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This is an Alphabetical Psalm - the longest, and most perfect in its kind, in the collection of Psalms. The peculiarity of the composition consists in this - that the first eight verses of the psalm begin with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet - Aleph (א '); the next eight verses with the second letter - Beth (ב b); and so on, through the twenty-two letters of the alphabet. These parts are designated in our common version by the names of the Hebrew letters respectively indicating the parts - Aleph, Beth, Gimel, Daleth, etc.
The general subject of the psalm is the law of God considered as a rule of life; as sanctifying the soul; as a support in trial; as imparting happiness to the mind - in its contemplation, and in obedience to it. The psalm appears to have been intended to set forth the excellency of that law, and the happy effects of obeying it, in every variety of form, and with every variety of expression. In its great length, extending to one hundred and seventy-six verses, there was ample opportunity to illustrate this; and the purpose of the author of the psalm seems to have been to see how much could be said on this, and to say all that could be said on it. It is remarkable that a single subject could be pursued so far with so much variety, and with so little that can be regarded as repetition, for there are perhaps no two verses in the psalm so exactly similar that there cannot be seen, either in themselves, or in their connection, some new phase given to the subject, or some new shade of thought not expressed elsewhere. So marked is this design of the psalm, so constant is the reference to the law of God - the testimonies of God - the statutes of God - that, according to the Masora, there is “only one verse in the psalm which does not contain some title or description of the word of God.”
The psalm seems to be a record of the personal experience of the author, or the result of his meditations on the subject. It is not the Jewish people speaking, or the church, as many have supposed, but it is evidently an individual - not improbably a man of years - giving the result of his experience in regard to the influence of the law or the word of God in the various circumstances of life: in regard to what he had found that to be to himself personally. At the same time, the language is such as will express the experience of others, and is such as might be employed in public worship.
It is not probable, however, that a psalm so long was commonly used in public worship, as many of the shorter psalms were. It is a great storehouse of truths, most precious and valuable, on one of the most important subjects of religion - the word of God; and it may have been intended, as would seem not improbable from the alphabetical arrangement, to be committed to memory by the young, that their minds might be early stored with valuable precepts to be their guide in the journey of life. A young man could not have a better treasure laid up in his mind than he would possess by committing this psalm to memory.
Whether the psalm was the work of David or of some later writer cannot be ascertained. Many have ascribed it to David; and it has been supposed that he wrote it either when he was an exile among the Philistines 1 Samuel 27:1-12, or when he was young, and had not yet obtained the authority of the government. This last opinion is derived - Rosenmuller thinks correctly - from Psalms 119:9, Psalms 119:23, Psalms 119:46,Psalms 119:141, Psalms 119:161. Gurlitt supposed that its author was some youth who was made captive by the Assyrians, and who composed the psalm in his captivity, as expressive of his attachment to his religion: a youth who could not, though away from his country and home, and surrounded by temptations, be turned away from the religion of his fathers by threats or bribes; who rejected all the allurements and blandishments which could be presented to him to induce him to abandon that religion, and to conform to the customs of idolatry - or who resisted all temptations to sensual gratifications.
This idea is derived from Psalms 119:22-23, Psalms 119:25, Psalms 119:28-29, Psalms 119:36, Psalms 119:39, Psalms 119:42-43, Psalms 119:46, Psalms 119:50-51, Psalms 119:53, Psalms 119:56, Psalms 119:67, Psalms 119:72, Psalms 119:74, Psalms 119:78, Psalms 119:83 father on come then man Chapter then I thou man day. Thus understood, it would be appicable to the condition of such a young Hebrew as Joseph or Daniel, and would express the feelings which such young men would have in the temptations by which they were surrounded, and the firmness of their attachment to the principles of the religion in which they had been trained. The idea is a beautiful one, and may properly be used for an illustration, but there is no certain evidence that the psalm was composed under those circumstances. Others have supposed that the psalm was written by Jaddo Nehemiah 12:22, the high priest in the time of Alexander the Great - amidst the troubles which then existed in Judea, and amidst the opposition of the Samaritans - and that the design was to show his own firmness in the Jewish religion, and to excite the Hebrews to the same firmness by setting forth the authority and excellence of the word of God, and the authority of the law.
Rudinger supposes that it was composed in the time of the persecutions under Antiochus - the times of the Maccabees - with the same design. All these are mere conjectures, and it is now impossible to ascertain the occasion on which the psalm was composed, or to determine who was its author. Nor is it necessary. The psalm is so applicable to the people of God at all times, so suited to strengthen the mind in trial, so adapted to guide, comfort, and support the soul, and so true in regard to the influence and value of the law of God, that it is not needful to know when it was composed, or who its author was. It is sufficient to know that it was composed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and is a repository of truths which will be of inestimable value in all ages of the world.
There is no grouping or arrangement of the subjects in the psalm, and little or no connection between the sentiments in the verses of it. Much in it has a proverbial cast, or is presented in the form of aphorisms; and the order of thought seems to have been suggested by the necessity of choosing a particular letter with which to commence each verse, and the succession of eight verses under each letter. It might be possible to make an arrangement of the psalm under particular heads - such as the following, under the general title of the word of God, or the law of God:
I. In youth
II. In trial
III. In duty
IV. In meditation
V. At night
VI. In public
VII. In private
VIII. In prosperity
IX. In adversity, etc., etc.
But, in an exposition of the psalm, such an arrangement or classification, changing the structure of the psalm, might be of doubtful propriety, and it will be right to adhere to the order which the Spirit of Inspiration has seen fit to observe.
Blessed are the undefiled in the way - In the way or journey of life; in the path of religion; in the road which leads to heaven. As life - the religious life - is represented under the image of a journey, the expression here is equivalent to saying, “Blessed are those who in the journey of life - in their religious course - are pure, Sincere, uncontaminated.” On the word way, see the notes at Psalms 1:6. The margin here on the word undefiled, is perfect, or sincere. So the Hebrew. The word is the same as in Job 1:1, where it is rendered “perfect.” See the notes at that passage. The Greek translation is undefiled - ἄμωμοι amōmoi. So the Latin, “immaculati.” Luther renders it, “Who live without blemish” or stain. The idea is, “Blessed are they who are upright, sincere, perfect, in their course.” The whole psalm is designed to illustrate this thought, by showing what the influence of a sincere and conscientious attachment to the principles of the law or word of God in the various circumstances of life must be.
Who walk in the law of the Lord - Who habitually obey his law. This constitutes sincerity, uprightness, perfection in a man’s life, for the law of the Lord is the only just rule of human conduct.
Blessed are they that keep his testimonies - His commandments or laws, considered as what he bears witness to concerning that which is just, wise, good. Every law of a parent is to his children a testimony on his part of what is wise and right and good; and so every law of God is his solemn testimony as to what is right and good for man. See Psalms 19:7, note; Psalms 25:10, note.
And that seek him with the whole heart - With a sincere desire to know his will and to do it; without hypocrisy or guile; with no selfish or sinister aims. As God knows the heart, all other modes of “seeking” him must be in vain. It is impossible for man to impose on him by appearances.
They also do no iniquity - See the notes at 1 John 3:9. The meaning is, that they are righteous; their character is that they do that which is right. It cannot mean that all persons who are religious are actually and absolutely perfect - for no man would hold this opinion; no one does hold it. It is general language such as is commonly used to describe an upright or righteous man. The declaration is true of all who are the friends of God - or, who are truly; religious - in the following senses:
(1) That they are habitually and characteristically righteous;
(2) That they intend to do right - for a man who deliberately purposes to do wrong - to lead a life of sin and disobedience, cannot be a pious man.
(3) That when they do err, it is not the result of intention, or the design of their life, but because they are tempted; are overcome with passion; are led by the power of their native corruption of heart to act contrary to their better judgment and their true character.
See Romans 7:14-17. On the other hand, it is true that a man who is not characteristically righteous; who is not an upright man in his dealings; who is not true, and honest, and temperate, and just, and benevolent, cannot be a child of God and heir of heaven. No exactness of orthodoxy, and no fervour of emotion, and no zeal in the cause of religion, can constitute true piety without this.
They walk in his ways - Habitually; constantly; characteristically. They are not merely honest, upright, and just in their dealings with men, but they walk in the ways of God; they are religious.
Thou hast commanded - All this is here traced to the command of God; to the fact that he has required it. It is not mere human prudence; it is not mere morality; it is not because it will be for our interest; it is because God requires it. This is the foundation of all true virtue; and until a man acts from this motive it cannot be said that he is in the proper sense a righteous man.
To keep thy precepts diligently - Hebrew, “very much;” that is, to do it constantly; faithfully. Each one of his laws is to be observed, and to be observed always, and in all circumstances.
O that my ways were directed ... - Indicating the desire of the pious heart. That desire - a prevailing, constant, uniform desire - is to keep the law of God. It is the aim of the life; it is the supreme purpose of the soul; it is the ruling wish of the man, thus to keep the law of God. He in whose bosom this is not the constant wish cannot be a pious man. The Hebrew particle used here, and rendered “O that,” is a particle denoting a wish, or an earnest desire. The word “ways” denotes the course of life. The whole is expressive of an earnest desire to live in accordance with the law of God. It implies also a sense of dependence on God.
Then shall I not be ashamed - On the word ashamed, see Job 6:20, note; Psalms 25:2-3, note. The meaning here is, that he would not have occasion to be ashamed; he would not be disappointed; all his hopes would be realized. He would have full evidence of piety; he would enjoy the comforts which he sought in religion; he would feel assured of ultimately obtaining eternal life.
When I have respect unto all thy commandments - literally, “In my looking at all thy commandments.” That is, in his regarding them; in his feeling that all were equally binding on him; and in his having the consciousness that he had not intentionally neglected, violated, or disregarded any of them. There can be no true piety except where a man intends to keep all the commands of God. If he makes a selection among them, keeping this one or that one, as may be most convenient for him, or as may be most for his interest, or as may be most popular, it is full proof that he knows nothing of the nature of true religion. A child has no proper respect for a parent if he obeys him only as shall suit his whim or his convenience; and no man can be a pious man who does not purpose, in all honesty, to keep All the commandments of God; to submit to his will in everything.
I will praise thee with uprightness of heart - With an upright and sincere heart.
When I shall have learned - Hebrew, “In my learning.” In the practice or act of learning them. His own experience of their nature, influence, and value would lead him to sincere praise. He had no doubt of finding that they were worthy of his praises, and of seeing in them more and more occasion to glorify and honor God. The more we know of God, the more shall we see in him to praise. The larger our acquaintance and experience, the more our hearts will be disposed to magnify his name. This remark must extend to all that there is in God to be learned; and as that is infinite, so there will be occasion for renewed and more elevated praise to all eternity.
Thy righteous judgments - Margin, as in Hebrew, “Judgments of thy righteousness.” The laws or statutes which God, as a righteous or just God, appoints to be the rule of conduct to his creatures.
I will keep thy statutes - Thy commands; thy laws. This expresses the firm purpose of the psalmist, He meant to keep the law of God; he could confidently say that he would do it - yet coupled with the prayer which follows, that God would not forsake him.
O forsake me not utterly - Hebrew, “To very much;” so as to leave me to myself. His confidence that he would keep the commandments of God was based on the prayer that God would not leave him. There is no other ground of persuasion that we shall be able to keep the commandments of God than that which rests on the belief and the hope that He will not leave us.
Wherewithal - This begins the second portion of the psalm, extending to Psalms 119:16, in which all the verses begin with the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet (ב b), indicated in our translation by the word Beth. These names of the letters, inserted for convenience, are no part of the psalm, as it is not so marked in the original. This mode of indicating the divisions of the psalm is special to our version. It is not in the Septuagint, the Latin Vulgate, or the German versions. The word wherewithal means “by what” (Hebrew); that is, What means shall a young man adopt by which he may “cleanse his way?” it indicates a state of inquiry. The case supposed is that of a young man pondering the question how he may be saved from the corruptions of his own heart, and escape the temptations to which he is exposed in early years, and lead a pure and upright life. There can be no more important inquiry for one just entering on the journey of life; there can be found nowhere a more just and comprehensive answer than is contained in this single verse. All the precepts of ancient and modern wisdom, all the teachings of pagan morality and religion, and all the results of the experience of mankind, could furnish nothing in addition to what is here suggested. The world has no higher wisdom than this by which to guide a young man, so that he may lead a holy life.
Shall a young man - The remark here might be applied also to those who are in middle life, or even to those who are in more advanced years, but it is applied here especially to the young, because it may be supposed that in the other cases the matter may be regarded as settled by experience; because to the young, as they commence life, the inquiry is so momentous; and because it is a question which it may be supposed will come up before the mind of every young man who has any right aspirations, and any proper conception of the dangers which encompass his path.
Cleanse his way? - Make his course of life pure and upright. The language does not necessarily imply that there had been any previous impurity or vice, but it has particular reference to the future: not how he might cleanse himself from past offences, but how he might make the future pure. The inquiry is, how he might conduct himself - what principles he could adopt - under what influence he could bring himself - so that his future course would be honest, honorable, upright.
By taking heed thereto ... - The word “thereto” is not in the original. The Hebrew is, “To keep according to thy word;” or, “in keeping according to thy word.” Prof. Alexander supposes that this means “to keep it (his way) according to thy word;” and that the whole is a question - “How may a young man so cleanse his way as to keep it according to thy word?” - and that the answer to the question is to be found in the general strain of the psalm, or in the general principles laid down in the psalm. But it is clear that the answer to the question must be found in the verse, or not found at all; and the most natural construction is that in our translation. So DeWette renders it: “How can a young man walk guiltless? If (or, when) he holds (or, keeps) himself according to thy word.” The meaning clearly is If he governs himself according to the law of God - if he makes that law the rule of his life and conduct, he would be enabled to do it. All other things might fail; this rule would never fail, in making and keeping a man pure. The more principles of common honesty, the principles of honor, the considerations of self-interest, the desire of reputation - valuable as they may be - would not constitute a security in regard to his conduct; the law of God would, for that is wholly pure.
With my whole heart have I sought thee - See the notes at Psalms 119:2. The psalmist in Psalms 119:2 speaks of the “blessedness of those who seek the Lord with the whole heart;” in this verse he says that this blessedness was his. He could affirm that he had thus sought God. He had such a consciousness that this was the aim and purpose of his life that he could say so without hesitation. Every man who claims to be a religious man ought to be able to say this. Alas, how few can do it!
O let me not wander ... - Keep me in this steady purpose; this fixed design. This is the language of a heart where there is a consciousness of its weakness, and its liability to err, strong as may be its purpose to do right. Such an apprehension is one of the best means of security, for such an apprehension will lead a man to “pray,” and while a man prays he is safe.
Thy word have I hid in mine heart - Compare the notes at Psalms 37:31. The word rendered “hid” means properly to conceal, so that a thing may be secret, private, inaccessible; then, to lay up in private, to treasure up. to hoard - as money or jewels - commonly “hidden” from public view. Job 20:26; Psalms 17:14. Then it means to lay up in one’s heart, as a secret, inaccessible place; to hide one’s thoughts; purposes, designs; or to lay up knowledge or wisdom in the heart as a treasure, Job 10:13; Proverbs 2:1; Proverbs 7:1. The meaning here is, that he had “treasured” up the word of God, as the most valuable thing, in his heart; it was “there,” though unseen; it constituted the secret power by which he was governed; it was permanently deposited there, as the most valuable of his treasures.
That I might not sin against thee - That it might protect me from sinning against thee. That I might be continually guided by its precepts; that I might be admonished of duty; that I might be deterred from going astray.
Blessed art thou, O Lord - Blessed art thou as the author of such a law. This language of benediction or doxology is an outbreak of feeling or adoration in view of such a law - so good, so holy, so suited to direct and guide man. The mind is full of the subject; and the lips give vent to the feeling of gratitude and joy that such a law had been revealed to people.
Teach me thy statutes - Make me more and more acquainted with a law so pure, so rich, so valuable.
With my lips have I declared - That is, I have openly and publicly made thy words known to others; I have defended and vindicated them.
All the judgments - The word judgments here means the same as statutes or laws: and the idea is, that he had been on the side of those laws, and had endeavored by argument and persuasion to bring others under their influence. How he had done it we are not informed; but we have no reason to suppose that the author of the psalm was a minister of religion, and if not, then we have here an example of what a man who does not claim to be a public teacher may do, and should do, in making known and defending divine truth. Every man is as much bound to do this in his sphere as the minister of religion is in his; and private member’s of the church have often an opportunity of doing this to more advantage than the ministers of the gospel possess.
Of thy mouth - With my mouth I speak those things which have proceeded from thine. I speak in thy name; I declare thy truth. It is not my own; it is thine.
I have rejoiced ... - I do rejoice; I exult in this; I find my happiness there. The word expresses a high degree of joy.
As much as in all riches - Hebrew, “as upon all wealth.” As people rejoice who have great wealth. I find my happiness in religion, as if in the possession of real wealth. Proverbs 10:22.
I will meditate in thy precepts - I will think of them; I will find my happiness in them. See the notes at Psalms 1:2.
And have respect unto thy ways - And look to thy ways - thy commands. I continually regard them, or refer to them in my mind as the guide of my life. See the notes at Psalms 119:6.
I will delight myself in thy statutes - I will find my happiness in thy laws. See Psalms 1:2, note; Psalms 112:1, note.
I will not forget thy word - I will not allow the world to crowd it out of my mind.
Deal bountifully ... - This commences the next portion of the psalm, indicated by the letter Gimel (ג g), the third letter of the Hebrew alphabet, answering to our letter “g.” Each verse of this portion Psalms 119:17-24 begins with this letter. There is a resemblance between the first word of this verse - גמל gemol - and the letter - “Gimel” - which commences the eight verses of this portion of the psalm. The noun (derived from the verb) - גמל gâmâl - means a camel, and the letter gimel has been supposed to have derived its name from its having originally a resemblance to the camel’s neck. In some of the Phenician inscriptions, and in the Ethiopic alphabet, it has this form (Gesenius, “Lex”). The verb used here means to do, or show, or cause good or evil to anyone; and then to reward, or to recompense, either good or evil. Here it seems to be used in a general sense of doing good, or showing favor, as in Psalms 13:6; Psalms 116:7; Psalms 142:7. Compare Proverbs 11:17. It does not necessarily imply that the author of the psalm had any claim, or demanded this on the ground of merit. He begged the favor, the friendship, the interposition of God in his behalf.
That I may live - The continuance of life was dependent on the favor of God.
And keep thy word - For grace to do this he was equally dependent on God; and he asked that life might be continued, in order that he might honor the word of God by obeying it.
Open thou mine eyes - Margin, “Reveal.” So the Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate. The Hebrew word means to be naked; then to make naked, to uncover, to disclose, to reveal. Here it is the same as “uncover;” that is, take away from the eyes what is before them to prevent clear vision. Compare Numbers 22:31; Numbers 24:4, Numbers 24:16.
That I may behold wondrous things - Things which are suited to excite wonder and amazement: that is, things which are secret or hidden from the common view; the deep, spiritual meaning of the word of God. By natural vision he might see the surface - the letter; to see the deep, hidden, real, meaning, he needed the special influence of God. Compare 1 Corinthians 2:12, 1 Corinthians 2:14-15. He believed that there were such things in the law of God; he desired to see them.
Out of thy law - Out of the written word; out of the Scriptures. The word “law” here is used to denote “all” that God had revealed to mankind; all that is contained in the volume of inspiration. The truths taught here are
(1) That there are deep, hidden, secret things in the word of God, which are not perceived by the natural man;
(2) That those things, when understood, are suited to excite wonder, or to fill the mind with admiring views of God;
(3) That a special illumination of God is necessary that man may perceive these things; and
(4) That the proper understanding of these things is connected with prayer, and can be hoped for only in answer to prayer.
No one has a proper appreciation of divine truth - of the beauty, the spiritual meaning, the grandeur, the sublimity of the Bible - until he is a renewed - a praying - man. Compare the notes at 1 Corinthians 2:6-15.
I am a stranger in the earth - A wayfaring man; a pilgrim; a so-journer; a man whose permanent home is not in this world. The word is applicable to one who belongs to another country, and who is now merely passing through a foreign land, or sojourning there for a time. Compare the notes at Hebrews 11:13. The home of the child of God is heaven. Here he is in a strange - a foreign - land. He is to abide here but for a little time, and then to pass on to his eternal habitation.
Hide not thy commandments from me - Make me to know them; keep them continually before me. In this strange land, away from my home, let me have the comfort of feeling that thy commands are ever with me to guide me; thy promises to comfort me. The feeling is that of one in a strange land who would desire, if possible, to keep up constant communications with his home - his family, his friends, his kindred there. On earth, the place of our sojourning - of our pilgrimage - the friend of God desires to have constant contact with heaven, his final home; not to be left to the desolate feeling that he is cut off from all contact with that world where he is forever to dwell.
My soul breaketh - This word means to break; to crush; to break in pieces by scraping, rubbing, or grating. The idea would seem to be, not that he was crushed as by a single blow, but that his soul - his strength - was worn away by little and little. The desire to know more of the commands of God acted continually on him, exhausting his strength, and overcoming him. He so longed for God that, in our language, “it wore upon him” - as any ungratified desire does. It was not the possession of the knowledge of God that exhausted him; it was the intenseness of his desire that he might know more of God.
For the longing - For the earnest desire.
That it hath unto thy judgments at all times - Thy law; thy commands. This was a constant feeling. It was not fitful or spasmodic. It was the steady, habitual state of the soul on the subject. He had never seen enough of the beauty and glory of the law of God to feel that all the needs of his nature were satisfied, or that he could see and know no more; he had seen and felt enough to excite in him an ardent desire to be made fully acquainted with all that there is in the law of God. Compare the notes at Psalms 17:15.
Thou hast rebuked the proud - Compare Psalms 9:5. The meaning is, that God had done this not by word but by deed. The proud were everywhere rebuked by God, alike in his law, and in his providence. The connection seems to be this: the psalmist is meditating on the benefit or advantage of keeping the law of God; of a humble, pious life. His mind naturally adverts to what would be the opposite of this - or to this in contrast with an opposite course of life; and he says, therefore, that God had in every way, and at all times, manifested his displeasure against that class of people. Such a course, therefore, must be attended with misery; but the course which he proposed to pursue must be attended with happiness.
That are cursed - The accursed; those who are regarded and treated by God as accursed, or as objects of his disapprobation.
Which do err from thy commandments - Who depart from thy law. The sense is, “I propose and intend to keep thy law. As a motive to this, I look at the consequences which must follow from disobeying it. I see it everywhere in the divine treatment of those who do disregard that law. They are subject to the displeasure - the solemn rebuke - of God. So all must be who disregard his law; and it is my purpose not to be found among their number.”
Remove from me reproach and contempt - Show me thy favor, and let me not suffer in the estimation of mankind on account of my religion. Let me not be exposed to malicious charges; to accusations of hypocrisy, insincerity, and unfaithfulness on account of my religion. This “reproach and contempt” might arise from two sources;
(1) on account of religion itself, or because he was a true friend of God; or
(2) he may have been charged with hypocrisy and insincerity; with doing things inconsistent with the profession of religion. These accusations he prays may be removed from him:
(a) in order that the true religion might not be in itself a matter of reproach, but that God might honor his own religion, and make it esteemed among people;
(b) because he was conscious that so far as he was concerned, the charges were unfounded. He did not deserve the “reproach and contempt” that properly belong to a life of hypocrisy and insincerity.
For I have kept thy testimonies - My conscience assures me of this. I can appeal to thee, my God, in proof that I do not deserve the charge of insincerity and hypocrisy. Every professedly pious man ought to be able thus to appeal to conscience and to God, and to say, in the most solemn manner, that he does not deserve the reproach of hypocrisy and insincerity.
Princes also did sit and speak against me - This would have been applicable to David many times in his life, but it was also applicable to many others, and there is nothing in the language which would limit it to David. It is evident that the author of the psalm had been subject to reproach from those who were of exalted rank; it is clear also that he felt this keenly. It is natural, whether proper or not, that we should feel the reproach and contempt of those in elevated life - the rich, the honored, the learned - more than of those in humbler life. Their good opinion can be of value only as they may be better qualified than others to judge of what constitutes true excellence, or as they may have it in their power to do us more harm, or to do more to aid us in doing good, than others have; but truth and principle are never to be sacrificed that we may secure their favor; and if, in the faithful discharge of our duty, and the zealous adherence to the principles of our religion, we incur their frowns, we are to bear it - as the great Lord and Saviour of his people did. Hebrews 13:13.
But thy servant did meditate in thy statutes - I was engaged in this; I continued to do it; I was not deterred from it by their opposition; I found comfort in it, when they sat and talked against me. This would seem to have reference to some occasion when they were together - in public business, or in the social circle. They, the princes and nobles engaged in the ordinary topics of conversation, or in conversation connected with revelry, frivolity, or sin. Unwilling to participate in this - having different tastes - feeling that it was improper to be one of their companions in such a mode of spending time, or in such subjects of conversation, “he” withdrew, he turned his thoughts on the law of God, he sought comfort in meditation on that law and on God. He became, therefore, the subject of remark - perhaps of their jests - “because” he thus refused to mingle with them, or because he put on what seemed to be hypocritical seriousness, and was (what they deemed) stern, sour, unsocial, as if he thus publicly, though tacitly, meant to rebuke them. Nothing will be more “likely” to subject one to taunting remarks, to rebuke, to contempt, than to manifest a religious spirit, and to introduce religion in any way in the circles of the worldly and the frivolous.
Thy testimonies also are my delight - See the notes at Psalms 119:16. He found his main happiness in the word of God.
And my counselors - Margin, as in Hebrew, “men of my counsel.” He sought direction and advice from them as from a friend who would give him counsel. He looked to the revealed law of God to ascertain what was right; to know how he should act in the emergencies of life.
My soul cleaveth unto the dust - This commences a new division of the psalm, in which each verse begins with the “fourth” letter of the Hebrew alphabet - Daleth (ד d), equivalent to the English “d.” There is nothing in the sense to separate it from the other parts of the psalm. The word rendered “cleaveth” means to be glued to; to stick fast. It has the sense of adhering firmly to anything, so that it cannot easily be separated from it. Compare the notes at Psalms 63:8. The word “dust” here may mean either the earth, and earthly things, considered as low, base, unworthy, worldly; or it may mean the grave, as if he were near to that, and in danger of dying. DeWette understands it in the latter sense. Compare Psalms 44:25; Psalms 22:29. Yet the word cleave would hardly suggest this idea; and the force of that word would be better represented by the idea that his soul, as it were, adhered to the things of earth; that it seemed to be so fastened to them - so glued to them - that it could not be detached from them; that his affections were low, earthly, grovelling, so as to give him deep distress, and to lead him to cry to God for life and strength that he might break away from them. This expresses what is often felt by good people, and thus presents one of the forms of religious experience. Compare Romans 7:14-15.
Quicken thou me - Cause me to live; give me vigor and strength to break away from this which binds me fast, and to rise above these low propensities.
According to thy word - That is, either according to thy promises made to thy people to aid them when they are in distress; or, according to the principles of thy word, that I may live as thy word requires. Who has not found his soul so cleaving to dust - to earth - to worldly things - as to feel himself degraded by it, and to lead him to cry out with earnestness that God would give him strength, life, vigor, that his soul might rise to better things?
I have declared my ways - That is, I have declared or recounted them to thee. I have made mention of my cares, troubles, anxieties, purposes. I have laid them all before thee, reserving or keeping back nothing.
And thou heardest me - Thou didst answer me. It is only when we declare all our ways before God, that we can hope he “will” hear us. It is right and proper that we should go before God with all our cares and troubles. There is nothing that gives us anxiety, of which we may not speak to him, however trivial it may seem to be - even as a child speaks to a mother of the smallest matter that troubles him. When this is done, we may be assured that God will not turn away from us, or disregard our cry.
“I told him all my secret grief;
My secret groaning reached his cars;
He gave my inward pains relief,
And calmed the tumult of my fears.”
Teach me thy statutes - Make known to me thy will. Acquaint me with what thou wouldst have me to do. See Psalms 119:12.
Make me to understand ... - See the notes at Psalms 119:18.
So shall I talk of thy wondrous works - The things in thy works - thy providential dealings - that are wondrous. That is, with a heart full of the subject, he could not but speak of those things - for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” See the notes at Psalms 39:2-4.
My soul melteth - Margin, “droppeth.” The Hebrew word here employed - דלף dâlaph - means to drop, to drip, to distil, spoken of a house, as when the rain drops through the roof, Ecclesiastes 10:18; then, to shed tears, to weep, Job 16:20 - and this seems to be the meaning here. The idea of melting is not properly in the word, and the term weep would better express the meaning. His soul seemed to drop tears. It overflowed with tears. Yet there is an idea of abundant or constant weeping. It is not a gush of emotion, as when we say of one that he is “bathed in tears;” it is the idea of a steady flow or dropping of tears - slow, silent, but constant - as if the soul were dripping away or dissolving. Thus the idea is more striking and beautiful than that of melting. It is quiet but continuous grief that slowly wears away the soul. There are two kinds of sorrow:
(a) the one represented by floods of tears, like fierce torrents that sweep all away, and are soon passed;
(b) the other is the gentle dropping - the constant wearing - the slow attrition caused by inward grief, that secretly but certainly wears away the soul.
The latter is more common, and more difficult to be borne than the other. The Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate render this, “My soul slumbereth.”
For heaviness - This word means grief, sorrow, vexation. Proverbs 14:13; Proverbs 17:21. It is here silent grief; hidden sorrow. How many thus pine in secret, until life slowly wears away, and they sink to the grave.
Strengthen thou me - Give me strength to meet this constant wearing away - this slow work of sorrow. We need strength to bear great and sudden sorrow; we need it not less to bear that which constantly wears upon us; which makes our sleep uneasy; which preys upon our nerves, and slowly eats away our life.
According unto thy word - See Psalms 119:9, Psalms 119:25.
Remove from me - Take it from me; cause it to depart; let me not be under its influence or power.
The way of lying - Every false, deceitful, hypocritical way. We are not to suppose that the psalmist was addicted to lying, but that he felt he was, like all people, in danger of acting from false views, from wrong motives, or under the influence of delusion and deceit. It is a prayer that he might always be sincere and truthful. No man who knows his own heart can doubt the propriety of this prayer. On nothing does a man need more to examine himself; in nothing does he more need the grace of God, than that he may be sincere.
And grant me thy law graciously - The knowledge of thy law; grace to obey thy law. The single word rendered “grant graciously” is a word which implies the idea of mercy or favor. It was not a thing which he claimed as a right; it was that for which he was dependent on the mercy of God.
I have chosen the way of truth - Among all the paths of life I have selected this. I prefer this. I desire to walk in this. Religion is, wherever it exists, a matter of preference or choice; and the friend of God prefers his service to the service of the world.
Thy judgments - Thy statutes; thy laws.
Have I laid before me - I have set them before my mind as the guide of my conduct; I have made their observance the end and aim of my life.
I have stuck unto thy testimonies - The word here rendered “stuck” is the same which in Psalms 119:25 is rendered “cleave:” - “My soul cleaveth unto the dust.” It means here that he had adhered to the testimonies of God as if he had been glued to them, or as if he and they were firmly united together. He had so adhered to them that he could not be detached from them.
O Lord, put me not to shame - Let me not be disappointed or confounded; let all my anticipations of the good effects of obeying thy law be realized; let me find all that I have hoped for; let me partake of thy friendship and favor as I desire. See the notes at Psalms 119:6.
I will run the way of thy commandments - That is, I will not merely keep them - which might be expressed by “I will walk in them,” but I will hasten to keep them; I will do it with alacrity, as when one runs to accomplish an object. I will devote to them all the energies of my life.
When thou shalt enlarge my heart - Or, more literally, “For thou wilt enlarge my heart;” expressing confidence that God would do this, so that he would be thus inclined and enabled to keep his commandments. it is an acknowledgment of dependence, and at the same time the expression of a confident belief that God would grant him the grace needful for him. The phrase “to enlarge the heart” means to make it free; to deliver it from all hindrances to what is right; to fill it with noble and holy purposes; to stimulate and animate it. The heart is contracted or made narrow by selfishness, pride, vanity, ambition, covetousness; it is made large by charity, love, hope, benevolence. Sin narrows the soul; religion enlarges it.
Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes - This begins a new division of the psalm, indicated by the letter He (ה h, or “h”). The word rendered “teach” means properly to throw, to cast, to hurl; and then, to teach - as if truth were thrown and scattered abroad. The sentiment is the same as in Psalms 119:12.
And I shall keep it unto the end - Always. To the end of life. His keeping it depended on grace given to him continually to dispose and enable him to do it.
Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law - Give me right views of it, of its nature and obligation. It is not a prayer that God would give him the faculty of understanding or intelligence; but that he would enable him to take just views of the law. The word is the same as in Psalms 119:27, rendered there, “Make me to understand.”
Yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart - See Psalms 119:2. I will keep it with undivided affections; I will make it the sole guide of my life.
Make me to go in the path ... - That is, Incline me to it; so direct me that I shall thus walk. It is an acknowledgment of his dependence on God, that he might be able to carry out the cherished purposes of his soul.
For therein do I delight - See Psalms 119:16. I am conscious of having pleasure in thy commandments; of having a strong desire to keep them, and I pray for grace that I may be able to do it. Real delight in the law of God is one of the best means of securing its observance; one of the best evidences that it will be kept.
Incline my heart unto thy testimonies - Cause my heart to be inclined to them, or to be disposed to keep them. This, too, is a recognition of dependence, and a prayer for guidance.
And not to covetousness - To gain; to the love of money. This seems to be referred to here as the principal thing which would turn away the heart from religion, or as that from which the most danger was to be feared. There are undoubtedly many other things which will do this - for all sin will do it; but this was the chief danger which the psalmist apprehended in his own case, and perhaps he meant to refer to this as the principal danger on this subject which besets the path of man. There are manymore persons turned away from the service of God, and kept away from it, by covetousness than there are by any other one sin. When the psalmist prays that God would not “incline” his heart to covetousness, the language is similar to that in the Lord’s prayer - “And lead us not into temptation.” That is, Restrain us from it; let us not be put in circumstances where we shall be in danger of it. We are not to suppose that God exerts any positive influence either to make a man covetous, or to tempt him. See James 1:13-14.
Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity - Vain things; wicked things; things which would be likely to lead me astray from what is real and true. Compare Isaiah 33:15; Job 31:1. Margin, here, as in Hebrew, “make to pass.” Make my eyes to pass rapidly from such objects, that I may not look at them, may not contemplate them, may not dwell upon them. There is danger in looking on sin steadily; in surveying its features; in returning to contemplate it. An ugly object loses much of its deformity when we look often upon it; and this is a benevolent law, lest we should be miserable when we are under a necessity of looking on it. Sin follows this general law, and is to be avoided altogether, even in its contemplation, if we would be safe. A man should be thankful in this world that he has eyelids; and as he can close his eyes, so he should often do it.
And quicken thou me in thy way - Endow me with life, energy, vigor, that I may walk in thy way.
Stablish thy word unto thy servant - Confirm it; make it seem firm and true; let not my mind be vacillating or skeptical in regard to thy truth. This seems to be a prayer against the influence of doubt and scepticism; a prayer that doubts might not be suffered to spring up in his mind, and that the objections and difficulties of scepticism might have no place there. There is a class of people whose minds are naturally skeptical and unbelieving, and for such people such a prayer is especially appropriate. For none can it be improper to pray that the word of God may always seem to them to be true; that their minds may never be left to the influence of doubt and unbelief.
Who is devoted to thy fear - literally, “Who,” or which, “to thy fear.” This may refer either to the author of the psalm, or to the word of God. It may mean that he was among those who feared - that is, worshipped God; or, that the word of God had reference to the “fear,” that is, to the worship of God, or was designed to secure that. The construction seems to demand the latter interpretation; and then the prayer is, that God would confirm his faith in that “word” - in that revealed truth - which was designed to secure the worship of God.
Turn away my reproach - The reproach which is likely to come upon me from being a professed worshipper of God. In all ages good men have been exposed to this reproach.
Which I fear - Which I have reason to apprehend will come upon me. This may not mean that he was personally afraid of it, but merely that he had reason to apprehend that he was exposed to it. The prayer is proper, for there is nothing which our nature makes us shrink back from more than reproach. Compare Psalms 119:22; Psalms 69:9, Psalms 69:20; Romans 15:3; 2 Corinthians 12:10. The word repreach in the original is the same which denotes shame or dishonor.
For thy judgments are good - Thy statutes; thy laws. I know they are good. I feel that I desire to obey them. I pray, therefore, that obedience on my part to that which is good may not subject me to shame; that people may see that thy laws are good, and that it is not a matter of reproach to obey them.
Behold, I have longed after thy precepts - I have earnestly desired them. See the notes at Psalms 119:20.
Quicken me in thy righteousness - Make me to live; to live in obedience to thy righteous laws. See Psalms 119:25, note; Psalms 119:37, note.
Let thy mercies come also unto me, O Lord - This commences a new portion of the psalm, in which each verse begins with the letter Vau (ו v, 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 of the psalm Psalms 119:41-48 the beginning of the verse is in the original a conjunction - .ו This does not here indicate a connection, as with us the conjunction “and” would naturally do; but is a mere artificial arrangement in order that the verse may begin with that letter, and it in no manner affects the sense. The phrase “Let thy mercies come” is literally, “and thy mercies shall come,” or “and let thy mercies come.” That is, Let thy mercy be manifested to me; let me experience thy mercy and thy favor.
Even thy salvation - mercy connected with salvation, or that leads to salvation.
According to thy word - According to the promises of thy word; according to the arrangements which thou hast made, and hast revealed. The only hope of mercy is that which is held out in the word of God.
So shall I have wherewith to answer him that reproacheth me - I shall have something by which I may reply to those who calumniate me. So the Saviour replied to the suggestions of the tempter almost wholly by passages of Scripture Matthew 4:4, Matthew 4:7,Matthew 4:10; and so, in many cases, the best answer that can be given to reproaches on the subject of religion will be found in the very words of Scripture. A man of little learning, except that which he has derived from the Bible, may often thus silence the cavils and reproaches of the learned sceptic; a man of simplehearted, pure piety, with no weapon but the word of God, may often thus be better armed than if he had all the arguments of the schools at his command. Compare Ephesians 6:17.
For I trust in thy word - I believe it; I rely on it; I confide in that, as my only comfort and protection.
And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth - Do not take it entirely or altogether from me. Let me not be utterly hopeless; let me be at no time without some evidence that thy word dwells in me with sustaining and sanctifying power. The prayer seems to have been offered when the mind was troubled and in doubt, and when it seemed as if all hope and all trust in the truth of God would vanish. The words rendered “utterly” mean “to very much;” that is, altogether or entirely. Let it not be done until the extreme shall be reached.
For I have hoped in thy judgments - I do trust in thy word, and it is my only trust. If that is gone, all is gone. As long as I can hold on to that, even in the slightest degree, I am safe. When all else fails, if that has not utterly failed me, I shall be secure.
So shall I keep thy law continually forever and ever - At all times and in all places; in this world and the world to come. This indicates a purpose to do it, and an assurance that he would do it, if God should enable him to retain even the slightest hold on the truth.
And I will walk at liberty - Margin, “at large.” Luther renders it, “freely.” The Septuagint, “in a broad place.” The Hebrew word means “wide, broad, large, spacious.” The reference is to that which is free and open; that in which there are no limits, checks, restraints; where a man does what he pleases. The meaning here is, that he would feel he was free. He would not be restrained by evil passions and corrupt desires. He would be delivered from those things which seemed to fetter his goings. This does not here refer so much to external troubles or hindrances, to being oppressed and straitened by external foes, as to internal enemies - to the servitude of sin - to the slavery of appetite and passion. Compare the notes at Romans 7:9-14. See also Job 36:16; Psalms 118:5. The margin well expresses the sense of the passage.
For I seek thy precepts - I seek or endeavor to obey them. I seek them as the guide of my life. I ask nothing else to direct me.
I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings ... - In the presence of men of most elevated rank. I will not be ashamed to avow my belief in thy word before those in power - whether friendly or unfriendly to thee and to thy cause. I will not disguise my belief in thy truth with any desire to secure their favor; I will not be intimidated from expressing my faith by any dread of their frowns. Compare Matthew 10:18-19; Acts 4:19; Acts 5:29; Acts 26:2.
And I will delight myself ... - See the notes at Psalms 119:16.
My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments ... - As an expression of delight or rejoicing, as people lift up their hands with their voice when they give expression to joy. It denotes a high statue of joy, such as leads to an outward expression; not merely that which exists in calm contemplation, but where the heart is full, and when it finds outward expression.
And I will meditate in thy statutes - See the notes at Psalms 1:2. I will indicate my joy - my happiness - in thy commandments in every way possible; by outward expressions, and by deep and calm contemplation when I am alone; in my daily employments, in solitude, in the night-watches. This is indicative always of true religion.
Remember the word unto thy servant - This commences a new division of the psalm, in which each verse begins with the Hebrew letter Zayin (ז z) - answering to our “z.” There is nothing special in this portion of the psalm as indicated by the letter. The language here is a prayer that God would not forget what he had promised; that all that he had said might be fulfilled; that the expectations and hopes which he had raised in the mind might be realised. It is language which may be used with reverence, and without any implication that God would forget - as a child might with propriety and love ask a parent to remember a promise which he had made.
Upon which thou hast caused me to hope - That is, All the hope which I have has been excited by thy word; thy promises. I have no other source of hope; I cherish no other hope. I pray now, since that hope has been thus excited in me, that I may realise all I have been led to desire and to expect. The word of God is the only foundation of hope for people; and when our hopes are fairly built on that, we have a right to appeal to God that he will make it good.
This is my comfort in my affliction - Compare Romans 15:4. The word here rendered “comfort” occurs only here and in Job 6:10. The obvious meaning is, that his only consolation in his affliction was derived from the word of God; the word which had caused him to hope, and the word by which he had been quickened or made alive. The particular design of this is to show the value of the word of God as a source of comfort in trouble.
For thy word hath quickened me - Has made me alive; or, caused me to live. That is, the word, the truth of God, had been the instrument of calling him from the death of sin, and of imparting to him new life, or had been the means of his regeneration. Compare James 1:18; 1 Corinthians 4:15; Hebrews 4:12; 1 Peter 1:23. As it was by this “word” that he had been made alive, so his only comfort was in that word, and it was to him a just ground of consolation that God had brought him from the death of sin, and had imparted to him spiritual life.
The proud have had me greatly in derision - Those of rank; those in high life: perhaps, as we should say, the frivolous and fashionable world. They have ridiculed me; they have held me up to contempt for my scruples, my seriousness, my conscientiousness, my unwillingness to mingle with them in the pursuits, the pastimes, the frivolities of life. It is now no new thing to be held in contempt by the “proud” and the frivolous, on account of serious piety; to be thus held in contempt has been rather the rule than the exception in the treatment which the friends of religion have received from the world.
Yet have I not declined from thy law - I have not been deterred from the avowal of my religious belief; I have not turned away from the duties of piety on account of the ridicule and scorn to which I have been exposed. Compare Psalms 44:17-19.
I remembered - In my troubles.
Thy judgments of old - The word “judgments” here seems to refer to the divine dealings, whether expressed in the law of God, or in the actual administration of his government over the world. The words “of old” do not seem here to refer to the “eternity past,” as the phrase sometimes does now, but to the constancy and uniformity of the principles of the divine administration. The psalmist remembered that the principles of that administration had been always the same; that the law of God was always the same; and that, therefore, he might confide in God. What God had done formerly he would do now; the favor which he had shown in times past he would continue to show now. In the trials of life, in the changes which occur, in the apparent wreck of things, in the fearful prospect of disaster and ruin at any time, it is well for us to think of the unchanging principles which mark the divine dealings. Under such an administration, all who put their trust in God must be safe.
And have comforted myself - I have found consolation in this. When all else seemed to fail, it was a comfort to reflect that an unchangeable God presided over the affairs of people. We could not put confidence in a God given to change.
Horror hath taken hold upon me - Has seized me; has overpowered and overwhelmed me. I shudder; I tremble; I am afraid; I am filled with distress. Luther, “I am burnt up.” The Hebrew word - זלעפה zal‛âphâh - is from a verb meaning “to be hot; to glow”; and the idea in the word is that of violent heat; then, a glow or burning, as of a wind - the “simoom” of the desert. See Psalms 11:6, where the word is translated “horrible tempest,” in the margin, “burning.” The word occurs only in that passage, in the one before us, and in Lamentations 5:10, where it is rendered “terrible (famine),” in the margin, “terrors,” or “storms.” The state referred to here is that of one who sees the storm of burning wind and sand approaching; who expects every moment to be overcome and buried; whose soul trembles with consternation.
Because of the wicked ... - Their conduct alarms me. Their danger appals me. Their condition overwhelms me. I see them rebelling against God. I see them exposed to his wrath. I see the grave just before them, and the awful scenes of judgment near. I see them about to be cast off, and to sink to endless woe, and my soul is transfixed with horror. The contemplation overwhelms me with uncontrollable anguish. Can such things be? Can people be thus in danger? And can they be calm and composed, when so near such awful horrors? No man can look on the world of despair without horror; no one can truly realize that his fellow-men are exposed to the horrors of that abode without having his soul filled with anguish. Strange that all people do not feel thus - that impenitent people can walk along on the verge of the grave and of hell “without” horror - that pious people, good people, praying people, can look upon their friends in that condition without having their souls filled with unutterable anguish. Compare Psalms 119:136; Romans 9:1-4; Luke 19:41.
Thy statutes - Thy law; thy commandments.
Have been my songs - Have been to me a source of joy; have been my happiness, my consolation, my delight. I have found pleasure in meditating on them; I have had peace and joy in them in the day of loneliness and trouble. The psalmist rejoiced, doubtless, as the good now do,
(a) in law itself; law, as a rule of order; law, as a guide of conduct; law, as a security for safety;
(b) in such a law as that of God - so pure, so holy, so suited to promote “the happiness of man;
(c) in the stability of that law, as constituting his own personal security, the ground of his hope;
(d) in law in its influence on the universe, preserving order, and securing harmony.
In the house of my pilgrimage - In my life considered as a journey to another world; in my pilgrimage through the desert of this world; amidst rocks, and sands, and desolation; among tribes of savage men, wanderers, robbers, freebooters; with no home, no place of shelter; exposed to cold, and rain, and sleet, and ice, and snow, as pilgrims are - for to all these is the “pilgrim” - the way-farer - exposed, and all these represent the condition of one passing through this world to a better (compare Hebrews 11:13). Here, says the psalmist, I sang. I found joy in these scenes by thinking on the pure law - the pure and holy truth of God. I comforted myself with the feeling that there “is” law; that there is just government; that there is a God; that I am under the protection of law; that I am not alone, but that there is one who guides me by his truth. Compare the notes at Job 35:10. See Acts 16:25; Psalms 34:1.
I have remembered thy name, O Lord, in the night ... - I have thought on thee in the night, when on my bed; I have done it in the night of calamity and sorrow. See the notes at Psalms 63:6.
This I had, because I kept thy precepts - literally, “This was to me;” that is, This has happened to me; this has occurred. This joyful remembrance of thy law in the night of affliction Psalms 119:50; this stability and firmness on my part in keeping thy law when proud men have derided me Psalms 119:51; this comfort which I have derived from meditating on thy statutes Psalms 119:52; this solicitude for the welfare of others Psalms 119:53; this peace which I have enjoyed in thy law in the house of my pilgrimage Psalms 119:54; and this consolation which I have had in thee in the night-season Psalms 119:55; - all this has been granted to me because I have kept thy statutes; because I have sought to be obedient - to serve time - to find my happiness in thee. These are the proper fruits and effects of keeping the law of God. Such peace does it impart; so much does it do to sustain and comfort the soul.
Thou art my portion, O Lord - This begins a new division of the psalm, indicated by the Hebrew letter Cheth (ח ch), which may be represented in English by “ch.” On the meaning of the language here, see the notes at Psalms 16:5. God was to him what other people seek in wealth, honor, pleasure, fame. To him, God was all and in all. He asked nothing else.
I have said - I have formed the purpose, and have expressed it. It is the deliberate and settled design of my life.
That I would keep thy words - That I would obey thee at all times; that I would keep all thy commandments.
I entreated thy favor - Margin, as in Hebrew, “face.” That is, he prayed that God would lift upon him the light of his countenance; that he would not avert his face from him in anger.
With my whole heart - With sincere, undivided affections. See Psalms 119:2, Psalms 119:10, Psalms 119:34; Psalms 9:1.
Be merciful unto me according to thy word - See the notes at Psalms 119:41.
I thought on my ways - This language most naturally refers to the time of conversion, and may be employed without impropriety to describe the process of a sinner’s turning to God. It would seem to be descriptive of the experience of the author of the psalm when he became personally interested in the subject of religion. The first step in such a work is reflection on the course of life which has been led; on the guilt of such a course; and on the consequences. It is a pause in the career of sin and folly - a pause for reflection and thought. Compare Luke 15:17-18. No one is converted without such reflection; and as soon as a sinner can be made to pause and reflect on his course, there is hope that he will be converted. Assuredly it is proper for all, whatever may be their circumstances in life, to pause from time to time; to reflect; to ask what will be the consequences of the course of life which is pursued.
And turned my feet - Changed my course of life. He himself did this in fact; and he does not hesitate to say that it was he who thus turned. His own agency was employed. He does not say that he “waited” for God to turn him; or that he found he could not turn of himself, but that he turned; he paused; he reflected; he changed his course of life. This is true in conversion always. There is an actual turning from sin; an actual turning to God. The sinner turns. He leaves an old path, and treads a new one. He does this as the conscious result of reflection on the course which he was pursuing; and there is nothing in his actual turning, or in his whole future course, which is not the proper result of reflection, or which a proper reflection on the course of life would not lead to and justify. Man himself is always active in conversion. That is, he does something; he changes; he repents; he believes; he turns to God; it is not God that changes, that repents, that believes, that turns; it is the man himself. It is, indeed, by the grace and help of God; but the effect of that grace is not to make him idly wait; it is to rouse him to effort; to lead him to act.
Unto thy testimonies - Thy law, considered as the divine testimony in regard to what is right.
I made haste - This language further describes the process of conversion. There was no delay; there was no excuse offered. He acted at once under his conviction of what was right. He did not ask permission to defer it to a future time; he did not attempt to avoid the duty; not plead inability; he did not give himself merely to the “use of means;” he did not rely on prayer, and reading, and reflection; but “he did the thing, and he did it at once.” This is conversion; and if all convicted sinners would follow this example, and do at once that which they are commanded to do, and which they know they ought to do, there would be in no case any difficulty about conversion, for the main difficulty in conversion lies in the fact that the sinner is not willing to obey God at once; that he will not break away from his sins; that he endeavors to excuse himself; that he pleads for delay; that he waits for God to do what he himself ought to do.
And delayed not to keep thy commandments - I did not continue to go on in a course of sin, but I forsook my sin and obeyed.
The bands of the wicked - Margin, “companies.” The Hebrew word properly means a cord, a rope; then a snare, gin, net; then, a band or a company of men. The reference is to some time in the life of the psalmist when he was surrounded by wicked men.
Have robbed me - Rather, have surrounded me; have environed me - for so the Hebrew word means.
But I have not forgotten thy law - I have not been deterred from keeping it by the dangers to which I have been exposed.
At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee - In the usual times of repose; when men are commonly lying in unconscious slumber. My heart is so interested in thy law - my soul is so full - that I am kept wakeful by meditating upon it, and I arise from my bed and offer thee praise. The Hebrew here means, literally, “the half,” or “halving of the night,” the night considered as divided into two equal portions. The idea is, that his mind was so full of the subject that he would take this unusual time to give vent to his feelings. The mind may be so full of love to the law - the word - of God, that nothing will satisfy it but such unusual acts of devotion. The Saviour rose up a great while before day, and went out into a solitary place and there prayed Mark 1:35; and on one occasion at least he continued all night in prayer to God Luke 6:12.
Because of thy righteous judgments - I do this on account of the interest which I have in those judgments or laws of righteousness. I love them as laws; I love them as righteous laws.
I am a companion of all them that fear thee - I find my associates and friends among those who worship thee; not with the profane and the wicked. “A man is known by the company that he keeps;” and it is an evidence of piety when we seek our companions and friends among the pious. It shows where the heart is; what the preferences are; what are the tastes; what is the real condition of the soul. We seek our friends in accordance with our tastes and preferences; our love to God is indicated by our love to his friends. Compare Psalms 139:21-22.
And of them that keep thy precepts - That obey thy law. On the sentiment here, compare the notes at Psalms 1:1. A man may determine much in regard to his own character by asking himself what is the character of his chosen friends and companions. A member of a church should regard it as a dark sign against himself in regard to his piety, if his chosen friends are taken from the world, and not from the professed friends of God; if he finds more pleasure in their society, and in the scenes where they meet, than he does in the society of Christians however humble, or in places where they assemble for prayer and praise.
The earth, O Lord, is full of thy mercy - Full of the proofs of thy goodness and compassion. See the notes at Psalms 33:5. This is the expression of a heart full of love to God and to his word. In such a state of mind as the psalmist was in, the goodness of God is seen everywhere. The best preparation for seeing evidence that God is good is a heart full of love. Then the proofs of that love spring up on every side - as when we truly love a friend we find constant proofs of his excellency of character.
Teach me thy statutes - I desire to see more and more of thy law. Thou art so gracious and merciful, the evidence of thy goodness is so widespread round about me, that it leads me to desire to see more and more of thyself and thy law.
Thou hast dealt well with thy servant - This begins a new division of the psalm, indicated by the Hebrew letter Teth (ת t), corresponding to our “t.” The use of this letter, however, does nothing to mark the sense. The literal meaning of the phrase here is, “Good hast thou done with thy servant;” and the idea is, that God had been good, and had done good to him. In the review of his own life he sees good, and good alone. Even in afflictions and trials this is all that he sees.
According unto thy word - According to thy promises; or, according to the principles of thy word. That is, the whole effect of the revealed truth of God upon him had been good. It was designed for his good; it had produced good only. Truth and law do nothing but good, and the welfare of individuals, and of a community, is promoted just in proportion as truth and law prevail.
Teach me good judgment - The word here rendered “judgment” means, properly, “taste,” that power by which we determine the quality of things as sweet, bitter, sour, etc. Then it is applied to the mind or understanding, as that by which we determine the moral quality of things, or decide what is right or wrong; wise or foolish; good or evil. Here it means that he desired to have in full exercise the faculty of appreciating what is right, and of distinguishing it from what is wrong.
And knowledge - Knowledge of the truth; knowledge of thy will; knowledge of duty.
For I have believed thy commandments - I have confided in thy commandments. He believed that such a keeping of the law of God would be connected with a correct view of things. The keeping of the commands of God is one of the best means of growing in true knowledge, and of cultivating the understanding; of promoting a just taste or perception of what is true, and of developing the powers of the soul in the best proportions. Compare John 7:17.
Before I was afflicted - The Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, “Before I was humbled.” The Hebrew word has the general sense of being afflicted, and may refer to any kind of trial.
I went astray - The Hebrew word means to wander; to err; to do wrong; to transgress. Numbers 15:28; Job 12:16. It here means that he forgot his duty; that he fell into sin; that he departed from what was right; that he embraced erroneous views; that he lived in the neglect of his soul, the neglect of duty, and the neglect of God. Prosperity had not led him to fulfill duty; to seek salvation; to trust in God. This was, in his case, as it is in thousands of others, the experience of his life. Hence, affliction often becomes so necessary to check us when we are going astray, and so useful in recalling us to the ways of duty and of truth.
But now have I kept thy word - Since I was afflicted. The effect has been to recall me from my wanderings, and to turn me to paths of duty and holiness. This is an effect often - very often - experienced; this is language which can be used by many a child of God. Of those who are the children of God it may be said that they are “always” benefited “sooner” or “later” by afflictions. It may not be at the time of the affliction (compare Hebrews 12:11), but the “ultimate” effect is in all cases to benefit them. Some error is corrected; some evil habit changed; some mode of life not consistent with religion is forsaken; pride is humbled; the heart is quickened in duty; habits of prayer are resumed or formed; the affections are fixed on a better world; the soul is made more gentle, calm, humble, spiritual, pure. Afflictions are among the most precious means of grace. They are entirely under the direction of God. They may be endlessly varied, and adapted to the case of every individual.
God knows every heart, and the best way to reach any heart. By sickness; by disappointment; by loss of property; by bereavement; by blighted hopes; by the ingratitude of others; by the unkindness of professed friends, and the malice of enemies; by domestic troubles; by the misconduct of children - perhaps the most severe of all human ills, and the hardest to bear; in ten thousand ways God can reach the heart, and break and crush it, and make it ready for the entrance of truth - as the farmer breaks and pulverizes the soil by the plow and the harrow, so that it shall be prepared to receive the seed. Compare the notes at Isaiah 28:24-29. Among those things for which good men have most occasion for thankfulness are afflictions; and when we lie down on the bed of death, and look over life and the divine dealings with us through life, as the glories of heaven are about to open upon us, we shall feel that among the chiefest mercies of God are those dealings of his holy hand, trying at the time, which kept us from going astray, or which recalled us when we had wandered from him - and “that in our life, now closing, there has not been one trial too much.”
Thou art good - See the Psalms 100:5, note; Psalms 107:1, note.
And doest good - As the expression or manifestation of goodness. The goodness of God is not a mere sentiment; not mere feeling; not an inactive principle; not a mere wish: it finds expression in acts which tend to promote the happiness of his creatures everywhere.
Teach me thy statutes - See Psalms 119:12, note; Psalms 119:26, note. As one of the acts of the divine goodness, the psalmist prays that God will make him more and more acquainted with his law.
The proud - The psalmist had before referred to the “proud” as those from whom he had suffered injury, or as having been exposed to their derision. See the notes at Psalms 119:51. He here reverts to another form in which he had suffered from them.
Have forged a lie against me - Compare Job 13:4. The word rendered “forged,” means to patch together; and then it is applied to charges or accusations against anyone, perhaps from their being made up (as they often are) of shreds and patches - hints, small matters, things having no necessary connection in themselves, but brought together as if they pertained to the same transaction - words dropped here and there in conversation, which, being artfully woven together, seem to make out a plausible case against a man. Most slanders are formed and sustained in this way, for it is rare that an absolutely forged slander is uttered against a man, or that a charge is brought which cannot be made to have plausibility from such circumstances as those referred to above. Even the most pure and circumspect cannot always avoid this, for there is something in every man’s life of which a malignant and cunning enemy may take advantage, and which he may weave into a story which some will believe, and which it may not be easy to confute. A malicious man may thus start a slander which may require years to correct, and which may even operate injuriously against a man all his life.
But I will keep thy precepts with my whole heart - Notwithstanding their accusations, and their attempts to turn me away from thee, or to represent me as false and hypocritical. Whatever they may do; whatever reports they may start to my disadvantage, it is my fixed purpose to obey entirely and always thy law. See the notes at Psalms 119:51.
Their heart is as fat as grease - They are prospered. They have health, property, influence, comforts of all kinds. heaven appears to smile upon them, and it seems as if it were one effect of a wicked course of life to make people prosperous. See Psalms 17:10, note; Psalms 73:7, note.
But I delight in thy law - Though its observance should not be attended by any such results as seem to follow wickedness, though I am poor, emaciated, pale - disappointed, slandered, persecuted - though my lot in life is among the lowly and the despised - yet I will adhere to my purpose to keep thy law. It is, and it shall be, my delight, whatever may be the effects of so observing it. See Psalms 119:35.
It is good for me that I have been afflicted - See the notes at Psalms 119:67. Whatever may have been the form of the affliction, it was good for me. The design was benevolent; the result has been my own benefit. This will be the experience sooner or later resulting from all the afflictions of the righteous.
That I might learn thy statutes - That I might be brought more fully to understand what they require; and that I might be led to conform to them. It is implied here
(a) that this is the tendency of affliction; and
(b) that this is an advantage - a good.
Anything that will lead a man to obey God is a blessing and a favor. Whatever leads a sinner to secure the salvation of his soul is a gain to him. No matter what it may cost; no matter what he may be required to give up; no matter to what persecutions and troubles it may expose him; no matter what he may suffer, or how long he may suffer; no matter though poverty, contempt, toil - even the rack or the stake - may be the consequence of his religion - yet it is again to him; and he will be thankful for it in the end - for nothing that can be endured in this life can be compared with the sufferings of the world of despair; nothing on earth can be “compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us in heaven.” See the notes at Romans 8:18.
The law of thy mouth - The law which proceeds out of thy mouth, or which thou hast spoken.
Is better unto me - The Hebrew is, “Good to me is the law of thy mouth above thousands of gold and silver.”
Than thousands of gold and silver - Than any amount of wealth. It is to me the most valuable possession; that which I prize above all other things. Compare the notes at Psalms 19:10.
Thy hands have made me - This commences a new division of the psalm, in which each verse begins with the Hebrew letter Jod (י y) - or “i” - the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet, called in Matthew 5:18, “jot;” “one jot or tittle shall in no wise pass from the law.” The words “thy hands have made me” are expressive of the idea that he had been formed or moulded by God - as the “hands” are the instruments by which we do anything. See the notes at Job 10:8; compare Psalms 100:3.
And fashioned me - Fitted me; shaped me, formed me as I am. He had received alike his existence and the particular form of his existence from God - as a man makes a statue or image. Compare Psalms 139:13-16.
Give me understanding ... - As I have derived my being from thee, so I am wholly dependent on thee to carry out the purpose for which I have been made. My Maker alone can give me understanding. I have no resources in myself. See Psalms 119:34.
They that fear thee - Those who worship thee; thy friends; the pious and the good.
Will be glad when they see me - They will welcome me to their society; they will regard and treat me as a friend and brother. It is implied here that he considered this to be an honor - a thing to be desired. He valued the friendship and affection of those who feared and served God, and he made it an object so to live as to be worthy of their affection. Wicked men - men of the world - do not value that. They are satisfied with the friendship of those who, like themselves, have no fear of God. To a truly pious mind, the friendship of those who love God is of more value than that of any others; though in the one case they are poor and despised, and though in the other they are rich and of exalted rank. See the notes at Psalms 119:63. “Because I have hoped in thy word.” See the notes at Psalms 119:49.
I know, O Lord - I feel assured; I entertain no doubt on the subject. This was the conviction of the mind of the psalmist in affliction. Mysterious as the trial may have been, hard as it may have been to bear, long as it may have been continued, and varied as may have been the forms of the trial, yet he had no doubt that it was all right; that it was for the best purposes; and that it was in strict accordance with what was best.
That thy judgments - This does not here refer to the laws of God, but to the divine dealings; to those afflictions which came in the way of judgments, or which might be regarded as expressive of the divine view of his conduct and life.
Are right - Margin, as in Hebrew, “righteousness.” They were in accordance with what was right; they were so strictly just, that they might be called righteousness itself. This implied the utmost confidence in God, the most absolute submission to his will.
And that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me - In faithfulness to my soul; in faithfulness to my own best interest. It was not arbitrary; it was not from malice; it was not that the affliction had come by chance; it was because God loved his soul, and sought his welfare. It was because God saw that there was some good reason why it should be done; that there was some evil to be checked; some improper conduct to be corrected; some lesson which he would be the better for learning; some happy influence on his life here, and on his happiness in heaven, which would be more than a compensation for all that he would suffer.
Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort - Margin, as in Hebrew, “to comfort me.” The word rendered merciful-kindness means mercy, favor, grace, kindness; and the idea is, that all his consolation - all that he expected or desired - must be derived from mere favor; from the goodness of God. He had no source of comfort in himself, and he had no claim on God for comfort. It was through mercy alone that he could have happiness of any kind.
According to thy word ... - See the notes at Psalms 119:25.
Let thy tender mercies come unto me - See the notes at Psalms 119:41.
That I may live - It is evident that this was uttered in view of some great calamity by which his life was threatened. He was dependent for life - for recovery from sickness, or for deliverance from danger - wholly on the compassion of God.
For thy law is my delight - See the notes at Psalms 119:16; compare Psalms 119:24, Psalms 119:47. This is urged here as a reason for the divine interposition. The meaning is, that he was a friend of God; that he had pleasure in his service and in his commandments; and that he might, therefore, with propriety, appeal to God to interpose in his behalf. This is a proper ground of appeal to God in our prayers, not on the ground of merit or claim, but because we may reasonably suppose that God will be disposed to protect his friends, and to deliver them in the day of trouble.
Let the proud be ashamed - Referring here to his enemies, who appear to have been in the higher ranks of life, or to have been those who prided themselves on their wealth, their station, or their influence. See the notes at Psalms 119:51. The psalmist asks here that they might be confounded or put to shame; that is, that they might fail of accomplishing their purposes in regard to him. See Psalms 25:2-3, notes; Job 6:20, note.
For they dealt perversely with me - They were not honest; they deceived me; they took advantage of me; they were not true to their professions of friendship. Compare the notes at Isaiah 59:3; notes at Job 8:3; notes at Job 34:12.
Without a cause - Hebrew, “by a lie.” That is, They have been guilty of falsehood in their charges or accusations against me. I have given them no occasion for such treatment, and their conduct is based on an entire misrepresentation. See the notes at John 15:25.
But I will meditate in thy precepts - See the notes at Psalms 1:2. I will not be diverted from thee, from thy law, from thy service, by all that man can do to me; by all the false charges which the enemies of religion may bring against me; by all the contempt or persecution that I may suffer for my attachment to thee. See Psalms 119:23, note; Psalms 119:69, note.
Let those that fear thee turn unto me - Let thy friends be my friends. Let them show me favor, and count me among their companions. If the great and the powerful turn away from me; if they persecute me, and do me wrong; if they cast out my name as evil, and are unwilling to associate with me, yet let thy friends, however poor and humble, regard me with kindness, and reckon me among their number, and I shall be satisfied.
And those that have known thy testimonies - Thy law. Those who can see and appreciate the beauty of thy commandments. This is the ground of true friendship in religion - the common love of God, of his law, and of his service. This is a permanent ground of affection. All friendship founded on earthly distinctions; all derived from titled birth - from rank - from affluence - from civil, military, or naval renown - from beauty, strength, or nobleness of form - must be temporary; but that which is founded on attachment to God, to his law, and to the Saviour, will abide forever.
Let my heart be sound ... - Hebrew, “Be perfect.” See the notes at Job 1:1. The Septuagint here is “immaculate,” ἄμωμος amōmos. So the Latin Vulgate. It is the expression of a desire that the heart might be pure; that there might be no improper attachment for other objects; that there might be no defect of love to God.
That I be not ashamed - See the notes at Psalms 119:6. A man has no occasion to be ashamed of a pure heart; and that which can alone keep us from being ultimately ashamed is sincerity, uprightness, and purity in the service of God.
My soul fainteth for thy salvation - The new division of the psalm, which begins here, is indicated by the Hebrew letter Kaph (כ k), equivalent to “k” or “c” (hard). The word here rendered “fainteth” is the same that in Psalms 73:26 is translated “faileth”: “My flesh and my heart faileth.” The idea is, that his strength gave way; he had such an intense desire for salvation that he became weak and powerless. Any strong emotion may thus prostrate us; and the love of God - the desire of his favor - the longing for heaven - may be so intense as to produce this result.
I hope in thy word - I trust in thy promises, and am sustained. My powers, which would otherwise wholly fail, are upheld by thy word, and on that I rely. See Psalms 119:74.
Mine eyes fail for thy word - The same word in Hebrew as in the previous verse and in Psalms 73:26. The idea here is that of looking out for a thing - of “straining the eyes” - so that their power becomes exhausted. The language expresses a longing desire - a waiting - an intense wish - for a thing, as when we look for a ship long expected, or for a friend long absent, or for help when in danger. Such a desire the psalmist had for the word of God, for divine truth.
Saying, When wilt thou comfort me? - How long shall I be compelled to wait for comfort? How often in the Psalms do the expressions occur, “When,” and “How long!” How often in the life of the believer now are similar expressions appropriate! God often seems greatly to try the faith and patience of his people by mere delay; and the strength of faith and the power of religion are shown in such circumstances by persevering faith in the divine promises, even when there seems to be no evidence that he will interpose.
For I am become like a bottle in the smoke - Bottles in the East were commonly made of skins. See the notes at Matthew 9:17. Such “bottles,” hanging in tents where the smoke had little opportunity to escape, would, of course, become dark and dingy, and would thus be emblems of distress, discomfort, and sorrow. The meaning here is, that, by affliction and sorrow, the psalmist had been reduced to a state which would be well represented by such a bottle. A somewhat similar idea occurs in Psalms 22:15 : “My strength is dried up like a potsherd.” See the notes at that place.
Yet do I not forget thy statutes - Compare the notes at Psalms 119:51. Though thus deeply afflicted, though without comfort or peace, yet I do, I will, maintain allegiance to thee and thy law. The doctrine is that distress, poverty, sorrow, penury, and rags - the most abject circumstances of life - will not turn away a true child of God from obeying and serving him. True religion will abide all these tests. Lazarus from the deepest poverty - from beggary - from undressed sores - went up to Abraham’s bosom.
How many are the days of thy servant? - I cannot hope to live long. I am sinking under my burdens. If I am, therefore, to see the accomplishment of my desires - my deliverance from my enemies and my troubles - it must be soon. This is not a desire to be told how long he was to live, as if it were an object of desire to know this, but it is a method of saying that he could not live long under these circumstances, and therefore he offered this earnest prayer that God would interpose and save him soon.
When wilt thou execute judgment on them that persecute me? - How long shall this be delayed? I look for this; I expect it; I rely on thy promise that it shall be done; but if done so that I shall see it, it must soon be done, for I shall soon sink into the grave. It is a prayer that God would come and do quickly what he felt assured he would do, in delivering him from his foes.
The proud - Those in high life, or of exalted rank. See the notes at Psalms 119:51.
Have digged pits for me - See the notes at Psalms 7:15. Compare Psalms 35:7; Psalms 57:6; Psalms 94:13.
Which are not after thy law - The word which here refers not to the pits, but to the proud. They who have done this are people who do not regard thy commands; people who are open and public offenders. It is that class of people with whom I have to contend - inert who set at defiance all the laws of God; men high in rank, who wield great power, and who have no regard to the law of God in their conduct. Even they have sought my destruction in the meanest way possible - by covert arts, by underhanded means, by digging pits, as they would for wild beasts.
All thy commandments are faithful - Margin, “faithfulness.” The idea in the Hebrew is that they are worthy to be relied on. They are founded in truth, and they should secure our confidence.
They persecute me wrongfully ... - Hebrew, a “lie, “or “falsehood.” That is, There is a “lie” or “falsehood” at the foundation of their persecutions. Those persecutions are not based on any just views of what I am, or of the treatment which I ought to receive at the hand of my fellow-men. They charge on me tilings which are not true, and they act accordingly. See the notes at Psalms 119:78.
They had almost consumed me upon earth - The word which is here translated “consumed” is the same which is used in Psalms 119:81, and there rendered “fainteth.” See the notes at that verse. The idea is, that their persecutions had been so severe, and so long continued, that his strength was almost exhausted; he was ready to faint and to die.
But I forsook not thy precepts - I still adhered to thee, even in the extremity of my suffering. The effect of persecution was not to drive me from thee, or to lead me to abandon thee. See Psalms 119:61, note; Psalms 119:69, note.
Quicken me - Cause me to live; revive me. See Psalms 71:20, note; Ephesians 2:1, note. Compare Psalms 80:18; Rom 8:11; 1 Peter 3:18; John 6:63.
After thy loving-kindness - Thy mercy; thy grace; thy compassion. That is, Let the measure of the grace given to me be thine own benevolent nature, and not my deserts. That is all I ask; that is all I could desire.
So shall I keep the testimony of thy mouth - Which proceeds out of thy mouth. His hope of being able to keep it was founded on the grace and mercy which he besought God to bestow upon him.
Forever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven - This commences a new division of the psalm, indicated by the Hebrew letter Lamed (ל l), or “l.” On the meaning of the passage, see the notes at Psalms 89:2. The word rendered “settled” means properly “to set, to put, to place;” and then, to stand, to cause to stand, to set up, as a column, Genesis 35:20; an altar, Genesis 33:20; a monument, 1 Samuel 15:12. The meaning here is, that the word - the law - the promise - of God was made firm, established, stable, in heaven; and would be so forever and ever. What God had ordained as law would always remain law; what he had affirmed would always remain true; what he had promised would be sure forever.
Thy faithfulness - The accomplishment of thy promises.
Is unto all generations - Margin, “to generation and generation.” From one generation to another. The generations of people change and pass away, but thy promises do not change. They are as applicable to one generation as to another; they meet every generation alike. The people of no one age can lay any exclusive claim to them, or feel that they were made only for them. They are as universal - as much adapted to the new generations that come upon the earth - as the light of the sun, ever-enduring, is; or as the fountains and streams, which flow from age to age.
Thou hast established the earth, and it abideth - Margin, “Standeth.” It is firm. The earth thus established or made firm, is an illustration of thy faithfulness, and of the stability and permanence of thy promises. It is the same from generation to generation, with its rivers, streams, and fountains; with its fruits and flowers; with its balmy air and its sweet prospects; with its riches of gold and silver; with its pearls and diamonds; with its treasures of land and ocean. So is the word of God - so are the gracious promises which he has addressed to people - the same in every age.
They continue this day according to thine ordinances - According to thy judgments (Hebrew); that is, thy commands. They “stand” (Hebrew) as thou hast appointed; they are what thou didst design them to be. The original purpose in their creation is carried out, and they thus furnish an illustration of the stability of thy government and the permanency of thy law.
For all are thy servants - All worlds obey thy commands; all are under thy control. They show that they are thy servants by the conformity of their movements to the laws which thou hast impressed on them.
Unless thy law had been my delights - See Psalms 119:16, note; Psalms 119:24, note. Unless I had had pleasure in thy law, thy word, thy truth; unless I had derived support and consolation in that.
I should then have perished in mine affliction - I should have sunk under my burden. I should not have been able to hold up under the weight of sorrow and trial. How often the people of God can say. this! How often may each one in the course of his life say this! “I should have sunk a thousand times,” said a most excellent, but much afflicted, man to me, “if it had not been for one declaration in the word of God - ‘The Eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.’“
I will never forget thy precepts - Thy laws; thy truth. I will bear them in mind forever. To all eternity they shall be the object of my meditation.
For with them thou hast quickened me - By them thou hast given me life, spiritual life. Compare the notes at James 1:18. This is stated as a reason why he would never suffer the truth of God to pass out of his mind. By that truth he had been made really to live. He had been brought from spiritual death to spiritual life. He saw before him now, as the result of that, an endless career of blessedness. How could he ever forget what had worked such a change in his character and condition; which had inspired such hopes; which had opened before him such an immortal career of glory!
I am thine - All that he had, and was, belonged to God. This is an expression of a fact, and of a purpose: a fact about which he had no doubt; a purpose ever to be the Lord’s. This is indicative of the real state of feeling in the heart of a pious man. He feels that he is the Lord’s; he has no other desire than to be his forever.
Save me - Deliver me from my enemies; from sin; from hell. As he belonged to God, he prayed that God would save and preserve his own.
For I have sought thy precepts - I feel assured or confident that this has been the aim and purpose of my life. On this ground I plead that thou wilt keep and preserve me. A man who feels assured that he is a friend of God has a right to appeal to him for protection, and he will not appeal to him in vain.
The wicked have waited for me to destroy me - That is, they have lain in wait; or, they have laid a plan. They are watching the opportunity to do it.
But I will consider thy testimonies - I will think of them; I will adhere to them; I will find my support in them; I will not be driven from my adhesion to them by an apprehension of what man can do to me.
I have seen an end of all perfection - The word which is here rendered “perfection” - תכלה tiklâh - occurs only in this place; but a similar word from the same root - תכלית taklı̂yth - occurs in the following places: in Nehemiah 3:21, and Job 26:10, rendered “end;” in Job 11:7; Job 28:3, rendered “perfection;” and in Psalms 139:22, rendered “perfect.” It means properly “completion, perfection;” or, as others suppose, “hope, confidence.” It is rendered, in the Septuagint and Latin Vulgate, “consummation.” Luther renders it, “of all things.” It is proper here to apply it to character; to perfect virtue, or to claims to perfect virtue - either in one’s-self or in others. The word rendered “end” here refers not to the fact of its existence, or to its duration, but to a limit or boundary as to its extent. To all claims to perfection made by man, he had seen an end or limit. He had examined all which claimed to be perfect; he had found it defective; he had so surveyed and examined the matter, as to be able to say that there could be no claim to perfection which would prove good. All claim to perfection on the part of man must be abandoned forever.
But thy commandment is exceeding broad - The word but is not in the original, and enfeebles the sense. The idea is, that the law of God, as he now saw it, was of such a nature - was so “broad” - as to demonstrate that there could be no just claim to perfection among people. All claims to perfection had arisen from the fact that the law was not properly understood, that its true nature was not seen. People thought that they were perfect, but it was because they had no just view of the extent and the spirituality of the law of God. They set up an imperfect standard; and when they became conformed to that standard, as they might do, they imagined themselves to be perfect; but when their conduct was compared with a higher and more just standard - the law of God - it could not but be seen that they were imperfect people. That law had claims which they had not met, and never would meet, in this life. It is very easy to flatter ourselves that we are perfect, if we make our own standard of character; it is not possible for man to set up a claim to perfection, if he measures himself by the standard of God’s word; and all the claims of people to perfection are made simply because they do not properly understand what the law of God requires. Compare the notes at Job 9:20.
O how love I thy law! - This commences a new division of the Psalm, indicated by the Hebrew letter Mem (מ m, “m”). The expression here, “O how love I thy law,” implies intense love - as if a man were astonished at the fervour of his own emotion. His love was so ardent that it was amazing and wonderful to himself - perhaps wonderful that he, a sinner, should love the law of God at all; wonderful that he should ever have been brought so to love a law which condemned himself. Any man who reflects on what his feelings are by nature in regard to religion, will be filled with wonder that he loves it at all; all who are truly religious ought to be so filled with love to it, that it will be difficult for them to find words to express the intensity of their affection.
It is my meditation all the day - See the notes at Psalms 1:2.
Thou, through thy commandments - By the teaching and power of thy law.
Hast made me wiser than mine enemies - I have a better understanding of thee, of thy law, of the duties of this life, and in regard to the life to come, than my enemies have - not because I am naturally better, or because I have higher endowments by nature, but because thou hast made me wiser than they are. The rendering of this first clause of the verse now most approved by interpreters is, “Thy commandments make me more wise than my enemies are,” though this requires a singular verb to be construed with a plural noun (Professor Alexander). So DeWette renders it.
For they are ever with me - Margin, as in Hebrew, “it is ever with me.” The reference is to the law or commandments of God. The meaning is, that that law was never out of his mind; that he was constantly thinking about it; and that it unfolded such wisdom to him as to make him superior to all his foes; to give him a better understanding of life, its design, its duties, and its obligations, than his enemies had. The best instructor in true wisdom is the revealed word of God - the Bible.
I have more understanding than all my teachers - Referring perhaps to those who had given him instruction in early life. By constant meditation on the law of God, he had, in the progress of years, advanced to a point beyond that to which they had arrived. He had improved upon their suggestions and instructions, until he had surpassed them in knowledge. His “design” in saying this was to set forth the excellency and the fullness of the law of God, and to show how the study of it was suited to enlarge the understanding. In early life the wisdom of teachers seems to be far beyond anything that we can hope to reach; yet a few years of study and meditation may place us far beyond them. What those teachers seemed to be to us, however, when we were young, may serve ever onward as a means of comparison when we wish to speak of the greatness of human attainments. So the psalmist says that he had now reached a point which seemed to him in early life to be wonderful, and to be beyond what he had then hoped ever to attain. He had now reached that point; he had gone beyond it.
For thy testimonies are my meditation - Compare Psa 1:2; 2 Timothy 3:15. All this knowledge he had obtained by meditation on the law of God; by the study of divine truth. The effect of that constant study was seen in the knowledge which he now possessed, and which seemed to surprise even himself as compared with the brightest anticipations of his early years.
I understand more than the ancients - Hebrew, The old men. It does not refer, as the word “ancients” does with us, to the people of former times, but to aged men. They have treasured up wisdom. They have had the advantage of experience, of study, and of observation. They, therefore, like teachers, become a standard by which we measure our own attainments, as the boy hardly hopes to gain that amount of knowledge which he observes in people who are venerable in years, and who are remarkable for their acquirements. Compare Job 12:12 : “With the ancient is wisdom, and in length of days understanding.” Job 32:7 : “I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom.” Compare 1 Kings 4:30-31. Yet the psalmist says that he “had” reached this point, and had even gone beyond what he had once thought he could never attain.
Because I keep thy precepts - It is all the result of an honest endeavor to do right; to observe law; to keep the commands of God. Obedience to the law of God will do more than any mere human teaching to make a man truly wise.
I have refrained my feet from every evil way - I have walked in the path which thy law marks out. I have avoided the way of wickedness, and have not yielded to the seductions of a sinful life.
That I might keep thy word - I have avoided all those allurements which would turn me from obedience, and which would prevent a right observance of thy commands. This indicates a purpose and a desire to keep the law of God, and shows the method which he adopted in order to do this. That method was to guard against everything which would turn him from obedience; it was, to make obedience to the law of God the great aim of the life.
I have not departed from thy judgments - Thy law; thy commands. This cannot mean that he had never done this, but that as a great rule of life he had not done it. The character and aim of his life had been obedience, not disobedience. A man may honestly say this, though he may be conscious of much imperfection, and may feel that he has not perfectly carried out such an aim and purpose. No one can be a truly pious man, or have evidence of personal religion, who cannot say in sincerity that he has “not departed in this sense, “from the judgments” (the commands) of God; who cannot look back on his life and say that his course - his aim - his character - since he became a professor of religion - has been, one of obedience to God. Compare 1 John 3:7-9.
For thou hast taught me - Not to himself was this to be traced, but to God; not to any wisdom of his own, but to that which was given him from on high.
How sweet are thy words unto my taste ... - Margin, as in Hebrew, “palate.” The reference is to the taste, perhaps because the sense of taste was supposed to reside in the palate. The Hebrew word “may” include also the whole of the inside of the mouth. The word rendered “sweet” does not occur elsewhere. It properly means “to be smooth,” and hence, is applied to kind or agreeable words. On the sentiment here, see the notes at Psalms 19:10.
Through thy precepts I get understanding - A true understanding; a correct view of things; a knowledge of thee, of myself, of the human character, of the destiny of man, of the way of salvation - the best, and the only essential knowledge for man. This knowledge the psalmist obtained from the “precepts” of God; that is, all that God had communicated by revelation. This passage expresses in few words what had been said more at length in Psalms 119:98-100.
Therefore I hate every false way - I see that which is right and true, and I pursue it. In proportion as I have a just knowledge of truth and duty, I hate that which is false and evil.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet - This begins a new portion of the psalm, indicated by the Hebrew letter Nun (נ n), equivalent to our “n.” The margin here is “candle.” The Hebrew word means a light, lamp, candle. The idea is, that the word of God is like a torch or lamp ton man in a dark night. It shows him the way; it prevents his stumbling over obstacles, or failing down precipices, or wandering off into paths which would lead into danger, or would turn him away altogether from the path to life. Compare the notes at 2 Peter 1:19.
And a light unto my path - The same idea substantially is presented here. It is a light which shines on the road that a man treads, so that he may see the path, and that he may see any danger which may be in his path. The expression is very beautiful, and is full of instruction. He who makes the word of God his guide, and marks its teachings, is in the right way. He will clearly see the path. He will be able to mark the road in which he ought to go, and to avoid all those by-paths which would lead him astray. He will see where those by-roads turn off from the main path - often at a very small angle, and so that there seems to be no divergence. He will see any obstruction which may lie in his path; any declivity or precipice which may be near, and down which, in a dark night, one might fall. Man needs such a guide, and the Bible is such a guide. Compare the notes at Psalms 119:9.
I have sworn - I have solemnly purposed; I have given to this purpose the solemnity and sanction of an oath. That is, I have called God to witness; I have formed the purpose in his presence, and with the consciousness that his eye is upon me. So all who make a profession of religion solemnly vow or swear. They do it in the house of God; they do it in the presence of the Discerner of hearts; they do it at the communion table; they do it at the family altar; they do it in the closet, when alone with God.
And I will perform it - Hebrew, I will establish it, or make it to stand. It shall not be a mere purpose. It shall be accomplished. This also is the resolution of all who make a true profession of religion. It is their intention - their solemn determination - to carry out that vow to its full accomplishment, always, and in every place, while life lasts, and forever. A man who makes a profession of religion, intending “not” to carry out what is fairly implied in such a profession, is a hypocrite. Unless there is a solemn purpose to keep the law of God, and always to keep it - to do what is fairly implied in a profession of religion, and always to do it - to defend the truth according to his best means of knowing it, and always to defend it - he cannot possibly be a sincere friend of God; he cannot be truly a religious man. He cannot be loyal to his country who designs to violate any one of its just laws; he cannot be an obedient child who intends to disobey the laws of a parent.
That I will keep thy righteous judgments - Not implying that there are any of the judgments of God which are not righteous, but meaning to characterize all his judgments or laws as righteous.
I am afflicted very much - The form of the affliction is not mentioned. There are frequent allusions in the psalm to the fact that the author was and had been afflicted - as, in fact, must be the case in the life of every good man. Compare Psalms 119:71, Psalms 119:75. If David was the author of the psalm, we know that there were numerous occasions in his life when this language would be appropriate. As designed for the people of God at all times, it was important that there should be these allusions to affliction.
Quicken me ... - Make me live; give me life and vigor, that I may bear up under my trials. See the notes at Psalms 119:25.
Accept, I beseech thee, the free-will offerings of my mouth - Or, the meaning of the word here rendered “free-will,” see the notes at Psalms 110:3. It conveys the idea that there is no constraint or compulsion; that the offering is a prompting of the heart. The offering might be that of flour, or grain, or fruits, or property of any kind, as devoted to God; or it might be, as here, an offering of the lips, expressed in prayer and praise. Either of them might be acceptable to God; their being accepted in either case would depend on the good pleasure of God, and hence, the psalmist prays that his offering might be thus acceptable. Compare Hebrews 13:15.
And teach me thy judgments - Thy commands; thy laws. See the notes at Psalms 119:12.
My soul is continually in my hand - The Septuagint renders this, “My soul is always in thy hands,” but the Hebrew will not admit of this construction. The idea in the original is that his soul - his life - was always in jeopardy. The expression seems to be proverbial. Anything taken in the hand is liable to be rudely snatched away. Thus a casket of jewels, or a purse of gold in the hand, may at any moment be seized by robbers. See the notes at Job 13:14. Compare 1 Samuel 19:5; Judges 12:3. The meaning here is, that his life was constantly in danger.
Yet do I not forget thy law - Notwithstanding the danger to which I am exposed, and the care necessary to defend my life, I do not allow my mind to be turned from meditating on thy law, nor do I suffer any danger to deter me from obeying it. Compare the notes at Psalms 119:61.
The wicked have laid a snare for me - As men do to take wild beasts or birds. See the notes at Psalms 119:85. Compare Job 18:8, note; Job 18:10, note; Psalms 9:15, note; Psalms 69:22, note. See also Psalms 119:61, Psalms 119:69.
Yet I erred not from thy precepts - Notwithstanding the danger to which I was exposed, I maintained a steadfast adherence to thy commandments. I was not deterred from obeying them by any peril which beset me.
Thy testimonies - Thy law; thy revealed will; the revelation which thou hast given considered as thy solemn “testimony” as to what is true and right.
Have I taken as an heritage for ever - As my inheritance; as my property; as that which I consider to be of real and permanent value. The Hebrew word used here - נחל nachal - means to receive as a possession; to acquire; to possess as wealth; and then, to inherit. It is usually applied to the possession of the promised land as an inheritance. Here it means that the law of God was to him as such a possession. He regarded it as one does a rich inheritance. He chose it as his portion above all things else.
For they are the rejoicing of my heart - My happiness is in them. I find constant comfort in them. See Psalms 119:77, Psalms 119:92. Compare the notes at Psalms 1:2.
I have inclined mine heart - The Hebrew word means properly “to stretch out”; “to extend” - as the hand. Exodus 8:6, Exodus 8:17. Then it means to incline, to bow, to depress. Here the idea is, that he had “given” that “direction” to the inclinations of his heart; he had resolved or purposed. He refers to an act of choice on his part, meaning that he had preferred this course, or that he had made this a solemn intention. Though every right inclination of the human heart is to be traced to the divine agency, yet it is also true that man is active in religion - or that his own mind resolves, chooses, and prefers - and that true religion is the actual choice or preference of all who serve God aright. See the notes at Psalms 119:59.
To perform thy statutes alway - Margin, as in Hebrew, “to do.” He meant to do the will of God. He intended to do this constantly; even forever. No man can be a truly pious man who has any disposition, or any purpose, “ever” to turn away from the service of God.
Even unto the end - See Psalms 119:33. To the end of life; to the end of all things.
I hate vain thoughts - This commences a new portion of the psalm, distinguished by the Hebrew letter Samech (ס s), answering to our “s.” The word rendered “vain thoughts” occurs only in this place. It is rendered by the Septuagint, παρανόμους paranomous - transgressors. So the Latin Vulgate. Luther renders it “die Flattergeister,” the frivolous-minded. The word means divided; a man of a divided mind; a man who has no sure faith in regard to divine things, but is driven here and there; a sceptic; a doubter. Compare James 1:8. Thus it refers not to his own thoughts primarily, as being “vain” or worthless, but to a state of mind or heart in general, where there is no firmness, no stability, no settled view: a state of mind wavering, doubtful, skeptical, in regard to religion. What is implied here in reference to what he loved - by stating (in the way of contrast) what he “hated,” - would be a mind which was settled in its convictions of truth, and firm in its adherence to truth; a mind which was steadfast in religion, and not vacillating, skeptical, or uncertain on the subject. This denotes that the psalmist sought such a state of mind for himself, and that he valued it in others.
But thy law do I love - I have no “divided” or unsettled feelings in regard to that. I am conscious of a firm attachment to it. This thought he has repeatedly expressed in the psalm.
Thou art my hiding place - See the notes at Psalms 32:7, where the same expression occurs.
And my shield - See Psalms 5:12, note; Psalms 84:11, note.
I hope in thy word - See Psalms 119:74, Psalms 119:81.
Depart from me, ye evil-doers - Workers of iniquity; bad men. See the notes at Psalms 6:8. This indicates a determined purpose that nothing should deter or allure him from the service of God. A man who wishes to serve God, and lead a religious life, must separate himself from the society, as such, of unprincipled people.
For I will keep the commandments of my God - This is my fixed resolution. It may be remarked here
(1) that bad people will turn away from the society of one who has formed such a resolution, and who carries it out;
(2) the resolution is a necessary one to be formed and executed, if a man will serve God;
(3) the formation and execution of such a purpose, is the best way to get rid of the society of bad people.
Uphold me - Sustain me in the trials and the temptations of life. Help me to bear afflictions without sinking under them; to meet temptations without yielding to them; to encounter opposition from the enemies of religion without being overcome.
According unto thy word -
(1) According to the requirements of thy word - that I may be conformed to them;
(2) according to the promises of thy word - that they may be verified in me.
That I may live - That my life may not be cut off by my foes, and that I may not sink under my burdens.
And let me not be ashamed of my hope - The meaning of this is, Let not my hope prove to be delusive and vain; let it not be seen at last that it is worthless, or that religion has no power to accomplish what it promises. See Psalms 6:10, note; Psalms 25:2-3, note; Psalms 31:1, note. The phrase does not mean, as it would seem to signify, Let me not blush, or be unwilling to acknowledge my hope, or to profess that I am a friend of God. That “would be,” indeed, a proper prayer, but it is not the prayer here.
Hold thou me up - Keep me from falling in the trials and temptations of life. The Hebrew word means to prop, uphold, support. The Septuagint is, “Aid me.”
And I shall be safe - And I shall be saved; or, that I may be saved. It is an acknowledgment of entire dependence on God for salvation - temporal and eternal.
And I will have respect ... - I will look to thy statutes; I will have them always in my eye. Compare the notes at Psalms 119:6.
Thou hast trodden down all them that err from thy statutes - Compare the notes at Psalms 119:21. Rather, “Thou hast made light of,” or “thou despisest.” The Hebrew word means properly to suspend in a balance; to weigh. Then it means to lift up lightly or easily; and then, to make light of; to contemn; to regard anything as “light.” The Septuagint and Latin Vulgate render it, “Thou dost despise.” That is, God regards them as of no account; as a light substance of no value; as chaff which the wind carries away. Compare Job 21:18; Psalms 1:4; Psalms 35:5; Isaiah 17:13.
For their deceit is falsehood - This seems to be a truism - for deceit must imply falsehood. In the original this is an emphatic way of declaring the whole thing to be false, as the Hebrew language often expresses emphasis by mere repetition - thus “pits, pits,” meaning many pits. The psalmist first characterizes their conduct as deceitful - as that which cannot be relied on - as that which must fail in the end; he then speaks of this system on which they acted as altogether a “lie” - as that which is utterly “false;” thus giving, as it were, a double emphasis to the statement, and showing how utterly delusive and vain it must be.
Thou puttest away all the wicked of the earth - Margin, “causest to cease.” Literally: “Dross ... thou makest all the wicked of the earth to cease.” They are seen by the psalmist as dross, and then he says that God had treated them as such.
Like dross - The “scoriae” of metals, or of a furnace. This dross is cast out as of no value. So the wicked are regarded by God.
Therefore I love thy testimonies - I love a law which condemns sin. I love a government which ferrets out and punishes the guilty. This is a leading object with all just governments; and this we approve in all governments. As the divine government makes this an object, and as it will accomplish this more perfectly than any other administration so it is more worthy of confidence than any other. As it is the only government that does this perfectly, so it is the only one that is worthy of unlimited confidence.
My flesh trembleth for fear of thee - I stand in awe of thee. I shudder at the consciousness of thy presence. See Habakkuk 3:16; Hebrews 12:21; Joel 2:10; Nahum 1:5. There is nothing unaccountable in this. Any man would tremble, should God manifest himself to him as he might do; and it is possible that the mind may have such an overpowering sense of the presence and majesty of God, that the body shall be agitated, lose its strength, and with the deepest alarm fall to the earth. Compare Daniel 10:8; Revelation 1:17. No man could meet one of the departed dead, or a good angel, without this fear; how much less could he meet God!
And I am afraid of thy judgments - Of thy laws or commands. My mind is filled with awe at the strictness, the spirituality, the severity of thy law. Reverence - awe - is one of the essential elements of all true religion.
I have done judgment and justice - This commences a new division of the psalm, indicated by the Hebrew letter Ayin (ע ‛) - a letter which cannot well be represented in the English alphabet, as there is, in fact, no letter in our language exactly corresponding with it. It would be best represented probably by what are called “breathings” in Greek. The meaning of the first part of this verse is, “I have led a righteous and upright life.” It is equivalent to saying that he had kept the law of God, or had made that the rule of his conduct.
Leave me not to mine oppressors - To the people who would do me wrong; who seek my hurt. He urged this on the ground that he had been obedient to the divine law, and might, therefore, with propriety, make this request, or might claim the divine protection. Man has no merit of his own, and no claim on God; but when he is his true friend, it is not improper to expect that he will interpose in his behalf; nor is it improper to present this in the form of a prayer. Our loving God, and serving him, though it is done imperfectly, is, in fact, a reason why he should and will interpose in our behalf.
Be surety for thy servant for good - On the meaning of the word here rendered “be surety,” see the notes at Job 17:3, and the notes at Isaiah 38:14, in both which places the same Hebrew word occurs: In Isaiah it is rendered “undertake for me.” The word means, properly, “to mix, to mingle;” hence, to braid, to interweave; then, to exchange, to barter. Then it means to mix or intermingle interests; to unite ourselves with others so that their interests come to be our own; and hence, to take one under our protection, to become answerable for, to be a surety for: as, when one endorses a note for another, he mingles his own interest, reputation, and means with his. So Christ becomes the security or surety - ἔγγυος enguos - of his people, Hebrews 7:22. The prayer here is, that God would, so to speak, mix or mingle his cause and that of the psalmist together, and that he would then protect the common cause as his own; or, that he would become a “pledge” or “surety” for the safety of the psalmist. This now, through the Mediator, we have a right to ask at the hand of God; and when God makes our cause his own, we must be safe.
Let not the proud oppress me - See the notes at Psalms 119:51. Let them not triumph over me, and crush me.
Mine eyes fail for thy salvation - See the notes at Psalms 119:81-82.
And for the word of thy righteousness - Thy righteous word - that it may be made known to me, and that I may see its beauty and enjoy it.
Deal with thy servant according unto thy mercy - Not according to justice - for, sinners as we are, we can never urge that as a plea before God. No man who knows himself could ask of God to deal with him according to the strict and stern principles of justice. But we may ask him to deal with us according to mercy - for mercy is our only plea, and the mercy of God - vast and boundless - constitutes such a ground of appeal as we need. No man can have any other; no man need desire any other.
And teach me thy statutes - See the notes at Psalms 119:12. Show thy mercy to me in teaching me thy law.
I am thy servant - See the notes at Psalms 116:16.
Give me understanding, that I may know thy testimonies - Since I am thy servant, instruct me in the knowledge of thy will. As I desire to obey thee, show me what will be acceptable obedience, or what thou dost require in order to acceptable service. This is a prayer of piety. A man who sincerely desires to obey God will make it a first point to ascertain what is his will, or what will constitute true obedience.
It is time for thee, Lord, to work - literally, “Time to do for Yahweh;” and the construction might be either that it is time to do (something) for Yahweh; or, that it is time for Yahweh himself to do (something). The direct address to the Lord in the latter part of the sentence would seem, however, to show that the latter is the true interpretation: to wit, that since people make void the law of God, it is time for him to work, that is, to interpose by his power and restrain them; to bring them to repentance; to assert his own authority; to vindicate his cause. Thus understood, it is an appropriate prayer to be used when iniquity abounds, and when some special form of sin has an ascendancy among a people. The other interpretation, however, “It is time (for us) to do (something), since people make void thy law,” suggests a truth of great importance. Then is the time when the people of God should arouse themselves to efforts to stay the tide of wickedness, and to secure the ascendancy of religion, of virtue, and of law.
For they have made void thy law - They have broken it. They have set it at defiance. They regard and treat it as if it had no claim to obedience; as if it were a thing of nought. This the psalmist urges as a reason for the putting forth of power to arrest the evil; to bring people to repentance; to secure the salvation of souls. By all the evil done when the law of God is set at nought, by all the desirableness that the law should be obeyed, by all the danger to the souls of people from its violation, this prayer may now and at all times be offered, and that with earnestness. Compare Psalms 119:136.
Therefore I love thy commandments ... - The more people break them Psalms 119:126, the more I see their value; the more precious they are to me. The fact that they make thy law void, and that evil consequences result from their conduct, only impresses my mind the more with a sense of the value of the law, and makes my heart cling to it the more. There is almost nothing that will so impress upon our minds the importance of law as the sight of the effects which follow when it is disregarded.
Above gold ... - See the notes at Psalms 119:72. Compare Psalms 19:10.
Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right - literally, “Therefore all the commandments of all I regard as right.” The idea seems to be, that he regarded as right and just all the commandments of God pertaining to “every” thing and “every” person; all, considered in every way; all, wherever the law extended, and whomsoever it embraced; all the law pertaining to duty toward God and toward man. He saw in the “violation” of the laws of God Psalms 119:126 a reason for approving “all” law; all that would restrain people from sin, and that would bind them to duty and to virtue. The effect had been to lead him to reflect on the worth of law as law, and he had come to the conclusion that all the laws of God were to be approved and loved, inasmuch as they would, in their observance, prevent the wrongs and sorrows which he saw to be consequent on their violation.
And I hate every false way - Every course of life not based on truth, or on a right view of things. All just law is based on a perception of what is true; on the reality of things; on what is required in the nature of the case; on what will tend to promote the best interests of society. Compare the notes at Psalms 119:104.
Thy testimonies are wonderful - This commences a new division of the psalm, indicated by the Hebrew letter Pe (פ p), corresponding to our “p.” The meaning of the expression here is, that the laws of God - the revelations of his will - are adapted to fill the mind with wonder. The mind is awed by their wisdom; their comprehensiveness; their extent; their spirituality; their benevolence: by the fact that laws are framed, so perfectly adapted to the end; so well suited to secure order, and to promote happiness.
Therefore doth my soul keep them - Because they are so surpassingly wise and benevolent; because they are so manifestly the work of wisdom and goodness.
The entrance of thy words giveth light - The Septuagint translates this, “the manifestation (or declaration) - ἡ δήλωσις hē dēlōsis - of thy words enlightens.” So the Vulgate. Luther renders it, “When thy word is revealed, so it delivers us, and makes the simple wise.” DeWette, “The opening (revelation) of thy word,” etc. The Hebrew word - פתח pethach - means an “opening” or “entrance” - as of a gate, Joshua 20:4; Judges 9:35; and then “a door,” as of a tent or the temple, Gen 18:1; 1 Kings 6:8; or the gate of a city, Isaiah 3:26; and then it means opening, insight, instruction. The word as used here seems to denote the opening or unfolding of the word of God; the revelation of that word to the mind. A door is open so that we enter into a house; a gate, so that we enter into a city; and thus the meaning of the word of God is “opened” to us, so that we may, as it were, enter in and see its beauty. The language does not, therefore, denote the entrance of that word into the mind, but, its being made open to us so that we may perceive its beauty, or may ourselves “enter” into its meaning, its mysteries, and its beauties.
It giveth understanding unto the simple - The word rendered “simple” literally means “those who are open to persuasion,” or who are easily enticed or seduced. Then it refers to the credulous, Proverbs 14:15, and then to the “inexperienced.” See Psalms 19:7, note; Psalms 116:6, note.
I opened my mouth and panted - All this is the language of deep emotion. We breathe hard under the influence of such emotion; we open the mouth wide, and pant, as the ordinary passage for the air through the nostrils is not sufficient to meet the needs of the lungs in their increased action. The idea is, that his heart was full; that he had such an intense desire as to produce deep and rapid breathing; that he was like one who was exhausted, and who “panted” for breath. Compare the notes at Psalms 42:1.
For I longed for thy commandments - The word here rendered “longed” occurs nowhere else. It means to desire earnestly. See the notes at Psalms 119:20.
Look thou upon me - Turn not away from me. Regard me with thy favor.
And be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name - Margin, “According to the custom toward those,” etc. The Hebrew word is “judgment:” “according to the judgment to the lovers of thy name.” The word seems here to be used in the sense of “right;” of what is due; or, of what is usually determined: that is, as God usually determines, judges, acts toward those who love him. The idea is, Treat me according to the rules which regulate the treatment of thy people. Let me be regarded as one of them, and be dealt with accordingly. On the sentiment in this passage, see the notes at Psalms 106:4.
Order my steps in thy word - My goings, or, my conduct and life - by thy word; according to thy requirements. Let me be wholly obedient to thy will.
And let not any iniquity have dominion over me - See the notes at Psalms 19:13. The prayer is, that no form of sin, that no wicked passion or propensity, might be allowed to rule over him. He who is willing that any one sin should rule in his heart, though he should be free from all other forms of sin, cannot be a pious man. See the notes at James 2:10.
Deliver me from the oppression of man - From constraint on the part of man, so that I may be free to act as I please. Give me true religious liberty, and let me not be under any compulsion or constraint. The word rendered “deliver” is that which is usually rendered “redeem.” It is used here in the large sense of deliverance; and the prayer is an expression of what the true friends of religion have always sought, desired, and demanded - “freedom” of opinion - the richest blessing which man can enjoy.
So will I keep thy precepts - My heart inclines to that; I desire it; and, if suffered to act without constraint, I will do it. As it is the purpose and the wish of my soul, I pray that all hindrances to the free exercise of my religion may be removed. How often has this prayer been offered in times of persecution! By how many million of the dwellers on the earth might it even now be offered! What a blessing it is to those who are free from oppressive laws, that they are permitted to carry out the wishes of their hearts, and to worship God according to the dictates of their conscience, with none to molest them or make them afraid.
Make thy face to shine upon thy servant - Hebrew, “Let thy face give light to thy servant.” See the notes at Psalms 4:6.
And teach me thy statutes - See the notes at Psalms 119:12.
Rivers of waters run down mine eyes - My heart is sad, and my eyes pour forth floods of tears. It is not a gentle weeping, but my eyes are like a fountain which pours out full-flowing streams. See Jeremiah 9:1. “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears,” etc. Compare Jeremiah 14:17; Lamentations 1:16; Lamentations 2:18.
Because they keep not thy law - On account of the sins, the follies, the stupidity, and the transgressions of people. So the Saviour wept over Jerusalem Luke 19:41; and so the apostle said that he had “great heaviness and continual sorrow” in his heart, on account of his “brethren,” his “kinsmen according to the flesh.” Romans 9:2-3. Such a feeling is right. There is nothing for which we should be excited to deeper emotion in respect to our fellow-men than for the fact that they are violators of the law of God, and exposed to its fearful penalty. There is nothing which more certainly indicates true piety in the soul than such deep compassion for people as sinners, or because they are sinners. There is nothing which is more certainly connected with a work of grace in a community, or revival of true religion, than when such a feeling pervades a church. Then Christians will pray; then they will labor to save sinners; then they will feel their dependence on God; and then the Spirit of God will descend and bless the efforts put forth for the salvation of people. It may be added, nothing is more remarkable than that pious people ordinarily feel so little on account of the danger of their friends and fellow-sinners - that the occasions are so rare on which they imitate the example of the psalmist and of the Saviour in weeping over the condition of a perishing world!
Righteous art thou, O Lord ... - This commences a new division of the psalm, indicated by the Hebrew letter Tsaddiy (צ ts) - corresponding with “ts.” The thought in this verse is, that God is right, or righteous, in his judgments, that is, in his law; or, in other words, that his law is founded on principles of equity.
Thy testimonies that thou hast commanded - Thy law, considered as a testimony as to what is right and best.
Are righteous and very faithful - Margin, as in Hebrew, “righteousness and faithfulness.” They are “so” righteous, and so deserving of confidence - so certain to be accomplished, and so worthy to be trusted in - that they may be spoken of as “righteousness” and “fidelity” of the most perfect kind; the very essence of that which is right.
My zeal hath consumed me - Margin, “cut me off.” The word which is here translated “consumed” is rendered “cut off” in Lamentations 3:53; Job 23:17; Psalms 54:5; Psalms 88:16; Psalms 94:23; Psalms 101:5; Psalms 143:12; “vanish,” Job 6:17; “destroyed,” Psalms 73:27; 2 Samuel 22:41; Psalms 18:40; Psalms 101:8; Psalms 69:4. It means here, that he pined away; that his strength was exhausted; that he was sinking under the efforts which he had put forth as expressive of his deep interest in the cause of God and of truth. On the sentiment here expressed, see the notes at Psalms 69:9.
Because mine enemies have forgotten thy words - Thy law; thy commands. It was not because they were his foes - not because he was endeavoring to destroy them, or to take vengeance on them - but because they were unmindful of God, and of the claims of his law. It is a great triumph which religion gains over a man’s soul, when, in looking on the conduct of persecutors, calumniators, and slanderers - of those who are constantly doing us wrong - we are more grieved because they violate the law of God than because they injure us; when our solicitude is turned from ourselves, and terminates on our regard for the honor of God and his law. Yet that is the nature of true religion; and that we should be able to find in ourselves in such circumstances. A man should doubt the evidence of his personal religion, if all his feelings terminate on the wrong done to himself by the wicked conduct of others; if he has no feeling of solicitude because the law of God has been violated, and God has been dishonored. Compare the notes at Psalms 119:136.
Thy word is very pure - Margin, “tried or refined.” See the word explained in the notes at Psalms 18:30.
Therefore thy servant loveth it - Therefore I love it. I love it because it is pure, holy, true; not merely because it will save me. Apart from all reference to myself. I love thy truth as truth; I love purity as purity; I love law as law; I love holiness as holiness. This is true religion.
I am small and despised - The word here rendered “small” may mean “small” in respect to number - that is, “few,” Micah 5:2; Isaiah 60:22; or in respect to age - “young,” Genesis 19:31; or in respect to dignity - “low;” least in rank or esteem. The language here may be applied to the church as comparatively few; to one who is young; or to one in humble life. Either of these may be a reason why one is regarded as of little consequence, or may be subject to reproach and ridicule. It is not possible to determine in which of these senses the word is used here, or in which sense it was applicable to the psalmist. The word “despised” means treated as unworthy of notice; passed by; looked upon with contempt. This might be on account of age, or poverty, or ignorance, or humble rank: or it might be simply on account of his religion, for the friends of God have been, and often are, despised simply because they are religious. The Saviour was despised by people; the apostles were; the most excellent of the earth in all ages have been. Compare Hebrews 11:36-38; 1 Corinthians 4:13.
Yet do not I forget thy precepts - I am not ashamed of them. I am not deterred from keeping them, and from avowing my purpose to obey them, because I am despised for it. This is often one of the severest tests of religion, and to be faithful in such circumstances is one of the clearest proofs of true attachment to God. There are few things which we are less able to bear than contempt, and one of the best evidences of attachment to principle is when we adhere to what we regard as right and true, though we are despised for it by the frivolous, the worldly, the rich - by those who claim to be “wise.” He who can bear contempt on account of his opinions, can usually bear anything.
Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness - It never changes. The principles of thy law, of thy government, and of thy method of saving people, are the same under all dispensations, in every land, in all worlds; and they will remain the same forever. Human governments change. Old dynasties pass away. New laws are enacted under new administrations. Customs change. Opinions change. People change. The world changes. But as God himself never changes, so it is with his law. That law is founded on eternal truth, and can never change.
And thy law is the truth - It is founded on “truth;” on the reality of things. It is so essentially founded on truth, it springs so certainly out of truth, or out of the reality of things, that it may be said to be the truth itself. He who understands the law of God understands what truth is, for it is the expression and the exponent of that which is true.
Trouble and anguish - The word rendered “trouble” means affliction of any kind; the word rendered “anguish” would probably express that which results from being pressed, compressed, straitened. It properly refers to a situation where there is no room to move, and where we are pent up in a narrow place. The two words denote deep affliction.
Have taken hold on me - Margin, as in Hebrew, “found me.” That is, they were in pursuit of me, and have at last apprehended me. Trouble, anguish, death, are in pursuit of us all our lives, and are never very far in the rear of us. Often, when we least expect them, they come suddenly up to us, and make us their victims.
Yet thy commandments are my delights - Notwithstanding this trouble, and in this trouble - no matter what comes - I have the same unfailing source of comfort, the truth of God; and notwithstanding what may occur, I still make God and his law the source of my happiness. See the notes at Psalms 119:24.
The righteousness of thy testimonies - The principles of righteousness on which they are founded. Those testimonies - those laws - are not arbitrary, or the mere expressions of will. They are founded on right and justice as seen by God, and his laws are his testimony as to what truth and justice are.
Is everlasting - See the notes at Psalms 119:142.
Give me understanding, and I shall live - Give me a right view of thy law, and thy truth, and I shall have real life. See the notes at Psalms 119:34.
I cried with my whole heart ... - This commences a new division of the psalm, indicated by the Hebrew letter Koph (ק q), answering to our letter “k.” The expression “I cried with my whole heart” means that he did it earnestly, fervently. He had no divided wishes when he prayed. Not always is this so, even with good people. They sometimes offer a form of prayer, that they may be spiritually-minded, when their hearts are intensely worldly, and they would be unwilling to be otherwise; or that religion may be revived, when their hearts have no lively interest in it, and no wish for it; or that they may live wholly to God, when they are making all their arrangements to live for the world, and when they would be greatly disappointed if God should take means to make them live entirely to him; or that they may be humble, childlike, sincere, when they have no wish to be any otherwise than they are now, and when they would regard it as an affront if it should be assumed by any that they are not so now, and if they were exhorted to change their course of life. Often it would be a great surprise - perhaps grief - even to professedly religious persons, if God should answer their prayers, and should make them what they professedly desire to be, and what they pray that they may be. See the notes at Psalms 9:1; compare Psalms 111:1; Psalms 138:1; Psalms 119:2, Psalms 119:10, Psalms 119:34, Psalms 119:58, Psalms 119:69; Jeremiah 24:7.
I will keep thy statutes - It is my purpose and desire to keep thy law perfectly.
I cried unto thee - I called upon thee in trouble.
Save me, and I shall keep thy testimonies - Margin, “That I may keep.” The correct rendering is, “I will keep.” The idea is, that if God would interpose and save him, he “would” henceforward faithfully keep the law of God: It is one of the designs of affliction to lead people to make such vows as this. They are commonly made on beds of sickness, alike by the religious and the irreligious; the saint and the sinner. How often, alas, are they forgotten even by the friends of God! How seldom are they remembered at all by the sinner when he is raised up from the verge of the grave, and restored again to health!
I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried - I anticipated it; I rose up to pray before the morning dawned. On the word “prevent,” see the notes at 1 Thessalonians 4:15; notes at Psalms 21:3; notes at Psalms 59:10; notes at Psalms 79:8. The meaning here is, that he rose up before the dawn, to pray. Thus the Saviour did, Mark 1:35.
(a) It is proper thus to pray, for our earliest thoughts should be those of devotion; our earliest acts should be in acknowledgment of God.
(b) Such a time is eminently favorable to devotion. Calm, still, quiet; before the thoughts are engaged in the world, and before the cares of life press upon us when the thoughts are clear, and the mind tranquil, the soul is in the best state for devotion.
(c) All people, if they will, can secure this time, before the “dawning of the morning,” to pray. Compare Psalms 5:3, note; Psalms 88:13, note; see also Psalms 130:6. The word rendered “dawning of the morning,” is from a verb which means to blow; to blow gently; and is usually applied to the evening, when the breezes blow gently. It may be applied, however, as it clearly is here, also to the morning.
I hoped in thy word - I prayed because I had hope in thy word; I exercised hope in thy word then. Alone with thee in the morning, I found consolation by trusting in thy gracious promises.
Mine eyes prevent the night watches - Luther renders this, “I wake up early.” The Hebrew word means a “watch” - a part of the night, so called from military watches, or a dividing of the night to “keep guard.” See the notes at Psalms 90:4. The idea of the psalmist here is, that he anticipated these regular divisions of the night in order that he might engage in devotion. Instead of waiting for their return, he arose for prayer before they recurred - so much did his heart delight in the service of God. The language would seem to be that of one who was accustomed to pray in these successive “watches” of the night - the early, the middle, and the dawn. This may illustrate what occurs in the life of all who love God. They will have regular seasons of devotion, but they will often anticipate those seasons. They will be in a state of mind which prompts them to pray; when nothing will meet their state of mind but prayer; and when they cannot wait for the regular and ordinary season of devotion - like a hungry man who cannot wait for the usual and regular hour of his meals. The meaning of the phrase, “mine eyes prevent,” is that he awoke before the usual time for devotion.
That I might meditate in thy word - See the notes at Psalms 1:2.
Hear my voice, according unto thy loving-kindness - According to thy mercy; thy goodness. Let that be the rule in answering me; not my deserts, or even the fervour of my prayers. We can desire no better rule in answer to our prayers.
O Lord, quicken me - Give me life; cause me truly to live. See the notes at Psalms 119:40.
According to thy judgment - Thy law as a rule of judgment; thy revealed truth, with all its gracious promises.
They draw nigh - They follow me; they press hard upon me.
That follow after mischief - That seek to do me wrong.
They are far from thy law - They yield no obedience to it; they are not influenced by it in their conduct toward me.
Thou art near, O Lord - God was present with him; he was ready to hear his cry; he was at hand to save him. Compare Psalms 145:18. The psalmist had the assurance, springing from deep feeling, and the conscious presence of God, which the people of God often have, that God is very near to them; that he is ready to hear them; that their prayers are answered; that they are in the presence of a heavenly Friend. Such are among the precious experiences of the life of a religious man.
And all thy commandments are truth - All that thou hast ordained; all that thou hast promised. The psalmist felt this. He was experiencing the truth of what God had assured him of. Not a doubt came into his mind - for God was near him. This conviction that God is “near” us - this manifestation of God to the soul as a present God - is one of the most certain assurances to our own minds of the truth of religion, and of our acceptance with him.
Concerning thy testimonies - In regard to all that thou hast testified to as true and best. Every command of God is in fact a testimony of his as to what is right; every promise is a testimony of his own purpose in regard to mankind.
I have known of old - The word used here is a noun, and means properly, “the front,” what is “before;” then, the East; then, what pertains to olden time or ancient days - “before” the present. The meaning here is, that he had known this “before” what had now occurred; it was not a new thing - a new experience. It was deeply impressed on his mind as the result of all his reflection and observation.
That thou hast founded them for ever - “From” eternity, and “for” eternity. They were laid in the eternity past; they will continue in the eternity to come. They are based on eternal principles of right; they will never be changed. Such a conviction will do much to keep the soul steady and firm in the trials and uncertainties of life. Whatever may change, God’s law does not change; whatever is new, that is not new; whatever will vanish away, that will remain.
Consider mine affliction ... - This commences a new division of the psalm, indicated by the Hebrew letter Resh (ר r), corresponding to our “r.” The prayer here is, that God would look upon his trial; that he would regard it as it really was; that he would not turn away from it, or pass it by, as if it were a trifle - a thing not worthy to claim his attention. See the notes at Psalms 9:13.
For I do not forget thy law - I endeavor to be obedient, submissive, patient. As a suffering child of thine, I come to thee, and beseech thee to interpose and save me.
Plead my cause ... - Undertake my cause, as an advocate does. See the notes at Psalms 35:1.
Quicken me ... - Give me life. See the notes at Psalms 119:25.
Salvation is far from the wicked - That is,
(a) in their present course: they are very far from being safe, or from having a prospect of salvation;
(b) they are constantly going farther and farther off - making their salvation less probable - not going toward heaven, but from it.
(c) Destruction is very near to them, and they are constantly making it nearer and nearer.
(d) In their present course it may be said that salvation is far - is infinitely remote - from them, so that they can never come to it.
(e) If they would be saved, they must change their course altogether, and go “toward” salvation and not from it.
For they seek not thy statutes - They do not regard thy law; they do not make it a principle to obey thy commandments.
Great are thy tender mercies, O Lord - They are many, or multiplied. The word rendered “tender mercies” is the same which occurs in Psalms 40:11; Psalms 51:1; Psalms 69:16; Psalms 79:8; Psalms 103:4. See the notes at Psalms 25:6.
Quicken me ... - See Psalms 119:149.
Many are my persecutors and mine enemies - The thought here turns on the number of his enemies, and on the effect which numbers might have in turning one from the way of truth. We might meet one such enemy, and overcome him; we might resist the influence of one in endeavoring to turn us away from the truth, but the danger of falling is much increased when numbers are combined in persecuting us, or in seeking to turn us away from our religion - when it becomes unpopular to be a professed friend of God.
Yet do I not decline from thy testimonies - I still adhere to thee; I still maintain my integrity, notwithstanding all this. See the notes at Psalms 119:51.
I beheld the transgressors - Those who wronged me; those who violated the law of God.
And was grieved - Or, “sickened.” The word used here means commonly to loathe, to nauseate, to sicken. Ezekiel 16:47; Psalms 95:10. I was made sad, sorry, sick at heart. I did not look on them with anger; I did not desire to take revenge upon them; I did not return evil for evil. My heart was sad that people would do wrong; that they would expose themselves to such danger. See the notes at Psalms 119:136.
Because they kept not thy word - Because they violated thy law; because they were sinners.
Consider how I love thy precepts - Search me. Behold the evidence of my attachment to thy law. This is the confident appeal of one who was conscious that he was truly attached to God; that he really loved his law. It is similar to the appeal of Peter to the Saviour John 21:17, “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.” A man who truly loves God may make this appeal without impropriety. He may be so confident - so certain - that he has true love for the character of God, that he may make a solemn appeal to him on the subject - as he might appeal to a friend, to his wife, to his son, to his daughter, with the utmost confidence that he loved them. A man “ought” to have such love for “them,” that he could affirm this without hesitation or doubt; a man “ought” to have such love for God, that he could affirm this with equal confidence and propriety.
Quicken me ... - See the notes at Psalms 119:25.
Thy word is true from the beginning - literally, “The head of thy word is truth.” Probably the meaning is, that the “principles” of God’s word were truth, or were based on truth. The main thing - that on which all relied - was truth, absolute truth. It was not “made” truth by the mere will of God, but it was “founded on” essential truth. Compare Psalms 119:142, note; Psalms 119:144, note. Margin, “The beginning of thy word is true.” Its origin is truth; its foundation is truth; its essential nature is truth. See Psalms 19:9.
And every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever - Since any one of thy laws is as certainly founded in truth as any other, it must be that all alike are eternal and unchanging. It must be so with all the essential principles of morality. Mere regulations in regard to rites and ceremonies may be altered, as local and municipal laws among men may be; but essential principles of justice cannot be. A civil corporation - the government of a city or borough - may change its regulations about streets, and culverts, and taxes; but they can never enact laws authorizing murder or theft; nor can they alter the essential nature of honesty and dishonesty; of truth and falsehood.
Princes have persecuted me without a cause - This commences a new division of the psalm, indicated by the Hebrew letter Schin (שׂ ś, and שׁ sh) - corresponding to our “s,” or “sh.” On the meaning of the expression here, see Psalms 119:23, note; Psalms 119:76, note.
But my heart standeth in awe of thy word - I still reverence thy word. I am not deterred from keeping thy law by any threats or intimidations. This is in accordance with the uniform statements in the psalm, that nothing deterred him from manifesting his adherence to the law of God.
I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil - Plunder in a camp; prey; booty: as the hunter or the warrior, when he lights on great and unexpected success.
I hate and abhor lying - The mention of lying here particularly seems to have been suggested by the necessity, from the structure of the psalm, of finding some word at the beginning of the verse which commenced with the letter Schin. At the same time, it is an illustration of the nature of piety, and doubtless there had been numerous occasions in the life of the psalmist when he had seen and experienced the effects of falsehood. This sin, therefore, might occur to him as readily as any other. It is unnecessary to say that religion “forbids” this sin in all its forms.
But thy law do I love - Particularly here the law which forbids lying. The psalmist was conscious, as every good man must be, that he truly loved that pure law which forbids falsehood in all its forms.
Seven times a day - The word seven may be used here, as it is often in the Scriptures, indefinitely to denote many, or often. There is, however, nothing which makes it necessary to understand it in this sense. The number of times in which it is proper and profitable to engage in secret or public devotion is nowhere specified in the Scriptures, but it is left, under a general direction, to be determined by each one as he shall find it desirable and convenient; as his feelings or his circumstances shall suggest. On another occasion Psalms 55:17 David mentions that he prayed “evening, and morning, and at noon;” at other times, perhaps, he might have found it in accordance with his feelings, or with his circumstances, to engage in devotion seven times in a day. There are circumstances in the lives of all good men when they are prompted to do this: times of trouble, of sickness, of bereavement, of danger, or of religious interest. There are states of mind which prompt to this, and when secret devotion becomes frequent, and almost constant; when nothing will satisfy the mind but prayer. No one would be injured by making it a rule, unless unavoidably prevented, to engage seven times each day in secret prayer, though, at the same time, no one could maintain that this is required as a rule by the Scriptures. The times, the circumstances, the manner, the place of secret devotion are wisely and properly left to each individual to be determined by himself. Religion is essentially voluntary, and the times of secret devotion must be voluntary, and therefore a man can easily determine, by his own secret devotions, whether he has any special interest at any particular time in religion, or whether he has any religion at all.
Do I praise thee - Do I engage in devotion.
Because of thy righteous judgments - Thy law, considered as righteous. I love that law, as such, and I praise thee for it.
Great peace have they - See the notes at Isaiah 26:3; compare the notes at Philippians 4:6-7. They have great calmness of mind. They are not troubled and anxious. They believe and feel that all things are well-ordered by thee, and will be conducted to the best result. They, therefore, calmly leave all with thee. As a matter of fact, the friends of God have peace and calmness in their minds, even amidst the troubles, the disappointments, and the reverses of life. The love of God is the best - the only - way to secure permanent peace in the soul.
Which love thy law - It is the love of law, and the belief that the law of God is in accordance with justice, that gives peace to their minds. God’s government is a government of law, and therefore it is loved.
And nothing shall offend them - Margin, “They shall have no stumbling-block.” “Hebrew, “And to them no stumbling,” or stumbling-block. See the notes at Matthew 5:29-30; notes at Matthew 18:6; notes at Matthew 16:23; notes at 1 Peter 2:8; notes at James 2:10. The meaning here is, that they would not fall into sin; they would be kept safe; they would be preserved from the power of temptation. The meaning is not, as it would seem to be in our version, that nothing would pain, grieve, or irritate them; but, as above, that as long as they were obedient to the law, and disposed to obey it, they would be safe from the power of temptation.
Lord, I have hoped for thy salvation - As a prevailing habit or principle in my life. I have looked to thee for deliverance in the time of danger; I have looked to thee for salvation in the world to come.
And done thy commandments - That is, habitually. This is not, necessarily, a claim to absolute perfection.
My soul hath kept thy testimonies, and I love them exeeedingly - I am conscious of loving them; I feel an inward assurance that I do love them.
I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies - This is an appeal which is several times made in the psalm; not with boasting, but as indicating the tenor and purpose of his life. Every man ought to be able to make such an appeal.
For all my ways are before thee - Thou hast seen my manner of life, and I may appeal to thee in proof that I have thus kept thy law. No one can lay claim to entire perfection, but there is many a man who, while conscious of much imperfection, and many shortcomings, can appeal to God for the truth of the statement that his great aim of life has been to keep his commandments.
Let my cry come near before thee, O Lord - This commences a new division of the psalm, indicated by the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the letter Tau (ט ṭ), corresponding to our “t,” or “th.” The petition here is, that his prayer might be heard; that it might come into the very presence of God; that there might be no obstructions to its reaching where God was. Let nothing from my unworthiness, from my past sins, from my ignorance, prevent its coming before thee. Something often apparently hinders our prayers so that they do not reach the ear of God. The psalmist prays here that there may be no such hindrance in the prayer which he now offers.
Give me understanding according to thy word - According to the promises of thy word; or, give me the same views of truth which are set forth in thy word. This prayer had been several times offered before, and it shows how earnest was his desire to know the truth. See Psalms 119:34, Psalms 119:73,Psalms 119:144.
Let my supplication come before thee - The word here rendered “supplication” properly means “favor, mercy, pity,” Joshua 11:20; Ezra 9:8; then, that by which favor or mercy is sought - prayer or petition, Psalms 6:9; Psalms 55:1.
Deliver me according to thy word - From my enemies, my sins, my dangers. According to thy promises; according to the arrangements in thy word.
My lips shall utter praise, when thou hast taught me thy statutes - The sentiment here is the same as in Psalms 119:7. The language is varied, but the meaning here, as in that verse, is, I will praise thee in proportion as I learn thy precepts or thy law. The more I learn of thy will, the more I will praise thee. I shall see more for which to offer praise and adoration, and I shall be more and more inclined to praise and adore time. Each new degree of knowledge will excite a corresponding desire to praise thee. This will be true of all who love God, while this life lasts, and forever. The ever-increasing knowledge of God will excite ever-increasing praise; and as God is infinite and eternal, it follows that the increase of knowledge and of happiness, in those who are saved, will be eternal. These things will go hand in hand forever and ever.
My tongue shall speak of thy word - It shall speak of it in the language of praise; it shall speak of it in making it known to others.
For all thy commandments are righteousness - I see this; I feel it; and, therefore, I will speak of it. My impression that thy commandments are all righteous is so deep, that I cannot but speak of them. I must vindicate them; I must praise thee for them.
Let thine hand help me - Do thou help me - the hand being that by which we accomplish anything.
For I have chosen that precepts - I have chosen them as my comforters and my guide. I have resolved to obey them, and I pray that thou wilt help me to accomplish the purpose of my heart.
I have longed for thy salvation, O Lord - See the notes at Psalms 119:166. The word rendered “I have longed” denotes an earnest desire or wish. Compare the notes at Psalms 42:1, and the notes at Psalms 119:20.
And thy law is my delight - It is so much the object of my delight that I earnestly long or desire to see more and more of its richness and fullness.
Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee - I desire life that I may praise thee; if I do live, I will praise thee. My life is consecrated to thy service; if lengthened out, and as far as it shall be lengthened out, it shall be devoted to thee.
And let thy judgments help me - The dealings of thy hand; the interpositions of thy providence. Let them all be such as will be favorable to the great purpose of my soul - the service of my God.
I have gone astray like a lost sheep - A sheep that has wandered away from its fold, and is without a protector. Compare Isaiah 53:6; Matthew 10:6; Matthew 15:24; Matthew 18:12; Luke 15:6; 1 Peter 2:25. I am a wanderer. I have lost the path to true happiness. I have strayed away from my God. I see this; I confess it; I desire to return. It is remarkable that this is almost the only confession of sin in the psalm. This psalm, more than any other, abounds in confident statements respecting the life of the author, his attachment to the law of God, the obedience which he rendered to that law, and his love for it - as well as with appeals to God, founded on the fact that he did love that law, and that his life was one of obedience. This is not, indeed, spoken in a spirit of self-righteousness, or as constituting a claim on the ground of merit; but it is remarkable that there is so frequent reference to it, and so little intermingling of a confession of sin, of error, of imperfection. The psalm would not have been complete as a record of religious experience, or as illustrating the real state of the human heart, without a distinct acknowledgment of sin, and hence, in its close, and in view of his whole life, upright as in the main it had been, the psalmist confesses that he had wandered; that he was a sinner; that his life had been far from perfection, and that he needed the gracious interposition of God to seek him out, and to bring him back.
Seek thy servant - As the shepherd does the sheep that is lost, Luke 15:4-6. So the Saviour came to seek and to save that which was lost, Luke 19:10. So God seeks the wanderer by his word, by his providence, by his Spirit, to induce him to return and be saved.
For I do not forget thy commandments - In all my wandering; with my consciousness of error; with my sense of guilt, I still do feel that I love thy law - thy service - thy commandments. They are the joy of my heart, and I desire to be recalled from all my wanderings, that I may find perfect happiness in thee and in thy service evermore. Such is the earnest wish of every regenerated heart. Far as such an one may have wandered from God, yet he is conscious of true attachment to him and his service; he desires and earnestly prays that he may be “sought out,” brought back, and kept from wandering anymore.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Psalms 119". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent