VERSE OF THE DAY.
Psalm 119:130 (New Living Translation).
The teaching of your word gives light, so even the simple can understand.
The teaching of your law and word gives hope and light to a silent path so that even the weak and simple can understand the law.
Psalm 119 – The Greatness and Glory of God’s Word.
This long psalm deserves a long introduction. The author is unnamed; older commentators almost universally said it is a psalm of David, composed throughout his entire life. More modern commentators sometimes conclude that it is post-exilic, coming from the days of Nehemiah or Ezra. It may be that David was the author, but we can’t say this with certainty, and it is not necessary to know; if it were important, God would have preserved the name of David to this psalm. No matter who the author was, it was likely written over some period of time and later compiled, because there is not a definite flow of thought from the beginning of the psalm to the end. The sections and verses are not like a chain, where one link is connected to the other, but like a string of pearls where each pearl has equal, but independent value.
Psalm 119 is arranged in an acrostic pattern. There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, and this psalm contains 22 units of 8 verses each. Each of the 22 sections is given a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and each line in that section begins with that letter. The closest parallel to this pattern in Scripture is found in Lamentations 3, which is also divided into 22 sections, and a few other passages in the Hebrew Scriptures use an acrostic pattern.
Since this is a psalm glorifying God and His word, it refers to Scripture over and over again. Psalm 119 is remarkable for how often it refers to God’s written revelation, His word. It is referred to in almost every verse. The Masoretes (a group of Jewish scholars between the 6th and 10th centuries AD) said that the word of God is mentioned in every verse except Psalm 119:122. Other people analyze this differently (with disagreement about Psalm 119:84, 90, 121, 132). But Scripture is mentioned in at least 171 of the 176 verses.
In this psalm there are eight basic words used to describe the Scriptures, God’s written revelation to us:.
* Law (torah, used 25 times in Psalm 119): “Its parent verb means ‘teach’ or ‘direct’; therefore coming from God it means both ‘law’ and ‘revelation.’ It can be used of a single command or of a whole body of law.” (Derek Kidner).
* Word (dabar, used 24 times): The idea is of the spoken word, God’s revealed word to man. “Proceeding from his mouth and revealed by him to us…” (Matthew Poole).
* Judgments (mispatim, used 23 times): “…from shaphat, to judge, determine, regulate, order, and discern, because they judge concerning our words and works; show the rules by which they should be regulated; and cause us to discern what is right and wrong, and decide accordingly.” (Adam Clarke).
* Testimonies (edut/edot, used 23 times): This word is related to the word for witness. To obey His testimonies “…signifies loyalty to the terms of the covenant made between the Lord and Israel.” (Willem VanGemeren).
* Commandments (miswah/miswot, used 22 times): “This word emphasizes the straight authority of what is said…the right to give orders.” (Derek Kidner).
* Statutes (huqqim, used 21 times): The noun is derived from the root verb “engrave” or “inscribe”; the idea is the written word of God and the authority of His written word: “…declaring his authority and power of giving us laws.” (Matthew Poole).
* Precepts (piqqudim, used 21 times): “This is a word drawn from the sphere of an officer or overseer, a man who is responsible to look closely into a situation and take action…. So the word points to the particular instructions of the Lord, as of one who cares about detail.” (Derek Kidner).
* Word (imrah, used 19 times): Imrah is similar in meaning to dabar, yet a different term. “The ‘word’ may denote anything God has spoken, commanded, or promised.” (Willem VanGemeren).
The theme of the glory of Scripture is diligently explored in this psalm, but always in connection with God Himself. Derek Kidner remarks: “This untiring emphasis has led some to accuse the psalmist of worshipping the Word rather than the Lord; but it has been well remarked that every reference here to Scripture, without exception, relates it explicitly to its Author; indeed, every verse from 4 to the end is a prayer for affirmation addressed to Him. This is true piety: a love of God not desiccated by study but refreshed, informed and nourished by it.”.
“This wonderful psalm, from its great length, helps us to wonder at the immensity of Scripture. From its keeping to one subject it helps us to adore the unity of Scripture; for it is but one. Yet, from the many turns it gives to the same thought, it helps you to see the variety of Scripture…. Some have said that in it there is an absence of variety, but that is merely the observation of those who have not studied it. I have weighed each word, and looked at each syllable with lengthened meditation; and I bear witness that this sacred song has no tautology in it, but is charmingly varied from beginning to end. Its variety is that of a kaleidoscope: from a few objects a boundless variation is produced. In the kaleidoscope you look once, and there is a strangely beautiful form. You shift the glass a very little, and another shape, equally delicate and beautiful, is before your eyes. So it is here.” (Charles Spurgeon).
Being such a long psalm – and the longest chapter in the Bible – this psalm has been of great historical interest. There have been many lengthy works written on this psalm; one of them is by Thomas Manton, a Puritan preacher and writer, who wrote a three-volume work on Psalm 119. Each volume is between 500 and 600 pages, with a total of 1,677 pages. There are 190 chapters in his work, more than one chapter for each verse.
“Luther professed that he prized this Psalm so highly, that he would not take the whole world in exchange for one leaf of it.” (Charles Bridges) Some great people have memorized this whole psalm and found great blessing in doing so: John Ruskin (19th century British writer), William Wilberforce (19th century British politician who led the movement to abolish the slave trade in the British Empire), Henry Martyn (19th century pioneer missionary to India), and David Livingstone (19th century pioneer missionary to Africa).
Matthew Henry – the great 18th century Bible commentator – was introduced to Psalm 119 as a child. His father, Philip Henry, told his children to take one verse of Psalm 119 every morning to meditate on, and thereby go through the entire psalm twice in the year. Philip said to his children, “That will bring you to be in love with all the rest of the Scriptures.” Perhaps that practice was why Matthew Henry loved the Bible so much that he wrote commentary that is used still today.
George Wishart was the Bishop of Edinburgh in the 17th century (not to be confused with another Scot by the same name who was martyred a century earlier). Wishart was condemned to death for his faith. But when he was on the scaffold, he made use of a custom that allowed the condemned person to choose one psalm to be sung, and he chose Psalm 119. Before two-thirds of the psalm had been sung, his pardon arrived and his life was spared.
A. Aleph א: The blessedness of those who walk in God’s word and the longing to do so.
1. (1-2) Blessing declared.
Blessed are the undefiled in the way,
Who walk in the law of the LORD!
Blessed are those who keep His testimonies,
Who seek Him with the whole heart!
a. Blessed are the undefiled in the way: In beginning to describe man’s blessedness, the psalmist starts with the idea that being undefiled in the way is a blessing.
i. Many people – ancient and modern – think the life lived undefiled in the way is boring at best. The idea is that if there isn’t any defilement in it, then it can’t be any fun. Yet the one who walks in God’s word knows the true blessedness of living and enjoying an undefiled life.
ii. We can simply say that God is blessed; He wants us to share His blessedness. His word shows us the way to share His blessedness, and it is found by being undefiled in the way.
iii. Survey and polling data constantly demonstrate that those who live lives in general conformity to God’s standards are happier, enjoy life more, and are more content. Yet the illusion remains for many that a defiled life is more “fun.”.
iv. We need God to show us the way to a happy life, and it is centered on being undefiled in the way. “The reason we are not happy is that we sin, and the main reason we sin as much as we do is that we do not know the Bible well enough…. Apart from being instructed by God, human beings do not know how to achieve happiness.” (Boice).
b. Who walk in the law of the LORD: In the mind of the psalmist, there is a strong and definite connection between being undefiled in the way and walking in the law of the LORD. To walk in the law of the LORD is in fact to be undefiled in the way.
i. We wouldn’t know what a pure life was without God telling us. Certainly, some aspects of a pure life are revealed in human conscience and known widely among humanity. Yet there are other aspects of the pure life that we learn only from the word of God.
ii. The law of the LORD: Here the author of Psalm 119 uses, for the first time, a phrase referring to the written revelation of God. The many various ways he referred to God’s written revelation shows us how much he knew, loved, and respected God’s word.
iii. The law of the LORD: The word here used is torah. “Here the great word Torah is used, the word which to the Hebrew stood for the Law, being the word employed to describe the first division of the Bible, that which we call the Pentateuch.” (Morgan).
iv. “To enjoy this beatitude a holy walking must become habitual. This sacred exercise is very different from sluggish piety. ‘Blessed are the undefiled in the way who walk in the law of the Lord.’ A man may sit down in the road without soiling his skin or fouling his apparel, but that is not enough. There must be progress – practical action – in the Christian life; and in order to experience blessedness we must be doing something for the Master.” (Spurgeon).
c. Blessed are those who keep His testimonies: To keep His testimonies is virtually the same as to walk in the law of the LORD. Here is an example of the parallelism common to Hebrew poetry, used for both explanation and emphasis.
i. Keep means doing, not only hearing. “Neither is it enough that we understand or ponder God’s precepts, but we must practise them, if we would be happy.” (Trapp).
ii. “Blessedness is ascribed to those who treasure up the testimonies of the Lord: in which is implied that they search the Scriptures, that they come to an understanding of them, that they love them, and then that they continue in the practice of them. We must first get a thing before we can keep it. In order to keep it well we must get a firm grip of it: we cannot keep in the heart that which we have not heartily embraced by the affections.” (Spurgeon).
iii. “But let me not shrink from the question, do I ‘keep his testimonies’ from constraint, or from love? Surely when I consider my own natural aversion and enmity to the law of God, and the danger of self-deception in the external service of the Lord, I have much need to pray.” (Bridges).
d. Who seek Him with the whole heart: If one will seek God with the whole heart, it must include diligent study of God’s written revelation. There are good and important ways to seek God other than through His word (such as in prayer, worship, fasting, serving, and so forth). Yet if these do not include seeking God in and through His word, these other practices can be misdirected.
i. With the whole heart: Yet, we do not miss the emphasis on the heart. “God is not truly sought by the cold researches of the brain: we must seek him with the heart. Love reveals itself to love: God manifests his heart to the heart of his people. It is in vain that we endeavour to comprehend him by reason; we must apprehend him by affection.” (Spurgeon).
ii. The whole heart is vital. God is one; and we will not know Him closely until we seek Him with the whole heart. This is a challenge to the divided heart, not to the broken heart. “Strange to say, in scriptural phraseology, a heart…may be broken but not divided; and yet again it may be broken and be whole.” (Spurgeon).
2. (3) Blessing described.
They also do no iniquity;
They walk in His ways.
a. They also do no iniquity: The idea from Psalm 119:1-2 is repeated; these ones keep His testimonies, they are undefiled in the way, and they also do no iniquity. There is a purity and goodness that marks their lives.
b. They walk in His ways: They have learned His ways from the written revelation; but with His word, God also gives grace and power to walk in His ways.
3. (4-8) Blessing desired.
You have commanded us
To keep Your precepts diligently.
Oh, that my ways were directed
To keep Your statutes!
Then I would not be ashamed,
When I look into all Your commandments.
I will praise You with uprightness of heart,
When I learn Your righteous judgments.
I will keep Your statutes;
Oh, do not forsake me utterly!
a. You have commanded us to keep Your precepts diligently: The psalmist connects commanded obedience with the blessings to the obedient. He shows that the reason God commanded us to keep His precepts diligently is not only because it honors Him, but also because it is the path to blessing.
i. With the words “You have commanded us,” we see that the psalmist begins to address God in prayer; a position he will hold through most of the psalm. This shows that he was not only a student of Scripture, but also a man of prayer.
ii. “Because it was a hard thing to rightly understand this word in all its parts, and harder to put it in practice, he therefore intermixed many prayers to God for his help therein, thereby directing and encouraging others to take the same course.” (Poole).
iii. To keep Your precepts: “God has not commanded us to be diligent in making precepts, but in keeping them. Some bind yokes upon their own necks, and make bonds and rules for others: but the wise course is to be satisfied with the rules of holy Scripture.” (Spurgeon).
b. Oh, that my ways were directed to keep Your statutes: This is not only a pious wish; it is also a prayer for the ability to obey God’s word. Apart from His work in us, we lack the ability to keep those commands.
i. Here the psalmist gets personal. This isn’t a theological treatise on written revelation; it is an interaction with the Living God regarding His primary way of showing Himself to us. “It may be considered as the journal of one, who was deeply taught in the things of God, long practiced in the life and walk of faith.” (Bridges).
ii. “We do not get very far into the psalm before we discover that he is very much like ourselves, at least in the respect that he has not yet gotten to be like the happy, blessed ones he is describing. He wants to be, but he is not yet.” (Boice).
iii. “Without thee I can do nothing; my soul is unstable and fickle; and it will continue weak and uncertain till thou strengthen and establish it.” (Clarke).
c. Then I would not be ashamed, when I look into all Your commandments: The psalmist felt the shame that comes when the standard of God’s word is compared to our lives. He prayed for the power to live an unashamed life.
i. “‘Shame’ is the fruit of sin; confidence is the effect of righteousness.” (Horne).
ii. “There is a twofold shame; the shame of a guilty conscience; and the shame of a tender conscience. The one is the merit and fruit of sin; the other is an act of grace.” (Thomas Manton, cited in Spurgeon).
iii. “…unto all thy commandments; so as not to be partial in my obedience, not to allow myself in the practice of any known sin, or in the neglect of any known duty.” (Poole).
iv. “Sincerity therefore must be the stamp of my Christian profession. Though utterly unable to render perfect obedience to the least of the commandments, yet my desire and purpose will have respect unto them all.” (Bridges).
d. I will praise You with uprightness of heart: The psalmist found it not only important to praise God, but to do it with uprightness of heart. He did not want to offer God the image of praise or a moment of praise when the rest of his life was not upright.
i. “Be sure that he who prays for holiness will one day praise for happiness. Shame having vanished, silence is broken, and the formerly silent man declares, ‘I will praise thee.’” (Spurgeon).
e. I will keep Your statutes: This was a promise to keep – in the sense of guarding – the statutes (huqqim), the engraved, inscribed, written word of God.
i. We never forget that in a real sense, only Jesus could say I will keep Your statutes. “The many strong expressions of love toward the law, and the repeated resolutions and vows to observe it, will often force us to turn our thoughts to the true David, whose ‘meat and drink it was, to do the will of him that sent him.’” (Horne).
f. Oh, do not forsake me utterly: We sense the note of desperation in the psalmist. He knows and loves God’s word, yet is also very conscious of his inability – apart from the work of God in his life – to live God’s word. If God did forsake him, he would be lost.
i. “Forsaken we may be – but not utterly. David was forsaken, not like Saul. Peter was forsaken, not like Judas, utterly and for ever…. Mark his dealings with you. Inquire into their reason. Submit to his dispensation. If he forsakes, beg his return: but trust your forsaking God.” (Bridges).
ii. The heart that sings do not forsake me utterly is a heart that longs to be close to God. “Apparently unconsciously, that is without intention, the song reveals the fact that a man who obeys the will of God as revealed, comes to a personal fellowship with God. From beginning to end, the singer sang as one who had personal knowledge of God and direct dealing with Him.” (Morgan).
B. Beth ב: Purity of life and meditation on God’s word.
Each line of this second section of Psalm 119 begins with the Hebrew letter Beth, which also means “a house.” Some have suggested that this section tells us how to make our heart a home for the word of God.
1. (9) A young man finds a cleansed life through God’s word.
How can a young man cleanse his way?
By taking heed according to Your word.
a. How can a young man cleanse his way? This was no less a difficult question in ancient times than in our own. The young man has his own particular challenges in living a pure life.
i. This is a question that some – even some who are numbered among the people of God – never seem to ask for themselves. Sadly, some people never have a concern for moral purity. They echo the prayer of Augustine before his conversion: “Lord, make me chaste – but not yet.”.
ii. The world tells us, “Have your good time when you are young; get it all out of your system. When you are older you can settle down and be religious and proper.” Boice comments on this thinking: “God’s answer is quite different. God says, If you are going to live for me, you must begin at the earliest possible moment, without delay, preferably when you are very young.”.
iii. Even when one has the desire for moral purity, there are many things that may make it difficult for a young man to cleanse his way.
· Youthful energy and a sense of carelessness.
· The lack of life wisdom.
· The desire for and gaining of independence.
· Physical and sexual maturity that may run ahead of spiritual and moral maturity.
· Money and the freedom that it brings.
· Young women who may – knowingly or unknowingly – encourage moral impurity.
· The spirit of the age that both expects and promotes moral uncleanness for young men.
· The desire to be accepted by peers who face the same challenges.
iv. “Why is the young man so especially called to cleanse his way? Because God justly claims the first and the best.” (Bridges).
v. God wants to spare the young man (and the older man) the bondage of sin. Experience has the power to shape our habits. Surrender to any temptation; transfer it from the realm of mental contemplation to life experience, and that temptation instantly becomes much more difficult to resist in the future. Each successive experience of surrender to temptation builds a habit, reinforced not only spiritually, but also by brain chemistry. Such ingrained habits are more and more difficult to break the more they are experienced; and it is almost impossible to break such habits without replacing them with another habit.
vi. Significantly, the words his way come from the Hebrew word orach. “Orach, which we translate way here, signifies a track, a rut, such as is made by the wheel of a cart or chariot.” (Clarke) A young man determines the tracks for the rest of his life.
vii. Of course, it is not only the young man who has these challenges; older men and women of every age have their own challenges in living pure lives. Yet these are often more severely felt in the life of the young man.
viii. “From the heartfelt prayers of the surrounding verses it would seem that the young man is the psalmist himself in the first place. He is praying rather than preaching.” (Kidner).
b. By taking heed: A life of moral purity does not happen accidentally. If one does not take heed, the natural path is toward impurity and degeneration. One must take heed in order to be pure.
c. According to Your word: This is how one takes heed. The foundation for a morally pure life is found in God’s word.
· God’s word shows us the standard of purity, so we know what is right and what is wrong.
· God’s word shows us the reasons for purity, so we understand the wisdom and goodness of God’s commands.
· God’s word shows us the difficulty of purity, and reminds us to be on guard.
· God’s word shows us the blessings of purity, and gives us an incentive to make the necessary sacrifices.
· God’s word shows us how to be born again – converted, so our inner man may be transformed after the pattern of ultimate purity, Jesus Christ.
· God’s word shows us the way to be empowered by the Holy Spirit, so that we have the spiritual resources to be pure.
· God’s word is a refuge against temptation, giving us a way of escape in the season of enticement.
· God’s word is a light that clears away the deceptive fog of seduction and temptation.
· God’s word is a mirror that helps us see our spiritual and moral condition, and thus walk in purity.
· God’s word gives us wise and simple commands, such as to “Flee youthful lusts” (2 Timothy 2:22).
· God’s word washes us from impurity, and actually cleanses our life in a spiritual sense (Ephesians 5:26, John 15:3).
· God’s word is the key to the renewing of our minds, which in turn is the key to personal, moral, and spiritual transformation (Romans 12:1-2).
· God’s word gives a refuge against condemnation when we have been impure, and shows us how to repent and come back to a pure life.
· God’s word shows us how to conduct our lives so that we are an encouragement to others in purity.
i. Jesus spoke specifically of the power of His word to cleanse and keep us pure: You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you (John 15:3). Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth (John 17:17).
ii. The impact is clear: if you want to cleanse your way, then you must also take heed according to God’s word.
iii. “Young man, the Bible must be your chart, and you must exercise great watchfulness that your way may be according to its directions. You must take heed to your daily life as well as study your Bible, and you must study your Bible that you may take heed to your daily life. With the greatest care a man will go astray if his map misleads him; but with the most accurate map he will still lose his road if he does not take heed to it.” (Spurgeon).
iv. This idea is communicated in Proverbs 2:10-12: When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you, to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things.
v. We remind ourselves that Jesus answered temptation with the word of God (Matthew 4:1-10). “He who became man for our salvation, passed through this state of youth, undefiled, that he might, as it were, reclaim and consecrate it anew to God.” (Horne).
2. (10-11) How one takes heed of God’s word.
With my whole heart I have sought You;
Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!
Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You.
a. With my whole heart I have sought You: Here the psalmist declares his dedication to God, and at the same time recognizes his weakness in being able to maintain such a dedication (Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments).
i. With my whole heart I have sought You reminds us that Scripture was no mere textbook to the psalmist; it was how he sought and met with God. “His heart had gone after God himself: he had not only desired to obey his laws, but to commune with his person.” (Spurgeon).
ii. Let me not wander helps us put in perspective the many claims to purity and devotion in this psalm (and others). They are understood in the light of dependence upon God, not in the sense of self-righteous pride.
iii. “The path of purity is that of caution conditioned by the Word of God. This caution is further manifested in the distrust of self, and earnest seeking to be kept in the way of God’s commandments.” (Morgan).
iv. “When the soul is thus conscious of ‘following the Lord fully,’ there is a peculiar dread of wandering. In a careless or half-hearted state, wanderings are not watched, so long as they do not lead to any open declension.” (Bridges).
b. Your word I have hidden in my heart: The psalmist knew the value of taking God’s word and hiding it in his heart. It is hidden in the sense that it is on the inside, where no one can see it, and it is safe so that no one can take it away.
i. We can be assured that before this word was hidden in his heart, it was received in his mind. The psalmist heard and read the word of God, and thought about it continually, until it became ingrained in both his mind and his heart.
ii. “Memorizing is precisely what is called for, since it is only when the Word of God is readily available in our minds that we are able to recall it in moments of need and profit by it.” (Boice).
iii. “If God’s word be only in his Bible, and not also in his heart, he may soon and easily be surprised into his besetting sin.” (Clarke).
c. That I might not sin against You: Here the psalmist states one benefit from having God’s word hidden in his heart. It is a defense against sin, for all the reasons discussed above and more.
i. “The personal way in which the man of God did this is also noteworthy: ‘With my whole heart have I sought thee.’ Whatever others might choose to do he had already made his choice and placed the Word in his innermost soul as his dearest delight, and however others might transgress, his aim was after holiness: ‘That I might not sin against thee.’” (Spurgeon).
3. (12) A prayer for instruction.
Blessed are You, O LORD!
Teach me Your statutes.
a. Blessed are You, O LORD: The psalmist seems to interrupt his thoughts on the connection between God’s word and a pure life with this expression of praise. The greatness of these ideas and the reality of them in his life has made this praise necessary.
b. Teach me Your statutes: This demonstrates the humility of the psalmist. Though filled with God’s word and a desire for purity, he sensed his constant need for instruction by God. He didn’t simply need to read God’s statutes; he pleaded with God to teach him.
i. This saying is written in the front of some Bibles: “This book will keep you from sin. Sin will keep you from this book.” The psalmist understood this principle, and longed for God to be his teacher, and to keep him in God’s great book.
ii. “We need to be disciples or learners – ‘teach me;’ but what an honour to have God himself for a teacher: how bold is [the psalmist] to beg the blessed God to teach him!” (Spurgeon).
4. (13-16) A declaration of commitment.
With my lips I have declared
All the judgments of Your mouth.
I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
As much as in all riches.
I will meditate on Your precepts,
And contemplate Your ways.
I will delight myself in Your statutes;
I will not forget Your word.
a. With my lips I have declared all the judgments of Your mouth: The psalmist understood the importance of not only silently reading or hearing the word of God, but also the importance in saying it. To declare God’s word (all the judgments of Your mouth) with his lips was another part of his relationship with and love for God.
i. We may confidently conclude that there is not enough – never enough – of this among the people of God. God’s people should have His word not only in their minds and hearts, but also upon their lips. Saying it is powerful and must not be neglected.
ii. “When we make the Scriptures the subject of our conversation, we glorify God, we edify our neighbours, and we improve ourselves.” (Horne).
b. I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches: The psalmist understood the true value of God’s word; it gave him as much joy as all riches might.
i. It could be fairly asked of every Christian: “For what amount would you deny yourself to ever hear or read God’s word again?” It is to be feared that many, like Esau, would sell this birthright treasure for the equivalent of a bowl of stew.
ii. “We may also observe here an evidence of adoption. Obedience is not a burden, but a delight. The servant may perform the statutes of God, but it is only the son who ‘delights in them.’” (Bridges).
c. I will meditate…and contemplate…I will delight…I will not forget Your word: The greatness of God’s word has led the psalmist to great resolution for his life. His life will be filled with God’s word, in his mind (meditate…contemplate), in his heart (delight), and in his habits (not forget).
i. “Meditation is recalling what we have committed to memory and then turning it over and over in our minds to see the fullest implications and applications of the truth.” (Boice).
ii. I will delight: “The word is very emphatical: evetvaeshtaasha, I will skip about and jump for joy.” (Clarke).
iii. This giving of the fullness of life to God’s word – in mind, heart, and habits – is a good description of what the psalmist meant by taking heed in Psalm 119:9. The young man will cleanse his way, and enjoy the fullness of such a God-honoring life.
iv. We can almost hear a challenge from the psalmist: “You live your compromising, impure life that thinks it knows pleasure and satisfaction; I will cleanse my way and give the fullness of my life to God and His word, and we will see who will be more blessed, more happy, and more filled with life.”.
C. Gimel ג: The word of God and the trials of life.
1. (17) A prayer for blessing, so that God’s word can be kept.
Deal bountifully with Your servant,
That I may live and keep Your word.
a. Deal bountifully with Your servant: This is a wonderful request: boldly asking for blessing (deal bountifully), while at the same time coming humbly before God (Your servant). The servant properly depends upon the master for his bounty.
i. In saying, Deal bountifully, the psalmist was asking for a lot, not just a little. “The believer, like [the psalmist], is a man of large expectations…. We may, indeed, be too bold in our manner of approach to God; but we cannot be too bold in our expectations from him.” (Bridges).
ii. “He begs for a liberality of grace, after the fashion of one who prayed, ‘O Lord, thou must give me great mercy or no mercy, for little mercy will not serve my turn.’” (Spurgeon).
b. That I may live and keep Your word: This is why the psalmist asked for God’s blessing. It was not for personal indulgence or even comfort, but so that God’s word might be lived and kept. This is a wonderful, God-honoring prayer that is heard in heaven.
i. As the rest of this section will demonstrate, the psalmist prayed this because of great problems and pressures that had beset him. This section of the psalm shows us that the author was a man who had suffered deeply. He had known persecution (Psalm 119:22-23), deprivation and fear for his life (Psalm 119:17), seasons when he seemed to get nothing from God’s word (Psalm 119:18), and loneliness, rejection, and a sense of abandonment (Psalm 119:19-20).
ii. In the midst of these trials, he wanted to live – not only surviving, but also a better quality of life, especially in regard to God.
iii. That I may live: “[This] is the first of many such prayers…. While some of them could refer simply to surviving an illness or an attack, others are clearly qualitative, speaking of life that is worthy of the name, or in our terms, spiritual life, found in fellowship with God.” (Kidner).
2. (18) A prayer for insight, so that God’s word can be understood.
Open my eyes, that I may see
Wondrous things from Your law.
a. Open my eyes, that I may see: The psalmist recognized that without God’s enlightenment, he could not see what he could and should from God’s word.
i. “The verb ‘open’ in Psalm 119:18 is used in the Balaam story where the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes so he could see the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. It has to do with removing a veil, or covering.” (Boice).
ii. This reminds us that it isn’t the word of God that needs changing, as if it were obscure; we are the ones who are veiled and can’t understand the word of God apart from the work of the Spirit. Paul’s eyes were unveiled when he was converted (Acts 9:18); it was as if scales had dropped from his eyes.
iii. “In order to keep God’s word, must we not pray to understand it? What then is this prayer? Not – give me a plainer Bible – but open my eyes to know my Bible. Not – show me some new revelations beside the law – but make me behold the wonders of the law.” (Bridges).
iv. The psalmist didn’t need new revelation; he needed to see the revelation that was already given. He didn’t need new eyes; he needed to see more clearly with the eyes he already had.
b. Wondrous things from Your law: There are wondrous things in Scripture; but they can only be seen when the eyes are opened by God. This means that prayer is an important (and often neglected) part of Bible study.
i. Not everyone sees the wondrous things in God’s word, but when he does see them, he should regard it as evidence of God’s blessing and favor.
ii. Jesus rejoiced that God revealed His wisdom this way: At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.” (Matthew 11:25).
iii. God has given man a sense of wonder, and there are certain things that prompt it. The new and unexpected can cause wonder, the beautiful and great can cause wonder, and the mysterious and unknown can cause wonder. God has provided for this sense of wonder by giving us His word. The Holy Spirit can make us alive to the Bible, and helps us constantly see things that are new and unexpected, things that are great and beautiful, and things that are mysterious and unknown. It is a shame that many Christians look for their sense of wonder to be satisfied without looking to the word of God.
iv. Think of all there is in the Bible that you don’t see. Think of all the wonder, all the treasure that is there, but you don’t see it. You can see some things, though you can’t see everything, and sometimes you will think you see things that are not really there. Those who see more than you are not necessarily smarter or better; their eyes are just more open.
v. “If we want to see wonderful things in the Scriptures, it is not enough for us merely to ask God to open our eyes that we might see them. We must also study the Bible carefully. The Holy Spirit is given not to make our study unnecessary but to make it effective.” (Boice).
3. (19-20) A prayer for revelation, longing for God’s word.
I am a stranger in the earth;
Do not hide Your commandments from me.
My soul breaks with longing
For Your judgments at all times.
a. I am a stranger in the earth; do not hide Your commandments from me: This is the same request as in the previous verse, but made for a different reason. The psalmist wants to know and keep God’s word, and prays for it to be so; but now he makes the request because he recognizes that the earth is not his home, and he needs communication with his true homeland.
i. When we think of the man who says I am a stranger in the earth, we should not think of the man who wanders alone through the wilderness. We should think of the man who lives among others and is surrounded by the vanity of the world’s joys, but all the while knows, “I don’t really belong here.”.
ii. “If you are trying to follow God, the world is going to treat you as an alien, for that is what you will be. You cannot expect to be at home in it, and if you are, well, it is an indication that you really do not belong to Christ or at least are living far from him.” (Boice).
b. My soul breaks with longing for Your judgments at all times: His soul longed for God’s word so much because he was indeed a stranger in the earth; for those who feel perfectly at home in this world, the word that comes to them from heaven is less precious.
i. My soul breaks: “We have a similar expression: It broke my heart, That is heart-breaking, She died of a broken heart. It expresses excessive longing, grievous disappointment, hopeless love, accumulated sorrow. By this we may see the hungering and thirsting which the psalmist had after righteousness, often mingled with much despondency.” (Clarke).
ii. “Spiritual desires are the shadows of coming blessings. What God intends to give us he first sets us longing for. Hence the wonderful efficacy of prayer, because prayer is the embodiment of a longing inspired of God because he intends to bestow the blessing. What are thy longings, then, my hearer?” (Spurgeon).
iii. “Longing lingers not within a lifeless corpse. Where the heart is breaking with desire there is life. This may comfort some of you: you have not attained as yet to the holiness you admire, but you long for it: ah, then, you are a living soul, the life of God is in you.” (Spurgeon).
4. (21-24) A prayer for refuge in God’s word.
You rebuke the proud—the cursed,
Who stray from Your commandments.
Remove from me reproach and contempt,
For I have kept Your testimonies.
Princes also sit and speak against me,
But Your servant meditates on Your statutes.
Your testimonies also are my delight
And my counselors.
a. You rebuke the proud: Those who stray from God’s commandments are both proud (their disobedience is evidence of willfulness) and cursed (no good can come from their disobedience).
i. “Let the histories of Cain, Pharaoh, Haman, Nebuchadnezzar, and Herod, exhibit the proud under the rebuke and curse of God.” (Bridges).
b. Remove from me reproach and contempt: The psalmist recognized that even princes also sit and speak against him; yet he would not turn from meditation on God’s word. Instead, he simply prayed, asking God to deal with the reproach and contempt that notable people put on him for his love of God’s word.
i. Reproach is unpleasant; it is the expression of disapproval or disappointment. Yet contempt is even worse; it is the feeling that a person or thing is beneath consideration, that he is worthless and useless.
ii. Beyond reproach and contempt, these enemies also slandered the psalmist (sit and speak against me). Slander goes beyond our “stranger” status. When the world thinks we are strange and wonders if we belong, it sees us correctly. When they slander us, they tell lies about us and falsely accuse us.
iii. “The best way to deal with slander is to pray about it: God will either remove it, or remove the sting from it. Our own attempts at clearing ourselves are usually failures.” (Spurgeon).
c. Your testimonies also are my delight and my counselors: The psalmist delighted and trusted in God’s word much more than in the high people of this earth (such as princes).
i. “Most men covet a prince’s good word, and to be spoken ill of by a great man is a great discouragement to them, but the Psalmist bore his trial with holy calmness…. While his enemies took counsel with each other the holy man took counsel with the testimonies of God.” (Spurgeon).
ii. My counselors: “Yet a mere cursory reading will never realize to us its holy delight or counsel. It must be brought home to our own experiences, and consulted on those trivial occasions of every day, when, unconscious of our need of Divine direction, we are too often inclined to lean to our own counsel.” (Bridges).
iii. In this section the psalmist saw many things that hindered his reception of the word of God and his fellowship with God, and he prayed to be protected from them.
· He saw the danger of a dead soul and a cold heart; therefore he prayed, “Deal bountifully with Your servant, that I may live and keep Your word.”.
· He saw the danger of darkened understanding; therefore he prayed, “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law.”.
· He saw the danger of living as a stranger in a strange land; therefore he prayed, “Do not hide Your commandments from me.”.
· He saw his own weakness and instability; therefore he prayed, “My soul breaks with longing.”.
· He saw the danger of pride, evident in those who attacked him; therefore he recognized that the proud are “the cursed, who stray for Your commandments.”.
· He saw the reproach and contempt that came upon him, and how those could shake his standing; therefore he prayed, “Remove from me reproach and contempt.”.
· He saw rulers plotting against him; therefore he prayed, “Your testimonies are my delight.”.
iv. “He rises superior to these sorrowful circumstances by keeping the testimonies, meditating on the statutes, and so finding delight therein.” (Morgan).
D. Daleth ד: Revived from the dust.
1. (25) A prayer for revival from a soul who feels dead.
My soul clings to the dust;
Revive me according to Your word.
a. My soul clings to the dust: The psalmist used a strong image to say that he felt near death in his current crisis; dust was the place of death, the place of mourning, and the place of humiliation.
i. “Whatever was the cause of his complaint, it was no surface evil, but an affair of his inmost spirit; his soul cleaved to the dust; and it was not a casual and accidental falling into the dust, but a continuous and powerful tendency, or cleaving to the earth.” (Spurgeon).
b. Revive me according to Your word: From this low place, the prayer for revival came. The psalmist asked for life and vitality to be restored, and he asked that it happen according to Your word.
i. Revival comes from a sense of spiritual need and lowliness. True revival – in the Biblical and historical sense – is marked by a shamed awareness of sin and an urgency to confess and make things right (mentioned in Psalm 119:26).
ii. The psalmist knew what he needed. “One would have thought that he would have asked for comfort or upraising, but he knew that these would come out of increased life, and therefore he sought that blessing which is the root of the rest. When a person is depressed in spirit, weak, and bent towards the ground, the main thing is to increase his stamina and put more life into him; then his spirit revives.” (Spurgeon).
iii. According to Your word shows us that God uses His word in bringing revival. Works that claim to be revival can be measured according to His word.
2. (26-27) Teach me, make me understand.
I have declared my ways, and You answered me;
Teach me Your statutes.
Make me understand the way of Your precepts;
So shall I meditate on Your wonderful works.
a. I have declared my ways…teach me Your statutes: The idea behind I have declared my ways is that the psalmist told God everything about himself and his life. He confessed fully and freely before God.
i. “Can each one of us now say, in this sense, ‘I have declared my ways’ to the Lord? For this should be done, not only at our first coming to him, but continually throughout the whole of our life. We should look over each day, and sum up the errors of the day, and say, ‘I have declared my ways,’ – my naughty ways, my wicked ways, my wandering ways, my backsliding ways, my cold, indifferent ways, my proud ways.’” (Spurgeon).
ii. The psalmist had a wonderful liberty in conversation; he spoke to God as a dear friend. “How often do we treat our Almighty Friend as if we were weary of dealing with him!” (Bridges).
b. Make me understand the way of Your precepts: The psalmist understood that he needed more than knowledge; he also needed understanding. With both he would meditate on God’s wonderful works.
i. Make me understand: “It is concerned with a deep understanding, one that goes beyond a mere understanding of the words to a profound understanding of what they reveal about the nature of God, the gospel, and God’s ways.” (Boice).
ii. “‘Teach me thy statutes.’ I think the psalmist means this, ‘My Lord, I have told thee all; now, wilt thou tell me all? I have declared to thee my ways; now, wilt thou teach me thy ways? I have confessed to thee how I have broken thy statutes; wilt thou not give me thy statutes back again?’” (Spurgeon).
3. (28) A plea for strength from a shrinking soul.
My soul melts from heaviness;
Strengthen me according to Your word.
a. My soul melts from heaviness: The problems surrounding the psalmist (as seen in Psalm 119:17-24) made his soul heavy, as if it would melt. He felt that he had no strength or stability within.
b. Strengthen me according to Your word: Therefore, he prayed for strength, and that this strength would come both from and according to God’s word.
i. “The singer is bowed down, overwhelmed. He sorely needs succour and strength. How does he seek it? Not by asking for pity, but by a determined application to the law of his God.” (Morgan).
ii. “This melting heaviness has not wrought its work, until it has bowed us before the throne of grace with the pleading cry of faith – Strengthen thou me!” (Bridges).
4. (29-30) Choosing the way of truth.
Remove from me the way of lying,
And grant me Your law graciously.
I have chosen the way of truth;
Your judgments I have laid before me.
a. Remove from me the way of lying…. I have chosen the way of truth: The psalmist sensed the common temptation to lie; yet he determined to choose the way of truth.
i. Remove me from the way of lying: “…a sin that David, through diffidence, fell into frequently. See 1 Samuel 21:2,8, where he roundly telleth three or four lies; and the like he did, 1 Samuel 27:8,10; this evil he saw by himself, and here prayeth against it.” (Trapp).
ii. Grant me Your law graciously: The verb translated graciously “…actually has the sense of ‘graciously teach,’ a single word. The full thought is, If we are to be kept from sin, it must be by the grace of God exercised through the teaching of his Word.” (Boice).
b. Your judgments I have laid before me: This is how the psalmist was able to choose the way of truth: He was in close relationship with the word of God.
i. “Men do not drop into the right way by chance; they must choose it, and continue to choose it, or they will soon wander from it.” (Spurgeon).
5. (31-32) Rescue me; enlarge my heart.
I cling to Your testimonies;
O LORD, do not put me to shame!
I will run the course of Your commandments,
For You shall enlarge my heart.
a. I cling to Your testimonies; O LORD, do not put me to shame: The psalmist understood that if he were to give himself entirely to God – to cling to His word as a shipwrecked man clings to a floating plank in the sea – then he could trust that God would not allow him to be put…to shame. This was well-placed confidence.
i. In the beginning of the section, he is clinging to the dust (Psalm 119:25); by the end he is clinging to God’s word. In the beginning he is laid low; now he is joyfully running with all his strength in the race God’s word sets before him.
ii. The clinging of this verse connects well with the choosing of the previous verse. “Having once chosen our road, it remains that we persevere in it; since better had it been for us never to have known the way of truth, than to forsake it, when known.” (Horne).
b. I will run the course of Your commandments: After beginning low in the dust, now the psalmist is running. He has moved in a beautiful progression, from confessing to choosing to clinging to running.
c. For You shall enlarge my heart: The psalmist comes back to a familiar theme, not only of the greatness of God’s word, but also of his acute sense of weakness and dependence upon God. He must have his heart enlarged: made bigger, stronger, better, and more steadfast. His confidence is that God would do this through His word.
i. “The remedy therefore is in that enlargement, which embraces a wider expanse of light, and a more full confidence of love…. He does not say – I will make no efforts, unless thou work for me; but if thou wilt enlarge – I will run. Weakness is not the plea for indolence, but for quickening grace…. The secret of Christian energy and success is a heart enlarged in the love of God.” (Bridges).
E. He ה: A plea for guidance and life.
He is the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and it is used at the beginning of verbs to make them causative. Therefore, the prayers in this section have the meaning, “Cause me to learn,” “Cause me to understand,” “Cause me to walk” and so forth.
1. (33-35) A prayer for instruction for righteous living.
Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes,
And I shall keep it to the end.
Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law;
Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
For I delight in it.
a. Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end: The psalmist here stresses his great desire to keep the way and word of God. If God would teach him, he would persevere and keep the way to the end.
i. “The general desire expressed in this division is that for guidance. It is not an appeal for direction in some special case of difficulty, but rather for the clear manifestation of the meaning of the will of God.” (Morgan).
ii. Only a God-changed heart can pray this. Left to himself, man is unable to keep the way and word of God (much less keep it to the end). Philippians 2:13 tells us that it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Here the psalmist prays as one who has received the will, and now prays for the doing of it.
iii. We should have the expectation of following God and His word to the end. “The end of our keeping the law will come only when we cease to breathe; no good man will think of marking a date and saying, ‘It is enough, I may now relax my watch, and live after the manner of men.’” (Spurgeon).
b. Give me understanding…I shall observe it with my whole heart: Without this understanding, the psalmist could not follow the desire of his transformed heart. We need understanding to persevere in the faith.
i. “The understanding operates upon the affections; it convinces the heart of the beauty of the law, so that the soul loves it with all its powers; and then it reveals the majesty of the lawgiver, and the whole nature bows before his supreme will.” (Spurgeon).
ii. The psalmist had no doubt that God had given His word to us; his only fear was that he would not understand it (or be distracted from it). Yet he was utterly confident that God had spoken and that it could be understood rightly by the prayerful heart and mind.
iii. “‘To the end’ means without time limit, and ‘with all my heart’ means without reservation.” (Boice).
c. Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it: Despite his delight and desire for God’s word, the psalmist knows he cannot walk in God’s path without God’s empowering.
i. “We need no instruction in the way of sin…. But for a child of God, this is a prayer for constant use.” (Bridges).
ii. “This is the cry of a child that longs to walk, but is too feeble; of a pilgrim who is exhausted, yet pants to be on the march; of a lame man who pines to be able to run.” (Spurgeon).
2. (36-37) God’s word and the problem of material things.
Incline my heart to Your testimonies,
And not to covetousness.
Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things,
And revive me in Your way.
a. Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to covetousness: The psalmist rightly understood that covetousness was a threat to walking in God’s way. A heart inclined toward God’s word would help him be satisfied in what God provides.
i. “He is asking God to turn his heart toward the Bible rather than allowing him to pursue selfish gain. For the first time he is confessing a potentially divided mind.” (Boice).
ii. The Bible tells us how covetousness has ruined many people.
· Balaam sold out God’s people and his own soul because he coveted (Numbers 22, 2 Peter 2:14-16).
· Ahab murdered because he coveted (1 Kings 21:1-13).
· David committed adultery and murder because he coveted (2 Samuel 11:2-17).
· Achan stole and brought Israel to defeat because he coveted (Joshua 7:21).
· Judas stole from his fellow disciples and betrayed Jesus because he coveted (John 12:6 and Matthew 26:14-16).
· Gehazi lied because he coveted (2 Kings 5:20-27).
· Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit because he coveted (Acts 5:1-6).
iii. “It is a handmaid of all sins; for there is no sin which a covetous man will not serve for his gain.” (William Cowper, cited in Spurgeon).
b. Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things: The psalmist rightly understood that some things, comparatively speaking, are worthless things. They are of no value for eternity and little value for the present age. He prayed that God would empower and enable him to turn away his eyes and attention from such things.
i. Many lives are wasted because people find themselves unwilling or unable to turn away their eyes from worthless things. The modern world with its media and entertainment technology brings before us an endless river of worthless things to occupy not only our eyes and time, but also our heart and minds.
ii. Some things are clearly worthless; some things are thought by many to be worthy, but are in fact worthless:.
· worthless because they do no good.
· worthless because they do not last.
· worthless because they help no one else.
· worthless because they build no faith, hope, or love.
· worthless because they distract from things that are truly worthy.
· worthless because they have nothing to do with Jesus.
iii. The psalmist understood that he had a natural tendency toward worthless things, so he prayed for that natural tendency to be counter-acted. “Keeping the eye is a grand means of ‘keeping the heart’ (Numbers 15:39, Job 31:1).” (Bridges).
iv. Yet the eyes are so powerful that the psalmist had to pray – to pray for power outside himself to turn his eyes from worthless things. Does the psalmist have no eyelids or no muscles in his neck to turn the head? We all sympathize with this prayer; the eyes are so small – yet they can lead the whole person, and often lead to destruction. This is because the eyes lead the heart, lead the mind, and can lead the whole person. He prayed this, “…lest looking cause liking and lusting.” (Trapp).
v. He did not gouge out his own eyes or pray God to do it; instead he wanted to look another way, a better way. The best way to look away from sin is to look at something else. “The prayer is not so much that the eyes may be shut as ‘turned away;’ for we need to have them open, but directed to right objects.” (Spurgeon).
c. And revive me in Your way: This is another prayer for revival – this time, to be made alive again in the way (or path) of God. The psalmist wanted to walk in God’s way, and to do it with a revived heart. He prayed for deadness in one direction – toward worthless things – and for life in another direction – toward God’s way.
i. “As I desire that I may be dull and dead in affections to worldly vanities; so, Lord, make me lively, and vigorous, and fervent in thy work and service.” (Poole).
ii. “He goes at once to him in whom were all his fresh springs. Life is the peculiar sphere of God: he is the Lord and Giver of life. No man ever received spiritual life, or the renewal of it, from any other source but the living God. Beloved, this is worth recollecting, for we are very apt when we feel ourselves declining to look anywhere but to the Lord. We, too, often look within.” (Spurgeon).
iii. God has many ways to revive us. Spurgeon listed some:.
· God’s word: “There are promises in God’s word of such effectual restorative power, that, if they be but fed upon…they will make a dwarf into a giant in the twinkling of an eye.”.
· Affliction: “It is wonderful how a little touch of the spur will quicken our sluggish natures.”.
· Great mercies: “A man may be stirred up to diligence by a sense of gratitude to God for great mercies.”.
· Christian example: “I believe the reading of holy biographies has been exceedingly blessed of God.”.
· Warm-hearted ministry: “We should select not that which tickles the ear most, but that which most enlivens the heart.”.
3. (38-40) Longing for revival from God’s word.
Establish Your word to Your servant,
Who is devoted to fearing You.
Turn away my reproach which I dread,
For Your judgments are good.
Behold, I long for Your precepts;
Revive me in Your righteousness.
a. Establish Your word to Your servant: This is not a prayer for God to change His word in some way; indeed, the word of the LORD is established forever (Isaiah 40:8). This is a prayer for a change in the heart and mind of the servant of God, so that the word of the LORD would be established in him.
i. Establish Your word to Your servant is much the same idea as what Mary said to Gabriel regarding the word of the Lord that he brought to her: Let it be to me according to your word (Luke 1:38).
b. Turn away my reproach which I dread, for Your judgments are good: While declaring the goodness of God’s judgments, the psalmist also prayed that his disgrace (reproach) would be turned away by the merciful God.
i. There is some reproach [disgrace] that we face as faithful followers of Jesus. Paul suffered these kind of reproaches (1 Timothy 4:10) and indeed even took pleasure in them (2 Corinthians 12:10). We expect and receive reproach as followers of Jesus (Hebrews 13:13, 1 Peter 4:14).
ii. “The Lord’s grace to him will remove disgrace and will promote the fear of God.” (VanGemeren).
c. I long for Your precepts; revive me in Your righteousness: Again the psalmist prays for revival. The prayer comes from a heart that loves God’s word (Your precepts), asking to be made alive in the righteousness of God.
F. Waw ו: Liberty comes from loving God’s word.
“This commences a new portion of the Psalm, in which each verse begins with the letter Vau, or v. There are almost no words in Hebrew that begin with this letter, which is properly a conjunction, and hence in each of the verses in this section the beginning of the verse is in the original a conjunction – vau.” (Barnes, cited in Spurgeon).
1. (41-42) Receiving from God and defending against man.
Let Your mercies come also to me, O LORD–
Your salvation according to Your word.
So shall I have an answer for him who reproaches me,
For I trust in Your word.
a. Let Your mercies come…Your salvation according to Your word: Here the psalmist acknowledged that mercy and salvation come from God to man through the word of God. The word of God doesn’t merely point us toward mercy and salvation, as if it were a self-help book. It actually brings mercy and salvation to us.
i. The psalmist rightly said mercies, in the plural. God’s gracious mercy to us is so great that it can only be described in the plural, with mercy piled on top of mercy.
ii. “He desires mercy as well as teaching, for he was guilty as well as ignorant.” (Spurgeon).
· He needed mercy, not only teaching.
· He needed many mercies, so the request is in the plural.
· He needed mercy from God more than from man, so the request is made to God.
iii. The ancient Hebrew word here translated mercies is hesed. For centuries it was translated with words like mercy, kindness, and love. But in 1927, a scholar named Nelson Glueck (among others) argued that the real idea behind hesed was “covenant loyalty” and not so much love or mercy. Many disagreed and there is no good reason for changing the long-held understanding of hesed and taking it as a word that mainly emphasizes covenant loyalty (see R. Laird Harris on hesed in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament).
iv. “It must come to me; or I shall never come to it.” (Bridges).
b. So shall I have an answer for him who reproaches me, for I trust in Your word: Trust in God’s word provides an answer to those who reproach us. The disapproving voices we often hear can be answered by our abiding trust in the approval that we believers find in God.
i. When we believe who God is and what He has done for us in Jesus Christ, the disapproval of this world is answered.
2. (43-44) A prayer that the word of God would remain in the mouth of the psalmist.
And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth,
For I have hoped in Your ordinances.
So shall I keep Your law continually,
Forever and ever.
a. Take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth: This request is rooted in the understanding that it is only by the goodness and grace of God that His word does dwell with us. Therefore the prayer comes that it may continue so.
i. This is true for humanity in general; hypothetically, God might have created man yet never communicated with him by His word.
ii. Yet it is also true for the individual who is awakened and attentive to God’s word – because of the work of God in him – so it is wise and worthy to pray that it would remain so.
iii. It is true most of all for those who proclaim the word of God. “He who has once preached the gospel from his heart is filled with horror at the idea of being put out of the ministry; he will crave to be allowed a little share in the holy testimony, and will reckon his silent Sabbaths to be days of banishment and punishment.” (Spurgeon).
b. For I have hoped in Your ordinances: His past hope is the ground for his future expectation. He has hoped in the word of God (ordinances) in the past, and he has not been disappointed.
c. So shall I keep Your law continually: The psalmist wanted God’s word to remain in his mouth so that he could keep God’s law. This was to glorify God through obedience to His word, not for any self-serving purpose.
3. (45-48) Loving the word that brings liberty.
And I will walk at liberty,
For I seek Your precepts.
I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings,
And will not be ashamed.
And I will delight myself in Your commandments,
Which I love.
My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments,
Which I love,
And I will meditate on Your statutes.
a. And I will walk at liberty: Having just spoken of the obedience that comes from having God’s word within, the psalmist now testifies that this obedience brings a life of liberty. Freedom comes through obedience and submission to God.
i. It is proven in many lives, in both the positive and the negative: Obedience and the pursuit of God’s word and wisdom lead to liberty. Disobedience, rejection of God’s word, and reliance upon one’s own wisdom lead to bondage.
ii. “Saints find no bondage in sanctity. The Spirit of holiness is a free spirit; he sets men at liberty and enables them to resist every effort to bring them under subjection. The way of holiness is not a track for slaves, but the King’s highway for freemen.” (Spurgeon).
b. I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed: This is an example of the liberty just mentioned. To have the boldness and ability to speak freely of God and His great word before kings and the great men of this earth shows true liberty.
i. “This is part of his liberty; he is free from fear of the greatest, proudest, and most tyrannical of men.” (Spurgeon).
c. And I will delight myself in Your commandments: That he set this in an I will statement shows that delighting in God’s word is a choice, a matter of the will. The psalmist didn’t wait for a feeling of delight to overcome him; he simply said, I will delight myself in Your commandments.
i. In Psalm 119:44, the psalmist proclaimed: So shall I keep Your law continually. In the verses following he lists at least three things that come from this life of obedience: liberty, confidence (will not be ashamed), and delight. These are blessings of the obedient life – blessings not earned by our obedience, but simply enjoyed by those of us who will keep His law continually.
d. Which I love…which I love: The strength and the depth of the psalmist’s love for God’s word are impressive. That love is manifested not only in the feeling of delight, but also in an act of honor (My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments), and time and energy spent with God’s word (I will meditate).
i. We may say that all true love has these three components: feeling, the giving of honor, and the desire to spend time and energy in knowing the beloved. This is a good measure of our love for God’s word.
ii. My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments: “A bold expression of yearning for God’s revelation in Scripture.” (Kidner).
iii. “O shame to Christians who feel so little affection to the Gospel of Christ, when we see such cordial, conscientious, and inviolate attachment in a Jew to the laws and ordinances of Moses, that did not afford a thousandth part of the privileges!” (Clarke).
iv. “Why then is the Bible read only – not meditated on? Because it is not loved. We do not go to it, as the hungry man to his food, as the miser to his treasure. The loss is incalculable.” (Bridges).
G. Zayin ז: The power of God’s word to comfort and strengthen.
1. (49-50) God’s word brings comfort.
Remember the word to Your servant,
Upon which You have caused me to hope.
This is my comfort in my affliction,
For Your word has given me life.
a. Remember the word to Your servant: The psalmist understood that God could never forget His word. Speaking in the manner of men, this was a plea for God to fulfill the promises stated in His word. God wants His people to plead His stated promises back to Him in prayer.
i. “When we hear any promise in the word of God, let us turn it into a prayer. God’s promises are his bonds. Sue him on his bond. He loves that we should wrestle with him by his promises.” (Sibbes, cited in Spurgeon).
ii. Spurgeon said that he often carried with him a small book of God’s promises (Clarke’s Precious Promises), and he turned to specific promises to help him at needful times. “But God – let us speak with reverence – when he gives a promise, binds himself with cords of his own making. He binds himself down to such and such a course when he says that such and such a thing shall be. Hence, when you grasp the promise, you get a hold on God.” (Spurgeon).
iii. To Your servant: “If God’s word to us as his servants is so precious, what shall we say of his word to us as his sons?” (Spurgeon).
b. Upon which You have caused me to hope: Again the psalmist understood that his trust and hope in God’s word should not be credited to his own spiritual greatness or genius. It came because God worked in him to hope in His word.
i. This also demonstrates that the word of God is worthy of such hope. “It is an irrevocable word. Man has to eat his words, sometimes, and unsay his say. He would perform his engagement, but he cannot. It is not that he is unfaithful, but that he is unable. Now this is never so with God. His word never returns to him void. Go, find ye the snowflakes winging their way like white doves back to heaven! Go, find the drops of rain rising upward like diamonds flung up from the hand of a mighty man to find a lodging-place in the cloud from which they fell! Until the snow and the rain return to heaven, and mock the ground which they promised to bless, the word of God shall never return to him void.” (Spurgeon).
c. This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life: When the psalmist recalled how faithfully and powerfully God’s word had brought him life in the past, he then found comfort in his present affliction.
i. “It would seem as though this section expressed the feelings of one in the midst of affliction. It does not sing the song of deliverance therefrom. The word is distinctly, ‘This is my comfort in my affliction.’” (Morgan).
ii. In this stanza there is no specific prayer for help. Instead, there are “…statements by the writer that he trusts what God has written in his law and will continue to love it and obey its teachings. It is a way of acknowledging that suffering is common to human beings.” (Boice).
iii. In the midst of affliction, the psalmist proclaims his comfort: this is my comfort. “The worldling clutches his money-bag, and says, ‘this is my comfort’; the spendthrift points to his gaiety and shouts, ‘this is my comfort’; the drunkard lifts his glass and sings, ‘this is my comfort’; but the man whose hope comes from God feels the life-giving power of the word of the Lord, and he testifies, ‘this is my comfort.’” (Spurgeon).
iv. My comfort…my affliction: In the midst of an affliction suited to the individual, the believer can also enjoy a comfort specifically suited to him. It is my affliction, and it is my comfort.
d. Your word has given me life: All should remember (especially preachers) that the word of God gives life; the preacher does not give it life. It isn’t as if the poor, dead word of God lay lifeless until the wonderful preacher came and breathed life into it. Instead, the word of God gives life – especially to dead preachers.
2. (51-52) God’s word adds strength to comfort.
The proud have me in great derision,
Yet I do not turn aside from Your law.
I remembered Your judgments of old, O LORD,
And have comforted myself.
a. The proud have me in great derision: In this section as well as the previous, the idea is that the psalmist is mocked and reproached for his love and trust in God’s word. These proud mockers look at the psalmist and his dedication to the word of God, and they hold him in great derision.
i. And so it has ever been: those who love and trust God’s word – especially with the depth and passion reflected by the psalmist in this mighty psalm –are mocked by the proud who want nothing to do with God and His word.
b. Yet I do not turn aside from Your law: We almost sense a note of defiance in the psalmist. No matter how great the derision that comes from the proud, he will hold faithful to God and His word.
i. Great harm has been done to the cause of God when believers find themselves unable to endure this great derision, and they begin to down-grade their view of God’s word and its inerrant character. Hoping to appease or impress the proud, they lead themselves and others to trust and love God’s word less. Such ones should instead find their strength and comfort in these very passages and declare, “Yet I do not turn aside from Your law.”.
ii. “Christian! Be satisfied with the approbation of your God. Has he not adopted you by his Spirit, sealed you for his kingdom? And is not this ‘honour that cometh from God only’ enough – far more than enough – to counterbalance the derision of the proud?” (Bridges).
c. I remembered Your judgments of old, O LORD, and have comforted myself: When challenged to lessen his confidence and trust in God’s word by the proud mockers, the psalmist wisely responded by increasing his confidence in God’s word! Therein he comforted himself.
i. The proud who hold the simple believer in great derision enjoy the applause and honor of some in this world; but they can never know the comfort that the psalmist wrote of here.
ii. There was specific comfort in remembering Your judgments of old, O LORD. In a similar way, we are comforted and strengthened in hope as we remember how God has dealt with men and circumstances in the past. “The grinning of the proud will not trouble us when we remember how the Lord dealt with their predecessors in bygone periods; he destroyed them at the deluge, he confounded them at Babel, he drowned them at the Red Sea, he drove them out of Canaan: he has in all ages bared his arm against the haughty, and broken them as potters’ vessels.” (Spurgeon).
iii. “When we see no present display of the divine power it is wise to fall back upon the records of former ages, since they are just as available as if the transactions were of yesterday, seeing the Lord is always the same.” (Spurgeon).
3. (53-56) Describing the comfort and strength the word of God brings.
Indignation has taken hold of me
Because of the wicked, who forsake Your law.
Your statutes have been my songs
In the house of my pilgrimage.
I remember Your name in the night, O LORD,
And I keep Your law.
This has become mine,
Because I kept Your precepts.
a. Indignation has taken hold of me: When the psalmist thought of the wicked – perhaps the proud who held him and others who trusted in God’s word in great derision – it made him indignant. He recognized their great sin: who forsake Your law.
i. Those who deny or depreciate God’s word do just this – they forsake the word of God. Worse yet, they often lead others to do the same. Jesus graphically described the penalty for those who lead others astray (Luke 17:1-2).
b. Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage: God’s word (Your statutes) makes him sing with joy and confidence. Those who know the power of singing God’s word have great comfort in the house of their pilgrimage.
i. Even as Paul and Silas could sing in the midst of suffering (Acts 16:25), so could the psalmist. Even as a pilgrim, not yet home and afflicted, he could sing unto his God.
ii. “A pilgrim is a person who is travelling through one country to another…. We are hurrying through this world as through a foreign land. We are in this country, not as residents, but only as visitors, who take this country en route for glory.” (Spurgeon).
iii. “Since our songs are so very different from those of the proud, we may expect to join a very different choir at the last, and sing in a place far removed from their abode.” (Spurgeon).
c. I remember Your name in the night, O LORD: This is true both literally and figuratively. In the dark of night when fears and anxieties often rush in upon us, the psalmist finds comfort in the name of the LORD, revealed to him by God’s word. Yet this comfort is also real in the figurative night that believers may face.
i. The words following – And I keep Your law – remind us that the remembrance of God in the night made for an obedient life with God in the daytime. “The good effect of hours thus secretly passed in holy exercises, will appear openly in our lives and conversations.” (Horne).
ii. “If we have no memory for the name of Jehovah we are not likely to remember his commandments: if we do not think of him secretly we shall not obey him openly.” (Spurgeon).
d. This has become mine: This is a glorious, triumphant statement from the psalmist. The power, goodness, comfort, and strength of God’s word are not only ideas or theories to him. By faith – faith that has come by God’s word (Romans 10:17) – he can rightly say, This has become mine!
i. “…‘this’ being the cheer and comfort so tellingly described in Psalm 119:54f. Although obedience does not earn these blessings, it turns us around to receive them.” (Kidner).
ii. “We are not rewarded for our works, but there is a reward in them.” (Spurgeon).
e. Because I kept Your precepts: The psalmist enjoys this triumph not only because he knows the word of God, but also because he obeys them (I kept Your precepts). It isn’t that the psalmist claims perfect obedience (as shown in the next verses, Psalm 119:57-58), but a life generally lived in faithfulness to the word of God.
H. Heth ח: Hurrying to God with all my heart.
1. (57-58) Loyalty proclaimed and mercy requested.
You are my portion, O LORD;
I have said that I would keep Your words.
I entreated Your favor with my whole heart;
Be merciful to me according to Your word.
a. You are my portion, O LORD: These are the words of a satisfied soul. The psalmist is satisfied with the portion received, and that portion is the LORD Himself.
i. Spurgeon observed that this was “…a broken sentence. The translators have mended it by insertions, but perhaps it had been better to have left it alone, and then it would have appeared as an exclamation, – ‘My portion, O Lord!’”.
ii. “The psalmist is saying that, like the Levites, he wants his portion of divine blessing to be God himself since nothing is better and nothing will ever fully satisfy his or anyone else’s heart but God himself. To possess God is truly to have everything.” (Boice).
iii. We understand this in the broader context of this psalm. The LORD Himself is satisfaction to the psalmist because God has come to him through His word. It isn’t as if the word of God is in one place, and the psalmist must go to another place for experience of and satisfaction in God. He can say, “You are my portion, O LORD, and I receive that portion as You meet me in Your word and I live it out.”.
iv. Thomas Brooks – quoted in Spurgeon – said that we could answer every temptation with the reply, “The Lord is my portion.” If He truly is our portion, we don’t need to look for satisfaction in fleshly pursuits.
v. “He is an exceedingly covetous fellow to whom God is not sufficient; and he is an exceeding fool to whom the world is sufficient. For God is an inexhaustible treasury of all riches, sufficing innumerable men; while the world has mere trifles and fascinations to offer, and leads the soul into deep and sorrowful poverty.” (Thomas Le Blanc, cited in Spurgeon).
b. I have said that I would keep Your words: This promise would be an empty vow without the empowering of God in our lives. When we have a close connection with God and receive and enjoy Him as our portion, we also receive strength to keep His words.
i. “But if we take the Lord as our portion, we must take him as our king…. Here is the Christian complete – taking the Lord as his portion, and his word as his rule.” (Bridges).
ii. He was public in this statement of his intentions. “I have said; I have not only purposed it in my own heart, but have professed and owned it before others, and I do not repent of it.” (Poole).
c. I entreated Your favor with my whole heart; be merciful to me according to Your word: Here the psalmist understood both the urgency to seek and please God, and the inability to completely do so.
i. The words translated Your favor are literally, “Your face.” To enjoy the face of God is to experience His favor. The psalmist here declares that he has sought the face of God.
ii. He sought the face of God with a sense of urgency, reflected in the words entreated and whole heart. The psalmist understood how important it was to seek the favor of God and to please Him with his life.
iii. He sought the face of God with a sense of inability, shown in the request be merciful to me. No matter how diligently the psalmist would seek after God and seek to please Him, he would always remain in need of mercy.
d. Be merciful to me according to Your word: This is a blessed and glorious apparent contradiction. The request for mercy is not based on it being a right, or that he deserves it. The psalmist speaks as one who expects mercy according to the promise of God’s word.
i. While we have no natural right to mercy, there is a spiritual right to mercy for all who ask according to His promise.
2. (59-60) A life directed toward God’s word.
I thought about my ways,
And turned my feet to Your testimonies.
I made haste, and did not delay
To keep Your commandments.
a. I thought about my ways, and turned my feet to Your testimonies: Time spent in God’s word has given the psalmist sober reflection about his ways. This gave the insight necessary to turn in the right direction.
i. “While studying the word he was led to study his own life, and this caused a mighty revolution. He came to the word, and then he came to himself, and this made him arise and go to his father.” (Spurgeon).
ii. “Blaise Pascal, the brilliant French philosopher and devout Christian, loved Psalm 119. He is another person who had memorized it, and he called verse 59 ‘the turning point of man’s character and destiny.’ He meant that it is vital for every person to consider his or her ways, understand that our ways are destructive and will lead us to destruction, and then make an about-face and determine to go in God’s ways instead.” (Boice).
iii. I thought about my ways: “How many, on the other hand, seem to pass through the world into eternity without a serious thought on their ways! Multitudes live for the world – forget God and die! This is their history.” (Bridges).
b. I made haste, and did not delay to keep Your commandments: Once on the right path (with the feet having been turned), the psalmist can now speed his way in the course of obedience.
i. It is dangerous to make haste on a wrong path; it is glorious to make haste on the right way. We can also say that making haste to God is a sign of revival. When God is moving in power, people make haste to get right with him.
ii. “Speed in repentance and speed in obedience are two excellent things. We are too often in haste to sin; O that we may be in a greater hurry to obey.” (Spurgeon).
iii. Did not delay: “The original word, which we translate delayed not, is amazingly emphatical…. I did not stand what-what-whating; or, as we used to express the same sentiment, shilly-shallying with myself: I was determined, and so set out. The Hebrew word, as well as the English, strongly marks indecision of mind, positive action being suspended, because the mind is so unfixed as not to be able to make a choice.” (Clarke).
iv. “Delay is the word used of Lot as he ‘lingered’, reluctant to leave Sodom [Genesis 19:16].” (Kidner).
3. (61-62) Faithfulness to God’s word in adversity.
The cords of the wicked have bound me,
But I have not forgotten Your law.
At midnight I will rise to give thanks to You,
Because of Your righteous judgments.
a. The cords of the wicked have bound me, but I have not forgotten Your law: The psalmist was attacked and afflicted by adversaries; but they could not make him forget or forsake the law of God.
b. At midnight I will rise to give thanks to You: The heart and the mind of the psalmist are so filled with thanks and appreciation toward God that he finds his sleep interrupted by these high thoughts.
i. I will rise: “The Psalmist observed posture; he did not lie in bed and praise. There is not much in the position of the body, but there is something, and that something is to be observed whenever it is helpful to devotion and expressive of our diligence or humility.” (Spurgeon).
ii. Thomas Manton (cited in Spurgeon) listed several notable lessons to be drawn from the psalmist’s midnight devotion:.
· His devotion was earnest and passionate; the daylight hours did not give him enough time to thank God.
· His devotion to God was sincere, shown by its secrecy. He was willing to thank God when no one else could see him or be impressed by his devotion.
· He regarded time as precious; he even used the hours normally given to sleep for devotion to God.
· He regarded devotion to God as more important than natural refreshment. He was willing to sacrifice a legitimate thing (sleep) for the pursuit of God.
· He showed great reverence to God even in secret devotion, by rising up to praise Him. Praise requires something of both soul and body.
4. (63-64) Friendship with those who are friends of God’s word.
I am a companion of all who fear You,
And of those who keep Your precepts.
The earth, O LORD, is full of Your mercy;
Teach me Your statutes.
a. I am a companion of all who fear You: The psalmist enjoyed the special fellowship present among those who honor and hold God’s word, of those who keep Your precepts.
i. This wonderful companionship is the testimony of countless Christians, who experience warm fellowship across the lines of race, class, nationality, and education.
ii. “These then are the Lord’s people; and union with him is in fact union with them…. To meet the Christian in ordinary courtesy, not in unity of heart, is a sign of an unspiritual walk with God.” (Bridges).
iii. “If then we are not ashamed to confess ourselves Christians, let us not shrink from walking in fellowship with Christians. Even if they should exhibit some repulsive features of character, they bear the image of him, whom we profess to love.” (Bridges).
b. The earth, O LORD, is full of Your mercy: Having experienced this broad companionship, the psalmist felt the goodness of God filling the earth. This experience of God’s mercy increased his desire for knowledge and obedience (teach me Your statutes).
i. We see again the course of a never-ending cycle. The pursuit of God in and through His word leads to satisfaction and blessing. That satisfaction and blessing leads to a deeper pursuit, leading to even more satisfaction and blessing.
ii. When one lives in this glorious cycle, it feels as if the whole earth is full of the mercy of God. It is a glorious, blessed life with the experience of mercy all around.
I. Teth ט: God’s word brings benefit from a time of affliction.
1. (65-66) A prayer of praise and petition.
You have dealt well with Your servant,
O LORD, according to Your word.
Teach me good judgment and knowledge,
For I believe Your commandments.
a. You have dealt well with Your servant, O LORD, according to Your word: This section begins with a note of gratitude. The psalmist finds himself thankful for God’s good dealing toward him, and that blessings have come according to His word.
i. We don’t think about it enough, but it is wonderfully true that You have dealt well with Your servant, O LORD. Think of all the ways God has dealt well with us. He chose us, He called us, He drew us to Himself. He rescued us, He declared us righteous, He forgave us, He put His Spirit within us, He adopted us into His family. He loves us, He makes us kings and priests and co-workers with Him, and He rewards all our work for Him.
ii. According to Your word implies that the psalmist not only knew the promises of God and pled them in prayer (as in Psalm 119:49); he also received the promises by faith and experienced them.
iii. This should be the life experience of every child of God. We know that God has deal well with us, and we know that it has been according to His word.
iv. “When we are thus reaping the fruitful discipline of our Father’s school (Hebrews 12:11), must we not put a fresh seal to our testimony – Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O Lord? But why should we delay our acknowledgment till we come out of our trial? Ought we not to give it even in the midst of our ‘heaviness?’” (Bridges).
b. Teach me good judgment and knowledge: This prayer for wisdom comes from a blessed life. Having received this well-dealing from God, the psalmist understood the need to live in good judgment and knowledge. The blessings were given to him for wise and obedient living to the glory of God.
i. Good judgment: “…Hebrew, the goodness of taste, an experimental sense and relish of divine things.” (Poole).
ii. “Judgment, here, is literally ‘taste’, not in our sense of artistic judgment, but of spiritual discrimination: ‘for the ear tests words as the palate tastes food’ (Job 34:3). Cf. Hebrews 5:14.” (Kidner).
iii. We far too easily forget our great need to learn good judgment and knowledge, and are far too ready to trust our own heart and conscience. “The faculty of conscience partakes, with every other power of man, of the injury of the fall; and therefore, with all its intelligence, honesty, and power, it is liable to misconception…. Conscience, therefore, must not be trusted without the light of the word of God; and most important is the prayer – Teach me good judgment and knowledge.” (Bridges).
iv. “No school, but the school of Christ – no teaching, but the teaching of the Spirit – can ever give this good judgment and knowledge.” (Bridges).
c. For I believe Your commandments: He wanted God to teach him because he really did believe the commands and words of God. If we really do believe His word, then we should want Him to teach us to live wisely and obediently.
2. (67-68) The goodness of God seen even in correction.
Before I was afflicted I went astray,
But now I keep Your word.
You are good, and do good;
Teach me Your statutes.
a. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word: The psalmist speaks here of lessons learned the hard way. There was a time when he was far more likely to go astray from God’s word and the wise life revealed in it. Yet, under a season of affliction, he was now devoted to the word of God.
i. This principle has been demonstrated in nearly everyone who has pursued God. This is one reason why God appoints affliction for His people (1 Thessalonians 3:3).
ii. “Often our trials act as a thorn hedge to keep us in the good pasture, but our prosperity is a gap through which we go astray.” (Spurgeon).
iii. Bridges relates an old church prayer: In all time of our wealth – Good Lord, deliver us! “A time of wealth is indeed a time of special need. It is hard to restrain the flesh, when so many are the baits for its indulgence.” (Bridges).
iv. “As the scourging and beating of the garment with a stick beateth out the moths and dust, so do afflictions [beat out] corruptions from the heart.” (Trapp).
v. “Many have been humbled under affliction, and taught to know themselves and humble themselves before God, that probably without this could never have been saved; after this, they have been serious and faithful. Affliction sanctified is a great blessing; unsanctified, it is an additional curse.” (Clarke).
vi. “We gain solace here by remembering what the Bible says even of Jesus, ‘Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered’ (Hebrews 5:8).” (Boice).
b. You are good, and do good; teach me Your statutes: This important and precious line follows the recognition of affliction and the good it has done in life. The psalmist did not become bitter or resentful toward God for the affliction that brought him to greater obedience.
i. Despite the affliction – which we should regard as genuine – he proclaimed, “You are good, and do good.” In fact, he even wanted more instruction from God, saying “Teach me Your statutes.” This is said with the implicit understanding that this teaching might require more affliction; yet it was the psalmist’s desire. This shows how confident he was in the goodness of God.
ii. “Affliction is not the most frequently mentioned matter…. The most prominent word in these verses is ‘good.’ This is the teth stanza. Teth is the first letter of the Hebrew word ‘good’ (tov), so it was a natural thought for the composer of the psalm to use ‘good’ at the beginning of these verses.” (Boice).
iii. In the most basic sense, this is praise for who God is (You are good), and praise for what God does (and do good). These are always two wonderful reasons for praise.
3. (69-70) Delight in God’s law despite attacks from adversaries.
The proud have forged a lie against me,
But I will keep Your precepts with my whole heart.
Their heart is as fat as grease,
But I delight in Your law.
a. The proud have forged a lie against me: In reading of the godly and humble character of the psalmist, it is almost shocking to hear that he has enemies who carefully forged a lie against him. Yet he explains how this is possible: they are the proud, who are no doubt convicted in conscience and spiteful of his humble, obedient, teachable life before God.
i. “If the Lord does us good, we must expect Satan to do us evil…he readily puts it into the hearts of his children to forge lies against the children of God!” (Bridges).
ii. “To such slanders and calumnies, a good life is the best answer. When a friend once told Plato, what scandalous stories his enemies had propagated concerning him, – I will live so, replied the great Philosopher, that nobody shall believe them.” (Horne).
b. But I will keep Your precepts with my whole heart: The lies of the proud did not distract or overly discourage the psalmist. Instead, he dedicated himself to greater obedience and honor of God, pledging to obey Him with his whole heart.
i. “If the mud which is thrown at us does not blind our eyes or bruise our integrity it will do us little harm. If we keep the precepts, the precepts will keep us in the day of [insults] and slander.” (Spurgeon).
c. Their heart is as fat as grease, but I delight in Your law: Their fat heart was not good for their physical or spiritual health. It meant that their hearts were dull, insensitive, and drowning in luxury and excess. In contrast, the psalmist found delight in the word of God.
i. “The tremendous blow of almighty justice has benumbed his heart…. ‘seared with a hot iron’ (1 Timothy 4:2), and therefore without tenderness; ‘past feeling’ (Ephesians 4:19); unsoftened by the power of the word.” (Bridges).
ii. “There is and always ought to be a vivid contrast between the believer and the sensualist, and that contrast is as much seen in the affections of the heart as in the actions of the life: their heart is as fat as grease, and our heart is delighted with the law of the Lord.” (Spurgeon).
iii. “As if he should say, My heart is a lean heart, a hungry heart, my soul loveth and rejoiceth in thy word. I have nothing else to fill it but thy word, and the comforts I have from it; but their hearts are fat hearts; fat with the world, fat with lust; they hate the word. As a full stomach loatheth meat and cannot digest it; so wicked men hate the word, it will not go down with them, it will not gratify their lusts.” (William Fenner, cited in Spurgeon).
4. (71-72) Appreciation for the goodness of God even in seasons of affliction.
It is good for me that I have been afflicted,
That I may learn Your statutes.
The law of Your mouth is better to me
Than thousands of coins of gold and silver.
a. It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes: The psalmist repeats the idea from earlier in this section (Psalm 119:67). This repetition is an effective way to communicate emphasis. Affliction, brought under the wisdom and guidance of God’s word, did genuine good in his life.
i. “I, for my part, owe more, I think, to the anvil and to the hammer, to the fire and to the file, than to anything else. I bless the Lord for the correctives of his providence by which, if he has blessed me on the one hand with sweets, he has blessed me on the other hand with bitters.” (Spurgeon).
ii. “‘I never’ – said Luther – ‘knew the meaning of God’s word, until I came into affliction. I have always found it one of my best schoolmasters.’” (Bridges).
iii. Yet we must guard against the misunderstanding that seasons of affliction automatically make one better or godlier. Sadly, there are many who are worse from their affliction – because they fail to turn to God’s word for wisdom and life-guidance in such times. The worst affliction of all is a wasted affliction, wasted because we did not turn to God and gained nothing from it.
iv. This also shows how valuable the learning of God’s word was to the psalmist. It was entirely worth it for him to endure affliction, if only he could learn the statutes of God in the process. This made a time of painful affliction worthwhile.
v. “Very little is to be learned without affliction. If we would be scholars we must be sufferers…God’s commands are best read by eyes wet with tears.” (Spurgeon).
vi. “By affliction God separates the sin which he hates from the soul which he loves.” (John Mason, cited in Spurgeon).
b. The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver: This is a logical extension of the thought in the previous verse. If the psalmist understands that even trouble can be good if it teaches him the word of God – if it is more valuable than his comfort – then it is also possible to say that it is more valuable than riches.
i. This great estimation of the word of God came from a life that had known affliction. It was love and appreciation from the field of battle, not the palaces of ease and comfort.
ii. “Herbert Lockyer recounts a story concerning the largest Bible in the world, a Hebrew manuscript weighing 320 pounds in the Vatican library. Long ago a group of Italian Jews asked to see this Bible and when they had seen it they told their friends in Venice about it. As a result a syndicate of Russian Jews tried to buy it, offering the church the weight of the book in gold. Julius the Second was Pope at that time, and he refused the offer, even though the value of such a large amount of gold was enormous…. Today we pay little to possess multiple copies of God’s Word. But do we value it? In many cases, I am afraid not.” (Boice).
iii. “Who can say this? Who prefers the law of his God, the Christ that bought him, and the heaven to which he hopes to go, when he can live no longer upon earth, to thousands of gold and silver? Yea, how many are there who, like Judas, sell their Saviour even for thirty pieces of silver? Hear this, ye lovers of the world and of money!” (Clarke).
iv. “The word of God must be nearer to us than our friends, dearer to us than our lives, sweeter to us than our liberty, and pleasanter to us than all earthly comforts.” (John Mason, cited in Spurgeon).
J. Yod י: Confidence in the Creator and His Word.
The yod stanza represents the small Hebrew letter Jesus referred to as a “jot” in Matthew 5:18: Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.
1. (73) Surrendering to the word of the Creator.
Your hands have made me and fashioned me;
Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.
a. Your hands have made me: Here the psalmist proclaimed God as Creator, and understood certain obligations to God because he was fashioned by the hands of God.
i. Fashioned me: “The reference to God forming him is a deliberate echo of Genesis 2, which says God ‘formed man from the dust of the ground’ (Genesis 2:7).” (Boice).
ii. The modern age, with its widespread denial of a Creator God, has a much lower sense of obligation to God as Creator. Despite the deeply seated rejection of God as Creator, man’s obligation to his Maker remains. The psalmist understood what many today forget or deny.
iii. To say that God is our Creator is to recognize:.
· That we are obligated to Him as the One who gives us life.
· That we respect Him as One who is greater and smarter than we are.
· That He, as our designer, knows what is best for us.
· That since our beginning is connected to the invisible world, so our end will be also.
iv. “The consideration, that God made us, is here urged as an argument why he should not forsake and reject us, since every artist hath a value for his own work, proportioned to its excellence. It is, at the same time, and acknowledgement of the service we owe him, founded on the relation which a creature beareth to his Creator.” (Horne).
v. “If God had roughly made us, and had not also elaborately fashioned us, this argument would lose much of its force; but surely from the delicate art and marvellous skill which the Lord has shown in the formation of the human body, we may infer that he is prepared to take equal pains with the soul till it shall perfectly bear his image.” (Spurgeon).
vi. Your hands: “‘Oh look upon the wounds of thine hands, and forget not the work of thine hands,’ as Queen Elizabeth prayed.” (Trapp).
b. Give me understanding: In his thoughts of God as Creator, the psalmist prayed for understanding. He recognized that this was something often misunderstood, and one could ask for and expect help in understanding both how God created us and what our obligations are to our Maker.
i. We gain much understanding by considering God as Creator, and especially as the Creator of man. “Every part of creation bears the impress of God. Man – man alone – bears his image, his likeness. Everywhere we see his track – his footsteps. Here we behold his face.” (Bridges).