of the psalm, for this verse is a strong argument for the prayer with which the section commenced. The sweet singer had evidence of having kept God's precepts, and therefore he could the more properly beg the Lord to keep his promises. All through the passage we may find pleas, especially in the two remembers. "I have remembered thy judgments," and "I have remembered thy name"; "Remember thy word unto thy servant."
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 56. -- This I had, because I kept thy precepts. As sin is a punishment of sin, and the wicked waxeth ever worse and worse; so godliness is the recompense of godliness. The right use of one talent increaseth more, and the beginnings of godliness are blessed with a growth of godliness. David's good exercises here held him in memory of his God, and the memory of God made him more godly and religious. --William Cowper.
Verse 56. -- This I had, etc. The Rabbins have an analogous saying, -- The reward of a precept is a precept, or, A precept draws a precept. The meaning of which is, that he who keeps one precept, to him God grants, as if by way of reward, the ability to keep another and more difficult precept. The contrary to this is that other saying of the Rabbins, that the reward of a sin is a sin; or, Transgression draws transgression. --Simon de Muis, 1587-1644.
Verse 56. -- This I had, that is, this happened to me, etc. I experienced many evils and adversities; but, on the other hand, I drew sweetest consolations from the word, and I was crowned with many blessings from God.
Others thus render it, This is my business, This I care for and desire, to keep thy commandments; i.e., to hold fast the doctrine incorrupt with faith and a good conscience. - -D.H. Mollerus.
Verse 56. -- This I had, etc. I had the comfort of keeping thy law because I kept it. God's work is its own wages. --Matthew Henry.
Verse 56. -- This I had, etc. What is that? This comfort I had, this supportation I had in all my afflictions, this consolation I had, this sweet communion with God I had. Why? "Because I kept thy precepts," I obeyed thy will. Look, how much obedience is yielded to the commands of God, so much comfort doth flow into the soul: God usually gives in comforts proportionably to our obedience. O the sweet, soul satisfying consolation a child of God finds in the ways of God, and in doing the will of God, especially when he lies on his deathbed; then it will be sweeter to him than honey and the honeycomb; then will he say with good king Hezekiah, when he lay upon his deathbed, "Lord, remember how I have walked before thee in truth, and with a perfect heart, and have done that which was good in thy sight." O the sweet satisfaction that a soul shall find in God, when he comes to appear before God! --James Nalton, 1664.
Verse 56. -- This I had, etc. Or, "This was my consolation, that I kept thy precepts;" which is nearly the reading of the Syriac, and renders the sense more complete. --Note in Bagster's Comprehensive Bible.
Verse 56. -- This I had, etc. When I hear the faithful people of God telling of his love, and saying -- "This I had," must I not, if unable to join their cheerful acknowledgment, trace it to my unfaithful walk, and say -- "This I had not" -- because I have failed in obedience to thy precepts; because I have been careless and self indulgent; because I have slighted thy love; because I have "grieved thy Holy Spirit," and forgotten to "ask for the old paths, that I might walk therein, and find rest to my soul" Jeremiah 6:16 . --Charles Bridges.
Verse 56. -- David saith indefinitely, "This I had"; not telling us what good or privilege it was; only in the general, it was some benefit that accrued to him in this life. He doth not say, This I hope for; but, "This I had;" and therefore he doth not speak of the full reward in the life to come. In heaven we come to receive the full reward of obedience; but a close walker, that waiteth upon God in an humble and constant obedience, shall have sufficient encouragement even in this life. Not only he shall be blessed, but he is blessed; he hath something on hand as well as in hope: as David saith in this the 119th Psalm, not only he shall be blessed, but he is blessed; as they that travelled towards Zion, they met with a well by the way: "Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools" ( Psalms 84:6 ). In a dry and barren wilderness, through which they were to pass, they were not left wholly comfortless, but met with a well or a cistern; that is, they had some comfort vouchsafed to them before they came to enjoy God's presence in Zion; some refreshments they had by the way. As servants, that, besides their wages, have their veils; so, besides the recompense of reward hereafter, we have our present comforts and supports during our course of service, which are enough to counterbalance all worldly joys, and outweigh the greatest pleasures that men can expect in the way of sin. In the benefits that believers find by walking with God in a course of obedience every one can say, "This I had, because I kept thy precepts." --Thomas Manton.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 56. -- The gains of godliness; or, what a man gets through holy living.
Verse 56. --
- The duty: "I kept thy precepts."
- Its reward: "This I had," etc. Protection: "this I had." Guidance: "this I had." Prosperity: "this I had." Consolation: "this I had." --G.R.